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Here come the girls! The Curvy Sewing Collective.

Imagine a place where you can find amazing, gorgeous, curvacious women all dedicated to promoting the art of sewing and featuring an astonishing array of beautiful, homemade garments for your inspiration. A place of ideas, projects and fabric obsessions, with step-by-step tutorials on common fitting problems, style advice and a myriad of ideas for the curvacious sewer. 

Well, you've found it!

I am absolutely delighted to be part of the new Curvy Sewing Collective and am so excited about what we plan to share with you over the next few months. Who else is in the line up? Check out my awesome sewing sisters … 

Jenny at Cashmerette

Mary at Idle Fancy

Mary at Young, Broke & Fabulous

Laurence at QuirkyPrettyCute

Tanya at MrsHughes

Our first project as a collective is the Curvy Colette Blog Tour, a plus size posting hop across our blogs, reviewing new sewing patterns in conjunction with indie pattern company, Colette. Colette's two latest patterns, the Moneta (a knit dress) and the Mabel (a knit pencil skirt) are for the first time available in an extended size range up to a 3X. Jenny and Mary have already debuted their first makes, and the rest of the Collective are waiting in the wings. Here's the showcase schedule for the next fortnight …

The Curvy Sewing Collective presents …

THE CURVY COLETTE PLUS SIZE BLOG TOUR

Wednesday 16 April: Jenny at Cashmerette

Thursday 17 April: Mary at Idle Fancy

Saturday 19 April: Laurence at QuirkyPrettyCute

Monday 21 April: Tanya at Mrs Hughes

Tuesday 22 April: T at UandMii

Wednesday 30 April: Mary at Young, Broke & Fabulous 


Can you keep a secret? I haven't finished either of mine yet (that is sewer's code for one is cut out and one is still a twinkle in my eye), but I am hoping the weekend will see them magically transformed so they are all done and dusted ready for my posts on Monday and Tuesday. Say tuned folks, there are some exciting things in the pipeline. In the meantime, wishing you all a very happy Easter.

 

The Japanese Winifred Dress

I have always loved the idea of a shirtdress – the perfect blend of smart lunch attire with a nonchalant nod towards "I haven't really bothered". They are also generally a friend of quilting cotton and are perfect to use up the miles of jolly prints languishing in your stash (that's just a general statement you understand, rather than a pointed observation!). I have admired many a shirtwaister dress over the t'internet miles this past year and once even decided to give one a go, however, it ended very badly. The trouble is, you see, shirtwaisters don't normally do anything at all for my body shape, consequently I pass them by.

So, it was with some interest that I noted the arrival of this new pattern from Blue Ginger Doll patterns last month. The Winifred Dress looked very interesting indeed, especially because of its unusual construction. The dress is in two halves front and back with no waist seam, the pieces are sewn together at the centre front and feature these weird looking but ingenious triangle darts and an easy fit elasticated back. You can add smocking to the back or keep it simple with an elasticated casing with cute buckle & belt feature. I was immediately smitten.

What made the pattern even more appealing was that it is cut for a D cup! Hallelulah! Someone who caters for a bigger fit in the boobage department. I bought the pdf, printed out and took the pieces to the sewing shed for assembly. It was a really lovely and easy pattern, and I cut my first toile in record time. As I am an E cup I thought that I would get by with a two inch FBA. (oh foolish human, do you not hear the Sewing Gods laughing!) There were really clear instructions on the Winifred Sew-a-Long on how to do the FBA on the front pattern pieces and then move the triangular darts to their new position. I took my time with the alterations I needed and by the next evening I was ready to hit the sewing machine. With so few seams to sew to be able to try on to check fit, it was an extremely satisfying toile to run up. Imagine my horror though when I pulled it on and it ripped! Oopsie.

The problem was, as usual, my bust, and after drawing all over myself in pencil (on the muslin I hasten to add) I decided I would have to move the upper dart (from my FBA), increase the back length of the armholes and add in an additional 2 inches to my FBA. I underestimated exactly just how much fabric it takes to swathe my ample bosom! Toile 2 was vastly improved but still not quite right. In the end I did a 5" FBA on this baby to get the right fit, but am now really happy with it. The fabric (from a relatively recent stash acquisition) is a reproduction vintage japanese print, spied by my eagle eye at the Knitting & Stitching Show. Not my normal colourway, but the mix of hot pink and aqua is so eye catching it would have been rude not to.

Because the fabric was wide, I was able to cut my back piece on the fold, eliminating the centre back seam, and I also decided (for comfort at work more than any other reason) to opt for the shirred back version, ably demonstrated by the amazingly talented Heather. The other major hack I made to the dress was to move the opening of the dress down significantly further than on the original design. I added an additional 3.5 inches to the split length and the accompanying facing to flash a little more flesh and the gentle curve of cleavage … hey, if you've got it …

As a final touch I couldn't resist adding a bias hem in a tiny polka dot contrast. This lush pin dot from Michael Miller (Mr Miller, your fabrics are my guilty pleasure) is available in bajillions of colours. I would like them all. This particularly pink version is called Garden. It sets of the rest of the print a treat and also gives the skirt a lot more swoosh in the wearing.

And funnily enough this dress is pretty swooshy, even though it doesn't have acres of fabric in the skirt … a result of its very clever cut. When I put this on I feel like Doris Day. 

Finally, a quick word about my shoes. When my shoe closet holds its Olympics this pair will undoubtedly win a medal. They are the pinkest, hot pink peeptoe suede numbers with a perfect heel height – every time I wear them they make me smile.

Peacocks & pocket watches

You know how it is when you see a fabric and fall head over heels in love? That's what it was like when I first set eyes on this amazing peacock print. I know that I have ongoing bird print issues, yet I am still drawn to them, from penguins to swallows and every kind of avian beastie betwixt and between. So when this print popped into my Twitter feed I was immediately hooked, and clicked through to find out more. What I had inadvertently stumbled upon was a brilliant crafting tournament, to be more precise, the Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition, celebrating the launch of their new range of Country Retreat fabrics. The rules of the competition were simple … pick from one of the four featured prints and the lovely fabric fairies at Hillarys would send you a one metre square piece of delectable cotton to make whatever you fancied. Seriously. All you had to do was come up with a unique item for your chosen fabric, make it, and then write a blog post about it to enter. The gilding on this already very attractive lily (free fabric, free I tell you) was the potential for the very best entry to win a hefty £1000 prize. Safe to say I was "in".

So, now you are wondering what the other fabric options are I'm sure? No problem … here are the other contenders for your delectation.

I had a brief dalliance with the Wild Poppies print, and even considered the Patina Pewter for a tiny moment, but there was no denying that my heart lay with the Bird Parade print, so I signed up to the competition and awaited the arrival of my chosen fabric. I was not to be disappointed. When it arrived I pulled the fabric from its envelope and to my delight the background was the colour of rich clotted cream, studded with majestic teal peacocks, and featuring a secondary palette of soft undertones … mushroom, lavender, mustard and capuccino … in the foliage and branches. The peacocks themselves were large scale, which made careful consideration of my chosen craft item now a necessity. 

I put on my thinking cap. I love peacocks, they are the most extraordinary creatures, with irridescent plumage in a cavalcade of colour and they have Attitude (with a capital A). It was then that it came to me … there was a weird quote about men, age and peacocks that was ringing a bell. I googled to see if I could find the quote in its entirety (all hail the internet) and laughed out loud when I found this:

At 20 a man is a peacock, at 30 a lion, at 40 a camel, at 50 a serpent, at 60 a dog, at 70 an ape and at 80 nothing.

Well, thanks a lot Spanish philosopher & writer Baltasar Gracian! It's just as well Señor Gracian and my bloke never crossed paths. You see, my bloke has a very big birthday in a couple of weeks, not just big in the normal sense but a VERY big, "grab your bus pass and let's go adventuring" kind of birthday. Yet, despite his *cough* extra life experience, my bloke is heading deeper into peacock territory every day. He loves wearing bright and patterned clothes, his taste veers wildly towards eccentric and his no boundaries rule to getting dressed in the morning is on the list of things I love most about him. I decided that the peacock fabric should be destined for him.

With each peacock on the print measuring a whopping 12 inches, I needed something that would allow for good design placement and still fit in with my bloke's wardrobe aesthetic. After some rummaging through his wardrobe I decided on a waistcoat. My inspiration was a simple unlined Burda waistcoat pattern in my stash, although it soon became apparent after some measuring that it just wasn't fitted enough and I wanted a fully lined garment rather than a faced one, so I opted to sew off piste … cutting the fabric using an old waistcoat as a pattern guide, adding seam allowances and changing measurements as I went. For peacock placement I decided that an offset design would work best, so I positioned the main peacock at the top shoulder point of the left front. I crossed my fingers once I had everything pinned and placed and started cutting out – the point of no return! I paired the cotton print with a soft pure cotton ticking fabric in pale coffee and cream, emphasising the country feel I was aiming for. 

With everything cut out, I decided to do some additional embellishment to the main peacock before heading for the sewing machine.

I should let you in on a little secret. Hand sewing and I are not the best of bed fellows. I normally manage to stab myself repeatedly in the finger, develop blisters and bleed over whatever I am sewing in the course of prettification, and this time was no different. Yet, I persevered because I was so happy with the results. Adding a crown of teal toned french knots to the peacock crown was just the start … I added a varety of decorative stitches to all the plumage, with running stitch, back stitch, chain stitch & fly stitch details, picking out the colour accents in teal, aqua, cocoa and lavender. 

At last I was ready to machine sew. I am new to making waistcoats, but I decided I wanted proper old fashioned welt pockets for the waistcoat. (Otherwise no proper pockets means nowhere to hide sweets!). Despite my limited experience, I do know that welt pockets are a tricky beast at the best of times, and given that I had no Plan B fabric I decided to do a tester pocket first. Armed with my trusty Vogue Book of Sewing I tackled version one, which was an unmitigated disaster! I tried again. Sadly versions two and three faired little better with puckered edges and weird shaping – I was beginning to lose hope. Then one of my online sewing buddies sent me a link to a new welt tutorial and it was suddenly a whole lot easier. Version four was a total success. (If you need welt pocket help check out this helpful tutorial here.)

I took my time and tackled both pockets for real on the waistcoat and they were a dream! I am so proud of them. This fabric has such a lovely finish when pressed that I ended up with perfect, neat, crisp welts. The rest of the project was a breeze by comparison. I sewed much of it at our Stitch 'n' Bitch Craft Day where (thanks to Noelle's speedy actions) it just managed to escape an incident involving a full mug of hot tea unscathed. Whew! The lining though was tricky … in order to fit the waistcoat to my man I had sewn the side seams, but then I couldn't for the life of me work out how to turn the lining and the main fabric through the shoulders. After a frustrated hour it dawned on me that the side seams had to be OPEN in order to turn the garment right side out! Doh! The stitch ripper saw some action following that little revelation. Happily without side seams it was an easy job to turn and understitch the lining.

I was almost done with the waistcoat. The little belt and D-rings at the back, added into the dart line meant that it was a more adjustable fit (depending on how many pies/pints passed its way on an outing) and a little extra handsew of the lining side seams followed by some buttonholes and a final press saw it done and dusted.

Ta da! The finished Country Retreat waistcoat.

Such a wonderful garment, perfect for any passing country gentleman.

My bloke loved this new addition to his wardrobe, and it fit him perfectly, but I couldn't help thinking it needed a finishing touch … something every true country gent should have … a pocket watch. I thought it would be fun to make an oversized felt pocket watch (think the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland) that could be fastened into the waistcoat pocket on a removable brooch pin.

The execution of the felt pocket watch was a very on the fly experience. After a quick sketch of my idea, I started by tracing and cutting large circle of wool felt and marking the face onto the smaller cream circle in vanishing marker. I carefully embroidered this, added button 'dials' and then chain stitched on some hands. Then I assembled the front face. A large circle, trimmed to just an edging was placed over the top and stitched through, followed by a long thin panel that was used as a gusset for the watch body (using trusty blanket stitch this time). For the back I embroidered a peacock feather motif onto another large circle of felt and then stitched this to the gusset too, stuffing the body of the pocket watch before finishing the seam. Some wrapped florist wire served as a great oversize loop wih a little gathered felt ball becoming the top knob. Then I found some thin metallic braid that I French knitted to make a convincing chain. Attach to a brooch pin and job done!

I knew exactly where I wanted to go to take the photos of A in his finished outfit. Just over a mile from my house are the green valleys and splendid wooded hills of the Chilterns. It was in these fields and country lanes that my grandparents met and courted, and in a tiny Norman church, nestled deep in the curve of the valley where they married.  

My grampy was an old fashioned countryman through and through. He owned a myriad of flat caps, lovingly referred to as his ratting hats. He could tell you the name of every tree, bird or flower you would encounter and was a fan of long nature rambles, cutting a branch from the tree for me to use as a stick as we hiked through the countryside, picking berries and nuts on our way. We'd then run into nan's kitchen, depositing jewel like berry treasure onto the kitchen table ready to be transformed into a crumble or pie, and she would laugh at our magenta stained fingers, spilling the secrets of the berries that had "got away".

We neared the shoot location not long after dawn to take these shots. We saw the last of the dappled misty morning light and there was a distinct cripsness to the air. I love taking photos, even when it means laying on my stomach in the middle of a lake of nodding daffodils. With muddy knees and some lovely shots in the bag we headed home for breakfast.

Hey, Ma … I've got a Liebster (& shock revelations)

Quick, someone call my mum … real proof that not just my family read my sewing adventures came to light this week, when I was nominated for a Liebster award by the wonderful Jenny at Cashmerette. It is lovely to be nominated for any kind of award, but when that nomination comes from someone who you think is a super cool sewing goddess … well, let's just say that it puts a certain shine on your day. (Thank you, Jenny!)


For those of you who haven't encountered one of these badges before, they are awards for small blogs to help people discover new blogs they might not otherwise come across. What a brilliant idea!


The format is simple, I answer five questions given to me by Jenny, share five facts and nominate five new blogs. So, here goes:

THE FIVE QUESTIONS:

1. When did you start sewing, and why?

The official version is that I've been sewing on and off since my teens. The truth? I was completely uninterested and terrible at sewing when I was younger. I didn't do it at school and had zero interest in it. I'm sure my mum was secretly gutted as she was, and is, a brilliant seamstress, whipping me up a dress from a tea towel to wear to a disco (no, I am not remotely kidding) or running up a ra-ra skirt from some old curtains (oh, 1980's, the home of fashion trauma).

The unofficial version is that when I was fifteen and a lowly art student, desperate for cash, I really needed a Saturday job. The idea was that this part time employment would help fund my budding shoe addiction and growing art habit, but there was nothing doing in our village or local town. My mum came home one evening and announced (in desperation, I think, to bring an end to my constant pouty mooching around the house) that she'd found me the perfect part time job – in her favourite sewing shop! Then she dropped the bombshell that she'd arranged an interview for me that Saturday. I panicked … I really didn't have a clue … so we embarked on an intensive two evening course on sewing basics, enough to get me through the interview. Amazingly, my cramming of the basic sewing skills got me through and I got the job, working in the shop through school and college.

On quiet afternoons in the shop we would use the huge cutting table to pin and cut out patterns, then we'd sew garments together on the test machines in the shop. It was brilliant. I got to know all the regulars in the store and between them, the fabulous manageress Pauline, and my mum, I learnt to sew. Every Saturday and throughout the holidays I'd pick up more hints and teams from the myriad of seamstresses who passed through the doors. I became a much better sewer, although some of my more unorthodox approaches did raise eyebrows! I am proud to still be a renegade seamstress.

2. What's your favourite fabric store?

Are you kidding? That's like asking which are my favourite pairs of shoes! ("No, no," she whispered as she stroked the pink suede high heels, "the converse pumps are comfy, but they are flat, they could never hold my heart like you do …") *Ahem* I am going to have to throw in a couple of faves here … Hawthorne Threads, an Aladdin's cave of quilting cotton and Temple of Michael Miller prints (one day I shall fly to the States just to visit them in person), Masons of Abingdon (it's a bit like being in the middle of a jumble/garage sale once you walk inside but you can prise some gems from the shelves if you're prepared to rummage) and also The Eternal Maker who make me sigh with longing at just about every piece of fabric they stock. I must also mention Stone Fabrics, somewhere in Devon, who have gorgeous fabrics and some of the most friendly and helpful staff in the world. Seriously, you guys rock.

3. What's the one thing you want to sew but are secretly afraid to start?

It's a Trench Coat. I have the pattern printed and ready to go, some ridiculously expensive cotton sateen in a retro floral, underlining, interlining and lining … but the thought of touching it absolutely terrifies me. Oh, and did I mention, the pattern instructions are poorly translated from Russian? This baby is gonna take some alcohol fuelled dutch courage and a week off work to even think about starting.

4. What's your favourite TNT pattern?

It's a tie between Deer & Doe's Plantain Top (even better it is a free pattern) & Kitshycoo's Lady Skater Dress. I absolutely love both of them, have made them loads and see even more in my future. "My name is T and I am a knit instant gratification junkie."

5. What's your sewing motto?

Babe, where are my scissors?

 

MY FIVE RANDOM FACTS

1. I am the illustrator of a very successful sex book. (No, I don't think my Dad will ever get over it.)

2. I read all the BBC's top 100 books in 10 months. 

3. I nearly drowned just before my 30th birthday.

4. I have been married three times.

5. I love to tap dance (doubly so if I can wear a hat).

 

MY FIVE NOMINATIONS

Sue at A Colourful Canvas 
(I love colour which is why I love this blog. Perfect tonal eye candy for any day of the week. I have no idea where Sue lives but I have secret plans to make her my new BFF).

Amanda at Wear. A. Wyatt

Angela at Sewn by Angela

Cari at Cari Homemaker

L at You Sew Girl
 

And here are my five questions for these lovely bloggers:

1. What's your favourite fabric to sew?

2. Do you have a stash and, if so, how big is it? (The fabric police are watching!)

3. What advice would you give to new sewers?

4. What is the favourite tool or gadget in your sewing arsenal?

5. If you could sew an outfit for anyone (alive or dead) who would it be and what would you make them?

I can't wait to see your answers!

 

 

The Big C, World of Wee Top

In which I have an adventure sporting my new top featuring extreme bladder appliqué. Really? A … bladder? You betcha.

"Ummmm", said the lady in the shop staring at my chest (yes, I know this is not an unusual phenomena, although it is normally an affliction of the gentlemen in my world, however, I digress) … , "Is that a bladder on your top?"

I looked her squarely in the eye, "Yes, yes it is."

*Silence* Nobody blinked. After several uncomfortable seconds some large tumbleweeds cartwheeled past, and still the woman did not utter a single word. I stared at her harder and willed her to speak. She fidgeted nervously in the corner and looked for something (anything) to distract her and save her from having to talk to this bladder wearing crazy at her counter. As the tumbleweeds whirled around for a dusty second lap two she finally coughed, " Ahem, … well … lovely …" she trailed off, her eyes flitting to the door, desperate seeking an easy escape. "It's a special design, to promote awareness of bladder cancer," I explained. Apparently that was the last straw … her mouth made a little O shape of disappointment (I swear she almost mewed) as she turned on her heel and fled into safer territory at the back of the shop. You see, I had committed an unspeakable act, I had uttered the dreaded C word in public. CANCER.

You may not know this about me, but I am the proud Chairman of Fight Bladder Cancer, a charity that provides support and advice to everyone affected by bladder cancer. You can find out more about why in the links further down this page, but I am mindful that this is a sewing blog, so let's cut to the all important project details. I should also point out that there are some very lovely T-shirts that we've designed as a charity that require absolutely no sewing surgery whatsoever (because they fit normal size people) and you can get your hands on one of these lovely designs for yourself here. I did try on the largest ladies T-shirt, but let's just say there was little/no room in the boobage department so it was a definite fail. A overstuffed overcooked sausage is generally not the look I am aiming for. I then tried the bloke's shirts, which were more than ample for 'the girls', but with a men's cut crew neck they made me look like a black lego brick … 'nuff said. It was with a slight air of desperation that I contemplated transforming an existing T-shirt into something I could actually wear, but with the very first meeting of the UK members of the support group in the diary, I really needed something on brand. I had another peek at the original shirts …

My favourite TNT top pattern of late is the much made Deer & Doe Plantain Top. Yes, that does make this number 5 (you can find version 1, 2, 3 & 4 here and here). This top is just perfection for me … I love the fit, it's easy and quick to sew and it's wonderful to wear. For this incarnation I raided some butter soft black cotton jersey from the stash and set to work. I also managed to find some tiny scraps of polka dot jersey for the elbow patches. Most of you are familiar with my polka dot obsession, and I can reassure you that I am working on it. Pah!

Still, with this top the most nerve wracking bit was the cutting and assembling of the bladder from the existing T-shirt. With a steady hand I cut round the shape of the design, leaving an ample margin, and then smoothed and pinned into place on my cut out front. Once I was happy that it was straight and unrumpled, I sewed all the way round with a short zig zag stitch and then trimmed as close as I could to the stitching with some very sharp scissors. I was delighted with the result. The rest of the make was a breeze (thanks overlocker, did I mention that I love you?).

And there we have it, one transplanted bladder on one Plantain top. Result. My absolute favourite phrases in the design, which feature different words for having a wee are Tinkle, Widdle and Shaking hands with the vicar. Just delightful … with the added benefit that they give people a whole new reason to stare at your cleavage. 

 

A little bit about Fight Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the Western world.
It is the most expensive cancer to treat.
It has the highest recurrence rate of any cancer.
Of those diagnosed (over 10,000 people a year in the UK alone), half will die from the disease.
It is the only top ten cancer where survival rates are getting worse.
No-one wants to talk about it.

Almost five years ago my bloke was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive version of bladder cancer. A grade 3 tumour, it was Stage 4 when they discovered it, advancing into other organs and making radical surgery his only option. They gave him a 15% survival rate. After a long operation and during his recovery period, we discovered that we were all alone … there was no support group or charity to give us advice or help in any way. So we decided to start one. Now we have an active online support group and reach thousands of people from all across the globe with our website. We are in the process of raising more money to further spread the support and help we offer internationally, so that people in every corner of the globe affected by this disease have somewhere they can find comfort and feel safe.

You can find out more at www.fightbladdercancer.co.uk

The dress now standing on Platform One

Choo choo … is that yet another incarnation of the Lady Skater pattern on the tracks? Okay Pattern Police, hands up, I'm afraid it's guilty as charged. In my defence, this dress is the ultimate quick fix for a bored wardrobe and in theory can be cut out and sewn in less than two hours – who's not gonna swoon at those sewing stats? This time I fancied changing up the silhouette a little more for an even shorter bodice length in combination with a wider skirt to create more of an empire line to the finished garment.

Great plans, huh? That was until I saw this print on the Minerva Crafts website at a low price and fell immediately in love. Stretch cotton jersey? Check. Some of my favourite colours? Check. A cheeky take on a trad print? Check. The yardage was in my shopping basket and purchased before you could say stash attack. I waited patiently for it to arrive. (That's a lie, I don't do anything patiently, rather I fidget a lot and look at the slowly 'moving through treacle' hands on my watch face repeatedly, whilst waiting for the sound of the postie as he leaps up the stairway into the studio). Two days of fidgeting later it arrived, and I ripped open the parcel to see the jewel like colours (delight!) and reached in to pull out said fabric. Oh dear. Disappointment with a capital D. 

I like things that feel nice. I like gossamer silks that float like clouds, rippling lakes of satin, plushly piled velvets and american cotton so soft it feels like butter. Long ago I eschewed acrylic yarn for merino, alpaca and cashmere when I knit, simply because I can't bear to invest time and love to make something that doesn't feel gorgeous when it's finished. I am a wanton, sensuous creature and am seduced by texture, softness and handle. Imagine then, my horror, when my beautiful new stretch cotton jersey print came out of the parcel as stiff as board. What's more, it didn't appear to stretch. At all.

An eternal optomist, I rationalised that maybe it was because the fabric had a lot of "dress" in it. Surely a round or two in the washing machine would see it right? I chucked it in at 40 degrees and hoped for the best. I tried to kid myself that the fabric was softer post tumble (I washed it twice just to be sure), and maybe it was a tad (clearly I had now reached the denial stage), but it still had very little give. I wondered if perhaps I had inadvertently stumbled on some top secret military grade camo fabric, with specially woven bullet proof kevlar fibres in the mix. Trouble was … I still loved this print!

In the end I threw caution to the wind and stomped off to the sewing shed to see if I could whip it into submission. I cut out my new shape Lady Skater super quick, adding a couple of inches to the length (bye bye pudgy knees), shortened the bodice and added an extra inch to the top of the skirt piece, as well as adding in another couple of inches to the skirt width at the hem. Twenty minutes later I was ready to sew. Woo hoo. 

This was the moment it went a bit wrong and my story turns into a sewing version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You see, I had three different coloured threads to choose from on my overlocker/serger as I started to sew. I lined them up on the table and gave each one due consideration. There was the black thread, "Oh no", I said, "that is far too dark!" Then there was the white thread, "Oh no, that is much to stark!" and finally there was the cream thread, "Oh, yes, that one is just right!". So I set about my seams with the cream thread loaded, and other than having to tug resistant necklines into shape (not enough stretch for that darned neck facing) it seemed to go well. In fact, an hour in and I was almost done with all the serged seams. Great, I thought, I'd better check the fit and try it on. To be honest it was a bit of a squeeze. This dress requires fabric with around 20% stretch, and my fabric has about 1%. I did, however, manage to wrestle my way into the bodice and once on it felt alright (truth be told it was a little like I imagine women who bound their breasts and pretended to be boys in the 1920s felt, but hey, I bloody love this print and I AM GOING TO WEAR IT, okay!?) It was not so bad once I acclimatised to the fit, and I was pleased with the new cut that my pattern fiddling had created.

Then, as I gave another test spin in the mirror (please tell me I am not the only one who pirouettes and twirls in half finished garments like an over-excited child?) I noticed these weird little marks across the top of the shoulder line. Uh oh. And then I realised that where the fabric was under tension from having almost no stretch you could see the cream thread of the overlocked seam. Only tiny pinpricks of the light colour, but the more I looked, the bigger they appeared. As I pulled the dress off to more closely inspect all the seams, I realised that this was a problem on every single seam, from the neckband to the skirt and well, everywhere. I had two choices – chuck it in the bin and deny any knowledge of the fabric's existence (camo fabric? I don't know what you're talking about) or sorting it out. So I pushed my overlocker aside, reached for some navy thread and my trusty sewing machine and redid every single damn seam on the dress half a millimetre inside the line of the serged seams. It took quite a while, but to my delight it solved the problem of the pale thread show through. Result.

As you can imagine, my patience was wearing thin by this point and I think my twin needle hem suffered as a result … the tension definitely needed a bit of tweaking as it is still raised up like a mini mountain, even after liberal application of a hot steam iron. However, I have decided to overlook these minor flaws, because I have a brand new dress made of magical non-stretchy stretch jersey! And that my lovelies is a rare find.

Despite the rubbish weather, new dress and I made friends by going on a mini outing up the lane to our vintage village steam railway. I even donned a little matchy neckerchief for the occasion (contrary to popular belief, not only the preserve of ladies called Lurleen who live in Nashville). After weeks of rain here in England it was heartening to see the spring primroses bravely peeking their heads above the soil, even though it was pretty breezy (by the way, please excuse my poor Marilyn Monroe impression with the skirt). Only eighteen sleeps to Spring!

The Star Spangled All American Girl Dress

This confection of red, white and blue, complete with stars, stripes, half-naked wenches and glitzy USA typography, adorns my latest terribly understated  *embarassed cough* incarnation of the Lady Skater dress.

As you'll no doubt remember from my Intergalactic Planetary interpretation of the Lady Skater Pattern by Kitschycoo, I am head over heels in love with this pattern. It is the perfect work dress … comfortable, uncreasable, quick to make, and ridiculously wearable. This version has already had three outings since I made it last weekend. After resolving my initial fitting issues with the pattern (due to my extraordinary cartoon-like, Dolly Partonesque physique) I can now run this baby up in a couple of hours. That time frame also allows much time for fabric coo-ing, studying it at great length while drinking tea, removing kitties from the cut out pieces when they decide to use them as a bed and the occasional pat (all of which occur on a regular basis in my sewing shed).

The fabric is the stuff jersey dreams are made of … light as a feather, it washes and dries in no time and is only just on the safe side of lock you up eccentric. Better still, it was in the sale! If there is anything better than sewing a new dress you love, it is sewing a new dress you love when you got the fabric at bargain basement price. For my fellow crazies, you can still purchase some of this star spangled goodness at Minerva Crafts. They have one of the best selection of jersey fabrics here in the UK and I have two more of their delectably different fabrics already safely stashed for future Lady Skaters. The dress is essentially unchanged from my wearable muslin version, although this jersey is not quite as stretchy, and arguably the hem could be an inch or two longer, but hey, what's a pudgy knee between friends? I kept the three quarter length sleeves and neckline because it makes it easier to make the dress multi-seasonal (tights and a cardi in the colder months and unadorned for spring/summer). 

In this dress I feel a bit like Supergirl – perhaps it's the combo of sky blue with scarlet, or the fact that I'm emblazoned with the old stars 'n' stripes, or perhaps because the perfect accessory is one of many, many pairs of red shoes – whatever the reason for me it's a winner. It reminds me of all the happy months I spent in the States, and all the things I miss about the good old US of A. From the waft of a Cinnabon as you walk into a shopping mall to sloppy joes, baseball games, fantastic burgers, screened windows, all night book shops, great customer service and fabric stores laden with goodies so cheap and plentiful you almost cry. *ahhh* Good times.

This is my last make for Sew Blue February. Next up on the sewing table are a floral trench coat (I have no idea what I am thinking!) and some darling dresses for the grandchilderbeasts.

Intergalactic Planetary Kitschycoo-ish Skater Dress

Rockin' it for all the intergalactic plus size women across the universe in my new dress and Men in Black sunnies combo. I will wear this dress for every single moment of the rest of my life and shall never take it off, no never, you hear me? LOVE the way this dress turned out. In my eyes it is faultless … the fabric was stupidly cheap in the January sales, and although I was a bit 'meh' about it when I bought it, when you are a little distance away the pattern magically transmogrifies from drunken aztec style drug haze into a Dr Who-esque multi-dimensional universe. Not only that, but it is just the right side of warm and washes like a dream. It being in the sale, the fabric mix was determined of unknown origin, but I suspect a cotton/viscose/lycra fibre fusion in the 4 way stretch which drapes and moves with an adorable amount of swoosh as you walk.

In terms of long lasting wardrobe potential it's also a winner. I have a lot of blue in my closet and immediately found two cardis, a jacket and two different pairs of boots which tone perfectly with my new frock, so I can dress this up or down depending on my mood. Today I am cosy in my work combo of flat suede boots and long cardi with big pockets (is that a tri-barrel plasma gun in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?).

Now for the knitty gritty … the sewing of the thing! Unless you have just jetted in from another planet I'm sure you have heard of the wonder that is the Lady Skater Dress by the talented Kitschycoo. After reading of other sewing blogger's adventures with this lovely pattern, in particular the enchanting Mary of Idle Fancy's sky blue creation, I was hopeful this could fit straight out of the imaginary pdf packet. Nope. *sigh*

I cut the largest size for the bust and graded down one size for the upper bodice, added a wedge into the circle of the skirt (to use the full width of my fabric) and give it a bit more oomph. Pretty minor changes, but what I didn't take into account was the weird proportion of my body in combination with the very pliable 4 way stretch of the fabric. Here was the result (please note I show these fitting pics of my first toile purely in the interest of sewing science, and not because I am happy appearing across the internet miles as a large blue cube lady. Just saying.)

As you can see there are some major problem with this. Although I already chopped two and a half inches off the length of the bodice and back in these photos the waist is still at least two inches too low (adding to the overall "I am a human box" vibe). However, the worst fit was the arms … too loose and big around the bodice, too tight across my biceps. As much as I pinned and undid the serged seams I just couldn't get it right. I retreated to the sofa with some wine and my ipad to see if I was the only one to to have pretty major issues with fitting this pattern. 

Thank goodness I found Shannon, who had documented in great detail her fitting adventures with the Lady Skater dress. Obviously, Shannon has the patience of a saint and managed to get her dress to fit to perfection, but her level of perfection made me absolutely determined not to be beaten. In the end, I used all Shannon's advice, and compared the sleeves and arm scythe to another couple of patterns I had that fit well in the arm and did a frankenpattern for a revised bodice and whole new sleeves. I also added another two inches to the skirt length and chopped off in total 4 inches from the bodice. I think that definitely makes me a bona fide "short-arse", as my nan would say. Hey ho, that's what high heels were invented for.

Lastly, I should pass undying love and gratitude to my serger, without whom none of this would be possible. Seriously, all you sewers out there … if you can possibly scrape together the cash to buy one of these babies, do so immediately. Mine is a bottom of the range model but is perfect for what I need and makes running up a knit dress or top super speedy (fitting issues aside). Once I finished this Lady Skater dress I immediately cut out another in a, well, I think it's safe to say, more controversial fabric choice! If we have more sun this week then hopefully I'll have photos soon. Can't wait to show you all.

Cause I am a champion & you’re gonna hear me roar

Oooh – what is this terrifying creature lurking in the long bamboo on a sunny afternoon? Okay, maybe not so big on the scary front but very cute. Check out the little pouchy cheeks on these guys!

This king of the jungle and his entourage are the awesome wild side critters to adorn this fun print from Makower fabrics. I scored this adorable cotton fabric on my expendition to Ally Pally last autumn and as soon as I saw it I knew it was perfect for a shirt for Aiden's 3rd birthday present. Not only that, but it was a great contender for a Jungle January project. (Yes, I do know it's February now, but I promise this was all sewed, seamed and pressed before the clock chimed midnight on the last second of January 2014.)

I was a little tight on fabric for the shirt, so the pattern placement is not quite as perfect as I might like (secretly being a sewing control freak who aims for such things), but I think a newbie three year old with a safari on his shirt hopefully won't be too bothered by such trifles. The cotton print has a slightly faded, retro look to it and is busy enough not to show up food stains or other boy related hazards too badly. The shirt pattern is the lovely Sketchbook Shirt by Oliver + S. This is a really great pattern, with fantastic, easy to follow instructions. I am so happy I found it, after spending disappointing hours trawling through the selection of boyswear patterns from the Big 3. (Their designers seem to be quite deluded as to what's de rigueur amongst the wee people in our midst, OR are living eternally in 1983, I can't decide which.) No wonder there are so many brilliant indie pattern designers creating wonderful, wearable children's clothes nowadays. I also downloaded the Sunday Brunch jacket pattern (for little girls) as it was soooo lovely. I love the instant fix of a downloadable pattern. While you do then have to do a bit of cutting and taping, at least you have it right NOW and there is no waiting involved. What can I say? I am an instant gratification kind of girl.

I made no changes to the pattern at all, and was delighted to have found one with a proper stand collar which I always thinks sews up with a much nicer finish than the "camp collar" featured on many other shirts in this age range. Even the button bands were a breeze, and I managed pretty perfect topstitching. I also love the little details on these patterns … the box pleat on the back yoke is a really nice and unusual touch.

To be honest, I'll be sad to see Jungle January go. I've so enjoyed seeing all the makes on Anne's lovely blog. (Who would have though there were that many animal prints in the world?) Bring on Blue February … I am ready.

p.s. Thanks to Katy Perry for the epic song Roar whose lyrics I totally nicked for this post's title. She is awesome, and better yet wears a leopard print bikini combo in the video for the song (animal print wearing women of the world unite).

A bunch of Deer & Doe Plantains

Introducing my neon disco leopard print jungle january Plantain top, courtesy of those generous mesdames et messieurs at Deer & Doe. These are two more versions of their wonderful free top pattern … perfect for any knits lurking in your stash. This particular fabulous print looks like I shot and killed a spanglestastic disco diva big cat on a sultry nightclub dancefloor somewhere in darkest Africa. The less dramatic truth is that I found it on eBay!

Ahh, eBay, how i love thee. This fabric is so ME. I adore it, and almost did cartwheels round the kitchen when it arrived. Unusually, for an internet buy, when the fabric arrived it was even brighter and bolder than I hoped … it's also incredibly busy, almost fluorescent and features hot pink … so, an all round winner. Even better, this now being my third Plantain top (see versions 1 & 2 here).  I have got the making down to a fine art. For this incarnation I decided to add a feature band to the sleeves and a little tab with a button fastening.

This was the first test for my brand new overlocker and I spent much of the afternoon annoying my bloke by telling him over and over how darn amazing the new bit of kit was, and how much it was going to "change my sewing life". It's easy to forget sometimes that there are non sewers who only hear "blah, blah, blah" (in a Charlie Brown's teacher stylee) everytime you open your mouth to spout about sewing related topics. I digress. High as a kite from the combination of perfect finish and a machine that cut the fabric edge as it sewed (seriously, I nearly cried on the first seam) I made this top start to finish in a little over an hour. It looks great with black jeans and is also a perfect companion colourwise for a handbag I picked up on a trip to Madrid last year. Oh, and I have pink shoes that are also the perfect match. In the interests of transparency I should point out that my bloke will tell you I have a rainbow of shoes and it is impossible to find a colourway in the world that I do not own shoes to match … it's not true, but boy am I working on it!)

With my disco neon version pressed and hanging in the wardrobe I turned my attention to Plantain number 4. For this version I fancied trying my hand at some patch pockets on a tunic length version. I got this lovely feather print cotton jersey from Girl Charlee (part of their own Love Pantone collection). I also managed to find a tiny bit of fabric in a chartreuse jersey from my stash to use as trim on the pockets. I added four inches to the length on these pieces and also cut a much wider sleeve so that I could gather them onto a band and create a different arm silhouette. 

With the main body assembled and seamed I turned my attention to the pockets. In a very unscientific process I grabbed some leftover fabric and just chopped myself some semi-circular shapes for the bottom of the pockets. I then made some pleats in the top and then added the folded band for the top. Then to make it easier to get a really nice edge finish I basted all the way round on the sewing machine and used this as my pressing line for the curve which gave me a really lovely clean edge. I then pinned them to the front … checked they were level and topstitched on before removing the earlier basting. They looked good but a little bereft when I finished then so I added some vintage purple buttons from my stash. The pockets don't show up brilliantly on this large scale print but they worked so well I will definitely be making them again.

This is a really lovely relaxed tunic and I think will work well dressed up with work trousers and heels, or with skinny jeans and boots at the weekend. Just one last #januaryjungle make to go and I have one whole day left. Stay tuned folks …

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