Posted on Leave a comment

A review of the Tailor’s Friend dress form from Figure Forms.

IMG_5899

I am incredibly lucky to receive some wonderful work opportunities through writing this sewing blog, and a few months ago I was contacted by Figure Forms of Cape Town who told me all about their dressmaking mannequin business and in particular the Tailor’s Friend.

A hugely important piece of equipment for any dressmaker, whether you are a professional seamstress or someone who is sewing purely for pleasure, is a dress form. I am looking forward to sharing with you today some details and features of the beautiful model that was sent to me, and have enjoyed giving it a thorough testing over the past few weeks.

IMG_5900

So firstly let me tell you a little about Figure Forms. They are a family owned business, established back in 1989, based in South Africa. They specialise in industrial/professional forms used by clothing retailers and manufacturers using industry standard measurements, and it is interesting to see that the more advanced models have been developed from anthropometric size surveys and even using casts from live fit models to ensure more realistic body shapes, proportions and anatomical details. So interesting and very impressive! All the models are hand produced by a small team of employees and the focus is very much on quality rather than quantity.

They have over 200 models that they can produce ranging from infants, children, teen, male and female forms right through to plus size adults.

O.k, so back to the Tailor’s Friend. At the time of writing any orders that are sent out to the U.K are dispatched directly from the factory in South Africa, and mine arrived in a little over 2 weeks. It was incredibly well packaged with cardboard and bubble wrap ensuring that the contents were well protected in transit and arrived in perfect condition.

thumbnail_38AD5C0B-5FE9-435F-8CCE-ECEE3221D971

thumbnail_F7C78BB6-7311-438C-866B-49B92585CEF1

Assembling the mannequin was very quick and easy. It has a strong steel tripod base which the dummy itself slots into and the height is easily adjustable. So I would mention that it is fairly heavy but this is to be expected with steel fittings and you cannot argue with the strength and stability that this gives! I can see how years of providing to the retail market has meant that Figure Forms have developed sturdy equipment that is often used in a busy retail or manufacturing environment.

IMG_5888

IMG_5893

 

How pretty is the beige fabric colour that I chose? Other colours are available and you  have the choice to select from black, red, pink or grey. The Tailor’s friend is currently available in 4 sizes – 8/32, 10/34, 12/36 and 14/38.

thumbnail_B07DCAF2-10D1-474F-A571-F729AAF4D23C

The fabric finish (nylon elastane) provides a ‘frictionless’ surface, limiting the amount of drag on a fitted garment and replicates how the fabric would feel against the human skin. The body is made from rigid polyurethane, it is fully pinnable and I have found this particularly useful recently for button placements and also on the occasions that I pin my paper pattern pieces to the form. It is worth mentioning that although I have only been using this dress form for a short while, the pins when removed have not damaged the fabric surface of the mannequin.

thumbnail_73002B08-86B4-4123-8BE3-023AA10A0E14

Over the last few weeks I have been able to test it using a number of different fabrics including crepe, gabardine, viscose and scuba. The crepe and viscose slide over the dress form easily, as does the scuba (which surprised me), and the gabardine has a little friction resistance, but nothing too drastic.

thumbnail_1C9D1C61-AB86-4B9B-85CA-8AE434EF8992
Amongst some of the fabrics tested are from top left: crepe, scuba, gabardine and viscose.

The size of the mannequins are not adjustable. As someone who is prone to regular weight gains and losses I did have concerns as to whether a non-adjustable dress form would work for me, as an ‘at home’ seamstress. A pattern maker or designer will  create their basic block patterns with a core size and grade up and down to achieve different sizes, incorporating ease into the fit and allowing for the fabric types and style of the garment etc. So whilst I can see that this set size is perfect for the retail and design market, I have now had the chance to consider how it fits into the ‘at home’ sewing situation. Whilst our measurements can fluctuate all the time I can see that the dress form can be useful as an approximate guide to your size, and is great when being used to design, pin and drape the garment. I know that before I hem an item I will always let it hang for at least 24 hrs and the difference between doing this on a 3-D dress form and a regular narrow clothes hanger is incredible.

IMG_5895

With orders currently being shipped individually from South Africa, the cost of delivery must be taken into consideration and you will find an excellent customer service team  on hand at Figure Forms if you would like to discuss what these costs are likely to be, whether you are an individual customer or if you are considering larger order numbers.  I believe that retail outlets in the U.K are currently being sourced so that hopefully in the future they will become available to purchase in the U.K without the overseas postal costs.

I have been very impressed by the quality of this dress form, and have thoroughly enjoyed spending the last few weeks with this beautiful lady by my side in my sewing room. I have definitely got over my initial concerns about the fact that she was not adjustable and have found that on a day to day basis I am using her for everything that I need. I also think that she looks rather lovely at the same time!

As mentioned at the start, this dress form was kindly sent to me by Figure Forms for review. The thoughts and opinions shared in this blog post are solely my own.

IMG_5891

Take care, and I’ll be back soon,

Kathy x

Posted on 5 Comments

A ‘first impressions’ review of my new Adjustoform dress form.

As a dressmaker, a crucial part of my sewing equipment is my dress form. Up until now I have been using a very old and battered dress form which came to me in fairly bad condition, second hand, several years ago. She has served me well over the years but recently decided that enough was enough and refused to stand up any more despite several repairs to the legs.

As somebody that spends time sewing in one form or another most days, I missed her tremendously. I hadn’t quite realised how much I relied on her until she was finally unusable. You can imagine my relief when Adjustoform came to the rescue and very generously provided me with a beautiful new model  to use and review. The following is my entirely honest thoughts on her construction, set up and features.

The model I have is the Action Form in a glorious purple colour. It arrived very well packed in a large box. For those interested the box dimensions were

  • Height 79cm
  • Width 38cm
  • Depth 27cm

IMG_2038

Inside the box were all the parts required to quickly and easily assemble it along with a simple instruction sheet and a booklet describing how to get the best out of your dressmaking model.

IMG_2041

To assemble the stand it was just a case of simply slotting in the four feet to the bottom of the stand. Nice and simple. The stand feels strong and sturdy.

IMG_2044

IMG_2083

Then you can just pop the body onto the post and secure by tightening the adjustable screws. (By hand – no tools required).

IMG_2053

Isn’t she beautiful! Front and back.

IMG_2057

IMG_2077

She is an adjustable 8 part dummy, so after this basic set up you can adjust her to replicate your measurements. To do this you alter the 3 dials and 9 adjusting thumb wheels to give you an exact fit. In addition to this she has an easily adjustable back/waist length as well as the opportunity to adjust the neck. All incredibly simple to do.

IMG_2066

better side shot

Finally adjust the height to match your height and hey presto! you are good to go!

IMG_2073

She is covered with a nylon, foam backed fabric to allow for easy pinning and has a handy little pin cushion at the top!

IMG_2548

By far my favourite feature of this beauty though is the hem marker with basting attachment. This feature had always been broken on my last old model and boy! is this a useful gadget to have.

Simply decide what hem length you need and open and attach the fixation clip on the hem at that point, slide the pin through the pin guide and when you remove the fixation clip your pin is magically in place on the garment exactly where you want it! Repeat at regular intervals and there you have a perfectly level hem marked out! Genius! I now have level hems on my handmade garments for the first time ever!!

IMG_2552

IMG_2558

IMG_2563

My new sewing assistant is already a firm favourite of mine. Although I have not had her for very long, I have used her to help me make 5 tops and 3 dresses so far. One of the dresses I recently made has a lined bodice and the dress form was so useful in pinning the lining in place (whilst the garment was inside out), without it pulling at any point. I also think with any dress it is good to let it hang on a dress form for 24 hours before hemming it. This is especially important of course with skirts/dresses cut on the bias or when using knit fabrics, simply hanging on a hanger will not give you the same result.

IMG_2547
Almost finished – just hem and sleeves to go!

The dress form enables me to check on my dart placements now without having to repeatedly try the garment on. Pockets and buttonholes can be checked on the dress form now in the same way without me having to try it on several times.

I am also looking forward to making up new patterns that I have not sewn before as it will be easy to fit and adjust a paper pattern on the dress form to try to work out some of the potential fitting issues before I cut into the fabric.

Although I have only used it for a few weeks and therefore can only review this on the short time I have owned it, I am thrilled to bits with it. It is, in my opinion, one of the most useful items in my dressmaking kit, and I do not want to be without one again! This model does everything I need it to – and more, and is simple to set up and use straight away. You will be seeing a great deal of her in my future makes, and I will continue to share with you any info on the model as and when I think you could find it useful.

This particular dress form is just right for me, it would be perfect for a beginner seamstress right through to the more experienced sewist, and it could just be the perfect Christmas gift don’t you think?

thumbnail_4A4AE17C-A180-49CD-8B11-B917D25AD994
This gives you a idea of what the dress form looks like when used for sewing a top

Adjustoform have a small range that you can purchase on their website – alternatively you can also search their website for local suppliers here. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m sure I’ve seen several types of Adjustoform models in the John Lewis haberdashery departments too.

A huge thank you once again to Adjustoform for sending me my new best sewing buddy. I’m in love ..

Do you have an Adjustoform that you couldn’t be without? Which type do you use? Is an Adjustoform on your wish list this Christmas? Do let me know your thoughts, I love to hear from you.

Take care, I’ll be back soon,

Kathy x

Thought you might like to see the sorry state of my old girl! ….

IMG_2086

Posted on 2 Comments

A lovely day sewing on #sewsaturday at The Sewing Cafe in Hinckley

sew-sat-logo-17

I’m guessing that a few of those of you reading this will already know about the Sew Saturday event that we have every year here in the U.K. If you are not familiar with it, it is an annual event, organised by Sew magazine, which enables us to celebrate our local bricks and mortar independent fabric store and haberdasher. Around the country, small fabric retailers sign up to take part, and offer various classes, workshops, events and discounted prices on the day.

My local fabric and haberdashery store is The Sewing Cafe, which is in the market town of Hinckley, Leicestershire. It is a friendly and welcoming fabric and haberdashery store which is owned and run by Fay and Becky. Not only will Fay, Becky and the team be able to help you with all your sewing needs, the shop also offers a huge range of sewing workshops suitable for complete beginners right through to more experienced sewists as well as the use of the machines by the hour if you feel like some social sewing.

IMG_2527

Last year I attended one of the free workshops and learned how to make a couple of these triangular pattern weights. I promptly went home and spent the rest of the afternoon making a whole bunch more and now use them for EVERY sewing project I make. I can’t remember the last time now that I pinned a pattern before cutting out – it’s so much easier to use my weights and rotary cutter!

thumbnail_5E35DF4B-0FBC-4F3B-9025-8D85DAE182F3

This year, for Sew Saturday, The Sewing Cafe were offering a free workshop making pretty little fabric purses like this one below – totally adorable and quick and easy to make whatever your skill level. I loved that you could choose a button or snap fastening and there was a great selection of fabrics available for you to choose from.

IMG_2529

Throughout the afternoon whilst I was there, I was able to watch a steady stream of sewists disappearing into one of the sewing workshop rooms and coming out half an hour later proudly waving their pretty new fully lined purses!  A free raffle ticket was being offered to each visitor on the day with the chance to win some fabulous sewing prizes,  and tea, cake and generous fabric discounts were also available. The shop was buzzing!

After enjoying myself so much last year, I was thrilled to be invited along this year to take part in a little ‘social sewing’ in the other workshop sewing space during the afternoon. Happy days! I promptly packed my current sewing project, which is another version of The Scout Tee by Grainline Studios, and headed on over to Hinckley!

22637535_146912009252274_6189821732153458688_n

I was thrilled to be joined by some really lovely local ladies and we had such a great afternoon sewing, chatting, drinking tea and eating delicious homemade apple cake ( thank you Fay)! If I’m honest I was so busy chatting all afternoon that very little sewing was done by me but hopefully you will see the results of the Scout Tee that I started when the #owop17 challenge arrives at the end of November.

Two of the ladies were whipping up pretty fabric travel tissue covers ready to sell in a forthcoming charity event. They were gorgeous!

By strange coincidence two of the ladies were also both wearing handmade versions of the Tilly and the Buttons Coco pattern – one dress and one top. The top had been made in a super fleece fabric and has certainly inspired me to whip one up in a fleece for myself as the weather is now getting colder. As it happens the Coco is one of the sewing workshops offered by The Sewing Cafe – so if you are local and are interested in attending a Coco workshop or fancy a little browse through the other workshops the Cafe has to offer then you can click here.

During the afternoon we were also joined by some of the ladies that needed a little more time with their workshop purses, and before I knew it the afternoon had flown by and it was time to call it a day.

IMG_2530

IMG_2532

IMG_2533

Thank you again to Becky and Fay for making me so very welcome, and to all the lovely ladies that I had the pleasure meeting and sewing with. If you are ever in the Hinckley area I would highly recommend that you pop in for a little visit, and if you’re not local you can still have a little mooch through their fabulous fabrics, patterns and haberdashery items on their online shop which you can find on the website here.

If you’re a bit of an Instagram fan like myself, you might be interested to see what the Sewing Cafe are getting up to here.   This way you can check out their new fabric arrivals and get to know which events they are attending.

I hope that whatever you did for #sewsaturday that you had a great time and enjoyed the hospitality and sewing knowledge that our lovely independent fabric retailers can offer us when we call in to visit them.

Take care, and I’ll be back soon,

Kathy x

Posted on 10 Comments

The Shift Dress by The Avid Seamstress.

shift8

It’s such a pleasure to share with you today The Shift Dress – the brand new pattern launch from The Avid Seamstress

I was so excited when I found out that I had the opportunity to be involved in this dress launch, as I had recently made The Day Dress by The Avid Seamstress and absolutely loved everything about it, so I knew that this would be a great experience too.

When you receive your Avid Seamstress pattern, you are receiving so much more than just a pattern. It is clear that each garment has been created with love and attention to detail, so not only do you receive your pattern pieces printed on high quality paper, but you are supplied with helpful information on how to measure yourself correctly, useful sewing term explanations and sensible tips for getting the best out of your sewing experience. The sewing instructions themselves are contained within a lovely booklet accompanied by photographs and drawings of each and every stage. If this is not enough then do head on over to their blog for even more information, tutorials and general sewing love!

thumbnail_IMG_2077

At this stage I would like to mention my fabric choice. We were lucky enough to be given our choice of fabric from Fabric Godmother.  Such a tricky decision, so so many beautiful fabrics to choose from, but in the end I opted for a stunning stretch cotton. It features pretty florals on a royal blue background and was a perfect choice for this dress. The small amount of spandex in the fabric gives it just a little bit of ease (whilst maintaining it’s shape), to ensure a very comfortable fit.

Unfortunately the fabric that I used has been so incredibly popular it has now sold out, and Fabric Godmother are unable to get any more back in stock. However they do have a great range of cotton sateen fabrics which would match the fabric type that I used, and would be perfect for your version of The Shift Dress!

Suggested fabrics are lightweight to medium weight fabrics – wovens, chambray, crepe, silk, viscose and cottons.

Before I cut into my fabric, I made up a quick toile. I almost always do this when making a new pattern, and I think it is especially important to do so with a fitted dress like this. As The Avid Seamstress rightly says, apart from allowing you to make any alterations to the garment, it enables you to ‘road test’ the instructions so that by the time you are making it for real you will have the confidence to enjoy the process.

Length is always a concern for me, as I am quite small  (5’2″).  For this dress I needed to shorten the bodice by 1″, and the skirt by 5″. I marked this out and adjusted this on the pattern pieces before cutting out the fabric.

The Shift Dress is a classic design, and a wardrobe staple, but this design gives you more. What I really like is the low back of the dress. Ultra pretty, but not so low that you show your bra strap or feel that it is revealing too much. The low back also makes it possible to open and close your entire zip yourself without any help which is not always possible with a back zip.

shift12

shift21

The back skirt of the dress has flattering waist pleats, follow the instructions precisely and you will find that these line up perfectly with the waist darts on the back bodice. I am all about the pleats at the moment and these are adorable.

shift25
Back pleats match up with the bodice darts, and the waistband seams match up where the invisible zip is fitted.

Taking your time with the invisible zip pays off too. Thorough and helpful instructions will take you through this process and help you achieve great results. You are left with a zip which is truly invisible and your horizontal waist seams should match up perfectly.

shift24
Such a flattering and feminine design.

Another feature of this dress is that the front skirt is made from two pieces which forms a panel at the bottom. Hopefully you can see this from the photo below. This gives you the option of colour blocking the skirt or mixing up your fabrics to create a unique look. You could really have some fun with this.

shift26

A new challenge for me was the kick pleat at the back of the skirt, as I don’t think I have made a pencil skirt before. This is one of the final parts of making the dress and I was concerned that it might be tricky.  I had no need to worry as the written instructions accompanied by photographs ‘held my hand’ through this process and I was chuffed with how it turned out.

shift27

I should mention that there is the option to include pockets in this dress. On this occasion I decided not to use them, but it is so great to have that choice. They are simple in-seam pockets.

I decided to hem the dress by hand as I wanted the hem to be completely invisible. It took no time at all, and just lately I have found a little hand sewing quite relaxing. One of these days I will work out how to use the blind hem option on my sewing machine, as this looks like it could be a game changer!

shift11

I think this could be the perfect dress to wear as a wedding guest, or to a Summer party. Maybe a Christening outfit or for other occasions when you want to dress to impress. This Autumn our family are celebrating an 80th birthday, and I am thinking this might be the perfect outfit for such a happy family celebration.

I could also see this as smart office wear. Made up in a solid, it could showcase a perfect corporate image, don’t you think?

Taking it completely in the other direction, if you chose a chambray, you could rock a much more relaxed look. Paired with ankle boots, statement necklace and leather jacket you are good to go!

It is certainly a pattern that I will make again, as it is comfortable and fits in all the right places. I also love that when I wear it I feel really confident,  and would recommend this pattern to anybody who wants to look ‘put together’ but feel really comfortable at the same time.

Aside from myself, the amazing Dominique and Samantha will be sharing their thoughts on this exciting dress, so do head on over to their blogs and check out their makes too!

19436874_428632920852369_786171910739197952_n(1)

Finally I would like to say a huge thank you to Lisa and all the team at The Avid Seamstress for allowing me to be a part of this launch. It has been a wonderful experience in every way.

Fancy winning a bundle of Avid Seamstress sewing patterns? Head on over here to find out all the details on how you can do this!

Are you planning to make The Shift Dress?  I would love to hear about it. Do you have an event coming up that you plan to make a Shift Dress for?

Thanks for reading, take care and I’ll be back soon,

Kathy x

shift22

 

 

 

 

Posted on 3 Comments

The Avid Seamstress Day Dress Sewing Pattern Review

Day Dress 4

I am so excited to share with you my first blog post as part of the Minerva Crafts Blogging Network. I have recently written a couple of guest blogs for Minerva, but this is my first blog post as part of their Blogging Network.

If you would like to read the full review with more photos over on the Minerva Crafts blog, then you can do so by clicking here

All the supplies that I used, including the pattern itself, can be found listed with the review.

Thank you for stopping by. Take care and I’ll be back soon,

Kathy x

Day Dress 13

Posted on 9 Comments

Sew Over It Tulip Skirt Pattern Review

I thought it was about time that I made a skirt. I’ve made lots and lots of dresses lately and I fancied a change. I have had this fabric in my stash for a little while now and knew I wanted it for a skirt. During the Black Friday sale in November I treated myself to the Tulip Skirt PDF and I was excited to make it. I have made a Sew Over It Erin Skirt recently here and loved it, so I was pretty sure I would enjoy this one too!

Is anybody else taking part in the #2017makenine challenge?  This is the first of my nine choices. A good start to the new year!

tulip-skirt-450x450

So just to let you know that it is only available in PDF format. I must admit I do prefer a paper pattern, but it didn’t take too long to put together as there are only 4 pattern pieces – a skirt front, a skirt back, pocket and waistband. Nice and simple. You can choose to make it in 2 lengths. I chose the shorter length as I am only 5’2″ and it was spot on.

img_0776

I was so pleased with my fabric choice. The style of this skirt definitely requires at least a medium weight fabric. The pattern recommends a medium to heavy weight cotton, wool or crepe.

It was quick to make up. I prepared the PDF, traced the pattern and cut it out on one afternoon, and then it only took a couple of hours the next afternoon to sew it up. The pleats are easy to fold if you simply follow the written instructions, don’t try to overcomplicate it and then end up scratching your head for 10 mins like I did. There are photos to accompany the written instructions. I also struggled a bit with the waistband for some reason, but got there in the end!

My only other ‘alteration’ was that I used a standard zip and not a concealed zip as suggested. This was a bit of an error on my part. The pattern calls for an 8″ concealed zip and I was beyond excited to find that I actually had one which was the perfect length and colour already in my stash. Off I jolly well went fitting it to the skirt with my invisible zipper foot on my machine, thinking that the teeth didn’t feel like invisible teeth normally do as they run through the grooves on the zipper foot. It was only as I finished and zipped it up I realised that I had used a regular nylon coil zip, and therefore due to the width of the pull tab it wouldn’t be invisible at all. Ho hum, you live and learn, it doesn’t really matter that much I don’t think. At least the waistband seam matches up pretty well!tulip-skirt-5

I chose to make the skirt without pockets. Unusual, as I normally can’t get enough of them but I wondered that in a skirt of this style whether it would make for too much bulk around the hips. On reflection I don’t think it would have made much difference as they would lay so flat inside the skirt anyway.

tulip-skirt-4

The back of the skirt is lovely and simple. Just a couple of darts for shaping and a nice smooth finish.

I’m really pleased with how the skirt came out. The shape is very flattering, feminine and very wearable.

tulip-skirt-1

I would love to hear if you have made a Sew Over It Tulip Skirt too. How did you get on?

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts,

Take care and I’ll be back soon,

Kathy x