"" the girl who makes things: August 2014

Friday, 29 August 2014

Sewing for wedding season #2 and some life news

Weddings are the best excuse to make a pretty new dress, aren't they? Yes, you'll probably only wear it once, because god forbid someone might see you in the same dress at more than one wedding and they'll probably assume that you own one dress and that you're too tight to get a new one. This is, at least, what I tried to explain to my rather incredulous boyfriend as he watched me crawling around on the floor, sweating over a new dress the day before we were due to fly out to Macedonia for a friend's wedding. From his point of view, you only need one suit which will last you through the next ten years of weddings, why can't girls do the same? If only it was so simple. But given enough time, I like the excuse to create something pretty, as long as the deadline isn't too tight. And the deadline was rather tight for this latest make. Which almost killed my sewing buzz.

Yet, we came through in the end. So what is it? It's another BHL Anna Dress! Modified of course. The bodice is the same as the stripy one I made back in March but the skirt is two rectangles sewn together and gathered at the waist. My official reason for this adaptation was that the separate panels would have broken up the beautiful floral print (the real reason is that I ran out of time and needed to do something quick - but ssshhh don't tell anyone!).

The fabric was an impulse buy from Minerva Crafts which I've had in my stash for a few months. It's a drapey viscose with a screen print watercolor floral design - my absolute favourite design so far. The fabric wasn't especially easy to work with due to the slippy texture but the drape is undeniably wonderful. I have a little bit left which I might use to make a cami top.

Everything about the dress was pretty straight forward. This is my fifth Anna dress which is probably why I managed to pull it together so quickly. The maxi skirt length was nice and cool - perfect the Macedonian heat.

We had such a good time at the wedding. The ceremony and reception were held at Lake Ohrid, one of the world's deepest and cleanest lakes (it's so pure that you can drink from it). We stayed with the wedding party for the weekend so we had plenty of time to swim in the lake, explore Ohrid and soak up the sun. It was perfect. This is a picture of one of the monasteries by the lake:

Now on to life news:
You might remember way back in January that I posted about my big life move into EFL Teaching (teaching English as a foreign language). At the time I thought we'd move abroad straight after we finished the course in February, but that turned out to be complicated with renting out our flat and my sister's wedding. I didn't know back then that there was a language school just round the corner from where we live in Leeds and that they'd be willing to offer us both a contract to work with them until August. This turned out to be the perfect situation - we were able to gain some experience while still living in our flat and do some proper research into language schools abroad. AND I was able to finish the bridesmaids dresses. So after a number of job interviews, and a few job offers, we decided to accept a position at a language school in Lisbon! The job starts on 1st October, but we'll be moving out on 19th September. I'm dead excited and dead nervous. Of course, I'll be taking my little sewing machine with me so the blogging won't stop. Unfortunately my overlocker will have to stay with my parents until we move back to the UK, unless I can find a way to ship it over without it getting damaged.

So that's it for life news and weddings. How about you, have you made anything for a wedding this year?

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Mccalls 6696 - the mint ice cream edition

Readers, I'm having a rare experience: I've actually made something I love and want to wear again and again. It's strange, but true. I'm still in shock.

This is my second Mccalls 6696. My first attempt was a wearable toile which I've actually worn more times than I expected (and received a few compliments on) which isn't bad for a rather ropey effort! So I knew the pattern was a winner and all I needed to do was make a few changes to make the next edition extra super duper.

For a start I lowered the hemline slightly so that it finishes just below my knees. I omitted the gathers from the back bodice which gave far too much volume and made the front bodice less fitted. I also made my usual adjustment of narrowing the bodice to fit my small rib-cage. I didn't want it too fitted though - a little breeziness is ok for a shirt dress I think.

What else? Oh, I added a patch pocket to the front, just for the hell of it, and embroidered a little 'B' for 'Boony' (my nickname) on it, not Barbie in case you were wondering. Although I was a big fan of Barbie as a child.... Finishing touches!

But the biggest difference with this dress, which raises it far above the others, is that I actually used the instructions for once! If you follow Karen on Did You Make That? then you'll have seen her latest post about whether you're a sewing Rebel or a GTS (Goody Two Shoes). I'd say that I'm normally a Rebel, but most of my rebellious makes end up a bit rubbishy and unworn because I try to cut corners and change things beyond my capabilities. So I decided to be a GTS this time and follow the instructions and guess what - I love what I made. OK I wasn't a total GTS as I did make some small adjustments, but these were minor, and everything else was done to the letter.

I even decided to pleat the skirt instead of gather it. This was mainly down to the number of Mccalls 6696s online that showed me just how much lovelier a pleated skirt looks. I was particularly persuaded by the versions from Sew Dixie Lou, Sew Manju and Naturlich Kreativ. Praise be the online sewing community - it's an endless bucket of inspiration.

And the fabric is one of my new all time faves: cotton chambray. It caught my eye as I was about to exit Samuel Taylors empty handed on one fruitless fabric hunting expedition. It's a lovely mint ice-cream shade (hens the name), an excellent choice to help me cling on to the last few weeks of summer with a cold lager in hand!

Overall, fabric and GTS habits aside, I think that the success of this make is down to the pattern itself. I haven't seen a single Mccalls 6696 which hasn't looked utterly divine on the wearer. It's a universally flattering dress. I do love shirt dresses - I like the combination of smart and casual, feminine and masculine. They are my style of dress. The kind I could were day in, day out and never feel over/under dressed in. I'll be making Mccalls 6696 again, watch this space.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Wedding post - the dresses revealed

Welcome to the wedding of the year - well in my corner of the universe anyway! Yes, on the 19th July I watched my only sister get married and it was, no hyperbole intended, amazing.

But the thing I really want to blog about today is the dresses. As you may or may not know, the on going saga of my life recently has been making the bridesmaids dresses for the wedding. It was touch and go from May on wards for at least two of the dresses, one of which I had to relinquish to a professional dressmaker. For the full deets see my previous post on the subject. I did, however, do the finishing touches for all the dresses so my input was there on all of them in the end!

So without further ado, here are the dresses:

I used the circle skirt pattern from Vogue 8766 for all of the dresses. I also used the bodice pattern for the green and purple dresses. This made things much more straight forward in terms of construction. I love how much Vogue 8766 is like a basic block and it's so easily adaptable - you could potentially turn it into any style of dress. I'll definitely continue using it.

Recognise the bodice for the blue dress? Yep, that's right, it's a BHL Anna hack!

I used a little bit of lace, which I got from the Minerva Crafts meet up in June, on three of the dresses. The green dress was overlaid with light white tulle and I stitched a cream ribbon on to the waistband for a clean finish. All the dresses were fully lined from top to bottom and the seams were overlocked.

I was going to wait until the professional photographer's photos came through but they still haven't yet arrived so I've had to use the ones which my boyfriend and I took on the day. They're not perfect, but you do get some corkers like this bizarre picture of my Dad. What the hell is he doing??

While we're on the subject of dresses I should probably also mention where the bride got her dress. Well, it was actually designed and handmade by a dressmaker. After closely inspecting the handwork I can honestly say that I was dead impressed and totally realised how far I have to go to get to professional standard. Every piece of lace had been cut out and hand stitched on to the tulle overlay. The effect was incredibly beautiful.

And it wasn't just the bridesmaid's dresses and bride's dress which were handmade. My Mum made 150m of multi coloured bunting, the three tiered wedding cake and organised the entire reception which was held at my parents house. You could say it was a handmade wedding, which I guess suits the kind of family we are. And it was perfect.