Sew Hayley Jane boxes – 6 months of loveliness

I thought it was about time I reviewed Sew Hayley Jane‘s subscription boxes! I signed up for the Medium/Classic box back in February and just received my sixth box of loveliness.

My main reason for signing up was that I wanted to explore using different fabrics and notions. I have a decent fabric stash, but I find myself attracted to the same kinds of things when I shop. I liked the idea that I’d be presented each month with a curated box of sewing goodies and fabric and then have to think more creatively about what to make – helped of course by Hayley’s monthly blog posts with pattern ideas. Also, who doesn’t love a subscription box? It’s like a present to yourself every month.

What I didn’t count on was the wonderful community and feeling part of a club, especially over on Instagram and especially at the time when everyone’s boxes start arriving! It’s so much fun to see people posting their excitement and ideas for what they’ll make – and of course their finished garments.

I chose to subscribe to the Classic box because the length of main fabric you get – 2.5 metres – is enough for me to make most types of garment; dress, skirts, tops, trousers… At first I thought I would probably have boxes for 2 or 3 months and take a break, but they have been so lovely I haven’t wanted to stop! The £35 price point is probably at the upper limit of what I would pay for a subscription box, but that said I do think it is great value considering the fabrics, notions and other goodies have all been of really great quality and beautifully chosen. If your budget is a little tighter, the Mini box is £20 and the main difference is you get 1 metre of the same main fabric as the Classic and 3 rather than 4 fat quarters. The Luxury box would be a blowout treat for me, at £65/month, but you do get 3 metres of a different main fabric and a printed pattern from a known pattern house (Sew Over It, Closet Case and Pauline Alice have all recently featured).

The themes have all been great fun and carefully curated – you can see full contents of all past boxes here to give you a flavour of Hayley’s style. Unlike some other subscription boxes I’ve had in the past (Glossybox and My Little Box), I don’t think there has been a single thing in any of the boxes that I haven’t loved! My all time favourite box overall so far was June’s Sail Away nautical themed one, so much so that when Hayley advertised she had some extra boxes I bought a Mini one that month as well…

Below are some of the things I have made so far. I still had quite a bit of the purple floral georgette from April’s box left, so I’ve almost finished making a cami top from that as well. I think I had some of the black viscose from February left but not so much. Yet to be cut into are the royal blue swallow print cotton poplin from May (still undecided on pattern for that) and anchor-print chambray from June (definitely becoming a SOI Penny shirtdress) and various of the fat quarters (planning cushions, pattern weights, a pattern-weight storage bag and not sure what else).

Clockwise from bottom left:
Needle case (fat quarter from Feb box)
Earbud pouch (fat quarters from March box)
Wired headbands and origami bag (fat quarters from March and April boxes)
Black shift dress (main fabric from Feb box)
Carolyn pyjamas (main fabric from March box)
SOI Kimono top (main fabric from April box)

So, what was in July’s box? Time to find out…

Classic box of loveliness tied up with string…
Handwritten note…

I love that the boxes are always hand-tied with raffia (yes I keep this too!) and have a handwritten, personally addressed note introducing the box theme. Hayley’s business is getting so popular now, I can’t imagine how long it takes her to write all of these! But I just think it goes to show how much love and care goes into these boxes.

Ooh exciting…nearly revealed!
Everything neatly in its place

Everything is always packaged so neatly in the box, despite the travails of the postal service it still looks lovely when opened. Small notions are often individually wrapped in tissue paper. I admit to a slight frisson of alarm on seeing the jam and the white fabric, but happy to report no leaks! There is always a sweet treat among the sewing goodies, because who doesn’t need a bit of a sugar rush for sewing energy?

All unpacked
All unpacked

So there we have it! July’s Summer Garden Party box all unpacked. 2.5 metres of white broderie anglaise (which will definitely challenge me to think creatively to use), 4 heavier-weight fat quarters which are very Cath Kidston-esque, 2 metres of zingy purple gingham bias tape, super cute Time for Tea notebook, beeswax thread runner (lifesaver when I get back to my embroidery/cross stitch project), matching Gutermann thread as always for the main fabric, and not forgetting the jam! There is always also a little card with links to fabric care info (which I totally always pay attention to…)

I’m looking forward to Hayley’s post next week about the pattern recommendations. White broderie anglaise definitely falls into the category of a fabric I wouldn’t be likely to choose myself, so I’m looking forward to the inspiration and pushing my creative dressmaking boundaries.

TLDR: SHJ boxes are awesome, gorgeously-packaged and chock full of high quality sewing goodies. Pick based on your budget and what you want to achieve with the main fabric, and you won’t regret it!

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Sew it’s summer…

Another four months have passed since I last blogged, so what have I been up to in that time?

  • I cast on a new knitting project, the Victory sweater, an actual vintage pattern from the 1940s. About to complete the front piece and then take a break for the Yarn in the City GLYC anniversary KAL (more on that later, I promise!)
  • I made another SOI 1940s tea dress, which turned out much looser fit than the first one, even though I cut the same size…mystery yet to be solved for version 3.
  • I have got a beautiful Sew Hayley Jane box every month and love being part of this club, I highly recommend them to any sewist. I’m going to try and do a review/round up post soon on that.
  • Got into fat quarter sewing, because of the SHJ boxes – I’ve made an origami bag, three headbands, an earbud pouch and have plans for some cushion covers.
  • Made a SOI kimono jacket and French seamed the whole thing.
  • Took the Closet Case Files “Sew your dream swimsuit” online course and made not one but TWO awesome swimsuits (Sophie and Bomshell) to take on holiday to Croatia next week.
  • Made a set of Carolyn Pyjamas (also CCF) in beautiful soft cottony viscose.

summer round up

And what’s next?

  • GLYC Anniversary KAL knitting project
  • SOI 1940s tea dress mark III
  • SOI Penny shirt dress
  • SOI Ultimate trousers – trying to refine fit issues with their online fitting workshop
  • Trying to use up remnants creatively with some mix-and-match projects or little cami tops
  • Finally do something with my “to refashion” pile that’s been sitting waiting for most of a year and keeps getting added to…

Quick February Roundup – Three more garments in the bag!

I may have been lacking in blogging since the first Toaster Sweater this year but the sewing has been keeping momentum.

Firstly I managed a second garment in January, a Sew Over It Betty dress in a blue floral cotton. I’d bought that fabric with a 50s style swing dress in mind, and I did have a couple of patterns in stock but they would all have required quite a bit of fitting work, and I know that Sew Over It patterns suit my sizing…so on a whim I bought the PDF Betty pattern. Mostly it went together smoothly, although I did not have enough fabric for the skirt pieces so did some re-drafting based on a GBSB circle skirt I made a while back – it worked just fine and the skirt is plenty big – I took a huge amount out of the Betty pattern pieces so goodness knows how big THAT skirt would have been! I do have some minor fit issues to fix for the next make of this pattern – the back gapes a bit on me, partly due to the straps being too loose and sit too wide on my shoulders. Given I finished this the night before the wedding I planned to wear it to, I hacked a fix by pleating the neckline and stitching a fold in the straps at the seams – I wore a cardi over it so it didn’t matter, but I’ll have to fix it better in the long run. Otherwise the fit was good (worn here with a petticoat!).

Betty dress

Secondly, I finished my Spring shrug that was my first proper knitting project and has been WIP since March last year. Currently wrapping up a few other WIPs and then will start the next knit, which will be a Victory Sweater from the V&A archives.

spring shrug

Thirdly, I knocked out another Toaster Sweater in a few hours this Sunday, from the second fabric I had bought from Minerva for the purpose. I realised this would be my first actual attempt at pattern matching, as somehow everything else I’ve made so far has been plain or in a pattern so busy or large that you don’t need to match. Mostly it’s turned out well! I tweaked the neckline for this and it sits much better than the first one – although that may be in part due to the fabric taking a press somewhat better. I also added to the length because I find the first one rides up a little.

Toaster sweater 2

Finally, in other exciting sewing news, I got my first Sew Hayley Jane box this month (medium) and loved it, so excited already for the next one. The black viscose fabric I think I have earmarked for a pair of Sew Over It Ultimate trousers, a pattern I’ve been meaning to revisit since first sewing it at the workshop. The fat quarters I think are destined for new needle case/ pincushion and maybe a headscarf too.

Aaand I’ve fired off a few entries for the Make It Today Dressmaker of the Year competition, in the vintage and ready-to-wear categories. I’m really pleased with the things I submitted so fingers crossed!

It’s also Knitting and Stitching Show time again next weekend, I’ve already got a shopping list forming so stand by for the haul post next week…

 

My Sewing Roots

I like to think I have a scientific mind but I also know I believe there is a little bit of magic in the world. Likewise, I do believe that certain traits, passions or tendencies can run in families even though these have nothing to do with genetics. My nan got me into crafting from an early age; I remember having a piece of french knitting going on forever (although we called it corking), and I quickly got into counted cross stitch patterns and tapestry, not least because nan always had and still has a tapestry project on the go.

But in fact it’s my grandad’s mum; my great grandmother Florence Wilkins (née Norton) who was the great dressmaker of the family. This is her, with my great grandfather William Henry – judging from the clothes they are at a wedding, it may well have been my grandparents’. They married on leap day in February so that would fit with the fur collared coat!

great grandparents

I love this photo, for a few reasons. I like that the couple are not both looking at the camera; Florence’s attention is slightly to the right of the person taking the photo. William’s expression is fascinating, managing to look serious and yet with a quirk of a smile. But mostly I love how smartly dressed Florence is, with the perfectly fitted fur-collar coat, gloves and handbag just-so on her arm.

Sadly I never knew her, but both nan and mum have painted a picture with their anecdotes. She was a prolific seamstress, making every kind of garment for every member of the family, from pyjamas to wedding dresses. If you showed her a picture in a magazine she could make up an almost identical garment in a few days. Often she would just make things for people as well, and had a great eye for their preferred styles and what would suit them. The room she used for sewing was always draped all around the walls with fabric, work-in-progress and finished pieces. And she frequented the rag market and the other fabric institutions of Birmingham. Nan says she never said “fabric” though, she’d always say “I found a lovely bit of stuff for you today at the market” and before you knew it that had become a skirt or a blouse. Mum remembers her making a bright purple velvet party dress when she was a little girl, and knowing that no one else would be wearing a dress quite like hers!

It was also her profession, but I have no idea how she had time for paying customers amongst all the family sewing she seems to have been doing!

I think my grandparents are secretly a bit moved that I have got into dressmaking, pretty much independently of finding out all of the above. I guess a little bit of Florence lives on in me, although I am 100% sure I will never achieve the level of skill that she had. Truth be told, I am a little bit moved by it too, and I regret that I never had chance to know her and learn from her.

Sew Over It 1940s tea dress 

I’m going to come right out and say it – this is by far and away the homesewn garment I am most pleased with so far in my sewing adventures!

I fell in love with the Sew Over It 1940s tea dress pattern well before I felt capable of making it. I bought the pattern while at the Islington store for the Ultimate Trousers workshop back in November 2015 and even though I still loved the design I was more than a little daunted by the 11 pattern pieces actually resulting in 20 elements once cut!Sew Over It 1940s tea dress

Anyway, I already had a fabric in mind that I’d got at the Knitting & Stitching Show March 2015, and a goal – Twinwood Festival, August bank holiday. In the event, I’ve used a different fabric (bought at this year’s K&S Show) and hit an event a month ahead of my deadline! What on earth is going on…?

I actually started on this pattern back in May, and got as far as pattern tracing, cutting out and marking. I cut a size 16 (again) with no adjustments (again) based on a quick toile of the bust section (again!). But then everything got packed away for moving house, then June shot past what with sorting out the new place and a holiday and various upheavals at work, before I could get the sewing stuff out again.

But finally one weekend early in July I decided to tackle it. The fabric is a lovely bright floral print, perfect for summer, in a light and floaty viscose. Lots of drape and lovely to sew! Once I’d sorted out my 20 (!!) pieces again, I got down to sewing. I really liked that the pattern puts the trickiest part first – the bust panels! This looks really complicated but actually it’s not and results in a really professional-looking design which is also very flattering provided it’s fitted correctly. The trick is really taking your time over adjusting the gathers where the bust joins the waist panel.

1940s tea dress bust

The rest of the construction is effectively joining panels; five in total for the skirt (front, side fronts, backs), side backs and backs in addition to the bust and waist panels, then join the top to the bottom. The sleeves are a nice 3/4 length and faced, with a turnup which is a nice detail.

1940s tea dress side view

I managed pretty well matching my seams. Pattern matching is fortunately not really an issue for this print, but the effect of the vertical seams running down the bodice, back and skirt panels is important. I still didn’t manage to get the waist seams to line up across the zip at the back, and I’ve no idea how because that zip was dead straight I swear!1940s tea dress back

There was a fair amount of hand-finishing on this dress too; the three decorative self-cover buttons on the bust, catch-stitching the sleeve turnups and the facing inside, the zip seam allowance at top and bottom, plus I also put in some small stitches to hold the neck facing in place at the shoulders as despite understitching, the lightness of the fabric meant it just wasn’t going to stay turned under.

1940s tea dress buttons

This dress was undoubtedly a lot of work, I estimate 8-10 hours of sewing and hand finishing, including all the pressing and seam finishing, but I think it was well worth it.modelling 1940s tea dress

I think it’s testament to how chuffed I was that I wore it to a very posh city wedding at The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, along with a fetching hat from Bellapacella of Spitalfields Market.

I also reviewed this pattern on The Fold Line: CertainStyle reviews 1940s tea dress on the Fold Line

New Look K6176 shift dress

I think this was my quickest sew from start to finish. I headed off to Paris for a work-related conference in May and although I’d had this pattern in mind and a couple of fabrics lined up for some time, the decision to make this dress and try to finish it in time to take to the conference was pretty last minute!

I was attracted to this pattern over the other shift / pencil dress styles I have (most of my patterns are the result of my monthly Sew magazine subscription, this being no exception) because it had relatively few pieces. I’ve been amazed how complicated some designers can manage to make what is essentially a very simply-shaped garment.

New Look K6176

New Look K6176 has several variations with sleeves, banded hems and pockets, but I went for the simplest sleeveless, single fabric, no pockets design (view D). With the bare minimum of elements (front, back x 2, neck and sleeve bands) and a kind fabric it was pretty quick to cut out. My fabric was one I picked up at the Knitting & Stitching Show in March 2015 – yes, really! A polyester sort of fabric with a slight crepe/textured feel. Identifying and describing fabric is really something I need to learn more about! It’s purple and black with an all over abstract floral motif.

No lining, facing or interfacing meant I could get stuck right in to sewing. It’s basically sew front and back together, and finish the neck and arms with bands. I was glad I’d already made the Agnes top because now I knew what I was making with a neck band – the instructions in the Simplicity pattern were much more confusing so I think this would have stalled me.

K6176 neck back & armhole

The only slight hiccup was that I discovered I didn’t have a black zip. This keeps happening, I’m sure I’ve got some stock notions and then when it comes to it they are nowhere to be found. I made do with a dark brown one, and did a concealed zip rather that the normal one the pattern uses, so you can’t really tell.

K6176 back dress

Fit wise, I was pretty pleased with the length and overall fit given I didn’t do any pattern adjustments. The only niggle is the upper back / neck which is a little too big. It doesn’t quite gape but it’s not far off. I’ll have to try and adjust the pattern for the next iteration but that probably also means calculating a reduction in the length of the neck band…maths isn’t my strong suit so I’ll have to see if Simon can work out the formula!

K6176 back neck

I might have been hand finishing at gone 11pm the night before flying to Paris, but I think it shows how far I’ve come in my sewing adventure that I would a) be able to achieve that and possibly more importantly be happy to wear a me-made garment at a conference representing my company to prospective and existing clients.

K6176 front dress

New Look K6035 navy jacket

To think that I made this back in March/ April, that just seems ages away!

This is also probably the first time I found myself making something I needed more than I wanted. I can think of a ton of much more fun things to wear, but the orchestra I was playing in at the time (not now that we moved, more on that later…) had a summer concert uniform including a navy blazer.

For the first concert I was caught out and had to borrow one, but there was a nice long gap to the next concert and I was determined to be prepared. Given I had not managed to find a navy blazer I liked at a reasonable price point from the high street stores (or indeed barely any at any price point, thanks to whimsies of the “current fashion”) and anyway, I’m supposed to be making not buying, I decided to take the plunge on the most tailored item I’ve made yet.

It’s not as if I could hide the tailoring either – if it was bad it was going to look really bad. Fortunately I had a pattern already from one of my magazine subscriptions; New Look K6035.

New Look K6035 pattern

I read through the instructions and decided I could manage it, so next challenge was finding a suitable fabric. A&M Textiles in High Wycombe came up with the goods, a nicely toned navy twill which was structured enough for the garment (with interfacing) but not too heavy bearing in mind I would be wearing this at a fair number of (hopefully sunny) outdoor concerts.

I interfaced all the necessary pieces right at the start so that I didn’t need to interrupt the sewing process. I opted for a lightweight interfacing, which worked well but in hindsight I think it could have taken a heavier weight and resulted in a slightly stiffer structure, especially in the larger areas such as the front facings.

K6035 front princess seam

Construction wise, I was pretty pleased with the princess seamed front panels which were one of the first elements to sew. I managed to get a really neat smooth curve especially with pressing over a ham. The collar was the big and messy bit, all about matching the notches and sewing to very specific points. The instructions also only mention matching dots, when in fact you also need to line up dot, notch, dot – the whole thing would have been much easier if that was more specific!

I found it particularly hard because most of the time I couldn’t see what I was trying to sew, until the later stages when I could partly turn it through and start to see the result. In fact I almost thought I’d gone wrong right at the end, when I couldn’t seem to turn through correctly – until I realized what structure I’d actually made and folded the fabric at the top of the collar. Suddenly everything fell into place!

I did fail to follow one step though – step 12, I stitched the whole edge of the upper collar/facing rather that only between the dots as instructed. This didn’t actually seem to have any negative effect though, and rather seemed to avoid some later hand-stitching of the neck seam under the facing (step 14), which struck me as a bit awkward. Maybe with a heavier fabric it would be necessary to follow the instructions due to the bulk, but in this case it was fine.

I still managed to fudge one lapel notch though, as evidenced by the photo below. But a bit of unpicking and careful 2nd attempt gave a much neater result.

fudged lapelFit wise, I cut a 16 and made only one alteration based on a rough (sleeveless) toile, which was to make a triangular dart-like adjustment of the side seam, taking in at the widest part at the underarm and grading to meet the seam at the waistline. This was to tailor the sides/back some more, as the two back pieces feature a princess seam and so a standard centre-back adjustment wasn’t possible (or as easy). As it turned out, I should have also done some work on the sleeves, as when I tried the jacket on with sleeves, they were much too big at the armhole. I was loathe to unpick the whole sleeve as I had managed quite a neat set-in, and anyway the shoulder and top of the armhole was ok. Instead I pinned out some excess fabric along the sleeve seamline in a wedge shape, with the widest part at the underarm join. I effectively sewed this as a dart, cut away some excess fabric and re-stitched the sleeve back in. It’s worked but next time I will alter the sleeve pattern piece to match. I think I could still have taken a little more from the side seams as well.

K6035 back jacket

new look K6035 jacket

If I were to make this jacket again, these would be my alterations:

– use a slightly heavier weight fabric and/or interfacing; I think this jacket works better with more structure

– recut pattern to improve fit of sleeve and side jacket seams. I was ok with this fit as the purpose of the garment meant I would be wearing it seated with arms raised (for playing the flute) most of the time and therefore a slightly more relaxed fit is ok

– add a button to the front. For the reasons above I left it open but again I think the style suits a button fastening. I may yet change the jacket to add this

– catch stitch the front facings in place. Again I may go back and fix this as I find it annoying that the front facings tend to “catch the wind” as I’m walking along. They are stitched in place at top and bottom so they can’t completely fold out, but the long edge is open and this is what causes the problem.