Monday, 29 December 2014

The Activity Play

Merry Christmas! I hope you had a lovely time! :)

I've done a fair bit of sewing recently, but haven't managed to blog any of it. December seems to have passed in a whirlwind of sewing, birthdays, a holiday, illness and a broken laptop. Not to mention Christmas, itself!

I will get round to blogging my makes, and thought I'd start with the most Christmassy first, seeing as you'll not want to read about that mid Jan. Small Boy's nursery decided to do a Nativity this year (or "Activity Play", as he insists on calling it). He was cast as one of the wise men. Nursery asked parents if they could supply the costumes. Most parents did the normal thing, and went to Tesco. But my sister and I are not normal (my niece was to be a star), and were raised on a diet of Jane Asher inspired homemade Halloween costumes, so it was homemade all the way for us.

I decided to use my Liberty Kimono pattern as a starting point, and I used a blue poly cotton from IKEA, that I already had. The blue felt quite regal, but it needed a bit of blinging up (they are kings after all), so I paired it with a gold poly lining from Remnant Kings. I mentioned when I first made my kimono that it wasn't particularly large. Tellingly I did not size the pattern down for Small Boy, merely shortening the length and slightly raising the v of the neckline. I bought some gold braid to use as a tie belt.

There's not much to say about the construction. Seam allowances are overlocked. The bindings are machine stitched in place. The binding around the neck/edges is appallingly applied. It somehow got twisted, and so doesn't lie flat, but meh - it's a single wear kids costume. I left it as is.

I was a bit stuck about what to put on his head. I did consider a cardboard crown, but decided to go for more (very unauthentic) Arabic feel. I have no idea what you would call this style of headwear, but I can tell you it's made of a blue pongee (I love that word!) lining, tied in place with more of the gold braid. Both were from RK. I had all sorts of grand plans to use my overlocker to do a rolled hem on the pongee, but in the end time constraints dictated that I simply pink the edges.

The piece de resistance though was the beard. I have to admit that initially I had to google "wise man" to get an idea of what he should wear, and when I did so, I found this template for a felt beard, which I just had to make. It's made from brown felt and 1/4 inch elastic (again from RK). I am so pleased with it, and I feel it really made the costume, but sadly on the day, Small Boy refused to wear the beard on stage. It was a shame, but I wasn't going to push him into it. He was already nervous enough. He did amazingly well though, and said his one line really clearly.


I was really pleased with this make, especially when the Nursery manager didn't realise it was homemade, but the icing on the cake was that it won Remnant King's Merry Stitchmas Christmas competion, winning me £50 of vouchers for the shop!!! I am so pleased, but convinced that Small Boy's cuteness was what swung it! 

I'll leave you with a (blurry) photo of the wise man sans beard, with his younger cousin, a little star through and through!


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Fabulous Forty... and the blogger's not looking too bad either!

Today is my 40th birthday. Happy Birthday me! I'm actually currently on holiday. Nowhere exotic, just the East Neuk of Fife, but it's a holiday! In the meantime, though, I wanted to share a special birthday make, so this is a scheduled post.

I haven't sewn myself a birthday outfit before. No real reason other than there is usually quite a lot going on in December already thank you very much, but this year I decided to something a little different. The idea started when I saw one of Kerry's recent makes, and clocked the year her pattern was printed. An idea grew... why not make something from a pattern that was the same age as me? I'm not a huge fan of 70's fashion, but I did really like Kerry's dress and I figured I could probably find something similarly simple, not too "70's fancy dress" and make it wearable.

Easier said than done, particularly since I didn't have a lot of time to play with. I needed to find a pattern that was a style I liked and was wearable, was my size (no time, energy or inclination for grading) and was in the UK (no time for postage from the US). Oh, and it had to have been printed in 1974!

A trawl of Etsy and Ebay eventually led to this dress pattern.

The dress has a slightly bloused bodice with gathers at the waist on both bodice and skirt (reminiscent of the gathers on the Colette Peony). The bodice has a stand up collar and an all in one facing at the neckline. The skirt has 4 gores and is A line in shape.

I wanted to make the dress in a modern fabric, and recently fell in love with this viscose from Atelier Brunette that I had spotted on their Instagram feed and which I bought from Guthrie and Ghani.

I made view 2, but with the short sleeves from view 1. View 1 is kind of cool with the quilting on the hem, collar and sleeves, but with such a busy pattern, I though it would get lost.

I muslined the bodice which fitted fine - a wee bit big, but definitely wearable as is. I initially thought the neckline was super low - indecently so - but when I went to make the change I wanted to the pattern piece, I realised I'd just sewn to the wrong marking!!! Luckily that was the only daft mistake I made as I was really up against it time-wise to make this. I only had a week, which for me, is not that long. I finished the hemming (machine sewn - no time to hand sew) at 10.30pm the night before the day I wanted to wear it!

Where I originally thought the neckline sat!

In terms of construction, I followed the pattern, only making the following changes:
  • invisible zip instead of standard zip
  • I didn't make the tie belt
  • I omitted the decorative buttons on the front
  • I took 1 cm off the skirt pattern piece when cutting, due to fabric limitations (I managed to get this out of 2m of fabric), and then took a further inch off the length when hemming.
  • Insides are finished with French seams where possible, and the rest are overlocked.
  • Added pockets
  • Used a strip of fabric, rather than the seam binding that was called for, for the waist stay.
Invisible zip with perfectly matched waist seam. Win!
I'm really happy with the dress. The facings at the neckline are a bit annoying and flappy - I've had to tack them down with invisible stitches to stop them flipping out. They are not interfaced, which I think doesn't help, as the collar is interfaced and they don't have enough structure to support the weight of the collar. If I was to make this again, I'd try to do something different there.

Weird selfies so you can see the collar and neckline better.

Actually, I've just remembered I made a second daft mistake - I borrowed my pocket pattern pieces from Simplicity 2360 which has the top of the pockets caught into the waist seam. No problem, I could do the same here, only I managed to catch them into the back skirt pieces rather than the front ones - so the pockets were backwards! I only realised after I'd French seamed the waist. I didn't want to have to unpick the whole thing, so I have to say I hacked it a bit - I unpicked the second stage of the french seam, just at the pockets, and then cut them. I then flipped them forward and sewed them in place over the top of the french seam. My insides are now a bit messy, but I'm not too bothered.

The fabric is lovely. Soft with a beautiful drape. Really nice to sew with and to wear, although it does crease quite easily. All in all it's what I wanted: a really wearable, comfortable dress with a nod to the past, that is special to me.

I am not pregnant again, despite the fact I look it here!

I actually wore the dress over a week ago - as part of my birthday celebrations, my mum treated my sister and I to afternoon tea at The Balmoral Hotel, which is an iconic, old hotel in the centre of Edinburgh (where JK Rowling finished the last Harry Potter book). It was a lovely afternoon and the dress was perfect for the occasion- sorry I didn't take any photos while we were there, but suffice to say there was plenty of sandwiches, tea and cakes in beautiful surroundings!!

Palm Court - where we had afternoon tea!

Right, I am off to spend my 40th freezing on a Scottish beach, eating fish and chips in the local pub, and drinking champagne!  

ETA: forgot to add that I will be adding this to A Stitching Odysey's #vintagepledge

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