corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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Batteries not included…

My little big world of sewing blogs is gradually shrinking: and I am wholly admitting my contribution in that reduction. I cannot deny it…. I have been sewing but not photographing, posing nor posting. Life, life, stuff, more stuff, technical stuff and ………….whatever……

Some of my blog-feed sewing posts are from people who have been blogging for 10 (this is totally admirable) and more years but the posting rate is slowing/sporadic/stopped.  I mean, here I am only six years in and feeling that I’ve had enough. I love the clothes I make (mostly). I love the clothes you all make (always), otherwise I wouldn’t do it: do I need assurance and confirmation in the comments section of my blog? Simple answer is – No.

However, I really do appreciate your honest feedback, comments, encouragement and engagement.

Genuinely, thank you all for years and years of reading this sh*t*, supporting and pushing me to go further, try new things, test new skills, designs, fabrics, patterns and techniques.

Would I be the sewer I am now without your contribution? Absolutely and categorically – NO!  

How can I ever repay that? I am constantly reading and keeping up to date with your sewing exploits and although I may not comment, this only means I don’t have the wit and repartie readily available to do so. It most certainly does not mean I don’t appreciate or learn from your experiences.

So, just to show you that I have been busy sewing and not just wasting my time being a mother, wife, teacher, friend, daughter, sister, aunt, examiner, exam marker, blog reader, sewer …..

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I bought some RTW black trousers way back and felt the need to make some  coordinating tops because I don’t really wear black much, so I started with monochrome ( left).  While I was Internet shopping for black/white/grey, of course I just happened to find colours and patterns and my self imposed discipline wavered and my finger slipped. I bought greens and flowers and blue and orange (centre-right).

I have silently joined and followed the Internet/Instagram bandwagon by sewing T-shirts, shirt dresses, camis and pants from popular Indie patterns. I do not have Instagram/Twitter etc etc. Should I? Am I the girl on the sidelines because I don’t have this social media stuff? Because, in reality, I can still cut and sew and wear my own clothes. I have made simple things that took 2 hrs from cut out to wear and a complicated dress that tooks 3 days.

On my bed, in front of your eyes includes – a Grainline Hemlock T (free down load), StyleArc pants, Bootstrap halter neck top, Burda peasant blouse, Vogue DKNY dress 1489 (OOP due to USA licensing regulations), downloadhacked Vogue/Atelier shirt dress, Pirate pencil skirt, Vogue culottes 9091, Ogden cami, good old Sorbetto top , Tessuti Fave Top and another T shirt hacked together from seeing a girl on the bus and whatever else I could make from leftover fabric.

 

If you ever have the chance to download a free PDF – take it! Save the virtual data and print out at your leisure. If you never print out or make the item – so what – nothing lost.

All in good time I will (hopefully) detail each of these items.

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I’m sorry for the hiatus. I’m Internet free for the next five days, no re-charging points, no Wi-Fi or 4 G which also means no electricity and no sewing machine – gasp-gasp-gasp ! Just plenty of fresh air, good company and bracing Irish coastlines.

Perhaps knitting will fill the void…………….. don’t need batteries for that!

If you have a preference for a preview – let me know and I’ll move it to the top of the list.

Since I started sewing for “summer”, we’ve had nothing but rain – C’est la vie.


61 Comments

It was 50 Years ago today……

…. I was three years old and a flower girl at my Auntie Jean and Uncle Lewis’s wedding. My mummy made me a blue velvet dress to wear and someone lent me a white fur stole with matching muff. I wore white knee socks like a big girl (and scowled like one too!) accessorised with my beautiful Sunday best black patent shoes with buckles (not shown). I wore Chanel No 5. Only joking.

dscn6768Standing directly behind me is my daddy who was Best Man and on my left, my eldest cousin and idol in a red coat- see, she has knee socks. Beside her and behind a gate post is my second eldest cousin, also my childhood and continuing idol. On my right is the bride and groom; totally in love and eyes for no one other than each other. 50 years on from that day, Jean and Lewis are still together, still devoted to each other and because of that I got another two cousins! Auntie Jean is the youngest of six siblings, my mother’s youngest sister. A family of three boys and three girls – all the boys are dead but the girls are showing no signs of giving up just yet! And they are either in or heading towards their 80s, but Jean’s the baby.

The photograph is therefore 50 years old and the version you see here is a photograph of a print of the original photo – hence the quality, but you get the idea.

To celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary, my Uncle Lewis has invited the whole family to the Slieve Donard hotel for dinner – and bed and breakfast!slieve-donard-resort-spa-newcastle-ireland_010720140930446342

The hotel resides beneath the Mourne Mountains in Newcastle and is right beside the shore – what could be a better location?

view-of-slieve-donard-co-down-northern-irelandMy lovely Auntie Jean spends most of her time these days in a wheelchair because she has MS (Multiple Sclerosis). My own bridesmaid suffered the same disease from the tender age of 22 and is now dead. She was tall, beautiful, elegant and stylish and actually put me in the shade, even on my wedding day, but I could never resent a single moment we spent together. She stood totally unaided beside me as my witness and best friend. Julie is the one in blue. Isn’t she gorgeous?dscn6769The 50th wedding celebration is not only in honour of the golden couple but also to raise money for MS. It is a devastating disease that seems to be common ( in that I know of loads of people with a diagnosis) in Northern Ireland. Auntie Jean’s son, Ian, my youngest cousin 46, has also been stuck with this incapacitating illness: he is an award winning press photographer, who was also our wedding photographer – his first private commission. And what memorable images he took that day and how unaware we all were to what the future held. These are photos of the photos, if you know what I mean? Relaxed, genuine captures in time of each special moment.

Ian is a husband and a father to a gorgeous and clever daughter but he now lives in residential care. Ian cannot eat, drink or swallow; cannot dance or walk, not even stand; cannot read because he can’t turn the page; cannot scratch an itch; and can no longer take photographs because he can’t even press the shutter and yet everytime I visit him, we have a laugh and reminisce good times and make fun of our family traits.

Julie was the same; never complained, never moaned, just had a very optimistic view of life and relished every moment with a smile.

If you feel so inclined, you can make a small donation to MS through Just Giving

This is a sewing blog, so let’s get to the sewing……..

What better way to celebrate a Golden Wedding Anniversary than to re-create what I wore 50 years ago as a flower girl?  I made a grown up version of my blue velvet dress. Looks like a sack on the hanger …..

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The pattern is from Bootstrap – asymmetrical off-shoulder dress and custom fitted to me. 44849mainThis really is the way to go – type in your measurements and you get a pattern that’s perfect – no adjusting, alterations etc, just cut and sew.

As the wedding was in the mid 1960s, I wanted to link to that era and this design seemed to fit the brief as it had a slightly vintage look. It probably fits better into the late 1950s but we are always 10 years behind the rest of the world in Northern Ireland. I also used Google images for inspiration of the fashion of the time.

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The fabric is from Croftmill and is described as the richest possible dark navy blue – perfect – not black but nearly, it’s still blue and because it’s velvet it has every shade in between. This is a cotton velvet because it is so much more stable and resilient than the silk version. If you read advice about sewing with velvet, you’ll be told not to press, use a walking foot, use a million pins, sew once and don’t rip out, etc etc etc – it’s enough to put you off sewing with velvet at all. Look, just buy the stuff and make a dress – it really doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just make sure the nap (pile) all smoothes down the same direction when you place your pattern pieces, so you will need more fabric than usual, at least 1/2 metre.

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Yes, I’ve made mistakes but we all know that only another sewer will notice the errors. I pressed, I ripped out, I used the normal amount of pins and I did not use a walking foot. If you do nothing else, you MUST use a a velvet pressing cloth. This is just a scrap of the same fabric and when pressing seams flat place velvet to velvet and gently, gently steam press. Be wary of pressing hems and sleeves. I do know that once pressed, the velvet pile will never recover. Go on, ask me how I know that??

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Because this is a party dress, I moved the centre back zipper to the left-hand side – I mean who wants to spin round and round at 2am in the morning trying to pull a zip down that you can’t reach to get out of the dress. Mind you, I suppose you could always sleep in it.

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When I make a dress I like long panels, from shoulder to hem, in other words no waist seam that cuts the dress in half. This dress has a waist seam at the front only. I disguised it with a half belt, sewn into the sides and blinged up with a pearl and diamond cabochon. (DH has advised to remove the pearl – opinions please.)

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I sewed the back split closed – there was no need to fiddle around with lining as I can walk just fine without it.

dscn6790The dress is fully lined and if I could take back time, I would underline it actually – but I didn’t, so just move on. The hem is very narrow deliberately. I like this length, so I sewed a wide band of lace to the very edge and slip stitched this up.

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The sleeves were lengthened to 3/4 length, this is December after all, but they looked a little clumsy and heavy. I sewed three little tucks so that they became slightly gathered above the elbows and reflect the gathers in the front bodice. It creates an uneven sleeve hem so the lining needs to be tucked inside to mirror the shape.

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Off the shoulder dresses may be sexy and dramatic but create a whole new category of underwear problems. A bog-standard bra ain’t gonna work. Do you bdscn6789uy special undergarments, do you adapt existing bras? The number of YouTube videos I watched on how to insert cups into dresses reached record breaking numbers and in the end I opted for the easiest, and possibly the best solution, hand sew a couple of bra strap tabs with poppers and then wear my favourite bra. Job done.

 

 

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No-one has lent me a white fur stole to wear this time round and I think I’ll leave the big girl white knee socks off too…….

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I know we all have extra expense at this particular time of year but, you know what, we can walk, talk, dance and we can relish in our pure physical ability, however clumsily, to enjoy life – even if it’s just to thread and use a needle. Don’t forget, if you’d like to contribute to support MS click here. I’d ask you to NOT buy those two metres/yards  to sit forlornly in your stash but instead give the £/$ 12-15 to MS instead.

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Many, many thanks. My Auntie Jean, cousin Ian, bridesmaid Julie’s legacy and countless others will benefit from your generosity and kindness.

 

 

 

 

 


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A/W ’16 Burgundy

All this fabric was bought in July and is only being sewn up now, but then again it was always intended for this autumn/winter’s wardrobe, so I suppose it’s timely. For once there was a little bit of forward planning that might have actually worked out. I’ve been busy doing other things for a few weeks but I’m back home now and – sewing!

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The two fabrics on the right are from Minerva and generously gifted from my very dear friend Caroline on the day we went shopping with Mags. The far left fabric is from Fabworks and the burgundy ponte is a long forgotten purchase from somewhere, just patiently waiting for its time.

Lea wrapped dress already completed and worn multiple times – featured on Fabworks’ Customer Catwalk.

DSCN6504Eventually I actually got started on the A/W ’16 wardrobe, though it has been late because of the mild weather here and a personal reluctance to admit that summer has left.

One pair of cropped trousers – cropped because I bought only 1 metre planned for a pencil skirt and in real life I realised that trousers would be more practicable. (Fabric on the far right).

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Pattern: Vogue 1508, Zandra Rhodes.

I added front welt pockets and, obviously, shortened the length to suit the available fabric rather than style. They are lined, elasticated waisted and although made from polyester they look like  tweed and hence there is no wrinkling or shrinking, or wet-dog smell when wet with rain. I’d just like to point out the relative width difference between the pattern envelope and my actual trousers………

Worn firstly with some delicious silk from Joel & Sons (bought in a sale), and the fabric design and colour reminds me of autumn leaves, firesides and fireworks. This top was made in a very haphazard way – using a basic block and then sewing on the leftovers as a sailor’s neck and front tie and asymmetrical hip edges: just trying to use up every last scrap of this relatively expensive silk.

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Next, the trousers are paired with a fine mesh polyprint (second from right) and made up in McCalls 7247. This pattern is intended for jersey/stretch but I took a chance and it worked.

View D, at the bottom is the one I made.

While I added bands to the neck and cuffs I left them with raw edges so that they fray. Heck, un-hemmed edges are all over Vogue magazine; if it’s good enough for them, it’s certainly good enough for me.

If I wear it with enough panache, then it’s ‘designer’.

 

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I do need to wear my very reliable, RTW and cheap  burgundy cotton sleeveless T-shirt underneath but, heck, it’s winter and it’s going to get cold and your Mother always told you never to leave the house without clean pants (knickers), a handkerchief and a vest, just in case you were in an accident. Hopefully, I’m safe.

Then I added to the burgundy stash and purchased some jersey marl that I think is from MyFabrics but I’ve fallen out with them recently, so they are absolutely last-resort now. This was transformed into a Vogue 9193, a Marcy Tilton tunic.

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Trying to replicate the Tilton sisters, I tried to do a bit of artistic-stuff around the neck  with a double layer loose neck edge, which I’m not quite convinced worked out but then again this is not intended as a spectacular designer top, rather as a normal, everyday pull-on type of top. With the leftovers I sewed up a scarf-like thing, basically a couple of rectangles sewn into a hoop (worn on the right pic) and looks like a cowl neck.

So, one pair of trousers, three tops, a dress and a bit of ponte left to sew. Those of your follow the Vivienne Files will be capable of calculating how many outfits that will make. Personally I just reach into the wardrobe and hope for the best and not an orphan in sight!

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Next, I’ll move onto another A/W ’16 colour……..guesses?

 

 


46 Comments

You Want Two Sleeves?

Most of us have two arms and therefore our shirts generally require two sleeves. When Vogue 9162 asks for 2.4m and you only buy 2m and then use some of it for pocket linings or a waistband facing or some such then you’re left with 1.7m or thereabouts, fitting the pattern onto the fabric can be a bit of an issue. Added to which this Kathryn Brenne pattern is for an oversized shirt – and I mean oversized! The model in the Vogue picture has clothes pegs used for fitting the shirt and jacket at the back! Def sure of that as I used to work in advertising. Anyway, back to real life…….with a pattern that is too big for your fabric.

So you start to edit the pattern to get the pieces to fit onto the meagre amount of fabric – maybe lose the front pocket, perhaps shorten it a bit, maybe narrow the width, instead of concealed button closing just make it normal – and so on until it doesn’t resemble the original pattern at all. Ultimately, I managed to fit the fronts and back on without any editing, the pocket hardly took any fabric at all and the concealed button closing was part of the front anyway. The real problem lay with the sleeves. It never fails to amaze me how much fabric sleeves need – quick guess at 1m?

So, here’s what I did to get two sleeves for both my arms – and you can do it too even if you need to or not…..

Fit the top of the sleeve pattern onto the remaining fabric and cut to suit the available length. We now have the shoulder seam and armscye and when sewing sleeves they are the Very Important Things and demand capitalisation.

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I folded the pattern up for the first cut, then unfolded and repositioned on the crossgrain  scraps for the lower (and generally less important) half. Remember to allow for 1-1.5cm seam allowance. There are no cuffs in this pattern so one less thing to worry about. Join these two pieces together and lo and behold – a whole sleeve! With added design features!

To keep the inside sleeve neat and tidy I actually sewed these two halves wrong sides together! Then I cut a bias strip from more scraps, which is always impressive in a striped fabric, pressed the raw edges under and edge-stitched this onto the right side to hide the wrong side seam. Still with me?

And now it looks like a deliberate and well thought out design element that hides all raw edges.

Recently I’ve been following some French sewing blogs – I say following but I really just look at the pictures as French is not my first language – and they have this wonderful thing called De-Stocking! Nothing to do with bedroom antics but in English (specifically North American) it means de-stashing and the pledge is to sew at least one thing a month from your stock / stash / hoard / treasure / investment or whatever euphemism you choose to describe the metres and metres of fabric you own. I haven’t pledged anything primarily because I don’t know what my school-girl French might be translated into by Google but this grey and white striped poly-cotton was delivered over a year ago and I’m only getting round to sewing it now. So I count this as a positive de-stocking!

I’ve already made the Vogue 9162 trousers and this is the matching shirt.

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Told you it was oversized although I might have made a bigger size than I needed. Anyway, I added a few ‘patches’ around the shirt either to compliment or disguise the hacked together sleeves and balance out the rather large breast pocket. My sleeves in the end product are longer than necessary and are usually worn pushed up or folded back.

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My label was sewn in and I only do that on things I really like or that I am inordinately proud of.

The neck buttoning is stylish with a loop and not a bog-standard hole. I have worn this shirt open-necked and it is just as wearable.

Personal style opinion: such a large shirt looks better with narrow trousers or skinny jeans.

And as the camera was running out of battery, and we all know that feeling, I snapped a few out of focus pics that at least illustrate the overall look.

The remaining garment to be sewn from this single pattern is the jacket and yes, I do have a de-stocking fabric that is most suitable – a raspberry boiled wool – yum. I know it’s officially spring and the sun may break through the clouds on occasion but our temperatures are low and I might just get a few wearable weeks during May.

Talking of which – Me-Made-May launches this weekend. It is an online celebration of hand-made and home-sewn clothes. Personally, about 90% of my wardrobe is now home-made so I don’t have a choice for May or any other month for that matter but you can pledge and promise to wear your unique and beautifully crafted wardrobe every day of May, or every other day, or once a week – whatever suits you. Isn’t that the whole point of making our own clothes – suit yourself!


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The Metro, The Cosmos and An Old Lady

The knit stash is just a wee bit reduced, having cut some of it up into T-shirt pattern pieces and sewing them together. The pattern is Vogue 9057, a Marcy Tilton T-shirt / tunic top and came along with the Craftsy class on the Artful T-shirt.

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I started gently and as my confidence grew so did the number of fabrics used. Each shirt is named after the fabric used. The Metro is an American nostalgia theme print with street and city signs, dollars, stamps and a rather creepy image of JFK. The Cosmos is a single jersey printed in a Nebula/universe design. The Old Lady is flowers in lilacs and lace. Here’s the week’s work –

1. One fabric – Vest with neck and armholes bound in coordinating fabric. Pattern view C

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2. Two fabrics – The Metro: asymmetrical T-shirt/tunic with plain fabric sleeve, cuffs and neckband. Pattern view B.

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3. 1 & 2 together – Vest on top and vest below. Pattern views B & C

4. Three fabrics – The Cosmos: asymmetrical T-shirt/tunic with coordinating sleeves in plain and stripes with contrasting cuffs and neckband. Pattern view B

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5. Four fabrics – The Old Lady – Draped hem T-shirt/tunic with lace sleeve, double neckband, contrasting cuffs , sleeve bands and additional hem band. Pattern view D

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Some design details:

Each sleeve has a large cuff like a facing on the inside (apart from the Old Lady where it’s on the outside). This means when I turn the cuff back, as I am apt to do,  there is a contrast fabric.

I secured the facing cuff with an extra contrast fabric band.

The Old Lady has a double neck band – one made with the selvedge of the black lace and the second with the cotton print. There is also an additional 3″ band around the hem.

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Once you choose which fabrics to use and where they will go, the sewing up of the shirt is simple, straightforward and quick – about 1 – 1.5hrs. It’s a good go-to-sleep ritual to consider the fabrics for each shirt so that the next day you’re all ready to go. I straight stitched each seam then finished off on the overlocker. The best thing about T-shirts is that you don’t need an armoury of notions – no buttons, zips, interfacing, hooks or eyes.

Not only did I try to combine colour and pattern but I mixed materials: there is stretch lace with scuba, poly jersey with cotton knit, Lycra and viscose in a one-way stretch and two-way stretch. I experienced no predominantly prohibitive problems with this method of sewing, so I’m continuing with this method on future shirts.

To avoid looking like an old lady myself when wearing the Old Lady, adopt a badass attitude, a scowl, bed-head hair and a plethora of black and silver jewellery.

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But you know that’s not really me so here I am smiling as usual but still trying not to look like an old lady…..so paired with grey skinny jeans and calf length purple boots

 

 

There’s still a small  country’s GDP worth of jersey knits to sew through, so watch this space.

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