Monthly Archives: September 2016

Simplicity Sewing Challenge – Best Blogger Feature

This year I thought I would challenge myself by making a skirt. An ideal make for the “best blogger feature” in the Simplicity Sewing Challenge. We were able to pick any of the challenge patterns for this category. I chose the New Look 6346 skirt pattern – I never seem to have the right style of skirt when we have warm summer weather! I also need more practise at making skirts that actually fit me!

Originally I was going to pick version A (the longer button-up skirt), given the cooler summers we often get I thought this would be a good choice! After looking at the options in detail, I went with version C – the shorter zipped version instead. I think that style will be more user-friendly when it comes to wearing it, and should be just the right length for me, especially as I am just five foot tall!

The whole idea of the sewing challenge is to make “your take on a Simplicity make” but how on earth can you make a skirt different enough? I didn’t think that simply adding pockets or a decorative trim would be radical enough, and I’m not really into “girly” trims anyway, so I thought I’d be totally different and make the skirt into a dress!

Armed with my self-drafted bodice pattern, I worked out that I’d need a size 12 for the skirt, but just in case I needed to make a larger size at a later date, I didn’t want to cut into the paper pattern. Then came the next challenge – how to trace off the pattern accurately. I’ve seen freezer paper mentioned on a lot of blogs, but I’ve never seen it on sale over here; greaseproof paper is nicely transparent, but only comes on narrow rolls and no matter how hard I try it will not stick to itself! And believe me I have tried!! Instead I bought a pack of Burda dressmakers’ carbon paper from a local fabric shop plus a roll of brown paper from Poundland on a whim to see if that would work.

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

It definitely works well – the yellow and white show up brilliantly on the brown paper, and it can be stuck together with ordinary sellotape to make a wider sheet if needed.

My bodice pattern finishes at the waistline and the New Look 6346 skirt waistband sits just above the waist, so I was able to line them up perfectly. Because of the darts in the bodice, I chose to cut the pieces separately, so I had the bodice and neck / arm facing, waistband and skirt for the front and back. Keeping the waistband in the dress, meant I was able to retain the shape of the New Look 6346 skirt, while still making it into a completely fresh look.

The dress had the potential to turn into a ‘mongrel’ where I was trying to join two different patterns together, so before I cut into my posh fabric, I made up a wearable muslin version first. I find this really helpful to have a “rough” version to experiment with. Who knows it may even turn out wearable! The bodice needed a little fiddling to get the waistline to match the skirt – rather than making the darts larger, I folded over a little more fabric at the base of the darts to make the measurements match without cutting out too much breathing space.

Dragons Flame Designs - Dress Muslin

My Simplicity Sewing Challenge skirt dress muslin – fabric is half a duvet cover

Despite the excess fabric at the front, the fit was a lot better than I’d anticipated. However, in sewing the zip into the back, I managed to get the seams misaligned. Argh! Decision time. Do I want to unpick a lot of tiny stitches and risk making a hole in either the fabric or the zipper tape? I decided to be reckless and break out my posh fabric to start the final version. I am always anxious when cutting into my posh fabric.  Making that first cut is a challenge in itself!

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

Sewing the seams, trying to make them as neat as possible

This particular polycotton is quite ‘fray-happy’ so I’ve taken care to finish all my raw edges as I go – the faux overlock stitch on my machine is proving really handy for this. I find that using a zigzag stitch with the regular foot makes the fabric catch up a little, leaving a ridge instead of a nice flat edge.

The facings were a challenge, as I had drafted one facing to cover both the neck and armhole, but had no idea how to stitch it without any of the stitches showing on the right side! In the end, I stitched the neck as normal, and top stitched the armhole facing into position. It’s not visible unless you really look closely, and it certainly shouldn’t come undone in a hurry!

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

A finished dress from New Look 6346 and a self-drafted bodice pattern. I am really pleased with the way the bodice and the skirt come together in the design of the fabric. The finished garment fits really well, and I think the fabric works wonderfully – it reminds me of a painting by numbers pattern. Thanks for the challenge Simplicity – now I have a whole new look!!

 

PJ Shorts

I’d considered trying to sew some PJ shorts before, but I haven’t ever tackled shorts before now, and was a little wary of just how challenging they would be! Using the free pattern from Melly Sews, I figured out I should be able to just make the shorts without any adjustments, so I bought a metre of polycotton and set about tracing off the pattern.

The pattern is designed to have the side seams nearer the front, which leads to a much nicer shape. I think when I make another pair, I’ll try adding in some inseam pockets though.

Dragons Flame Designs - PJ Shorts

To ensure the inner leg seams are as sturdy as possible, I decided to do french seams on those – it lead to a slightly bulky seam, but they shouldn’t split in a hurry, which is what you need for shorts!

 

Simplicity Sewing Challenge – Best Dressmaker

Back in May, I signed up for the Simplicity Sewing Challenge – the two sewing patterns arrived in early July, and once I finished my skirt dress, I set to work on my second pattern – Simplicity 1458 for the “best dressmaker” category.

It’s the first time I’ve even looked at princess seams, let alone an “amazing fit” pattern, so this dress was going to be a nice challenge! I started off by making a muslin but unfortunately my choice of fabric wasn’t that helpful – I’d picked a cheap polyester duvet cover, but the polyester meant the fabric slipped all over the place.

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

So I scrapped plan A, and moved on to plan B: start again, and trace off the pattern pieces onto my new favourite sewing tool – brown paper! Ok, that probably sounds really weird, but I can’t get cheap freezer paper over here, and tracing paper is stupidly expensive. I have tried using greaseproof paper, but that doesn’t stick together at all, so I can’t make it wide enough for some of these pattern pieces.

Using some dressmakers carbon paper, a blunt pencil and the brown paper, means I can trace the pattern off, without risking cutting the original – really useful when you aren’t 100% certain of the size you’ll need, and don’t want to cut into the original.

I wanted the middle panel on the front and back of the dress to have a contrasting pattern to the sides and what better way to achieve that, than using a duvet cover? A double cover gave me plenty of fabric to play with, and I should have enough left over for a second dress too!

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

Tracing the pattern markings onto the fabric

The only trouble is, cutting out all the brown paper pattern pieces and trimming the seams to separate the duvet cover pieces does tend to mean there’s a large pile of rubbish lurking under the table….

but that aside, I can finally get sewing these pieces together.

Generally speaking, I do not get on with sewing curves, particularly with opposing curves, as the concept of “easing” in fabric just sounds like a foreign language to me. But I wanted to make the seams as neat as I possibly could, so I made sure to machine tack all the seams and try the dress on several times before doing the final seam stitches.

The instructions are really informative, with instructions on how to let out or bring in the seams to suit your overall fit. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much I needed to do to get the fit just right for me – I just had to let out the side seams and also adjust a couple of the curved princess seams.

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

I did my usual trick of using a regular zip rather than a concealed one, so I stitched the base of the centre back seam, and put the zip in before doing anything else. It’s so much easier to put in flat! I decided I wanted to add in the sleeves from view A, even though I would normally avoid them like the plague, but cheated slightly and stitched them in flat before I stitched the side seams. That meant the sleeves were easier to put in, and there was a lot less chance of the seams puckering.

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

I’m pretty sure my V notch in the sleeve is wider than on the pattern, but I think it makes a nicer shape. I was very good and followed the pattern for the hem, stitching it by hand rather than cheating and using the machine.

Not content with adding sleeves from view A, I also decided to add in the collar from view C. This had to be unpicked a couple of times, as I’d managed to sew it in slightly wonky, but overall it gives the neckline a really good look.

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

So there you have it – a finished Amazing Fit dress, that actually does have an amazing fit!