Sunday, 24 April 2016

Renegade Master (back once again)

It's been a mighty long time since I last wrote but I've been sewing religiously for the past year, I'm just clearly rubbish at blogging!

My skills and confidence have increased dramatically and I've attempted a few challenging projects in which I've surpassed my expectations, particularly the Sewaholic Minoru Jacket with a fair few pattern hacks (storm flap with poppers, welt pockets, lined hood and a drawstring waist).

My favourite makes are some of my more recent ones; I'm focussing more on fitting at the moment which has involved making multiple versions of the pattern (some might say toiles!). I've made 5 (yes 5!) Sewaholic Granville shirts (and each time they've been different) and now 2 pairs of Ginger Jeans which along with my Minoru Jacket is one of my top favourite projects - another pair are at the top of my list of next makes.

I've also dabbled a little with lingerie making having made several Orange Lingerie Marlborough bras. I think I've got the fitting just about right now for me but it's always edge of my seat stuff when I start making another as I'm so conscious about what a poor fitting bra feels like to wear (and how disappointed I am when it goes wrong!).

So, to finish up this little update before I start blogging proper (I promise) I'm now well into my second Me Made Year, having not purchased any RTW clothing in nearly two years with big plans to focus on...  shoe making this year! My sister and I are attending a sandal making course next month at I Can Make Shoes and I can't wait! I've even bought (possibly a little prematurely) a paur of shoe lasts in my size for flat shoes ready for when I know what I'm doing!

Roll on June!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Three pairs of trousers later, a jacket and a leather coin purse...

I was going to apologise for not having posted for several weeks but then I wrote the title of this entry and realised I've been quite a busy bee!

Yes, I've finished 3 pairs of trousers - or rather two and a half as one pair was pretty much done I just needed to slim into them if you remember and rather oddly I managed it without trying (I think I was a bit puffy when I made them!).

So two pairs were a test of the Thinlow pattern from my last post; the first you know about, the second were made from some lovely red Ponte Roma I originally bought to make a jacket from. I decided I wanted some nice easy wear, comfortable but tailored trousers and this fabric seemed to fit the bill. It sewed up really nicely, very warm and with a little stretch for comfort and fit. All great until I washed them (no I didnt prewash the fabric - I'm a buggar for this) and the dye ran everywhere, dying my son's school trousers lining pink in the process... Woops!

The latest trouser make was the Ultimate Trouser from Sew Over It, inspired by episode 1 of The Great British Sewing Bee's third series where contestants were given some ridiculously short time frame to make some trousers. It usually takes me a good two days to make a pair of trousers so I felt woefully inadequate watching the episode and wanted to see what the participants are up against. Well the Ultimate Trouser pattern only has 4 pieces which is a far cry from the usual 12-16 pieces I've been used to recently with fiddly flies, welt pockets and side pocket linings. The four hour time limit contestants are given, seemed a bit more reasonable after all, only a side zip to contend with. I used the same fabric as my first pair of Thinlows, the chambray with no ease, so after sewing the trousers up dead quick I ended up unpicking it all to let the seams out! Having done so though, I was really pleased with the result for a fairly basic pattern, and think I may have found the perfect pattern for my gorgeous teal velvet I've been pondering over what to make.

This weekend I finally found a use for some beautiful dark turquoise baby needlecord I bought in Edinburgh in August last year - The Great British Sewing Bee Series 1 Hacking Jacket. I was instantly drawn to the pattern when I first bought the book; it's an unlined jacket which was most of the appeal as I'd planned for this to be my first attempt at tailoring and couldn't quite stomach the thought of a full on lining. However I actually cut my tailoring teeth on a full blown lined Butterick Jacket pattern which worked out brilliantly (except for the fundamental fitting fail), so I thought this unlined jacket couldn't be any harder... How wrong I was! The instructions are abysmal and whilst I appreciate the pattern isn't for the novice they could have been more descriptive and accurate - references made to notches when in fact there are dots on the pattern , and references to large and small dots when they're all the same size! The upper collar and facing was the upper worst part, I just couldn't sew round the corner and then couldn't fit the facing and fronts together. The collar now has an unsightly pucker and a cut where I slipped with the scissors trying to repair said pucker. All that being said, from a distance the jacket looks fairly respectable if you dont look too closely, and I'm very pleased with the french seams I used to neaten the inside of the jacket seeing as it isn't lined. The fabric is gorgeous as is the colour so puckers or not, I'll be wearing it out!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Thurlow... Thinlow... Uh oh!

I love the Thurlow Trouser pattern from independent designers at Sewaholic Patterns. It's made for big hips and wide thighs but not necessarily the proportionate waist you might find in ready to wear clothes. I've already made 2 pairs of these trousers, in golden herringbone tweed and cream cotton cord and they are so comfortable. My one criticism of the pattern, and this is relevant to my shape and not a general criticism, is that the legs are very wide and I have quite skinny (disproportionately so!) calves

This means that the wide leg style of the Thurlow is super wide on my legs and I wanted something a little slimmer, more like my favourite jeans from Boden, seen right. These are the closest to the best and most comfortable fitting jeans ever (and their chinos have a very similar cut). But alas the days of Boden clothes are over, or at least suspended for the forseeable future and until I lose 2 stone I'm not getting into the pairs I've packed off to the loft... I digress.

So, I thought I'd give pattern alteration a go and turn the Thurlow into a Thinlow... scary! I'd done a bit of research on what others had done to thin out their Thurlows other than chop width off the leg (which I'd done a bit of before with my cord pair). I wanted to understand what others had done around the excess fabric around the bottom which might look a bit weird with a slimmer leg. I found a really helpful blog post on Sewaholic's own blog, by Caroline Amanda which explained about alterations to the front pattern pieces. I followed suit (and the instructions) and trimmed down the leg and reshaped the crotch area... so far so good. When it came to the back I was stumped as Caroline's blog post only showed how to alter the front pieces so I wasn't sure how to transfer those changes to the back pieces. It was all a lot of guess work. I did however follow the concept Caroline had demonstrated and overlaid the original front and back pattern pieces over one another, matching notches, to show how the paper patterns work together. I then tried to replicate the same on the new pieces, trimming and slicing off the original back piece so that it touched the new front pattern piece in the same way the original front and back pieces did. Phew. I was feeling really out of my depth at this point, it was total guess work with the tiniest bit of "informed" decision making so just had to roll with it. And so to make up stage...

                    Look at this beauty!                 
The Lladybird sew-a-long for the Thurlow trouser are my go-to instructions to make up the pattern, read alongside the paper instructions. The paper instructions are not bad by any stretch of the imagination, they are well illustrated and clearly explained, I just like to be able to see the construction with real zips and real fabric. Now I've made a couple of these trousers the steps feel a little bit more comfortable so I don't need to follow every step by the letter. I can concentrate on improving the finish now I know what the final outcome should look like. As a result I'm particularly pleased with my welt pockets, they are my best yet.

I'm not so chuffed with the zip fly though. I've made five garments with zip flies and so far each one has turned out differently. This one wasn't bad, it's functional and the teeth don't show unlike others I've done, it just doesn't meet my exacting RTW standards (however if anyone stares at my crotch for long enough to notice its imperfections I think I've got bigger problems than just a dodgy fly).

I completed the major construction of the trousers and really liked the shape and width of the leg, they seemed just right and didn't seem to have any big problems with the shape (there was a bottom looking shape in the trousers and nothing looked wonky). So I tried them on.

I love this fabric, it's Country Basket    
cotton, from my favourite fabric shop,         
Waltons and cost £3.99 a metre. I  
have a matching shirt too!
Reader I could have cried! I seemed to have forgotten that somewhere along the way I down sized my pattern from a UK 14 to a UK 12 in attempt to get a snugger fit around some of the looser areas so I was already working on a smaller pattern (I hadn't tested). And then I'd trimmed! Alas, the trousers were to be a little snug, not least because the fabric I'd chosen appeared to have no ease whatsoever in the finished trouser, despite it having a bit of stretch when flat. I could wear the trousers stood up straight and they looked fine but I couldn't bend or sit down! I estimate I'm an inch or two away from being able to comfortably wear them so what better motivation to go out for a run than a beautiful pair of trousers waiting to be worn! So, I have temporarily hung up the trousers for the time being and will return to them in a couple of weeks time (or after 6 or 7 runs) to see if I've slimmed down enough to squeeze into them so I can finish them off.

Still very proud of my welts!You can see  
them in all their glory here.
Here are the semi-finished trousers in all their glory.They probably have a slightly more pronounced flare than my favourite Boden jeans in the picture above, and probably a bit wider at the top of the thigh too - clearly not wide enough though! Here's hoping a couple of weeks of hard running will slim those thighs down so I can get into them.

Watch this space for updates on the big "slim down" and the final fitting and trouser furniture adornment (buttons and t'ings!).

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

These are a few of my favourite things...

I was thinking today, aboout some of my favourite sewing "things" at the moment so have compiled my top 5 below:

1. Zip Fly

I'm just loving inserting flies into projects at the moment! In fact I'm seeking out patterns because they have a fly to insert. I think it's a satisfaction thing; they're a fairly fiddly technique to get right and when done well,they look really good.

My first exposure to a zip fly was in the Thurlow Pant pattern from Sewaholic and whilst I found the instructions generally easy to follow I needed some visuals to get it just right. I stumbled across the Thurlow Pant sewalong on Lladybird's blog which is utterly fab and made the whole process straightforward and dare I say enjoyable!

2. Moss Skirt by Grainline Studios

In my zip fly obsession I purposefully sought out a skirt with a zip fly and came across Grainline Studios Moss Skirt pattern which ticked all my boxes.Not only does it have a zip fly but it has a curved waistband which sits higher at the back and dips at the front. This style seems to really suit my figure and I love it! I also love the fact that the skirt is lengthened by adding a band around the bottom rather than just lengthening the front and back. I've made two Moss Skirts now, a lush purple velvet mini version and a more smart casual beige linen knee length version. I've got at least a dozen other versions up my sleeve!

3. Automatic Buttonholes

I have a Janome 525S Sewist sewing machine so am lucky enough to have an automatic buttonhole function. It's the best thing ever! I was a bit nervous about my first button hole but automatic really is automatic - it does the whole thing for you, you just pop the button in one end of the special foot so it calibrates the start and end of the buttonhole, and it does its thing when you depress the foot pedal. Voila - awesome buttonhole.

4. Blind Catch Stitch

As I've described in a previous blog post I have real problems with hemming, however I'm one problem down, now I've learned how to blind catch stitch! I used to lazily hem with a straight stitch on the machine but was never really happy with the results.The times when I did hem by hand I would use a slip stitch which I find soooooo dull to do (don't ask me why, I've no idea). When searching for tips on hemming I came across this tutorial on the By Hand London blog which clearly shows what a blind catch stitch should look like, and a simple step by step instruction on achieving the result. I actually look forward to hand hemming my makes now! I sound like such a swot but, again, I think it's a satisfaction thing as it's a slightly more involved stitch than your usual run of the mill. 

5. Pressing Stuff!

Very briefly, I never bothered ironing seams in the middle of construction. HOW WRONG WAS I? I now press everything, all the time and it makes such a massive difference to the way pieces come together; pre-sewn seams and hems stay where they should, sewing lines are easier to follow, things just look better - I could go on, but if there's one thing you don't scrimp on, it's the pressing.

So that's it for now, I've no doubt the more techniques I get under my belt the more favourites I will acquire, but for the time being I'm cooking up another pair of Thurlows so I can get my fix of zip flies and buttonholes!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Wardobe Architect Me!

I can only say Awesome! Independent pattern designers Colette Patterns are running the Wardrobe Architect programme again and I'm pretty sure divine intervention had something to do with it (ok, maybe a teensy weensy bit of co-incidence).

The programme gives me exactly what I need to start my me-made year and I'm really excited to get started. It also gives me something concrete to write about in my blog so - winning!

I've been sewing more and more recently but not really with any sense of pairing in mind. What I mean is, I'll make stuff without necessarily thinking about what I've made before and planning my makes as a big project in itself. That's where the Wardobe Architect comes in!

It's purpose is to encourage the ditching of shop bought purchases in favour of me-made items during the year. This works great for me as I'm currently skint but do have access to a rather brilliant fabric shop near me which sells ridiculously cheap but fabulous fabrics. First obstacle overcome.

I've been thinking about how I'll use this blog and think that my future posts will concentrate on the technical side of the the making and the pages section will offer my reflection on the Wardobe Architect programme. Let's see if that works aye?

Sewing Obsession

In an attempt to skirt around the pressures of maintaining a svelte size 10 dress size, I’m re-engineering my wardrobe around me-made makes. Because pattern sizes vary across pattern manufacturers I’m experiencing the sense of freedom that comes without the attachment to a dress size!

I stopped running a while ago and started to pile on the weight and whilst I have a wardrobe of beautiful RTW clothes, they are all now a couple of sizes too small. At the moment my work/life routine dictates that running (or any form of exercise) is difficult to fit in so it's been easier to sew for relaxation in an evening and on a weekend whilst at the same time, functionally creating clothes that actually fit me.

I'm enjoying it so much I've become a little obsessive about it and now rarely go a week without finishing a new make. I'm by far an expert, my finish leaves a lot to be desired and I don't have a lot of confidence in carrying out techniques but I am finding the various sewing bloggers sew-alongs and tutorials an amazing help. I have a thirst for getting better, at dressmaking in general,at improving my finish, at pushing the boundaries on techniques and at dressing myself better.

My biggest problem areas are with pattern adjustment - it scares the bejesus out of me! I can cope with minor adjustments such as reducing shoulder widths, lengthening and shortening but anything beyond that I'm stuffed! I'd also like to have a go at basic pattern drafting but I'm a way off this yet I think.

I'll be using the blog to record my sewing progress, so please feel free to share thoughts and, in particular, improvements on technique,I'll embrace them with open arms!