Friday, 11 May 2018

McCalls M7547Dungarees: Floral Edition! Pattern Review

It is such a treat to be able to use amazing photos taken by a professional photographer for a pattern review!  These dungarees were made as a Reader Review for Love Sewing magazine and I thought I'd share here how I got on sewing the pattern. Photos are by Renata Stonyte.

It's a jeans and overalls pattern with lots of potential for customised elements, two leg silhouettes are included and length variations.  The fabric recommendations are for stretch wovens and I went with a stretch sateen as I wanted to wear these in Spring and I didn't want anything too bulky for the pockets and seams.  Big florals are everywhere and although it's a bold print, the dark background felt a bit safer!  Mine came from Josie at Fabric Godmother,  this is a similar fabric, still available. I did make up a tester to check fit out of some weird stretch cotton from my stash. It was worth doing. Unlike many big four patterns, this one doesn't have much ease, I ended up making a size 12 which matched my body measurement on the sizing info.

There are a lot of marks to transfer so it's worth a double check before you unpin the tissue pieces from the fabric!   I read some reviews before I started sewing - lots of sewing bloggers have made this pattern- and many people mentioned the short straps so I cut them a few inches longer.  I also added 2 1/2" to the waistband length as the original style is fitted at the waist like a pair of close-fitting trousers- I wanted something more relaxed!  I also straightened the legs from around the knee downwards, again for a relaxed feel.

It's a systematic make: I batch stitched elements like the pockets- prepping them all together and then sewing the topstitching one after the other.  I find it easier to get consistency with my settings this way.  The pockets are all patch style and I basted each one to get accuracy and placement symmetry. The instructions are quite detailed but there's no guidance on when to finish your seams so I'd advise reading ahead and planning accordingly. 

Quilting tools often come in handy for dressmaking.  I used a Hera Marker to crease all the pocket edges that needed turning before I pressed them.  I also used Clover water pencils to transfer marks and a seam gauge to check placements, topstitching, hems- everything really!

I added Liberty cotton lawn interlining to the front and back bibs to keep the fabric stable- no stretch is needed on these sections.  I did find it a little fiddly getting my straps to meet perfectly on the back bib and had to narrow the top of the back bib to get the inner triangle facing and staps to fit neatly.

Happily, I didn't need much in the way of fitting adjustments.  The front low crotch was a bit saggy- no one wants that!  So I reduced the top inner thigh seams a little and the sagginess was banished.  The biggest change I made was to omit the ease stitching at the waist for a looser fit. I made sure all my pieces were centralised front and back when adding the waistband and it all worked out well. The waistband sits just above my high hip rather than the original high waist fit. 

Amy's version looks lovely in the dark denim.  She sewed up the same size so you can see how the ankle taper in more on hers. Read her review here!.  It's a satisfying pattern to sew and could be a good base for other stretch trouser shapes, can't wait to get some more wear out of these!

Love Sewing Magazine: Issue 53, Bumper Edition!

Every now and again a series of sewing related features and projects come together and this month's issue of Love Sewing Magazine (issue 53) is one of those moments for me. As well as my usual Swatch Selector column, I am the reader reviewer for one of the two free cover patterns and I wrote a two-page feature on Patrick Grant (of Sewing Bee fame) and his Community Clothing social enterprise initiative. 

Here I am with Amy, aka Love Sewing editor at the photo shoot.  It was a really fun day at the  Practical Publications photo studio in Stockport.  I had my hair and makeup styled by Nina which was a first for me and I picked up some great tips- namely, a foundation brush has an amazing effect and that eyelash curlers are an essential item!   Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. We had some sewing chat, plus lots of silliness and general fun.  I reviewed McCalls M7547  and made the floral stretch dungarees that I'm wearing in the pics.  It's a great pattern as it also includes trousers and different leg styles- shorts, flared, tapered, and Amy has written an easy-to-follow dungaree/dress hack tutorial inside the magazine. You can read her blog review of M7547 here!

Here's my Reader Review page- I'll write up the review for sewing the dungarees for you here too...that's the post after this one!

By some strange twist of fate, I got a chance to go to Patrick Grant's business workshop at Exeter University which was a preview, and more of his TedxExeter talk on Sustainability in the clothing industry.  All credit to Patrick, he is really making a difference with Community Clothing and his goals of restoring pride, creating jobs and making great clothing. I bought the Breton top in the pic below from their e-commerce site, it's incredible quality and made in the UK.

And as always, there's my Swatch Selector column, this month with a fruity theme.  I've chosen a delicious selection of fabrics with a pretty mix of fruits, florals and picnic inspiration!

It's a very special issue for me, I'm so proud to be a part of it!  In the UK, you can find it at Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tescos and WHSmiths. In the US, it's available at Barnes and Noble but 40 days after the UK.  Anyone can buy it and have it delivered at There's also a digital edition. 

Saturday, 5 May 2018

All About My Sewing Box: New Sponsor and Giveaway/Discount Code

I'm happy to feature a new sponsor here, My Sewing Box which is run by mother-and-daughter duo, Angela and Amy, from a small office in Dorset.  I was in touch with them last year for a magazine feature and they kindly sent me one of their themed boxes- I made a quilt for Lottie! They are now expanding their business and have some very interesting plans, plus they still do their lovely boxes, so I'm going to share some of their story and show you around their online shop. 

My Sewing Box was set up in 2014 as an online selling fabric for quilting and dressmaking, haberdashery, wadding, patterns, sewing notions and more. Angela and Amy like to source great quality, well designed fabrics and present them in boxes, fat quarter bundles and yardage. This year, Amy has left her usual full-time job to spend more time on the business.  Together they cover everything from packing to putting together new boxes, hunting for new fabrics and products and sharing on social media. 

Subscription boxes are still their best selling product with sales overseas as well as the UK. There are one-off boxes too (perfect for gifts) and project boxes as well as lots of fat quarter selections. Anglea and Amy spend a long time planning future boxes and ensuring that all the contents offer enough variety for long-term subscribers.
Here are a few of my favourites...

One-Off Ultra Liberty Blue/Red Box
I love the contrasts in this box ( if you prefer a more pastel based mix, this is a good alternative)

I really like the variety of scale in the different motifs and it's a classic red/white/blue palette.

Love the fabric bottom right!

Dog Box- all the materials you need to make a (beautifully modelled) double-sided bandana.

Other highlights for me include a rather lovely jersey selection these are all by Domotex and are especially suitable for childrenswear.   

There are also pontes and drapey jerseys for adult clothing - this is a viscose jersey in teal. 

Amy and Angela are full of plans and as My Sewing Box has expanded they are now ready to leave their office space for new premises and this summer they will open a bricks-and-mortar store in Bournemouth. The aim is for a fabric boutique and creative hub where customers can spend time, get inspired and find wonderful supplies for sewing that something special. Their online shop and the boxes will continue and there are some new products on the way... 
Amy and Anglea are offering a discount for blog readers: 
10% off your order with code VERYKERRY
(excludes monthly subscription boxes, one use per customer. Expires end of May 2018)
Plus, if you follow me and My sewing Box on Instagram, check my feed out over the weekend for details of a brilliant giveaway- a 3-month luxury box subscription!  
UK only for the giveaway- discount code is for everyone!

Twitter: @MySewingBoxUK

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Simple Folk BOM - Month 3

Three months into Sarah Fielke's Simple Folk block of the month and I'm keeping up. Each month seems to have a different challenge- be it a different aspect of appliqué or working out the spacer blocks that go in between, there's always something new to learn or a skill to improve.  The instructions are generally very detailed and the videos are a supportive visual security blanket, but  I do have moments of uncertainty.  With this block, I got a bit doubtful about how much to cut away on the reverse.  There is a porthole style element in the centre of the star shape so that was all explained and worked well but general cutting away for applique, that's not been covered so far. 

For the rest of the block, I followed my instincts and trimmed the larger layers back to a 1/4" seam allowance to reduce bulk.  I'm going to take a look at my finished blocks and do the same, they do feel rather thick untrimmed!

As always, fabric choice takes time on these blocks. I'm aware that there's lots of yellow from the corner triangles and in the spacer blocks (see below).  I'm also allowing for the scrappy pink fabrics in the mini 9-patch squares so it's a balancing act.  I haven't bought the acrylic template sets that Sarah sells for this BOM- they would make the process a lot easier, especially cutting, but the cost with overseas postage is against me at the moment, so I used template plastic and made sure I cut accurately and transferred all the seam points so I can pencil them on the fabric pieces- essential for aligning those tricky shapes and with patient construction the block came together well. I made a test block out of scraps before committing to the good stuff and that was definitely worth doing! 

 The other element in my fabric choice considerations is the tiny circles that punctuate many of the appliqué blocks.  I did end up auditioning a lot of colours and motifs in my search for the Goldilocks effect!  These are my rejects, saved for potential future use.

Here's a little layout of what will be the top left corner of this quilt. The cobalt blue will be bordering these blocks, framing the grey backgrounds and as a canvas for lots of animal-themed appliqué around the edges. I am enjoying seeing the variety of blocks from BOM participants all over the world. Observing the choices and dilemmas of so many other quilters, all working on the same pattern in such a variety of fabrics is fascinating!

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

April Fabrics at Village Haberdashery, Plush Addict and Eternal Maker

A change of weather and suddenly garment sewing starts to look a lot more attractive!  Here are my dressmaking and quilting fabric choices for April from sponsors, Village Haberdashery, Plush Addict and Eternal Maker.

  1. Cotton Lawn: Watercolours. A beautiful digital print from Lady McElroy with a painterly vibe.  Hard to resist whilst the spring blooms are finally bursting forth in the UK!
  2. April Baby Quilt Fat Quarter Bundle: I love this primary brights bundle of fabrics featuring Heather Ross' Kinder range.  It would make the happiest baby quilt!
  3. CocoWawa Chestnut Sweater and Top Pattern: This is a simple make with a cute bow feature- I chose this as my daughter wears similar sweaters to this with the keyhole/bow back detailing so I thought some of you might like it- for yourselves or when sewing for others!

  1. Fat Quarter Bundle: Andover Bijoux Warm (14 fabrics). Small-scale ditsy and blender prints by Kathy Hall, all in warm tones- there's also a Marine colourway and a Neutral bundle
  2. Dashwood Corduroy: Four designs to choose from (top to bottom) Grey Butterfly, Teal Flowers, Brown Flowers, Purple Pomegranate.  These fabrics are 150cm/60" wide. 
  3. Geranium Dress, Made by Rae (Newborn to 5 yrs). I thought this sweet dress with its wide size variations would be a good fit for the Dashwood Corduroy.  Plus the mix-and-match nature of the pattern means you could easily pair a woven cotton bodice with a corduroy skirt.  A range of sleeve and skirt variations are also included.
  1. Rainbow Stripe Jersey.  Amazing sparkly lurex rainbow stripe on with grey background. 90% cotton/5% Lurex jersey/5% Elastane
  2. Kona Neon Bundle. I must be craving colour as my choices seem to be super bright and saturated- and making my eyes very happy!  Includes FQs of the following Kona colours: Breakers, Azure, Key Lime, Bright Idea, Cantaloupe, Orangeade, Sassy Pink and Bright Pink. 
  3. Kokka Double Gauze, Rings Green, by Ellen Baker.  To temper the brightness down, I was drawn to this darker print which has a playful graphic quality and I love the minty green.  Double gauze too, what's not to like?  Suitable for an Ogden Cami, a pattern which I've felt compelled to order, I see so many good versions online!

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Cocoa Stripe Frankie Dress

I bought the Tessuti Frankie pattern a couple of years ago and over time I've made a couple of tops which see a lot of wear, especially Spring and Autumn.  I've been keeping my eye out for the right fabric to make the Frankie dress which is just a longer more flared version of the top and I found a Cocoa and white woven stripe in cotton spandex at Girl Charlee. I checked the weight with Mark and he said it was slightly heavier than their Bolt Cotton (220g/m2 compared to 180g/m2) (see a Bolt clothing example with these PJs) and it worked out as the right weight for this style. The fabric is a designer overstock and is lovely quality. I would use it for tops and dresses with an A-line shape or gathered at the waist like a Colette Moneta.

I used a mix of my tweaked Frankie top pattern and a fresh PDF print out of the dress laid over the top. Stripes are tricky to cut and this is a cotton with 5% spandex which means great recovery but also the fabric curls very easily when laid out flat. My solution is to mark the centre front fold with pins, then cut a vertically symmetrical half with the pattern pinned on and lay the cut-out fabric along the fold matching up the stripes on the uncut fabric. The first half acts as a pattern piece and stripes can be matched exactly. I repeat this for the back. For sleeves, I cut them one at a time and use the first face as a pattern for the second, laying the right side to right side to create a mirrored pair.  I did the same process on my Sew Over It Molly Dress.

As with my other Frankies, I used a Liberty lawn facing rather than jersey which is a departure from the original pattern; they recommend a jersey facing. I am wearing a nude colour cool-feel stretch slip underneath which I often wear under shift or jersey dresses as it smooths any underwear lines and stops bright colours showing through, plus it seems to make all dresses hang better.

Size XS body, S sleeves and armhole,  3/4 sleeves, short dress length. The only alteration was the front neck is dropped down in the centre about 1/2" more than the original line. For reference, I'm 5'5" with a 33" chest. You can read my general thoughts on the pattern construction here. I pinned and basted all the stripes to pattern match the sleeve and side seams.

I'm really happy with the end result.  It's a simple shape, I really like the close fit at the shoulders and the trapeze style flare from the bust line downwards. It's incredibly easy to wear, forgiving on any belly ins and outs and perfect for warm weather, although the elbow length sleeve option is on my radar when I make another!   Girl Charlee kindly supplied the fabric for this blog make. 

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Spelling Bee Saturday: Jar of Hearts Block

Hello again and welcome to my third stop on the Spelling Bee Saturday! I am this Saturday's guest blogger for the mega Fat Quarter Shop and Lori Holt sew-along and this time, I've sewn up antoher picture block, 'the jar'.  The heart always makes me think of Christina Peri's Jar of Hearts song... 

This one is quite a busy block but I think I've just about got away with it; the aqua gives sufficient contrast.  
Here are the fabrics used, some are from a few years backs so I only have minimal details!
Background: Heather Ross Tiger Lily, Small Roses in Cream
Jar: Denyse Schmidt, DS Quilts Collection, Daisy Mae for Fabric Traditions (2011)
Lid: Alexander Henry
Heart: Various red scraps

I loved this block so I made a second, this time with a linen background:

Background: Robert Kaufman, Essex Linen
Jar: Riley Blake recipe print (2011)
Lid: Alexander Henry
Heart: Suzuko Koseki for Yuwa Button fabric, Cloud 9 Checks, Lecien Old New floral, and a sketch type print.

For all the blocks I make from this book,  I've used Lori's design boards to organise the block pieces, it stops me losing the little bits! They are quick to make and are a great use for cardboard and batting offcuts. Here's a jar block before construction begins...

My plan is to sew an 'I Love... style quilt using the Picture Day layout from the Spelling Bee book.  Here are my blocks so far,  I'm hoping to alternate the backing fabrics.  The Globe block was still having it's embroidery addition when I was photographing these. I've mixed in some of my Sew-Ichigo designs (lamp and radio) alongside Lori's blocks. These all have a finished size of 6" square.

If you've been following along and want to check other people's blocks for inspiration, the Instagram hashtags are:  #SpellingBeeSaturday and #fqsquiltalong
  • Links to all the Spelling Bee sew along blocks so far are here
  • My review of the Spelling Bee book is here where you'll also find links on where to buy the book.