Fitting the Charlotte Skirt

I enjoyed working with the Elisalex pattern from By Hand London so much that I decided to give the Charlotte skirt a go. During the recent Goldhawk road meet-up, I had spoken about my straight skirt problems with Charlotte of By Hand London, and she said I should try the Charlotte skirt because it had a really generous amount of ease at the hips. So here I am, giving it a go.

I have never been successful with straight skirts. I know it might be easy to draft one myself, but like I mentioned before, I am not very good with drafting. Claire even came over to help me draft one, using the draping method. She fitted the skirt on my body, and transferred the pattern to paper. I never used it, and then I put on some extra kilos, and now, I really can’t use it.  I did take on board what she did though, so with the Charlotte skirt, I decided not to choose a particular size, but cut the biggest size, and sew the skirt up, without sewing the darts.

I used a 1/4 inch seam allowance,and what do you know? My hips are the biggest size, size 20. That fit just fine on the hips. I think I need to run more, and diet more. I then sewed the size 14 darts, and it fit a bit better at the waist. The area between my waist and my hips though, is another matter. The way my body is, the fullest part of my hips is down at the top of my thighs, so I have that indentation at the hips. 8 inches below my waist is where it is deepest, and then from 10″ down, it starts filling out again. So I do not have that curve that many people have, which of course, results in excess fabric in that area. I pinned some of it away, but there’s still some work to be done.

The front is not too bad at the waist, probably because my tummy is not exactly small. The back has alot of excess fabric.I pinned out the excess as well, and decided to add two extra darts at the back.

The back does not look too bad ( after massive pinning of course)

This is after I basted the bits I had pinned before. The kangaroo pouch seems to have gone. Yay!

I sewed the extra darts at the back, but there is still some excess fabric. I was hitting my head, trying to understand why there was still so much fabric at the back. Then I remembered I had sew size 14 darts in a size 20 waist. So I need to do another muslin, using a size 14 waist, and then grade up to size 20 about 10″ below the waist.

I am really pleased with myself for taking the time to get a proper fit. I think I have reached the point in my sewing where I just don’t want to sew clothes for the sake of sewing. I want to make things that fit me properly, so I need to actually take the time to face the fitting challenges my body presents.

The sun seems to be out today in London. Unfortunately I am not going to be around this weekend. Mr.Dibs is running the Edinburgh marathon tomorrow, so we are going up to Edinburgh this afternoon.
What about you? Anything fun planned?

The Oh Johnny Vogue 1314 Dress

Ahem! Not a very imaginative post title, but it will have to do.

So, I finally made a dress using one of the John Kaldor fabric I bought from Remnant House. You will remember that I had been coveting a dress from Phase Eight, but of course, it was out of my reach budget wise. Thank God for the fact that I can sew. I had been thinking of what pattern to use, and I finally decided on Vogue 1314. I had used this before, and I loved it. This dress can double up as a work dress, and as something I could wear to a fancy occasion.

It was an uneventful make. Probably because I had made it before. The one thing I have to stress about this pattern, again, is that it runs big. I made a 14, and I took the waist in a lot. I keep meaning to adjust the pattern, but I just have not had the time to do it. 

I really love sewing with knit fabric because it removes the need for alot of pattern adjustments. Especially as I have such a generous backside, as you can see from the next picture. My aunt in Cameroon calls it “the people’s choice”. It took me a while to accept the fact that my butt will never be small, but now I have, and I really don’t care if it looks big or not. I have embraced it. I like wearing figure hugging dresses, but with woven fabric, it is more difficult for me to get a good fit. I am not really good at adjusting patterns, so I try to stick to full skirts.

The weather has been really awful for the last two days. I am afraid out great British Summer, all two days of it, is over. So the boots are out once more. I am still hoping some sunshine will waltz around these parts soon, but in the meantime, boots are in.

Butterick 5285 and yet another machine

So yes, my sewing machine saga continues. I had a long think about my Nina, and decided that though I liked her, I was not ready to start investing in more machine feet. When I wrote about my new Bernina purchase, Karen suggested I get a walking foot. I went looking for one, and boy was I scandalised by the price. £99? Hell no. All of a sudden, my love for Faffi intensified. You see, Faffi, is a Pfaff Select 4.0, and she comes with the IDT technology, aka built in walking foot. I have really been taking that part of my machine for granted, and just assumed it would be the same in other machines, or even if it wasn’t , the foot won’t be overly expensive. Boy was I wrong. Do you know what £99 can get me? yes, a trip to Paris on the Eurostar, and enough change to go crazy in the Sarcelles Market. True, I have to book my Eurostar ticket early but still….£99? Why thank you Bernina, but I’ll pass. So, tails between my legs, I went back to Pfaff. Yes, the prodigal daughter went back.

I have invested alot of mullah in presser feet for my Faffi, so it made sense to get a machine from the same brand so I could painlessly continue sewing, without killing myself on presser feet. I took Nina back today, and came home with Tarquin.

Isn’t he cute? I could not wait to get started, and I finished this skirt which I had started on with Nina.

It is Butterick 5285, and it was relatively easy to sew. If you need an easy skirt pattern, then this should be on your list. Read the instructions before sewing though, because I did not, and then found out I had to install the zip before I made the pleats in the back. So I had to redo them, after putting in the zip. Precious time wasted if you ask me

 The fabric I used is a heavy cotton fabric which I bought from one of the shops on Goldhawk road. I think it was too heavy for this pattern. I don’t know, it just feels too stiff. When making it next, I will use a softer fabric, just because I think it will drape better. This fabric holds the pleats well, but I just don’t think I should have used it for this skirt. It feels very home decky. Oh well. Lesson learned.

A tale of 2 machines

A big thank you to everyone who liked my little twist on the Elisalex dress. I wore it to work today, and my colleagues were really impressed with it. 

In my last post, I mentioned that I bought 2 sewing machines in 2 days. I did not intend to buy two machines. Oh no. My intention was to buy a basic machine to use while my Pfaff went to the repair man. Normally I would not even think about buying a new machine, because I really love my Faffi, and the only other brand that would make me bring out my card, is a Bernina. However, I am travelling back home to Cameroon in 2 weeks, for my cousin’s wedding, where I am the chief bridesmaid, and I need to sew my dress. So, I had to convince Mr.Dibs to let me buy a new one, and what better way to do it, than to tell him a good bridesmaid dress would cost me the same as a basic sewing machine. The major difference? I get to keep the machine, and get my money’s worth as opposed to wearing the dress a handful of times.
So armed with his blessing, I ran to John Lewis after work on Monday, to look for a good basic machine. I settled on the Janome 7025. I ran back home, very excited. I decided to continue sewing my Elisalex dress with it, but I got really frustrated when I could not get the tension right. I spent about 1 hour fiddling with the machine. I finally got it to the right tension, and began sewing. It is a nice little machine, very quiet, BUT, I found it very slow, and a tad lightweight. When I told Mr.Dibs, he said I had been spoilt by designer sewing machines. I did not even attempt to tell him that my Faffi only cost £485, and that there were machines out there even more expensive than cars. So I told him I did not like the Janome, and that I was taking it back on Saturday. It is not a bad machine, but it is not just for me. The needle threader, the main reason why I choose it, is nothing like that on Faffi, but then again, they are not in the same price bands. She is currently all boxed up, waiting for Saturday to return to John Lewis.
On Tuesday, I went back online, looking for a good machine. I decided to go for a an old Bernina. Ebay had auctions that were going to take too long, and I was not even sure I would win. Then the was the matter of delivery. I called Bamber sewing, and they said they had an old Bernina for £330. I think it was the 730. I tried to haggle, but he would not bulge. Apparently, if I had paid cash, he would have given it to me for less. I was going to take it, but then he told me it only had 1 foot. I know how expensive Bernina feet are, so I decided not to buy the machine. Next I called Direct Sewing Machines, because they had a couple of Bernina 1008s without boxes, and were selling them at a discount. 
As luck would have it, they had 1 left, so during my lunch break, I jumped on the tube and went to buy the machine. I got there, he demonstrated how it worked, got a brand new one out for me, and then I turned around, looking at other machines on display, and I saw HER.

 She, Nina, is a used Active 240, just over a year old, and the woman who had it, had recently upgraded to the 350 I think or 380. It has been serviced, and comes with a 1 year guarantee. I had never thought about owning the 240. They don’t make them any more, but when I started looking for a second machine 2 years ago, the Activa 220 was the one I was thinking of getting. Nina came with  came with all the original feet, and an embroidery foot . I also bought an invisible zipper foot, just because I love invisible zips.

I set it up this evening, and tried it out. I can’t describe the way I felt when I saw the stitches. I had read before that Bernina machines produced beautiful stitches, but nothing could prepare me for the beauty I saw. I am not exaggerating. I love my Faffi, but Nina produces more beautiful stitches. I am still tying to understand how she works, but I have a feeling I am going to have an enjoyable relationship with Nina. Does anyone have experience with this machine? Is she as nice as I think she is?

The By Hook or By Crook Elisalex dress

Right, ever since I became aware of the Elisalex dress pattern, I knew I had to have it. I am one of those people whose body proportions are, quite frankly, annoying. At my most annoying, I was a 34 bust, 30 waist, and a 44 at the hips. Try buying a RTW dress with those proportions, and you will understand why I started sewing. In RTW parlance, I am currently a 14 at the top, and an 18 at the bottom, for fitted garments. No kidding!

Unfortunately for me, the pattern was launched when I was very low in sewing funk, so I bought the pattern, and forgot about it. Then Rachel made hers, and suddenly, completed projects started popping round the blogosphere.  It was not until Rachel’s epic meet-up, and after having a nice chat with Charlotte of By Hand London, that I decided to really make the dress. For inspiration, and moral support, I went to Roisin’s blog. She makes sewing the Elisalex dress look really easy. The pictures are abit dodgy because Mr.Dibs was having a really grumpy moment as we were running late for work. What is a little bit of lateness when I had to take pictures of my new dress I ask you? Plenty apparently, because Mr.Dibs was not impressed when I whipped out my camera. We did get to the station on time though, so alls well that ends well.

I did a muslin, which many of you thought deserved its own share of sunshine, so I shall be finishing that one soonest. Post muslin, I decided to use a stretch cotton I bought from Goldhawk road 2 years ago. I have loved this fabric for a long time, and my mom even went on her knees for it. I refused of course. Has your mother ever coveted your fabric so much that she had to beg you for it on her knees? My reply was an emphatic “NO”, and I did not even feel guilty.

My dress was well and truly on its way, BUT, as fate would have it, my machine broke down. Yes, my faithful Pfaff, went crazy. I don’t know if it is something I did, or something I have not been doing, but she, Faffi, would not work. Her bobbin thread kept tangling, and she would not feed fabric through. So I cleaned her, and dusted her, and begged her, but no, she thought I had neglected her for too long, and she wanted to see other people. Fair enough, I plan on taking her to my local sewing machine repair man this weekend. In the meantime though, I had a dress to finish, and a bridesmaid dress to make for my cousin’s impending wedding, 2 weeks from now.

So I did what any self-respecting woman would do. I went looking for a new machine. That in its self, is a whole new story, which I shall write about in the next post, but know that I now have 3 machines in my house, with two having bought between Monday and Tuesday. Crazy times people, crazy times, and desperate times call for desperate measures. I was determined tohave that Elisalex dress by hook or by crook.

I finally finished the dress last night. Somehow, while trying it on, I got the front at the back, and decided I like the look. What do you think? Wearing it back to front? Oh yeah baby! Even Mr.Dibs likes it, so there.

I also decided to put some lace trimming at the neckline. You like?

I really like this dress. I have lost some weight since I last made the muslin, because this version feels a bit big on me, especially around the waist and the bust. So yay! to 1 hour dancing sessions.

Charlotte, if you and your crew at By Hand London are reading this, THANK YOU for a lovely pattern. It was beautifully drafted. I might have to try the Charlotte skirt next.