Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Don't look back...



... in anger I heard you say.  

Now that you've got that earworm, let's pretend you are reading this post in early January when I meant to write it rather than the end of January when I actually did.

I was going to write a nice post about top 5 hits and misses and so on, but then I realised - I don't want to look back at 2014 in great detail. It was a crappy year for me personally. My dad was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2013 and  died in late November. Hence the big blog gap and the lack of interest in reviewing the year.

So I'm looking forward at 2015 instead!

There were some good things about 2014 I am going to bring forward:

Wardrobe architect was great! It really helped me to define and refine my style and colour palette. But I struggled when it came to the final task of creating a capsule wardrobe. I think this is because I don't like the idea of a few mix and match pieces. I'm not someone who buys a couple of great quality investment pieces each season. So I'm enjoying the understanding of colours, prints and silhouettes that I gained without making a specific sewing plan out of it.

I loved Marie from A Stitching Odyssey's vintage sewing pledge (pics of my finished garments are at the top of the page). I managed 4 out of the 5 I pledged and the items I made are in pretty heavy rotation in my wardrobe. It's made me very keen to work with more vintage patterns and I have signed up again for this year to make 5 items. And a few new vintage patterns may have fallen into my Etsy cart!

This year WILL be the year I conquer trousers. The fear I have of fitting them is stupid and if I can make bound buttonholes and welt pockets, I can make trousers! I am starting with the Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers so I can get a steer on fitting without worrying about a fly front, and moving onto Colette Junipers. I also want to give jeans a go, so I have the Iconic Patterns Jess jeans and the Jalie pattern to try.

This year I am going to revisit some of my favourite patterns I have made in the past. I've done all the fitting and muslining work already so I can concentrate on the fun bit of sewing and wearing! In particular the Emery, Mortmain and Anna dresses really lend themselves to pairing with different skirts to make a new look with minimal fitting effort. The bodice from my Christmas dress was pretty awesome too.

I am planning to sew up fabrics from.my stash. This isn't a stash diet, but I have some really lovely fabrics that I want to use before I buy much else. The exception to this will be knits as I really don't have any stashed.

So no specific plans that I won't stick to beyond the next couple of garments.

Hope your new year has started well. Are you planning for 2015 or going with the flow?

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Operation winter coat - fabric prep


As I had some lovely (and more expensive than usual) fabrics for this coat, I wanted to treat them right. Since I asked for a lot of advice and googled a fair bit, I thought my findings might be useful to others.

Starting with the outer fabric which is a wool blend - 90% wool, 10% poly. This is a good combination for me as I am sensitive to 100% wool  A lot of people can get away with wool in a coat as it doesn't sit against the skin but I particularly dislike it against my neck and this coat has a collar so wool blend it was. 

After a lot of googling I found 3 main methods for pre shrinking wool. First is taking to the dry cleaners.  Easy but pricy so not for me. Second is steaming with the iron (as Tasia did here). Simple but time consuming. Thirdly is this method outlined by Pam from Off the Cuff (this is a link to her new blog but her old one here is a treasure trove of tips, especially for shirtmaking).  To save you a click, you wet large towels with hot water and put in the tumble dryer with your dry yardage. That's it!

I was concerned about trying this with my whole yardage so I tumble dried a swatch first for the recommended 40 minutes.  There was no obvious change to the look of the fabric so I put the whole yardage in the dryer with 2 damp (wrung out as much as possible) bath towels. It worked perfectly - but if you do this be careful taking it out of the machine as it was still boiling hot! A quick press later and my wool was ready to go.

The lining is viscose acetate.  I had planned to wash as normal but when the fabric arrived it had a dry clean only sticker on the tissue it was wrapped in. I considered not prewashing as I plan to dryclean the finished garment but advice from the lovely Claire Louise from the Thrifty Stitcher that it's really important to pre wash linings as even a bit of sweat can cause shrinkage.  So I decided to put in in a delicate wash and it came out fine. Another great tip from Claire Louise was to iron it damp to get the creases out properly. This worked brilliantly and not sure why I haven't tried it before!

This just left the interfacing. I ordered Speed Tailoring from Gill Arnold on the advice of Anne from Mercury Handmade and it came with really detailed instructions on how to pre shrink,  which I have never done with fusible interfacing before. I soaked it in hand hot water for 20 minutes, rolled it up in a towel to take out excess water and hung up to dry. When applying, Gill recommends a steam shrink, where you place the interfacing on top of the fabric and steam from a couple of inches away, smooth out fabric and interfacing and then press using a press cloth to adhere.  This method worked really well and the interfacing is really lovely stuff.  It stabilises without stiffening and adhered perfectly and easily to the fabric.

Hopefully some of these tips might help if you are making a coat in future!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

My Christmas dress


This is my last vintage pledge make of 2014 and number 4 of the original 5 I pledged.

Fittingly, the pattern came from Marie at Stitch Odyssey as she added it to the vintage pattern pyramid before it came to me. I fell in love with the gorgeous asymmetric neckline as soon as I saw it and snapped it up as my pick from the parcel.

Why can't I flip this to landscape?  Grrr Blogger!


I bought this John Kaldor fabric from the sale at Sew Essential a while ago and had it earmarked for this dress as soon as I nabbed the pattern. It was marked as a french crepe. It washes fine and pressed reasonably well with a medium iron.  It's lovely to wear and barely creases.



The pattern was for a 40" bust and I thought I was going to have a bit of work to make it fit, but it was actually pretty good from the start. I lengthened the bodice and skirt by 2" each and lowered the bust darts by 1.5". Other than lowering the darts, the main adjustment was a square shoulder adjustment. I took it in at the sides once it was constructed which meant a bit of tinkering with skirt pleats to get them even. I'm never keen on that just above the elbow length of sleeve so I shortened by about 1.5" to make it easier to wear with a cardigan.

As usual I didn't quite think how the drape of the fabric would affect the neckline and the piece at the side. It meant this piece was a bit floppy and didn't quite sit properly. I fused an additional piece of interfacing to the facing and the bodice front which fixed the problem.

Closer shot of the neckline (with bonus derp-face)

I didn't add the bow at the neck in the end. I may make it and attach it with a pin - in my experience these details don't do well in the washing machine so making it removable seems sensible.

I used Hug Snug to make a waist stay and also machine sewed it around the skirt and sleeve hems before catch stitching by hand.  This was really time consuming on such a full skirt but it gives a lovely finish.

Operation winter coat - the reveal!


So here is my final coat!

I am so happy with it and it's an absolute pleasure to put it on every day. Of course the cost/effort per wear on a coat comes out pretty well which is satisfying! 
In this post, I'm showing off the final pics and will talk about fitting adjustments I made, and I'll show you details in another post. 



On comparing my actual measurements to my pattern measurements, I found I needed an FBA (no surprise), a little extra room at the hips/ bum level (another non - surprise) and more ease in the arms (I appear to have weirdly big elbows!). I also added 1/2" shoulder width and did a small square shoulder adjustment.

The front pattern piece was tough to adjust as it looked like this:


On the advice of lovely Brooke from Custom Style I had planned to cut it apart at the waist, but as I needed extra room at the hips too I was able to slash the pattern piece all the way down and add in some extra in the right places.

Should have taken my hands out of my pockets to photograph the back - that pulling isn't there without them!


The weirdest thing is that I did no length adjustments in the body at all! The waist was in the right place and the hem length was perfect.  In hindsight, the pockets could stand to be perhaps 1.5" lower  as it feels like I pull on them slightly when I put my hands in. But they are totally functional.  I also lengthened the sleeves to full length from bracelet length and as a result had to taper them slightly.



I muslined one sleeve and also the collar piece as I was concerned it looked a bit small in the picture (it's fine). However I decided to add darts to the back to take out some excess fabric at back waist. This was done by pinching out the right amount of fabric at waist level, splitting that between 2 darts and measuring where I wanted them to end top and bottom. I had a bit of trial and error in the dart positioning at first as I placed them too close to the side seams so I was glad I had just pinned them to begin with. Me and the seam ripper are too friendly as it is!  

In the final fabric I ended up taking in the side seams more to narrow the bodice to the waist as the shape as drafted  just wasn't working for me. Unfortunately I feel like I took a lot of the vintage flavour out of the coat, but it definitely works better for me this way. 

Details of the construction to follow! 

One last pic as it's a nice background!



Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Topstitching help please

I mentioned on the post about my Peggy skirt that I had some issues with the topstitching.

It looks ok from the right side (bar a few skipped stitches on the sections where there are a lot of layers):

But pretty awful from the wrong side as you can see below:

Believe it or not, this is a distinct improvement on how it looked originally. 

Based on advice from Twitter and Instagram, I switched from a denim needle to a topstitching one and used normal thread in the bobbin with topstitching thread on top only. I fiddled with the tension on the top thread.

These lessened the problem considerably but it's still not great.  My machine didn't seem to have any issues with sewing the layers with normal thread, just with topstitching thread.

The only thing I could find online was that Gutermann topstitching thread (which I used) is apparently much thicker than other brands.

Can anyone shed any light on my problem? Any great topstitching tips to share? Have you found that the brand of thread made a difference? All suggestions gratefully received as I want to make jeans at some point and that's a lot of topstitching!  

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Grease Inspiration



I've just put up my bad girl inspiration post for the Grease sewalong on the Sewcialists blog - head on over a have a read here!


Friday, 3 October 2014

The Grease Sewalong!



I'm co-hosting this month's sewalong on the Sewcialists blog, and it's a theme very close to my heart - Grease!

Click here to read the post - and there's a competition too!

Will you be joining in?