The Perfect Length

One of the best things about learning to sew your own clothes is finally getting clothes that fit you. Well, most of the time! I’m clearing choosing to overlook my last make 😉 Being five foot two and a very important half inch, never is this more true than with length.

I forced myself to do a mini-wardrobe-clearout over the weekend. I do a full one every six months or so when I swap over from my Winter to Summer wardrobe (or vice versa). I always have to assure my husband that this is perfectly normal behaviour, the half of my wardrobe not in use being carefully stowed away in airtight boxes in our garage. He’s not convinced, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who couldn’t possibly have everything out at once, unless anyone’s lucky enough to have a walk in wardrobe or dedicated spare room for just this purpose. Sigh, maybe one day….

Anyway I came across three skirts that I hesitate over every time. All RTW, here they are…

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From left to right we have vintage Boden (I’m emotionally attached to this as I wore it to my wedding rehearsal and I remember the vicar commenting on the print. It’s our tenth anniversary this week so it’s pretty darn old). Second up is a never-been-worn M and S pencil skirt which I love, but just haven’t got round to altering as it’s clearly much more fun creating something new from scratch 🙂 And lastly a vintage Reiss skirt I purchased from eBay, which much though I love the heavy fabric and tie detail, is also seriously unflattering.

All they each needed was shortening. I seriously can’t believe I wore the first, it’s such an unflattering length on me! Anyway I forced myself, and them, for the chop! The most flattering skirt length on me is about an inch above the knee. I can go a bit shorter in Winter with the aid of opaque tights, but anything shorter on me for Summer I know, just won’t get worn.

Sticking carefully to my ‘I must sew slower’ mantra, I carefully pinned each skirt to the correct length, measured, chalked, cut, then copying the original hemline technique, finally hemmed. All three were lined and two involved handsewing to create a blind hem, so the overall effort required was pretty time consuming, but worth it to get three perfectly wearable skirts for free. And handsewing in the afternoon sun is surely not the worst  way of spending an hour or so?

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And here they are post-chop! Not the most exciting of sews, but I’m sure I’m still learning something just examining and then duplicating different hemming techniques. I’m also seriously loving using my recently discovered ‘over edge foot’ which I now feel I’ve mastered. The Boden ‘Bon Voyage’ print was just too pretty to get rid of, so I sewed up a quick headscarf for my daughter, loosely based on Tilly’s Brigitte scarf.

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She was clearly pretty pleased with it 🙂 What’s your perfect skirt length?

Poor Polly!

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I didn’t have an awful amount of spare time this week, so I fancied a really simple, quick project. I also wanted to use up some ‘leftover’ fabric, namely these two linens from my Navy Ginger skirt and my Cerise Delphine skirt. However I’m really not convinced by the finished result. I like the design, but it really doesn’t do much for me 😦

In case you didn’t recognise the pattern it’s BHL’s Polly top again. To be honest I haven’t had a whole lot of wear from my original Polly top, so I should have known, but at least the cotton fabric on my original, gingham Polly was more skimming than bulky, as is the end result of using all this linen…

On the plus side I managed to sew the front panel in without any lumps or bumps. I also really love the contrasting colours and the lace detail worked pretty well too. But overall this design isn’t really doing anything for me, mostly because it just doesn’t look right tucked in, which leaves me without a waist. And boy, do I need a waist to pull me in! If I’d have tried this on in a shop I would have put in straight back on the rail. Usually I’d think about adjusting somehow, but if I take in the sides, I probably wouldn’t be able to get it on over my head. Maybe I need to donate it to a taller, slimmer friend who could wear it untucked? What do you do with your makes that don’t quite work out for you?

I’m actually going to be pretty ruthless and get rid of this pattern from my collection. It was a free PDF one which makes the process easier, but I don’t want to accidentally get this out again in six months, forgetting it totally doesn’t suit my figure and waste my time again. Poor Polly, but sometime’s a girl’s gotta…

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Galloping Horses!

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Equipped with my new sewing machine know-how and a whole day to dedicate to it, I couldn’t wait to get started on Simplicity K1609, which came free with the July edition of Sew Magazine. I’d also spied Amanda’s (of Sew Deputy) beautiful eyelet version and knew I had to try it.

I know, I know! There aren’t any fancy buttonholes or use of anything even vaguely ‘knitted’ apparent in my Galloping Horses dress, but I definitely felt more in control of my machine 🙂 And here are a whole host of new, but admittedly very basic ‘skills’ I learnt, and yes, I did manage to harness my impatience and finally slow down too…

Here are my, admittedly, very basic questions I asked when I visited the machine shop and that I was able to apply to the making of this dress:-

1. How often do I need to change my needle?

The advice was every six weeks or so. Mmmmm, so given that I got this machine for my fortieth birthday and I’m fast approaching forty two (October, for the record) I probably should have asked about this earlier… Needle duly and easily changed!

2. Why had my automatic threader stopped working?

These are so basic sorry, feel free to skip to the actual sewing bit… She quickly pointed me to the ‘up/down needle position button’ (see, I even got the manual out to look up the technical term). Another exciting, little button she introduced me to was the ‘automatic reverse stitch’, although admittedly I’m still perfecting the use of this as I’m tending to press either too early, and it doesn’t quite complete to the end of the fabric, or too late and it’s reverse stitching thin air.

3. What stitch do I use to finish off seams, instead off constantly using my pinking shears?

She pointed to the overcasting stitch and informed me that I probably had an over edge foot in the accessories pack that came with my machine. And indeed, I did! This was my favourite new discovery and I’m sure it will give my makes a much neater finish. It worked best on finishing my facings, rather than attempting to hem them. They looked a whole lot neater!

As Amanda promised (thank you!), the pattern was really quite straightforward. I was tempted to use a cute, contrasting collar, but in the end I figured this might make it a little too dressy, so opted for a bow in the same material so that I could wear it as a day dress. I think this just about worked out as a day dress, what do you think?

The actual dress pieces were plain sailing, as was inserting the invisible zip. However when I tried it on it was a little ‘snug’ around the hips which resulted in the back being all bunched up. To solve this I simply unpicked the centre seam on the front to allow a little ‘wiggle’ room and to avoid the unsightly back ‘bunching’. This, thankfully, worked perfectly. Although the bow instructions looked pretty complicated it turned out to be mostly common sense.

Because of my chosen material, it was the cutting out that was the longest task in this project. I thought it would look plain odd if my horses weren’t running horizontally so I had to cut separate bits and then re fold my fabric. I wasn’t able to cut the pieces for the bow the right way up though, but as it’s pretty well camouflaged by the busy print, I don’t think this part of it really mattered.

All in all I actually enjoyed forcing myself to slow down with this dress and I’ve probably become a much better wannabe-seamstress in the process 🙂

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