Long-sleeved Shift

The first thing I made after my sewing sabbatical (of several years!) was a long-sleeved shift dress from some gorgeous floral vintage silk I bought several years ago on ebay. I have many metres of it, so was planning to use it to reline an old 40s jacket, make a crazy pair of palazzo trousers kind of like these, etc etc. The fabric is rather narrow, though, so those ambitions will have to be curbed.

I digress. Getting back to this make; I have had a McCalls pattern for many years that I’ve never used. As it’s an old pattern, I cut it out thinking it would be good to do so generously (a 16/18 according to my measurements, i.e. a RTW 14). The finished garment was absolutely swimming on me; more like a one-woman tent than a dress:P

So, I took it in an inch or so (several centimetres) either side and tried it on again…. still far too big. I think the main problem was that it’s dropped shouldered with batwing sleeves. I took it in another few inches/centimetres and tried it on again – much better this time, and now wearable. This make needs to be photographed whilst being worn. I definitely need to sort out a photographic session!


My 2nd Bellatrix Blazer

IMG_1226I thought I’d be making the Rigel Bomber by Papercut next, but instead I decided to create another Bellatrix Blazer.

I found fabric in my stash (vintage 70s Boras fabric by Toni Hermansson) which I thought would co-ordinate well with a RTW skirt from Whistles that I bought in the early summer but have yet to wear:-/

This fabric lends itself to a more structured garment, so the Bellatrix it was. The main photo above shows it nicely pre-washed & ironed, ready for my pattern pieces to be laid out:-)

I had a very small amount of this fabric (120cm X 96cm) so it had to be variation 2 again. I cut 1 pair each of the front, side panel, back & sleeve facings, i.e. most of the shell. It was a very tight squeeze! I think it only worked because of the alterations I had to make to the front panel (5cm off the top) and the main front piece close to the shoulder (about 3cm) – effectively, using the small rather than medium. I cut everything else from the silk I’m using for lining, including the 2nd front panel (facing) and the lower back. It turned out pretty well when interfaced.

I used a medium weight woven fusible to give it body, as the lining is silk satin (a bargain from my trip to Biddle & Sawyer a few months ago). I decided not to interface both front pieces for this version, as I wanted to see how it feels with less stiffness. I also can’t be arsed to go out and buy more interfacing before I start sewing, even though I bought it at a great price from the wonderful William Gee in Dalston!

This has come together very quickly, despite once again using slippery silk satin for the lining – as well as front facing (a bugger to cut out). I started cutting out on Wednesday and finished on Sunday evening (12th October). I did have to work & walk dogs too!!

Annoyingly, I didn’t take many photos during the make – I was too impatient to finish it! So I don’t have anything to illustrate how it came together. I do have those from my 1st Bellatrix though, so I’m planning to post those somewhere in this blog!

On both jackets, I found attaching the front shoulder to the back really fiddly. It took a lot of unpicking and sewing again which is infuriating. Actually, I think where I went wrong was that I forgot to alter the length of the back close to the shoulder (it was too long the first time!). In fact, it will need to be reduced even further so that it corresponds to my new pattern pieces for the front shoulder. There was way too much fabric at the top of the back.

It’s also still slightly big at the top of the bust, so I might take a few centimetres off the main front panel seam that meets the side panel. If I weren’t so impatient I’d make a proper toile:-/

I’ve pressed it again to take a few photos (one shown here) but that silk creases almost on sight!







My 1st Bellatrix Blazer

Back lining

Back lining with pleat

Now that I’ve hijacked my own blog to write about my sewing odyssey, here’s my first post about my most challenging summer make, the Bellatrix Blazer by Papercut Patterns.

Once I decided that my 1st Bellatrix would be made out of upholstery fabric from my stash (I thought of it as a toile/muslin initially), I then had to see if I could fit the pattern pieces (for v. 2) into 1.4m of narrow fabric. It took some thinking and jiggling, but it was eventually successful. Yay!

I’ll try to focus on the fixes I made to the pattern. I need to thank Anne of Mercury – Handmade Fashion for her numerous makes & blog posts about the Bellatrix, as well as Sew Busy Lizzy for her stunning version. Both inspired me and alerted me to a tricky sleeve/armscye fitting!

I also had to adjust the length of the back close to the shoulder seam, as well lose an inch from the top of the side panel, which made the sleeve fitting even more challenging. I really wanted the jacket to fit me properly so I’m glad I took the time to do these (must get some pics taken of me wearing it too).

There’s a lot of interfacing which I thought might be too much for the front of the jacket. Actually, it’s not – it works well.

The other important alteration for me was to the lining. I used a lovely silk crepe de chine from Biddle & Sawyer, SoHo – an end of roll, so only cost £6 for 0.75m (plenty). It was a pig to cut out but feels fabulous against the skin:-)

Instead of cutting the back lining in two pieces as the pattern and instructions suggest, I followed the tailor’s method, which is to put a pleat in the back. Simpler and more effective than cutting & sewing two pieces of silk, it also gives the ease needed for movement. Many thanks to Judy Barlup from Unique Techniques for her simple to follow tutorial on PDF for making a jacket lining.

I’ve been a pretty lazy sewer in the past, so understitching wasn’t something I’d bothered with. It’s also like a double negative to me – not something I easily get my head around:-/ I recommend this great tutorial by Sewaholic if you’re equally challenged.

I haven’t been lazy about pressing seams for many years now, and this really pays off if you want a professional-looking finish. Fortunately, I have plenty of space at the moment to keep my iron & ironing board out permanently (and my sewing machine).

Apart from these personal fitting issues and adjustments, I found this easy and enjoyable to make and am delighted with the result. I have a few ideas for no. 2, 3 & even 4!

Did you have similar or different challenges making your Bellatrix blazer? Would love to hear what they were:-)

Ring out the Old… Ring in the New


Angmering-on-Sea post box and snowChristmas 2010

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new –
Ring happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring Out Wild Bells      Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I love Tennyson’s poem, and Mozart’s music for this New Year’s hymn.

It’s not just the rhythm in the words that speak to me (that’s the voice coach in me), it’s also the content and sentiment conveyed particularly in these first two verses.

This is the time of year when we start thinking about our New Year resolutions. Hopefully some will shortly be instigated and perhaps even one or two of them might even become habits; the remainder falling by the wayside, casualties of the busy lives we all seem to lead these days.

However, I shall be doing a different exercise this year and invite you to do the same. In Tennyson’s words ‘ring out the old, ring in the new’. This isn’t the first time I’ve done so, and it may not be yours either, but it’s been a few years since I’ve done it for the entire year.

This exercise is sometimes referred to, in coaching circles at least, as ‘completion’. To avoid the use of jargon, let’s call it an acknowledgement exercise: of what we’ve accomplished over the past year; what we’ve promised ourselves or others we’d do and haven’t done; what we did over and above what we promised or didn’t promise even.

The reason I think this is important is because I believe we all have a tendency to look at what we didn’t do or haven’t accomplished, and to do so in snapshot format. This is a chance to paint the whole picture; our perception of all we did and didn’t do in 2010 and, continuing the analogy, start with a blank canvas for 2011.

Whilst I’m at it, one of my New Year’s resolutions is going to be ‘ring out the false, ring in the true’.

We could even do it in pairs, so that we can share in each others’ accomplishments, disappointments, joys and sorrows.

Anyone care to join me?

Next week, I’ll share at least some of my outcomes of the exercise, and would love to hear from any of you who are happy to go public:-)

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.