Double Denim

Happy New Year!  I can’t believe I’m back at work and Christmas is all over and done with.  I’ve already written about the lovely #stitchingsanta gifts I received and on the sewing front I was also lucky enough to be given :

  • A one day overlocker course at The Fabric Godmother – I know this is the only way I am ever going to make the best use of mine.
  • A walking foot for my sewing machine.
  • A bumper box of assorted pins from Merchant & Mills
  • Lotte Jansdotter’s book, Everyday Style, which I’d heard about from Su over at butterflies and lemon drops.  The book comes with a set of paper patterns and the Esme dress will almost certainly be the first one I try.
  • A post-Christmas present from Gill over at vintagerockchick who sent me a lovely handmade zipped bag, needle case and brooch as a thank you for winning my book giveaway!


I’ve done almost no sewing over the Christmas break apart from a less than successful top from some rather extravagant silk jersey which I will gloss over for the time being.

Two rather more successful makes were completed in the nick of time to wear on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  I was hemming both of them on Christmas morning!

First up is a third version of the Colette Laurel Dress in a lovely purple stretch denim which I bought from Ditto Fabrics when the Sew Bees visited Brighton on their inaugural meet up.  I washed the fabric twice before I used it (as advised) but I don’t think there was any shrinkage – although the colour does run.  This is quite a ‘springy’ and dense fabric and I found it slightly tricky to get a good finish on the points of the darts.  I unpicked one of the bust darts several times before I decided enough was enough!  The fabric didn’t like being unpicked and I ended up with a couple of white marks on the surface.  In the spirit of Karen’s recent post I am not going to Ablogogise about any shortcomings in my handmade clothes, at least during January, but she does say that it is OK to

share less than glowing details if they will help a reader with a construction, pattern or salutary lesson

I know at least two other people who read this blog bought the same fabric it was acceptable to mention that unpicking is better avoided or at least undertaken with more caution than I exercised!  Thankfully the minor problem was largely resolved when I washed the finished dress because the colour was still running slightly which helped blend in the tiny white marks.

I hadn’t planned to add the cuffs to this version but rather to cut the sleeves slightly longer as I’m not that keen on where the length sits on my arm.  Unfortunately I forgot all about this at the cutting out stage so then had to go with the cuffs.  I did find it quite difficult to pull the gathering threads in the sleeve head and the cuff.  I think they may have become emeshed in whatever provides the stretch in the fabric?  The result was rather uneven gathering on the cuffs but I decided against making a second attempt – I was running out of time and they are perfectly acceptable.

Despite these two issues I really love the fabric and it is a fabulous colour which is hard to appreciate from my photo of the finished dress.  Here it is before it was made up.


In the end I think the cuffs add a dressier look which was just right for Christmas Day.  This is a REALLY comfortable dress to wear and the fabric feels lovely on, very soft and flexible, and it doesn’t crease.  I could have got away with a smaller size (which I did for my silk party version) but I wanted something suitable for lounging around in (and eating!).  I’ve already worn it three times so this Laurel is definitely a winner.


The Boxing Day outfit was a second Brumby Skirt made from a mustard denim purchased at The Fabric Godmother’s open day.  I made the first one for Karen’s Made Up Initiative and whilst I loved the shape the fabric I used was just a bit too stiff and I felt like I was wearing a cardboard skirt!

I started the latest version some while ago but due to another cutting out error it had been abandoned until I could face putting it right.  I failed to decipher the notes I had made on my traced out pattern to remind me that I needed to extend the waistband slightly whilst keeping the rest of the skirt the original size – which is what I’d done the first time round!

Before discovering this I had come up with two pretty good (but almost certainly not original) ideas.

  • I’m not great at topstitching and this skirt has two lines of it right down the front.  I used two strips of masking tape to mark the stitching line and off I went, ending up with two pretty perfect lines of topstitching.
  • If you are using denim or other thicker fabric the pattern instructions recommend using fine cord which you zig zag to the fabric and then pull to create the gathers at the waistline.  This worked well with my previous Brumby but I discovered I had no cord to hand.  You need something fairly strong which will not snap so I decided to try dental floss!  It worked a treat and made it really easy to pull the gathers along.

These are not great photos but they give the general idea.  You can see that my presser foot is still stained pink from its recent encounter with some boiled wool!

The waistband went on beautifully the first time round, I pulled out the dental floss (which came out much more easily than cord) and I went to pin the skirt on Doris to see how it was shaping up.  I thought she’d put on weight but it was at this point I realised I’d cut the waistband too short.  Things went a bit downhill after this.  Unpicking, trimming, re-gathering, re-attaching the waistband, taking it off again because it didn’t look right, sewing it on again.  I think all this comes under the salutary lesson referred to above and I would also add that I will use a more substantial interfacing in the waistband if I make this skirt again because it doesn’t stand up well to a day’s wear – unlike the cardboard version which remains completely rigid regardless!

What I love most about this skirt is the pockets which are just fabulous!  I think it is essential to follow the suggestion to stitch a short way along the pocket edge by the seam to reinforce it, especially if you have a tendency to shove your hands in pockets like I do.

Here’s the finished article and it is another really comfortable wear with plenty of room for festive eating.  This photo is actually from the second wearing for a trip to London on Saturday.


I think it goes very nicely with my fox brooch from Tatty Devine.  The top I’m wearing with the Brumby is this one on which I spent hours getting the curved hem band right and then never wore because it was too long and didn’t really work for me.  I took the bull by the horns, chopped off all that hard work, re-hemmed it (without the band) and now it is just right.


I read recently about a blogger’s husband who spends up to 40 minutes taking lovely photographs for her.  Ha! This doesn’t happen chez JaneMakes I’m afraid which is why my photographs are taken in front of the mirror with my phone!  I definitely need to up my game somewhat and to that end I’ve ordered a tripod and remote control thingy to experiment with.

Apart from this I’ve not really made any specific sewing resolutions or plans as I’m not that good at sticking to them and once you’ve gone into print there is more of an expectation to achieve!  However, I am determined to continue with limiting/avoiding the purchase of new RTW clothing and, as a result of the cutting out errors documented above, I am going to try and take a more focused approach to my projects!  To assist with this I have a late Christmas present heading my way, the Maker’s Workbook from The Swedish Tracing Paper Shop.


I’ve just bought the Grainline Moss Skirt pattern and the new Colette Phoebe from Guthrie & Ghani so hopefully one or both of these will be appearing here soon.  The fly zip insertion in the Moss will be a first for me so I hope I can master that!


A Party Laurel

Some while ago I went to a fabric sale in Petworth run by the Cotton Wool Store.  I seem to remember I was trying to be restrained that day because I’d had a bit of a fabric spending spree a few days before but I couldn’t resist buying a couple of metres of this fabric with absolutely no clear idea of what I was going to make with it.

It is silk with a design which looks like it it’s been painted on with gold paint!   The fabric is very stiff – imagine a sheet of thick paper that’s been left out in the rain and then dried in the sun!  Possibly a bit of an exaggeration but it certainly doesn’t drape!

The fabric sat on the shelf until I decided to make a small zipped purse for a present, and then a second one.  Why I decided to cut these out from different ends of the length of fabric I have no idea and it was an action I came to regret!


I was then in need of a party frock and having made a casual version of the Colette Laurel which I absolutely love I began to think this pattern might just work with this fabric.  I stuck it in the washing machine on a cool wash and kept my fingers crossed.  It came through pretty much unscathed.  There are a couple of areas where the gold pattern is slightly faded but it may have been like that before the wash.

Laurel Dress

This time I went with Version 2 which is underlined.  I decided this was essential to stop the fabric being scratchy against my skin.  My intention had been to make the dress without buying anything new except a zip.  The only lining I had in a sufficiently large piece was a silvery grey which wasn’t ideal but I decided to go with it.  I cut everything out one evening and learned a salutary lesson about working in poor light.  When I looked at the lining pieces the next morning there was a long tear in one of the back pieces which I’d not noticed before.  In a way I’m glad because it forced me to buy some more lining in a dark red and the end result was so much better.

I cut the size 4 for this version of the dress not just because I wanted a more streamlined fit than my chambray version but also because I had no option because of the daft way I’d cut out the two zipped purse pieces previously!  Even cutting the smaller size was a bit of a squeeze!

I’ve never underlined anything before but I was really pleased with how it turned out.  The Colette instructions are excellent and the finish is lovely.  Although the silk doesn’t fray at all I was concerned about the lining so I stitched all the seams edges together with a narrow zig zag to prevent fraying and also to try and smooth off the sharp edges of the main fabric.

I had some wide black bias binding which I initially used to finish the sleeve hem.


However, when I tried the dress on at this stage on the sleeves just looked out of balance with the rest of the dress.  I’d been looking at lots of other Laurel’s online including Vintage Rock Chick’s whose tartan version can be seen in this post.  Gill’s version has the 60s style gathered cuffs and I decided these would probably work better.  I had just enough fabric, although I had to cut the cuffs in the opposite direction to the rest of the fabric. Off came the bias binding and on went the cuffs.  These were so easy to do and were a definite improvement.

Next step was the concealed zip.  I was worried that this would be tricky given that there were two layers of fabric to deal with, crispy silk and smooth lining, but it went in beautifully.  I’m not keen on hooks and eyes so I always try to ensure that my zip comes right to the top.

No pattern matching – insufficient fabric and given the busy pattern I don’t think it’s too much of a problem.

Everything was going so well and I knew I had the Friday evening to finish it off.  Luckily I decided to sew the neck binding on before I left for work because as I started sewing the machine just ground to a juddering halt!   I took it apart, cleaned some fluff out and put it back together again.  I repeated this step several times over the next half an hour to no avail, swore a lot and then took it to work to see if one of my colleagues, who is a very practical chap, might be able to fix it.  No luck.  I then rang the lovely Kay from Clothkits in Chichester to see if she might be able to hire me one of her machines over the weekend and she said ‘yes’.  I dropped mine in to her for collection by the sewing machine doctor and took away one of the machines they use for their excellent classes.  Thankfully the machines are exactly the same model as mine so no delay while I worked out how to operate it.  Weirdly when I rang them today it seems my machine has made a miraculous recovery all by itself so I’m going to pick it up tomorrow!

The neck binding was sewn on as soon as I got home but as I was hand stitching the edge of the binding to the lining I realised that where the outside of the fabric was rubbing against my leg as I sewed it was leaving scuff marks on my tights!  This did not bode well for an evening of standing around in a dress where the inside of the hem was going to shred my tights.  Another last minute problem which was quickly solved …. I found a wide piece of ribbon long enough to cover the inside of the turned up hem.  At this point it was 10.00 pm and there was going to be no time on Saturday for any sewing so I’m afraid I resorted to sewing the ribbon on with the machine instead of hand sewing it.  Not ideal but by this time I just wanted it finished.  The white stitching on the picture below is not the machine stitching!  I think the ribbon came from some fancy packaging and I tend to save anything like this that might come in useful.

Hem Protection

Traumas aside, I think this dress has turned out pretty well!  I was worried that it would be difficult to sit down in and that the fabric might be uncomfortable but I was wrong.  I love it and will definitely be wearing it again over the party season.

These photographs were actually taken post party.  I am usually very camera shy but I was the other side of a few gin and tonics so somewhat less inhibited!  I think the dress stood up pretty well and it only needed a very quick press before I hung it up to put it away.

This definitely won’t be the last Laurel I make.  It is a great pattern!


Thoughts on a Laurel Dress

Some while ago I saw the Laurel Dress by Colette Patterns made up in chambray in The Eternal Maker and decided it was exactly what I needed.  I already had the fabric – bought to make a jacket, then transferred to the possible pile for a Brumby Skirt but still sitting on the shelf.  I chose Version 2 with pockets (always pockets for me if there’s the option!).

Laurel Dress

My intention was make the dress to take away on holiday but I ran out of time and left for the Cotswolds with it looking like this.  I knew I was being too ambitious (I only started it the day before we left and I still had washing/ironing/packing to do).


At this point I was most concerned that the armscyes seemed worryingly small and that there was an annoying crease down the centre front which was already there when I bought the fabric.  I’d hoped it might wash/press out but of course it hasn’t.

I was also concerned that, despite of the small arm holes, I had cut the dress too large even though I measured myself properly (I hate doing that!) and picked the corresponding size.  I decided to carry on regardless.  I think this must be a hangover from my childhood when I was always told that I would grow into things – but I never did!  I remember heading off for my first day at secondary school wearing a gaberdine raincoat which nearly reached the ground.  It still did at the end of the fifth form and I was also wearing the same blazer.  The only reason I got replacement skirts/shirts/jumpers was because they wore out and I’m pretty sure I had the same hockey/netball culottes right the way through – although that was probably partly because I did everything I could to avoid wearing them.  Whoever thought culottes made from something resembling hessian were a good idea for running up and down a hockey pitch in the freezing cold?

Back to the Laurel.  I know from reading other people’s experiences that inserting the sleeves can be a bit of an issue but I didn’t find this too much of a problem, although there was a moment when I thought perhaps I was putting them in back to front – my notch cutting was rather poorly executed!  I was very lazy and only used one row of gathering stitches on the second sleeve (instead of the recommended three) and that one was a bit more tricky so I should have done as I was told.  There is no noticeable puckering which I’m pleased about and once the sleeves were in I realised the fit round the arms was more than generous so I’d worried unnecessarily.

I followed the sewing tip in the instructions to use a cardboard template for the patch pockets and this made all the difference.  I’d already read about this method on Linda’s blog, Remake, Remodel, Recycle, so I knew it was the right thing to do because everything she does turns out so well!

Onto the neck and sleeve binding.   I didn’t have enough fabric to make my own bias binding and I don’t like the stiff feel of most ready-made bindings.  I decided to splash out on this lovely Liberty version from Clothkits but once I started to sew it in I decided that perhaps it wasn’t the look I wanted and maybe I should just turn it inside.  Having looked online this seems to be what some other sewers have done.   Since then the binding has been in and out like the proverbial fiddler’s elbow with the final decision being IN.  On reflection I think a more robust binding would have worked better with the chambray and I would prefer the neckline a bit higher which would be achieved with the binding on show.  I think the faffing about has also stretched the neckline slightly which hasn’t helped.

I’d never done double darts before but the ones in the back worked perfectly first time and give a lovely shape.  I was a bit nervous about snipping the centre of this dart because the fabric does fray quite easily.  I had a bottle of Fray Check which I’d never used so decided to give this a try.  My first attempt to snip the end of the nozzle off was unsuccessful, the second resulted in a opening that was far too large and consequently a bit of a mess on the fabric.  Thankfully it all dried out OK and although the fabric does feel a bit crispy in that area it will probably improve with washing.

I really like the length of the sleeves, although they could be lengthened for a more wintery version and, although I say it myself, the concealed zip insertion was almost perfect.  Well, the best I’ve even done anyway and it was a long zip with more margin for error!

The fabric looks different colours in these pictures – they were taken in different lights.   The actual colour is somewhere between the two.  The thread in the photo is Gutermann’s jeans thread using ‘bi-colour optics’ whatever they might be.  It really does blend in well so I decided to stitch the hem by machine to save time.  I should have ironed the dress before putting it on Doris – and I’m not sure it is really her style!

When I tried the dress on before pinning up the hem it did feel slightly frumpy so I decided to take it up quite substantially.   I’m wearing it to work today – it works with a scarf and a cardigan – two important requirements for me as my office has a 1960s heating system which is somewhat variable.  I’d forgotten how much I like wearing dresses – so much quicker to get ready in the morning!  I’m also wearing some fancy cable knit tights which you can’t really see in the photograph.  I bought them in an independent department store in Malvern called Brays while I was away.  This is a proper old-fashioned shop where they still write out receipts on a machine with a pull down handle and all the lingerie is stored in those gorgeous glass fronted units.

I wrote this post before coming to work.  It is now lunchtime and after a morning’s wear I’m even happier.  The dress is so comfortable I’m not sure I will go down to the next size!  I will just make a slight adjustment to the shoulder which is marginally too wide and I’ll sort out the neckline so it is more fitted.  Apart from the official pattern variations I can see lots of potential for personalising this dress – changes to the pocket, embellishment etc. so I’m very glad to have tried it.  I’m wondering if it might just work as a party frock with this fabric – a printed silk which I got for £4 a metre.  I’ve already used a corner of it for a couple of zipped purses but there’s plenty left.