My first make of 2018 has finally materialised! It’s the first garment I’ve made in months (when you’re doing a PGCE, free time is hard to come by and frankly I’ve spent most of what I had watching Friends) but good things come to those who wait!
Arielle is another pattern by Tilly and the Buttons. It’s been languishing in my pattern box for some time – I bought it last year as part of the 1960’s bundle, but somehow hadn’t got around to using it until now. I made the mini version, but actually cut it 3.5cm longer as I’m tall. It’s a relatively small addition, but makes a significant difference and I think the extra length makes it smart enough to wear at school.
Firstly, I’m absolutely delighted with the shape! It’s designed for a close fit, so I spent a long time redrawing the side seams (my hips were a full two sizes bigger than my waist) then basting, fitting and altering as I went along. As a result it’s taken quite a long time, but now I’ve made it work I’m confident it’ll be much quicker in future. I’m definitely going to make it again – I’ve spent most most of today dreaming of a forest-green corduroy version, so I think that needs to happen fairly soon.
To be honest, I probably didn’t choose the best fabric for this one. It’s made of a beautiful pink wool crepe I bought as a remnant in Sew Over It – basically it was pretty big (about 1.5m), but had a few marks which I think were flaws in the dying process, and was therefore reduced to £10. I couldn’t resist it – the colour is dreamy, and Arielle’s small and asymmetrical pattern pieces fit perfectly around the marks. The trouble was though that I think it’s just a little too drapey, and the facing pulls a little bit in strange places. Having said that though, I’m not sure that anyone else but me would notice – I think everyone else is distracted by the bold vintage buttons and super cool colour! I’m still pretty happy with the overall effect, I’ve just learned to use a heavier fabric next time.
I made the optional “luxury lining” from some paisley print cotton from my stash, and I think the combination of the two fabrics is so great that frankly it’s a shame nobody sees when I’m wearing it. What’s more, I found the lining surprisingly easy to insert – there are some tricky curved seams to navigate, but Tilly’s instructions were really helpful and it ended up looking pretty damn professional!
It was only this morning, as I sewed my buttonholes, that it occurred to me that what a striking resemblance this skirt bares to one that my mum made for me, circa 1997. For context, I was playing a newsreader in a class assembly, and I needed something a little bit prim and proper. My Mum had just made some – erm – lovely pink curtains for my Nan and Granddad, and had just enough left over to squeeze out a tiny skirt and waistcoat worthy of The News at Six (Years Old).
Q: What’s the collective noun for a group of ruffled garments?
A: A gathering.
(I thought of that all by myself and I was pretty pleased about it!)
Unless you’ve been walking about with your eyes shut since January you’ll have noticed that sleeves, particularly big ruffled ones, are big news in 2017. This has already been dubbed “Year of the Sleeve”, and Sleevefest is now officially a thing. Honestly, non-instagrammers, it is. Sleevefest is a competition being hosted by dream.cut.sew and valentineandstitch, with prizes being awarded for the best and most creative handmade sleeves. Entries are still being accepted until 31st August, so if you fancy giving it a go, there’s still time! Have a look at this post by dream.cut.sew for all the details.
I’ll admit that at first I was sceptical. It was all a bit Laurence Llewellyn Bowen for me. (Don’t know Laurence? He’s an interior designer/minor Brit celebrity who shot to fame on hit TV show Changing Rooms in the 1990’s, and is mostly remembered for wearing outfits like this:)
That said, I’m not stubborn or afraid to admit when I’m wrong! Pleats, gathers and frills of all sizes have stealthily crept into the mainstream over the last 12 months, so it’s now socially acceptable to add a camp little flounce to just about anything, and for any occasion.
And it’s easy to see why. Well placed gathers can draw the eye to the slimmest parts of you body and enhance fuller areas, whilst also helpfully skimming over any bits you’re less keen on. A gathered skirt, for instance, cinches in the waist whilst also drawing attention to (or giving the illusion of) a peachy bum. Have a look at my Recycled Plastic Skirt again, as evidence. And gathers on sleeves or trouser legs can play with proportion, making ankles and wrists look slimmer. And that’s before you even get to how the fabric in gathered garments moves with you, swishing and swaying with your every move and bringing new life to your outfit.
Plus, gathers are ridiculously easy to sew. Aesthetics aside, it also reduces the need for lengthy fitting sessions and fiddly darts. You just need one measurement – the length of whatever you’re joining you gathers into – and bam! You’re away.
Which brings us nicely back to the garment I’m here to discuss…
Following the success of my Secret Patchwork Coco a couple of months ago, I knew I wanted to make Coco by Tilly and the Buttons again. It’s really easy to sew up, the shape is super flattering and its simplicity makes it a great wardrobe-builder. It’s made from super-soft pale blue cotton jersey (Saeed’s in Walthamstow, £8 p/m), and, yes, this time I did have enough fabric. In fact, I even managed to cut out the sleeve ruffles from the off-cuts, which made this a really economical make.
The sleeve ruffles are just rectangles cut 2.5x longer than than the sleeve hem on the original pattern (I used the 3/4 length version, but I suppose you could use the full-length sleeves if you wanted to make something really flamboyant). The rectangles are then gathered and applied to the sleeve while it’s still flat – the sleeves of Coco are assembled flat anyway, which is great because I normally hate setting sleeves and have been known to cry actual tears over it. I neatened the seam by over-locking the seam allowances together and pressing upwards towards the shoulder, then top-stitching with a zig-zag all the way around for a really neat finish. I only made one turn in the new hem, so that the ruffle stays light and can move easily. I then assembled my Coco as usual.
Ruffle detail from the right side…
And wrong side, showing how I neatened the seam.
If you have time, make sure you search for #sleevefest2017 on Insta. It’s really cool to see all the gorgeous hacks and details people have come up with.
IN OTHER NEWS:
I’m very conscious that I haven’t blogged yet about the New Craft House Summer Party, as promised in my last post. This is absolutely no reflection on the event itself – it was a really really lovely evening, and everyone there was so very welcoming. It was lovely to finally meet so many of the sewing bloggers who’s inspired me – in fact it’s fair to say that in a lot of cases I was quite star-struck and scared to approach people. The outfits on show were absolutely incredible – so good, in fact, that they added two Honourable Mention awards to the Best Handmade Outfit competition, because the standard was so high (I mean, just look at the winners in the bottom photo! Don’t they look divine?!). Plus, it was nice to be in the company of other people who request to touch other people’s clothes, just to see how the fabric feels. I’ve always thought I’m the only person who does this and my friends laugh at me for it, but it turns out I’m not alone! Loads of sewists do it! We can’t resist!
Among other things we chatted about our favourite indie patterns, places to shop for fabric, fashion ethics, and how sewing makes great therapy. But the truth is that I probably didn’t get as much out of it as I would have liked – this has been a sad couple of weeks for me for reasons that I’m not ready to discuss, and I was distracted. I didn’t have the presence of mind to take any photos (gutted, actually) and small talk sometimes felt a little bit laboured. So if you took the time to speak to me, then thank you, and sorry if I seemed weird. But please don’t be in any doubt at all that it was a really lovely event and it lifted my spirits hugely. It’s just that I don’t have a great deal to show for it. But the New Craft House girls have written a lovely post about it, and there’s already talk of another party at Christmas, which is really exciting. So thank you, lovely sewists, for lifting me up. Sewing people are the best people.
I’d been a bit hesitant to get started as stretch fabrics scared me a bit, but I realised during Me-Made-May that I needed to make some casual tops, and Coco seemed like the perfect fit.
Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t start well. When visiting my parents last week, my mum and I called in to The Fabric Place in Beeston, near Nottingham, and I found this big piece of medium-weight polyester jersey in the remnant bin for £2. “Great”, I said, “I’ll easily be able to get a Coco out of this!”. Famous last words.
As it happens, it wasn’t easy to get a Coco out of this at all. Sure, the remnant was 2 meters long but it was a funny shape with big lumps cut out of it, and after laying out all my pattern pieces it soon became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to cut it all out in the normal way.
At this point, anyone with more patience/common sense that me would have put it all away and saved it for a smaller project, but – oh no- not me! I had my heart set on a stripy Coco and I was damn well going to make one. Instead I cut out the bodice front and back, then patched together three offcuts (being super careful to match the stripes, of course!) then cut the sleeves out of the resulting larger piece of fabric. Obviously there was no fabric left for such luxuries as pockets or cuffs (which are optional on this pattern) so I had to make the very simplest top version, with 3/4 length sleeves. I was careful to make sure that the seams were on the back of the sleeves when cutting out, so they were less obvious. I think I just about got away with it, right?!
Can you see the joins here?
They’re easier to spot from the inside (modelled here but my glamorous mannequin assistant, Patsy).
Still struggling top spot them? Does this help?
The black and white stripes definitely help – on a plain fabric it would have been way more obvious.
Aside from that though, I think this is a pretty successful make! I spent a long time tracing and resizing the pattern; I’m very precious about my patterns, and couldn’t even contemplate cutting into the original, and I’m really curvy and often have to make a lot of adjustments, and leaving the original intact provides a bit of a safety net. In this instance there was a full three sizes between my waist and hips, creating the kind of shape that looks like it should never work, but it did. I fact, it’s genuinely the best-fitting top I’ve ever owned.
Just like the Cleo I made a couple of months ago, the pattern was perfectly clear and easy to sew up. The instruction booklet included with the pattern is free from jargon and packed with helpful tips, and the colour photos make a helpful visual reference. Once I sat down at my sewing machine I’d made it in just a few hours – there were only three pattern pieces, no fiddly darts, facings or fastenings, and no need to finish the raw edges as (joy of joys!) knit fabric doesn’t fray. It’s a great introduction to sewing with stretch fabrics, and it’s definitely given me a boost of confidence.
It’s easy to see how Coco can quickly become a wardrobe staple. I’m absolutely delighted with the result – the boat neck is flattering on my broad shoulders and big boobs, the fit is nice and relaxed and I even managed to (mostly) pattern match all the stripes! I know it’ll help make up loads of outfits, and I’m already planning more variations. Plus, now I’ve done the hard work, I’d be able to whip up more in no time.
Let me know if you’ve made Coco, and how you got on. Plus, has anyone else been so – ahem – resourceful with fabric as I have here?! If so I’d love to see/hear about it!
I’ll leave you with this perfectly captured, if not altogether flattering shot by Dave, with added speech bubble: