Coat Progress – Sewing Menswear

I’ve been promising Mr W something handmade for years.  It’s usually met with a look of doubt, those shifty eyes that say “yeah, right!”  The first thing I thought I’d make was some shirts, found lovely ex-Paul Smith fabric at some of the sewing shows.  Then he got fussy – “make sure the stripes follow exactly, make sure they join at the cuffs and collar, make sure it doesn’t look homemade….  Well, that last one did it!!  HOMEMADE!?!?!?!

Needless to say, that lovely Paul Smith shirting found its way to making shirts and blouses for myself and the girls instead and he got nothing!  But for a while now I’ve wanted to make him a nice coat, something smart but comfy.  He’s massively allergic to spending money on himself, so wouldn’t ever think of dropping £100 or more on a single item of clothing that only gets worn in one season a year.

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Patternmaking for Menswear by Injoo Kim and Myoungok Kim

I originally thought I’d make a peacoat, but after trying out the Thread Theory Goldstream, we realised the shape didn’t suit him.  So I resorted to drafting one.  I have a couple of menswear drafting books, but the only one that had a good enough looking block and resulting patterns was this one, Patternmaking for Menswear – Classic to Contemporary by Injoo Kim and Myoungok Kim.  I bought it about 2-3 years ago from Foyles at their Charing Cross Store.  (amazon link)  We’d had a day in London, finishing at the book store while we waited for our train home and ended up with quite a pile of lovely books!

Anyway, I’ve looked through it loads of times, but never found the time (or inclination) to use it, until now!  Having made exclusively for females, this book helped to make sure I was measuring all the right places with good photos of where to measure for a man.  The only thing I had a problem with – and it was a major problem, was the unit of measure.  As it’s a US book, it’s all in inches!!  I tried to work that way, but got myself completely muddled.  My ruler might have inches on it, but trying to find 6.3225 inches on my ruler just wasn’t happening!!!  So I threw out that draft, which looked so wrong it wasn’t funny, and converted everything to metric.  I have a chart in my notebook now with all the little bits of inches converted into nice and tidy millimetres.

So, depending on what works easier for you, you might like to convert everything before you start, or maybe you know where to find 6.335 inches on a ruler that shows only 1/8.  The draft, once the measurements were converted, looked much better!  You start with a torso block – I chose the slim fit as we wanted a more fitted garment.  Then that block is converted to a slim fit coat block.  You do the same if you’re wanting a jacket, start with the torso block and convert to a jacket block.  The sleeve blocks are drawn for the correct block.

The original block had a pretty good fit, the sleeves were too long (not sure how I measured that much!) and they needed a bit more room in the bicep area, but otherwise all was good!  The only thing that threw me a little was when you’re told to extend or move a line out 1/4 to 1/2 an inch, or 1/2 to 3/4.  Doesn’t sound like much, but converted to millimetres that’s 3-6mm or 12-19!  That’s a lot of mms!  So I opted for safety and chose the middle.

Drafting the style lines and making the working pattern was next.  We chose the Chesterfield style as the base for this coat, drafting the main body of the coat was straightforward and the instructions pretty clear.  When you get to the lapels, collar and facings though, you start jumping around the book.  The collar and lapels are in the jacket section of the book, facings in the shirt section and pockets are back in the coats!  I have a fair few bits of paper sticking out the top of the book to keep my places!

The first working pattern toile went together really well, I was pleased to note all the pieces went back together properly and all the notches lined up well.  Pretty chuffed with the two piece sleeve too, the head is nice and smooth.  “Client issues” were as follows:

  • Coat too long!
  • Sleeves still too long (how??)
  • Break point just a bit too low
  • Collar fall a little too short
  • lapels just too narrow

So these are my adjustments:

  • Shortened the coat by 32cm so now it’s just above mid-thigh
  • Moved the back vent up so it works properly with the new length.
  • Shortened the sleeve by 3cm, 1.5 above the elbow line and 1.5 below.
  • Lifted the break point by 3cm.
  • Redrafted the lapels 7.5mm wider and the collar 1cm deeper in the fall.

I made these adjustments to the pattern on Saturday and toiled again, adding the pockets, yesterday.  I was lucky enough that Mr W came home before I went to bed and so I was able to get him to try it on again and check.  It all works!  I got the thumbs up!!  The fit is great, he thinks it may be too long still, but any shorter and it’ll be a jacket….  A coat needs to at least keep your bum warm!!

My next task is to draft the facings and lining pieces.  He wants two internal pockets and I know they’ll need to be reinforced, judging by what he does to his jacket pockets.  I want to find him a jazzy, different sort of lining and he’s asked for extra trims on the inside.  So I might dig out my silk box and make reams of bias strips to sandwich into the seam between the facings and lining.

We had a devil of a time finding a suitable fabric that didn’t break my bank, I had thought this fabric from Fabric Godmother would be different enough, but he turned up his nose at the sample.  Evidently it’s “too different”.  Eventually in desperation I got some Melton samples from Fabworks and made him agree that the Classic Onyx Melton would do just fine for his first handmade coat.  If the inside is interesting enough..  (insert eye-roll here)

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Top, Onyx Melton from Fabworks, bottom, Navy Melton from the same, and left, blue and black wool from Fabric Godmother

That’s only part of my coat making adventure that was supposed to take place in September.  If you follow on Instagram, you’ll have see I’ve already finished one coat, and as soon as the person for whom it was made comes to put it on, I’ll to show it all off!  There’s another in progress, only at toile stage at the moment, but hopefully I’ll be able to move it forward this weekend after a fitting.  That’s everyone else’s coats, I haven’t even started on mine!

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Sneek peek of Burda coat 101 05/2017 in grey windowpane wool for Daughter No 1

Anyone else making coats this month??

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M&S Suit Refashion

I may have mentioned that I was thinking of joining the Refashioners 2017 challenge in the last post.  I has all sorts of ideas running through my head, all dependent on what sort of suit I could find, and how much I wanted to spent.  And whether anyone would wear what I came up with in the end…  Warning this is a long and picture heavy post!

I rummaged in the local charity shops in town and came home with my wallet £30 lighter and my bag two suits fuller.  The first to be used is a size 18 ladies Marks & Spencer wool trouser suit, navy with grey windowpane check.  I sort of thought of making a pencil skirt from the trousers, and turning the jacket into something shorter and more fitted.  Of course, I started pulling it all apart before I managed to remember that a “before” picture might be required.  Thankfully I managed a photo of the jacket, sort of halfway through being unpicked.

I started with the trousers.  I really wanted a long, fitted pencil skirt, like the Pulmu in shape.  But there wasn’t enough fabric for that plan.  There was a photo from the 2018 Carolina Herrera Resort Collection on my Pinterest board that I really liked, shape, angles etc.  As I thought this refashion might be worn by daughter no 2, I showed it to her and explained what I wanted to do.  Nope.  She liked the fitted shape and wide shoulders (sorta) but didn’t like the bottom half of the top at all. (The best bit in my opinion!)  So I took ideas that would work, the centre seam, 45 degree angles, wide shoulders and fitted bodice.

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Suit trouser legs pinned together along the stripes so nothing moved while I cut the pattern pieces for the top.

Turning to the bodice block I drafted something I thought would work, only to find there just wasn’t enough fabric, the trousers are too narrow.  A compromise meant I needed to cut flanges for the extended shoulders (and honestly, they could have been wider) and insert them into princess seams in the front and back.  I still wanted the angles though, so the upper fronts are cut on the bias, after drawing on the lines of the windowpane to make sure they’d be lining up properly.  All pieces are cut like this, I wanted everything to line up.

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Most of the windowpane lines up!

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It didn’t turn out too badly, to be honest!  Not all of the windowpane lines line up exactly, but with the angles going on I’m still happy with the result.  I had in mind that it would be more of a waistcoat-type top than a top-type top, and thought I’d use a separating zip in the centre front.  But instead we have an invisible zip in the left side seam – client requirement.. 😉  The armhole and neck edges are bound with navy bias tape from the stash, so all I had to purchase to complete the project was the zip.

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dsc_0036-011439274080.jpegThe top has a shaped hem, dipping lower into a slight curve in the front, and being higher in the back with a “v” notch in the centre back, reminiscent of a waistcoat.  I like the shape of  the top, it looks really good with high waisted trousers!  Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of it on a person, Betty the dummy will have to do.  That’s Part One of the project!

Part Two took a little longer…  I really wanted to turn the square, only slightly fitted jacket into something much more interesting.  I had thought of using the Bellatrix pattern, but it would never have fitted onto all the bits of jacket fabric remaining.  So I thought of a biker jacket…  I also wanted to reuse the jetted pockets – no point remaking something that’s perfectly good already.  But biker jackets don’t have pockets in the position that these were in, so they needed to change orientation.  More angles!!  Also, this is when I remembered the September 2017 issue of Burda magazine had a pretty sweet biker style jacket in it that might be useful.  I liked the shoulder yoke shape and knew I could do something with it and the existing parts of the jacket I wanted to save.  I traced daughter no2’s jacket block and set to work!  This project is part pattern cutting and part draping!

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I used the stylelines of the Burda jacket to get the proportions right, and pinned and draped onto Betty (my vintage dressmaker’s dummy).  There were bits of paper and fabric all over my sewing room while this went on, a real mess.  There was just enough fabric in the existing sleeves to recut sleeves to fit, the cuffs for the sleeves were made from what was left over from the trousers.  I reused the sleeve head pads, they give a lovely sharp shape to the top of the sleeve.

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Working out how much I need for the contrast on the front, and getting the angles right!
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Changing the angle of the pockets makes them useful again

I managed to reuse the waistband from the trousers to form the hem band on the jacket, which was brilliant!  I did have a small meltdown moment when I realised the whole jacket wasn’t going to come from the fabric I’d managed to harvest.  That’s where suit number two came in very, very handy.  It was a men’s 3-piece wool suit in grey.  I’d deliberately chosen it to be able to combine with the ladies suit fabric if that’s what I’d needed.

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I cut up the waistcoat to make the shoulder yokes and the contrast “V” on the front.  This makes the jacket much less formal, gives it a sporty vibe that contrasts quite nicely with the suit fabric.  The original lining was a dull, unfriendly colour, and not enough in the right shapes and sizes to reuse, so I dived into the stash and found a yummy raspberry satin lining left over from a coat I’d made years ago for daughter no1.  I love these two colours together!

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All the angles coming together

 

bj6The only thing I wish I’d taken more time over is the zip.  I should have waited to be able to buy a longer length, but as I couldn’t get what I needed locally I opted for “this will do”, which is ok, but actually never does “do”.  A longer zip would nave finished at the neckline instead of a couple of centimetres short.  At least the snaps work!  I got 6 large, dark bronze sew on snaps for the hem band, cuffs and neck.  They’re sewn on using buttonhole stitch, they aren’t budging for a long time!

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That raspberry satin lining is gorgeous

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I really love the finished project, I’m glad I took the time to pin all those check intersections on the fabric, and drew all the lines onto the pattern pieces to ensure I’d have a better time pattern matching when it came to the sewing.  Patience makes so much difference!  I wish I’d had enough time to refashion the second suit for the challenge, but other things had to be done too.  I will refashion it and show you what I managed to do, but it won’t be soon.  I have in mind a pair of culottes and a long line blazer, but it might not work!  The thing with refashions is to be prepared to change your mind, go with the flow and adapt to what you have to hand.  It’s certainly taught me something!

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Click on the individual images below to see them in detail.

 

 

On my Sewing Table – 1920s Evening Dress

Oh my word, how fast is this year spinning by?  I still have a pile of fabrics to use up and patterns to find, not to mention still ploughing through daughter no2’s summer wishlist.  I have done pretty well using up stashed fabric this year, I haven’t calculated any totals yet, not measured anything, but I’m feeling positive that I’m going in the right direction!  The project I’m working on at the moment is also a stash bust, but only half.

Earlier in the year, I was asked by a friend to make a 1920s evening dress for her to attend a charity ball in September.  At the time I said, yes, why not?  Sounds like fun.  I started looking at patterns online and had a few ideas, then when I won a pattern of my choice from Decades of Style I thought I might as well pick something useful.  So together we decided on the Zig Zag dress.  I duly ordered it and promptly forgot all about it.

A couple of months passed and said friend mentioned that we probably ought to make a start on the dress…  OH DEAR!  I admitted total forgetfulness and then thought, where’s that pattern??  Decades of Style assured me that it had been sent out long ago, so someone else is enjoying my pattern – grrrr.  They sent out a new one, but of course, now we’re getting twitchy.  In the meantime we bought what we thought was the perfect fabric, but it was all Croft Mill Fabrics had left, and it was less than the Zig Zag dress required.  We needed to figure out contrast areas.

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Ideas based on the Decades of Style Zig Zag Dress

So I went back online, made a few sketches, had a few ideas.  Eventually we settled on a new design and I started to draft from her close fitting bodice block.  I drew a panel at the hip, divided the skirt into three and added 3cm of flare to the hemline of each panel.  The front and back bodice both got a v-neckline, the back deeper than the front.  Because the fabric has a zig-zag sequin motif I decided against any curves, so the hip panel is straight and angular.  The pattern pieces fitted comfortably on the fabric, I had enough black silk charmeuse in my stash to use for the lining, we were sorted.

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Top left, curved hip panel and fuller, non-paneled skirt with straight hip panel and 6 gored skirt. Right, straight hip panel in plain black with 6 gored skirt. Zig Zag sequin fabric, bottom left.

Except that we couldn’t decide whether the hip panel should be sequins or plain.  A general agreement on Instagram was that it should be sequins, you can never have enough!  I had only one way to make sure we were on the right track.  I had my friend hold the fabric up against herself and I tied a width of black chiffon around her hips.  Folding the fabric up to the finished length, we then looked in the mirror.  We liked what we saw, then I removed the chiffon…  Not so dramatic.  Even though we thought sequins would be better, turns out we both preferred it with a plain black hip panel!  Go figure.

The lining has been made up, all seams French seamed and the neckline stabilised with Vilene bias tape.  As of now the sequin fabric has been cut and I was left with masses of chopped sequins on the cutting table, and everywhere else in the sewing room where they’d ricocheted after being cut.  Thankfully my new vacuum cleaner made short work of the stuff on the carpet, but I’ve a feeling I’l be hoovering up sequins for a while yet.

Now my task is to hand baste the skirt seams, remove the sequins that are in the way and then machine the seams.  The sequins are attached to mesh, so there won’t be any fraying.  I’m tempted to run the seams under the overlocker, but I’m not sure it’ll play nicely with that fabric.

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Sequin casualites everywhere!

The Decades of Style pattern eventually turned up on Friday morning, sadly, too late for this project, but hopefully I’ll have occasion to use it.  I really appreciate the company sending out another pattern, who knows where the first one ended up, but I hope the person who has it eventually gets a conscience.  So, this is my task for the weekend and into next week.  I want to get it all finished by next weekend, partly so I know it’s done and partly because there are lots of piles of things still waiting on my cutting table!!

We Like to Boogie

Flared jeans, I’m never taking them off!

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Jeans.  The staple of just about everyone’s wardrobe since the 70s.  They come in various guises, colours and lengths but we cannot get enough of them.  Since their introduction as basic workwear they have undergone dramatic transformations in style, detail and of course, the fabric they’re made of.  The quest for the perfect pair of jeans is rather like the Quest for the Holy Grail.  We’d do anything to find them, including shelling out large amouts of money on designer jeans.  But us sewists are the lucky ones, we can make our own!

I’ve made jeans for the girls before, but never made a “proper” pair for myself.  I bought a couple of Hot Patterns jeans, came very short with the one and gave up on the idea.  Then the Closet Case Gingers came along & I bought the PDF immediately.  I even bought fabric, but when it came to the crunch I chickened out of actually making them.  I just wasn’t convinced about the styling and fitting – that they’d look good on me. I’d already justified the purchase of the pattern, I was going to use the skinny version for the girls, of course…

In the intervening months I bought more stretch denim, black, caramel & beautiful blue.  They liked my stash, too happy there to ever come out & be used.

The style is always the thing I get stuck on.  I like a straight leg, but you just cannot beat a bootcut or flare to make your legs look longer, or to balance out a larger body/hip.  I buy bootcut jeans whenever I can and love a flare.  My ordinary trousers can attest to that!  Then in December I started seeing flared jeans aplenty on the internet.  Sewists were making flared jeans!  Where is that pattern!  I NEEDED it!

I bought the Baste + Gather Birkin Flared Jeans on my birthday at the end of December (getting Mr W to print the pattern on A0 at the office, ssshhhh).  I had the fabric, I had the pattern.  Just to make it up…  Now Daughter No1 is safely wandering around Thailand with a rucksack of handmade goodies to wear, I can turn my attention to sewing for myself again, and JEANS are on the top of the list!

I started tracing the pattern last week, finishing on Monday this week and finally making a half toile.  I really wanted to check the fit around the top half, the length wasn’t a big worry.  I made the size 35, based on my waist measurement.  Apparently the hip should have been a size lower, but I have a bum & tum to fit into that space and with 3inches (7.5cm) negative ease, I wasn’t taking any chances!! After the toile I decided to add a little (5mm) to the inseam on both legs to accommodate wide thighs and curved out a little extra on the CB seat seam.  I also wanted to change the opening of the fly from the right to the left.  All of my trousers are left hand opening, & I can’t explain how confused I was trying to open and close the toile with my right hand!  Silly, yes??  The rest seemed ok & I couldn’t wait to start!

I chose a dark charcoal denim with 2% lycra from the stash.  I’d bought it from Croft Mill Fabrics around this time last year!  It has a fabulous handle, soft on the underside, and a slight sheen to it.  I thought it would be perfect as a slightly dressier look than “normal” coloured denim.  Threads, zip & button were all from the stash.

I really like the instructions for this pattern.  All are well written and illustrated and you really cannot go wrong with them.  I think quite a few pairs of jeans were taken apart to provide the exact level of detail that has gone into this pattern.  It’s the best way to learn to make things – take something apart and see how it was put together in the first place!  I used white pocketing for the pockets and instead of simply sewing the bottom seam and overlocking, I make some quick French seams.  Hopefully this should be stronger, depending on what I decide to jam into my pockets!

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French seamed pockets, a vintage button and more topstitching details.

The fly is inserted in a way that not many sewists will be used to, it’s a method used mostly in industry for men’s wear.  But it’s well described and goes together well.  The only thing I’d say is, if you have the right length zip (I had 5″) you will not have to cut off anything, pliers will be unnecessary and you will skim past the bottom end of the zip with your topstitching.

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Zip details & topstitching

Topstitching……  I don’t use topstitching thread most of the time but for jeans you need that thicker thread for a more authentic look.  I have in my needle box a twin denim needle, perfect for accurate double lines of topstitching on the perfect jeans.  Except my Bernina didn’t like it at all.  It allowed me the satisfaction of neatly stitched pocket top edges and then stopped.  Any more attempts resulted in a hissy fit and a nice lump of thread under the fabric.  Similar effects happened when trying to use a single row of topstitching.  I have to add here that I didn’t use a topstitching needle.  That’s one thing I didn’t have to hand and the local haberdashery didn’t stock so exotic an item.  The stitching looks ok from the top, but when you turn the fabric over there’s a lovely collection of loops of topstitch thread and the bobbin thread is ineffective.  I tried tightening the bobbin tension but nothing worked.  Just to show how perverse my fabulous Bernina is, it was perfectly happy for me to use the jeans twin needle with normal thread in one needle and topstitch thread in the other.  Machines! *throws hands in the air*

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Adventures in topstitching, using the twin denim needle only lasted the top of the pockets. No decorated back pockets this time, I was far too impatient!
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Various attempts at topstitching, bottom left you can see the loops of topstitch thread on the underside, right you can see the compromise, twin needle with 1 topstitch & 1 ordinary thread.

There is even a little trick to make sure the centre back seam still looks like it’s in the centre, topstitching and all.  You place one back leg piece 1cm away from the other, then stitch at the normal 1.5cm seam, once you iron the seams in one direction and turn it over to the right side, you’ve (hopefully) got a matching yoke seam and what appears to be an even placement of the pockets.  Topstitching can seriously throw the symmetry off, even if it all measures the same, visually it’s tricky!

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Centering the CB seam

But seriously folks, my misbehaving machine was the only issue I had with the construction of these jeans.  That and my over-enthusiastic estimation of the length of my legs!  I measured the inseam of 34inches (84cm) with my boots on and determined it was a good length for me…  Erm, nope!  I chopped off 8cm and turned up 2.5 for the hem!  I didn’t have to worry about loosing too much of the flare (there’s plenty!) thank goodness.  I have now used the shortening lines to take out 2cm in the mid-thigh and another 2 mid-calf.  The remainder will come off the bottom, it’ll be fine! 😉

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Never taking these off…

Once on, the jeans are so good!  The high waist, and it is high, ensures no muffin top, HURRAY!  In photos of other versions of the jeans the waistand doesn’t to be as high as it is on me, but the lower edge of the waistband sits on the top of my hip bones, so it cannot go any lower if it is to be a high or natural waist.  But I likes it!  I didn’t think I’d be going back to waistlines on the natural waist ever, but I might be persuaded now.

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By the way, that’s a new tee!  Made last night after a day of gallivanting, I needed to do something productive.  Luckily it was already cut out the night before so all it needed was a little Vilene bias tape for the shoulder seams and it was good to go!  The pattern is a self drafted one.  I shortened the sleeve from the original version which I wore to the dreaded wedding in December.  The fabric is the most beautiful viscose jersey from Ditto Fabrics, the drape is fabulous and it’s so soft!!  It’s my second make for the summer (who said I was wishing the year away??)

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Happy in my new jeans, just need a bit of healthy eating to remove that tummy sticking out there!

Mr W likes these jeans, says the fit is really good, so I must have done something right! 🙂  Apparently there will be an “add-on” for this pattern which involved making the legs into skinnies.  Could be interesting.  I’d prefer a straight leg myself, and with a fit around the top as good as this one, playing with the legs to make millions of pairs of jeans will be so much more fun!

ps, this is my just-in-time sumbission for Jeans in January!

 

A Hot Weather Dress

My sewing machine has been working overtime during the last week and a bit, quickly trying to make the last few things for Daughter No 1.  The departure for her planned travel to Asia, Australia & America has finally come.  Amongst the things I made for her (which I will cover in another post) was this dress.  She wanted something that would just hang, not cling, and be cool to wear in the tropical humidity of Thailand, something suitable for cocktails on the beach in Fiji & totally wearable when exploring Rodeo Drive.  It needed to have fullness, but not be a tent.  She didn’t want extra fullness in the front, hanging from the bust.  She drew me a sketch of what she had in mind, then left me to it.

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A sketch of the dress Daughter No1 wanted for her travels

I started with her close fitting bodice block, drawing a one piece dress block and then converting it to the lingerie block.  This involves reducing ease and doubling the size of the bust dart.  For the dress pattern the bust dart was moved to the underarm position.  I added a section to the side, from the waist to make the fullness.  The double darts in front and back were eliminated, but the back dart was effectively transferred into the centre back, making the back shaped and fitted.  I also needed a swayback adjustment of about 2cm.  I intended to use an invisible zip in the centre back, French seams throughout and self bias for the top edges and straps.

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The toile in cotton. The swayback adjustment hadn’t been done.

The toile revealed that I needed a swayback adjustment, and that I needed to alter the fit of the top.  Daughter No1 wanted it a little looser.   I was concerned about the hang of the handkerchief section, but hoped that in the silk that we’d chosen that it would look a lot better.

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Dress in progress, silk definitely drapes better than cotton! And the swayback adjustment worked a treat.

The silk was given to me by a friend, it’s got the most beautiful sheen and drape, but for me, it was just a little too bold.  However, Daughter No1 loved it!  The bands are a red and white hatched pattern, while the blue is actually purple and black.  I only had two metres and it was pretty narrow but we had just enough to squeeze the dress out.  I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough for the bias strips.  Thankfully that wasn’t the case in the end, I didn’t really need that much bias.  But please remind me that working with narrow bias in silk really isn’t easy, and tries the patience of anyone, especially when you’re up against the clock.

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Putting an invisible zip into a french seam, reinforcing the area with fine interfacing.

I made the pattern on Saturday night, toiled it midday Sunday, made the adjustments and got cracking immediately.  It had to be finished by 11am on Monday morning!!  Needless to say I was still handstitching bias at 11am so we left a little late for the airport, but all was good, she loved the dress and stuffed it into the rucksack straight away!  I am hoping to see photos of it in far of exotic places on Instagram soon!  Here it is on Betty, my vintage mannequin.

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I love the drape at the sides, and the slight drop of the handkerchief hem.  I really do hope it sees lots of wear in the next 6 months!

Best laid plans & all that

Sooo…  Sewing an Autumn/Winter wardrobe.  Sort of going ok, but a little sidetracked!  A wedding invitation has scuppered my sewing plans a little.  Admittedly, we did receive the invitation some time ago, definitely way before I made my sewing plans, but like all things I dread, I’d pushed it to the back of my mind.

The dreaded invitation...
The dreaded invitation…

Initially I thought of chanelling a bit of a 70’s vibe, maybe some flared trousers, a crossover top with bishop sleeves, that sort of thing.  But then I reconsidered, I didn’t want to be looking like I was supposed to be attending a themed Christmas party and got lost.  The wedding is on the 19th December and we’re invited to the whole shebang, not just the dancing and snacks afterwards, so I wanted something that would look good from 1pm to 1am!

Some outfit ideas - no 70s vibes!
Some outfit ideas – no 70s vibes!

Now I’m a daywear sort of person, sure I like the idea of dressing up, but we just don’t go out much – blame Mr (not) Compulsive, he works too much.  So I have nothing I could just whip out and wear, not that I’d do that anyway, who needs an excuse to make another outfit??

Here's an idea...
Here’s an idea…

After much deliberation, head scratching and hair pulling I had a brainwave.  Plain simple black trousers (there was a nice pattern in a BurdaStyle magazine last year) with a silvery coloured top, drapey (cue the timely launch of Colette Patterns Wren crossover dress) and something to keep me warm, I liked the Longley Cardigan by Wendy Ward.

So I bought said Wren PDF pattern with bonus sleeve pack (why don’t they just sell it with one longsleeve, marked for short, elbow and 3/4 length??), thinking I’d chop it at hip length and make a peplum sort of thing, I already had coming in the post a silvery-grey slubby jersey from Clothspot. I’d been eyeing it for a while and when I discovered it has suddenly moved into the remnants section I realised I could put off buying it no longer!  It seemed perfect, crossover top with peplum in silver-grey slubby jersey, the black trouser fabric was on its way from Croft Mill Fabrics and all I needed to find was the perfect colour boiled wool for the cardi.

Wren toile
Wren toile

But I didn’t like the Wren-as-top.  I’d made some pre-toile alterations, widening the ridiculously narrow sleeve, making it 3/4 length instead of elbow, doing a FBA and lengthening the bodice slightly.  Turns out I needed to lengthen dramatically and choose a different size to FBA.  I decided I couldn’t be bothered right now.  I wanted to make all the other fabric taking up room on the cutting table too!!

Unimpressed face
Unimpressed face

I reverted to a favourite shape, a drape cowl.  Using my tee-shirt block developed earlier in the year I had a little play with cowl depth and drape and made 3 versions, the last was the happy choice.

Making the cowl drape front pattern
Making the cowl drape front pattern
Testing the drape and cowl depth on vintage Betty
Testing the drape and cowl depth on vintage Betty, this is version two.

So quick to make up and the silver-grey jersey is perfect in it!  I didn’t go straight to the silver stuff though.  To make sure I was perfectly happy with it all I used a sort of denim blue-grey jersey from Fancy Silk Store and made the pattern up.  I’ve worn that tee soo much!  (Really needs its own post)

A very wearable, and much worn already, first version of the cowl drape tee.
A very wearable, and much worn already, first version of the cowl drape tee.

The wedding version was cut & made in a couple of hours using the overlocker and twin needle on my sewing machine.  One down, two to go! You’ll see good, proper pictures when the whole outfit is done..

Almost done just needing hems.
Almost done just needing hems.
Trying it out for the first time, I like it!!
Trying it out for the first time, I like it!!

I hae toiled the Burdastyle trousers I thought I wanted.  Turns out they weren’t quite what was in my mind, so I’ve drafted a pair from my own block, toiled and fiddled and am ready to cut the main fabric – today!! Fingers crossed…

ps.  I still haven’t given any thought the the “fancy headgear” referred to in the invitation.  Help…?

Hello Sailor

What is it about navy and white stripes that gets us thinking all summer and seaside?  I’ve been hankering after a blue and white, or white and blue stripey tee-shirt for months now, but never found the right one in the shops.  I’d steered clear of sewing my own until I had a decent knit block to work from, and that was taking time to get right too.  Then, by chance, I popped into one of the ladies shops in my local town and found a navy and white stripe jersey maxi dress, in my size, and that fitted rather well!!  On sale it was a snip at £34, so I bought it, with the idea of lopping off the bottom half so I’d have two tees!!

I should have taken a photo of the maxi dress before it got chopped up, but there you go, I was in far too much of a hurry!  It was/is from Scottish company Marble Clothing and can be seen here.  The first tee was made pretty easily, I simply put the dress on and marked with a couple of pins where I’d like the finished edge to be.  On taking the dress off, I measured down 2cm, then went a bit further down to get a stripe and cut along that line.  I used a twin needle to stitch the new hem and ta-daa…DSC00091-1

I love it!!!!  The neckline is really good for me, the scoop is perfect, just the right depth and width and it doesn’t stretch out while wearing, unlike my Plantain tees.

DSC00104-1I have taken the side seams in a bit since seeing these photos, and I wish I’d cut it a stripe or two longer, but of course, if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to make another tee!

DSC00106-1The bottom half was saved for another tee, but this time it wouldn’t be as easy or quick!  I’d made a start on a knit block earlier in the year and had to do loads of fiddling, only to make a tee that was too small.  So I decided to revisit the block and fiddle a little more.  I haven’t documented the process, I just kept changing and tweaking with each toile.  I’ve used a lot of jersey in toiles!!!  Eventually I managed to come up with a shape that worked and fitted, but course, I’m aware that with every different type of jersey it’s going to be very different, which is what’s annoying about knits…

I decided I’d like a v-neck tee with short sleeves – the sleeves ended up being shorter than I’d wanted, but lack of fabric dictated what I could have in the end.

DSC00117-1I started by cutting up the side seams of the skirt and then pinned the stripes together.  The front and back were placed to use the existing hem which helped with lining up the stripes on the side too!  The sleeves had to be cut separately, one on each skirt half and they had to be squeezed in so there’d be space for the neckband.  I had to piece the neckband, there just wasn’t enough length in the fabric to get it out in one shot.

DSC00122-1Making up was dead easy and really quick, the only issue was the neckband, getting that point right in the front meant I decided to sew it on with the sewing machine first, after a little fiddling I got it perfect, then went back over it with the overlocker and messed it all up!!  grrrrrr  I couldn’t do too much with it because – overlocker….  Damn.  The rest went together swimmingly, and I got those stripes on the side seams matching like a dream.

I love my new tee shirts!!  The fit is fabulous, the jersey itself is amazing.  The content is cotton with lycra and it’s lovely and soft.

Matching stripes - like a boss!
Matching stripes – like a boss! 
Not 100% happy with that flippy sleeve…

The only thing I’m not happy with in the second one, is the sleeves. The hems tend to roll up to the outside, I think it’s because they’re quite short and the hem is just 1cm. I might try adding a band to the bottom, I have some white cotton jersey in the stash that may help.

Now for the trousers..  I wanted a pair of trousers with flare/wide bootcut as a nod to the 70s trend this year.  There is a great pair in the July issue of BurdaStyle, but it wanted stretch fabrics and the fabric I had in mind was a beige linen – no stretch fibres built in.  So I reverted to another TNT pattern, 118 from April 2009.  I just love the shape of these trousers, but I do have to shorten them drastically!!  6cm has been folded out of the leg length of this pattern in order for it to fit my short Scottish pins.  The pattern goes up to a 44, so I did a little extra grading and made a 46 from hip up.  I just don’t go in enough for the 44 to fit comfortably!!  I think actually that I can get rid of a bit of this extra though, and take in a little down the thigh.  After putting on a bit of weight while I was out of sewing action and very, very bored, I have been able to get rid of the extra flab.  This means that I don’t actually need some of that extra ease I built in to the making of these pants!  So I’ll run a new line of stitching from the knee to hip and get a better shape for the flare from the knee down. (  Update – I have actually taken the side seams in from the waistband to knee, making for a much better fit and look overall.)

DSC00102-1I picked the perfect thread to sew with, you can’t really see any of it in the topstitching.  These little front patch pockets and just right, they try to discourage me from having my hands in my pockets too much, but are just the right size for my phone or a little change.  I am addicted to pockets, I never really know where to put my hands if I don’t have any!  I used seam tape for the hem, another occasion of just managing to fit the pattern pieces on the fabric.

Details, left, the inside of the zip, top right, the patch pockets, & bottom right, the hand stitched seam tape on the hem.
Details, left, the inside of the zip, top right, the patch pockets, & bottom right, the hand stitched seam tape on the hem.

DSC00089-1I love how these trousers look with the stripey tee shirts, they’re going to be the first thing I pack in my suitcase for my week in Cornwall!

In other sewing news, the prom dress was finished in time and looked fabulous! I have a couple of photos on my phone, but have yet to persuade daughter no2 to get dressed up again so I can take decent ones for you all to see.  We need details!  I also downloaded the Mandy Boat Neck Tee from Tessuti Patterns after spotting a few online and seeing Thornberry’s latest versions.  I’m obviously not over my quest for a square tee.  I made it quickly a couple of weekends ago, mid prom dress, and I’m dead chuffed!  So that’s another post waiting for photos.

Perhaps, if the weather’s not all it’s cracked up to be next week, I’ll be writing blog posts from our holiday apartment instead of exploring the Cornish countryside with the family.  I won’t be taking any sewing stuff with me this time not even patterns to trace!  I need desperately to crochet loads and loads of granny squares for daughter no2’s granny square afgan for University, I can’t believe there’s only one month today until she goes!  Time flies people…

*UPDATE* I thought I’d posted this particular post before setting off on holiday, then wondered why things were so quiet…  Turns out I’m a bit of a numpty and did nothing of the sort.  So I have been on my Cornish break, altered the trousers and next week will be adding a band to the sleeve hem of the self drafted tee!  I have also made loads of granny squares, and as I add this postscript, have just 12 more to do!  Then I need to block them all and start putting it all together. It’s going to take time & Daughter No2 leaves on the 8th of August…..