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Common XYT Workout Top bra adjustments

31 July 2014, 12:55

I’ve learned a lot through the release of my four exercise sewing patterns, and even though each is vigorously tested through my crack team of pattern testers, there are still a few things I’d go back and do differently if I had the chance.

On the XYT Workout Top, providing only one level of support and one cup option is definitely something I’d change if I was releasing it now – as printed, the bra lining is awesome if you want high support for running and other high impact sports and you’re a C cup or smaller.

But two of the most common issues I see with people is that they’re totally unaccustomed to how a fully-supportive compression bra actually feels (I see so many women bouncing all over the place when they run, it makes me weep for their future selves), or that they think they can “get away” without doing an FBA even though they’re busty.

Let’s address those two issues!

It’s too tight – I need less support!


Not planning on doing any running or other high impact sports and only want lighter support? Only use one power mesh layer with the crosswise stretch (ie: going around the body) and add room at the side seams. On the Back Lining piece, you can actually just cheat and cut it a cm or so from the fold since it’s just a rectangle, but on the Front Lining, add a bit to the side, then smooth out the curve to the armhole.

I recently made an adjustment similar to the darker shading for a client who wanted very minimal support for power walking. I’d suggest you do something in between should you want to wear it for yoga, cycling, and other low-impact sports.

I’m bigger than C- cup – I need an FBA!


If you need an FBA in normal patterns, then yes you will definitely need a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) on a bra lining pattern! (I’d think this would be common sense, but you’d be surprised…)

You can just leave the Back Lining piece alone and just alter the Front Lining piece here, though if you’re really busty, you may benefit from doing the same adjustment to the Front piece, too.

I’ve included these sort of common fit alteration illustrations in my latest VNA Top pattern, so if you purchase that they’re all ready for you!

Don’t have the XYT yet? Come get it here!

buy!

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StyleArc Pamela - the perfect summer dress?

30 July 2014, 11:47

I must be the only sewist on earth without enough casual dresses, but alas, the weather has turned very hot and summery and I’ve taken to just wearing the same jeanskirt and pair of 17 year old shorts (no, really) around the boat while I work from home. I realised I could just make any number of knit dresses, but that’s too easy, and besides, my knit stash is a little low and my woven stash is spilling over.

So I decided to pull out the StyleArc Pamela dress pattern I originally planned to make for my Mexico travel wardrobe last year, and pair it with the same blue linen (blend?) that was gifted to me by Veronica back in 2012.

It’s been ages since I sewed a woven for myself, so of course I forgot that they require pressing, which means heat and steam standing by the iron, ugh! But let me tell you, it was all worth it in the end because I totally love this dress. I think it might be the perfect summer dress, as it’s both casual and a little different, and you can change the look just by tying it either in front, or in the back.


(Yes, I had been wearing the dress all day before these photos – including two lots of treadmill running to whilst shopping for new racing flats!)

I bought the pattern when I was a StyleArc size 14 (I’m closer to a 12 now), so the dress is a little bigger than usual on me, but this works for summer because you can get a looser fit by tying the integrated ties in a bow under the bust. Or, if you want, you can also cinch in the waist by wrapping the ties around to tie it in the back. I’ve been wearing it about 50/50 according to my whims.

There are a lot of great little details in this pattern – the shawl collar extends to the centre back neck, falling nicely into an inverted pleat at the inset corner.

Those ties are really cleverly drafted so that they emerge from the underbust seam with no openings at all – it’s all sewn shut!

There’s a choice of either sleeveless or short sleeves, so you’re provided with either an all-in-one facing for the former, or just a neck facing for the latter. There’s an invisible zipper in the left side seam, though I can actually pull this on without it – whether that’s because it’s a size too big or not, though, I’m not sure!

There’s a nice walking vent in the centre back, too, and I even took the time to mitre both corners, as well as use a bit of ribbon on the hem. I’d have used hem lace but I’m all out, and annoyingly there don’t seem to be any cheap stockists outside the US.

I did have an issue cutting out the upper front piece, because those ties are cut on and extend quite some way across, making it wider than my doubled fabric. Because of this, I had to piece the ties and introduce a seam there, but since the seam is at an angle and they’re tied up anyway during wear, it’s really not an issue!

The instructions were mostly sane, but I think perhaps they tried to be a bit too clever in making them work for both sleeved and sleeveless at the same time, which results in a poor finish for the sleeveless all-in-one facing. So after constructing both the front and back on their own, I instead opted to keep the centre back and side seams open, sew the shoulder seams together, then attach the facing at the neckline and armholes. I could even end up understitching the entire way along both the neckline and armhoes, too, which was a nice surprise! Once the facing was attached, I could just pull the backs through the shoulders and then sew up the remaining seams.

This is by far my preferred approach if there’s a centre back seam – I hate leaving the shoulder seams til last and fiddling with the hand stitching (ie: Burda’s “wooden spoon” approach!).

So, this dress may not have gotten to see the dizzying heights of Mexico, but as luck would have it, we’re off to Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Berlin at the end of September, so it looks likely she’ll get rolled up in a suitcase and be taken on a Eurailing adventure instead!

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Burda magazine August 2014

25 July 2014, 16:12

Many thanks for your get well soon messages – I think it definitely worked, because no sooner did I post that than I started to feel a little better! I’m still not back to 100% right now, but I felt well enough to try a very easy and short run this morning, so thank you!

To show my thanks, I’m going to share my picks from the latest Burda magazine, which arrived this week. Usually the August issue is the start of the Fall fashions, but this seems more like a transitional issue – lots of summer wear but some great long-sleeved pieces, too.

First up from the “macaron pastels” feature is omg I must make this pieced sheath dress! Burda clearly love it, too, since they made it three times in this issue. My only letdown is that the back is very boring indeed, so if when I make this, I’ll be slicing up the back and adding similar diagonal seams like I did with my swirled sheath dress (still one of my favourites ever, I might add!).

The dress on the left really reminded me of the RTW dress I wore to a wedding recently – though you didn’t see the back, it too had a lower back cutout! I also rather like the pleated teeshirt on the right. It also comes in a solid-sleeve version and the pleating detail reminds me a lot of the pleats on the neckline of my favourite Manequim silk blouse pattern.

Now, I really hated the shiny, glittery, tacky disco fabrics they used in this feature with the “DJane” (a term which I’ve never, ever heard before. Nor had any of my music-industry friends – though urban dictionary has some feelings on it!). But, if you look beyond the gold lamé here this surplice-neck top has a lot of great design lines, and I love the idea of a pleated band, too.

This sheath dress pattern didn’t really grab me right away, but pair it with this amazing digital-print jersey and well, it’s certainly growing on me! On closer inspection, I rather like the square neckline, but I’m not sure how that dropped-waist hem would look on someone with hips. Of course the first thing I did when I saw this dress was to see if Alfatex stocked it, but disappointingly, they list this photo, but have a jersey next to it which looks nothing like the original. They used to stock the exact fabrics used in the magazine, but it appears now they’re just selling their “best match” or something. Boo.

Yay! It’s my favourite diagonally-seamed sheath dress, made even cooler here by some colourblocking. Ooh, a great dress and the opprtunity to use up fabric scraps? Don’t mind if I do! Oh, and I failed to mention earlier, but it’s also got the illustrated instructions for this issue, too…

There wasn’t much in the menswear styled feature to set me alight (though I love my seamed sheath dress made up in suiting fabric, I didn’t think you needed to see it a third time), but I really liked this teeshirt with the asymmetric, pleated shoulder. It looks a lot like StyleArc’s Emily pattern this month, so I’m assuming they’re drawing on the same designer inspiration. This also comes in a long-sleeved version, but bizarrely for jersey patterns, both long and short feature two-part sleeves – a feature normally reserved for jackets and coats.

And finally, I found most of the Plus patterns to be just… odd this month, but I like this asymmetric blouse with its shoulder pleats and cowl neck, and dolman sleeve on one side only. The jersey trousers also look like they’d be a great wardrobe basic made up in ponte knit, especially since they’ve got pockets.

So who else enjoyed this issue? Anyone care to race me to trace out the sheath dress (though modifying the back is likely to slow me down!)?

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Sick Day Delays

23 July 2014, 12:39

I was hoping to have been able to show you photos of my latest Donna Karan denim-look leggings, as well as what the Aztec-print sports bra looks like on a real person, but alas, I have succumbed to The Cold that all of London has already had over the past month and that I naively thought I’d evaded. Boo.

So because I’ve been laid low under a mountain of tissues and Netflix, I’ve not been able to do much of anything besides the few client projects which had to be done, and we’ll have to catch up on photoshoots, the road-testing of my next pattern, and the August BurdaStyle magazine when I’m feeling more energetic.

I did, however, managed to cut out and sew most of the StyleArc Pamela dress in fits and bursts between lying down.

I had my first try on yesterday and I really like it! It works equally well tied in front or tied in the back, and is just the sort of casual summer dress I need in my wardrobe (somehow I appear to be the only sewist on earth that doesn’t make enough casual dresses?!).

So apologies for the delay, but I’ll be back atcha when I’m less, err, atchoo.

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Manequim magazine June 2014

18 July 2014, 12:34

After the dizzying heights of May’s issue (and April’s Oscar gown special!), June was going to always be a let down in comparison. Sure, there are some nice patterns, and if you’re Plus-sized, this is totally the one to get, but I’m just not overwhelmed with inspiration this time around….

The first pattern to catch my eye in this issue was the maxi-dress in the top left – have a look at that back! It’s got the basic upper back like the T- view of my XYT Workout Top pattern, but with a bunch of short strips overlapping to make an almost Art Deco look! Who’s up for an XYT hack??

Manequim produce a lot of jumpsuit patterns, and having worn precisely zero in my life (let alone sewn any), I’m usually not too fussed over them unless they’ve got separates potential. But this jumpsuit has a really elegant asymmetric drape over a belt, which looks really chic!

The designer inspiration this month is Narciso Rodriguez, and we get three really nice pieces with great seam lines, and all are for stable jerseys like pontes, too!

There’s a feature this month showing a whole bunch of knit and crochet items (with free downloadable patterns here!) together with sewn separates. The sewn stuff didn’t catch my eye, but I love this oversized sweater, very Maison Martin Margiela! Anyone fancy knitting it for me?

omg I love the design of this dress! I also mourn that it’s too small for me, and there’s no way I’d grade up all those millions of pieces. Sorry to disappoint everyone who keeps asking me what I do when patterns aren’t in my size, but I don’t have a magic answer, and I’m way too lazy to grade – I either just sew stuff that’s in my size (or close enough), or take the details and graft it onto a similar base pattern.

In this same “Day to Night” feature, we get a really stylish open-backed bodysuit (an easy hack for the Nettie pattern!) and a sweeping, seamed skirt with flounce and slight hi-lo hem. It’s not a length I’d usually wear, but this hangs really very nicely.

And finally, onto the Plus section this month, which has way more patterns than the usual 2 or 3 (Manequim tend to only do a dedicated Plus feature once or twice a year). The first to grab my eye is this sweatshirt with banded, uneven hem. I first thought it was a hood, but judging from the pattern shapes, it’s just a drapey, drawstring collar.

Wow! If you can find embroidered leather, this is certainly the best way I’ve seen to show it off!

On top of these, there are also Plus patterns for a jersey dress, jumpsuit with illusion neckline (multisized), a zipper-featured pencil skirt, button-down dress shirt, and a parka.

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How to change the presser foot on a JL Mini sewing machine

17 July 2014, 12:45

I do not work for John Lewis. Yet somehow, I know more about their sewing machines than the people who do, and I know this because I get a constant stream of emails and comments from people who find my review of the JL Mini basic sewing machine on Google and ask me questions about it.

By far, the Number 1 question is “How do I change the presser foot?” Apparently many John Lewis employees have told people that the feet cannot be changed. This is not true.

To change the presser foot, grab a Philips head screwdriver (the kind that looks like a +). Unscrew the screw to the left and above the presser foot (see photos below).

When the screw is completely loosened, you can remove the screw and the foot. You can now place any generic “low shank” foot on the machine (using that screw you just removed!), including a zipper foot, walking foot, rolled hem foot, you name it.

This is just an example of the feet in my collection that fit it.

Regular readers – I’m sorry if this bores you, but I’m bored by the constant stream of emails from people who’ve been lied to by John Lewis employees, and now I can just point them all to this post instead of being exasperated. Thank you for your time!

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An extended weekend full of sewing

15 July 2014, 11:34

Last week saw the end of a very good but busy work project, so what do I do when faced with a bit more time and mental energy than usual? Why, I sew of course!*

Liberty, but not as we know it


I received some lovely Liberty gift coins for my birthday, and because Previous Me knows Future Me so well, I had stashed some extra birthday cash along with it in the suede pouch, knowing I’d forget all about it and be pleasantly surprised. Which is precisely what happened!

So now armed with £60 to play with in Liberty, I decided to take advantage of a rainy day and go shopping. Now, I know loads of you go weak at the knees for anything Liberty, but I don’t. I find most of the traditional Liberty prints to be painfully twee and nothing I’d ever, ever wear. So I was thinking I’d see what was on offer in their jerseys, but first I got waylaid by the remnants table, where I scooped up a vaguely-African print silk twill (1m for £25, seen lower left).

The jersey selection was really small and mostly ditzy print (gag), but I kept being drawn to a dreamy, blurry, triangular print that came in a few shades, but only in Tana Lawn. I finally decided that if I kept coming back to this print then I should buy it and figure out a project later. So 1.5m of the palest colourway came home with me (seen upper left above) and brought my grand total to £58. Now that’s budgeting!

Refashioned suede wristlets

A friend had recently given me two skirts which no longer fit her, a suede one and a silk one, and mentioned that I might want them for the fabric. Of course! So I chopped up the suede one on Sunday, making two of the free Cake mini wristlets.


(The colour on the left is more accurate…)

I would’ve preferred to make the bigger size, but because the original skirt was in swirled panels, I could only barely fit the mini pieces into the largest panels, and I didn’t want extra seaming on the bags. The only thing I had to purchase here were the zippers, and we’ve each got a new little evening bag!

Designer “not jeggings”


Having finished the wristlets with several hours home alone remaining, I turned to a project I’ve been meaning to do for weeks – replace my very well loved and now falling apart pleated denim look leggings. I could’ve just made them again, but I thought I’d bring out the Donna Karan seamed leggings pattern again since I generally liked the fit.

These will get a full post, but I eliminated the ankle flaps here and they’re now 90% perfect. And guaranteed to be worn as much as my previous “denim look leggings”!

Geometric teal running set on the road


I started off Monday morning with a hot, sweaty, speedy intervals session along the river, and I thought the perfect outfit to make me feel like an elite would be my teal mixed print VNA & Duathlons I showed you on Friday. Since you didn’t get to see me wearing it before, we snapped some photos before and after my run.

I’d run in them separately before, but together I feel unstoppable! The gripper elastic really freaking works on those booty short length hems, too. Highly recommended, even for improving RTW hems that slip around.

Aztec sports bra


I carried on the momentum by sewing up a new sports bra, doing pretty much the exact same finish as my previous Jalie tribal print one last summer, but lowering the neckline by 4.5cm.

The Aztec print is from Spoonflower (only a fat quarter, because I’m cheap!) and the white supplex is leftover from way back when I made my sailor girl running costume three years ago. What can I say, I have a deep lycra stash to work through!

Citrine – turquoise – rainbow Duathlons


And last but not least, I wanted to do something with this combo of colours in my wicking lycra stash, so I made another pair of Duathlon Shorts (biker length). But my piece of citrine supplex from Sewing Chest was only 18cm tall and I loved the colour too much to only have it on the Lower Side, so I drew some curves and colourblocked the front and back with more!

It only needs the coverstitching done, and you’ll see more of this in a photoshoot, too.

Anyone else try additional seaming on my patterns, out of fabric necessity, or pure whim?

* I also squeezed a two hour hilly trail run plus another two hour guided walk into Saturday, and a bunch of caulking of the walls of my future sewing room on Sunday, plus some client work on Monday!

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My teal mixed-print VNA Top and bonus booty shorts

11 July 2014, 13:15

I showed you a casual version of my new VNA Top pattern a few weeks ago, modeled by my athlete friend Anne, but one of the great things about this pattern is that it works equally well for both exercising and lounging about. Just change the fabrics and go up a size and it’s ready to throw on with jeans!

Since you’ve already seen one casual version, I wanted to show you my favourite workout version – actually, this might be my favourite workout top ever – I just love how the fabrics coordinate together!

If you’ve used any of my patterns before, you know how great they are for using up small pieces of fabric – because sportswear fabric can be expensive and I hate wasting anything, but also because it means you can coordinate tops and bottoms really easily! I made this VNA Top using a Spoonflower print I fell in love with, printed onto their Performance Knit base (though now that they’ve released their Performance Pique, I actually prefer that to the “knit”!), and when it finally arrived, I saw that the teal colour in it coordinated perfectly with the mint space dyed supplex I had leftover from my minty XYT Workout Top, but also with a bunch of mis-printed “Run to the Beat” technical tees I got given for refashioning. I couldn’t believe my luck!!

I cut the Upper Front in the Spoonflower print, the Lower Front & Back from the “hint of mint” supplex, and the Back and Bindings from the refashioned race tee. Three different fabrics in one top, but the shared teal colour mean they look great together!

When I went to take these photos, though, I realised that none of my bottoms really coordinated well – loads of my Duathlon shorts use a turquoise that looks bad next to this greener teal, and most of my leggings are too loud to go with a print-heavy top. So I brought out one of my old Jalie sports skirts (not the exact one in the link, but very close) for these photos, even though they’re a bit too big for me now.

But that got me thinking – I wonder if there’s enough leftover from the fat quarter of Spoonflower fabric to make coordinated Duathlon booty shorts… and it turned out there was! I did have to introduce a hidden seam into the Upper Side piece (here’s how!), but it meant I have a nicely coordinated summer outfit now.

I noticed that the booty shorts were really riding up during my first run, though (which could very well be down to my using black Suziplex, which has a ton of stretch), so I went back and sewed some grippy elastic on the insides of the hems using two lines of zigzag stitching. The silicone lines are so grippy, though that they want to stick to your presser foot, so you can cover these up with tissue paper (or interfacing, which is what I had to hand) and sew next to, not through the paper to stop it sticking!

I’ve had sooooo many compliments every time I wear this to my running crew, and I only posted a few teaser photos of this outfit and already I’ve had a private order to make an XYT Top in this fabric for someone! I love it when I can wear something thoroughly attractive and well-fitting to workout in, but it’s even better when it hardly cost me anything with minimal waste, too!

Like it? Make your own with my pattern!
$10.99USD (£6.65)

buy!

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A basic black Burda tank

10 July 2014, 12:33

It’s typical that I end up making the most boring, basic pattern out of the crazy-amazing June issue of Burda magazine! But I’d traced this out as soon as the magazine arrived, and I was in desperate need of a quick “me project” after a very busy week of work sewing. So I sat down on Sunday morning after breakfast, and had this finished before we left for a BBQ at lunchtime! I literally couldn’t have gone to the shops and back in that time…

This really is just a basic, jersy tank/vest with a racerback as its only detail, so I paired it with some “problem fabric” I had in my stash – I bought this from Minerva at the end of last summer and it wasn’t really what I was expecting. It’s a thin, black viscose jersey with but lines of dense stitching which make the fabric in between the lines sort of gather and pucker. Cool to wear, but a total arse to cut out as it moves all over! It was also fairly linty, so I’m glad to be able to wear it instead of sewing it!


(Seen here paired with my pre-Mexico neopreney leggings and shot on location at a friend’s back garden, BBQ just out of shot!)

The original Burda pattern contains a dart. In a knit. Darts in knits just feel like lazy drafting to me, so I eliminated it by just lowering the front armscye a bit and ignoring the dart legs. Easy! It was then just a matter of overlocking (serging) the shoulder and side seams, where I then gave it a quick try-on.

Oh dear. I’m not sure if it was the fabric or the pattern, but the top was very gapey and baggy at the underarms, and the back neck was hanging suspiciously low, too. So I gave it an extremely unscientific fix of pulling up the shoulder straps by about 3-4 inches and sewing new shoulder seams. This raised the back neckline and the underarms, and made it fit much better. Since the hem was more tunic length anyway, it’s still plenty long enough.

I didn’t actually look at the directions at all, but I’m guessing they say to turn the edges under and topstitch. On tight curves, that’s pretty much impossible to achieve a good look. I’d recommend either binding with FOE, or using 1cm elastic and turning under, like I advise in my XYT Workout Top pattern instructions. But I happened to have 2m of this black lycra stretch binding from Minerva in my stash, with was just the right length and looks super great as a finish!

For a top that was pretty much free and took me under an hour to sew, I’m very happy with it. It got a troublesome fabric out of my stash and into my wardrobe, and it’s a great basic to throw on with leggings. It’s a lot roomier at the waist and hips than it seemed in the magazine photos, but this just means it’s a natural pairing to wear over leggings.

I’d love to say that I cut the fabric with the stitched stripes at an angle on purpose, but I can’t lie to you guys! But also speaking honestly, I kinda like it skew-iff!

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The Spring Race Challenge podium

9 July 2014, 15:32

The Spring Race Challenge officially came to a close this week, but that’s no reason you should stop sewing your own exercise gear, or challenging yourself! But I had to draw a line somewhere so I could stop and draw a winner from the enormous (and sweaty!) pile of entrants, and I don’t think we can carry on calling this “spring” much longer, or the Aussies really will be into spring!

Everyone made such an effort in their sporty makes, and many of you said that you wouldn’t have pushed yourself to either a) sew exercise clothing nor b) sign up to a race if it wasn’t for this challenge, which is such a boost! Because seeing others exercise is such a big motivation, I want to show you all the entrants so you can see how great me-made exercisewear can be. And that it’s not just bonkers-me doing it!

(Though if you would like to know more about lil-ol-bonkers me, Karen from “Did You Make That?” interviewed me for her own Sporty Summer Sewathon and she asked some great questions!!)

The Sweaty Sewists (in order of submission)


  1. Eva’s Ottobre tee & tights

  2. Kathy’s XYT Workout top & Duathlon capris

  3. Jenny’s Anna & Elsa from Frozen running costumes

  4. Rebecca’s Espresso capris

  5. Geo’s XYT Workout top & Jalie sports skirt

  6. Mary’s muddy jungle skirts & headbands

  7. Amy’s rainbow leopard leggings

  8. Nancy’s XYT running bra & skirt

  9. Markita’s Jalie running skirt & self drafted top

  10. Kelli’s “Girl on Fire” themed skirt, shorts, and top

  11. Merche’s Burda running shorts

  12. Aveli’s self-drafted tops & Burda shorts

  13. Kim’s XYT Workout top

  14. Katrina’s straight & swung tap-dancing leggings

  15. Louise’s Duathlon booty shorts

  16. Nicole’s double races: her Duathlon capris and matching Sewaholic top

Now if you recall from the prize announcement, one lucky winner will receive a bundle of fabric, power mesh, and elastic compliments of Sewing Chest (enough to make at least 2 garments, 3 if you’re frugal!), plus a prize pack of all four of my digital sewing patterns! Unfortunately only one of you can win, but I’m pleased to report that the Sewing Chest kits are now up for sale, so if you’re not a winner you can still take the hassle out of sourcing the right fabrics.


And the winner is… Geo!
Congratulations! I’ll be in touch regarding posting your prizes.

Thank you all so much for taking part, for pushing yourselves to sew outside your comfort zone, and the confidence to wear your own me-made-sportswear in competition. I hope that you’ve found the same joy that I do when I sweat in something I’ve sewn!

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