Time For The Greys To Make An Appearance

A few days ago, whilst I was sitting at my desk contemplating a thirds coffee of the day my colleague turned to me and asked ‘Mimi, did you make that top yourself?’ Much as I would like to think that this colleague and friend was paying me a compliment, I don’t think she was. I don’t think she was being cruel, more ribbing me a little, but I wasn’t too worried as the world would be a dull place if we all dressed the same.

As it happened, I had not made my top – I had actually bought it in a sample sale at a store called The White Stuff, where I had picked up a number of bargains. It was a white cotton top with an invisible zip in the back and short little sleeves. Simple and (I thought) cute.

When I got home I wondered what it was that made it look like something I might have made myself, which lead on to me wondering if I could have made it myself. Before I knew what I was doing I was knelt on the floor in my bra, tracing around the shapes of the blouse as best as I could to try and understand the construction. The front piece was made from two piece of fabric, the back was constructed from four more, and then there were sleeves and the collar: 10 pieces in total. Looking at the bits of fabric in my cupboard I found a single metre of cotton printed with trees and squirrels which I could just about squeeze the requisite body and sleeve pieces out of, though making the two collar pieces from an uninterrupted piece of fabric was going to be impossible – a problem that I would think about later.

I cut and pinned all of the pieces as best I could and set about the sewing. I’ve noticed that as I have been sewing each subsequent project that my work has started to grow neater and more refined as I start to re-assess techniques and the way that I finish my sewing. A very short while later and I had myself a little blouse.

The shape and fit of the garment are pretty much identical to the original blouse, which felt like an achievement in itself. I had to make a few changes to the original due to the issue with fitting the collar pieces to the piece of fabric. I could have made one of the two collar pieces from two pieces of fabric joined down the centre and used a separate plain piece of fabric for the underside of the collar, but due to the way the collar was fitted to the shirt this would in fact men that the collar seam ran straight up the front centre of the neck. My other option was to make each of the two collar pieces from three pieces of the fabric to avoid the centre seam – forming the collar from six pieces in total.

In the end I decided it was all too much of a bother and to do away with the collar all together. Far simpler.

The fitting of the collar actually seemed to give some stability to the neckline, which was lost without the additional fabric. I decided to combat this by bringing the neckline in slightly. I thought about adjusting the neck via the should seams, but I decided to go with a little creative fabric manipulation and cheat by making a little pleat to bring the neckline in and sit nicely over the collarbone area.

Ok, so it’s a bit of a shame that I couldn’t quite fit the collar into the length of fabric that I had, but I think that a blouse out of a single mere of fabric is quite good, especially when you consider the strongly directional nature of the print. Anyway, what the neckline lacks in collar it has made up for with stitches, because I found a double/twin needle in my box and realised that I had never used on of those, so threaded the machine and got to work with two perfectly parallel rows of stitches. I loved it so much that I also used it to sew the deeper hem at the bottom of the blouse.

And how cute are those squirrels? It might seem like I am on some kind of mission to make all my clothes from squirrel fabric at the moment after my Autumn Skirt and matching Tunic, but it’s a complete coincidence. I’ve had this single metre of fabric hidden away for quite a while, and now I have a full compliment of red squirrels and their grey cousins (and I know there is a lot of strong feeling in the red vs grey squirrel debate, but this fabric is so very cute either way.)

But this may be the end of the squirrel clothing line. I have looked at my remaining couple of pieces of fabric and there’s not a single bushy tail remaining. It’s probably for the best as my colleagues are likely think me a bit nutty.

No apologies are made for the above pun.

New Tunic With Split Sleeves – And More Bushy Tails!

After wondering what to make with the rest of the squirrel fabric left over from making my skirt last week, and then pondering what fabric to use to make a tunic from my new sewing books the obvious answer finally came to me. Actually, it had occurred to me as soon as I received the books, but I was doubtful that I would be able to get a top out of my remaining pieces of fabric – half each of the 1.5m of Squirrel border print and the 1m of accompanying small tiled print. But, as it happens, with a little bit of imagination and a few modifications I managed to get the pieces to fit and I have made myself a top which some might think is a little silly, but I don’t care as I love it.

I managed to keep the bottom hem just about straight enough for the yellow leafy border at the bottom edge of the fabric to remain in tact and at a pretty even depth all the way around the top, which was the one thing I was worried might unbalance the tunic.

The top itself was very simple to make, and the instructions easy to follow, though I had to make a few modifications to accommodate the smaller amount of fabric that I had. I had to shorten the design somewhat, and had to make the front and back each out of two pieces – using the small tile print up to the underarms and then the border print from the underarms to the hem.

I used the plainer fabric for the sleeves, also, which I think works really well as it keeps the design only to the main body piece, and stops the one-way print design from being confused around the sleeves.

I also made one further modification to the split sleeves. The original pattern called for the sleeves to be kept tied by making small string ties from the fabric.


I might have had enough fabric to achieve this, but I didn’t actually check, partly because I was feeling too lazy and partly because I thought the ties would probably eventually annoy me, especially if they ever fell open. Instead I decided to sew a few tacking stitches across the gap at the point where the tie would have been located and instead to sew a decorative button at that point, to finish the sleeve off nicely.

Unfortunately I never actually had any suitable buttons in my collection, so I had to make a couple from polymer clay, but I think the overall effect is quite good with the new buttons in place.

I have also made a few spare buttons in case I should wish to add another further up the sleeve, but for now I think I will wear it as it is, unless my arms start to get too cold.

Overall I’m very pleased with this top. The bright bold and cartoon-like print is fun, and most people wouldn’t think twice about wearing a similar print on a T-shirt, but that’s often wear people’s comfort with wearing such graphic designs tends to finish. I’m sure this fabric was initially intended to be worn by children, but I don’t mind raising the occasional smile, or eyebrow.

Craft-Splurge: The Stylish Dress Book

The internet can be a scary place. Alongside the more unsavoury areas of the web there are also the sites that will not set the safesearch filters twitching, but instead pose the more genteel threats of the desire to make, try to sometimes buy all the things. Here we lose not our innocence, but many hundreds of hours of our time, lost in day dreams and endless browsing of beautiful things, and occasionally a great depleting of the Paypal account, or swelling of the credit card statement because of something you clearly need right this second because it is the basis of your brand new obsession.

One particularly dangerous place on the internet for such perilous activity is Pinterest. It’s basically like a peer-reviewed catalogue of eye-candy for the aesthetically-minded, and one of greatest menaces to the pocket and restful nights not visualising all the things you wish you could be making at 3am is Rachel Coopey of Coopknits who has a habit of finding   hundreds of things that I obviously need in my life immediately and without further thought.

Last week a particular pin caught my eye – it was a montage of images from the blog Ivy Arch documenting a year that the blog’s owner spent determined not to buy one more piece of clothing but instead to make all items of clothing to wear by herself. Absorbed by the images of dress, after dress, after top on this blog I started to notice that many of the items were made from patterns from a book called The Stylish Dress Book. I little further browsing via Pinterest and a Search Engine and I found that it was originally a Japanese book, now translated into English, and in fact one of a series of five books. So I decided to treat myself… to all five.
Ouch, Pinterest – that was a low blow, and so conveniently timed for Pay Day. The astute reader will have noticed only four books in the picture above – one was a little slow to ship, but has safely arrived now and is every bit as wonderful as it’s sisters.

The designs are mostly casual dresses and tops designed with that particular Japanese style that incorporates simplicity, ease, delicacy and does away with the need to brush one’s  hair.  Each book has 20+ designs included, each provided with a number of double-sided full-scale pattern sheets from which you can trace and cut the pattern pieces, making each of the books amazing value for money. The photography is charming as each of the models poses with what is sometimes a slightly awkward grace, occasionally looking to be on the brink of tears, usually against a plain backdrop but with one of a number of props be it a watering can or a stack of waffles. The reader might even stumble across a recipe for cookies, or maybe some cupcakes.

The instructions given for each pattern are brief than those given for most patterns that I have used before, but the diagrams are so clear, as to make the construction of each garment appear quite self-explanatory. The diagrams and schematics of each piece are particularly well given, and really quite joyous in their own right. After browsing through the photographs, I often spend a good few minutes browsing through the diagrams, taking in all of the little details that I may have missed in the photos. The long tunic a couple of picture above, for example, has a slit and tied sleeve detail with a curved lower edge, which don’t think is immediately apparent from the photo page alone.

I believe that this may be the first design that I try from this series of books as it has a few details that I’d like to try – such as the vertical slit at the neck and those sleeves. I’m yet to fully make up my mind as I need to asses my fabric and see if I can find any pieces big enough to make the top from, and then to try to figure out what to wear it with. Luckily, the book has some Japanese styling tips to guide me on my way:

Ping!