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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)


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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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An orange O'Keeffe skirt

30 June 2014, 16:20

As I switched over to my summer wardrobe this year, I noticed an unwanted side effect from all my recent marathon training – way too many of my cute summer clothes were now baggy, droopy, and sad, including my aqua pleated La Mia Boutique skirt. Big sadface! I’d worn it in heavy rotation most summers since I’d made it, but off to the charity shop it went, creating a “bright summer skirt”-shaped hole in my wardrobe since.

Enter the Sinbad & Sailor O’Keefe skirt pattern, which I’d bought right after it came out last year, and never quite got around to making. Pair it with some fabulous bright orange textured fabric I’d been lovingly gifted, and the hole was well and truly filled!

(Remember the lace tee from last summer? Yup, I wear that all the time, too!)

I made size 14, which seems pretty true to RTW sizes (though the first time around I cut out the pattern pieces in size 10, my US size, as it wasn’t clear which sizing the pattern was using – good thing I caught it before I cut out my fabric!). The skirt fits nicely around my waist and hips, but still provides enough ease to sit and walk with my mega-long stride comfortably, and the length is perfect for me, too.

I am absolutely in love with the asymmetric pleating and the pocket on just the one side – it’s the feature that drew me to this pattern in the first place and what really sets it apart. The pocket is generously sized, too, and deep enough that my phone doesn’t feel like it’s going to go flying.

I did notice, though, that I keep getting a little (unintentional) fold in the centre of the skirt near the waistband – the stitching isn’t caught, it’s just how the fabric wants to go. I asked another patternmaker and she said I could eliminate it in future versions by curving the waist a bit lower in front, so that’s good to know!

The only thing that really bugs me about this pattern is that it calls for a 36cm invisible zipper in the instructions when the marked opening is barely 20cm! This means I spent like £2 more on a zip than I needed to, and then had to chop off the excess anyway and encase it in some soft fabric by hand so the end doesn’t irritate my skin.

The zipper also has a bit of a strange order of construction – I’ve never seen a pattern have you sew the bottom of a seam before inserting an invisible zipper. I followed this then had to unpick a few inches to get the zipper to lay nicely at the bottom where it meets the seam.

You’d think that maybe the pleating would cause some extra poofiness on one side, but in reality it sits really nicely, and because the back is rather plain (just two darts) and slim-line, it keeps the fit nice and trim.

All in all, it’s a super cute little skirt that hardly took any time or fabric to make, and also a great little summer number I’ve already worn a few times in the past week. The aqua summer skirt is dead, but long live the orange summer skirt!

(If you’d like to know more about Hannah, the designer behind Sinbad & Sailor, go read my interview with her for Sewing Indie month!)

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Burda magazine July 2014

27 June 2014, 13:25

Burda’s recent winning streak was bound to stop sometime, and this issue landed with a giant THUD as far as I’m concerned! This is the usual summer issue, light on substance and big on frills, peasant styles (so 90s I’m going to go gag myself with a spoon), and the return of the clichéd safari style feature.

But there were a few garments worth discussing, so let’s take a look inside before retiring it to the shelf and drooling over June’s issue again instead…

Unfortunately we start with one of the ugliest garments I’ve seen in a long time (and I’d just flipped past an awful, off-the-shoulder peasant maxi dress, too). Who possibly thought that this satin bomber on the left was a good look?! I’m not even sure where to start – the unfortunate pocket flap placement right over the boobs, the wide elastic waistband making the model look super short-waisted, the petroleum shine of those cheap satins, or that horrible white pilgrim’s collar? BURN IT!

(The lace dress on the right I’m ambivalent about, but you’ll see it in worse fabrics in a minute)

This is a lovely gown, even if it is too big for the model and doesn’t really go with the rest of the collection (further confirming my theory that July is just the dumping ground for all the bin-ends of summer patterns before August’s first Fall fashion issue). I like the asymmetry and this could be a really lovely dress, either in the long length or the shorter version.

Let’s ignore the fact that this is sewn in “imitation snakeskin leather” for a second, and that it’s something that an Aerosmith backup singer might wear onstage – at least that ruffled overlayer won’t fly open in the wind, right?

Ahh, the sporty styles feature – I thought this would be my saviour of this issue but in reality there’s only one pattern I really like, and it’s this V neck, raglan sleeved knit top. I love the colourblocking, the deep banded V-neck, and the casual style. Definitely my Most Likely To Make in this entire issue, no contest. I’m still undecided on the satin trousers, but they seem to work in this context so I’ll let them slide…

I really like the concept of this pieced jersey dress (though I reckon this must be a leftover from the Japanese design feature last month?), but man does it look like it’d be fiddly to wear with the various overlay pieces and that centre front zip!

And finally, here’s the same pattern as the lace dress in the first photo, but made up in truly unfortunate fabric choices, like some horrible mashup between your apron and your potholder. That quilted fabric, those enormous patch pockets – all she needs is a wooden spoon! Ugh!

What did everyone else think of this issue – am I being unfair? Or did you think it stunk, too?

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Anne's casual purple VNA Top

25 June 2014, 13:24

Wow, thank you all so much for your support and purchases of my new VNA Top pattern! I know many of you like to see how patterns look on a real person so I’ll be sharing the versions I made with you over the next few weeks. As with my Duathlon Shorts, I like to mix things up and use local athletes as models, both so that you’re not always just looking at me (boring!) but also to highlight what total badasses these ladies are!

For this pattern I was totally lucky to bag my friend Anne to model for me! Anne was big into roller derby for a number of years, has competed in triathlons and standalone open water swims, ran her first full marathon last year, and is at yoga and spin classes pretty much every night (seriously – she makes me look lazy!).

Here she’s wearing a VNA Top I made from a purple ponte jersey so you can see how well it works both as casual wear with jeans, but also when it’s made in just one solid colour!

Anne is wearing size Small here, and you can get a better look at the top itself once we moved out of the dappled shade of the trees and into the sunshine!

The neck and shoulders are all finished with bands, which are overlapped to give nice, sharp corners (don’t worry – I’ve included illustrations to make this easy!).

Also new for this pattern – I’ve included illustrations showing how to make common fit alterations, so if you need more room in the bust or hips, or more length, it’s much quicker to do!

Like it? Make your own and save 10% with coupon code “LASEREYES” til the end of June!
$10.99USD (£6.65)


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The Spring Race Challenge - prizes!

24 June 2014, 12:53

Hands up if you’ve been motivated by the Spring Race Challenge to sew up some lycra and go out and be active… ooh yes, that’s rather a lot of you!

Well, I’m pleased to report that there’s now another reason to be motivated to enter before 7 July, and that’s because I can finally announce the prizes, which will go to one lucky entrant, chosen by random draw.

Sewing Chest has very kindly supplied a special activewear kit full of goodies to sew at least one workout garment (and likely two, if you’re clever with your cutting)! It contains:

It should be enough for you to sew, say, a pair of PB Jam leggings in black with red contrasts, plus a black XYT Workout Top with a red upper back and FOE edges… or a pair of black Duathlon Shorts with red sides and a black VNA Top with red lower front and bindings… Or any other combo you choose, really!

These activewear kits will soon be available to buy from Sewing Chest, too, which should make it super easy to buy all the bits for coordinating sportswear in one go!

I’ll also be throwing in a bumper prize pack of all four of my sewing patterns (if you haven’t got them already!) to the lucky winner so she can have some new patterns to go with the new fabric, too.

Who’s in the running already? So far we’ve got entries from:

  1. Eva

  2. Kathy

  3. Jenny

  4. Rebecca

  5. Geo

  6. Mary

  7. Amy

  8. Nancy D

  9. Markita

  10. Kelli

  11. Merche

  12. Aveli

If you’ve made something but aren’t listed above, then you’re not entered for the draw! (I know there are at least a few of you out there!!) Please remember to link to your entry in the comments of the Spring Race Challenge post before 7 July.

PS: The cleverest amongst you will go and enter Karen’s Sporty Summer Sewathon, too and double your chances of winning!

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A matching green Cake clutch bag

23 June 2014, 11:04

Wow, what a busy week last week! Thank you all so much for your support and orders of my new VNA Top pattern (remember you can still get 10% off everything by using code “LASEREYES”)! The big wedding I was attending was actually last weekend, but I was so swamped I’m only just able to share these details with you now…

Remember the green cropped blazer I’d sewn for the wedding? I’d shown you how it looked with casual clothes, but I can now show you how I wore it on the day, along with the dress I’d planned it around:

You can really see how the green piqué works alongside the texture of the dress in this closeup shot I took in the car on the way to the wedding…

And you can also see that I did indeed manage to sew up a matching Cake Patterns Red Velvet Clutch from the same fabric and lining as my jacket! The whole look was a success, IMHO, and the chilly evening meant I kept my jacket on almost the whole night, only taking off my jacket (and exposing my bare back in the dress) when we hit the dance floor.

I’d made the free, mini version of this pattern a few months ago for James’s nieces, but I knew those were really only big enough for a phone and lipstick, and that I’d need more for an all-day ceremony and reception. So I bought the full version of the pattern, which comes in a 10 inch or 14 inch variety – I made the 10” and it’s just perfect. Honestly, I totally love the design of this clutch and I’ve got more planned already!

You can see that the full version also adds a wrap around “belt” that closes with a magnetic clasp. The bag also has a zipper closure so this is really just for aesthetics – I may or may not include this in future versions as I like the look just as well without it. The instructions were super easy to follow, and once I’d thread-traced the pleat lines onto all four exterior pieces, it was really easy to press the pleats into place, too.

Seriously – this is such a great, useful little pattern – it’s a quick add-on to make a matching clutch to go with a dress or jacket for a special occasion, and it hardly takes up any fabric at all so you can probably just cut it from scraps leftover from the main garment, too.

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The VNA Top pattern - on sale now!

16 June 2014, 12:24

It’s here, it’s finally here! The VNA Top pattern is my 4th sewing pattern and my first that works for exercisewear and casualwear!

This is a pattern for a close-fitting, sleeveless workout top inspired by a 1930s Vionnet evening gown. It features a front V-neck, curved under bust seam, and distinctive angular seaming in back. Neckline and armhole edges are finished with binding, and there are no side seams.

Get it? “VNA” because if you say it fast it sounds like “Vionnet”…

It’s got everything you’ve come to expect and love about my patterns – fully illustrated instructions, seam allowances included, great finishing techniques, and the knowledge that I’ve road tested it thoroughly on my runs! But – because the seaming is so unorthodox on this, I’ve also included some diagrams showing how to make the most common fit alterations. So if you need an FBA or want roomier hips or longer torso length, you won’t have to scratch your head over how to achieve this.

Huge thanks again to my team of super helpful, fit, and careful pattern testers, who’ve also been taking this out on the road and on the town, making me laugh, and finding all my typos and brain farts so that you don’t have to. I’ll be sharing some of their versions as they choose to post them, and you can see how this pattern works in pretty much every colourblocking combination possible!

Also, to celebrate the new pattern (and my new amazing vision thanks to laser eye surgery last weekend!), I’ve created the coupon code “LASEREYES” which will get you 10% off all my patterns from now through the end of June.

Watcha waiting for – go get it!!

$10.99USD (£6.65)

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