Monday, 25 December 2017

The 12 Days of Christmas

A carol about over-committing on handmade gifts. Again.

12 Gift Stashbusted

I had a plan for some lovely gifts using what I had to hand. Naturally, what I have to hand is pretty good quality (never offer something to someone that you wouldn't have yourself). I was frugal, using scraps of precious fabric from many endeavours.

11 Warm Things Warming

Five traditional hot water bottles and six Hotties Microwaveable Pads with covers. I used a bunch of techniques here including regular quilting, quilt as you go, applique, fabric slashing and a variation on scrap lace. I really like how each of these came out - especially the slashed ones. You never know how they'll turn out but hopefully I'm getting better with this technique.

10 Legs A-Lounging

Four pairs of jogging bottoms (using Burda 04/2016 #138 or #139 and Burda 11/2012 #135) and one pair of sparkly pyjamas (using a draft from Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear). All have pockets, naturally.

All the edges on the joggers are overcast with my machine, though it was painfully slow. I am beginning to consider getting myself an overlocker to speed up these kinds of projects.

9 Patches Disappearing

A long-ago promised quilt for my grandparents. The block is a Disappearing Nine Patch and it becomes wonderfully wonky the further you stray from the top left corner. This was entirely scrap/stashbusted and holds many dear bits of fabric from my entire sewing career (can you call it a career?). Without my grandparents, I wouldn't own a sewing machine so this seemed a nice way to give back in-kind.

8 Weeks of Fretting

I started the quilt really early, and finished it in good time. The warm things made steady progress and I utilised my stash or my scraps pile for all of the necessary stuff. A friend's specialist baby gift wasn't going to happen before Xmas, as the fabric was a pre-order from Z&Q, so it seemed like it wouldn't bother me for a while (and that I had freed up some sewing time). But then I began to worry that since I had a manageable workload, and was keeping up with it, that it wasn't actually enough or good enough. So my brain got me to brainstorm and plan 11 new projects to complete.

Thanks brain!

But what happened next?

7 Rounds of Laundry

I fell off the wagon. And bought a lot of new fabric for the 11 new projects. Blame Misan West and Goldbrick Fabrics  on Goldhawk Road.

And all of this needed pre-washing in secret:

(which is difficult when you're trying to hide this massive pile of fabric from B so he doesn't know how much you actually bought)

6 Things Queue Cutting

The loungewear was also the first set of items on this list of extra gift sewing. You may be able to see some of the fabrics used in the pile of the photo above. So, ahead of all my other projects, these jumped to the top of the queue to be ready in time for the Big Day.

5 Stalled Plans

I made a list of  11 extra Christmas gift projects, right? Five of them never event got started. Oh well.

4 Corners Mitred

 I really love mitreing corners.

3 Stolen Fixings

This one I forgot to get a photo of before wrapping. But I made a Messenger Bag again!

I have horrible difficulty finding nice bag fixings for my projects. I ended up stealing a slider and 2 D-rings from B for this he picked up some nice ones on holiday a few years ago.

In progress shot since I forgot to get a picture of the finished thing.

2 Miles of Thread

I've finished up a lot of spools doing all of this...

And a Workout for the Sewing Machine

Excuse me while we both rest...

K x

Friday, 17 November 2017

Chores #2 (Clothes for sweating in)

I really needed to free up some cupboard space, so I made these things:

Crop top/Sports bra

Picture the scene: 7.30pm on a Thursday night before a training weekend with Gog Magog Molly. You've just finished a dance class and have another tomorrow before a sweaty train journey straight to training. You don't own enough sports bras for all of it*. You feel like you have spare time (you don't) and that itch creeps up on you.

You throw together an eccentric mix and somehow at the end of the night, there is a functional item for keeping your boobs in place.

Stripey top

Yes, I know I'll look like a deckchair.

This fabric was hanging about in the cupboard. It's probably a lycra/spandex mixed with a crazy synthetic but I thought it'd make good sweaty material. And I wasn't that invested in it if things went wrong. I had about 50cm available from a wide bolt so my original concept didn't quite fit and some sacrifices needed to be made. Again, nothing special but it works!


*A couple of weeks beforehand you didn't own any sports bras, but then your prof makes you sweat through a regular bra so badly that you have to go and buy a new one after class...maybe it's time to just invest in a couple.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Chores #1

Or: Reasons I'll never be on GBSB

Every time I used to watch GBSB, I'd swear that my approach to the alterations challenge would be to take the item and immediately turn it upside-down. I had a theory that this would free one's mind from the constraints of the existing garment and that it would help to "transform" it more effectively.

Naturally, sometime I brag and sneer but don't actually follow through. Example: I refashioned the Drape Drape dress and an unloved RTW dress and they are both still the same way up as before.

Self-deprication aside, I had set myself a very low bar to make these dresses wearable. They didn't have to be good or exact. They just had to have the right qualities so that I'd open the wardrobe, look around and say "you know what, I'll wear that".

For the Drape Drape Dress

I cut off the top and removed the bra panel, as well as the elastic casing. The lining and the drapey panel both stayed. I was quite pleased with my hemming of the georgette on the initial make so I kept that in tact too.

The bodice went through a few iterations as I kept realising that more complicated did not mean better. I had enough spare fabric to keep some continuity in the print placement (bet you can't see the CB seam!). Again I was applying alterations to V8766. The waist casing came last and pulled everything together. (Pun partially intended as I was aiming for a drop-waist style initially.

Now, let's talk about the sleeves. These sleeves are SO BAD. I still haven't fixed the pattern and I still haven't developed a block from scratch. Here's the thing. They are bad quality and dowdy. They will always be hidden under a cardigan or jacket, but I was never going to wear this dress without sleeves (because it won't suit a t-shirt underneath) so they're staying. And I'll just have to live with this strange brand of hypocrisy.

For the RTW dress

I got the original from Ultra Orange in Strasbourg in 2010, right after I'd first started sewing. I was going through the "reversible everything!" phase that is common to many new sewists, and finding a reversible RTW dress was just amazing.

The original is somewhere between trapeze and a-line style, the hem dips at the centre back and there are two sets of shoulder straps.

I've tried to refashion this dress at least twice before. In 2011 I merrily cut 2 holes in the back (with the intention of adding a drawstring) saying "this would be a terrible if someone didn't know what they were doing!" (turns out, I didn't). At some point I hid that smart idea with some darts.

It's been sat in my refashion pile for a few years as the neckline/shoulders gaped and the darts were straining whenever I put on/took off the dress (because it had no openings/closures).

This time I modified the shoulders and inserted a zip. Now the zip is an invisible zip, inserted as normal on one side and treated like a lapped zip on the other. The zip pull isn't reversible though so one side is a bit awkard. I think that my next work on this dress will involve making some sort of pull.

I'm pleased to have these two off my mind. They deserve to be worn, so hopefully this is the start of better things for them.

I've sewn so many dreses over the past few months that I feel a return to trousers is long overdue...


Monday, 25 September 2017

The Kat's Pyjamas

I've been making pyjamas (and stealth pyjamas).

First up, but B and I loved that Christmas fabric so much that we went back to Goldbrick Fabrics and got more. Whatever I said in the previous post about about fibre content is wrong - it's 75% silk, 20% viscose and 5% elastane. I doubt there's any left but you're welcome to take a look. I made some pyjamas for B, drafting a pattern from Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear. The pattern came out MASSIVE compared to what I'm used to and I was a bit worried. But they turned out okay.

Bringing new dimensions to the idea of "dropped crotch"
I also finally cut into some of my Nani Iro haul from a new set of PJs. It's my standard Butterick B5432. The cord is a bit short and the elastic a bit loose, but I don't really care.

But let's get on to the subject of stealth PJs. Stealth PJs being real clothes (i,e. fit for leaving the house and going about the town conducting your business) that are so comfy that they feel like pyjamas.

The stealth idea being that no one else knows that you know that they think you're wearing actual clothes and you know that they don't know that you think you're wearing pyjamas. Unless you tell them.

Try not to be smug about it.

So these are 2 new versions of Burda 04/2013 #103 - one wintry and one summery.

The first one is wintry. I got the fabric from Emma One Sock's Black Friday sale as brushed viscose. It's double sided and super soft. It's got a bit of loft to it - which means these came out with a more tailored vibe instead of being slouchy. The lining is leftover silk from the Scrap Lace Dress and while I'd have liked to add a longer lining, there wasn't enough fabric. In an effort to stop the knees stretching out over time I underlined them with what was left. This is quite fragile though and I keep sticking my foot through the stitching when putting the trousers on. Oops.

You may recognise both these fabrics from my Vanners Jacket. They saw good duty recently! I barely had enough to make this project.

The second pair of Burda 04/2013 #103 is more summery - a wondrous Liberty lawn (Harkness McNair) which was half price in the online shop. I think these are gorgeous. The lining is the last of the gauze used in my first pair of Burda 04/2013 #103 - and is basically perfect for the job.

I had a heck of a time choosing threads to match!
I switched up the process (don't remember the exact steps) for making this pair and really liked the results (the fly was so much better!) - except that I ended up in a hurry to finish them (so finishing suffered a bit) and (somehow) they came up too small. So I had to let everything out so close to completion! The good news is that they have loosened up a bit with wear as well.

The hems are blind stitched by machine, something which I haven't done in a VERY long time.

Hopefully they all get good wear!

K x

Friday, 8 September 2017

Repairs and refashions

A few quick things today, my blog reader has been suspiciously quiet this week so maybe I'm missing out on "the big sewing blogger vacation" or something. Maybe this'll fill in some gaps if it has been quiet for you too.

I'm not the biggest fan of refashioning, and while I'm in favour of repairing things it's a struggle my laziness in doing so.

Anyway, I recently repaired some M&S socks whose toe seam hadn't quite been closed during manufacturing. This is the first time I sewed a blanket stitch without looking it up beforehand. Tiny victories! I also repaired a jumper B got for Christmas where somehow the side seam had completely come apart. There was a hole from his hip to his bicep! Quick job, but sometimes you just need a kick to actually do it.

I also finally bit the bullet and changed the lining in B's Newcastle cardigan. So now it's probably called Newcastle Revisited Revisited. While the original fuzzy lining was a spectacular novelty, apparently it was uncomfortable and prickly (so it hasn't been worn at all). I also removed the hem band on the Newcastle as B wanted it to be more like the original. Hopefully it'll see some use now.

In a good stashbusting move, I finally used up some voile I got from a trip to Istanbul in 2011. I made a Shape Shape Twist & Drape top again but somehow I've made it the wrong way around. How many times have I made this top? 5? Do I really have an excuse to have done it so wrong? I's a Mobius I'm quite astounded that it seems to be both inside out and upside-down. It's probably going straight in the recycling pile.

Still in my repairs pile is an old pair of PJs I'm not prepared to lose. I just need to patch them up.

Still in my refashion pile is the Drape Drape dress (approx 11 months and counting), an RTW dress from 2010 (sat in the pile since...maybe 2012) and a Primark shirt for copying whose fit has always been awful, but whose cuffs are amazing (but please don't ask me to date this one!). Plus a secret new addition...

Watch this space...


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Nobody Likes Conspicuous Overachievement

My love of jackets is no secret. It has taken a long time for me to be able to sew them and be pleased with the results. And they still take a lot of time compared to other projects. Still, one of the things I want to get out of The Year of Doing Things Properly is a bunch of jackets.

Yes, mainly for me.
What do you mean other people might want jackets?

This one took me about 6 weeks to complete and for some reason I kept a log of what I was planning to do each day, and if I got it done. I also tried to keep a few notes on construction and some observations. Writing it down helped me to keep peace of mind when it felt like I hadn't made enough progress. With hindsight, it's also a useful record of that familiar descent into a project spiraling out of control.

Burda 6875 jacket and coat pattern front

Burda 6875 coat and jacket pattern - back


It all started on Pinterest with a Desigual jacket. Or maybe it was on the streets with trendy tapestry coats. Or maybe it was Emma One Sock's Black Friday sale. In any case, I had an idea and I needed to make something "proper".

The theory behind this coat was that I wanted it to look super fancy. I wanted to feel super fancy in something I'd made - but, crucially, it needed to be functional as well as beautiful. Each time I go to a fancy event, and have a fancy me-made dress, I feel like it is let down by my ubiquitous red backpack and black North Face 3-in-1. Or I freeze in a daft cardi. So I needed something:
  • Super fancy and able to coordinate with fancy outfits
  • With good pockets so I won't need to carry a bag
  • Takes the place of a coat/jacket in situations where I wouldn't be wearing as much as usual

I had this idea for a long time and didn't start with an actual deadline in mind. But, as is the normal way, one showed up part-way through the make. Some dear friends invited us to their wedding. It could be ready in time, couldn't it? Its worth a try to get it ready in time, isn't it?

The Pattern

The pattern is Burda 6875, bought about a year ago as a result of this PatternReview thread. I was on a slim collar jacket kick at the time. I appreciated the notched collar and other details. During construction I realised there were some details I didn't like:
  • The way the vents were finished (lots of hand stitching and maybe a raw edge)
  • The construction of the front piece seemed a little counter-intuitive and less robust than it could be.
So they were addressed as the project went along.

Test version of Burda 6875 jacket sewing pattern
Muslin for Burda 6875. Shows the difference between the pocket styles. I'm glad I tested it.
Finished Burda 6875
And the finished deal, with pocket flaps

I normally fit a Burda size 34 or 36 pretty readily, so was prepared to make some minor adjustments. I made the size 34 muslin with no prior adjustments and (unsurprisingly) decided that shoulder slope and the back length would need modifications. As per my Kaisla blazer. I hope it helped.

With hindsight, though this was the right size, I should have gone one larger to account for fabric bulk and interlining.

Burda 6875 muslin - unaltered
Straight from the packet

Burda 6875 muslin - altered
Pinned alterations

final fitting of Burda 6075 (back)
Final jacket fit - I'm not sure why the jacket is swerving to the side. Bit worried now.
I also drafted some extra pockets and resized the ones already on the pattern based on some "market research" of jackets we had at home. The great thing about having a man about the house is that you can borrow his jackets and work out where the patriarchy is hiding all their pockets. So, I can now happily confirm that I can carry the following items without needing a bag: keys, phone, cash, tissues, Leatherman, greetings cards, order of service, 2x slices of cake and 3x bags of Party Rings. Yay!

With hindsight though, this may have been overzealous - Filling the pockets makes me wider, like Marge Simpson at the candy convention. The capacity of my pockets is now much larger than I am prepared to become. I also have to pat myself down every so often to find out where I have put my stuff.

I should have seen this coming. Any regrets? Of course not.

B commented that the pocket flaps might be overkill. These are perfectly nice double welts without adding in a fancy pocket flap. Any thoughts?

One big problem I had with the pattern is that it has a piece - the Lower Side Front piece - which is a real pain. No obvious notches or markings to show which way it should be sewn, and reasonable arguments for the grainline to point in 2 different directions. Maybe it would have never been an issue if I spent more time with Big 4 patterns, but let this be a cautionary note to anyone working on v6875.

I think this is incorrect:
Incorrect orientation of Burda 6875 side front pattern piece

I think this is correct:
Correct orientation of Burda 6875 side front pattern piece

I know it looks obvious when you know the answer, but trust me when I say it gets confusing, especially if your fabrics don't have an obvious right side/wrong side or a print to give you a clue.

The Fabric

I specifically bought the outer fabric, but tried to get the rest of the materials from my stash. In the end a lot of choices were made because there was only one thing that worked with everything else. You can kind of tell, given the history of some of the bits in this section!

From EmmaOneSock's Black Friday Sale, but somehow from an English mill. Mix of polyester, silk and cotton. The fabric is a jacquard/brocade with grey/white flowers woven into a variegated background. I suspect it might be factory seconds as the flower detail is a bit mangled in sections, like they hadn't perfected the weaving pattern. But that's one of the things that makes it interesting. I used up the last of my Guterman 4888 thread on this fabric and REALLY need to find more!

This has a lot of bounce and a lot of texture. It's beautiful but it didn't behave. It frays and shrinks and expands. It doesn't take an iron well - I learned my lesson after accidentally burning it, but I also had to leave every pressed seam to cool under a piece of wood. In my notes it says that the fabric hates: irons, pins, needles, scissors, fusible interfacing and being handled.

Melted bit

Improvised clappers

Pure red silk. I wasn't being deliberately decadent, but that was the best candidate out of the cupboard. Originally from March 2016 and the Scrap Lace Dress. And there was enough left for the body lining in the jacket. Ooooh, it is luxurious against the skin.

Sleeve Lining
I got this last year in Tokyo in one of the very cheap bundles. Not sure of the content, but it was good and slippery (which is what you want in a sleeve lining).

General purpose fusible interfacing (woven) from MacCulloch & Wallis. I have a stock of this stuff as it's my preferred fusible interfacing. The outer fabric HATED this and kept coming away, but it has held relatively well. I probably shouldn't have forced fusing on the fabric, oh well. The shoulder pads also came from MacCulloch & Wallis, though they are quite tall - I wonder if it would have been better to get a different size/height. That being said, they are good quality so should last for a long time.

A look at a jacket front and one of the pockets

Interlining 1
The main body is interlined with some brushed viscose I got from EmmaOneSock. I got the fabric at the same time as the outer fabric, but it was reserved for a pair of trousers (yet to be blogged). It was the best candidate for interlining so I just managed to squeeze it out of the yardage, without jeopardizing the trousers (too much). It is incredibly soft and quite cosy.

With hindsight (or with more time), I should have trimmed the interlining or accounted for the bulk at the back pleat. It causes a little bobble now at the nape of my neck, which I did try to cut out, but it should have been either pleated out or stitched down, or underneath a shoulder stay. Oh well.

Interlining 2
I interlined the upper sleeve for warmth using some very old cotton flannel from my scraps. The vendor was probably I think I got this when making Christmas gifts in 2012 and I used the darker blue one for PJs for P. Lord knows what happened to the lighter stuff. I read on Fashion Incubator that it's common to line the upper sleeve and not the lower one, though I've never taken a coat apart to find out. So only the upper sleeve is interlined. I also improvised a sleeve head roll from some scrap batting. I should get some proper ones for my next coat.

The cuff buttons are from La Mercerie du Bain aux Plantes, Strasbourg. The centre-front buttons are from MacCulloch & Wallis, spares from Newcastle v2. The cherry lining is Liberty or faux-Liberty from Classic Textiles in Goldhawk Road.

Cuff buttons

The Construction

This topped out at roughly 120 pieces.

You know I mentioned earlier that jackets take a long time? That's why.

Leggings are 2 pieces, a t-shirt is typically 5 pieces, and a button-down shirt could be about 20 pieces. But things start to add up really quickly. And when they're large pieces that need proper handling then the time and attention needed just continues to rise.

Looking back at my notes, I'm never convinced that it'll get done. Extra steps unpack themselves from "Oh, I'll just..." to "that means X, then Y, then Z and I'll have to trim and press everything before doing the second side".

This came at a time when I was super-busy at work and studying for some project management qualifications. Something like that always seems to happen. Things ramp up at work and in response I over-commit my spare time - a tiny act of defiance that leaves crazy achievements in its wake. It's oddly satisfying sometimes, scratching a creative itch that can't be touched when you're making stuff at leisure. On the other hand, I was not able to think about the project by the end. I could not hold several steps in my head, and I couldn't work out smart ways of sewing pieces together. This is where the notes came in handy because there I could write something down without having to remember it, and there wasn't so much thinking when I needed to be doing.

But it got done. Somehow. I was a nervous wreck but it got done. I was egged on by B and some friends, none of whom have expressed any remorse at having done so. That's what happens when you have friends who also make things. Cruel friends who also make things.

The sleeves and cuffs were the main source of last minute panics. Never neglect your sleeves. I couldn't handle the cognitive load of machine sewing the sleeve lining to the cuffs (This image from the tutorial on bagging a jacket lining by Grainline Studios is a good illustration of why it is so complicated) so I clumsily took a hand needle to the task. I've done it by machine before, I really like that method, but it wasn't happening that evening.

With time running out, I folded the sleeve vents over and stitched them down to the lining. Not as good as it could be, but it was done. But this is The Year of Doing Things Properly, and my brain decided that wasn't good enough. They weren't right. B advised a I sleep on the problem (sure that I'd forget about it soon enough) but I spent a full day raving that the cuffs weren't right to anyone who would listen. I had less time than sense but they had to change. Every jacket I saw in London that day had mitred sleeve vents, and somehow it became a big deal. My coat had to have mitred sleeve vents as well.

If you're wondering what a mitred vent is, this image from esewingworksop has a good illustration. You can see them fairly frequently on jacket sleeves, jacket hems and on straight or pencil skirts

Anyway, I took apart the sleeves and launched into the corner seams, trimming as needed, when suddenly:
"B, It's gone wrong"
"mmm" *doesn't look up from the laptop*
"No really B...this is catastrophically wrong"
"oh no" *attention still fixed on the laptop*

Fabric where there shouldn't be, and no fabric where there should be. I sliced the cuff the wrong way.  At this point either it got fixed, or I had to replace the whole sleeve. One of those options meant the jacket wouldn't make it to the wedding. At this point B is still unfazed - he's heard me whine about projects too many times before.

So I guess I fixed it.

But you won't see a photo here - you'll have to see the jacket and find the scar in real life.

The moral: respect your sleeves.

I do love this coat, but it is more fancy and more fragile than I had anticipated. The original plan was for it to be machine washable, but given the behaviour of the outer fabric, I don't trust it at all. So it has spent a lot of time under a dust cover recently. Plus I'm afraid writing about it may have taken longer than it took to make the coat!