Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Merchant and Mills Workbook Review

I love a closet full of posies blog - she always seems to make effortlessly stylish clothes. Recently some of the comments talked about the new Merchant and Mills book - so obviously I had to google it and after a little deliberation (roughly 5 minutes) I decided that I would buy it. Participating in me made May has taught me that I do need some simple non- patterned makes in my me made wardrobe. I have always liked the Merchant and Mills patterns they are unfussy and stylish but for some reason I had never purchased one.

  This is not just a sewing book it is a thing of beauty, a work of art even. I think that if you didn't have the slightest bit of interest in sewing you could pick this book up and appreciate the photography, layout, and over all put togetherness of this book.

It comes with 6 patterns on sheets that you need to trace off  (and occasionally add bits to). All of the patterns (except one) have at least one variation. The patterns are all typical Merchant and Mills patterns ie utilitarian, non fussy but stylish I don't want to show too many shots of the inside as I would hate to spoil it for anyone thinking of ordering the book - but take my word for it the photography is amazing.

  This is not really a beginners sewing book - if you have never sewn before then this is probably not the best book for you to start with (they have produced two other sewing books that I think guide you through the basics). If you have some sewing knowledge than this book will take you through simple projects (like the bantam vest) through to more complex garments such as the stride trousers (and shorts) or the Hazelmere Jacket.

  I decided that I would start with the Bantam vest - it has a racer/boxer type back, usually I steer clear of anything like this as I hate to have bra straps showing - and no way am I ever going without!! The photos of this garment (and all of the others) just make it look gorgeous and floaty - great dressed up or down.  So I thought I would give it a go (I can always buy one of those multiway bras!). I used a 100% cotton Ikea duvet cover that I picked up from a charity shop! (I already turned the pillow cases into my pom pom scarf), the fabric has quite an open weave I think making it a bit like a double gauze so perfect for a floaty sleeveless summer top!

  Merchant and Mills patterns are a little different from other patterns I have used but once I worked out what the symbols were on the pattern sheet (it mostly explains them in the book) and after I googled Merchant and Mills pattern sizing (it only gives finished dimensions in the book and I am not used to judging my pattern size on this) I was ready to go. This pattern is simple and easy and the book takes you through it, the only thing I did differently was to apply the bias binding not in a pre made loop as I found it was too long to do it the way the book suggested. It was generally a quick make with few issues.

  I am very pleased with the result - I think this vest can look quite different depending on what material you use and what you pair it with, I really like the high front and lower back hemline. I have been wearing it all day and am already thinking of what other versions I could make!

  I have dressed it up with my denim Maude skirt (yet to be blogged!) and summer clogs:

Lovin' the sunshine this half term!

  We went on a picnic later on in the day - so perfect to try it out dressed down:



High front, low back hemline adds interest.

  As for the other garments - I am desparate to give all of them a go plus the variations - I just need to start saving up for the copious amounts of linen that I want to make them all out of! (Seriously if anyone knows a good quality but fairly inexpensive linen source please let me know!!). It is hard to tell how good the instructions are for the more complex garments without making them - from reading them through they seem to take you through the making process in a logical way.

  Would I recommend this book? - yes - even if I had not made anything from it, it is a beautiful book with a good amount of information on various techniques - I have learnt a lot from just glancing through it (bear in mind though that I am not an experienced sewist). If you have a little sewing knowledge, like the style of the Merchant and Mills patterns and you are OK about having a few good quality patterns rather than lots and lots in different styles (some of which you would never make) then this book is for you! If you like flouncy frilly brightly patterned garments then this book may not be the one (although there is no reason why these patterns could not be made up in bold prints - It would give them a whole different look).

  I hope anyone on half term is having fun! - I can't believe we are already half way through the week, time just goes by too quickly!

  Thanks for stopping by!

             Su xx

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Lilou dress (wearable?) muslin or 'Did I mention my bird obsession?'

I think I touched briefly on my bird/ chicken collection (obsession) - you can imagine that when I saw this bird print duvet cover in a local charity shop there was no question as to weather I would buy it or not - it had to be mine!

  Initially I had thought it would be perfect for the Lazy seamstress's new Maude skirt but the pattern hadn't been released yet (although it has now, just as I was finishing my dress!!!!) . After seeing this amazing deer print summer fit and flare dress made by Rochelle from Lucky Lucille I really wanted to make one for all those hot summer days that I'm sure are just around the corner! I was given Tilly's book 'Love at First Stitch' for Christmas and hadn't got round to making anything from it yet (despite spending hours repeatedly looking through it and dreaming of all the wonderful things I was going to make!) The last pattern is the Lilou dress - here is what it is supposed to look like:

 The skirt is meant to be pleated but there is an option to use the skirt pieces from the Clemence gathered skirt instead - I always feel pleats are a little formal and don't really like them so I knew I would make the gathered version. I thought I could use my birdie duvet cover to make the dress before cutting into my proper fabric. 
  Although the duvet was a double, the bird print was only the center panel of the top of the cover so I didn't actually have too much fabric to play with which did make pattern matching almost impossible. Plus I had to add a band at the bottom of the skirt to make it longer (my leg's do not do 'above knee'). This was my first attempt at lining a bodice, I struggled with under stitching the arms but apart from that I think it went OK.

  This dress makes me feel partly like a 50's film star and partly like I'm five years old and am getting dressed up for a birthday party - guess what - I love this feeling!!!!

I'm not 100% sure but I think I could wear this as an actual dress?

So long as the owner of the duvet cover didn't spot my dress and say in a loud voice 'I used to have a duvet cover just like that'

What do you think? Actual dress or just a muslin? I don't want to look like more of a wally than I already am, so honest opinions are much appreciated.

The only issue is this 'hump' - do I need to shorten the bodice? Is this a 'sway back'?

During the week I made the Seamwork Sydney - I thought it would be great to put over summer dresses but I don't seem to have much luck with seamwork patterns - the neckline is massive!! - I had to chop my head off on the picture as I looked as grumpy as I was feeling!!

Look what I have just bought! I'm not sure I can wait until next weekend to make it but I have so much work to do this week...........

 Thanks for stopping by!

              Su xx

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Guerrilla sewing.........

My favorite type of sewing is turning something that no longer fits or is no longer worn into a usable garment - no patterns - no pressure - just fun!

  After my me made May work clothes sewing extravaganza I felt I needed something other than My denim shift and weekend Doris to wear on non-work days that were not warm enough for sleeveless tops or summer dresses. After seeing Just sew therapeutic's stripey boat neck plantain dress I really wanted to make one, but when I looked through my stash I didn't really have any suitable material, in my on line plantain dress research I had found this tutorial on the deer and doe blog. It made me wonder weather I could do something similar using a RTW top and some fabric left over from my floral ultimate cowl neck dress - It turns out I could and I rather like the result!

The RTW t-shirt has a distressed collar so I have left the sleeve edges and pocket edges raw hoping that they will curl up and look like I meant them to look that way - not like I just couldn't be bothered to finish them!!

Initially I was disappointed that I had made a mistake measuring the hem and made it a little too long for a tunic - as the day got hotter I took off my leggings and realized that the hem length was perfect for a dress!

The wisteria is just amazing at this time of year - out house is covered in it but all the flowers are high up so I could only get a few in for the picture!!

 Construction was easy - chop off RTW at the desired bodice and sleeve length, cut out rectangle of spare fabric at the desired width (for gathering) and length (I wanted more width to create a more gathered skirt but didn't have enough of the floral fabric). Add pockets if desired (of course you would want to add pockets!).  Sew side seams (or in this case center back seam) of skirt. Measure elastic at the same circumference as the chopped off bodice, stretch elastic while sewing to add it to the rectangle (sadly my elastic was a little old so the skirt is not as gathered as I would like). Hem and - Ta da!

  I add a little bird label to the inside of my me made clothes - this time I decided to add it to the outside at one of the pocket edges.

  This dress is sooooooooo comfie and I think looks OK? I suspect it will get lots of wear over the spring/ early summer and also on colder summer days (I imagine those will start just when the school holidays begin!!!!).

  Thanks for stopping by!

         Su xx

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Bird obsession........

For this post I need to tell a little background story......

As a child I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, they kept lots of animals including chickens - I just loved collecting the eggs, feeding them, changing their water, watching them scratch and peck around. I always knew I would want to keep hens as an adult and a few years ago we got 4 gorgeous birds, we built a large pen for them and I lovingly painted their hen house light blue and white. We thought that their environment was fox proof and we had never even seen a fox in our garden. One day I went down to feed them their breakfast and discovered a poultry version of a CSI massacre. Placing their dismembered body parts into black bags is something I will never forget and has scarred me for life, I really would love to have hens again but we have moved house and regularly see foxes in our garden, there is no way I could risk a repeat of the previous hen massacre.

  Almost in place of real hens I seem to have started a hen collection, I have ornaments, money boxes, door stops etc and this has turned into a collection of not just hen items but other birds too.

 As I had done a lot of sewing recently I felt like turning to crochet for a bit of a change and found this post by the amazing Attic 24 - so cute I just had to make it. I do struggle following crochet patterns so my tail is a little wonky (despite re-doing it twice!) but here is my version:

 I do love him and can see me making a few more friends for him!

It got me thinking and I decided to try to make some bird brooches. They were easy to do and nice to spend an evening crocheting and watching telly! They are basically a tear drop shape crocheted with eyes and wing stitched on, beak and wattle/comb crocheted on, backed by felt with a brooch pin sewn on - easy peasy! I really love the Magenta one and can see a few others in bright colours! 

The hen is not quite right - I think I need to do a bit more experimentation!

  I hope everyone is having a good week!

  Thanks for stopping by!

           Su xx

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Bloggers block and me made May makes (try saying that quickly!)

Hello! I have had a touch of Bloggers block recently - I have been panic sewing due to my me made May pledge but I just didn't feel like blogging about my makes until now - and I have about three blog post's worth of material to write about!

I have decided to post a daily picture on instagram but I won't repeat everything on the blog unless it is something new that I have made.

 My pledge was to wear something me made every day in May - Now I do like a challenge but I hadn't really thought about it and soon realized that I would be running out of suitable work clothes  around the 3rd of May (sooner if the weather wasn't great - which it wasn't)! Time to get sewing!

I decided that some short sleeved t-shirts and a pair of trousers would fit the bill!

1) Lace edged Plantain (free deer and doe pattern):

  I LOVE the plantain pattern - it fits in all the right places and skims over all the bits you want it to skim over. It is so simple and easy to make - I love my plantains more than most of my RTW t-shirts. The fabric is a beige cotton jersey I bought on sale from Minerva fabrics - it is really good quality and while it is not a colour I would usually wear I am glad I bought 4 meters of it! I edged the t-shirt with some vintage lace (from my grandma-in-law in the USA) as I didn't want a run of the mill plain t-shirt. The lace has made the hem a little stiff but I think (hope) that will loosen with washing. I really love this top!

2) Colour blocked thrifted plantain:

   This plantain is made from a man's t-shirt I bought in a sale and an old grey jersey skirt that I never wore. It is so lovely and soft as well as light, I am not 100% sure about the pocket but it is very wearable. I used my twin needle and contrasting grey thread for hemming. I do love making things out of unused/ thrifted items - it is probably my favorite type of sewing!

3) Sleeveless stripey Grainline Hemlock:

  Another free pattern - the Hemlock is a loose fitting t-shirt which is supposed to have 3/4 length sleeves - I saw some lovely sleeveless versions on the internet and I only had enough fabric left over from my weekend Doris dress for a sleeveless one so it was like it was meant to be! It is very comfie but I just feel a bit manly in it! I distressed the collar but because of the stripes you don't really notice it unless up close.

4) Colette Clover capri trousers:

  I have made two pairs of trousers (both clovers) and I hate making trousers - there I said it - a confession!! I think it is all the basting, re-basting, then sewing, then realizing that they still don't fit very well!!!!!!!! I suspect that it is partly down to my choice of stretch fabrics and my desire for very slim fitting trousers that make it so difficult! These are made from a (expensive!) grey cotton twill - very boring but another thing I have realized is that I need more solid colours in my me made wardrobe.

I have not shown a photo of the back as they are 'snug' (I will be taking an extra pair of trousers with me when I first wear them just in case!)

I just love pockets!

    Well that is all my initial me made May makes! I hope everyone else is having a good me made May? I have seen some wonderful and inspiring makes on instagram and the blogosphere. I know everyone says it but I am learning so much about my wardrobe, tastes, needs etc I have never taken part in anything like this before and so far I have really been enjoying the experience. 

  Thanks for stopping by!

         Su xx

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Doris does stripes.....

  BREAKING NEWS: Yesterday while at a children's party a mum (who didn't know sewing was my hobby) came up to me and said that I looked really nice and 'where did I get my dress?'

  Well you'll never guess which dress she meant! - I was only wearing my denim shift dress!

   I was totally proud of myself and then really embarrassed as everyone turned to look at me and my dress!! But still it put a big smile on my face for the rest of the day! I was glad she was impressed as I had made part of her daughters gift - just a little drawstring bag with girly things inside but you never know weather people will appreciate handmade gifts. Do you make gifts for people you don't know very well and if so what?

 It is May 1st on Friday and I have come to the realization that a MMM15 pledge of wearing one me made item each day may have been a little rash. If I was not working during May I think I would just about be OK. However I am of course working throughout May and my total me made spring/summer work wardrobe consists of 2.5 sorbettos (the 0.5 is my first ever garment, and is really only suitable for emergencies)!

  So what I should have done this weekend was made up a few tops that I could wear for work. However I saw on instagram that the weekend Doris dress by the Lazy seamstress (who seems anything but lazy if you ask me!) had 15% off the pattern and it's such a cute dress, and I had seen quite a few great versions, and you can never have enough jersey dresses can you??

  Doris is a 60's style knit dress with a decorative zip designed for double knit and ponte roma fabric, it is 3/4 sleeve and there is either a dress or sweater option. I wanted to make a summer Doris so I went for a drapey viscose jersey, made short sleeves and crossed my fingers! I am pleased with the outcome and can see how versatile this pattern is. I love the way the dress hangs loose over the tummy but still has a flattering shape to it. Of course I adore the pockets which hang down a little in the middle due to the loose drape of the fabric. The only thing I would change would be to widen/lower the neckline a little as this would suit my shape a little more. I can see me making quite a few Doris dresses in various fabrics for various seasons!

  The photos are not great as my daughter wasn't really in the mood and it started to rain! I tried to capture the 60's vibe and failed miserably!!

The back is a bit t-shirty - I left the zip out as I thought it would be too heavy for my light material.

Check out my amazing pattern matching!

Not so good this side!

  I had just enough fabric left over to squeeze out a short sleeved grainline hemlock - so at least I will have one t-shirt to wear to work in May! I did find the pattern matching very frustrating and will be avoiding stripes and other similarly tricky patterns from now on!! 

  Thanks for stopping by!

         Su xx

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

New Look 6145 - Simplicity star sewist challenge - A tale of two halves........

  After trying to photograph my entry for the Simplicity star sewist challenge I needed a sit down and a good strong cuppa!

  Why I hear you ask?

  Well let me explain.......

  I decided to go for the dress New Look 6145

  The dress itself is a simple shift dress with lots of collar and sleeve options. I say simple but I must admit I hadn't tackled double back darts, vents and the only other invisible zip I have ever inserted didn't go too well!!). However the construction was straight forward and the instructions excellent (as always with new look patterns).

  I decided to make the dress in denim as I have never sewn with denim before and for a while I had been wanting a loose fitting denim shift dress. I chose a lightweight 5oz dress denim from Merchant and Mills. I was a little worried as initially it was really stiff - even after pre-washing, but it seems to have loosened up a lot with handing and wearing.
  I wanted the fit to be loose but shaped a little (I get too self conscious in very fitted shift dresses and I need room to move around, especially in the shoulder area). 
    I decided to draft my own tulip sleeves, firstly as this was not something I had ever done before (tulip sleeves or drafting anything on my own!) I love tulip sleeves and also I felt they would give me more room for my 'muscular' arms as well as add some uniqueness. I hemmed them with a floral self made bias binding. As you can see from the photo I did have some issues setting in my self drafted sleeves.

I have topstitched the neckline, sleeves, hem and vent in purple - I love purple! 

  The inside bits are all nice and neat!

So I hear you ask why DID you need a large cup of tea and a sit down after taking photos?
  Well I love this dress, I took time and care over all of the construction and I added little details, it is made well, is comfortable and I love wearing it and I can see it becoming a versatile wardrobe staple but I struggled to capture the little details in photos and I think it just looks a little boring....

I even cajoled the little people into taking some photos whilst on a day out in Avebury but the cold and wind put a stop to any photo plans I had!

  I have really enjoyed the challenge and on a personal level I am really proud of what I have achieved (even if it is boring!!). So there you have it - my entry for the Simplicity star sewist challenge!

I can't wait to see what everyone else has done - there are so many possibilities and options! I am also looking forward to seeing all of the skirts and vintage tops (I took ages to decide which pattern to go for as they were all desirable!).

  Did you enter? Did you enjoy the challenge or find it stressful? The closing date is the 31st of May so there is still time to enter if you want to............

    Thanks for stopping by!

          Su xx