• Dresses

    Polka dot Nina Lee Spring Dress

    Hello Spring! And hello you lovely lot. I’m full of the joys of Spring. And I love that saying. Spring and Summer is my sewing magic timezone where I can make dresses and floaty clothes and don’t have to worry about tights anymore. With that in mind I picked up the Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress which came with Simply Sewing mag.

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

    Okay let’s get the elephant out of the room, yep this is the first time I’ve bought Simply Sewing as a regular consumer. I had to buy every single issue while I worked at Love Sewing to add to our library of sewing magazines. This helped us try to avoid accidentally copying each other like interviewing the same people, featuring the same fabrics and so on. Since it launched after I started at Love Sewing I never bought it just for me until now. The magazine isn’t really for me as it’s only 20% about dressmaking but I had a quick flick through out of post-professional curiosity. I miss magazine design because let’s face it, banking websites aren’t designed to be colourful or fun. The patterns were the draw. Now back to the dress…

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

    I made two toiles of the dress because I wasn’t quite sure how much ease I’d like. The first toile made me realise the sleeves and shoulders were not going to work for my body type. I am extremely narrow shouldered with small arms so often have to do a narrow shoulder adjustment. I adjusted the paper pattern to adjust the shoulder by 1″ for the first toile but it was clear the sleeve head as drafted was very flat and I need a much higher head and the shoulder was still very wide. I use a cut and move method for narrow shoulders (tutorial) but there’s also a slash and overlap method (tutorial).

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

    On my second toile I redrafted the armhole to use the Tilly and The Buttons Indigo dress bodice and sleeve pieces. You lay the two patterns on top of each other, matching shoulder height and copy round the Indigo armhole curve onto the Spring Dress: First for the bodice front and then for the back. Then I could use the Indigo sleeve piece when I cut out and put the Spring Dress sleeve to one side.

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

    This polka dot viscose challis from my stash was picked up at Birmingham rag market. It’s the perfect weight for this dress as it gathers easily and is a nice breezy fabric for this style (see a video of it in motion). I think you could use a stiffer fabric for a bolder boxier effect. When I discovered a number of small holes in my fabric (not moths thank god) this moved into the wearable toile category so I stopped worrying over the print matching down the centre front. Made you look!! It’s good enough to me for a dress I’ll wear until the fabric frays further so don’t bother messaging me about it. I added some fusible interfacing behind each of the holes I saw but I bet it will keep making more when I next wash it, it just seems that delicate.

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

    I made a size 10 in the upper bodice and 12 at the waist down to the hip. The bodice ever so slightly rides to the back now which is what happens on my Indigo where I never fixed the bodice. Again I don’t mind on this dress but really should fix it before I make any more versions. And as you can see the neckline is finished with tiny little bias binding that extends into ties but wearing it tied feels a little too twee so I leave them undone. As a last tweak, I added elastic cuffs to the sleeves but they aren’t very billowing so it’s a subtle effect. Importantly I added 3″ to the length of the skirt. Remember I’m 5ft4 so this is a short dress without that length! Chewie approves of my floaty new dress.

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

  • Sewing A-Z

    Behind the seams at Love Sewing magazine

    I thought it might be interesting if you don’t actually know about my day to day job to hear a little bit more about editing a sewing magazine.

    I have now been working in publishing for 10 years. For several years I edited legal publications for solicitors and barristers, and then I spent a few years as a publishing specialist reworking print titles into eBooks and online titles. Then in June 2015 I joined the Love Sewing team. I really enjoy being able to combine my two passions of publishing and sewing. The worst bit is probably the timelines you need to work to: Magazines are very demanding because there’s no let up or downtime with what you need to squeeze in to your working week.

    The magazine is based in Stockport and is part of a publishing group that has 10 other craft magazines all under one roof. I sit in the Softcrafts team so I’m surrounded by sewists, quilters, knitters, and crocheters and creative designers in the art team; all wonderfully inspiring people. With 14 issues a year of 100 pages and two pattern gifts every time, it’s a busy schedule and I rely on my deputy editor to help me write/source content for every page, then edit, proof and approve the magazine. Every day is slightly different as my month generally falls into two halves – the two weeks when we produce an issue and the two weeks where I plan the upcoming editions. More often I’m having to do both tasks at the same time to keep ahead of the schedule.

    When we work on an issue word documents are edited then ‘subbed’ by another team to double check spelling, punctuation and grammar and add instructions for the art team. Art lay out the pages and then we proofread to ensure all the text, imagery, and even the page numbers, are as they need to be. We use job bags that we pass between each other to mark the progress of the pages throughout each stage and create PDFs for each article or project using Adobe inDesign. When an issue is ready we send every page to the printer along with a cover. On issues where we include a bonus second magazine with the issue, that usually has to be finished by the same date as well which can add another 60 or so pages into the month… Safe to say celebratory press day pizza and wine is a regular occurrence in my house.

    The rest of the time I’m generally planning around 3-6 months ahead; picking pattern gifts, arranging projects, lining up articles and interviews, plus searching for great new fabrics! There are also client meetings, production catchups, consumer shows and magazine reviews. I’m currently finishing summer issues, planning Christmas, getting ready for two shows, and also thinking ahead to early next year in case Sewing Bee has another early air date. Talking about Christmas now might sound crazy but it sort of works because I then get it done and put it out of my head long enough to get excited about real Christmas later in the year! Publishing is really like project management in a lot of ways – it’s scheduling, budgeting, organising yourself and others, and being disciplined in all these areas.

    As I’ve been sewing a long time now I act as technical editor for the magazine as well, meaning I have to be able to suggest tips for construction, write about fabric handling methods and explain various techniques. We also work with industry experts to share their knowledge on couture techniques, fitting tutorials, and inspiring tips and tricks. Our resident columnists are Alison Smith MBE, Elisalex de Castro Peake, Claire-Louise Hardie, Stacey Chapman and Wendy Gardiner. Working with these ladies over email is wonderful and together we spark ideas for brilliant new pieces plus they’re great fun on the days when we finally get to catch up in person. Go on one of their amazing workshops, I dare you!

    I commission a number of independent designers to create the projects inside the magazine and we work together to pin down the style and details in the garment before they make up the pattern and a sample garment. The paper pattern garments are made up by seamstresses so I have to pick the fabric and plan the covers and envelopes to make them bold and bright. Picking fabric is a huge part of my job so I’m always searching through shops online and obsessively looking for the best prints and colours to use in the magazine.

    My favourite parts of the month are the regular photoshoots we have. With four magazines that have model photography we regularly have shoots and all try and put a few garments onto each shoot. I often run out the office, across the road with a pile of dresses in hand and spend an hour or so, creating the images you see in the mag with the studio team before running back to the office. Some days we spend longer shooting an entire morning with one model for several issues of Love Sewing and getting a few cover shots as well. Renata is our talented fashion photographer, Nina provides gorgeous hair and make up.

    As you might know I have a reader over to the studio every month and love spoiling them with their own private photography session. Everyone arrives saying they aren’t that confident in front of the camera but by the end of the afternoon we have oodles of gorgeous shots showing off their make and their gorgeous personality. We started this around issue 38 and now the issue 70 reader is coming over next week. We’ve had sewing celebrities, ladies who have brought their bestie for moral support, women who don’t normally wear make up, even a big group of ladies all in one go. It’s always a great afternoon and always over too soon.

    Everyone’s route into publishing is different. I have a Degree in English Literature, and a Masters in Creative Writing. To get my first publishing job I also had to pass a series of tests – grammar, spelling and punctuation, plus typing and how to style a document. To get the Love Sewing Editor role I had to talk through the titles I’d managed to date, plus show I had the planning skills to put together an example features list. I was also expected to have a strong knowledge of the industry by describing the key sewing titles, pattern companies, experts, websites and bloggers. Plus I obviously had to talk about what makes a good-looking fabric, garment and magazine! (The key area of difference between book and magazine publishing is the sheer quantity of pictures.) I’m now the Managing Editor of Quilt Now magazine where I work alongside the Editor Bethany, as well as keeping control of Love Sewing.

    If you liked this post you might like to read some interviews I’ve done in the past!

    The Fold Line interviewed me here a few years ago.

    I did an interview for the Love Sewing blog a while back as well.