Thursday, 29 September 2016

Admitting to my mistakes - so you can avoid them!

Not everything I sew makes it onto the blog - I hardly think it's worthwhile sharing all the pyjama pants, t-shirts and track suit pants I make for myself and the kids because I have nothing meaningful to say about them and they're not glamourous enough for just a show and tell type post!

So the tops I'm about to share here almost fall into that category, except that I made a simple mistake on each that I mainly want to post here as a note to my future self, but it may help someone else avoid them too. Plus I'm keeping it real - even experienced sewers sometimes commit simple stuff ups so no one ought to feel bad about that all.

First up, a simple round neck top from Burda 2/2011 #106 which I've made many times before and is my go to pattern for long sleeve t-shirts:

Burda 2/2011 #106 polka dot top

Burda 2/2011 #106 top

This one is made from a light sweater type knit fabric that I wanted to be able to wear over other layers for warmth in winter so I needed it to be a little looser than the others I had made. Instead of thinking it through properly and slightly increasing the width of the body and sleeves I simply traced out a larger size and made that up. Well that meant the top is too large through the shoulders and the sleeve cap hangs off my shoulder:

Burda 2/2011 #106 polka dot top

I've left as is and happpily wear this top, but it does annoy me everytime I look at it. It's a common complaint I hear about some plus size patterns - that when pattern drafters grade up a pattern they increase all measurments equally, even though shoulder width doesn't usually increase as dramatically as say the bust between sizes. Note to future self - next time fix the pattern properly and don't look for the quick solution!

This fabric is awesome though - it's a polyester knit that I bought recently from The Remnant Warehouse (when I was there buying them out of gold sequin fabric), and the dots are actually flocked velvet. It's very tactile, and I do find that my kids like to touch it whenever I'm wearing it. They also had this fabric in a blue and a brown colourway that I had to restrain myself from buying since I only need so many polka dot tops after all.

polka dot fabric

Ok, onto the second mishap. In August we went skiing with a large group of friends, and given that I dislike both the cold and doing exercise I was a bit apprehensive. So I sort of went overboard buying warm thermals to wear under the ski gear and chunky wool jumpers to wear when not skiing. I also decided to make a high necked top to wear to make doubly sure that no cold air was going to sneak in my ski jacket when I was trying not to break bones on the ski slopes. Sue at Quilt Sew, Sew Sue had previously recommended Burda 9/2010 #121 (not available for download unfortunately) a while ago, and a quick google search revealed that loads of other people had made it too so I figured I couldn't go wrong.

Burda 9/2010 #121 funnel neck top in french terry

Burda 9/2010 #121 funnel neck top

It is a very simple, quick and easy top to make. Essentially it's just three pieces - the front, back and sleeves and the neckline is formed by cutting out an extra long neckline and then folding it over. My mistake with this one is that my fabric has very little stretch so it's very hard to get over my head (either that or my head is larger than the average German head!). This fabric is also wonderful though, despite the stretch. Another purchase from The Remnant Warehouse earlier in the year it's a French terry knit - one side is smooth and the inside is looped fibres. I've worn this a lot and it hasn't pilled at all yet. I only wish I bought more of it at the time, because sadly it's all gone now.

french terry fabric

I find the neckline a bit annoying though - it's only sewn down at the side seams which means that the fabric at the front wants to roll up and it gets a bit bunchy. I overlocked the edge of the fabric hoping that would keep it flat, but I think I really need to stitch it down the whole way around.

Burda 9/2010 #121 funnel neck top in french terry

Burda 9/2010 #121 funnel neck top in french terry

The sleeves on this one are also really really long! In the Burda photo you can see it's meant to be worn scrunched up a little around the wrists, but because my fabric doesn't have enough stretch it doesn't stay like that. Note to future self: choose a stretchier knit and reduce the sleeve length.

Burda 9/2010 #121 funnel neck top in french terry

The final project for this post is made from some beautiful wool fabric I bought from the Tomato fabric store when I was Tokyo this time last year. This was one of those fabrics that I really wanted to use but couldn't decide on the right pattern because I didn't want to waste it. Eventually I settled on Kwik Sew 3915, which is a simple top with a v-neckband that I've made once before:

Kwik Sew 3915 v neck top
Kwik Sew 3915 v neck top

Regrettably I only bought a single metre of this fabric (it was quite expensive and by that stage I had already bought a lot of fabric!), I had to change the neck band by reducing the width to remove those gathers and the fold over bit at the back of the neck . The v-neck point turned out perfectly, and in fact I like it better than the gathered version:

Kwik Sew 3915 v neck top

Unfortunately I didn't think about what changes the back of the neckline would also require. Now that it didn't need to turn over on itself outwards, I really should have angled the centre back seam so that it would sit snugly against my neck, and since I didn't the neckline sags open at the back:

Kwik Sew 3915 v neck top

I've been wearing this lots though despite this problem, and the easy fix is to wear my hair down so that it covers it! Note to future self - make this again, but change that centre back seam.

So there you have it - nothing major but I guess what annoys me the most about these is that they were easily avoidable. They are also easily fixed, but since that involves unpicking overlocked stitches on knit fabrics that won't be happening anytime soon!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Perfecting my pencil skirt: Burda 12/2013 #118

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

Making a new skirt is such a satisfying project because it's so quick to make and usually turns out pretty good (unlike my ongoing failure to make a decent fitting pair of pants!). However, there is always room for improvement so I keep on making further refinements in the quest for a perfect pencil skirt.

For this version, I've used Burda 12/2013 #118 which I made in a floral cotton fabric 2 years ago and is a good simple silhouette to start with:

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

I found the pattern to be more a straight shape and not as pegged as the pattern drawing suggests, so for this version I took it in quite a bit at the side seams to get a more fitted shape. I managed to get excellent pattern matching horizontally, but you can see the curved side seam vertically:

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

I also made the waistband slightly more curved than my previous version - the pattern has a straight waistband which doesn't work for my shape at all. The curve of the waistband is really noticeable on the front due to the houndstooth pattern of the fabric. It wasn't until I looked at these photos that I realise I should have cut the waistband the other way around, but I can live with this because that sort of detail is noticed by no one else!

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

The back view is ok, pattern matching along the zipper is not so great, and the darts interrupt the pattern as well but it fits well and that's what matters most. The changes I made to the original pattern were to put in a mitred vent at the skirt opening instead of just a split, and to finish the zipper below the waistband so that I could instead use a hook and bar on the waistband - I feel that is more sturdy that extending the invisible zip all the way to the top.

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

I've fully lined the skirt in a bemberg lining, although since this fabric is a very substantial woven cotton it probably would have been ok without it. I bought this fabric from The Fabric Store during one of their regular 40% off sales last year (or the year before? Time flies when you buy fabric for no particular project!) and the fabric is just lovely. One of those fabrics that I wish I bought more.

A pencil skirt isn't hugely exciting or ground breaking but it is a real staple of my work wardrobe - I've been wearing it with the white wool blazer I made last year during the cold weather in the last few weeks. That white blazer is one of the best things I've ever made, it's so versatile and gets worn so frequently.

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

Hooray for quick but effective projects I say!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Kwik Sew 3531: my new favourite tailored jacket

Kwik Sew patterns are the quiet achievers of the pattern world, in my humble opinion. Most of the pattern envelopes are rather dowdy, and apart from using photographs now instead of just drawings they haven't changed much over the years. But their drafting is solid, they offer the essential basics and every now and then one of their patterns will really catch my eye which is the case with this one. Behold my new favourite work jacket:

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

This is Kwik Sew 3531, an asymmetrical jacket in two lengths:

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket

I chose to make the shorter length jacket mainly because I like cropped jackets but also because if you look at that photograph on the pattern envelope there are drag lines from the side seam down towards the centre front which I figure had something to do with the length.

The fabric is the real superstar of this project though - it's a vintage wool tweed piece I bought from the remnants table at the Remnant Warehouse earlier this year. The base colour is a beautiful peach shade, with flecks in varying colours. It sewed and pressed like a dream.

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

The jacket is rather boxy as there are no darts or shaping in the back. I was tempted to add a centre back seam so that I could do a sway back adjustment, but I figured that because the jacket is cropped it would still look ok, especially when worn with a well fitting pencil skirt:

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

The other feature I used is a vintage button I bought from an aptly named shop called Buttons Buttons Buttons down in The Rocks (a tourist district in Sydney) - I bought three of  them years ago for a failed project (another *cough cough* UFO) but I decided it looks better on this project. It really is the centrepiece of the jacket front, and acts like a brooch so I tend to keep my accessories with this jacket very simple. 

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

The other feature I really love about this pattern is the inseam buttonhole which you can see in the photograph above. It's such a neat finish and of course saves the stress of doing a neat buttonhole.

The pattern is for an unlined jacket, but I drafted a lining for mine as I really dislike jackets without linings. It's much easier to put them on if the inside is slippery, and I also lack the patience to do fancy seam finishes such as Hong Kong bindings. I found a perfect colour matching piece of China silk in my stash picked up from an opshop a long time ago, it was like it was waiting for this project it's so perfectly matched:

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

The only other change I made was with the button placement on the front. I chose the button placement when I was wearing the jacket and just where the fronts sat best - my buttons are a bit lower and more towards the centre than where they are indicated on the pattern. And looking at these photos I can see that I've put the outside button on the opposite side to the pattern, oops! I'm sure there's some convention about which side women's jackets are supposed to button up, but since I made this and no one else will be wearing it, it suits me just fine! 
Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

Although my fabric has a weight suitable for a jacket, I used some iron on interfacing on the neckbands, facings, part of the fronts, upper back and sleeve heads for extra structure. 

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

So overall I can highly recommend this pattern if you're looking for a simple and easy to make jacket. Because there isn't a traditional notched collar needing traditional tailoring techniques such as pad stitching along a roll line or welt pockets it comes together very quickly. I've already worn this jacket several times to work since I made it a few weeks ago and I've received quite a few compliments on it - clearly a winner!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Completed UFO#4: possibly the last sewing blogger to make the Sewaholic Pendrell?

Some long time readers may be a little surprised at seeing me sew an indie pattern given I've barely disguised my disdain for the majority of indie patterns in the past. But this project was a long term UFO, and I didn't even buy this pattern in the first place so I can reassure you that I am not about to become an indie pattern fan girl anytime soon.

Back in 2013, a lovely reader (who in one of those isn't it a small world kind of coincidences lives close to where I grew up) sent me two Sewaholic patterns that she no longer wanted (hi Reona! thanks again!). I had plans to make the Cordova jacket immediately, but couldn't find a separating zip in a colour to match my chosen fabric and then I used that fabric for something else so as result I still haven't made that pattern.

But I thought I could make the Pendrell top pretty quickly - it's a simple enough pattern and a bajillion other sewers have made it and praised it highly. But I did not like it at all - I found the pattern as I originally made it quite frumpy, shapeless and frankly rather ridiculous with those sleeve caps:

Admittedly, a bright yellow colour probably didn't help but this fabric is lovely - a lightweight wool that drapes wonderfully and for some reason I'm really drawn to yellow. This fabric actually came from a maternity top I made back in 2008 that I couldn't bear to get rid of so I decided to refashion it into this top (hence the uneven hem in the photo above).

I really should have known better about those sleeves before I started making this pattern - I have narrow shoulders and prefer a neat and close fitting garment, anything too wide or fussy around the shoulders makes me feel like I'm wearing something too big. So I did what I normally do: unpicked half the seams, got annoyed and stuffed it into my UFO box to marinate until the time was right.

So the first fix was to those ridiculous puffy sleeves. I thought the top looked too plain without a sleeve, so I cut the original sleeves in half horizontally, keeping just two pleats. This way I kept a pleated cap sleeve but without the excess volume.

The second fix was to get a closer fit. I know everyone else seems to like their versions, but I seriously do not understand why a pattern would be designed with princess seams front and back but instead of using those seams to achieve a close fit it instead needs to be loose because there is no opening in it. It may as well as been a single piece for the front and back with a few bust darts instead. Rant over - I know I prefer a closer fit than some other people do.

So I cut the top open along the centre back and inserted an invisible zip. I had a perfectly colour matched zip in my stash but it was a bit too short, so I left a sort of keyhole opening at the neckline above the zipper to make it work. I think it looks deliberate and I quite like it actually:

yellow Sewaholic Pendrell top

And now that I had an opening in the back, I then took in each of the side seams and princess seams gradually until I got the closer fit that I was after. I didn't make it too tight though because this fabric has no stretch and obviously I still needed to move in it.

yellow Sewaholic Pendrell top

So after all that work am I happy with it? Mostly, but it's not my favourite. I'm not a fan of using bias bindings at the neckline, I think a facing is a neater finish. I also have lots of other closely fitting shell tops that I wear repeatedly but I do like the yellow with black and white and grey outfits so it will definitely get worn. And that's another UFO out of the box and into my wardrobe!

yellow Sewaholic Pendrell top

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Resurfacing...... and winning

Finally all the mundane but necessary things going on in my life are easing up and I hope to get back to my normal easy going, non stressful and placid life! To celebrate, I bought myself three pieces of totally unnecessary but pretty fabric when I was at the fabric store a few weeks ago buying more gold sequin fabric for the school sewing project I've been working on. But not only have I already sewn one of those three pieces into a finished garment already, check out my little blackboard that hangs above my sewing machines keeping track of my sewing statistics:

Can you see how much fabric I've used this year compared to how much I've bought? That's what I call winning! Of course it doesn't make a dent in the extensive fabric stash I already have, but I'm slowly edging ahead in my twisted fabric stash mathematics. And those statistics do not include the 39 metres of gold sequin fabric I've spent the last few weeks making into 28 jackets.

After putting in many many hours I have now finished sewing all those jackets for my daughter's school dance group. Sewing this project was a major pain in the neck and far from enjoyable - the tips of my scissors would always catch the fabric, the sequins would stick to each other and the needle kept getting sticky so the thread stuck because the sequins are actually foil dot stickers. Pressing the fabric was nearly impossible, and there are no facings or linings - the edges are simply turned under and topstitched, but since they are costumes that will be seen from afar and worn two or three times I figured it was good enough and it was the only way to get through it quick enough:

gold sequin top coat with tails pattern pieces

I used Burda patterns as the basis for the jackets, and then altered the pattern to have the pointed cropped front, the long tails at the back and the shawl collar. I think they turned out ok:

gold sequin top coat with tails jacket

This jacket looks a little large on Anna because the jackets are made for the older kids in her school - I have no idea how well they fit the kids I sewed them for though, and frankly I don't care anymore!

And now let us never speak of gold sequin fabric ever again.....

Friday, 15 July 2016

Completed UFOs 2 & 3: failure to fit

Firstly, I want to apologise for not replying to the comments on the last two posts - I know people like getting a response but life has just been so busy lately and I can no longer access blogger through my work computer (I used to work on my blog during my lunchtime) and I rarely seem to have a spare 30 minutes in the evening before collapsing into bed at 11pm most nights. But I do appreciate each and every comment, so thank you for to those that comment and to all that read my posts.

But I have been doing a little bit of sewing each night, and I've been making slow but steady progress tackling my mountain of UFOs. Actually I'm getting a huge amount of satisfaction of finishing things off and ticking them off my list. I quite like problem solving, which is what my UFO challenge is all about - finding the reason why I didn't finish a project and figuring out a way to finish it.

When it comes to sewing problems, fitting pants properly is top of my list. That's the cause of these two UFOs, and while I haven't managed to fix the fitting problems they are finished and that's good enough (for now). There are a few other pants UFOs in the pile too, but that's a story for another day.

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

I have one pair of sewn pants that fit me ok, ironically made many many years ago when the only fitting I used to be concerned about was whether I could button up the waistband! So I figured that if I used the same pattern it should all work out fine and in a fit of productivity I cut out two pairs at the same time. As it turned out, they didn't fit very well at all and so they sat in my UFO box for the past few years.

I used New Look 6736, long OOP, which I bought in the early 1990s and despite being rather dated it's an ok pattern with four variations:

I made view D - flat front pants that are longer than capri length on me. One pair I've made in a black and white print cotton sateen and the other is in a grey wool with a subtle pinstripe. Neither look that great, but I was a bit relieved that pants I started making 4 years ago still fit:

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

In 2014 at the Australian Sewing Guild annual convention I attended a pants fitting workshop which I also failed dismally at - I was trying to make fitted pants from a trouser pattern, using cotton drill instead of draping fabrics so despite the best efforts of the instructor it was never going to work out. But I did learn quite a bit about my body shape and the fitting changes I need to do. First thing is I have a hyper extended calf, which in the photos below you can clearly see how the drag lines point to my calf and the side seam has shifted to the back:

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

This can only be fixed before cutting out because the pattern needs extra width added to the calf by slashing up the centre of the back leg piece to the knee and spreading the pattern. So it remains a problem in these pairs of pants, but I know better for future iterations.  

I also have full inner thighs, which means I have to add extra width to the inner leg seams - this also needs to be done before cutting out the fabric so for these versions I just sewed them with a very scant seam allowance but I really need to add about 1.5cm. After much discussion with the ladies at a recent ASG sewing day I think this may be the main cause for the terrible drag lines on the back view:
New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

Other fitting changes I have under control are scooping out the crotch curve to an elongated "j" shape to account for my not perky bottom, adding extra rise and removing a small wedge at the centre back seam to account for my sway back, and making sure I measure myself around my widest part (ie my saddle bag thighs) when choosing the pattern size.

So while it wasn't possible to fix these fitting problems for these two pairs of pants, they are at least finished and out of my UFO pile. They are good enough for casual wear, and I'm coming around to accepting that I'll never make a perfectly fitting pair of pants. I am doing another pants fitting workshop in a few weeks with Anita from Studio Faro through my ASG neighbourhood group, so hopefully that will also help me along this torturous journey. But for now, these pants and my new chunky wool jumper are getting me through the very cold weather we're having right now:

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

But I'm starting to think that my obsession with making pants that fit perfectly (ie fall smoothly at the back and front) is a little misplaced - I see so many ill fitting pants worn by people every day so clearly hardly anyone else cares. And then I saw these pants for sale on an Australian retail site:

These pants, on a slim and no doubt tall model, look no better than the ones I've made so while I do want to strive for much better than RTW with my sewn items I'm going to give myself a pass mark on these two pants.