Saturday, 25 February 2017

Handmade Gifts: Laurel Blouse and Chef's Apron

After that fairly mammoth post about my boned silk dress mid week I thought I'd share a couple of slightly more straightforward projects today! Thank you all for the lovely comments and likes for my dress. Its so great to hear that so many of you enjoy those lengthy posts that go into all the details of instruction; they're my favourite thing to read on sewing blogs and probably to write too!

I've got the last of my selfless sewing projects from Christmas last year to show you today. In case you missed them I've already posted about the silk robe I made for a friend's birthday and the hoodies I made for my brother and stepdad. I've spoken in those last two posts about how difficult it is to sew garments as surprise gifts for others because you need to fit them. Fortunately I get lucky with my mum as she is a very similar size and shape to me. In fact I think most of her fitting issues would be exactly the same as my own! I made her a Laurel Blouse a couple of years back after she loved mine and tried it on.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: John Lewis Cotton Lawn Print Colette Laurel Blouse

The idea to make this gift actually came from the fabric. I'd been humming and hawing about what to give my Mum. I wasn't particularly planning to make her anything but she said to me one day 'are you going to make lots of your presents this year? I love it when you do that!'. So the idea was simmering away in the back of my brain when I was shopping for work in John Lewis one day and came across this amazing print on a fine cotton lawn. Its part of John Lewis's own range of fabrics and if I remember rightly came in a few colours at the time. Something about it just screamed 'Mum!' at me and the idea for a second Laurel was born.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: John Lewis Cotton Lawn Print Colette Laurel Blouse

I'd actually been wanting to make another because as my sewing skills have improved I've started to think I could have done a better job first time around. When I first made the Laurel for myself I had real trouble with the technique of using bias binding as a facing as described in the pattern instructions. I think part of the problem I had was that I was trying to attach quite a wide shop-bought cotton binding to a poly crepe and that coupled with the fact that the curve of the neckline is quite tight at the shoulder seams was always going to be difficult. On that version and every subsequent version since I've used my own self drafted facing to finish the neck instead. I have always loved the binding finish on the cuffs and really wanted to get it to work on the neck and get rid of the awkward facing flipping out issue. For this one I took the plunge and cut my own fairly narrow binding from the fashion fabric. It turned out so much better and easier than I had imagined as the lawn was so much more malleable than the shop bought binding. I'm very proud of my neat stitching!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: John Lewis Cotton Lawn Print Colette Laurel Blouse

I followed the binding application method described in the instructions for the Grainline Alder Shirtdress. Finishing the armholes for this dress was the first time I've had real success using binding as a facing and Jen describes it really well in small steps. The additional step of under stitching the binding before you turn it under and grading those seam allowances makes a huge different to how smoothly the finished binding sits.

The light weight and softness of the lawn also really helped with the other issue that I've had with this pattern; setting in the sleeves with no puckering or gathering. I've previously ended up with a bit of a puffy sleeve head but the fine cotton was much better to ease in. As with all the versions since my first I stuck with my alterations to the shape of the armhole. The blouse pattern pieces are a completely different shape to the dress in this area and I have filled in the curve of the armhole at the front to make it shallower and give more room across the chest. Other than that the construction process was very smooth and enjoyable. I used french seams throughout to make it extra special. If you are considering this pattern I would recommend making a muslin as it has taken me a while to tweak it into shape but the effort is worth it. Its a lovely classic shape which is so my Mum. It really suits her and I'm wishing on the warmer weather so she can get some wear out of it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Baking Print Great British Sewing Bee Butcher's Apron

The last gift I made was for my good friend Tom. He lives nearby and its become a tradition for him to pop round for a bit of spontaneous baking; namely flapjack. I'm always laughing at the fact that he has to come to mine to do it because he doesn't have any of the equipment. So I bought him a flapjack tin, wooden spoon and made him an apron! I used the Butcher's Apron pattern from the Great British Sewing Bee book from the first series. Its a great shape and size for an apron and I like that it most definitely works for a man too. I was pretty impressed with the instructions and it would definitely be a good project for a beginner as you can use some nice stable fabrics and it only has a couple of pattern pieces. It does require some accurate sewing to attach that pocket neatly and if you're just starting out you might find apply the strap (which is effectively a wide binding) a little fiddly. But a nice challenge and a very satisfying result.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Baking Print Great British Sewing Bee Butcher's Apron

The fabric was a gift from my Mum years back when I hadn't been sewing all that long. I'm not sure where she got it from but isn't it a fantastic print for kitchen-wear?! I love the combination of clean, fresh colours and the scale of the repeat print of baking equipment. It was beautiful to work with too, a nice thick and smooth weight of quilting cotton. The binding I made from some plain cotton of a similar weight I had in my stash. I thought it worked well to bring out the turquoise in the print. I used to hate making my own bias but for some reason now I quite enjoy the therapeutic nature of working through the steps! I think it might have something to do with discovering water erasable fabric pens and how much easier they make it to be accurate.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Baking Print Great British Sewing Bee Butcher's Apron

I like the added professional touch of the d-rings to shorten the neckline strap. But I couldn't figure out how to get them to work right! I attached them as instructed by simply looping them both onto the end of the short strap at the neckline, folding the end back and stitching to secure. But no amount of googling could get the strap to hold securely in place without getting twisted! Perhaps Tom has figured it out for himself!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Baking Print Great British Sewing Bee Butcher's Apron

I also want to give a shout out to a handmade gift that I received this year! I've already shared a very popular picture of them on Instagram but love them so much they need including on here too. My amazing Mum has only just started sewing but made me this gorgeous set of pattern weights complete with drawstring bag to store them in! Isn't the tape measure print quilting cotton the perfect choice? She got the idea after seeing Rumana's set on the last series of Sewing Bee and followed an online tutorial to make this rice filled set. I know she isn't entirely happy with them but I can't see any faults. They are so neatly made! It meant so much to receive these and was such a surprise as I know she is still quite daunted by her machine and fabric shears.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Handmade Tape Measure Print Sewing Pattern Weights

It was so wonderful to be on the receiving end of a handmade gift and made me realise that every second I put into sewing something for someone else is 100% worth it to make them feel as good as I did when I opened these. I'm already planning some handmade surprises for my loved ones this year but as I know they all have a little stalk of this blog from time to time those ideas will have to remain a secret for now!

UPDATE FROM MY MUM! Apparently the baking print cotton she bought me on a trip to NYC and it was from Pins & Needles on the Upper East Side. The tape measure print she bought in Liberty before Christmas although I'm not sure that its one of Liberty's own prints. Thanks mum!
SaveSave

12 comments:

  1. Love those pattern weights! I may have to make myself some...or drop hints to get my own mum sewing again ;) Until then I'll keep using my (far less attractive) tins of tomatoes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's nothing wrong with tins of tomatoes, they do the job very nicely! But I do love looking at my special weights!

      Delete
  2. Great advice about the Laurel, I too had trouble with the sleeve insertion and the bias finish. I love all the other gifts too and the pattern weights are great, probably the sort of thing you wouldn't get around to making for yourself. I have only recently discovered your blog and think you have become a very accomplished stitcher in relatively short time, thank you for taking the time to share your lovely things xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its always reassuring to hear that others have a similar issue with a pattern and its not just my incompetence!
      Thank you so much for that lovely comment, I do spend quite a lot of time sewing! I like to push myself to try lots of new things. I'm glad you are enjoying my posts, I absolutely love writing about sewing and learning from every else's posts too!

      Delete
  3. I'm sure you mother must love her top; that fabric is just gorgeous! I was also impressed with the apron for your friend. Including baking items and using that perfect print made it really special. I know I would have been thrilled to receive either one. It says a lot about your mom that she made you such a perfect gift. It just goes to show you that you don't have to be the most experienced seamstress in the world to brighten someone's day with your efforts. I loved this post. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope they were thrilled with them!
      My mum is an excellent gift giver but something hand made was extra special! What you said about not needing a huge amount of experience to still make someones day is so true. It could be the most basic thing in the world and I'd still love it for the time and thought that went into it.
      I'm so pleased you enjoyed the read!

      Delete
  4. This is fab Fiona! I love that Laurel, its beautifully sewn! Its lovely that you've spent time sewing for loved ones, I know i'd feel very lucky to have received any of those as gifts x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Stevie! I think sewing for other people can really improve your skills as I take so much more time with everything because I want the gift to be as perfect as possible!

      Delete
  5. Hi Fiona
    I love the idea of the sewing weights. I just use the weights from my kitchen scales, but what a lovely present from your mum and a good idea. My mum taught me to sew. I have gifts that she made for me, including a tortoise pin cushion and they mean a lot now that she has Alzheimer's and can't remember how to sew.
    I love the fabric you used for the apron. Very apt!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is such a lovely comment to read Rosemary, it really warmed my heart to hear about the pin cushion and what that means to you. Hand sewn items carry so much with them other than the object itself. I know I'll be keeping my pattern weights for as long as I am sewing!

      Delete
  6. Love the Laurel top,I work at John Lewis and that fabric is lovely and was very popular. Your pattern weights are gorgeous, I loved them when I saw them on Instagram..Well done to your mum. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. O wow lucky you to have access to all those lovely fabrics! I'm not surprised it was popular, its one of those very wearable 'grown up' prints which look great sewn up, especially on lawn.
      I'm so proud of my mum making the weights!

      Delete

I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!