Blogger Network #16 – A Needlework Tote Bag

embroidered tote bagHappy July! With a new month comes a new Minerva Crafts Blogger Network post – and this time I’ve taken on embroidery in the form of a needlework tote bag. This is a great make for the sunny weather we’ve been having, I can see myself using it on holiday or on trips to the beach this summer. In fact, it’s the perfect size for a book, some sun cream and bottle of wine!

Everything you need to make the bag comes in this Design Works kit and the only prep work involved is cutting up the canvas. It’s a great project if you don’t have a lot of time to sit down and sew. I actually completed most of it in front of the TV! The bag is made up of 34 squares of plastic canvas which you embroider with the Aran yarn provided. There are 3 square designs to alternate between. You know those sewing cards you used to get when you were little – cardboard pictures with a shoelace to thread through? It reminded me of those!

aran needlework tote bag

Once you’ve stitched all 34, you then assemble the squares in a random pattern and stitch them all together into one big piece. Next, you attach the felt lining and fold it into a bag shape, stitching all the sides closed with the yarn. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is! You also get a lovely set of bamboo handles included in the kit which you just have to sew onto the sides of the bag once you’ve assembled it.

wooden tote handles

If you’re looking for a sewing project to take on holiday with you, to stitch by the pool or sat in the garden, then I really recommend this kit. It’s a great pick-up-and-put-down project and one that kids (or husbands) can definitely get involved with too. Have you ever made anything like this before?

A Denim Elisalex

denim elisalex dressRemember in my last post when I said I had a denim Elisalex dress planned? Well, here it is! Rather than repeat myself and talk about how great the pattern is and how lovely the By Hand London girls are, I’ll just leave you with a few photographs.

The fabric, by the way, is a lightweight denim that I picked up at Boyes in Scarborough. You can find similar here at Minerva Crafts or here at My Fabrics. I also found some really lovely looking patterned denim on eBay that you might want to check out! The reason I chose to use real denim over a lighter, more versatile chambray is because it holds the shape of this dress really well – chambray fabric is quite drapey and probably wouldn’t make the tulip skirt look as effective.

denim elisalex dress

Talking about the skirt – can you see the seam I had to add in down the centre?! Unfortunately I managed to rip my fabric whilst sewing and I only had enough spare to do the front panel as two pieces, rather than one. It doesn’t look majorly out of place but it does mean that the skirt doesn’t hang as flat as I would’ve liked – I think because the fabric is still quite stiff. Perhaps once I’ve washed it a few times it’ll soften up. Other than that I think this is a success! What do you reckon?

denim elisalex

By Hand London Elisalex Dress, for a Wedding!

by hand london elisalex dressI’ve been away from blogging fabulous dresses for a little while but never fear, I’m back! This time with my first ever By Hand London Elisalex dress – and my goodness isn’t it wonderful? Am I allowed to say that about my own creations?

I’ve never sewn a By Hand London pattern before because, in all honesty, I’ve always found their designs to be a little on the pricey side and just not very ‘me’. However, they’re an indie pattern company from the UK, I met them last year at the Minerva Crafts meet-up and they’re such a bunch of incredibly inspiring women that I decided it was time to put my pre-conceptions aside. The result? I wish I’d done this sooner!

The pattern comes with 3 variations – a long sleeve version, a short sleeve version and a sleeveless version. I picked to make the sleeveless version as this dress is intended to be worn at my dear friends’ wedding this summer. The pattern features princess seams down the lined bodice, large box pleats on the tulip-shaped skirt, a zip down the back and a really, really lovely scooped back neckline – it looks truly beautiful both on and off the hanger. I actually picked the Elisalex over the other BHL patterns because I thought the cinched-in waist and accentuated skirt would suit my figure well and it definitely does! As soon as I’d made this dress I actually started cutting out a second, denim version for everyday wear… stay tuned.

by hand london elisalex scooped back

The fabric I used for my Elisalex is from White Tree Fabrics and is Tilda cotton called ‘China Blue’. As soon as I saw it on the White Tree Fabrics website I knew it was exactly what I needed – the pattern is made up of delicate blues and creams making it perfect for a summer wedding. I love the little Chinese temple print on it too, it’s a little like a traditional French toile and makes me feel like I’m wearing one of those collectable bits of pottery! Any of the fabrics from the Tilda cotton range would be great for this dress as it has a good weight to it, meaning that it holds the pleats and the shape of the skirt really well. The pattern itself actually suggests using upholstery fabric!

by hand london elisalex

The pattern instructions were rather lovely to follow too – the BHL girls have written them in a very friendly, chatty style and have included useful diagrams for every stage. I had no issues following any of the steps and appreciated all the words of encouragement as you complete them!

by hand london elisalex bodice

Go on then – tell me what you think! I can’t wait to wear this dress to my friends’ wedding next month and I’m just hoping that the weather plays along too. Have you ever made an Elisalex or other By Hand London pattern before? And if not, why not? Unfortunately the girls have stopped making hard copies of the patterns now (they’re only available as downloadable PDFs) so they’re becoming harder to get hold of. Luckily for you, White Tree Fabrics still have some of the hard copies left in stock – so be quick and get them ordered! The Kim dress is next on my wishlist…

Blogger Network #15 – Cute Cloud Cushions

liberty book of simple sewing cloud cushions‘How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon! December is here before its June, my goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?’ – I love that Dr Seuss quote, doesn’t it just sum up how quickly the year has flown by so far? Here we are in June already, and it’s time again for my monthly Minerva Crafts Blogger Network post! To tie in with the spirit of sunny days and light evenings that June promises to bring I’ve had a bit of fun for this month’s offering: cloud cushions!

The idea for these cushions came from the Liberty Book of Simple Sewing, which is a delightful sewing book full of homeware projects that’s just as lovely to look at as it is to sew from. I’ve been eyeing up the cloud cushion project for a while (there’s also a cloud mobile in there too but I don’t have a baby to justify making one of those just yet) so it was definitely time to put the pattern to the test.

Making the cushions really is quite simple, with the set of three taking me just one Saturday morning to make. The book calls for you to photocopy the template and enlarge it by a few hundred percent but I still don’t actually know how to do that so I drew my cloud template freehand instead! It took a couple of attempts to get my symmetry right but I do believe that anyone has the ability to draw a cloud and can do this for themselves if they, too, don’t fancy photocopying!

liberty book of simple sewing cloud cushions 2

Once the template was cut out (I drew one large cloud and one small cloud), I cut two of each from my fabric so that each cushion has a front and a back piece. I picked three vibrant, pink polycottons to make the cushions with – a cerise mini daisy print, a baby pink daisy print and a candy stripe print. Polycottons are one of the easiest fabrics to work with as they always do what you tell them to! Try it if you don’t believe me ;)

gift wrapped cloud cushionsI then stitched around the edges, leaving a small gap at the bottom, and stuffed the clouds with fairy dust and raindrops (polyester toy stuffing) until they looked fit to burst. I think they look adorable all grouped together – how about you? I actually made these cushions with the intention of giving them to my sister-in-law for her birthday this weekend so I hope she likes them as much as I do. I mean just look at that lovely pink bow.

Have you ever made anything from the Liberty Book of Simple Sewing? If so, show me! If not, have you ever made anything with a weather theme? I’d love to see pictures of umbrella-print dresses and sunshine-themed shorts :)

Blogger Network #14 – Summer Strawberries

strawberry country kitchen table matsHappy May! OK, so this post is a bit late to the table (I can only apologise for both the pun and the delay) – my Blogger Network projects are always done and dusted for the start of the month…. but this one didn’t exactly go to plan. I had originally intended to make a dress – Simplicity 1699 in fact – but, well, I’ve got some place mats to show you instead! I’m trying to be optimistic about it because this month’s post features gingham and strawberries in abundance. In fact, it’s is pretty much Wimbledon in fabric form and I can’t exactly pass up on that…

Now, I absolutely love the pattern I had intended to show off this month. It was from Simplicity 1699, which has a dress, peplum top, jacket and trouser pattern option included (which I definitely plan to come back to). I was originally going to make the dress but then decided I’d actually rather try the peplum top, as I’ve never made one of those before. To cut a long story short – it just did not go well. You can read more about that over on the Minerva Crafts blog if you can bear to look ;)

The fabric I’d picked was a navy blue gingham and strawberry print cotton poplin and it’s incredibly soft, a little like a cotton lawn. It’s great to work with and is perfect for country-kitchen based sewing projects. So, to avoid calling my original make a total disaster, I decided to use my remaining fabric to make something completely different – table mats! This fabric is calling out to be used for a homeware project and I wish I’d listened to my instincts in the first place. I love how they’re a bit nautical-come-Wimbledon and the little gingham cutlery pockets are just my favourite.

liberty simple sewing table mats

The pattern for the place mats comes from the Liberty Book of Simple Sewing and they really are a joy to make. I actually already own a set of  mats just like these – you can see that post here – so I’m unsure as to whether I’ll keep these for myself or hand them out as a gift. Saying that, I think they’d do great for a wedding present for someone this summer.

Do you ever have a great idea in mind that just doesn’t turn out quite how you expected? Or have you ever experienced a fabric/dress pattern clash like I did? I love to learn from my makes but it’s always disappointing when things don’t turn out quite as planned. Bring on my next make is all I say!

Deer & Doe Bleuet Shirt Dress

Deer and Doe Bleuet shirt dressThis post has been a long time coming! I started this dress in July last year (yes, you read that correctly – JULY). Now that it’s finished, however, I wish I’d gotten it done a lot sooner! It’s a definite gem of a dress pattern. The problem was that I sewed a load of the pieces together wrongly and then life got in the way as it tends to do and, well, it just hung on it’s hanger as a WIP for months on end… anyway, now it’s finished!

The Deer and Doe ‘Bleuet’ is a shirt dress made up of lots of panels, with buttons down the front, little puff sleeves and a collar. Oh and an adorable little bow at the back! I do love it, although I definitely don’t recommend the pattern for a beginner seamstress – the pattern envelope is marked as ‘advanced’ and probably for good reason: there are a lot of parts to it.

The dress body is made up of a back panel, which is stitched to 2 side back panels, then 2 front side panels, then 2 more front panels. I made the mistake of not paying enough attention to the instructions (we’ll come to those in a minute) and got my side back panels mixed up with my side front panels… meaning that I had to unpick the entire dress to be able to rectify my mistake. What’s worse is that I’d French-seamed every single one of them. Can you see why I abandoned it for so long?

deer and doe bleuet dress

My problem is mainly that the instructions that come with the pattern are really not very clear. They’re described on the website as ‘a detailed instruction booklet’ but I honestly do beg to differ here! For a start, there are only about 4 pictures, meaning that the majority of instructions are just big blocks of text along the lines of ‘Now stitch this to that, and that to this, and hem that bit, then finish this bit’. Without a picture to refer to, I frequently had to look at other people’s blogs for help or resort to asking for a hand on Twitter. But I got there in the end. Thank you if you were one of the people who gave me advice!

Once I’d sussed the instructions out the overall construction of the dress turned out to be fairly straightforward – the puff sleeves are just cap-style sleeves with a bit of gathering and a band of contrasting fabric attached around the bottom and the collar is fitted in the same way as every other pattern I’ve come across. I did omit the hem facing though – as many other bloggers seem to have done – because after a lot of thought I decided it was a bit unnecessary and so I just hemmed the dress as normal instead.

deer and doe bleuet shirt dress 2

bleuet bowMy fabric, by the way, is a little out of the ordinary: the denim-look cotton came from a ‘coupons’ shop in Paris and cost me 5 euros for about 5 metres. I’m not even sure how to describe it, it’s kind of a cross between a chambray and a lawn? It doesn’t crease like a chambray but it doesn’t have as much sheen as a lawn, and isn’t as stiff or thin as a polycotton. Whatever it is, it’s really lovely! I used a piece of Liberty fabric (from a big roll of scraps and strips my mum got me as a present) for the bow detail and the sleeve bands. I think it makes an otherwise plain blue dress just a little more interesting.

So, now that it’s finally finished (almost a year later), what do you think? Have you ever made the Bleuet dress or other Deer and Doe pattern? I’m intrigued as to whether any of the other patterns have similarly difficult instructions! Let me know!

PS – isn’t this just the perfect dress for Sunday brunch at Betty’s?!

Simplicity’s Star Sewist Competition: My Nautical 6145

simplicity star sewist new look 6145 shift dressSeveral months ago I spotted a Boutique by Jaegar dress on ASOS and saved it to my wishlist immediately. It was stripy – check. It had a nautical rope detail – check. It was £99 – come again?! Once you become a dressmaker you often find yourself looking at clothes, tutting at the price/quality/fabric and thinking ‘I can do that’ – and so, I did!

For my entry to Simplicity’s Star Sewist competition I chose to make my own version of the stripy ASOS dress, using the New Look 6145 shift dress pattern provided for the contest. The pattern reminds me a little of the Tilly and the Buttons Coco, in that you can choose to add a collar and/or sleeves, although it’s a lot more roomy than the Coco and has a zip down the back – definitely more of a shift dress than a fitted dress.

The pattern itself is easy to make – for view B (the one I picked) there’s a front piece with darts, two back pieces with vertical darts, two sleeves and an invisible zip. No problems there! I used some black and white striped jersey from Minerva Crafts to make my dress as I wanted to emulate the one that I’d seen on ASOS – if you plan to do the same note that this fabric does carry quite a bit of weight and, due to the stretch, this makes it quite a difficult fabric to fit. I had to do a fair bit of tweaking to the size of my pattern pieces in order for the dress not to gape so much round the sides. Lesson learnt!

asos striped dressnew look simplicity 6145 dress

The best bit about this dress though has got to be my rope detailing across the front – doesn’t it look effective? ‘The dress’ on ASOS has two rows of squiggly rope but I chose to just do the one. And that was absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I ran out of rope. Nope, definitely not. You can find the polyester cord I used on the Minerva Crafts site here – it’s a bargain at 39p a metre, perhaps I should’ve bought a bit more!

rope detail new look 6145How do you like my finished dress? Here’s hoping it’s good enough to earn a round of applause from the judging panel in the Simplicity Star Sewist competition (hello Lauren, Claire-Louise, Rachel and Wendy if you’re reading!) Has anyone else entered the competition? And did you choose to make the dress, the top, or the skirt? Send me your links!

PS – hope you enjoyed my pics this week!

Simplicity Blogger Circle