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

Sunday, 9 July 2017

She. she. she. She's a bombshell (oh yeah)!

Hi folks,

I was on a coach to Bristol recently, amusing myself reading sewing blogs and thinking about my upcoming holiday to Ibiza to while away the journey when I remembered that, way back in the beginning of my sewing days I had purchased a couple of Perfect Pattern Parcels - one of which included the Bombshell Swimsuit. With this idea starting to form, and the coach conveniently stopping right outside Fabricland - which had come in a spontaneous internet search as a supplier of swimsuit lining - my goal to sew swimwear was set.

Despite these plans having been made at least a month in advance of my trip, with all supplies sourced upfront, I ended up having only got the pieces cut and the back panels gathered up until the day before I was due to fly out (as is so often the way with holiday sewing - I had to abandon a test version I was going to make, as well as a plan for denim sailor-style shorts to take away).

Luckily for me, making a swimsuit actually isn’t really very arduous a task if you have a bit of experience sewing activewear- in fact, the gathering was perhaps the most time consuming bit (I think next time I will use straight stitches to make it faster -  I did long zigzags because I was sewing with lycra, but obviously you don’t need zigzags for gathering stitches which are to be properly secured later, whoops). I have an overlocker which I used to neaten off the seams, but actually the majority of this was made up on my sewing machine.

I had a few issues attaching the swimsuit rubber elastic, and unfortunately it’s a bit visibly loopy on the bobbin side along the top edge, which also doesn't want to sit totally flat. I didn’t have time to re-do it but perhaps I might now that I’m back as it was visible to me at least when glancing down at my cleavage (which might also mean I need to make the elastic a little tighter for more stability along the top edge, as it does have a tendency to roll). 

As my sewing machine is a Bernina Record from the ‘70s it’s a brilliant workhorse for so many things, but it did skip a few stitches attaching the elastic, and its widest zigzag is a little more slender than ideal for that purpose. Luckily most of the skipped stitches got covered up when folding over and topstitching, but there are even a few skips in the topstitching too, despite using a stretch needle. Hopefully next time with slower sewing (and better quality thread, as though mine was a perfect colour match it was prone to snap) I’ll make a more professional-looking suit.

Having said all this, I still managed to take a lovely-looking swimsuit away with me on holiday that held up to hours of swimming in the sea, sunbathing and even diving off the side of boats without mishap. This is View A, the maillot, and I did feel quite chic strolling along and lolling about in it, although the only downside of the design is that because of the extra layers on the front it does take a little longer to dry so if you’re swimming all day and it may not dry out completely overnight (an excuse to make two?). The lower front faux-skirt also makes it a little trickier to tuck into shorts - but I just about made it work as you can see here!

I made the size 12 which I think is a good fit, although I think I made mine a tiny bit tighter as I found it quite difficult to keep to the ¼” seam allowances and probably strayed into ⅜” on most of my seams, especially as there are so many processes to fit into that tiny space - two rows of gathering stitches (which as mentioned earlier I accidentally made wider than necessary by using zigzag instead of straight stitches), basting stitches, and the final seams. I have a habit of using bobbins with thread left over from previous projects for gathering and basting stitches so that I can free the bobbins up for the next thing, but this can backfire when those stitches end up being caught in the final seams and visible from the outside, which unfortunately was the case here - I did have a few floating red and yellow threads which I still need to trim off!

I'm pretty pleased with my first DIY swimsuit and plan to make the halter strap view B version next - if only I had another beach break coming up to wear it for! I'm also rather tempted to try the Sophie Swimsuit pattern as actually I prefer it, I just happened to have this in the stash, but how many swimsuits does a landlocked city girl really need?

I'll leave you with a couple more shots of the suit in action - I'm being surrounded by a swirl of circling fish in the shot below, see if you can spot them in the second pic.

How's your holiday (or otherwise) sewing coming along?

NorseOtter xx