Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sleeping Beauty - A Costume for the Panto.

As Christmas (aka pantomime season) and my daughters birthday are close together, her godmother takes her to a pantomime in Cork, our nearest city. As part of this treat, my daughter likes to wear the costume of the main character. So in the past I've sewn an Alice dress, a Cinderella dress (not blogged), and this year it was Sleeping Beauty's turn.


Pink is the colour most associated with Aurora/Sleeping Beauty's dress, but in the film and books, she wears a different dress before she 'falls asleep'. Though my daughter hasn't quite left the 'pink phase'! she didn't take much convincing when I showed her pictures of the other dress worn by Aurora.
An online search for images of the dress, led me to pick View 2 of this vintage Advance pattern 5816 that I already had, because of its v-shaped bodice and skirt.
The main additions the skirt pattern needed was length, and extra fabric added to the centre front and centre back to create pleats. I also curved the top of the bodice at the front and back armholes and cut a centre front seam so that I could create a lace-up bodice.
The sleeves and upper bodice were adapted from Butterick 5890. I recently used this pattern for the Elsa Coronation dress which I sewed for Halloween. I had to draft the white collar myself using a flexible ruler, then measuring the neckline curve once I had sewn the shoulders of the front and back bodices. I've never drafted a collar before, so was surprised and pleased that it lay flat and looked so good.




The dress turned out exactly as we both imagined, especially the centre front which has eyelets and is laced up with narrow grosgrain ribbon.

The fabrics are all from Vibes and Scribes, a well-stocked fabric, wool and haberdashery shop in Cork that now delivers online. The top bodice is cream cotton jersey, the main bodice is a soft-textured black polyester, and the skirt is a medium-weight sateen which was the last piece on the bolt.


Though it seemed like I was cobbling together parts of patterns, and making up pieces and instructions as I went along, the dress worked and most importantly she was delighted with it.





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Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Girl's Winter Coat and a Craftsy Class Review


Most years, I sew a winters coat for my daughter. When Vogue pattern V9043 was released by the McCalls Pattern Company this year, I knew it was 'the one' for this winter.

Then, a little serendipity .... On Twitter Steffani Linceum, a tutor who blogs at Stitchcoach,was looking for a few people to review her Craftsy class on sewing the adult-sized version V9040 and I jumped at the chance. I watched all sections of the class almost back-to-back, and loved it.
Not doing things by half, I decided to use the class to help me sew my daughter's coat, before reviewing it.

The class 'Inside Vogue Patterns' covers everything about sewing a winter coat.
Basting interlining to the main fabric was a first for me and the teacher shows how to do this so that it won't bulge or bubble under the main fabric. I used a lightweight wool fabric for the interlining, though barely had enough for the front bodice pieces as evident in the picture below!


I added velvet piping in the pockets (this is only in the child's pattern, so I didn't have Steffani's calm teaching to guide me for this part!)


The lining is a pink cotton, and I added 2 extra inside pockets which are not on the child's pattern, but there is a pattern piece for one of the pockets included as part of the class.


The sleeve linings are white silk, to make the coat easier to put on and because I did the same for my Minoru jacket and love it.


The back hem was noticeably longer than the front when my daughter tried on the coat, so that needed a deeper hem than indicated in the pattern.


The collar of the child's coat is beautifully designed and in 2 pieces. It is different to the adult coat, so I also missed the teacher's help with this part, though it worked fine just using the pattern instructions.


Finding buttons in a matching colour was difficult. We considered a contrasting colour, but nothing seemed right. Our local fabric store owner recommended covering buttons in velvet. It worked perfectly, more so because the pile of the fabric hides the dents I made while pressing the button parts together!


My favourite parts of the coat are the addition of fun smaller buttons on the inside of the coat to strengthen the hold of the outer buttons - suggested by the class teacher. My other favourite part is the addition of an inside pocket with pleated janemeans ribbon over the opening. In the Craftsy class, Steffani calls this a Chinese Wedding Pocket, and used folded pieces of bias binding for the edge. My daughter loved the idea of this 'secret' pocket and being able to find it easily without looking, simply by touching the ribbon. It made her feel like a secret agent!

Of everything I've sewn, I'm very proud of the work that has gone into this coat. The class, with all the tutor's hints and tips, made such a difference, more that I could have imagined. Despite sewing coats before, the guidance of a sewist with experience has helped me sew a much better quality coat. The advice on grading seams, creating a sleeve head, using interlining, allowing for 'turn of cloth' and many more topics are covered, and in a very straightforward manner by the teacher, who evidently has often used all the techniques that she is demonstrating.
There are some more details about the class on the tutor's blog, and it is also worth checking the reviews on Craftsy.
Now, if I could only be brave enough to sew the adult-sized version for myself ...... maybe for next winter!
(I received the Craftsy class for free, sewed a coat using the teaching and techniques from the class and reviewed the class based on my experience)


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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Details on Queen Elsa's Coronation Dress

In the film Frozen there is a lot of detailed Scandanavian, and in particular Norwegian, artwork known as rosemaling. This is most evident on Elsa's Coronation dress.

I considered a few options for decorating this dress, especially appliqué, or sewing on ribbon strips. However ironing appliqué on velvet would damage the pile, and sewing ribbon on a stretch fabric would be difficult and affect the drape of the dress. Initially, drawing the designs on the dress didn't seem the best idea. I looked at clips from the film again, and decided it was at least worth a try. I drew out the design on paper and drew it freehand on the velvet with fabric markers.

It really isn't perfect, but I think it worked much better than the other options and suited the fabric.

The dress is based on Butterick pattern 5980 View D (View B length) which I altered to add sleeves with v-shaped hems and narrowed the dress hem width. I chose this pattern because the seam lines reflected those of the dress in the film. All the inside seams are French seams, with the yoke sewn on the outside and covered with ribbon. 

The top part of the cape is based on the cape pattern from Oliver&S Little Things to Sew, dramatically shortened. The longer pleated part is based on my daughter's height. Her back width was tripled to allow enough fabric for the pleats.

I used organza ribbon for the orange accents on the dress, but used janemeans purple stitched ribbon for the inside  hem of the cape and used janemeans plum wired ribbon for the upper part. The decorations at the neckline on the black velvet were cut out from teal  wired janemeans ribbon.

There's not much more to add except that it's a total success and worth all the work .... you can almost guess the line of the song from the poses in these pictures. The dress induces bouts of random singing 'Let it go' with very demonstrative 'I'm free' while throwing off the cape! 
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Free Tickets to Knitting & Stitching Show Dublin & Harrogate

22/10/2014 10.30pm
Edited to add: 8 names from comments/emails were entered and put into the very technological hat! 

The 3 winners of a pair of tickets each are: Fionnuala, Maeve and Jennibean.

Your tickets will be posted once I get your addresses.

Thank you for entering. 


Original post:
The Knitting and Stitching show has been the highlight of October for me in the last few years. I generally go for fabric and some sewing supplies as well as the excellent exhibitions, but the show has something for all kinds of crafters.
This year I was delighted to be contacted by the organisers, offering complimentary tickets for a blog giveaway.
The show includes most textile related activities - 
 Cross stitch
 Dress-making
 Embroidery
 Felt-making
 Knitting and Crochet
 Lace-making
 Patchwork and Quilting
 Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing
 Tapestry
as well as
 Beadwork
 Card-making
 Jewellery-making

Scroll down for further details about the show. More information is also available at the Knitting and Stitching Show website.


Win a pair of complimentary tickets to the show in Dublin, Ireland or Harrogate, UK - valid for entry Thurs, Fri & Sun (Saturday not included).

3 pairs to give away.

Event Details: The Knitting & Stitching Show at RDS, Simonscourt, Dublin, Ireland.

Dates: Thursday October 30th to Sunday November 2nd 2014

Opening TimesThursday/ Friday: 10am to 5.30pm / Sunday: 10am to 5.00pm.


Event Details: The Knitting & Stitching Show at HIC, Harrogate, UK

Dates: Thursday November 20th to Sunday November 23rd 2014

Opening TimesThursday 10am to 7pm; Friday: 10am to 5.30pm; Sunday: 10am to 5.00pm.

To Enter:

Leave a comment with contact details or email in the comment section. No need to follow, unless you really want to!


Contact me with by email with your address.


Closing date: Wednesday 22nd October 10pm. (To allow tickets to be posted in time for the Dublin show)

The 3 winners will be contacted by email and Tickets will be posted once I have address details.

Details about the Knitting and Stitching Show in Dublin:

Needles at the ready for The Great Irish PicKnit!
Join the PicKnit at the Knitting & Stitching Show, RDS, Dublin, Oct 30th 2nd Nov

Thousands of knitting enthusiasts are invited to pack their needles and wool for The GreatIrish PicKnit which features at the Knitting & Stitching Show in the RDS, Dublin, fromOctober 30th November 2nd

The show organisers are predicting that The PicKnit, a social gathering involving knitting andfood, will become the next big pastime in Ireland’s towns and cities, saying it is the perfectrecipe for a darn good time!

More than 25,000 visitors are expected to attend the show, which will feature a uniquecombination of inspirational galleries, workshops and exhibitors selling everything fromstunning fabrics, wools and threads, through to sewing machines, patterns and books.

A new attraction will be The PicKnit, brought to Dublin by the UK Hand Knitting Association.Under the theme of ‘Knit One, Hook One and Pass it On’, visitors to The Picknit can learn,create and share their knitting and crochet skills with other visitors. There will be free one-to-one knitting and crochet tuition for beginners, and a chance for the more adventurous toexperiment with some exciting new designs.

Helen Marriott, The Knitting & Stitching Show, said: "For decades, knitting has been asociable pastime with knitters happily chatting over coffee and yarn. PicKnits takes that ideato the next level, combining a love of food with a love of knitting, stitching and craft.Knitting PicKnits don’t have to be big formal occasions though - all you need are needles,some snacks, a few friends and some space. Importantly, Knitting PicKnits, like the onecoming up in the RDS, help keep the traditional skills of knitting and stitching alive."

Thanks to celebrity knitters such as Cara Delevingne, Ryan Gosling, Kate Moss and Lily Allen,organisers have noticed a huge increase in interest in knitting and sewing. "Knitting andsewing have both been around for centuries, but celebrity knitters and sewers are helping to bring the hobby and craft to a whole new audience." added Helen Marriott.

Visitors to the show, which is Ireland’s largest textile and craft event, can also look forwardto:

  • Artists at work in the ‘Artists in Action Studio’

    Learning a new skill at one of the 100s of ‘Learning Curve’ workshops

    • Professionally-curated galleries including one featuring the 1913 Lockout Tapestry,designed by Cathy Henderson and artist Robert Ballagh

    • An exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One

    • An inaugural display by the students from the Cork Crawford College of Art and


    • An exhibition of new textile artwork exploring relationships betweencommemoration and memory by Nigel Cheney of NCAD

    • A Design & Crafts Council of Ireland exhibition, called Entwined Memories

    • ‘Explorations’ by the Irish Patchwork Society.

    • 116 hours of workshops ranging from Beginners’ Crochet to Embellishing Bed Linento Sewing a Vintage Clutch Bag.

      Visitors will also be able to browse and buy specialist supplies and ‘hard-to-find’craftmaterials from more than 200 retailers.

      Tickets for the four day show at the RDS Simonscourt in Dublin are now on sale throughwww.theknittingandstitchingshow.com/Dublin. Advance tickets cost €14 for adults, withconcession prices available on-line.

      Twitter: @KnitStitchRDS #KnitnStitch

Good Luck!






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Monday, October 13, 2014

Fabric Search for Elsa's Coronation Dress

If it's Elsa, it must be Frozen! We were late to the Frozen party in this house, and finally bought the film during the summer holidays. It was watched on the few wet afternoons we had this summer, my 7yo daughter & 9yo son loved it, but the rest of us could be found openly watching & enjoying it too!


The most popular costume from the film is Elsa's shimmery blue Ice Queen/Snow Queen dress, but my daughter has her heart set on the coronation dress. There are excellent and detailed pictures on this blog -Arendellekingdom

Some research on the film and that dress has thrown up some interesting links. One of the most fascinating is from an illustrator on the film, Brittney Lee, who blogged about her design process. She also provided information on the interesting ’rosemaling' designs in the dress fabrics and throughout the film.

There is also an excellent interview with the costume designer, Jean Gillmore, from Frozen on the Tyranny of Style blog.

It was very interesting to discover that many of the illustrations of the costumes are based on the properties of fabrics from which the dresses in Scandanavian countries would have be sewn. For example the weight of a fabric would affect its drape and movement. This is reflected in the animation in the film.



With all this inside knowledge, I searched for fabric online which would be suitable for a child's costume, and accurately reflect the costumes in the film.

The Coronation dress in the film seemed like a wool fabric, but that would be the most impractical fabric for a child's costume. Then I considered velvet, which would drape and move in a similar manner to wool.Many velvet dress fabrics available online are polyester and stretch velvets or velours, which would probably be most suitable. but I was looking for a fabric with more weight, so was drawn to using cotton velvet, which is expensive to buy in Ireland.



It took me ages to find the kind of fabric I wanted, either it was too stretchy, too expensive, wrong colour.....

After a very thorough search, I eventually found the specific colours for the coronation dress in a cotton mix velvet fabric from Fjøelner in Denmark. It turned out to be the perfect weight and was delivered extremely quickly.


This is where I'm at....


I already had black velvet and a suitable pattern Butterick 5980 (ViewD with longer skirt and long sleeves), so the dress and the Cape have been sewn up. Now I just need to figure out how to add the floral/scrolling designs to the velvet on the dress!



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Monday, September 1, 2014

Basic Black - A Japanese Pattern Book Review

Basic Black is a book of sewing patterns by a Japanese designer Sato Watanabe. This is one of the more interesting and exciting Japanese Pattern Books that I have used, particularly because it includes patterns for garments that are designed with shape, rather than the usual loose fitting Japanese styles.


Unlike Sato Watanabe's Stylish Skirts book that I also reviewed, there is a lot less drafting, measurment and creation of pattern pieces in this book. Pattern sheets, which are printed on both sides, are included with the book.


What is most surprising about this book, is that the original publication date of the Japanese edition was 2005, but you would never guess that based on the designs in this English translation from Tuttle Publishing.


There are 26 patterns in the book - 7 shirts/blouses, 10 dresses, 8 coats/jackets/vests and 1 skirt in both loose and fitted styles. There is some minor pattern drafting needed, in approx half of the patterns. This involves adding length, facings, marking pleats, simple skirts & rectangular shapes.
The sizing is unlike most Japanese pattern books, in that the finished measurments of garments are shown. This means that when taking measurments to pick which size to sew, you need to consider how much ease you like and add this to your measurments before comparing them with the chart. This makes choosing a size awkward, but accurate. Taking this into account the largest size in the book is about the same as US size 16-18, but because the patterns are multisized, they could easily be graded up a size or two.
Garments are grouped into 3 different types of fit - those with shaping, fitted & loose, and there is even a fitted jacket.
Most of the patterns are at an advanced beginner level, with only 3 that I could identify as beginner.

Wanting to write a fair review the book, I sewed pattern 'w'. This is a pattern for a long sleeved knit top with an asymmetrical neckline finished with bias and an asymmetrical hem finished with ribbon trim.

In the introduction, Sato Watanabe writes about loving black clothes since she was a child. But I didn't quite keep to the colour ethos of the book .....

...... it's more of an 'Orange is the New Black' look! The orange jersey was bought recently from Volksfaden.de and the ribbons are from janemeans.com

The pattern indicated that the neckline should be finished with bias, but I chose to match the neckline with the same brown striped ribbon that I used on the front and back hems. As jersey tends not to fray, I sewed the ribbon directly onto the outside of the fabric with a long stitch.

The sleeves were cut in three pieces and slightly narrower than indicated because I had only 1metre of fabric. I added flat piping between the sleeve seams and sewed the sleeve hem with sage green stitched grosgrain ribbon also from Jane Means. The technique I used for sewing the sleeve hem is one I used before and described in detail here

There are quite a large variety of sewing techniques illustrated in the clear diagrammatic form that Japanese Pattern books are renowned for. These techniques include facings and bindings as well as collars and plackets among others. Each part of the technique is drawn in detail and diagrams are numbered to make them easier to follow.

The fit is exactly as it looks in the book picture, except that my sleeves are narrower. I also added about 5 cm of length to the front and back as the top seemed shorter than I preferred. Because only finished garment measurements are given in the book, I measured my pattern pieces against a RTW top to make sure I picked the correct size.

This book is beautifully presented and has an excellent selection of diverse patterns for coats, dresses, skirts and tops in loose, semi-structured and fitted styles. It took me ages to decide on a pattern to sew because there are more that I want to make, including a zip-up jacket, two dresses and a shirt.



(Tuttle Publishing sent me this pattern book free. All opinions are my own. I have been happily sewing from Japanese language pattern books since 2009)












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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fun Sewing for A Toy Wedding

Not having much time for big sewing projects over the school holidays, there are still ways and means of getting some sewing in....


When my 3 year old niece wanted two of her toys to have a wedding & I got a request for simple wedding outfits, I needed no further excuse to get back to my machine.

This McCalls pattern 6005 was bought quite a while ago and it was a complete surprise when I realised that I had already cut out and organised all the tiny pattern pieces. The patterns don't quite shout 'wedding', however the pyjamas top was easily transformed into a wrap-around wedding dress by adding length and layers to the skirt part. The patterns for the leopard print coat and trousers were used for the grooms suit.
The veil, bow tie and shirt collar piece were my own creations! The fabric and trims were scraps and small leftover pieces, chosen on the premise that anything lacy and sparkly would appeal to my niece.
The 'wedding' had all the trappings of a true Irish wedding, though on a smaller scale in my brother-in-law's house with a meal, dancing, a disco and finishing with the national anthem! Of course, everyone was also talking about the clothes...

As an extra surprise for my niece, I sewed tiny (teaspoon-sized!) aprons as 'housewarming' gifts for the 'newly weds', inspired by the aprons I sewed in this post.


The grooms apron is Parsons Gray laminated cotton with janemeans beige narrow stitched ribbon as ties and a headband.


The brides apron is an Amy Butler laminated cotton, bought from this Irish shop (Pippablue). It has a Liberty print fabric pocket, janemeans narrow slate stitched ribbon ties, as well as a matching headscarf. The elastic was added to the ribbon at the neckline with a simple zig-zag stitch, to ensure the apron would fit over the head.


These little aprons were kindly modelled by Mickey and Minnie, before being delivered to a very appreciative niece.




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Friday, June 27, 2014

Stylish Skirts - A Pattern Book Review & Make

One of the more interesting and unusual Japanese Pattern books, which I have seen, is written by Sato Watanabe a popular Japanese designer & author. This pattern book - Stylish Skirts, published by Tuttle Publishing, is an English version of the similar Japanese pattern book.

Most Japanese Pattern books have the patterns included, and others have a range of sizes which you use to draw pattern pieces based on your measurements. Unlike the other books from Tuttle Publishing that I have reviewed, Stylish Skirts, goes even further and intends that you use your own measurements to draw pattern pieces. That makes this book both a challenge and fitting dream all at once!



The challenge is that the book requires the patterns to be drafted. Some of the patterns require you to divide your waist and/or hip measurment by anything from 2 to 10, depending on the style of the skirt.

I decided the best way to review the book would be to sew up one of the skirts. I chose Skirt D which is a faux-wrap skirt and used a linen-cotton mix fabric.




Pattern instructions for each skirt are provided in the form of detailed illustrations with numbered sewing steps, a list of materials and cutting layouts with suggested seam allowances. Measurements are given in both inches and centimetres. For skirt D I had to use my waist measurement divided in 2 (for the main 2 pattern pieces - front and back). I decided to use my high hip measurement as that is where I prefer a skirt to sit. The front panel seemed to be missing a measurement, but I worked this out from the length of the fabric on the cutting layout.



The big surprise for me (a bit of a 'd'oh' moment!!) was how beautifully the skirt fit. (Yes, I realise I used my own measurements to draft it!)

I had a few minutes of mild panic when I held up my newly drafted pattern pieces to me and they looked too small, but I trusted my measurements and kept going.

Though the book mentions adding extra for a looser fit in "Tips for Making Better Skirts" p33, this could easily be missed, so it is important not to forget to add wearing ease when drafting a pattern from the book. Adding 3-4 cm as mentioned in the book, or measure a skirt you already own, will help you decide on the amount of ease.



The sewing instructions are listed in bullet points, which is similar to all books like this one. Many of these individual points are clearly illustrated (sometimes on other pattern pages) and so were straightforward to follow. I made some minor changes to the pattern. As I had a matching lace zip I used that instead of the invisible zip suggested.







The pattern lists a leather cord for the tie but I picked a matching striped ribbon from Jane Means, which worked just as well, and was probably easier to sew.









Simple seam finishes are illustrated in the diagrams for each pattern. The cotton/linen mix fabric, that I used, frayed easily, but I covered the inside seams with gingham ribbon, also from Jane Means to neaten the inside and strengthen the seam and fabric.






Altogether there are 23 skirts, of a wide variety of styles which are constructed from different recommended types of fabrics. The patterns range from easy gathered skirts to skirts constructed from trapezoid shapes and rectangles. I identified about 7 easy skirt patterns, 8 medium and 8 difficult patterns after reading through the pattern and sewing instructions.



Like all Japanese Pattern books the garments are beautifully photographed and I really wanted patterns for all the beautiful tops shown with the skirts! The descriptions of each skirt reads like something from a literary couturier. How could you resist this skirt for example? ........ "This unashamedly feminine lace skirt is lined with sheeting to give it body. It's flattering line is neat around the hips, with gores beginning below the hips and flaring out to a full hemline." p8



This book is not for a new sewist or beginner at sewing. Even the 7 easy skirts in the book use some symbols which would be more familiar with a little sewing experience. An advanced beginner with an interest in pattern drafting and who likes to visualise sewing techniques would enjoy this book. There are diagrams for some excellent techniques, including seam finishing, a welt pocket which is attached like a patch pocket, bellows/cargo pockets, zippers, elastic shirring, sewing buttons, sewing hooks & eyes and more.


I'm delighted that Tuttle Books are continuing to add to their selection of English translations of Japanese Pattern Books. They are also about to release (July 8th 2014) another (must have) pattern book Basic Black by Sato Watanabe.


(Tuttle Publishing sent me this pattern book free. All opinions are my own. I have been happily sewing from Japanese language pattern books since 2009)











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