DIY Dress Form

After my marvellous success with the beautifully fitting Jade Skirt I decided that maybe it was time to make a foray into dressmaking.

One of the things that has put me off in the past is that I’m a totally bizarre size. I’m not much taller than 5ft but I have long legs for my short stature. Because of that I’m incredibly short waisted and I’m also blessed (?!) with a larger than average bust. Throw into the mix that I’m a bit overweight and that I have no stomach muscles (one invasive abdominal operation and three pregnancies will do that to a person!). You get the picture! Off the peg clothes just don’t fit me.

This really put me off trying to make my own clothes. I was too worried about wasting money on fabric that would never make it into something wearable. I didn’t think I had the skills to adjust patterns and I really couldn’t afford a dress form, no matter how much I wanted one! When I came across a tutorial on how to make my own specific dress form using duct tape I got very excited. Cue a trip to the shop for lots of duct tape, a tight top that I didn’t mind losing to the cause and one willing helper in my mum to tape me up!

After a lot of faffing about we seemed to get into the swing of things. One of the most awkward things I found was trying to cut the flippin tape. Our scissors got gummed up after a few cuts and it was really hard to keep cutting without cleaning the scissors off. Especially annoying when we discovered that working in short strips was the way to go. Lots more cutting so lots more frustration. It didn’t help that I am rather squishy and a bit lumpy bumpy in places. The whole thing would definitely have been a bit easier (and we’d have used a lot less tape!) if I was a bit skinnier!

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All that tape felt a bit Fifty Shades!

If I had half a brain I would have rechecked the tutorials before embarking on my mission to become gaffer tape’s new pin up. Tips on covering my neck would have been helpful. As it was we used spare scraps of material that were a bit unweildy. Cling film might have done a better job!

Anyway some time later we emerged mostly successful. We managed to cut the duct tape form off with only a slight injury to my trousers and I could see it was definitely holding shape, even if it did look a bit deflated. I spent the evening trying to tape it back together which was harder than I thought it would be. Definitely keep a helper handy for this if you can!

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Like me, but not!

Then I stuffed it. And I stuffed it and stuffed it and I stuffed it! Three old pillows later and a couple of copies of the Sunday Times and I had a reasonably solid form. Again a helper would be, well, helpful! I had put a clothes hanger inside my form before stuffing so I could hang it up when it was finished. Unfortunately I was a bit heavy handed when stuffing and I managed to break the top of my hanger when I was half finished. There was no way I was taking all my filling out to start again so I found an old brush shaft (thankfully my husband is as bad at throwing potentially useful rubbish out as I am!) and shoved it into my form and stuffed around it. A couple of red bricks with handy holes in the middle have been used to hold it up since I have no actual stand.

I found newspaper great for filling out the form but polyfill (raided from some old pillows) really helped smooth out all the lumps and bumps and gave a nicer shape. I cannot stress enough how much stuffing this thing took. I kept going until I literally couldn’t jam anything more in there!

I was a bit too lazy to try to make a cardboard bottom so I carefully taped it up and filled up with more polyfill. Eventually I was left with a pretty successful version of myself. The measurements all seem to be right and I found an old plant stand to put her on so she’s a bit more movable but now she’s at the same height add me which is marvellous! The whole way through my form was definitely an “it” until I finished. She’s now firmly lodged in my brain as a “her”; with those curves she couldn’t be anything else! She’s not the prettiest but she’ll do to help me get into this whole dressmaking lark. Now to figure out what to make first!

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Miss Polly was a dolly....

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Suits Into Bags!

Some years ago, when I was new to this whole sewing lark, I was browsing the Internet for ideas. I needed easy sewing projects that wouldn’t break the bank. One of the most inspiring I found was this clutch bag made from the sleeve of an old suit jacket. I loved the look of it and I knew my dad had an old sports jacket that I could cannibalise. Eventually I didn’t make the clutch but I made this bag instead.

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My first bag!

This was the first bag I ever made and I pretty much just cobbled it together with no knowledge of bag making but it turned out really nicely and it’s still one of my favourite ever makes. Unfortunately I gave it away as a Christmas present because I really did love it!

My sister was also quite enamoured with this bag so when she had an old suit that she loved but it no longer fit she came to me to see if I could work some baggy magic. She sourced some awesome fabric with camera film for the lining (from Plush Addict if you’re interested but long out of stock!) and I got to work. I wish I had thought to take a photo of the suit before I chopped it up but it was from Reiss and was something like this.

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Unfortunately I was very pregnant when I said I’d make this bag and in the intervening year and a half I’ve been a bit busy and a bit distracted! However now I’m sewing again and with her birthday on the horizon I thought really I should get a move on and get her bag finished.

The bag was a pretty basic design. The shape was more or less the same as my Totally Reversible Tote, although I put a recessed zip in the top and a flush zip pocket in the lining.

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Zips!

I love the recessed zip. You can have the bag closed and secure but you can still see the awesome lining! I’m definitely going to incorporate this feature into my future makes. It was a little fiddly but worth it, I think!

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Bag closed, lovely lining on display!

The front of the bag is made from the front of the jacket. You can see some of the lovely tailoring that I have tried to keep as some nice detailing on the bag. The back was taken from the legs. There wasn’t really enough fabric in the back of the suit jacket for the back of the bag. Plus there were pleats, many panels and I manage to rip the wrong seams! There really isn’t enough fabric in a size 10 suit jacket!

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The devil's in the details!

I made an adjustable shoulder strap made from the legs of the suit. I’m regretting not interfacing the strap a bit but I suspect I might be the only person to notice! Thankfully everything came together quite nicely. I now have one WIP dealt with and all the associated guilt of not finishing a job for someone is gone! Plus my sister now has a pretty snazzy bag. Everyone’s a winner!

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The finished article. I'm pretty pleased with myself!

Now onto my next bag. I have some suit jackets just waiting to be sliced into but I have some bunny pouches to finish first!

Sewing Love

I forgot just how much I love sewing! Up until recently I had been concentrating on crochet (which I really love too!) and sewing had taken a bit of a back seat in my crafting life. I think a combination of small children and a very cold sewing room have seen me curled up more and more in the living room with a hook and a ball of wool. Crochet thankfully doesn’t take up much room and more importantly it’s quiet so it’s really easy to get on with in the same room as a sleeping babby! Anyway the point was that I haven’t had my sewing machine out as much over the last eighteen months (since Babby was born) as I would have liked.

With the advent of my friends’ new fabric & crafty shop I’ve had the incentive to get my bum in gear and start sewing again! As I posted before I love making bags but recently I’ve been super inspired to try my hand at dressmaking too. In the past I’ve cobbled together a few bits & pieces. Easy maternity clothes were a firm favourite! I love wearing stretchy clothes so getting to grips with knits had been very high on my list of priorities.

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Stretchy!

Next on my list is possibly the Camellia top from Sewing Avenue. I think I’m going to try it out with some cotton poplin in grey with white stars. However the invisible zip foot I ordered has just arrived so I might tackle the Clemence skirt from Tilly Walnes book Love At First Stitch. I have a nice black linen look cotton for that. Hmm… Decisions decisions! I’m so indecisive! What would you go for first? Keep your eyes peeled because all my makes will be appearing here to keep me motivated to sew more and hopefully sew better.

Pattern Review – Jade Skirt by Paprika Patterns

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I first spied this skirt in my Instagram feed. Someone had made it with the most awesome fishy fabric but what really grabbed my attention was the construction. I couldn’t work out how on earth those layers at the front were made but I needed to know! Thankfully the poster had linked to the designer of the pattern, Lisa Kievits of Paprika Patterns, and I was able to rush off to her website to buy it. To my dismay I discovered that I was a bit too big for the sizes the pattern was made for and I’m definitely not confident enough at stitching clothes yet to take on the necessary modifications!

Regardless I kept one eye on the Jade Skirt pattern with the hope that one day I’d lose enough weight to fit into it however my willpower is weak so I wasn’t really holding out much hope! Imagine my delight when I discovered that the pattern was being re-released, and not only had it been rejigged but it was now coming in BIGGER SIZES! To say I was happy was an understatement and doubly happy because with the re-release I got a chance to review the pattern!

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The finished article

My major problem with this pattern is a totally personal thing, but I’m really not a fan of PDF patterns. Unfortunately it seems like they are a necessary evil, especially if you want to get your hands on patterns from indie designers. Personally I’d much rather buy from small designers and support the other crafty people out there so I suppose I’ll just have to suck it up. If we had a local printers I would definitely have paid to get it printed out on one A0 sheet rather than printing on A4 and sticking it together myself.

There is a choice of two views, either a mini or a midi skirt. Although I’m a shortie at 5 ft I opted for the midi length. I do love a good mini skirt, especially in winter with heavy tights and long boots but I have two small kiddies and mini skirts really aren’t practical for me at the minute. My skirt comes to about knee length although I wear it on my waist rather than just below. The fact that it’s made from jersey means there is loads of movement in it and it held up well to a day of running around after my kids and because it’s fully lined it doesn’t ride up which is a definite bonus.

This skirt is really a work of art in fabric origami. The front is made up of a series of horizontal pleats. This had the potential to be a serious pain in the bum if it were not for Lisa’s very helpful video showing you how to fold it, and of course the pattern is marked very clearly with exactly where the folds need to go. I marked the fold points on my fabric with little stitches of different colours. It meant that I was able to practice the folds until I was 100% happy with them and I didn’t have to worry about pins falling out.

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My stitches were well within the seam allowance (you can just see them if you look hard at the picture above) so they didn’t show up on the outside of the skirt and they all ended up trimmed off in the end. Even if my stitches were still in place you’d not be able to see them because of Lisa’s clever construction, all raw edges are encased within the skirt.

Before the waistband goes on there is a chance to alter the fit a bit and good instructions on how to do this. I found this invaluable because mine needed a bit of tweaking to fit but now it’s possibly the most comfortable thing I own!

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All in all I loved this pattern. It was clear and easy to follow. I’ll definitely be making another! Next I might try making myself amini version with the added zip detail in the hope that I might get a night out.

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Hard to make our the pleats but they're there!