Friday 21 August 2015

Hollyburn 2: Dance Party!

My second Sewaholic Hollyburn: 

I made this out of the cotton lawn I bought on my last visit to Bristol. Halfway through making this skirt I started to worry whether I was using it for the wrong thing (should I have made a dress? More dresses needs to be a thing, right?), but looking at these photos I knew this was the right choice. This is light and comfortable and I can wear it for all sorts of occasions. 

In celebration of this, I would like to combine my four favourite things into one post. Presenting the beautiful amalgamation of writing, sewing, photography and dancing in the first ever Slapdash Dance Party!

(If you're joining in at home, pick a piece of music that's terribly cool and you can brag about to whoever might be passing. Definitely don't play this, which is definitely not what I was dancing to. Ahem.)

(What do cool people dance to, anyway? When I'm pretending to be cool I talk about blues dance, which I love very deeply, but I have a feeling that my soul is probably more Billy Joel As A Singing Dog and not so much Grizzly Voice Of The Delta.)

(I'm never in the photos at dance events, which may be why you're getting so many of these. Sorry.) 

(I can heartily recommend "Singing Along Face" as my tried and tested modelling technique. I promise I spared you the worst of it.)

Thanks for dancing! I'm afraid there will probably be more of it coming very soon. 

Tuesday 18 August 2015


In my continuing quest to find a replacement for Zombie Hoodie, I signed up to Sew Over It's kimono jacket class and made a pretty blue thing:

This project was quite straightforward. The class ran from 10am - 5pm, and I spent a good two hours of it finishing my sleeves, collar and hems by hand, because I'm swanky like that. It's the kind of thing I could have done on my own without a class, but I'm glad I went because now that I've done it, my fear of overlockers is gone. I've used them a few times before, but the voice in my head yelling "OH MY GOD there's a BLADE and it's KILLING my fabric it's going to EAT IT ALL" made them... somewhat intimidating. But the instructor was great, and now that I have a better understanding of how they work and how best to negotiate tricky bits, I'm not nearly so afraid of using one again. 

The fabric is a lightweight viscose that feels lovely, but as you might have spotted, wrinkles extremely easily. So it's not going to be the kind of thing I can ball up in a bag just in case, like Zombie Hoodie is. The search continues. 

It's great for spinning in, though. 

...and possibly it smells? I have no idea what I was going for here. 

Oh, hey, remember that "dancing like an idiot" thing?

Well, here's me doing the Charleston in an outfit that really doesn't go together (but all handmade!) to a medley of songs from Mary Poppins. 

You're welcome. 

Sunday 16 August 2015

hold me closer, tiny jumper


This is my first attempt at making something from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. I knew this was going to be the first thing I attempted because "cropped jumper" was near the top of my list of actual useful things I could make, and had I not bought the book I was planning to buy a stand-alone pattern for one.

This fabric is a £2.99 remnant I got during one of my bargain bin sprees. It's pretty, but it's also pretty thin. Given that this pattern is intended to be really tight and stretchy, it gets a bit indecent around the boob area. So I consider this to be my sort-of-wearable toile.

All the patterns in Gertie's book are printed and stored in an envelope at the back. The patterns are double-sided and sometimes have smaller pieces printed inside larger ones, so it requires tracing. Which I think is fine, given that most of the book is dedicated to ways to take one pattern and vary it in different ways so that you can get several looks from one pattern. Somehow she turns a wrap dress pattern into a one-shoulder playsuit, and I still don't understand how but I think I'm going to have to try it, and then invent an occasion to wear a one-shoulder playsuit.

This one is a three-piece pattern with bands at the armholes and hemline. I've never done the banding thing before and these ones are functional if not particularly well inserted (I did not like working with this fabric and so was a bit sloppy about it). For future attempts at this I'll probably crop it a little bit further to fit better with the things I plan to wear it with. And also make it out of something less see-through. Ahem.

My flatmates left me in the studio alone with a camera and access to Youtube, so you'll be noticing a "dancing round like an idiot" theme in upcoming posts. Like this:

...except worse. 

Friday 14 August 2015


(I considered calling this "Burn, Hollyburn" because terrible song puns, but since that doesn't actually make any sense I opted against it. Yes, I still remember "Sawrap Dressica Parker". What's your point?)

I wouldn't ordinarily have considered buying the Sewaholic Hollyburn pattern, because it just looks like a bog standard skirt with a shape that could easily be unflattering on me. I would have given it a resounding "meh" and carried on. But in the last week or so I've started lurking around some personal sewing blogs, and people really seem to love this one. Like, really love it. So having very recently written a post about how I was going to make things I'd actually wear, and given how few skirts my wardrobe contains because I hate every skirt that's been sold on the high street in the past six years for some reason, I decided to take a chance on it.

And it's awesome! Isn't it awesome?

This fabric is a cotton drill from my stash. I bought four metres of it ages ago intending to make a dress. When I got it home I realised that a) it was the wrong type of material for a dress, and b) the dress in question actually needed five metres. Five metres? Screw that. I put both pattern and fabric aside and more or less forgot about them until my Hollyburn envelope arrived.

This pattern is amazing. The shape of the skirt is great, the pockets are great, and it was easy to understand and sew up. My only slight problem came when I put in a zip two inches shorter than the one called for, didn't realise, and ended up with no zip in the waistband. But I redid it and all was well. Incidentally, the pattern's directions for inserting a zip are WAY easier than the method I was using and I now feel about eight times more confident in my zip insertion (hence the not crying even a little bit when I had to unpick it).

It's a super useful skirt and I know I'm going to get a lot of wear out of it. I can even dance in it (hence the Hallelujah-ing above. Never trust a skirt you can't Hallelujah in). I'll definitely be making more - I'm interested to see what it looks like in a fabric with more drape and I want to make a black one since I somehow do not own a black skirt. I also have loads of this fabric left, so you'll be seeing it again too, once I find the right pattern to pair it with.

This is my pleased face. 

Wednesday 12 August 2015

wrapper's delight

(I'm sorry. I promise that not every post is going to have a pun in the title. But this won't be the last, either.)

See this?

This right here is what I wanted. To have a dress in my head and then make it into a real live thing that I could wear.

I bought this material a little while ago, some time before I learned how to work with jersey. I know it looks it should have a pensive wolf in front of it and be on a new age T-shirt and worn by that slightly odd beardy guy who used to turn up to house parties and was perfectly pleasant but nobody was ever quite sure whose friend he was or what he was doing there, but I had to buy it.

ME: [touches fabric] Ooh, that's soft.
TEEN GOTH JEN: [pops up suddenly] WE'RE HAVING THAT.
ME: But it's jersey.
TEEN GOTH JEN: Don't care.
ME: It'll just sit in the cupboard.
TEEN GOTH JEN: It has TREE BRANCHES and THE BEST COLOURS and I don't know why you think you can fight me on this.
ME: But...

So I bought three metres of the ridiculous stuff and Teen Goth Jen went back to sleep again. I knew immediately that it was going to be a wrap dress because a) I wanted a wrap dress and b) it seemed like a good way to de-Gothify it a bit. After making the dress once I decided I was confident enough to cut into this material, so my rotary cutter and I got to work. Based on my last experience, I added 6cm (I think) to the hem.

Mostly it came together really quickly, though this fabric really, really didn't want to be machine hemmed. I gave up after half a dozen tries and hand-hemmed the rest of it, so it's currently a bit of both. At some point I will get round to unpicking the machine stitching, but I'm terrified of making holes in the jersey. A project for a less anxious day, I think.

(This is definitely me being pleased and not me getting a bit too into singing along with the music in the studio. Honest.)

Incidentally, the reason I'm suddenly in a studio is that I got offered some free studio time and I took it, because of course I did. This was my first ever attempt at studio photography and studio lighting, and the reason everything looks a bit unfinished is that I couldn't be bothered to fight with my dying laptop long enough to Photoshop it properly. Slapdash!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, an outtake, where we definitely weren't dancing around to Taylor Swift or anything.

See? Definitely not. 

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Sawrap Dressica Parker

(I'm SO sorry, I couldn't help myself. I'm not even sure this one works written down. But now that I've thought of it I can't name it anything else, so we're all just going to have to put up with it.)

Behold my first ever wrap dress:


You may have noticed, if you were paying attention, that this is not the dress I posted last week. Why? Because that was the second one. I got overexcited and made two in two days.

When I was first looking into learning to sew, I spent hours on the Sew Over It website looking at their wrap dress class and sighing wistfully. That dress was my goal, my motivation to start sewing, and it existed inside my head for the best part of a year. Once I was secure enough in my sewing skills to consider trying jersey, I waited for them to release a class date. They did... in September. Following my none-too-eventful cowl neck top experiments, I got confident/optimistic/impatient enough to just buy the pattern and do it myself.

This was EASY. All those people going round the internet talking about how knits are difficult and scary are bastard liars. I had this sewn up in a few hours, with only a couple of instances of my machine trying to eat my sleeve hems.

This is the jersey I picked up in Bristol for the purpose of Wrap Dress the First, on the basis that it wasn't particularly stretchy and would be less difficult to work with. It was not the best choice of fabric, because it's also super thin and a bit scratchy from all that silver stuff. I need to wear it with a top and shorts underneath otherwise it just irritates me too much.

As I said, this was a really easy pattern to sew, with five pieces and very clear instructions. It is pretty low cut, so I'm not really comfortable wearing it outside without a vest top underneath. It's also super short on me. I haven't hemmed this (and I don't need to! Yay jersey!) because I really don't want it to get any shorter.


This length is just about wearable (sort of), but I've made a note on my pattern to add a bit of length in the future. Also I can't get the facing to stay on the inside. Other than that, it's a great pattern - comfortable, flattering and not over-complicated. I started making another one about twelve hours later, as you will shortly see...

Saturday 8 August 2015

it bears repeating

I told you you'd be seeing it again. 

Butterick #4443, version three. 

This is a medium weight green cotton I got from Classic Textiles. It's really not this colour at all - it's a very rich emerald green - but for some reason my camera refuses to record that. 

It's lined with this black and red swirly polycotton that I got at a shop on Holloway Road, whose name I can't remember for the life of me. 

I didn't think this was going to be any good, because it's a stress dress that I started making to get my mind off a potential catastrophe I was worried about. The first time I tried to put in the zip, my machine started skipping stitches. With uncharacteristic sensibleness, I put the whole thing aside for a couple of weeks, did a couple of other projects, and came back to it. I considered trying to make it without a zip again, but then decided I'd rather be able to cinch it in a bit more at the waist (more waist definition! Always MORE!).

In terms of construction, this is definitely my best attempt, though it's still not perfect (or even that good, but I like it). The shoulders are sewn properly, the zip is inserted, and I hemmed the whole thing by hand for no real reason except that I wasn't feeling great and wanted to finish the dress while lying down and watching Orange Is The New Black. 

And then I wanted to put it on and pose whimsically, because why not?

I'm taking a break from this pattern for a while, but I wouldn't rule out seeing it again in the future. I have a strange desire to make one in every jewel colour I can get my hands on. Jewel colours and waist definition, you may notice, will become something of a theme at this here blog. I know what I like.

Friday 7 August 2015

August patterns

I bought four patterns for August. The wrap dress from Sew Over It, the Hollyburn skirt and Cordova jacket from Sewaholic, and the Holly jumpsuit from By Hand London (which I'm now not sure I'll actually make, but oh well). I ordered the last three from, which I highly recommend - I ordered the patterns on Monday, and they turned up the next morning with a free packet of buttons and a hand-signed compliments slip. Awesome.

Ages ago I booked onto Sew Over It's kimono jacket-making class for this month as part of my continuing quest to replace my zombie hoodie, and a few days ago my rather fabulous mother offered to buy me their Ultimate Trousers class as well (I have trouser-fitting fear, and I'm hoping this will help), so I have both of those to make this month as well.

...aaaaand then I had a really bad day, which I won't go into, but I found myself in a Waterstones's and bought a copy of Gertie Sews Vintage Casual to cheer myself up. I had been looking at it online and considering buying it, so it wasn't entirely an impulse buy, but at the same time it is possible that I'm not going to need quite this many patterns in one month. Oops.

SENSIBLE JEN: It's fine, we just won't get any patterns next month.
REGULAR JEN: What? That's not fair! I want more patterns!


Thursday 6 August 2015

actual usefulness

This is version two of my wrap top: 

I made this from a lightweight navy crepe I got for £2.99 in the remnant bin at Rolls and Rems. I bought the remnant long before I signed up to the class and at the time I had no idea what I was going to do with it. I'm very glad that remnant and pattern found each other. 

I'm wearing it with my favourite Joy dress here (dresses with pockets! Why don't all dresses have pockets??)

This is the most useful thing I've made so far. It works really well as a cover-up over dresses, and it gives me hope that I'm headed towards being able to throw out my cropped black hoodie, which is nearly twenty years old and literally falling to pieces. 


Check out those cuffs. This top doesn't serve all the same purposes as the hoodie, but if I carry on this way, I should be able to make a couple more things that cover all the bases and then I can put this poor undead thing to rest, finally.

Here it is with jeans. I don't really intend to wear it like this very much, but it's nice to know it's an option. 


Wednesday 5 August 2015


A few days ago I started thinking about what additions to my pattern and fabric stashes I'd be making once pay day hit. I found a couple of sites which sell patterns from small indie companies and within about half an hour I'd amassed a wish list of well over 20 patterns. It's probably fortunate that it was so many, because if it had been ten or so I'd probably have just bought them all and then got massively overwhelmed when they all showed up on my doorstep. As it was, my sensible side was forced to come out of hiding.

SENSIBLE JEN: This is ridiculous. You may buy four patterns, maximum.
REGULAR JEN: Four? How am I meant to pick four? Look how pretty everything is!
SENSIBLE JEN: What do you actually need in your wardrobe? What will you actually wear?
REGULAR JEN: ...need? ...actually wear?
REGULAR JEN: I... hadn't actually thought about that.
SENSIBLE JEN: In that case, you can't buy anything until you've thought it through properly.
SENSIBLE JEN: See, you stayed up too late and now you're getting all cranky.
REGULAR JEN: I'm fine! What do you know, anyway?

(...yeah, sometimes it's a little bit like I'm babysitting myself)

So I thought, and looked at all the patterns again, and read some blogs, and flailed around a bit. I thought about the things I've already made and how little I wear most of them, I thought about my wardrobe, I thought about my fabric stash. Pay day came, and all I knew was that I was definitely getting the wrap dress pattern I've been thinking about since before I learned how to thread a sewing machine. I bought that, and I made a dress. This will have its own post so I don't want to go into too much detail now, but the next day I made another dress, with fabric I bought a month ago specifically for wrap dress purposes. I was SO PLEASED with myself. Pleased enough that it gave me a tiny epiphany: maybe don't buy things if you don't know what you're going to do with them.

I went back to the patterns and came away with three ideas: a black brocade jacket with electric blue lining, a heavy burnt orange autumn skirt, and a pair of high-waisted olive green trousers. Those were the patterns I allowed myself to order. I don't actually have any of these fabrics, but I do have a dark green that ought to make a nice skirt and a super soft grey that I've been hoarding for months as trouser material. So I'll make those too, because I can. This is the month I learn to make trousers (erk), and, hopefully, make stuff I can actually wear on a day to day basis. Looking forward to it, August. Please be nice to me.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Wrap up

I went to a class at Sew Over It and made this:

This is a wrap blouse made of a printed cotton lawn I bought at Classic Textiles.

I found this - dare I say - fairly easy. I certainly finished before anyone else, though I'm sure the others were being a lot less haphazard than me. Especially on the overlocker. The overlocker was scary and I just wanted to get done and get away from it.

The problem with this top is that I can't really wear it. Because it's so high-waisted, it looks strange with all the trousers I own and gives me massive disproportionate hips (which I do have, but I'm not really looking to emphasise that, you know?). If I'd realised that I'd be wanting to use it more as a cardigan-type thing to wear with dresses, I'd have tried to find a different fabric - this colour is surprisingly awkward and goes with absolutely nothing else that I own. But there is a whole world of sewing ahead of me, and one day I will find and make a proper companion for Weird Pink-Orange Rose Top.

Your time will come, Weird Rose Top. It will come. 

Monday 3 August 2015

Interim wraport

(I'm sorry. That is an awful, awful pun.)

Proper photos of this will come next week, but for now I am VERY EXCITED and wanted to share a terrible phone photo of my Actual Wrap Dress What I Made Myself:

Look at that. Look at it! I made that! It's like I'm someone who can actually make dresses or something! 

totally tropical

Butterick #4443, attempt the second:

I made this version out of a much lighter, slightly stretchy cotton and lined it with the same fabric. I sized down this time.

I thought I wasn't going to get to this point, because I fucked up the zip to quite an impressive level. Once I started to unpick my basting stitches, I realised that the teeth weren't lining up with the seam properly, bits of lining were somehow showing on the outside of the dress, and the zip pull was sticking about a third of the way down. I sighed, grumbled and cursed at it, then shoved the basted-shut dress over my head to see if I was going to need to do much alteration. It fitted. There was enough stretch in the fabric for it to get over my head and sit on me quite comfortably. So I took the dress off, unpicked the zip and just sewed the back seam shut over my basting. 

This is the version of this dress that I've been wearing most. It's really easy and comfortable, and it doesn't feel too formal for daywear. I even wore it to a tropically-themed party at a dance exchange.

Pictured: a reconstruction.

The organisers gave me the yellow lei as a gift. The multicoloured one I found on a pub table at 2am after an unexpected Thursday night's drinking, and kept it in my wardrobe for over a year for an occasion just like this. 

It was a nice pub. I doubt the lei is infectious. 

That's alright, then.