Merry Christmas from Francoise and Clarinda

I made it – literally and metaphorically!

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I rushed to buy Francoise by Tilly and the Buttons as soon as it came out and initially planned to take part in the competition. However, the end of term is so mad that I just never finished in time.  However, I loved looking at everyone else’s dresses and it gave me lots of ideas. I decide to add contrast cuffs to match my collar – now this might not seem very adventurous to you but this was my first time off piste so to speak and I have to say how chuffed I am with how it turned out.

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I bought the fabric from Clothkits – it is some sort of wool blend, gorgeously soft to the touch.  It is a delicate herringbone pattern and I still can’t quite decide if the contrast if black or dark brown.  Bits of fluff were coming off all over the place and I am sure I will regret not having made friends with my overlocker yet.  I bought one a couple of months ago and am still waiting for a chuck of time to devote to us getting better acquainted. So edges which would really benefit from being overlocked are just pinked – however, I do sort of like pinking – it somehow seems very 1960s.

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Having missed the deadline for the competition I decided I would have Francoise as my Christmas Day dress – even this looked in doubt but after a final push yesterday and some last minute hand sewing this morning I finally finished it on Christmas Eve.  Although, you could well be forgiven for not realising it was 24th December from these photos – it is gloriously sunny here in Arundel – the tide is very high (the river always looks prettier) and I thought that the cathedral would make a festive backdrop to my photos in the absence of snow –  although I am sure the neighbours thought I was bonkers traipsing up the garden in a pair of high heeled patent shoes.  On reflection I think the dress will look better with my suede boots.

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In terms of fitting, I cut a size three on the top and graduated out to a four at the hips – I probably didn’t need to do this as there seems to be lots of spare fabric at the back. I’d be really happy to hear from anyone else who has made a Francoise as to how their collar went.  I THINK I have messed mine up – it doesn’t go the whole way round the back – I wasn’t sure if it was a design feature but  suspect not. You can just see where it ends in my back view shot.

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I am super pleased with my dress – it’s my most adventurous make to date (by myself – no workshop hand-holding) and so I feel fairly confident about tackling more challenging projects in 2015: it has been a great first year of sewing. So, from sunny Arundel, very Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x

 

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Round up of the year – My five top hits of 2014

I really enjoy the community events, most recently Bimble and Pimble’s Sewvember which introduced me not only to Instgram but to some wonderful, inspirational ideas. Now it’s approaching the end of the year and I see that Crafting a a Rainbow is again promoting a Top 5 of the year. As I only bought my Janome at Easter, my round ups will be from the last eight months and here is my first one: The Top Five Hits of 2014

Moneta and Marilyn
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This was my first ever knit and I was particularly proud of myself when I had completed the bodice.  I followed instructions from The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits having bought myself a walking foot and a twin needle.   This post could have made it into the Misses of the year due to my failure with the twin needle and the clear elastic – both of which have still eluded me and will be goals for 2015.  However, the sheer fun to be had from the fabric  and the pleasure of completing my first knit puts in firmly in the Top Five Hits post.
Sorbetto and One Week One Pattern

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Having only been sewing since Easter I did not really have much of a choice for my One Week One Pattern – it had to be the Sorbetto – which I love.  The skill I most enjoyed learning from this make was bias binding.  It was through this that I discovered The Little Tailoress and her super helpful tutorials.  Here are three of my five Sorbettos from that week, including a running top I made from some of the leftover Marilyn knit – as you can see I take my race preparation very seriously.  My participation in this event was a HIT for another reason.  I entered a giveaway competition by Handmade Jane who organised this year’s OWOP and won my choice of three patterns. Having this announced on her blog gave me by biggest number of hits in one day – 99 – the likes of which have never been seen since so as a new blogger this was very exciting for me in addition to the delight of wining three patterns – which will feature in a future post.

Sureau

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How I love my Sureau.  I adore the button placket at the front and the easy comfortable styling.  I would say this is the make I wear the most.  It is super comfortable and always gets favourable comments.  I plan to make more, many more.  This could be the garment for OWOP15.

Lacy beanie

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I do enjoy knitting – I was a knitter long before I could sew but like many other hobbies of the past it was long forgotten but my interest has been reawakened and I now knit regularly on my commute.  This little beanie was my first time of using both circular and double ended needles.  I really enjoyed making it up and knitting is such a useful thing to have in your handbag  for a spare ten minutes – imminently more portable than a sewing machine.

Bees shirt

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This shirt is a favourite because I have worn it a lot and I love the funky fabric.  It teams well with a grey skirt for work and looks equally at home with denin for a more casual look.  I also have fond memories of making this shirt.  Six colleagues and I held our own sewing bee at work and afterwards we decided to take a workshop at Sew Pretty together to further improve our skills.  Only three of us actually made it to the workshop but we all made a version of this shirt and none of us finished it during the three weeks worth of classes because we were laughing and chatting so much. By the way, as we’re getting to know each other a little more through this series of posts, I’d like to point out that these two photos were taken at the end of my garden

So, four more posts to come.  I am looking forward to pondering about what to include and then writing them; I hope you are looking forward to reading about my Misses, Highlights, Reflections and Goals!

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x

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Finally … the lace dress of doom is finished

The finally finished dress

The finally finished dress

The hours of my life spent on this dress just doesn’t bear thinking about. Four three hours classes, homework every week of two to three hours, two hours at sewing club and then all the handsewing – phew.  Only to  discover that instead of looking exactly like Lisa Comfort in her dress, I look rather matronly in a dress that doesn’t fit very well.

I feel ambivalent about this dress.  It is very exciting to have finally finished a longer project, particularly one that introduced me to so many new techniques but there is also so much wrong with it I don’t know where to start.

Here are the errors that true sewistas would just sort out: the waggly hem, the dodgy loop fastening, it’s too big pretty much all over.

My toile - why couldn't I see this was too big?

My toile – why couldn’t I see this was too big?

I started the class at Sew Over It  – Clapham in November.  There were five in the class and our tutor was the wonderful Julie.  I love it that the studio has toiles already made up in all the different sizes for you to try on and then you take your own fitting from there.  I went for a 12 and had to take out a central V on the chest to take account of my small boobs.

Lovely studio at Sew Over It - can you see the lovely cake?

Lovely studio at Sew Over It – can you see the scrummy cake?

The dress needed further taking in on the seams and again after I tried the zip – I ended up trimming so much off I think I definitely should have gone with a 10.  The interesting thing about the class was how I emerged as a student.  Being a teacher I thought I would be a good student – retrospectively I think I was probably a pain. To encourage me every time I wailed, Julie would say “It’s couture!”.

My first problem was my lace.  I decided to buy my lace from Sew Over It so that I could look exactly like Lisa Comfort. I soon realised that everyone else had bought their lace elsewhere and it was far prettier than mine: moan, moan.

The lace and the lining

The lace and the lining

Then I realised I was slower than everyone else; my dress fitted less well than everyone else, and so it went on.

Cutting out - there seemed to me a huge number of pieces - a seven panel dress and a separate yoke

Cutting out – there seemed to me a huge number of pieces – a seven panel dress and a separate yoke

As I approached the class for the last night of the four week workshop I only had my zip and hem to do – I was very excited.  I came away from that class three hours later with still only the zip and the hem to do!  The last minute fitting took for ages.  It became apparent that what I thought was an invisible zip was not in fact so I decided to hand sew in a normal one which took me ages because I realised, rather perversely, that in my brief sewing career I have only put in invisible zips so didn’t know what to do.

Hand sewing my not so invisible zip

Hand sewing my not so invisible zip

Working with lace was a pleasing challenge.  It had to be “mounted” on a base fabric = I used the crepe de chine I was using for my lining  – it has made the dress incredibly heavy.  Julie suggested a way of using my lace to make a more interesting necklines (others had scalloped edges as part of their lace).  I had to cut two rows of daisies out, run a line of stitches thorough the middle to gather and then sew onto the neckline – I am pleased with this.

Lace finish on the neckline - a unique feature!

Lace finish on the neckline – a unique feature!

I have realised that I need to get a camera that sits on a tripod – these photos on my IPAD are rubbish and my photographer has to be cajoled and bullied so does not undertake his task with good grace!

Finishing the dress at Sewing Club

Finishing the dress at Sewing Club

I plan to wear the dress of doom to my work’s Christmas supper on Monday week. It’s a very low key affair so I think I might just about get away with my waggly hem and matronly fit.  So, onwards and upwards on the sewing front.  I am tentatively thinking about booking the coat making workshop!

Front yoke – can’t imagine Tracey Emin, herself a great sewista, wearing a frock like this

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x

New Sewing Club – Hoorah!

I am SO delighted that Sew Pretty have started a Sewing Club on the first Tuesday of each month and tonight was the inaugural meeting. I have been to a couple of workshops previously and really have enjoyed the friendly, welcoming atmosphere and the expert help and advice from Katya.

My concentration face - hand sewing the zip on the mammoth saga that is my lace dress

My concentration face – hand sewing the zip on the mammoth saga that is my lace dress

The focus for the club is that people can take along their various WIPs which they need help and advice with, or simply want to use a sewing machine or overlocker.  There were five of us and everyone had really interesting projects.

A lovely, almost finished, quilt

A lovely, almost finished, quilt

There was a quilt in the final stages; a child’s dress; one lady who had had a doll’s cot as a child and was revamping it for her own 18th month old daughter. Her father had renovated the cot and she was making bedding and a mattress cover. A friend of mine also went along who had bought back some GORGEOUS silk from her recent trip to Cambodia and Vietnam and wanted some help cutting out the fabric (best done with tissue underneath – I did not know that).

How lovely is this silk? I am hoping for a scrap to be able to make a tie!

How lovely is this silk? I am hoping for a scrap to be able to make a tie!

And finally there was me. Remember my Dahlia dress with the off the shoulder neckline?

Dahlia neckline

Dahlia neckline

Well, I took that along to see if anything could be done – I had decided that I simply didn’t have heart (euphemism for couldn’t be arsed) to unpick my bias and take all the raglan sleeve seams in. Katya repinned the back and suggested I try an inverted box pleat.

Back box pleat - I had to take in four inches

Back box pleat – I had to take in four inches

I did that and it looks OK – an interesting design feature is what I shall claim!  Then it was onto my Time Thief lace dress. There is a strong possibility I may actually finish it this weekend and finally be able to blog it – but don’t hold me to that.

Super skilful Katya

Super skilful Katya

I really enjoy social sewing. It must be a real challenge for a teacher to assist with five different projects but Katya coped admirably and we are all looking forward to the next sewing club in January. Hope you are all having a fun week,

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x

Two birds, one stone and a bit of a bonkers dress

October has been a great month for me – I love having an Autumn birthday and this year I had not one but two sewing challenges.  Thanks to my blog devouring activities I had read about the Cat Lady Sewing Challenge  which I thought was a really fun idea.   At about the same time I volunteered myself as a pattern tester, to give a beginner’s perspective, for Lou Lou – a new pattern from English Girl at Home.  As both had October deadlines I decided to combine the two – this was possibly not such a wise decision.

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I immediately started to look for suitable fabric.  I was very excited to find this rather funky design called Cheeky Black Cat from Textiles Francais – whilst this fulfilled the brief for the Cat Lady Challenge it was far too structured for the Lou Lou which is meant to be floaty and drape beautifully.

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However, I thought the 60s style A-line shift would work well with the fabric and that I might look a little bit like Samantha from Bewitched.

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I have to confess that I haven’t done the dress justice at all.  It is fully lined with a funky little piece below the dress itself .  Colour matching the lining with the little balls of wool the cat is playing with still couldn’t create the feline grace I had hoped for.
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However, it was a fun make  – one of my colleagues asked if it was my Halloween outfit – which was not quite the reaction I was expecting!

And back to the Cat Lady element: this is my lovely cat Tambo – the latest in a long line of black cats: Leo, Flynn, Scout, Puffin, Jude and a highly aloof tortoiseshell Serafina Pekkelaimage

Many thanks to Miss Crayola Creepy for setting up a fun challenge and to Charlotte for giving me my first shot at pattern testing.

Toodle pip,

Clarinda

First trousers and a lovely day at Sew Over It

I had a really fun day yesterday at Sew Over It sewing cafe in Clapham where under the expert guidance of a lovely lady called Julie, I managed to make a pair of Ultimate Trousers which I have worn today, are comfortable and fit me!

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The studio is great and I would highly recommend taking a class there if you can get to Clapham. Tea was available throughout the day and elevenses included gorgeous handmade cupcakes. The studio was super girly, bright pink stairs, pin cushions in China cups and saucers etc. There was also a wonderful selection of fabric.

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I had bought my fabric the week before,  black cotton twill, but when I saw all the lovely fabrics  on display I changed my mind.  I made my trousers up in a moss green polka dot cotton (and bought more fabric for two future projects – I really am beginning to see how sewistas can easily build up a significant stash.

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I thought it was brilliant that they already had a number of toiles to try on to check your fit. We double checked the fit after we had cut out – I needed a slight alteration at the back. Rather annoyingly I didn’t mark it on my pattern at the time and now I can’t remember it.

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The best thing of all was that I finally got to use an overlocker. I loved it. I’ve looked at EBAY but there doesn’t seem to be many floating about. I do have a birthday later this month so perhaps I could go for the combined birthday/Christmas gift approach. What do you think – do the benefits justify the cost?

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So it’s been a really satisfying weekend on the sewing front – made and wore my trousers  (photos taken at Elmer beach – what an absolutely glorious day it’s been) and this afternoon I have been busy making a rather bonkers dress but that is for next time.

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Toodle pip,

Clarinda

 

Sewing Bees

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Having only bought my sewing machine at Easter I needed some help with learning to sew and was really chuffed to find that, literally, round the corner from me, was Sew Pretty, a sewing studio run by Katya Essery.  Katya is a great teacher who immediately made me appreciate what fun social sewing is.  I’ll let you into a secret – Katya always cracks open a bottle of wine for her evening workshops.

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I signed up for a shirt making workshop, along with a couple of my colleagues who had participated in the Sewing Bee at work (a future post) and along with two other sewists we embarked upon our projects under Katya’s careful guidance.  I chose Makower Bees fabric which I bought online from Guthrie and Ghani which I would highly recommend. Lauren despatched the material swiftly and wrapped it up so beautifully I felt I was upwrapping a birthday present.

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The collar was tricky – my first one  ever and I’m not sure I could remember how to do it again. I had to finish off my shirt at home – too much chatting, laughing and quaffing wine during the workshop.  I used the  one step button-hole feature for the first time. Really annoyingly it is not a one-step. It does the base and one side and then stops so you have to take it out and do the other half – which was a bit hit and miss. Very annoying. I also didn’t like the sleeves which were just hemmed and therefore rather plain.  I fiddled about it and managed to fold in a cuff which looks ok but has meant that the three quarter sleeve now rests right on my elbow and is a little big irritating.  I’m going to have another go with some lovely Liberty lawn.

So, shirt: tick.

 

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Lilou and Lemons

Rather than start with my sewing back story I thought I’d kick off my blog with my latest make – a Lilou – one of the patterns included in Love at First Stitch by Tilly.  Three weeks ago I was sat in Heathrow departures making use of the free wifi catching up on my bloglovin feed and saw this fabulous dress covered in lemons made by Jane and before I went to the gate I had tracked down the same fabric and ordered it so that it was waiting for me upon my return.

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Knowing that I had some lovely bright fabric waiting for me cheered up on my return from holidays. I nipped into Chichester to pick up the notions (before Easter I wouldn’t have even know what notions were) and decided to go with the Lilou as I had bought Love at First Stitch  a month or so ago.  I decided to make a muslin – going from a size 4 at the bodice and graduating to a 5 at the waist.  Having made the muslin I decided to sew a size 4 all over as it seemed a bit loose but found it actually quite difficult to tell with the back hanging open as I was too impatient to insert a zip – yes, I will learn from this mistake.

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The final garment is not a great fit on the bodice.  It is too tight under my arms whilst there is an excess of fabric across the boobs.  However, the skirt seems to fit OK although next time I might make it a little longer.  It was quite a windy day when I took these photos and the skirt kept blowing up in Marilynesque fashion.

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Having initially put my zipper foot on back to front I managed to insert the zip on the second attempt.  Not sure what I had done wrong first time around but the stitches didn’t attached to the zip.  There are a few ruffles around the bottom but overall I am pleased with my first invisible zipper.

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So, that’s it … my first blog – I think it took longer than the dress!  All tips and advice gratefully received.