Wednesday, 14 December 2016

WIP: Sleeveless tunic with clever pockets

This is one of the unfinished objects (UFOs) that I want to include in the virtual sewalong event of the Dressmakers (LDC) group: "UFO: Alter, chuck or finish?".

When I bought YET more fabric a couple of years back, like this one that looks like brushed cotton or similar to denim, I felt that I needed to use the fabric up as quickly as possible and went with what I thought would be easy.

Use my own measurements, copy the pattern pieces off my body block and go with straight princess line seams (going straight up into the shoulder so no convex curves need pinning against concave curves). A yoke for the back to avoid needing to sew over eight layers of fabric, and a side zip.

Unfortunately this did not turn into a quick project because it's STILL not finished. Yup. Bane of my life.

I think the ideas above are not bad - they definitely make sense. It's just that I ran into some problems that I had not anticipated.

1) It is too big: the pins above show where I want to take in the princess seams so I can get at least the impression of a waist. My body block does not have much of a waist and that acts like a sack pulled over my body: it makes it appear even more dumpy than it is. Definitely needing improvement.

There  are quite a few layers of fabric, thanks to the pocket construction.  I don't feel very confident at doing a good job when I finally do take these seams in.

2) I already put the side zip in and quite well too, thanks very much, so I am really loathe to have to unpick it. Particularly as I managed to sew over the pocket layers.  Can I get away with just tightening up the princess seams or do the side seams also need cinching in?  How the heck would I then get the zip back in?

3) The pockets: I am so proud of their construction. The fabric layer that comes down from the shoulder then disapears into the pockets and becomes the inner pocket. The added piece that is the outside of the pocket will then go down to the hem.  Which means that the patterned FQ that's the pocket lining and that first fabric layer (the one running down from the shoulder) do not need to be as long as the hem. I just don't know yet how deep I want my pockets to be so I have not cut the bottom edge of both fabrics. That'll be easy.

The blue side is the right side of the fabric, the black side is the wrong side of the fabric.

4) Unfortunately I the pieces too much for the skirt part - I made these much too wide at the hem. I did not expect the fabric stiffness to turn the middle panel into the shape of a sky jump, from the bust downward: there is no dip - it looks awful. It emphasises my stomach too, horrible. This is actually the worst problem with this garment.

I have to take the flare down a lot. Unfortunately I don't know by how much and I feel anxious about messing up at this point.

5) I made a mess of the back yoke. The back neckline gapes so I just put some darts in and not at all well. I will have to unpick them. I only realised since this project that I have a rounded upper back and need small darts at the back mid shoulder point that will take the fullness out. Unless I try a dart at the centre back?  I'm not sure that this would work though.

6) I don't have a photo of the small of the back but I got that wrong too: I thought I could introduce a swayback adjustment by manipulating the shape of the middle panel of the back. And pinching a wedge out of the side panels before cutting them out. I may not have done enough of that because it hasn't worked.

I wonder if I have enough fabric left to try just the back again?  I may have to research swayback adjustments a lot more because I have the distinct feeling that I don't know enough about them yet to get them right.

So there you have it.

I put a few good ideas into this self-drafted pattern. I ran into some problems where my body block isn't good enough: namely at the waist and also regarding my swayback and my rounded upper back (my body block pattern actually has the darts drawn in - silly me decided to ignore them. Ahem).

I also ran into some problems that confounded me: how can this little bit of flare be too much?  And how do I get rid of it?

I think I would have carried on with this tunic sooner if there had been only a couple of problems. That many really put me off. The most decisive problem though is that I don't think I'll enjoy wearing this even if I do get it done.

On the other hand this tunic is a good practice piece to figure out these kinds of issues so I can use whatever I learn for future projects - I just didn't expect one single project where I get to learn quite so much!  It just all feels a bit too intense.

On the other hand and being brutally honest with myself, I might not have carried on even with just a single issue: I often grind to a halt and find it very difficult to motivate myself into picking it back up.  If I want to wear it then things are a lot easier - but if I don't feel the project, or can't visualise myself in it, then I have a huge sewing mojo problem.

Oh heck.

Trying to make up my mind about "Alter, chuck or finish?", I find myself in the "Finish" camp: I would really learn a lot and I want to see the pocket construction realised in a complete project. Even if I then give the whole thing away to a charity shop - if I don't wear it. Who knows.

I ought to decide which of the above issues I feel like tackling first - that would go a long way towards getting back into the swing of things on this project.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Simplicity 8523 changed to bias cut

This was a very interesting learning exercise: you can change a simple top from a straight fabric grain line (as intended by the pattern company) to one cut out on the bias.

It actually works!

I happened to come across an intriguing YouTube video (by Kair Bjordahl at National Sewing Circle) that discussed this, and even suggested Simplicity 8523 as an example. Which reminded me that I own this pattern and could go and have a look.

I did, I found it, and I had a go!  Nothing better than taking advantage of the sudden urge to sew. You have to go with the momentum of your sewing mojo. It would be criminal not to.

I did a full bust adjustment so it's interesting that the bias cut fabric does drag a bit at the bust. I reckon I used the wrong fabric: a polycotton that's a bit thicker than the usual thin polycottons.  I also didn't prewash the fabric so I have yet to see how the top looks after the first wash.

There is also a whole lot of bunching going on at the front of the upper arms: there are drag lines towards the apex. I often get this with pretty much everything I wear: whether shop bought or made myself. I have a feeling that I need a second dart.

I also want to see what difference another type of fabric makes.

I often have problems sewing the sleeves in. I managed a bit of puckering on the sleeve on the right.

Modern fabrics are not truly evenly woven so warp and weft behave slightly differently.  That's the reason why a bias-cut garment will not hang and drape completely symetrically. You can see this in the photo above.

Because of this bias-cut patterns often suggest a centre front and back seam, but you use up lots more fabric that way because the two pieces need to be laid so they form a V or chevron shape. That produces lots of fabric remnants in awkward shapes. You might be able to use them in applique or for patchwork.

I may also have cut the sleeve from the lower fabric layer at not quite the correct 45 degree angle. I have a feeling it may have shifted a bit. I really need to watch this more closely next time.  I lenghtened them by an inch to avoid that chicken wing look that I hate, but now realise that I could have gone with the original length.

I also had to adjust the point of the V-neck a little bit, it looked off by around 7-8 millimeter or so (just under a centimeter).  That was no problem because the pattern's V-neck was a little high and I wanted this to be lower.

The back doesn't look too bad but it is also slightly asymetrical.  I may want to cinch in the waist a touch more. I graded this out to a bigger size according to my measurements but think I overdid it a bit.

Oops, all bunched up

This was supposed to be a muslin to try this out and I will probably not wear it a lot because of the colour. I bought the fabric online with the intention of using it for patchwork but the colour is lots lighter than I expected.

This top is quite comfortbale despite the issues I described, so who knows.

I did not expect this pattern to fit me without adjustments but I had hoped it would be closer to a better fit. I knew that I might need a swayback adjustment but didn't want to bother at this stage.  It was an extremely useful learning exercise and I am pleased this fits as well as it does, even though that fit is not great.

Next time I want to use my own body block pattern to try another bias-cut top. In another fabric, hopefully something more drapey (it depends on my fabric stash: I have to use up what I've got as much as I can). And slightly shorter sleeves than these.

I will report my findings!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Delving into my sewing patterns: V1164

Following on from my previous post on my sewing pattern stash, I had the sudden urge to look at a Vogue pattern with interesting Dolman-style sleeves.  I am not at all convinced that these suit my figure but I wanted a look.

I didn't find it* and got a bit frustrated until I came across another pattern that I bought because it has raglan sleeves and wraps over at the front.  I thought this would make a great pattern to make up in all kinds of different fabrics.  Unfortunately I failed to see that this is for knit fabrics only.  Darn.  That's not what I was after at all.  I don't sew well with stretch fabrics.

This looks like it could be a really flattering style and I haven't made anything like this before. I won't find out what this will look like on me until I make it up and try it on.

For my muslin, I found a cheap pink stretch fabric left over from another project (that didn't turn out well, damn) and cut it out. And even sewed it up!  I am very pleased with that.

What I learnt from working with this fabric: there is absolutely no point for me to buy cheap and thin jersey fabrics: I hate working with them and they look saggy and cheap. And they don't wear well either because they wrinkle like mad.

I still have some fabrics that are almost as thin (in purple, grey and light pink) but I think they weren't as cheap and hopefully don't wrinkle as much. I'll have to check.  When I bought them I had visions of making long-sleeved T-shirt style tops as wardrobe staples. But if I don't enjoy working with them, nor like wearing them...

I should try those firmer knits instead. But then again I'd rather work with patterns for woven fabrics and erode my humungous stash of those. So there is no Ponte knit fabric shopping in my immediate future.

I did have to buy something for this project unfortunately: the front pieces of this need to be lined - to finish off the edges and to stablise them. I don't want to try a woven lining because I don't think it'll work and I had run out of stretch lining.  The pattern recommended stretch mesh or tricot. So I ordered a meter of light mesh. Who knows when I'll get that and if I'll still be in the mood for carrying on with this project.

The pink muslin showed that the style is promising: the V-neck looks good on me and I'll have to see how a slightly firmer fabric will behave in terms of fit around my middle and near the shoulders.

If I make this with short sleeves again I will want to lengthen the sleeves at the top by at least 1-1.5 inches.  I have enough fabric for long sleeves for the actual project. I just need that lining fabric first.

But even though I've run into this delay: it is really good to know that I made a start with a type of pattern I hadn't used before. That's exactly what I had in mind when I wrote the previous blog post

Brush strokes: mainly pink/purple and dark grey
Vogue 1164: View A in grey on the left has some darts near where the closure sits, View B in yellow doesn't. I tried the non-darted version in my cheap pink jersey fabric. The pattern of my project fabric would look a bit weird if darted so I will probably stick with View B (see 'Brush strokes' above).

Both views use the non-darted front pattern piece (2) for the lining.

*: I found the pattern since: it is V1239, Chado Ralph Rucci. This one:

I now think that this is also not suitable for me, because of the sleeves. Where they connect to the front and to the back is very odd: as far away from under the arm as may be possible to get. Very odd. Possibly an okay style for someone much less busty than me. So I will give this one a miss.
I would like to use this pattern to Frankenpattern the neckline part with another blouse pattern though (at least with rounded edges, not corners near the chin) - that line is beautiful.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

My sewing pattern stash

For years I was careful about how many sewing patterns I bought: I didn't want to accumulate yet another stash that I can never fully use.  But then pattern buying also became instant gratification in terms of seeing it and buying it.  Not so much in actually making the garment.

Which is exactly the same problem with my fabric and my yarn stash. Thank goodness I don't have aspiration to start spinning my own yarn!  But I should also mention my stash of quilting fabrics and the three wadding pieces I own. Ah well.

Interesting style, but what would it look like on me?

I really like this Donna Karan skirt (Vogue 1324) and made it in a firm knit fabric.

Going back to my sewing patterns: I particularly like to buy those that I think may only be around for a time and then get discontinued.  They often have a feature I really like or present a sewing challenge - like Dolman sleeves or eliptical side pieces for a skirt that doesn't have "side" seams as such (V1324), see photos above. Or the envelope wrap below (V8721) that I made twice, and that then turned out not to suit my shape.

Ah well. You live and learn.

Great style, not so good on me
But way too many of my patterns are just sitting around and don't get used. Another source of frustration.

I had a good thought today: I want to become more familiar with the sewing patterns I own.

When I look at a pattern I like that I may want to buy, I do compare the line drawing to those patterns I remember. I hope I haven't bought too many that are very similar - it's an easy thing to do because the fabric, colour and pattern on the pattern envelope often makes us think that we are looking at a design we don't yet have. If all patterns showed the same colour and very similar fabrics then I don't think we'd buy duplicates as often as we do.

I think I've done pretty well. I hope. If I do come across a pattern that's pretty much like another one then I can get rid of one of them - which makes me want to identify them.

My purpose for wanting to become more familiar with my pattern stash is different: I want to figure out what kinds of designs I have and how they work with my body shape.

I like wearing this top, but does it suit me?

Some time back I made about seven different versions of an easy kimono style top.  Two of them are tops I actually like to wear (like the grey one above), the others not so much. It is just not a style that's flattering on me. So I'm determined not to make any more.

I only made a muslin of this one, and threw it out straight away because it was so awful on me:

V8877: Nope, not a style for me: no bust dart

But what styles do suit me?  I'm not actually that sure.

I think anything with a low but narrow V-neck would be great. Anything that doesn't emphasise the waist. Styles with bust darts are good, those without are a definite no-no (see V8877 above). Boat necks are out, cap sleeves that are too short look awful and I like to lengthen them by at least two inches, then they're great. Trousers and skirts with flat fronts are good. Skirts that flare from the hip are wonderful.

I figured those kinds of things out.

But I do have patterns that don't necessarily fall within the above - or at least I'm not sure if they do. And it is those patterns that I would like to try out: just cut out, make up in any old fabric (I have so many!) and see how the design works for me.

It would make me use up fabric, increase my sewing mojo and allow me to learn more about what suits me.

I am very hopeful that I will sew more with the above in mind.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

State of play - colour range

Here's the 15 most recent WIPs on my Ravelry page (don't worry, I got more! But let's not mention those ones - they ought to be considered in hibernation by length of time not having been worked)

I also like petrol which is missing from these

Interesting to see what the colour range is that I use over and over. (Ignore the orange socks, they're for a friend. I should finish those so I can get them out of the WIP section?)

I was 'accused of' (no actually: it was a bemused comment) of using lots of neutrals, mainly in my sewing: there were lots (and lots, and lots) of black, grey and black and white projects. One in taupe, which is sort of a grey...

But it is difficult to find fabrics in great colours. You know: colour-colours - as opposed to neutrals, muted, or dark fabrics. It's the one reason that I managed to cut down on my spendrift fabric purchasing ways (finally) that built up that overwhelmingly massive stash that I am lumbered with. Sigh!

No point in buying yet more muted, neutral or dark fabrics when I've got plenty of 'em already, fanks very much...

I am finally using fabrics I've had for an embarrassingly long time (neither of them is so great that it was worth keeping either fabric for the 15-20 years that I dragged it around with me) - one is the aforementioend taupe fabric, the other a silver boucle that I've had a vision of straight skirts for.  Knee-length for the taupe and a maxi length for the silver grey acrylic.

I am delighted to report that the taupe skirt is done (I was thinking of appliquing onto the front, but I can live without that. It is a little tight though so not sure how much wear I'll get out of it) and the grey boucle maxi skirt is also done!  And I love wear this one!

These projects follow a black skirt, and a navy blue and grey patterned summer top. And a grey random dot jersey skirt... a silver grey dress... and before that was a black and red skirt. Hey! There was red in there! That's got to count!

So next project: it has to be any kind of garment or other project in a bright colour. To mix things up and get my sewing mojo back.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

My holy grail

My holy grail is to develop pattern blocks that I can use as Tried & Trusted garment templates.

One of the reasons why this is taking is long, is that I keep starting over.  I forget where I got to before and I was also not particularly happy with the last result so I am hoping that a do-over might be more successful.  So it’s not been going all that great.

I’ve since discovered that there are several fitting issues that I need to do adjustments for.  I start with a block that I drew to my own measurements in a pattern drafting class.  Great start but not nearly good enough – the fit is by no means close enough. Here’s all the issue I identified so far:

When using commercial patterns I usually have to move the bust dart down which is no big deal: cut out a box that contains the dart and move up or down so it points towards the bust apex.  Easy.  I have also done full bust adjustments (FBA) with abandon: this makes fit so much better for sizes that are bigger than a B cup.  I can highly recommend it.  You may need to cut a Y Line for very big cup sizes but it’s not a big deal or huge change from the usual FBA.

I am aware that I need to do an underarm adjustment that pinches out a wedge of up to 5-7cm length and possibly 1-1.5cm width – right at the top of the underarm side seam – unless I want lots more ease for arm movement, but it still looks pretty odd if there is too much fabric flapping about under the arm.  So this is a usual one.

I recently realised that I mustn’t suppress the small dart in the back shoulder: I really do need this because of my rounded upper back.  I only noticed that back looks different than I expected when I saw a photo of myself – now this issue is glaringly obvious!  Oh well, at least I know now.

I should also check if my armhole gapes at the back – if so I may need to do more of an adjustment for a rounded back by putting in darts or having a shaped back yoke that suppressed some of that gaping – I’ll need to check.

I have also become aware that two darts towards the bust are better than just the one.  It distributes the excess fabric better and is more flattering.  Best for me are darts that run into the side seam and result in an upward angled line, visually much better than downward or straight across.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t get around some major work on a swayback adjustment.  I know this from my knitting projects but hadn’t been paying lots of attention to it for my sewing.  I applied a couple of SBAs but I think I didn’t pinch out enough.

The one adjustment that I don’t think I need to do is to rotate the sleeve, i.e. changing the shoulder seam either a little forward or backward. I am exceedingly glad about this, because this feels like a major adjustment!

So these are quite a few adjustments so it’s no wonder if my efforts haven’t been all that successful so far – there is lots to do and I don’t think that I applied all of those to one block yet.  I really should.

But I was getting frustrated with my attempts at a template top that fell far short (I just hadn’t followed through on all those fitting insights yet) – then I had a thought:

Why don’t I look at Ready To Wear tops that fit me well and take some measurements?  That way I can compare those to my template top attempts and at least sense check!

Great idea, right?

I was thinking of a smart top with short sleeves that I like wearing a lot.  It is the only one that has a round neckline with a vertical slit down the front – it seems a pretty flattering style, so I am all for using that as a model.

Yeah, right…

It wasn’t until I took a really long hard look at this top, and found that it doesn’t fit at all well!  I just never noticed, good heavens.

This top is made for hips that are far bigger than mine, in fact it balloons out a lot. And the underarm adjustment of that suppressed wedge that I talked about above, that’s so very much needed!  The bust seemed to fit pretty well but the underarm area has lots of fabric that’s just not very attractive.

This top also highlights my problem area:  I am low-busted so there is excess material at the side of the front armhole.  My problem is that I don’t quite know how to get rid of that – do I need a bust dart in that area that grades out to nothing at the seam with the sleeve? That can’t be quite right, can it?

I think I need to play around with taking a bigger wedge out of the top underarm side seam from the front piece only.  This will also affect the sleeve – I may just have to slash the sleeve pattern and overlap by this much at the armhole seam.

Pattern drawing challenges!

I love them really.  They are just a lot of work and I need to be in the right frame of mind.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Useful sewing community websites

I am using
I really enjoy adding my projects and photos to this and to comment on other people's projects. It is really good fun. I never got used to the PatternReview website, I found it really cumbersome to use and can never find the actual patterns that must be represented on there. It also doesn't feel like a community as much as MSC does.

I can recommend it!

Pattern Review can only be used properly after you log in but unfortunately it isn't clear where you do that until you try to find something and a red stripe across the screen asks you to log in. It is really difficult to see. I just had another look: there is a Log In link that you need a magnifying glass for.

Fairly new is The Fold Line:

I am enjoying looking at all the different kinds of features. Just like on MySewingCircle you can befriend others. This site seems to attract more independent designers publishing their patterns.
I like their Forum the best.

I have also occasionally logged onto the - link here. This is the old bulletin board style.

What sites do you use?

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The beautiful sleeve feature of Lekala #4370

... and how to sew it!

You can get Lekala patterns via Etsy too

I think I figured it out. The instructions on how to insert the top of the sleeve into Lekala blouse pattern #4370 are not very helpful at all.

This is what it says:

"6. [...] Pin sleeve, right side together, and sew on short vertical edge from mark upwards. Snip front and back between dart lines from shoulder seam to horizontal marks. Sew section of shoulder seam, from slashed section exactly to sleeve connection line, inserting sewn section of sleeve. Serge seam allowance. Sew shoulder edge to neckline. Serge seam allowance. Lay upper section of sleeve (epaulette) on front and back, evenly distribute the width. Sew the dart of back and front with one seam, catching upper edge of epaulette. Serge seam allowance."


That makes absolutely no sense. The part that I left out (denoted as [...]) reads: "Turn lower edge of sleeve twice inside at 0.5cm and topstitch. Trim seam allowances on sleeve in corners according to marks."

Let's take that one at a time: "Turn lower edge... etc... and topstitch" must be about hemming the sleeve. 'lower edge of sleeve' equals sleeve hem, got it. I didn't do that - I don't like how double-folded hems pucker and won't lie flat. I think they are ugly and way too tricky to sew. I like my baby hems but then I am very lucky to own an overlocker: I overlock the raw edge, machine baste my intended folding line using a 0.5cm stitch length, press the seam allowance over with the iron, folding at exactly the basted stitch line (makes it easier to fold over too, it's not just a great guide) - this shrinks the seam allowance in curved bits so it's all good. Then I edge-stitch the hem by machine an even amount from the hem edge, depending on the weight of the fabric: thin fabrics closer like 1mm, and others with a bit more of a distance: 2-3mm (I haven't done this with chunky fabric, it might be better to use an inner facing [maybe out of a thinner fabric that colour matches?] instead of folding the edge in)

Next point in the left-out bit: "Trim seam allowances on sleeve in corners according to marks." - This is the bit I understood! Yay me. There are short diagonal marks within the seam allowance only in the corner between the epaulette part (I called it the rectangle at the top of the sleeve head. Okay-dokey 'epaulette' is shorter, let's go with that) and either side of the sleeve. That needs to be snipped (staying within the seam allowance, you don't want to slash into your blouse's visible sleeve fabric), otherwise those corners just won't sew well and it would look terrible even if you managed that. And yeah, stating 'trim' is not the same as 'snip' but I think that's the poor translation at work.

So far so good. Where the instructions lost me was: "Pin sleeve, right side together..." ...and my brain went: What??? What the hell is that supposed to mean?  I think the clue actually lies in "sleeve" instead of "sleeves" - I didn't catch that the first two dozen times when I read that. (And I think it should say "right sides together", there ain't just one if it's two things being put together)

Where the instructions fall down severely is that there isn't much in the way of marks on the sewing pattern. There are those diagonal marks (yep, found that, that's cool) and there are also horizontal marks that intersect the darts, both on the front and on the back piece. But there is absolutely no placement line for where that blasted epaulette is to go!  (The counter part to the sleeve notches are also missing on the front and the back piece pattern pieces. Tut. But you can wing that)

That's a really bad pattern design.

I had decided that the epaulette part would have to be stitched on top of the outer part of the front and back piece across the shoulder seam. There is no rectangular shape that the epaulette edges fit to. On the other hand there is no need to have only one layer of fabric at the top of the shoulders if it is easier to just sew one layer on top of another. I'm fine with that.

But why in god's name can't there be placement lines? That's what I want to know. It would save a lot of headache.  The other desing downfall of the pattern is that the sleeve pattern piece is not marked about which side goes towards the front and which the back. That's terrible.

I worked out that the shorter, more curved side goes towards the front, and the longer, less curved side towards the back. That works. In fact the initial curves (at the outside corners, where you sew the lengthwise sleeve edges together, the point where that seam hits the body side seam) do actually fit very well into the armhole (again: the missing notches are not desperately needed). Success!

But then... blimey! At some point you have a heck of a lot of sleevehead edge that's excessively long and that's to be fitted into the normal sized armhole? No-one said anything about gathering and the pattern drawing doesn't show that either. So how is that supposed to work?

The bit where it says "evenly distribute the width" does not express the same as 'gathering' and I decided it just means to place the width evenly across where you're going to stitch it down. But flat. Definitely flat and ungathered.

And here's where the light bulb suddenly came on: "Pin sleeve, right side together" - that's just one sleeve, and you pin one bit of this sleeve to another bit of itself! Seeing as the text continues with: "sew on short vertical edge from mark upwards", and the mark was those short diagnoal marks in the corner that were snipped, it must mean sew one of the short vertical edges (of the epaulette) to the other short vertical edge of the sleeve - in effect producing a box pleat!

Flipping heck!! Couldn't they just say so?

The flat width of the epaulette (from stitch line to stitch line) is 20.3cm. The distance of marks across the front dart to the mark across the back dart (once the shoulder seam is closed which you're not supposed to just yet) is 10.4cm - not quite half of the 20.3cm but what with turn of cloth, this works out as near as damn it: sewing right side to right side of the short vertical edge must mean that you end up with half the epaulette width!


Phew!  I think I figured this one out.  There might still be some other surprises in this project to do with the sleeves but I think I've got the most difficult puzzle solved.  Where the 'snip' and 'slash' instructions are concerned: forgive me but I don't think I'll do that. I think they ask you to cut the exact center along the length of the darts (not too far) but that leaves very little fabric on either side once you closed those darts "catching upper edge of epaulette", this could so easily fray in these areas - ruining a beautiful blouse. So the top edge of the epaulette gets inserted through the slash in the fabric between the dart legs? Why do I need to do that? Can't I just sew the upper epaulette edge to this placement line of the dart legs that are closest to the body centre? It'll keep that folded in seam allowance on top of the right side of the body fabric but that's hidden at the top of the sleeves, no-one is going to see that, at least not without gusts of wind.

"Snip" and "slash", yikes. No, I'd rather not, thanks all the same.

I shall report how I get on with the rest of this.

PS: In case you are wondering why I am going to the trouble of persevering with this very challenging pattern: not only is the drawing of the blouse very pretty but the real thing is even nicer! I am using a slightly heavyish  polycotton that drapes very nicely and those sleeves are just gorgeous!  They fall into the most amazing shape and I've not even sewn them in properly yet. I can tell from holding my 'box pleated' sleevehead to the blouse. Gorgeous I tell you!

I would love to do another version of this blouse - maybe with a back opening and a high rounded front neckline... Hmm...

Saturday, 16 July 2016

What did I do today?

I wonder if I can do a really quick post? Just to say what sewing I've done today?

I have a "new" sewing pattern, Burda 6230, I've been looking forever for this over blouse pattern with the most intriguing puzzle-pieece approach to piecing the front and back together.

I cut the pattern pieces out today and realised that this is a really old Burda (yeah, duh) so seam allowances are not included. I then spent a bit of time to tape more tissue paper behind the internal edges because those will be critical.

The sleeves of this are 10cm too long for me. Unfortunately the design doesn't allow to just chop the sleeves off (I'll write about this another time) so I've been trying to draft in a pattern hack to force them shorter and still retain the pattern feature.

I also decided to adapt the front piece a little by including a small bust dart. I then added the pinched out amount to the side seam to keep the seam the same length but introduce a little shaping. This may not work out - I need to do a toile of this area.

I also shortened the length because this pattern must have been designed with giants in mind.

Then I looked at a Lekala pattern again with a really intriguing shoulder treatment, a rectangle that gets stitched down on top of the normal shoulder area, not set in along those rectangular edges - I must post this properly. It is Lekala 4370.

I am worried that this is too tight as well so I did a FBA to allow an extra 1.5cm in each front. That should do it.  At first I thought this was waaayyyy too tight but I had mistaken the add on button band for an inner facing. Makes quite a difference, but not enough of one.

And finally on Lekala 5081 which had turned out to be too tight across the bust (I was thinner when I ordered this. Or is it meant for a zip? It is a perfect fit with one) and there was an issue of whether this is a knit or a woven pattern. It came up when I searched for woven patterns only, but said knit and stretchy on it. A pattern with a front button band AND bust darts AND sleeve plackets and cuffs? Really?
I very much doubt that.

I bought this because it looks the most like a standard blouse. Something that would be great as a design basis. If I can sort out the fit issue...

I adjusted the too long hem by pinning and trying it on several times, and then finally overlocked and cut it at the same time. The rest of this will have to wait. Like the placket and cuffs...

Hey, they are all blouses! Fab.

So I got on with several projects, and now I'm knackered and have sat down for a cup of coffee. I still need to make it because I started blogging! Duh.

Onwards and upwards after a well deserved break!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

That 'over blouse' pattern I've long been looking for

I am so excited! This is just fantastic.

I used to have a pattern for a big, over size women's blouse in a very relaxed cut. I just remembered that the blouse on the cover was in a sort of yellow fabric. And that there was something interesting going on in the shoulder area and that this pattern piece extended into the sleeves.

I couldn't remember anything else.  Only that I bought it years and years ago and it was bound to not be around anymore.  I also couldn't find it in my things. And I thought I only had the single piece of paper of the cover photo so it could have slipped in between other papers, or gotten thrown out when I came across it, and got the urge to just get rid seeing as I no longer have the actual pattern tissue.

I even looked through all my sewing patterns this morning to check again.

It doesn't help when you can't remember the name of the pattern brand either. Could it have been Style? Or one of the German brands I used to buy (decades ago), like Neue Mode, or even Ullstein? Which is a very old sewing pattern company, from the early 20th century that I believe is no longer around. I still have a couple of their patterns and you can buy some as vintage.

I spent such a long time looking for this! Today wasn't even the first time - I've been after this ages. If only I could at least find the cover photo with the number on it!

Well guess where I just found it after looking through the whole lot this afternoon while looking for another sewing pattern! Yep, the very thing.

I still have the instructions as well but definitely no pattern tissue. Darn.

The line drawing is shown, this might not be so very difficult to draw up myself - it is quite an ingenious way of cutting up a comfily big top with cut on sleeves - but I'd rather not to be honest.

So back online I went, there are even two US sellers who were parting with their copy! Crikey. Then I found a French seller who wasn't asking for huge amounts for postage - I ordered it!

Here it is, it is Burda 6230:

You can just about see the line drawing near the upper right hand corner, intriguing, isn't it! I am so happy that I found this.  I will make the pseudo pocket flaps a little less high but still with the slanted edge, I'll but it much less long but I will use raglan style shoulder pads (hello 80s!).

I'll start looking for a suitable fabric in my stash, I can't wait to get stuck in!

~ ~ ~

PS: I just remembered, when I bought this white fabric at Atlantic Silks clearance sale (they used to be in Electric Avenue in Brixton), the weight and dainty embroidered pattern made me earmark it for an over sized blouse like this. I think I'll go ahead with that idea!

I love it when a plan comes together...

This fabric has a pattern of white thread stitching

Friday, 8 July 2016

A quick project: one shoe bag assembled!

I can't believe how quick this came together, I am really pleased.

I read a Facebook post by a friend on a bag with drawstring top she made recently, and bemoaned the fact that I intended to make a bag for a pair of suede shoes I don't wear often (to prevent them getting dusty) and that I just hadn't "gotten around to it" yet, which set off alarm bells: I do that all the time, plan something so that I can firmly see it in front of my inner eye, and that seems to satisfy my creative urges: imagining things.

That's not good enough. So I thought I'd have a quick look in my mahooassive stash, and promptly found this pretty crafts fabric that I bought to make a knitting needle container (one day). So I'd rather use this now and look for another fabric that I like better for all my knitting needles. The thing is that I really love all those cute square motifs but I so beyond not fond of the green of the background colour, that I just couldn't face using this. Which was the problem.

I now realise that the fabric motifs would be great cut out and then sewn onto other fabrics so I am sure that the remainder of this fabric will serve me well. There is nothing better then getting stuck into a project because it will tell you something you didn't know before. And no amount of imagining can replace the actual doing and achieving. I ought to hang that on the wall! As a motto.

Back to the project at hand before I get even more excited about the potential of this fabric:

I put the pair of shoes onto the fabric in a position that I thought they would naturally fall into when in the finished bag. Then I measured across and up and down to make sure the piece would be large enough.

Then I sewed this into a tube, flatted that so the seam would sit at the back centre and sewed across the bottom. Then I overlocked those exposed seams. I folded the top raw edge under twice, pressed and then made the one error of the project (mistakes are great for learning, I can recommend that) - I sewed a buttonhole through all the layers of the tunnel - which of course means that I can't feed a string through the button hole opening into the tunnel: the buttonhole edges are keeping it closed. Duh.

I helped myself by threading a needle with the length of embroidery thread (for the string) and poked that through the button hole sides. Which makes the button hole completely redundant, but hey. Let's not be pernickety.

One shoe bag done and dusted. So to speak.

I might make more for other shoes, but just using a motif or two on different colour fabrics. It'll make a nice set without being too samey. I'm happy!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Vogue 1324 Donna Karan skirt

I did this in a heavy-ish jersey fabric I picked up from Ridley Road market, a couple of years ago.
I was surprised that this sewed quite well - and that's saying something because I've got a total hate-hate-hate relationship with jersey fabrics. I don't like them, and they certainly don't like me, and I usually make a completely mess out of jersey projects.

Oh well.

I love the Donna Karan skirt design. It is really interesting in so far as there is no vertical side seam: the panels that cover the side wrap round from the front towards the back for a bit. Not quite parabolic arches, but part of that shape.

Here's a photo to try and show the side "seam" area:

It's a bit difficult to see the seams, here is another photo of not quite the same area:

The front of the skirt is on the right-hand side of the above photo, and the back at the left-hand side (obviously).

I had huge problems with the waistband: the part that starts to one side of the front centre panel where there is no waist band, and wraps all around the back, - it gets folded over and forms the inner facing that I stitched down.

Where the centre panel was stitched to the sides of the waistband, the waistband extended way beyond this seam - I had so much left over that I laid it down towards the front centre: they didn't reach right to the middle so I just stitched them down. I had ironed some stretch interfacing to the top of the central panel to reinforce because it is a single layer right in the middle. Where I stitched those too long sides down I got three layers.

So something isn't right with this but it is probably me. I can't remember when I even started this so I may just have cut this strip too long. Or not long enough as the case may be. Who knows.

I decided to try this Vogue pattern in a jersey as a wearable toile. I could eliminate the back seam and the zip. I only stitched down the bottom of the inner facing in a few places so the fabric stretches enough for me to put it on. That works okay.

Not a great photo, but here's the whole thing. The front darts are interesting too, sat at an angle (as are the back darts):

The whole skirt is not fantastic (I mean my execution of it) but I may wear this around the house. Or if I am having a scruffy day then maybe to the pub, maybe one that isn't terribly well lit, if you know what I mean...

I like the fabric so I may try to sew with a heavier stretch fabric again. Maybe. I just have that difficult relationship with jerseys: I hate them and they hate me right back. They completely misbehave for me and I usually have a huge struggle on my hands with them. I am not a fan.

I like the design enough to want to make this in a woven fabric (as intended) but I am worried that I might run into fitting issues because of those side "seams". I don't know how a woven fabric would behave in the hip area.

It took me ages to get this finished but I am very pleased that I didn't abandon this. This is huge progress for me!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

I've done a sewing bee!

Well I did. I made this skirt in a Sunday morning - and to be honest I'm not quite sure how I managed to finish it within a relatively short amount of time.

I am always amazed at the short time available to the candidates on the Great British Sewing Bee and that most of them rise to the challenge - it would take me at least three times as long.  I really don't understand how you can anything in a few hours.

The back needs to be a touch longer when I make another one like this

But this time I actually started: picked the fabric, adapted a skirt pattern that fits me by making it the length I wanted, cut out, sewed together, inserted the zip (not necessarily in that order) and did the other bits: hemming, putting a facing in.

And it came together really well!

I thought I might have to cut out the pieces while overlocking them but the fabric turned out not to fray much like the crazy fraying fabric that I used for another, slightly longer skirt.  It went well.

The only thing that didn't go so well is that even though I stuck a pin in the length of the skirt back panel to one side of the centre vent, checked it twice to make sure the other side would be the same length... I still managed to get them different lengths. By a few millimeters so it's quite a bit off.

Not really sure how that happened.

I also need to let out the hem towards the side seam, it's just a bit crooked, which is again rather strange, but because I can do these things at the next sewing meeting I'll leave them until then.

Apart from that it's finished.  And yes, it's not lined which definitely accounts for the fact that I got this done in a morning. With lining, all bets would have been off!

What helped was that I knew the order I wanted to sew this in, and that this order suits me. I knew what needed doing and didn't have to figure things out in the middle - but the one thing that helped me the most: I didn't stop.

Which sounds obvious but it isn't to me - I often stop right in the middle because I have to figure out a complicated bit, or I feel that my focus and concentration have taken a break, so I stop to not mess up. I reckon that's a good thing but I could be getting back to it quicker than I do.

Let's take now: I got quite far with a long silver boucle skirt and could be sewing the lining hem, but I set it aside and I'm typing this instead.  That's my problem: I always find something else to do that's also worthwhile.

Oh well...

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Too big

I was complaining about how my Lucca shawl keeps coming out way too small, and I mean wayyyyy too small?  Here's the opposite problem:

I made another curtain, gah!  All that work and I can't really do anything with the finished item?

This was meant to be a shawl that's up to 100cm across. Instead it's a good 150cm diameter!
I can't wear that!?

Just look at my tippy-toes at the bottom edge of the photo, for size comparison (okay, you don't see much of my foot, you'll have to imagine it - each foam tile is about 50cm across).  I could have easily stretched this to even bigger, my constraint was the foam tiles. The area where the middle flowers are is a bit dense - I could have pulled this further on the outside points.

It is a pretty pattern though, I got lots of enjoyment out of knitting this.  Except when I ran out of yarn.  And that should have tipped me off about just how big this was going to get: I had two massive Fyberspates Scrumptous lace yarn skeins and got too close to running out - I used the dark blue yarn (also Fyberspates lace, this colour is called Midnight, my main light grey colour is called Water).

I wanted to switch to the contrast colour at a point in the pattern where it wouldn't look too horrible - this seemed as good a place as any.

I was glad to use up a stash yarn that I've had a number of years, so long in fact that I couldn't get more in the same dye lot and had to buy yet more in this dark blue. So I am left with the rest of that.

I was thinking that it might be nice to make a shawl like this in a few colours: different colorus for the centre and for portions of the outside.  Not in stripes or rings of the same width, perhaps one ring that's just an inch or so if it's a good spot between two other portions of the pattern?  It could look really good.

But that means that I would have to buy even more!  Yikes.

But I like the idea of a shawl in different colours: I would love to use this dark blue, a light pink, a small area in white and then some other colour for the rest.  I even saw a Niebling pattern that would be suitable.

But let's be honest: should I be buying yet more yarn?  I mean really?

The answer to that has to be no.

But I am still tempted now that I had the idea!
It's being able to see the finished product in front of my inner eyes, that's the problem.  I see something I like and I want it.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

How could I do this again?

I have to admit to being a complete idiot when it comes to sudden urges to buy yarn.  I gave in to temptation!  Yikes, and my stash is already threatening to bend the floor boards...

I couldn't resist the thought of some lovely, plump, squishy, gorgeous Madelinetosh Sock yarn!  It feels wonderful to knit with, and it feels like a luxury treatment for your feet when you wear them. Ah! I just simply cannot resist.

Too bad that I couldn't find the kind of colour I wanted, at least not for a reduced price.  But then there were two websites that had some colourways that weren't too bad, at a price that was lower than normal... You guessed it: I bought both!

Madelinetosh Sock - Vermillion
Whiskey Barrel c
And then I got them home, prepared to put them away - and guess what I picked up out of my stash?

You guessed it: another skein of Madelinetosh Sock yarn!

This one in Silver Fox, that I had won in an ebay auction that I'd half forgotten about by the time I won it (bad knitter, bad, bad, bad knitter!):

I saw these and couldn't resist:

Rico Design Superba Poem - I think the colourway is Greys
I would like to make a crescent shaped shawl in neutral colours so I thought that these black, grey and whites would be nice.  But I really didn't need more yarn, I've got lots of solid grey yarn left! Yikes.

This one was a bit of a mistake. The photo and mention of silk made me think that this is shiny yarn. But that's silly, since when is silk always shiny?

This yarn is black, it never photographs well

It is a good quality knitting yarn that's lovely and soft. I got this from the Knitting Shop. I am thinking of making another crescent shaped shawl with this but not yet.  Once I do, I'm sure that the shawl will be extremely useful.

But why oh why oh why did I buy so much new yarn?

This is terrible.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

I am not a size queen, but...

This is an awkward project. 
Or is it me? Am I doing something wrong?

I loved the lace-weight Pi shawl pattern Lucca by Brooklyn Tweed so much that  I had to buy it.  Never mind that I have a huge amounts of patterns I could do instead.  Sometimes you just see something that grabs your attention and you have to go with it.

This is a pattern where you don't knit knit rows in between lace pattern rows, you do something in each row - at least in the lace pattern sections that look quite delicate.

I was very intrigued by the roundish looking pattern rows (you get to do alternate rows there!) – these turn out to be one and a half repeats of the tulle pattern common to many lace shawl or tablecloth patterns.  You know the patterns that make big doilies?

I am really taken with the fact that using only six rows of this pattern gives such a different effect to what this pattern usually looks like.  In ‘doily’ patterns it is very often used as background - typified by two yarn-overs that you have to purl and knit to in the alternative row above.  What I get when I knit this it tends to look a bit loose and rough so I am not that keen on it, I much prefer the diamond shape pattern for lace backgrounds.

This is a really awkward pattern for me because I started it three times now in three different yarns and with increasingly bigger needles.

First attempt: petrol yarn and needles sized 3mm
Second attempt: a Fyberspates Scrumptous yarn (in DK?) and 4mm needles
Third attempt: a bright pin/purplish BC Garn Silkbloom Extra Fino yarn and x needles

My first attempt resulted in a tiny size that’s less than half the desired size. I wasn’t keen on producing something the size of a handkerchief!

Pretty. But just too small.

Second one was even worse: despite the bigger needles, this thick yarn wasn't working at all:

Just look at it! Tiny, compact, not what I wanted...

And the third attempt that I am determined to go with:

I already increased the stocking stitch sections by a few rows

So I started again.  And again the size wasn’t what I wanted nor what it looks like in the instructions. So I started again. Yes, I know I said that already, but I did. Third yarn, even bigger needles!

I am still not terribly happy with the size I am getting – but at least it’s a lot closer.

Maybe I can repeat some rows or pattern sections to make it bigger?  But I don't understand why my attempts come out tiny whereas the original photos make this look like a very comfortable size.  It is downright weird.

A funny outcome of this would be if blocking it would eventually give me a bigger size. That has happened to me quite often: I knit and knit at this misshapen blob of a thing and as soon as I start to pin the wetted down shawl, it seems to grow and grow and grow!

But this project has lots of stocking stitch sections, I really don’t think this is capable of growing much!?  But if it came out just a little bit bigger I would be very pleased.

Let me keep my fingers crossed!