Front View of the Walkaway Dress

It seems ages ago now, but when I first saw the walkaway dress on the Great British Sewing Bee, I knew I wanted to try and make it. The construction alone seemed so different from any of the dresses I have made (admittedly not that many!) that I wanted to make it to just see how it was made. A year later, and I was given the book to accompany the series (Fashion with Fabric) and in that book was the pattern for the Walkaway Dress. I still wanted to make it, but I knew that I wouldn’t ever want to actually wear it! As that realisation dawned, I set aside the idea of making it, as really, who wants to spend precious sewing time on something that is never going to be worn – add to that the use of precious fabric, and that was it – the dream died.

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GBSB A-Line Skirt Pink Striped Wool

This is the first time I’ve made a pattern twice. I’m not sure why I’ve never done it before, I just haven’t, despite having some patterns that I’ve loved. (Does it have something to do with my childhood, where my parents would buy one of whatever in every colour? I can understand why, I’m notoriously picky about clothes in some ways, so to find something I like was probably a minor miracle which shouldn’t be wasted!) That, in itself, was enough of a novelty that I felt that this fulfilled my objective of something new with every make. I really wanted to learn from the mistakes that I had made the first time around and make a much better skirt the second time around, treating the purple as a wearable muslin. Continue reading

Front view

When I bought fabric for my daughters shirred dress I decided that it would also be useful practice to make a dress for myself following the adult version of the pattern from the Great British Sewing Bee Fashion with Fabric book. (OK, so I’ve had my daughter asking me for years why I don’t wear dresses more often, and I succumbed!). As such, I also bought 2m of some very cheap striped navy and white cotton (or poly cotton?) with the intention of turning it into such a dress. Six-months down the line, and I actually started this project. When I showed my husband the material to ask whether the stripes should be vertical or horizontal, he laughed, and said that it didn’t matter, as I was going to look like a deck-chair either way, so now it’s the deck-chair dress!Continue reading

Me in my purple skirt

As I discussed in the previous post I have recently made the A-Line tweed skirt from the Great British Sewing Bee Fashion with Fabric book.

GBSB Fashion with Fabric book

Great British Sewing Bee Fashion with Fabric Book

Construction of the skirt was pretty straightforward – I sewed the side seams, pinned the back seam, and then pinned and sewed the darts. I then cut out and constructed the lining (black viscose that was on sale at sewoverit). At this point I was ready to tackle the invisible zip. Now then, when I bought my machine, it came with a zip foot, and up until this project, I had assumed it was an invisible zip foot. I have used it in the past to put in invisible zips, and to be honest, not been all that chuffed with the result.Continue reading

Me & my skirt

Up until now, you would be forgiven for thinking that I only sew for one person, but in reality, I’m quite a selfish seamstress. I really want to be sewing things for myself. The first project I have sewn for myself in a long time is the Great British Sewing Bee A-Line Tweed Skirt. Given my desire to make sure that every project challenged me, what was the novelty about this one? Well, there were a few things that I thought were novel (and I was right) I have never made a lined skirt before, so that’s a definite novelty, and I’ve also never sewn woollen fabric before, so that’s also a novelty. Continue reading

Great British Sewing Bee Books

Like most British sewists (I prefer sewers (sowers) but as you’ve probably just noticed, when it’s written down, it doesn’t sound so great in your head – I don’t think I want to be known as a sewer, even though I sew!) I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of GBSB 2016. Since watching the first series, I’ve been hooked, but every time it’s on, I wonder whether I’d really like to take part.Continue reading

Pink Floral Shirred Dress

My daughter is now aware that I can sew things, and she loves to watch it happen. For the first time the other day I took her to a fabric shop to choose some material for a new dress. She chose, unsurprisingly, this pink flowery cotton by Rose & Hubble.

pink floral cotton

Pink, flowery and perfect for a 5-year old girl

I had decided that I was going to make the Girls Shirred Dress from the Great British Sewing Bee Fashion with Fabric book.

GBSB Fashion with Fabric book

Great British Sewing Bee Fashion with Fabric Book

I have never done shirring before, and I’ve never made something without a pattern before, so this met my novelty challenge in two ways.

So, how did it go? Well, cutting out the rectangles for the dress wasn’t difficult; I simply carried out the calculation, based on her chest size, and went from there. I did, however, manage to mess up the length a bit. Maybe I changed my mind about how long I like my daughters dresses to be, as I found the final dress length to be shorter than I anticipated. That was easily solved, however, by using a length of bright pink satin bias binding, so instead of turning up the raw edge, I encased it using the bias binding. I didn’t try any stitching in the ditch, or anything, I literally topstitched around the edge of the binding.

bias-bound hem with topstitching

Bias-bound hem with classy topstitching

I did find the straps rather more difficult. I have used the safety pin idea before, and although it’s not complex, it’s definitely fiddly, so instead, I decided to use a technique I saw a while back in which you sew a length of string into the straps (sewing the rectangle right side together, catching the “head” of the string, leaving the tail of the string in between the folded edge, and the sewed seam poking out of the end of the rectangle). This did work well, apart from one thing – I’m not sure how to extract the string and make a tidy job of the sewed end.

Scruffy straps

Somewhat scruffy straps

This is the best I could do, so any suggestions appreciated! To be honest, although it’s not complex, I would probably use lengths of ribbon rather than the fabric tubes instead next time.

As for the shirring itself, I’m not sure whether it’s my machine, or the material, or my technique, or something else, but I did find that to use the shirring elastic in the bobbin I needed to ensure it was pretty much at full tension, which is contrary to the instructions. Any other way of doing it lead to very messy, not very tight shirring. Once I had discovered this though, I was well away. The material didn’t have a horizontal stripe, so I ensured that the previous run of shirring elastic stayed in the same position relative to the presser foot on my machine. This worked really well, and at the end, the shirring lined up on both side seams of the dress. Woohoo!

Nicely aligned shirring

Nicely aligned shirring

My daughter loves this dress, but she doesn’t really like the feel of the shirring on her skin, or the frilly top hem on her underarms. She now wears it over a tee-shirt, but I don’t mind; she’s wearing it, and given that it will grow with her to be a top or skirt I love it (even if it is bright pink!)