Sleevetober? A twist in the tale.

I didn’t have time to enter #sleevefest as I was travelling,, nevertheless, I am bringing it with a sleeve AND and twist front on my latest make.

 

This dress is my favourite RTW dress and I’ve worn it nearly to death. I have been trying to figure out the twist front for years without success! I don’t want to take her apart because I still love her, but I couldn’t quite figure out how the front worked, however, I was determined not to buy a pattern as I’m trying to economise and I really wanted to draft it myself.

Anyway, after staring at this dress inside and out for ages, I couldn’t figure it out until I finally turned to the internet to helped me visualise the structure. It turns out I was not the only one who likes this style. As it happens Burda have a pattern for a top and dress like this and quite a few people have given their take on the pattern.

Once I had seen a sketch of the pattern pieces and with my rudimentary drafting skills, I figured out that it is a kind of a slash and spread on a basic bodice with a bit of origami thrown in.

 

I had to be able to visualise it in order to make it. This is how I think it works. From a basic bodice, you have to slash and spread in the bust area to make the fullness to twist the top. It’s quite an extreme rotation and the resulting pattern piece looks really weird. However I’ve labelled the main parts and hopefully, you can see where everything came from.

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I made a 1/4 scale sloper when I first attempted pattern making, I used it to make this mini muslin

I tried out a mini mock-up of the pattern to get my head around the construction and once I understood the pattern it all fell into place. I’m using a lightweight stretch jersey knit fabric from Minerva Crafts to make this top.

 

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First sew the two fronts together, basting the facing into position. The trick comes in sewing the bust seam. On the left side, mark a point halfway along the ‘bust seam’ and stitch the seam leaving an opening at the centre. Then pass the other side through the hole before stitching that side. This gives the twist. You can then sew up the rest of the garment as normal.

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The finished top on Venus, a little adjustment is required to turn in the edge.

Once I had finished sewing and was ready to try on I realised it was a little snug.  I need to allow a bit more room in my next version but a wearable toile this is.

Now back to Sleevetober. As if this bodice experimentation wasn’t enough I also decided I wanted to get in on the sleeve game and added some fluted sleeves to this design.  I kept seeing these sleeves and decided it shouldn’t be difficult to add create these. They are effectively mini circle skirts. I traced a circle with a radius equal to the length from my elbow to my wrist. I then cut out a smaller circle in the centre approximately the circumference of my arm at the elbow. Finally, I removed a quarter of the ring as I thought it would be too full. I then attached this to my half-length sleeves et voila!

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Mini ‘circle skirts’ = bell sleeves

Attach these to the end of your sleeves and it is all done. A twist front blouse with bell sleeves.

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Twist top with bell sleeves, I think this experiment worked and I’m definitely wearing this toile.

Note to self: seems a bit close all over, I wonder if Elaine remembered to add any seam allowances? It’s turned out a bit,  mmm shall we say ‘booby’, so I need to allow a bit more room in there next time and figure out how to make sure my finished edge lay better in the twist. What do you reckon on the twist and the sleeves – too much together?

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My 3/4 circle sleeves are making me all kinds of happy here. I have to keep swishing them.

Now I don’t really know if this counts as a ‘How To’ as there is a lot more detail missing but I thought it would help to show how to visualise a pattern to make a garment from sight. Maybe I’ll make a full tutorial the next time I make this top. (Another thing to learn) For now, I’m chuffed at managing to figure out the construction of this pattern knockoff. As for my sleeves well they are just Sleevetastic! Any ideas on how to fix my twit problem or examples of your own pattern puzzle triumphs would be very welcome. Thanks for reading.

Elaine x

 

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camomaxi

Self drafted T-shirt goes long – taking it to the Maxi.

In March I was getting my sewjo back with a vengeance and sewed my first self-drafted item for a while. I made a simple T-shirt based on an old RTW favourite and used some dramatic fabric to give it life. I’m going to use the same technique and extend that self-made pattern into a maxi dress.

I’ve seen a few IG posts using camouflage print jersey and I really liked them and I figured this should be a pretty easy conversion, I use the same technique from the pattern I made earlier this year but just need to lengthen to add a maxi skirt. The overlocker will be carrying the brunt of the work and this time I want to do a self-bound neckline rather than just turn over the edge as I did with the t-shirt.

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Straights and curves

Preparation is as follows: you will need some paper to trace onto, you can do this with any paper, preferably wide enough to fit your garment and it should be slightly translucent so you can see your markings through it. I used A3 printer paper but you could also use parcel wrapping paper, tracing paper or another favourite of mine, wall lining paper (the stuff you put onto lumpy walls before the good paper to even it out). You’ll need pencils and markers, a ruler – I found that a standard 30cm is too short for most pieces and a metre stick is too long but I had a metal ruler that I used to use for picture framing which is 60cm and that is just right. You also need something to draw curves. You can use your ruler marking and moving as necessary or you can use a French curve or a flexible

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Two sheets of A3 taped together to allow for the top, place centre against the edge

Start off by folding your t-shirt in half vertically – that is down the middle. Lay the t-shirt up against the edge of your paper. Simply trace around the t-shirt with a pencil and mark the neck, sleeves and hem. I used a pencil first as I didn’t want to mark my t-shirt. At the neck the outline will be the back neck, remember to put a mark where the front neck is as you will need this later.

Remove the t-shirt and go over your markings with a Sharpie or some other dark marker. Use whichever method you choose to make a nice curve for both the front and the back neck. I also used the curve to give me a waist. You might want to draw in seam allowances here too, I allowed 1cm as I was going to use the overlocker to make it up but you can set your seam allowance to your own preferred width.

Once you have the outline take another piece of paper, stick it to the first piece at the centre front, fold the two pieces of paper at the join. You should be able to see your original line through the second sheet of paper, mark a mirror image of the first outline, this time marking in the front neckline only. When you have finished go over it in marker.

 

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Pattern in two halves showing front neck and back neck

 

Now cut out the pattern pieces; on one side cut the back neck and on the other, you will cut the front neck.

My t-shirt cuts me at the hip so for the skirt, I measured from my hip to my ankle and cut a rectangle of paper, the width of the t-shirt, stick these pieces together and this makes the t-shirt into a maxi dress. The sleeves are simple cylinders which are grown onto the body. There are no armhole shapings to worry about. Cut out a rectangle the width of your armhole, allowing for seams. You choose how long to make your sleeves.

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Last time a did a simple fold-over neckline but I decided to add a neckband to my tee. To do this measure around your neckline to determine the length of the binding you need adding a bit for the seam. Edit: this actually works better if you make the band a bit shorter than the neckline, I found later that my neckband gapes a little because it was too long. Cut a strip of fabric to this length and the desired width. I made my binding about a centimetre wide (when folded) but again it’s up to you how wide to make it.

Layout your fabric on the fold and cut your front and back. The cut out your sleeves and binding. I got this camo fabric way back in the spring from @fabric_styles just when this project came to mind.

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Making up the dress with an overlocker is very easy. Join the shoulders first then attach the sleeves. Then join the sides from the sleeves to the hem matching the sleeves seams. Finish the sleeves by overlocking the edge and then folding over and topstitching the hem. You can also use a twin needle to finish this.

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The little grown on sleeve with double topstitch finishing

The neckline was a first for me. Join the binding to form a hoop. Fold in half lengthwise wrong side to wrong side. Pin it to your neckline right side to right side and stitch or overclock. Turn in and press. On the outside topstitch in place. This gives a finish that looks so much more professional, I’m really pleased with how this came out and will finish all my tees like this now.

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Et voila!

Finished maxi dress on Venus, you can also see my new floor in our refurbished hobbies room

Note to self, I found doing this skirt completely straight left me a little hobbled – no running for the bus in this dress! Next time I’ll add a bit of width at the bottom to make it slightly A-line and give myself a bit more room for manoeuvre.

This is a very simplistic method which can be done without any pattern drafting experience, you are simply tracing around an existing garment. Pick something that fits you and you love the look of and you can’t go too far wrong. Working with stretch fabric seems a little forgiving as well.

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Here I am standing by a Sacramento wall

 

This dress has made its debut on my latest trip, I’ve been swanning around Sacramento in it and felt a million dollars. I would definitely recommend this jersey, it’s got a good stretch and holds its shape after washing. The camo looks surprisingly glamorous, or maybe its the fact that it’s a maxi dress, whichever, it got lots of compliments.

This clothes cloning feels a little addictive. I’m eyeing every t-shirt I own to see if they could become my next laineemake.

For fun look here

 

 

Evergreen: an adventure in colour and creating

A little while ago  I blogged about drafting a dress from a photo I had seen in the Vogue Pattern book. I’ll show you here how I turned that pattern into a real-life dress. The original was a shift style dress in denim and I had intended to make a close copy in the traditional fabric until Minerva Crafts offered me some emerald green denim dress fabric to play with. Here is the fabric, I hope you can see how gorgeous the colour and the fabric itself are.

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Heres how the dress evolved, the blue changed to green and that dictated some contrasting topstitching. The usual yellow/gold wouldn’t work here and I debated red, purple and orange before selecting a strong cobalt blue for embellishment.

Taking my freshly made pattern I laid everything out to cut it. I have christened the pattern Prairie and just to make myself happy.

I actually made a toile! This is major for me as I never used to. I’m a dive in person, I like to get going and I kinda like a bit of instant gratification so I never used to think that I could spend the time doing ‘practice’ versions. However, for an article made purely from imagination and with a collaboration with another party a trial was indeed necessary. It was just as well as my sizing was far from accurate.

I had to make quite a few alterations before using my ‘real ‘ dress. So changes were made and I prepared to do the real thing.

As luck would have it I unearthed a forgotten sewing tool. I had some Burda carbon paper which I used to trace out my notches and mark all of the darts in position. See – I’m trying to do things properly!

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Once everything was cut out, I finished all the edges with the overlocker (btw I love overlocking) and stitched and pressed all of the darts.

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The bit that I found most taxing was getting the pockets right. The top-stitched seam is interrupted by inset pockets and I had to work out how to do this. In the end, I had to topstitch in two phases.

Insert the pockets and topstitch them, then join the mid front to the side front and do that topstitching.

Once the front was done, I then dealt with the back. I had decided that I wanted an exposed zip in this dress to add a bit of detail. I chose a cobalt blue zip with very shiny gold hardware. I’m really pleased with this decision.

As I had made a toile (a departure for me) I had most details in place. A few more tweaks were required for the back darts and zip but I think with practice I can improve these.

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Now it came to the skirt section, I had originally thought I would put a split in the back but I decided to join the two back pieces, as the dress is quite short, a split would be heading too close to the core so to speak. (Note to self, I think I wanted this dress a little longer.)

I attached the skirt pieces to the front and back, stitched and then overlocked them, finally, I joined the two sides carefully making sure that all the seams and topstitching matched. (Time for the seam ripper) Then when the garment was finally one piece I did a fitting and then finished the neckline, sleeves and hem.

There’s a bit of work to perfect this dress but I’m so happy that I have drafted and sewn a simple dress with a few technical features and it fits and looks more or less like I intended it. I packed it to take away on holiday and I wore it for my birthday meal on the Brittany coast.

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Tweaks that I would make to this dress are in the length, I’ve decided I would actually make it bit longer both the hemline and the bodice. An adjustment that you can’t see is the pockets. I made mine far too shallow, so next time they will be increased in size. All in all, though I’m pretty pleased with my latest make.

Tell me about your first forays into drafting your own patterns. It’s exciting, isn’t it?

 

 

Making it work – upsizing commercial sewing patterns.

I don’t know if it was overconfidence, wishful thinking or both but I seem to have a number of patterns that are not the right size for me. Some of these date from my earlier sewing days when I would buy patterns fully believing I was going to make that item next week. These patterns don’t fit because I’m not the girl I was 20 years ago – read two sizes bigger. Another group of patterns are the ones bought optimistically in more recent sales, knowing they are wrong. Somewhere along the years, I slid from the 8-10-12 band into the 14-16-18 band. Now there would be wishful thinking “I might lose those pounds” and then there is the (perhaps) overconfidence “I can adjust that pattern”.

 

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Oh, those were the days.

 

Now that I’ve accepted that I probably won’t “lose those pounds” anytime soon, and I want to make these garments now, I have to follow the second route and adjust the patterns.

It can look a little daunting because commercial patterns, especially multisized ones have a lot of information on them and signs and symbols that can seem baffling. However, the multisize pattern is your friend as you can see how the system works.

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Straight edges are fine, you can just trace them but you will need to add your sizes by grading. Look at your pattern, big four ones like Vogue usually have three sizes on a sheet so look at how they increase them. There will be a small increment between each size e.g. 0.5cm or 3/8 inch.

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Use a clear ruler to measure your points

Measure and make a note of that increment and then add that amount for each additional size you need. Note: your size points should all fall on a straight line, this will help you check you are in the right place.

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Add on an increment for each additional size

Once you have marked your points, join them up using a ruler or French curve, or a flexible curve, which is my favourite because you can manipulate it to fit your line. If you are tracing onto a new sheet rather than just adding to the existing pattern, remember to copy all of the markings such as notches, grainline and placement marks.

 

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Curves and lines

Once done your pattern will be ready to use. I can now feel happy about those “bargains” I got in the sales and use my precious patterns to make some lovely garments. Have you got some mis-sized patterns lurking in your stash? Have a go at grading them to your size. Do you have any tips to share? I’d like to see how you get on.

 

Something tells me I’m into something good.

There I was sitting at my computer trying to force myself to complete the hundreds of exam scripts I still had to mark, I hear the third knock at the door this morning. It’s not as if I need distracting anymore than I can do myself. I have had to put my phone away so I can’t keep flicking to Instagram and I have had to draw upon superhuman (for me) reserves of self-discipline to stop myself going on other social media. It’s not easy as this marking is all done online so I can’t “Step away from the Internet”.

So why am I typing here, it’s because that third interruption brought me a delivery of joy.  A week or so back I was delighted to find that I had been chosen to receive a gift as part of the #sewtogetherforsummer shirt-dress challenge. I felt very fortunate, almost a bit of a cheat as I had only joined at the last minute as I didn’t realise I  was still eligible.

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I accepted an Amazon parcel from the postie and was thinking to myself honestly I haven’t Amazoned for weeks! I couldn’t think what it could be. this is not unusual but I was pretty sure this time that I wasn’t expecting anything. It was obviously a book but I haven’t bought a physical book for so long. I was confused.

I opened the packet and the corner of The Tunic Bible came into view. “OOOOEEEEYOWWWW!” – this is the only literal way I can express the level of excitement I’m feeling.

The Tunic Bible: One Pattern, Interchangeable Pieces, Ready-to-Wear Results! by [Gunn, Sarah, Starr, Julie]

I was really genuinely pleased to get an acknowledgement from Sarah Smith and the other hosts of the challenge and I was not expecting it when I read the announcement that I had received a gift. That was so cool. However, now it’s here I am even more over the moon.

Now I’m a great fan of free things, although strictly speaking this was won; but free things that are beyond fabulous? That’s another level. Now that I see the book I would have been very happy to buy it with real £££s.  I have been following Julie Starr for a few months and admiring some of the garments she showcased on her Instagram, but this book is bee-ute-iful! Not only that; on first inspection it’s well written, wonderfully organised and it looks as though it will be really easy to use. My only problem will be to choose which tunics (plural) I make.

So once again thank you @sewsarahsmith, @sewing_in_spain and @rocco_sienna and thank you Julie Starr for this wonderful book.

Something tells me this sewing community I’m into is something really good.

Have you seen The Tunic Bible? Have you made anything from it and how did it go?

The Accidental Winner: why it pays to dig out those sewing UFOs.

Now meet my “Afterthought” dress, the late to the party dress, the slow-slow-slow game-winner. It’s months since I made her but only now got around to wearing and writing about it!

I’m currently in a phase of craving instant gratification I see a new fabric or pattern and I want to sew it now, but nagging away at me was the need to deal with my ufos – or UnFinished Objects.

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This fabric was a remnant of a beautiful Robert Kaufman print snagged from my local    C and H Fabrics an indeterminate number of years ago. It was in the category of an “It’s so pretty that there must be something I can make with it.” item. Not my usual style at the time as I think it was in my most drab, work-wear phase in which everything was Plain, Muted and Unobtrusive. It was my ‘Black, Navy, Brown and Beige Period’. So this fabric was definitely in the #sewingdreams category.

Some significant time after purchasing said fabric I eventually came to the conclusion that this needed to be a shirt dress. I don’t know why but that’s how I came to buy the Simplicity Lisette Pattern 2246.

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Then more time passed. At some point, I cut out the dress pieces and set them aside, probably missing something like interfacing for the plackets and collar. More time passed and the big sewing hiatus ensued. Finally, I snapped out of it and when I started sewing again, I said to myself I have to tackle this.

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Out from its prison of a plastic carrier bag and I assessed my earlier progress: side and shoulder seams had been sewn before I abandoned. That meant sleeves, a collar, a front placket, buttonholes (which I hate) and all the hemming and finishing still needed to be done. I put it on on a clothes hanger in my sewing area. I still didn’t dive in until it was approaching summertime again and I thought I really should get it finished.

So out it came from where it had hung accusingly for the last few months and I finally cut the missing placket and faced it with iron on interfacing. This is, I now believe, what had stalled me in the first place. Piecing it together was relatively easy, I still had the thread but I hadn’t chosen buttons and despite having a mini stash of buttons (of course) I didn’t see the definitive button that cried out to go on this shirt dress.

It was about now that I became aware that the #sewtogetherforsummer shirt dress challenge was just coming towards its last leg. I had seen it earlier in the year while travelling but not seriously thought about joining in – I didn’t think I would have time and I had once again forgotten the Afterthought. Then I thought “Hey – this is a shirt-dress” and when I re-read the details and it said any shirtdress anytime, I realised I could, after all, take part.

The bits all came together nicely and was very pleased with my collar and just happy I was finishing it.

I sewed the garment together and this is when I hit the big snag. When I put on this dress it was tight all over and once again I had to acknowledge that with the passing of time I have gained weight. Where once there was a curvy yet svelte figure, now I was a lot more ‘voluptuous’ shall we say.

I had by now invested a fair bit of time into making this dress, I wouldn’t consider not finishing it and I was also invested emotionally in the idea of entering my first challenge. So the solution? Gusset!

This great comedy word always seems to induce giggles (is it just me?) but the gusset is my dressmaking hero. I needed volume and by inserting a 2″ strip in the sides and arms, I provided that volume and left me with a lovely comfortably fitting shirt dress.

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You can just peek the side gusset here

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Looooove this print.

Work, holidays and visitors meant I was cutting to the wire as I often do, but the dress was finished in time to enter the challenge.

Now I was super chuffed to have made it in time because I really wanted to participate, however, I was even more delighted when I found out my name had been drawn out of the hat to receive a prize, a copy of the Tunic Bible, by Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr.

The Tunic Bible: One Pattern, Interchangeable Pieces, Ready-to-Wear Results! by [Gunn, Sarah, Starr, Julie]

So this is how my ‘afterthought’ dress, my long abandoned unfinished object became a superstar (in my wardrobe anyway) and this is why we should all look again at those little-neglected bundles in the bottom of draws or scrunched up in carrier bags and say to them, you deserve to be finished.

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Here it is on hols with me in California

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Works nicely as a duster too.

I’m really interested to hear what unexpected bonuses have you received through your craft?

 

 

Through my eyes; I made a pattern from a photograph in Vogue

I have lovingly kept this Book of Vogue patterns for years and drooled and dreamed over it many times. Now I’m sewing again, I’m trying not to add to my pattern stash before I use some of the ones I have already, but it’s difficult when you see something you like and it’s not in the stash – and of course I only like what’s not in the stash.   ‘How hard could it be’ I asked myself, ‘to make a dress by sight from the picture in the pattern book’.

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Now I have a kind of idea of how slopers work, I decided t see if could, in fact, make a pattern based on an idea and make it fit using my sloper.

It started with a sketch of the dress. Everyone knows denim is really in this year and so it had crept into my consciousness and I kept coming back to a denim shift dress in a section called The Vogue Woman. These garments are intended for a mature woman and I probably would have skimmed that section of the book in the late 90s but now this dress kept calling me.

I decided to make it like the photo in the book so it would be in the original traditional blue denim.  This book is from 2000 and the pattern is out of print, so it forced me to do what I have been dreaming of for ages and draft my own pattern. Now I have made a few things without patterns before but mainly t-shirts and simple shifts, but I wanted to do this a bit more professionally. While it’s quite straightforward it’s more than a two piece pattern.

I did a bit of internet surfing and spent a lot of time YouTubing to re-learn how to make and use slopers. I say re-learn because I had forgotten that I had made a rudimentary set of slopers in old sewing me days. However, I needed to learn it over as I had forgotten pretty much everything. I have considered classes several times but hey used to be inconvenient as the only course I found was on during the day when I was at work. Now that I’m not working the cost is prohibitive for a hobby so DIY it is.

I  discovered Ralph Pink’s system which combines Microsoft Excel and Adobe Illustrator to make slopers. This suits the techie in me. If I do get to making patterns I would rather do them in Illustrator so that I can also grade them to different sizes.

I created a bodice and dress sloper and from that made a quarter size version to practice. My first pattern is doll size and so much fun when I finished it.

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Instantly I could visualise the real thing and this was so motivating. So scaling it up was the next step. The whole point of the Excel Illustrator combo was to be able to make this to my measurements so the model should scale up for a full-size pattern. Here goes.

Well, I have to admit that my first toile did not fit but I was able to work out that it was a transposition error in my measurements. The adjustments worked and there it was I have drafted my own slopers and made a dress pattern from it.

How was your first time? Have you dared to draft your own patterns? I’d really be interested in your tips for learning pattern drafting.

Unrequited Sewing: The Pattern Stash gets busted

All of my sewing sisters will be guilty of stashing far more fabric than we know what to do with but since I’ve joined in with the wonderful world of the sewcialists I have had to concede that it’s not just fabrics that I have a huge unused pile of but there is also a veritable library of sewing patterns accumulated over the years. I am sure that just as with the fabrics I had a wistful look in my eye as I said to myself or the pattern in fact ‘One day your prince … I mean fabric will come’.

I have vowed to use the fabrics up (shhhhh I didn’t just buy loads while I was abroad) and I had a mission. This piece is the final item I made for my long trip abroad. This project turned into a double stash-bust whammy as not only was I going to be using fabric I had bought over two years ago, I was also going to use a beautiful pattern which has been languishing in a storage box for the best part of two decades.

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My Byron Lars Vogue 1621

Byron Lars is a designer I discovered via Vogue Patterns. He launched a number of patterns in the early to mid-1990s. His signature was unusually twisted and tucked and folded details in his patterns. I bought just this one but remember coveting several more. This pattern dates from 1995 according to Pattern Vault. I can’t be entirely sure when I bought it but considering my sewing went on the back burner when I went to university in 1997, this timeline would be about right.

Giddy with the excitement that being part of the sewcialist arena has filled me with, I got all ambitious and decided I needed to make a new wardrobe to take with me on my long trip. while I wasn’t going to get anywhere close to me-made every day I was pleased that I wore a few new items. After my semi-successful jeans and my glorious T-shirt, I was full of confidence.

Now don’t get too excited I’m actually making the trousers from this pattern, not the twist front top or tie front mini. I had some common sense, I knew those versions would need a lot more time than I had and I still feel a bit rusty in my skills.

The fabric came from @dittofabrics a couple of years ago. Now I used to be pretty much anti floral patterns of any description but now I quite like huge flower motifs and this design really appealed to me. I had trousers in my mind as soon as I saw it but I was thinking straight or skinny legs. This pattern is actually quite a wide tapered shape.

I was visiting my sister and took all of my sewing gear as well as my sewing machine. It was still a little awkward cutting out on her living room floor rather than my cutting table, however, it provided us with some entertainment as I did various contortions to try to get around the fabric without stomping on it.

Floral trousers

Once I had committed to the pattern and stopped daydreaming about the ’90s I was brought down to earth with a bang. Apparently, I’m not the same size as I was 20 years ago – who knew! This is a single size pattern and I am no longer that size. This meant I had to embark on some impromptu grading. Now I’m a skilled seamstress, even though I say so myself. However, I’m not yet a designer or pattern drafter. It’s one of my ambitions to learn how to make my own patterns but it hasn’t happened yet. Now I have to make these trousers two sizes bigger.

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Marking these dots helps position your darts

My default manoeuvre when I don’t know something is to reach for a book, (yes, books before Google) but I decided that this should be straightforward. Years of using paper patterns have shown me that most grading seems to involve adding a bit. It seems like about 1 cm per extra size. This is what I went with. The crotch seam needs a French curve but it went OK.

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Cut out and ready to sew

Technical bits are limited to a concealed zip which was a little stubborn and a waistband to apply a facing with under-stitching to keep it laying the right way so nothing too eventful. I even managed to do a blind hem with my overlocker for the first time.

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My finest under-stitching

Now as I said, I originally had skinny or straight legs in mind when I saw this fabric and having made it up, part of me still thought that way. However, I’m warming to the taper as it’s very flattering on a fuller figure. That said this pattern has a VERY high waist and while at first, I thought that might be a good thing and give me a bit of ‘corset’ action, however, in reality,  I did find it quite uncomfortably restricting so I will be adjusting that later.

 

Final Verdict: I’m really over the moon with these Byron Lars trousers. I hope the lack of pattern matching won’t upset people too much but I just haven’t gone there yet.  I know the folly of snatching up every pretty pattern you see and never sewing them, but I’m glad that I seem to have chosen a classic that has not suffered from the passing of time (or is it that the style is coming back again?).

I’m so glad I delved into the pattern stash. Which are your favourite patterns that you have never yet made? I’d love to see what patterns people have squirrelled away. Will they ever be transformed into a beautiful me made?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Neither love or seams can keep you together…

Cloning My ‘Wanderer’ Jeans

Every time I looked at them I knew this time had to be the last time we were together, but I couldn’t give them up. They were so good to me; they knew me so well and they knew how to make me feel good. I always ended up giving them another chance.

I was wearing my favourite jeans in deep blue denim that looked as good as new on the outside but I knew the truth. Thunder thighs had struck again. These jeans were on their fourth patching and that was wearing through. I had checked in the mirror and couldn’t see anything untoward and the OH swore he couldn’t see anything either. Then while I was out, I felt a breeze where I knew I shouldn’t and my mind was made up. It just happened that I was wandering into @dittofabrics just as this occurred. I say ‘just happened’ as if I don’t go into a fabric shop every time I go to town these days. I had gone into Ditto for something, probably knicker elastic but that’s another story. Oh… I know it was for some stretch knit fabric for my fallon top pattern test and that’s another ‘other story’. As I was wandering around picking up every other roll of fabric and inwardly drooling I came across the bolts of stretch denim. Instantly I thought “This is it, I am in making mode. I love you jeans but you have reached a patch too far. I can rebuild you, I can make you better… stronger… faster”. (If you are of a similar vintage to me you should be hearing the theme to the Six Million Dollar Man in your head and in your mind’s eye you’re seeing Lee Majors running in slow motion; if you’re not as old as me, never mind.)

 

prewash

Prewashing is a thing?????

 

Anyway, I had decided that I was going to copy these jeans as the Sewjo is definitely back. I’m full of pattern testing infused confidence and raring to go.

This was an exercise in creative destruction, in that my original jeans weren’t going to make it out alive. I thought about tracing around them but I didn’t quite think I could replicate the key feature, which was some shaping which allows the jeans to fit my curvy derriere really nicely. In order to get that right, I decided I was going to have to dismantle my jeans and use them as a pattern. If I’m careful I could put them back together again … I already knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Thanks to @dressmakerssocial who helped me get the right amount of fabric, I got a bit extra for insurance and I ended up with mooooore than enough. I remembered top stitching thread and jeans needles and took my booty home.

At this point, I was deep into pattern testing the Fallon top with @studiotkb and so I could not start on the jeans straight away. This meant that I had plenty of time to pre-wash my denim like a good girl. I have to confess to being a very impatient sewer in the past and I almost never pre-washed unless it was a fabric with form for shrinking. I felt a little self-righteous knowing that I was doing a good thing. So I dutifully washed the denim and hung it out to dry while I got on with other things.

I was on a deadline as I now want to take them on my long trip and I now had exactly a week to go, I was in a bit if a frenzy as I’ve made my Lotus T-shirt, a pair of Flora trousers, the Sinclair patterns test Clementine, and Fallon all back to back and now these jeans will give me a decent haul for my holiday wardrobe.

Cue a bit of fear, once that seam ripper goes in I’m committed, I set to and it was not long before I had gouged three nice rips into the fabric. So that together with the already threadbare inner thighs sealed the deal, there was no going back now and my original jeans were no more.

It took me about an hour to unpick all of the seams on one side of the garment which involved undoing a combination of seams, topstitching and edge stitching, leaving a small hillock of thread when done.

Now it was time to make my pattern, I made a paper pattern rather than place directly onto the fabric, this way if I’m successful these jeans can be made again. It was pretty straightforward, when you dismantle a garment it is surprising how clear the construction becomes. I could see where everything went and how it fit together. I made sure to add seam allowance as some were lost either due to the original wear and some during the seam ripping.

With the pattern made I went ahead and cut it out, I did not make a toile (lazy and impatient again) but I now recommend that you do. Using my observations during dismantling and the intact half of the original jeans as a guide, it was relatively easy to construct. Finish all of the edges with zigzag stitch or use the overlocker if you have one – this is so much fun I find myself making car chase noises when I’m overlocking.   Make your patch pockets and press the edge over and edge stitch in a plain thread.

Then I made the front pockets by lining them with a cotton print and attaching to the jeans front agai,n stitch and press to set the shape basting the pocket into position.

For the jeans themselves I started with the shaping feature in the back two little darts give you extra room in the rear. Pressing on the ham gives it that shape.

These seams give a nice shape for an ample bum

Then some nice edge stitch to lay it down before adding the yoke.

As I would come to see the devil really is in all the topstitching detail. When making jeans the topstitching is the main feature as this is what makes them jeans and not just another pair of trousers. You will need lots of top stitch thread, I had to go back 3 times as I kept underestimating how much I would need. You will also realise that topstitching is an art, you need a steady hand or some technical tool. Use a notch on your presser foot and the stitch width function to move the needle into position to get your stitching just right. Practice makes perfect. This could happen…

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oops…

Before this happens…

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aaahh…

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but look…

Next is the fly closure, as much as topstitching, a fly closure makes jeans, jeans. They can be tricky and with hindsight, I recommend doing your fly first and not moving on until you are happy. I have to admit my fly is a bit of an abomination so I’m kinda glossing over that for now!

Finally, the construction is complete with much topstitching. Stitch the inside leg, then topstitch. Then do the outside leg. Often the outside leg is not topstitched but the upper seam as far as the thigh is usually edge-stitched. I didn’t like the fit of mine at this point (this is why you make a toile sewists) so I had to add a panel to rescue … ahem, add a design feature to my jeans. Once the pants fit, it’s time to add the waistband and belt loops, put on a fancy button and you’re done.

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My side panel and top stitching.

My ‘Wanderer’ jeans made it into the suitcase for my long Balkan trip but there are a few things I’m not happy with, namely the fly front and the waistband so while I have worn them, these jeans will be undergoing surgery as soon as I return home. However, I am really happy that I have drafted a pair of jeans which fit nicely and look like jeans. I don’t mind the sacrifice of my favourite jeans as they taught me a lot and I think I may never buy RTW jeans again.

Wanderer jeansjeans

Have you ever cloned a pair of jeans? How did it go – were you successful or do you wish you had left your jeans intact?

P.S. See that denim jacket, I lost that in one of the three countries we visited in the last month … so guess what is going on my ‘to make’ list?

7 reasons to try Apartment life on your next holiday.

Whether it be Birmingham or Bari, city breaks are still really popular, and there are a slew of hotels on all the various websites offering city centre rooms. However, increasingly we’ve been finding great deals staying in self-catering apartments, in super locations for very reasonable prices.

 20150306_213939_Via Salvatore Trinchese (1)
Plenty of comfort

Why go self catering?

There are many benefits of staying in a self-catering apartment. This type of accommodation definitely feels like a home away from home because first of all you have freedom. Freedom to come and go as you please – in a hotel I usually feel obliged to stay out all day. Lie in if you want to without the concierge chasing you out in order to service the room – most will do the room every third day and you can ask if you want it done more frequently. Cook (or not) if you want to; with a fridge and cooking facilities to hand you can manage your refreshments as you want them, within your budget. The genuine comfort of sufficient armchairs/sofas in which to really enjoy a good sit down when you’ve finished foot slogging around town all day.

As a growing niche in the market it seems that the quality of these apartments is very high. Get a taste of loft style living in a big city like Birmingham or enter the lap of luxury in converted theatres or grand villas in Italy.

Location, location, location… you can find apartments at the heart of wherever it’s happening, (whatever it is your looking for). All of the usual online booking sites seem to do great deals on apartments too.

All the comforts of home are standard these days, television (often with DVD players), WIFI (I won’t stay anywhere that does not have it) and copious outlets for all of your gadgets are almost de rigeur.

 20150306_213424_Via Salvatore Trinchese
A kitchen fit for real life

Obviously self-catering means cooking, if you’re happy to bring your inner Domestic Goddess (or in my house Galloping Gourmet) with you then that’s great, but if part of your idea of a holiday is  to escape the drudgery of cooking then… just don’t. However, self-catering is a great way to balance a small budget and defeating “restaurant fatigue” by alternating the cooking/eating out. If one of you does most of the cooking at home maybe the non-cooking partner could take a turn on holiday.

Many so called ‘self- catering’ establishments don’t really seem to expect you to cater for yourself at all

What to be aware of

Self-catering can mean different things to different proprietors. Many don’t really seem to think you actually want to cater for yourself. So be warned, the level of equipment may vary considerably – I’ve been in places that seemed to have read my mind in having everything you could possible need but also some that have had 1 tiny electric ring that didn’t really work; insufficient or broken pans, impenetrable mechanisms with no instructions and a kitchen where turning on the oven blew all of the fuses in the property.

 badkitchen
Avoid this

If your holiday depends heavily on being able to cook for yourself, it may be worth an email to your host before hand, checking what they have. Just to be on the safe side here are some things to consider bringing with you.

  1. A tea-towel
  2. A small bottle of cooking oil
  3. A small container of salt/pepper/seasoning of your choice
  4. A few stock cubes
  5. A small jar of instant coffee/tea bags
  6. Mini bottle of washing up liquid and a dishcloth
  7. Universal sink plug (yes even after all this time)
  8. A small chopping board*
  9. Travel kettle*
  10. Sharp knife and scissors*

*If you have hold luggage.

You can of course buy all of these in the local supermarket but usually you will end up wasting a lot of it.

Even on a long trip you can fit in a “city break”. We are alternating between hotels and apartments depending on the deals available and that’s working out really well.

What’s do you think of apartments as holiday accommodation? Is there anything else that you think should be in a self catering survival kit? I ‘d really be interested to know if I’ve left anything out.