english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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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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Favourite 2018 Pattern Releases

Vlog Icon Fav Sewing Patterns

I’ve published a vlog of my personal favourite sewing patterns releases during 2018.

I’ve only sewn one of these so far, but I suspect I’ll get around to a fair few eventually. I have a couple in progress currently, including a Yates Coat.

In no particular order, my favourites are:

Night and Day Dress – Charm Patterns: https://charmpatterns.bygertie.com/shop/night-and-day-dress/

Yates Coat – Grainline Studio: https://grainlinestudio.com/shop/women/yates-coat-paper-pattern/

Myosotis Dress – Deer&Doe: https://shop.deer-and-doe.fr/en/sewing-patterns/65-myosotis-dress-pattern.html

Eloise Dress Sewing Pattern – By Hand London: https://byhandlondon.com/products/eloise-dress-pdf-sewing-pattern

Zelie Shirt – République du Chiffon: http://republiqueduchiffon.com/en/home/118-chemisier-zelie.html

Honeycomb Shirt & Dress – CocoWawa Crafts: https://www.cocowawacrafts.com/shop/sewing-patterns/honeycomb-shirt-dress-pdf-sewing-pattern-eng/

8605 – Simplicity Pattern: https://www.sewdirect.com/us8605a/

I AM Félicie – I AM Patterns: https://iampatterns.fr/en/sewing-patterns/116-felicie.html

Audrey – Seamwork: https://www.seamwork.com/catalog/audrey

Pinnacle Top/Sweater – Papercut Patterns: https://papercutpatterns.com/products/pinnacle-top-sweater

Justine (Free Pattern) – Ready to Sew: https://www.readytosew.fr/en/store/dresses-and-skirts/the-free-pattern-justine

Fika Tote – Noodlehead: https://noodle-head.com/product/fika-tote-pdf-pattern

TPC21//Drop Shoulder Coat – Trend Patterns: https://www.trendpatterns.co.uk/shop/tpc21drop-shoulder-coat-1

Len Coveralls – Sugardale: http://sugardale.net/sewing-patterns

“Karma” Trench – Milan AV-JC: https://www.milanavjc.com/zero-waste-karma-trench-en

Jarrah sweater – Megan Nielsen: https://megannielsen.com/products/jarrah

Floreat dress & top – Megan Nielsen: https://megannielsen.com/products/floreat


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Favourite 2017 Pattern Releases

Favourite Sewing Patterns 2017

Happy New Year Everyone!

I’ve been sorting my pattern and fabric collections, and making sewing plans for 2018. While sorting patterns, I started thinking about my favourite sewing pattern releases of 2017, and I thought it might be fun to share my personal favourites list.

I’ve only sewn two of these so far, but I suspect I’ll get around to most of them eventually, it might just take me a few years.

I’ve shared the full list in my latest vlog:


In no particular order, my 2017 favourites are:

Favourite Sewing Patterns 2017

Orsola Dress & Skirt – By Hand London / Fringe Blouse and Dress – Chalk & Notch / Prudence – Colette / Kalle Shirt & Shirtdress – Closet Case Patterns

Favourite Sewing Patterns 2017

Lliria Dress – Pauline Alice / The Wallet Gift-Giving Set – Thread Theory / The Carlton Coat – Free Sewing / Jumpsuit – In the Folds

Favourite Sewing Patterns 2017

Sasha Trousers – Closet Case Patterns / 8504 – Simplicity Patterns / Asymmetric Gather Dress – The Maker’s Atelier

Favourite Sewing Patterns 2017

Kobe Dress & Top – Papercut Patterns / Flint Trousers – Megan Nielsen / Jackie Dress – Victory Patterns / 8509 – Simplicity Patterns


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Blue Velvet Moneta Dress for #MonetaParty

Colette Patterns #monetaparty Moneta in Blue Velvet

Long time no see, guys! I’ve been finding slightly less time to sew and knit lately, but even less to blog. I’m off on holiday to Seoul and Tokyo next week, and have a few recent projects to photograph, so no doubt I’ll have a few garments (and probably some holiday fabric shopping…) to blog in the next few weeks.

Before that, as I’m sure you’re well aware, back in February ElleRachel and Abigail hosted an online Moneta Party. I had sewn Moneta once before, but wanted to make a new version for the party.

Colette Patterns #monetaparty Moneta in Blue Velvet

I whipped this version of Moneta up quickly the weekend of the party, in a blue stretch velvet from Barry’s Fabrics. I added the Tie Collar from the free Moneta extras pack, and made a belt to wear over the dress, using a trim purchased from Birmingham Rag Market. To make the belt I just added a stiff backing fabric to the trim, and hook and eyes to fasten it.

Colette Patterns #monetaparty Moneta in Blue Velvet

The dress looks ok in these photos, but I’m afraid there were actually a few issues with my fabric choice which mean it hasn’t survived! The stretch velvet I chose clung unflatteringly in the bodice, and having constructed the dress I noticed a flaw in the fabric right under the bust… After taking these photos the dress was cast aside for a few days, after which I removed the bodice and fitted a waistband to make a simple gathered skirt.

Colette Patterns #monetaparty Moneta in Blue Velvet

These photos were taken quickly in our front room, to make the Moneta Party photo deadline. Phil was making fun of my modelling skills, which resulted in the following…

Colette Patterns #monetaparty Moneta in Blue Velvet

Colette Patterns #monetaparty Moneta in Blue Velvet

Colette Patterns #monetaparty Moneta in Blue Velvet

Colette Patterns #monetaparty Moneta in Blue Velvet

Colette Patterns #monetaparty Moneta in Blue Velvet


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Love Sewing & Sew Now Articles

Sew Now Magazine

I’m late posting, since the newer issues are now out, but I had articles in the issues of Love Sewing and Sew Now published during January.

Tribe Patterns Billie Dress

Tribe Patterns Billie Dress

My article for Sew Now was a review of the the Billie Collection, the first pattern from Tribe Patterns, and a collaboration between The Fold Line and Rachel Pinheiro. I sewed this at the same time as my knit version, and, as with that version, it suffers from being a bit loose in the bust (as it’s drafted for a C cup, and I’m a B). The fabric is a gorgeous Geese Flock Cotton Lawn in ochre from Fabric Godmother.

Sew Now Magazine

My article for Love Sewing was a brief history of British Lace Making, with a focus on the Nottingham lace industry and Cluny Lace, who I have blogged about previously.

Love Sewing Magazine

Love Sewing Magazine


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Cuba Libre Shirt

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt

When I tested the Sangria dress from the Winter 2016 pattern collection from Capital Chic Patterns, I also asked Sally if I could test the Cuba Libre shirt. Before I began regularly sewing garments, a good proportion of my wardrobe was made up of RTW shirts, but I haven’t actually sewn many shirts (just one Archer), partly because I already have lots in the wardrobe, and partly because I have a tendency to pick quicker projects. However, I though Cuba Libre would be the perfect opportunity to add some me-made shirts to the wardrobe.

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt

I’m afraid I was a useless pattern tester and didn’t finish this shirt before Sally’s feedback deadline – but she let me off the hook! In fact, I still haven’t quite finished the Cuba Libre shirt shown here. I didn’t manage to add buttonholes or buttons before our holiday to Istanbul, but packed the shirt anyway, and I sewed myself in (plackets & cuffs) so I could wear it for a trip to Topkapi Palace, where these photos were taken. Sewing blogger problems, huh?

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt

I also hand sewed the hem in our hotel room the same morning – which is actually standard for me, as I often hem garments by hand using a slip-stitch. In these photos it looks like the shirt has a hidden button placket – but that’s just because I haven’t attached buttons as yet (I will, I have no intention of regularly sewing myself in)!

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt

This is a really great pattern with lots of lovely shirt details: yoke, collar with stand, cuffs and cuff plackets, patch pockets with flaps. I was working from the tester version, but Sally’s instructions are great and if even you’re not familiar with shirt making it’s nice and straightforward.

Cuba Libre is intended to be oversized – in a thicker fabric, as here, it results in quite a casual look, but in a more luxurious fabric (as in Sally’s sample photos) it can look very glam.

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt

My fabric was a remnant I picked up from the sale table at a local Embroiderers’ Guild meeting, It’s medium weight but very drapey, and very synthetic. I’ll definitely be making more Cuba Libre shirts – the pattern also includes two lengths of shirt dress, and I love a shirt dress as much as I love a shirt, so will be attempting all variations at some point. Some of the lovely details are a bit lost in this print, so I think I’ll make it in a solid (or, as a lover of print, perhaps a very small scale print…) next time.

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt

As noted above, these photos were taken in Topkapi Palace during my recent trip to Istanbul. If you’re not familiar, Topkapi Palace was a residence of the Sultans until its conversion into a museum under the Republic. The Palace is absolutely beautiful and definitely worth a visit (although make sure to visit Dolmabahçe also), especially on a sunny day when it’s lovely strolling between buildings. The Palace has a fascinating history which it’s worth reading up on before you visit, time permitting; as is often the case with palaces, it was a beautiful prison for an awful lot of its residents.

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt

A personal favorite fact about Topkapi Palace is that it had a dedicated confectionery kitchen which employed up to one hundred confectioners – proof, if needed, of how seriously Turkish people take their puddings! A Turkish colleague told me previously that I was well suited to working in Turkey, due to having such a sweet tooth. Well, when in Rome.

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt

Capital Chic Patterns Cuba Libre Shirt


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Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

I’m currently on holiday in Istanbul, hence the backdrop of Hagia Sophia in these photos. Before heading off on holiday, I was thrilled to be involved in testing the new Winter 2016 pattern collection by Sally (of both Capital Chic Patterns and Charity Shop Chic). I love all of the patterns in the collection but, due to lack of time, Sangria – which is my far the quickest sew – was the only pattern I tested.

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

This is the first version of Sangria I made, using some mystery fabric from Birmingham Rag Market (I think it’s a mid-weight jersey). The pattern is designed for scuba jersey, to achieve a smooth line over the body (i.e. avoid visible panty line). I have tried it in three different fabrics now (pictures to follow), and found it works well in jerseys, as well as scuba jerseys, particularly if they are medium weight. I fancy placing a Girl Charlee order and seeing how it sews up in a selection of their fabrics. As an added bonus, in a stretchy knit you can skip the back zip, making this an even quicker sew.

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

This version was sewn using the test pattern. I graded between sizes 10 (bust) and 12 (waist/hips), and sewed a narrow seam allowance on the sleeves, which felt a little tight (a reasonably common adjustment for me). As this fabric has quite a bit of stretch, I used a shorter zip than recommended, just to allow me to get the collar over my head. I do get a bit of pooling of fabric at my lower back, which I ought to sort for future versions, and which I only recently noticed, since I don’t see my back that often!

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

I absolutely love this pattern for work dresses, and have also made a party version in a shiny snakeskin print which I’m hoping to rock this weekend!

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

Right, I’m off sightseeing. Hope you also have good weeks planned!