Double-duty Dressmaking

This post comes slightly out of sequence because it has just gone live today on the Minerva Crafts blog. When I was offered some of their John Kaldor jersey to test I thought that this floral pattern was just beautiful and the drape of the fabric is great. At the time of sewing, my sewing time was a little limited because I had assignments to finish so I decided to combine a couple of different plans to make maximum use of my limited time.

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This pattern is the maternity hack of the Sew Over It ultimate wrap dress, a pattern which was one of the first to make it onto this blog. Sew Over It provide instructions to hack the standard pattern pieces into an empire line so that is can be fitted around a bump. I also sized up to a 12, rather than the 8 I made before, as I’m hoping to be able to use this dress for nursing, and I’ve changed size at the bust too. The flutter sleeves are another hack, so look back to my post from Sunday to see what I did, and the tutorials that I found helpful.

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This dress is also my entry for this years #sewtogetherforsummer community challenge, which involves making any wrap dress. I participated last year with my Alex shirtdress, and I’ve enjoyed seeing all the different patterns, inspiration and lovely dresses that have been made.

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Anyway, to see the full blog post with all the construction details and final photo’s head over to the Minerva Crafts blog. I’m hoping to keep getting plenty of use out of this dress once baby arrives- hopefully it will be practical for throwing on when I don’t have time or energy to work out what to wear!

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Sneaky early preview!

This week’s post will be arriving slightly later than normal because it is another collaboration with Minerva Crafts and is only due to publish on their website on Wednesday.  I’ve been so exited to share this make though because I really am loving wearing it in this more summery weather, and I feel very sophisticated in it!  Full details on the blog later this week, but for  now I’ll show you the bit of pattern hacking that I did to create these lovely flutter sleeves.

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This pattern started out as the Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap Dress, one of the first patterns that I blogged about.  The dress has full length fitted sleeves- not very summery so I decided to make a few changes! Firstly, I worked out approximately how long I waned the sleeve to end up by holding it up against me, and I just traced off that much of the pattern.  There are some great tutorials online, and I followed this one on craftsy, and also found this one on sewing pattern review helpful.  You can see how the finished pattern piece looks very different to the initial one, but because none of the sleeve allowances or seam lengths have changed inserting it works exactly the same as before.

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I wanted to keep the sleeve looking light and airy so I didn’t want a heavy hem weighing it down.  It made it a great reason to use my overlocker’s rolled hem function which is much more dainty, and a very quick easy way of finishing a curve.  I think I will be using this sleeve hack again over the summer- the sleeves are just so lovely.  They aren’t restrictive or hot, but keep your shoulders covered when out in the sunshine!  Pop back on Wednesday to see the other changes that I made to this pattern.

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Part year review

I figured that we are a good chunk through the year now, and it would be a useful exercise to see how I was getting on with my resolutions for the year, while I still have time to get back on track if it was all going awry. Amazingly, sewing-wise it seems to be going pretty well so far and I’m feeling fairly on track to achieve the things I was hoping to, despite feeling like a whale at the moment and waiting for baby to arrive! This is what my make nine plans looked like at the start of the year:

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Since then I have decided on, a couple of my wildcard patterns, and have also made up quite a few of these patterns too, some of them several times.

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So far I have completed my Lily Top, Oslo Cardigan, a Paxton Sweater for Matt, two Amber Tops and a Dress version, Brindle and Twig baby clothes, and have begun the planning and sewing for my Taylor Trench Coat. I’ve also chosen the Sew Over It Penny Dress to hack into a nursing dress with another of my wildcards. I’m thinking of buying the Thread Theory Jedediah Pants pattern for Matt to make some shorts this summer.

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Another of my plans was to be less impulsive with buying new fabric and patterns, and to use more of what is already in my stash. So far it has been a roaring success! I’ve not bought any new fabric so far this year except for my Trench Coat project, despite being very tempted at a couple of moments by various sales! It means that all the projects that I have been working on so far this year have come from stash fabrics, some of which I had forgotten even existed. I will need to buy some fabric soon for the Penny dress because I don’t have anything suitable stashed away, but I think I’ve done amazingly well to come so far without a single impulse fabric purchase.

Pattern-wise, my only purchases have been the Penny Dress, the Brindle and Twig Patterns, and I did get Tilly and the Button’s new book Stretch when I recently subscribed to Love Sewing again. Again, pretty restrained so far! Turns out I have quite a few patterns in my stash which can be hacked or modified to make some lovely and enjoyable sewing.

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So in terms of what I still have to do this year, it seems to be going ok! 5 of 9 of my make nine completed, one in progress, and another at the planning stage. Still two choices to make, but I’m starting to narrow down what they will be. Fabric and pattern buying under control, and I’m thinking I should do some more sorting out of my stash to give away some of the things which will never see the light of day otherwise. There are definitely some pieces which just don’t inspire me anymore, but might be just the thing for someone else. I would like to narrow down my stash so that it contains just fabric that I can’t wait to sew.

Lovely Lily

This is make number 4 from my make 9 plans- I really am rocketing along! It is a Sew Over It Lily Top, from Lisa’s new-ish maternity patterns. Surprisingly, there don’t seem to be that many of them made, because this is a versatile pattern for maternity and nursing, but it does look pretty cute just as non maternity wear too.

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This fabric is from my stash and has been there a while! I have no idea where it came from, or what the composition is, though I think there is some viscose in there. Whatever it is, it drapes beautifully, and feels really soft. The cream and blue pattern doesn’t need any attempt at pattern matching, and it a lot less harsh than a white background too.  I don’t always show the insides of my makes, but I decided to French seam as much as I could, and it does look much neater.

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I decided to lengthen the sleeve about 15cm to full length, and add a little cuff following a similar method to my pussy bow blouse. I want to be able to wear this now, while it is still a bit chilly, and I’m also aware that British spring/summer is quite often cooler than I always wish it would be! Full length sleeves mean that I can wear this now with a cardigan, but will hopefully wear it all summer too with just a vest top underneath.

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I am really pleased with how the cuffs turned out. I did interface them because I knew I was planning on putting in a proper buttonhole, rather than the rouleau loops used in the pussy bow blouse pattern.  When I was sewing it up, I deliberately left the cuffs long so that I could decide near the end exactly what size I wanted them to be.  I think the little keyhole is a nice feature, and I wanted the cuff to be long enough to (just) go over my wrist without needing to undo the buttons every time.

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These buttons are also from stash, and look pretty cute.  It doesn’t really photograph very well, but they have a lovely blueish sheen.

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I was a bit surprised that the instructions didn’t quite live up to the usually very high standard of Sew Over It. It felt like they hadn’t had a last proof read and had been rushed out. There were a couple of places where the sleeve variation instructions told you to jump to another number, but the number hadn’t actually been included, it had been left as stars. The instructions for the 3/4 sleeves never actually tell you to hem them, or what the hem allowance should be. Usually Sew Over It patterns are very professionally checked and tested so this did seem like an odd blip.  It didn’t bother me too much because I was changing up the pattern anyway, but a new sewer might find it very confusing.

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This top does look great.  It is a bit of a departure from my usually more fitted style, but I like the practicality of it and can see it getting lots of wear in the next year.  It does feel slightly tent-like, but I’m glad that he slim fitting sleeves help to balance that out.

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Top 5 Hits and Misses of 2017

It’s always good at the turning of the year to review, so I thought I’d go through my makes from this year with the benefit of hindsight and see which had been ultimate successes, and which hadn’t got as much use as I had hoped.  Reviewing makes like this does help to gain an overview of what sorts of projects did or didn’t work in my lifestyle, so I’ll be using that to start making my plans for next year too!

Top 5 Hits

Ginger Jeans

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I think my first attempt at jeans definitely was a highlight this year. They fitted great, the fabric choice was spot on and I felt justifiably proud with the result.  Sadly, because they are fitted and fairly high-waisted, they don’t fit over the bump any more, so I will have to wait a while before I can wear them again, but I have plans to make jeans again in the future and will just have to wait and see if I end up the same shape post baby or need to make some other fit adjustments to the next pair!

Archer Shirts

Maybe this is a cheat, because I actually made two archers, and mended another with some sashiko mending, but I love them all and they have been in regular wardrobe rotation all year.  I think I love most that they are so versatile.  The relaxed fit is spot on, and there is something so satisfying about the precision involved in shirt making.

Kwik Sew Coat

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The slightly oversized fit of this coat has been an unexpected bonus- I think I will fit into it for most of the winter, even as I grow!  That aside, I would change a few things next time I make a coat, but you have to start somewhere, and this project has given me the courage to try some other trickier and more involved sewing projects again in the future.

Flint Shorts

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No longer a weather appropriate option, but these flint shorts were all I wanted to wear on holiday this summer.  I felt put together in the cities, sufficiently cool to belong in Italy and they were comfortable and practical too.  The fabric might be one of my favorite parts of these, and was a lucky charity shop find.  One to make again next summer.

Men’s Metro Tees

Another multi garment pick, but these t-shirts have been a big success.  I don’t make much for anyone other than me, but these were worth the effort because Matt wears them all the time.

Top 5 Misses

Valley Blouse

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This top is one of those projects that just doesn’t quite materialise as you envisioned it.  I quite like all the components- fabric, buttons etc., but the pattern wasn’t the right choice for me.  There is more volume in the sleeves than is really my preference (it makes it really hard to wear with a cardigan), but maybe I can modify them at some point to slim them down and make this more ‘me’.

Pocket Skirt

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My first problem with this skirt is that the sizing from the pattern chart seemed to be a little off, so this skirt was much to big at the waist.  I was able to bring it is with the elastic at the back waistband, but I’m still not really sure about the fit or the length.  It doesn’t really get worn, and I don’t think I will be using the pattern again because there are other patterns which were simpler to construct and more successful for me.

Alex Shirtdress

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I think the problem with this Alex dress is the fabric/pattern combination.  The cotton is a little too stiff, and doesn’t drape well enough for me to feel comfortable in this dress.  It is all just a little too oversized, and the fabric emphasised that.  This one it savable thought I think, when I eventually get around t putting some darts in the back to take out some of the extra volume.

Saunio Cardigan

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There is nothing ‘wrong’ with this Saunio Cardigan exactly, except that it never makes it off the coat rack and out of the door.  I think it is the fact that it just doesn’t quite fit my lifestyle.  3/4 sleeves on a jacket aren’t sufficiently practical on Dartmoor.  If I want or need a coat or jacket, it needs to have full sleeves!

Virginia Leggings

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Not actually a disaster of pattern, or of lifestyle, but unfortunately this lycra couldn’t really stand up to running in these Virginia leggings and so some of the seams have started to split.  I have some other fabric in mind to give this another go at some point though, so definitely not a wasted pattern.

 

Blossom Dress

Today I bring you another fabric test for Minerva Crafts.  If you have been reading my blog for the past couple of months you may have seen this fabric before in my hacked Anna top.  Well this is the main project that I used it for, a Sew Over It Blossom Dress.

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The full write up is over at here on the Minerva crafts blog, but I thought I would share some personal news with this post because the sewing social media followers among you might be thinking “but isn’t that a maternity pattern”.  Well it turns out we are expecting a new addition to our family sometime at the end of May next year. It has altered my sewing queue quite a bit to include some of the new maternity pattern releases from Sew Over It and Tilly and the Buttons, and a couple of hacks of other patterns which might be adapted for a growing belly.

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These pictures were taken a few weeks back when I was only just starting to get a bump, so the exaggerated dipped front hem is quite a bit long still.  I didn’t want to alter it though, because I’m hoping that this will be something I can wear right through until May, and perhaps alter it then to be less pronounced.

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Georgette Pussy Bow Blouse

When I graduated, far too long ago, I wore a similar blouse to this, and it still is in fairly regular rotation in my wardrobe.  I was given this Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse pattern quite a while ago, and I decided this autumn that it was high time that I put it together and tried it out.  The pattern has two options, a keyhole neckline like my graduation blouse, and a V-neck which I decided to make this time around.

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I made this blouse from a polyester chiffon georgette from The Textile Centre on Ebay, which was very reasonably priced.  Polyester does have a rather poor reputation in some sewing circles, and I’ll admit, there are some potential pitfalls.  It can be very resistant to pressing which can make getting sharp seam lines tricky, and it is not terribly breathable to wear.  It is, however often a relatively cheap option, which can make it a great fabric for a wearable toile, when you aren’t sure that a pattern is going to fit or suit as you would like, and the resistance to pressing also means that you can pack or crumple your garment as much as you like and it won’t hold the creases!  This got packed to holiday in the Lake District which is absolutely beautiful, if was slightly unobliging weather-wise for the photos!

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I was very pleased with the quality of the fabric. it is soft and fluid making it perfect for a lightweight blouse, though it does have a tendency to fray.  If I had had more time, I think French seaming the insides would have been the way to go, but overlocking is just so much quicker, and does seem to have kept the fraying in check.

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As several people have observed, this Sew Over It pattern is not the easiest to get a neat finish at the point where the centre front seam and the bow meet.  I did hand sew the inside of the neckline which helped, but it was still pretty fiddly getting everything to meet up properly.  Once the bow it tied though, and imperfections will be hidden anyway, so perhaps it isn’t worth worrying about too much!

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Unlike most top patterns, the front is cut in two pieces, while the back is cut on the fold.  This centre front seam is there to help to get the bow attached, but I think with some careful sewing, you might be able to get away with taking out the centre seam and cut this on the fold too.  The pattern on my blouse is pretty busy and so I don’t mind the seam breaking up the pattern too much, but if you have a more special fabric, you might prefer to eliminate this seam and avoid any pattern matching issues.

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One thing to bear in mind are the cuffs.  I have pretty small wrists, but even I don’t have much space here.  If you have a larger bone structure, you might want to cut the cuff peace a little longer to make it more comfortable to wear, and just reduce the amount of gathering into the cuff.  I can’t get the cuff over my hand without undoing the buttons which is quite unusual for me! The buttons are very simple and are from my button stash.  Next time I will sew them on with a bit more of a thread shank, or use a thinner ribbon instead of the rouleau button loop because they are a bit fiddly to do up and undo.

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The hem is slightly curved and shaped at the side seam too, which does look nice untucked with jeans and trousers.  All in all, this has turned into a very versatile blouse.  All ready for autumn.

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Wise up Wednesdays: Matching fabric to your pattern

Many patterns give suggestions of the types of fabric which might be suitable.  But how do you know if you could substitute something else (perhaps something special from your stash) if it isn’t listed in the suggestions.  There may be times when you can deviate from the pattern suggestions and end up with an even more special garment, personalised to you.

If this is something you are thinking about, here are my thoughts and process for deciding if a fabric will be suitable for the project I have in mind.

  • How similar is your chosen fabric to the suggestions?

If you are substituting one fabric for another similar one then you will probably be fine without making any modifications.  For example, using an upholstery weight cotton for a skirt pattern which suggests denim, cotton twill or corduroy.  Here all the fabrics are all woven and of similar weight and drape, so there will not be any real change to how the pattern fits or is constructed.

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However, if you wanted to make the same skirt in a lightweight cotton lawn, this is significantly lighter than the pattern suggestions.  To get the same effect, you may need to line or interline your fabric, and consider adding interfacing to keep the structure of your garment.

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In making my K4015 coat (which will be revealed on Sunday) the fabric recommendations include double-sided pre-quilted fabrics, laminated fabrics, or water repellent fabrics. I chose to ignore them and made my coat in a wool/acrylic blend with no changes to the pattern, because I was ok with my coat being a little sloucher than the pattern samples.

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What if you want to make bigger changes though?  Keep reading on for my thoughts!

  • Woven or Knit?

What qualities does you pattern require.  One of the first decisions might be about stretch- how much do you need to make the pattern work and how will you get the item on and off if previously it relied on stretch rather than fastenings.  My Rowan bodysuit needed fabric with stretch in both directions to help get it on, off and to fit.  Many jersey or knit patterns need stretch to fit the neckline over your head.  Substituting for something with less stretch may mean you can’t even get your new outfit on, let alone move in it!

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Modifying a jersey pattern to a woven is not terribly common, partially because many jersey or knit patterns rely on negative ease to fit, meaning that the finished measurements are actually smaller than the body measurements.  This is fine when your fabric has stretch, but patterns for woven fabrics need to include ‘ease’ or a bit of extra space for you to move, breathe and take it on and off.  Melly at Melly Sews has a good set of questions and considerations that you may need to think through when changing your fabric from the pattern suggestions.

If you are planning on making a woven pattern in a knit fabric you may need to make a few pattern modifications, such as sizing down, removing fastenings/zips and switching out facings for bands at the neck or sleeves.  It does depend though on what type of knit fabric you use.  A Ponte de Roma or scuba doesn’t usually have a huge amount of stretch, nd is pretty stable so may not need huge modifications. Tilly at Tilly and the Buttons does have two blog posts talking about adapting woven patterns for knits.  One is all about using Ponte and the other talks about modifying a pattern for a lighter weight jersey.  I would say, that for both of these options, the key to success is actually looking at qualities of the pattern you are going to sew, which brings me neatly onto my next consideration.

  • Drape or Structure?

Another consideration is how should the fabric move? Should it be fluid and drapey, or does it need structure and weight to hold the shape of the pattern?  This is something which I do struggle with from time to time.  My basics pocket skirt was made with a linen, but unlike the light linens in the samples, mine was a bit stiff and heavy.  This means that my finished skirt is a bit more structured than it should be. I’m still hoping that as it keeps getting washed it will soften up, but this is an example of not quite matching the requirements to the desired end resultIMG_1787

I now try to think through what is the shape of the garment? Will it be close fitting or will it need to skim over my body? This has helped my more recent projects to meet their intended purpose.  There is no point in dreaming up a flowing evening gown if the fabric that it is constructed in is too stiff to move and drape.

  • Print or Plain?

The other major consideration in my mind is about balancing the desire for lovely printed fabric, with the practicality of solid colours.  When I first stated sewing I was enticed by every cute print going, but they were hard to pair into my wardrobe because they didn’t go with anything.  In the last year, I have been more disciplined in thinking about what do I need.  Do I need another printed skirt, or is a plain t-shirt actually what is missing from my wardrobe.  If you are struggling t=with style considerations like these then perhaps the Colette Wardrobe Architect project posts might be useful in defining your style and what you want to wear and sew.  I am contemplating going through these posts for myself on the blog, so let me know if that is something you would be interested in reading.

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So I hope that has been helpful in considering what fabric to use for your next project.  Feel free to break the ‘rules’ though. Sewing is also about creativity and problem solving so go your own way if that is what you like.  Look back in next week for some thoughts on prewashing fabric ready for sewing.

 

Another Archer (or two)!

This is not my first Archer Shirt, and I am sure there will be more (I have a lovely soft brushed cotton which would be perfect), but I am pretty proud of creating proper basics.

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These are my 3rd and 4th versions of the standard Archer button-up, and I have also sewn the popover variation before too.

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I decided that the best way of creating these shirts would be to sew both simultaneously so that I only really had to look up the instructions for each stage once.  Grainline have a fantastic sew-a-long with detailed pictures or videos of every stage.  I definitely found them invaluable the first time I made an Archer.  This time I was able to get away with just looking up and checking a couple of stages.

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Fabrics are maybe not the most exciting here, though this lightweight denim from my stash is amazing.  Not sure where it is from, but it doesn’t wrinkle at all, which made it great for packing on holiday.  The flowers are a Rose and Hubble polycotton from Trago, which I chose largely so that I could sew both shirts in the same navy thread without it being strange, and because the print is busy enough not to bother matching.

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So why do I love this pattern and these shirts so much?  It’s because there is something magical about creating a complicated garment out of a flat piece of fabric.  And the Archer pattern is so good and clear, that it really does make it do-able for most dressmakers.  Every notch matches up, every instruction is illustrated, and the sizing is accurate too.

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These shirts are both a size 4.  Its roomy enough to stick a t-shirt underneath and use the shirt as a cover up, but not so huge that I won’t be able to layer them under jumpers in the winter.

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The only change that I made this time, was to add a button tab, so that I could roll up the sleeves.  I based it on the Alex Shirtdress, but picked my own positioning and dimensions.  I actually changed up the construction order a little to finish the sleeves first so that I could check they were in the right place.  I really like the contrast that you get in the denim with sleeves rolled up and the paler reverse side visible.

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To vary it up (and to stop me needing about 30 buttonholes!) I used buttons on one shirt, but on the other I went for silver snaps.  I think they look lovely and casual with the denim, and they were certainly faster.  (Love my vario pliers for this.)

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I even remembered to sew in some ribbon between the yoke seam and the body as my tag.

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On holiday I was reaching for these shirts all the time (along with the much loved Flint shorts), and that is when you know they were a success.  I didn’t wear either of the cardigans that I had packed, partially because it was warm, but also because the shirts were just right.

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You are even getting a sneak peek of something else coming to the blog- my latest guest blog for Minerva Crafts, featuring some green stretch denim.  Sadly you will have to wait for a couple of months for the full reveal, but I can tell you that I am totally in love with the result!

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Sew over it Silk Cami

By the time you are reading this I will be on a flight out to Italy with a suitcase full of last minute completed sewing!  I’m going to have quite a backlog of things to write up once I get back.  This is also a slightly belated post.  Even the pictures were taken a couple of months ago on a short trip to Swansea.

When Sew Over It was having one of their sales, I decided to get a printed copy of their Silk Cami as part of a fabric/pattern kit.  They make up small numbers of these kits with a suitable fabric for a few of their PDF only patterns, and if you hate the printing and sticking that a PDF pattern entails, this is one way to access a couple more of their designs!

IMG_2466.JPGI decided not to use the fabric which came with the kit for my first attempt, because I wanted to check out the fit.  Instead I used the very last pieces of this cotton lawn (seen before in my Beausoleil Top and the English Tea Dress). You may also have spotted that I am wearing my handmade espadrilles in these pictures.  They still look so cool!

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This is a very simple top.  There is no shaping or darts to deal with.  Just a front and back, and facings to finish the neckline and armholes.  Given it’s simple shape, I actually really like the fit of this and definitely have plans for more.

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About the only place that I’m not 100% happy is the back neckline which seems to be gaping a little.  I think I might take out a dart in this version, and then correct it in the pattern for future attempts.

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The only other little gripe if that my front facing doesn’t lie totally flat.  I’m not sure if that is a drafting error, or a tracing off the pattern error. (Probably more likely the latter.)  It means that for my next cami I will need to double check the pattern pieces too!

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I do have a slightly exiting plan to hack this at some point too with the Grainline Archer Popover variation to give a little cami with a popover button placket at the front.  I think that will look really cute when I get around to it!

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I do have plans for a few more of these once I have sorted out the slight neckline issues.  This one was always planned as a wearable toile before cutting into a couple of other lovely fabrics which have been earmarked of this pattern.