Sunday, 22 October 2017

Trio of Tees

Hi everyone!

Time for something a little different, and I have multiple models that aren't me for this blog post. Over the summer I had a bit of t-shirt making run (although I neglected to make any for myself and I really should, plain t-shirts are an essential and so quick to make up!).

My friend Scott was turning thirty, my brother's birthday was coming up and he hadn't yet been made anything by me, and Angus as usual had to be the guinea pig for project to check whether the pattern was going to work out. So: three tees, back-to-back.

The pattern is the Classic Men's T-Shirt from the Great British Sewing Bee Book 'Fashion with Fabric'. I don't have the book; but the pattern (plus instructions) are free to download from Love Sewing magazine's website here:

As I had a struggle with the button-down shirt I'd made from a previous GBSB book I didn't entirely trust the pattern, so made it up in scraps for Angus. The white section had to be cut on the cross-grain because my scraps were odd sizes, luckily it doesn't seem to have affected the overall hang too much. It's resulted in a rather oversized, loose-hanging look that Angus likes for a retro feel for this version (and he matches the cat!), but for Scott I knew he'd prefer something a little more fitted, so I went down a few sizes.

Making a plain t-shirt didn't seem fancy enough for a gift so I decided to do some colour blocking. This was necessary for Angus's scrap shirt, and it worked out pretty well, so I decided to use it again with the same proportions for the others. I just cut the pattern horizontally across from just below the armscye to centre front and back on both sides and added seam allowances. I could perhaps have lowered the seam a little to match the sleeve length, but it works out pretty well with the rolled-up sleeves.

I used melange jersey from Ray Stitch (many more colours available, but this bordeaux is my favourite). The fabric is much better quality than the scraps I used for Angus's tee so resulted in a garment that didn't drape as much and held its shape pretty well, with nice recovery. As you can see here, the seam allowance trimmings from my brother's shirt have made a very popular cat toy - she just loves how the fabric pings back when she tries to drag it away!

I should probably say the pattern is a pretty decent basic and the proportions look right. It'd be easy enough to customise further, and you can't argue with the price! If there's one thing I would have done differently it would be to make the sleeves shorter, but that's personal preference really. As you can see here they look pretty good rolled up to the desired length, whereas if you leave them at the length as-drafted you end up with them finishing just above the elbow.

Having fabric left over from Scott's t-shirt and the joy of making something relatively simple that looks pretty professional (if I do say so myself) I decided to repeat the trick for my brother, but to mix up the colourway a little. I had to keep the bordeaux in as I love the colour (although maybe I should have saved some for myself?). His style is more understated so I went for a semi-fitted look, keeping the sleeve length as is for him. I also decided to topstitch the chest join seam down, just to add a slightly different touch. Here's how it turned out!

T-shirts are really nice projects if you have an overlocker and a twin needle (although they can be made on a regular sewing machine too, but as mine's from the '70s it's not really designed to handle stretch fabrics). There are loads of nice free women's t-shirts out there too, although they may need adjusting for fit across the bust (men are so much easier to sew for when it comes to fit!). I've tried the Plantain and liked it (it was my first ever jersey project and made using my cranky old Toyota too, I'm certain I'd get better results now); I recently came across Secondo Piano's Basic InstincT tee which looks like something I'd like to have a go at, but I think I may have missed the boat seasonally now.

What's your favourite classic t-shirt pattern?

NorseOtter xx

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Not for the skint; fancy linen Flint!

Eesh, that's a horrible title. Apologies also for some of the wonky photos - we were out at a beautiful setting so I tried to ensure my new make got captured at the same time, but not all of these on-the-fly camera phone pics worked out as well as I hoped.

So, nobody could ever accuse me of being an early adopter. When trends come out I wait around and see them appear on a variety of different figures and styled in different ways before I decide whether it's for me. There have been many examples recently, especially my last two posts - the matching crop top and midi skirt set, and the K2444, not trendy now but once a very popular pattern.

Here's my version of the Flint pants, and pretty much the most classic, unoriginal take on them. I have to admit I liked them when they first were released, but I'd recently donated a whole bunch of 3/4 length trousers, wide legged trousers and culottey things to charity thinking they'd never come back in style, and I swear the very next week they did. So here I am working hard to build back up what I gave away - but I'm not sure it's the best decision. I was always drawn to the elegant high-waisted and loose-legged looks from the '40s, but on me and my squidgy middle I fear they always look unflattering and don't quite live up to the dream.

I've made up the shorts from some leftover denim to try out a radical re-drawing of the front and back curve which seemed to work pretty well (maybe I'll share these in the future along with some previously unblogged tees). That was the only adjustment I made, so I rapidly made them up again for the final version - and possibly the most expensive garment I've ever made - in Merchant and Mills linen from Ray Stitch. This is the version with the cute ties to one side - although in both my denim and linen versions there's a little bit of fraying at the points so I'll have to do something to prevent that next time - perhaps I trimmed too close before turning the right way round?

They seem to fit OK, but I do still feel a little frumpy. Maybe I just need to get used to the style, but I feel like the drape falls from the thickest part of my silhouette and covers where I taper in again. I decided to sew two hidden buttons on the inside waistband, to avoid pulling when I've had a big meal. The waistband does tend to relax a little over the day, so maybe in future I'd look into stabilising it a bit more for a sleeker look and better hold to the true waist. They are incredibly fun to canter down the stairs in though, as the fabric moves beautifully (goofy demo as below).

Another factor that annoys me is that not only am I a bit late to jump on the bandwagon, but I am just a bit darn late in the season - hopefully these will get a couple of wears on holiday but that might be pushing it a bit, it's chilly for linen in all honesty. Perhaps I'll just have to try a pair in wool? They are a lovely quick and relatively easy make, although for the next pair I'll try and slow down to ensure the waistband works for me.

Anybody else tried a trend that you weren't sure was for you?

NorseOtter xx

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Project Runway Style in Vintage Fabric: Simplicity K2444

Hi everyone!

My making this year has been half decided by pattern and half by fabric, as I’m determined to use up some of the lovely pieces I’ve bought over the last two years and make sure that the rest all fits in one place (and is no longer spilling over into random bags and boxes)!

This dress falls into the latter category, and is another vintage piece of fabric given to me by my ex-boss. I think it might be my favourite piece from those she donated - the colours are so lovely, and the print abstract enough that while it gives a vintage feel, it's not too dated.

The pattern is Simplicity K2444, one of the Project Runway patterns which I believe was popular a few years ago just before I started sewing, and fell into my hands at the Knitting and Stitching Show 2015 when I bought a £5 bundle of back-issue sewing magazines. I was tempted by Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity 1873, but annoyingly the copy I have is in the smaller size range. My measurements fall in the middle but just on the large side (but apparently that dress comes up big so maybe I’ll get away with it for next time!).

I didn’t toile the K2444 but decided to apply some adjustments straight off the bat and hope for the best:

  • A 1” FBA. I’m not sure entirely what I did - as the bodice has angled waist darts, it’s not the most straightforward of FBAs and I didn’t want to add in side darts, so I ended up just easing in the extra length I added to the front bodice into the side seams, which does make it a bit baggier than ideal

  • Pinched a tiny bit of excess out of the neckline (which I remembered to adjust for in the facing, but not the collar stand, which is why I think it’s a bit flappy

  • Took a small wedge out of the lower back bodice as a swayback adjustment (looking at this I could perhaps do with less fabric in the upper back too)

  • Had to take a wedge off the side seams at the bottom of the skirt, as my fabric wasn’t quite wide enough (which has resulted in a hem that slightly curves up at the sides, giving a very soft tulip look, whoops).

I also made some minor non-fitting related changes:

  • Added a cotton lawn skirt lining as the fabric is slightly sheer in strong light (I had meant to do a full lining but was guessing the quantities and didn’t have buy quite enough fabric)
  • Omitted the pockets. I cut them out, but wasn’t sure how they’d work with a lined skirt.

I’m quite pleased with this. It’s not as easy a make as I thought it was going to be, as I had several fitting tweaks to work through, and then ended up having to make a few on-the-fly adjustments that caused some stopping and starting in the making process - like having to go out and buy lining and adjust the pattern to omit the pleats in cutting it out.

I also encountered a small setback when I thought I had the right zip in my stash, but after insertion it turned out to be way too short, only making it down to the waist seam. I very nearly just left it at that, but realised I’d be condemning myself to a life of struggling to wriggle in and out of the frock and would therefore never wear it, so I resentfully decided to be sensible, unpick my work and buy a long enough zip for the job.

Funnily enough I’ve not made a dress that’s only lined at the skirt yet, so this was a small learning curve for me - there are things I could have done more neatly if it had been the plan from the start, but it looks fine really. The lawn lining is very lovely to wear, and gives the skirt a nice bit of additional volume without being too bulky.

I wore this out for a stroll round the neighbourhood on Saturday afternoon, after some photos in the park I played a spot of ping pong (which taught me that the sleeves do restrict my arm movements a little, so not the best sporting attire) and then had a beer in a local railway arch brewery where I got a couple of nice compliments, so, job’s a good’un!

I hope to have a couple more occasions to wear this before the weather turns too cold.. I actually still have a list of summer clothes I’m yet to make that I’m desperate to get done this year (and I’m depressed about some of the things that have had to be taken off due to time constraints). England’s seasons are all over the shop and I have a little holiday coming up, so I imagine I’ll get a couple more warm “windows” until I officially have to box up all my light cottons and short sleeves again.

Are you clutching onto summer or desperate to get going with the next season's sewing?

NorseOtter xx

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Late to the party - Patrones matching set

Hola amigos!

I’ve made myself a matching summery set of boxy woven tee and midi skirt, approximately two (or more) years after this look became fashionable. Aw well, sewing for me is definitely slowww fashion.

The patterns here are the falda H&M Evasee and Top Corto Alba Conde from Patrones magazine, which I picked up (alongside Patrones Extra, which has an amazing selection of shirt and trouser patterns) in Madrid in March. I bought this issue on the strength of some line drawings of three incredible dresses, all of which I realised on more leisurely inspection were actually in the plus size section - but I’m hoping to work out how to size them down. I’ve already put in an order with a friend to pick me up a copy of the latest Patrones when she goes to Spain later this summer.

There are loads of lovely things to make in this issue, but I was drawn to this set because 1) I have been meaning to get on this trend for a while 2) I wanted to try out a boxy woven tee as a trial run for some lovely Japanese fabric I bought with a Cloth House voucher that I’d like to make up this summer and 3) these patterns are meant to be ‘costura facil’ - an easy sew - and that’s what I was in the mood for!

You’ll notice here that the patterns don’t have quite the same proportions on me as they do on the model. The patterns are without seam and hem allowances, and I tried to work out a way to cheat this when tracing the skirt pieces which ended up backfiring. I had planned to just trace the size up and work with that (a bad idea anyway) but then ended up autocorrecting myself when in the act into tracing my size - hence cutting out my pieces without any seam allowance at all!

I sewed the skirt with ¼” seam allowances to try and make it work for me and it just about fits, but there isn’t any ease over the abdomen and hips so the skirt isn’t as swingy as intended. I made the same mistake with the waistband, which is one piece that is meant to be folded over, but as I realised this would be too skinny without the seam allowances I decided to cut another waistband piece as a facing instead to preserve some width. I probably could have cut a replacement piece properly instead of that workaround really!

Sewing this up was very easy - I didn’t use the instructions (which are pretty brief, and let's face it, in more complex Spanish than I can handle) and decided to make it without lining as the fabric is quite structured (it might even be a home furnishing fabric), and is intended for summer wear. The fabric is from a gift bundle that my former manager gave me - the selvedge says ‘Cranston Print Works, Schwartz Liebman’ and I believe it’s from the 1970s or 80s and came all the way over from Texas. Not sure if the fabric was ever sold on these shores, or if it’s a memento from a trip. I hope I’ve done it justice!

I aimed to avoid my seam allowance mistake with the top, but ended up using a guide with ⅜” seam allowances to draw these directly onto the fabric so didn’t give myself much wiggle room, and then forgot to extend this for more of a hem turn-up! Translating the instructions for the fiddlier parts of this ended up being a bit of a headache, so again I just went with my instincts and hoped for the best. Unfortunately with all the nested patterns I seem to have missed off marking any match points too, so attaching the cap sleeves in the right spot was essentially guesswork. I haven’t quite finished the back neck fastening (still need a button and to sew down the bias loop closure) but I think I might have made the opening slit a bit wider than designed here, so something to watch out for on the next incarnation.

The fit is certainly boxy - but I think that to imitate the model photo better perhaps I should have cropped it even more? The back has come out a little crumpled in these photos and isn’t hanging as freely as intended which might mean it’s a bit long. To create a little shaping there is a seam across the bustline that also cuts the back section in half, so if I wanted to make this again I could experiment with colour blocking. I didn't make any adjustments for fit, and I think perhaps I’d need to peg the side seams in towards the waist for a more flattering look, but think this might necessitate a side zip (argh, scary new technique!).

Anyway, a fun experiment and an outfit I enjoyed wearing out last night, which earned a compliment from a stranger so gets the seal of approval! Have you ever made something up from a foreign language pattern magazine? How did you get on?

NorseOtter xx

Monday, 31 July 2017

Essential Erin

How did I live before I had this skirt? What did I wear?

One of the best things about this skirt (other than the fact that I love it and that it’s an absolute staple) is that it was basically free; the denim was left over from my Safran jeans, pockets lined with my skeleton dress fabric, and the buttons are from a massive stash that I inherited from my partner’s gran. This is the Erin skirt (the shorter version) from Sew Over It's My Capsule Wardrobe City Break e-book (also free to me, as it was a gift!). I'm quite pleased that I've made up two things from an e-book that I received this year (first make was the Alex shirt), as usually it takes me years to get around to making stuff, even if I love it!

It has however has taken ages for me to get photos of this skirt because it’s basically never clean, I’m always wearing it and it’s always creased! I’ve now worn this to Bristol (when it was fairly new), Edinburgh (where it stood up well to my first ceilidh experience) and Ibiza. The buttonholes are showing a little bit of wear so if I made it again I would probably make sure I stabilised this area with some interfacing.

Otherwise I made this up as instructed other than to to use cotton for the side of the pocket bags that wouldn’t be seen to reduce bulk, and to work out my own button placement (probably more or less the same as marked, but aiming to ensure no unnecessary side flashes of knicker). I also used the method taught me in my Sew Over It cigarette pant class to add a bit more room over the rear. I’m not sure if this affected the dart placement (as I didn’t add any room at the waistline) but I think next time I’d bring these into the centre a fraction as they look a bit wide set. I’m not sure, but I could perhaps do with a tiny swayback adjustment too as there is a tiny crease at the small of my back.

I’m pretty pleased with this though, it’s fun, a cute length, incredibly easy to wear and pair with things and quite a quick make. I also got a unsolicited compliment on it from a little girl on my walk back from taking photos of it, so that can’t be a bad thing (“from the mouths of babes” my partner/ photographer commented). I’m keen to make another in the longer length, and in more colours. I reckon adding belt loops and back pockets for future versions would be worthwhile too. While I like the slant pockets and they seem to be behaving themselves in this denim with plenty of stretch, I imagine in future versions in stiffer fabric they might benefit from curving out a little.

I'll leave you with a typically goofy outtake. Have you made any surprise staples lately?

NorseOtter xx

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Moody Melilot

Hi everyone,

So I have an obsession with the Melilot pattern and need to quit and work on something else soon before people get bored of seeing me wear it. Trouble is, I can see mandarin collar versions, cropped versions, more shirtdress versions...This is my fourth, and it’s becoming a TNT (see 1, 2, 3).

I made this version up in some lightweight denim I bought last year when I was in LA and decided to see what Mood had in store (one reason why this post is titled ‘moody’). I loved this fabric straight away, and apparently it had been selling out because of its similarity to the wallpaper in the Beverly Hills Hotel. I can’t verify this, but I wanted it regardless. So it came home with me, alongside some Ralph Lauren denim I haven’t dared cut into yet, and some merino jersey from the Fabric Store that I haven’t dared set shears to either.

Trouble is, I cut this when in a bad mood (that’s the second reason for the title). After waiting a year to work with it and feeling a bit of “now or never” pressure as the weather warmed up, I decided to just go for it one day after having made my toile de jouy shirtdress to make the palm tree Melilot of my dreams.

I knew I wanted to make a Melilot when I bought the fabric, but the loveliness on both sides made this difficult to pin down what I wanted designwise. In the end I used the reverse side, even though I preferred the deeper green of the right side, as I thought it would be easier to wear with jeans without going on the wrong side of double denim. Tempted though I was, I decided not to incorporate any contrast elements.

Deep curve of the hem, showing the inside (and 'right side') of the fabric, although the photo doesn't really show the depth of colour

Trouble is, the front print is misaligned, which bugs me more than it would anyone else. To have saved it up so long, only to butcher it because of an off day! So annoying. And the palm trees are running upside down along the centre fronts too. Gah. At least the back is properly positioned and symmetrical.

I also made this up in the same size, no adjustments, as my previous Melilots, which was cheating a bit in that I just traced between sizes, with a size larger from the waist up to accommodate my bust. However I think this made the shoulders too big, so there’s a bit of a crease which is a bit more evident in this stiff fabric. I also wonder if actually I needed a larger size over the hips anyway, as it has a tendency to hitch up over the bum.

 As this was hot off the heels of the shirtdress I went on autopilot a bit and made a couple of other minor but frustrating mistakes when putting this together. Not hugely noticeable, but I forgot to topstitch the pocket fold down. I also managed to sew the collar on underside up, which means it has a tendency to curl upwards a little, and you can kind of see the seam where I had attempted to roll it out of sight.

Despite all the minor flaws, I do still really like this shirt and wear it a lot. Its first outing was to Edinburgh Film Festival, and its been on permanent rotation since. I think it looks best tucked into things, here shown with my rather worn out looking Safran jeans. It barely needs ironing which means it’s easy to reach for when dressing in a rush, and because I used the reverse of the denim it can work with different shades of blue jeans.

I’m keen to make sure I get on with some more summer sewing before it’s too late - I can’t believe we’re over halfway through the year already!

How are your seasonal plans coming along?

NorseOtter xx