Top 5- Hits and Misses 2018

Last year I found it really helpful to think about which of my makes hit the mark, and which were less successful with my hits and misses, so I thought I would have another go this year too.  I think most of my sewing has been fairly successful this year, though I have just done a wardrobe clear out, and a few handmade clothes did get the axe, so its certainly not perfect yet.

So here we go:

Top 5 Hits

Amber tops and Dress

I practically lived in my Amber tops during the last part of my pregnancy when it was hot and my bump was huge.  Even since then, I must wear one at least 2-3 times a week because they are one of my most practical options for feeding in too.  I particularly love my Amber dress because I think it looks fairly stylish and is so easy to just throw on, and my Amber hack layering tee also gets a lot of wear under shirts at the moment.  I think the reason they have been so successful is because they suit my lifestyle as it is right now, not how I might wish it was.  They are also made in good quality cotton jersey, so they have survived lots of washing and grabbing straight back out of the laundry pile!

Oslo Cardigan

This is another item of clothing that regularly gets taken straight from the clean washing pile to be put back on.  When I first made it I wasn’t sure about the style on me and this was really intended as a wearable toile.   However, the oversized nature of it has definitely been growing on me, and I love how easy it is to throw on.  I would love to make another (possibly multiples) as again it fits my lifestyle right now really well.

Modified Toaster Sweater

I made this Toaster sweater right at the start of the year with some very special Atelier Brunette fabric.  I’m pleased that I used this very special fabric in something which is comfortable and practical.  I love that it fits over my Archer shirts, and the crew neck is more practical with a collar.  I’m even really pleased with my decision to go for contrasting gold topstitching.

Ultimate Wrap Dress

This dress is another make that I love because I tweaked the pattern to create what I actually wanted. I hacked the sleeve into a little flutter sleeve, modified the cross-over to be a little higher and added an empire line seam to make it fit over the bump. I have worn it a bit since the arrival of baby too, though I think it might now need re-hemming to take out some of the extra length that I added to the front. I’m looking forward to being able to wear it again next summer.

Ringer Tee

I have made a mountain of these tops for Toby and as gifts, and I’m sure there will be more. I particularly like hacking them to have poppers at the neckline while he is small, but the pattern goes up to ages 5-6, so I’m sure I will make more as he grows. It’s a free pattern too, so what’s not to love!

Hits Conclusion

There were a couple of other patterns that I would have included, but I thought it might be cheating to include patterns that made it onto last year’s successes like the Mens Metro Tee and Grainline Archer because I knew before I got started that I would love them! I also thought that perhaps I couldn’t include the skirt that I am currently sewing, even though I’m pretty sure it will be a hit because I haven’t actually worn it yet! Another that came close was the Dandelion Dungarees because they have seen a lot of wear in the last few months and the popper hack definitely worked there too. I think the things that I have included demonstrate that I’m getting more confident at hacking patterns to get what I actually want from them, not just putting up with the parts that don’t work for me.

Top 5 Misses

Kinder Cardigan

Considering how much I love my Oslo cardigan, it seems a little strange that I’m not such a big fan of the Kinder Cardigan which is pretty similar. I think it is down to a couple of issues, one being that the pattern is possibly even a little more oversized than Oslo. The other being that the Ponte I made it in is definitely more structured so it ‘feels’ bigger. I did like some of the construction methods, and the pockets though, so I’m tempted to adopt some of these for my next Oslo cardigan attempt.

Blossom Dress

Technically this was made in 2017, but I was never really going to wear it until this year. I’m not sure if it is just because it is such a large expanse of single colour, but I didn’t really hit it off with this Blossom dress. I love the fabric, and the Anna Top that I squeezed out of the offcuts, but the dress hardly got worn. It probably doesn’t help that it looked a bit strange before I had a big enough bump, and by the time my bump was bigger the weather was warming up. This hasn’t survived a recent wardrobe clear out because it looks ridiculous again without a baby bump. Perhaps it would have been better as a top.

Lucia Top

A more recent make was this Lucia Top. It was a great way to kickstart sewing again being really simple, but I’m not a massive fan of the fabric. It’s a bit too shiny and ‘polyester’y. It has survive the wardrobe clear out, but only to see if I will wear it during the festive season when red and shiny seems more acceptable. If it doesn’t get worn it might have to go too.

Lily Top

There is nothing actually ‘wrong’ with this Lily Top, it just doesn’t get worn as often as I thought it might. I did wear it while I was pregnant, and I do sometimes wear it now to feed, but I wasn’t 100% pleased with the finishing techniques and there are some areas that I don’t think are going to be all that robust. It’s not a total fail, though I don’t think I would make the pattern again.

Miette Skirt

Again, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with this skirt, but I think it suffers from not suiting my changing body and style. I have been wearing a lot less that sits actually at my waist because I don’t find it that flattering at the moment. Perhaps that will change in the future and I will feel better wearing this skirt though. With hindsight, though the pockets are really useful, they just draw more attention to an area that I feel less confident in at the moment!

Misses Conclusion

I think several of these projects have suffered from the difficulties of guessing what sorts of things I was going to want to wear as my lifestyle and body have changed. Hopefully now that thigs are starting to settle down I can make more informed choices for next year and get more of them right!

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More nursing layers

I am enjoying my previous Agnes and Amber pattern mash-up, but I wanted to try another method of getting breastfeeding access with a t-shirt. My previous hack works great, but variety is always nice, and I fancied a long sleeve tee with a neckband because my upper chest/neck keeps getting cold!

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This is based on the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Top and is a much simpler pattern hack than the previous one because it involves modifying fewer pieces. I would detail the changes, but Zoe from SoZo what do you know already has a great tutorial and I didn’t really do anything different.  I think the overlap would be less obvious if I had found a better thread colour match for the topstitching, but I found this fabric difficult to match and it will probably be hidden under my layers anyway.

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This option is quicker to construct and does give a sleeker silhouette for layering, though I think my other hack is easier to use. I will definitely be using both options, and will probably make some more too. I have some lovely peacock blue cotton spandex which would look great.

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One of the best things about this top is the way it has helped me to reconsider and start wearing a few clothes that had been slightly forgotten. Here it is layered under my Bridgetown Backless Dress as a tunic, and worn with the crossover at the front.

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Slightly different styling from wearing it to the wedding I made it for.

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I also made Matt another Metro tee to match! It doesn’t really deserve its own post as I’m pretty sure I’ve already said all there is to say about making up that pattern. It’s probably one of the best value patterns I own though for the number of times that it has been used (closely followed by the Agnes and Amber patterns too!)

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Breastfeeding Friendly Layering

In the autumn and winter, I usually layer up long sleeved t-shirts, shirts and cardigans, but this year my clothing needs to be feeding friendly.  Currently none of my long sleeved t-shirts really facilitate that, so I’ve needed to come up with a pattern hack solution.  This top is my first attempt at creating a slim fitting layering t-shirt which I can feed in.

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I’ve hacked together the Megan Nielson Amber, with my usual layering top- the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes.  Both of these are tried and true patterns for me, with multiple iterations (For Amber see here and here, Agnes here and here).  I’m using the front bodice piece of the Amber, and the modesty panel, but I’ve raised the centre front on this panel about 5cm to keep me warmer.  Then I’ve attached it to part of the front bodice of the Agnes.

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For the back, I’ve mostly used the Agnes bodice, but tweaked the armscye to fit the Amber sleeve.   The sleeve has been slimmed down a bit too to make it fit under layers more easily.  This is how I’m most likely to we wearing it on an everyday basis- worn with jeans and an Archer Shirt.

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I’m pretty pleased with this as a first try.  I do have another hack in mind to try so hopefully I will be able to show you that one too soon.  Like Matt’s recent Metro tee, this is made with the Girl Charlee solid cotton spandex in Sage Green.

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I’ll be wearing this all winter I’m sure.  I’m really glad to be able to keep warm and cosy in my layers again!

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Post pregnancy sewing

During the last weeks of my pregnancy I didn’t want to stop sewing, but it didn’t seem very logical to keep sewing for my bump.  Instead, I thought I would start trying to sew for after the birth, though it was tricky to decide what size to make.  I thought that the best solution to that problem was to make something which could adapt as my size changed so I went with the Tilly and the Buttons Miette Skirt, which has a wrap waist and tie so it can be tied tighter or looser as required.

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This sew was made with fabric from Minerva Crafts– a lovely linen like blend of cotton and raime.  To see the full review and more pictures, head over to the Minerva Crafts blog here.

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I’ve also been wearing my handmade espadrilles a lot in this warm weather, especially as my feet seem to have swollen a little during pregnancy.  Read more about them in this post here.

Prym Espadrile Soles

The joy of Tried and True

Sometimes sewing is about the flashy new patterns or beautiful fabric. Sometime thought it is just about basics that you feel comfortable and yourself in. That is what this post is- filling the gaps in my current wardrobe (which seems to stop fitting me every couple of weeks at the moment) with things that I need.

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Both of these patterns have appeared on the blog before several times. I do love sewing up those tried and true patterns though, that you can cut in batches, knowing that the sizing will be right, and can sew with barely a glance at the instructions.

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These particular TNT’s are the Tilly and the Buttons Maternity Agnes (which I made a couple of t-shirts of at around Christmas, and a dress version more recently), and the Megan Nielson Amber which has featured recently as both a top and a dress too (worn here with my Oslo cardigan).

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Both of these are made in my favorite t-shirt wright jersey too- Girl Charlee’s solid cotton spandex. It has great recovery, sews up beautifully, washes well and comes in loads of colours. I don’t think I will go back to using anything else for my plain t-shirts.

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So I think this really is the perfect recipe- patterns which I know the fit and the drafting, and fabric which behaves just as you expect. Perhaps not the most exciting or revelatory discovery, but I have found lately with my self imposed fabric and pattern buying ban that I am having to return to and rediscover things which before I might have overlooked in favour of the new and sparkly. Sometimes what you really need has been sat there in front of you all along!

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Maternity Agnes Tops

I am a massive fan of the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top (see some of my versions here and here)- it really is one of my wardrobe staples, so the recent release of a maternity version seemed perfect!  I still get to have all my lovely layering and basic tees, but with some extra space for a growing bump.

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There are a couple of variations included in the pattern, including a dress which I may make at some point soon.  To start with though I thought I would give the top versions a go.  They are a bit longer than the standard Agnes tee, and the sizing chart is different, so do double check which size to cut.  I am a size 3 in the regular Agnes, but a size 2 in this maternity version.  Some of the extra length is gathered at the side seams to create the fullness required for a bump.

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I made two versions, both with fabrics which have been waiting in my stash far too long for the right project to come around.  First up, I made a 3/4 sleeve top with side ties from a lovely Girl Charlee cotton jersey called Coral Peach Floral.  It doesn’t have the hugest amount of stretch, so I should perhaps have enlarged the sleeve width a little, but other than that I really like it.

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The little side ties are a slightly labour and time intensive addition because they are a nightmare to turn through, but there is definitely some extra belly room, and more than I need at the moment at 4 months so still room to grow.

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Next up, I used a cotton interlock from ebay in a wine colour.  For this one, I just wanted a really basic layering tee, so I left off the side ties and went for full length sleeves.  This one was super quick to put together, and I can see I am going to want more of these.  The interlock jersey is lovely too. A good amount of stretch, and super soft and snuggly.

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I think this pattern is going to be a staple in the next couple of months.  it is so quick to put together if you leave the ties off, and with the dress variation to try out as well, I think i’m going to have another TNT pattern to replace the regular Agnes.

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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.