Saturday, 22 November 2014

Baby clothing

There comes a time in life when you realise you’re growing up - you become surrounded by friends and colleagues who are pregnant. At last count, I knew of four. And we all know what that means, don’t we? It is time to crack out the little patterns and whip up something cute. 

A friend has recently had a little girl, and a colleague is expecting one early in the New Year. I wanted to try a different pattern to the sailors dresses I made (here and here) and had heard about this baby kimono from Vairë Gwîr. 

Baby kimonos

I purchased a meter of Acacia by Free Spirit fabric with a meter of plain turquoise for the bias binding to make the 0-6m size. As I was cutting out the first one, I realised that I could get two out the fabric and promptly cut another. I still have fabric left over from both fabrics - that’s how small they are!

You need to draft the pattern, all two pieces of it, but this isn’t a big deal as a clear diagram and the measurements are provided in the instructions. The pieces are made up of straight and diagonal lines only. Construction took longer than I expected though. Admittedly I was repeating each step twice and I opted to make my own bias binding as the turquoise matched perfectly, but it still felt like I was spending a lot of time on them for their size and that they are essentially straight lines. 

Baby kimono inside 


All seams are overlocked and are smooth so shouldn’t irritate young skin. The fiddliest bit was creating the two bias straps on either side of the kimono - my machine wanted to eat the fabric but eventually I tamed its appetite. The sleeves are hemmed by folding over a couple of times and stitching into place. 

I’m completely in love with them. Their size is almost unbelievable and look like they have been made for a teddy bear (yes, I know babies are small when they have just been born!). Despite the perceived length of time it took to create them, I would definitely dig out this pattern again. 



Baby dungarees

My other colleague is expecting a little boy and I made another pair of baby dungarees. I found this beautiful dark navy blue cord with little teddy bears on it in Barry’s during the SewBrum meet up. I just couldn’t resist it. I paired it with a plain light olive cotton for the lining. 

I don’t have much to say about the construction as I covered it all in my first post. This is the third time that I have made this pattern, and it just gets easier with every creation. Ensuring that you can’t see the lining on the pockets is still the trickiest part and is something for me to improve the next time I make these. There will be a next time - I’m not yet over this pattern! 


Baby dungarees back

And the fourth make? I’ll share that with you later as it deserves a post of its own. It’s a little different to everything else I’ve made for tiny people. I’m also on the hunt for new patterns. Do you have a favourite baby pattern to make? If so, please do share the link below. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Pattern hack: The Afternoon Bolero

What do you wear to a wedding? The age old question for us sewists is do I make a dress? We were invited to a wedding at the end of July and I didn't have time to create a new dress. Thankfully I had a few lovely RTW ones that I could pull out. Still, I wanted to have something handmade and I was missing a suitable jacket. 

Afternoon Bolero

I had come across a beautiful 1950s bolero on Pinterest. It had kimono sleeves and buttoned up at the front with a round neckline. Sound familiar? Of course, it is exactly like the rounded neckline Afternoon Blouse.

I pulled out the pattern and began a very simple hack. To fix the gapping neckline I had on my previous versions (here and here) I went down a size at the shoulders. To get the desired shape of the bolero, I drew a straight line from the end of the curve on the neckline to the lengthen/shorten line. For the back, I used the lengthen/shorten line as the hemline. I then trued the side seams to ensure they were the same length. 

Afternoon Bolero

The fabric is white crepe which was part of a large fabric stash I was given a few months ago. It was great to work with, and is stable although there were a few indentations from the iron when I pressed it with a too hot an iron. These were covered fully with silver bias binding. I really wanted to get robin egg blue or mint binding but couldn't find them in a satin finish locally. It had to be satin to smarten it up! 

Afternoon Bolero

The bolero is self-lined, meaning I cut two sets of the front pieces and the back. This allows the pattern to be reversible, providing your happy to restitch the button or find another way to close it. The button is wooden button with a pink flower. The whole project took a few hours to finish and was very satisfying to make. 

Afternoon Bolero

The photos were taken recently as unfortunately I didn't get any photos at the wedding where I matched the bolero with a peach 50s style dress with a full skirt. It was overcast with a little rain in the morning and by the time it brightened up, we were having so much fun I completely forgot to get the camera out. It was definitely one of the best weddings I have been to! 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

An experimental White Russian

Thanks for all of your comments on my last post. It seems that many of you have one or two sewing projects on the go at any one time, or have a knitting project alongside a sewing project. This seems much more manageable and reasonable to me and I’m glad that I have cleared most of my projects now – just four more to finish and three of them are very nearly at the end.

Moving on, here is another of my recent makes. There was a gaping hole in my winter wardrobe – a cosy sweatshirt for those cold days when all you want is something casual. I also completed a 5k which meant I got to buy a few patterns, including the White Russian from Capital Chic.

White Russian

The fabric is bright aqua green sweatshirt which I got in a fabric swap in Leeds. Amy brought so much of it that I went halves with Ruth. I just cannot resist this colour – it is practically the same as my fitted winter fleece. It’s such a happy colour for mid winter. I couldn’t be bothered decided not to try and find ribbing that matched so went with the self fabric option for the cuffs, waist band and neckline. I had to squeeze all of the pieces out – reducing the seam allowance to 5mm in most pieces. I was slightly surprised how small these patterns are – I’m hitting right at the higher end of the sizing rather than my normal middling sizes. It isn’t a problem, just sometime to be aware of if you use these patterns.

White Russian

I don’t have a lot to say on the construction as it is a simple and quick make. If you can get the tension right on your overlocker, I’m sure you could whip this up in an afternoon or less from start to finish. I struggled to get the tension right and it took a little longer than an afternoon. I used my twin needle on my machine for the first time on the neckline and waistband to hold the seam allowance in place although in the pictures it is only on the waistband for reasons that will become clearer later.

I wanted to keep the sweatshirt fairly simple with just a touch of detail. So what did I add? A turtle, of course! I used carbon paper to trace a copy of the turtle in my banner that my brother drew for me and then used a very narrow zigzag stitch. It is a long way from perfect but you can definitely see what it is meant to be!

White Russian

This version is definitely a wearable toile. I wore the finished item for a full day travelling up to Sheffield and wandering around the city. It was a good test for the fit and I found a couple of things I didn’t like. First, it was way too big at the bottom and instead of staying warm I got rather cold at times. I also hated the neckband. The width of it is just too big for me and felt like it was creeping too far up my neck. I unpicked it, reduced the width by half and it feels much better to wear. I also took in the side seams by 2-3cm on each side to solve the shock of cold draughts. It has worked very well and the change in warmth was immediately noticeable. I'm also a lot happier with the neckline and don't notice it at all. I will stitch the neckband with my twin needle but that will need to wait while my machine is serviced (I'm missing it already and it has only been 24 hours!) 

White Russian

So, not one of my best makes but it is a useful addition to my wardrobe and I think it will get a reasonable amount of wear, especially in the evenings when you want to change in your pjs as soon as you get home. I’m now on the lookout for more fabric to make another version. Any fabric suggestions?


Saturday, 1 November 2014

How many is too many?

Tell me, can you juggle more than one sewing project at a time? Can you cope with a number of works in progress (WIPs) at different stages? I ask because I seem to be pushing my limits at the moment. 

I’m a multiple projects on the go person and will have at least two projects happening at the same time. I like the variety and different options I get by staggering projects. If I’m short on time, I can stitch a couple of seams. If I don’t feel like sitting at the machine, I can trace a pattern or pin pieces together. If the projects are at the same stage, I don’t have the chance to maximise my sewing time and match it to my mood. Two or three projects feels manageable. I find myself in a place where I’ve slightly lost this feeling and I’ve been asking how many WIPs is too many?

Projects 1-4

At the beginning of last month I had a whopping 11 projects on the go. I had to create a spreadsheet just to keep track! You have seen some of them (my Buchanan and Cressida skirt) and you will get to see the others fully rather than the sneak peaks in the photos. I admit this is a completely self inflicted situation. November and December are busy months for me and I have no idea how much time I will have to sew. October was relatively free so it seemed sensible to try and use the month to get ahead. 



Projects 4-7

Working on 11 projects has been pretty difficult to move along. There is a pressure there that doesn’t normally exist. I'm still enjoying the process but there is an edge to it. Perhaps it is because six of the projects are selfless ones that I am feeling it more - the pressure of getting it as perfect as possible and delivering on time seems to dramatically increase when you’re not the recipient of your work. It seems that I haven’t learnt my lesson though as I’ve added another project to the list this week and agreed to finish a coat lining replacement with a friend that we started about ten months ago. The good news is I’m nearing the end of this marathon. Thankfully there is more grey text on my spreadsheet than black but there is a lingering sense that I've had too many projects taking place. 

Projects 8-9

What are your thoughts? What’s on your sewing table at the moment and what is your limit for WIPs at any one time?

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Buchanan dressing gown

The Fall Essentials Sew Along has certainly got me back on the sewing wagon as I have another finished make to talk about. I’ve wanted a new dressing gown for the mornings for some time. I have a lovely fluffy fleece one for mid winter but it is too warm for autumn. I was deliberating about the kimono in the Liberty sewing book but then Gather released the Buchanan. It looked perfect, and I wouldn’t have to draft the pattern - a bonus when you’re feeling a little lazy. 

Buchanan

Another bonus is this gown cost only my time. I was lucky enough to win the pattern in the SewBrum raffle, got the main fabric in the SewBrum swap and the black satin is left over from my magpie outfits. The main fabric is from Merry May Fabrics but I can’t find the fabric’s name. Victoria brought along two meters and it was the perfect amount for this project. I was drawn to the colours and print, which has a mystical, moody feel and reminds me of the Andes and my time travelling in Ecuador. It might be stretching it but there’s a black shape against the, um, not really sure what the object is, that reminds me of a condor. I’m not sure what bird the one against the sun is though. You can see both of these across my shoulder blades in the photo below. 

Buchanan back

This was a quick make as it is mostly long, reasonably straight lines. As I wanted a clean finish throughout, and to stop the fraying edges escaping, I used French seams. Unfortunately not all of the seams were completed this way. I did remember to switch the sides to get a clean finish on the cuffs but completely forgot to do this for the neckband and only realised once I had trimmed the seam allowance. Never mind, overlocker to the rescue! Slip stitching the black satin belt closed was a little difficult in the evening light. Note to self, only sew black in natural daylight where possible. Unsurprisingly I chose to leave out the pockets. I’ve never used them on previous dressing gowns and didn’t see the point in the extra cutting and stitching. 

Buchanan

The Buchanan is described as a relaxed dressing gown and I would have to agree. I’ve worn this for most mornings and I love it. The poly fabrics are just the right weight and drape for a dressing gown. It is warm enough for these reasonably warm autumnal mornings without any heating (plus I’m a stickler for holding out as long as possible without putting the heating on. Generally early November). The front wrap is big enough to ensure you’re fully covered without the feeling of drowning in fabric. The gown doesn’t have any inside ties and closes on the outside with the belt. I haven’t had a problem with unintentional revealing which has been a problem with RTW ones in the past. I didn’t make any alternations to the pattern, mainly because it is a loose fit, and it is designed for someone my height. It hits a little above my knee which is fine. I might add a little extra if I was to make this again and I’m tempted to make another but floor length as it would be quite easy to extend.

Buchanan

Have you made a dressing gown before? And how long do you leave it before the heating goes on?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Cressida Skirt

Have you seen the Cressida Skirt, the latest pattern from Jennifer Lauren? I was lucky enough to be selected as a pattern tester. 

Cressida is a half circle skirt with two versions. View 1 is a double breasted button up. View 2 has a single button placket and button waist tabs. Both versions have in seam pockets. I knew immediately that the second version would be a perfect addition to my autumnal work wardrobe. I love the more simpler, elegant lines of this version. 

Cressida skirt 5

To test the pattern I originally used lightweight cotton as I anticipated I would need to make alterations (as I do with most patterns). The test garment came together very well - the skirt drapes well in lightweight cotton. However, for my final version I used a grey suiting fabric I got from The Man Outside Sainsbury's at Walthamstow Market for about £6m. It has a beautiful drape, is wonderfully soft (even after washing) and was a delight to handle. 

I made just two alterations. I added a little extra to the front parts of the skirt, a reasonably common alteration for me. I also moved the waistband tabs to make them a little more central as they were coming up at the sides. This is something that Jen has altered for the final version. 

Cressida skirt 3

The skirt is pretty easy to construct and Jen's instructions are clear. It is designed for all levels and anyone can tackle this as long as you're ok with, or willing to try and tackle, button holes. It is a perfect project for dipping into over a week or is easily completed over a weekend at a leisurely pace. 

As this is an autumnal item, I chose to fully line the skirt to prevent the skirt sticking to my tights when the cold weather really bites. Lining the skirt is not included in the instructions. I cut the skirt pieces only and added them when I stitched on the button plackets. Incorporating the lining here gives for a really lovely finish. If you need to length or shorten the skirt, you can do so by adding or taking away from the hem. I didn't chance the length at all. I used a 1.5cm hem on the outer fabric. 

Cressida skirt 6

Amazingly, I kept the pockets! Regular readers will know I'm not a fan of pockets in skirts and dresses. I was pleasantly surprised by these though. They had the potential to stick out slightly and give that ugly shaping at the hips. Nope, none of that. Jen really took care with the width of the skirt to ensure they lay flat. Once I saw this, I just couldn't resist them.   

Cressida skirt 4

The biggest problem I had was getting buttons to complete the skirt. I picked up these light blue and grey buttons with flowers on them at Hobbycraft but they didn't have enough to complete the project. I put out a call for help on Twitter and Vicki Kate came to the rescue. Man, I love the sewing community! 

Cressida skirt 2

In short, I absolutely love this skirt. It is flattering and feminine while being practical. It drapes very well from the waist and I don't feel like my small hips are drowning in a huge amount of fabric. I paired the skirt with an unblogged cotton Alma blouse. I really hope that this isn't my last version - I could definitely find a place for an everyday version in my wardrobe. As a bonus, this counts as my second piece for the Fall Essentials Sewing Along. How is your autumn sewing coming along? 

In the interests of transparency, I did receive a copy of the final pattern in return for testing. All views are my own - I was under no obligation to post my version. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Nicola Dress: How to do a Full Bust Adjustment

Today I'm going to share how I did the Full Bust Adjustment needed for my Nicola wrap dress.

An FBA will produce a bust dart. Normally this isn't a problem but I didn't want to add another dart to a bodice that already had three at the waist. In addition, my fabric was slightly stiffer than the recommended fabrics and I was sure that a bust dart would change the shape of the bodice more than I would like. So the excess of the bust dart needed to be moved to the darts at the bottom. Here's how I did it using the slash method. Sorry if you prefer to pivot darts - I just can't get my head around that method! 

Take your bodice pattern piece. Mark where the apex of your bust is. Draw in your seam allowance at the arm hole, in this case 1.5cm. 

Nicola FBA 1

Draw a vertical line from the apex to the waist line (blue line). Draw a line from the apex to the middle of the armsyce (green line). Draw a horizontal line from the apex to the side seam (imagine a bust dart here, the line goes through the middle of it) (red line). Finally, starting midway up the waist dart, draw a horizontal line to the centre front (purple line).

Nicola FBA 2

Time to slash your pattern. Cut up the blue line, through the apex and continue to cut the green line until you reach the seam allowance. Stop here, don't cut through to the allowance. Snip into the seam allowance directly above but make sure you don't cut through - you want this piece to pivot. Cut along the red line but stop short of separating it completely - again you want enough paper attached that this piece can pivot. Cut the purple line completely - it should come apart from the pattern. 

Nicola FBA 3

Place a piece of paper underneath your pattern - you'll need this to fill in the gaps. You're now going to open the apex by the amount you need to increase the bust. In this case, I'm adding 2.5cm but yours may differ. In order for the pattern to lay correctly, you will see a bust dart form on the side. Tape the bodice down. 

Nicola FBA 4

The last step increased the length of the side seam. To make the centre front seam match, take the separated piece of your pattern and lower it until the centre front seam matches the side seam. Tape in place.

Nicola FBA 4a

Now it is time to remove the bust dart. Measure the dart at the side seam and make a note of it. Cut the lower line of the dart to the apex and the left hand part of the blue line. Move the pattern up so that the bust dart is closed and tape in place. 

Nicola FBA 5

Cut up the right hand line of each of the three waist darts to the red line - this will help the pattern lay flat when you move the darts. Divide the number you jotted down by three. This will be the amount you are adding to each waist dart. One by one, move the waist dart to include the amount and then tape down.

Nicola FBA 6

Now you need to redraw the three darts. The tip of the dart will be at the same height but make sure you place the point in the centre of the opening. Draw lines from the bottom to the tip. Straighten up the bottom of the bodice and the front seam. Your pattern piece is now ready for use. 

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