Wise up Wednesdays- Fabric Marking Tools

Whatever it is that you sew, from time to time you will need to make measurements or markings on your fabric, but you almost certainly don’t want them to stay there once you are finished sewing!  I have used a whole range of different tools for this job, and I have a selection to share with you today.

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A common and simple option is some form of chalk pencil.  These can be rubbed out and removed by using the little plastic ‘comb’ on the back of the pencil.

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They come in a few different colours- I have white for marking on dark colours, and blue for lights.  The advantage of these is that it is just like writing with a pencil.  You can keep it sharp, it doesn’t stain, and doesn’t rub off too quickly either.  The disadvantage is that the marking line may not be as clear as you might like when sewing.  You can also use a tailors chalk triangle in a very similar way.

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Another similar option is a powder chalk or Chaco liner.  Again, I keep a couple of colours to make marking on a variety of fabrics and colours easy.

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These have a little metal ‘wheel’ instead of a nib which transfers a small amount of the powdered chalk as you draw with it.  It can be easier to use than a pencil because the wheel helps the liner to move over the surface of the fabric without bunching and pulling it.  Again, the chalk line can be brushed off when you are finished.  I have found that sometimes the line does need to be transferred a couple of times because sometimes sections get skipped which might mean a less accurate marking.  You can buy chalk refills for these in loads of colours though!

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Next up, is the water erasable pen.  This does tend to be my tool of choice.  It is easy to use and the marking is nicely pigmented and long-lasting while you are using it.IMG_2078

Then, when you are finished you just wash it out.  I know that some people will use these pens with caution on pale coloured fabrics in case they stain, but I have never had any issues with trying to get the colour back out when I am done.

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The final option is an air erasable pen.  This has many of the same properties as a water-erasable pen, but it removes itself over time with contact with the air.IMG_2082

I don’t use mine all that often because the colour does tend to fade quite quickly, meaning that if you mark you fabric one day, and then come to sew another, the markings will all be gone!  It can be useful though if you just need a short term mark, when aligning buttonholes for example at the end of a project.

Hopefully it is helpful to see what the markings from these tools actually look like.  What is your preferred method of marking onto fabric?

 

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A night out with Archer

Some slightly different pictures today from a lovely evening out at an amazing little cinema in Swansea called Cinema and Co.  If you are in the area, it is definitely worth checking it out.  There was something very special being able to sit in a cinema on a sofa, eating pizza and drinking a glass of wine!

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And now on to my shirt!  This was my second Archer Shirt.  My first was a classic Archer and unfortunately is wearing out.  This one is the Grainline Popover variation, and is sized down for a slightly closer fit.  This one is a size 0, although my measurements would direct me to cut a size 4.

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I made a couple of tweaks to keep this very simple shirt unique.  The main shirt is a polycotton from Trago, but I used a contrasting floral cotton in a couple of places including the inner yoke collar stand and the cuffs.  I also used this tutorial from Grainline to change the pocket construction and make them a subtle feature too.

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Shirt making does seem quite a undertaking.  There are a lot of pattern pieces, buttonholes and processes, but it is well worth the effort.  Each stage is actually not difficult in itself, but I would advise taking it slowly.  There is also an excellent sewalong for the archer shirt on the Grainline website which is very helpful.

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I would say that there are a couple of fiddly parts to this shirt, simply because they need to fit together properly, and there is also quite a bit of accurate topstitching required.  In particular, the collar and plackets are sections to take your time over.

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If you are considering it, I would say that this was certainly not something to attempt as your first project, but if you are comfortable following pattern instructions, sewing straight and (fairly) accurate topstitching and have a few projects completed, then there is no reason that you couldn’t complete this pattern.  The instructions and drafting really are that good.

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I do love this shirt, though it is perhaps a little small over the bust.  I have plans for a couple more of the basic Archer shirts and I think I will size back up to the 4 for some extra wearing ease.

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Head to Head- dipped hem t-shirts

Introducing the Patterns:

Molly Top & Dress by Sew Over Ita staple  kimono sleeved top with an option to add full length sleeves.  It has just 4 pattern pieces (3 if you choose not to add the longer sleeves) and is billed as “The perfect pattern to try sewing jersey for the first time, a hit with anyone who likes a quick, satisfying sew.” It also has an option for a jersey dress.

Briar Sweater and T-shirt by Megan Nielsona simple and stylish t-shirt or sweater.  Comes with a scooped front hem and dipped back to create a hi-lo profile.  Both cropped and full lengths, and a range of pocket, sleeve and neckline options.

Sizing and Fit:

Both are loose fitting drapey tops and I cut the smallest size in each.

 

 

Ease of Construction and Instructions:

Both patterns have clear instructions and illustrations.  I think the Molly top is probably slightly simpler to construct and understand, but that is partially due to having fewer pattern pieces and options.  I did learn how to do a neckline binding in the Briar instructions, but I did also have to check the Megan Nielson tutorial for some extra photographs just to be sure what was going on.

 

Value for Money:

This is a little tricky to compare because the Molly Top only comes as part of the Sew Over It eBook- My Capsule Wardrobe.  The Briar top is £13.49 on the Megan Nielson website, but has two lengths and a variety of styling options.  I think if you would be interested in some of the other items in the eBook such as the Alex shirtdress or Mia jeans then at £20 it is pretty good value for 5 patterns, most of which also have pattern variations included.

 

Features:

Hem:

Both have dipped hems at the back.  Molly has a dipped hem at the front, while Briar has a slightly cropped front for full hi-lo effect.  My personal preference is that I prefer the Molly front hem for tucking into skirts and I think the length at the back is also more flattering.  The Briar does look great though with jeans or a pair of shorts.

Neckline:

Briar does give options for a regular neckline band and for a clean finished neckline binding.  Molly just includes a simple jersey neckband.  Both necklines are scooped, with Briar being a little deeper.  Both seem to lie flat and even.

Sleeves:

I chose to keep both sleeves short, so the cut on sleeves of the Molly top to save a step.  That said, the Briar tee sleeve did ease in neatly without an gathering or puckering, so as sleeves go, this was easy to insert.

Overall Impressions:

I think my overall preference is for the Molly top.  The length of the dipped hem seems particularly flattering, and not having to insert sleeves for the short sleeved t-shirt does make this a very quick summer make.  If I make the Briar again, I will be shortening the dipped back hem a little.

However, I will add that it is very simple to alter the hemline of a jersey t-shirt, so if you already have one of these (or something similar) this is a very easy way to change up a pattern.  Katie from the Creative Counselor has just been doing a series on modifying a basic t-shirt pattern, so check it out if you want some ideas or techniques.

More t-shirts! Briar and Molly

I have included two different patterns in this post today because I think they are quite similar and the pattern comparison might be interesting. (A full rundown on the two is coming shortly).  The Megan Nielson Briar is June’s project sew my style pattern and I just felt like I needed another Molly after making it! (See my previous versions here)

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Lets look at the Briar first.  This pattern has a cropped and full length version, and various sleeve lengths.  It also provides pattern pieces for both a neckline binding and a neck band.  I chose the longer length, short sleeves and decided to try out a neck binding for the first time.  The pattern is designed to be loose and swingy so I went with the smallest size.

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It all came together pretty well.  The pattern is well drafted and the instructions are very clear.  There are notches in the right place that all match up as they should.  My fabric did not make this the easiest of makes- it is a Girl Charlee cotton-rayon blend so it is drapey and light.  The stripes are actually wavy, not straight, so I decided not to worry too much about pattern matching.  Interestingly, despite the stripes having a wave, on one side seam they match almost perfectly.  They do also match at a couple of points on the other side, but not so well.  My only pattern placement decision was to put the cream stripe low down, rather than over my bra so that it wouldn’t be so see through!

Now that it is all sewn up, I like the length at the front, but I wonder if it is a bit too long at the back.  This pattern has quite an exaggerated high-low hemline.  I’m sure this will get worn quite a bit if the weather ever warms up again though!

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I had planned on making a white Briar to go with my Califaye Pocket Skirt, but I was not quite so sure about the long dipped hem tucked into a skirt.  I do like the optional pockets that come with the Briar top though and decided to use them on a tried and tested favourite t-shirt pattern- the Sew Over It Molly Top.  I thought the more subtle dipped front and back hem might be more versatile.  It is also really quick to sew, with only three pieces if you go for short sleeves.

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This fabric is also a Girl Charlee blend, this time cotton, rayon and modal, and it is heavenly to touch!  It cut and sewed beautifully and I am so glad I bought a couple of metres because I want all my t-shirts to feel this soft!

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I was feeling a little lazy when it came to hemming this t-shirt, and so I experimented with using my overlocker’s narrow rolled hem on jersey.  It isn’t perfect, but seems to have turned out fine, and if at some point in the future I get fed up of it, I can always turn it up later.

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I’m happy with how this has come out, and there is not really much more to say about a top that I have made many times before!  I’m sure there will be more…

 

 

Wise up Wednesdays- Scissors

Today’s tips come about scissors.  I’m sure all of you have a whole range of different cutting tools.  These are the ones that I use.

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Paper scissors:  Even before I get to my fabric, I use these paper scissors to prepare PDF patterns and cut them to the right size.  I’m sure you all know to keep you fabric scissors for fabric only, so it is essential to have some paper scissors conveniently located so that you aren’t tempted!

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Thread snips:  I keep these nearby when sewing to tidy up loose ends and threads.

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Small scissors: of the tools here, I think these are used the most.  They are so versatile. They can be used to tidy up threads, trim down seams and generally just trim or notch anything that needs it.

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Fabric Shears: I think every dressmaker deserve a decent pair of fabric shears.  They need to cut smoothly through several layers of fabric and have a long enough blade to make long clean cuts.  Comfortable handles are also useful if you are doing a lot of cutting, or cutting anything particularly heavy.  Make sure everyone in your house knows that using them for paper is banned!

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Pinking shears:  I love these to quickly trim back seams, particularly on curves seams where you will need to clip curves.  On a shallow curve, pinking the seam  might be enough without having to clip in close to your stitching.  They can also be a speedy seam finish because the cutting on the bias helps discourage fraying.

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Which scissors or tools can you not live without?

Button Back Blouse, It’s winning me around!

 

Although I was going to label this a sewing fail, I am being won over!  I made this Tilly and the Buttons button back blouse from an issue of love sewing over a year ago.  It is well finished with French seams, but I never wore it when it was newly finished.  Lets have a look at the details to find out why!

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I believe this is quite similar to the TATB Mathilde Blouse, just without the pin tucks if you want to be able to recreate it. It has a yoke seam, which I very carefully added piping into.

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So why have I not been wearing it?  I think it comes down to two things- personal style and fit.  Those puffed sleeves are cute, but don’t fit with my usual style because I can’t wear a cardigan.  In terms of fit, the key problem is at the back.

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I think I have a quite narrow upper back.  I often have to take in quite a bit at the centre back and by the time I realised there was a problem in this top the button placket was finished and it seemed too fiddly.  It also feels like the shoulder seam is slightly in the wrong place.  This may also be because I need a full bust adjustment, and this is pulling the back and shoulder seam out of place.

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So why, when I wore it out for these pictures did I start reconsidering my plans to take it to the charity shop.  I think it is a combination of the style being perfect for the current weather, and a great combination of fabric and pattern!  Some of the things that I didn’t like about the pattern, are actually what is making it so perfect.  The longer sleeves keep it breezy and cool, but mean that I don’t need a cardigan, even into the evening.  The fabric (sadly no longer available at Minerva Crafts) is a lovely cotton chambray and just a fantastic weight and drape.  The contrast piping and buttons lighten it up and the splash of coral is great for spring.

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Perhaps I will have to give this a second chance!

Pattern testing, Beausoleil Top!

This post is something I have been so excited to share!  For the first time, I plucked up the courage when Kennis at Itch to Stitch was having a testing call and I have been part of the tester group for the Beausoleil Top and Dress.  Kennis designs prolifically and there always seems to be something new coming out.  She even has a couple of free patterns if you want to give her designs a try.

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This top is a slight departure from my usual style, but it is so cute and summery!  This is the first Itch to Stitch pattern that I have used, but I really loved the option for pattern pieces with different cup sizes.  For someone that probably should do a full bust adjustment more often, but can’t usually be bothered, this is fantastic!  I am really going to have to try some of her other patterns for the ease of fitting something when the bust and waist proportions are already right.

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I did make a toile for this pattern as part of the testing process, just to check the fit of a new designer and to practice a couple of the new techniques.  My toile was really useful because I discovered that the pattern was about an inch too long all the way around above the waist.  Once I took this extra out, it fitted great, and the bust darts are in just the right place too.  I used a size 0D, graded to a size 2 at the hip, which also perfectly matched my measurements.

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The instructions in this pattern were really clear, and I didn’t have any issues.  One of the real highlights though was the lapped zip tutorial.  This was my first lapped zip and I was slightly dreading it, but the tutorial was so clear and easy to understand.  The whole pattern gave such a professional, clean finish inside around the facings and they sit perfectly. No peeking or rippled facings on this pattern!

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The fabric is just a cotton lawn from my stash (the same as in this dress) and is now almost all gone.  Just scraps left for pockets or facings.  It was lovely to try a couple of new techniques and actually have them come together well.  Because this top has a long zip (I could definitely have got away with an 18″ zip rather than 22″) I didn’t want my hem interfering with the end of the zip so I hand catch stitched the bottom hem and I am very proud of the result.  The stitching seems to be invisible from the outside which I guess is exactly the point!

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Aside from the pattern itself, I also really enjoyed the feeling of being part of the testing group.  Kennis set up a Facebook group for everyone to share successes and ask questions.  It definitely helped me to have a second opinion in the fit and my adjustments, and it was also lovely to see everyone’s tops and dresses coming along.  I will definitely be volunteering to test patterns again.

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The Beausoleil Top and Dress pattern is due to be released today, and for a short time is reduced at Itch to Stich, so if you are interested in a cute new summer top, this is the perfect moment!

 

Simple skirt in the sunshine! Meet Clemence.

I love wearing skirts in the summer, so this simple gathered cotton skirt seemed perfect for visiting the bluebells for an evening picnic.  The skirt is another from Tilly and the Buttons’ first book, Love at first Stitch and is a very beginner friendly gathered rectangle skirt called Clemence.  The book guides you though drafting this basic pattern for yourself, which is a good place to start with pattern drafting and alterations, because Tilly’s instructions are as always excellent.

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This is actually the second of these skirts that I made, and is actually another early make.  For this second skirt I got a little more ambitious and drafted an un-gathered lining, made from an old sheet because the main fabric is a little transparent!

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As always, I also needed pockets.  The book talks you through making changes to the all the patterns, like including pockets in the or restyling the patterns to get a couple of different looks.

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I also decided to experiment with some of the decorative stitches on my machine to create an attractive pattern at the hem.

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It even has an concealed zip.  I keep returning to Tilly’s instructions for reassurance when I need to insert one still!  This one is actually pretty invisible and well matched.

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While this skirt has been in my wardrobe for over two years now, and my skills have undoubtedly improved, I still enjoy wearing these earlier makes.  I enjoy seeing how much I have learned and developed, but also it is satisfying to know that I am contributing to a clothing ethic that doesn’t view an item of clothing as something to wear once and discard.  For every year that I keep wearing these simple early makes I can sit happy knowing that I am reducing my impact on the planet and the disposable fast fashion culture.

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As a little bonus, I did also manage to find a picture of my first Clemence skirt from Me Made May Last year!  It is made in a mint green chambray from Calico Laine I think.  This one did have a couple of issues including being a bit big at the waist.  Fortunately/unfortunately the zip broke pretty quickly, so when I replaced it, I also sorted out the waist sizing, so this one is also in spring/summer wardrobe rotation.

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