Sunday, 22 November 2015

Swedish Tracing Paper - review and discount

Let's talk about Swedish Tracing Paper! I've heard lots about it but never actually worked with it, so when I was asked if I'd like to review it recently, I was keen as mustard! I know lots of sewists trace patterns as standard to preserve the original, but I'm not one of them. If I'm really not sure of the fit then yes, I'll trace it, but if I can avoid doing so, I will. Which is why I've only just got round to trying it out (it was sent to me in September…)

The company who produce it in the UK - The Swedish Tracing Paper Shop - describe it as 'a soft and translucent paper, resistant to tear but easy to see through, making it ideal for copying the detail from existing patterns.' It's also described as being suitable for making toiles as it's relatively strong and can be sewn. I needed to blend a pattern between sizes and make a toile, so thought I'd put it to the test for both uses.

The appearance of Swedish Tracing Paper is a bit like interfacing, but because it's a paper rather than a fabric its texture is stiffer. It's very easy to draw on and mark with pencil and I could see through it perfectly to trace my pattern.

Even though it comes on a roll, it still lies nice and flat. The pattern I was tracing was a relatively simple design, so I didn't even bother with pattern weights. You might need to weigh it down though if you were tracing a pattern with lots of markings or darts on it.

Later that day I traced a second version of the bodice piece and made a couple of adjustments at the neck and bust. There was a fair bit of sellotape involved and the Swedish Tracing Paper didn't tear once. Impressive!

When I came to sew the pattern pieces together to make my toile, I found its paperiness was a disadvantage. It doesn't have the drape of a fabric (or even an interfacing) so crumpled like mad during its stint at the sewing machine. Here's what it looked like after I'd sewn the front and back together.

It presses well though, I used a low setting on my iron and the creases came out immediately.

The material is strong enough to take stitches, but because it's paper there's absolutely no give. I noticed this particularly when I tried the toile on. The pattern I used wasn't an especially fitted design, but I found it impossible to get it over my head without ripping it. The lack of drape wasn't helpful in determining the fit either. I don't think it's similar enough to fabric to give a true idea of how a finished garment would look.

My toile -  after it was tried on
My conclusion is that for tracing pattern pieces Swedish Tracing Paper is excellent. It has good transparency, lies flat, is easy to draw on and easy to apply tape to - I'm a convert! As a material for making a toile with, not so impressive  - I probably won't use it for that purpose again.  I'm glad I put it to the test though!

If you fancy trying Swedish Tracing Paper out for yourself, you can claim 10% off by using the code JANE here. Happy Sunday! x

A roll of Swedish Tracing Paper was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Faux Fur Scarf Tutorial

For instant warmth and chic, you can't go wrong with a faux fur scarf. They immediately add glamour to an outfit and they keep your neck warm at the same time! They're also super easy to make, so today I've put together a quick tutorial. 

The majority of faux fur scarves in the shops are black or brown, but I decided to go for a silvery grey, with a royal blue satin lining, just to be different. The fur is a lovely neutral shade and will go with everything. Both fabrics are from Weaver Dee, who stock a great selection of colours for each type of fabric (faux fur here and satin here). 

Before we start I should point out two things I discovered whilst working with faux fur.

1. Once you cut it, faux fur goes everywhere, so have a dustpan and brush handy to keep all that fur and fluff under control.

2. The combination of faux fur and satin is hellish in terms of shifting around. I'd highly recommend a walking foot if you have one and use lots and lots of pins! 

Faux Fur Scarf Tutorial
You will need:
½ metre faux fur
½ metre satin for lining

1. Cut two rectangles, one from the faux fur and one from the satin, each measuring 10" wide x 59" long. I based this measurement on the full width of the satin.

2.  Pin the rectangles right sides together. Don't forget to use lots of pins to stop the fabrics shifting.

3. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew all the way round each side, leaving a turning gap of about 6" along one short edge.  

4. Snip the corners diagonally and trim down the seam allowances of the fur by half to reduce bulk.  Your scarf will be looking a bit of a mess at this point, with fur everywhere, but have faith!

5. Turn the scarf the right way round through the turning gap. Poke the corners out gently using the end of a paintbrush or similar.

6. Press carefully using a low heat setting and a pressing cloth if needed. Make sure the seam allowance in the turning gap is pressed under too. 

7. Hand sew the turning gap closed.

Ta-da, you've made a gorgeous faux fur scarf!

I think these scarves would make wonderful Christmas gifts. The satin and faux fur gives them a luxurious feel and there's no tricky fitting - one size fits all!

I hope this tutorial is useful and if anything doesn't make sense, please shout! If you do make your own scarf, I'd love it if you sent me a link. Happy sewing!  x

The fabrics for this tutorial were kindly provided by Weaver Dee

Monday, 9 November 2015

Quilt plans

Despite having made three quilts (here, here and here), I still haven't exactly been bitten by the quilting bug. All three quilts were gifts for family members, so maybe it's because I'm always one step removed from the finished product? I'm not sure. Whatever the reasons, I've decided to give quilt making another go, but this time, the quilt will be for ME!  Call me an old lady, but I like nothing better than to be wrapped in a blanket whilst watching TV or reading on the sofa. The blanket I currently use is a ratty old fleece specimen, so a replacement in the form of a quilt is long overdue. It can serve double duty by brightening up the end of my bed during the day too. 

Colour-wise, I've been inspired by this beautiful baby quilt by Crafty Blossom

A Quilt for Harry by Crafty Blossom
Mustard and grey are two colours that crop up quite a lot in my bedroom furnishings. They feature in this print by Eloise Renouf...

...and in the fabric that covers this chair

My bedroom walls are painted cream and green/blue so I'll be picking out both of these colours too. The fabrics I've chosen are all from M is for Make, with the exception of the Hemingway grid print (RHS in the second picture) which is left over from my 1950's shoulder tie dress. 

As I'm a beginner, my previous quilts have all used the simplest of designs. So this time round, instead of using all squares, I'm going to be using…. rectangles and squares, talk about edgy! For the design, I'll be using the Strawberry Fields Bricks Pattern by Amy Smart for Moda, which seems relatively idiot proof. And because I can't bear the thought of cutting up countless plain, cream squares for the lighter accents, I'll use these pre-cut squares. It may not be strictly ballroom, but do I care? Nope. 

I'm making slow progress so far. I've almost cut out all of the rectangles and I'm hoping I'll soon be able to play with the patchwork pieces on the floor to make a pattern, which is probably my favourite bit! If I get my finger out, I may get this finished by Christmas, as long as there aren't too many party dresses clamouring for my attention in the meantime. The fact that I've outlined my plans on the blog will certainly give me a bit of a kick up the arse anyway.  Anybody else have any mad quilt plans? x

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Walkley in stripes

Behold my latest stripey top, made from the Walkley pattern from Wendy Ward's MIY Collection.

I have to be honest, some of the MIY Collection patterns are a little too unstructured for my taste, but this one caught my eye after seeing Scruffy Badger's deliberately mismatched striped version. I'm not edgy enough to go for mismatched stripes myself, but I liked the fact that the top looked both contemporary and smart, so into the basket it went. 

The Walkley is a very simple pattern for a sleeveless vest or dress. The PDF version tiles together using just eight sheets of A4. And if, like me, you don't go down the different fabrics/colour blocking route, there's only one front and one back piece to cut out, yay! The only thing I was wary of was the boat neck. I can't tolerate very high necks and this one looked a bit borderline. I always seem to end up with gaping too, especially if the boat neck is very wide. I compared the pattern piece to other boat necked patterns I own and it did seem wide, so I removed a 1" wedge from the neckline using this tutorial. That was the only adjustment I made.

The pattern comes in three sizes depending on your bust measurement. My measurements corresponded with the middle size, but I cut the smallest size as I wanted a closer fit. The style is supposed to skim, not be skin tight. The finished vest is quite fitted, but that's the result I was after and I'm pleased. If I was using a lighter, more clingy fabric, or making the dress version, then I'd definitely cut a larger size!

Constructing the top couldn't have been easier, not surprising really as the front and back are cut from the same piece. I sewed the whole thing on my regular sewing machine for a change. I used a jersey needle and sewed the shoulder seams and side seams with a tricot stitch, which is one of the stretch stitch options on my machine. I only discovered this stitch recently when I was looking through my instruction manual for something else and it's great! It has lots of stretch but is very strong. The only downside is that it takes ages to sew. The neckline, armholes and hem were turned under and hemmed with a double needle. These areas are all drafted with additional shaping so that they lie flat when folded, which I thought was a nice touch. 

Part of the general pattern instructions is a Working with Knit Fabrics section which gives some useful tips, including stabilising shoulder seams with tape. A tiny gripe, but I would have preferred this tip to have been in the step-by-step instructions instead - it's the sort of thing that can easily be overlooked in a general section. There was also no instruction to stay stitch or stabilise the neckline, which I think is especially important for a wide boat neck. Having suffered from baggy necklines in the past I wasn't taking any chances and zig-zagged standard stay tape to my neckline, about 1cm from the edge. This, coupled with the wedge I removed from the pattern piece definitely made the neckline feel more stable. Apart from these two points, I found the instructions were well explained with clear illustrations.

The fabric I used was a Kitt waffle knit from Fabric Godmother, which tragically they seem to have sold out of since I bought it. It's a lovely ponte de roma knit with an unusual waffle texture on the right side and a soft, fleecy texture on the inside. It has a decent amount of stretch but is still quite a stable knit - there was no rippling on the hems. I think it works particularly well with this pattern.

I'm pleasantly surprised how much I like the Walkley vest! Although it's simple, it feels like a cut above lots of my other striped tops (of which there are many). I'll almost certainly be making other versions, especially as it's so quick to put together. Happy Tuesday! x

Monday, 26 October 2015

Mademoiselle Privé

It seems fitting that the next blog post after my Little Black Dress post should be about the Chanel exhibition. The Mademoiselle Privé exhibition is now in its final week at the Saatchi Gallery in London, so on Sunday morning I decided to pay a visit. I got there 15 minutes before the gallery opened at 10am, but still had to wait a good hour before I got in - be warned, the queues are very long. The upside of the long wait was that I got to indulge in some top quality people watching. Mostly fashion types checking out bags and giving each other the side eye - highly entertaining!

I'd describe Mademoiselle Privé as a cross between a fashion exhibition and an art installation. It's described as "a journey through the origins of CHANEL's creations, capturing the charismatic personality and irreverent spirit of Mademoiselle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld." But despite being spread over three floors, there was next to no information to read - it was very much a visual experience. 

An illustrated version of Chanel herself appears amongst the displays in the first couple of rooms as moving footage (see below), which was quite charming.

These rooms also focus on Chanel's early stint as a milliner and her visits to Scotland where she was inspired to design her jersey sportswear. 

Other rooms focused on her famous perfume and the "Bijou de Diamonds" - Chanel's one and only high jewellery collection which she created in 1932. 

Personally I didn't think there were nearly enough garments on display, and those that were exhibited were in darkened rooms lit up by spotlights. Visitors were herded through the Haute Couture and Jewellery rooms at quite a brisk pace, which was frustrating as I really wanted to spend more time studying the dresses. 

These rooms were also policed by security guards who gave you a good telling off for ventured too closely to the displays. This made it really difficult to see any detail in the garments and almost impossible to see the jewellery. 

At first glance, I thought the criss cross effect on the dress above was a fabric design. It was only when I got closer that I realised the dress was made up of hundreds of tiny ribbons of crepe sewn together. 

It was exquisite and I would have LOVED to have examined it in more detail, sadly it wasn't to be - I got a stern telling off just for standing close enough to take this photo!

One of the highlights of the exhibition for me was a ten minute movie showing the ghost of Chanel (portrayed by Geraldine Chaplin) visiting the modern day Chanel HQ and having a full blown argument with Karl Lagerfeld! It really made me laugh!

The exhibition was free, which I do appreciate, but I would have been equally happy to pay an admission fee and spend a bit more time examining the frocks! Grumbling aside, everything I did see was a feast for the eyes and I'm pleased I went. I was also given a free tote bag and poster, which was very generous! If you're a Chanel fan I do think it's worth making the effort to go and visit.

Mademoiselle Privé is on at the Saatchi Gallery, London, and runs until 1st November. Further details can be found here

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Amazing Fit Little Black Dress

One thing high on my autumn sewing list was a little black cocktail dress. Despite having a bulging wardrobe of dresses, I still have moments (often ten minutes before we're due to go out) when absolutely nothing in there seems quite right. A little black dress seemed like the perfect solution.

The pattern I used was Simplicity 1249 - the princess seams and raglan cap sleeves of View B were exactly what I had in mind for my cocktail dress. The pattern is from the Amazing Fit series which come with a choice of pattern pieces for cup sizes (B to DD) and separate cutting lines for  different hip types (Slim, Average or Curvy). Cup size is determined by the difference between your full and high bust measurements, so based on this I went for a C cup in size 14 and used the Slim cutting line for my hips. The pattern pieces were almost identical to my dress block which was really encouraging.

The theory behind Amazing Fit patterns is that you partly construct the dress, then baste together key areas such as side seams and shoulders. The seam allowance in these areas is a generous one inch, which gives plenty of room for fine tuning the fit. Once you've adjusted the fit to your liking, the seams are sewn as normal, basting stitches removed and seam allowances trimmed down. This seemed like an awful lot of faffing about to me, but to be fair, I did end up making some fitting adjustments so it was worth doing it this way. The instructions also included lots of fitting guidelines which were handy to refer to.

My basted together dress was perfectly wearable, but a bit mumsy, so I made a few adjustments for a tighter fit. I took out some fullness underneath the bustline by pinching out the front side seams and I also took in the waist and hips at the side seams by about ⅝". The general bust area and shoulders were a great fit, as was the front neckline, YES! I often have to make adjustments in this area to combat gaping, so this was particularly satisfying.

Construction wise, everything went to plan and amazingly there were no mishaps! Princess seams are a bit of a plain to construct because there's so much clipping and pressing involved to achieve a smooth line. I spent a long time at the ironing board with my tailor's ham, but it was time well spent as the seam lines on the finished dress now lie nice and flat. For fabric I used Prada crepe-backed satin from Minerva. The crepe sheds a lot of fibres, but otherwise it's lovely to work with and a really nice quality, perfect for a cocktail dress. The other big advantage is that it's self lined, so no separate lining required, yay! The dress closes with an invisible zip and the neckline is finished with a facing, all very straight forward.

This dress is only the second black garment I've made (this skirt was the first one) and I don't think I'll be making another one in a hurry. Karen's tips for sewing with black fabric were helpful, but I still found it a very difficult colour to work with. It was a nightmare to pick out stitches, even wearing my reading glasses, and there were times when I just had to make a stab at where they were as I literally couldn't see a thing! Thank god the zip went in first time, that's all I can say!

I hardly wear black as I don't think it does much for my colouring, but I'll be making an exception in this case. I'm so pleased with the fit on this dress, it's a simple design but it really does flatter your curves. From now on if I'm stuck for something dressy to wear, this will be my answer - just sling on a necklace and I'll be good to go!  x

Friday, 16 October 2015

Now & Then Vintage Inspired Patterns

Remember me waxing lyrical in this post about Til the Sun Goes Down? Just to recap, they're a UK-based company producing beautiful dressmaking fabrics in limited edition prints. The fabrics are all inspired by vintage prints from the 1920's to the 1960's and are just exquisite - they really have to be seen to be believed! Having purchased from them before (some beautiful crepe de chine which ended up as my 1930's Made Up blouse) I'm on their mailing list, so was delighted to learn that they've recently branched out into sewing patterns. 

Now & Then Patterns are described as 'vintage inspired, but in today's sizes'. These sizes range from a size 8 (33" bust, 26" waist, 36" hips) to a size 18 (43" bust, 34" waist, 46" hips). There are three patterns to introduce the range.

The 1930's inspired Amelie Tuck Blouse has a gathered yoke to the front and back shoulders and tuck detailing at the waist. There's a choice of sleeves (short with an inverted pleat or sleeveless) and two collar options (double or single pointed styles). 

I like the authentic 1930's design details in this pattern, probably because it's eerily similar to the Simplicity 2844 pattern I used for my Made Up blouse. I don't really care for the double pointed collar though and was alarmed to see that the pattern requires 11 buttonholes. 11? Really? Just for a blouse? That does seem a bit excessive to me, but I suppose that number of buttons would eliminate any problems with gaping! 

Next up is the Clara Bow Blouse (love the name!) which has a distinctly nautical feel, hoorah! The pattern comes with four sleeve options: straight or gathered short sleeves, long sleeves or sleeveless. There's a removable bow at the centre front and it fastens to the side with buttons, which I think is a lovely touch. Double darts to the front and back shape the waist. This pattern ticks a lot of boxes with me!

The third pattern in the range is the Molly Dress. This 1940's inspired dress has a bias cut skirt which gives a draped, fluid shape with lots of swing. 

The waistline is slightly above the natural waist to create the illusion of a smaller waist and longer legs - yes please to both of those! The neckline is bound, with gathers up to a shoulder yoke and there are two sleeve options: a short, straight sleeve or a long sleeve with gathers on the sleeve head. The dress closes to the side with either a zip or placket for press studs. Although I LOVE this style of 1940's dress and have made a couple, I very rarely wear them, so I'll probably give this one a miss.

I haven't seen or worked with the patterns yet, so can't comment on the actual fit, but based on the sizing chart, they do seem to be designed with modern body shapes in mind. As an example, the measurements from the size 16 vintage pattern I used for my Made Up blouse sit between the size 8 and 10 on the Now & Then sizing chart. Quite a difference! I'll be very interested to see what the instructions are like too. 

The patterns are quite pricey (£16 for the blouse patterns and £18 for the dress), so the Clara Bow Blouse will probably be added to my Christmas list as a treat purchase. I have too much going on at the moment to make it before then anyway, so it will be a nice project for the New Year. How about you? Do you like the look of these new patterns? Any favourites amongst them ?

Have a good weekend! x


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