World Book Day Blog Tour: My Creation!

When I was considering which book to use as inspiration for this blog tour, I was spoiled for choice. I was surrounded by literature and was always a keen reader as a child and had many ‘favourites’ along the way! I made my way through the family photo albums and was reminded of one of my favourite Christmas presents: my dollshouse. Funnily enough, I added it to the top of my list to Santa after being inspired by a book my Mum used to read to me. Inside The Dollshouse: A Miniature Tale is a wonderful story about two little dolls who watch as their dollshouse is built for them.

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I was fascinated by the idea of toys coming to life (this was years before I ever watched Toy Story!) and of their secret life behind closed doors. I would spend hours acting out scenes from the story in my own dollshouse and would create soft furnishings out of scraps of fabric. It was with this in mind, and KCW’s wonderful Winter Theme of Toys, that I decided to create a Dollshouse Skirt.

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First I sewed a simple skirt using Tilda’s Jean Teal Quilting Cotton, a ditsy vintage-inspired pink floral and teal print. I bought this a while ago from The Little Sewing Company, and it was a dream to sew with.

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For the pockets themselves I used this wonderful cross-print quilting cotton from Cotton+Steel which I bought from The Village Haberdashery. In fact, all the fabrics I used for this skirt were from my stash because I wanted to continue the ‘scrap fabric’ tradition from when I was a child.

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The pockets open up to reveal the dollshouse itself. I appliquéd traditional furniture in coordinating fabrics. I chose to sew the pockets ‘upside down’ so that they would serve as ‘fabric books’ when the wearer sits down and opens them on her lap. Perfect for long journeys or boring waiting rooms!

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And of course, the pockets themselves are fully functional and can hold all those treasures a little girl wants to carry around with her!

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I made the little doll herself with a popper on her back so that she can be moved around the dolllshouse and interact with the various items of furniture. The dress she is wearing is also removable with a popper which can be attached inside the wardrobe, meaning she can have a change of clothes!

I am so happy with how the skirt turned out and I cannot wait to give it as a gift to a very lucky little 4 year old very soon!

Reading sparks the imagination. Imagination sparks creativity. I certainly wouldn’t be the creative person I am today, with all the dreams and ideas I have, without books. I have a lot to thank books for, so I really enjoyed looking back and being inspired by one of my old favourites to create this skirt.

Don’t forget to check out While she was sleeping‘s blogpost today featuring the most adorable Satya Romper, as well as all the other participants throughout the rest of the week! Also remember to enter the FOUR giveaways I am running alongside this blog tour (read all about the prizes and how to enter here).

Happy Sewing & Reading!

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Flower Girl Dress!

As I mentioned previously in my Throwback Thursday: Flower Girls! post, I spent August designing and creating a dress for the wedding of my good friends, Tiff and Dan, to be worn by their little flower girl, C. I was so honoured to be asked, and it was a lovely way to feel part of their special day.

I spent time with Tiff looking at examples of dresses on Pinterest (see my inspiration board here), and was able to gauge an understanding of the styles that she liked. I also wanted to make the dress subtly personal, incorporating vintage design details reflecting the costume course on which Tiff and I met, as well as mirroring Tiff’s wedding dress.

Mood Board

Mood Board

In order to find the perfect fabrics and trims I scoured the length of the country (almost!), searching all the way from Shipley in West Yorkshire down to sunny Bournemouth on the south coast. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to source good quality ivory chiffon for a reasonable price! In the end, I bought ivory silk satin from The Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham, ivory cotton lawn from Fabric Land Bournemouth, ivory chiffon from Jo-An’s in Southbourne and a selection of gold ribbon from Hobbycraft.

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Hemline Detail

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Back Neckline Detail

Front and Back of Dress.

Front and Back of Dress.

Thanks to Tilly & the Buttons’ fabulous blogpost detailing how to cut out slippery fabrics, I had no problems cutting out my drafted pattern pieces. It’s definitely worth a read for a few tips and tricks!

Photo Credit: Mary Grinham

Photo Credit: Mary Grinham

Photo Credit: Stephen Bunn

Photo Credit: Stephen Bunn Photography

Photo Credit: Stephen Bunn

Photo Credit: Stephen Bunn Photography

Back of Tiff and C's dresses*

Words cannot describe the pride I felt as I watched C walk down the aisle with a beaming smile. Everything I had wanted to achieve in the design and execution had paid off. Tiff & Dan were over the moon with it and C felt and looked like a princess. Furthermore, the dress was in perfect keeping with the bride and bridesmaids’ dresses as well as the day overall. I couldn’t have wished for better! The wedding was absolutely beautiful, and I’m delighted to be able to say I helped create a little part of it. Congratulations Mr and Mrs Forbes!

The Pleated Bow Dress

I was incredibly pleased when Natalli from Nell Patterns responded to my email asking to be a pattern tester for her latest pattern: The Pleated Bow Dress. Not knowing much about the pattern beforehand, I was even more pleased when it finally arrived in Dobbin’s Bobbins’ inbox and I discovered the simplest, sweetest little design. It’s a pretty a-line dress, featuring an inverted pleat and bow. (See my 1960s inverted pleat inspiration here).

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Lack of sleep and high running emotions over another project meant that I was incredibly silly and made a somewhat critical mistake during cutting (I honestly don’t know how I managed it!), and I ended up having to make a size 2T, rather than the 5T that I was supposed to be making. Whoops! I was disappointed that I’d wasted my small quantity of such lovely cottons; a soft and simple blue and white stripe teamed with a vintage floral fat quarter. In the end, it didn’t really matter, it just meant that I got to have a practice run, and that I now have the cutest little dress waiting to find a cute little two year old to match! I love the way the pleat is accentuated with the stripes.

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Ensuring I was fully awake and focused on the task at hand, I finally cut out the size 5T! This time I used a cotton printed with the sweetest vintage sewing design, featuring Singer machines, antique irons, scissors, buttons and bobbins! The colour makes it the perfect transitional garment- when the British autumn takes full swing, it would be perfect paired with a cream jumper and tights.

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D loved the dress and was the perfect model!

D is a little tall for her age (120cm), so I found the dress was slightly too short- if I were to make another for her, I’d definitely want to add at least another 2 inches to the length to avoid the ‘Shirley Temple’ look! Or perhaps take it up a little more and turn it into a tunic to be paired with leggings.

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I also think the design would look really pretty if you reduced the length even further and turned it into a top.

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The pinnacle of this a-line design has to be the beautiful bow that sits on one shoulder. I love how something so simple can instantly transform a garment, making it pretty and feminine without being sickly sweet.

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Perhaps the best thing about this pattern is just how quick and easy it is to make. There are no fiddly zips or buttons to contend with and you can cut and sew the entire thing in a couple of hours. What could be more satisfying than that?! I know that I’ll be making more of these in the future!

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A massive thank you to D’s Mum Amanda for her excellent directing skills, and for letting me use their gorgeous garden for photos!

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The Pleated Bow Dress pdf pattern will be available at Nell Patterns very soon! It’s worth noting that if you like Natalli’s other patterns as well (which I’m sure you will), she currently has an offer of 3 patterns for $13!

The Henry Dress!

Back in May, Erin from Brooklyn Pattern Company asked me to test one of her brand new patterns and I was over the moon with excitement. The dress perfectly balances modernity and tradition; femininity and fun. I cannot wait to finally share the photos of the wonderful Henry dress with you all!

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I just love this pattern. Erin’s instructions are clear & concise and make the dress a really enjoyable sew. Some of you may recognise the pattern itself as I couldn’t help but sew it for a second time during Kids Clothes Week- I featured it on my blog here. (I told you I loved it!)

Knowing I was sewing the dress for 8 year-old J (a family friend and the best model I could ask for!) I had to go out and splurge on some gorgeous bright fabrics to suit her personality. I chose these brilliant contrasting turquoise polka-dot and orange stripe cottons from Hobbycraft that I knew she’d just love! The polka-dots even inspired their own Throwback Thursday blogpost which you can find here.

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The dress features beautiful gathered and pleated sleeves which add the perfect amount of girliness to this dress. Plus, for those of you (like me) who dread sewing sleeves, there’s no need to fret! Erin cleverly breaks the process into two installments making it SO much more bearable!

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The dress also features some pretty awesome pockets; perfect for any little girl who loves exploring and collecting treasures along her travels!

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I had such a great time photographing J! It had been raining constantly all morning but as soon as she put on the dress the sun came out and shone down over our photoshoot in my parent’s back garden. J couldn’t stop grinning and was literally jumping with excitement. The Henry dress allows a lot of movement, so jumping as well as running, rolling, climbing and dancing was no problem at all! It’s safe to say the dress was a winner!

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If you would like to sew your very own Henry dress, or any of Brooklyn Pattern Company’s other designs (I can’t wait to give the Bedford dress a go!), Erin is offering readers of the Henry & Bedford Blog Tour a 20% discount on any pattern in her shop with the code: SUMMERFUN15. The code is valid now until 15th July (11:59pm EDT), so get on it folks!

My British Summer Holiday Dress!

So apparently Dobbin’s Bobbins’ blogposts are a bit like buses. You wait around for ages for one to come along, and then two show up at the same time! But hey, that’s the Kids Clothes Week effect right?

I can’t put into words how pleased I am with this little number.

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When Kids Clothes Week announced this season’s theme ‘travel’ I knew I wanted to sew the Henry Dress once again, this time in a size 3T. After all, it had been so brilliant in the testing phase! (Keep your eyes peeled in July for the blog tour!)

The other ‘definite’ was that I wanted to use map fabric. I spent a lot of time looking for the perfect print and kept coming back to the same one: a lightweight upholstery fabric from John Lewis. The weight wasn’t ideal for this particular pattern, or clothing in general, but I just couldn’t resist those perfectly muted pastel shades!

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When I combined the idea of maps with the Henry dress, I simply had to pursue the concept of creating the front and back of a postcard for the pockets. But how was I going to create this effect? Lesley Riley’s Transfer Artist Paper (TAP) of course! If you haven’t tried using TAP I seriously recommend the stuff. I get mine from Amazon, and it is so versatile. Of all the transfer methods I have tried and tested over the years, this is by far the best. And the simplest!

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I really wanted to make this dress personal. A throwback to the good old fashioned British holidays I and so many others have enjoyed over the years. I cheekily rang my Nana and asked her to send me copies of any photos she had of my Mum and Aunt on holiday when they were little. I hastily scanned in my favourite, which would work with my colour scheme, and printed it off onto the transfer paper. (I chose not to reverse the image as I wanted the natural slant of the negative space to run parallel to the slant of the pocket).

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I then created the written side of the postcard on my computer, editing fonts and bringing in pictures of stamps etc. It took a while, but it was definitely worth it. Plus, this time I made sure every last layer of the image was reversed. Very important step with text!

I printed both the scanned photo and the postcard onto TAP, and then ironed them onto white cotton. (White ensures that the colours aren’t altered, although you can create great effects experimenting with different background colours). Then I was able to cut the cotton just as normal!

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Sewing it all together was a breeze! I had been nervous about using the thicker fabric,  but it actually made the construction process a lot quicker and easier! It also helps the sleeves hold their shape which I love.

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And of course I had to embroider a little heart over Britain (which I deliberately placed on the left side of the chest) using pink floss to pick up the pink in the print.

The feeling of pride was quite overwhelming once I finished it. It looks exactly as I hoped it would and has allowed me and my family to reminisce about our favourite childhood holidays. Now, I think another trip to the beach to build sandcastles and paddle in the sea is in order!

Happy Sewing!

‘Travelling’ back in time, vintage-inspired, upcycled summer dress!

Well it’s been a while since I last did a blogpost but Kids Clothes Week has given me a much needed kick up the sewing derrière! Yay!

This week’s theme is ‘travel’. A brilliant theme with a million possible interpretations. So I decided to interpret it with a dress with the longest title in the history of titles! Admittedly I begun sewing this particular dress a few weeks back and I cast it aside as I became distracted by the wonderful world of Annie Sloan Paint (but that’s another story!).

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A little while ago as I was scrolling endlessly through the treasure trove that is Pinterest, I stumbled across the most incredible 1920’s ‘how to’ sewing guides written by Ruth Wyeth Spears. The one that really caught my eye was this pin-tucked beauty. Ever since I wrote this post, I’ve been desperate to adapt a simple A-Line dress with interesting design details and this seemed like the perfect opportunity! Here are a few images that also inspired me…

Inspiring Vintage Sewing Patterns gathered on Pinterest.

Inspiring Vintage Sewing Patterns gathered on Pinterest.

After much consideration, I decided to go with this pattern from Climbing The Willow. Just like the Izzy Top (which I sew here and here) the pattern is free, and although the instructions aren’t quite as clear, it’s so simple to make it doesn’t matter!

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I wanted to stick with the vintage theme and so I decided it was about time I visited the numerous Boscombe vintage & charity shops which are within walking distance from our flat and have a hunt for some vintage fabric! I found a gorgeous old tablecloth and curtain in a little gem of a shop called The Attic. I even found the sweetest basket filled to the brim of 1940s baby wear. Honestly, it took a lot of willpower not to buy the entire thing! I also stumbled upon incredible bargains in the charity shops- I managed to get two double duvets for £3! I felt so guilty walking away with so much fabric, knowing how much I’d saved, that I had to put a donation into the pot. I decided that the green ditsy floral duvet cover would be perfect for this particular project!

The other element of the dress, the lace, is also vintage. I was kindly given it by a lovely  lacemaker, Gill Bird, who lives in my parents’ village. I’m sure that this was exactly the type of project she hoped for when she donated it to a ‘loving home’!

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Creating the dress itself was really simple. As Ruth suggested way-back-when, I pintucked the fabric first and then laid my pattern over the top and cut it out (making sure to stitch in the seam allowance to hold them all in place before I begun to sew). I then attached the lace with a simple straight stitch, covering the bottoms of the pintucks. Once the side seams were sewn up, I used homemade bias binding to finish the neck and the armholes. I then finished it off by sewing a thin hem around the bottom. And there you go! One ‘travelling’ back in time, vintage-inspired, upcycled summer dress!

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A Floral Izzy Dress

IMG_8737 Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you plan and prepare, projects just come out of nowhere asking to be made. I had planned to work on a couple of fairytale dresses, but nevertheless found myself gravitating towards a pink ditzy printed cotton that I bought from Leicester Market years and years ago. Do you ever find that fabrics dictate when they’re going to be used and what they’re made into?

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Izzy interpretations from The Crazy Tailor, Mabey She Made It & PiePie Designs.

After I spotted these gorgeous examples of the Izzy Top (/Dress) on Instagram and Pinterest, I couldn’t help but dig out the pattern from my collection. I just loved the piping detail between the bodice and skirt, the prettiness of adding length and the use of floral fabric. Not that I needed much persuading, but when I discovered the perfect coordinating khaki in my stash, the decision was made: another Izzy top was in the making… but this time it would be a dress! The Izzy Top is a great FREE little pattern from Climbing the Willow which comes in sizes 18mos-12! It’s perfect for beginner sewers who want to start building their confidence with common dressmaking techniques, or for more advanced sewers who just want something they can whip together in a few hours. You can read all about my first attempt at it here. This time I made the pattern in a size 5, and added 20cm to the length to make the dress modification. I didn’t change much in terms of putting it together. I used the button tab from the pattern and hand stitched a buttonhole again (although I reckon I might just make a rouleau button loop next time). However I did add piping which I stitched to the bodice using my zipper foot before pinning my gathered skirt into place. I actually found it easier to sew over the gathers than normal because I could use the ridge of the piping as a guide!

As my final step to finish off the Izzy dress, I decided not to serge the bodice and skirt seam together as the pattern suggests. Instead I spontaneously decided to encase them in some homemade bias binding from the same khaki fabric I used earlier, which I slipstitched onto the bodice lining to hold in place. I really like the finish it creates and I’ll definitely be using this technique again. On a final note, I really like the colours of this dress. The pastel shades of the floral print make it perfect for Summer, but the khaki trim means that when teamed with tights and a cardigan, the dress can see it’s proud owner all the way through Autumn too- pretty and practical!