Thursday, 8 February 2018

Intro to Sewing Coats Online class review

The Intro to Sewing Coats is an online class from Sew Over It offering a step-by-step guide to sewing a beautiful tailored Chloe Coat. Details of my finished Chloe Coat can be found here - this additional post will go into a bit more detail about what to expect from the online class.

I've used one of the Sew Over It online classes before (The Ultimate Guide to Sewing and Fitting Trousers) and really got a lot out of it. This time round I learnt everything there is to know about coat making, including some great new tips and techniques. The course is aimed at a broad range of sewers - coat-sewing newbies who want to take their skill level up a notch, along with intermediate sewers who want to improve their tailoring techniques. You will need to be familiar with garment construction and have inserted sleeves and zips before embarking on the course. The class includes a PDF pattern of the Chloe coat (both tiled and copyshop versions), video tutorials by Lisa Comfort explaining each step of the construction process, written instructions to accompany the videos and PDF guides on fitting and alterations. A full list of the techniques you'll learn in the class can be found here.

My main piece of advice is to watch all the videos right the way through before you even think about cutting anything out. It's always good to get a general idea of what you'll be doing and you can flag up any bits that don't make sense. Most of the videos are very short, only a minute or so, which makes it easier to let the information sink in. Believe me, the more times you watch something the more it makes sense! The course also comes with a set of written instructions (without illustrations). I'd recommend using the videos and the written instructions in conjunction with one another. A few tiny instructions that are not mentioned in the videos e.g. slip stitching the turning hole in the pockets, are mentioned in the written instructions. And vice versa - top stitching the front edges of the coat right at the end isn't mentioned in the written instructions. Use them together and they'll cover everything.

There are separate pattern pieces for 'cloth' (main coat fabric), lining and interfacing which is a mixed blessing. On the plus side, you're working with properly measured pattern pieces and don't need to make a stab at drafting the lining yourself. This makes things far easier when it comes to the cutting out stage. On the minus side, it does result in a gigantic pattern to tape together - 84 pages in fact. All is not lost however, as there is a copy shop PDF version allowing you to get it printed on massive sheets and sent to you. I used Print Your Pattern which charged £9 to print out the three large pattern sheets and it was delivered the next day. There are other pattern printing companies that are even cheaper. I know it's extra money to shell out, but in this case I think it's well worth it as it does save a lot of time.

The Chloe Coat is designed to be "semi-loose fitting yet flattering...fitted to your shoulders, and shaped at the front with a long cut-away dart." It's a simple, classic design and because of this there's very little fitting involved. As advised in the fitting video, it's essential to get the shoulder measurement correct, then work from there. Any pattern adjustments you do need to do such as lengthening/shortening are all outlined on PDFs which are clear and self explanatory. For reference, I cut a straight size 12 with two small adjustments to the pattern. I shortened the sleeve length by 6 cms and re-positioned the pockets about 2.5 cms to allow for my short arms. I'm 5'2" and I didn't shorten the coat hem, so if you're taller and/or prefer a longer coat you may need to lengthen the pattern. It's also worth noting that the side seams have a generous 2cm seam allowance to allow you to fit as you go.

Coat finishes just above the knee on me
Once you have your pattern pieces ready to go I'd allow a full day to cut everything out. Cloth, plus lining, plus interfacing equals a lot of time spent cutting out, plus time spent ironing on the interfacing pieces. As tempting as it might be to press ahead with the sewing, I'd recommend starting the next day when your brain is fresher!

The Chloe Coat is collarless, which means there's less bulk to contend with when it comes to layers of collar and facings. That doesn't mean it's problem free though - I still ended up with bulky sections because of the weight of my fabric, even though I trimmed everything down as directed. My fabric was a medium weight wool which is on the list of recommended fabrics so I'm not sure why this was a problem. I actually ended up omitting the top stitching down the front edges of the coat because I couldn't fit the layers of coat front and facings under my sewing machine! If I had the choice, I would have top stitched to prevent the facing from rolling out, but I'm still happy with the end result.

One of the new-to-me tailoring techniques in the class is sewing ice wool wadding to the sleeve head to give it shape. I've used pre-cut sleeve heads before with some success, but had never heard of ice wool. It's a strange fabric which looks like a cross between cotton wool and candy floss! You're instructed to hand sew it into place, probably because the texture is a bit fragile to put under a sewing machine.

I must admit, I had my suspicions about how effective it would be because of its weird texture, but it really does give a lovely, rounded shape to the sleeve head.  It just seems to mould to the shape of the wearer's shoulder like magic!

The majority of the video steps were clear and well explained - I did exactly as Lisa directed and they seemed to work. I did however, have a little trouble with one or two steps, largely because I couldn't see exactly what was happening on the videos. One of these was Sewing the Sleeve Hems - it was difficult to see how she pinned the hems together because of the camera angle. The thing to remember with this step is that you're joining the two raw edges together. Just keep that in mind and you should be fine.  The other section I had difficulty with was Finishing the Graded Edges of the Lining. It does get a bit easier to understand the more times you watch it, but I just couldn't get it to work. Eventually I did my own thing and it seems to look OK - it's only a tiny area of the coat at the end of the day.

My final piece of advice regarding construction is to follow the seam allowance instructions to the letter when inserting the zip. The seam allowance at the bottom of my zip meandered in slightly and it does make a difference when you zip the coat up. It still zips up (imagine the horror if it didn't after all that work?!) but it's a bit of a fiddle getting the short zip end into the zip pull. There, I've warned you!

The class really is comprehensive and covers everything you're likely to encounter on any coat-making journey. It definitely worked for me and I now have a beautiful, well fitting coat to show for it. x

The Intro to Sewing Coats online class was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own. 

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Holly Hobbie Quilt

Hello. Brace yourselves, there's an actual finished item on the blog today!

The patchwork top for this quilt was finished back in June, but as it's quite a whopper (224 squares), it's taken me this long to summon up the energy to quilt it. The majority of squares are Liberty remnants left over from previous makes, plus a few fat quarters picked up along the way from Sewbox. The light coloured 'neutral' squares are cut from another Liberty print (Cathy), which is also used as the backing fabric. 

It's very busy and flowery but that's exactly what I love about Liberty prints. Plus the busyness of the fabric hides a multitude of quilting sins...

Because it's made almost entirely from Liberty lawn (I think there's one non-Liberty imposter in there) the feel of this quilt is different to others I've made. Liberty lawn has a slight sheen and silkiness that you don't get with regular quilting cotton, giving it a really luxurious feel.

The intended home for this quilt is on the guest bed in the loft. Everything is very plain and neutral up there and it adds a nice pop of colour.

However... I was testing it out on the sofa last night and it actually looks great in the front room, so I'm a bit torn. It has magical properties too, I was asleep within about ten minutes of wrapping it round me... Maybe I'll alternate between the two?

As for the name, I've called this my Holly Hobbie quilt as it reminds me of a doll I had in the seventies.

It was probably around the same time Little House on the Prairie was on TV, when spriggy florals and patchwork dresses were flavour of the month for little girls! Anybody else remember Holly Hobbie? Have a good Tuesday. x

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Silver party skirt

Need something snazzy for the party season but don't have time to sew a dress? Here's the next best option: a faux leather party skirt! This skirt is ridiculously easy to make, cheap as chips and, depending on how much drink you manage to knock back, allows you instant access to your inner rock chic...

I bought my silver faux leather from Fabric Godmother (also available in black or gold) or Girl Charlee have a good range in stock, including red, navy and some lovely metallics. It's softer than I was expecting, with a decent drape and a reasonable amount of stretch. At £10 a metre it's good value too - after cutting out my skirt I still have quite a bit left over that I plan to make into purses and make-up bags for presents. 

Any pin holes, needle marks or unpicking will be clearly visible on faux leather, so my main piece of advice is to choose a pattern that fits well to avoid any unpicking mishaps. I chose the lace pencil skirt from the GBSB Fashion with Fabric book, which I've made before and is a good fit on me.  This time round I added a split to the back seam - a pencil skirt without a split is fine if you're posing for blog photos at home, not so good for getting in and out of a taxi! I also cut the skirt pieces two inches longer than my first version as I wasn't planning on hemming it.

Construction was seriously quick: two darts to the back, two side seams, invisible zip and back seam. Done! I rebelliously used pins (positioning them within the seam allowance to avoid puncture marks) and a leather needle. Faux leather doesn't fray, so my seams were pressed open and left unfinished. I used fabric glue on the back seam to secure it open and give the split a neat finish. I also used it on the top edge of the skirt, which is simply pressed under and glued into place. I secured the seam to the zip at the back opening with a few hand stitches for extra security.

I wore this skirt out for dinner with friends a few nights ago and felt fabulous in it. Being silver and faux leather, it's quite a statement in itself, so I made sure the rest of my outfit was a bit more toned down. A fitted black cardigan, high boots and a sparkly bracelet was all it took and I felt glammed up but not over dressed. Definitely £10 well spent! x

Monday, 4 December 2017

Chloe Coat

At last... something finished to show you! This is the Chloe Coat from Sew Over It: a classic collarless coat with lined, patch pockets, an open ended zip, tailored shoulders and long front darts. There's nothing super fancy about the design, it's just a simple, elegant style that's totally wearable. I'm very happy with mine! The pattern is part of the Intro to Sewing Coats online course and I'll be writing a separate post reviewing the course shortly. This will include lots more detail about construction and the techniques used in the course.

I was fortunate to be able to try on a sample of the coat at the Knitting & Stitching Show this year, which was great for checking the size. The sample was a size 10, and although it was a good fit across the back and shoulders etc, when I tried to zip it up it was far too tight across the bust - imagine a sausage squeezed into a skin! I also wanted a bit of additional room for winter layers under my coat so decided to cut a straight size 12 all over. 

I made just two small adjustments to the pattern, I shortened the sleeve length by 6cms and re-positioned the pockets about 2.5cms higher to allow for my short arms. It's also worth pointing out that I didn't shorten the coat hem which is normally a standard adjustment for me. You'll note from the photos that the coat finishes well above the knee on me and I'm only 5'2", so if you're taller or prefer a longer coat you may want to lengthen the pattern. 

I love the roomier fit, it's much more comfortable when you're bundled up wearing layers of knitwear. I also far prefer the patch pockets to in-seam pockets. The last coat I made had in-seam pockets in the side princess seams and having worn it quite a lot, I do feel like they're positioned too far back. 

The main coat fabric is an acrylic/wool mix from Doughty's (no longer available I'm afraid) and I was able to cut out the whole coat comfortably from 2.5m. As I wasn't originally intending to make a coat, I wanted to save costs by using a lining from my stash. There was just enough polka dot lining fabric left over from my Abbey Coat (which, incidentally I never wear, anybody want it?!) so I used that.  

Inside: lining and facings
Luckily for me it's a perfect match with the baby blue coating and a really good quality lining fabric to boot (originally from here), so it was all a bit fortuitous. The other notions needed for the coat - an open-ended zip, tailoring interfacing and, wait for it, ice wool - I purchased from Sew Over It. 

Because of the nature of the online course I sewed the coat in small chunks, which corresponded with the video tutorials. It's a great way to take on a large project such as a coat, which can seem quite daunting, or if you're simply short of time and need to fit your sewing around short bursts. The only step I didn't incorporate is the top stitching down the front edges of the coat. This wasn't a design decision, it was simply because I couldn't fit the layers of coat front and facings under my sewing machine! If I had the choice I'd have definitely included the top stitching as the front facing does has a tendency to curl round (see last photo). 

I started wearing this coat as soon as the last bit of hand sewing was finished and it's sooo warm, even warmer than my red coat which was underlined with flannel! Given the current cold snap, I haven't had a chance to take it to the dry cleaners for a professional press, which is why it looks a bit springy in some photos. When I can bear to remove it from my back I might take a trip to get it beautifully pressed. But then again, I'm enjoying wearing it so much I probably won't! x

Thank you to my friend Joe for this lovely picture of me (and my coat) in Lambs Conduit Street last week.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Slow sewing

Hello! Things have been a bit quiet of late on the blog, which doesn't necessarily equate to a lack of sewing. I've actually been sewing constantly for the past few weeks, but the projects have been so slow moving I don't have anything to show you. My main project has been a set of memory quilts for a family member and her sons. If you've read this post, or this one, you'll know how long these things take and there's still a fair way to go. I'm now at the quilting stage and am looking forward to several days of sewing straight lines over the Christmas period!

The second project I've been working on is a coat. I know, I don't even need another coat, but sometimes these decisions are taken out of our hands.... At the GBSB Live in September I had a spare half hour wandering around on my own before meeting up with some sewing friends. Before I knew it, I'd somehow managed to buy 2.5m of baby blue coating without meaning to. Some kind of sorcery was clearly at play as I wasn't even looking for coat fabric!

The fabric was from Doughty's and I think it's an acrylic/wool mix which annoyingly, doesn't seem to be on their website. In fact there are hardly any wool fabrics listed, maybe they sold them all at the show? Anyway, sorcery aside, the fabric just happened to be a perfect match for the Sew Over It Chloe Coat, so that was another chunk of my autumn sewing sorted in one fell swoop. 

Coat making has been going swimmingly so far - just bagging the lining and hemming to finish - so I should have a shiny new coat to blog about before too long.

My final pre-Christmas project will be to make something from this lovely silver faux leather I bought from Fabric Godmother. 

Again, I don't know what possessed me, but I have a vision in my head of a chic little pencil skirt. Worn with a plain black top and a big necklace, I think it has the makings of an effortless Christmas party outfit! I've purchased some leather needles and leather glue and will probably need some of those bulldog clip things - I'll report back. Anybody else working on a slow project? x

Friday, 20 October 2017

It's Cocktail Hour!

Today I'm sharing the dress I made as part of the Vogue Patterns Cocktail Hour Sewalong.

The sewalong was launched in March by McCall's to raise money for The Eve Appeal - a charity that funds research into gynaecological cancers. 26 sewing bloggers have been taking part in the blog tour since then, sewing up their choice of 20 specially selected Vogue evening wear patterns. Money raised from the sale of each pattern will go to the Eve Appeal, so anybody who buys one will be directly supporting the charity. You can check out what everybody else has been making by using the hashtag #sipandsew on Instagram and Twitter.

When it came to choosing my pattern, I was looking for a simple design that wouldn't require much brain power to sew. Vogue 1536 seemed to fit the bill perfectly - an elegant princess-seamed cocktail dress by American designers Tom and Linda Platt.
The pattern also comes with a strange Mel and Kim-style cropped bolero jacket, which you'll be pleased to hear I disregarded. I was only ever interested in the dress.

She's spoiling for a fight...
With such a simple design I knew that fabric choice would be key and spent a looong time making my mind up. I finally decided on an Italian wool crepe from Til the Sun goes Down for the main dress and a shantung satin from ClothSpot for the lining.

The navy colourway I used is no longer in stock unfortunately, but here's the link to another blue. The lining fabric is also sold out - sorry! The crepe by itself is quite lightweight but takes on a completely different feel with the lining added. The shantung satin adds structure and weight to the dress and it feels very luxurious to wear - exactly what you want from a cocktail dress. The wool crepe is expensive (£32 a metre) but reasonably wide, and with a bit of clever pattern placement I was able to get away with using just one metre for my dress. You'll be relieved to hear that I did actually make a muslin before cutting into such posh fabric!

I'd read in a few reviews that the dress ran large, so cut a size 12 which was one size smaller than my measurements. I used the petite shortening lines at the waist only (you can also shorten for petite sizes at the hips) as the finished length is already quite short. The only other adjustment I made was a 5/8" tuck across the back piece as the V back gaped slightly on the muslin.

There wasn't anything untoward about the pattern and the construction was relatively straight forward. The only thing that leapt out at me was the lack of instruction to stay stitch the V front and back necklines. Yes, it's an obvious step, but I really think it should have been included - these areas are both cut on the bias and the last thing you want is a stretched out neckline. I also ditched the instructions when it came to adding the lining as there was far too much hand sewing for my liking. I attached the entire lining by machine, apart from the area around the back split which I hand stitched. I also hand stitched the dress hem.

For such a simple dress I did have to spend an enormous amount of time with a steam iron and a clapper pressing the curved princess seams flat. Luckily for me, the wool crepe was a dream to manipulate and I'm really happy with how well the seams pressed. I think they're worth the extra effort.

I have to say, this is a gorgeous dress: simple, classy and a great fit. It isn't super fitted, but the subtle shaping of the princess seams really shows off your curves, which I like. It's very me and I'm glad I kept it simple when it came to choosing the pattern. Cheers!

Two seconds after this photo was taken I spilt the entire cocktail down my arm...

The pattern and a fabric allowance were kindly provided by McCall's. All views my own. 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Chambray Kalle Shirt

I've had my beady eye on the Closet Case Files Kalle pattern ever since it was released. Despite being loose fitting, the body skimming silhouette really does seem to flatter all shapes so I convinced myself to step out of my usual fitted shirt comfort zone and give it a go. Two versions I've been particularly swooning over are Sallie's tencel denim shirtdress and Lauren's cute cropped shirt version.

The pattern comes in three lengths: cropped, tunic or shirtdress, with a multitude of options for the collar, placket and back pleat. I decided on a mixture of Views A and C - the faced hem and inverted pleat of view A and the traditional collar and button placket of view C.

I also thought long and hard about which size to cut as there's a lot of ease in this pattern. I was sorely tempted to size down, but after reading a few reviews I cut the correct size for my measurements (size 8) to ensure a good fit across the shoulders. I added 2.5" length to the back piece and 5" to the front piece and button band as the original cropped length of View A is very cropped. I'll lengthen the front piece even more next time as my bust makes the shirt ride up a bit higher than I'd like.

The only other adjustment I made was to overlap the back pleat 1" along the fold line - this reduces quite a bit of fullness in the back. If you do this, and you're making View A, don't forget to also adjust your back hem facing piece as it will be too wide if you don't. Ask me how I know...

The instructions are reasonably comprehensive and there's also a Kalle sewalong on the blog which goes through all the trickier steps in greater detail. I'll admit, I did need to refer to the sewalong for the yoke (my mind went blank, even though I've sewn 'burrito' yokes loads of times!) I also needed it for the sleeve cuffs - they're not particularly complicated to sew, but I think the instructions would have benefited from a few more diagrams. I had no problem with the collar however as the pattern uses my favourite Four Square Walls method for construction. There's even a separate smaller pattern piece for the under collar so you don't need to trim it down, hoorah!

I've now made several traditional shirts/shirtdresses with collars, but for some reason I still find the process quite daunting. This time I was determined to enjoy it, so I broke the construction down into five achievable chunks: button plackets, yoke, hem facing, collar and sleeve cuffs. It worked a treat - each chunk is substantial but not too overwhelming and you can see real progress at the end of each stage. I struggled most with the facing, probably because of the accuracy needed to get a clean, sharp finish around the curved hem. It's not my best work - mine isn't as clean and sharp as I'd like and there's still a bit of rippling along the hem, but I can live with it.

I also managed to avoid a whole construction step (buttons and buttonholes) by paying a quick visit to DM Buttons in Soho and getting them to add snaps for me! With hindsight I should have added one to the hem/facing area as well as it has a tendency to gape open. Never mind.

Eight snaps for a fiver, bargain!
For fabric I blatantly copied Sallie and made my Kalle shirt in a tencel chambray. As far as I can gather from a quick Google search, tencel (or lyocell as it's sometimes known) is a sustainable fabric made from wood cellulose, very similar in drape and feel to rayon. I'd agree with this as the chambray I used was not like chambray I've sewn with in the past. The depth of colour, the drape and the soft feel of the fabric are all noticeably different (in a good way) to a standard chambray.

I found it quite difficult to source tencel in the UK and eventually tracked some down at German based I've had a long standing offer from the company to try out one of their fabrics and this seemed like the perfect time to take them up on it. The fabric arrived promptly and was even nicer than I'd envisaged. It washes and presses well and even though it has a similar drape to rayon I found it slightly easier to handle and sew as it doesn't shift around quite as much. It does, however, fray and shed fibres as soon as you look at it, so I was mightily relieved when all seams were concealed or finished. I should also point out that I had to lighten these photos (it was a dreary day when they were taken) so the blue colour of the fabric isn't as bright in real life.

Overall I like the finished Kalle shirt. The relaxed fit will take some getting used to, purely because it's so different to all the other shirts in my wardrobe. But on the flip side, it's really comfortable to wear so I think that's going to make it quite popular! x

Fabric was given to me free of charge by myfabrics for review. All views my own. 


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