Adventures in Pattern Drafting

The last couple of weeks I’ve been a bit quiet on here because I’ve been working on my own personal blocks/slopers. I bought this Burda Academy course probably years ago and finally decided to have a go at it this year. And it doesn’t take as long as you would think to draft a sloper – the measuring takes a while, though!

This was my sexy measuring outfit – a tight top and leggings with tape marking my waist and hip line, so you can measure to and from the same points.

And this is the side view. Because of my terrible posture and some bloating, I look a bit pregnant here but I can assure you I’m not.

The course comes with some great handouts and videos talking you through everything. I ended up doing my bodice front and back twice because we’d messed up some of the measurements and once I’d watched the video once, I found the handout was enough to do the slopers again, which is cool.

Here is a peek at my skirt sloper/block.


Last night I cut out and sewed together my collection of slopers into a dress (minus the sleeve) and it looked pretty good. It needs some tweaks, but before too long I should have my blocks sorted, so I can use them to compare to commercial patterns to know what adjustments to make, and to draft things for myself. The first thing I’m going to draft is the pattern for my Dressmakers’ Ball dress, which I’m basing on this one Ginnifer Goodwin wore to the Met Gala a few years ago.

Posts on here might be a bit few and far between for the next few weeks while I’m working on my dress. I’ll hopefully share some updates here and on Instagram, though. I just hope I get it finished – the ball is only 6 weeks away!

Review of 2017

As this year approaches its end I (like many other sewists and bloggers) thought it would be fun to look back and see what I achieved sewing-wise.

The main part of my planning for this year had been my #2017MakeNine but I only managed to make 4 of the 9 patterns I had planned to make.

To slightly defend myself (against who?!) I did make 3 of the 4 patterns twice. (For all the makes below, click on the photo to be taken to the full blog post).

I made 2 Marianne Dresses and I love them both – both are from quite light weight jersey so they’re not the best for the cold weather we’ve been having in the UK recently.

I also make 2 Moneta dresses, though I don’t really wear the first one because I stretched out the neckline while making it.

I also make 2 Inari Tees, and I have a dress version cut out ready for next Summer – I didn’t get around to making it last Summer as it didn’t seem to last long enough!

The other make I managed from my Make Nine was my Roberts Collection dungaree dress. I did want to make the dungaree version as well but I didn’t get around to it.

I bought denim to make both pairs of jeans back in April but I didn’t quite get around to making them. I also have 2 fabrics to make the Carolyn Pyjamas from so I think I’ll bump them onto next year’s list too.

I also had joined the #SewMyStyle project and although I knew at the outset that I wasn’t going to make all 12 garments throughout the year, I only managed one – the Toaster Sweater, which I think was the pattern from January (though I’m pretty sure I made it late).

Although I didn’t make loads of the things I had planned at the beginning of the year, I did make quite a few things in the last 12 months.

I made a few presents and non-clothes, including 2 pyjama cases (a monkey and a penguin), a sack for work, a tailor’s ham and sausage (stuffed with fabric scraps), and a moomin embroidery (which helped me realise I actually quite enjoy embroidery).

I managed to refashion 3 garments: a simple tee refashion, my Christmas Party Dress and – the one I’m probably most proud of – I refashioned one of my dad’s suits into a suit for me.

In terms of sewing from scratch, this year I made:

  • 8 dresses
  • 1 pair of trousers and one pair of culottes
  • 2 skirts
  • 8 tops
  • 1 pair of shoes

The shoes were definitely a highlight! And after listening to Jasika’s episode of the Love to Sew Podcast, I feel inspired to make more shoes!

I am also proud of having made trousers for the first time! Shame I didn’t parley this into making more pairs of trousers as they are the thing that is really lacking in my wardrobe now.

These trousers are probably my most worn make of the year, but also getting honorable mentions are my stripey jersey dress which I’ve worn loads considering it was a late-in-the-year make.

I’ve also worn my grey-blue melilot shirt loads this year, so I definitely have more planned.

I feel like I can’t do a round up of the year without mentioning my Dressmakers’ Ball dress – ooh, I’ve just realised I made an extra pair of trousers than I listed above because my dress had trousers underneath! It was definitely one of my favourite makes from the year and it was fun to do some – very basic – drafting to alter the Emery dress to make the copy of the Emma Watson outfit I liked so much.

There were some other things that I mentioned I wanted to do in 2017, like make a quilt, re-upholster a chair and make a wall hanging. I did none of these things. I did, however, complete the Wardrobe Architect project and I do think this helped me to focus my sewing and fabric buying.

Obviously on a personal level, 2017 wasn’t the best – and 2016 sucked too – so here’s hoping 2018 isn’t quite so crap and I have no family sadnesses.

Did you meet your goals in 2017? Are you rolling some of them into 2018 if not? I will – I think some of my #2018MakeNine will be the ones I didn’t make in 2017!

My Dressmakers’ Ball Dress (AKA Red Carpet Copycat)

After I shared a sneaky peak of what I was making for the Dressmakers’ Ball, I am now here to show you the finished outfit (which you may have already seen if you follow me on Instagram!)

But first I want to share a little bit about the ball itself……it was amazing! It was run by the lovely ladies at Crafty Sew & So, a fabric shop in Leicester. It was so nice to see everyone go all out when given the excuse – and I’m sure some of us don’t need much of an excuse! I kept thinking how awesome it was that sewing allows us to express ourselves exactly as we want to. I can’t imagine how painful it is shopping for a prom dress, or even a wedding dress, and not finding exactly what you want. My prom dress was made by my mum and now I know if I’m going to a wedding or something, whatever I can imagine that I want to wear I can make (within the boundaries of my skills of course!).

These are all the ‘advanced’ dressmakers (which meant you had been sewing for 3 or more years). The photo is by TKL Photography, and I thought it was great that they had a professional photographer taking pictures because whenever I’m having a good time I don’t think to take any (which I guess it how it should be!)

I went with my friend Sarah who I met at the Sew Brizzle meet ups and Jen, also from Bristol, was there too (though she didn’t take part in the competition so isn’t in the photo above).

I was really impressed with the beginner dressmakers too – they had all been sewing for less than 3 years, and some of them had made their dress for the ball and it was the first or second thing they every made! They were a lot, lot, lot better than the first and second things I made, I can tell you! I tried to take some photos, but they’re all terrible and mostly of people’s backs, so do go check out the photo album on CraftySew&So’s facebook page.

Special shout out goes to Kendell, who I sat next to at dinner, and who won the beginner dressmaker category. She has only been sewing since September! (Photo by TKL Photography). Amazing!

Helen from Stitch My Style (who I’ve had a bit of a girl crush on for a while now because I love her vlogs!) won the advanced dressmaker category for her latest recreation project – after the amazingness that was her Marilyn Monroe Dress – the opera dress from Pretty Woman. It truly was a wonder to behold, and she had completely shelf-drafted it. She is a very talented lady! Also I got to chat to her a little bit on the night, and the next morning when some people met for breakfast and she’s as lovely and funny in real life as you’d expect from her videos.

Here she is (left) with the equally lovely Elisalex from By Hand London, who was one of the judges, and Nina from Nina Lee patterns, who I met a couple of years ago at a meet-up and I was surprised she remembered me – for some reason I always assume people will forget me as soon as I leave the room!

Well, this might be enough chat about how great the ball was and maybe I should show you some photos of my dress?

Here it is from the front – looks kind of boring I think, though it is a good colour – the fabric is the leftovers from my By Hand London Alix Dress. The bodice is the Christine Haynes Emery, which is my go to basic bodice as I did quite a bit of fitting back when I first made it, and I’m too lazy to do it all again with a different pattern! The front skirt, though it a sort of made up thing. I used the skirt I drafted for my Navy Lace dress but I extended it to the ground and made the top of the skirt the same length as the bottom of the bodice (plus seam allowances, of course).

There is also a split up the front of the skirt. I did this using a random tutorial I found online, where you make a sort of facing, sewing either side of the line you want for the split, cut the line between the 2 rows of stitching, then turn it to the inside and voila! You have a split, with the raw edges all enclosed. I then handstitched the facing part to the inside using herringbone stitch – there was a lot of handsewing on this dress as the fabric marks quite easily, so where I might have machined a hem on a less ball-worthy dress, I did it all by hand on this one.

You also might be able to see there are trousers underneath my dress. I thought about buying the Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers pattern, but then I remembered I have Gertie Sews Vintage Casual which has a Cigarette Trousers pattern, so I used that.

I did have to do quite a bit of adjusting to the trousers, but I failed to write any notes so I’m stuffed if I want to make them again! I moved the back zip to one of the side seams, shortened the legs on the pattern by an inch below the knee and then took them in quite a lot on the legs. Like an inch or more on each leg, inside and out.  They didn’t look perfect but they looked okay. And they fitted okay across the bum from the beginning, so that was a bonus!

Anyway, the interesting thing about my outfit is the back!

As you may have already recognised, this is a copy of an outfit worn by Emma Watson at the Golden Globes a couple of years ago. I tried to recreate her pose, but it didn’t really work. I added a second strap to hide my bra strap. Also I have no idea how her dress is staying up – I added some really strong interfacing to mine, but it still wasn’t quite enough. Luckily Helen from Stitch My Style had some spare (ehem) tit tape so Sarah stuck the top corners to my back, which was great because otherwise I would have spent the whole night adjusting it!

I love how the wind caught the dress in the above photo! The fabric was pleasingly swishy to dance in, but because it’s only half a dress and because of the split, it wasn’t as swirly as Elisalex’s dress, which was definitely one of the best for twirling in!

I’m pretty proud of my pleating on the back, so here’s a close-up. This fabric creases like a bitch, but it does mean once pleats have been ironed in, they stay!

This is me trying to copy Emma Watson’s pose – semi successful I think. If I had a stylist and someone to teach me how to pose, it might have been closer! Oh well!

Emma Watson Christian Dior, Golden Globes

To sum up, I really love this dress/outfit! I really enjoyed working out how to recreate something I’ve only seen in photos. And it was great to have an opportunity/excuse to make one of the things I’ve been dreaming about making for aaages! I also, surprisingly, enjoyed all of the handsewing. I think next year – assuming they’re running the ball again – I want to make something with a more tricky fabric to work with. Maybe velvet, which I’ve not sewn with yet. And I’d like to give boning a try. I’ve already got an idea in mind of another red carpet copy cat dress, but I’m not going to share it yet because no doubt I will change my mind by next May! I might try to recreate some others of my favourite red carpet looks too, like the less formal ones – I don’t know how many gowns I’ll need in my wardrobe!

I’ll leave you with another photo of our photography assistant who showed up again as The Boyfriend was taking these photos! You may recognise him from the photos I took of my denim moss skirt. I can’t remember if I mentioned this before, but he lost an eye a few months ago, but it doesn’t seem to have slowed him down.

He seemed pretty determined to photobomb me!

But I couldn’t resist his lovely face. He really is a friendly cat and comes into our flat if we leave our back door open 🙂

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May Makes and June Plans

So May turned out to be the least productive month of sewing I’ve had in a long time! It’s partly because after having an amazing time at the Dressmaker’s Ball, and spending some of April and the beginning of May making my outfit (which I will share soon, I promise. I took some photos but they all turned out to be terrible and it has rained every weekend day since so haven’t had a chance to retake them outside), I lost my sewjo a little bit. Immediately after the ball I wanted to make a start on my dress for next year – I know, ridiculous! – but then I wasn’t really sure what to make and I’d promised to make a penguin pyjama case for my nephew (to match the monkey one I made for my niece) but I just couldn’t work out how, so I didn’t sew anything because I knew I should make the penguin first. I’ve also been feeling a bit run down for the last 2-3 weeks and my work has been crap so I’ve just been feeling a bit down in the dumps, which is not the time when I feel motivated to sew. Though it probably would help me to do something with my hands when I’m feeling blue. I might look for another embroidery project – after I enjoyed making the meme cushion for my aunt – so I can pick it up when I feel like it.

Anyway, here is my one finished make for May:

I did make a start on my Roberts Collection Pinafore dress, too, so that’s first on my list to finish this month as I’m excited to start wearing it!

And my plans for the month are jeans (probably). I have now pre-washed the denim I bought in Birmingham and taking part in Me Made May really highlighted my lack of jeans – I have one pair of rtw jeans which are starting to wear out on the inner thigh, so I really should bite the bullet and make myself some jeans. Especially the Gingers. I’m hoping if I can get them to fit well, then I can run up pairs in denim and other fabrics, and have a whole wardrobe of skinny jeans/trousers.

My other plan for this month is another melilot shirt. I wear the first one I made quite a lot (and am, in fact, wearing it as I type this!) and could do with a short-sleeved one for when/if Summer every arrives in Gloucestershire!

One of the things I’ve had planned for a couple of months is my Carolyn Pyjamas, but I think I’ll postpone them for a couple of months. I want to make long-sleeved, long trousered ones and that seems silly as we’re approaching the (in theory, anyway) warmest months of the year.

I do need another mammoth cutting out session – I like to cut out lots of projects at once so I have lots of things to sew when I’m in the mood – so these plans might totally change! I did treat myself to a few more patterns – because I needed more! – so these might creep up the to make list.

Do you ever find you’re not in the mood for sewing, even though you know it would probably make you feel better? What are your Summer sewing plans?

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A sneaky peak of my Dressmakers’ Ball dress

I thought I would share a few snaps of my Dressmakers’ Ball dress – because I want to keep the grand unveiling until the night. And also because I haven’t finished it yet!

I haven’t hemmed it yet:

I’m using the leftover fabric from when I made my By Hand London Alix Dress, because I ended up with quite a lot left after ordering almost twice as much as I needed so I’d have enough to underline the whole dress. I still love the colour, but I don’t like how it frays and creases like a bitch – I did iron it before taking these photos, but you wouldn’t know!

Because of the fraying – and to give it a ball gown-y feel – I’ve used french seams. You may be able to make out 2 lines of stitching, though. I trimmed the seam allowances down to what I thought was teeny tiny, but then I sewed the second part of the french seam and the fabric edge was sticking out on the right side. I trimmed it down as much as possible, but you could still see the edge on the right side, so I sewed another line of stitching with a slightly bigger seam allowance. This slightly ruins the couture effect I was going for, but I didn’t really want to unpick the original line of stitching because this fabric does not like being unpicked!

My dress has sleeves! (And darts, which you can just about make out)

And although the bodice is lined, I decided to do french seams through both the shell and lining layers because of the fraying problem, and I feared any hand stitching would show on the right side of the fabric – it’s pretty thin and bruises easily, so even picking up one thread might have left a mark.

Also pockets because pockets. And pockets with french seams (except for the first seam where you attach the pocket to the skirt pieces, because I forgot/wasn’t sure that was possible.

Part of the skirt is pleated….

And there will be a split on the front, if I can ever bring myself to cut the fabric! I found a Burda tutorial that said you can make a split by sewing fabric on the top in 2 lines really close together, then you cut between the 2 lines of stitching and turn the fabric to the inside, which neatens what would have been an exposed edge. It said to interface the piece you sew on the top, but I haven’t because I didn’t want to mess with the drape and didn’t have any interfacing light enough. This weekend I’ll have to suck it up and cut the split. Or unpick it completely, but that might leave a mark!

Are you going to the Dressmakers’ Ball? If so, do you have as much to finish on your dress as me!? What colour are you wearing? Are you making something new or wearing something you’ve already made? I was tempted to wear my navy lace dress I made to go to a wedding in last year – if only it was like the Oscars and there was an after party, then I could wear both!

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