It must be time for a new blog post! We've had some fantastic projects turned into us recently, so this is the first of many wonderful makes and even better, it's from one of our fantastic guest bloggers Jane of Handmade Jane. We absolutely love this one and we're so pleased to share it with you. Over to Jane!

Handmade Jane

What's the scariest thing you can think of? For me it's clowns, dolls coming to life and ventriloquists dummies.... I also can't stand anything round my neck, or thinking I can't breath…. or one particular scene in The Woman in Black (the old BBC version, not the Daniel Radcliffe film). If you've seen it, you'll know exactly which bit I'm talking about - TERRIFYING.  I'm a bit of a wuss generally and news of this must have made its way across the ocean, as I was asked to be a participant in this year's Fear Fabric Challenge, hosted by Beth at 110 Creations.  WOOOOOOOOO!!

For the challenge I had to choose a scary fabric and conquer my fear of it by sewing something fabulous. Now there isn't actually a fabric that scares the bejesus out of me in the same way as a talking doll or The Woman in Black would, but there are a few I've managed to avoid like the plague. One of them is silk, which I'm still giving a wide berth, the other one is lace. Ah lace, lace, lacey, lacey, lace, so pretty, but with such a dreadful reputation, all those holes! It was only after seeing a Joseph dress worn by my lovely friend Rose that I was truly inspired to give lace a go myself.

I thought a whole dress would be a bit much to tackle on my first attempt, but liked the idea of a smart top that could be worn with fitted trousers. A bit like the Luxurious Lace Top from Boden. For fabric I used some All Over Flower Lace in navy from White Tree Fabrics. I recently joined their blogging team as an occasional guest blogger, so the lace, satin lining fabric and bias binding for finishing was kindly sent to me free of charge - thank you White Tree Fabrics! There was an almost overwhelmingly large selection of lace to choose from, so I ordered a few samples first. I'd highly recommend doing this as the samples are generously cut and you can drape them over your arm to see what they look like as sleeves.  I didn't want to go with a very expensive lace, just in case I totally bodged it, and although the lace I used was fine, with hindsight I should have taken the risk and gone for a higher quality fabric. I think it would have given the top more of a fancy finish.

Handmade Jane

The pattern I used was the Colette Laurel. What appealed to me about the pattern was the lack of zips or buttons - the top version can just be pulled over your head. Shaping is created with bust darts and back contour darts, which I was hoping would be enough. I actually made a muslin beforehand (gasp!) and cut a size 8 with a ½" FBA (full bust adjustment). Although it fitted well across the bust, it was still a little boxy for my liking, so I added contour darts to the front, checking I could still get it over my head before sewing them! I also took in the side seams a smidgen too. The only other change to the pattern was to extend the length of the sleeves from elbow length to wrist length (about six inches).

Handmade Jane

 

Lace is very 'on trend' (as Gok would say), which was handy as there were plenty of examples in the shops for me to inspect at close quarters. I was initially thinking of underlining the lace, but my secret lurking revealed that the majority were made with a full lining. So a full lining it was. I used a solid navy satin lining, which was actually far more of a pain in the arse to work with than the lace. It was slippery to cut out and frayed like nobody's business as soon as you even looked in its general direction. I used the shiniest side against the skin so that the top could slide on and off easily, with the duller side against the lace to give less of a bling effect. By comparison, the lace was as good as gold: it washed and dried like a dream, didn't fray and behaved itself perfectly when I was cutting it out.  Nothing scary about this fabric at all.
 
Working with it is time consuming though - it's almost impossible to mark lace pattern pieces in the usual way, so I used tailors tacks to mark out all the darts and notches (thank you Louise at Thread Carefully for showing me the light on that one!) Marking up the pattern pieces took ages, but it was good discipline. As the bodice is fully lined, most seams are hidden from view, for the ones that are on view (such as the sleeve seams), I used French seams. I also used this brilliant tutorial - inserting un-lined sleeves in a lined bodice - to achieve a lovely clean finish around the sleeves and armholes.

handmade Jane

I didn't actually refer to the instructions much as I fully lined my top, which meant a lot of them were redundant (along with the bias binding). There's a lot more you can do with this pattern though: as well as the top, there are three dress options included in the pattern itself and the option to download an E-Booklet with a further nine variations.

So what's the verdict? Well, my verdict on working with lace is a pleasant surprise. Yes, it's time consuming to work with, but the fact that it's relatively easy to prepare and sew more than makes up for this. I'm still not convinced the shape of the Laurel pattern is that flattering for my shape - I made this before taking my pattern cutting course, so if I made it again, I would tweak it accordingly. I also think my decision to fully line it has made it a bit bulkier than I'd prefer. It's perfect for wearing with jeans and heels to the pub though, and in that respect, it's a super useful addition to my wardrobe. I would like to work with lace again, but I think next time I'll choose a different colour.

handmade jane

We think this is a stunning blouse, perfect for any occasion but it would work especially for the upcoming party season. Fancy having a go at this yourself? Here's your shopping list:

Get the lace ► here. 11 colours to choose from.
Lining fabric is ► here. 39 colours to choose from.
Find the perfect sewing pattern for your shape and figure ► here