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A Coat Muslin Downer & a Pick-me-Upper

8 October 2014, 13:38

Remember a few weeks ago when I took a quick trip down to Brighton and came back with some gorgeous wool coating and vintage Italian silk lining from Ditto? Of course you do!

Well, as shown in the photo above, I bought it intending to make the StyleArc Audrey pattern to be a transitional Fall “car coat” (heavier than a jacket, but not a full-on winter coat). So having arrived home to decidedly Fall weather, I thought I should get a move on with this coat or else it’ll be too cold before I can make it!

So I pulled out my Audrey pattern, cut out all the million pattern pieces (the attention to detail is really terrific – the lining and facing pieces are exquisitely drafted rather than just carbon-copies of the exterior), and made a muslin.

I know muslins can be super useful, especially for fit problems, but there’s something about them that makes me lose all enthusiasm for a pattern once I see it made in beige, crumbled fabric held together with pins and covered in Sharpie marks. I think I’ve probably dumped more coat patterns at the muslin stage than any other garment (let’s all try to erase the Armani coat muslin horror from our minds… oops)! I put this one on, looked in the mirror and thought…. meh.

So I recruited James and a friend for second opinions. They both gave it the thumbs down, then started going through the list of things that could be done to improve it, lengthen here, take out fullness here, etc etc. Err, no – for something that’s supposed to be “fun sewing” I’d rather just dump this and use another pattern I haven’t yet lost all enthusiasm for!

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StyleArc Pamela - the perfect summer dress?

30 July 2014, 11:47

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Sick Day Delays

23 July 2014, 12:39

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

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

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

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My light-up, twinkling running jacket - the sewing bit!

16 May 2014, 10:16

You heard all about the electronic components earlier this week, but the sewing of the jacket itself was in no straightforward, either! If you missed the video of the LEDs in action, have another look:

You might think, that, as a pattern designer for exercise wear, I might view other exercise patterns as competition. On the contrary – when I first saw the StyleArc Steffi jacket, my first thought was “Brilliant! Now I don’t have to draft it myself!”. I’ve got enough ideas in my head for patterns already, so I’d rather refer folks to other good patterns if I can rather than constantly reinvent the wheel.

This pattern was a birthday gift from my inlaws, and I was initially concerned because they’d bought me a size 10 instead of the 12 I’d asked for, but as it turned out this fits me really well anyway. It’s a smidge too tight in the chest for me to run in (my trainer has me focus on pulling my shoulder blades back to open up my chest for better breathing), but is utterly perfect as a warm-up, cool-down jacket, so hurrah for happy accidents!

I chose to do my colourblocking like it’s shown in the technical drawing – I used a grey/black sportshell as the main body, then I used the black reverse of this black/grey “budget” sportshell as the contrast panels. The main sportshell is really nice – a soft, technical jersey with a thin layer of fleece bonded to the inside – it feels really RTW and high quality. The budget one, well, lived up to its name. The grey side looks a bit naff, there’s no fleece, and the black side is just smooth like the other fabric’s grey exterior. So it was fine for my purposes here, but I wouldn’t recommend skimping if you want a similar jacket – go for the more expensive option and you won’t regret it.

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My light-up, twinkling running jacket - the electronics!

12 May 2014, 17:41

This is an epic jacket, and something I’ve been wanting to do for, ooh, 6-7 years at least. You see, I really liked the idea of wearable electronics, and clothes that do something and interact with their environment, so I started buying LilyPad components many years ago with the hopes of making something.

Then I realised that I know nothing about circuits and electronics, and it all seemed really confusing every time I tried to sit down and learn about it. Finally, I decided that I’d bring my suitcase of tricks (no really, I have a little yellow plastic “suitcase” with all my beginning circuitry stuff in it!) along to France on holiday and I’d sit down and teach myself how to do it then. And I actually did!

LilyPad is the sewable line of Arduino products, made especially for folks like us. They’re easy to attach onto clothes, and (apart from the batteries) are machine washable, too. For this jacket I used a LilyPad battery pack (I started with the Coin Cell one but it wasn’t quite enough power), a Lily Twinkle controller, a bunch of LEDs, and a spool of conductive thread.

I used a mix of the regular LilyPad LEDs and the Micro LEDs because that’s what I had – the micro green ones were much brighter than the bigger purple ones, but you can really only get about four loops of thread around each terminal of the micro ones, so if you need to connect it to more than two lines, go for a bigger one. The Twinkle controller is really just a tiny board with four connection spots for LEDs and makes them fade in and out randomly (though you can connect more than one LED to each spot & they’ll twinkle in unison). I wanted to make things easy for myself this time around so I left out any input sensors, though I do have an accelerometer in my stash…

I’d thought to bring along this “Fashioning Technology” book and between that and this Lilypad Twinkle tutorial, I pretty much taught myself how to make a simple circuit to do what I wanted. When I go to do my next project, I’ll need to read a few different chapters and watch some more tutorials, I’m sure!

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My Mexico travel wardrobe

23 August 2013, 12:23

I’ve made a few mentions of it over the past few weeks, but James and I are off on a grand holiday to Mexico at the end of September! We’ve been talking about going for years and we’re so excited to have finally booked everything. We decided on the Intrepid “Mexico Unplugged” trip since it stops everywhere we want to go, is a small group & eco company, and provides the perfect mix of taking care of booking hotels and transportation, but doesn’t tell us how to fill our days. Which will mostly be filled with eating and visiting ruins!

Anyway, as this is a different sort of holiday than the past few we’ve gone on, and I have a few weeks left to prepare, I thought I’d share with you the few pieces I’d like to sew before we leave…

As you can see, I’ve included lots of bottoms as those are what I’m most in need of right now after losing weight for my track race! My tops still fit reasonably well, though so I’m happy to just bring along ones I’ve already made to pair with them.

I’m hoping to sew:


(I’m cheating a bit by posting this after I’ve started sewing – two of these are done already!)

Plus if I can fit them in before I go, either of the two workout tops from my SS13 Sewing Ideas, or the jeans which I keep delaying

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Shocking Pink Trousers and a Cream Lace Tee

18 July 2013, 13:06

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:

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Postbags of Fun

20 June 2013, 17:02

I’ve been ill the past few days with some crappy bug that’s going around, and it appears that the postman has either a) been following me on Twitter and reading all my “bluergh I feel awful” tweets, or b) canoed alongside the boat and has been peeping in our windows watching me. I know I’d definitely prefer a).

But in any case, he definitely knew I needed cheering up, because look what arrived within the span of two days!

That’s right, the June Manequim magazine, the July Burda, and a bunch of StyleArc patterns I ordered a few weeks ago (they’re getting SO much faster at turning these around!!)

You’ll see my reviews of Manequim (awesome!) and Burda (pants!) next week, but the new additions to my growing Style Arc hoard are:

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Mustard and Grey slouchy Ivy tee

7 May 2013, 13:10

How great are Style Arc patterns?? One thing I love about them is that each month there’s a free pattern that comes with every order. In February, it was the Ivy tee. With its angled side seams, dropped shoulder, slightly forward shoulder seam, and banded sleeves, it’s so great for colourblocking that I just couldn’t resist! The good news is, like all of their freebies, it’s available to buy after the month is done, so you can go and get your own now, too.

I ordered a size 14 as per usual (I’m a Burda 42, for comparison), since StyleArc patterns are single-sized. This is my 3rd Style Arc pattern and I can totally understand how they’ve gained so many fans so quickly! Each one has come together beautifully, and is as comfortable and enjoyable to wear as it was to sew.

I did have a bit of trauma in the making of this, however. I did something I haven’t done in 9 years of sewing – I lost a pattern piece!! I checked everywhere, but I think the sleeve piece must’ve accidentally gone into the recycling when I threw out the paper scraps. This pattern has a dropped shoulder, otherwise I would’ve just used the knit sleeve off my Marita dress or Marie jacket patterns, so in desperation I emailed Chloe at StyleArc asking if she could possibly send me just the sleeve piece by pdf… and she did, so quickly, saying she knew I’d probably want to work on it at the weekend! How great is that?? Anyway, her scan plus some added measurements worked like a charm, and I have a completed Ivy tee!

I used two of Tissu’s viscose lycra jerseys here (again!!) – the Mustard colourway leftover from my Drape Drape tee, and 1m of Marl Charcoal I bought specifically to coordinate with the mustard.

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Spring 2013 Sewing Ideas

30 April 2013, 13:52

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments on my asymmetric Drape Drape teeshirt! A girl could get used to that level of flattery…

It also marks the start of my sewing short sleeves, which means it must finally be Spring, and hence, time to start thinking about marrying up the patterns and fabrics I’d like to sew for the next few months. I really do these only for my own benefit, and so they’re not a “SWAP” in the sense that everything must coordinate against each other (lord knows I have enough clothes that I don’t have problems putting combinations together!).

This is more just a set of ideas towards which I’d like to work, so when I get to the end of a project, I can quickly refer to this image and go “oh yeah, I want to sew that next!”

For the first time I’m also including running/exercise gear in my plans, since I’m wearing lycra as a significant portion of my weekly wardrobe, and I want to contain all of my sewing ideas together. So you’ll find all the running stuff on the bottom row, and the rest of life’s wear on the upper two rows!

Top row:

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My sparkly StyleArc Marie jacket

12 April 2013, 14:06

Right – where were we? I mean, I know I’ve been away so my brain is fuzzy and perhaps a little jet-lagged… Right! Easter weekend sewing! I had a four day weekend and most of it was spent in my sewing cave, so I’ve got an awful lot to show you, starting with my Stye Arc Marie jacket, which I made in that gorgeous black and silver heavy jersey from Minerva. It’s hard to tell from the description, but this is a little heavier than a ponte, with good stretch and recovery, and a slight rib to it. The exterior have little silver lurex threads running through it, and the reverse is a simple grey and black stripe (and, as you recall, Minerva kindly sent this to me as a gift).

I was really surprised with the shape of the pattern pieces when I opened it up – it’s not obvious from the tech drawings but this has a shawl collar and the centre fronts also double as the facing pieces, meaning you get a lovely turn on that cowl neckline, too, but the shoulder is kept nice and fitted. Genius drafting from Style Arc again!

I took the opportunity to use some different locations for photoshoots while we were away, so these were taken at my cousin’s house in Baltimore. Down there, it’s really popular to build a deck over the roof of your house, but it does mean you get the wind as well as the views!

I wasn’t really in a wind tunnel, but it certainly felt like it that evening!

I really like that this is a perfect spring-weight, unlined knit jacket which can be worn open or closed. With this fabric, I wore it over jeans during the day, and then again over dresses at night, too. The only downside to this pattern is that there are no pockets (nor really anywhere to add your own), which I really kinda need in a jacket.

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Easter Weekend sewing and beyond!

28 March 2013, 14:14

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…

Leggings


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

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Spending Your Money Well

14 March 2013, 14:17

The title of this post isn’t just savvy shopping advice, but a literal comment, too, because I’ve been spending your money, dear readers! I got another Google AdSense payment through and I always like to spend these on sewing things to help cycle everything back into the site. I thought you all might appreciate seeing what I bought with your money, which I feel I spent rather well!

StyleArc pattern purchases


After the roaring success of my Marita dress, I knew I had to buy some more StyleArc patterns, so I created a WishList and waited until there was a monthly free pattern that I really liked. I didn’t have to wait long, though, as any purchase in March comes with the free Ivy knit top (bottom right in my photo). I really like the look of this top and know it’s one I’ll actually wear (as opposed to February’s freebie, an elastic-waisted skirt).

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Brick orange Marita draped dress

18 February 2013, 16:25

I fell in love with the design of the Style Arc “Marita” dress as soon as it was released, and I bought it right away. But that was back in our summer, and I thought the long sleeves would be better suited towards cooler weather, so I let it hibernate a bit in my pattern stash before adding it into my Fall/Winter 2012 Sewing Shortlist.

I bought some wonderful some brick orange (or “rust”) viscose-lycra jersey from Tissu and knew it’d have the perfect drapiness and recovery for this design. Coincidentally, it’s also the same fabric I made the Donna Karan skirt set in – I just love this stuff and you cannot beat the price (£3.50/m)!

The pattern front claims you can make it in one hour, and it really is ridiculously fast to sew! I don’t feel right showing the pattern pieces as I feel that’s giving away their design, and I really think this is ingenious. The finished dress looks really complicated, but in reality it’s just a basic knit dress with one dart and one tuck. That’s it.

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Catching up...

15 February 2013, 12:24

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 pair of pleated, My Image denim-look leggings:

A quick, gathered raglan merino wool sweater from the February BurdaStyle magazine:

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