Monday, 27 June 2016

Budgie skirt

A week or two ago I promised you a budgie skirt on the blog, and today's the day! Isn't it lovely?! I helped my friend Emma make it using the-pattern-that-can-do-no-wrong (New Look 6217) and I think the statement fabric works perfectly with this simple pattern.

The fabric is from Ditto Fabrics and is a Japanese cotton/linen blend (80% cotton, 20% linen). It's a lovely combination as it has the texture and feel of linen, but the high cotton content means you don't get lots of tiresome creasing.

We spent a little while thinking about pattern placement as Emma wanted a couple of her favourite budgies to feature prominently.

If you look closely, you'll see some of them are wearing collar and ties! There's even a cockatoo thrown in for good measure.

Size-wise we cut a size 12 with a couple of minor adjustments - increased the width of the back darts to allow for Emma's slight sway back, shaved a tiny bit off the hips and lengthened the skirt by 1½". Emma cut out the fabric and sewed the basic shell of the skirt together and I stepped in to add the invisible zip and twill tape to the waist - a splendid joint effort!

The classic shape and oatmeal colour means she'll be able to pair it with lots of different coloured tops for summer. And there's no need to worry about pattern clashes - I'm reliably informed that budgies are a neutral...

I leave you with the lovely Geoff Capes - former strongman and budgie fancier. Guaranteed to cheer you up on a Monday morning! x


Saturday, 25 June 2016

Musings on quilts

This week I popped up in Issue 18 of Simply Sewing magazine, as part of a feature on sewing for the home. Although my main sewing focus is usually dressmaking, I've enjoyed sewing a few quilts and cushions over the years, so I was thrilled to be featured.

2016 was the year I actually completed a quilt for myself (previous quilts had all been for family members). I always knew I'd enjoy having a quilt of my own, but what I wasn't prepared for was just how attached I'd become to it. It is, without doubt, my most precious sewing creation and I absolutely love it. I was never the kind of child who carried a blanket everywhere Linus-style, so I don't know where this mad quilt-love comes from!

It might just be the warmth and comfort a quilt brings that makes me feel like this, I don't know. What I do know is that wrapping myself in my quilt makes me happy. Problems lessen and worries become fewer - it sounds ridiculous but that's how it makes me feel! I never tire of looking at the colours and textures. And the stitches! I love looking at the stitches! Who would have thought that sewing a few squares together could give me such pleasure.

My bestie!
I'll never be a serous quilter - I'm far too impatient - but I do quite like the process, so I've decided to make another quilt for the home, this time for the guest bedroom in the loft. Cutting and sorting the fabric will be the perfect summer occupation and sewing the quilt together can be a project for the autumn. My grand plan for the quilt top is to use Liberty prints. Unlike other fabrics, I never get rid of Liberty scraps, probably because the fabric is so expensive in the first place, but also because I love the prints so much. I've sewn with Liberty Tana lawn quite a lot, so have accumulated a reasonable collection of offcuts over the years - enough for a decent sized quilt anyway.

I was inspired by this Striped Throw from The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing (reviewed here). Obviously I don't have great long strips of fabric to use, so mine will be patchwork squares, but I do like the fact that the quilt features lots of random prints. Liberty prints all seem to work effortlessly together, so I'm using this as my starting point. I may have to buy a few lighter colours for contrast, but hey, that's no great hardship! Wish me luck!

Am I the only one to feel sentimental over a quilt or do they bring out strong feelings in you too? x

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Sewing and Fitting Trousers

The Ultimate Guide to Sewing and Fitting Trousers is the latest class from Sew Over It and the first online course I've been tempted to buy. At £45 (or £35 in my case as there was an introductory £10 off) it's pretty good value for money - you have access to all the online tutorials plus two downloadable patterns: the Ultimate Trousers and the new Carrie Trousers.

The class focuses on two areas: basic trouser making for beginners (where you make the easy-fit Carrie trousers), then fitting and sewing the Ultimate Trousers for those who already have some trouser making experience.

I've made a few pairs of trousers (including the Ultimate Trousers), so the latter part of the course was what I wanted to focus on. With my first pair of Ultimates the fit wasn't too bad, but there were still a couple of things that bugged me about them:

- The waistline is too low for my taste and the trousers feel like they're riding down throughout the day.

- There's a weird bagginess around the front crotch which you can see in the blog photos here. I needed to find a way of removing this excess fabric.

So I sat down to watch the class to see if I could sort these issues out. The first bit was easy - there's a whole section on making style changes to the pattern, one of which is raising the height of the waistline! I made the adjustments to my pattern pieces as instructed and raised the waist by two inches. For reference the waistband now sits level with my belly button. It's worth noting that there's also a lesson on adding a waistband to the pattern, including a downloadable pattern piece - very handy.

This just left the baggy crotch to sort out…. The 'Fitting Surgery' section of the course is made up of seven downloadable PDFs. Each part focuses on a different fit issue and includes a line drawing, a photograph on a real body and a description to help you diagnose the problem. I went through each section several times before finally realising what my problem was - thin thighs! What?! I can honestly say that was the last thing I was expecting.  

Image: Sew Over It
The adjustment was quite easy, I measured around the fullest part of my thigh, then the crotch line on the front and back pattern pieces. The difference between the two measurements was the amount I needed to remove, spread equally between the inner and outer seams of each leg piece. In my case, this was 1cm from each seam. I then sewed up the trousers, tried them on and the fit was exactly what I wanted. Yay!

They're very fitted, in fact they look more like jeggings than trousers, but that's what I was after. The higher waist is a much better fit on me and stops the trousers riding down.

think that baggy crotch has disappeared...
The fabric is a stretch polka dot denim from Classic Textiles on the Goldhawk Road which is sturdier than the previous fabric I used, but still really comfortable to wear. I think I'll wear them a lot.

Based on what I've watched of the course so far (60% of it), I'm impressed. I've managed to sort out my fit issues, I have a fab new pair of trousers and a shiny new Carrie pattern to try out soon. All in all, a good investment! Has anybody else tried this class yet? I'd love to know what you think. x


Friday, 10 June 2016

The pattern that keeps on giving...

Hmmm, what pattern could I possibly be referring to? Why New Look 6217 of course! I've made two versions of the top (here and here) and I'm now going to bore you to death about the skirt. The decision to make the skirt happened slightly by accident… my friend Emma wanted me to help her make a very simple pencil skirt and asked if I knew of a suitable pattern. I immediately thought of the New Look pattern - just two pattern pieces, no waistband and an easy side split, perfect for a beginner.

I took Emma's measurements and decided to make a quick muslin before we were let loose on her precious fabric. There's quite a bit of ease in this pattern, so I went down one size from her actual measurements and made up a size 12, which also happens to be my size... I tried it on to check it wasn't wildly off and discovered it was a perfect fit on me. This was too good a sign to ignore, hence the decision to make one myself!

I used a piece of lovely stretch cotton yellow gingham from my stash. I bought the fabric as a vintage remnant so it was only 85cm long, but it's quite wide (150cms), so was easily large enough for a small, knee length skirt. I made no adjustments to the pattern at all, not even to the length, so the skirt you see is a size 12 straight out of the envelope. As expected it was quick and easy to make: just two darts to the back, an invisible zip in the side seam and twill tape to finish the waistband. 

The twill tape is suggested in the pattern for both the skirt and trousers waistbands, and I think it's actually a better option than bias tape. Unlike bias tape, there's no stretch to it, so it should help prevent the waistband stretching out over time.

The skirt turned out slightly looser than the muslin due to the stretch content of the cotton, the drag lines on the photos are just from me sticking my leg out! As the skirt is supposed to sit an inch below your natural waist this doesn't affect the fit, in fact it improves it in my opinion! There are no front darts, just back ones, so it's fitted but not skin tight. And the side split lends a air of dignity when getting in and out of the car! 

I can see a few more of these skirts in my future sewing plans. Keep your eyes peeled for my friend Emma's version, which I'll put on the blog as soon as it's finished. If you like the look of my skirt you'll love hers - it's made from budgie fabric! Have a good weekend. x


Sunday, 5 June 2016

My PDF Shame

This week was the week I checked my long neglected PDF pattern folder. Stay with me please, it's not quite that boring! Now I'll almost always opt for a printed pattern over a PDF version (unless there's no choice of course), so I wasn't expecting to find much. Imagine my surprise when I discovered 25 patterns in there, 25! But the worst thing was that around half of them were completely unused - just purchased in a frenzy and forgotten about forever. I felt especially bad as there are some absolute gems amongst them:

Summer Blouse - Maison Fleur

Anderson Blouse - Sew Over It

Edith Blouse and Dress - Maria Denmark

Maritime Shorts - Grainline

I could go on….

With a paper pattern you have a physical reminder of your purchase, but this doesn't happen with PDFs. And because of the additional time needed to print out and tape them together, it's easy to sweep PDFs aside in favour of a quicker fix. Maybe I need to start printing out the instructions and putting them in envelopes so they're more visible? 

This then got me thinking about what other patterns might be lurking in the shadows in different forms. One area I tend to totally overlook is sewing books. Again, it's a mental block with me - if they're not in a pattern envelope I'm blind to them. This is mad because I've had some real successes with sewing book patterns (see below), and really should make an effort to use them more frequently. 

Anita Tie Top from Sew Over It Vintage

Lace Pencil Skirt from Fashion with Fabric

Whilst we're on the subject, I also have an entire cupboard of sewing magazines with free patterns, maybe I should start perusing those too?! 

Does anybody else completely forget about the PDF patterns they own? Or is it just me?! Perhaps it's time for some kind of pattern inventory to keep them front of mind? If there's a particular reference system that's worked for you, I'd love to know. Thank you! x

Friday, 27 May 2016

Tutorial - how to insert underarm reinforcement squares

Morning! As promised in my Big Vintage Sewalong post, I've put together a tutorial for inserting the underarm reinforcement squares on Vogue 8875. Of course, when I looked through the muslin construction photos, I realised I hadn't sewn the final dress in exactly the same way, but never fear, everything is fully explained in the written instructions. 

There are a couple of things I should point out.
1. I'd highly recommend making a bodice muslin before cutting into your precious fabric. This is time   well spent as it will allow you to check the fit and practice the technique.
2. This tutorial shows one side of the back bodice as it was smaller and easier to photograph, but the principles are the same for both back and front pieces.
3. Don't be despondent if it isn't perfect on your first try - of the four reinforcement squares I sewed, two went in without a fight first time and two had to be unpicked and redone.
4. Take your time…and make sure you have a stiff drink poured for when you've finished!

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin!

For each underarm seam you'll need a two inch square of bias cut fabric (the same as your dress fabric).
On the RIGHT side of the fabric, mark the stitching line as shown.

Centre the bias square over the tip of the stitching line and pin in place. Now mark the stitching lines on your bias square so they join up with the original ones.

Sew along the stitching line on the square and slash up to the tip.

Press the bias square first to one side of the stitching, then the other and fold it through to the WRONG side of the bodice. 

This step is not at all clear in the instructions, but believe me, that square needs to be hidden on the WRONG side! It's a bit tricky to get it to turn through neatly but it will. I'd recommend using a press cloth at this stage.

This is how it should look when it's all pressed through to the wrong side. 

And from the right side.

Your two back bodice pieces should now be stay stitched at this point as shown in the diagram below. Hmmm, guess who forgot to stay stitch her pieces for this tutorial?! Don't you forget please - as well as preventing the edges of the pattern pieces from stretching, the stay stitching will provide a stitching line for later on.

Yes, those bias squares should not be shown flapping about on the right side of the bodice, grrrr
You're now going to pin the bodice side back to the bodice back at the side and armhole edges, right sides together. Just imagine a nice line of stay stitching underneath those pins!

What I should have done at this stage is baste the pieces in place and I'd recommend you do too, it will save lots of heartache further down the line! I also found a good tip for this step on A Stitching Odyssey. Marie slits the top of the side back piece up to the seam allowance (or up to the stay stitching in your case), enabling the pieces to manoeuvre into position more easily. 

See the slit, at the top of the black piece?
Now, take a deep breath and stitch into position, sewing just outside the line of stay stitching to keep it hidden. Remember:

1. Don't feel you have to sew the whole section in one go. If you sew one seam at a time it will give you more control and hopefully minimise unruly fabric getting caught in your stitching. Talking of which…
2.  You're sewing round a very sharp corner so you need to be aware of folds of fabric potentially getting in your way. Go slowly and keep re-positioning your fabric out of the way of your needle. 

Here are the pieces stitched together. In an ideal world, the top of the side back piece would have been slashed down to where the stitching begins.

Press seams open and clip into your curves where necessary.

This is how it should look from the right side.

And here's the same seam on the finished dress. The reinforcement square is completely hidden and will add strength to the inner corner of the seam line.

If you're at all worried about the neatness of your underarm seams it may help to use a busy, patterned fabric. Nobody will ever notice the odd wonky stitch!

I hope this tutorial provides a bit of extra guidance if you're tackling this pattern. And as always, if there's anything you don't understand or that doesn't make sense, please let me know in the comments.  Have a good weekend! x

Monday, 23 May 2016

A Tale of Two Walkleys

Remember the striped Walkley top by Wendy Ward I made last year? It's been such a favourite of mine (I wear it at least once a week, often twice) that I knew a dress version for summer was on the cards. I like the fit, it's quick and easy to sew and you only need a metre of fabric.

The fabric I used was a lovely cherry blossom jersey from Girl Charlee - a light cotton blend with a good stretch to it. I originally ordered one metre but ended up with two, as a 'print smear' was discovered on the original batch and I was sent a replacement. It took me ages to actually find the tiny print fault and I'm sure I'd never have even noticed it amidst all that cherry blossom. I appreciate the gesture though and I did end up with two metres to play with, so thanks Girl Charlee!

When I first made the top, I deliberately cut the smallest of the three sizes offered as I wanted a closer fit. This time round I cut the next size up as I didn't want the dress version to be too clingy. Apart from removing a 1" wedge from the neckline, I made no other changes to the pattern. It really is an easy sew: shoulder seams and side seams sewn with an overlocker, then neck, armholes and hem turned under and sewn with a double needle. That should have been the end of it, but alas, I sewed the side seams with a 1.5cm seam allowance instead of the specified 1cm. Doh! The resulting fit was a bit clingy for a dress, but perfect for a top… so I chopped the bottom off and hemmed it accordingly. I then cut and sewed a second dress, making sure I used the correct seam allowance this time. Lucky for me I had that extra metre to fall back on!

Top version….
…and dress version!
The Walkley pattern is a very simple shape, but it really works for me. The neckline's just the right height (and I'm fussy about anything too high) and the cut of the capped sleeves gives it a youthful edge without making me feel too mutton-like.

I now have two garments from the same fabric and I couldn't be happier with them. The dress is slightly fitted but still roomy enough for a few ice creams. It's also easy to dress up or down with flip flops or clogs. And the top is perfect for jazzing up a pair of jeans or a denim skirt. I'll be packing both of these for my holidays this summer.  x


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