Cocoon green & tartan dress

Yes, you’ve got it right, I am not going to wear my fancy red silk dress to lounge around eating chocolate and binge watch series on Christmas-lockdown-day! So I decided to make myself something nice and comfy for this train-wreak of a holiday season.

In case you haven’t been following this is my New Year’s sewing challenge: Du fil à retordre. The only hiccup is that when I started the challenge, I asked my better half how many weeks there were to New Year’s eve. He replied 7, and I didn’t even check (blind faith in his mathematical capacities). Turns out he just said a random number. So this is the 7 out of 7 project but…not the last project (at least I think, it really depends on how much mulled wine I drink in the next days – hangover-sewing is the worst, don’t try it!).

Well, well back to the project. The pattern is from the great Tilly and the Buttons book ‘Make it Simple’, the ‘Suki’ dress. By the way, it’s a great book, there are many simple and elegant pieces and it’s really inclusive in terms of sizes and ages (no, they are not paying me to say this, I just love this independent pattern company). In the fabric suggestions, it advises using light to medium weight drapey woven fabrics, like viscose or linen, and I somehow decided that it was a good idea to make it in a knit polyester. The truth being that I wanted to make this comfy dress with either green or red velvet, couldn’t find it at my favourite shop and decided to get this green and white ribbed thing instead, hoping for the best.

And that’s where the saga of the bias binding started (and one of the reasons why I’m late posting this). May it be known that even though I live ON TOP of the biggest sewing shop in Europe… I was unable to find any interesting jersey bias binding. I was looking for something sparkly initially and then I lost hope and was just trying to find something that wasn’t neon yellow. Why haven’t they invented sparkly jersey bias binding yet ?

Anyway, after long queues of masked people, foggy glasses and getting rained on, I found this cotton tartan and decided to go with it. Yes, I know synthetic fibres should go with synthetic fibres but this was a desperate situation (and I love tartan).

To the original pattern, I added a breast pocket since I had some bias binding left and shortened the skirt, because why not! I must admit it was a really easy-peasy project but I’m satisfied with it in the end, the dress is very cosy and looks nice with thick tights. I think I will probably go and look for a piece of material of the same fabric as the bias and make a fabric belt out of it (it’s a variation of the Suki dress) to make it more fitted around the waist.

Voilà and Merry Christmas!

Christmas gifts ideas!

Sooo I didn’t quite keep the challenge for this week. For those that haven’t followed I am doing a New Year countdown sewing challenge (only I counted the weeks wrong, lol) : Du fil à retordre sewing challenge.

This past week I have been super busy and I spent the weekend mostly Xmas shopping. I did manage to make this small guy though! It’s for my niece that apparently has developed an obsession for owls.

It was rather fast to do, I literally whipped it up in an hour. I found a few inspiring owls and drew the first draft. Then I copied it out the different parts on different pieces of paper to make the pattern pieces. Along the way, I decided to drop the feet as I was pressed for time and really wanted it to be finished quickly.

The body of the owl is made in a leftover piece of fleece that I made into a cape a year ago (my first up-cycled piece, rather impressive since I didn’t have a clue what I was making at the time). Then I found a few scraps of flowery fabric and the yellow for the beak ferreting around in my stash. The eyes were a brainwave. I have had these improbable little mirror things for years. I think I brought them in a creativity centre when I was young and have saved them religiously for the RIGHT THING. Obviously, I ended up never using them!

Here are some other Christmas gift ideas I have made over the months :

The Blue doll: you can find the full description here.

The maritime pin cushion, the fancy notebook sleeve and the swallows’ ebook bag (or makeup bag). These I all made before starting Crafty Poulette, so I don’t have pictures of them before!

I used Lyly met la main a la patte’s tutorial for the notebook sleeve, for the ebook bag I just googled one of the millions of small bag tutorials and for the pincushion I watched this tutorial!

Thrift-flip fancy Christmas dress

Nothing better than flipping a Dracula-made-a-baby-with-a-circus-master dress into an overly fancy 50s vibe dress, to get over the fact that Christmas and New Year’s eve seem to have been cancelled this year.

I brought this dress nearly two years ago when I discovered ChineMachine, if you ever manage to travel again and get to Montmartre, it is a very good thrift store. The staff is mostly English-speaking with colourful hair and they leave you in peace to browse. I find there is nothing worse to enter a small shop and have an attendant hover close to me. I end up all sweaty and flustered and leave the shop with the speed of someone escaping a fire. Anonymity in shopping is bliss.

Other perks of this shop are the fact that they directly collect clothes and (after thorough inspection) they pay you half of the amount they will sell the item for, or give you a coupon for the whole amount to spend in the store.

When I found this dress it was too small for me, I brought it in a bound of confidence in my sewing skills, that two years ago were close to nil. The dress was handmade and taken in at the back for someone thinner than me. The fabric looks like silk and is berry red with a brilliant green woven into it, that gives it a Christmassy look.

The first thing I did was open the back seams and make it larger. This was possible thanks to extremely large seams that a magnanimous seamstress, presumably back in the 50s, left in. The project then got abandoned in my stash for a few months since I couldn’t quite understand how to put it all back together.

I recently watched a Masterclass by Marc Jacobs (really nice guy) and he says that the best way to start understanding style and fashion is taking a dress or a shirt to pieces and seeing how everything fits together. I must admit he is right. Having taken this dress to pieces I understand better how facing is supposed to sit. That was useful for the Chelsea collar shirt project, for example. In return, thanks to this challenge and all the things I have been making lately, I plucked up the courage to take a fresh look at the damage and stitched it all back up.

So here are the steps of the transformation:

2. One of the most tricky parts was to make the interfacing and the facing fit with the larger back. Joining the back and armholes with the facing was extremely fiddly, and in the end, I had to reduce the width of the end of the seam in the back quite drastically to make it fit again.

2. I then decided to change the collar to get rid of the Dracula look and make it more modern. I took off the back panel of the collar and sewed a straight line from the first button or buttonhole to the edge to give a clearer cut to the neckline.

3. Finally, I decided to change the buttons. The old ones were a weird bobbly transparent thing that my better half says look like miniature fish eggs. To me, they look as if they might have been coloured once, but the dye came out in the wash. I really like these black and beige buttons, they give the dress character.

4. The most boring part was re-stitching all the facing by hand. I discovered how to do an invisible stitch, at least I think I understood! And yes, I must admit I have cheated, the hem at the bottom still needs hand-stitching back together. I just couldn’t tear myself away from Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Anyone else is team Benjamin? (no spoilers please, I’m on season 2).

Voilà

Behold the before….

And the after!

Vintage T-shirt

Back to basics!

This week I decided to challenge myself to make a t-shirt. The challenge was more mental than technical since the last time I tackled this lavender colour thin jersey, was a disaster. This summer I had decided to make a play-suit from a tutorial… it didn’t work at all. It was a bit my fault since I still didn’t know about the existence of ball-point needles (to avoid snagging) or the need of a zigzag stitch for stretchy material. But I also think the not-so-precise video and the frustration played a big part in making me abandon this lovely colour in a crumpled pile at the bottom of my scraps. So, to make this t-shirt a big effort went into unpicking old seems and ironing out weird seized pieces to cut out the new pattern.

The pattern is from the Make it simple book of Tilly and the Buttons and it’s the three quarter length sleeve Tabitha t-shirt. I brought this book just before lock-down and I really appreciate it, it has very easy step by step instructions and tips along the way, and if you are a proficient sewer a very fast recap at the end of each project.

I’m pretty sure the material is jersey, it comes off a 3-meter coupon pile I found down in the Marché Saint Pierre. I really need to find a book or a video on the differences between materials, I still get rather confused when there are no tags. Any tips?

The neck and wrist bands are from the discount Mercerie ‘Mes Folles de Soeurs’ (it means ‘my crazy sisters’, love the name!) and I find it gives it a rather vintage-y look. 

So what did I learn from this project?

1. My mathematical better half tells me there are at least 4 ways of attaching the neckband or sleeves wrong. I was rushing to finish the project and managed to try almost all of them.

2. Anyway, the other thing I learnt is that unpicking seams on jersey is pretty horrible. If you are a not in a hurry basting really large zigzags helps avoiding a headache.

3. Ahh, last thing: I found a trick to bypass the problem of finishing thread! So, as usual, I had underestimated the amount of thread needed and ended up with a full bobbin but a practically empty top-thread. So I decided to transfer some of the thread from the bobbin (acting as top-thread) on another empty bobbin and managed to scrape through the last stitches!

Voilà! 

Tulip skirt

Big change, this week I decided to try another pattern book!

I thought I could handle it easily but as a beginner, I really missed the pictures from Tilly and the Button’s patterns explanations. They are so much clearer! Don’t get me wrong, Vestiaire Scandinave does a big effort with drawings and instructions (much more than your regular classic pattern), but I got in quite a few tight spots of rage unpicking the belt 4 times last night.

I picked out Vestiaire Scandinave at Eyrolles this summer because it has lovely pure lines and quite a few wardrobe staples I thought I could handle. I was rather surprised to find that my size was the largest possible, and I’m a 42, not very inclusive!

The material is a raspberry coloured jeans I found at Les Coupons de Saint Pierre. Les Coupons is definitely my favourite shop, they have piles of three meters ‘coupons’ in all kind of colours and materials, you just need time and patience to dig through them to find some pure gems. Also if you spend more than 20 euros they give you a nice reusable purple bag!

Main takeaways from this project :

1. There is a reason why they tell you to use invisible zippers! Yes, it is not a scam, invisible zippers are indeed easier to sew. I used an oh-not-so-invisible one on this skirt (didn’t have the right shade of darker raspberry otherwise) and a lot of swearing was involved in the process!

2. The pattern didn’t originally have pockets, but what’s the point of a jeans skirt if it doesn’t have pockets, right? The only problem is I hadn’t taken into consideration the shape of the skirt and pockets make it puffier on the hips.

3. I debated a long time on the waistband if to make it larger or keep it small like in the pattern. In the end small won, it was extremely fiddly and had to baste it in place after the third attempt to get the top-stitch line more or less straight. More swearing, in multiple languages!

Even if it was a struggle, I’m quite happy with the finished skirt, it’s comfy and can be dressed up (for whenever we will be allowed out again!) or down.

Voilà

Chelsea collar shirt

This was one fiddly project!

I decided to push my limits a bit with this one, it is by far the most complex thing I have ever made!

The pattern is a Tilly and the Buttons ‘Mimi’ shirt from the book ‘Love at first stitch’ (French version, I imagine the pattern names are different in English). The material is a very light and floaty cotton of a kind of shell blue-grey and the buttons are called ‘belly-buttons’ (they are concave) and are matte berry red.

It was quite a long project also because there are something like twelve (TWELVE!) different pieces of material to cut out. The good thing is that each step is very well described in the book, so you can have a good idea of the complexity before starting. In fact, a thing I have learnt to do in the last two projects is to sit down with a cup of coffee and read through all the steps before even starting tracing the pattern. It avoids surprises and frustration!

Main things I learnt:

1. Do not start ironing interfacing early in the morning or when your head is elsewhere. The result is a gooey iron and lots of time spent with a chopstick and a swab of paper dipped in white vinegar trying to remove the stuff.

2. I did my first ruffles!! I prefer the French word ‘fronces’ that is basically only used to say ‘froncer les sourcils’ and my face was definitely frowning while I ruffled! Very fiddly, especially because in a bound of self-confidence I decided to skip the basting and sew them on directly.

3. First time inserting sleeves (also ruffled), I’m not a big fan of sleeves, in all the other tops or dress projects I left them out. But this time I decided to face my foe, and the result was quite good! The most complicated part, since the sleeves did not fit in my sewing machine (the hole of the sleeve was too small) was trying to not get other layers of material caught in the middle.

So I kept my challenge at least for the second week, pfiuuu!! Will start straight away on the next one… so stay tuned!

Voilà

Jeans dungaree-skirt!

I brought a pair of skirt dungarees this summer and I still haven’t taken them off (to be fair I did wash them a couple of times), but they are sooo comfy! You can wear them with thick tights, woolly and boots in the winter or with just a tank top in the summer.

So I decided to make my own!

The pattern is Cleo by Tilly and the Buttons, the material is stretchy jeans from Les Coupons de Saint Pierre and I used a contrasting orange thread.

So, the main takeaways from this project are:

1. When sewing during lock-down make always sure you have LOTS of the right colour thread! The most frustrating thing is to get to three-quarters of the way and discover you have no orange left and a lot of outside seams to do. – I then discovered most material shops were open (probably to let craftspeople work) and since I literally live on top of the biggest sewing district in the world I masked up and dashed to get some rust-orange thread at the deserted Marché de Saint Pierre.

2. Stretchy jeans material is damn thick to cut! Not the best exercise the day after doing push-ups.

3. For the needle choice it was an Amletic decision between stretchiness (does that word exist?) and thickness. Since the only stretchy thing I ever attempted to sew ended up in a ball at the bottom of my pile and left me in tears, fear of stretch won. I used a ballpoint needle 90/14 (gold coloured) and set the stitches length to 3.5. There is a video I found interesting on how to make sure you don’t rip the treads of stretchy denim in the Brother blog , very useful!

It wasn’t a very difficult project in all, but I am really proud of my straight lines and finishing!

Voilà

A New-Year countdown sewing challenge

Seven weeks to 2021 – Seven sewing projects!

We are back in lock-down in Paris and I decided to finally get it together and seriously learn how to make my own clothes… and how better to keep motivation than setting oneself unrealistic challenges and spending the afternoon creating a new logo??

Three years ago when we moved to Montmartre my better half gave me a sewing machine for my birthday. As a child I learnt how to hand sew, making mostly dresses for dolls and Barbies but I never quite upgraded to life-size garments. I then tried buying patterns and figuring it out with tutorials, and boy is it hard!

Everything changed this summer when I found Tilly and the Buttons’ book (Love at first stitch – the French version, great translation by the way!) in Eyrolles (best bookshop for arts and crafts in Paris).

I’m still learning basic sewing skills and for each project, I will try and up my game!

PS. For the non-french speakers “tu me donnes du fil à retordre” means literally you are giving me yarn to twist, but is also a fancy and sometimes affectionate way of saying you are being a real pain in the ass 🙂 you’re welcome!