Monday, 26 January 2015

Dogtooth checked trousers...finally

These have been a long time in coming! I think I've been sewing them on and off (well, mostly off!) for the last 6-8 weeks as other more exciting projects have come along and jumped the queue. But here they are.

The fabric is a black and white dogtooth check man-made fabric bought from John Lewis. I pre-washed it before cutting out view A from Burda 7123. I bought this pattern when they had the half-price pattern offer at the end of last year.

But then I made a total botch-up when cutting out and it's all my fault. I decided the crotch length looked far too short and added 10cm (why that much?!) As I sewed them up I added the side zip and tried them on and of course the crotch length was far too long (who'd have guessed!?). So, I then cut off the excess length which then meant most of the darts too! So, re-do the darts. That was better but the waist was too big so pinch out the excess there too. All of which meant lots of basting and trying on and more adjustments.

After that, it was plain sailing! The trousers have a waistband and I'm not sure I really like waistbands. I can't seem to get them to fit me properly and they are usually a bit too wide and with a slight gape at the back, but after all I've been through with these trousers I can live with a slight gape! I prefer facings to finish a waist area and I have so much more success with them, getting them to fit snugly, but sometimes, you know, you just like a change from the same-old-same-old and want to try something new. That'll teach me!

I've done well with matching the checks and inserting the zip, so I can say something positive about them! And as I'm sitting here at work typing this post I can say they are warm trousers, which is good. It's also a good sign that I'm wearing them as soon as finishing them too! I will say they are feeling a little bit loose, especially at the waist, but with all the messing about with them I'm not going to alter them. I think I have a habit of over-compensating and adding too much extra fabric just to be on the safe side.

Here's a happy smiling me because I've finally finished them! I wasn't fed up with them it's just I wanted them finished and I'm getting pretty desperate for trousers of just about any kind. So, they're fine but I'm starting to think about either making facings for future trousers from this pattern, or getting Sew Over it's Ultimate trousers...I'll have to have a look round the blogging world and see how they turn out. I need a good trousers pattern!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A quick fix top

So, after yesterday's post about a not-really-successful make, I'm showing you something that I've made that I really like. It's yet another of my favourite Simplicity 1363 tops that I seem to be on a quest to perfect the pattern. Well, after the (un)wearable muslin I needed a quick success-fix. Almost there in perfecting this pattern!

The hem is straight, it's just how it hangs on this hanger!

This time I tried adding an inch above the elbow and an inch below. I'd noticed on previous versions that the elbow dart doesn't seem to be in the correct place and I think that's because I used the pattern's lengthening lines to add my 2".

I added the usual 2" to body length and decided to use facings instead of making bias binding as this fabric is about the finest I've sewn with recently. The facings worked fine and were the right choice but I think I'm a bias-binding girl at heart! I'm not sure if I'll need to have a camisole underneath but it's been too cold at home to put this on I'll have to wait to see if the elbow dart placement is improved. That's why the coat hanger is modelling it for you! I know a lot of bloggers apologise for their photos but I'd rather see the finished garments than not at all. I'm a sewist not a photographer.

Here's a close-up of a good zip insertion, even if I do say so myself (!) -

Again, the pattern matching could be better but I can see improvement every time I try to do this better. The lines of pattern are absolutely horizontal in real life, honest! And here's a close-up of the fabric, in case you haven't seen enough of it already! 

I really did raid the John Lewis fabric sale. Twice! This is some of the fabric I bought but I've got tons at home, some of it just waiting for the right pattern, while others are in the queue in my head! I've sewn so much patterned fabric recently I feel I'd like to do some plain fabrics just to give my brain a rest.

What's on your sewing table? Or in the queue in your head?                                        

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

An (un)wearable muslin

Well, I tried a different pattern and also managed to use some fabric from my stash...but I have to say it was worth doing a muslin for this! I've learnt some lessons and things that I'll take forward and use in the next version I make.

The fabric was a large remnant, 2m x 1.5m of jersey bought when I was down in London in November last year. It's good quality and I pre-washed it before cutting out just in case it turned out to be a wearable muslin.

I used Burda 7678 and added the usual 2" to the lengths of the body and the sleeves. I think the sleeves are neither short nor long and I'd skip those extra 2" next time.

As for the body, well, it is very long. When I mean long I mean extremely long...long enough to be a dress and I'm 1.75m tall/5'9". In the photo above I've folded the lower band
over on itself to reduce length and tried to drape it as best I can. I know this style is draped and that's what I like about it but there is seriously too much length...oh the things I never expected to say in my lifetime!

The neckline is also V-shaped, which you can't cos my hands are in the way. Looking at it now, I'd prefer a round neck. I'm also not so keen on the fabric now I see it made into a garment. So, basically, I'm a bit disappointed in how this has turned out but I still like the style. In fact I've got 2 or 3 RTW tops that are this style.

I'd like to make it again but here are the lessons I've learnt:
1. maybe choose a finer, more drapey fabric
2. reduce the length of the body
3. either lengthen or shorten the sleeve length
4. make it with a round neck
5. Keep this unwearable muslin for reference and a lot of measuring

So that's that, then! It's not going in my wardrobe.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Square top...kind of!

I love the fabric! I decided to sew an old favourite pattern that I've sewn before herehere and perhaps less successfully hereSimplicity 1364. It's a reproduction vintage pattern from the 1970's but as I've obviously sewn it up so many times before, I don't feel it counts towards my vintage pattern sewing pledge!

So, easy pattern choice and I've sewn it quite a few times before but this fabric is quite fine. Because of the pattern I cut out each piece on a single layer in an attempt at better pattern matching than I've been doing up to now. Not difficult! Cutting took ages and I went a bit cross-eyed after staring at the pattern repeat for a good few hours.

Sharp eyed readers will see that I haven't finished the hem in the photo on the right. I grabbed my photographer as the light was reasonable, probably due to the blizzard outside which didn't half increase light levels inside! I have now finished the top and it's now had its final press and is hanging in my wardrobe.

Back to pattern matching. I have to show you the evidence of improved pattern matching. See how I didn't use the word 'perfect' there? Just managing your expectations! There is a zip in the centre back seam and I've done a good job at sewing it in. I just haven't managed to do up the hook and eye at the top. At least I've sewn them on though and that must be one of my least favourite jobs.Far too fiddly!

There are two places where the pattern match goes a bit off but hey ho, it took me ages to work it out with the long zip, plus a lot of hand basting. There's room for improvement!

I have to confess a bit of a 'challenge' with the back seam as I'd cut the two back pieces separately. Trying to work out the pattern match, anticipate how the zip was going in and adding a seam allowance to the pattern matching, all took their toll on my by that time frazzled brain. One of the edges had a miniscule seam allowance of barely 1/8". Not enough especially where there was a zip going in. So, I cut two strips of fabric and sewed it to the back edges, kind of like a facing, and then added the zip. A bit of a bodge job but it's better to do something now than have to try and repair a mess in the near future.

I also used facings to finish the neck because the fabric is finer and I though it would make it all sit better. I used ultra-light iron-on interfacing and that was the right choice for the fabric. I have to say that the facings may provide extra support to the neck area but they don't give a better finish than self-made bias binding. I think I'll revert to making my own bias binding the next time, because there will be a next time. I love this style and want to explore perfecting it. Maybe I'll add the belt the next time I make this, depending on the fabric.

Anyone else tried this pattern? I think it's one I'll be sewing for years as it's so versatile, especially if I can perfect it!

Monday, 12 January 2015

The accidental blouse

It was a kind of accident that this fabric became a blouse but there you go, that sometimes happens, doesn't it? I'd bought the fabric and then met my friend for some wine. She said it should definitely be a blouse, not a top. There does seem to be a difference there somewhere!

Funnily enough I'd been thinking of making a blouse as a future project, and had found just the right pattern, Simplicity 1279. I even found I'd bought just the right amount of fabric (to include the usual lengthenings). It was destiny, then!

This is a very good pattern to work with. I feel there were enough extra details to make me feel I was going to produce a good quality garment at the end of it. There are also options for different cup sizes. I added my usual 2" to the length of the body, I always look and see what height and where the waist hits. Even so, it has turned out quite long but I'm aware that this could be because I'm used to RTW blouses being a little on the short side for me.

I haven't sewn a blouse for years so it was good to get back into it but it did take much longer than simply running up a top! I'd forgotten that work goes into making the collar, front button/buttonhole bands and cuff openings. Here's a cuff close-up from 'cuff-cam' (just joking about that last bit,

There was also the small matter of sewing 9 buttonholes! And sewing on the 9 buttons by hand but now that I've read my sewing machine manual (!) I've learnt that I could have machine sewn them on. On Saturday I went to the Mighty David Drummond and bought a button sewing foot which should make it easier, and quicker, to sew buttons. You live and learn!

Anyway, back to the blouse, I sewed the version which has a grand-dad collar as I think this suits me and I wanted to start with an easier version of a collar, although I have sewn full collars in the past. Here's a view of the back-

The close-up photos give you a better idea of the flowers...and there are a lot of them! Again I'd say the fabric design is a bit retro-70s, which I like. This isn't a vintage pattern so I can't use it as part of my Vintage Pattern Sewing Pledge. I'm still playing catch-up with things I've sewn over the festive break. I think this is the last thing I sewed over the holidays but I finished another garment yesterday so will need to blog about that too!

The strange photo on the right is of the left front, showing the
collar and some of the numerous buttons I sewed on by hand. The hem is curved and wasn't a problem to sew. Which is a bit strange because I was expecting it to be! I tried various sizes and colours of buttons but  very plain white ones were by far the best. Anything coloured just didn't stand out enough and got lost in the flowers.

As for the fit, I just need to tighten the right cuff as it falls down onto my hand. Not an experience I usually have with my long arms! The left cuff is held in place by my watch strap.

The only other issue I have is perhaps the shoulders are too wide for me (another surprise!) as they're off my shoulders by about 1cm or slightly more. Looking at the pattern envelope, the shoulder seams should sit on the shoulders.

There's also a small wrinkle at the base of my neck, where the collar joins the yoke. The collar circumference is a good fit, but I never button it up in normal wearing anyway. It could be due to muscles from swimming which are making the yoke curve upwards rather than lie flat. What do you think? Any ideas what's going on here? Photos of this black background fabric in the wintery, stormy poor light are not good at getting any sort of detail.

Anyway, I'd recommend this pattern and I certainly will make it again. I've made a blouse that fits. Hurray!!!

Friday, 9 January 2015

I've taken the Pledge

No, I have not joined the people abstaining from alcohol for January or any other time of the year, just to be clear! I like the odd glass of wine or two and it might actually help me get through what I have pledged! I have thrown caution to the wind and taken up the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge for 2015 hosted jointly this year by A Stitching Odyssey and Kestrel Makes. You may have noticed the Vintage Pattern Pledge image on my blog homepage. How exciting! Has anyone else taken the pledge or is thinking about it? *runs off to try and find some vintage patterns*

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Note to self- read the manual!

I've had my trusty New Home sewing machine for years and gradually lost the bits and pieces that came with it. Not that there were that many, really. It's a pre- computer sewing machine but it lets me sew the clothes I want so I'm happy.

You know how sometimes you get an idea into your head and you've just got to do someone about it? I decided I should read my sewing machine manual. Except I don't know where it is. So, never one to be put off by a mere detail like that when I've got my teeth into something, I bought a replacement PDF download of my manual.

I am so ashamed to say that I've only got half way through reading it and already I feel such a numpty! There are things in this manual I should have remembered when I started sewing again in August last year after a break of a few years. I feel like I'm on a refresher course of how to use my beloved machine and feel I've been ignorant of all it's potential and capacity for doing quite extraordinary things I presumed it couldn't as I presumed it was just a humble, pre-computerised machine. I am really kicking myself!

For example, I have just finished a blouse and sewed on 9 buttons by hand. My manual says I could have easily sewn them on in a few minutes by machine!!! That'll teach me. I wonder what I'll find out in the next half of the manual? So that's my 'note to self' - in future read through the manual every few months or so just to remind myself of what my lovely machine can do. It's very easy to get into the habit of using the tried and tested stitches but it's capable of so much more. Does anyone else read their sewing machine manual every so often?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Just a hint of the seventies?

This is another fabric I saw in Edinburgh Fabrics a few weeks ago and didn't get round to buying it till last week. I've been throwing out a few RTW blouses and tops I'd bought ages ago so my cunning plan is to sew myself the replacements. 

I decided to use Burda 7079 which I've used once before here  and sew View A but adding the sleeves from View B (View B is a bit shorter than view A as it has a skirt attached). 

I made quite a lot of other modifications to this patter! I added 2" to the body length and the sleeve length too. Apart from lengthening the sleeves, they're cut as per the pattern and although wide, I love them! I also made the front neckline about 1.5cm lower. 

I didn't use the facings but made my own 25mm wide bias biding from the fabric. I've bought a wee gizmo that helps you make bias binding and nearly eliminates getting steamed fingers. Almost. It's a little bit fiddly getting the fabric poked through the metal end but after that you're away and making binding at a rate of knots! I think I'll buy the gizmo that makes 13mm wide binding too, those are the two widths I seem to prefer using.

Back to the pattern, I didn't put the slit in the front neck as I'm just not that convinced it would sit properly in this fabric. I also decided to have a go at inserting an invisible zip where the dreaded gap at the back is supposed to be. I'm not a fan of gaps at back necklines but I know you've got to have some way of getting in and out of a garment so some help is needed! I decided to do my first ever *drum roll* invisible zip as I got an invisible zip foot for christmas. Not having a scooby about how to actually insert the zip, I followed a Lladybird tutorial and it worked a dream! I even have photographic evidence!

It would have worked better and been more invisible (!) if I'd matched the pattern...something I've done on my current project, not yet completed. 

I finished the seams with pinking shears, I'm really getting into that finish for fine fabrics as it keeps the seam 'soft', if you know what I mean. 

I'm not sure if you can see the pinked seam finish and the hand stitched bias binding around the neckline, all in the photo below...but it's all there!

I think that with the wide sleeves this is more of a casual top rather than a top for work, but hey, I love it! I must try better at pattern matching though but you live and learn!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

It's going to mess with your eyes!

I saw this fabric a few months ago in Edinburgh Fabrics and for various reasons I didn't get back to buy the fabric until a couple of week ago. Right, the pattern is shall I describe it?...vivid?...stripey?...feathery?...all of those describe this fabric but probably the chap in the shop who cut the fabric and sold it to me described it best- "it's like one of those magic eye pictures". Careful with your eyes, here it is-

I just love this! I'd already decided on the pattern, it was going to be a batwing long sleeved top. I used New Look 6216, added 2" to the body length and made the sleeves as long as the fabric would let me. I pre-washed the fabric before cutting it out. I'm learning this is really a 'good practice' thing to do and I've started pre-washing all my fabrics, even the polyesters which are far less likely to shrink.

Back to the sewing! I've already used this pattern quite a few times before, here, here and very memorably here too! 

Here's an 'action photo' of the finished top. I've already worn and washed it since I finished sewing it a week ago. 

Now, isn't it funny how you pull out a tried and tested pattern and set about sewing up a very simple, 3 pattern piece top and hit a slight unforeseen problem- the stripes. I just couldn't get the stripes to match each other when I was laying out the fabric before cutting. I realised a while after trying to do this that the problem is the stripes are printed slightly 'off' the straight, i.e. the stripes aren't at right angles to the selvages. You probably heard me cursing, wherever you are in the world! You might be able to see the stripe-malfunction results in the finished hem of the top in the photo below. 

I wanted to use this pattern with a striped fabric so the stripes would go horizontally across the body and then vertically down the sleeves. I now realise that working with stripes can be problematic but with sewing this top, I've learnt what I need to look out for when sewing with stripes so it's been a good experience for me...especially as I've got two more lengths of striped fabric in the 'to sew' queue! 

Have you been tripped up by a pattern you've used before?   

Friday, 2 January 2015

More paisley pattern

You've probably guessed by now how much I love paisley pattern. I've been very lazy about blogging  the things I've sewn recently, so here's the first of my recent makes. I'm still trying to perfect one of my favourite patterns that I've made and blogged about before, here and here, vintage Simplicity 1364. I've got the body length correct by adding 2" but the sleeve needed to longer too. I thought it would be fine in the two previous versions but swimming has made my lower arms more muscular nd I've just got longer arms anyway. The three quarter length sleeve hems were a bit tighter than I'd like them to be. They're not unwearable, it's just something that I could improve. So, I had the pattern and when I saw this red paisley pattern cotton fabric at Edinburgh Fabrics I had to buy it.

So, this time, I added an inch above the elbow and also an inch below it. There's a lovely elbow dart and the additional length I've added means the dart just hits the right place!

I didn't make the facings around the neck but made my own bias binding. I'm not so sure it worked 100% and may try facings next time. The corners of the neck are quit an acute angle and there's a little bit of the bias showing. But only if you look closely!
 I'm very pleased and not a little smug at how good this zip in the back seam looks. Even if I do say so myself, I've made a very very good job of it and it isn't an invisible zip, just a bog standard ordinary zipper.

In the spirit of the vintage pattern, I finished all seams with my pinking shears and I've really been appreciating how 'soft' the keep the feel of the seam, if you know what I mean. I'm also a fan of zigzagging, but pinking has shot up to the top of my seam finishing chart just now! The photo on the left above shows the hem and back seam finishing.

Hey, this make wasn't anything revolutionary but I really enjoyed sewing it the lengthening to the sleeves was spot on! What are you making at the moment?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Bye bye 2014 and hello 2015!

It's been so long since I last blogged *hanging my head in shame*...but you know how it is at this time of year...but in amongst the going out and enjoying myself I've also been doing some sewing too. Which I promise to blog about very soon. Honestly, I will! But here's a few sewing things to catch up on.

  • For Christmas I got a 'Sewtionary' book which I know you're not really meant to start at the beginning and read through to the end, but that's just what I've done. I thoroughly enjoyed it, learning a lot of new things along the way too. 
  • Also for Christmas I got an invisible zipper foot. Confession time- even though I've been sewing for years and years, I've never inserted an invisible zip!  
  • I also bought myself a nifty wee device to make 25mm bias binding and I have to report that it actually works. I've used it for a recent project- to be blogged soon.
  • I bought myself a piping foot for my sewing machine 
  • I salvaged the mess I made of the black and cream dogtooth checked trousers I mentioned in a previous blog post. I basically added 3.5" to the rise and then found out, surprise, that the crotch length was too high. 
  • I've been at the John Lewis sale and bought a couple of lengths of fabric which will eventually turn into tops. They're fabric sale is very good, lots of fabrics at 50% off, including quilting cottons which I know can be quite expensive, even though I don't quilt myself.
  • I've sewn three tops (all unblogged so far!) and started a blouse 
I've been reading other bloggers review of their 204 sewing. Since I've only been blogging about my sewing since August, that's probably a bit of a stretch for me to do but I can definitely look to the year ahead so here's a list of things I'd like to do and sew in 2015-

  • sew something in silk fabric
  • buy a walking foot for my New Home (that tells you how old my sewing machine is!)
  • sew a summer jacket
  • sew a winter coat
  • make a pair of jeans
  • sew a plaid top
  • make a summer dress
  • sew some cotton lawn pyjamas, with piped seams
  • sew a raincoat
  • make more dresses
  • sew more blouses 
  • sew more knitted fabrics
...and with the intention of working my way towards a me-made wardrobe sometime in the future!

I feel that I would rather buy better quality fabrics and sew garments that fit me better (not perfectly, I'm just not that skilled!) but better than the RTW I could buy. It's a balance between what I can do in the limited time I have to sew anything but the goal of sewing myself towards a me-made wardrobe is one I'd really love to achieve. We'll see what happens!

What are your sewing plans or Sew-Resolutions for 2015?