My ‘Simple Sew’ Lottie Blouse

Hooray, I got round to making the Simple Sew Lottie Blouse from the pattern that came free with issue 2 of Love Sewing Magazine.

Love Sewing Issue 2

I wasn’t sure which fabric to use; I wanted something a bit floaty, so my usual choice of foolproof cotton was not an option. But I certainly didn’t want something that’s difficult to sew with – a chiffon or silk would have been beautiful but I am nowhere near ready for that level yet! So I chose this pretty vintage-look cotton modal, which has a nice drape and is lightweight, cool and breathable. But I can’t take the credit for it… I saw somebody else’s Lottie Blouse was made in it (and it looked fab!) so I copied!

lottie blouse finished

It’s a crinkly fabric, so stretches a bit when pulled, which made for an interesting sewing experience. I was surprised at how well I handled it, actually.

I’ve read a few write-ups about this blouse and people tend to agree that it is a simple sew, like the pattern’s name suggests. I also agree. It was quick and easy to put together. Of course that doesn’t mean I made the whole thing without making mistakes, though!

lottie 3

My first little problem came before I had even cut the pieces. There’s one horizontally long (necktie) piece that needs to be cut on the fold. My fabric wasn’t wide enough to fit it on. So I had to chop the pattern piece into two, cut them separately, and stitch them together to form the long strip. It was a pain, but not exactly difficult, so I survived it.

I sailed through the construction until I got to binding the neckline. I’m usually OK with binding but this was fiddly. The fabric stretched and the curve was tight to get around. I’m not very impressed with the end result; it looks uneven and lumpy… but it’s not bad enough to bother redoing it! The necktie mostly covers it so I just left it as it is.

lottie close

Then I went on to do the sleeves. All went swimmingly and I inserted the first one perfectly. Or so I thought – until I realised I had sewn it inside out!! Noooooo… This is what happens when I sew in the daytime!! I was so busy concentrating on getting the sleeve head to fit right that I totally ignored which way up I pinned the pieces together. I don’t think I will ever learn to check before I put things through the machine. This isn’t the first time and unfortunately I do think it won’t be the last.

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Of course on the second attempt I made some puckers and messed it up a bit really, which put my unpicker into overdrive. Typical. But finally I had both sleeves in, sitting lovely.

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The last issue was the insertion of the necktie. The instructions are vague. I’m pretty sure I did it correctly, but I don’t really like it. There’s a raw edge underneath the collar, on the outside. You can’t see it but I just feel it’s untidy. I would much prefer the edge to be tucked in between the collar/necktie pieces, and then the collar can be topstitched to secure it in place. I wonder why they suggest the method they do. I will try my made-up method if I make another of these blouses and see how it turns out!

lottie 2

So… Ta-da! My very first blouse!

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I wasn’t sure if I would actually wear it – I’m torn between thinking it looks old-lady-like or has that fashionable vintage look or is a bit grown-up and mature for me! But I wore it yesterday and even went out in it – go me! It’s so comfy and breezy in the lovely sunshine we’re having at the moment. I think it would look cute with a high-waisted skirt – of which I (quite shockingly) own none! Time to get started on the Lottie Skirt methinks!

Beth x

It’s Party (Dress) Time!

My latest creation started life as a duvet cover, which I swiftly grabbed in Age UK last week:

Fairy duvet cover

But, with the use of this fantastic (free!) pattern from Cottage Mama (you have to sign up to their newsletter to get it), it’s now a beautiful party dress for my five-year-old!

Party dress final

I really enjoyed making this. I even liked cutting the fabric because it’s so pretty!

First of all the pattern is amazing because you only need to print out and stick together two pieces; the bodice front and back. All the other parts are cut by measuring; they’re just rectangles of different sizes. Secondly the instructions are great and ideal for beginners in making clothes like me. The only problems I had were silly little things… luckily I’m not too ashamed to share them with you!

I was just about to get started making the skirt piece when I realised my first mistake. I had cut my first piece just how I wanted it, with the fairies all in a line at the bottom. However silly me forgot to match this with the back pieces. I cut it out with the fairies lined up in the middle, instead of at the bottom. I simply couldn’t sew it’s up like this, so I cut more pieces to ensure the fairies stood proudly all around the bottom of the dress.

Party dress skirt & pieces

I then realised that I had also make a similar mistake cutting out the pieces for the bodice. The exterior pieces were fine but the fairies were out of place (again) for the lining pieces. Obviously this would be hidden but I decided to cut replacements anyway, partly because I forgot to cut out a bodice front for the lining (in my defence, I was cutting out in the day with distractions! Lesson learned!). I decided to make a contrasting lining instead so cut it in the pink spot (which isn’t actually very contrasting due to the background of the fairy fabric being spotty, but hey-ho).

Party dress bodice

With my pieces finally cut properly I began construction. I was pleased that it all went together really well. I like the band around the hem; I think it finishes the skirt off nicely.

Party dress skirt

I thought the sash was going to be wider than mine turned out but I like it nonetheless. I love little party dresses with sashes, and I’ve now realised that they’re dead easy to make! The only (very minor) problem I had was getting the needle over the bulk in the corners… I had to manually move it a few stitches so it’s not 100% neat but who’s going to look?

Party dress sash

The most irritating step of all was making the strip for the button loops. I don’t have one of those fancy rouleau strap turners so I got really frustrated with the whole thing. The amount of fray in the fabric didn’t help at all. Eventually I found some strong thread and managed to turn it through safely and painlessly… After sitting through a whole episode of a repeated The Great British Sewing Bee with the unturned strip in my hand!

Party dress - rouleau loops

After jumping those hurdles I zoomed along, following the instructions step-by-step. I constructed the bodice using the first set of instructions (if you’re familiar with the pattern that will make sense), which describe a way of sewing the exterior and lining parts together that I haven’t experienced before. When I read it through first I didn’t get it, but when I came to that step it made sense – phew! And it went together really well, so I may remember this method!

Just as I was happily topstitching around the armholes though, disaster struck. I flipped the bodice over to iron it and… an unusual random stain had appeared!! I was devastated. Well, I still am. If it doesn’t come out in the wash I will cry! This means I will have to wash it before my daughter wears it – grr… Just when it’s all nicely pressed.

Party dress bodice stain!

So, trying to forget about that very unfortunate splodge… with the bodice done, the skirt done, and the sash done, all that was left to do was to put it all together. Easier said than done. Gathers annoy me. You have to trap the top of the skirt between the exterior and lining parts of the bodice, ensuring the gathers are evenly spread and the side seams match (that’s not essential but it would irritate me if they didn’t at least come close!)

Eventually I got it all pinned in place then stitched. It’s not exactly straight and neat, especially on the inside; but that’s where that little gem of a sash comes in. It hides the join :)

So, I attached that lovely sash, whacked on a few massive buttons, and here we have it – one pretty party dress!

Party dress - front

Party dress back

The only little problem is… I went by the measurements of my daughter as advised by the pattern’s instructions, instead of making her a size 4-5 like she wears usually. She measures a size 2 (!) apart from her height – I was a little unsure about this but went along with it anyway. It’s turned out pretty much the right size, although she did complain that it was too tight at first. This was before I added the buttons; as you can see in the last photo, I made a little gap in the back to loosen it a little… I think it’s sweet. And I did make the length 10cm longer, which I think was a good move. Cheeeeese! :P

Party dress cheese!

I just love dressing my girls in handmade clothes. Today my little one was wearing the dungarees I made her a few weeks ago. She gets (or I get) so many compliments about them; it’s lovely :)

Now I’m off to make another one, slightly smaller, for darling daughter #2 :)

Beth x

Upcycled Men’s Shirt to Ladies Dress

I’ve done another clothing upcycle!

I started with a men’s shirt (that I picked up from the car boot sale for 50p):

men's shirt

And I turned it into this:

finished dress

I spotted the idea on Pinterest. I couldn’t find a tutorial so had to think for myself but it looked quite straightforward!

All I bought for this refashion was a piece of 3″ elastic, which I stitched into a ring to fit around my waist:

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I sliced the snazzy shirt in two, saving the top section for another project:

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I then gathered the top of the “skirt” – which is the bottom of the shirt:

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And attached it to the chunky elastic waistband:

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[This part was FIDDLY. I wanted to make sure the side seams were actually at the sides, and the front buttons were right in the middle, and the stitched section of the waistband was bang in the middle of the back. I'm happy to say that I succeeded in all this; but it took some time and a lot of deep breaths!]

So that’s the skirt done.

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I suppose I could have left it at that – but I wanted a dress.

So I took a little top I was happy to upcycle (I actually bought this for 20p recently – of course from the booty!) and with a lot of patience managed to stitch that to the other side of the waistband. Easier said than done, because the top is stretchy… but I did it!

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I didn’t even bother cutting the top. It’s comfy under the skirt!

All that was left to do was change the thread of the lowest button as someone had re-stitched it in white… and I was finished!

Accessorized with a lovely scarf my sister-in-law made me, which is just the PERFECT colour to match the shirt-that’s-now-a-dress.

finished dress side view

I think it’s pretty cool.

Beth x

Upcycle/refashion a men's shirt into a ladies dress

Adorable Toddler Dungarees

I finally got round to making a pair of dungarees for my toddler (who I may add is a REAL toddler now she’s walking – hooray!) – these have been on my to-sew list for a couple of months!

Dungarees Collage 2

I’m not going to do a tutorial for two reasons: 1) I’m no expert, and 2) You can download the (free!) pattern and follow the instructions here on Made By Toya’s blog if you’re interested!

I’m so happy with how they turned out. In the past I have made bad fabric choices, but I chose this cute baby cord fabric and it turned out to be perfect for the job. They’re not the hardest wearing dungarees ever, but I didn’t want to sew with a chunky, heavy fabric. I wanted them to be nice and light for summer; and they are :)

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The cutting out process took aaaaages. There were so many little pieces! I think there were twenty altogether. I don’t enjoy cutting out. I want to get stuck in with the construction! I did take a photo of all the pieces when I’d finally cut them all out, but I think I deleted it – whoops.

Anyway, that evening I managed to get stuck into sewing. Most of the construction was straightforward and went well, so I was happy.

This may surprise you (because they’re pretty basic, right?) – it was my first time doing pockets! I don’t know why they turned out so small compared to those on the instructions but I think they’re cute! They were easy (not that I feared them before; I’m just new to making clothes), and I will be looking out for patterns with pockets now! I’m pleased with how they all turned out. I will admit though, at first I wasn’t concentrating and starting sewing the top of the pocket closed, haha… out came my trusty unpicker!!

dungarees - pockets

The bodice is lined, which is something I love because you can hide all your seams inside; no need for zigzagging (I don’t have an overlocker). :)

I used buttons to fasten the straps, as I know how to do it so didn’t have to learn the skill of snaps – plus I didn’t have to purchase any! And I had these two red heart ones in my button tin so it was meant to be.

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The pattern suggests it’ll fit a 2 year old, and I would say that’s about right. My little one is coming up to 16 months, and it fits her well with a little growing room I think – and I did chop a few inches off the hems. I was thankful that we had a little fitting session before I hemmed the legs and added the buttons. I was impressed that the little wriggler stayed still long enough for me to mark the button placement and hems!

dungarees - side view

The fiddliest bit was the hems. They were very narrow; I think because I chopped those few inches off it made it difficult because the legs taper in slightly. It wouldn’t fit round my machine so it was fiddly trying to sew in a straight line without catching any other fabric underneath. I ended up with two puckers; probably because they were narrower at the top than at the bottom. Instead of trying to unpick and rectify this I thought I’d disguise them by adding in some elastic and creating elasticated hems. I actually like this style more; it looks cute. So those little puckers were a happy mistake!

Elasticated hems on dungarees

The only thing on the whole garment I’m not happy with is the back, at the top. It’s not symmetrical. I noticed this after pressing it in place, but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered to make it more even. I’m really happy with the rest of it so it’ll be OK.

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I tried hard to make sure the hearts were all in straight lines. Usually I play it safe and opt for busy prints, but this whole project was a learning curve for me.

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I’m also proud of my topstitching. I enjoy topstitching. As long as everything’s lined up, it tends to go smoothly. I also like the end result; for some reason an item looks a lot neater with a little line of stitching round it.

Although there were lots of little pieces, they all came together really well, and it wasn’t as confusing as it seemed at first. I may even make another pair!

Many thanks to Toya for the pattern, it was great! :)

Beth x

My Brigitte Dress is Famous!

Yes, I’m famous! (Well, nearly.)

A little photo of my Simple Sew Brigitte dress is in Issue 2 of Love Sewing Magazine.

My Brigitte Dress in Love Sewing Magazine

I know it’s not that big a deal – a lot of bloggers have tutorials etc. in magazines – but for me, just this little photo is something! They chose my dress out of I-don’t-know-how-many, and I feel rather proud.

It came as a nice surprise, as I wasn’t aware that the lovely people at Love Sewing were going to use it; I had only shared the photo on their Facebook wall as a reply to a post.

Simple Sew "Brigitte" Dress

Simple Sew “Brigitte” Dress

Had I known it was going to be published, I would have taken a better photo, but never mind…

The real shame is that they made a little spelling error in my blog name – underneath the photo it reads, ‘White hearts Brigitte by Beth @AftwerDarkSewing’ … AfterDarkSewing*, silly billies!!

my dress in love sewing

So that’s this week’s post; a bit of a change from my usual type where I show off my latest project… I just felt the need to log this momentous occasion!

Beth x

Snuggly Taggie-Style Blanket

I love having children. Kids’ stuff is so much fun to sew. It’s quick, and it’s (usually) pretty easy. And it doesn’t require much fabric so you can raid your stash and get started straight away!

Recently I jumped on the “Taggies” bandwagon. I love these little blankets. Basically they’re little baby-sized blankets with silky labels (ribbons) stuck out. If you don’t have children yourself it will look quite random but the thing is, babies simply love playing with those little tags!

I discovered Taggies when my first was too old for one, so when my next little bundle came along I thought I will definitely get her one. Well… I don’t know why but I didn’t!! She is a thumb sucker and LOVES LOVES LOVES anything soft. When she sees something soft, she will instantly stick her thumb in her mouth and snuggle it with her other hand. So sweet! So, getting to the point… I made her a snuggly “taggie”!

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One side is that lovely birdie print, and the other is the most softest, snuggliest touchy-feely fabric I’ve (probably) ever felt. I used it on the face of my penguin baby towel, which I use a lot. My little one knows the face is snuggly so she just tries to grab it – which is of course part of the hood, so it doesn’t make the task of drying very easy….

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So basically, it’s two rectangles of fabric stitched together with little ribbon loops caught in the middle. If you sew, it’s hardly rocket science to figure out how to make it. I know I’m certainly not the only blogger to write about a handmade taggie-style creation!

Sewing ribbons on taggie

What I will say, though, is although it’s a simple sew, it is a bit time-consuming trying to pin all those loops on and making sure they stay in place. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to things like this, so I was quite happy when 99% of them behaved themselves. You can see the tiny black ribbon in the corner completely slipped out of place, though. That’s annoying. But it’s kind of cool because it looks like it’s meant to be like that, to form a little hanging loop unlike the other loops… if that makes any sense…

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My taggie-style blanket turned out to be a lot cheaper than the real deal (they sell for £10+!). I used about a quarter of a fat quarter that cost £1, one snuggly face flannel (too soft to use as a flannel I think!) from a pack of 3 for 99p, and lots of little offcuts from the ribbons I have collected over the years! It was a bargain and we love it :)

I should really have a photo of my little one snuggling it, because she does love it. She’s so adorable. I’m very biased of course, but I can’t be the only person in the world to adore a baby who drops to the floor and sticks her thumb in her mouth at the sight of a fluffy bit on a touchy-feely book!

snuggly book

So, if you sew and have babies, or know babies, you will find it hard to think of a reason not to make a blanket like this one evening!

Dress Refashion: Giving a boring grey dress a cute lease of life

Hi :) Below is my latest masterpiece…

Dress Refashion

OK, OK, I cheated. I didn’t make the whole dress. I started with this:

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A plain grey dress, from my local car boot sale. I love the style and fit and it’s so comfortable – but it looks boring. It’s not just plain but it’s grey. My daughter wears grey to school. Enough said!

So I thought I would buy it anyway and jazz it up a bit. I ummed and ahhed for a couple of weeks over what best to do, but I knew I wanted to add something around the neckline.

Then a few days ago I had a lightbulb moment and dashed off to dig out this old dress that I like – but really it’s too big for me so I don’t wear it a lot. I love the neckline. I think it’s cute a looks a bit vintage-y – which I can do in small doses!

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It was obvious to me what the best thing to do would be. Cut off the pretty neck piece and whack it on the boring dress! (Luckily the neckline is the same shape.) So that’s what I did. It wasn’t even as fiddly unpicking all the delicate material as I expected it to be. Once unpicked I had this:

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I wasn’t going to bother putting anything on the arms, but once I had attached the neckline part I thought it didn’t quite look finished so I unpicked the bobbly strips around the arms and stitched them on too!

Dress Refashion

I’m pretty impressed with myself. The reason for that is that I did it all by hand, and usually I like to machine sew. I always thought it’s just more fun. But actually, once I got started hand stitching this on, I found it rather relaxing and not as frustrating as I expected (I like the speed of the machine; I like to see my makes finished as quickly as possible, and hand sewing just takes longer!)

Dress Refashion

I do like simple little refashions like this. I will wear the dress a lot now it’s not so boring! I would love to upcycle clothes more adventurously in the future; I love how you can turn an old item into something new and pretty and fresh.

Beth x