Friday 30 May 2014

The joy of underlining

For my current dressmaking project, I've decided to underline the fabric. I'm a big fan of underlining garments - I've done it a few times now (here, here, here and here) and have always been really pleased with the results. Don't mistake underlining for lining though, as they're too very different beasts. Here are a few quick differences between the two processes.

Lining a garment is often done to provide an extra layer inside it. This layer is usually attached at the neck or waistline, so it hangs loose. There are several advantages to lining a garment:

Coat lining attached at the neckline and facings, but otherwise hanging loose

  • It provides a professional finish to the inside, as all seams are neatly hidden.
  • Lining is generally sewn from a shiny, slippery fabric so it prevents the garment riding up or clinging to you. Think coat linings and shiny skirt linings which avoid the whole 'skirt sticking to your tights' scenario.  
  • A lined garment enables the wearer to slip the garment on and off more easily. 
  • A lining can also help create a smooth line over underwear etc, in much the same way as a slip or underskirt does. 

The main difference between lining and underlining is that underlining is not a separate constructed layer. Underlining is a second layer of fabriccut from the same pattern pieces as the shell fabric. The two layers are then tacked or basted together before construction begins. From that point on, the two layers are treated as one pattern piece. Garments are usually underlined to improve the appearance and structure of the main shell fabric. Here are a few reasons why you might underline a garment:

All pattern pieces are underlined before construction

  • The shell fabric could be too thin and fragile e.g a very fine cotton lawn or voile. These sorts of fabric are liable to rip after one too many unpicking sessions, so underlining would increase their strength.
  • Underlining will also improve the colour and appearance of the shell fabric. That extra layer can turn a thin grey-tinged fabric to magical white.
  • Lightweight fabrics are often transparent. An extra layer of underlining will make a thin fabric opaque, especially important with lighter coloured fabric.
  • Underlining will also improve the structure and texture of fabric, allowing it to hold pleats and tucks. 

You can, of course, choose to underline your fabric and line your garment, but generally, it's one or the other. Hopefully these little pointers will be useful for deciding whether to underline a garment or not. For more information about underlining, Threads Magazine has published an excellent article here.

Back to my latest project….. I do love the fabric, but it's sadly lacking in a couple of crucial areas. It's very thin and lightweight and I doubt whether I'd get a zip inserted without inflicting serious damage to it. It's also transparent and, quite frankly, a bit grey looking in its natural state.

Fabric before underlining

So I decided to underline it in white silk cotton. I think the composition is 30% silk, 70% cotton - just enough silk content to give it a lovely sheen, but not enough to make it misbehave. It's a dream to cut out and work with.  I underlined my pattern pieces yesterday and I have to say, I'm delighted with the results.

Fabric after underlining. A bit crumpled, but definitely a subtle difference in appearance

The white background has become brighter and cleaner and even the colour of the yellow and green sections has improved. It also feels a lot more robust to handle. Very satisfying! I'm all set to start work on my summer dress - progress report next week. Have a good weekend. x

Thursday 29 May 2014

Love Sewing giveaway winner

Just a quick housekeeping post. I can't find an email address for Lucy Howells, the winner of the Love Sewing magazine giveaway. If you're reading this Lucy, can you please email me your address so I can send you your prize? I announced the winner at the end of my last post, but it may have been overlooked. If I don't hear from you by the end of tomorrow, I'm afraid I'll have to choose a different winner. Thank you! x

Thursday 22 May 2014

Yet another 1950's sleeveless blouse

If you like variety and change in your sewing blogs, then this post will probably have you banging your head against a wall. If you like predictability and things on repeat, then you've come to the right place. Yes, I've made yet another version of my go-to pattern for summer - vintage Simplicity 4238.

This version is plain white, which some may call boring, but I like to call perfect. Let me tell you, this top is so perfect I'm quite tempted to make another one exactly the same, just so I can rotate them in the wash! It's almost like a blouse version of a white T shirt, but with the lovely added fifties details that drew me to the pattern in the first place.

Construction-wise it was a cinch to sew - this is my fourth version (previous versions here, here and here), so I was able to whip through the instructions in no time.  The white fabric is cotton pique (Classic Textiles, Goldhawk Road) which has a very slight stretch and a crisp, waffle texture that I really like. It's a bit of a pain to launder, but worth it I think. It makes me think of tennis lessons and sailing - both imaginary of course, I've only had one tennis lesson in my life and I certainly wasn't wearing a crisp waffley white outfit…. The armholes are finished with white bias binding and I added some blue glass boat buttons that have been in my stash for ages. Sadly, the buttons must have been hand painted as they tragically lost their nautical mojo after one wash and you can barely see the boat details now. Never mind, I still like the navy contrast against the white.

Making this blouse has also made a little notch in my Vintage Pattern Sewing Pledge, hoorah. I'm now two vintage patterns down, one to go.  If you have your heart set on a sleeveless fifties blouse, then there seem to be lots of copies of this particular pattern on Etsy. Or this one looks pretty similar too.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this blouse is the fourth version of Simplicity 4238 and my versions cover all bases:


Polka dots...



This got me thinking - I have four versions of the same blouse, maybe I could rotate them day by day and wear variations of the same pattern for a whole week? Sound familiar?! Well, watch this space as I'm working out the finer details of a familiar challenge - all will be revealed in the next few weeks!!

In other news, the winner of the Love Sewing magazine giveaway is..... Lucy Howells!  Please email me your address Lucy and I'll get the magazine posted to you in the next few days. Thank you to everybody else who entered the giveaway.

Happy Thursday. x

Friday 16 May 2014

Love Sewing Magazine - mini giveaway!

Since I started sewing I've more or less given up reading magazines like I used to. I still make a beeline for Vogue at the hairdressers, but I never buy it any more and I always end up flicking through it rather than devouring it like I did in the olden days. I think it's because I make most of my own clothes now, so feel even more disconnected from high fashion magazines. I will admit to a weakness for interior mags from time to time, (I LOVE nosing around people's houses), but the main thing I really enjoy reading about is sewing. There have been a couple of sewing magazines that have come and gone in the past few years, but since the demise of Cloth and then Crafty, there hasn't been much out there to float my boat. I subscribed to Mollie Makes for a while and although the photography and interiors were beautiful, the constant crocheted vegetables and lack of anything to actually read started to get a bit tiresome. So I have high hopes for Love Sewing magazine, who published their first issue this month (no pressure then!)

It doesn't disappoint so far. There are lots of projects to try out, with a good balance between dressmaking, accessories and quilting.  On the dressmaking side, there's a free downloadable Brigitte shift dress pattern from Simple Sew patterns (dress shown on the front cover). Basic instructions are included in the magazine, but if you want detailed step-by-step instructions, hop over to the Thread Carefully blog where they're holding a sewalong. In the magazine there's also a tutorial on how to hem a pair of jeans (which sounds basic but is actually really useful!) a girl's skirt project and how-to articles on underlining and zip insertion. On the accessories side there are at least five projects, including the cute bow clutch bag on the front cover, a scarf, napkins and baby accessories.

I was pleased to see so many indie patterns reviewed in the magazine - on the double page above they feature Gather, Sew Over It and Oliver + S. There's also an interview with sewing blogger of the moment Tilly Walnes

...a sneaky peak behind the scenes at Backstitch….

and a Q and A with May Martin. Oh yes, and a certain lace trimmed Peter Pan collar tutorial was mentioned, which was a lovely surprise!

They have some great contributors on board, and above all there was plenty to read, which really pleased me. I do like to actually read magazines that I'm interested in, so if there was one thing I'd change it would be to have one or two fewer projects and more feature articles to pore over. But that's just me. Overall, I think it's a great first issue and I'm looking forward to the next one.

Talking of which, it's been a popular launch and the first issue has sold out in a lot of places. But never fear… I have a spare copy! The original issue I ordered got lost in the post, a replacement was sent and then the original copy turned up. As it's in high demand, I'm going to offer the spare copy as a giveaway on my blog. The giveaway is for Issue One of Love Sewing magazine which comes with a free Kirstie Allsop FQ and a booklet of Liberty sewing patterns and ideas. To enter, just leave a comment on this post by midnight GMT on Monday 19th May. The winner will be chosen at random after this date and notified by email. On this occasion, the giveaway is open to UK readers only I'm afraid. But don't worry, worldwide readers, I have a few giveaways planned soon that are open to everybody.

Have a great weekend! x

Monday 12 May 2014

Delphine Skirt

Remember the cute little A-line skirt from the front cover of Love at First Stitch? Well, its real name is the Delphine Skirt and I was lucky enough to pattern test it, way back in October last year. It's become a familiar sight in my wardrobe and has been worn, worn and worn again, so it feels a bit odd writing a review all these months later! Here's what I thought...

For fabric, I used a red denim from the Goldhawk Road. I was only planning on buying a metre to send to Evie from Pendle Stitches as I knew she wanted some. At the counter however, I discovered it was the end of the roll and the shop keeper offered me the last three metres at a discount (you've gotta love those Goldhawk Road gents.) It would have been rude to refuse, so after dividing the remnant and sending half to Evie, I ended up with just under 1.5 metres. That's more than enough for this skirt and it's the perfect weight as the pattern requires a fabric with some structure to it, to keep its shape.

Apologies for the 'spoiling for a fight' face...
The Delphine skirt has a neat, fitted waistband and an exaggerated A-line shape. I stupidly cut out a size larger than my measurements as I was worried it might be too tight around the waist. Duh - not only was it too big, but the contrast between the fitted waist and the A-line was a bit lost. The skirt needs to be a good nipped-in fit around the waist i.e. not too big and baggy, otherwise you're liable to lose the exaggerated A-line of the skirt section. This contrast is (for me anyway) the main appeal of the skirt, so my advice is to choose the size that's nearest to your waist size and don't be tempted to make a larger size just "to be on the safe side".  The pattern sizes are accurate - trust them!

You can see the exaggerated A-line better in this picture
Delphine is a very simple skirt to make - even after cutting out the wrong size, I was able to adjust the waistband and skirt side seams to the correct measurements really easily. The instructions are clear and logical and the pattern is perfectly drafted. There was only one thing I changed about the construction and that was to use a standard dressmaking zip rather than an invisible one. This is based on my own personal experience with denim skirts and zips - my denim Ginger skirt has an invisible zip and you can really see the toll taken on it. In fact, it could do with being re-sewn as parts of it are hanging off (ahem!) Anyway, the denim I used is quite a heavyweight one, so I decided a standard zip would be more hard wearing.

The facings are neatly machine finished at the zip edges, which is a nice touch. I used a red polka dot cotton as my facing, partly to reduce bulk, but mostly because denim skirts HAVE to have polka dot facings don't they? I think I read somewhere that it's against the law to have any other kind!!

You can't go wrong with this skirt - the neat A-line shape goes with everything and because it's red and denim, it's already become a real wardrobe stable. The fact that it's denim also means you don't have to wash it very often (not in my house anyway!)

I now have a second Delphine in the correct size all cut out and ready to go. Expect to see it gracing the pages of this blog before too long. x

The Delphine pattern was given to me free of charge for pattern testing. All views my own.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Love At First Stitch

In case you haven't noticed, Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes was published this week!!!! Hoorah, hoorah, HOORAH!! To celebrate, Love Sewing magazine has organised a week-long blog tour, with the book being reviewed each day by a different sewing blogger. Today it's ME!!! So sit back and enjoy!

Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes, published by Quadrille
Since the first announcement, I've been counting the days until this book has been published. Mostly because it's written by my friend and fellow blogger Tilly and I'm so ridiculously proud of her I could burst, but also because this book contains actual PATTERNS!! Now I've reviewed two beautiful Quadrille books in the past (here and here) and both times the lack of patterns has been a real disappointment to me. This time there are full scale patterns included for five garments from the book, all multi-sized and printed on sturdy paper. You will need to trace them off as they're printed on both sides, but this is very easy to do, nothing at all like the horror of a Burda magazine or a Japanese pattern book.  I personally think the inclusion of patterns makes a massive difference to the reader, so thank you Quadrille Publishing!

Right, on with the book review…. The one thing that comes across clearly in Love at First Stitch is that making your own clothes is something that anybody can learn to do, you just have to start slowly and simply. The book starts with instructions for making the simplest project (the Brigitte scarf), followed by PJ bottoms and an A-line skirt. Then, as you increase your skills, you move on to more ambitious projects - a simple dress, a gathered skirt (there is no pattern for this, Tilly shows you how to draft your own!), a button through blouse with collar and a fully lined dress.

Learn how to draft your own Clemence Skirt!

There isn't a separate techniques section - techniques are explained as and when you need to tackle them throughout the book. So the first few projects incorporate all the basic techniques such as threading a machine, sewing and finishing seams etc. Additional techniques like inserting zips, setting in sleeves and adding facings are then covered within the next few projects. Once you've gained a bit of confidence, the projects get slightly more ambitious and include making buttonholes, lining a dress and piping seams.

All the projects are achievable - there are no quirky design features to catch you out, they're just well drafted, with classic, flattering lines. The book also includes three simple variations of each pattern, so you can make them again and again, putting your own personal stamp on them each time. I personally think the simple, elegant pattern designs are to die for and would like to make every single garment in the book (seriously - just watch me!)

Delphine skirt variation with buttons 

Megan Dress colour block variation with placket
I tested two patterns from the book in the planning stages: the Delphine skirt and the Megan dress (which I'll be reviewing in future posts) and the Brigitte headscarf which I made last week. As you would expect, if you've used a Tilly and the Buttons sewing pattern, the instructions are excellent and very clearly explained. There are plenty of tips dotted throughout each project and virtually every single step is accompanied by full colour photography. Tilly is really on a mission to get everybody sewing and she's gone to great lengths to make the projects in her book achievable for everybody. Take it from me, there is no way you can go wrong! 

I think it's also worth mentioning the 'Make it a Lifestyle' sections, which pop up in each chapter. In these, Tilly talks about ways in which you can make sewing part of your everyday life. These include fabric shopping, planning a sewing space, designing your own clothes and finding time for sewing.

I found these sections particularly well written and fascinating to read. Tilly and the Buttons has been a hugely popular blog for a number of years, and I think one of the reasons it's so popular is that she's an engaging and witty writer. This really does come across strongly, not just in these sections, but throughout the entire book. It made me want to actually sit down and read it rather than simply use it as a reference book.

Whether you're a total beginner or an experienced dressmaker, I think you'll find Love at First Stitch a very inspiring book. I don't class myself as a beginner any longer and I definitely find it inspiring. Just think, there's an entire super-stylish wardrobe up for grabs and you can make it your own if you really want to! Congratulations Tilly, this is a wonderful book that anybody who loves sewing should have on their bookshelf.

If you'd like to get your mitts on a copy of Love at First Stitch, it's available to buy from Amazonor you can buy a signed copy from Tilly's online shop. Don't forget to check out the rest of the blog tour too. x

Monday 5th May         Love Sewing
Tuesday 6th May        House of Pinheiro
Wednesday 7th May    Did You Make That?
Thursday 8th May       What Katie Sews
Friday 9th May           A Stitching Odyssey
Saturday 10th May      Handmade Jane
Sunday 11th May        Lazy Stitching

A copy of Love at First Stitch was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own.

Friday 2 May 2014

Anchors Aweigh!

If you've been paying attention for the past few years, you'll have noticed that I'm more than a little fond of the nautical look. My favourite colour combination (blue and white) is often used, sometimes with a bit of red thrown in and a liberal use of large white buttons. As far as shapes and styles are concerned I have a huge soft spot for sailor trousers and large-collared sailor tops…

Deanna Durbin and friends in Three Smart Girls

Adorable sailor collared halter neck blouse (I think)

Sailor sweater, oh I WISH I could knit sometimes!

But for a real taste of nautical chic, there's nothing quite like the winning combo of striped Breton top and high wasted sailor shorts. And brown legs of course, if you're lucky!

Just in case I get an invitation to mess around in a boat this summer, I've decided to make myself this very same winning combo.  For the shorts, I'm going down the denim route, inspired by these beauties.

I'll be using Kwik Sew 3854, kindly lent to me by Zoe. In fact, we did a sailor swap - I loaned her my copy of Simplicity 2654 to make a pair of awesome sailor trousers! I'll be making view B, from a lovely dark, stretch denim. Now I just need to work on applying fake tan for an entire year to get my legs the requisite bronzed hue (ha!)

For the Breton style top there was only ever one contender - the Coco pattern.  I used an unusual green and cream striped stable knit from the Goldhawk Road, which is a lovely quality knit. I went for the ¾ sleeve option and also shortened the body length quite a bit. I do like the original length of the Coco top with the split, but wanted something that wouldn't be too bulky tucked in. The shorter length also means it can showcase any awesome sailor buttons I manage to scavenge for my shorts.  I tapered the waist and hips in by about ½" for a more fitted look and also reduced the width of the sleeves. 

The neck is a bit baggier than I'd like, but I think that's more to do with me using a zigzag stitch. For some reason, all my zigzagged hems came out wavy as hell on this make. The arms and main hems looked ridiculous and the only reason the neck is wearable is because I applied knit stay tape beforehand. In the end I had no choice but to cut the hems off and start again, this time using a twin needle, which seemed to do the trick. Definitely something to keep in mind for next time.  Here it is tucked in...

Despite this, the top sewed up very quickly on my overlocker and I'm pleased with how well it seems to pair with my existing wardrobe.  A good nautical start I'd say! I can't wait to pair it with the sailor shorts in a few week's time. Right, must go and practise a furious dance routine a la Gene Kelly…. x


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