Thursday, 6 November 2014

Kirsten Kimono Tees

After a few year's break I recently took up Pilates again and have been in need of some comfortable tops to wear to classes. I've followed Maria Denmark's blog for years but only recently realised that you could get her Kirsten Kimono t-shirt pattern free by signing up to her newsletter.

The pattern was exactly what I wanted for Pilates wear - a comfortable and fairly loose fit in a flattering style. Maria posted a tutorial for lengthening the sleeves a few months ago and I followed this, adding 9cm in length. This added coverage for my arms (not my fave feature!) and meant I'd be marginally warmer in the often chilly studio.

Sorry, falling asleep on the job here

The pattern doesn't come with seam allowances included and also gets you to do a bit of maths to work out the length of your neckline binding, but this wasn't too taxing. I cut a size S and didn't bother to add the seam allowances (#lazyseamstress). Other than lengthening the sleeves I made no other changes.

Hmm, bit of sway back action there!
The fabric is some slinky viscose jersey which I had leftover from lining Jon's Finlayson Sweater. It's not the ideal fabric as it creases really easily. I don't iron clothes at the best of times, and certainly not for exercise classes! It was good for a tester though, and very comfortable to wear.

The only problem I had construction wise was with the neckline. I'm pretty sure that the maths for the length of my neck binding was right, but it doesn't want to lie flat at the shoulder seams. I'm not sure if this is because of how long I cut the binding, how much I stretched it, or whether it's because there's a fairly tight corner for it to go around, being a boatneck style. It's not massively noticeable but enough to bother me.

After a bit of research I corrected this in my second version...

This version I made up exactly the same as my first, but just finished the neckline using a different technique. I cut the binding piece in two (making one slightly longer than the other) and before I did anything else, I sewed the binding to the front and back necklines separately. I then flipped the binding pieces to the inside and topstitched them down, before sewing up the top as instructed. This gave a nice neat finish and solved my problem of the neckline not lying flat.

I got the fabric for this top from Utrecht's fabric market, for the whopping price of 3 euros. I think it's also viscose, but is a thicker weight than the blue material. Because it's cheap it also has some quirks - after it's been washed the blue lines in the fabric wrinkle up somewhat, and need a lot of steam to look as flat as they do in the photos. Again, not something I'm going to do for Pilates! I'm just going to call it texture and move on. *sigh*

I didn't do a sway back adjustment, but it's really not as noticeable here

This was my first time working with stripy fabric, so I tried hard to make sure that the stripes at the side seams would match up.

Not a bad job I'd say! (Excuse the ghost hand) This was helped by using a whole load of pins and my walking foot (which I tend to use for most projects because it cost me so much money. Why Bernina, why?!). 

Whilst the side seams are looking good, I kind of forgot it might be nice if the shoulder seams also matched:

To be honest though I think they're off enough that it doesn't matter. I also think it may have been tricky to get them to match as the back sleeve is a different shape to the font.

For both tops I hemmed the sleeves and bodice using a twin needle. I added a strip of stretchy fusible interfacing first to the wrong side, which stabilises the fabric and reduces that 'tunneling' you can get with twin needles.

I really like the fit of these tops and the way they turned out, especially as the pattern was freeee. Plus they were really quick to sew up (especially if you don't make extra work for yourself by adding pattern matching into the mix). After looking at the examples again on Maria's blog I'd quite like to make a few short sleeve versions of these, they look really flattering on her.

Sidenote, whilst taking these pictures my husband commented 'you look really small!'. Well my love, at 5 foot 2 I don't think I'm ever going to look tall.. It's only taken him 9 years to notice!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Birthday sewing

October is not my husband's favourite month. It's birthday overload for him. His brother's is first, followed by his dad's (on the same day as mine!) and then his mum's. And it's also his parents' wedding anniversary! A busy month present wise.

As well as dressmaking, I'll generally have a go at most things sewing-wise and find non-clothes based sewing can be particularly satisfying after you've been knee deep in dress patterns (no fitting, woo!). I was feeling inspired this year so decided to sew presents for my in-laws. I'd spotted Thread Theory's wash bag tutorial on their blog and thought this would fit the bill for the boys.

I made the bags out of canvas cotton as suggested, lining them with the same fabric. I only had some dodgy old and very stiff interfacing on hand, so I only applied this to the lining fabric which seams to have provided the structure needed.

I debated the ethics of what fabric to use for the strap, but in the end went with real leather as there's a guy at the market who sells tonnes of offcuts. You basically just search through the pile and find a bit you like, hold it up and then he shouts a price at you. I tried to haggle with him, but he was either pretending not to understand my Dutch or genuinely didn't know what I was saying (the latter is probably more realistic!). 

Naked, strapless bag

Anyway I couldn't find the Chicago Screws the tutorial calls for and debated for a long time what to use instead as I wanted the handle to be able to move around. My solution actually happened by accident as I eventually gave up and bought what I thought were large rivets, only to get them home and discover they were press studs! These worked well as the strap is still able to move around, with the added bonus that it can be popped off so the bag can be thrown in the wash. It's the first time I've used any kind of 'hammer on' hardware so I'm slightly anxious that they may fall off at some point. I do really like the professional look that they give though.

The innards

I added a tab to one end of the bag to help close the zip, which was just a small piece of leather. I also finished the insides with some bias binding that I had left over from another project. 

The second bag was pretty much the same, except in a red canvas for a Charlton Athletic FC fan (the first was for a Leeds United fan). I also added a tab to the other end of the zip, so the bag is easy to open and close.

Insides were also finished with bias binding...

I really love how these bags turned out. They're a really good size and the construction was very straightforward. A great tutorial.

The next presents I made were for Jon's mum. She's a very talented crocheter (made 120 crochet heart coasters for our wedding, fyi) so I thought she'd like a kit for her hooks and projects.

I promise it doesn't look this wrinkly in real life!

First up I made a roll for her to store her hooks in, with a flap at the top so the hooks don't fall out when it's rolled up.

I didn't use a tutorial for this, but just made up a pattern based on the size of an average hook. I varied the size of the channels for different size hooks.

I also hand embroidered a little tag for the front and added some tree ribbon to tie it shut.

Finally, I made a fabric basket/bag for her works in progress. 

I made this following the Village Haberdashery's basket tutorial, which is pretty fitting as that's where the grey fabric came from! I had no idea what 'fusible fleece' would be in Dutch, and couldn't find anything on the market that looked like it, so I just used a layer of wadding which I glued (yep) to the outer layer. My basket is quite a bit floppier than those in the tutorial, so I kind of wish I'd used two layers of wadding. You live and learn!

I used the same lining fabric as on the hook roll and also added a tag to the front of the bag (it's always just one more row).  I also left off the pockets from the design to keep the look simple.

Such a sweet couple ;)

Friday, 24 October 2014

Colette 'Truffle' Dress

Due to a spate of skipped stitches, my sewing machine is currently in the repair shop (and I've just found out it's going to cost 65 euros to fix, booo!). This has brought to a halt the projects I've been working on so I wanted to share a dress I made a few months ago.

This dress is the 'Truffle' dress from the Colette patterns book. I use the name loosely there as I had to make so many changes that it's really not the same dress.

I bought this beautiful Liberty fabric from the Knitting and Stitching show in London back in March. It was from a stall selling tonnes of Liberty fabric at discounted prices. This tana lawn cost me £14 a metre (instead of the usual 22!) and I managed to get this dress and a simple skirt out of it. Not too shabby! It has little poppy like flowers all over it - ultra girly.

Sooo, the pattern. I am so glad I made a muslin of this dress! Well in fact I made a few. I made the first one up in a size 4, based on my measurements. It was wayy too big all over, so I started again with a size 0. This was a better size, but still had a lot of issues going on - excess fabric and gaping areas all over the shop. After hours of pouring over all the fitting books I own, I made the following adjustments:

 - Shortened front and back by 5/8"
 - 1/2" sway back adjustment
 - 1" erect back adjustment
 - lengthened back darts by 1"
 - lengthened front waist darts by 1/4"
 - forward shoulder adjustment
 - pinched out gapes in armholes and neckline and transferred these to darts

And that was just the bodice! I made the skirt up and instantly knew there was no point continuing with it. It was just a massive baggy sack! Nothing like the beautiful, slim skirt in the book :-(. Sad times. So instead I drafted an a-line skirt using this method. I also drafted a waistband, though I can't really remember why!

Construction wise, the fabric was a dream to sew with. It presses beautifully and doesn't wrinkle too easily. It's a bit sheer though so I underlined the whole thing using a white cotton voile. This made it more decent and also helped to brighten the white areas (which didn't seem as bright as when I'd bought the fabric - maybe the colours ran a little in the wash??). 

To finish the neckline and armholes I bound the edges with white bias binding. I attached it by machine and then slip stitched it down on the inside to the underlining fabric, which gave a nice clean finish on the outside. For the same effect (and partly because I ran out of time and had to finish the dress on the train..) I also sewed the hem by hand, again slip stitching it to the underlining.

I inserted the zip using the lapped method and sewed it in by hand, using tiny pick stitches to conceal the stitching. The zip is actually an invisible one, but I didn't have a invisible zip foot at that time, so hand sewing it was (and again, train sewing). One thing that I really like about sewing zips in by hand as it allows you to be really accurate with matching seams, as you can ease the fabric in as you get to it and get a really precise finish.

Despite all the effort I put in to fitting this dress, it's still not perfect. There's some pooling of fabric under the bust, the side bust darts are way too high (really don't know how I didn't spot that during the muslins!) and there are some diagonal fold lines going from the bust to the side seams, which you can kind of see in the photo above. Thankfully the busy print hides the fitting issues pretty well! Also, something obviously went wrong with my skirt drafting as whilst one side seam matches quite nicely, the other is a fair bit out. Heh.

I love the colour of this dress but I think it is probably more of a spring/summer outfit. I tried making it more of an autumn look but I'm not sure it really works. Plus the cotton underlining really stuck to my tights! Would need a slip I reckon.

I think a belt helps to break up the pink overload slightly

Although I do love this dress I don't think I'd make it again. With the extra adjustments I would need to make I'm prepared to admit that this pattern has won the battle. Best to move on to something else!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Pintucked Sorbetto

This is my second version of the free Sorbetto pattern by Colette Patterns. I made my first version back in May as per the design, with the box pleat down the front. For the second version I had visions of fine pinktucks on a delicate fabric, which would be nice and light in summer. Naturally, I finished the top in October ;-).

I actually planned and cut out this top a few months ago, but what with moving countries it has sat unsewn in storage until I finally finished it last weekend. I spent a long time trying to work out how to add the pintucks to the pattern, but couldn't really find any tutorials online about how to do it without adding them in as a separate section. So after mulling it over for a while I decided just to try and work it out myself. 

This proved to be a mistake! As I was sewing the top up, my husband commented that it looked quite big. I assured him that it was just the loose nature of the style and that was how it was meant to be. However, when I put the finished top on it did seem quite a lot bigger than my first version. It was as if a whole load of extra width had been added at the front. My mistake suddenly dawned on me - as well as adding extra width to the pattern for the pintucks, I had also added the space between the pintucks. So I'd actually added over an inch of width to the front piece. Argh! This means the neck is wider than intended, the shoulder seams are too far out and the darts are in the wrong place. *Sigh*

When the moment of realisation struck I'd already finished the top, French seams and everything. I have taken the side seams in by over half an inch on each side to try and fix my error, but this has effected the back (which was originally the right size!) and made the side seams hang a bit oddly. 

Badly hanging back. Maybe should have ironed it!

I added sleeves to my Sorbetto using this free pattern piece. The piece was too big for my top, so I made the gathers on top of the sleeve obvious. I also shortened them by an inch. 

Erm, but see how that sleeve is hanging strangely? Yep, I sewed them both on the wrong way round! I think this was because I was pretty confused by trying to French seam the sleeves, so wasn't concentrating on which one I was using. 

These pintucks may have caused me problems, but they are pretty.

You may recognise the fabric as it is the same fabric I used for my Short Shorts. I believe it's Robert Kaufman's Veronica Voile in grey. Sewing the fabric unlined was a bit tricky, it's pretty slidey and frayed quite a lot. Soo light and drapey though.

On my original version of the pattern I made a few changes. I tucked out some gaping at the neck and armhole, cut the pattern to the longest length, graded in to a smaller size at the waist and moved the bust darts down about an inch. Having since reread the instructions I also realised that I sewed the neck binding on differently to the instructions - I applied mine as if I was binding the edge of a quilt, which could explain why it was so fiddly to do! I prefer the look of it to the original pattern though. 

Binding close up.

Despite my mistakes with this top I'm still fairly pleased with the finished piece. It's lovely and light and is good for layering. And anyway, you learn from your mistakes right?! I'm definitely going to try adding pintucks to another pattern, they are time-consuming but very satisfying thing to sew.

Also, yay for free patterns!

Here are some flat shots...

Pretty French seams :-)
Massively taken in seams!
Goofy grin shows my mixed feelings about this top!