english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Floral McCall’s M7154 in a Field

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

McCall’s M7154 1930s reproduction dress pattern is one of the most involved sewing projects I’ve completed.

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

I sewed the dress back in 2017 to wear to my brother’s wedding. You can read the original blog post here.

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

I hadn’t worn the dress since the wedding as the long train at the back makes it impractical for events involving dancing, and I don’t attend any evening events with no dancing!

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

When I visited the Confetti Fields a few weeks ago I decided to take McCall’s M7154 along for an opportunity to wear it again to get some updated photos.

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

Funnily enough there aren’t many places to get changed in private in a field. I slipped into this dress behind some foliage and got changed back in an (empty) tent provided for baby changing. You can see my bra straps in some of the shots because losing my bra behind the foliage as well as my dress was definitely a step to far.

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

I had to make a lot of tweaks to this dress during construction to make it fit, and that, combined with the impractically of the train, means I’m unlikely to sew the pattern again, but I’m glad I did make it, and I thoroughly enjoyed swanning around in it outdoors on a sunny afternoon.

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet
McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet
McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet
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Maven Patterns Rochester Dress at the Confetti Fields

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

Recently, my mom told me about the Confetti Fields in Pershore, part of a farm which grows and sells dried flower petal confetti. For 10 days each year some of the fields are open to the public, and they have pop-up stalls selling cake and tea, and bouquets of the flowers. Clearly this was an irresistible blog photo opportunity, so when my mom and dad visited last weekend, me and Phil tagged along.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

In my enthusiasm to visit the fields I didn’t actually stop to think that Phil – who has severe hay fever – might not be so keen to walk through fields full of flowers, until he reminded me. He did get severe hay fever and it was not his favourite place, but he still took some rather nice photos of my new dress in between sneezes.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

This is the Rochester Dress from Maven Patterns. I bought the pattern direct from Maven Patterns at the Sewing for Pleasure show at Birmingham NEC in March, and picked this fabric to make it with, also at the show, from Higgs & Higgs. The fabric was in the bargain bin and was a total steal, I assume it’s a cotton but it has a linen-like ability to wrinkle seemingly two seconds after emerging from under the iron.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The Rochester is a deceptively simple pattern, as it actually has a number of carefully designed details. I was assuming I would whip this dress up, but following the instructions and taking my time to sew neatly (I’m getting really good at actually taking care with my sewing now!), it took a couple of longish sittings.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The first of the interesting features of the dress is the long curved hem, with side split and modest high-low hem. In addition to hem facing pieces, the pattern includes a template for top-stitching the hem, which I used and which resulted in very neat top stitching if I do say so myself. The pattern also intends for the sleeves to be finished with top stitching, and it looks great on the pattern but I couldn’t see any way to top stitch after the sleeves had been constructed with my fabric / machine, as I couldn’t easily have reached that far up the sleeve with the machine. I slip stitched my sleeve facing by hand, but the effect isn’t as interesting as the intended top stitching.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The other main feature of the dress is the neckline. There are two neckline options included in the pattern, and I had intended to use the alternative (which is a simpler single row of elastic directly at the neckline) due to loving the effect on the pattern cover. I decided, however, that I ought to try the more unusual option and I’m really pleased with the result, which was very easy to achieve with a couple of rows of stitching and a small off-cut of elastic. There’s also a pleat at the back of the dress although it’s not very well shown off in these photos, or in this crease-loving fabric.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

I’d definitely like to make another Rochester dress in a crepe or viscose at some point, and I do think the details of this dress would be shown off to great effect in a solid colour.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

I’m really glad that I finally got around to sewing one of the Maven Patterns. I’ve seen some beautiful versions of the French Dart Pattern (including Susan Young’s) so that might be the next pattern I try, and I also fancy making myself an apron I’m happy to wear out to workshops (i.e. one which isn’t covered in stains from years of wear in the kitchen) using their Maria Apron pattern.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress


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Velvet Floral Floreat Dress

Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress

Me and Phil are back at home this weekend after a few days holiday with family in the Peak District. We had a fun few days but one thing I am glad to return home to is decent Wi-Fi! I spent hours yesterday catching up with emails, and thought this evening would be the perfect opportunity to write a blog post. I have also left the house a few times in between, and finished a small embroidery project, so the weekend hasn’t been solely spent in front of a screen.

Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress

I managed to dodge the rain long enough to get some photos of recent makes while we were away, but the photos here predate the most recent holiday, and were mostly taken in Paris when we were there for #ParisSewcial.

Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress

This pattern is the Floreat Dress from Megan Nielsen. The pattern includes a whole host of variations and I was especially drawn to the knit dress version, so made my floreat in this stretch floral velvet from Like Sew Amazing which I purchased with a voucher I was kindly gifted by Sarah for second prize in the Refashioners 2018. I love a velvet, and this is quite an unusual fabric as the florals are smooth and shiny, with velvet in-between.

Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress

I didn’t love this dress as much as I expected on completion. After a couple of wears I have determined that the long length, long sleeves, and busy fabric combine to feel a bit overwhelming. Lately I have committed to making sure that I love (and wear) all of the garments in my wardrobe – and I have been altering (or giving away) those I’m not happy with. I worked through a good chunk of my alterations pile during Me-Made-May, and am planning to keep up the momentum now May is over. For this dress, I’ve trimmed the sleeves to a short length and I have a feeling that the new and improved version will be in regular rotation in my wardrobe.

Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress
Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress


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Modified Asymmetric Gather Dress

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

I originally made, and blogged, this dress (The Maker’s Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress) a year ago, but I was never happy with the fit on me. Apart from a couple of trial outings, this dress hung on my wardrobe door for a year waiting to be altered.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

After that long wait, it took me a single evening to alter the dress and add it into rotation in my wardrobe. The alterations I made were to remove 7 inches from the hem, reduce the width of the shoulders (I temporarily removed the sleeves and cut a crescent shaped section from each shoulder), remove the elastic from the sleeve hems, increase the waistline gathering, and generally improve the tidiness of my sewing.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

The dress is sewn in a crepe fabric from John Lewis and paired here with a matching lipstick and another pill box hat. The construction of the hat is as per my previous post, and the fabric is a pale pink pvc with a snakeskin print and texture, from Fancy Silk Store. I spotted this fabric the first time I visited Fancy Silk Store for hat making supplies; once I had a first pill box under my belt I went back to buy this fabric. These hats only use a tiny amount of fabric so I have plenty left and may use it to make a matching bag.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

Over the recent bank holiday weekend, Phil and I made the most of the sunshine and visited a couple of Birmingham Museums’ venues. It’s easy to forget to be curious about historic sites which are close to home, and we’re slowly working our way around some local sites, including Soho House (home of the industrialist Matthew Boulton) where these photos were taken.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

#memademay2019 is fast approaching. My pledge is to use the challenge to help me reach a point where I enjoy wearing everything in my wardrobe (me-made, second-hand, and ready-to-wear). That means getting rid of clothes which no longer fit or which I no longer enjoy wearing, altering me-made garments which I’m not completely happy with, and finishing my UFOs. This dress is one example of working towards that pledge, and I’m hoping to continue throughout May and beyond.


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Night and Day Dress for the Dressmakers’ Ball

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

For the first Dressmakers’ Ball, organised by the team at Crafty Sew & So in Leicester, back in 2017, I left making my dress until the very last minute and ended up sewing a knit dress the night before the ball.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

This year I was determined to be organised, and finished my dress with so much time to spare that I ended up making a matching belt, pill box hat, and bag (which collectively won me an award on the night for best accessory!).

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

The dress is Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress. I have the PDF version of the pattern (a gift from my parents for Christmas) and sent it for A0 printing as the pattern has many variations (including some very full skirts) so is enormous. I printed all of the pages as I’m keen to try some other variations in the near future. The version of the dress I made for the ball was actually decided by my fabric choice.

I was visiting New York – and attending Male Pattern Boldness Day – the month before the Ball, so decided to buy fabric for the dress at the meet-up. I was planning to get something drapey to make the bishop sleeved version of the Night & Day Dress, but once I spotted this double-sided metallic brocade in Metro Textiles I was sold.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

Having had pretty consistent body measurements since my twenties, if not before, I’ve increased a few inches in the bust and waist recently. On a few recent projects I’ve cut out on autopilot based on the size I’m used to cutting (and gotten away with it), but for this project I was determined that I wasn’t going to skimp on any steps to a well fitting dress. I measured myself and cut the correct size, only to find, when I tried the work-in-progress bodice on, that it was too large. I took the bodice apart and cut the pieces down a size (to a 4 in the bust and 6 in the waist to hips, the size I would have cut on autopilot) and the fit was just right. I’ve since bought Gertie’s new book, Gertie Sews Jiffy Dresses, which uses the same sizes/block as Charm patterns, and Gertie notes in the introduction that the sizes are generous in the bust and hip.

I should say that I don’t bother with muslins/toiles, so although I always hope patterns will fit first go, I’m always expecting to need to make changes. Personally I prefer to make alterations to a sewing project as I go, in this way, and regularly do. I find that approach works much better for me, and I’m very rarely left with an unsalvagable project.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

After making the dress, I felt that the pattern needed breaking up at the waist so I made a matching belt, using the reverse side of the brocade. I couldn’t find any belt buckles for sale locally in Birmingham, and hadn’t left myself long enough to risk ordering one online. I popped into H&M in the hope of finding something suitable and found an ugly fake leather belt on sale for £3. I cut my fabric based on the width of the buckle (not the belt I removed, which was much wider & horribly bunched up), and punched through some Prym eyelets for belt holes.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

Next I started on a hat. I have a couple of hat making books I picked up cheaply years ago and hadn’t yet made anything from. This pill box hat was based on a design in Saturday Night Hat. The book instructions are based on using millinery supplies, but I walked to Fancy Silk Store one lunch break and asked for the closest they had to double buckram. The material I bought feels quite plasticky and is impossible to sew through, so it works to provide a firm structure but is more of a faff than an actual double buckram would be (I assume). The base of the hat is a circle (for the top) and a rectangle (for the sides) which I managed to attach together (the material also resisted all attempted to glue it) by punching holes along the edges of the top and sides, and sewing the pieces together through these holes. The hat is then covered in fabric pieces, which are sewn to each other. Finally, I punched Prym eyelets on either side and threaded elastic through. It’s worn behind my ears / under my hair.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

The hat pictured here isn’t actually the version worn at the ball. This is a replacement pill box, as the first was ‘stolen’! The day after the ball, Phil and I were having a wander around Leicester. I was carrying the pill box hat in a plastic bag (along with a cheap comb and a sewing kit) to avoid squashing it in our very full suitcase, and accidentally left the bag unattended for ten minutes in McDonalds. We dashed back to find it but it was already gone! This second version is better constructed than the first, so I’m thinking of the lost one as a rare (for me) toile!

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

Finally, the night before the ball, I decided to whip up a matching bag. This bag was based on a pattern included with a recent issue of Simply Sewing magazine (issue 54). I didn’t have time to create/order a strap, so borrowed one from one of my handbags, and I finished hand-sewing the inside of the bag on the train to the ball (in good company, travelling with the lovely Sue).

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

The Dressmakers’ Ball was a really fun evening and a great incentive to make a more glamorous dress and a plethora of accessories. I believe Crafty Sew & So are planning to hold the ball every other year, and I’m thinking next time I need to take the word ‘ball’ to heart and create something really dramatic.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress


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Velvet Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Two weekends ago we were in Bristol for the Like Sew Amazing shop launch, and last weekend we were in London so that I could attend a meeting of the Association of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers GPC. I’ve stuck to my resolution of making time to attend meet-ups and other creative events, and not just those I organise. In just over two weeks’ time we are flying to New York, so that I can attend Male Pattern Boldness Day for the first time. Peter’s long-running event is surely the ultimate sewing meet-up, and I’ve been longing to join in for years.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

The only downside of so much socialising is that I’ve spent very little time at home for the last two weekends. I’m keen to finish one or, dare I say it, two coats before we leave for New York, but it’s going to be a push. I struggle to motivate myself to sit behind the sewing machine after a day at work, but I have been making progress on my knitting in the evening and during weekend travel. It’s a good job, as I also have four knitting projects I’d like to finish for New York (one blocked and ready to go, one in progress, and two yet to start).

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have something new to wear (and photograph, obviously) for my holiday, and I won’t be cutting any corners to complete the projects quickly. As my sewing ability improves I’m trying to make sure I finish my sewing projects to a (slowly but surely) increasingly high standard to match.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

These photos were taken on a previous trip to Bristol, when I was there to attend the Sewcialite Soiree in November. The pattern is the Grace Dress from Simple Sew, and was free with Love Sewing magazine. It’s a lovely simple pattern, which I’ve now made three times. My first version is still my favourite, despite it getting somewhat mangled in the washing machine, as the fabric gives it a simplicity and lightness.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

This version was made in the leftover floral velvet from my version of McCall’s M7154, purchased from Barry’s Fabrics. The long train on M7154 means that it isn’t wearable for many occasions, so I was keen to make a ‘day dress’ with the remaining fabric.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Back to holiday knitting for me, with a glass of cider and an episode of ST The Next Generation.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress


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White Christmas Freya

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

Happy Christmas / holidays everyone. I hope you have some time off work over the next couple of weeks and get the chance to relax and enjoy yourselves.

This time of year, the run up to Christmas, is always so busy, but thanks to a little lull at work as a result of changing employers, I’m feeling unusually relaxed and organised this year.

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

I’ve taken part in two online swaps (Bombazine Mitt Swap and Sewing Secret Santa) and have managed to complete and post both parcels in good time to arrive before Christmas (definitely not the case last year). I even managed to get some photos in daylight before sending, which I’ll share soon.

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

I’m also making a couple of handmade presents for family, which will be finished and wrapped this weekend. No manic knitting in the car on Christmas Eve for me this year!

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

Since I was feeling ahead of the game, I decided to take part in the Sew a Xmas Sweater Contest organised by Tilly & the Buttons. I wanted to create a casual top which was loosely inspired by Vera-Ellen’s dress at the end of White Christmas.

tumblr_phr8rydQQU1r8177lo9_250.gif

My version is a Tilly & the Buttons Freya Top, sewn as per the pattern, but with the addition of feather trim from Birmingham Rag Market around the wrists. I used a red scuba fabric from Barry’s Fabrics to make the top and a matching cape, which is worn over the top and closes with a button and loop at the neck. To create the cape I used the By Hand London Circle Skirt Calculator, inputting my neck instead of my waist circumference to generate measurements for a full circle skirt. I reduced the length, and had to cut out the cape in three pieces due to available fabric. I trimmed the cape with a White Simplicity Faux Fur trim purchased from Minerva Crafts.

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

The project resulted in a very festive, but also easy to wear, outfit. After Christmas, I can wear the Freya Top without the cape, and the feathers on the cuffs are also easily detachable. I’d like to make this again in more luxurious fabrics – perhaps next year!

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya