Colour blocked Coco’s

Coco was my first foray into sewing with knit fabrics, and I would say that it was a perfect introduction for a new sewist.  Tilly’s instructions are fantastically clear, and the pattern is sewn with a Ponte Roma or stable jersey, and so is much more friendly and easy to work with than some of the alternatives.

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These two colour blocked coco’s are not my first attempts at this pattern, though that version is still in use, but these are the first ones where I started to modify patterns to suit my own preferences.  For these versions I slimmed down the sleeve piece from below the armscye to the wrist, and also added my own cutting lines for the colour blocking.

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Another advantage for novice sewists is that this one pattern covers a range of options.  There is a dress or a top, a variety of sleeve lengths and a funnel or boatneck neckline. This makes it even easier to get both value for money from a pattern, and to end up with the garment you were dreaming of!  For both of my versions I went for the straightforward boat neckline, which is just turned under and stitched.  My top tip for getting it to stay in place is 1cm fusible hemming tape.  It will stay right were you have pressed it, and also gives the neckline a little bit of structure.

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For the dress version I added patch pockets and decided to finish the hem with a zigzag stitch in contrasting white thread.  I actually preferred the appearance of the stitch from the bobbin side so I stitched it from the wrong side.

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Both this top and dress have been going strong for about 3 years now and they are still comfy and cosy with just a bit of bobbling now.  I think I will still be wearing them for a while yet.IMG_0965

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My first dress- meet Megan

My first ever handmade dress was this Megan dress, and I have always considered it a lucky dress because the first time I wore it at a wedding it proved a very successful topic of conversation with my neighbour at the table.  Well, it recently had another wedding outing, and I thought that it was high tile that it got its own photos and write up on the blog.

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This Megan dress pattern comes from the Tilly and the Buttons book, Love at first Stitch which was my introduction to sewing for myself.  I worked through the patterns in the book in sequence (see here for my Delphine Skirt and Clemence Skirt), learning the required techniques as I went along.  I still sometimes come back to this book to look something up when I need a reminder.  Each technique is explained and photographed in detail which was a lifeline when I was starting out.

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This dress for me does represent the proud moment of sewing up a bodice and sleeves and it being a wearable dress.  Yes the invisible zip is definitely not invisible and I’m sure there are lots of places where the finishing could be improved, but that hasn’t stopped me from wearing it.

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The fabric is just a very affordable polycotton and I have no idea anymore where it came from!  Looking back on it today, I’m glad that my new to sewing self didn’t try to over fit this dress.  There is definitely a good bit of ease, and that is what has made it comfortable to wear all day to a wedding.  The bodice is possibly a little too long looking back at these pictures and I think that is what is causing the creasing, but nothing major would need to be done to a remake of this pattern.

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Being such a long time ago, the construction details are a little hazy.  I think I made a straight size 3 (Tilly has her own numeric sizing system), though if I went back to the pattern I could probably work it out for certain because I definitely traced the pattern pieces off the large pattern sheets which come with the book.  It is such a simple shape that I think I may have to revisit this dress again.  The style actually lends itself pretty well to both summer dresses and to layering in winter.  I will be wearing this one for the next few months with long sleeved t-shirts and tights.

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Winter is Coming- Time for Agnes!

I love a good remnant!  Even with less than a metre there is usually enough for a top, like in this viscose blend jersey remnant from Fabric Godmother.  I scored 80cm for 2.99 and it was perfect for cutting out a Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Top with just a couple of scraps left over.

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These are not my first Agnes tops, and I am still wearing the ones that I made up last winter.  This is just the basic long sleeved Agnes pattern with no adaptations.  The fabric does all the work.  It doesn’t need anything fancy, but I do think this is a very cute autumn look.

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The same is true of this oversized t-shirt that I found in the charity shop for £1.  I did have to cut pretty creatively for this one, and even then couldn’t quite get full length sleeves, but I love the sparkle!  I even had to cut the neckband in two pieces which is why there is a join at the centre front, but I decided to use the ruched neckline to try and make it look deliberate.

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Tops like this are staples in my winter wardrobe and are so quick to make up.  Less than 2 hours from cutting to wearing makes these a real bargain, and very satisfying make.  Especially with an overlocker to finish and sew the seams at the same time- I do love my Janome 6234XL.

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There will surely be more of these in the months and years to come.

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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.

 

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!

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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Lane Raglan

Coming into spring, I am definitely feeling the need for candy colours and for some more t-shirts.  I am experimenting with a lot of new patterns at the moment. This one, the Lane Raglan by Hey June was popping up all over the place and it looked so pretty that I couldn’t resist!  I already have a couple of t-shirt patterns (see my Tilly and the Buttons Agnes here and Sew Over It Molly Top here) but I don’t want to be wearing the same one all the time, and while I can make some changes to these patterns, the Lane Raglan is different enough that I wanted to give it a try.

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The three patterns listed above all have different ways of dealing with the sleeve.  In the Agnes Top, there is a set in sleeve which I have found fits me particularly well.  The Molly Top has a cut on Kimono style sleeve, but I haven’t had much luck with the longer sleeved version. Lane is a raglan sleeve and this simple shape makes it perfect for colour blocking.  It also means that the body and sleeves are perfect for smaller fabric remnants.

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Having made quite a few t-shirts now, I didn’t really have any trouble with cutting or sewing this up.  I was a little surprised though that there were no notches in the pattern at all to help get everything lined up.  It didn’t cause me any issues, but might be worth bearing in mind if this is the first time you have made something like this.

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Hey June patterns are pretty cool because they have different pieces included with a full bust adjustment (FBA). My measurements put me slightly above the size XS (with the FBA) but the advice in the pattern is to size down if you are between sizes.  It has turned out fairly roomy and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to size up. I’m not totally sure about the fit around the arm, but I’m not sure if that is just how the raglan sleeve fits or if there is something I can do to improve it.

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I made this top with fabrics from Girl Charlee and they are just perfect t-shirt weight.  Both are cotton spandex blends so they should have good recovery and are a plain coral and a beautiful floral for contrast.  Both fabrics have sewn up well, but I have noticed that the white backing does sometimes show through the print on the floral if it gets stretched sewing.  This top does not have the neatest insides because for some reason my overlocker did not seem to like the plain coral fabric! It kept ending up with little ripples and tucks, thought they aren’t really visible on the outside.

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I’m pretty happy with how this has turned out and it is a nice change from my other t-shirt patterns.  There are several variations in this pattern including a hem band and a hood to make it into a sweater/hoodie and I’m keen to give that a try at some point.  I have a selection of other Girl Charlee prints waiting to become t-shirts so I think there will be a few more raglans in my wardrobe soon!

 

My second Moneta

Having had a chance to test out the Moneta pattern by Colette a couple of months ago when writing my guest post for Minerva crafts, and having seen some awesome variations in Instagram as part of the Moneta Party, I thought that I would have another go.  This time I made a few little changes, including shortening the sleeves for spring!

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Once again, pockets seem to be an essential feature of everything that I make!

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They are just so perfect for sticking your hands in on a spring evening.

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My previous Moneta dress fit pretty well, but I have taken in a little at the waist, and this time I have adapted my altered pattern pieces from before so that all the seam allowances are the same now.  Once again, I used the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top to modify the bodice pattern so that it fit me better.

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The only other real change was to switch the gathers on the skirt for pleats.  To do this I measured the difference between the bodice measurement and the top of the skirt. I divided this by 4 (for the 4 pleats- two at the front and two at the back), and then divided by two again (to work out how much fabric I needed to take in at each side of each pleat).  This sounds very complicated when writing it down, but in reality is very simple.  I did add clear elastic to the waist seam, even though I wasn’t gathering onto elastic, to avoid the seam from stretching out in the future.

 

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Surprisingly difficult to see the pleats in this fabric, but I do like the flat front that it gives to the waist.

 

This fabric came from Ebay and can be found here still.  It is a printed Ponte Roma and like my previous Moneta is a nice weight, but still drapes well in the skirt.  I love the deep hems on the skirt and sleeves.

 

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Perfect drape for a bit of swishy-ness

 

I’m sure there well be more of these dresses in my wardrobe at some point.  It is just so versatile- can be dressed up or down, can be worn layered or on it’s own.  It is a great pattern for adding options to your wardrobe.

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Grainline Moss- An Everyday Skirt

Yay for clothes that get worn everyday!  This skirt got hemmed then put on immediately and has hardly been taken back off since.  This is the Grainline Studio Moss Skirt, and I made the mini length in size 4 with no pattern changes.  The fabric is a larger scale corduroy from an eBay seller and can be found here.  I bought the zip, jeans buttons and lining cotton locally at Trago.

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I decided to make this skirt for two main reasons: One, it reminds me of a ready to wear skirt that I have had forever and wear all the time, and two, I am hoping to make a pair of jeans this year (having signed up the Closet Case Patterns online jeans making workshop) and wanted to have a first attempt at a front fly zip insertion.

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I feel like it has been a great success in both counts.  My zip went in really well, and the instructions in the pattern and the Grainline tutorial were fantastic.  Each step was explained simply and added up to a new skill mastered.  You would never know that this was my first attempt!

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The little details in the pattern are great too.  You may already have noticed that I like patterns with pockets and the pockets on the Moss Skirt are especially good.  They have a little extra space included to make them perfect for sticking your hands into, and have a clever facing that allows you to use a pretty lining fabric with no chance for it to peek out.

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The only changes that I made to the pattern were fairly minor.  I didn’t cut my fabric very well and ended up without enough to cut the waistband facing so I decided to cut it from my lining instead.  I also changed the construction order of the waistband because I was feeling too lazy to hand stitch down the facing so I switched to the instructions for adding a waistband from Tilly and the Buttons book Love at First Stitch.  This just meant that it was easy to ‘stitch in the ditch’ on my machine instead of pesky hand sewing.

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In a slight quirk, I set my jeans button in using the marks on the pattern without checking that it lined up properly.  This meant that it didn’t sit very well and the waistband was a little loose.  As a quick fix, rather than trying to remove it, I just added another button in the right place. Now you would never know once I am wearing it!

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This skirt is a little shorter than I would usually wear, but I love it’s casual vibes.  I’m sure I will make another at some point and perhaps lengthen it a couple of inches.  The pattern does include a knee length version with a hem band, but I think I prefer the clean look of the skirt as it and will probably just lengthen the pattern piece instead.

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Agnes Top

I wear so many long-sleeved or 3/4 sleeved tops under jumpers and dresses in the winter, so this Agnes Top by  Tilly and the Buttons has become a staple for me.  I have 2 different versions, using all the pattern variations, which include elastic and gathering options for the sleeve and neckline.

I love that this pattern is well fitted to my shape.  I have cut a size 3 in two different fabrics, but both have worked well.  One is in the same teal stripe from Girl Charlee as my Molly Top from a couple of weeks ago, another is in a cheap polyester jersey from Trago.  The trago fabric was lovely and simple to work with because there was no need for stripe matching, but I did find that if overstretched the white backing shows through which is a shame.

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With basics there is not really a huge amount to say.  This pattern has fantastically simple instructions and illustrations.  Tilly really does have a way with creating beginner friendly patterns.  If working with jersey fabrics is intimidating to you, she offers an online workshop for this pattern too. I haven’t used it myself, but if it is like her written explanations, I’m sure that it is a great way of learning to use these sometimes scary fabrics!

As I said the fit is great, and if you have already seen my guest post for Minerva Crafts you will know that I used this pattern to modify the fit of the Colette Moneta dress too.  I’m sure I will be using this and other Tilly and the Buttons patterns again in the future.

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