Somewhere over the Rainbow dress

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Where’s Toto gone? My work colleagues dubbed me Dorothy the day I wore this to work.

I’ve just had a glorious four day weekend, with Friday and Monday off to use up the last of my annual leave before the new year starts. Boy did I need that time off. I’m not going to talk about work here as this is my little space to get away from it but it’s safe to say I have a stressful job and some time away is bliss. Anyway, I spent my break creating this beauty and I adore her.

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Sideways view

The pattern is Gertie’s Shirtwaist Dress from her Book of Better Sewing as I’m slowly working through conquering this book.   There’s some gorgeous versions of this dress around.   I think my faves are this lobster print one (yep, you read that right, click the link if you don’t believe me!) and this cute red gingham version.

I’m pretty proud of this dress.   A year ago when I started sewing again for the first time in 15 years, I would never have dreamt of being able to create something like this but I’m proud to say that I did it.   Usually in my projects there’s something that I look back on afterwards and think I could do better but not on this little number, despite tackling several techniques I never done before – shirring (it was pretty easy and REALLY satisfying – shirring’s going on everything now), in-seam pockets and shoulder yokes.   I think I’m better at sewing than I sometimes give myself credit for.   Look, I even managed pattern matching.

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I did all the  that Gertie called for in the book, barring the sleeve bands – which reminds me I had a nightmare on the sleeves.   Being gingham, the right side looks the same as the wrong side and I clearly didn’t pay attention when assembling the sleeves as, when it came to setting them in I realised that I had two left sleeves and the first I’d set in was appalling out came the seamstress’ best friend, the seam ripper.   But I hand stitched the under stitching on the facings.

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Pretty neat, huh?

The fabric was a light poly cotton from fabricland, again one of the rare pieces of fabric that I actually bought straight from a fabric shop.   It was a bargain £2.50 a metre and I had thought I’d played it safe by buying 4 metres to allow for pattern matching – turns out it was 45″ wide (I’m still not fabric savvy enough to think of these things when buying) and the pattern called for 4 metres at this width anyway.   This meant that, where I’d used a tad extra yardage to line up my stripes properly, I was a couple of inches short and had to cut the front skirt pieces on the cross  don’t think it shows too much.

I could witter on more about the dress but you’re probably bored by now so I’ll say farewell.   I just need to work out what to make next…

Let’s talk about zips, baby

Yes, I do have Salt n Pepa going round in my head at the moment. And you do too now. Ha ha!

Anyway, I said I was going to tell you why I wanted to write a blog. Well:
a) I really love sewing and could talk about it for hours but my friends and family don’t really wanna hear me rambling about perfectly bound button holes and the perils of slippery fabric. So, for now, I’ll talk to myself on my little corner of the internet until some of you come and join me.
b) I’ve applied to join series three of The Great British Sewing Bee- the search for the best British amateur sewer, aired on BBC 2 in the UK.

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I don’t claim to be the best amateur sewer by far. I follow too many amazing blogs like Scruffy Badger Time and Dolly Clackett to even contemplate the thought. But I’ve got nothing to lose and it’s fun to have something to get excited about and to stretch my sewing skills. I love a challenge and tend to throw myself at patterns regardless of the skill level indicated. This has resulted in some bloopers but also some things I’m really proud of.

I’d like to take you on this journey with me. For now I’m keeping my fingers crossed and praying for a phone call between now and some time in April (I really should check that date).

Of course I’m doing some research and homework to seat up and that brings me back to Salt n Pepa- well, zips anyway. I nearly squealed with delight and jumped up and down in my chair last night, when watching episode two of series two of The Bee, as it shall henceforth be known. The contestants had to make a box pleated skirt with a hand picked lapped zip. I CAN DO THAT! I wanted to shout to the world. And it just so happens that I’m currently working on a project (to be shared when complete) and I had already decided to replace the invisible zip it called for for a lapped zip. I’m a massive Gertie fan and have her book. The pencil skirt, of which I’ve made two, has a lapped zip. I had intended to machine stitch this zip but, in the spirit of The Bee, I swapped to hand picked, or pricked if you’re the woman from The Bee (note to self, really must learn the presenters names, other than Patrick- yummy!).

Here’s how it went. Firstly I’ve got to tell you I’m in love with parafin wax. I hate hand sewing usually but read on a blog, I think it was Did you make that?, about waxing your thread before sewing. Oh my God! I got one tangle during all of the hand stitching and actually found it relaxing rather than the usual hair pulling strop inducing nightmare hand sewing usually is for me. And that’s good because I had to do a lot as I made a couple of rookie mistakes. If you follow me on instagram you may have spotted one of them.

I have a confession to make. Until tonight I’ve been putting my zips in wrong. It didn’t dawn on me until I was 1/4 of the way down one side that I’ve not been allowing for the seam allowance where the skirt body meets the waist band. I’ve been butting the zip stop up against the edge of the fabric and folding down the excess zip tape. So this revelation caused unpicking number one. I dutifully measured down to the seam line (5/8″) and measured on the zip. Here comes revelation number two. The top of the zip tape is 5/8″. Queue forehead slapping moment and poor Homer Simpson impression. I’m dense at times.

I’m now halfway down the first side of the zip and super chuffed with my really neat, practically
invisible pick stitching. I glance down at the end of the zip and realise the second unpick is about to start.

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I’d put it on inside out with the zip pull on the inside. Curses!

My third attempt was the final one and pretty successful. It was a bit tricky as I’ve used my overlocker on the side seams so it’s trimmed off the seam allowance so I had to be really careful to catch the allowance at the back of the overlap. But it all worked out right in the end. What do you think?

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