Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Evan skirt

A broken collar bone. Six stitches, two stitches, and three stitches caused by an IKEA escalator, a slippery bathtub and the swimming pool, respectively. Emergency stomach surgery. And the infamous near-hospitalisation for extreme constipation (yes, really) avoided only by some spectacular eleventh-hour shooting poo. In their short lives so far, my children have between them put together a remarkable portfolio of medical disasters - or so it seems to me, who has never broken a bone or been hospitalised for anything other than childbirth.

Last night was the most recent of these episodes, the swimming pool tumble and chin stitches thing. We handled it rather well, I thought, especially when the doctor brought out the gas and air and,  "Yay!" they chorused, "that stuff is fun!!" Cue raised eyebrows from the medical professionals: do your children do this a lot, Madame? (Rather like the time a kitchen cupboard fell off the wall on to my head, and the kindly, concerned doctor gently asked: has this happened before? It took some confused explaining before he was convinced that 'kitchen cupboard' really wasn't a euphemism for 'wife-beating husband').

Anyway, this latest in a long string of hospital visits was also just the latest in a long string of little life events that cumulatively have prevented me from blogging this skirt before. (How's that for a tenuously-relevant intro!)  Which is a shame, because I've been dying to tell you about it since I made it, what feels like AGES ago. It's Marilla Walker's Evan skirt pattern, which I was lucky enough to test before its release, and it's absolutely chock full of lovely details. Here, let me show you!

Front and centre, here's that split from closer up. Such nice pointy corners and pleasing topstitched detail...

THOSE PINTUCKS. I could not love a back pocket more than I love this one.

Topstitching, (pink!!) topstitching everywhere!  And oh how nicely that centre back seam and belt loop match up - my inner detail-freak did a little happy dance for joy!

And there's (optionally) more of those pintucks on the front pockets too! My only reservation here is that this part is really not easy to do tidily on thicker fabrics: my (purple!!) denim was not the ideal fabric for this level of detail, although it's hardly that bad unless you're looking closely.

Finally, I have to show you my pocket lining, just because otherwise no-one will ever know it's there. I used some scraps left over from my Eva dress - the colours were so harmonious, it makes me happy every time I put my hands in them.  Which is often, because let me tell you, these pockets are perfectly sized, placed and angled. Also, that there is the back of my first ever zip fly, painlessly and perfectly done thanks to the nice and clear instructions.

As for the sizing and fit, I found it pretty spot on.  My waist falls between two sizes, so to be on the safe side I went with the larger one and then graded down a couple of sizes at the hip, in line with my measurements there. By the way, this involved re-tracing the side seam curve on the front, back yoke, pocket facing and pocket lining pieces - a slight fiddle but not exactly difficult. Anyway, I can tell that my choice of waist size means my skirt sits slightly lower than it's designed to: the waistband is nicely curved to sit on the natural waist, and doesn't sit quite right below mine. But that's a minor niggle and one that can easily be fixed by making the smaller waist size next time. It's still supremely comfy and very, very wearable. I wear it a lot :-)

So all in all, you can probably tell that it's a total thumbs up for this pattern from me! A skirt like this is always a classic, and the pattern has less detailed and longer versions so you can get tons of variety out of it. I have an idea for a corduroy Evan in the autumn, and in the meantime would LOVE to find the time to put this skirt and its details together with the top half of the Turia dungarees, for what I'm convinced will be the best pinafore dress EVER.

And now a quick word about the top. Quilted knit Linden awesomeness! Me and the family were in Maastricht around Easter and stumbled on the fabric market just as it was closing up. 10 frenzied minutes later, I escaped with 1.5 m of this at a total cost of 3.75 euros. Self restraint guys!! It could have been SO much worse :-)

Anyway, this fabric didn't have enough stretch for a normal knit neckband finish, so I drafted a facing instead (Hanne's quick tips explain how). I quite like the wider neckline for a change.

So there you have it!  What do you think - are you tempted by the Evan skirt? Have you tried any other of Marilla's patterns? She's a relatively new indie pattern designer and I love her aesthetic - absolutely everything she pins is just so cool, and she's super stylish and sociable on instagram. This skirt is the first of hers I've tried but it's so good I'm eager to try the others - I've got my eyes on the Freemantle coat for when autumn rolls round.  Total fangirl moment!!!!

OK. Final outfit pic.

And with that I'm outta here before anyone else does themselves an injury.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Drape Drape dare

Hello my lovelies! Here's a question: where do you stand on Japanese patterns?

Unconsciously, I've always mentally divided the sewing world into those who sew from Japanese pattern books, and those who don't.  Part aesthetics, part practice - perhaps it's the styles, the construction, the sparse instructions and nested pattern sheets that turn you on or off - but wouldn't you agree, maybe, that we sewists tend to be on one side or the other?

Or maybe not. In any case: I had put myself in the camp of Those Who Don't.

And then Gillian dared me.

Sew something from a Japanese pattern book, she said. So I got myself down the library, got myself all the Japanese pattern books they had, and I did.

You know the punchline, right? Yes of course: I swapped sides.  Jumped right over that fence into the camp of Those Who Do.  Because look at that tunic there - it's clever, it's comfy and it's SO FREAKIN STYLISH I hardly recognise myself.

As it was my first go at this Japanese sewing lark, I went for the very easiest pattern in all the four books I borrowed.  It's the one-piece boatneck tunic from Drape Drape 3. I had seen it before on Jen, whose version is infinitely more exciting in aqua/turquoise lace - and when I turned the page and recognised those butterfly-ish batwing sleeves I knew this was the one to start with.  But it was only when I got down to it that I realised just how cool it is that this is all in one piece.

Seriously - ONE piece. When you think about it, it's actually a little but mindblowing as well as being seriously, utterly simple.  This is the full extent of the description and instructions:

After all, why waste your words? (Truly , I have crossed over completely - the more I think/write about this, the more I love it).  The book says you'll need 1m60 fabric, and you do - I had exactly 1m60 of this grey (probably poly) sweater knit, and this is how I cut it:

And look, below, it's just like the diagram! (The label in the back is slightly off-centre, because just think how easy it is to be precise about the centre back of a neckline with no seams, especially once you've picked it up and moved it a couple of times). 

The book says to simply wrap some binding over the neckline, but a) I didn't have enough fabric to cut it from the same stuff, and b) I wanted my binding to stretch around the neckline to draw it in slightly and hold it on my shoulders. I used a 1" strip of thin black viscose knit, 15% shorter than the neckline circumference, turned to the inside and topstitched. Two seams and three hems later - done!

Not only do I love this because it was quick, easy, successful and NEW (monkey brain!), I love it especially because this fabric is both lightweight and warm and the sleeves are exactly the right length for spring and I have therefore added the absolutely IDEAL tunic to my wardrobe for Me Made May. Which I'm doing properly for the first time and documenting on instagram, should you care to follow. I might do a round up here at the end.

So, what do you think? Are you already a fan of Japanese patterns, and if not, do you feel in any way tempted or won over?  I must admit that this has all been more fun than I expected, and I've earmarked 3-4 more things to make while I have those books out of the library. Yay for pushing the boundaries!

And while I'm at it, let's take a moment to say YAY for libraries too.  If you're lucky enough to be near one that stocks or will order sewing books, this is a brilliant way to try out new things or simply get your hands on patterns you wouldn't have been able to access otherwise.  And, well, ok... I have a confession.  This isn't actually the first time a library has lured me into experimenting with different sewing styles...

The above is what happened when I got bored and started browsing one time with the children. Before I knew it, I'd borrowed the book, traced it out and made two mini-humans. The kids named them Elizabeth and Sebastian, after their own middle names.

Sadly, an accident befell Sebastian shortly thereafter:

I literally had to dig him out for this photo from under the mending pile. Hereby naming and shaming myself into fixing his amputated limb sometime soon.

Have a wonderful weekend, dearests!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Scubalicious Linden

It's a Linden, Jim, but not (quite) as we know it...

It's a straight up View B. With a skirt. And pockets.

And darn it if it didn't turn out pretty cool.

The pockets are barely utilitarian - they're a bit too low - but in any case I only added them for the effect of those pleasingly flattering diagonal lines drawing the eyes down over the hips. Yes that's right I added useless pockets just coz they look good. They're kangaroo-style, lined with a light little scrap of jersey to reduce bulk (dat scuba be THICK).

Don't ask what that white blotch is on the fabric, I neither know nor, as it's on the inside, care.

Mmmm, lovely squishy scuba... It's cool but warm, soft but structured, drapes but doesn't cling... I edgestitched all the seams and turns to flatten out and sharpen up the 'bounce':

And it turned out just the right side of sack-like, stylish enough for work and comfy as ALL GET OUT.

Yes, the Linden dress is scubalicious and YUM.

Also of note:
  • these little boots are the best shoe purchase I have ever made.
  • figuring out how to use my phone as a camera remote is all well and good but I think what the resulting pictures demonstrate most clearly is my age. Seriously all this technology shit where will it end I ask you etc etc.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Full-bust adjustment: raglan sleeves

Hello! Today's post is a quickie tute for the full-busted, or those who sew for them :-) What with the proliferation of raglan patterns and their general on-trend stylishness, I wouldn't want anyone's fit worries to cause them to miss out!

To note before starting:  this is a variation on the no-dart full bust adjustment (FBA) outlined here. We'll skip over that part pretty quickly today in order to get to the raglan-specific bits. Refer back to that post for details if you need to.

OK, down to it. Grab your pattern, and we'll start with the front bodice. I'm using the Lane Raglan sweatshirt/tee pattern by Hey June, but of course any raglan-sleeved top will do.  Here it is in its original state:

Now perform your no-dart FBA, as described in detail in this post. The raglan front shoulder seam is a different shape from the 'standard' armhole, but the principle is exactly the same.

  1. Draw your adjustment lines
  2. Cut
  3. Spread out the pieces by the desired amount
  4. Slide some spare paper underneath and stick it all in place

Then complete the FBA by re-drawing the front shoulder seam to smooth it out:

Stick everything in place and cut out your adjusted front piece:

Now, onto the extra step necessitated by the raglan sleeve construction.

Because we've just changed the front shoulder seam on the bodice pattern piece (by lengthening it slightly), we also need to adjust the front shoulder seam on the sleeve pattern piece. Otherwise they won't match up properly at the underarm and your attempt at bosom-accommodating will be in vain.  We'll do this by determining how much length we need to add to the sleeve seamline, and then adding it :-)

So, firstly, measure the length of the shoulder seam on your adjusted front bodice.  It will be slightly curved - the easiest way to measure around the curve is to stand your tape measure on its side instead of laying it flat. Like this:

Note this measurement as precisely as possible.

Now take your sleeve pattern piece and before you do anything else, identify the front shoulder seam. We don't need to make any changes to the back! The front seam is usually marked with one notch and the back with two - but whatever the markings are, just make sure you are working on the correct side!  In this picture, my sleeve pattern has the front shoulder seam on the right hand side.

Measure and note the length of the front shoulder seam as accurately as possible.

Now, subtract this measurement (the length of the front shoulder seam on the sleeve) from the previous measurement you took (the length of the front shoulder seam on the adjusted bodice).  The seam on the sleeve pattern piece will be 1-2cm shorter, depending on the size of your FBA. Note down exactly how much shorter it is. This is the amount by which we will lengthen the front sleeve seam. In a couple of steps, I will refer to it as XX cm / YY inches.

Before you lengthen, trace the original curve of the front sleeve seam and underarm point onto a spare piece of paper:

Now, slide this piece of paper either downwards or outwards slightly, following the curve of the seam in the most 'logical' direction, positioning the new underarm point XX cm / YY inches away from the original underarm point. Like this:

As you can see, in this case I extended the seam downwards and out slightly. The curve of raglan sleeve seams varies from one pattern to another: when positioning the new underarm point, just follow the curve in the direction that seems easiest.  Sometimes, it might be necessary to re-draw the seam slightly to smooth it out - in this case, a good trick is to trace over the sleeve curve from a larger size of the original pattern. That way, you can change the length of the seam without deviating from the shaping of the original pattern.

And all that remains is to connect the new underarm point back to the side/underarm sleeve seam:

Finished! Go forth and sew your slightly-more-accommodating raglan tee!

What became of mine, you may be wondering?

Ahem. Yes. Sometimes, there is such a thing as too much slouch. Sometimes, one can even be unnecessarily zealous about adding room for the boobs.

Sometimes, one steams ahead with a fabric that has absolutely no stretch recovery, and ends up with a ridiculously oversized sweater with a humungously gaping back neckline which is only made wrinklier and worse by application of the elastic thread fix.

Ah well. You win some, you lose some.  I might shorten the sleeves and make it into a grandad-style cardi, but not any time soon. The weather has turned and now I must make ALL THE SUMMER THINGS.


Hope it's helpful my dears :-)


Wednesday, 1 April 2015


Today I'm going to write the sort of post that, when it pops up in my blog reader, generally makes me "mark as read" immediately and move on.

It goes like this...

"Oh my god I never thought I'd sew my own underwear but hey guys it's SO COOL because you hardly need any fabric and it's quick and FUN and seriously NO KNICKERS HAVE EVER FIT LIKE THIS before!!!!!!"

Here, have some more exclamation marks: !!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, so the teenage indie kid in me - the one scornfully mocking the cool kids, safe in the knowledge I will never be one of them - has issues with the crazed way in which the sewing blogosphere has taken to making its own underwear. And now, in a way reminiscent of my little sister who was NOT copying me but just wearing whatever she wanted which HAPPENED to be exactly what I was wearing at the same time, I am going to state here that yes, OK, I made myself some knickers - but ONLY because I FELT LIKE IT.  The fact that all the other sewers in the entire internet have also made their own undies and raved about it is IRRELEVANT, ok?

I don't know, maybe I have some unresolved issues.

It's just underpants, after all.

We have here two different styles. I started out with these black and white ones, having been lured, finally, into buying a pattern on sale from Measure Twice Cut Once.  They're the Charlotte knickers, made with leftover poplin from my Darling Ranges dress - the only woven scraps I had that were large enough to cut the pieces on the bias.  In retrospect, though, poplin was probably not the best fabric to use: although it's nice and airy and cotton-y, it's a bit stiff.  But I think these will come into their own in summer, worn with dresses without tights, or loose-fitting shorts. When I finished them I didn't think they looked that comfortable, but they really are.

As you can see above (maybe - the colours don't make it easy to see details), I didn't manage a particularly neat finish. This pattern calls for the elastic to be serged to the right sides, then turned to the inside twice and topstitched without stretching. Perhaps it was my too-thick fabric choice, but I found all this folding and not stretching and stitching over all the gathers really difficult. I think next time, in addition to using a smoother fabric, I might just topstitch on some picot elastic instead.  In any case, I definitely need some more practice with these before they'll look like fancy pants.

In contrast, however, the second undergarment pattern I tried this week posed no finishing difficulties whatsoever, I suspect because I know what I'm doing with nicely-behaved knits. And look, two pairs immediately! One pair with optional topstitching, one without:

This is the new Barrie boy-cut briefs pattern by Kitschy Coo.  I jumped on it yesterday as soon as she released it - partly because I had in the meantime become slightly obsessive about underwear patterns, but also because everything Amanda does is awesome.  I've been wearing these all day (one pair, not both - I hope that's obvious...) and they are as advertised: super comfy, no-wedgie pants that stay put.  Plus, they are the absolutely ideal opportunity to use up large scraps of Lillestof - which Amanda also just happens to stock, in an array of brilliant prints, in her shop. (Click through at your own risk - it's all tantalisingly gorgeous).

Wait, I was dissembling there. "Ideal opportunity to use up scraps of Lillestof"?

Actually, I had been single-mindedly hoarding the scraps of Lillestof for exactly this purpose since last June.  And yes, I shall be wearing these garments simultaneously when summer comes. WHO WOULDN'T.

By the way, does anyone know why knicker patterns leave one end of the gusset unfinished and unstitched down (see picture above)?  I've read that it's to allow for a cotton gusset in non-cotton underwear, but that doesn't actually explain why it isn't finished/attached. Or that it's for ventilation, but - really?? The other, and most-cited reason is to avoid a seam where it could be bulky or uncomfortable - but then there are plenty of underwear patterns out there with a separate gusset pattern piece, which is finished with seams at both ends (like this). Wouldn't the bulk thing be an issue there too?  During my week of pants-sewing I have become increasingly - possibly unhealthily - curious about this question. If you can enlighten me at all, please do!

Well, to wrap up, I don't this post would be complete without a picture of them in action, would it?  Mid-rise for more coverage, and I utterly failed to get an acceptable picture of the back view.

I think there's more than enough on display here as it is, anyway.

OK, post over.  Have you crossed to dark side of sewing undergarments, too? Or are you resisting?

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