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.

 

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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?

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.)

 

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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.

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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?

Her name is Fallon and she’s fab – pattern testing again.

I really enjoyed my first pattern testing experience and so dived in when I saw @studiotkb requesting testers. Still easing myself back in gently I went for this top which is suitable for beginners but does use stretch fabrics so a bit of practice is needed to master sewing with stretch knits.

Joining a group of fellow sewists who contributed ideas freely, this was a  great experience.

Tina at @studiotkb made us all welcome and was a very democratic captain, inviting us all to add our own modifications.

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Between us we made quite a few adjustments, for meaty arms, full busts and curvy derrieres discovering what we liked in drape and fit along the way. It was really fun and rewarding with some very useful contributions from the other testers.

Tina provides a choice of pattern format, you can have a straightforward PDF formatted for A4 printing at home or you can have a version which you take to your local printer or copy shop who can print it for you. Printing PDFs seems to be a source of great debate amongst sewists but as a former teacher and techie, well acquainted with photocopiers, I was happy with these options. Printing and assembling A4 sheets can be a drag but as I have a printer capable of A3 output, I used the copy shop version but told my machine to print it on A3 and this worked out well, while I still had to cut and stick, there were far fewer pieces than if I had printed for A4.

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Once your pattern is ready, this straightforward garment is ready to go. The forward seam is the magic ingredient to giving a new shape and with the high low design, it is a really nice pattern. I joined my pieces using the overlocker for ease as it is so good for sewing knits.

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I had to make and adjustment to the sleeve to accommodate my ‘bingo wings and I was very satisfied that my tweak was successful and the sleeve and body still went together afterwards.

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I also learned how to make this V-neck binding which left me feeling extremely chuffed. Finishing with fine zig-zag on the seams and hems I was really pleased with how it turned out.

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Here’s my resurrected Venus dress form doing sterling duty and here is Fallon on me.

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The pattern is very easy to sew and adjust if needs be. I think it could be made in different weight fabrics and different amounts of drape. I saw some other fantastic versions in the test group where people had used more drapey fabrics or been bolder with colour blocking and contrasting which made me feel like a wimp but gave me plenty of ideas for the future. Thank you @studiotkb and all the other testers. Fallon is a success and pattern testing is definitely my cup of tea.

Do you like working in a team… at a distance? Pattern testing could be for you.

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The humble T-shirt was remade in its own image…

I’m setting out to copy an existing RTW item from my wardrobe. When I used to do this kind of thing as a teenager, I always thought was a bit of a knock-off because I hadn’t bought a pattern, it didn’t involve lots of Complicated Technique and it wasn’t done ‘properly’. However, since falling in love with @withwendy on Youtube, I realise copying an existing garment is perfectly legit. I’ve made a t-shirt in the image of one of my favourites and I’m really chuffed to bits with how it turned out.

T-shirts are such an easy option garment that they probably don’t get the credit they deserve. It’s probably easy to take them for granted. However I know that I can’t just throw on any T-shirt and have it look good. The worst are those kind of all purpose things you (or someone who should know better) would buy at a tourist attraction. They are usually shapeless (even the so called women’s fit) either too baggy or too tight in the important places and they just don’t do me any favours. So when I have one that fits and I feel and look good I wanna hang on to it.

I also wanted to replicate it so I used a very simple paper trace method to draw around my favourite t-shirt to create a pattern for my new t-shirt.

 

It couldn’t be simpler, what you’ll need:

  • A T-shirt with a fit that you love
  • Fabric – I used 1 m (that’s what I had) print jersey fabric, stretch fabric is essential.
  • Tracing paper or any plain paper, I actually used A3 printer paper.
  • A flexible curve or french curve.

Then you are ready to go.

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Drafting the front and back pattern

  1. Fold your T-shirt in half and place on tracing paper. Trace the outline of the shirt leaving out the sleeve and the neck.
  2. Using the curve draw in the shape of the neck and where the sleeve will go.
  3. The neckline will be for the back, you need to cut another pattern piece with a lower neckline for your front.

Drafting the sleeves

  1. Place the t-shirt on the tracing paper and draw around the outside of the sleeve
  2. Using the curve draw the inner line of the sleeve where it joins the body.

Make sure to mark on your new pattern where to place the pattern on the fold and you can also make a note of where you need seam allowance

Cutting the fabric

Place your pattern pieces on the fabric as normal and cut out your T-shirt pieces remembering to cut on the fold where necessary.

Making it up

  1. Finish all edges, I used my overlocker but you could zigzag
  2. With the right sides together, join the front and back shoulders using a fine zigzag stitch to accommodate the stretch
  3. Pin the sleeves in place and stitch them to the body, again using zigzag stitch.
  4. Pin the side and sleeve seams together and stitch or overlock them in one process  .
  5. Fold over and press a small hem then zigzag the hem.

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I’m really happy with my T-shirt, it fits really well and the fabric feels lovely. A totally non-destructive process I still have my favourite t-shirt to wear. I think my only gripe is that I didn’t quite get the pattern symmetrical. I thought about it a lot when cutting but I just didn’t have enough fabric to try to match the pattern. Next time… learning curve and all that!

Ta da!

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Inspiration form @withwendy, I will definitely be trying this method again.

Have you cloned a favourite item, was it worth it?

Pattern testing: Sinclair Pattern’s Clementine dress

Once you get to a certain degree of proficiency, one of the key ambitions of many sewists is to take off the training wheels of commercial dress patterns and make your own. Once I had mastered seams and zips and darts and waistbands and had made a few tailored items, this idea began to form in my head. Patterns seemed so expensive and we used to be restricted to the big names like Vogue, Butterick and Simplicity. I always wondered could I release the inner fashion designer and create my own fashion masterpieces. I didn’t know how to go about it then and time and limited options and other priorities put that on the back burner.

Since rekindling my interest in sewing and joining this amazing Internet sewing community, I have realised that there is a huge number of independent pattern makers many of whom started out as home sewers and dressmakers. I have once more started to dream like that again. While I haven’t yet got there I have decided to take a further step into the community by testing a pattern for another sewist.

I obviously have an ulterior motive, if not several. I used to make – A LOT.  I was prolific and even though I say so myself I was quite good.  However I have been on hiatus for a long time and I am very rusty and also a little apprehensive. My tools and machines seem almost alien to me and so while my head is spinning with all of the possible projects I could take on and the stash building  monster is on the loose again, it has been hard getting my ‘sewjo’ back.

So I decided that a good way back into good ways would be to collaborate with someone else. Testing someone’s pattern would force me to stop dithering and make something and also it would give me an insight into whether I could go that way too.

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Linen mix fine striped fabric

This brings me to the project. I am sewing the Clementine pattern made by Oxana at Sinclair Patterns. It is a simple sleeveless shift dress with tie neck. She recommends it is made in fabrics like viscose rayon or any non stretch fabric. I’ve decided to try it in a linen mix fabric which will be nice for when the warmer weather starts.

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Preparing the pattern  pieces

After printing and piecing together the pattern pieces I cut it out using the rotary cutter. I had to change blades as the old ones were blunt from years of inactivity. As it’s a straightforward basic tunic/shift style dress pattern, there are only three pieces so it was quick and easy to cut out.

I used my overlocker to finish the edges as it’s linen and I wanted to avoid unraveling. Getting the overlocker to do my bidding was a bit of a challenge as I think I’ve forgotten a lot of the skills I had. However once again once up and running it was quite straightforward.

Making up the dress was also a breeze and the tutorial provided with the pattern was easy to follow. The only snag I hit was in attaching the facing to the neckline, I found it hard to fit as the facing seemed a little small but that may have been my cutting out. As it’s a non stretch fabric, I couldn’t ease it to fit. If I use this pattern again I’ll be sure to check the facing and maybe give a little for my benefit of the doubt. Clip and trim the neck/facing seam and notch to reduce any bulk.  I made sure to keep pressing all the way keeping the seams laying flat and neat. Ironing also makes the neckline sit nicely, so don’t skip that.

The neck will be finished in bias binding so I purchased a couple of lengths of binding tape picking out colours from the fabric.

Clementine is easy for beginners and you could probably make this up in an evening. The fabric I chose worked well, it hangs nicely and is comfortable. In terms of the dress itself, it does what is says on the tin. Loose fitting it’s forgiving of a few lumps and bumps but being sleeveless it’s not that great for my bingo wings. If I were to make this again I think I may go for a longer length and maybe something a bit more drapey I would also experiment with a bolder pattern. I’ll probably end up wearing this with as a beach dress or with wide legged trousers. In terms of my own style I think something with a bit more shape is more me.

Overall, I’m really pleased with this first foray into pattern testing and hope I get more opportunities to do this. It was also a successful mission as a bit of stash busting but there is also enough fabric left for me to make the wide leg pants I originally bought it for.

Win-Win.

Thank you Oxana for letting me join your pattern testing crew, it was fun and got me reacquainted with my sewing machines.

Have you ever done pattern testing? How did it turn out for you?

Entering an uplifting universe …

In the days when I was a prolific maker, it was the acquisition of new skills which was always a key driver. Once I’d made a two piece T-shirt I had to learn how to insert sleeves, once I knew how to knit and purl, I had to learn how to do cable. This is how it went with painting (watercolours, acrylic, pastels) photography (every imaginable genre) and everything else that I have turned my hand to over the years.

I’ve had a long time out of the making game while forging a busy mostly satisfying but ultimately draining career (I just couldn’t master work-life balance) and having come out of the other side and dusting off my sewing machine again, it seems that a thirst for the new still drives me. I wanted to get into blogging to encourage me to make and cruising around the plethora of craft blogs I kept coming across this trend. So this is how I come to be embarking onto the world of bra and underwear making.

I am I suspect one of the droves of women surviving their everyday lives in poorly fitting bras. These bras sit there kind of doing a so-so job of wrangling the boobies and sometimes there is side spillage, sometimes the dreaded four-boob scenario, sometimes there is droopiness and sometimes after I have established a loving relationship with a comfortable bra it starts to stab me with its steely underwire. So it makes sense that making a custom fit bra is something I should be doing. I’m late to the party I know (the same for pretty much everything) and I’m astounded by all the wonderful work that’s going on out there. It only serves to spur me on.

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My new sewing bible

 

Something I hadn’t anticipated is how overwhelming the whole thing is. First you have to really examine the anatomy of the bra. I had begun to wonder why I couldn’t buy a decent, well-fitting bra for less than £30 but once I started to do my research I realised that there are around 8 different pieces to a bra, depending on the design. Then there are the different materials that are needed; cup forms, cup lining, cup cover, bands and bridges, stabilisers, stretch, no stretch. There are even 4 different types of elastic – strap elastic (obvs) but then there is band elastic, underarm elastic, and fold over elastic too. So once I saw the materials and the amount of construction required I begin to see why a good bra costs so much.

I’ve been cruising the net and have found a few favourite resources to guide me. I’m a compulsive student so I needed a manual. I’ve started with Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction by Norma Loehr. I found my way to her beautiful Instagram and loved all the bras illustrated there and from there found the web site.

Immediately the Studious Me and the Impatient Me start the perennial tussle.

Studious Me: I really should read up as much as I can before I start buying/cutting anything

Impatient Me: I can do this now, I want it now, get that fabric now!

I’ve read about half and skimmed about half of the book and I’ll use it for reference as I go. I’ve got all the gear, I’m an experienced seamstress and the technique does not worry me but the combinations of fabric has my head in a spin. I have rapidly created a sub-stash of bra making fabrics.

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Instant sub-stash

I saw that there were several people selling bra kits, (Orange Lingerie yours are too popular btw. They have been sold out from the moment I saw them). However, because I’m smart – you know – I didn’t need them, I could work out what I needed … right? … wrong.

I really liked the bras on Orange-Lingerie, Norma’s site but I also fell for the patterns produced by MakeBra and that is where I started with the pattern. I’m kind of playing it safe with a T-shirt style bra. I’m quite busty and I tend to wear foam lined bras for support and to avoid pointiness. I liked the shape and appearance of MakeBra’s examples. I downloaded their DL01 pattern and ordered some materials. Here’s where I hit an early snag. The idea of making my underwear is a technical challenge, but it’s also supposed to be part of an economy drive. In the past I could always make very good quality clothes for a fraction of the cost in shops, I fully expected to do the same with this project. However, I found shipping charges from abroad are generally expensive, so unfortunately I probably will not be using them for anything but downloads for now. They were however really prompt, friendly and their Instagram shows lots of great options for bra design.

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MakeBra DL01

There seem to be few bra-making suppliers in the UK with a comprehensive stock of materials, the best seem to be US or AUS based and my favourite so far is B,Wear in Sweden. Great fabrics, notions and kits – again gulp a bit on shipping. In addition to this, so far I have sourced bits from Fabrics Online, myfabrics.co.uk, B,wear, Tissu Fabrics, Sewing Chest before I realised I was getting into a bit of a buying frenzy and I should step away from the online shopping portal. Despite having amassed a substantial sub-stash, I’m still suffering from failure to launch. I now have so many options that I don’t know where to start.  I’ve finally given in and decided to back track and I have ordered a kit from Merckwaerdigh. (I can hear you all going why didn’t you do that I the first place, but you know, over-excitement

Have you been bitten by the bra making bug? Do you have any tips to share to help a newbie like me?

Resurrection and revamping: the mannequin dossier – part three.

Well here we are ready to get a girl back on her feet. In part two I showed you how I  re-covered both upper and lower parts of the dress-form. It now just leaves her tipsy stand to be sorted out. There’s often that moment when you have dismantled something and you realise you don’t quite know how to put it back together. So here I was basking in the glory of having done decent job of re-upholstering my dress-form. However there remained the not so small job of getting her remounted on her stand and re-fixing that cap that I had ripped apart some time earlier.

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I had of course known at the time that this would be difficult to fix, but … omelettes, eggs … you know?

The main problem is that the whole apparatus was glued to that cap and fixed together with a metal pin. No I didn’t lose the pin, but I figured this had to have been done by machine and therefore would be difficult for me to do by hand. I found that I simply couldn’t push it back into place.

 

The solution was a less than elegant gaffer tape intervention. The neck parts are taped inside and the cap placed on top. It won’t stay in place and I will have to careful when lifting and using but it is more than functional.

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Another issue arose with the stand, a pole goes up the inside of the mannequin and allows it to be raised and lowered, this was fixed to the cap above and holds the entire thing together. I needed some way of fixing this so that it would a. sit on the stand and b. more importantly hold the cap in place. This required a bit of drilling (ably assisted by the OH) and a strategic nail to hold it all together.

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She stands upright and steady, the dials are exposed and there for work as intended and she still sort of fits me. So  I’m going to chalk this up as mission accomplished.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Venus, ready to rock all my soon to be made new garments.

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Does your dressform need some TLC? Share your #mannequinnightmares.