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.

My first jacket

I have quite a few jackets and coats lined up in my pattern stash / ‘to make’ queue. I’ve been watching various online courses on Craftsy about tailoring jackets and all the techniques involved, as well as reading up on tips from various sewing blogs. I also bought this book:

So I thought it was about time I dived on in! It is also one of the patterns on my make nine list, so it will be a doubly satisfying tick when I finish this.

I am starting with the simplest of my jacket patterns though, with no collar, no closures, three quarter sleeves with no plackets and a cropped length. It is the jacket that comes as part of pattern New Look 6390.

It has the slight feel of a Chanel style French jacket but with more shaping via princess seams, which will be better for me than the boxier shape.

The pattern is for a lined jacket but not including the sleeves. I want the whole thing lined so will add a sleeve lining as well.

I also want to bag the lining as this is a technique I want to learn. From reading up on it, you need to have a neck facing to be able to bag the lining, which this pattern doesn’t actually have. I therefore redrafted the back piece to create the neck facing, which I think will give it a better finish and more structure anyway.

Plus I added in a 1 inch pleat to the centre of the back lining, which is the advice for the best linings, giving more movement and wearing space.

I also did a two inch FBA (so 4 inch in total) as this pattern doesn’t go up to my size so I needed to increase that. Plus I usually need to do one anyway!

The main fabric I’m using is a cheap poly jacquard, £5 for the metre of fabric I need for this jacket. It is a darker navy than I wanted but at £5 a metre I’m not complaining!

And I did actually make up a muslin first! Yay me! I really want to nail the fit of this jacket as I think / hope it will be a really good shape for me and one I can make up in different sorts of fabric to get completely different looks.

As you can see from the pen, I did make a fair few adjustments. The pattern size I cut was basically too big, which was a nice surprise! I had to reduce the FBA down a bit and remove some from the side seams. The shoulders are also sitting out a little wide but I think a small shoulder pad will sort that out and again shoulder pads are something I want to learn how to insert.

It looked much better after those adjustments. I think the sleeves may need some alterations too but I decided to press on with making the wearable toile, where I should be able to see the required changes more easily.

So on to the cutting out. I’m using a lovely dusky lilac for the lining.

There is a lot of pressing involved in jacket tailoring! My trusty ham and seam roll (sounds a bit like the girls’ lunch…) are being well used.

I tried the garment on as it was coming together, to check the fit. Turns out it was still too big and not the fitted look I was after. So I made more adjustments by pinning the jacket.

Basically, the princess seam didn’t sit in the right place. I would need to move that seam across including removing some fabric from the seam where the centre front meets the side front and also removing about a further inch from both sides. I also would need to move the front opening edges in by around an inch.

Having worked out what changes were needed and pinned / marked them on the fabric with chalk, I then unpicked the seams involved and worked out how to to recut the relevant bits (a bit tricky on the princess seams!). Then I transferred the adjusted marks to the pattern itself so it is ready for the next one.

It looked much better after this last round of adjustments.

I then trimmed the unsewn facing and lining pieces the same way – much easier doing these whilst still flat!

And so onto constructing the rest of the jacket.

A few glitches, like forgetting about the allowance for the pleat I had added to the back lining and just sewing it in flat to the facing. Whoops. I contemplated unpicking it all but I didn’t think the lining would stand up to that very well so I recut more back lining and neck facing pieces and resewed them. Correctly this time.

I also have a sneaking suspicion I may have sewn the main fabric sleeves on backwards. Ie the back of the sleeve is facing the front. It isn’t obvious and I’m not completely sure that’s what I’ve done. Basically I mistakenly cut an extra notch in the front of the sleeve when cutting out so it ended up with a double notch the same as the back of the sleeve. Hence two double notches instead of one single and one double! As there was a couple of days gap between the cutting and sewing of this I forgot about the notch issue and only remembered after the first sleeve was sewn in.

Anyway, it isn’t too obvious and lesson learnt!

So it has all come together well so far (above issues aside!).

I’m not sure whether to use the shoulder pads or not. I may leave them out this time as the jacket isn’t designed for them and I don’t want to inadvertently make the armsythes too high / tight. I will wear this one around for a bit to get a proper feel of it and then decide what to do on version 2.

And now for the biggie! The final step of attaching the lining to the main jacket, by bagging it.

I am still slightly unclear on how much shorter I should cut the lining so that when attached it acts to pull the main fabric up and under, hiding the lining. I think 5/8ths of an inch is the right amount, but we shall see!

I’ve also adjusted the sleeve hem lining to remove the hem allowance of 1 1/4 inches and then add on the 5/8ths seam allowance. Again, I’m hoping this is right because of course none of this is covered by the pattern instructions. Winging it, is the phrase…

A bit of a fail

So, my ‘buttons instead of ties’ hack of the Coppelia did not exactly go well.

It all started swimmingly, and was sewing up very nicely. I extended the waistband pieces by one inch each to give more room for the burrito. This definitely helped although was still a bit tricky and fiddly.

But the problems started where the neckline meets the waistband.

Problem 1. In my measuring for adjusting the waistband length for the button hack, I forgot to account for the fact that the neckband edges go inside the waistband. So the waistband measurement needs to include the neckband short edge width. Which I hadn’t done.

The ends therefore didn’t get sewn up in the waistband. I had to bodge them (again) which left them very bulky and a bit rubbish looking.

Never mind, I thought, at least one of them is hidden when it is done up. And the other will be a bit masked by the outer button.

But it really did look terrible.

Long story short, I cut off my beautifully applied burrito waistband, cut new waistband pieces and start again.

And then resewed the waistband using the instructions from the pattern rather than a burrito. My machine isn’t so keen on top stitching this sort of fabric but I did a better job than on my first Coppelia.

So, smooth sailing now you think? Sadly, no.

Problem 2. Because of the way you pull the neck band tightly to sew it on, which creates the hugging / snug fit to the body hence no gaping, it ends up distorting and pulling the material at the waist band connection point. I have FINALLY worked out how this is best to handle and where to trim the ends off. But unfortunately the lightbulb moment happened AFTER I had already trimmed the neckband too short.

So yet more bodging of the corners was required. I was losing my sense of humour a little at this point.

And then I discovered that the botched, bulky corners wouldn’t fit under the machine to be able to add the button holes. Sigh. With jersey not fraying, I just cut out some of the inside layers. It really wasn’t going well! This make became a testament to my sheer bloody mindedness – and determination to have a navy top!

And so onto the next problem. Yes, there is yet another one. (I have lost count of what number we are up to at this point)

I had interfaced the waistband in anticipation of needing the extra structure to be able to add button holes to jersey. But with my cutting and replacing the waistband I lost that bit. I’m not sure what difference it would have made anyway, but certainly as the top stood, my machine just wouldn’t sew a buttonhole. The buttonhole foot just jammed on the material and sewed madly in the same place or if I pulled it taut to help move it along the fabric stretched out so the buttonhole was crazy long and not the right size. Nor would it turn at the top to complete the second side of the button hole either.

Here is the practice run I did on some scraps. Oh yes, I tried stabilizing with silk organza squares. Didn’t work.

Double sigh. So I just cut a button hole straight through the fabric at the corner, then hand sewed round the edges and sewed on the buttons.

Finished, you think? Technically yes. But between cutting off the neckband, the corner bodging, the buttonhole dramas, and possibly just that the top needs the ties to pull it tight, the top was just too big around the waist. It hung and flapped, not at all how I wanted it. You can kind of see it in these photos but trust me, it was far more obvious in real life.

I finally had to accept that this top just wasn’t going to happen. Pretty disappointing. But all a good learning curve I suppose! And as a silver lining at least I didn’t do this on my beautiful merino fabric!

I worked out a way to sort of salvage it, by tying the two side pieces together in the middle, trimming and stitching them and effectively turning it into a very cropped, pull on, bolero type top to go over a dress or vest top. Not sure how much use it will get, but at least I ended up with something after all that struggle!

Hmmm, do you know, I think I actually quite like it…

Make Nine

I have seen this sewing blogger event mentioned on lots of blogs since I have started sewing (along with Me Made May, which I fully intend on diving into in May!). And now that a new year is underway, I’ve put together my own Make Nine.

In fact, I’ve actually planned a lot more than nine. But more on that in another post!

For now, I’ve managed to narrow it down to the top nine that reflect the items I want to be able to make by end of this year, as well as being part of my wardrobe coordination plan.

I could have done Make 20 I think, but here is my funky little grid of pleasurable anticipation and planning, aka Make Nine:

  • Top row L to R – Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers (I am going to attend the workshop for these in Clapham); True Bias Ogden Cami; Sewaholic Thurlow shorts
  • Middle row L to R – Papercut Patterns Coppelia cropped cardy; Papercut Patterns Bellatrix Blazer: New Look 6344
  • Bottom row L to R – New Look 6390 (the cropped jacket and view C); By Hand London Rumana coat; Closet Case Patterns Ginger jeans

The Rumana coat will be the last make I’m sure, both due to it’s complexity and high skill level, but also as I won’t have the skills to make it for the present winter, so it will then need to wait till nearer next winter.

Once I have done the Ultimate Trousers course in Clapham, I then plan to tackle the Ginger jeans and Thurlow shorts. The summery tops will also be in a couple of months, so that they will be the right size for me at the point in the year I will actually be wearing them.

The Coppelia I have already made a wearable toile for, with a second one already cut and partly made. So I guess I could technically claim I’ve already ticked off one make! I’ll wait till I do the proper one for that though. But I do feel like I am underway anyway!

That leaves two patterns for the choice of what to tackle next after the Coppelia – the New Look 6390 or the Bellatrix. The New Look cropped jacket looks to be a simpler construction so I will start with that and hopefully it will teach me a few things that will be useful for the Bellatrix after that.

I have some cheap, dark (very dark, it transpires) navy poly jacquard ready for the toile of the New Look cropped jacket, so I may even get a chance to start that next week. Or possibly this week. Mind you, it is half term so clearly I would be mad to think I can get much sewing done this week…

My sewing records


I am starting this blog as a private online journal sort of thing, to keep a record of what I sew.

I started sewing in June 2017 and have made about 30 garments (I think!) since then. I have fallen in love with sewing completely and take so much pleasure and satisfaction in seeing how much more I can do now than when I started.  I love wearing my ‘me made’ clothes!  And I want to keep learning and improving 👗👙👖👚

I am going to add photos of all the things I have made so far and then keep adding as I make each new item.

This is photo is the first thing I made, a scarf, from the first Tilly and the Buttons online beginner class I took. I finished it on 13 June 2017.  Whilst I don’t wear it much, as the stiffer / structured 60s head scarf style of it isn’t really my sort of look, it is the first thing I made and hence still special.