Modifying Mimi

Over the summer, I bought Mimi, a tailor’s dummy, to aid me in my dressmaking activities. In my younger days when I made a lot of my own clothes, my dear friend Mrs Robinson (although she wasn’t Mrs Robinson then) lived just up the road and we’d help each other out with dress fittings and adjustments. On one memorable occasion, we adjusted a dress that she was making to wear for a wedding three times before the big day (it had a fitted bodice that really needed to fit) as she seemed to expand and contract somewhat unpredictably (or maybe it was my fitting skills). Anyway, we are still very good friends, but she lives a couple of hundred miles away now, so help with dress-making is something more of a challenge.

Mimi in a shawl

But the arrival of Mimi means that I can make clothes – even fitted ones – without help. So, my first project using her has been one that allowed me to test out how useful she is… and whether I got my dimensions right. I chose to make an apron dress using a pattern from The Assembly Line. I bought some wool/linen double gauze fabric from Merchant and Mills for this project… never again (the fabric not the vendor). It’s lovely soft drapy fabric, but the loose weave and double layer means that it moves unpredictably as it is being sewn, so requires very careful pinning and stitching otherwise pattern pieces don’t align and it doesn’t hang properly – something that was essential with the particular pattern I had chosen.

The pattern itself, however, was clear and easy to follow, with the pattern pieces printed on thick paper, making them very robust. I ground to a halt at the point when I had fitted the dress to Mimi, but needed to see whether it worked on me. For quite a while Mimi wore the garment and I kept forgetting to try it on when I was getting dressed in the morning. Eventually I set aside some time and made the effort to get undressed again during the day. I’m glad that I took the time to do this because it turned out that the straps were much too short (they were only pinned in place, so this was easily remedied). When I considered it, I realised that, whilst Mimi had been set up to be the right distance around, she actually has a chest rather than a bust and she doesn’t stick out at the front much. I actually knew about this issue but it had slipped my mind. The resolution is easy – put Mimi in a bra* and stuff it so that It’s the right size. This done, the fitting went very smoothly and I’m happy with my new pinafore dress.

The process has given me confidence to make garments that require more shaping and, therefore, more careful fitting and I have already ordered another Assembly Line pattern.

-oOo-

* Good grief, I can’t believe I’m showing you my underwear AGAIN!

Sewing and not

I don’t love sewing in the same way that I love knitting and crochet, but I do find satisfaction in making useful things. And so, over the past few days I have slowly been working on a gardening apron. I am using the same pattern ( the Beatrice pinafore) that I did for my two kitchen aprons, but this version is lined, so the edges didn’t need binding, and I made the pockets deeper because gardening requires much more transportation of random stuff than cooking does! The benefit of making garments from scratch like this is that I know it wasn’t made by workers who are being exploited and I am able to source fabric that is organic/fairtraded. It’s akin to cooking from scratch, it’s just that it requires more concentration! The downside is that I usually always have to unpick something and I am never 100% satisfied with the result. However, it is finished now, and I’m hoping that the dark purple chambray (which is a rather nicer colour than the photos suggest) that I chose for it will hold up to the rigours of the garden and that I won’t be too sad that the lovely bee fabric is mainly hidden away as the lining (although it is reversible if I don’t mind having the pockets inside).

I do, however, wish that I liked sewing enough to make gorgeous quilts and other complex constructions. That said, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the yarny things that I want to, so I mainly just look on in awe at the creations of my fabric-oriented fellow crafters. However, I do occasionally get my hands on a beautiful piece of sewing to treasure, and this has just happened.

Over the weekend there was an online auction to support the Sixty Million Trebles project and I was lucky enough to submit the highest bid for the most fabulous handmade work bag.  Barbara, the lady who made it, sent it straight away and so I already have it… and I’m just blown away by her skill. Look:

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the skill!

Not only did it arrive beautifully gift-wrapped, but there was a rustle from inside and I opened it to find a matching ‘mug rug’ and a little pouch of sewing goodies. Internally, and somewhat difficult to photograph, there are all sorts of pockets, including some very narrow ones that will be perfect for hooks and knitting needles.

Oh the joy of owning a wonderful creation like this… I am in awe.

 

Beatrice is keeping me clean

In my younger days I did a lot of dressmaking, but I don’t do so much now, partly because I don’t live alone (as I did until I was nearly 30) and using a sewing machine is not very sociable. Knitting and crochet, on the other hand are quiet and portable and I’m better at them! However, the older I get the more sewing I find myself doing. This way I can choose eco-friendly fabrics and turn them into garments that I actually want to wear and that won’t fall to bits after a few months.

I’ve been wanting a new apron to wear whilst cooking for a while now. My old one was ok, but didn’t provide the coverage I wanted and didn’t have pockets. I hadn’t seriously looked for a new one, but happened to see mention on the Facebook ‘Make do and Mend’ group of a pattern for, what looked to me, like a perfect pinny. It’s called Beatrice and it’s a design from Sew Me Something. I bought the pattern (delivered the next day) and ordered some fabric (one length of organic cotton and one of an organic cotton/bamboo mix from The Organic Textile Company) and some bias binding. And then, helped by the vaarks as pattern weights, I made my pinnies…

I’m really pleased with the results… although they may be too nice to get dirty! I think I might make another in denim to wear for gardening…

Oh and just a reminder, in case you missed it, that yesterday’s post involved a give-away… you can check it out here.

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