Two and a half Ladyskaters

Before starting to write about the dresses I made, an advance apology for the terrible pictures – it’s winter, it’s forever raining, I don’t seem to be ever in at the same time as Andy for pictures when it’s lighter than night (you can’t call it light), and me and the camera don’t quite get on well enough for good self-timer pictures yet.

Mind you, that’s the only negative thing in this post. Yes, the weather is awful, but I have two and half Ladyskater dresses to wear in the wet and grey weather, and they are the bees knees. I decided on the cap sleeve version – for me, it seems like the most versatile. You can wear it with a cardi/jumper in winter, wear it without one in spring and summer, and I practically never have to wear anything else ever again.

Ladyskater. Despite what it looks like, this is purple. I promise!

What I think of only ever wearing Ladyskater dresses.

I first made a navy blue one as a wearable muslin – and wearable it certainly is. I practically lived in it before the second one joined it.There were some modifications – to start with, a one-inch broad shoulder adjustment after measuring the pattern. I then had to take out some excess from the top of the shoulder as a result, as they came out hilariously square. I put some small darts into the shoulders going into the cap sleeve, and then shaved the extra centimetre off the top of the outside shoulder of both front and back bodice pattern piece, and took 2cms out of the cap sleeve curve to make up for it. I’m sure there’s a scientific method to do this, but it hurt my brain to think about it, and this worked. I then also added an extra centimetre length in the bodice in my second version, and took the sides in by about a centimetre or so at the waist only.

This is actually the second Ladyskater - they're so similar, I couldn't be bothered to change into the first one, since the colour was all messed up anyways, and therefore you wouldn't be able to tell the difference *at all*.

This is actually the second Ladyskater – they’re so similar that I couldn’t be bothered to change into the first one, since the colour was all messed up and therefore you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference *at all*.

Here’s a picture of what the colours actually look like:

Hey, look! It's actually quite close to their real colour. Phenomenal for January!

Hey, look! It’s actually quite close to their real colour. Phenomenal for January!

The dresses are so similar, they’re actually the same fabric, just in a different colour, ha. It’s a really thick, spongey, sturdy knit, well-behaved, and just a little shiny. I then realized that the dresses also look really good with a jumper on top, like a Renfrew or a chunky knit, so then I decided to make a Ladyskater skirt in black. The skirt is the same fabric *again*, just in black. God, I’m so boring.

To make the skirt, I cut out the skirt part of the pattern only (d’uh), traced the very top five centimetres of it for a facing, sewed up skirt and facing, then sewed them together, added some clear elastic for stability, understitched and topstitched over it all, and had a skirt in about an hour. Win!

Photo where I stand around awkwardly so I don't cut my head off with the camera on self-timer.

Photo where I stand around awkwardly so I don’t cut my head off with the camera on self-timer.

I could have probably made it a size smaller – without the bodice holding it up, it sits almost alarmingly low. Since I like to wear long tops, it’s still fine; I’ll just have to watch it and make sure it doesn’t accidentally stretch out too much and then slides off in the middle of a busy street/the office. Stuff for nightmares, eh?

I was also really lazy and didn’t put a zipper or anything – I figured if I couldn’t get it over the hips, I could always take it off/put it on over my head, since that worked for the dress. Laziness, yay!

Side view of the skirt

Side view of the skirt

So, there we go – Ladyskaters to make me happy on rainy and cold days! These are so, so, so quick to make, so a great thing to sew up after finishing Andy’s coat; and they seem to work with a lot in my wardrobe. They’re what I reach for when I have no idea what to wear and can’t be bothered to think about it; and they seem to look good too – some of my friends are a little jealous of these dresses, hehe.

I bought the fabric for the purple dress and the skirt in December, so this counts as stash busting or dieting (yay!). Sadly, I now have no more suitable fabric for another one in my stash. Meh. My plan for a million more skater dresses to avoid not knowing what to wear ever again is therefore currently on hold.

These 2.5 dresses made me realize, and you might have noticed already, that I like making the same pattern over and over again. 2.5 Ladyskaters, 5 Renfrews, 3 Maria Denmark cowl necks, I’m currently working on Alma 2, 3, and 4… How many of one pattern is too many? And what’s the most you’ve ever made of one pattern?


Secret Selfless Sewing: Testing the Goldstream Peacoat

While pretending to tidy up, move house, celebrate Christmas, and tidy up again, what’s really been keeping me busy is that I got to test the Goldstream Peacoat Pattern by Thread Theory.

peacoat flats

I really wanted to make the coat for Andy’s birthday, and this heart-warming cause was enough (with a bit of perfectionism and coatmaking experience) to win Morgan and Matt over. Yay! The pattern arrived in November, and most of the coat was finished by early December. But between moving house, Christmas and spending a lot of time on the sofa, it didn’t get finished until the second week in January. Woops. That was a little later than his birthday (mid-November), but hey, he had the fabric on his birthday. That counts, right? It wasn’t actually a secret from Andy. I figured I needed to measure him, and he is picky with what he wears, so he definitely needed to pick the fabric himself. Andy had surprising amounts of fun choosing the fabric – I took him to Goldhawk Road, and after a lot of fabric touching, we settled on a dark, almost-black wool with polyester (confusingly, it’s called ‘cashmerette’), and a blue lining (silk and viscose, with quite a lot of body). I got away with 2.2m of the main fabric, and have a lot of lining and nice interfacing from the English Couture Company left over (oh, what a shame. I’ll have to make myself a coat to use it up!)

Now it’s finished, I thought I’d share some pictures with you and sing the pattern’s praises. I really enjoyed making the coat; I love love love coats and jackets in general, and with this one, I learnt lots of new tricks. Here’s the result:

Coat on coathanger

Coat on coathanger

And in action:

Coat on Andy. If you want to pose there yourself, head to Holland Park!

Coat on Andy. If you want to pose there yourself, head to Holland Park!

Inner Pocket!

Inner Pocket and Lining

Side shot

Side shot

With a few detail shots:

Shoulder Epaulets and Collar

Shoulder Epaulets and Collar

Sleeve Tab

Sleeve Tab

Pocket and sleeve tab

Pocket and sleeve tab

I made Andy the classic version of the Peacoat. The whole coat came together beautifully – I particularly enjoyed the sleeves (once I’d figured out how to set them in. I don’t recomment trying it with a massive cold!), since I’d never sewn two-part sleeves before, and I think it hangs really nicely and gives a great shape. The collar, too, was great fun to sew, and the sleeve tabs, and the pockets, and… Lots of little neat teachniques to discover on this coat!

The wool itself behaved very nicely, once I’d figured out that it didn’t like being ironed from the right side. I steamed it before, as several sources on the internet suggested, to make sure that it wouldn’t shrink during construction and later on at the dry cleaners.

I eventually persuaded myself to hand-stitch the hem – I was very very tempted to machine-stitch it, but am glad to say I actually handstitched my first invisible hem. I know. It took long enough, huh? And no, now that it’s finished, you can’t actually see it.

Since finishing this, I’ve gone on a post-big-project jersey quick sewing spree, which was very satisfying, but not quite as satisfying as sewing this label into the coat:

Labelled Coat

Labelled Coat

The main issue I had with the coat where things didn’t go smoothly were the button holes – the fabric thickness meant that it was out of the comfort zone for my machine, which meant it was out of my comfort zone, too. For every buttonhole, I had to do a) maths to figure out where to start sewing b) lower the feed dogs c) put the fabric in, try to shift it into the right place, with everything where it’s meant to be, and so the button holes would be straight and d) remember to both raise the feed dogs and lower the presser foot. This simple combination of things to do before sewing each button hole was somehow beyond me. Oh, and to lower and raise the feed dogs, you have to take the free arm extension off my sewing machine, but in order for the fabric to feed properly underneath the feet, it needed to be in place, so I had to put it back… There was a lot of swearing, almost a lot of tears, a very strong wish to throw an epic tantrum, and finally button holes I can live with, but only because they’re hidden by buttons. I learned that button holes by my new machine rip out much neater than those by my old machine, but frankly, I could have lived without that knowledge. Next time I make this coat, I’m going to attempt bound buttonholes. There, I’ve said it. Maybe that’ll be easier to do for my machine (and me).

I can highly recommend this pattern – I’ll certainly make it again. Next time, like I said, bound button holes, and maybe I’ll also do a small shoulder adjustment, since it’s a bit wide for Andy. The shoulder pads (I know! I used them for the first time, and it was exciting) hide the fact well, but he says movement upwards is a little bit restricted, so that’s something to work on for the next one. Other than that, I’m sure I can keep up the one coat a year pattern. Maybe a little break first, but then? Bring on the next one! Special thanks to Morgan and Matt for having me as a pattern tester, and to Andy, for happily modelling this so I can share it with you 🙂


New sewing corner and stash diet 2014

As hinted at in my last post, my stash is getting a bit out of hand. I had some time this week to sort it out and start getting a sewing area organised, so I’m mainly set up now, and also realized just how much stash I have. Yikes. Hence, the stash diet!

Back story to the tidying up: I’m making Andy a coat, handstitching was required, and I was looking for my beeswax to make sure the threads don’t get tangled. I know I had some, but couldn’t see it, and it wasn’t where it was meant to be (story of my life, har har). So, I started digging around my sewing boxes, and figured I might as well tidy them up while I was at it. I found a lot of boxes with a lot of fabric in it. It was somewhere between very motivating and very scary. And yes, I did find the beeswax eventually, but since I couldn’t find it in the flat, I tried to find some in shops while running errands. After I’d hunted for an hour around West London (no, Holland and Barrett does not sell it, nor does Boots, pharmacists, flower shops or shoe shops) I found some in the hardwear shop around the corner from our flat. The irony. And then, of course, as soon as I walked through the door, I found my other beeswax.

But I disgress. Here’s my new sewing space – ta daaaa!

New sewing corner.

New sewing corner.

I’m quite surprised that it fit so well. I don’t even mind that I’ll have to set up/tidy away every time now, since the sewing machine is so close to the table. Generally, it’s still not quite as tidy as I’d like it to be, and I really need to get rid of the shoe cartons. But hopefully I can fix that in the next two months. If you look at it from the doorway as above, you don’t notice, but walk around the table and you will find two large bins full of fabrics:

Fabric galore, oh, and look, my new thread rack!

Fabric galore, oh, and look, my new thread rack! My sewing machine has a plan of things to sew stuck to its cover so I don’t get  distracted when sewing stuff from the stash.

My aim of the stash diet is to get this down to two very comfortable bins. They have to close, and I’d love it to include the quilt of slowness (or for me to finish that). No, I don’t get to swap the blue bin for a bigger one. No impulse fabric purchases that jeopardise this aim until they fit into the bins. That’s rule number one. Rule number two: no new patterns until at least February, potentially and progress dependent even March. And then I only get to buy new patterns if I have a realistic chance of making it in the foreseeable future (next year does not count!). Only exception: I desperately need some loungewear, so I can make an exception for both fabric and pattern for that, if I must. Come March, come spring, I should have most of my big pieces of stash sewn up if it goes to plan, so I get to reconsider then. As long as I keep it to two bins.

Apart from that, you might have noticed I am now the proud owner of a thread rack thanks to my lovely sisters – it actually really helps my organisation of sewing stuff. I never realized I owned three bog spools of navy thread before… Bonus: I think it looks pretty, and it makes the corner a bit more sewing, and a bit less just another corner.

And lastly, one of the little boxes in sewing corner now houses these little cuties, which were a Christmas present from Andy:

Better get my hand sewing skills up to scratch...

Better get my hand sewing skills up to scratch…

Now I’m all organised and set to go, I guess I’d better start on some sewing and stash busting. And hey, we’re only a week into 2014, so it still feels vaguely as if I’m hitting the ground running. Yay!

I blame the caffeine high…

…for finally tidying up. Sewing has been going rather slowly – there’s been a few tedious projects, then the hickup with the sewing machine, and then the fact that my sewing space was a mess. I’m not the tidiest person, and things had gotten a bit out of hand. Now, lots of people are quite tidy with their sewing spaces, it appears. Not me. Which is why it was one of my new year’s resolutions to have a tidy sewing space. And up until now, I thought of this resolution occasionally, then whole-heartedly ignored it.

This morning, there was a shift in the time-space continuum confluence of factors which led to me tidying up. I promised to make the boyfriend a coat, and didn’t have any space which was bugging me; we’re moving house soon and I needed to tidy up in general; the alternative was to write an academic article (I still dislike it), and, lastly, a massive caffeine high, which meant I was unable to sit still.

To entertain you, and make you feel better about whichever mess monster has taken over your sewing area, I took a before/just started picture:

The desk. And yes, some of this I had just dumped there, but really, it wasn't better before at all.

The desk. And yes, some of this I had just dumped there, but really, it wasn’t better before at all. And yes, the calendar is still on August.

The shelf with a million ugly shoeboxes. That's what it felt like. The fabric is not in the picture - I think it's all on the chair. Classy, Thea!

The shelf with a million ugly shoeboxes. That’s what it felt like. The fabric is all on the chair. Classy, Thea!

You can pay particular attention to the amount of boxes stashed away, if you want. After about three hours of sorting through boxes with small scraps of fabric (why did I keep so many completely unusable scraps in the first place?), it now looks a lot better:

Look, less boxes! I promise I didn't just hide them underneath the desk. And look - I might actually sit in the chair now!

Look, less boxes! I promise I didn’t just hide them underneath the desk. And look – I might actually sit in the chair now!

Space for sewing. Phew!

Space for sewing. Phew! Umm, and you can see the pile for the bin in the hallway. Wooops.

And because I’ve been struggling to remember what I want to do with which fabric and in which order, I’ve catalogued the majority of them. This is not a wishlist – just plan for myself to check back when in doubt as to what to tackle next. I should probably also write a wishlist.planning and tidying with writingI didn’t realize I had quite so many projects ready to go – apart from the bottom line, I have everything ready for all the other makes – including zippers, interfacing, closures…

The Cambies are a split between want it now, and want it next summer. The grey lace overlay with purple I think will make a nice smart winter/autumn dress; the white/blue fabric is a swiss dot (?) from Goldhawk Road. I have lining etc. for both of these, and just need to get my rear into gear, and wait for summer for the white one. The blue fabric for the Anna dress is a viscose. I’m massively late to the party, and have sat on fabric and pattern since July. The fabrics for my Alma, I’ve had for even longer – the grey dots are at least 1.5 years old. I’ve been planning them for a long time, but keep not starting it. I mean, it’s such a quick project – but somehow, it doesn’t excite me enough to make me actually cut it out. Embarrassing.

Now, the trouser stuff is actually scary to me, and I’ve prevaricated so much that I’ve bought enough fabric to make three pairs of trousers, in case the first one doesn’t turn out, then I wanted something with stretch, then… I dunno, I was still scared, so bought more fabric? Enough excuses already, chicken – get sewing! The fabric next to it is reassuring to me, because it will be my second Minoru – I’m having a whale of a time planning it in my head at the moment. It’s a grey twill from a random massive second hand store in Germany.

The Ginger Skirt, now really, I should just get on with. Perfect for autumn and all that. Thanks to the nice person who brought the fabric to the last London meetup! The Maria Denmark Pile are lots of jerseys which need to be worked up (embarrassingly, I then found another three pieces in other colours in the office after taking this picture).

Now, the bottom line… The lining for a jacket I originally bought for a T-shirt. But, it gives me a headache when I look at it, so I think I’ll leave that. Now, instead, I want a By Hand London Victoria Blazer in a knit fabric: a) because the very non-scruffy Winnie made it look awesome on scruffy badger, and b) because it means I can get rid of the fabric by using it as lining (so I don’t have to see it. winner). Yes, I know I’m late to that party too.

Hopefully, next time I’m feeling confused, I can consult this list and get sewing. Also, I realized I really don’t need to go fabric shopping for a while (not sure if that’s good or bad!).

Right, and maybe now I should actually tackle that article. Mind you, the kitchen is still messy… Kidding!

Last of the summer sewing: A Cambie

As I’m writing this, it is pretty cold outside (the heating’s on). But, three weeks ago, it was still really warm, and I got really cranky with myself that I hadn’t made myself a summer dress. I got cranky enough to actually make the Cambie, in one day: Make it Saturday, wear it Sunday.

It’s actually also another first for me – my first transformed bedsheet! (For bedsheet transformation inspiration, see Cation Designs). I bought the ‘fabric’ as a bedsheet for I think 4 pounds in Oxfam, Hammersmith. I’m pretty sure it’s cotton, and I just really liked the print – in particular the fact it had a boundary with a slightly different print, which I totally wanted for the hem.

So, without further ado, here it is:

Cambie dress!

Cambie dress! And er, yes, while I made it while it was warm, the pictures were taken when it was raining and cold. No chance of going outside.

I made a straight size 8, with an extra half-inch lengthening the upper body. It’s a touch too big in the bust, so I think the next one will be slightly smaller (as Ela pointed out to me, maybe I should have gone with my upper bust size. oh well!). Time for the most cushiony bra I own… Apart from this, I really love the dress, and the way it falls.

The fabric only threw up one problem – the grainline had pulled out of shape a bit, and some bits stretched out. You can see in this shot that I had to ease the fabric into the zip, and it’s a little crinkly.

Wrinkly zipper, lovely dress

Wrinkly zipper, lovely dress

But, as I said, I still love it to bits – it was great fun to make, and I loved the construction; now I love the little details like the sleeves. It is also, I think my neatest invisible zip today, especially the top corners. And the waistband matches up. Yay! Beyond this, it makes me feel very girly and effortlessly well-dressed, so I’ll definitely want more of these. For now, though, I’ve definitely moved on to autumn sewing here.

As the dress was sewn late in the summer, and I already had half an eye on autumn, I interlined the skirt lining with silk-cotton so I can make it transition into autumn. Now the only challenge is to get myself a cardigan/jumper I can wear with this dress – all mine end just above my hips, which is way too long for this. So I have my eyes on the Miette cardigan – especially after Rachel inspired me at the London meet-up, and let me try hers on for size (just perfect). Watch this space!

The way the dress makes me feel. Definitely a good thing!

The way the dress makes me feel. Definitely a good thing!

It is done! The amazing transformation of a dress

Readers, I am pleased to announce that the silk dress and I both survived the transformation of the former. I took some pictures during the work in progress to share with you soon – I’m going to be offline for a few days two weeks, so you’ll have to wait a bit for that technical stuff (not that you’ll notice with my blogging infrequency), but I wanted to share the fact it worked (I think my Mum also wants a progress update – hallo Mama!), which I’m pretty pleased about (I am also massively tired, so not too excited at this stage, just glad I got it all done).

It was quite a fun experience – I feel like I got to apply the skills I learnt in the last year in a totally different context by having to ponder myself what the most suitable technique would be. Sometimes this was a bit frustrating – I had no idea that sewing a lining into a sleeveless dress was a bit of a headache and 3D-puzzle – but overall, a good experience.

So, what happened to the dress? I started by taking off the sleeve, after which I dared take a photo. I intentionally picked a less-than-flattering photo of me, so you won’t miss me too much while I’m gone:

Yeah, sorry, no great light in here - I think it was during the Wimbledon men's final, and getting any picture done was an achievement!

Yeah, sorry, no great light in here – I think it was during the Wimbledon men’s final, and getting any picture done was an achievement!

As you can see, the waist sits too high, and it’s very loose. After chopping off the arms (carefully), I then used them for a waistband (more on that in my next post) after interfacing them; I also took in about 4cm in total at the sides of the bodice. I lowered the armscyes to be more comfy, then did all those changes to the lining too, and fudged them together. There was a bit of swearing, quite a lot more ripping out than there should have been with a silk dress, a few extra darts where there were none before, and the surprise element of me sewing the armholes shut (honestly, I had no idea that that’s not what you do to line a sleeveless dress, and that you can’t then turn the dress inside out anymore! I’m still a bit puzzled). But, hey, look:

Ta-daa! And yes, that is a bathroom carpet drying in the background. Woops.

Ta-daa! And yes, that is a bathroom carpet drying in the background. Woops.

Overall, a success I think! I even had suitable shoes in my selection. Boom! As I said, I’m planning to wear this to a wedding (if it survives the trip. I’m a little worried…) so hopefully when I get back, I’ll have some nicer pictures in daylight and without bathroom carpets in the background.

And on a last note, since I’m going to be offline, it also means I can’t approve comments or reply to them – so, if you haven’t posted here before, then it will probably get stuck in wordpress for a while, and will appear in due course. And if you leave a comment and I don’t reply, it is also not me ignoring you – I’ll get back to you, eventually.

Oh, and you’re wondering what I’ll do next, now I don’t have the dress to worry about? I’m planning to make trousers. Scary! It’s these ones, and I’ve already picked a fabric for it, too.


Happy sewing to you all while I’m away!