A tiny dress for Hester

Here’s something I made recently: a little dress for a friend’s new baby. The pattern is New Look 6038, a really simple little baby dress, and the fabric is, I think, a 1940s reproduction print from the splendid Stitch Fabrics in Wanstead (highly recommended – they have a superb selection of cotton prints in 54″ width and some amazing designer fabrics for much less than you would pay on Berwick Street).P1000211


You can see where I handstitched down the little pleats (or are they tucks? I think tucks are stitched down at both ends and pleats only at one end).

I love ric-rac but I would never use it on a garment for an adult.

I’m simultaneously making two more versions of this dress for my boyfriend’s sister’s twins, but I’ve been sewing them completely by hand – partly as an exercise, but also to have something to do with my hands when I’m forcibly removed from my sewing machine (I just don’t like knitting). I’ve been working on them (admittedly very sporadically) for about two months now. The above dress was made in about an hour, from cutting to final pressing.

Finally a brief acknowledgement that ‘neat but not gaudy’ refers to my style, not my sewing room:



P1000048This is the first quilt I ever made. It took me three years to finish piecing the top – I kept doing tiny bits then putting it away. Having finally, last year, quilted it and bound it, it makes me really happy. I love the colours – even though the piecing is pretty slapdash. It’s layered with a cheapy fleece blanket and the quilting is minimal – just straight lines across.

Here’s the next one I finished, as a combination birthday/Christmas present for my sister. I don’t have a photo of the whole thing, but this one was done as a sort of log cabin pattern. She requested black: wpid-20131026_151649.jpg

Here’s her cat, Pippa, with the finished item:

wpid-IMG-20131116-00214.jpg Here’s the most recent completely finished one: a baby quilt for a friend who just had a little boy. Random patches, backed with a white and green floral print: P1000035 P1000032 P1000031 P1000038 And here are two more works in progress. The green and yellow tumblers quilt is a gift for my other sister – who is currently putting up with quilts all over the sitting room floor with great patience. P1000057 P1000060 P1000061 P1000062   The photos are all out of focus because I just got a new camera which I haven’t got to grips with yet.

Sewing resolutions for 2014

I haven’t done much sewing in 2013, but I have managed to get back into the habit of sewing regularly, and I think I made some progress.

  • I discovered patchwork, which is a marvellous way of wasting a lot of time moving different bits of scrap around and staring at them thoughtfully, not to mention doodling patterns of squares and triangles. But I hate wasting scraps, so, on the whole, a win. And the three patchwork quilts I have finished to date are all beautiful (post to follow). The danger is that it becomes very very easy to start buying half-metres of quilting cotton at £2-3 a throw until you have more pretty prints than you can ever use.
  • I made a man’s shirt, which was an interesting thing to do. I couldn’t fit it to the wearer because it was a surprise, so it was straight outta the pattern packet; I’d forgotten how much easier that is than spending weeks fiddling with fit. Men’s shirts are easier than women’s dresses in some ways – no darts (yay), hardly any curved seams, but heavens, the finishing – everything topstitched or flat-felled. It does produce a lovely neat finish though – although the only shirt I have made is a tiny bit slipshod in some details. The next one I make will be better fitted and finished.
  • In general, I’ve been trying to slow down and concentrate on fit and finish rather than knocking something up in an afternoon. One good thing about this is that it makes me feel I can justify nicer fabrics for things which are definitely going to be quality items of clothing. I’ve also started to enjoy making wearable muslins of things, knowing that having made something in £4/metre cotton or polyester, once I cut into my precious wool or silk, I’m going to have a really beautiful item of clothing. I’ve been trying to enjoy the process rather than get too focused on the outcome.
  • To that end, I’ve started looking up the proper techniques for things rather than just hammering away blindly. I don’t know why I have a tendency to assume that ‘proper’ techniques are going to be harder that whatever I improvise; nine times out of ten, the opposite is true. And I have used more of my presser feet this year than ever before.

So, my resolutions for 2014!

  • The first is to record what I make (and perhaps record some of the things I’ve previously made) on this blog.
  • Secondly, I want to make, or rather finish, a coat. I have started making Burda 6986 (view B with the cape, in black boiled wool), but have stalled slightly at the fitting stage. Once I get over that hurdle, I only have to make a coat and a cape, line them both, tailor the collar, possibly make bound buttonholes… easy.
  • I want to make some retro clothing. The three things I have in mind currently are these gorgeous WWII-era dungarees, this 1920s kimono, and hopefully a corset of some era (twentieth century, but not sure beyond that).
  • I want to make another man’s shirt…
  • …and more patchwork quilts; they make lovely baby presents, for one thing (and a baby quilt  can be finished in two evenings) but I also want to make more interesting patterns than straightforward squares or strips. I’d also like to try doing quilting beyond straight seams – I hope to maybe do this course in the spring.
  • As always, I’d like to sew more from the fabrics and patterns I already own, rather than buying more fabric than I will ever use. When I moved out of my old house this year I got rid of a lot of things that I knew I would never use – some to the charity shop, some to a friend’s kid with an interest in stage design – so I now have a fabric stash which is almost completely nice material that I want to use. It still contains a lot of fabric, though.
  • I’d like to try doing some draping.
  • And I want to keep trying to improve my sewing skills, rather than coasting – I can sew, but I can’t make things as beautifully as I would like, and I have a tendency to choose patterns which I on’t think are going to be difficult. Making something which stretches me is sometimes a bit stressful, but I feel such a sense of achievement afterwards.