Blogger Network #21 – McCalls 7120 Chambray Dress

mccalls 7120 dress

Hello, February! How glad we all are to see you. A new month means it’s time for a new Minerva Blogger Network post and today it features chambray, pockets, rolled-up sleeves and a waist tie. Above is a sneak peek of my dress (a McCalls 7120) made in wonderful striped chambray. Head over to the Minerva Crafts site by clicking the badge below to read the rest! :)Minerva-Crafts-Network-Logo

Blogger Network #20 -New Year By Hand London Kim Dress

by hand london kim dressHappy New Year everybody! I hope you all had a fabulous festive season and are looking forward to what 2016 has in store. I’ve already done a bit of sewing in the lull between Christmas and New Year – the first project I have to show you is a polka dot Kim dress!

This is my 20th project on behalf of the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network – 20th! I’m very lucky to be able to blog for the Minerva website and I’m really grateful for all the opportunities it’s given me. Since my 1st project I’ve learnt all sorts of skills – from beadwork and needlework through to princess seams, collars and invisible zips. Without the regular practice I have when making these projects I don’t think I’d have developed as a seamstress quite so fast!

Anyhow, onto the project! For my first make of 2016 I chose a By Hand London Kim dress pattern. I made variation A, which has a scooped neckline, princess seams down the bodice, a wrap-style pencil skirt and a zipper up the back. I love the skirt on this dress – it’s made of 3 ‘petal’ shaped fabric pieces which overlap at the front like a wrap dress. A few little pleats at the waist make it drape beautifully and I love how it moves when you walk and/or sit down!

kim dress by hand london

The fabric I used for my Kim is this navy polka dot cotton with a slight stretch to it. It’s a really lovely material to work with – it’s super soft and silky to the touch and handles really well. I definitely recommend using it for a dress or skirt project because it feels really luxurious and the bit of stretch allows for an extra pudding/cocktail at dinner! It’s win-win really.

by hand london kim skirt bodice

The By Hand London Kim pattern has great instructions that are easy to follow. If you choose to make variation B then there are instructions for how to do a sweetheart neckline too which I’m looking forward to trying next time. The pattern teaches you how to sew a bodice lining as well as darts on the skirt and princess seams on the top. I’d say it was a pattern for intermediate sewists but don’t be afraid to give it a try if you’re a beginner!

barnaby and my kim dress

So how’s the finished dress? Well, I love it, and it fits perfectly around the waist and hips. Even the slightly longer length is great – I can definitely see this being a nice ‘going out for dinner’ dress for me. The problems? The straps are too long for me! I clearly didn’t measure myself accurately enough and could do with taking an inch out of each shoulder so that the neckline isn’t so low (I’ve actually pinned it into place in the photos here!). Unfortunately there’s no easy fix for this because the dress and lining are all self-contained and I can’t easily unpick it! If you’ve got any suggestions please do let me know…

I hope you like my finished Kim dress too! There’s even a couple of bonus pictures of our new kitten Barnaby there for you, although he didn’t really want to hold still for a photo! Tell me, what was your first dressmaking project of the year?

Sewing in 2015 – a Year in Review!

As we approach the end of 2015 it’s time for a little blog round-up. Let’s take a look back at all the projects I’ve made this year! I do like seeing everything all together:

2015 year in review collage

There are 27 finished projects right there! That averages at just over 2 a month and, with 17 dressmaking projects and 10 craft projects, I’d say I’ve found a nice balance this year. And this list doesn’t even include those items that I haven’t blogged about. I think my Top 5 have to be my first By Hand London Elisalex dress, my chambray shirt, my patchwork sewing machine cover, my needlework tote bag and my Christmas Megan dress – do you agree? Which are your favourite projects that you’ve seen on my blog this year? I’d love to know!

But how did I shape up against my new year plans – the ones that I made this time last year? Let’s take a look. Last December I told myself in 2015 I would:

  • Hand-make all birthday gifts and Christmas presents – this started off so well and then went downhill around early summertime. I think I lasted until around June and then had to resort to buying presents again due to getting ready to move house! You can either count yourself lucky or unlucky if your birthday was pre-June, depending on how you want to look at it ;)
  • Make more use of my fabric stash – hmm, not sure I managed this one. I’ve made a couple of projects with existing fabric (my Bleuet dressMimi blouse and Christmas Megan) but it’s so hard resisting temptation… I did try though!
  • Buy less fabric – this relates to the point above, and whilst I haven’t actually bought that much new fabric this year I have acquired a lot outside of my stash – mostly thanks to the Minerva Blogger Network! Who am I to turn down a ready supply of fabric each month?!
  • Make more use of the patterns I’ve got – I’ve definitely tried hard with this one and have relied heavily on Love at First Stitch this year (thanks Tilly for this book, I love it so much! :) ), but there’s still room for improvement. I did have a de-clutter and got rid of all the paper patterns I don’t use though!
  • Finish all WIPs – this has to be my biggest success of the year I think – I actually reached the end of my sewing to-do list, yippee! At the start of the year I wrote down all of my plans and kept adding to it as and when. Once a project was completed, I crossed it off the list! It really helped me to keep track of what needed doing and stopped me from picking up too many new projects without finishing the old ones first. I recommend it!
  • Complete my fairisle jumper – OK I need to be honest with you on this one…my Grandma finished this for me because it was starting to drive me a bit mad. The stitches were so small and there were so many and it sat in the corner for ages unfinished. There, said it. :/ Thank you though, Grandma, you’re the best!
  • Not take up any new crafts – I think I succeeded on this too! I still want to learn to crochet mind…

So that’s it! A whole year of blogging, sewing and crafting condensed into one blog post. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading what I’ve been up to and I look forward to sharing more bits and bobs in 2016. Link me to your own review posts if you’ve got one, too!

Blogger Network #19 – Beaded Christmas Bells

beaded bellContinuing on with the recent Christmas-themed blog posts, today I’ve got a fun little Christmas decoration project to show you! I’ve been away from my monthly Minerva Blogger Network posts for a little while because of moving house/life/etc but I’m back in time for the festive season with this beaded bell kit!

The kit can be found on the Minerva Crafts website here – it’s a Design Works kit and comes with all the thread and beads (a mixture of gold and pearl) that you’ll need to make five sparkly decorations. I actually had quite a few bits leftover too so you could probably make six!

beaded bells

beaded bell decorationI think each bell took me about an hour to make but they’re a great DIY project for when you’re sat on the sofa catching up on boxsets or watching the Christmas 24 channel (ahem, not that I’ve been doing that). All you need to do is cut a long piece of cotton and then follow the instructions to thread on the beads in the right order. It’s very satisfying seeing the bell emerge- the instructions require lots threading back and forth but, once you’re done, a fully formed bell magically appears! All from one piece of thread and a christmas beaded bell decorationseries of gold beads and pearls. You only have to thread the needle once the whole time, too!

The finished decorations are about 4cm tall and will look lovely hanging from my tree or mantlepiece. I love how the gold shimmers when they’re hung next to fairy lights too. They’re pretty timeless and I’m sure I’ll be bringing them out of the Christmas decorations box for years to come.

What do you think? Have you made any Christmas decorations this year? And are any of them beaded? Let me know!

Tartan Reindeer Megan Dress

tilly and the buttons christmas tartan megan dressWhen this post goes up it’ll be exactly four weeks until Christmas – just where has this year gone to? It’s also my first wedding anniversary this weekend which I cannot believe either. Time has raced past like Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. But never mind that – onto the sewing!

This week I’ve made myself the ultimate Christmas Day outfit in the form of a reindeer print Megan dress from the Tilly and the Buttons Love at First Stitch Book. I’ve made this pattern a couple of times before – a baroque linen Megan dress here and a summer seersucker Megan here – and I really do like it. There are flattering darts on the front and back skirt as well as the bodice, little cap sleeves and a long zip down the back. I also know that I can cut my fabric straight from the pattern pieces and it’ll fit me perfectly! No other pattern company seems to cater for my measurements as accurately as Tilly does. Even the length of her dresses are perfect (normally I have to hack at least 5 inches off the bottom of everything!).

reindeer tartan megan dress love at first stitch

The fabric for my Christmas dress came from the Remnant House in Harrogate. I think I bought 2m of it and I’ve used nearly all of it for this dress. It’s a tartan cotton with embroidered reindeers and hearts all over it and I love it. It’s so festive and cutesy and will make my Scottish mother-in-law very happy! Unfortunately they don’t seem to stock this particular fabric on their website any more but here are a few festive alternatives:

love at first stitch megan dress

If you see me out and about in my reindeer dress this Christmas please can you compliment me on my pattern matching? Aside from a teeny misaligned stripe on the back I couldn’t have got this cut out more precisely! I love how the tartan stripes match up so well on my side seams and how they run straight down the middle from top to bottom. This was quite an easy fabric to pattern match due to all the straight lines in the tartan but it does always impress me when I get it right!

tilly and the buttons tartan megan

Have you made a dress for Christmas this year? Is it as festive as mine or have you gone more glitzy? Show me! I also recommend adding Tilly’s book, Love at First Stitch, to your Christmas wish list if you don’t already own it. I’m sure Father Christmas would be more than  happy to deliver it to you :)

Sew Your Own Advent Calendar

advent calendar sewingJust a quick sewing project for you today – a DIY Advent calendar! As a child we used to have a big, fabric advent calendar with little pockets that my mum used to hang on the wall each December. She’d fill the pockets with three sweets – one each for me and my two sisters – and it was such an exciting time. I loved reaching into those numbered fabric pockets and seeing what Advent treat had been put there for the corresponding day!

As a slight homage to my mum’s version – and because I now have my own house – I’ve made my own version and hand-sewn what I hope will become a family heirloom (maybe). And it couldn’t have been easier!

The Advent calendar is made using one of those quilting panels that you can pick up in most fabric shops. The panel features instructions printed at the top, 25 numbered squares printed below and the backing fabric to which you attach the pockets. I think I got my Advent panel from eBay for about £7 but I’ve seen them around the internet at The Cotton PatchElephant in My Handbag, and Etsy amongst others.

patchwork advent calendar kit

The calendar is actually quilted, so you sew a layer of wadding in between two layers of fabric. The pockets are then sewn directly onto your padded backing, creating a quilted effecct. It’s a very simple project to make but looks really effective when it’s finished. The worst thing about it was having to press all the pockets! All four edges needed to be folded under and ironed before they were stitched down so it’s a very hot job to do!

hand sewn adent calendar

What do you think to my finished Advent calendar? I really love it. The illustrations of the little woodland animals on the pockets are so sweet and I love the Christmas-sy colours! Now I just need to plan which sweets and treats to put in it come December!

Autumn Apple Bettine

tilly and the buttons bettineHello, I’m back! And so is the dressmaking! It’s been forever since I last posted about a garment I’ve made and since then a whole host of ‘life’ has been going on. We moved house 6 weeks ago and have since been unpacking, decorating and organising in every spare moment, plus I was full of cold for the entirety of last week, so my poor sewing machine has had to sit in the corner for a while. This weekend I finally managed to bring it back out of hibernation and restore the peace!

So what was my first dressmaking project in the new house? A Tilly and the Buttons Bettine dress, of course! I’ve had the pattern for this dress since Tilly brought it out earlier in the year but, due to both the move and my never-ending to-do list, it’s taken me until now to get it made up. It’s a lovely little dress with kimono-style sleeves, rolled cuffs, an elastic waist and pockets that teaches you a whole host of sewing skills as you work through the instructions. It’s also very easy to wear which is a bonus.

tilly & the buttons bettine dress

The fabric I used for my Bettine is a very autumn-appropriate apple print cotton from White Tree Fabrics (remember you can get 20% off and free delivery using my code, SEWSENSATIONAL). It’s a lovely, soft cotton which is very easy to cut, sew with and press. It’s perhaps a little lightweight for the upcoming cold weather but I can definitely see myself giving it a good try with woolly tights and a massive cardi!

tilly and the buttons bettine dress 2

I think the best part about this dress is the pockets, which are rapidly becoming my new favourite thing to sew. They also make this the perfect dress for wearing whilst you stitch away – you’ll never lose your scissors or seam-ripper again! The pattern also features a plain skirt version if you want to whip up a new dress in mere minutes as well as optional cuff tabs which I think I might try next time.

So what do you think? Have you made a Bettine dress yourself? A quick Google search reveals a myriad of beautiful Bettines in all sorts of pretty fabrics. Show me yours!