Interrupting the Norway series for a big announcement: I sewed a dress. No, really. Sat down, got out my pattern box and paper, drafted, cut and sewed all in one weekend. This hasn’t happened for about…6 months? Way too long a time to be away from the sewing machine!
(Here’s a tip:don’t bend one knee while being photographed straight on. It’ll make it look as if you had two different length legs…)
I’m still hopelessly into 1920’s drop-waist fashion. The Great Gatsby hasn’t helped in getting me out of it. Also I’ve been admiring the lovely shift dresses from Ruche but then the real inspiration for this dress came from Zara’s red drape dress. So beautiful (if only it weren’t in polyester!).
Then Lauren posted a series of gorgeous Scout Tee’s and that got me going. I pulled out the Scout pattern and got to work making it into a dress and adding some drape detail.
My cat helped with the cutting (not). Um, yes, I use CD’s as pattern weights. Beatles and Gianna Nannini rock.
The fabric is a lovely flowy rayon. I had two rayons in my stash and I love how fluid and silky they are. And such a pleasure to sew. While my last sewing attempts in winter had me frustrated, this little dress came together so effortlessly and easily.
I’ll be the first to admit it doesn’t look like much on a hanger. You can’t really see the shape and the drape detail.
I love how it looks worn though! It’s just what I envisioned, though the drapey part is a lot less pronounced than in the original.
I have very few florals but this versatile little dress will be a great addition to my wardrobe. It will be perfect both for cooler summer days as well as spring and fall with tights and a cardi.
When I was visiting my grandmother recently she asked did I want to have her sewing basket? Since I already have her sewing machine (my lovely, lovely treadle) she didn’t need it anymore and of course I said yes!
Isn’t it beautiful? It’s old of course and the wood looks a little tired and the veneer is chipped in places but I think it’s so pretty!
Inside, it was a real mess, obviously this is the collection from decades of sewing:
So I went to work and a full 1.5 hours later everything was sorted and my own sewing stuff was mixed in with my grandmother’s treasures. Among her things were vintage belt buckles, tags monogrammed with my late grandfather’s initials, old wooden spools of thread and hundreds of colorful buttons.
The case has two drawers of which one is broken. I’m hoping the boyfriend will be able to fix it. I’m also planning on giving the whole thing a wood treatment (this has worked wonders on two thrift store chairs I have). Maybe I’ll also spruce it up a little (I’m considering a blatant copy of this stunning make-over).
What do you think?
To start off I need to get a bit sentimental about camera bags for you:
I’ve had my camera bag for nearly 10 years. It’s a hand-me-down LowePro shoulder bag that has traveled with me all over the world. It has seen beaches and forests and ranches, from scorching hot summers to freezing cold winters. It’s not pretty anymore but still sturdy. It’s held all sorts of cameras, from high-end DSLRs to vintage cameras to a plastic Holga. Naturally I feel quite attached to it but as I have accumulated heavier camera gear and have gotten a few years older it became apparent recently that my beloved shoulder bag and I weren’t the best fit anymore.
I’m a small person and the strain on neck, shoulders and back from lugging around all that heavy equipment for hours on just one shoulder is getting too much. So I decided to get a backpack for my gear to distribute the weight more evenly. I’m not fond of the average camera backpack though. I even have one (another hand-me-down) but with camera backpacks you always have to take them off and place them flat on the ground to take anything out. I wanted a normal backpack that I can swing over my shoulder and grab something out of quickly when I need another lens etc. and one that I could take on day trips when we go hiking.
I found the ideal candidate in a hiking store: A small daypack with a thickly padded back to make it easier on the shoulders and it was on sale for 30€. The material is quite thin though and I can’t just throw my camera things in there. I needed a padded insert so I looked around for things I could use. I found a rigid foam mat and some leftover footstep sound insulation from back when we moved and installed the laminate flooring. So I grabbed some fabric and went to work from there.
I traced the contours of the backpacks’s bottom onto the foam mat and made a fabric cover. Then I measured the circumference of that piece and made a long strip of fabric covered insulation to go around it. Sewn together by hand and voilà – a padded insert that fits my backpack perfectly!
I also made another piece of fabric covered insulation to act as a separation piece for the lenses etc.
Sewing wise a complete hack job but quick, practical and functional and I’m using it all the time. And let me tell you… that little backpack feels heavenly on my neck and shoulders!
For a few much, much better tutorials check out this, this and this site.
this spring and sunshine. So, so much!
Maybe it was the long winter and cold this year, but I’m still soaking up every ray of sunshine I can get and watching my balcony and the world around me come to life feels invigorating.
Hello, italian mint!
The ponies are happy too, finally it’s time for freedom and green grass again after spending winter in their stalls.
Love these little flowers! My mom gave me a few from her garden last year but they never bloomed. I kept them all the same and this year they’re blooming in lovely colours from pale rosey to bright orange to lush dark red!
And finally, I’m feeling creative again after a late winter lurch and look forward to getting back to my sewing machine soon. The dress above is from Zara, it was so gorgeous I had to have it even though it’s polyester. Oh, all the Downton Abbey inspired prettiness of Zara’s spring collection! I love how TV inspires fashion. I spent all weekend trying to wrap my head around how it is made so I can make my own copy in a cotton silk or even (imagine!) some luxurious washed silk.
My 8/52 photo, a sweet but totally crazy dog at our barn.
As you can see, still very much winter over here, snowy and grey. Frozen pipes at the barn.
I am so ready for spring, and sunshine, and color, and flowers. I’ve made my balcony garden plans and I’m itching to start my seeds and to give the balcony a good scrub and clean up.
Just a few more weeks now.
Until then, I’m making baby succulents (well, the plants are doing all the work really, I just give all the baby succulent shoots their own pots and water occasionally).
I was given some tulips at the farmer’s market last weekend as a thank you for giving one of the vendors an awesome pumpkin ginger soup recipe (do you want it? it’s super yummy and the vendor said it worked wonders for his date).
So good to have some color in the apartment! And speaking of color, I got some lovely summer fabrics in the mail and I’ve been dreaming up ways to use them for weeks. No actual sewing going on, I’m taking a little break after the red skirt and waiting for sun and motivation to show their faces around here.
There’s hope I’ll be getting some knitting finished though! And, saving the best for last, a sneak peek at some vintage patterns I scored on Etsy lately. I won’t be showing them in full because they’ll be presents for friends if/when I make them :)
Finally, some sewing again and it’s not even navy blue!
A bright red skirt which has been in the works for nearly two months! Phew. It’s based on the same pattern as the blue pencil skirt, but I wanted to add a button placket at the front.
I first procrastinated on actually drafting the pattern and when I finally did, I made many stupid mistakes…I redrafted and sewed the skirt up pretty quickly and it was looking really neat when I realized I had miscalculated the button placket and the skirt was now way too tight. So I ripped the placket out again and got creative in adding a new placket without having to redo the whole skirt (I was out of fabric for that anyway). Add a little time between each step to stew over it and get my motivation back up and you have two months of work on a simple skirt. At least now it fits!
It even has pretty buttons and button holes and is fully lined (don’t get me started on how many times I messed up the lining).
I think I’ve worked on it too long to determine if I like it. I’m sure some of you know that feeling. I’ll see how I feel about it in three months. That sounds depressing, I promise to be more upbeat in my next post :)
The necklace I’m wearing is by Native Clutter on Etsy btw.
I really wanted to sew a nice dress for christmas this year and I had been eyeing that pretty navy cotton velvet for a while online (did I mention my navy blue phase? I promise the next thing I make will be a different color!). So when the Burdastyle Cowl Dress was on sale one day, I snatched it up and went to work…the Sunday before christmas!
I didn’t even make a muslin but I really like how it turned out. It’s definitely the most elegant thing I have ever made and own!
I was in such a hurry to finish it that the hem is a bit twisted (it’s a handstitched blind hem), so I’ll need to redo that before I wear it the next time. Although I like it a lot I’ll probably not wear it very often, I just don’t often attend events where I would not feel completely overdressed wearing this!
I didn’t change anything except the back zipper…I really don’t like back zippers so I put one in the side seam instead. Handpicked again, definitely my preferred method of inserting zippers! The side seam zipper makes the dress pretty hard to put on though.
All in all, a pretty simple dress and I have plans to make a sleeveless summer version from the pattern some time. The velvet was nice to work with, but even though I finished the seams with zigzagging it still loses a lot of fluff. This got me to make myself the christmas present I’ve been thinking about for some time….I got myself a serger!!!
I still can’t believe I bought it, after eyeing this model for about a year. I’m finally accepting that this sewing clothing thing is not just a phase for me. I’m really, really excited about learning to use it. It came threaded but of course when I wanted to try it one thread broke…the one that is most difficult to thread in again. So the boyfriend and I spend some time pouring over the manual yesterday (I really couldn’t have done it without his help) and I cried a little and thought about sending it back, but we finally managed to re-thread it and it works, yay :) I’m very excited to try this out on future garments and especially with jersey.
To say I’ve been thinking about making a dress like this for a while would be an understatement. I first saw this elegant black dress in the Downton Abbey Christmas special and immediately fell in love with it. Simple yet classy. I went ahead and did a few sketches and thought about it for a while, then got frustrated with the idea and put it away.
Then I started watching ‘The House of Eliott‘ (for those who don’t know, it’s a TV show from the 1990’s set in 1920’s London). And saw Beatrice wear a dress exactly like my dream dress and though “wow, they must have a pattern for it at the BBC”. Then I realised it’s probably the very same dress, reused for Downton Abbey 20 years later!
Since I couldn’t get it out of my head, I pulled out the old ideas, did some (lots) of research on simple 1920’s shapes and went ahead with a soft navy blue jersey as a test (the ultimate goal being a silk dress). I seem to be going through a navy blue phase recently. I reused parts of the Salme Kimono dress pattern and pretty much added everything else freely:
To be honest, I actually made three versions of this: one muslin, one in sheer blue cotton fabric which turned out way too stiff and this one in jersey.
It’s incredibly comfortable (I should sew with jersey more often!) and lovely to wear and it’s quite close to the original idea though not as perfect as I’d hoped.
– I think the original dress has set in sleeves and less drape and ease in the sleeves. The original also has some pleating detail at the shoulder right where the sleeve inset is.
– I was so scared of the neckline stretching that I stabilized the hell out of it, sewing a cotton strip to it and then finishing it with bias binding. In retrospect I really wish I had drafted a facing for the neckline and I definitely will if I should ever actually make this dress in silk.
– The sleeves are a bit too short but I can live with it.
The fabric belt is sewn to the dress, which is ok, though I’m already thinking of a version with a band attached between top and bottom. As for sewing with jersey, I’ve only tried it once or twice before and it always puts me in a dilemma: I love how soft and drapey jersey is and would like to sew with it more. On the other hand my main sewing machine (and really the only one I feel completely comfortable with, no matter how hard I try to love my other machines) is straight stitch only.
The solution for me is just to ignore the problem and sew jersey with a ballpoint needle straight stitch. Please don’t tell anyone. It kinda works though.
After trying out all these new (to me) patterns I felt confident enough to venture into drafting stuff myself again. I have this black high-waisted pencil skirt which fits me great. It was actually a hand-me-down from my mom, but I always get compliments on it when I wear it. I don’t wear much black and it’s getting a bit snug aynway (I guess my body’s starting to tell me I’m not eighteen anymore), so I wanted to try and copy it. Using this tutorial as a guide I traced the pattern onto paper and added the darts back in. And yes, I completely forgot to take photos of these steps or of the finished pattern.
I used the same blue flannel as for the Salme cropped blazer, which means I can wear them together as an ensemble.
It has two darts at the back and four at the front. Dark blue is really impossible to photograph. I lined it to prevent the flannel sticking to the tights and hand-picked the zipper (tutorial here). Making it up as I went along I got quite creative with the lining and the finishes.
It closes with both hooks and eyes and buttons with thread loops. The buttons were added as an afterthought, because the hooks kept coming undone but now I love the look and will definitely do buttons again for the next skirt. The buttons are just covered in fabric like this and there’s a great tutorial for simple thread loops over here.
I’m not usually a big Burda fan, but as soon as I saw this dress I knew I had to make it.
I had only ever made one pattern from Burda before, a skirt which I didn’t even finish because it was obvious that it was going to be way too big and hideous. So I had my reservations about this dress pattern which turned out to be totally unfounded. It fits great and I only had to take in the waist seam a bit.
The fabric is a lovely, soft flannel which is heavenly to wear.
I have to admit I’m not fond of adding seam allowances at the cutting stage. It’s probably just that I’m not used to it, but I felt it makes the sewing more inaccurate and in retrospect I’d have loved to do french seams which would have been harder with wonky seam allowances as well. So next time I’ll stick with my usual procedure and add the seam allowance to the pattern pieces before cutting. I finished the seams with zig-zag – not too fond of that either, it looks too messy for my liking. Yep, french seams really is the way for me!
I knew I would need to line the dress, because I’d wear it with tights and the flannel would stick to those. I thought about how I was going to go about lining it for a couple of days until I realized – I can just make a half-slip with an elastic waist and be done with it!
So that’s what I did, using some left over lining fabric (left over from a skirt I’ll post soon, yay). I just took my hip measurement, cut two rectangles and made a casing to thread some elastic through – no pattern, done in 30 minutes. I didn’t even take the time to iron it, obviously. Here’s a good tutorial though if you need instructions. And I can wear the slip with any other dress as well!
Worn with my Salme cropped blazer and a vintage orange coral necklace, another thrift store treasure.
I made two more alterations to the pattern: I shortened the hem slightly (though I think I may have overdone it here) and skipped the back zipper. Yep, skipped. I originally intended to insert a side seam zipper but I found that when the dress was done I could still pull it over my head if I took care.
All in all, I’m completely in love with this dress. It’s flattering yet super comfy and easy to dress up or down. And I’ve had lots of compliments at work for how cute it looks :)