Sunday, 22 May 2016

Shirt Success



Yeah - I finally managed to make a shirt I'm happy with.

I have made only a few shirts. I've never used a pattern - each one has been a rub off of a commercial shirt. I have had a few problems with the fit and styling. One of the biggest problems was making the collar and cuffs firm enough.

So this was the shirt I made for John for his birthday. I still think there are a couple of issues, but its a big improvement on the last one.

A couple of years ago I traced a shirt that fitted him well and used it to make my pattern. It was not too bad, but the collar was a bit tight and the length a little bit short. I fixed these issues for the next version, but I still hadn't sorted out the floppy collar. which was not aided by the soft fabric.

This time I decided to sort out the collar and cuffs and I also included a separate button placket, where the previous versions had a simple folded over CF edge.


I did quite a bit of reading about collar construction techniques and how it should be interfaced. I used a combination of techniques, but I do find the Grainline Archer sewalong really helpful generally for sewing shirts. However I didn't use this technique this time. I made the collar and pressed it into shape, attached the stand and then added the collar to the stand.

To ensure the correct firmness and crisp finish I actually used a double layer of interfacing. I used a medium firm iron on and this seemed to work really well.

The seams were faux flat felled - next time I would like to try doing a proper flat felled seam. The hem was a rolled hem, but done without a rolled hem foot.

My daughter chose the buttons and I initially though they were a little bit too big. I do think they work though, but next time I'd go a bit smaller.


I know I've done a good job when John asks me if I'd made it! He was impressed with the finish and initially though it was a RTW shirt. NO CHANCE!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

More art not less



It's that time of year when exams start. My eldest son has his first GCSE exam this week and my daughter has just taken her options. The year 6 students at the school I work in have just taken their SATs and a couple of weeks ago Ofsted paid us a visit.  There has been much change to the curriculum in the UK and the government first of all want all schools to become academies and then change their mind! Schools want to have outstanding Ofsted ratings and teachers are suck in the middle trying to make sense of it all. All these things have prompted me to write this post.


We went off to my daughters high school a couple of weeks ago to meet with her form teacher in order to agree her options for GCSE (She's only in year 8 and options are usually taken in year 9, but let's not get into that one).


Actually the process was quite painless. She knew which options she wanted to take and the school were happy with them too. She chose Art, Drama, Spanish and Geography. Completely her own choice, and supported by us. I know of other schools where students have been told they can't do arts subjects and they have been forced down a more 'academic' route. This saddens me as the arts have been left out of the EBacc and many schools are squeezing them out of the curriculum. Less art at KS3 and fewer GCSE classes. Often not replacing arts teachers when they leave.


I'm glad that the school my children go to recognises their abilities and preferences and will let them take the subjects they are interested in. Both my sons are quite academic, but they both have an arts subject. One took music and the other product design. I know that my daughter will thrive doing the arts and it's her ambition to become a drama teacher.



I'm also fortunate to work in a school that values the arts. Since starting there in 2014 I've seen students become passionate artists. From learning new techniques to working as artists and creating individual pieces that reflect their personalities. There's still a long way to go, but I'm so impressed with the work they have created and I wanted to share some of it here (sorry for the picture heavy post, but I am one proud teacher).


We started the year with quite traditional techniques and then work increasingly independently as they become more confident. I expect a lot from my students and they do work hard. But it's a different sort of work to English and Maths but is still rigorous and fun! This different way of working allows students to develop creativity in a wider context and become wholistic learners.

Some students really do engage with all aspects of art and you can see the joy on their faces as they create work or learn a new technique. Others just enjoy the physicality of the subject and engage with the messy stuff. I have just started some clay work with year 7 and they are having a whale of a time with it. I will share some as they progress.


Making and creating is part of being human and should be fostered in our education system at all levels.

I'm glad to be where I am at the moment. I get to be part of developing creativity in young people and that is set to increase next year as we run an arts trip to London and start to deliver the Arts Award for our students. I'm excited for this and can't wait to see the young people I work with grow and develop. #moreartnotless.


Year 5 South American inspired masks, Year 6 Still Life food, Year 7 Impressionistic Lamdscapes, Year 8 Portraits and Tom Phillips style found Poetry. Still to come. Year 5 using colour and pattern, Year 6 Printmaking. Year 7 Hybrid animals in clay and year 8 recycled book art.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Hunter Tank

A while a go I had the opportunity of testing the Hunter Tank for Jennifer Lauren Vintage. The pattern has been released this week, so grab yourselves a copy. This is a lovely summery top with a tie at the front waist. It is designed to sit at the waist.  and would look fantastic paired with high waist skirt or trousers. I made this in a light weight navy cotton with a strawberry design and used navy bias binding for the neck and armholes. 


This is a quick make and I made it in an afternoon. The fit was good and I liked the design, although I'm not sure it really fits with my style. My daughter really does love this and it goes really well with her skinny jeans.

If you're looking for something to sew for your holidays then this is a good option. I made this using less than 1m of fabric.  



Sunday, 1 May 2016

Frida Fantastico


I have been waiting to blog this for ages. 
At Christmas my husband bought me 2m of this lovely fabric from Fancy Moon.

I decided I wanted a dress, but with only 2m and a very distinct pattern it had to be a slim skirted version.
I drafted a bodice using my own block, added some cap sleeves and used the pencil skirt from Gertie's first book.


I was really careful with the pattern placement on the bodice and managed to match the pattern on the bodice back quite well. Unfortunately I didn't have enough fabric to match the back of the skirt.


The bodice is lined with a light cotton muslin and I underlined the skirt with the same fabric. The shell fabric just needed a little extra body.


I finished the dress way back in February, but it had been too cold to wear. I did wear it a couple of weeks ago when we had the warm spell. Just waiting for it to get warm enough to have this in regular rotation.  

What would you make out of fabric like this?

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Named Kielo Convert

I am a Named Kielo convert!

Mum in her Kielo Dress.

I had originally bypassed this pattern as I was not really impressed by the styling on the Named website. I think it was the really sheer fabric and colour choice that put me off. How misled I was!

However, recently I had seen quite a few versions around the internet including this one by busylizzieinbrizzie.

and this one by Wasted Weekends.


The styling seems to suit most bodyshapes and I had been on the lookout for a maxi dress pattern for the summer. As I'm going to be in Hong Kong and China for a few weeks I really needed a light fabric that wont crease and will look fab after being screwed up in a case for many hours! I found this blue fabric at a local market for £2 a metre. It's semi sheer so I will need to wear a half slip with it.


I know that the Kielo is drafted for a knit or stretch woven, but I thought I'd give it a go in my fabric as it had only cost me a total of £4 for the 2m needed. (On a side note, I went into Dorothy Perkins the other day and this fabric is one of their current lines, as a blouse and dress.)

I cut a straight size10 (38) and made not adjustments during the construction. I made a self bias binding for the neck and armholes, and made sure not to make the seams bigger than the 1cm included on the pdf pattern.

I allowed about 5cm more on the back vent as the fabric is a woven and others had said it was a bit low. I took off about 5cm at the hem and did a rolled hem. Unfortuately I haven't photographed my version yet as it's too sheer and needs a slip which I don't have. I will post this soon.


My mum was visiting when I was making my dress and was impressed by the fit and styling and asked me to make her one. We headed off to The Sewing Box in Morpeth and bought a beautiful drapey Crepe de chine style fabric (with no stretch), also synthetic and the sort of fabric that would look stunning even after being screwed up for hours. My mum travels quite a lot and this is the perfect dress for her to take out to Spain or on her travels.

I cut and sewed a Size 14 and finished it the same way as I did mine (mum made the bias binding - which was no mean feat with this slippery fabric). We are the same height and so the length of the dress was the same as mine. I am now convinced that this pattern works well in a light weight woven with no stretch, but I would like to make it in a knit to see the difference. I plan to make a shorter one for work and one with sleeves for the winter.

I am converted to this pattern - it's amazing what fabric choice can make to the styling of a dress.


Monday, 28 March 2016

Tops galore

I've been busy testing patterns again and have made the second of three, which was very sucessful, but not really my style, but my teenage daughter loves it! Obviously I cant share yet!

I also made a top from this month's Burdastyle. This must be a first - making something within a week of recieving the magazine. It's a cute little tank with pleated neckline (#118 04/2016)


I cut the size 38 (which is my normal Burda size), but found it a little generous in the width. So if you are planning on making it do check the pattern width against your required finished measurements.
I'll cut a 36 next time, and I do plan to make more as it was so quick to sew. Including tracing the pattern and actually finding the fabric in my stash the making took less than 2 hours and I made my own bias binding.


The fabric is a batik remnant that I had left from making the wrap top a couple of years ago. I picked up a bargain 2m of it in a Charity shop for a whopping £2. There was less than 1m left and I really did have to squeeze the pattern in and piece many sections to make the bias trim. I think this would be a cute addition to any summer wardrobe and great for layering. The example in the magazine is made in silk - this would look amazing in silk, teamed with high waisted skirt or trousers.


I have also done a spot of refashioning. Late last year my mum gave me a shirt in a faded blue fabric. It was too big for me and not really my style, but the colour id in trend for this seeasons blues! I cut the sleeves to form cap sleeves and used the rest of them to create a godet at each side seam, adding a swing element to the top. I thin created a curved hem by cutting the front just at my waist and grading to the original length at the back. All edged were neatened with the overlocker and pressed and hemmed - very simple and it looks a whole lot more wearable.
Next up - Mission: Decorate the hall!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Testing Testing


I'm doing some pattern testing at the moment so I can't share what I'm making, but this is a glimpse of the fabric I'm using. I'll share more once the pattern is released.

This weekend we also decided that the dog needed a hair cut. This is something we've done ourselves for a while, but on this occassion it was rather tricky. Daisy has become rather matted over the winter months as she often gets wet. The clippers would just not go thriugh the mats in her fur, so it was back to scissors and comb. I've got the worst of it out and will comb out the rest and tidy her up next week. I'll do her tail and ears then too.

I've also been looking for a summer dress pattern that I can use for travelling. I'd been looking at the Kielo Dress by Named. Initially I had not given this a second glance as I hated the fabric choice on the promo version. But recently I've been seeing some lovely versions around the web.

I love this Knee length version from Busy Lizzie.


And this one from Donna at Sew Independent.

Now I'm just on the look out for some nice fabric for my own version.

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