Monday, 31 March 2014

Tutorial: How to make oven gloves

Teapot oven gloves

Oven gloves are probably one of the key items to have in a kitchen if you want to avoid the "it's too hot dance" every time you get a tray out of the oven. Recently I had need for a spare set and decided to make my own. You can read how I did it in my first exclusive to Spread Your Wings and Craft tutorial

exclusive SYWAC BUTTON

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Notionally Speaking: Finishing

This month's Notionally Speaking post comes from Amy from Almond Rock who randomly chose "finishing". How to finish your seams is a key decision when planning your project and Amy provides some useful advice when making this decision...

Notionally Speaking

What's the deal with so many pattern companies not daring to suggest seam finishes for garments? It's like the ultimate taboo sewing subject but also a vital part of making clothes that last!

How do you finish your seams?

As a beginner it always troubled me that my clothes might unravel in the wash so in the beginning I often chose to make garments with fully enclosed linings. Today I’m summarising the pros and cons of the top methods of seam finishing.

These are methods slightly more involved than zig zagging at your machine and maybe you’re thinking about trying one of them out on your next make.

French Seams

I've heard a rumour these are called English seams in France. I'm probably being totally delusional to believe that though. There's no denying these are a very handy finish!

Super robust and pleasing looking.
Perfect for sheer fabrics.
It’s nailed on that you will sew the right sides together at some point rather than the wrong sides. And probably trim the seam too. Maybe you won’t even realise until you’ve sewn a complete seam… the wrong way around.

Pinking shears

Pinking shears

I inherited my Grandmother's pinking shears a couple of years back. They're a little temperamental and heavy to boot, but I love thinking of us both using this pair decades apart.

Quick and easy. I pink around arm and neckhole curves as a quick and dirty way to notch/clip and prevent fraying. If I had a sharp lightweight new pair I might pink all my allowances! It really looks neat inside a sundress or blouse.
Don't snip a big hole in your garment!
And don't expect your seams to last forever through repeated spin cycles and constant wear.

Bias tape/Seam binding

Seam binding

Have you ever spent the time to encase the raw edge of your fabric with bias tape or seam binding for the traditional Hong Kong finish?

Using bias tape as a facing is a popular technique because it is very quick, provides a clean finish and allows you to enclose an armhole or neck opening without worry of future unravelling.
Hong Kong seams are just so lovely to see inside a garment. They can bring satisfying pops of colour to the inside of a garment that make you smile everytime you wear it!
Don't forget a facing will provide more support at a neckline that you might miss by using bias.
Plus you need to not be in any kind of rush and pretty certain your garment fits, to sit and bind all of the exposed seams.


Singer serger

In 2012 I treated myself to a baby singer overlocker. Sergei the serger if you will. Then I upgraded at the end of 2013 to a new overlocker - Sergei II. This is my go to method for finishing seams.

Super robust and professional looking.
I have two methods for incorporating the overlocker into a project.
I either use method 1 where I serge the edges of all my pieces before sewing them together, along any seam allowance that will be exposed (not any curved areas) and then sew my pieces together so seams can be pressed open. This means you can follow the pattern instructions without worry.
Or I use method 2 which a lot of ready to wear clothes use where I serge my seam allowance together which allows me to trim and enclose the two pieces of fabric at the same time. I then press towards the back.
They’re relatively expensive – basically like buying a second machine.
They can be fiddly to set up and can accidentally eat a big hole in your garment if you're not concentrating.
Method 1 does mean a bit more time needs to be spent upfront on prepping each piece.
With method 2 you have to know when to stop to serge as you often have to serge one seam before moving onto another.

So what’s your preferred method of finishing your seams?

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Sewing for small people

Within the last two weeks, two of my friends welcomed tiny daughters to the world. While I'm delighted for them both, I also loved the fact it gave me an excuse to make tiny clothes!

Peacock Sailor dress

First, I made another Seaside Sailor Dress as I absolutely adored the first one I made. The fabric for this dress came completely out of my stash. I used some of the left over peacock cotton lawn for the dress and lining and a thick white cotton for the collar with the lawn as the under layer. The dress has nine pieces in total - six for the bodice, which is amazing for how small it is! The skirt is a small rectangle that is gathered at the waistband. 

Peacock Sailor dress
Peacock Sailor dress

I used the same embroidery stitch on the collar as I did on the first. Annoyingly the machine skipped a few stitches which meant I had to fill in the gaps by hand. I chose an ivory thread for the button holes as the light blue one I had hoped to use kept breaking midway through. I think they match the buttons pretty well and compliment the colours in the feathers. 

Peacock Sailor dress

The dress is 3-6 months. I had enough fabric to go up a size but with spring and summer on the way, it seemed sensible to chose a size that the baby could wear during those months. If you're looking for a very quick pattern which offers a wide range of customisation options that I would really recommend this one. It is so quick to cut and sew. 

Polka dot dunagrees

I chose a very different pattern and look for the other baby. I loved the Little Bird Romper pattern from Puperita that Kelly made last year and as this little girl will be growing up on a farm, dungarees seemed a perfect idea! I bought some lovely, soft black and red polka dot needlecord from Darn It and Stitch (they have a wonderful range of bright colours as well) and a bright red cotton for the lining. 

Polka dot dunagrees

This pair is aged 6 months and I managed to get the full pattern comfortably out of a meter of each fabric, even taking into account the nap of the needlecord. Construction wise, this is fairly simple and the instructions are clear. The only time I got confused was when I turned the pockets through - it didn't say what to do with the gap so I slipstitched them closed before edge stitching them into place. The front features one large pocket, while the back has two smaller ones - they are quite hard to see in the pictures as I somehow managed to almost match the dots. I promise they really are there. The dungarees are fully lined and interfacing is only needed for the leg bands. 

Polka dot dunagrees

I was a little worried about sewing with the needlecord as I didn't want to crush it. It went through the machine ok and survived light pressing but didn't hold up so well when I created the buttonholes. You can't really see the marks but I know there are there! The cotton, though, caused me some alarm. When I pressed it, it turned a very dark red even at a low temperature. It lasted about 10 minutes before returning to its original colour. I used the left over heart buttons that I used on my Mathilde as they match the red dots and lining perfectly. 

Polka dot dunagrees

I love both of these outfits but I just can't stop stroking the needlecord. It really is that soft! I just hope it is hardwearing enough. They are now safely packaged up to be posted on Monday and sadly that marks the end of my dose of sewing for tiny people for a while. 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Completed: Lace Laurel

What do you do with a pattern that you really like but your first attempt failed dramatically? I kept it at the back of my mind for nearly a year and waited until an idea came to me. It finally arrived a couple of weekends ago when I went to Goldhawk Road with Kelly, Jen and Daniela. I spotted a gorgeous piece of lace that screamed "buy me!" and wouldn't stop yelling until I had parted with my cash. I knew it was time to dig Laurel out again. 

Lace Laurel

My first attempt with Laurel didn't go well, nor did my second which is why it hasn't made it to the blog. But this time would be different, I was sure of it. I have wanted a lace top for a long time but I'm super picky when choosing which piece to buy. It is either the wrong colour or I don't like the flowers. Thank goodness there was 1.5m of this cotton crochet lace left on the bolt. I might have cried if there was less. I chose a teal fabric to go underneath the bodice. I knew it had to be a bright colour and was constantly being drawn to the different shades of teal. I'm not fully certain what fabric it is. I suspect it is a poly mix but it has a good drape and is lovely to touch. 

Lace Laurel

Key to making this top work was getting the fit right. The poor fit of my other Laurels is the primary reason why I don't wear them much, if at all. I needed to lose a lot of the ease so I used the finished measurements that best matched mine and then went up a size. The pattern in the lace isn't dart friendly so I chose to remove all of them. The teal doesn't feature them either as I underlined the bodice to keep the seam allowances out of sight. This was my first time eliminating all darts from a pattern. For the back ones, I measured the width of the dart and then removed it from the side seam, drawing a line from the armscye to the hem. For the front, I slashed the bust dart through the middle to the apex. I then cut a straight line from just below the apex to the hem before pivoting the left side of the pattern so the bottom line of the original dart matched the centre of it. I also removed the back seam and lowered the armscye a little. This is one of the biggest issues I have this pattern - the sleeves are just too high, feel restrictive and don't allow for a lot of movement. Lowering them slightly has made such a difference. I no longer feel like there is too much fabric fighting for space under my armpit. To account for the change, I added a little extra to the sleeve cap to ensure the sleeves still fitted perfectly.

Lace Laurel

The teal frayed badly, so much so I'm still finding threads throughout our flat despite a thorough clean up. To prevent any of the frays escaping, I bound all of the seams and the hem using the same fabric. The binding is cut on grain rather than the bias (not enough left over fabric) but it seems to be flexible enough to cope with the curves of the neckline and the arms. This took a while as I slip stitched one side of each seam to give me extra control in making sure nothing could escape. 

Lace Laurel

I've worn this top a couple of times. I'm very pleased with the overall fit, it doesn't feel too loose or too snug. I can pull it on and off without any problems. I love having the extra movement in the sleeves and that the scallops hit perfectly at my elbows. It is lightweight and perfect for the spring days that seem to be arriving with more frequency here. It seems Laurel has finally made up with me.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Completed: The Green Mae

I seem to be on a roll with second makes. I've worn my vintage inspired Mae a few times and it is definitely one for the office. However, I wanted those scallops to be available for play as well as work.  Recently, I was washing a piece of cotton I picked up from a local charity shop for about £6. I was drawn to the bottle green with the black scribble and the print (African?) at the bottom. Originally I thought it would become a skirt but then I realised that it would make a perfect weekend Mae.

The Green Mae

I tinkered slightly with the fit from my first. I feel a little uncomfortable wearing my vintage inspired one untucked as it is a little too big at the hips. I also wanted to make the most of the print so I took this one in a little and it fits much better. However, it seems that I have accidentally put some stress on the back and there is a quite a pull on the buttonholes at the middle of my back. I think I will need to let the seams out a little to see if it makes any difference. I raised the sleeve opening a tad and they are much less likely to reveal what bra I am wearing - a risk that is constant in the other one!

The Green Mae

With the help of Twitter, I chose to use the iridescent buttons from my stash over the smaller pale green ones I was also considering. They change from cream to green to brown or some combination of and provide a nice contrast to the dark colours of the fabric. 

The Green Mae

I was a little lazy with the seams and finished them by overlocking. My overlocking foot is broken, one of the metal guides has fallen off meaning the finished result isn't as neat as before but I can live with it. Just. Must get on and research that overlocker... Amazingly I didn't need to hem the blouse as the fabric doesn't fray. 

The Green Mae

I had hoped to pattern match all the way round but I didn't quite have enough fabric. Either the sides, or the back could match. I opted to match the pattern at the back, as I think pattern matching is less noticeable at the sides, especially when you are only matching one section.

The Green Mae

This blouse turned out how I hoped it would, except for the back, which is disappointing. It means that I like this blouse, rather than love it. I probably should have made another toile to check the alteration. I hope I can fix it as this could be a weekend/evening staple which I'm currently lacking. Have you ever tinkered with a pattern that fitted only to find an unexpected fitting issue? 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Completed: Calamity Cami

Crikey, I've just realised that this post marks my first blogiversary! I can't believe how quickly the year has gone. When I first started out, I decided to trial it for a while and see what happens. I didn't expect it to become the constant in my life that it has. I have learnt so much over the last year as I've pushed myself to try new techniques, look at different patterns and try out new fabrics. I'm not sure how much of that would have happened if I wasn't sharing my experiences with the world. One thing is for sure, I wouldn't have met all of you, either virtually or in real life. I've said it before, sewing people are some of the best people ever. I love that I have reignited friendships and made new ones. I love, and appreciate, that you come back week after week and that you give your time to comment. I feel privileged to be part of a community that is so supportive of each other, keen to help where they can and are just so damn nice.

Calamity Cami

Anyway, enough gushing! I have a dress to share with you today. I raved a lot about my first Cami dress and it has been in constant rotation since I completed it. I don't think a week has gone by when I haven't worn it. It makes me happy and I feel good in it. This could only mean one thing, I had to make to another! Looking back, it is unusual for me to use a pattern more than once, this is probably down to the fact that I spent last year trying to clock up many different patterns for the challenge. But now I'm a free spirit there's nothing stopping me working out my TNT patterns or making the same one again.

Calamity Cami

However, there was a hiccough in this love affair. This is the dress that nearly wasn't. Almost everything that could have gone wrong with the construction, did. As you'll see, it was all because of me, not the pattern. I used the black cotton with small flowers that I picked up at Mood last November. I've been using cotton a lot recently. I've been struggling to get my sewing output up this year and have leant towards cotton because it is easy to work with - there are no surprises with this fabric. 

After checking my measurements, I cut out using the pattern that I altered last time. The problems started early when I was working with the darts. I stitched three out of four of them incorrectly, totally missing the stitching lines on one side. In my defence, I was distracted. There were cute baby orang-utans on the TV and I had one eye on them and one on the darts. Lesson learned - don't watch cute animals when sewing!

Calamity Cami

The collar is my second attempt. Somehow I managed to sew it so it wasn't symmetrical. It was completely off. By the time I realised I had clipped and pressed it into place, although luckily not stitched it to the bodice. It was probably salvageable but I had enough fabric left over to try again so I just recut. When stitching the skirt to the bodice, I missed the correct number of folds on the right placket. Not once, but three times! After correcting it, I realised I was testing my patience so walked away from the dress for a week. 

After cooling off and determined to become friends again, I came back and inserted the zip. I tried the dress on to check the fit and buttonhole placement only to find that it didn't fit. I was completely stumped. I knew that I had cut it out properly and remeasured myself to check that I hadn't suddenly gained an inch. For the life of me, I couldn't figure it out. The dress went back on the UFO pile for another week. I figured out the problem on my second fitting. As I was adjusting the waist I came across this.

Giant pleat

How did I miss a giant accidental tuck?! More unpicking ensued and from here, thankfully, the rest of the construction went according to plan. I had no problem with buttonholes. I've discovered that if I reset my machine between each one, they come out perfectly. It seems I'm not the only one to notice this, Marie recently spoke of a similar problem when she had a Janome. It is a little tedious but at least I'm no longer facing the prospect of unpicking buttonholes.  

Calamity Cami

The skirt on this version isn't as full as the fabric was reasonably narrow. I like the difference though, it feels a little more fitted and I like the cleaner silhouette it makes. This dress is perfect for day to night. Again, it is unlined and this is something I need to start thinking about for future dresses. While it won't be a problem in the summer, this dress has stuck to my tights and my coat and ridden up a little when walking. I need to find a good slip pattern. Any suggestions?

Calamity Cami

The colours of the flowers means I can mix it up with accessories and my beloved cardigans and jackets. I suspect that this one will be worn a lot too. Despite all of the hassles in making this one, the Cami is still one of my favourite patterns and I hope this won't be the last one. Have you had major problems in constructing one of your favourite patterns?


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