Gather Kits: Mortmain

Hi y’all.  Sorry for the absence on Monday it has been a crazy couple of weeks and this weekend there was just no let up.  As a result I have been floored by a cold (yep, a simple cold) and sore throat.  My body is telling me I need to give myself a bit of time for some R&R!  Long story short, work is busy, my Husband’s self employed status is turning back to employee and director as of the 1 April as we’ve taken the decision to change his business into a Limited company.  His business is stupid busy, which means behind the scenes I’m busy!  We’ve recently put in for a number of jobs and been awarded the majority of them which makes me incredibly proud of him but also brings with it a fair degree of stress as these are all on a commercial level.  Pretty damn impressive for a one man band!  At the moment I’m working a minimum of 32hrs a week in my place of employment, working 10-20 hours on Husband’s business and being a Mum as well as trying to maintain a clean(ish) house with food in the cupboards!  How I’m not crazier than I am I have no idea…

Anyway, please forgive my less than glowing face and somewhat grumpy expression, I wasn’t feeling exactly glamorous when taking these, but you’re more interested in the dress than me, so what the heck!


Back in 2013 Gather Kits were looking for pattern testers for their first pattern ‘Mortmain’.  I stuck my hand in the air and was lucky enough to be picked!  This is actually my second version of the dress as the first one is now too big (wahoo!).  I made it using a teal plaid wool (I think, it was from the charity shop and presses like a wool!).  I did my usual FBA (please forgive the bust darts that look like they’re heinously placed – I’m wearing a different bra to the one I fitted this in) and sway back adjustment.  I also chose to fully line this rather than just use the facings and also swapped out the exposed zip for an invisible one (but I forgot to take back view photos – sorry!).

Because I chose to line the bodice with white cotton, I didn’t want to run the risk of this peeking out around the neck or armholes.  So I carefully pressed the edge of the facing under and edge stitched it to the lining.  I’m really pleased with how close I got the edge of the facing and how close to invisible it is!  To get a really good finish on the lining I followed this tutorial.  I then catch stitched the lining to the waist band of the skirt.  This enclosed where the skirt meets the waist band too.  I lined the skirt by duplicating the skirt pattern piece and creating the box pleats with both the outer and lining fabric.  I think I got the plaid lined up pretty well!  The lining was finished with my overlocker and I overlocked and pressed up the skirt hem before catch stitching it by hand.

Mortmain 2

I love working with plaid – it’s a challenge but when you get it right it’s really satisfying too.  You can also have fun with the direction so I cut the waist band on the bias and used some lightweight fusible interfacing to stop it stretching out.  It gives this work appropriate dress a little bit of a twist and some added interest.

This pattern is a great basic and the box pleated skirt manages to have a full hem that I love with out being too bulky around the waist.  The separate waist band nips you in and gives a lovely shape.  I used the instructions to insert the exposed zip on my first version and they work really really well giving a fabulous finish.  All in all I’d recommend this pattern and not just because I was lucky enough to test it!  It’s a great building block and with the sleeve options with their cute cuff detail it has so many possibilities!

Imagination is the Beginning…

Seasonal sewing?  Pah, that’s for organised people.  Or those that sew with a plan.  Not me, then!

As February comes to a close and snowdrops, crocus, iris and even daffodils are starting to make an appearance in the garden, spring may, just may (don’t want to jinx it!) be on its way.  Which is, of course, the perfect time to start making a thick, lined wool cape.  Yup.

This has been simmering away in the back of my mind for a while.  The seed was sown by a rather beautiful and sophisticated colleague at work who has been wearing a cream with brown plaid cape with sleeves and a funnel neck all winter.  I love the funnel neck that has a big buckle to thread a belt like closure through on the collar.  This inspiration has been percolating for a while and I’m now well into the planning stages of my own cape (hastened I might add by the zip on my ski jacket giving up the ghost – another thing for the repair pile!).

Milano Cape 1

I’ve always wanted to make a cape ever since Tasia posted her version of Simplicity 5669.  It’s a pattern I even have in my collection, bought with the full intention of making that cape one day.  The image I have in my mind’s eye though is much more swirly, has more movement.  I then remembered Papercut Pattern’s Milano Cape, part of her first collection “Imagination is the Beginning of Creation”.  The collar is more suited to being accessorised with scarves and snoods, it had the movement I was dreaming of and the welt pockets and double breasted style lends its self to creative embellishment!  You guessed it, I bought the pattern.

There aren’t many versions of this cape blogged; in fact I can find only two!  Amanda of Bimble and Pimble’s version and a sample made up for a class.  My only doubt, if you will, about the pattern is the size of the neck.  It’s pretty darn wide and Amanda fitted her lovely self and her dog in that neck hole!  I want something more closely fitted there so I suspect I will be altering the pattern to suit.  Whether that means using a smaller neck line or grafting on the collar from another pattern I’m not quite sure yet.  S5669 that inspired me all that time ago may be the solution!  I could also try my hand at pad stitching to shape the collar…

I know I want this cape to be fully lined, like Amanda’s and Tasia’s.  I’ve been stash diving and come up with a reasonably heavy crepe backed satin in a lustrous plum/magenta colour.  It’s a pinky-purple I guess!  Drafting the lining should be pretty straight forward and I intend to use Amanda’s method of tracing the outer, laying the facing over the top and tracing them then adding a seam allowance before cutting the facing area away.

Milano Cape 3
Left to Right:
Poppy Kettle’s Single Welt Pocket
Karen’s eBook
Steph’s Piped Pocket

I’m also going to do something different with the button holes.  I want to use bound button holes as it’s a technique I’ve never tried.  I have one of those Dritz bound button hole jigs that I won on Casey’s blog a long long time ago, as well as Karen’s eBook on how to make a bound button hole.  It’s those little tailored touches that I want to have a go at (like the possible pad stitching on the collar).  I’m going to get some bespoke buttons made too as I can’t find any I like and if I’m going to the effort of bound buttonholes, the buttons needs to be a bit special too!  I briefly considered covering them myself but that’s fiddly and I’m rubbish at it.  The prices are extremely reasonable and they know what the heck they’re doing so will produce something I want to use.

I’ve been happily researching all sorts of techniques and construction methods and Poppy Kettle’s single welt pocket tutorial is the one that makes the most sense to me!  It also shows how to add a pocket bag which I’m keen to do as the pattern its self requires the pocket to be topstitched to the cape, which I don’t want to do.  I also intend to add some piping to the single welt pockets using some of the lining fabric, a little like Steph did on this pocket a while ago.

Milano Cape 2

So I’m pretty much there and nearly have all the materials I need to make a start.  I’m just waiting on the fabric I eventually chose to arrive after getting a number of swatches sent through the post.  I wanted a wool melton in either a dark grey, black or navy as these are all ‘neutral’ colours for me.  I wanted it to be soft to the touch, reasonably thick and drape well.  Most of the samples had the drape and texture but were too thin.  Another was too thick and didn’t drape the way I wanted.  I’ve found my fabric though, courtesy of eBay and if you believe the description the fabric is of Italian decent.  Whatever it is, it’s what I was dreaming of in a deep inky navy that’s almost black.  There will be a lot of steam in my future when it comes to pre-shrinking all 4m of it!

I hope you don’t mind but as this is the first thing I’ve made with a lot of these techniques and even vaguely tailored, I’m going to be documenting the process and my research and sources for the techniques I use!  Oh, and there’ll be the usual sort of thing interspersed through it all – I suspect this will be a slow burner, done a little at a time…

Just A Little Bit Pleased With Myself

I just fully lined a dress.  Well, I fully lined a dress last night, but it was really really dark at 10:00pm so I couldn’t do photos until today!

I made the dress its self from a Prince of Wales check wool with a slight green element to it.  The lining is another dress made from (da dum!) lining fabric!

I applied a few tutorials in doing this – none of them specifically for fully lining a dress, but each with information that helped me suss it out on my own!

First up is the invisible zipper tutorial I have had the best results with from Pattern Scissors Cloth (I do use an invisible zipper foot though!).  It’s unusual in that it tells you to sew the seam below the zip before you insert it and it works, it really really works.

Then I stitched the lining to the zip tape a la the Colette Sewing Handbook.

I attached the neck of the dress and lining together using this Pattern Scissors Cloth invisible zip facing tutorial, which is the exact (or very similar) method Tasia uses for her Crescent skirt.

Finally, I attached the lining to the sleeves using Tasia’s tutorial from her Minoru Jacket Sewalong.  I cut the lining 1/4″ shorter than the sleeve and used a 3/8″ seam allowance so that the lining didn’t go right to the edge of the sleeve, when the sleeve’s seam allowance of 5/8″ was pressed back.

As I don’t have any green thread for my serger, the insides are all finished with bright blue thread!  To stop this being quite so glaring should anyone catch a glimpse of my skirt lining, I mock flat-felled the seams on the skirt lining.

As I said, pretty pleased with myself – it looks pretty inside and out!  Just the hemming to go…

And don’t forget the Sew Very Merry Christmas Fabric Swap – signup is open for just under another two weeks!

V2903 – Progress at last!

Dining Room Sewing! (At the point of doing this post, it was tidier when I started…)

Today, I moved all my sewing gear downstairs.  My machine, the serger, the iron and my little ironing board.  All of it got trucked downstairs and onto our dining room table.

My sewing table upstairs

Whilst I adore my little sewing room, when I want to put in some serious hours on a reasonably big project, there just isn’t quite the room I need on my table upstairs.

Downstairs, I’m all set up and there’s space to pin on the flat without ending up on the floor!  There’s also enough space for the table to take the weight of the dress.

I set them all up and then set to the serger with a screwdriver to install the new upper blade.  Man was that little screw tight!  It nearly turned into a job for Husband…  But I got there.  Everything was plugged in, cables were neat-ish and not too hazardous for a marauding toddler.

As you’ve probably guessed, panic has passed and progress is being made.  This morning I finished basting the underlinings to the fabric.  I only had to re-do one panel when I realised I had two identical side fronts and not the required mirror images!  Gotta love basting stitches for being so easy to remove…

Seam One!

And here’s the first seam.  This was done just gone 10am this morning and then carefully pressed.  Yup, that’s Boy’s work bench in the back ground!

I’ve been very very carefully putting the seam allowances through the serger with it’s lovely sharp new knife.  I did not want to inadvertently slice holes in anything as there is no way you could hide it on this fabric.  It’d mean a whole new panel.

Pretty pleat!

Here’s the front of the dress all completed, and pleats carefully pressed in and basted across the bottom.  I edge-stitched along the inside pleat to help those stay where they should.  I’m hoping a ton of steam and pressure will be enough for the outside ones!

Edge stitched inside pleat

And so far I’m one third of the way through the back with the invisible zipper all installed.  Just got to add the side panels, serge the seam allowances and then construct two more sets of pleats.

Invisible zipper! (It’s not wonky at the top, I just didn’t straighten the pull when I took the photo on the ironing board…)

Do you want me to photograph how I do the pleats?  I’m not sure that it’s to the letter of the instructions but it’s getting the finish that I want.  Holler in the comments if you do!

So I hope to finish the back tonight and add the facings.  Hopefully I’ll also get to basting the side seams and trying it on for fit and maybe even finishing the side seams…  I feel so much happier that I’ve made some progress; I’ve gone from feeling that I’m stood at the base of Everest to feeling quite calm and that this is all achievable.

Thank you so much for your encouragement and kind words over the last few weeks – both sewing related and about my family.  It means a huge amount and has given me strength when I sometimes felt that I may falter.

Dad’s CT scan came back clear and there were no cancer markers in his blood.  They think the growth was a fibrosis, but the culture has grown ‘unusually quickly’.  But as my Dad said – he’d much rather it was growing quickly in a petri dish than in him.  At the moment the medical bods aren’t planning anything agressive going forwards, but will be monitoring him closely.  They’ve yet to have their meeting and give a formal report, but that’s what we know so far…

Here’s to going forwards!

V2903 – Musings and Modifications

First up, thank you for your thoughts on the colour for this dress!  I think the Teal is going to be a clear winner!  Which makes me happy as on reflection its my favourite too!

I think it’s only fair to say that this blog is going to be a bit V2903 heavy for the next month or so.  This is a ‘project’ dress and I want to do the best I can with it.  I hope you guys are going to be OK with me talking about it incessantly and live through the process with me?  I am probably (make that definitely!) going to be asking for advice and help saving my sanity as we go along too!

So, on to the modifications and musings!

V2903 – Illustrations and Line Drawings

The dress is tea length, which looks gorgeous on tall willowy people.  I’m neither tall (5’4″) or willowy!  I have a suspicion that the tea length will drown me so I am highly likely to chop the skirt off around knee length.  I’ll probably toile the thing as per the pattern though just to see.  You can bet I’ll be asking your opinions on this aspect – sometimes you need someone a little more detached to make a more objective judgement!

I’m also going to remove quite a bit of ease.  Comparing  the body measurements with the garment measurements printed on the pattern shows that there’s 2 1/2″ ease at the bust and 3 1/2″ at the waist!  That seems like quite a lot to me.  I know I prefer much less ease in the bust so I’ll be taking this down to about 1″ and about 1 1/2″ at the waist.  I’m adding a little more to the waist as I really want the lines to be smooth there (and it’s also my biggest area of paranoia).

The only other modification is that I’m going to use the deeper yoke with the shorter sleeves.  Which isn’t really a modification, just messing with the pattern variations!  Then it’s just the usual fitting alterations (full bust adjustment, broad back and upper arms).

Stuck with me so far?  Ready for the musings?!

The fashion fabric is going to be poly taffeta (silk is so far out of my budget, sigh).  I intend to underline it to give it a bit more body and add some strength to the seams.  Originally I intended to stop there.

Then I started having a chat with Evie who blogs at pendlestitches.  She made V2903 for her wedding dress!  She underlined hers with lawn and dress net, with the lawn closest to the duchess satin so the net didn’t leave any marks when pressing.  She also lined it!

As a result I’ve been doing lots of research on underlining.  The first 10 minutes of chapter 6 of the Couture Dress class on Craftsy has loads of useful information.  Tasia and Gertie have both posted about the use of underlining too.

I’ve realised that I need to think about what I want the final dress to look like to make sure I make the right choices for the underlinings.  Ready for a list?

Smooth appearance on panels and seams
Strong smooth seams
Crisp edges at neck, yoke and sleeve hems
Strong, smooth as I can get it, zipper insertion
Invisible seam allowances and hems
Full skirt with some structure of its own (I will be wearing a petticoat/crinoline as well)
Crisp pleats

This has led me to think that underlining with a light weight cotton (lawn, batiste, muslin, calico) in all areas of the dress, and then adding a layer of dress net to the bodice and skirt pieces only.  I’d love to use this technique where the underlining also finishes the seams.  The princess seams will be just too curvy.  Sigh.

On the subject of curvy curvyness; my FBA is going to add bigger curves to the the already curved princess seams in the bodice.  Do you think adding some bias organza strips when sewing the seam is a good idea?  There’ll be a lot of notching and clipping in that area and I don’t want the seam to be weak.  I wouldn’t cut into the organza as there should be enough flexibility in the bias for it to be able to follow the curve without any help.  Do you think this would add some strength, or am I just making my life difficult for little to no gain?

Using the dress net will make a lining somewhat essential.  There isn’t a lining pattern included so I’ll have to draft that from the pattern.  I really want to hide the ‘guts’ of the dress though so would prefer the lining doesn’t hang free inside the skirt.

Should I bag the lining to the hem (like in a lined jacket, where the lining bags down a little) or should I just use french tacks to secure it at each non-pleated seam point (4 points)?

There’s a lot of pleats in the skirt and I can imagine that when they’re all flat, there’s a fair bit of yardage, so an exact replica in lining scares me a bit due to the amount of sewing that would go into attaching the lining at the hem.  But then  I’m also not sure that a french tacked lining would work great either!  I can’t really find an answer to this anywhere, so if anyone has any resource suggestions I’d be ever so grateful!

I’ll be leaving you all in peace for a short while as we’re going on holiday in the next day or so for a week or so (heh, Husband is busy with work, so whilst we’ve booked ten days, we may have to come back after a week!).  Once I’m back it’ll be toile time as I hope to get the pattern traced and the flat pattern adjustments done before we go.  I think you’ll like the toile – it’s going to be made out of a blue stripy duvet cover!


A Bit of Hood Action

Hood Detail: Topstitching and Lining

Today is the day of the hood!  Well, in Minoru-sew-along-view-A land it is, which is where I’ve happily been residing for the last hour.  I’ve also been trying to do some self portraits with said hood on my head and failing miserably!  How do you take a photo of yourself in the mirror?!  Mine just have a great big glare from the flash – natural daylight would help immensely I suspect.

But I digress.  Hood.  I’ve lined mine but used a slightly different method to the one Tasia mentioned in the sew along post.  I’ve constructed the outer hood as per the instructions up to the end of the topstitching.  I then created the lining of the hood by using the same pattern pieces but with 1/2″ removed from the front edge and omitting the top stitching.

I pressed back the front edge of the outer hood 1/2″ and then tucked the raw edge of the lining up against that fold.  I then folded the outer edge back another 1/2″ as per the instructions.  So on the front edge of my hood, if you were to cut it in cross section and looking from the outside in you’d see outer, lining, outer, lining, outer!  A bit like a pinwheel.

Can you see the pinwheel / layers?

I pressed like a woman possessed, pinned and then topstitched.  I then added a second row of topstitching as just one row looked a bit lonely!  I just need to baste the lining and outer hood bottom edges together now.

View from inside the hood: lining and a bit of outer fabric

The layers make quite a sturdy front edge, which I like as if it were to flap or flop about too much it would drive me nuts!  It’s still pliable enough though to fold/roll up and stuff into the eventual collar.  And the flannel is much softer around the ears than the cotton canvas would have been, but it’ll do nothing for the hair do – so maybe I’ll have to stash a hair brush in one of the pockets!

I’m Quite Proud of This…

I put the waist band of my circle skirt on last night.  I’m really quite proud of how well I’ve managed to put it on.  No puckers or anything!  I even catchstitched it down on the inside so it looks really really neat.


And as you can see, my plaid has a fair bit more stretch to it than my lining and this is only after hanging for about 12 hours!  I think that this is the project I am the most pleased with so far, certainly in terms of finishing.


But oh my, it’s HEAVY!  There’s a lot of fabric in the skirt so it weighs quite a lot.  Definitely an autumn / winter skirt!

And I also finished my Pendrell pattern modifications and got one of them cut out.  And also realised too late that I’d cut the ruffle on the straight rather than bias.  And I don’t have enough fabric to re-cut it.  So we’ll see what it looks like and if it’s awful, I’ll just omit that bit for this version.

I pre-washed the fabric for the Pendrell yesterday and the amount of dye that came out was unbelievable!  It turned the water dark blue, dark enough for me to notice as I walked past the machine (we have front loading washing machines, generally, here in the UK with a glass door).  I’m glad that it went into the machine on its own and that I pre-washed it, otherwise I could have a lot of stuff with a weird grey-blue tint to it!

A Neat Zipper to Lining

As I’ve mentioned before, not having a neat finish between my zip and lining has been a cause of frustration.  But I’ve cracked it with my circle skirt I think – I’m pleased with how it came out anyway!

Can you see the zip?!

First of all I put my zipper in as a lapped zipper.  I used Casey’s instructions and also watched the relevant chapter from Gertie’s Bombshell Dress course.  I’m pretty pleased with how it came out and that the plaid matches! (PS, the way I’ve cut my circle skirt means no chevrons, but I’m OK with that!)

Lapped zipper partially open

I then sewed the lining of the skirt having finished the side seam allowances before I started.  Sanity prevailed and I have only overlocked the lining!  I sewed all the way up the right hand seam of the lining.  I then measured the length of my zip in my skirt outer where the zip is and transferred this measurement down from the waist of the lining.  I then sewed the seam from that point to the hem of the lining and pressed it open.

Next I measured 1/8″ more than my seam allowance and folded the seam allowance of the gap I left for the zip towards the wrong side of the lining.  I pinned then basted this in place.  I basted it in place so that I could press the lining and get a crisp fold.  Pressing over the pins would have been a lot harder than pressing over the basting stitches!

Basted seam allowances on zipper gap of the lining, wrong side of the lining facing up
Checking how deep the seam allowance is

I then pin basted the lining to the zip tape.  Wrong side of the lining towards the wrong side of my plaid skirt.  I made sure to only pin through the zip tape and plaid seam allowance and not to the skirt.

Pin basted lining to zip. Wrong side of lining to wrong side of plaid

I opened and closed the zip to make sure the lining wouldn’t catch.

Checking the zip will open

I put the lining fabric to the right and the plaid to the left so that it was only joined at the zip insertion.  The right sides of the plaid were together and the right sides of the lining were together.  It looked like a butterfly with plaid on one side and turquoise on the other.

Basted lining seam allowance to zipper tape

I then basted the seam allowance of the lining to the zipper tape and seam allowance of the plaid.  If you looked at it side on it’d be a zipper tape sandwich between the plaid and lining.  I did this on both sides and removed the pins.

Zipper tape sandwich

Using the zip foot I stitched as close as I could to the crease I’d ironed into the lining fabric.  I stitched from the waist towards the hem.  I did the same on the other side.  Be really careful when doing your stitching as you don’t want to catch the skirt in the stitches.  You should be stitching the seam allowances and zipper tape only!

Stitching as close to the crease as possible. Making sure not to catch anything other than seam allowances and zipper tape!

I didn’t do anything special at the bottom, just moved the stitching line as close to the teeth of the zipper as I could for the last 1/2″.  There is a tiny gap where the lining isn’t stitched down at the bottom of the zip, but I can live with that.

I then flipped the lining back so that it was wrong side to the wrong side of the plaid and pressed with a cloth over the inside of the  zip.  Et Voila!  One neat lining to zip finish!

Nice and neat where the zip meets the lining
More zip and lining! It's not this wonky in real life, it's just the way I manhandled all that fabric!

I hope that’s all made sense.  If you’ve got any questions, please post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.  If you click on the photos you can have a look at a full size image…

Day 4 of Ginger – Fabric Picks

Sunni has shared her fabric picks for version 2, which will be a mint coloured 4-ply silk and version 3, which will be a striped cotton/poly fabric which she also intends to line.  Casey has also done an amazing inspiration post for styling the skirt.  A lot of food for thought there and some ideas!

So, as it’s fabric day I thought I’d share my choices with you.  I’ll only sew version A as I’m not too keen on the waist band detail of version 2 and version 3 is cut on the bias which neither of these fabrics lend themselves too due to a lack of stripe!

This is the fabric I intend to use for the sewalong skirt.

My Fabric Choice

It’s a dusky rose with white polka dots and is 100% cotton.  I’ve prewashed this already at 40′ along with the lining.  Sunni recommends going darker for the zip, however the next shade after this wasn’t a shade or two darker it was way way way darker, so I’ll risk it with this one and have to be really careful inserting the zip…

Blue Ginger Supplies

For my second version which will likely be made after the sewalong rather than trying to do two at the same time is a plain navy poplin.  The outside of the skirt is the lighter of the two blues, and I intend to line this one too.  Casey’s post may come in handy in lifting this from being a plain, blue skirt.  Piping at the waist is already a consideration and I quite like the idea of a bit of lace at the hem…  This rather plain choice is a deliberate decision, if not particularly exciting, as I want it to go with the fabric choice I’ve made for the Violet blouse.

Violet's Bits and Bobs

It’s Liberty Tana Lawn!!!  I’ve prewashed this already and it washed beautifully.  I may have to line this as it’s a little bit sheer which I’m definitely doing for the Pendrell blouse, which is also a lawn, but not Liberty…

Pendrell Fabric

This hasn’t been prewashed yet.  It’s so pretty and I think it’ll look lovely with Sewalong Ginger.  My experience with the Liberty lawn is that the background came up brighter after washing, which this may do, but to be honest bright white isn’t great on me and I like the natural colour to the back ground.  I plan to line it with a bright white to help the colours in the water-colour print really sing.  I intend to do version B with this as the fabric is very feminine.

So there we go, a post full of fabric choices – very fitting for day 4!