I’ve been on the Aussie pattern company StyleArc‘s mailing list for a while now, and I always like to keep an eye on their new patterns, but their fabric options have never really appealed to me, to be honest (I’ve got to really like a fabric to pay for it to be shipped halfway around the world!).
Until March, that is, when they sent round details of their new range of “cut & sew” leggings, printed directly onto activewear knits:
I’ll be honest – I was as intrigued by the concept as I was the prints, and for $60AU (£30) shipped, plus the freebie March pattern (knit top Melinda), I was sold. Quality leggings in great prints go for the £80-90 range in London, so for me, £30 was worth a gamble in the name of research. StyleArc had teamed up with a company called Fifth Element for these leggings, which you can also buy ready-made for about £45.
I ordered the “Lalitha” colourway the very next day, and then waited over 6 weeks for delivery (maybe they printed on demand?), but the kit finally arrived in mid-April. I was kinda hoping that the fabric would be printed all over, or in zones, like my collaboration with Laurie King, but you really only get the outline of the legging, with the rest in plain white.
Before I get into my complaints, let me just say that the fabric quality is fabulous – it’s soft, and stretchy, with great recovery and super vibrant colours, and from handling enough activewear fabrics in my day, I believe the that this is proper wicking fabric. I pre-washed it before cutting out, and everything remained vibrant, too.read more >>
I’ve got not one, but two books to talk about today, both on the subject of pattern grading, which, to be honest, has hardly any books published on the topic and seems to be a bit of an industry secret or something.
If you’re not familiar with what pattern grading is – it’s the process of taking one pattern and adding or subtracting amounts at various points to make it another size, or multiple sizes. This isn’t just a simple equation of “well, size Y is twice as big as size Q” because humans’ shapes don’t grow at the same rate (ie: the difference between a size 0 and a size 18’s shoulders aren’t likely to be as great as the difference in hip sizes). In general, the measurements around the body change much more than the vertical measurements, so you need to follow some rules to know how far to move different points and in which directions.
Now, there’s an old-fashioned way of doing this with paper patters, scissors, tape, a special “grade ruler”, and several hours of your time, and this was covered pretty extensively in the September 2014 Threads Magazine (#174). In my personal opinion, this is fine if you only want to change one pattern to one other size, for instance if you have a vintage pattern but want it in your own size. Doing more than one size this way is a great way to end up throwing everything into the bin after several hours of swearing.
In my opinion, the far less stressful way to do pattern grading is digitally. You select a point, tell your software (like Adobe Illustrator) to move it xx cm vertically and yy cm horizontally, and you do that to all the points around the pattern. No taping, no cutting, and no weird ruler. Plus it’s way more accurate. So with this in mind, my reviews of both books are skewed heavily towards how they deal with digital drafting.
Let’s look at “Grading Workbook” by Connie Crawford first. It’s been out as a print book for a while, but I bought an early edition of the pdf ebook last year, which has been extensively cleaned up and digitised. I checked about a month ago, and there haven’t been any revisions so the copy I’m reviewing here is indeed current.
The book is targeted at someone who has some knowledge of pattern drafting, but is a beginner at pattern grading – most home sewists would be able to follow along with the introductory chapters which explain the methods and theory, and how to select different grades.
For each of the grade tables (ie: bodice, skirt, sleeve, stretch, child, etc), there are a few pages which show which point is being selected and which direction to move it, shown in a series of diagrams, like these two:read more >>
I drafted a few patterns over the summer on the Morley College course based on the Pattern Magic: Stretch Fabrics book, this design included. To be perfectly honest, the photos in the book do absolutely nothing for me, so I flipped right past it when reading it on my own:
But the instructor, Moni, saw its potential, and thought that it might be nice in a softer jersey. She was totally right! The sample that was made on the course in similar, lightweight jersey had a chic cowl effect, but without a low neck like you normally get to achieve a cowl.
So I’d been meaning to make this all year, but finally unearthed my pattern pieces on Christmas Eve day, when I fancied sewing something quick that wasn’t workout gear for a change!
The pattern here is essentially just a long teeshirt dress, but with an added very wide (180 degrees!) dart that runs from shoulder to abdomen. It means that it’s a bit of a pain to draft, but extremely quick and easy to sew. On the course, I’d thought ahead and brought my own knit sloper so not only did I draft this to my body (at the time, anyway), but I also kept the armscye unchanged here so I could easily add sleeves!read more >>
Thank you all so, so much for your kind words and enthusiasm on my pattern announcement! It’s been literally months in the making and it was totally nerve-wracking to hit the Publish button.
Some of you commented on the XS size not being small enough, however, and I wanted to talk you through the background on this.
As we all know with multisize patterns, you can only have a limited number of sizes. Each size you add on must be graded (which is no mean feat!), then double-checked, adjusted, sewn up, and all the various trims must be calculated as well. For my first collection, five sizes seemed a reasonable number without biting off more than I could chew. I have huge respect for companies like Jalie that create their patterns in an epic amount of sizes, but that’s not something I’m qualified enough to do right now (nor am I particularly interested in designing for children)!
So I have to make choices. For me, I feel very strongly about supporting Plus sized ladies to exercise. I’ve had conversations with Plus sized fitness bloggers like Fattymustrun about the absolute lack of exercise gear for size 16+ in RTW – companies may say they offer it, but in reality, it’s almost impossible to actually buy, and when it does, you usually only get the choice of black (or worse, pink!). So when it came to choosing between offer one size smaller or one size larger, I made the choice to offer one size larger, so that larger women can have the opportunity to wear some fun exercise clothes, too.
You may think, “well, it’s no extra room on the pattern sheet to add another smaller size!” but it’s nowhere near that straightforward. Multisize patterns aren’t exactly like Russian nesting dolls – the way patterns are stacked to allow people to cut between sizes if they wish, there are multiple places where the smallest size line is actually outside the largest size!read more >>
I arrived home from Mexico and wasn’t particularly filled with sewing mojo, to be honest, but happily this was short-lived, because I saw that Pattern Review had announced a short, two week Lingerie Sewing Contest for the second half of October! This was just what I needed to kick me into action and remind me that I’d been meaning to alter the seaming on my bra cup pattern after I’d made the eyelash bra.
The cups on that one were fine, but I have some gorgeous turquoise lace in my stash from Danglez’ closing down sale (sniff!), and it was too narrow for my one-dart cup pattern. So before I could even start sewing, I had to do some pattern drafting manipulation first – introducing some seam lines to account for the narrow lace, split and rotate the dart around a bit, and voila! Now I’ve got a three part cup!
I was so happy with the fit of this bra that I made myself a matching pair of Lacey Thongs (my free downloadable pattern, if you’d forgotten!) to go with it.
Seriously though – I think this must be about the 8th or 9th bra I’ve sewn, but only about the second I’d wear out of the house. Sewing a bra is easy – getting the bra to fit properly, feel comfortable, and look flattering is beyond challenging. I think I understand other people’s frustrations with trouser fitting now, because this bra fitting journey has been character-building!
My real breakthrough came when I stopped using commercial patterns and just traced existing RTW bras instead. For me, they were a much, much closer starting point than the bizarre cup shapes provided in the KwikSew and Elan patterns I’d previously tried.read more >>
You’ve already seen the sister skirt to these leggings planned for my upcoming Mexico trip in a few weeks. I wouldn’t normally make two things out of the same fabric in rapid succession, but I ended up buying the end bolt (3m instead of the 2m I’d wanted) and having two bottoms in the same colour is quite handy when packing, as obviously the same tops will coordinate with both!
These were a super quick but comfortable make using my standard leggings draft from the Kristina Shin book plus my own preferred elastic waistband technique. I reckon I probably had these sewn up in under an hour, and I’d cut out the fabric at the same time as the skirt.
As you recall, the fabric is a royal blue hefty jersey that really feels very much like a thin neoprene – this stuff couldn’t wrinkle if it wanted to! I bought the last of the roll at “A-One Fabrics” on Goldhawk Road, and I’ve still got a little bit left that I think might be fun to mix & match with something like denim or even leather!read more >>
This dress has been an awfully long time in the making. The idea started back when I took the Pattern Magic 2 class at Morley College last winter, where we learned a technique called “Fundamentals: Create three-dimensional forms with design lines only” (it just rolls off the tongue, eh?).
Essentially what this means is you sew up a muslin, draw design lines all over it, cut along these lines, then introduce snips of ease until the pieces lie flat, and there’s your new pattern! I did all this (based on a sheath dress from the June 2012 Burda magazine, which doesn’t appear to be on the US BurdaStyle, sorry) last summer, but then the project stalled when I couldn’t find any heavyweight stretch satin anywhere in Europe, and had to import this gorgeous salmon stretch duchesse from Gorgeous Fabrics.
Then there were further delays as I didn’t have a wide enough cutting table to lay out the asymmetric and strangely-shaped pieces, until a few weeks ago when the Thrifty Stitcher invited me to pow-wow at her studio and suddenly my swirl sheath dress was back on track!
Because all the darts from the original pattern (bar one) are now incorporated into a bunch of curved seams, this means there’s a lot of easing going on, so if you don’t like easing princess seams, for example, you really won’t like sewing this. My easing motto is “pin the crap out of it”, and I’m proud to say that I didn’t have any tucks or unpicking in any of these seams. Though I did use 58 pins on just the lower semi-circular seam!read more >>
I had an uncharacteristic free weekend – no races and not much planned, so I ended up getting lots of sewing bits done!
Sewing room clear-out
I’ve only got a small (temporary) sewing cave, and I’m a very tidy, organised person, but I’d let it get a little messy and it was feeling crowded, so after my two hour hill run on Saturday morning, I came back and had a bit of a clear out. I filled a full black bag with rubbish, but here’s what I pulled aside to swap at the Goldhawk Road meetup on Saturday!
Yes, you could be a good home to some pattern, pattern magazines, books, craft kits, or fabric that once lived on board! Now, if I can manage to be good and not fill up the space with things I pick up in the swap or fabric stores…
Remember the last time I made a skylight cover (strangely, I see last time I was sewing jeans alongside it, too!)? I’d only ever made them for the back cabin, where the skylights are peaked, with windows that open like wings, but on the front deck, the skylights are flat and require grills that fit overtop for safety and security.
We had a joiner make a gorgeous new cover for the skylight over our bedroom, but it’s been shamefully covered in tarpaulins for the last few months while I procrastinated swearing my way through sewing another.
Even with a walking foot, the clear plastic is a total P-I-T-A to sew because it sticks to the machine bed, the foot, is stiff and rams into everything, and is generally just awful.
This time around, I got so sick of the stickiness that I grabbed a “newspaper” (tabloid left from our joiner) and ripped off pieces to go underneath and also under the presser foot.
This surprisingly worked rather well, and the newspaper just rips out easily afterwards. Worth remembering if a) you don’t mind newsprint on your fabrics, and b) like me, you never have tissue paper lying around
It’s not my best work, but it’s done and will allow more light into our new bedroom!
If you recall, I decided on a Burda pattern for my non-stretch denim so I sewed up a quick muslin of that on Saturday after my skylight triumph.
The triumph was short-lived.read more >>
Summer in England is a rare thing, but we have had an overflowing bounty of gorgeous, sunny, and hot weather for the past three weeks and counting! So it’s natural that the heat would go to my brain and cause me to make some out-of-character sewing choices, right?
As I revealed last week, this manifested in the form of some super-bright pink trousers, and a teeshirt made from cream stretch lace:
The lace teeshirt was ridiculously quick to sew up – I’ve had the lace in my stash for several years now after buying it at Tissu Dreyfus on one of my Paris trips, and some of you may even remember it from when I used it on a long-sleeved KnipMode tee. I love that those photos were in the snow and now I’m using it again in a heatwave! I just used my knit sloper I’d drafted from the Kristina Shin book, only I levelled off the sleeve hem rather than the usual scoop.
The construction was identical to any other teeshirt, and the only real point of note here is in the neckline binding – I didn’t have any matching cream jersey, and I didn’t want to just fold it under and topstitch, so I had the great idea to use the selvedge as a band, and just overlocked it in place. It matches, it’s lightweight, and it’s guaranteed not to fray!
The trousers were much more interesting from a construction standpoint! I had a bunch of Mood fuchsia stretch cotton sateen leftover from my fuchsia party dress (which is still my go-to party dress btw – I’m getting lots of wear out of that!) and I knew I wanted some fun Spring/Summer trousers. In my original Spring/Summer 2013 ideas, I thought I’d reuse the Burda Jan 12 pattern I’d made in grey flannel, but then I really wanted to try a StyleArc trouser pattern, and I already had the Jasmine pattern to hand, and it’s for stretch wovens. Perfect!
Things I like about the Jasmine pattern:read more >>
Some of you may remember that last year I took a course at Morley College on Pattern Magic 2 (my first actual sewing class, believe it or not!) and it was so interesting, useful, and inspiring that I just had to take the course on the third book, Pattern Magic Stretch Fabrics. I booked this something like 9 months in advance, I was that excited to take it!
The first two books are based on woven slopers, but since this third one is all for knits, I used my own knit sloper instead of the book’s – I’m rather proud of this bit of forward-thinking! I also got to show off my pattern drafting gadgets plus it was great to see so many familiar faces and meet new ones, too (hi Clover & Ingrid!!). For the second class though, Claire had taken the initiative to digitally grade up the book’s blocks to larger, more standard Western sizes! She says she’s going to share these on her site very soon, so keep an eye over there if you want a short-cut to a bigger knit block.
Over the course of two consecutive Saturdays, we drafted three designs from the book (chosen by our amazing tutor, Moni), and a fourth of our choice, plus a bit of time at the end to sew up a sample so we got to see the range in real life.
The first design we all drafted was “Crescent Moon“, essentially a giant donut that you wear. It’s so avant-garde that it doesn’t even use a knit sloper, just circles!
This did look a bit better once we got out a smaller, female mannequin, but it’s still not something I’m finding particularly wearable.
The second design we all drafted was “Sharp & Snappy“, which I dubbed “the stegosaurus”. The gist here is that you shift the side seams forward and add triangular points in the seam line.read more >>
I had the final instalment of my Pattern Magic course at Morley College over the weekend (more on that later this week!), and since the majority of the class is in pattern drafting, it became apparent to me that I’ve got three pattern drafting gadgets in my arsenal that aren’t widely known, but that I consider to be essential!
On the left is the Seam Allowance Guide, little magnets which snap onto the side of your scissors to help you cut an even distance away from your line. I usually use this when cutting my fabric when using patterns that don’t have seam allowances at all, my on my course it was very helpful when cutting out the final pattern when I didn’t want to draw the seam allowances in. I got mine for review a while back but you can buy yours here.
On the bottom – I don’t know the technical name for this, but I call it my “pizza wheel measurer”. It’s a little wheel marked in centimetres which allows you to measure curves really easily. I use it most often when matching up seam lengths between sleeve caps and armscyes, but there are a number of occasions in the Pattern Magic books where you need to ensure two curved seam lines are the same length.Claire posted instructions on how to buy these from Japan a while back.
On the right – The newest member of my pattern drafting team is the SA Curve ruler – a narrow ruler with one straight edge and one curved edge. It comes in two widths – 5/8” (1.5cm) or 3/8” (1cm) and the idea is that you place the ruler along your seam line and then just trace the other side of it, et voilà! Your seam allowance is added on.read more >>
…is one that finally fits after days and days of muslins and tweaks!
You see, this is the third muslin of my latest attempt to sew a Bra That Actually Fits and I think I’m finally happy with this one.
I started off by tracing a well-fitting RTW bra and I sewed up a muslin of it according to the fabulous instructions in Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction. From that, I could see that the bottom of the bra cup was too long for my underwires, and, as I suspected, the straight legged dart was too pointy and I needed some room in front of it, so I made the front leg curved.
Then I ripped out the basting stitching of my muslin, sewed up new cups according to the second cup pattern, and reused all the other pieces from the muslin that were absolutely fine, namely the wings, bridge, straps (gingham ribbon here!), and underwire channels:
The cup shape of the second muslin seemed good (though it’s hard to be subjective in the mirror and selfies), but I had a bit of excess fabric along the top edge of the cup that needed pinching out. I didn’t want to create a dart at the top edge as I eventually want to make this bra from lace, so Norma suggested I take it out from the sides (bridge & underarm), making sure those lengths didn’t change as I did so.read more >>
Word got round my running crew that I was starting to do some custom drafted leggings for a few people and my friend Lee Ann immediately came up to me and said “I want you to make my leggings for London marathon.” Holy crap – what an honour! It’s her first marathon, and the biggie, and she trusts me to make them for her?! I couldn’t say no to that, so I measured her up right then and there, then drafted out her pattern using the Shin book, and made her a test pair using some cheap thin lycra. She came round the boat and tried them on and amazingly, the fit was perfect, with no alterations needed, woo!
With the fit out of the way, I could then start in on the design lines, which she said she wanted to have a stripe/ribbon that started on her right hip and wrapped around to her right calf, and in navy and red to match her charity vest.
So, as I do, my first step was to draw myself a little plan:
Sorry for the crap quality there, but essentially I drew out the four big pieces (front right, front left, back left, back right) and the rough stripe shape, and realised I’d need 12 pieces in total, and as it’s asymmetric, I’d need to cut everything in single layer.
Organisation was the key, keeping the three pieces for each quarter pinned together on my sewing room clothes line!
I assembled each quarter first (ie: I sewed the front right top to the front right mid, to the front right lower until I had a full leg, and moved on to the front left). The cutting was really the most difficult here, but I managed to just barely squeeze everything out of 1m each of Tissu’s navy blue and red supplex lycras. Assembling it was much easier, but I had to be careful that the seam lines matched up over the left side seam!
I was so chuffed to see them on LeeAnn when she ran past me during the race, and she said they were a dream to wear on the day, too! No tugging, no baggy ankles, no nothing, hurrah!
Don’t they look great on her?? And she’s totally caught the bug, too – already planning her second marathon!read more >>
You may have noticed that one of the items on my Spring Sewing Ideas list was a “self-drafted/copied from RTW” bra. I’ve sewn countless bras before, but really only been happy with the fit and look of one (a foam cup muslin, of all things!). I really want to try and get away from moulded foam cups for a number of reasons (which Orange Lingerie discusses here), so my dream bra drawer would be entirely lacey, gorgeous, self-made, frameless, underwired bras, with one nude moulded foam cup bra for when I really need a seamless look.
The problem is, I’d been buying foam cup bras for so long that I didn’t really have any non-padded ones I could clone, and on a whim last year, I bought a few M&S bras and was amazed to find that two (identical, apart from colour) all-lace, single-darted, frameless, underwire bras, fit me perfectly and gave me a great shape.
So in the back of my mind I’ve been wanting to clone these, since my last bra using the Elan pattern ended up fitting well (at first I thought I’d cracked it finally!!), but the cup shape looked B-A-D. Boobs like duck-bills, oh god no!
Anyway, so I started the process of cloning the white version of the M&S bra last night, by using my method of tracing patterns – placing the bra down on top of paper and running my serrated tracing wheel around it. This worked well for the band, but I wasn’t convinced I got an accurate trace for the cup, so I looked up an old Threads article, “Clone Your Favorite Bra” (Issue 99, Feb/March 2002 if you’ve got the archive DVDs), which suggested stabbing lots of pins around the bra edge until you got to a point where it would no longer lie flat. Then you unpin the first pins you put down, and re-shift everything using the latter pins (in my case, along the dart) as an anchor so it lies flat and you get all the edges pinned.
Then, in my case, because the dart stayed in place and everything shifted around it, I had to cut through the dart and open it back up. Because the top edge of mine was the lace edge, I knew this had to be straight, so it made it easy to re-adjust.read more >>
I try to show you all my finished garments in the order I make them, but I just can’t wait to show you my wildest running leggings yet! I only finished the hems on Monday night and stuffed them into my running bag to wear to Run dem Crew last night, and WOW, they got a glowing reception!
I made these with Funki Fabrics’ digitally printed lycra in “Tribal white on black”, plus fluorescent yellow lycra from Minerva Fabrics, inserted above the knee (and is WAY brighter than it appears in these photos!).
I liked the design lines of this McCalls leggings pattern, so I adapted my self-drafted leggings pattern to have similar sections above the knee, with angled thigh seams to be a bit more flattering (or, as flattering as you can get in neon yellow, ha!).
I had a friend take these photos after our run last night (a very fast 10km run with the Cheetah group around Victoria Park! Geeky stats here if you’re interested)read more >>
I’ve had the idea of these “Gold Medal Leggings” in my head for months now.
I’d originally envisioned myself swooping through the Paris half wearing them, making Chanel-ed sunglasses tilt down as I sped past in a blur! “Oh my! Who eez zat magnificent femme with ze gold leggings??”
Or something like that. But then I got ridiculously sick with the shingles in January and still couldn’t run it come March, so these got their debut in the East London half on Sunday instead. Not quite as glamorous, but they did cause quite a stir.
I used my leggings draft from the Kristina Shin book again, teamed with Suzie Spandex “Spirographix” lycra in yellow. This makes these sister leggings to my Liberace pair (which were in the comparatively sedate “charcoal” colourway!), which I wear ALL the time. I had Arielle buy this fabric, plus some Suziplex for me when she was in Montreal and they were hand-carried in a series of suitcases across multiple borders, so I’m very glad to make good use of it!
It also appeared that Suzie Spandex cut a very generous length because it was more like 1.4m than the 1m I ordered, woop (so there’s plenty left for accents on Jalie running skirts or tops). Believe it or not, I sewed these up on my jet lag day after our red-eye flight back from the States when I was trying to stay awake until local bedtime!
The leggings certainly got the reception I was after – I’m not exaggerating when I say that my leggings got more cheers on the route than I did, I swear!read more >>
Thanks very much for all your birthday wishes! I had a brilliant day, and the dress fared very well indeed at my mystery dinner – the waitress complimented it the second I sat down!
With the dark colour of the dress, I really need daylight for a photoshoot, though, so the first opportunity is tomorrow (Friday). I’ll try to get the post up later that day as I know you’re all waiting patiently to see it on me!
My thoughts are definitely drifting towards the upcoming long Easter Weekend, and what I’d like to sew during it. As usual, I’ve got mental plans for way more than I can possibly get completed in four days, but here’s what I’m hoping to make…
I need to draft up leggings for two friends from my running crew, and sew samples/muslins for each from some cheap lycra I’ve got on hand for the purpose. One of them is popping over late in the weekend so I’ve really got to get hers ready by then!
I’d also really like to sew up two pairs for me based on my own draft, one in black supplex (with the aim of using that fishnet trim on them afterwards), and one in the tribal print from Funki Fabrics.
Once a pattern is set and ready, I can churn out a pair of leggings in a few minutes, though, so I’m not too concerned about fitting these in, it’s the drafting that will take the time (and desk space!).
Style Arc’s Marie Jacket
My main task for the weekend, though, is to make Stye Arc’s new Marie jacket, especially since I’ve gathered all the necessary supplies over the past week or so – some fabulous black and silver heavy jersey from Minerva and a big separating zipper from Our Patterned Hand read more >>
My weekend mostly went like this…
On Saturday morning I got up for a 2hr 45min (16+ mile) run in the rain with my two good friends, Chris and Juell. We got soaked, ran along Regents Canal to Camden and then through the heart of the city and back through Shoreditch to home. We were soaked to the bone, but had a great time and I furthered my knowledge of myself, my glycogen storage capacity, and my stomach’s ability to digest medjool dates as a gel alternative. That, and I feel a bit more confident now that I’ll be able to finish Copenhagen marathon now, having dialled back my expectations after being ill for so long.
The above uses the official photo from when I bought the “Ravissant Duchess Satin Plum” from Fabric.com three years ago, but below you can see the actual colour and exactly how much gorgeous lustre it gives off in the light. On the inside, I’m using a lovely floral lining fabric gifted to me from Veronica when I was in Paris last Spring.read more >>
How much do I love the disco fabric?? It really is the fabric that keeps on giving. This time, I paired the Beta Brand disconium fabric with some black Supplex from Tissu (which is BACK IN STOCK right now! This stuff sells out in days, people!) to make a sweet disco running top to match the disco running leggings I made in December
For this top I did something different and started with the teeshirt sloper from the Patternmaking for Underwear Design book, which I love (thanks for the surprise gift, Mom!!). It’s drafted with 10% negative ease and fits exactly the way I want my running gear to fit. And because knit slopers have no darts, they’re surprisingly quick to whip up, too.
I was super inspired by this kid’s top in the most recent Young Image magazine, so after making one for my niece, I altered my sloper to have a similar back, which was surprisingly easy to do.
Essentially, I just drew two curves so there was a hole in the centre back, traced along one set of curves for the upper back piece (red in the diagram below), and traced along the other for the lower back (blue). At the shoulders, I didn’t want the lower back to peek through, so I made its strap 1cm narrower at the neckline. The back pieces are connected at the shoulders, armscye, and (just barely!) at the side seams, but the rest is free-hanging.read more >>
A month on, and I’m still ravaged by the shingles attack that hit me in mid-January. Absolutely everyone who saw my torso said it was the worst case they’ve ever seen (doctors included), and lucky, lucky me, the little bugger caused nerve damage, which means the pain in my side could continue on for months or possibly a year (again, lucky, lucky me). I’m on four different prescription painkillers until the neural-specific one hopefully starts working soon, so I’ve been stuck at home Resting (I hate resting.). The good news is that the doctor says I can now go do the odd half day at work and very easy run here and there as it’s driving me crazy not to, but I’m not to overdo things. But even that’s better than being chained to a couch!
Anyway, I’ve done as much resting as it’s humanly possible for Melissa to do, which means I’ve been lying flat on my back and sleeping for most of the days, but I managed to squeeze in some sewing, almost entirely in 5 minute segments, followed by 20 minutes of rest. Rinse & repeat… These will have photoshoots and proper posts coming hopefully next week!
The amazingly simple-to-sew Style Arc Marita dress:
A grey wool “chic sweatshirt”:
A quick, gathered raglan merino wool sweater from the February BurdaStyle magazine:
I’m very excited to announce a special week here on FehrTrade – for the benefit of those of you reading this from RSS subscriptions and can’t see the site header…
Yes, an entire week devoted to sewing lingerie, and we’re going to start the week off with something very special indeed – a free downloadable sewing pattern for a pair of thong-style panties, with lace over the hips and a special diamond-inset at the front and back.
The pattern is for sizes S-XL with seam allowances included, and for those of you who hate downloadable patterns – there’s only 4 pages of pattern to print, and only one join to tape together! I’ve written out step-by-step directions with a few diagrams, but there will also be some construction photos later this week to help out those of you who prefer them.
(If you’d like to spread the word about this pattern, please link to this post and not directly to the pdf file! thanks!) read more >>
As I write this, London is in the midst of the second snowfall of the year (if you count Monday’s over-hyped yet under-delivered snow, that is) and I’m bundled up in a full-body thin layer of silk (long johns), plus my wool foldover trousers, my bamboo turtleneck, two pairs of socks, and my Russian greatcoat for my 35min walk into work today. It’s nothing on the Pennsylvania winters I grew up with, but at least I feel prepared!*
The good news is that, while it’s freezing outside, my sewing cave is one of the warmest spots on the boat, so I’ve been busy!
Papercut Peter & the Wolf Trousers
The new trouser pattern from Papercut Patterns was burning a hole in my To Sew list, so I just had to try them out! I finished these before last weekend, but Saturday I was covered in mud (another cross country race) and Sunday it was freezing and I didn’t fancy a photshoot.
I did an awesome job lining up the seams on the side invisible side zipper, if I do say so myself!
I really like that they have you topstitch all the mid-leg vertical seams as well as all the yoke seams – that topstitching really makes the seaming stand out nicely. It also meant I actually finished a huge 1000m spool of black Gutermann thread! I thought those things were infinite!
I’ve not yet worn these to work (the tulip hems mean my long johns are visible in front, the horror!) but I can tell already they’ve got a nice fit throughout – I especially like the trouser hems and the hip yokes, though they do mean the pockets are placed further down the leg than I’m used to…
I’ll try to get some photos this weekend, even though the details will be lost in the dark brown stretch twill (hey, it was in the stash alright!?) I’d bought in Paris last Spring. I didn’t have any particular attachment to it and it was a stretch woven as per the pattern requirements, so I made these as a trial version (or wearable muslin if you prefer). I might fancy making these again in some stretch wool suiting in my stash from last winter…
Another Chic Sweatshirt
When my parents were visiting in October, my mom looked through all my recent makes and decided she’d like a chic sweatshirt for her belated Christmas gift, and she picked out a lovely lavender sweatshirting for it while she was here. Remember how lovely she looks in lavender? I think it was a great choice. For my gift, she re-taught herself to crochet and made me a wonderful hat in mustard wool I picked out. Hooray for our little skills exchange! read more >>
A lot of sewers like to “Sew with a Plan” (SWAP), but I prefer to call this a “Shortlist” rather than a “Plan”, so I’m free to still change my mind and add/remove items as I go along! My main goal here isn’t so much to create a capsule wardrobe that can be worn together, but more to use up fabrics and/or that have been in my stash for a while that I’d really like to just wear.
From the top down, in no particular order:
- KnipMode 12-2005 #10 – I’ve got some non-stretch denim aging in my stash from a few years ago, and I love KnipMode’s style lines for these. My wardrobe is in desperate need of more jeans, hence why there are two pairs in this Shortlist!
- Altered Burda 06-2012 #129 – Now that my stretch satin from Gorgeous Fabrics is in hand, I can finally make the final version of this dress after completing the drafting and muslins back in July. read more >>
- I drew in my waistline just under the pattern’s torso double line
- I marked the knees on front & back, and also where the curve of my bum lies (helpful for placing design lines later!)
- I took out some excess in the ankle (no cankles here!) and about 4 inches off the length (the legs are reeeeeeeeally long – maybe to cover skates?)
- And then, finally, I drew in some curved design lines where I thought they might look nice around my thighs and calves
- Lekala 4020 – My brain needs a quick knit top, and I looooove the cowl neck and shoulder yokes on this. I’ve created echoing sleeve bands on the back to decrease the “coffin back” look (the only reason I haven’t made their “S dress” yet is that I’m contemplating how to jazz up the back on it. Any ideas?). I’ve got some small lengths of silver silk jersey left in my stash that I think will find a good home in this top.
Even better is that they’ve got every pattern available in a free size 44 pdf this month if you want to try them free before you do the custom-size thing!
- A foam cup bra – OMG I am amazingly excited to learn there’s a pattern out now for making the type of bras I buy in RTW with the moulded, foam cups! It’s the Pin Up Girls “Amanda” bra pattern. I’ve made bras before, but I’ve never been happy with the fit, and I think that half my problem is that I’m trying to sew the kind of bras I never actually buy…
I had an email chat with the lovely Kellie, owner of The Sewing Chest shop (the best UK source of elastic and boning and lingerie fabrics, hands down!), and I’m now totally excited about sewing bras again. She’s advised me to put some of her foam cups onto the non-cup parts of the KwikSew 3300 bra I’ve made before, and see how that goes. She’s also advised me to use a different underwire size, too. Fingers crossed for bra success!
read more >>
- 2 yards Pro-Weft fusible interfacing, Natural
- 2 yards Pro-Weft fusible interfacing, Black
- 2 yards Pro-Tailor Deluxe fusible Interfacing, Dark Grey
- 2 yards Pro-Woven Fusible Interfacing, White
- 2 yards Pro-Woven Fusible Interfacing, Black
Remember when I sewed some covers for the boat’s skylights back in January 2011? Frankly, I tried to put it out of my mind and certainly never have to make them again, but the larger of the two covers blew away (presumably – we’re not entirely sure what the ex-tenant did with it, grumble grumble), so I was forced to revisit these.
To me, home dec sewing is the worst – lots of boring rectangles and straight lines, measuring, unexciting fabrics, and then you don’t even get to wear it in the end! But as I discovered last time, outdoor home dec stuff is even worse!
To say I was dreading sewing this is a total understatement. But I sucked it up, brought out the remains of the waterproof vinyl from the dark hole I’d shoved it into, and then ordered another 1 metre of the green vinyl from Pennine Outdoor. Luckily, there was just enough clear vinyl leftover from before so it only cost me a tenner all in to complete this replacement one, even though the new green is a totally different shade to the previous one!read more >>
I did indeed finish my peplum top in time to wear it to Karen’s V&A Ballgowns meetup on Friday, even though it meant sewing the hem over breakfast on Friday morning! You can see a sneak peek of it in the top photo on her site, though the peplum itself is hidden by my knees! Fingers crossed I can get a photoshoot done one evening this week, because my weekend was full of other activities…
As I shared with you last week, part of my preparation/reward for my marathon training was to run the Bacchus half marathon this weekend. It’s a half-trail, half-road, fancy dress (costumed) race through a vineyard in Surrey with wine tasting every 2 miles, plus a free glass of wine and hog roast at the end. See why I signed up??
You’ve probably spotted it already, but the skirt is another Jalie running skirt – this is my third, and this is definitely my go-to for warm weather running bottoms (for cooler weather, you can’t beat the Ooh La Leggings!)
The top/vest/singlet is self drafted from my tweaked knit sloper, plus an added kerchief that I drafted from the sloper’s neckline. The kerchief is double layered, and attached to the neckline by overlocker, with the seam showing on the “right” side, which in this case is hidden under the kerchief. I tacked it down at the shoulders and that was enough to keep the seam hidden. Rather than physically tie a knot on the front ties, I instead made a loop to make it look a bit neater, and the “grabbiness” of the supplex was enough that it didn’t slip at all.read more >>
Thanks very much for all your feedback on my post regarding the design lines for my upcoming sheath dress – I decided to go with the top design, and save the bottom one for some later colour blocking (maybe in ponte jersey?).
Once that was decided, I sewed up that basic Burda sheath dress (which fit me very well, as expected), then while it was on my dressform I drew rough design lines on to match. After the rough lines were on, I cleaned these up with French curves while the dress was lying flat (these photoshopped ones are just free-handed on top since my black lines on navy blue fabric were hard to see in the photo!)
I then cut apart the Burda muslin along my new lines, and cut into the curves a few times to release any bumps. I then transferred these altered pieces onto a second muslin to test that all my new curves matched up well:read more >>
A few weeks ago, I was asked if I wouldn’t mind making two prizes for the RDC Mission Impossible event this Saturday, and I knew it’d be the perfect opportunity to try my hand at drafting some arm pouches while helping out my crew at the same time.
Essentially, I reverse-engineered a Y-Fumble I own to figure out how they constructed it (no Y-Fumbles were harmed – I just thought about it hard and made a prototype first!). The only problem is that they’re available in limited colours and the lycra feels quite flimsy to me, so if I can make my own I have a lot more freedom in the fabrics used.
It’s an arm band that has a pocket on one side, with a simple fold-over flap for keeping things like phones, keys, travelcard, etc nicely inside and tight against your arm while your run. There are no closures – the band just slips over your wrist and up your arm and the stretchiness of the fabric holds it in place. I wear mine on my forearm to hold gels for long runs, but you can also put them on your upper arm, too, if you’d rather. Even though the back doesn’t contain a pocket, it’s still double-sided so all the raw edges are nicely contained inside.
For these prize versions, I used leftover red bamboo jersey from my Donna Karan dress so they’re nice and soft, and should resist bad smells, too.
For those of you who are interested in my thought process, here’s the sketch I used when working out what pieces I’d need, and then how I’d construct it all together:read more >>
I know it’s a cliché to say so, but I’ve been very busy lately! So busy that there was no sewing activity whatsoever last weekend (though I did cut and fit an awful lot of insulation for the new boat bedroom, attended two out-of-town barbecues, and raced a new 10km PB in the weekend available to me!). In two weekends’ time I’ve got a friend’s wedding and ever since we were invited, I knew I wanted to apply a Pattern Magic technique onto a sheath dress for this occasion.
Overall, I was disappointed by the June Burda magazine, but I saw dress #129 and knew it’d be a great starting point since I know Burda’s dresses fit me very reliably (and I’ve already raised the waist by 1 inch to make it perfect).
The technique I’m looking to apply here is one I learned on my Pattern Magic 2 course at Morley College, though it’s well documented in the second book, too. Essentially, you make a muslin of a basic block (in my case, I’m using this Burda pattern), draw design lines wherever you like, cut along those lines, and then release any lumps into the curved edges of the new pieces.
So thus far I’ve copied the tech drawing off Burda’s site, raised the neckline a bit, and removed all the darts in Photoshop (since mine will be incorporated into my new design lines anyway), then printed off a bunch of these empty tech drawings onto a sheet of paper.read more >>
I gave you a sneak peek of these yesterday, but I doubt any of you were looking at the leggings!! You’re forgiven, though!
This design is from the third Pattern Magic book, and was super easy for me because I didn’t have to draft anything! I already had a great legging pattern to start with, from an old KnipMode magazine I’ve made a few times before. Note that you need a legging pattern with a separate front and back pieces, so the two recent Burda magazine leggings (in the June and January 2012 issues if I remember correctly) won’t work as a starting point. Or you can just draft one from scratch as the book suggests.
All the work here is in the measuring, slicing, and spreading of the pattern pieces – I very cleverly wrote the size of the spread between each of the pieces, so when it came time to do the other pattern piece, I could easily make it the same amount so everything matched up.read more >>
I don’t buy sewing books very often these days, usually preferring to get my information and inspiration from the internet and sewing pattern magazines, but I’ve found so much inspiration from the Japanese design schools lately that I just can’t say no when these are translated into English.
If you recall, I reviewed the first two Pattern Magic books here, and then, just recently the first Drape Drape book was also released in English (with the second coming out later this year).
Drape Drape uses included patterns which you trace off and sew, but the Pattern Magic books all rely on instructions for altering your existing sloper, so they can work for pretty much any size or shape person.
The big difference in this third book is that all the patterns here are designed for stretch fabrics, which adds a whole new level of fun! But of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t use stretch fabrics for the designs in the first two books – I’ve already made the flip-turned top twice as teeshirts, though I did have a great boost in understanding the Pattern Magic instructions on the Morley College “Pattern Magic” course I took earlier this year (I’m eagerly awaiting the new course guide so I can sign up for the rumoured class on this new book next year!).
So enough intro, let’s have a look at some of the wonderful (and weird!) designs in this instalment!read more >>
In addition to my exercise gear you saw yesterday, I actually made another top and trousers the weekend I got back from Montreal! Since I wasn’t in a fit state for a photoshoot until now, I kinda feel like I’m clearing out the cobwebs here…
This top is another “Flip turned for a draped effect” top from Pattern Magic 2 (drafted on my Morley College course!), this time using the tulip sleeves from Jalie 2806 for a more Spring/Summer look. This is the third time I’ve used these tulip sleeves and I really love the look and love wearing them – they really make a top much more special than just your average short sleeve! I used a lovely orange marl viscose jersey from Tia Knight here that’s just sooooo soft and lovely to wear! Hurrah for an impulse purchase!
The trousers are from the March Burda magazine (#126), using some stretch cotton sateen I bought at Tissues Dreyfus in Paris last month. It looked black in the dark lighting of the shop, but I got it home to realise it’s actually dark brown, which was fairly annoying, as I wouldn’t have bought 3m of brown had I known!read more >>
I’m going to break from tradition here and actually post my next two outfits out of sequence from when I made them, mostly because I just shared my elastic waistband tutorial with you, but also because I’m really freaking excited about sewing exercise gear right now. Honestly, it’s starting to become nearly lingerie-levels of hysteria with me – super quick to make, easy to fit, and lots of wild colours and patterns in small doses! But you’ll get to see my “civilian” top and trousers later this week, so no worries if you’re starting to glaze over at all the lycra…
For this set of running gear, I’ve paired up the Papercut “Ooh La Leggings” pattern (UK stockist here) with my self drafted knit block (from Metric Pattern Cutting). And in the case of the top, I altered the seam lines and armhole shape to suit!
You may remember the ex-Prada sequin trompe l’oeil fabric from a few years ago when I used it to make a cowl top. I wear that all the time, but I only had a small piece leftover in my stash, and it was far too lovely to throw away. But with a bit of creative thinking, it was enough for this! Though I think I’ll lower the curve a bit for my next running vest so the peak is just at my underbust…
As you can see with the leggings (or maybe not, the purple fabric is quite dark!), there are no side seams here! The shaped front and back yokes give some really cool, curved seams, and they merge nicely into front- and back-leg seams instead.read more >>
Ever since I first opened the Pattern Magic books, a few designs have been burning a hole in my sewing brain. One of these was the “Flip Turn for a Draped Effect” bodice from Pattern Magic 2, and I was so happy that I was able to draft this on my Morley College Pattern Magic 2 course last month! It wasn’t too bad to figure out, but I’m still really pleased to have the instructor there and because I muddled through (albeit with help), I feel much more confident about tackling other designs in the books.
The only problem was that we drafted all the course designs based on the largest Bunka sloper, which was still rather a lot smaller than me, so if I wanted to actually wear the designs from the course, I’d have to create them again off my own sloper, which just seemed a bit dull.
Or maybe… just maybe… I wonder if the Bunka sloper version would fit if I eliminated the back waist darts and made it in a knit?
OMG a toile for a fashion college dressform fits me!! :O :D
Since this was a total fit experiment, I wanted to try this first in a low-risk fabric, and I had just enough of this viscose grey marl jersey leftover in my stash from the Manequim “big shirt”.
One interesting part of this design is that the reverse of the fabric is shown on a large portion of the lower front, and in this fabric, the reverse is kinda textured and loopy, but without any major colour change from the “correct” side. It means you get a subtle texture change on that panel, but without screaming “hey! I’m the wrong side!”.
To further play up the texture change and to make it look more intentional, I used the wrong side of the fabric on the neck band, too (maybe I’ll do the sleeves on the wrong side next time, too?)read more >>
It feels like I’ve been talking about sewing my running gear for ages now, but I think that’s just because anything self-drafted and a bit custom tends to take a bit more time and head space than my average project! But I’m happy to report that two out of three of my first pieces are finished now (the sequin vest is awaiting more coverstitch binder practice, but more on that next week).
Both of these pieces are heavily modified (bordering on self drafted) from the originals, but the leggings are based on the Jalie 3135 skinsuit pattern and the top started life as my basic KnipMode long sleeved teeshirt.
You’ve seen a sneak peek of the leggings earlier, but now you can see them paired with my long sleeved top, though the different turquoise shades mean I probably won’t wear them together often in real life.
The long sleeved top needs three different fabrics in order to get a contrast on the upper body and again at the hip pockets. So I’ve used the black supplex for the top and sleeves, leftover turquoise for the lower back (which wraps around to the front hips), and the same turquoise but overlaid with olive green stretch lace for the front body.
The leggings use black supplex and dark turquoise “silk touch” lycra for the contrast panels. You can see my cool seaming on the thighs below, and in getting design lines to match up, I favoured the outer seams matching. It means it’s not quite as cool on the inner thigh seams, but it means I get a nicer overall panelling.read more >>
I love it when different areas of my life start overlapping! I’ve been a runner for about 7-8 years but I’ve only really sewn running gear a few times (mostly because my mom knows what I like and gets good stuff on sale for me!). But I’ve got the itch to sew the lycra again, and so I made the first steps towards making my own running gear designs a reality.
First step was to make quick and dirty muslins to check the fit and mark style lines. The Jalie 3135 skinsuit pattern was my basis for my running leggings (minus the top half and the front zipper opening!). I used the “silk touch” lycra jersey from Tia Knight as my muslin fabric here since it was the cheapest 4-way stretch she had, but it’s surprisingly really nice! It’s got a hand like a silk jersey, but seems a bit too drapey to be ideal in exercise gear, though it should be fine for the occasional accents or panels if I want to.
So I made my muslin, tried it on, and while I was wearing it, drew lot of placement and design lines straight on the fabric with a Sharpie:
The end result looks a bit like a liposuction patient (which is why I’m not modelling it!!), but it definitely served its purpose! read more >>
This weekend was my eagerly-awaited “Creative Pattern Cutting 2” course at Morley College in London, which was a two day class based entirely on the second “Pattern Magic” book. I’ve owned the Pattern Magic books for a while, but I’ve only tried one design (with discouraging results), so I was really excited to have the opportunity to explore them further.
I’d have no idea this course was even offered if it wasn’t for Tracy blogging about attending the course on the first book, either. So a big THANK YOU to her for bringing it to wider attention!
And seriously, this course was FANTASTIC! The tutor, Moni, was simply amazing, I can’t say enough good things about her – she does a lot of other Fashion/Sewing courses at Morley and I’d sign up for one of her other classes in a heartbeat (and I see she’s doing one on the Colette Wolf book “The Art Manipulating Fabric” soon, too, which sounds very cool)!
The facilities at Morley were great, too – lots of room to spread out, domestic Berninas and ironing stations, plenty of cross paper and cheap calico/muslin, and it was super easy for me to get to, and easy walking distance from Waterloo Station and surrounded by great pubs for lunch, too. It really was jawdropping that the whole weekend course only cost £48, especially when you consider most sewing courses in London are a) on the same old three dull topics over and over again and b) usually in the range of £300-400!
Believe it or not, this was also my first “formal” training ever in sewing!
We ended up with only eight students in the class so we all got a lot of individual help, which was great. I never really felt like there was any point where I was struggling and I couldn’t ask the tutor – she really did a fantastic job at spreading her time evenly amongst us. We also got to choose which projects we wanted to work on, which was ideal because it meant there wasn’t the usual classroom thing where some people were too fast and others too slow, etc. All the students there was really sharp with their sewing and drafting so I think everyone got a lot out of the class, too.read more >>
If you remember from earlier in the week, my next project is to make this collared sweater from the June 2011 Manequim magazine:
Since the pattern is only in one size, “Small”, my strategy was to take an existing long sleeved teeshirt pattern that I know fits me well, trace that, then trace the neckline area from the Manequim pattern overlaid onto it and morph the two together. For simplicity’s sake, I wanted to keep the collar piece as unaltered as possible.
While overlaying the Manequim pattern onto mine, I wasn’t quite sure what I should use as the “frame of reference” to align the two patterns together – should I use the Centre Front & Centre Back? Or the shoulder seam/armscye corner?
In the end, it turned out that sorting out the Back first was the key to making the bigger changes on the Front piece work, since the Back of my teeshirt and the Back of this pattern were much more similar.
I’ve shaded my final pattern shapes in blue here to try to make it clearer. The original teeshirt pattern is (mostly) at the cut edge of the paper. Ignore the red lines – they were misaligned tracings!
I’ve been hard at work on my slow-moving self-drafted shirtdress, creating bound buttonholes for the spaces the collar passes through before tying, making french seams everywhere, double checking all the darts so they all line up, and finally I tried it on last night to check the hem and button placement.
And it’s horrible. Dumpy, unflattering, and just bad.
All I could think of was Trena’s “prison matron” dress, and like hers, mine’s got pockets, but that’s about it. I don’t even know if I can bring myself to finish it, but it’s sitting on my dressform for a while so I can mull over whether any of it is even salvageable. I just know there’s no way in hell I’m ripping out a million french seams! It’s got nothing to do with the Pattern Magic directions, as the collar is okay, it’s all down to the fit of the rest of the dress…
And the shirting is Prada, too! *whinge* And I made three muslins! *whinge* I did everything right, and the dress is just so very wrong. Which mostly discourages me from pattern drafting altogether. I mean, what’s the point in pattern drafting if the fit is worse than what I get straight off a pattern sheet? Because, really, Burda, Knip, and even Manequim fit me straight off the sheet, no alterations needed. Do I really need the extra hassle in my life to end up with a sub-par result even with all my designer finishing techniques? Am I happy to never be a pattern designer? These are the sort of questions I’m asking myself right now anyway.read more >>
Last year I was sent a complimentary Hokey Croquis fashion sketching notebook as a thank you for being a contributor to the BurdaStyle book, and I never quite got around to telling you about it. Not because the product isn’t nice, but mostly because I haven’t done much drafting or designing until now where Ive needed to make my own tech drawings!
Hokey Croquis is a very sturdy, nicely designed, spiral bound notepad with pre-printed female croquis (those are the little drawings of female silhouettes), which you just draw your designs on top of. Then, you can scan in the page, fiddle with the contrast on your computer, and their lines disappear.
HC have really paid attention to the little details here – the book closes with a nice, pink ribbon, and included with the book are some classy stickers to customise the cover. I’ve noticed that Fashionary.org have a similar croquis notebook for sale, but they also have some free pdf downloads, too. I’ve not had a chance to try their book, but the croquis included in the pdf are a bit small for my liking. I think they’re great for getting a bunch of ideas down without wasting precious, thick pages in a book, but for making the final tech drawings, I think the larger, HC forms are better.read more >>
…but not the time to sew!
I’ve had an incredibly busy week and weekend, between my whirlwind social life, an influx of new work at the office, hardcore boat DIY, moorings duties, and keeping up with my running, so I’ve hardly had any time to step foot in my sewing room, let alone sew! It doesn’t help that pattern drafting moves at a glacial pace as compared to just tracing off a pattern and sewing it up!
If you remember, I’m using Pattern Magic and the Bunka draft to revisit pattern drafting. So far I’ve made my bodice sloper and drafted up this variation from the first Pattern Magic book, “Tying a Bow D”.
This is one of about five designs across the books that I’d really like to make, but it’s also by far the simplest draft so I thought it’d be a good place to start. The only difference is that I want to a dress from this instead of a blouse, so I’ve also drafted up a skirt sloper and am just now starting to match up the darts to the bodice and insert some flare to make it usable for a nice shirtdress.read more >>
Remember the vintage dress pattern I graded down to my size a few weeks ago?
Well, I made up a muslin with my grading changes in place, and though I didn’t get any photos of it on me, I did get some on Susan. I realise that diagnosing fit issues on a dressmaker’s dummy is particularly futile, though, so you’ll just need to take my word for it!
On first glance, the worst issue is that there is way too much fabric in the upper back, but also I think I may need to raise the waist seam by an inch, and narrow the shoulders by an inch or so, too.
The skirt length is d-o-w-d-y so I’ll need to shorten all those panels, too (happily I’ve got a “lengthen or shorten here” line on both the bodice and skirt pieces).
While the sleeves themselves fit nicely, there is an unholy amount of excess ease in those sleeve caps, omg. So I’ll need to shave down those caps to take a good few inches out of there.
It wasn’t necessarily the list above that made me lose enthusiasm for this dress, but I can’t really put my finger on what it was. But it turned out that doing all the boring grading reawakened in me a desire to conquer pattern drafting, which I dabbled in when I received “Metric Pattern Cutting” by Winifred Aldrich last year, but didn’t get far.read more >>
You’ve seen my version of this fantastic cowl top, now’s your chance to make your own and show me yours!
As you’ll recall, the above is made using Lekala 4020, but I’ve created sleeve bands on the back to echo the ones on the front, so our first step is to alter the pattern for this.
Lekala give full pattern pieces rather than placing some patterns on the fold, so the first thing I like to do is fold the front and the back in half. If you’re altering the back like me, then cut the back piece in half along this foldline (at the CB).
To echo the sleeve bands/yokes on the back, first lay the front sleeve band/yoke piece onto the back, and mark the corresponding widths at the back shoulder and the back side seam, so the two bands will align nicely when sewn together. Then, using the front yoke piece as a guide, draw a nice curve to join the two points, trying to keep the width of the yoke even. Lastly, draw a double notch somewhere in the lower half across the line, so you’ve got the notches on both the back piece and your new back band piece. Then cut along the line and treat as two pieces.read more >>
I’ve made three bras so far, and despite winning the PR Lingerie contest last year, I’ve never been that happy with the fit of any of those bras. I mean, they were okay, but the style is different to the kind of bras I buy, and the underwires dug in, and well, the girls just didn’t look their best. So they’ve kinda worked their way to the bottom of my lingerie drawer, which makes me sad. I sew to wear, not to shove in a drawer!
As I mentioned last week, I got very excited about the notion of sewing a bra made with foam cups, which are the sort I always buy, and speaking to Kellie at The Sewing Chest, she got me all set up with the right bits to have my first go. I made a toile using her purple hearts foam cups over the weekend and the fit is so good I wore it all day Sunday and now again Monday!
I started the process by making a rigorous comparison of the Kwik Sew 3300 pattern vs two RTW bra backs and ended up drafting a back similar to a Ted Baker one that fits me well.
Here you can see the difference between the KwikSew back (in brown) and my newly drafted-from-RTW back (in white) –read more >>
One of my big tasks this weekend was to finally get cracking on my upcoming vintage tab dress, Style Print 1543. It doesn’t have a copyright date, but was estimated to be from the late 1950s/early 1960s by the vintage gurus on Pattern Review. I’ll be making the button-tab view in blue, but since this pattern is for a 42” bust, I’ve got to grade down the pattern to be closer to my 38-39” (depending on the bra!) bust.
My first step was to trace the pattern pieces (read more about my pattern tracing method here) so I wouldn’t have to cut or damage the vintage tissue. Those blue enamel coasters from my mom are the most perfect pattern weights! They’ve even got a nice felt bottom to them.
This pattern has seam allowances (called “turning” here!) included, but they also mark all the seam lines! Heaven! Since I’m going to be altering the pattern anyway, I just traced on the seam lines to make life simpler.
Surely this is the best of both worlds, right? You can choose to use the seam allowances or not (though I understand how this would be impractical on multi-size patterns!)
As I was unfolding all the pattern pieces, I found it really interesting to see the fit alterations the previous seamstress had made. She:read more >>
My turquoise and silver motif dress is nearly done (check out the fantastic lace hem tape I found in my stash to pretty-fy my hem, too!), but it doesn’t stop me thinking ahead…
My first gift is a very special one, because it’s from all of you!
I recently received a Google Adsense payment, and I always try to spend these exclusively on sewing supplies to feed back into this site. The last payment bought me four Patrones issues and some Spoonflower knits, for example! But I’m trying to pare down my fabric to fit in my tiny sewing room, and I already have more patterns than I can sew, so I thought I’d spend the windfall on some really nice interfacings from Fashion Sewing Supply!
You bought me:
This should be enough to keep me in interfacing for a year years, and this stuff just feels incredible – the Pro-Tailor stuff especially feels so silky soft! I can’t wait to try this stuff out…
For my birthday, I received some sewing books that I requested!read more >>
Do you have a cat? Does he sometimes scratch where he’s not supposed to?
Ours may look angelic, but Bosco’s certainly got a naughty streak!
Cats need to scratch with their hind legs or bad things happen. But we don’t really want them “bunny kicking” our arms to shreds, either! That’s where the Kitty Kicker comes in – your cat will nuzzle the felty, catnippy wonder to his face and kick at the body with his hind legs! And the offset end seams means it rolls really easily, giving kitty something to chase as you throw it around the room.
Like with all downloadable patterns, make sure to print it at 100%! Unless your cat is very small, or utterly enormaincoon, in which case feel free to scale up or down. Also feel free to change around the felt piece – make it long and fringed, or spiked, or even replace it entirely with ribbons or yarn if you’d rather.
You will need:
1. Small piece of tough fabric like denim, twill, canvas, or home dec fabric (IKEA do great heavyweight fabrics for cheap!)
2. Small scraps of felt (optional)
3. Fiberfill, or scrap fabric for stuffing
5. Hand needle and thread
Instructions:read more >>
While I wait for the weekend to photoshoot the Lekala ribbed top (either you all are too smart or I’m too predictable!), I’ve started work on creating the cover dress from the September Burda magazine. It’s a really cool, curved seam design with no side seams and designed for knits, but it’s one of Burda’s Petite patterns.
I am in NO way petite – at 5’8” (172cm), I am closer to Burda’s Tall height (180cm) than I am to the petite height( (160cm). I have a sneaking suspicion that my torso is quite compact and my height is mostly in my legs, but in any case… I’ve made a few of Burda’s petite patterns before with good results, namely, my 30th birthday dress and the blue silk cocktail dress, so I wasn’t totally scared off because it’s for petites.
I made up a muslin of the top half of the dress (the half I’m most concerned with) on Wednesday night and I’m happy with my alterations so I thought I should share what I did.
First of all, lay out pieces 1 and 2 so that their folded edges are aligned, taping the pieces together loosely. Then lay out pieces 8 and 9 so that their folded edges are aligned, and that these meet the front pieces at intersections 7 and 8. Don’t worry that the shoulders are far apart or that some of the curved seams don’t meet up whilst flat.
My alterations are the white pieces shown below:read more >>
I’m very excited because this is the first opportunity I’ve had to crosspost anything between this sewing site, and our site for our boat, Hendrik!
We’ve got a total of six skylights on Hendrik – four flat metal ones in the front of the boat where we live, and two peaked, wooden framed ones in the back captains cabin which we rent out to our lovely lodgers. We’ve largely been able to keep our front skylights from leaking too badly, but the age and design of the ones in the back meant that they really needed some covers both to limit the drips and to protect the woodwork and the original 1930s patterned glass.
So a few months ago I got some swatches from Pennine Outdoor to have a look at their tent fabrics, and decided that the “UV Treated Window Material” (P49) and “PVC Coated Polyester” (P9) would work best. Importantly, since I had the swatches I also tested to make sure I could sew through these on my regular domestic machine! I bought two metres of the green and one metre of the clear, which came to £23 including shipping (and this gave me plenty enough for these two skylights, and probably enough for at least one of our flat skylights).read more >>
Apologies for the photo-less post, but with four weeks to go to the wedding, the planning has gone from busy-but-manageable to STRESSAPALOOZA! And as a result, I haven’t had a chance to take the photos of my beautiful lining prickstitching off the camera yet.
But before I forget, I wanted to describe a slight setback I ran into in preparing to attach the skirt to the bodice. To start the process I removed the central skirt panel that contained the blue dye stain (from the tissue paper it was stored in for 60 years), and sewed the two gored sections together, which makes a really unexpectedly beautiful central detail. But as I was lining up the centre front, centre back, and side seams on the skirt and bodice to make the skirt pleats, I kept having excess fabric on one side of the front skirt.
Scratching my head, I measured the front of the skirt, and the CF is indeed central. So then I measured the seam line of my bodice, and ERRRRRRRR! the right side is 27cm to the CF point and the left is 24cm. So that’s why I was having excess skirt fabric on the left but having it match almost exactly on the right.read more >>
I bought this ASOS ruched tunic back in April and I love the design of it – the ruched panels are really flattering, it’s a viscose knit and it’s entirely lined in lingerie mesh. But when it arrived, I realised it was way too short to wear as a dress, but too long to wear as a shirt and looks just plain lumpy when worn over regular trousers or jeans. And with the panels going at weird angles creating an intentionally uneven hem, there wasn’t a natural point to cut it off and shorten it, either.
So I filled the wardrobe hole by creating some leggings specifically to wear with this top!read more >>
Last week you got to see the newest Patrones that Aisling sent over, but you all have been far too good to me, because last week I also got a surprise parcel from Daisy!
She did some awesome detective work and worked out my size and style and picked out Simplicity 2754 and Butterick 5317 for me! And she did a great job, because I really like them both! I always have a hard time seeing the potential with the Project Runway patterns because the pattern covers are so horribly done that you can’t see any details at all, and Simplicity’s site makes it really awkward to browse by technical drawing (what I do as a general rule with Burda magazine previews). Anyway, as it turns out, I really like the details of this one, and doing some research myself, I remembered that Trena made it a few months back and I absolutely loved it! And she’s so got the right idea with those back view enhancements! And the Butterick Maggy London dress is just screaming out for a border print, as far as I’m concerned – the skirt is just a rectangle with pleating, so anything with a border or lace at the edge would go perfectly as you don’t have any cut, curved hem or side seams. So it actually is as easy as it’s labelled, seeing as how you’re really just making the bodice…
These patterns all came at the perfect time, because not only did I finish the second bridesmaid dress this weekend (photos coming later this week), but London has stumbled into a mini-heatwave which always gets me raring to sew! After spending the last two months solid on these dresses for my girls, I’m more than ready to sew for myself now, and I’m not scheduled to start on my wedding dress muslin until July.
Sooooo, how much can I cram into the next month, eh? Granted, I’ll still want to make a few things here or there while I’m working on my gown, but I thought it’d be a good idea to get all the things I want to sew together in one place. I’m not calling it a wardrobe or SWAP since they don’t all go together, and I don’t want to commit myself to ALL of these since I tend to get bored easily, so let’s just call this a shortlist so I can choose from these at will…
The FehrTrade Summer 2010 Sewing Shortlist!
From the top:read more >>
Ok, so to take a brief break from reading material, I thought I should update you with what I’ve been up to in the sewing room…
I had the first fitting of P’s muslin, and there are surprisingly little changes to be made – raising the neckline and armscye, pulling up the waistband by a centimetre, and that’s about it.
So I’m doing a second version of the bodice for her to try on this weekend, and then I unpick the skirt off that muslin and attach it to G’s bodice (the skirt is enormous and I didn’t have enough knit muslin for two!) and have her first fitting while I get down and dirty with the waistband pleating. I’m anticipating the pleating to be the most time-consuming part of both the dresses… (Earlier post about the dresses and colours here)
A spring dress
I finished a nice Springy version of BurdaStyle’s Heidi dress yesterday (finally!).
It was just waiting for a hem for nearly a week, which is a long time for me. It’s nice timing as Spring (or maybe even Summer!) arrived this weekend and it was gorgeous outside on deck with the barbecue going and everyone hopping from boat to boat. I’m hoping to do a photoshoot tonight now that we’ve got daylight for longer in the evenings…read more >>
It’s fitting that Neighbour Helen decided to buy me this book for my birthday, as she’s the one who got me interested in drafting recently, and she liked it so much she bought one for herself, too!
I’ve heard that this is one of the best pattern drafting books around (alongside the Armstrong book, but there’s a £60 price difference there, too!), and I can see why. It’s certainly not an easy book to get to grips with, but if you’re a visual learner like me, then you probably really only need the drawings to be getting on with anyway. The book is absolutely packed with different blocks and various sleeve, collar, skirt, dart, yoke, etc drafts, with precious little else included. It’s a book that doesn’t mess around and gets straight to the point, which is great as it doesn’t take up much space on the bookshelf, either (frankly, I’ve seen thicker magazines!!). There are no wasted pages here, and Winifred Aldrich certainly doesn’t mess around!read more >>
Before I jumped in with both feet in my quest to turn BurdaStyle’s “Alexander” blouse into a dress, I thought it wise to first make the pattern as intended – a cute blouse with flowy, gathered sleeves, front and back buttons, and a vintage-inspired peplum.
I had some vintage flower-print lightweight cotton in my stash that had been in my Granny’s stash for some time and she’d given it to me last time I was over in the States. As it turns out, she’s ill at the moment and in need of some cheering up, so I thought it fitting to send this blouse back to her since she liked the print so much and we’re roughly the same size!
Unfortunately this is one of those patterns that look SO much better on a real person than a dress form, but you’ll see that when we get to the dress!
Here’s a view of the collar , which I altered using Gertie’s “drafting a convertible collar” tutorial. This was a super easy way of lowering the quite high collar and adding a little something extra to the neckline:read more >>
First up in my duet of winter knit dresses is this amazing knit cowl dress that fellow sewist Lauriana drafted for me(!!!) this summer. Whilst designing this, she not only correctly observed my size, but also that I adore cowl necks and assymetrical details, and gave me the option for a sleeveless or sleeved version! She’s the best! Since I’m in dire need of comfortable winter dresses, I opted to go for long sleeves this time around, but I would definitely make this again for summer without them.
I made it up in some luscious Dolce & Gabbana viscose knit that I bought at Ditto Fabrics HQ in Brighton in June. It’s been in my stash just waiting for the perfect pattern match, and since it’s such a crazy, busy print, I thought this pattern with both front and back on the fold would be great for keeping the swirled dots intact.read more >>
After a weekend of tracing patterns and sewing kids clothes (some you’ll see later, but others are Christmas gifts not to be ruined), I finally got a chance this evening to cut out the fabric for the wool jersey top from the latest Patrones, #285, that I wrote about last week:
I came across some gorgeous ex-Prada wool jersey at Ditto Fabrics (you’ll remember them from earlier in the summer when I visited their Brighton shop) and knew I was destined to pair fabric and pattern together! (NB: if you’re planning on making this top with this fabric, buy 2m instead of the 1.5m called for in Patrones as it’s ever-so-slightly narrower than Patrones’s and I had a real tricky time fitting everything into 1.5m!) I also bought some dark turquoise ex-Burberry coating, some I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-silk ex-Prada polyester jersey with trompe l’oiel sequin print, Paul Smith grey marl jersey with stars, and some black stretch denim (all pictured at the bottom of my fabric stash gallery if you fancy a perv!). Honestly, I’m beginning to think the owner Gill is a bit like the UK version of Gorgeous Fabrics, she has such an eye for quality ex-designer stuff!
The funny this about this pattern is that on first glance, it looks like a really easy garment – just a basic blouse with dolman sleeves and some horizontal seaming in the front and back, topped off with a triangular collar with a bit of gathering detail and a covered button. Or so it’d seem. Look a bit closer at the pattern pieces and start chucking bits of the instructions through Google Translate, and it all starts to become a bit more interesting…read more >>
It was inevitable, but still I hoped I could avoid the hair loss that comes with the chemo in my bone marrow transplant… I was expecting it to be instantaneous, but in reality, my hair didn’t start falling out until 3 weeks after the first dose of chemo, so I’m really glad I thought ahead and made myself some comfortable knit caps before I went into hospital, based on my own design.
I know there’s tons of chemo hat patterns out there, but IMHO, most just scream “old lady chemo” to me, and as I’m neither old nor wishing to particularly associated with chemo, I wanted something a bit cleaner and less, err, wacky/zany. I mean, if I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that hat when I’m well, why would I want to put it on my head when I’m feeling crappy, fat, and unattractive already??
So I came up with this method for making what’s essentially a swimming cap made from stretchy knit materials. I knew I definitely want the back of my head covered, though, so you’ll see that my pattern dips down in the back to cover every last bit of Homer Simpson-esque wisps. If you’re a sewer, it’s a great use of scraps, and if you’re not, it’s a great way to recycle old teeshirts! Even if you’ve got some great wigs like I do, I find these absolutely indespensible for wearing around the house and sleeping in! Think of the wigs like your heels, and these like those comfy slippers…
read more >>
The finished photo here is quite grainy and this one’s looking more baggy than it does in real life (honestly!), but you can get the idea of what we’re aiming towards here!