Back in February, Tilly (of Tilly and the Buttons) blogged about the closing down sale at Aunt Bea's Fabrics - a divine online fabric shop I'd never come across before. After getting over the sad fact that Aunt Bea's was closing, I had some serious catching up to do. I literally was like a virtual kid in a virtual candy shop, so I settled for 1 metre quantities to maximise the different prints I could get my grubby little hands on.

Finally, almost two months later, my loot has arrived and boy what a loot it is! I'm thinking pinnies, clutch bags, cushion covers....aaaah! Anyone got any other sweet ideas for what I can turn these into?

My latest creation is a result of some selfless sewing – the most rewarding kind - in the form of a Birthday camisole-type top for my lovely friend Hannah. The fabric is one I've used for a couple of aprons and on a number of occasions Hannah has drooled over it. Sadly I didn't have enough left to make her a dress, but that's probably a blessing in disguise as I don't think my sewing skills are that advanced yet!

I made 'View E' of New Look 6705, which unsurprisingly came together very easily and relatively fast. I say 'relatively fast', because this stopped being the case when I decided to put my own spin on things. 

To avoid as many raw edges inside as possible, I chose to forgo the instructions for the yoke part and instead opted for my own method. I stitched the inner yoke parts together, turned them right side out and pressed the raw edges under. Then I sandwiched the raw edges of the bodice front and back between the yoke pieces and viola, no raw edges to be seen! This was trickier than it should have been though, because my lovely white eyelet fabric had a stretch to it and was hard to press under evenly. Had I used 100% cotton eyelet, it would have been fine.

I can't complain though as I'm happy with the result and Hannah seems to love it! Hopefully she'll send me photos of her wearing it that I can then share with you all!
If you thought pretty pinnies were just for girls, then you may need to eat your hat – hah! Do you remember this little pink number that I made for a good friend of mine last Christmas?

Well, said friend came home from work one day, only to find her boyfriend wearing it whilst cooking dinner! This picture really tickled me, as he looks so natural donning the pinny. Yet he's one of the last people I would have ever imagined wearing it. It's definitely made my day!

Don't you think he looks just the part in it?!?!

My lovely colleague Jan - who ordered the turquoise and purple pinny from me seen here - has asked me to make two pinnies for her 14 month year old granddaughter. She specifically asked for one of the two to be wipeable, which brings me to my latest sewing challenge...oilcloth!

Originally, I was quite apprehensive about sewing with oilcloth, but a bit of Googling has gone a long way to put my mind at ease. Although I'm still at the planning stage, I thought I'd share some of the information and tips 'veI found, for anyone else who may have had similar misconceptions. Of course if any of you are experienced oilcloth sewers, please do let me know if I've missed anything!

  • What is commonly referred to as oilcloth nowadays is actually vinyl with a mesh cotton foundation, which apparently makes it easier to sew with.
  • Oilcloth creases easily, but there are a few easy ways of getting the wrinkles out. You can leave it in a sunny area for a few hours...not so straightforward when you live in the UK! Alternatively, you can iron it on the wrong side on a low setting or gently heat it with a hair dryer.
  • You'll need to use a size 16 / DENIM needle with a poly / cotton thread.
  • Using a longer stitch will avoid leaving holes in the oilcloth, but the stitch needs to be shortened around corners or curves.
  • Sewing machine tension needs to be set at 3 for two layers of oilcloth, but for thicker areas it may need to be adjusted to 4 or more.
  • Sewing on the reverse side of the oilcloth will allow the presser foot to move smoothly. If you need to sew on the right side, you can place tissue paper between the presser foot and oilcloth, or cover the bottom of the presser foot with masking tape.
  • Oilcloth doesn't fray so the edges can be left as they are. Alternatively, you can finish them off with pinking / decorative shears or with edging / bias binding. You also hem them like regular fabric too.

I hope you find this helpful! I know I feel a bit more confident about the whole process now. I've even picked out the cutest Scotty Dog oilcloth below for the wipeable pinny. Isn't it great? For the second one I'd like to make a miniature version of Jan's pinny, so they can match when they play together!

I've not written about the tragic disaster in Japan, because frankly, I'm nowhere near articulate enough to put into words such devastation. However, my thoughts are with all those effected on a daily basis as I watch the news in utter disbelief. My thoughts are especially with Japan on days that I am lucky enough to spend with those close to me. 

My boyfriend and I spent this weekend in Hertfordshire catching up with good friends and on Saturday, a group of us girlies went to a Japanese-themed fair which donated all proceeds to those in need. The fair was a true display of Japan's spectacular culture, with origami-making, other arts and crafts and traditional foods.

Other than lots of sushi, I also picked up some gorgeous fabric, which I really think captures the elegance and quality of Japanese products. It's a 5m roll of light to medium weight wool fabric, which feels like a rough cotton. It cost £15 for a 5 metre roll, which is just 37cm (14.5 inches) wide, as it's produced with kimono-making in mind. However, I have panel skirts, bags, cushion covers and so many more ideas floating around in my head.

Anyway, I hope that the proceeds from the fair go a long way to relieve people's plight.
After chronically lagging behind on Casey’s fantastic 1940s style swing dress sew-along, I’ve miraculously managed to finish it just one day after the due date. I say ‘miraculously’, but it had a lot to do with Casey extending the finish date and perhaps a few late-night sewing marathons on my part!

Anyway, here she is, my midnight-blue beauty on a rare, but gloriously sunny day!

I’m ecstatic with the fit of the shoulders and of the bodice in general. Being just 5ft 3”, short-waisted and relatively buxom, this has always been a problem for me - but Casey’s expert guidance really helped. However, I don’t think that the style of the bottom half suits my body as it seems to really emphasise the width of my hips. This is more an issue with my body shape than the actual dress pattern though I think.

Making this dress involved a lot of firsts for me - some successful and others really not so much.

Successful firsts:
Things that didn't go too well:
  • Zips are my nemesis and I really need to get over my mental block if I want to become a good seamstress. If you look closely at my swing dress, you can see that I totally botched my zip. Casey’s method for creating a 1940s style zip closure is brilliant, yet I couldn’t manage it. I think my difficulties had a lot to do with using crepe fabric and also the belt tie piece really got in the way. So maybe I’ll practice it on some cotton/lighter fabric and without a belt tie in the way.
  • Hemming is also not my strong point, so don’t look too closely please.
  • Using a double-sided crepe made it extremely hard to make any markings on the shiny side, which was the wrong side of my fabric…very frustrating to say the least!

Things I'd do differently:
  • At the muslin stage I discovered that the belt ties were too short to make a bow, so for the real thing I lengthened them. They are now way too long though so I have to tie them all around the midriff and secure with a knot at the back. Next time I would make them shorter, or probably omit them altogether.
  • I think I would cut out a 14 for the bottom, like I did for the top. For this version I cut out a 16 bottom and suprisingly I think it's a little slack.
  • Perhaps I would have a play around with the midriff and maybe make it a touch smaller.
Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of my very first ever sew-along – it was great to have Casey’s expert input, to follow other people’s progress and to see everyone’s final and stunning swing dresses. I’ve also learned some invaluable skills that I put into practice and that are transferable to other projects. Casey also posted a couple of tutorials that I didn’t get to apply to this dress, but that I’d love to apply to other projects in the future: drafting and inserting pockets and making lovely belts.
I can't put into words how excited I am today and it's all due to a random blog encounter well over a year ago. Back in November 2009, I saw a post by Karin at Ancient Nouveau, which made me fall head over heels for McCall 6520 from 1946. I mean how could you not fall in love with Karin's creation?!? Sadly, I'm not sure whether she still blogs, as her last entry was in September 2010.

Ever since (and I literally mean ever since) I've been on the hunt down for this pattern and last week I finally came across it on eBay! Boy was I happy to 'win' it and hold it in my grubby little's absolutely perfect to me! I even have some incredible vintage fabric in mind for it that I think is from the 1950s. I just hope I have enough of it or else I might cry...
On a slightly different subject, my vintage button collection is growing nicely so I thought I'd share some of my recent finds with you. The bad news is that my hoarding is no longer restricted to patterns and fabrics. Oh dear lord!
1930s collection:

Buttons from the 1940s – the black ones are in mint condition:
And finally some 1960s ones:

Have you lovely people been adding to your stashes lately? Or have you recently acquired a pattern you're really excited about?
Well now, there's nothing like a bit of jealousy admiration to motivate you! After seeing Jane's post on her beautifully finished swing dress – from Casey's swing dress sew-along - I just knew I had to get a wiggle on with mine!

First a disclaimer though: my muslin is a a very cheap and nasty cotton - bought ages ago, before I knew anything about sewing - so please try to imagine the whole thing with a bit of drape. Also, I didn't hem the dress nor did I shorten it what you see in the picture is just a temporary botch job.

Although the fit's not bad, I recognise that there's room for improvement, so I welcome all handy tips please. Would you, however, agree that I need to:

  • Add an inch or so to the front bodice? I made the required alterations for a short-waist, but forgot to account for my ample bosom! If I do this will I have to do the same for the back bodice? I hope not, cause that actually fits well.
  • Will adding a bit to the front bodice help to create a more modest cross-over? At the moment I have to wear a t-shirt underneath to avoid exposing myself...any thoughts?
  • Take whatever I add to the front bodice off from the midriff piece? Maybe even take a little more off as the midriff piece seems quite wide for a shortie like me?
  • Perhaps nip the skirt in a bit? I haven't ironed the skirt side seams down, so is this just wishful thinking on my part?
  • I know for a fact that I have to lengthen the tie belt, it knots once, but won't tie into a bow. Did anyone else find this, or have a done something silly?

I'm really happy with the shoulder and sleeve fit though. I don't think I've ever managed to get it this good before and I know it's all thanks to Casey and her expert tutorials...thanks Casey!

I'm hoping to cut out my fashion fabric this weekend! In case you forgot what I'm using, it's a double-sided crepe, but I'm still undecided as to whether to use the shiny or the matte side.

If you're taking part in this sew-along, how are you getting on? Have you steamed ahead like Jane, or are you lagging behind like moi?