The joys of a multi cup sized pattern

I started sewing a year ago and fell in love with it utterly and completely.

One of the reasons for starting sewing was down to how hard it was becoming to find nice clothes that fitted my busty, somewhat larger than I wanted (I’m getting that in hand, slowly!) hourglass shape properly.

It quickly transpired that getting a good fit when sewing a pattern would involve doing an FBA – a full bust adjustment. I have gradually been getting better at these, with the fit of each garment improving as I progress. I’ve worked out that my particular body anomaly (one of them, anyway…) is whilst I sometimes match the bust, waist and hip measurements all for the same size, it still won’t actually fit at the bust. I am narrow across my back and carry a disproportionate amount of the measurement across the bust itself. At a 34J this probably shouldn’t have been a surprise!

Hence I am much better off choosing the pattern size based on my high bust (which is 5.5″ less than my full bust) and then doing an FBA as well as adjusting the waist and hips. And then doing my now standard sway back adjustment.

I have read and watched countless tutorials, blogs, you tube videos and books on bust adjustments and feel I am slowly getting better with each one I do.

But of course all this means it takes quite a while to prep the pattern before I can even start cutting out. No wonder I like making patterns up multiple times, as they are a real time investment for me, not to mention the process of tweaking and improving the fit each time I make the pattern.

All this is a rather rambly preamble about my recent make, the Recital shirt from Liesl and Co. Which comes with that holy grail of things, multi cup sizes.

There are a few companies that do these, for example Cashmerette, the Simplicity Amazing Fit patterns, a few Vogue patterns, Charmed Patterns which is Gertie’s own pattern company but only has two patterns so far (I have made the Rita blouse, which is lovely), and Itch to Stitch and Scroop Patterns do some of their pattern this way, but not all. I’m sure there are more out there, please do let me know of any others!

Whilst I am resigned to doing FBAs on most patterns, it is just so lovely when I don’t have to! Or at least when I only need to do a small FBA from starting with the biggest cup size included.

So when I decided I wanted to make a fitted classic white shirt, one of the things I looked out for was patterns that included bigger cup sizes. I narrowed it down to the Harrison shirt from Cashmerette and the Recital shirt from Liesl. They both have princess seams but it was the unusual ruffle collar on the Recital pattern that swung it for me. I loved that this looks a bit like a woman’s version of a dress shirt / tuxedo shirt. The other pattern option is the full tuxedo collar and pin tuck front.

The fabric I used is quite a thick cotton, comparatively speaking. It has worked well for this shirt but with the current, glorious heatwave in the UK, I won’t be wearing this shirt any time soon! At least it is waiting patiently in my wardrobe for when Autumn appears.

I’m pleased with the buttons I chose for this, with just a little bit of a detail to compliment the style of the shirt but not too over the top.

The instructions for this pattern were very good on the whole and it all came together nicely. I did find one bit confusing though, the instructions for sewing part of the cuff. I am almost certain that there is an error in these instructions (or I’m an idiot), as if you follow them you simply can’t turn the cuff out properly. I unpicked it all and resewed it the way that made sense to me, which seemed to do the trick. Annoyingly, I realised the error after I’d already trimmed and graded the seams, so had to do a bit of fudging when re-sewing it at the corners to deal with what otherwise would have been frayed edges.

Here is my note to myself for the next time I make this:

Basically don’t do the bit I’ve put in square brackets!

I took one inch of length off the sleeves before cutting out the fabric and then the other change I made, fitting as I went along, was to take more in underneath the bust. As drafted the pattern is more straight fitting down the torso, but with the princess seams it is fairly easy to scoop more out if you want a fitted shirt that goes in under the bust. The back shaping from the darts is really lovely too.

I’m now really happy with the fit of this shirt and have marked my changes onto the pattern pieces, all ready for the next one. I’m thinking a nice blue and white stripe…

Winner of the Mayfair dress pattern by Nina Lee

Thank you very much to everyone who entered the competition I put up on my blog last week, I truly wish you could have all won!

After putting everyone’s names in a hat…

Said hat

And letting my children pick out a name…

The winner is Rachel!

With this comment:

So congratulations Rachel, please can you email me your postal address (to tailoredbykate @ yahoo.com) and I will get the pattern out in the post to you.

Just in case Rachel doesn’t get in touch by this time next Saturday (21st July) I did get my children to draw a back up winner. Mostly so they could each have a turn at drawing a name and hence save the inevitable arguments if only one got to do it…

Happy sewing everyone!

The New Mayfair dress from Nina Lee – and a giveaway

If you haven’t seen this newly released pattern yet, here is a photo from the Nina Lee site, in all its sartorial glory:

Link to PDF pattern from Nina Lee website

I love my Nina Lee Kew dress and so when I got an email to say that Nina was looking for testers for her new pattern I leapt at the chance. I was excited about the chance to sew the new dress and also to be a pattern tester, something I haven’t done before.

So I have been waiting patiently to post about this gorgeous new dress ever since I finished it. And here it is, with flattering waist ties and lovely details at the neckline and bodice, giving it almost a Grecian feel in the slinky blue fabric I used from my stash. That I now wish I had bought more of! I think it was from Minerva Crafts, must see if they still have it in stock…

The lovely pleating detail at the back neckline

I found the testing process so interesting, a behind the scenes look at this stage of how a pattern is released. Nina was excellent at explaining what she needed us to do, which is not surprising given how brilliantly she explains things in her pattern instructions. Hmmm, I am doing a bit of fan girl gushing here I know, but honestly the instructions are superb and I found the pattern drafting to be well done, with everything lining / truing up where it should etc.

The dress is for knits and the instructions include an A4 page of tips for sewing with jersey. I’ve sewn a fair bit with jersey in recent months and can vouch for these tips distilling lots of the useful info I’ve come across previously, plus a few new (to me) bits as well. Obviously it doesn’t go into the book-length detail of Tilly and the Buttons’ book “Stretch” (a brilliant book, in case you don’t already have it), but it was impressive just how much info Nina has managed to include.

The diagrams and construction instructions are also top notch. The handful of bits that needed tweaking were picked up in the testing process so all will be nice and clear in the final released version of the pattern.

I made the short sleeve, knee length version, but there is also a maxi version plus a three quarter sleeve and full length sleeve option. I’ve already worn it out twice and have felt great in it, even receiving compliments from total strangers!

So anyway, here are a few photos of me in the dress. (I’ve recently bought a cheap tripod and remote for my phone in an attempt to take slightly better photos than my previous dodgy-looking selfies. So hopefully you can now see more details in these photos – and a bit more of me, gulp, you lucky things you.)

I am a big fan of sending my PDF patterns to a copy shop for printing (printyourpattern.com, for preference, but patternsy.weebly.com are great too) as I can’t be bothered with the time and frustration of sticking A4 versions together. No matter what I do I always end up with pages that won’t line up with each other, usually at a fairly fundamental part! But the timings of this testing meant it would work better to crack on and stick it together myself, so I tried a technique from Itch to Stitch that someone linked to on the Fold line Facebook group (a big thank you to whoever that was!). It worked brilliantly! The best PDF sticking I’ve ever managed. Here is the link if you are interested in trying it out yourself:

Itch to Stitch tip for easier PDF assembly

Anyway, Nina has very kindly sent me a hard copy of the pattern to give away.

I’m pretty new to this blogging thing and don’t have many readers / followers, but I would love to be able to give this pattern to someone in the sewing world who would enjoy making and wearing it, as I don’t really know anyone IRL who sews. So if anyone out there is reading and would like to have this pattern, please leave a comment below. If more than one person comments I’ll do some sort of random draw thing. Possibly involving the help of my young children. What could possibly go wrong…

I will list the winner on this blog next Saturday (14th July).

Right, I’m off to work out what other fabric I have lurking in my stash that I can turn into another Mayfair 😁

Tackling Style Arc

I’ve noticed the name Style Arc and seen pictures of some super looking patterns popping up on blogs and review sites for a while now. Several of the designs look very much my kind of style.

But… All the reviews I read always mention how tricky / sparse the instructions are. So I knew that as a beginner sewist I would need to wait for my skills to improve a fair bit more, before trying out Style Arc for myself.

I decided recently that perhaps, just perhaps, I might be ready to tackle one. Nothing crazy like a jacket or full on button up shirt mind you, I’m not insane. But say a top, skirt or a dress with similar looking construction to ones I’ve already done.

To save actually having to make a decision on which of those three types to buy, I bought one of each type 😁. For thorough, scientific investigation purposes of course.

I chose:

The Mindi skirt (after my last post about my hunt for the perfect casual skirt)

The Cate’s Cousin top

The Heather dress

One quirk of the Style Arc set up is that when buying the pattern you specify your size. If buying a hard copy direct from Style Arc, you just get that size. If buying a PDF you get that size plus the one above and the one below, but all in separate PDFs i.e. not nested together. You can also get some hard copy patterns from Amazon and Minerva Crafts and those ones have the range of sizes all in one pack (I think they split their vey decent range of sizes across two options for these packs).

They also don’t have the A0 / copyshop versions as part of the PDF option, only an A4. Now whilst I’m slowly becoming a bit more prepared to stick PDFs together (after seeing this brilliant tip from Itch to Stitch ) I still prefer sending large patterns off to an online print shop. But if you email Style Arc once you’ve purchased the PDF, they are happy to send you the A0 file by email. Wonderful customer service. And apparently they are also working on providing nested sizes on their PDF patterns at some point in the future, which will be great for ease of grading between sizes.

Oh, and if you buy a PDF pattern via the Style Arc site, you get to choose one free pattern from a choice of two different options each month. Bonus!

Anyway, on to the patterns themselves!

I have made two of the three patterns so far, with the Heather dress waiting patiently in the queue.

First up I made the Mindi skirt in some gorgeous electric blue denim from Sew Me Sunshine . It has a slight stretch which I thought would help with the fit / wearing.

The instructions are indeed sparse, but the pattern is super well drafted, which helps immensely. Everything lines up where it should. The seam allowances are smaller than most of the other patterns I’ve been sewing, but I’m getting used to these and in some ways they are easier (eg for princess seams) and of course help save a little fabric. Just be careful clipping your notches!

I wanted to have the zip on the pockets fully exposed so I stuck the two pattern pieces together at the stitch line and cut them as a whole, then used the windowpane method (a bit like making a welt pocket) to insert the zip. I had seen someone’s tutorial on how to do this ages ago, but of course couldn’t find it when I searched for it again. So I had to guess how to do it based on my rather foggy memory of the tutorial!

My practice version, using interfacing bumpy side up on top of right side of fabric, sewn around in the box lines I marked, cut down the middle, turned through and then ironed into place, holding everything in neatly

Anyway, unsurprisingly I got it a bit wrong with the cutting line for the first pocket. I cut through both of the 1/4″ marks I made at each end, all the way to the end of the box I had marked for stitching, when I should have left these small bits uncut. So as you can see, the first pocket has a gap at the end of the zip, showing the hole between the zip tape.

Grrr. I considered redoing the whole pocket but in the end decided that you really wouldn’t see this aspect as the pocket then sits against the denim of the skirt anyway, which masks it a bit.

The second pocket I got spot on, thankfully.

Well, for the zip installation anyway. The other thing that I didn’t quite get right for this skirt is the pointy top corner of the pocket. I didn’t turn each side of the seam allowance under properly somehow, so you can see a few threads of the raw edge a bit.

I’ll have to work out how to do that better for next time. Although I probably won’t always put the pockets on every time I make this skirt as they give it a very distinctive look that I might not want multiple versions of. But the skirt is a super fit and I love the seam lines and curved waistband.

I can see this becoming my go to skirt pattern for a short or knee length straight skirt.

Right, onto the Cate’s Cousin top. This is a super quick make, as you would expect from a jersey pattern.

I used some slinky viscose / poly (I think) jersey from my stash that I got from Minerva Crafts. It was perfect for this top, you definitely need something with good drape. I also used this fabric for the faux wrap, panelled skirt version I made of the Aldaia dress by Pauline Alice.

Again, very spartan instructions, but you can work them out with a bit of careful re-reading and it helps if you’ve made other jersey tops before (like my four Agnes tops for starters…). The only thing I’m not sure I got right is attaching the back neckband. The instructions just say “Attach the back neck binding” or something along those lines. There is a note to refer to the mini guides on the Style Arc website for help if needed, but the web address given is just to the general site, not a link to the specific tutorial. And there isn’t a tutorial with the exact name of the technique as it is called in the instructions. There is one with instructions for different bindings, but none leap out as the exact one needed for this top, or at least if there is then it isn’t clear – they seem more appropriate to woven fabrics. Maybe that’s just me though. In the end I just used the technique from the Valencia top from New Horizons. However, I think the Style Arc pattern is designed to have the whole of the neckband turned under, rather than just the seam allowance. The notch for where you turn the front facing under didn’t quite line up for me, but I think it would if the neckband were completely turned under. I’ll give that a whirl next time!

The skirt I am wearing here is also a Mindi skirt – I hacked this one a little to remove the front exposed zip and put in a concealed zip at the back instead (no pockets as per my plans mentioned above). I used some awesome purple coated denim, also from Sew Me Sunshine

Anyway, I am so thrilled with this top and have immediate plans to make many more in every colour. Well, every colour I actually wear. So that would be blue, pink, purple and grey then! Oh, and I am starting to venture into white. I know, I’m just so adventurous.

So there we go – a challenge, a few errors, but my first experience of Style Arc has left me with a skirt and top I absolutely love.

#sewtogetherforthesummer – Erica from Seamwork

Well, after leaving things till the 11th hour, I finally got my act together and made a wrap dress for the #sewtogetherforthrsummer sewing event.

I had started out nice and early, picking and buying the Orsola pattern from By Hand London way back in April. I made a proper toile (go me!), marked it up and adjusted the pattern, made a second toile of the bodice. And then stopped. I don’t really know why. A combination of other things jumping the queue that I wanted to sew more or needed sooner, plus a feeling that the Orsola just might not be the best pattern for me. So time ticked on, I occasionally popped onto Instagram and saw beautiful wrap dresses appearing in abundance, but still couldn’t motivate myself to make my proper Orsola.

(Look, an actual muslin! Which is as far as my Orsola got)

Ah well, I thought, I’ll join in properly next year, best laid plans and all that.

But then at the weekend I saw the message that there were five days to go till #sewtogetherforthesummer ended. More stunning wrap dresses adorned my Instagram feed. I thought sod it, I’ll just choose another dress.

After a bit of searching I found a fab looking wrap dress which had floaty frill around it, view C of McCall’s 7745:

That looked more the ticket, the extra bit of detail that I felt I needed. As an hourglass shape wrap dresses really should work on me. But so often I find they make me look all pointy and even larger busted, as a result of the position where the crossover sits. Or they just feel a bit plain. Or they don’t give enough definition just above the waist, which is my smallest bit. Or they gape. And the list goes on.

But that is the point of sewing of course, to learn to make (and adapt) the right pattern in the way that fits me and deals with all of these things.

The problem was that having left it so late, the M7745 pattern being hard copy only, wouldn’t arrive in time. Boo. (Of course I ordered it anyway to make another time 😁)

So plan B (actually we are up to plan C now, aren’t we) was to use one of my Seamwork credits on the PDF Erica dress.

I didn’t want the midi length though, or long sleeves, but these are easy enough to change.

I also needed to do a full bust adjustment and decided to do this by leaving in the dart, in the hope this would give the shaping that works best for my figure.

Finally, a sway back adjustment and a small bit of grading out at waist and hips and my list of pattern adjustments was complete.

When it came to the sewing, there are a few more fiddly-ish details for the Erica than a ‘standard’ jersey sew. The method for sewing the neckline involves sewing elastic to the finished seam allowance of the neckband piece before it is sewn to the dress. I gave it a go but am not sure I will do it this way again. I would probably use clear elastic next time and serge / overlock it straight on when sewing, to save a step or three. Or just use the method for attaching the neckband on the Coppelia cardy (Papercut Patterns) where you stretch the band slightly as you sew it on, which has the same effect of stopping gaping at the neckline.

I also made a couple of annoying mistakes when sewing this dress, probably related to the aforementioned 11th hour! I realized that I had sewn one set of the front neckband pieces to the back neckband with the shaping swooping outwards rather than the horseshoe shape it should be. I had to unpick and resew that. I also cut and sewed the waist hole bit on both sides of the bodice rather than just the one. Sigh. More unpicking using a larger seam allowance when sewing that seam to get around the superfluous snip I had made up to the circle on that side.

But once all assembled at last, I tried it on. And it looked awful. Possibly as a result of my FBA on a wrap piece not being done the right way (I winged it 🤣) or just the pattern needing further adjustment for my shape, there was a huge flappy pouchy bit hanging down from the bodice between bust and waist. Not flattering at all.

In an attempt to fix this and save the dress I pinched out and pinned two waist darts and also the excess bit of bodice fabric along the waist line. I basted them to see if they were roughly right (by this stage “finished and wearable” was all I was aiming for!), tweaked them a bit more then sewed them up.

Unsurprisingly, given that I made these last changes once the dress was already sewn up (save for the hemming), the fit still isn’t quite right but it’s not bad and I think this dress will still be useful as a functional work dress.

Here are a few photos of the finished article:

And I may try this pattern again once I’ve fully worked out (and worked on) the problems with the bodice.

But what I am really looking forward to is my floaty frilly pattern arriving!

A summer dress

I’ve become a bit of a sewing magazine junkie. I have a subscription to three of them at the moment (Love Sewing, Sew and Threads) and from time to time one of the other titles ends up jumping into my shopping basket too. No idea how that happens.

The patterns that come free with the magazines aren’t always my style, but sometimes it’s good to go outside your comfort zone, or they become tests of how I can hack them to better suit the looks I like. Plus it is just indulgent fun to sit with a magazine and a cup of coffee in a spare moment.

Anyway, guilty pleasure confessions aside, I’ve just finished making the pattern that came with the last issue of Love Sewing (McCalls 7543).

I made view D but I did an FBA to add bust darts for fit and shaping reasons, used the straps from view A (for bra strap coverage!) and shortened it by a few inches.

(Please excuse the threads on the carpet, I need to hoover it after finishing sewing for the day!)

I also added the waist ties as designs like this tend to look too boxy or even nightdress-like on me without some shaping and definition at the waist. I just cut two long lengths from the remaining fabric and sewed them up in the same manner as the shoulder straps. They ended up pretty long so I may cut them down a bit, although I like the way I can wrap them all the way round so they may stay as is!

This photo shows what it would look like without the ties:

I had to underline it with cotton voile as the fabric was a bit see through. It has given it a more structured look which I like in the skirt section and think I can just about get away with in the bodice, as I think it is just shy of the ‘too stiff’ category. I used this magic stuff to keep the two pieces of fabric together whilst sewing them up as one:

I’m very happy with how it’s turned out and I’m now tempted to try the view A top with the flutter sleeves as I think that would be nice with jeans or a denim skirt etc. I would still add the ties but probably shorter ones for a top version. I have a nice blue and red fine striped fabric in my stash that is beautifully soft and drapey, but again a bit sheer so I might need to self line it. Hopefully that would still preserve the drape and not make it too firm.

All in all a very handy dress for summer (looking glumly at the greyness outside…).

My hunt for the perfect casual skirt

When I started sewing in the summer of 2017, skirts were some of the first things I made. I started with the Dominique from Tilly and the Buttons, as a beginner pattern and part of Tilly’s online courses that I took to learn to sew. I was a bit larger then and knew that my figure was not best suited to elastic waisted skirts (it still isn’t!). But in the spirit of learning, I made this one: (terrible pattern matching / placement!)

I then discovered the Delphine skirt from Love at First Stitch, (you guessed it, also a Tilly pattern!) and really liked this pattern, making several. My favourite is this one:

But having lost a reasonable bit of weight since, they no longer fit well. Again, with my figure I need things to be fitted around my waist or I look a lot bigger than I actually am. Plus I like the more fitted look (I’m a ‘classic romantic’ for anyone else who has done the House of Colour style day thing). I’m also now not sure if the exaggerated A line of that pattern really works for me, or at least I know I don’t just want another four Delphines in smaller sizes. Maybe just one though…

So the challenge became to find another skirt pattern (or two, or three…) which meets the following criteria:

▪️ Doesn’t look like a skirt I’d wear to work (I love tailored / smart pencil skirts but I’m looking for something more casual)

▪️ Isn’t too dressy or vintage looking (e.g. not a circle skirt)

▪️ Nothing that makes my stomach or hips look bigger than they are (gathering and box pleats tend to do this although might work in the right proportions)

▪️ Nothing boxy, baggy or with an elastic waist (see above!)

I started hunting through the pattern reviews on the Foldline, Pattern Review and on loads of blogs. I also looked online at patterns from all sorts of pattern companies that I have come across over the last year.

It was one of those searches where you don’t know exactly what you are looking for, but you’ll know it when you see it!

As the search went on (and on) I started narrowing things down to two looks: a) a denim sort of mini-ish skirt, possibly with a button or zip front, possibly slight A line but if so not too much; and b) a skirt with a yoke to keep things fitted around my waist down to high or low hip and then flaring out a bit more below that.

For the category a), I pulled together the following shortlist:

🔹 The Tillery skirt from Blank Slate Patterns – Tillery skirt

🔹 The Mindi skirt from Style Arc – Mindi skirt

🔹 The Goldie skirt also from Style Arc – Goldie skirt

🔹 Extra sharp pencil skirt from Liesl & Co – Pencil skirt (I know I said no pencil skirts but this one from Sew Country Chick in denim made me rethink that rule! Contrary, moi?! Denim version)

🔹 The Danube jean skirt from Itch to Stitch – Danube skirt (I am not sure about this as while I love the skirt, I know from previous RTW skirts that a zip front on skirts can bulge out a bit over my stomach in a not terribly flattering way)

🔹 The Lindy Petal skirt also from Itch to Stitch – Lindy skirt (which has the extra advantage of being free!)

🔹 Haute Skinny skirt from Wardrobe by Me – Haute skirt (also a pencil skirt those eagle eyed amongst you will note! But I could perhaps use a ponte or scuba, omit the zip and use a more casual looking fabric / print…)

For category b) I found:

🔹 Burda pleated mini skirt 08/2017 – Burda mini skirt

🔹 Butterick 4686 (view D) – B4686 (possibly still a bit more dressy / work looking although that could depend on what fabric I choose – it looks great on blogger Kiku Corner)

🔹 McCall’s 7725 – M7725 (I would level off the yoke seam and hem so they are horizontal rather than diagonal. Again I’m not sure I would have thought of using this pattern without seeing this version on Pattern Review)

🔹 The Crescent skirt from Sewaholic – Crescent skirt (I’m not sure how this would work with my hips but in theory it ought too as Sewaholic designs for pear shapes, which also does the trick for hourglasses too when it is a skirt / trouser pattern)

🔹 The Yasmin yoke skirt from Maria Denmark – Yasmin skirt

And then a couple of wild cards!

🔹 The Sasha skirt from Friday Pattern Company – Sasha skirt

🔹 The Marie wrap skirt from Rosy Peña – Marie skirt (which is free if you sign up to Rosy’s newsletter)

🔹 The Jupe longue Ivy from Dessine moi un patron – Ivy (years ago I had a gorgeous dark green silky skirt from Monsoon that I loved and this pattern reminds me of it hugely! #Nostalgiamoments…)

Oh the happy times I could have sewing my way through that list! Not exactly time or cost efficient though!

Hence for now my plan is to sew:

🔸 The Mindi from Style Arc in a gorgeous denim I got from Sew Me Sunshine – Electric blue stretch denim and if it goes well / suits me I will also make it in this coated denim – Purple coated denim

🔸 The Lindy petal skirt from Itch to Stitch in a navy ponte, also from Sew Me Sunshine (such a dangerous shop for my bank balance!) – Navy ponte

🔸 The Yasmin yoke shirt from Maria Denmark in I’m not quite sure what yet.

🔸 The Jupe Longue Ivy might have to sneak in there too…

In fact (spoiler alert) I’ve already sewn one of these four, just finishing it today. But as this (rather wordy and very short on pictures) post has already raged out of control somewhat, I’ll do a separate post about that, very soon. Does that countas a cliff-hanger?!

Sashaying in my Sasha trousers

Ahem. Sorry for that terrible pun. If it even counts as a pun.

But anyway, I’ve made a pair of Sasha trousers from Closet Case patterns:

Sasha trousers from Closet Case Patterns

(Ha! Edited to point out the above photo isn’t me 🤣 it is the photo from the Closet Case site)

And what an awesome pattern it is. These have been on my burgeoning ‘to make’ list ever since I finished my Ginger jeans (blog post for those here: Ginger jeans blog post )

I loved the fit of the Gingers and read somewhere that the Sasha trousers are based on the same block. I have been wanting to sew a pair of smarter, tailored looking trousers for a while and was tossing up between the Sasha pattern and the Sew Over It Ultimate trousers. My love of the Gingers plus Heather Lou’s amazing instructions swung me towards the Sasha pattern and I’m so glad about that decision.

Said instructions were so good that I found the construction process to be pretty smooth sailing. I’m getting a bit more confident with a fly installation, although I still have to follow the instructions in careful, minute detail!

I omitted the rear welt pockets as this is my wearable toile pair so I didn’t want to spend all that extra time on those until I have the fit worked out. I also left out the belt loops, more or less for the same reason.

I basted the inner leg and side seams together as Heather Lou recommends, to check the fit. I ended up reducing the seam allowance to 1cm at the waist and high hip, staying at 1.5cm to the bottom of the front pockets and then increasing to over 2.5cm on the inner and outer leg seams. Next time I think I will grade down one or possibly even two sizes down for the legs.

I did a 1/2″ sway back adjustment to the pattern from the outset as I was sure I would need that. I’m really happy with the fit at the back so that was clearly the right thing to do.

The fabric is a medium weight stretch piqué that I’m pretty sure I got on sale from Minerva Crafts. It is a rather vibrant candy pink but I thought sod it, I can pull this off as a pair of summer trousers. Worn with a lot of navy 😂. And as it turns out I really like their brightness. It’s good to push myself out of my comfort zone from time to time.

Now for photo overload:

Oh, I’ve just remembered that I followed the suggestion to sew twill tape into the sloping edge of the front pocket, but the slight bulk of the tape I used meant when I was turning over the pocket and intending to roll it so the seam was just slightly to the inside, it didn’t want to roll smoothly and was going to be bulky. I noticed though that if I left the seam showing on / rolled to the right side, the presence of the twill tape edge underneath actually made it look a bit like flat piping, nicely highlighting the pocket edge. So I went with that! Slight mistake transformed into a ‘design detail’. I love the way sewing lets you come up with (get away with) things like that 😄

Looking at the photos of my rear (oh what fun) I think I may need to scoop the back crotch a little to do a low rear adjustment, plus adjust the thigh seam somehow. There is a little bit of baggyness at the front crotch / lower tum area, so I have already adjusted the pattern with a 3/8″ overlap at the front rise seam (on the ‘shorten / lengthen here’ line), ready for the next pair I’m planning to sew. I already have a gorgeous China / smoky blue stretch cotton drill from Sew Me Sunshine which is the most amazing online fabric store by the way, good grief the money I could spend there! Ok, that I may already have spent there…

So there we go, I heartily commend this super pattern to you!

Bellatrix Blazer – much more lovely than the usual image

(Image from Harrypotter.wikia.com)

This Bellatrix:

Link to pattern (no affiliates or anything, just a link!)

I have had this pattern in my stash for a while, glinting at me whenever I rifle through my patterns. It is from Papercut Patterns, a New Zealand indie pattern company who also created the Coppelia cardy, of which I have made four. So far.

I knew this pattern involved a few skills and experience I didn’t have when I first bought it and hence it has been waiting patiently for me to catch up ever since.

With this sort of close fitting style I knew a toile would be essential. I had some satin backed crepe in my stash that I had bought online but wasn’t at all what I expected when it arrived. Much thinner and the crepe side wasn’t usable, it really did just look like the wrong side of the fabric. Hey ho, I thought, it wasn’t expensive so I just popped it in my linings drawer. However, it would be perfect to use as a toile for this, hooray.

I read through the instructions a few times first until I was sure I had my head around how it would all come together. On that note, the instructions are generally excellent. Clear without being overly long, and good diagrams. There were a couple of bits where I thought a few more words and details might have been in order, but nothing I couldn’t work my way through with a bit of thought. And twisting the pictures back and forward and upside down a few times. These instructions are much more to my taste (is that tactful enough?!) compared my last make, my M7536 dress.

The jacket has a lot of interfacing and I realised that I wouldn’t get a true picture of the fit with the toile unless I interfaced it too. So I figured by the time I did all the interfacing I might as well make the whole thing properly, so that it would be a wearable toile. At least it would also give me good practice for the main event and I would have something to show for all the time spent interfacing.

I tried out block interfacing for the first time. It took ages but I think it was worth it, as the pieces held their shape well from being interfaced before being cut, plus it saved the time of cutting the fabric and the interfacing pieces separately.

I also used a different princess seam FBA technique. For the last dress I made (referred to above) I did the standard way that FBAs are shown in the dressmaking books I have, where you measure out the required FBA amount from the fullest point of the princess seam and then blend a new curve into the upper and lower bits of the existing pattern line. But this doesn’t work so well with bigger FBAs and you can end up with a distorted curve that is more than a little pointy and gappy. Not the look I am going for…

I did some googling and came across this brilliant tutorial:

FBA tutorial

I can’t recommend it highly enough. Beautifully, clearly written and it worked a treat.

I did an FBA of 1 5/8″ to make an extra 3 1/4″ in total. I didn’t curve the side seam back in at the waist in order to give the extra room I needed there (I chose the size based on my high bust measurement, not my full bust). I also did a sway back adjustment of 1/2″. Other than those I didn’t do any other adjustments at the pattern stage.

Oh, but I was feeling all proud of myself for remembering to alter the collar interfacing pattern piece when I did my FBA. Until I came to attach the lower jacket pieces at the lining front and found they were too short. Because I hadn’t adjusted them when I had effectively widened the upper front bodice piece as part of the FBA. Whoops. I belatedly had to adjust the pattern piece, interface more fabric and cut four new pattern pieces.

I started by making the lining first and (apart from the above daft moment) it all came together like a dream. The 1cm (3/8″) seam allowance really helps for sewing the princess seams. I must remember that! I then tried on the lining to see how the fit was looking. I was really pleased with it, but saw that it could come in a little more underneath my bust. I left it as is for the lining because it is always helpful to have that a little bigger, but I cut out a little scoop from the main fabric pieces in readiness for sewing those next.

The finished lining section:

This was my first time doing a welt pocket and I was super pleased with how they turned out. It was definitely easier doing these ones as my first go, as they sew into a seam rather than having to cut into your sewn up garment (what a gulp moment that must be!).

I really – hugely – enjoyed sewing this blazer. Truly a satisfying sew and I now can’t wait to make the blazer in the real fabric I have for it, a lustrous, French navy, satin back crepe, with glorious drape and both sides able to be used:

It is from Clothspot, one of my absolute favourite online fabric shops.

The navy crepe at Clothspot

Can you tell how much I love this pattern and this navy fabric?! My plan is to make the jacket with the crepe showing and then use the satin side for the lapel, similarly to how I did my Etta dress. Now that I think about it, the two would go nicely together. Happy days.

Adding my Ogden to the plethora

There are so many gorgeous versions and terrific reviews of this pattern out there already. I probably don’t need to add anything further. But hey, since I’m here…

I bought this True Bias pattern ages ago but was waiting for summer to make itself felt before I made it up. I’m hoping the fact I’ve now made it won’t wreck the summer weather!

For PDF patterns, I’m most definitely a ‘send it to an online copy shop’ kind of woman (printyourpattern.com being my preferred one) rather than cutting and sticking the A4s together. Mostly this is to save time (so I can use it for actual sewing) but also because I am clearly just a bit rubbish at the sticking bit. No matter how carefully I cut and line up there are always bits that just won’t match up. Cue me getting frustrated and grumpy.

But this pattern is just 13 pages (if I remember correctly) so I felt I really could manage with this one! But again, perhaps just me, I really couldn’t get some bits to sit even close to having the size lines match up. I checked the test square, all was fine. But some pages had the completely wrong size lines butting together. Anyway, I did my best and re-blended several lines. I think I got it roughly right in the end! I should have spent more time on arts and crafts as a child.

I was in two minds (more like about four actually) as to what fabric from my stash would be the lucky winner for the wearable toile. The fabric I really wanted to use was a little heavier / less drapey than the pattern really calls for, but the other options seemed better suited (for various reasons) to other wearable toiles I have planned. So I decided to go for it with this lovely fabric:

It is a brushed cotton, medium weight and has a little drape but isn’t properly drapey.

For the pattern itself, I made a few changes.

Several reviews mention that it comes up large in the hips / sides, so I cut a size smaller than the chart measurements indicated. I then did an FBA to give me more space across the bust but also to create a bit more shaping. I definitely don’t suit boxy or unstructured styles, sadly. The dart helps a lot but I may rotate it into a french dart next time, to shape the sides more. I will probably take it in at the sides a touch as well.

I also lengthened the facing pieces by 3″ to cover the full extent of my bust and I widened the straps just a little (3/8″ in total) to give a better chance of covering the wider bra straps that tend to come with the size I wear (which helped but I will widen the straps by the same again next time).

Widening the straps meant I also had to widen the top of each shoulder piece on the front, back and facings so they would all still line up when sewn.

All of this meant I basically had to adjust every single pattern piece. Sigh. As I was doing this I mulled over the fact that this is why I tend to make several versions of patterns once I have adjusted them to fit me. I’m still pretty new at this pattern alteration stuff and it can take me a while to do all the alterations that I am learning I often need (FBA, sway back adjustment, forward shoulder adjustment, sometimes a wide rear adjustment…). I then want to make the time spent worth it and sew lots of versions of the pattern! It helps though that I really enjoy planning the looks and style I am after and coordinating them all, so everything all works together. Having multiple but different looking versions suits my style and sewing personality, I guess.

Anyway, leaving aside my random musings, once the pattern was all adjusted and ready, I had fun sewing this top. Even with all the stay stitching and understitching it is a fairly quick sew, but some nice touches to concentrate on like neatly attaching the shoulder straps.

(Worn here with my Ginger jeans and Bellatrix blazer)

I am very happy with the finished top. The fit across the neckline in particular is just as perfect as everyone says. My FBA had the effect of filling in more of the underarm area too and I didn’t redraw the curve as I suspected this would help to reduce any gaping / bra showing there (a fairly common occurrence for the busty amongst us). This seemed to work nicely, although I will adjust the pattern a little further to fill in some more space, as you can still see the side of my bra a bit. You can see a bit of the bra straps too and whilst I probably won’t be able to eradicate this completely, I will see if I can re-draft the strap area to cover them a bit more.

It is of course a little more stiff / thicker than ideal, as I knew it would be, but I love the colour and pattern on the fabric hugely. It looks nice tucked into jeans as above or loose over shorts (in fact this is what I am actually wearing as I type):

I’ll use the correctly drapey fabric for my next one though, as oh yes, there will be many more Ogdens whirring their way off my sewing machine 😁

An attempt at a border print

One of the patterns in my stash has been catching my eye recently. The McCall’s 7536 that came with one of the Love Sewing magazines:

I saw that it mentioned you could use it for border prints and realised I had exactly that in my fabric stash. A lovely muted navy blue cotton with large white appliqué flowers at the border that I had bought a while back from Minerva Crafts. I could immediately visualise it as view A and started working on the pattern.

I made quite a few adjustments, including my usual FBA (I went for 5/8″ this time) plus a half inch sway back adjustment. When I made the toile, I saw that I needed a bit more space over my back hip / rear area, and needed to pinch some excess from the top of the front princess seams to remove the armhole gaping. I also removed 1/2″ from each of the front and back shoulder seam. The back V also seemed to sit out a little so I had my husband pinch out a little dart there and pin it. It was his first time helping me with something like that – I think he was a bit nervous of sticking a pin into me, but he did a stellar job.

Once I’d marked the adjustments in pen on the calico toile and then measured and transferred them to the pattern, I was ready to cut out the proper fabric.

It was at this point that I realised the pattern was for using border prints along the top of the skirt waistline and the lower part of the bodice. Not at the skirt hem, where I was planning it. Hmmmpff. Of course, the photo on the pattern cover really should have been a clue…

The sloping hem line of the A-line skirt won’t give the straight edge you need for a border print. But with the appliqué flowers being bulky-ish I didn’t want them at the waistline. I wanted them on the hem, dammit.

I figured my options were:

  1. Put them at the waist as per the pattern and be constantly annoyed with the extra bulk in the area I least want more bulk;
  2. Use different fabric;
  3. Use a different pattern for the skirt bit so it has a straight hem (but I wanted the balance of the A-line look plus I didn’t think I would have enough fabric for e.g. a gathered skirt);
  4. Abandon this project for now and sew something else; or
  5. Crack on and sew it with the border at the hem anyway, it will just curve a bit, or have the lowest bit of the front hem showing more of the navy below the flowers. Or something. No idea how it will actually look once sewn.

You can guess which one I went with can’t you…

Stubborn is occasionally my middle name.

Sewing all went fairly smoothly, no major mishaps. I stay stitched the two V necklines in addition to the other bits of stay stitching mentioned in the instructions. I did find a few things amiss with the instructions and pattern though. The shoulders don’t match up on the pattern pieces, i.e. if you line them up on their seam lines as if sewn, the width of the shoulders doesn’t line up. I had to trim the back one in by around a centimetre.

Also, for version A it never tells you to sew up the side seams. It has the step for sewing the shoulder seams (and for the view B step it also says to sew the side seam). So fine, you add the capped sleeve for view A flat, great. But then (unless I am being completely blind in which case somebody please put me right!) it never says to sew the side seams during the rest of the instructions. You just notice in some of the later pictures that they are all of a sudden sewn together.

My final gripe about the instructions is that they give clear details about clipping, turning, pressing and basting the underarm seam for the lining, but never mention doing it for the main fabric. Yet when you come to hand stitch them together it is clear that you need to do this step for the main fabric too.

Now I know I have been spoilt by indie pattern companies like Tilly and the Buttons and their wonderful, clear instructions and I equally know the big four aren’t (generally) known for their instructions. But whilst I can cope with brief instructions, completely missing ones aren’t really ideal!

And on the point about the hand stitching of the arms holes, I know I have seen a blog tutorial somewhere about how to do a lined bodice with unlined sleeves by machine, all nice and neat. But I thought I would follow the instructions within this pattern to use hand stitching. I’m not as averse to hand stitching as I used to be, however I still don’t love it. Suffice to say that hasn’t changed! Next time I make this pattern I will dig out the machine method and try that instead.

Anyway, on to the dress itself. Did it work? Do I like it?

The answers are yes and yes.

Whilst the border pattern isn’t completely even at the bottom, it doesn’t jump out as wrong (to me, anyway 😄) because the border pattern itself isn’t in a straight line, so I think I got away with it.

(I didn’t have enough fabric to try pattern matching, as you can see!)

I really like the finished dress and the way it fits. In a further version I think I need a small-ish full rear adjustment as there is some pulling across the back (you can see it a bit in the last photo above). Or perhaps I need to convert the ease stitching at the back into a small dart. I will also add some height to the pattern at the front underarm to raise this area as you can see my bra a little.

The sleeves sit out in a more structured way that it looked on the envelope, but that is probably down to the fabric I used. And I really like them like that anyway, I think it balances me out and gives an interesting semi-structural looking detail.

So all in all, I’m counting this one as a success. Hooray, my stubbornness actually paid off!

Aglane? Langes?

Hmmm, unlike loads of clever bloggers, I seem to be struggling to find a way to name the Frankenstein pattern I’ve made!

It is a mix of the Agnes top from Tilly and the Buttons:

(photo from Tilly and the Buttons website)

with the newly released Lane dress from Seamwork:

(photo from Seamwork website)

Clearly I should have chosen different patterns so they would make a better, snazzier, blended name. Happily, the blending of the patterns themselves was a lot more successful!

I have been mulling over a design in my head for a while now. I wanted a short, fitted dress, with ties at the side that pull the dress in a little / create shape. But not a wrap dress, just with the ties sewn into the sides. I wanted it to have a scoop neck and short sleeves with a ruched / puffed detail. I had already decided that Agnes would be a great starting point for the sleeves and neck and had thought I would blend it with my knit skirt sloper for the skirt part. I had bought the fabric I wanted for it, a ponte Roma from Minerva Crafts in the colour ‘denim’. I really like it and felt it would be perfect for the sort of look I was after (link here if anyone is interested, not an affiliate one: Ponte Roma in denim colour)

And then, lo and behold, one of the patterns that Seamwork released for May is the Lane dress, a lovely looking style with princess seams and the perfect waist ties I had been dreaming of. It is a longer length than I wanted but that is easily fixed. But no sleeves. So I figured I could have a go at adding the Agnes sleeves. My rudimentary pattern drafting knowledge meant I was vaguely aware sleeveless bodices and sleeved bodices have a few drafting differences and that drafting sleeves is a bit technical. But I figured using the rouched version of Agnes would mean I could just gather more or less of the sleeve head to fit the armhole.

Through sheer luck, this turned out to be the case and I didn’t have any problems getting the sleeves in. And they look exactly as I’d wanted. Hooray!

However, when it was mostly constructed I tried it on and the dress itself didn’t look that great. It wasn’t shaped enough under my bust so it wasn’t very flattering and the waist ties consequently looked too high and bulky. Plus the length was still too long and made it look a tad frumpy. And the scoop neck wasn’t the right shape / size for me either.

I was disappointed but decided to hack away and see what I could do to improve it. I figured I had nothing to lose…

I cut off the neckband (and I don’t mean unpicked it, I just cut off the whole thing along with the bit of the bodice it was attached to). I then cut a bigger, more scooped neckline, measured that and cut a new neckband which was 15% shorter.

I took in more of the princess seams under the bust and I shortened the skirt length further.

And with these three changes I finally had pretty much the dress I had imagined and been trying to achieve.

It’s safe to say this won’t be my last one of this dress. I just have to work out what to call it…

#MeMadeMay2018 – part 1

Along with most (all?!) of the sewing world, I have been taking part in Me Made May.

This lovely challenge, brainchild of So Zo What Do You Know, has you choose and make your own personal pledge about how you will focus on wearing your me made wardrobe over the course of the month. You can pledge to wear all me mades, or just once a week, or week days / weekends only etc. Whatever is achievable but still a challenge.

What most people take out of it is a chance to review what they have made, what they actually wear, what wardrobe gaps need to be filled and so forth. I have been looking forward to taking part in this ever since I first heard about it when I started sewing last June.

My pledge was to wear at least one me made item per day and to make at least four more garments over the course of the month.

So how am I finding it so far?

Very interesting, is the short summary! I have already been focusing on wearing me mades a lot more recently anyway, as I feel so great wearing something I have dreamed up and then created myself.

But making sure I wear something me made every day is making me think even more about my wardrobe and how it fits together. I have also been trying to wear some of the items I made at the beginning, which I haven’t always worn very much. I want to see what I like / don’t like about them, what I know now about how I can improve the fit (both with my improving skills and also given the intervening 10kg weight loss). I have been assessing whether I like the item enough to try to alter it, or remake the pattern in a different size.

And it has all been really enjoyable. A contemplative, reflective process. I can also spot a couple of gaps that I would like to fill, like a navy short skirt to replace a RTW one that is a huge workhorse in my wardrobe but starting to look a bit old.

Here are the photos (rough and ready!) I have quickly snapped so far, to record exactly what me mades I have been wearing and what I’ve worn them with:

On the making front, I have also made the following so far:

(I’ve posted about the first one already and will add posts about the last two when I get a chance.)

The other interesting thing I’ve found is that the challenge has pushed me into addressing my ‘unfinished /unworn’ pile. Like finishing my Rosa shirt dress that has been sitting nearly finished (just needing the buttons and hemming) for months! I finally felt incentivised to do this and now really like the end result! I took it in at the sides a bit as it was too big in parts now. The bust is still a tad big but there is no way I am unpicking and redoing all those faux flat fell princess seams! 🤣

I also tried on the Bettine dress that I made and never wore as it was too tight. It now fits nicely and I was inspired to unpick and resew the lower side seams and hem in that area to adjust the way it hung, as it was a bit pinched from how I’d sewn it in my early sewing days. It is great to now have this as another dress to wear. And it turns out it goes perfectly with my new sandals. Bonus! It isn’t really the best / most flattering style on me I suppose, but for an easy, throw on dress for home working days etc, it will do nicely.

A trio of summer dresses

So all we need now is summer ☀️

In order of sewing (and hanging left to right):

  • Kew dress from Nina Lee
  • Joni dress from Stretch book by Tilly and the Buttons
  • Simplicity Amazing Fit 1800

The Kew dress is fantastic, a lovely fit in the bodice in the end. I did a FBA of an inch, but the darts are already pretty wide as drafted, so when I then did a dart to remove gaping at the underarm and rotated that into the existing bust dart it ended up huge. Like well over four inches huge. After a head scratching moment when the toile looked as pointy as I thought it might, I redrafted it for only 1/2″ FBA. I also split the rotated underarm dart between the waist dart and the bust dart.

And I’m really happy with the finished fit at the bodice.

The dress as a whole fits really nicely, in fact. A little snug round the waist but nothing the current diet won’t fix in another kilo or two!

The only thing I struggled with when sewing up this dress was the flappy bits (technical term) over the arms. I think I was just having a dense moment that day, but for the life of me I couldn’t see how to attach them so they went straight and flat across, rather than the twist you can see in these photos. I even took them off after basting and rebasted them. But I ended up with the same placement. The instructions and pictures aren’t super clear here (for me anyway, but see reference to dense moment above!), and you can’t entirely see how it is all going to come together when you have the pieces inside out and the facing still to attach. Basically I think it was me though, I’m sure others have worked it out fine!

So I gave up and just sewed them as they were. It’s a design decision of course. And now that I’ve looked at it all made up I think I can see how I should have done it. A duh moment.

Anyway, I will definitely be making this again so I’ll get it right next time!

The second dress is from Tilly’s new book. I’ve already made and love the Freya top with extended Polo neck. I wasn’t sure if the Joni would suit me given my bust, but decided what the hell. And I’m so glad I tried it as it is fab and really flattering. It was also really easy to sew up. I think the directions for the twisting could have been a soupçon clearer but it wasn’t too tricky.

As you can see, I went with one of the additional hack options from Tilly’s book, the self-drafted flutter sleeve, which I love.

The only thing I would say is that the circle mark at the neckline seems to be in the wrong place. The instructions have you clip to 15mm at the circle. But for most of the sizes the circle is much deeper into the fabric. So I had to decide whether to cut to the circle and fudge the rest of the seam allowance when sewing that area, or trim to 15mm not reaching the circle. It was hard to know what to do when trying to picture how it was all going to come together. I went with the latter option but this meant the neckline had an extra 15mm loose once it was turned and sewn, rather than the edges lining up neatly. I just hand-sewed these bits together and it looks fine, but it’s the first slightly unclear instruction I’ve found in any Tilly pattern. Unless I got it wrong, which is always a possibility!

The other thing is that the twisting seems a bit harder to do and still match up the centre seam for sewing when doing the bigger sizes, as there is more fabric in the way. Still manageable, you just have to tug and pull at it all to get it lined up.

Again, I will be making loads more Jonis!

And finally, the Amazing Fit dress. I wanted to try one of these as it has the separate bust pieces for A-DD cup sizes. These don’t translate to your actual cup size, rather it is the amount of difference between your high bust and your full bust measurements. Mine is 5″ difference which made me a DD Cup.

My version of the pattern only went up to the D cup option, so I went with that. I didn’t make any other changes as I wanted to see how the D cup fitted. And the answer is – pretty good, but I think the DD would have been better, or maybe I still need to lengthen the bodice a bit. I usually have to do this with bodice patterns / do an FBA which adds length, but I wasn’t sure if I would still need to given the multiple cup sizes. This pattern has more of an empire line, which doesn’t always suit me, but I sewed down the pleats for 1.5″ to make the waistline more fitted and I think this helped.

I wanted this dress as a more casual, throw on kind of option, which I think it will do well. It feels breezy, summery and casual, whilst still looking reasonably ‘put together’.

I did manage to add an element of drama though, with the overlocker eating the fabric! I was trying to play with the tension and wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have. I realised with horror I had cut into the fabric itself, just by the side seam at the back. I rescued it, more or less, by ironing on some interfacing behind the cut, adding some Seam Fray and sewing around the hole to reinforce things. Fortunately the floral pattern helps to hide it too. What an idiot though! I won’t be doing that again <she says optimistically>

Ah well, it had to happen at some point and at least it isn’t too obvious!

I’m really pleased with all three dresses, hopefully they will all be useful additions that get lots of wear over the summer.

Crikey, I’ve actually made jeans!

Proper jeans, with rivets and coin pockets and miles of top stitching. And they fit! All very miraculous.

It is of course the Ginger Jeans pattern from Closet Case. I chose these as a) I love the look of the high rise option, b) I have read so many blog posts and reviews about them and everyone, without exception, enthuses about the pattern, and c) Heather Lou (of Closet Case) has a huge amount of help on her website for making them, including blog posts, a comprehensive photographic fitting guide, a sewalong and an online course you can buy. The latter of which I did, and can highly recommend. I also bought the jeans hardware kit that Closet Case sells, so that I would know I was using the right bits and pieces.

After my last trouser making foray (see my last post) I felt I had learnt enough to try making proper jeans. I was having a ‘how hard can it be?!’ moment, it appears.

And fortunately, it all worked out more or less ok.

The cutting out process was a bit painful, as it is recommended you cut out in a single layer to stop the legs twisting. The only flat space I had that was almost big enough was in our upper hallway landing, which only just fit the fabric and me. I had to scamper my way round holding onto door frames to avoid stepping on the fabric! And had very sore knees by the end! It took three hours in total to cut everything out and do the interfacing. I’m hoping it will be a bit quicker next time.

The next step was working out the machine tension for the top stitching.

Everything I had read indicated that getting your machine to work properly with the thicker topstitching thread is one of the trickier bits of making jeans. As you can see, the problem my machine had was with the bobbin tension. I ended up with the tension at 8 and the stitch length at 3. It wasn’t perfect from the underneath bobbin side of the stitching, but it was ok and looked good from the top.

My machine did struggle a bit with the top stitching on the parts with seriously multiple layers of denim, and it didn’t like backstitching with it. But with some full on cranking of the handwheel when things got stuck, and the odd occasion of cutting away stuck threads from within the bobbin case, I (and the fabric!) made it through fairly unscathed.

My first bits of top stitching:

Constructing the front involves all the multiple pocket pieces and facings, getting them in the right order, position and the right way up, clipping, turning and toptstitching. All lots of fun and very satisfying when it all lines up. Even if some of the time I really couldn’t envisage how it was all going to come together. And I did manage to sew the coin pocket on the left side rather than the right. Hey ho, I’m calling it one of my personalisation details 😄.

The only thing that really went a little wrong with these jeans was the fly front. Probably not that surprising! I very nearly got it right, but think I positioned the zip just a little too far over. It meant I had very little space to get in the two lines of top stitching, and the thread was very close to the zip teeth when I did the second row. In fact I found I could barely unzip the fly, which would make the jeans a tad pointless! So I unpicked the second, inner topstitching and decided I would just have to live with only having one row.

But I really wasn’t happy with how that looked. And later on when trying them on as a basted trial run, I found I had a strange hole at the bottom on the zip front area where the bottom of the zip hadn’t been caught properly in the stitching, which was just too low. I slept on it and the next day I unpicked the bar tack (which had actually gone in quite well!) and the bottom bit of the topstitching around the fly front. I re-sewed it in about an inch higher. It makes the curve of the stitching line a bit square, but it fixed the hole problem and I also found I could sneak a second line of stitching in. Yay! This area has turned out to be the worst bit of the topstitching I did on the jeans, but actually I’m ok with it. It’s not horribly wobbly and probably no one else is staring at my crotch, as Heather Lou would say. Plus, hell, I made jeans!!

So, a few other notes:

  • I sewed the back pockets on whilst the back legs were still separate. Heather Lou recommends doing a pocket fitting later in the process to see what position suits you best, but I wanted to sew them on whilst the pieces were flat, to make it easier for my first pair. I positioned them up very slightly, so the second row of topstitching was in line with the tailor tacks (yes, surprising even myself, I am starting to use tailor tacks fairly often!). When trying on the basted pair I realised the back pockets sat out too wide. More or less ending at the very side of my behind / hips. Not really the look I was after – making my behind look wider! I couldn’t bear the thought of unpicking all that topstitching and redoing them so I came up with another solution. When sewing the jeans together properly, I used a 20mm seam allowance along the back crotch seam and a 12mm allowance on the side seams adjacent to the pockets. This brought the pockets into the centre a little more but gave me the same circumference.
  • I also blended the two views of the pattern together at the cutting stage, so I had the high rise waist with the stovepipe legs. At the basting stage I decided to slim the legs down a bit more. I still kept the straight leg but from the top of my thigh down I used a 20mm seam allowance on both the inseam and the outer seam

Anyway, more photos:

The buttonhole went in well, hallelujah. I had done a test run on an interfaced scrap of the denim but was still very nervous of ruining my almost finished jeans. Installing the button and the rivets is great fun. You can see my high tech rivet-installing kit in the photos above!

I took about 3 or 4 cm off the final length of the jeans to get them the perfect length. I compared their inseam to the ones on a couple of RTW pairs of jeans and worked out where I wanted them to end. They then hemmed up like a dream and ta dah! Jeans!

And another one of my #makenine ticked off.

I am so thrilled with these jeans. Yes they are not perfect (the zip doesn’t like pulling up past the pocket stay when they are on, but luckily I can get them on with the zip done up to just past that section) but I made them. And I really wouldn’t have believed I could do that, even a few months ago.

So of course, having finished them, the weather in the UK immediately turned unbelievably lovely with temperatures in the mid 20s. In April. Yes, that same April where it snowed on the 1st of it. Hence I haven’t been able to wear my happy-making jeans yet. But I’ve just started working on two summer dresses, so it’s bound to turn cold and rainy again next week…

Trousers!

So I have taken the plunge and made trousers.

From the various blogs and books I’ve read, the challenge in making trousers isn’t really with the sewing of them (save for mastering a fly insertion, potentially complicated pockets and dealing with top stitching, depending on the style) but in the fitting issues they bring. All sorts of new terminology arises, like crotch depth and length, smile lines, frown lines, scooping the crotch… Quite a lot about crotches really.

As I understand it, you can have problems trying to work out what is causing the fit problems, as it may actually be something unrelated to what you think is causing the issue.

So I decided that my first pair of trousers would be the new Sew Over It Ultimate Culottes. My thought process for this ran along the following lines:

  • Culottes seem to be the latest on trend thing in the sewing world and whilst I’m not too worried about being particularly on trend, you do get inspired when you see people’s versions of culottes starting to pop up on Pinterest etc, plus pattern designers start coming out with their own take on the look, increasing the chances of finding a version I think will look right on my shape and height;
  • Culottes should be great for summer, being breezy, non rub-inducing in the (hopefully) hot sweaty weather – basically a great blend of skirt and shorts; and
  • As they are not a skinny fitting trouser all down the leg, there should (also hopefully!) be slightly fewer fitting issues to grapple with.

I did a shorts length version muslin, to see if I could spot anything that needed changing in the pattern, before I cut out my wearable toile version. I also removed about 7 inches in length from the pattern itself as I knew I wanted them to be around knee length. The pattern seemed pretty long as drafted and would have put them near my ankles!

The muslin showed I needed to take a wedge out of the front crotch, which I did with a dart to check it looked about right. It seemed to and hence I sallied forth.

The sewing process all went pretty well. I machine sewed the waistband lining into place rather than hand sewing it, and it looks very nice. Probably a little less polished on the inside, but still pretty clean.

The only real problem I had with the pattern instructions was with the belt loops. I pressed the seams of the loops to roll them to the back slightly, so the seam would be hidden. The instructions said to pin and stitch them right sides together. As I hadn’t really envisaged how it would all look when turned the right way round, I only realised after sewing it all up that of course my loop seams were now all clearly showing from the right side. Sigh.

I unpicked the waistband at each of the five loops, took them out, repositioned them and sewed it all up again.

Much better!

Unfortunately, at this stage when I tried the culottes on it became apparent that my shortening of the crotch wasn’t enough. They sat far too low and felt uncomfortable with the seam rubbing. I didn’t know what to do as I couldn’t fix it by scooping out the crotch or taking in side seams etc. The area simply needed more fabric so the seam sat higher. A bit hard to do that retrospectively!

I didn’t know whether just to try to wear them as is, ditch( i.e. give them to a charity shop) as a pure learning exercise, or find some other way to improve the fit. After sleeping on it I thought it might work if I took off the waistband and removed an inch or so from the top of the trousers, then sewed the waistband back on so that the crotch would sit higher.

I think it is a sign of my slowly increasing confidence with this whole sewing business that I decided to go with option c. Even after I realised this would also involve taking out and moving the invisible zip! Oh yes, and increasing each of the dart intakes so the measurements for the top of the trousers would match the waistband.

I tried it out roughly on the original muslin first, to check it would do as I needed.

Excuse the dodgy photos! The joys of sewing in my gym gear.

Anyway, it felt like it might work and I figured I had nothing to lose, so I pressed on.

This is how much I cut off in the end. And they now fit much better, hooray! I also shortened the length even further as I very rarely suit things at mid calf length and these were still too long, even after shortening the pattern at the start.

So, here they are, styled a bit tongue in cheek with a nod to their 70s vibe.

After all that, I’m not 100% they really suit me though! I think the proportions may make my bottom look a bit long and my torso a bit short. But I will try them on with a few other tops and see how they look. I’m sure I’ll wear them anyway, as a useful sort of thing to throw on for every day stuff. Made in this chambray viscose material, they should certainly go with loads of colours.

All in all I’m pretty happy with how my first trouser making experience went. And so onto the second pair…

Three jersey tops and a mini skirt

(Oh dear, that sounds a bit like one of Richard Curtis’s less successful film titles. Ah well!)

At the moment I have a lots of projects lined up in my ‘to make’ queue and I’ve been mulling over what I should start on next. Should I tackle one of the tricky trousers or jeans projects? Or start on the wearable toile of the Kew dress by Nina Lee that I can’t wait to try? Or be a bit more practical and sew up some more basics that I can add to my everyday wardrobe?

I decided to put off a) for just a little longer and to wait for the weather to improve before starting b) (the snow that appeared at the weekend vindicated that decision!). Which left c).

I bought some lovely deep blue – grey marl jersey from Girl Charlee at the Knitting & Stitching Show the other week, so decided I would whip up another Agnes top, given how much I love wearing my blue striped one.

The joy of this pattern + that I have made a few of these and other jersey tops meant it took me less than two hours from start to finish, including cutting out. A very satisfying, quick sew.

Feeling on a roll, I decided to crack on with the next version of the Astoria sweater I had planned, using the gorgeous grey Atelier Brunette sweatshirt material I had bought for it.

I graded down the side seams and shoulders a touch, to account for me being a bit smaller since making the last one. And then with a deep breath I cut into the meltingly soft material. And again, hurrah, it sewed up very easily in under two hours. I did the same 2.5 inch lengthening and dartless FBA (full bust adjustment) that I made to the last version and with these I love the feel and fit of this top. I have worn it twice since making it already – a definite wardrobe staple.

Ooh, pretty spots 😄

At this point I thought hey, let’s just keep going! I had pre-ordered the new Tilly and the Buttons ‘Stretch’ book as soon as I heard about it and when it arrived last week I devoured it cover to cover in one sitting. Since then I have had ideas buzzing around my head as to what patterns I would make from the book. I thought the Freya top (with the extended polo neck) would be a fantastic pattern to use with some navy merino jersey I have from The Fabric Store (in NZ). Something snugly and warm for winter, which clearly has no plans to go anywhere.

I wanted to check the fit first before using the merino jersey though, so I used a bit of fabric from a larger piece of blue / sea green jersey that I bought from Minerva Crafts a while back. I should check how much I actually used as there is still loads left. I’m pretty sure the top took a little less than the fabric requirements given for the pattern.

Even with tracing and grading the pattern between the sizes I needed, it was still around two hours to make this. Not, I hasten to add, because of any particular sewing skills on my part, but because Tilly’s patterns and instructions are awesome and the construction is similar to the Agnes top, so I was on familiar ground.

This was meant to be a wearable toile (I’m such a fan of those!) but it fits beautifully and I completely love it! The colour and weight / feel of this jersey works surprisingly well with this pattern, considering it was just a random bit from my stash. I will definitely be making more tops using this pattern – and am now musing what else I can make with the rest of this fabric!

Happily, it also looks nice with the necklace that was part of the prompt for considering making a polo top in the first place. Trinny and Susannah probably wouldn’t approve though.

Seeing as these tops came together so quickly, I realised I might be able to squeeze one more make into this surprisingly productive week. Now that I have my new revised skirt sloper to play around with, I thought I would make another easy pegged mini (ish) skirt from a very cheap piece of fabric I bought on impulse from Minerva Crafts a while back. I’m not sure I could pull this design off with other sorts of patterns (shiny velour animal print might be a tad Bet Lynch!) but I thought it would work on me as a simple skirt.

With no vent and only a simple overlocked stretch lining, this skirt is pretty quick to make too. However, I have clearly mucked up when measuring my waistband sloper piece, as somehow it seems to be half an inch smaller than the top of the skirt. Which of course I only realised when I came to sew it to the already cut and constructed skirt pieces. I had the choice of recutting another waistband and interfacing or cutting the centre back pieces of the skirt down by the half inch. I went for the latter option and hoped the skirt wouldn’t end up too tight! Diet incentive if so…

I doubt I’ll have such a productive week again for a while, but I’m pretty chuffed to have four more things to add to my ‘me made’ wardrobe – and such practical, easy-wearing ones as these too.

A faux suede skirt

Fresh on the heels of making my new skirt sloper, I decided to make a shortish fitted skirt from a stunning piece of navy faux suede that I bought a while ago. I knew it would be a bit of a tricky fabric to sew with, so I had put it to the side till I felt a little more ready.

In a burst of confidence, I decided to charge on it.

Being a sensible person (😄) I did a LOT of test stitching on fabric scraps to work out the best needle / tension / stitch combo. Which was a good thing as indeed this fabric was tricky. I had skipped stitches all over the place. Never have I done so much test stitching!

I tried a leather needle, thinking suede would be similar in requirements. Nope. The perfect combo ended up being a heavy jersey needle (16/100) as it is actually a stretch faux suede, with a tension all the up to the max of 9 and a stitch length of 3. I then crossed my fingers for every dart and seam sewed for no skipped stitches!

Happily there was only one seam where a few stitches skipped and it was easy to resew that bit.

As the first skirt I made with this new sloper felt a tiny bit snug, I added a little extra to the seams of this skirt when cutting it out. I should have trusted myself / my measurements as I ended up having to cut it back out again plus a bit more! The stretch no doubt helped here too.

So, photo time.

I used my quilters clips instead of pins so as not to leave holes. I also didn’t think fusible interfacing would bond to the suede surface so I used silk organza instead as a sew in interfacing. It worked well although at first the waistband made a slight scrunchy sound when I moved! It seems to have softened in now though. I also lined the skirt with some stretch lining from Minerva Crafts.

I’m thrilled with the finished skirt. It fits really nicely and the faux suede gives it a lovely look and feel, just something a bit more special and elevated than the skirt would otherwise be.

My ‘proper’ Coppelia, at last – a.k.a my kiwi make

So when I first saw + loved + purchased the Coppelia pattern from NZ company Papercut Patterns, I knew I wanted to make it in a beautiful merino jersey from the Fabric Store, also in NZ.

But as you would expect, merino jersey is not cheap, so I wanted to make a few versions in cheaper cotton jersey first to get the fit and sewing techniques spot on before cutting into my precious merino jersey.

Having made three Coppelias now, albeit one a slight failure(!), I felt ready to go for it. The only question being which of my stunning merino fabric colours to use. I decided that I would use the pale grey as I really wanted a top in this colour as part of my planned wardrobe. Plus I’ve decided to use the navy for a polo neck / skivvy from the new Tilly and the Buttons book. More on that in another post!

So the big moment of cutting. Eek.

In fact, it all went pretty smoothly, which was a nice change after my botched efforts on the previous navy version!

I have finally worked out exactly how to do the neckband sewing so that it is pulled tight enough to give a snug non-gapey fit around the neck and bust but not so tight that it distorts and twists at the point that it needs to sew flat into the waist band / ties.

My trick was to pull it tight as sewing it all the way round save for the last 10cm before hitting each bottom end. At that 10cm mark I just eased of and barely pulled the neck band at all. I then left the extra hanging tail bit there right until the last possible stage of construction, rather than trimming it off as soon as I finished sewing it on. The photos show this all a bit more.

And as if by magic, I ended up with a nicely finished neckband meeting waistband.

The finished cardigan looks lovely and I am really happy with it.

I somehow managed to cut the cuffs with the stretch going in the wrong direction, so they are very fitted. But I actually realised what I’d done before sewing them on and could have re-cut some more, but I like the look of super fitted cuffs so decided to press on and sew them as cut. Fortunately I’m pleased with that decision!

So all in all, a really successful make. The only very tiny negative is that even with the grading that I did of the seam allowances, it is a slight bit bulkier around the waistband than I would prefer in an ideal world, but nothing too problematic. It has made me realise though that it would be even more bulky if I made this pattern up in the pale pink Atelier Brunette sweatshirt fabric that I have, which was my next plan. I guess I will just have to find something else to make with that beautiful fabric!

My first jacket part 2

Right, the page kept crashing when trying to finish off my jacket post, so after multiple attempts, I gave up and will finish it off in this separate post! I think it was the number of photos in the last post that did it…

So anyway, here are the photos of the final stage of the jacket construction:

The bagging method for the lining looks like one big hot mess whilst you are in the middle of it and you just have to cross your fingers and hope it all comes out correctly. As quite frankly at this point you are pretty sure it is going to be a bit of a disaster.

But as if by magic (and I did show it to the girls and Ben billed as a magic trick – I think I may have over sold it as they wondered where the rabbit was) you end up with a jacket. That actually looks like a jacket.

And fits like a jacket.

I am beyond chuffed with the fact that I made this. It isn’t perfect but it is a huge amount better than I thought my first jacket would be! I have plans to make this a couple more time in some different types of fabric and then when I really feel I have nailed the fit and construction, I plan to treat myself by buying a piece of beautiful Linton tweed, which is the company from the north of England that makes the tweed for Chanel…

Perhaps a little something like this?…

And on that note, à bientôt.