Kalle shirt dress

I've been intending to blog this dress ever since I made it, because I absolutely adore it. I even had some photos ready to go, which Josh took for me. Yet I kept putting it off. And now that I'm finally writing the blog post I know why. Because I have nothing to say about it. I followed every step of the instructions, changed nothing, and it turned out fantastic. Makes for a pretty boring blog post, no?

So then I thought I'd take some new photos, in some nice scenery,  to create something interesting to look at. On a run I had discovered the perfect place - a wheat field stretching seemingly forever. I loved the idea of the golden field with blue skies and the blue dress.

Look! Wouldn't my Kalle dress looks fantastic in this photo?

But after that run it started raining to not stop. Even when it wasn't raining the sky had that threatening grey colour. And for the photos I wanted I needed a blue sky.

Then one overcast day I came home from work to see the farmer harvesting the wheat. I rushed outside with my tripod to a field he had not yet gotten to, to try to take some photos despite the ominous sky. But the light was just all kinds of wrong. And I was exhausted from a loooong day at work, which shows in the photos. Sloping shoulders, no smile. Not exactly what I want to post on this blog.

But since I put some effort in, I really wanted to blog about the dress. So here goes. With the original photos.

Let's start with the fabric. You all know that I love Fabric Godmother and her selection of all the most beautiful fabrics. I subscribe to email updates and each time I get one my bank balance takes a hit. Except on this particular occasion, because the email was referring to a sale. I wasted no time in getting to the website and selecting my sale finds. I was saving money here after all!

I bought this denim and some floral scuba (which became a Sewaholic Davie dress, shown on Instagram during Me Made May, but not yet here). When I bought the denim I thought I'd use it for the Bridgetown dress. This was before I completely gave up on project Sew My Style.

But when I saw the Kalle pattern I knew I had to use the denim for this. I had seen the shirt dress this pattern is based on in Heather Lou's blog when she first posted about it, and I LOVED it. So when the pattern dropped I went straight for it.

And it's every bit as good as I expected it to be. I love that it's short in the front, and even shorter on the sides, but very modestly long at the back. I love that it's floaty and cool on a hot day. I love the kimono sleeves, which are just so flattering. I love the wide pleat at the back, which creates that beautiful drape down the back. I love the little pocket. And I love that it's feminine, but not overly sweetly so.

Yeah, so in summary I really love it. 

Really tempted to make another, but the summer weather seems to have disappeared. However, as soon as it returns I'll be ready with the pattern in one hand and 2 m of fabric in another!

Photo credit: Josh

The garden, a rant about mental well-being, and Turia dungarees

When I moved into the cottage I live in now the garden was a mess. The house had been empty for years and the garden had become overgrown with weeds and thorny shrubs. Before letting it, my landlords brought in somebody to clear it, and while they got rid of all the wild plants, they left a mess behind. Dead, dried plants on the ground, lots of rubble, thick roots from the chopped down shrubs, and lots of broken glass from some picture frames which had been left outside. It looked like a set for a post-apocalyptic film. I have never had an interest in gardening, so I had no plans whatsoever of doing anything about it.

But as it happened, I did. And it was the most therapeutic thing I've done possibly ever. I have alluded in this blog and on Instagram that I have a thing with SAD. I say 'a thing' because I've never gone to my GP about it and had it confirmed. So that it's SAD is guesswork. But I do have a degree in psychology, so it's educated guesswork. ;)

I come from a culture where mental illhealth is not a real thing. It's just a weakness really. So I learnt to suppress my depressive tendencies and not acknowledge them.

But getting older and walking my own path in life has helped me accept that while I am a very happy person most of the time, I am a sad person some of the time. And that's fine, no big deal.

The window you see in the background is my sewing room.

Last few winters I have been down. Comes on sort of January time, stops end of Feb/beginning of March. I'm pretty sure it's SAD. And this most recent winter was not great. I decided to make a massive career change and I poured all my time into it. I neglected everybody around me and spent all my free time cooped up in the spare room, hunched over my laptop, working on this goal I had. There were no major issues with my mood because I was motivated, driven and focussed. And that kept me happy. But it was getting exhausting working the day job, coming home and then working until late on this thing, and not really relaxing.

And then I failed. And that coincided with my usual January low mood. So...I was pretty unhappy.

However, if it is one thing I've learnt during my years of repressing bad mood, it's that taking on a completely unrelated challenge helps. So when I saw my professional dreams fail (only to rise from the ashes like a phoenix 5 months later, but I didn't know that would happen at the time), the emotional storm that followed had to be channelled into something. Thus, I plunged myself into unchartered territory. Gardening.

I had made a very lame attempt in the past, when I bought two tomato plants and a couple of strawberry plants and attempted to grow them in terracotta pots on the windowsill. I only fed them water and neglect and surprise, surprise, they died. But this time I utilised the resources available to me. The wealth of knowledge that is my neighbour, a retired professional gardener, my mom who has the greenest fingers in the world, and of course the Internet.

And...the garden is thriving. I have suffered losses to natural forces, including an army of slugs and a brutal storm that pulled several plants out of the ground. But the rest is doing great.

Now that plants, which I've grown from tiny seeds (or in the case of the strawberries and tomatoes, from seedlings from the garden centre) are producing fruit, I am beaming with pride. But more importantly, the garden helped me get through a very unhappy time and back to my happy self.

I ran a half marathon last year for Restore, an Oxforshire mental health charity. A lot of their work involves their members getting involved in gardening work as a form of therapy. I loved the sound of that, but in hindsight I know it didn't fully resonate with me until now. Now I get it.

So as you can imagine, I have a lot of love for my garden. So much that I devoted a sewing project to it.  I had been digging, planting, weeding, watering and everything else in old jeans and wellies. But I felt the garden deserved better, so I decided to make a pair of dungarees specifically for working in the garden.

I used the Turia pattern from Pauline Alice. Lovely pattern and great instructions. It's a bit time-consuming with all that topstitching, but I found it very satisfying to just sew a whole lot of straight lines in a fabric that behaves when handled. My only issue with the pattern was the legs, which are way too wide for my taste. So I tapered them quite a bit. When I finished them I wished I had tapered them a tiny bit more, but I flat-felled the seams and didn't fancy ripping them up, so I left them as they are.

The only other deviation from the pattern instructions I did was to only use one zipper, instead of one on each side. And I have no problems getting in and out of the dungarees.

The fabric is medium weight denim from Merchant and Mills in a deep blue colour. I wanted something tough which will withstand kneeling, moving, getting covered in soil, being washed at a high temperature, etc. And this denim ticks all boxes.

I am so happy with these dungarees. And my garden. So here is a photo bomb of both.

Liberty Queue for the Zoo Archer

This shirt has been a long time in the making. The Grainline Archer button up shirt is one of my favourite TNT patterns, if not the favourite. I have made a couple in really sensible blue chambrays that I wear so much I fear I will wear them out soon.

But I started to itch to make one in a whimsical pattern. There is something about smart clothes in unpredictable prints that I find irresistible. I usually just admire it on others, not feeling brave enough to rock flamingos or cats on office wear myself. So I started thinking that maybe instead of full out flamingos, I could try a floral Liberty fabric as a light venture into whimsical prints. A soft-start, if you will. But when I was in Liberty, stroking the rolls of floral Tana Lawn, my eyes kept landing on this fabric covered in camels, giraffes and elephants with briefcases - Queue for the Zoo. I tried to turn my attention back to the florals, but it was hopeless, I had to have this fabric.

Unfortunately, I bought it just before moving house, so it didn't get made up straight away. After settling into the new house I had no time to sew anything but superquick projects, so my whimsical Archer had to wait. Until the Easter bank holiday weekend just gone. Almost a year after I bought the fabric.

In a way it was lucky, I guess, because by this point I had bought my new machine, which helped me achieve a really neat result.

In terms of construction...I've made a couple of Archers and Alders in the past and could by now probably sew one in my sleep. It helps that it is an exceptionally well designed pattern. I remember the first time I made it, and how nervous I was about how difficult it would be. And then being surprised by how straight-forward it was. For that reason I keep recommending this pattern to friends who are getting into sewing. The instructions hold your hand throughout the process and once you have one of these under your belt you feel like a sewing bad-ass.

I don't have any photos of this, but I did flat-felled sleeves on the side and sleeve seams. It's my favourite and I learned a really easy way to do it from the Colette Negroni pattern, which doesn't involved any special foot. Because I like wearing my sleeves rolled up, the seams are on display, and a flat-felled sleeve looks great inside and out.

Those of you with good eye sight will notice that my button plackets are the wrong way around. That was intentional. I didn't fancy trying to match this messy pattern, and doing it this way around looked a bit neater.

One thing I didn't do intentionally, and wish I had thought about - the collar. It's upside down. Well, the little animals on it are anyway. When it is flipped down. So I guess I could just walk around with my collar popped.

Or not.

I normally like a tower placket on a button up shirt and always change this from the placket in the pattern, but on this busy fabric I just couldn't be bothered. Plus, I always wear my sleeves rolled up. Well, except when I'm posing for the self-timer, see below.

I considered doing the back yoke in two parts, on the bias, to create something of a visual effect. But once again I decided I couldn't be bothered. The thing is, this fabric is so busy, and so lovely, that it will demand all attention, and constructional details become just a side note.

The shirt is not as puffy at the back as it looks. It's just my terrible posture. The pelvis-out-shoulder-blades-back pose, just waiting for it to make it big on Insta.

So in conclusion - yeah, I love it! To be honest, there is a selection bias in that I only post things I like on the blog, because of the work involved in taking the photos and editing them and writing about the project, etc, but I really, really love this one. Those giraffes in trainers, parrots in top hats and elephants with briefcases put a smile on my face every time.

It will be an only child though, because this is all the whimsical my wardrobe can take. But it will be loved.

The year of the sleeve! (Part II)

I can't remember how this blouse came about really. Normally I think about and plan a project for a little while before sewing it, but that wasn't really the case with this blouse, it just happened.

I think that after my Dove blouse I wasn't ready to call it a day with the sleeve trend, so I decided to make another top with a sleeve detail. I was making an order at Minerva Crafts for a bunch of other fabrics and into my order slipped a mere metre of this sunshine yellow viscose challis. This is so not my colour, but I couldn't resist. And I have no regrets.

I wanted a quick and dirty make, and decided I'd sew the Grainline Scout tee and improvise when I got to the sleeves.

I cut out the pattern pieces and lengthened the sleeve piece by 15 cm or so. Possibly a bit more, not sure, I eyeballed it. I didn't enjoy cutting this fabric at all. Viscose doesn't stay in place while it's being cut, and I had all those daisy chains to line up both length and width-wise. I don't have any fool-proof way for doing this other than going slow and checking and double checking that the pattern is lined up.

The sewing was a whole different story. This is where my new sewing machine really showed off! Viscose challis frays like nobody's business, so I've always found finishing seams a pain when sewing with viscose. But my new machine has a double overedge stitch which looks a lot like an overlocker stitch, and it completely eliminates fraying. It's a very slow stitch to sew, but so, so worth it. I ended up finishing all seams this way.

Also, my old machine didn't do a wide range of stitch lengths, so sewing long basting stitches along the sleeve curvature to gather sleeves in order to ease them in was never quite as successful as I wished. This machine though, no problem! Has great long stitches, making easing in sleeves easy peasy.

I've sewn a couple of Scout tees already, so the pattern was not new to me. It is a delightful little pattern, so easy and adaptable. The finished look will really depend on the chosen fabric, from structured and modern in a stiffer fabric, to floaty and relaxed in a lightweight fabric. Also, it's super-hackable. I've made four Scouts in total (incl this one) and three of them were hacks. Two of them I made in two separate fabrics, by splitting the front and back bodice parts in two and creating something like a yoke. And this one...just lengthened the sleeves and added on frilly bits at the end.

Speaking of the frilly sleeves, I made them by cutting out two rectangles that measured lengthwise double the length of the sleeve hem. The width of my rectangles was determined by how much fabric I had left as I only bought one metre (and trust me, it was a squeeze). I basted one of the long edges of each rectangle, and gathered it until it was the same length as the sleeve edge. Pinned, sewed to the sleeve pieces before I attached them to the body of the blouse, and carried on sewing it as per the pattern instructions.

Because my fabric is so thin and fine, I did rolled hems (by machine) on all hems. There's loads of tutorials online for this, but I like this one by Threads Magazine.

I have to say that I'm loving this blouse a lot more than I expected. Don't you love when that happens? When something turns out better than you thought it would? I'm loving it! Can't wait for some warm weather to start wearing it!

The year of the sleeve! (part I)

Sooo, I have to admit that I hate following trends. I have this whole snobbish thing about how it's easy to sheepishly follow trends, but it takes integrity to stay true to one's own style. But every couple of seasons I fall for a trend and have to face my own hypocrisy. And boy have I fallen this season! It's all about sleeves, and I looove it!

Since big and frilly sleeves started popping up on the runways, and later the high street shops, I've been thinking about making my own top with dramatic sleeves. So I looked around the Internets for suitable patterns, and my eyes landed upon the Megan Nielsen Dove blouse. Bingo!

(Two things to come clean about here: 1) See that bit of fabric in the V neck? The facing flipped up as I rushed to get into a pose before the self timer went off. 2) I may have gone a bit crazy with the contrast while editing these photos.)

However, to reduce the cognitive dissonance of "I hate following trends, but look at me following a trend!" I had to at least stick to my standard monochrome tones.

So I made it up in a subtle ivory Prestige crepe from Fabric Godmother. As soon as I saw the pattern I knew I'd be making the full bell sleeves, so I wanted a heavy drapey fabric for this blouse. Something that would have beautiful movement. And this fabric is just the ticket. It is so thick and heavy (for a crepe). The quality is superb and feels very luxurious. As a colleague commented when I wore the blouse to work: "It looks expensive."

So let's talk about the pattern. Consistent with my previous experience of MN patterns, this one is well-designed and comes with good instructions. It's quite a loose fitting shape, so there weren't any fitting issues at all. I cut a straight size S and it fits beautifully.

The design is simple and elegant, but as usual with MN patterns, has a modern twist that adds that little something extra. Aside from the obvious, the sleeves, I am a big fan of the V neck finished with a facing. It creates such a clean look that I absolutely love.

You can see that I went for version 3 with the full bell sleeves, and the only modification I made was to the hem. This was not part of the original plan. I loved the look of the long, curved hem, but when I tried it on like that the overall look in this white-ish fabric was a bit...religious-sect-member-uniform. So I made a very impulsive decision to chop a big chunk off the bottom of the blouse and ended up with this boxy, slightly cropped shape. Which I really love! It puts the sleeves in focus and makes the overall look quite clean and simple.

So in summary - I absolutely love my Dove blouse. I feel super glamorous in it! And I can't tell you how many compliments I've received about it. The only issue: I'm bound to dip my sleeves in my food at some point.