Category Archives: Dune top and maxi dress

A summery summary: my handmade holiday 2017

Hello, sewing friends! Just popping in today to share some of my holiday wardrobe hits and misses! Summer seems to have come and gone in the blink of an eye – I always feel a bit sad at the start of autumn, as I love long days and warm evenings and sunshine (even though that has been in short supply in the UK these last months!) My most-worn items were cropped jeans (a couple of RTW ones, but mostly Morgans but also my Eleonore jeans BEFORE the me-made tragedy I posted on IG recently, shown below in the bottom left photo) and comfy sleeveless tops – one Hey June Handmade Santa Fe top (bottom right), and otherwise various choices from my spiralling-out-of-control range of Dune tops.

The lovely Bridget recently reviewed Dune and set out her criteria for the perfect summer tank top – check out her blog post here and marvel that she managed to get the phrase “moisture-ick” into a sentence without sounding weird (if we’re playing blog bingo, she totally wins!) I agree with her criteria 100%, so it’s no wonder that Dune was my most-worn piece. I mostly wore the tops with cropped jeans as shown above (including a few outings for my sewing fail jeans blogged in my last post!), but I also paired my navy blue one with one of my Margarita skirts, and that was a really comfy outfit.

This Margarita also paired really well with an old white RTW shirt that I found gathering dust in a drawer, and which has made me wonder about making something similar.

I need more solid items in my me-made wardrobe, as although when I used to buy RTW I bought almost exclusively solids in neutral colours, something about sewing my own clothes released a different version of me I hadn’t met before, one who loves COLOUR and FLORALS! But the problem with making everything in colourful florals is that I often don’t have separates that work together! However, what about this little number?

I have waxed lyrical before about this Paparounes fabric by Katarina Roccella for Art Gallery Fabrics, but having squeezed a top and a skirt for me plus a skort and a pair of shorties for my daughter out of only 1.5m of fabric, I wasn’t going to buy more to sew another dress in it as my summer wardrobe might start to look a little “same-y”. But when I saw my two separates sitting together in my drawer, I had a “Eureka” moment! What if they could go together to look like a dress? I’m so pleased with this discovery, because now I can have my Paparounes summer “dress” without even having to sew anything new!

Surprisingly, I didn’t wear many “real” dresses this holiday. Well, perhaps not that surprising in that we didn’t exactly have glorious weather, but given that I usually find dresses the easiest thing to wear (a whole outfit without thinking about what goes with what is always a winner, right?) it was unusual for me. I did get one outing for this sundress, which is from the Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time book that I’ve mentioned before.

This book is great for getting your perfect-fitting bodice block, and from there you can modify it any way you choose to give you endless possibilities in your wardrobe. I don’t often sew with wovens but when I do I want it to fit properly, so it’s worth getting your fit perfect (I lost count of the number of toiles I made before I got mine, so now I’m never allowed to gain or lose weight because I don’t want to do it again!!) I did feel a little less comfortable in this dress, as it’s so very fitted (and despite my protestation above, I think I’ve gained a couple of pounds since I made it last year) and it made me realise why I reach for comfy knits rather than fitted wovens. But it’s good to learn lessons about my own wardrobe habits, and try to remember them when I make my sewing wish list!

The other dresses I wore were my Dune maxis. My lovely IG friend Maxine posted a picture of her Dune maxi, saying she was going to wear it to travel in on holiday, and I thought that was a great idea! It would never have occurred to me – I always wear my most comfortable jeans to travel in, but it was like a whole new travel wardrobe opened up with Maxine’s comment! Who wouldn’t want to travel swathed in lovely soft jersey? Genius. So my black and white maxi Dune was my travel outfit (pictured at the top of this post with my new M7542 top, as I don’t have any photos from the journeys!) I also made a floral Dune maxi while on holiday – I wasn’t going to sew at all while we were off work, but I made an exception when I got this beautiful plum floral fabric from Maud’s Fabric Finds:

It’s another Art Gallery Fabrics jersey, this time by Maureen Cracknell. I made an alteration to my pattern and kept the size XS all the way through to the waist (normally I grade it between bust and waist) and this was a mistake –it’s just a bit clingier than I would like while on holiday (a time for eating and drinking aplenty, when I need clothes to be forgiving!) but it did have the wow factor with this gorgeous print, so it’ll still get plenty of wear. I also had enough left from offcuts to make my first entry for the Simplicity turns 90 contest last week:

I’ll be doing a full pattern review of this just as soon as I’ve sewn my other entry to the contest, which will be a shirt for Rich!

So, what can we conclude? I still love jeans, but am happy to be wearing mostly me-made ones these days. Knits rule in my wardrobe, and basically the older I get the more I prioritise comfort. And I wear more of our own designs than of anything else, which makes sense as the idea behind Valentine & Stitch has always been to design things I want to wear and hope that others will like them too!

And finally, we just finished the design of our next pattern, Edie. It was always our plan to do a cardigan next, but I literally couldn’t wait to make this as I spent quite a few days on holiday shivering and wishing I had another layer on!

My first version has been a summer one, but I’m eagerly waiting to cut into some sweater knits to make autumn versions… I’ll be back soon to talk about those, I’m sure!

What about you? What are your summer essentials?

Selfless sewing: a Dune top for my lovely mum

Many of you will already know that it was my mum who taught me to sew. I’ve also talked about her a couple of times on Instagram, and shared photos of her wearing her handmade dresses in the 1970s:

I haven’t sewn many garments for her, but sometimes there is just something that feels like a perfect match! I have a special project on the back burner, but while we were drafting Dune, Mum mentioned that she loved the shape of it, the way it skims over the tummy and hips but is still fitted, and so I knew I had to make one for her. She’s normally a size small, but I know that for summer she likes looser tops, often a bit longer, so I did a quick toile in a size medium. The extra width gives more of a swing, and the additional length of the larger size made the top the perfect length for her. The only thing I needed to alter was the armscye – it was a little too loose in a medium, but in a small would have been too tight to fit nicely with the rest of the top, so I just measured in a centimetre and then joined that up to the side seam with my French curve.

It was easy to choose the fabric for my mum! I had already spotted this gorgeous Lotus flower cotton jersey from Girl Charlee, the navy is quite warm toned (which is just her kind of colour) and the dusky pink, chartreuse and beige accents are also perfect colours for her. Girl Charlee only sell by the metre, so although I didn’t need that much (the Dune top doesn’t take up much fabric) I have a little left over that will be nice as a feature on another project (or perhaps as a pair of Loulou shorties for my daughter or knickers for me!)

I wanted to take my time over this, and make it perfect for my mum. But “slow sewing” took on an entirely new meaning for me after my two-year-old son was let loose in the sewing room! I walked in one morning to find that he’d climbed up onto the desk and was merrily swapping all the thread cones in my overlocker and coverstitch machine. It was like a thread crime scene. Although It didn’t take me too long to re-thread them all, what I didn’t realise was that he’d played with the thread tension dials too! So my stitching came out like this (I’ve turned up the saturation and contrast in the hope you can see it, as it was a blurry photo!):

Hand me the seam ripper! I spent over an hour on that seam alone! The thing is though, I can’t get cross with my little boy, because every time I tell him off he just says “Sarry Memmy, I not do it ‘gain” and smiles at me, and my heart just melts and all is forgiven.

So back to the sewing… once I had sorted out my settings, it was plain sailing. I mean, I’ve already made about a million Dune tops in the drafting process, so let’s just say the instruction booklet is no longer necessary! And the big question… did Mum like it?

YES SHE DID!!! It’s the perfect fabric for her, and the perfect fit too. I’m really pleased to see another aspect to Dune – making it a size bigger, with a few adjustments, to get a swingier fit and a longer length without having to adjust the kick hem! I’ve been living in my Dunes the last couple of months, and this one has been my mum’s most-worn top this summer too. She can throw a cardigan over it for cooler days, or wear it with jeans, and on sunny days it’s a perfect top to wear with fitted shorts or capris.

Making this top has made me so happy. If my mum hadn’t been a sewist, and hadn’t shared her skills with me so generously, I don’t know if I’d ever have come to sewing, much less to pattern design. And I just can’t imagine my life without sewing in it! I owe her a lot, and I like being able to give something back by making lovely things for her to wear. And yesterday she came over wearing her Dune, while I was wearing one of my maxi versions! So here is a bonus photo I like to call “Dune extravaganza” 😉

Mother-daughter Dune day!

What about you, do you sew for other people? How does it make you feel when you see them wearing something you’ve made?

Drafting diary: the Dune top and dress

We’re currently drafting our next pattern for women, a sleeveless summer top and dress, and I thought it would be fun to let you see how a pattern develops at each stage of the testing process!

It starts with an idea, usually accompanied by a sketch. Then we sit down together at the computer and I tell Rich what my vision of the garment is, and he works out the formulae to make it a reality. This isn’t just formulae to make it fit me, but rather ones that will adapt through the sizes (and I’m between sizes, so we don’t use my measurements as base ones!)

The latest (but not final) version of Dune

We also struggled with a name for this one. There is a story behind the names of all our patterns (if ever you’re interested, ask me and I’ll share!) but this one we were stumped. Everything we came up with sounded wrong – I thought I had found the perfect name and Rich vetoed it because it had been used for a not-so-great model of car back in the 90s or something! A few Instagram friends made suggestions, but they had either been used by other pattern companies, or were names I’d already earmarked for future patterns, so nothing felt right. I wanted something summery, that made you think of sun and breeze and cool drinks and holidays. So after much wrenching out of hair and grinding of teeth we came up with… Dune. And it’s perfect, because on our first holiday together we climbed the Dune du Pyla in south-west France, sixteen years after I’d failed to climb it with my dad as a stroppy teenager because the wind was blowing my hair in my face. As you can see from this photo, I got over the hair issue later in life!

The first draft is always sewn up in cheap or recycled fabric, as this is basically just a toile to see where the fit is good and where it needs work. Our first version of Dune looked promising, just a little gaping at the back of the neck, which we altered and then re-printed. The next version looked like this:

(check out my Instagram feed for a funny story about the pink capris…)

The armscye was too high, and the curve into the armscye not wide enough (you can see the creases by my right arm). So back we go to the computer, and the next version looked like this:

Armscye was still too high to be totally comfortable, and once the neckband was attached the back was still gaping a little. Wearable but not perfect, so back to the computer to make those alterations and… next version!

This one was an almost perfect fit, but I always do the ‘wear for a day’ test for each version, and after a day running around the park, I felt it was a little too short as I kept flashing my lower back. We thought the next one with a slightly longer cut would be the final one, but we also took a little more off the centre back, and this was the result:

 

 

The length works well, but the excess removed from the centre back means that the top pulls a little over the back, as you can see from this side view.

Next lot of alterations done, and now I’m about to sew up this sixth version… hopefully it’ll be the one!