Elisalex Number 1

So, I’ve conversely posted about the second By Hand London Elisalex Dress I made first because the first one was always meant as a wearable muslin, so I did all the steps, including the lining and fitting a zip to check the fit and also to finish both dresses, to have…..2 dresses! I finally finished the first one the other night, when I sewed the lining down on the inside. I (obvs) made all the same changes to this one as I made in the second dress. The only difference is that the fabric for this dress was super cheap, very synthetic stuff from one of the cheapo shops in Walthamstow so I underlined the skirt as well as the bodice, because it was pretty much see-through. I don’t know what this stuff is, but it melted when I put the iron on it, on not a very high heat! I bought it thinking I would make a floaty top, like Tilly and the Buttons’s Mathilde Blouse or something, but even by the time I got home I had fallen out of love with it. Having said that, I do actually quite like it as a dress (even if I am falling back into my old ways of wearing mainly blue!).

But enough rambling, here are some photos:

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It looks really long in this photo (it must be the angle), but it actually hits me on the knee, like the other one.

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Again, not perfect from the back (plus you can see the top of the zip sticking out because I took the photos before it was totally finished). I sewed in this zip about 5 times and actually put more ease back into it as it was so tight, in order to get it looking nice at the back, that I couldn’t take a deep breath!

Here’s a close up of the fabric – it’s got some grey in it, so I used this grey zip from my stash. Handy!

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Here’s the inside – I used some white cotton I had lying around, which my mum added to the last time I visited. I love how neat a lined garment looks from the inside! So pleasing, even if no-one really gets to see it when you’re wearing it!

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I learned to crochet!

Yesterday I spent a very enjoyable day hanging out with my 2 best friends. And I got to learn to crochet at the same time! My sister tried to teach me to crochet a couple of years ago – she is amazing at it, having made us this blanket:

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The squares look like this close up:

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I still have the granny square she taught me to make but this was the sum total of my crocheting career:

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I think this might be the same as the squares she made, but I’m not 100% sure – any crochet experts tell me for sure?

Anyway, back to yesterday. We did a course run by Crafty Baba, a group of people based in Suffolk who teach knitting, sewing and crochet. Our teacher was the lovely Cybèle De Jong, who knows one of my friends so it felt really relaxed and friendly, just sitting in her living room eating cake, drinking tea and chatting. Oh, and learning to crochet.

We started off with the basics – a chain, double stitches, triple stitches, then a fancy box thing stitch, and then my personal favourite, the shell stitch. It took me a while to get the hang of how to hold the work and the wool and the hook and stuff (so I kept laughing at myself for being so rubbish!), but I made this:

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I think you’ll agree, this is pretty amazing…….or not. But it was just to practise all the stitches and things, so it doesn’t have to look pretty.

My friend Fran, who organised for us to do this course, already knows how to crochet so when we went back to her house for lunch and more tea, she taught us how to do a granny square and I made this:

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You can’t really tell here, but I changed wools and everything! (The middle bit is a multicoloured crafting cotton with white in and the outside bit is a plain white cotton).

Then when I got home, I found that my sister had written down the instructions to make the square she taught me, so I made one of those (to make sure I could still remember all the stitches after a whole day!):

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I haven’t done the last step, so I think this looks a bit different from the yellow one at the top. My sister gave me the spare wool from the blanket and since all of my cushion covers I made 10 years ago are totally falling apart, I fancy crocheting some granny squares to make cushion covers to match the blanket, which lives on our sofa. I might try to find other simple granny squares so it’s not all too matchy-matchy. I can safely say I’m hooked (I had to – sorry, not sorry) on crochet!

Elisalex Number 2

I’m posting the second Elisalex dress I made first, as the first one I made is still not finished – I just have to sew the lining in on the inside. I wore this version on Saturday to a friend’s wedding, having finished it an hour before I had to leave the house. Some might say I left it until the last minute, I would say it was finished in the perfect amount of time!

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It’s made from a heavy, probably upholstery weight green and white stripey cotton from Rolls and Rems in Holloway. You can’t see the stripes from a distance, but it’s really pretty. I bought 3 metres but have loads left – any ideas what I can make from really thick fabric? I’m thinking maybe a pleated skirt of some kind?

Here’s a close up:

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I had to make a few changes to the pattern, but luckily not too much – I’m not sure I have the skill level for a bust adjustment just yet!

I cut out a size 8, grading to a size 10 at the waist, on the side seams only (I didn’t want to mess with the princess seams) as those were the closest measurements to mine. I cut out a size 10 on the bottom as I figured it would be easier to ease a bit out of the skirt than the bodice. As it turns out, the 2 pieces fitted together rather nicely. I’m quite pleased with how I got the seams and pleats lined up:

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When I cut out the pattern I realised that it was way too long for my 5’2” frame, so I cut off 20cm from the skirt length before I cut out my fabric (which might be partly why I needed much less fabric than suggested). I then sewed a 3cm hem to get the length to just above my knees.

I didn’t have a 22” zip, as the pattern suggested – I think the zip is meant to go all the way down the back? So I used a 19” zip instead, from my stash. Because it was from my stash, it’s yellow – it was the best one I could find and I didn’t have the time to go and buy another, more matching one. I managed to hide it so you can’t see it when the dress is on – I’m getting much better at zips than when I made my first dress!

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Part of the reason I’m getting better at zips is because I must have sewed the 2 zips for my 2 Elisalex’s about 10 times between them. This wasn’t just me being rubbish, but me trying to get the back to fit better. This was the main change I had to make – I sewed the zip(s) in with a 2.5cm seam allowance, going up to 5cm at the neck, for the top 2 inches or so. When I put the zip in as instructed, the back gaped loads and taking fabric out of the zip seam allowance seemed like the best way to get it to fit – there might be better ways, but I had made pretty much the whole dress at this point and was too lazy to unpick it and work out a better way to fit it. You can see from this picture that I have a narrow back – I look much thinner from the back than the front! It’s still not perfect, but I tried it with even less ease and I couldn’t really breathe, so I compromised for comfort!

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I used a bit of old gingham I had lying around for the lining. This is the first time I’ve lined anything and I really like it – the instructions are really clear and the pattern comes together nicely, so it was a good introduction to linings. It was also quite necessary to have something a bit softer next to my skin!

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I’m quite pleased with how neat it all looks from the inside – this is by far the neatest of any of the insides of anything I’ve made so far. I even did french seams on the side seams of the skirt, so it all looks lovely!

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The only other change I made (I just remembered) was I took 12cm off the short sleeve length as otherwise they would have come down to my elbows. I made the sleeved version so that I can wear it with cardigans in the winter – and it won’t look as odd as wearing a sleeveless dress in winter.

I was worried the dress would feel restrictive and not very comfortable, but aside from getting a bit warm with all the dancing at the wedding, I forgot what I was wearing, so that’s got to mean it was comfy! I might give the bodice a go with a circle skirt like lots of other people have done – this pattern is definitely a winner!

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Boat Vest Top Refashion

I’ve been sewing like a mad thing this week, to get a dress finished for my friend’s wedding, which was yesterday – and I made 2 dresses: a wearable muslin and the actual one, so as soon as I take photos (and properly finish the muslin) I have lots of sewing to show off!

But in the mean time, here is a refashion I did ages ago and have only just got round to posting. I had a vest top with little boats on which I really liked, but it had become too small and too short:

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I decided to make it into a t shirt by adding some red fabric as the top half and using the vest as the bottom half. We had an old pillow case lying around so I used a t shirt I had as a template and cut out the top half of a t shirt:

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Unfortunately, as this was cotton and not jersey, I couldn’t get it over my head so I scrapped this idea and bought a cheap red t-shirt from Walthamstow market to cut up. Again unfortunately, the way I cut up the vest, meant that the new top was barely longer than before, so I added the bottom of the red t-shirt to the bottom of the new t-shirt. I don’t love it, but I have worn it quite a few times, so I’ve made something I never wore into something I do wear, so a successful refashion I think. (Sorry for the quality of the photos!).

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It looks kind of crap from the back, but I don’t know how to fix it – I have a very narrow back, so things always look baggy.

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GBSB Boyfriend Shirt

One of the advantages of my job is I can get free books, including a copy of The Great British Sewing Bee Book.

JacketYou can download pretty much all of the pattern for free from the Quadrille website and although it’s a bit of a pain to assemble a printed pattern, there were quite a few I wanted to have a go at – the first one being the Boyfriend Shirt.

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I eventually want to graduate to making shirts for my boyfriend, so I figured this was an easy, cheaty way to start. The shirt doesn’t have cuffs (the sleeves are just hemmed and turned up) and the yokes are sewn on to the top of the front and back pieces, rather than being separate structural parts of the shirt, and there is no interfacing so the button bands and collar are super easy too.

I made a size 10, because I wanted it to be quite roomy (though I guess the pattern is designed with a lot of ease so it would be anyway). I bought the fabric in one of the many shops in Goldhawk Road and it’s some cheap basic shirting cotton. I was worried it would be a bit see-through, but it’s actually fine. I love the fabric – I don’t wear much green at the moment, but I want to make more things in bright greens!

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I didn’t make a muslin as it isn’t a very fitted pattern, so I figured it would all turn out okay. The only changes I made were to sew a 2cm (instead of the standard 1cm) seam allowance around the shoulder seams as I felt the sleeves were joining on too far down my shoulders, which are already quite wide, so they don’t need help looking even wider with an ill-placed seam! I also hacked 12cm off the length, as it was almost a shirt dress! I left myself 2cm for hemming (it was 14cm too long altogether). The only other thing I did was to sew 2 buttons onto each sleeve, to give myself a short-sleeved as well as three-quarter-length sleeves, specially for the summer.

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I have one word of advice for this shirt – make sure you sew the sleeves the right was for the tabs to be in the right place. When I first started making it, I figured they needed to be sewn to the inside of each sleeve so they can come to the outside for the button. But it was probably about 2 weeks between me having this thought and actually making it, so I forgot and carefully sewed the sleeves onto the shirt the wrong way round, meaning I had to unpick the tabs and try to sew them back on to an already made sleeve. I’ll just say it’s not my finest work!

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I wasn’t sure when I was making this whether it was really my style, but I quite like wearing looser fitting tops with skinny jeans on the bottom, and it was a great addition to my wardrobe for the heat wave we’ve had/ are having (I can’t tell if it’s over yet or not!) as it is loose, and therefore quite cool. I love the little pocket too!

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I am definitely planning to make more of this pattern – they’ll be great for going under jumpers in the Winter.