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Using the leftover fabric from my Prima June 2009 dress, I made Lyra another dress using the Burda Kids 9750 pattern which I have used before.

It’s a very easy and simple pattern to use, and the dress can be made to look different with the addition of pockets and different trims.  Once I had cut the pieces, I managed to sew the main part of the dress in a couple of hours one evening, and I did the button holes the next day.  It helped that I have used the pattern before, but it really does allow you to create a lovely dress for a little one with relatively no stress.

This time I used a Broderie Anglaise trim and I added pockets (obviously essential for Lyra’s iPhone and pack of ten fags).

I would definitely recommend this pattern if you want to make a lovely handmade baby dress (the pattern size goes up to 3 years old).

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After a brief look at the pattern layout, I thought making this dress would be easy: two main pieces, (there are seven in total), with a few darts and sewn together at the side seams.  Because of this, and because I didn’t know what to expect of a pattern that comes free with a magazine, my expectations were quite low.  I was wrong in both respects: the pattern was not particularly easy to follow, but the finished result is stunning.

The pattern assumes prior knowledge of dress-making and would not be suitable for a beginner.  Terms such as ‘catchstitch’, ‘narrow hem’ and ‘gathers’ are not explained (luckily I knew from previous patterns how to do a narrow hem and how to gather, but had to look up how to catchstitch in one of my sewing books).  The pattern is also incomplete: it tells you to add 16cm to the end of the dress front and dress back (presumably to save paper), and to ‘cut sufficient 3.5cm wide bias strips to join and finish armhole edges’, leaving you to work out the length required!  If you’re a beginner, how would you know what a bias strip is, and how to press it correctly?  You would have to look it up!

However, detailed instructions of how to insert a concealed zip were included, and thanks to these instructions I was able to do the best concealed zip I’ve ever done.  I have never been bothered about stitching showing on the outside of a dress before, as I quite like the uniformity and evenness of machine stitching, but this time I took sufficient time and care to ensure that the zip really is concealed, and the slit at the back does not have stitching either side (thanks to catchstitching).  The only place where the stitching shows on the outside is around the armholes where the bias binding is attached, and the hem.  The hem allowance was two and a quarter inches, but when I tried the almost-finished dress on, I decided I would prefer it to be a little longer, and so opted for a narrow hem at the bottom instead of catchstitching a deeper hem.

The finished result is such an elegant shape.  My hips, bottom and thighs are usually too big for this style of shop-bought dresses, but making it myself allowed me to create a perfect fit.  I am looking forward to wearing it as I have nothing like it in terms of style or fabric in my collection.  The fabric is 100% cotton and purchased from my local market for £3.99 per metre (and I only needed 1.5m of 150cm-wide fabric).  I think the dress has a very Vivien of Holloway feel to it (and in fact is quite similar to a lovely halter-neck Vivien of Holloway dress that Lemonianta bought in March, which is also red and white polka dot).  I will definitely be using this pattern again to make variations on the dress, perhaps the next without the bow (depending on the style of fabric I choose, as the bow adds a fun, retro element).  I think it would look good in a plain navy with the waist drape in a contrasting colour such as rose pink.  I think it would also look excellent in tweed for winter.  Lemonianta suggested using duchess satin for an elegant evening dress.  YUM.

I will certainly not turn my nose up at Prima patterns in future!

Since my last post, I used the remaining fabric from Lemonianta’s vintage apron to make myself a new bag.  It is lined with plain white cotton.  I didn’t use a pattern, just made it up as I went along, and I’m very pleased with it.  It ended up being quite fiddly and, like the last time I made a bag, I broke several machine needles.  I plan to make simpler bags with left-over fabric and use them instead of gift bags for future friends’ birthdays.

I also got some lovely fabric from John Lewis and a Burda Kids pattern 9750 (which goes up to 3 years) with which I made this dress for Lyra:


I’m currently using the same pattern to make a red polka dot dress for her, and with the same fabric I’ve started on a dress for me too using a pattern which came free with Prima magazine (collected by my great Aunt!).

Finally, I felt my usual style of clothing needed a wake up and shake up, and I can’t tell you what made me really badly want to own a denim playsuit.  I found this in a charity shop, which fitted my bottom half perfectly but was too big on top, so I took it in at the side seams, and here is the finished result:


Apologies to Lemonianta for the ‘outfit shot’, but this has to be captured in all its ‘noughties’* glory so that in a few years Lyra can tease me for ever, ever having worn such a garment!

And now it’s back to the ongoing projects: red polka dot dresses for me and Lyra, and I’m also doing an applique ‘Home Sweet Home’ cushion cover…photos to follow!

* OK, so it isn’t the noughties anymore…so what do we call this decade?

A new sewing adventure to bore you all with: I borrowed a vintage apron pattern from Lemonianta and used it to make her an apron as part of her birthday present.  It turned out well, and here it is (on me):

Lyra’s Godmother liked it so much she has requested one the same for her birthday!  It’s a great pattern although quite fiddly due to lots of gathering, and uses a whopping 2.6m of fabric, which could make two dresses!  But it is a lovely, unusual garment, and I love the vintage style, especially the full skirt.  And of course, it’s always good to make things for other people.

Not being a fan of tops (I’d rather wear dresses), I decided to experiment by cutting up three colour co-ordinated summery cotton tops given to me by a friend’s sister with a view to making a patchwork quilt for Lyra.  I cut them into squares measuring 6”x 6” and pieced them together, which was quick and easy thanks to a few tips on ‘chain piecing’ in Sew Hip magazine (issue no. 11).  I also added a few squares of fabric cut from a shirt donated by my father-in-law.  I didn’t follow a pattern for my quilt, I just made it up as I went along, and I’m very pleased with the results!  I used crib-sized wadding, which was much more than I needed, and plain backing fabric from Hobbycraft.  I used the backing fabric left-overs to make binding for the edges.  When I had finished the quilt, I was so pleased with it I took it round to a friend’s house the next day, only to spill a cup of tea on it straight away.  My friend made me a replacement cup of tea, which I again spilt, and then when I put Lyra to lie down on the dry section, she threw up!  It survived the machine wash, thankfully!  Its most exciting feature is a secret pocket in which Lyra can hide small things when she’s older.  I’m not going to tell her about its existence; she can discover it for herself!

A quick update to say I have finished making the halter-neck dress (using the Simplicity pattern again)!  Here it is:


Also, I was thinking back to previous sewing exploits, and I forgot to mention I made my friend’s baby a cushion cover to match the curtains in her nursery using this material from kidsfabrics.co.uk:


I have quite a bit of that fabric left and so I’m going to use it to make a cot tidy for the travel cot.  I just need to get some good quality plain white cotton for the background.  I’m going to sew around two rectangular pieces of cardboard to make it sturdy and then sew large pockets on with the curtain fabric.  But who knows when I’ll finish it as I have other crafty things on the go too – knitting and painting!

Last night, on a whim, I idly searched the internet for a dress pattern for Lyra so I could use up some scrap fabric left over from making the red pinafore dress.  I came across this link, and used it as a starting point:
http://www.made-by-rae.com/2008/04/free-itty-bitty-baby-dress-pattern.html

I began by making the skirt section, which I did 10” by 20”.  I used lining material for the first time, but got a little confused when doing the side seams and realised I had sewn the skirt with the wrong sides together.  I considered my choices: to unpick and resew the seams with the right sides facing, or have the lining material (red satin) on the outside of the dress instead.  And then it came to me: I was sure I had some red ribbon which I could sew over the seam on the outside of the dress.  I wasn’t sure whether it might make the dress look as though it had been designed by Adidas, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway.  It looked good.  I then had to gather the material at the top of the skirt, which I have never previously done, but I managed to do that successfully.

Now for the bodice!  I knew I would need to enlarge the bodice pattern for my plumpalicious girl, so I enlarged it by about one inch.  I tried the finished bodice on her this morning to find it was nowhere near big enough, so I had to improvise.  I cut the centre back open, and inserted two extra panels, the left with four button holes and the right with four small buttons which I managed to find in my button box.  Then I thought the button detail looked rather good, so decided to turn the bodice round, swapping back for front.  Then I thought that to complement the strips of ribbon on the side seams of the skirt, I could add two strips either side of the buttons for a little extra detail.

And there you have it: totally different to how I had intended due to a series of mistakes, but so much prettier!  And my first experience of lining a dress and gathering a seam!  Here’s the finished garment:



Unfortunately, in my moment of sheer triumphance, I accidentally stood on, and broke, my lovely button box, which I’ve had for a long time and which had sentimental value.  The buttons scattered all over the rug.  They are still there…

First thing’s first: I want to thank lemonianta for inviting me to contribute to her blog.  My sewing talents are currently fairly limited, but I’m enjoying the challenge of learning.  I have always greatly admired people who can make their own clothes, so when lemonianta suggested going on a dressmaking course last year, I jumped at the opportunity to learn how to use my hand-me-down Singer sewing machine, which was not unlike this one:

This splendid piece of equipment had been used extensively by my great aunt, and was in desperate need of a service, but when I trundled it along to the Singer shop in Coventry, the repairman informed me it wasn’t worth the cost of the repair, and that I should consider buying a new machine.  Sadly, I left the Singer there to be scrapped (and later invested in a new machine).

The sewing course taught me the basics: how to thread a machine, sew a basic seam, use bias binding and cord to make piping, insert a zip, cut material evenly, and insert boning into a bodice.  Whilst on the course I converted a long wrap-around skirt into a shorter A-line skirt with zip fastening, and made my first dress.  Making the dress was the first time I’ve used a sewing pattern, so I made sure I chose a really simple dress (which looked more like a tent).  With a few tips from lemonianta on cutting out pattern pieces, basting and tailor-tacking, I was able to make it successfully.  It isn’t one of my favourite dresses, but I certainly felt a sense of achievement that I had followed a pattern and made a garment that was wearable, even if it was tent-like!  (I made a belt to go around the middle and that helped to make it look better).

Since then I’ve done some altering of clothes, for example I shortened a mid-calf length skirt into a knee length one, rehemmed some trousers, lengthened a short dress by adding a plain band of black cotton at the bottom, converted a pair of hubby’s old, irreparable jeans into a small denim handbag with cherry print lining, and inserted a panel into the neckline of a practically-porno maxi dress (Fever designs do not cater for breasts!).  I also started work on my next dress, the pattern for which I downloaded from Burda Style.  This was a challenge and no mistake: interfacing, pleats, pockets, zip, and button holes (the latter being partly responsible for inducing labour I think!).  As I was with child when I finished making this dress, I knew I would not be able to squeeze me and the bump into the thing to try it on, and suspected that my post-delivery body may take a while to recover, so I sold it to a dress-buying friend for £25; less than what she would usually pay for a dress, but still making me a profit of just under a tenner after the cost of material, the zip and the beautiful buttons.  A modest profit considering the time it took to make and its originality, I think!  Here it is in all its glory:

Since having Lyra, I’ve had bits of spare time in between the feeds, the naps, the changes and the crying episodes to start work on some new things.  My third dress was less of a challenge due to increased experience and a simpler pattern, and I managed to achieve a more professional finish on the inside of the dress.  Here it is:

I’m now using the same pattern to make another dress but this time a halter-neck.  I have some nice cheap material I picked up at Coventry market for this, and I will post a photo when it’s done.  I also got some other lengths of material in Coventry for future projects: new patterns = new challenges = new experience = new achievements!

I’m also very inspired by lemonianta’s quilting skills.  There was a patchwork quilt I wanted for years for sale in a textiles shop back home, and I never got round to buying it, but now I’m thinking I’d like to make my own.  But for now, it’s all about the dresses…

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