Perfect Pinafore in an Afternoon

WIN_20150831_101731I got the sewing machine out again at the weekend, this time for a simple pinafore dress, taken from The Stylish Dress Book: Simple Smocks, Dresses and Tops by Yoshiko Tsukiori (the dress is called a jumper dress in the book).

Pinafore dresses are great; you can change the look depending on what you wear underneath (jumper in winter, blouse for work, Breton for a more casual look etc.) but I’ve been struggling to find one I like on the high-street. Everything I’ve found has either been in denim and of the dungaree style (fine for festivals, but I feel a little old for that in everyday life now), or something that looked more like part of a primary school uniform.

So, as the saying goes, if you want something doing right then do it yourself. I found this lovely soft navy blue textured fabric in my local haberdashery and knew it would be perfect. As the dress is quite shapeless anyway, I didn’t want a fabric that was too stiff, so that it would hang nicely.

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The book comes with pattern pages, and it took me about an hour to trace and cut out the pieces I needed (I find baking paper works really well for this). Also, the patterns don’t already include seam allowances so it’s important to remember to include these before you start cutting!

This pattern is incredibly simple to make, with just a front piece, back piece, and straps (no need for any zips or fiddly fastenings). However, the instructions provided do rely on previous sewing knowledge. For example, step 2 of this pattern is simply ‘Make the shoulder straps’, and you’re left to figure out how based on the diagrams provided. All of the diagrams are quite detailed, but I personally find it easier to follow written instructions. Luckily, from previous experience I knew to sew the straps inside out, and then turn them out the right way, but I feel this could trip up absolute beginners.

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Whilst in the book this dress is midi-length, I decided to make it much shorter, and it’s turned out exactly how I wanted. Not bad for about 4 hours of work! I love the simplicity of Yoshiko Tsukiori’s designs, and I fancy having a go at the box dress featured on the front cover as well. I’ll let you know how it goes if I do give it a try!

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Utility Duster? Yes Sir!

I’ve done a bit of shopping this month (no surprises there!), and there’s some great stuff available in stores and online as the high-street makes its transition into Autumn.

I’ve been looking for a good trench coat for months now, and had my heart set on khaki, but everything I’d seen up until now had either been the wrong fabric, wrong length, or lacking in details such as a storm flap, belt, or decent fastening.

Just when I’d lost all hope, this gorgeous utility duster from Warehouse came along. Warehouse call this a duster, but it my eyes this is definitely more like a trench coat.

Utility Duster, Warehouse, £79
Utility Duster, Warehouse, £79

At £79* this isn’t cheap, but it’s certainly worth the investment. The fabric is beautifully soft, and the cut is perfect. The curved hem gives this jacket a flattering shape, and even though this sits a little longer on me than it does on the model on the Warehouse website as I’m petite, I think the length still looks great, and it doesn’t swamp me like jackets of this length can tend to. Simple details such as zip pockets, press-stud fastening and a D-ring belt keep this jacket looking classic but with a modern edge.

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Utility duster, Warehouse; T-shirt, Zara; Treggings, Uniqlo; Loafers, Zara

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I’m very pleased with this, and as a good trench coat never goes out of fashion, I can see myself wearing this for years to come.

*Top tip: The September issue of UK Elle magazine comes with an ASOS 20% discount card which I used to buy this, as ASOS stock a lot of Warehouse products as well as offering free delivery and returns.

Cute as a Button!

I’ve been regularly sewing for a couple of years now, and have finally got to the point where I feel the standard of my finished products are good enough to wear! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got plenty of room for improvement, but I was quite pleased with this dress I finished recently!WIN_20150818_174256

This is a tried and tested pattern that I’ve used several times before, so I always know the fit is going to be good, and I’ve certainly learnt from past mistakes with things such as facing, and inserting the zip. It’s actually a mix of two patterns – the top is from a 50s style dress (New Look pattern 6223), whereas the bottom is a mini skirt pattern from The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric book. Luckily, the waistband size on both parts wasn’t too far off, and the darts in the back even match up! Continue reading “Cute as a Button!”

Book Review: ‘The Understudy’ by David Nicholls

The Understudy is the story of down-on-his-luck actor Stephen McQueen (not that one) as he struggles to find that big break that will catapult him into stardom, just like heart throb Josh Harper who Stephen is the understudy for in theatre production Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know.

With an acting career that has so far involved playing a dead guy and a singing squirrel, Stephen knows that this play could be his chance to shine, not only for himself, but to impress daughter Sophie who he is trying to build a relationship with after his divorce.

WIN_20150815_105314Things start to look up when Josh invites Stephen to his celebrity filled birthday bash, but when it turns out that he’s only there to serve drinks, Stephen inadvertently gets drunk on a cocktail of left-over drinks and antibiotics, accidentally steals a best actor award, oh, and falls in love with Josh’s wife. Continue reading “Book Review: ‘The Understudy’ by David Nicholls”

Two-Minute Neck Tie

Loads of blouses in the shops this season come with a neck tie, but as I’ve already got plenty of blouses that I love, I didn’t want to buy more just to be part of the neck tie trend.

On closer inspection of some blouses available to buy, the tie was little more than a piece of ribbon or fabric, sometimes not even attached to the collar, so I thought why not have a go at making my own?

I made this one in just a couple minutes from a length of black thin ribbon from the haberdashery (about 34 inches), and a couple of beads I had left over from previous craft projects. Simply thread a bead onto each end of the ribbon, and tie a double knot so it doesn’t fall off!

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I think this is bang on trend, and a really cute alternative to a necklace. It was so quick and simple to make, I’m going to experiment with different colours and widths of ribbon, and with different beads, for a quick and easy re-vamp to any blouse. Give it a go!

Charity Shop Style: Part 1

There’s nothing I like more than grabbing a bargain in a charity shop and saving myself a few quid (whilst also helping out a good cause of course), and I can often by found rummaging through rails and boxes for that next find.

This is the first of what I expect will be many posts on the amazing items you can pick up second-hand, if you take the time to look, in the hope that I’ll encourage others to venture away from the high-street and to shop second-hand every now and again.

This week, I visited Harrogate, where, amongst the high end clothing stores are an abundance of charity shops, which often, as I’ve found, contain many of those high-end items, either donated by previous owners, or in some cases by the stores themselves as I’ve found a lot of items to be brand new but sold at a heavy discount. Not only can you bag a bargain, but also find items from stores that you wouldn’t usually shop in.

Here’s what I picked up this week, for a grand total of about £10!

Continue reading “Charity Shop Style: Part 1”