McCall’s 6891 chambray shirtdress

Hello all! I’ve recovered from my extremely busy December and am back with a finished make for myself.

This dress was a rather spontaneous make as I was lucky enough to try on a finished version we had in the office! This meant I quickly worked out the couple of tiny adjustments I’d need to make it fit me. I could then cut out with confidence and whizzed this up in a day. In fact I made the yellow version you’re seeing on the new pattern envelope! We’re now making the designs in UK fabric and reprinting the envelopes. Squeal!!

The pattern is M6891 which is on the front of Love Sewing 63 on sale from tomorrow! It’s double stuffed so you get sizes 8-24 in one envelope and the issue includes tips on collars and cuffs if you haven’t made them before. I love a notched collar and The McCall Pattern Co instructions direct you to make theirs differently to other brands like Simplicity or indie designs.

As normal you position the collar between the facings and shirt neckline, instead of sewing over the seam allowance they ask you to push it out of the way and stop at the seam point marked by a dot, then sew on the other side in the same way. Here’s a diagram to explain a bit more:

This reduces bulk as it means you can grade the seams and trim a bit more freely as the seam allowance isn’t trapped… But this technique seems more beneficial on thicker fabrics like coats really. Unless I’ve missed another reason for this technique.

It’s not a surprise I like this pattern, as retro style shirtdresses are a big proportion of my wardrobe. They’re both smart and casual – perfect! I made view C and love the full skirt. The darts give a nice shape and of course the notched collar has a lovely vintage feel. It needs a reverse button/hole at the waist point for extra security but I can add that any time.

Now of course the Ultimate Shirtdress which is my favourite shirtdress pattern but in truth I’ve never got on with the sleeves. On the McCall’s design the sleeves fit great so maybe I need to try and merge the armscye and sleeve of this pattern with the Sew Over It pattern in the future.

I made the size 10. The bust fits my 36a-cup really nicely so no SBA here. I just adjusted the waist at the side seams to fit my 32″ tummy and the wide flare of the skirt is very roomy on my hips.

You might be wondering about the fabric… well to that I say, “Sewing friends are awesome”. They are especially great at birthday time because they think like a sewist when getting you a present and remember what things you say you like! This gorgeous Robert Kaufman spotty chambray was a gift from the darling Marie! Creative mind behind blog www.astitchingodyssey.com, Marie is such a lovely soul so I highly recommend you follow her inspiring blog/social media accounts and if you run into her at an event you’re guaranteed to leave smiling.

If you clicked into my shirtdress tag you’ll see I now have two spotty Robert Kaufman chambray dresses. Well I actually have a third UFO of Vogue 1102 cut out in the black colourway but I messed up some of the pintucks and have been putting off fixing it for months. Maybe 2019 is the year you’ll see that dress appear.

I’m currently trying to plan some sewing for the coming year. There are some lovely fabrics that have been in my stash for way too long. I’d really like to fix that and not be afraid of making the wrong thing anymore. I have my dressmakers ballgown to make too. Will I see you there?

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Would you try a sewing subscription box?

There are a few different sewing subscription services you might have seen here and there. Like you I was curious what you actually received and Hayley of Sew Hayley Jane was convinced to let me in on the action by sending her November box out for a review!

Plus keep scrolling for a link to a free patchwork stocking project perfect for festive FQs.

Hayley sends you a box of beautifully curated fabric and haberdashery items, everything you need to create lovely homemade creations, from dresses and tops, to quilts, cushions and other homewares. Each month Hayley also shares a blog post of inspiration specific to your box and a youtube video of her stepping through an unboxing!

So what was inside my November Classic box? Well it was Festive Fever time!! My box included:

Choc coins which I’m going to have to hide from the sweet monster who lives in the house with me.

A magnetic doughnut pincushion from Oh Sew Quaint. It’s like a special Christmas doughnut with festive sprinkles!! My favourite thing from the box I have to say.

A range of high quality cotton FQs in nordic style with red and grey prints. Plus 2.5m of white on scandi red floral poplin cotton which is a great amount to get a garment out of or multiple smaller projects.

There was also 2m of white crocheted lace trim which would look lovely on a garment or a home project. And 6 x 15mm floral white buttons with a lovely sheen on them. Matching gutermann thread as well!

There’s lots to work with here and you could make bags, cushions, aprons, child’s clothes or something for yourself. As I have predominantly Christmas themed cottons I had a few ideas for projects.

This sweet tree is from the latest issue of Love Sewing mag and would really work in coordinating Christmas prints.

Similarly this stocking would work really well in mixed fat quarters! And Brucie Bonus, it’s a free download on the Love Sewing site with template and instructions all there for you to try.

Finally if you’re keen on making a Christmas dress how about this beauty from SillyOldSeaDog? Visit the shop for endless Christmas dress inspiration. I’d recommend a classic style like the Sew Over It Grace dress for a vintage look or the Colette Laurel for minimal seam lines.

I think that I’ll use the larger piece of fabric along with the FQs to make a table runner for my Mum as she loves these kinds of traditional prints.

It’s hard to think of negative things to say about the items in the box, they’re all great quality. The main fear may be that you won’t know what you’re going to get each month and if you’re a bit of a control freak about your sewing that will definitely stress you out. But if you generally like the style of the boxes and love surprise post this is really a dream come true!  There are lots of beautiful prints in the boxes that you can see on previous unboxing videos if this Christmas collection is making it difficult to judge what you’d get.

So let’s get into some knitty gritty! The boxes are then sent out around the 8th of each month to arrive within a few days for UK customers, international deliveries may take longer. When you sign up you will create a unique login which will give you greater access to content on the website. Some of the blog posts are available to subscribers only – you lucky ducks. I’ve put the prices below but there’s a super helpful FAQ page to help you decide.

  • The Mini Box costs £20
  • The Classic Box costs £35
  • The Luxury Box costs £65

THERE ARE TWO DAYS LEFT TO SUBSCRIBE FOR DECEMBER!!

So why not head over to Hayley’s site to read more, check out people’s boxes with the hashtag sewhayleyjane and check out finished garments with the hashtag sewhayleyjanemakes

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My wedding dress – inspiration

So as I alluded to in past posts I intend to sew myself a wedding dress! Some of you may think “she’s mad!?” And some might be giving me a double thumbs up. And basically I’m in the middle, thinking “bwahahah this is so surreal”.
I wanted to share the process on the blog so I always had it to look back on but was relieved to hear that many of you wanted to read about it too.

So I’m going to throw my hands up and confess I’m a terrible decision maker when it comes to big dressmaking projects. It often takes me a long time to settle on fabric and pattern pairings, often changing my mind right up to the last minute. This is amplified when I’m emotionally invested. Not very good for a project where you need a clear plan and a strict time frame!

We’re currently struggling to find a venue for next summer. Apparently we’ve missed the boat for a lot of places which majorly sucks. There is a slim chance we’ll get Sept but it’s touch and go. This means my wedding may be 2018 and I’ll have double the amount of time to pick a dress design! 

UPDATE:

I clearly jinxed myself and today we’ve lost our chance at getting married in 2017. Sadly now I doubt I’ll do anything towards my wedding dress until this time next year… sorry about that. I won’t delete this post though as it might still be nice reading!

First up let’s get something out of the way… I’m having a short dress. Below knee or tea length. And a big bad ass petticoat floofy skirt. Bodice is still tbc… I have to mull that over. So in the mean time I’ve been examining fabrics. Here are my thoughts:

SEQUINS

I’ve seen some beautiful sequin dresses. Light frothy cleverly pieced frocks and embellished designs. Recently I’ve been obsessing over the Jenny Packham Jolene dress which features sequinned (and beaded) star appliques on it. The completely wrong silhouette for me but wow at all the bling. Searching for star shaped appliques stole a day of my life.

LACE

I favour dense lace designs (Nottingham, guipure etc), but at the same time I love 3d constructions and beading. Where lace steps into embroidery really gets me excited. Blooms built up with subtle textiles and colours like this dress makes me stop and stare. I also ordered a swatch of some beautiful beaded lace from Bridal Fabrics but I need to go see it in person. I also need to level up my lace handling skills if I go down this route.

TULLE

There’s always something that pulls me back to tulle dresses. Probably because I know of several suppliers of stunning coloured or polka dot tulle. There’s so much drama you can achieve with tulle and mesh at the same time as looking light as a feather. It takes a lot of effort to look that light though but with stunning results. I want to test this vintage Butterick tulle pattern with tippet style shawl (thanks go to bridesmaid, talented seamstress and wedding dress designer extraordinaire Charlotte for explaining tippets to me).

Next steps

I have a few appointments to try on dresses to help me pin down the design. That seems crucial to me but not being able to take photos will surely prove problematic. I am working out a rough time line in my head for the construction but think starting the bridesmaid dress toiles may give me a little breathing room for my own decisions!

If you know any short wedding dress companies or vintage dress sources please do drop them in the comments so I can continue pinning my heart out. Thanks for reading and please cross your fingers for me on getting a date!!

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New York New York

So if you follow me on social media you’ll have seen a few of my pics of New York where my partner and I had a fun mini break during March.

I thought I’d give a little rundown of the stitchy highlights in case you were interested!
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So the day my issue went to the printers I fled the office and whizzed down to London. In publishing this is generally the best time to take a holiday. This was my second visit to New York but my first since taking up sewing.

We flew from Heathrow and landed in NYC Thursday lunchtime. It was fantastic weather! Totally unseasonal, it was 24° so I got changed into a dress and strolled around Central Park in the sun.
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We stayed in the Empire Hotel (yes the Chuck Bass hotel) which was only a short walk from the park. And a quick stroll up to the statue of the garment worker and also button and needle statue.

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Friday was a special day because I got to visit the McCall’s head office and have a tour. The team was wonderful and explained how they work which had quite a few similarities to my office though on a bigger scale. I’m going to run a piece on the team in the magazine soon. I wore my Liberty wildflowers Vogue 1102 dress in honour of the day.
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The office is decorated with wonderful illustrations and sewing ephemera and mannequins of all sizes fill the corners. Obviously I can’t reveal too much as I was able to see some upcoming collections that need to stay secret for the time being. But seeing pattern draping in action was a thrill.

After that we went to the World Trade Centre and memorial which was incredible moving and emotional. Plus we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge just before sunset.

Saturday and Sunday involved lot more touristy trips using our City Passes to hit every major landmark/museum/gallery. Plus we got to see Mathilde on Broadway which was fantastic!
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I was so excited about Monday I barely slept. This was the day I met up with Karen, Sonja, Charlotte and Emma Jayne! Plus Peter joined us for a little bit too which was fantastic. The only bad thing was the rain! We headed to the garment district visiting Mood fabrics first. Its pretty overwhelming as bolts are stacked so high you have to either know what you’re after or rummage. Swatch is uber adorable though!
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In a bid to avoid panicking I decided to look for cotton eyelet as it’s so rare in the UK. And once I’d picked some out I looked over the scuba. I bought two lengths, enough for dresses and stopped there.
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After that we braved Elliott Berman and were again overwhelmed with choice. Technically they sell wholesale but they don’t mind selling small lengths in the shop. I chose some silly galloping horses/llamas on viscose (Karen bought the same print in a different colourway on jersey). Plus some viscose challis from France in a stunning floral design. Its so light and cool to the touch. I’m in love.
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Next we went to an amazing notions place and I found a perfect complimentary colour zip for my eyelet. Emma Jayne found the perfect colour metal zip for her coat project too! Winning!! They also had cool things like corduroy bias binding and colourful gadgets

Surprisingly this took a lot of time and we called it a day at that! Charlotte and I picked up our other halves and the four of us had an awesome pizza lunch then headed out to the ice hockey as a group later that night! It was a pretty epic game in fact and we all got free bobbleheads to bring home hahah.

Tuesday was our last day and we tried to fit in the final touristy bits including present shopping and one last dash into Mood. I picked this silk that is so pretty in person. It has embroidered small blooms as well as the large watercolour flowers. It was labelled “famous designer silk”. That’s a bit weird when they name everyone else but hey whatever.
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So there you go! They were my sewing related highlights. Sorry I don’t have a super specific garment district guide for you, I just really wanted to go to Mood having seen it so many times on Project Runway hehehe.

It was really great to hang out with such lovely people and even better that all my purchases fit in my suitcase home!

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Sewing Room Swoon

Recently I shared my sewing room in the magazine and thought it should definitely appear on the blog too! I hope you like this peek into my sewing space. I know how lucky I am to have a dedicated space to sew, and although it feels like an indulgence at times, it has made me so happy in the short year I’ve had it.

Forgive the low light in the pics, these were shot in Jan!

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This room is on the middle floor of my townhouse in Leeds. It’s a great size room and is definitely nice and warm, but it doesn’t get the best light and the view isn’t the prettiest. I’ve done my best to make it look lovely inside instead.

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The main feature of the room is the cutting table, made by my partner. He used four Kallax units from Ikea, added a large MDF top and used ikea metal feet to raise the table to the perfect height. Underneath I use large baskets to store all my fabric, zips, and interfacing, as well as mugs of chalk pencils, tracing paper and bias binding. The whole thing is over 1m wide and 1.5m long, meaning I can cut delicate fabric single layer without them trying to escape. The only problem is that my cat Chewie thinks it’s the perfect sleeping spot so I have to shoo her away when it’s time to cut out projects. Then she just moves to another spot for a nap!

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I’m fortunate to have several machines. The Janome SMD4000 is my main machine, then there’s the machine I learnt on – a Toyota Jeans Machine. I also have a Singer 14sh754 overlocker and two vintage Singer machines (a 1939 hand crank and a 1970s machine set into a table. My dad is a great antique hunter!). Having all my machines in a row means bouncing between each is easy and I usually keep the Janome and Toyota threaded in different colours in case I need to work on multiple projects at once.

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My gorgeous pink mid-century inspired chair has a pretty scalloped back (Very.co.uk) and I’ll sit here when it comes to hand sewing and unpicking. The vintage glass cabinet was a gift from my partner’s grandmother and it makes perfect storage for yarn, ribbon, button tins and boxes of sewing patterns. (Orla Kiely tins, Selvedge yarn)

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Decorating is still a work in progress but the majority of my wall space is used for spool racks. I chose polka dot wallpaper from Prestige Textiles (in Graphite – my first ever wallpapering attempt! Under the careful eye of my mum) as an eye-catching feature when you first enter. My most-used scissors hang from a pretty coat hook from BHS for easy access and fun quotes and pictures keep me smiling while I work. (Vintage decorative dressmaking stand, Korbond pear pin cushion, Sasse and Bell spool holder). A vintage sewing-themed calendar from SewDirect.co.uk adds retro inspiration and an illustrated portrait I was given for my birthday shows me wearing my favourite handmade dress (artist @andsmile). My plan is to frame some of my vintage patterns and add a bit more shelving space and then the room should be complete!

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After years of working on my dining table and cutting out on the floor, it’s so nice to have a separate sewing space. I do miss Mr AR though, so we regularly run up and downstairs to see each other and take it in turns to brew up!

I hope you enjoyed having a peek in my sewing room. Hopefully the next time I share it the walls won’t be as beige or sparse heehee!

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