Let’s all go down The Strand

I’ve wanted to make the Strand Coat by Merchant & Mills ever since I spotted the pattern while I was in The Natural Fabric Store near Lyme Regis a couple of years ago.  I have an aversion to collars so this style is perfect and works well with a scarf.

Last month at Chi Stitch I spotted a boiled wool type fabric on the swap table.  I’ve since done a a burn test and it’s clearly polyester-based but it is lovely and soft.  Although I never wear brown I really liked the abstract pattern and decided it might work well for a first attempt.  I went ahead and bought the pattern from The Draper’s Daughter during an open day at Winter’s Moon.  Mr J-M was very extravagant at this event and bought two vintage wicker bar stools for our kitchen – and he’s not well known for home furnishing purchases!  It may have been the three pieces of chocolate brownie he consumed that put him in such a jolly mood.  I think he may also have just had a personal best at the Park Run!  If you’ve never heard of Winter’s Moon you should definitely check out Julia’s website or visit her when she opens her studio in Chichester on a Wednesday and Friday.

The Strand is described as a “simple unlined coat for cutting a dash in the city”.  I love Merchant & Mills.  I have made the Trapeze Dress and Top 64 and really like the simple and clean aesthetic of their patterns.  I have a whole collection of their haberdashery items – pins, scissors, tailor’s clapper, chalk etc.  I also have their book and portfolio – the latter was a recent gift from Karen at The Draper’s Daughter and I’ve not yet been able to bring myself to sully its pristine pages!   Going back to the patterns, I would say that in my opinion the envelope images don’t always do the garments justice.

I’ve found Merchant & Mills sizes tend to be quite generous so I made a quick toile of the bodice using some curtain lining and decided the size 8 would be fine.  The final version is slightly wider on the shoulder than the toile but it does mean I can wear layers underneath it.  I’m sharing this toile with The Draper’s Daughter as she’s also keen to cut a dash in the city with a Strand!  The only alterations I made were to take FIVE inches off the sleeve length and a similar amount off the length.  I’m 5′ with short arms but that’s even more than I had to take off the sleeve length of the Top 64.

I’m glad I started with the toile as there were a couple of head scratching moments in the construction.  When I was inserting the sleeves I couldn’t work out why the sleeve seam didn’t line up with the side seam.  A quick search on IG came up with someone else who’d had this problem and discovered they weren’t supposed to!  There’s also a requirement to snip into the armscye to get it to lie flat at the front before inserting the sleeve.   I was worried this snip would weaken the area so I reinforced it with a tiny piece of interfacing.

Otherwise construction is pretty straightforward and this fabric was a dream to sew with.  There was no need to finish the seams as there was no fraying but the pattern suggests optional edge stitching the darts and most of the seams which I chose to do and this helped finish the seams off more neatly inside.  The pattern is labelled Intermediate and you probably do need a bit of sewing experience.   There isn’t a great deal of hand holding in Merchant & Mills’ instructions and whilst the hand drawn images are lovely they are not as helpful as a Tilly & The Buttons photograph!

The coat has FOUR pockets!  Two inseam and two little ones set into the waist seam – similar to those in the Top 64.  Someone online suggested these pockets are too small to be useful but I think they’re great.  Just the right size for a train ticket, tissue, spare change etc.  The main pockets are more than big enough for your hands.   When I finished attaching the bodice to the bottom of the coat I thought something had gone drastically wrong because the small pockets seemed to be upside down but they weren’t.   They just needed careful pressing downwards and then edge stitching to sit right.

I was very glad of my clapper for this make – it made a massive difference to the seams and short work of the area where the pockets overlap and there was quite a lot of bulk.  A clapper is definitely a good investment.  This is the one I have – it was given to me as a gift by my lovely sister.

I wasn’t sure whether I’d be happy with the internal finish of the coat without a lining  but I finished the facing with a linen bias binding and overall I think it looks fine.   If I was using a denim or linen I might do some extra finishing with bias binding.  I’m also keen to try lining a coat and this may be a good one to start with.  At the moment I feel like the whole ‘bagging’ thing might be beyond me.

The coat is supposed to be fastened with five hooks and eyes set into the facing so they just peep out at the edge.  I used large, more decorative ones fixed to the outside for three reasons :

  • I bought two packets of large brown hooks and eyes before I thought the whole process through
  • I then realised they were too big/bulky to sew inside the facing
  • I couldn’t actually work out how to attach them even if they had been the right size so that they would then poke through in the correct way.  I have limited spacial awareness!

To be honest the last reason was the main deciding factor in going for the external fastenings and I think I prefer them.

All in all I’m really happy with this coat and I’ve worn it nearly every day since I finished it.  I was irritated that the front gapes slightly between the top and second fastenings (which you can’t see in these photos) but when I look on Merchant and Mills’ website their version does the same so I don’t feel so bad.  There will be more Strands.  I have a hankering for a crushed velvet version, maybe in dark green – or red?!

 

 

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Sewing Inspiration

I’ve reported here about the sewing group – Chi Stitch – I run with Karen from The Draper’s Daughter.  We now have a lovely group of regulars who come along with a myriad of sewing and crafting projects and I find the whole experience inspiring – even if I don’t always get a lot of sewing done!

This has set me off thinking about my sewing inspiration generally.   I know both my grandmothers sewed and knitted, although I really only remember seeing my paternal grandmother in action.  She was Scottish and knitted very fast on long needles tucked under her arms.  During the Second World War I know that she knitted socks, gloves and balaclavas for soldiers.

My mother has always sewed, knitted, crocheted and generally made stuff  – and still does.   My dad was also an inveterate maker of things.  He made model boats with working steam engines, built furniture and kitchen units, made wooden toys.  He could turn his hand to just about anything.   I’m ashamed to say that I never really took the opportunity when I was younger to benefit as much as I could have done from their skills and knowledge.  There were other things that seemed of much more interest to me!  That’s not to say that we didn’t make things.  We were deprived of television for many years “for the good of our education” so we had to fill the time somehow when we weren’t sloping off to our friends’ houses to watch TV there.  Amongst other things we made rudimentary dolls’ clothes, knitted yards of woollen ‘tubes’ with the Knitting Nancy and made a mess with papier mâché.

At  secondary school I did needlework for the first three years.  Our teacher was sadly not inspirational.  We were taught the basics and I remember making a striped apron with a patchwork embellished pocket and a really hideous dress that I never wore.  Despite the lack of inspiration, I was quite good at sewing and remember one test when I had to pass my very neat seam finish samples to my friend behind me to copy because she had no idea what she was doing! Another friend and I always recall the time when she was sewing the pocket to her apron and it ended up attached to her skirt!

Of much more importance to me was my Food & Nutrition (aka Cookery) teacher who I have never forgotten.  She was a tiny and very feisty Welsh lady called Mrs Jones who I really liked – and she really liked me because I paid attention.  Not something I was necessarily well known for in some other lessons.  She taught me pretty much everything I needed to know and a few things I didn’t.  I honestly don’t think I’ll ever make my own flaky pastry – but I could if I wanted to.  I certainly won’t be stuffing a heart or sousing a herring!  Here’s Mrs Jones in the centre of the photograph.

Fast forward a number of years and after various forays into assorted crafts I decided I wanted a sewing machine.  I acquired a basic Singer and started making bags.  I also used it for sewing paper which probably didn’t do it the world of good, although it’s still working as my colleague now has it and is using it to make a new set of seat cushions for his boat!

Having decided I would like to try making clothes I popped into The Eternal Maker to ask Anna if they were planning to offer dressmaking classes.  She said they would if they could find someone to teach them.  I put her in touch with a friend of a friend and I started a six week course of lessons with Cath.  I made a skirt which turned out surprisingly well and we moved on to a second six week course.  After that we set up a little sewing group which met in the conference room at my office for a few months and I was on the road to a sewing obsession!

Back to Chi Stitch and I was so pleased last month when Cath came along for the first time! Without her I probably would have carried on sewing bags and paper decorations and never met all my lovely sewing friends.  Here she is with her knitting on the table reserved for Catherines – @cathysewsstuff is next to her and Catherine opposite her!  Karen is also there – her name does start with the right sound!

I can’t believe this picture was taken a month ago.  The next Chi Stitch is tonight at St George’s Church Hall in Cleveland Road, Chichester from 7.00 – 9.00 pm.  Everyone is welcome.

Just going back to school needlework teachers.  My sister, who can sew but doesn’t, had a sewing teacher whose response to anyone referring to “material” was “fabric dears, fabric”.  It’s an entrenched phrase in my family which we often repeat automatically when someone says “material” and then have to offer an explanation!

 

 

 

The Refashioners 2017

Despite completing my project for this year’s Refashioners community challenge ages ago I just haven’t had a chance to take any decent photographs of the finished garment.  This post really is a bit last minute!

I took part in the challenge back in 2015 when the garment to be transformed was a man’s shirt.  I made two simple tops and a skirt and Mr J-M acquired several new shirts from the charity shop that I couldn’t bring myself to attack with the scissors!  I failed to get involved last year when it was the turn of jeans to undergo a makeover.  I had the jeans but somehow not the motivation.  Too many other things going on.

This year the subject matter was Suits.  My initial plan was to refashion a suit into something that wasn’t garment-related.  I may still pursue that idea at some point.   I bought a navy blue man’s suit at a knock down price but was put off when I subjected the trousers to closer inspection.  Suffice to say I put the suit through the wash and re-donated it!

New inspiration came from the Toast website where I spotted a pinstripe pinafore.  I didn’t immediately think of a refashion but decided I really needed such a thing.  I then spotted a fairly nice (and very large) pinstripe suit jacket for £10.  Thankfully Portia confirmed that a jacket on its own is fine and one or two of the projects posted as part of the inspiration round limited themselves to jackets only.  I’d also been rather put off men’s suit trousers after the earlier experience!

Given my recently discovered love of the Tilly & The Buttons Cleo dungaree dress pattern a combination of the two seemed like a good plan.  As usual I failed to take any progress shots but here’s the BEFORE.  It was quite a big jacket!  The fabric composition was described as virgin wool and polyester.  Not sure if the polyester referred just to the lining.

Here’s what I did …

  • Removed the sleeves and unpicked the seams.
  • Removed all the padding from the shoulders.  Seeing the guts of something like this makes you realise just how much work goes into making a tailored jacket.
  • Removed the lining which I decided I wouldn’t use to line the dress as it wasn’t in great condition, particularly once I’d wielded the seam ripper.  I was surprised to find that none of the seams of the jacket itself were finished in any way and some of them were fraying.  I went through the whole jacket and finished the edges.  I have subsequently noticed that one of the original seams at the front is coming adrift and I need to effect a repair.
  • Washed the individual pieces by hand and they emerged unscathed.  I certainly don’t want to be having the dress dry cleaned but I think I might stick to handwashing in future just in case.

That’s about all the major unpicking I did.  I then …

  • Removed the seam allowances from the back piece of the dress pattern and cut it direct from the back of the jacket, lining the centre of the traced pattern piece with the centre seam of the jacket.  There was more than enough fabric.
  • Cut the straps from the smaller section of each sleeve.

I really wanted to retain the breast and front pockets for my dress so I sewed up the front of the jacket, eliminating the lapels, ensuring that the main pockets were the correct distance apart.  I didn’t actually chop the lapels off and finish the seams until I was happy with the location of the pockets.  This did make the whole thing a bit cumbersome to get through the machine!  I also spent some time trying to match the vertical stripes at the front of the dress which was tricky but almost successful.

In order to position all the pockets at the right level I had to move the front pattern piece (again with seam allowances removed) quite a way down the jacket front.  This didn’t leave me sufficient length for the front of the dress so I added an extension piece cut from the rest of one of the sleeves.   The stripes run in the opposite direction and I really like the way this has turned out.

I was determined to achieve this refashion without buying anything new so I used up some lining left over from another project and some nautical fabric left over from birthday bunting for the facings.  I understitched the facings because I didn’t want any topstitching.  I wasn’t happy with the way the fabric poked out at right at the top of the back where it joins the straps (where understitching couldn’t easily reach) so I did a small amount of topstitching there which did help.

I had some spare dungaree clips but wanted to the dress to be less casual so went for buttons this time – using the original buttons from the suit front.  Given the facing fabric had red boats on it I thought about red buttonholes and made up a sample.   This got a good response when I asked for people’s opinions on IG so that decided me.  I also wanted to use the original label from the jacket given it was By Royal Appointment!  I’m not sure when Coopers were tailors in Regent Street as I’ve not been able to find any reference to them apart from a jacket being sold as ‘vintage’ on Etsy.

I very rarely make anything with buttons but my machine does do quite a nice neat buttonhole. I also sewed the buttons on with red thread.  I sewed the label on the back of the dress by hand because it moved around all over the place when I tried to machine sew it and I wasn’t happy with the finish.

I’d been given two tickets to Thread in Farnham (thank you Karen) for Saturday 30th and was determined to get this dress finished so I could wear it!  This meant finishing it at 6.30 that morning and I have tidied up a couple of things since then.  I may also go back and handsew the hem.

I have to say that I LOVED wearing this dress and had several compliments.  The lovely Jo from Sew Creative in Petersfield asked to take my photograph while Mr J-M engaged in a conversation with Steve about overlockers!  One of the nicest moments of the day was meeting up with fellow blogger Mumokio who recognised me and came and introduced herself.

I didn’t take any photos that day but Mr J-M spared 30 seconds at the weekend to take some photos – these are the only ones without a ridiculous grin which was the result of one of his appalling jokes designed to make me smile!  I’m wearing it with a RTW shirt in these pictures but I’ve also worn it with a long sleeve jersey top.

If you follow @bustersew on IG (or his blog Mensew) you will have read about his refashion.  He named his refashion Executive Dungarees –  – I’m hoping my dress can be included as an example of this genre!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great British Sewing Bee Live

I think I’m probably the only person who went to the Great British Sewing Bee Live, only took one photograph and didn’t buy a thing!  There was a good reason for this.  My lovely friend and co-sewing group organiser,  The Draper’s Daughter, had a stand at the show and I offered to be her assistant on the Friday.

Here’s Karen making sure everything is displayed perfectly.  She’s wearing a fabulous Camber/Inari dress hack she made up in one of her fabrics – which also features on the top shelf of the photo.

Karen had been on her own for the first day of the event which had been incredibly busy and she’d only manage to visit the loo thanks to the kindness of someone on another stand who also took her a cup of tea!  Friday was busy but not nearly as overwhelming.  The stand looked amazing.  The Merchant & Mills Top 64 pattern seemed to be the bestseller and I’m not surprised.  It’s a great pattern which I wrote about here and Karen had sewn a dress version for the sample rail which I’m definitely going to copy.

Talking of the sample rail … I offered to make up a pattern and went with the Merchant & Mills Trapeze Dress.  I love M & M patterns for their simplicity and style.  The Trapeze sewed up very quickly despite my decision to bind all the hems for extra neatness given that the whole world would be looking at it!  There are no darts or fastenings which makes life very easy.  The dress has three sleeve variations – sleeveless, short and long.  I went for the short sleeves.

I really like how the dress turned out but I’m not sure it’s ideal for someone as short as me (5′)!  The size 8 fitted perfectly at the top but I looked a bit overwhelmed in it.  I’ve seen some great versions out there and particularly like the short sleeve version styled with a long sleeve white shirt underneath.  Check out @sewingblue on IG for a good example.  If only I was a little bit taller!

I was planning to write a more detailed post about the Trapeze for Karen’s website but I’m not sure she’ll be too impressed by my lack of progress photographs.  I always forget to take them!

On the day I wore my new Cleo dress made up in one of Karen’s fabrics so I could be a good ambassador.  I’ll be writing about this one in a separate post dedicated to my new love of the dungaree dress.

Sadly I did NOT see Patrick in the flesh but I did spot Esme who was looking very stylish.  I caught up with lots of sewing friends – and met some IG friends IRL.  We also met sewing royalty in the form of Liesl Gibson of Liesl & Co and Oliver + S who visited the stand.

I really enjoyed spending the day with Karen but four days on the trot must have been so exhausting!  I see that the dates for 2018 have now been released, three days, 8 – 10 June.  Let’s hope that the huge crowds this year have shown the BBC that there’s a real passion for sewing in the UK and the Great British Sewing Bee will be back on our screens next year.

Desert Island Patterns #4

A change from garments this time round for my desert island sewing.  Back in 2015 the lovely Zoe from So Zo, …. What do you know? put a call out for pattern testers for her new bag pattern, the Anya.  I’ve always liked making bags and thought this would be a challenge I could manage – I’m not sure I’d have the nerve to test a garment pattern!

This was my test version …..

I’d had the fabric for ages and was never sure what to do with it  but I think it worked well for a bag.  I have a confession to make.  Before I made this bag I’d never sewn a buttonhole on my machine!  It was a lot easier than I’d imagined.  I never wear shirts/shirtdresses because I don’t like collars (another of my odd garment phobias!) so my buttonhole making has pretty much been limited to bag making – and a pair of children’s dungarees from a vintage pattern.

The Anya is an excellent pattern – it’s quick to make but covers a number of techniques in addition to the buttonhole including pleats, inserting a lining and top stitching.  Perfect for a beginner.   It’s a great way of using up leftover fabric and makes a really nice gift.  If I’m stranded on a desert island for an extended period I’ll be able to come back with a stock of ready made presents!  It’s also pretty spacious and one of these days I’ll add an internal pocket to make it easier to locate small things like keys.

Talking of gifts – next up are Anya bags I’ve made as gifts with a close up of a nice neat buttonhole.

And finally two more made for me.

The first one is made from a Lucienne Day design fabric, Calyx.  This was originally designed for John Lewis in the 1950s but was reprinted a few years ago and I was given several pieces by my sister. I have enough to make a dress too.   The bag was made for a tea party at The Pallant House Gallery in Chichester in January, held to launch a series of events to mark what would have been Lucienne’s 100th birthday this year.  The other bag is made in a beautiful mustard/gold denim from The Fabric Godmother with a vintage fabric lining.  I have a new piece of this to make a skirt for the winter.

I don’t mention the festive season by name at this time of year but if you do sew gifts this pattern is definitely worth considering!

 

Chi Stitch September

Apparently after our last meeting the vicar was on his hands and knees picking up pins so we were very careful to make sure we left no traces of ourselves after the September meeting of Chi Stitch!

There were fifteen of us last night and once again the hall was a hive of activity!  The buzz of conversation really is uplifting – I felt I wanted to record it!  I’m always amazed at how much gets done in spite of all the chatting and tea drinking and how organised some people are in preparing for the evening.

My preparation mostly consists of folding up the fabric neatly in the swap basket and checking through the swap patterns in case I missed something I might like left over from last time!  As a result I acquired this jersey skirt pattern.  It will probably be stored away until next summer but I love the striped version.

I added some fabric to the basket from my stash.  I really love it when other people decide it is just what they want and it heads off to a good home.

I also bake!  I forgot to take a picture of this month’s cake selection.  There were chocolate and pecan flapjacks, carrot muffins and salted caramel cookies.  We also provide a takeaway cake service!

Onto the sewing.  Here’s some photographs from the evening.

The swap baskets had ended up on the floor because we’d used up all the tables!  That embroidery was exquisite and I’ve acquired some of that striped fabric from @vintage_charity for another Cleo.  We just need to make sure we don’t wear our dresses at the same time!  She also gave me some jersey fabric for making t-shirts for Baby J and a piece of vintage curtain fabric which I shall use for a dress.  I think I came away with more than I’d donated!

I’d decided not to take my sewing machine this time and spent the evening pinning a pattern.   I’m helping Karen out on her stand at the GBSB Live on Thursday next week and I’ve volunteered to sew up one of her samples.  No pressure!  I’m making the Trapeze Dress in a Robert Kaufman Essex Linen.  I’m going for the short sleeves and I think it’s going to be lovely.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been making a special Cleo for the event and she’s now finished apart from securing the straps.  I just want to try it on once more to make sure I’ve got them at the right length.  I’ll be writing a separate post on this dress but here’s a picture in advance.

The next meeting of Chi Stitch will be on Wednesday 11 October at St George’s Church Hall, Cleveland Road, Chichester.

We’ll also be running a one day print workshop with Miesje Chafer on 28 October at the same venue.  Check out Miesje’s website here to see her work.  The day will give you a chance to design and print your own two-colour repeat design which I’m very excited about!

Places are limited to eight so if you are interested leave a comment below or DM me on IG – @janemakes – for more details.

Desert Island Patterns #3

Although I wear jeans (usually from a charity shop) at the weekend and at home I don’t make trousers and never wear them to work.   Not only am I short but I have VERY short legs and I think I look more in proportion when I wear skirts and dresses.

I have a number of favourite skirt patterns but my most used is probably the Annie A-Line Skirt pattern from Sew This Pattern and is #3 in my Desert Island Patterns list.  I don’t really have the patience for complicated pdfs but this one is very quick to assemble and has the added bonus of being FREE!  Thank you Annie.

The instructions are excellent with lots of clear photographs and this would be the perfect pattern for a beginner.   One of my main reasons for liking it – and using it so much – is that it’s a great vehicle for a bold fabric!  I also really like the bias bound finish on the waistband facing which gives a lovely neat edge.  Unless a waistband is wide I find skirts with facings far more comfortable if I’m sitting at my desk all day.

I’m not sure there’s much more I can say about this pattern as it’s such a simple one but it’s well worth a try if you’re looking for a straightforward and very useful A-Line Skirt pattern which doesn’t use much fabric.  It doesn’t require much sewing time either so it’s a great opportunity to focus on a neat finish.

Annie has some other lovely patterns to try.   The Daphne Day Dress would make a nice party frock.  I wasn’t keen on the open back version but she has now added a pattern extension to fill in the gap.

Here’s a selection of the A-line skirt versions I’ve made so far.  I usually add a lining, although the stripe is the reverse of a denim from Cloth Kits.  The yellow and blue floral was a length of African print fabric I bought from Tinsmiths.  These are worth looking at as they work out at around £5 a metre.  I shared mine with two other people as I really didn’t need 5 metres!  The rest of the fabrics are curtain remnants from C & H Fabrics.

I currently have one more Annie lined up to make with some fine needlecord but there will definitely be more.  It was going to have a yellow cotton lining but as it’s now going to be worn in the cooler weather I will line it with something more slippery so it doesn’t catch on my tights.  Talking of tights … I succumbed to wearing them yesterday and I’ll be heading over to Gypsy Tights soon to order a new supply.  This is not a sponsored post – I just think they have a great selection!  I’m very tempted by some of the colours – especially Fig, Cyclamen and Gunmetal.  I also want the Warm Mustard ones but last time I bought Mustard tights I felt they made my legs look a bit like they were recovering from a bad bruise!

Stay tuned for further Desert Island Patterns!