Saturday, 17 June 2017

#SewTogetherforSummer Melilex Dress

 Inspired by all the lovely Kalles out there, and by this lovely number from Self Assembly Required, and given a kick up the backside by the #sewtogetherforsummer challenge, I decided to make myself a shirtdress with a modern silhouette using the Melilot pattern as a base.

I bought the toile de jouy fabric ages ago from Brixton’s Simply Fabrics and think I might have originally planned to use it for an Elisalex, before deciding I didn’t need another black on white print version of the same dress. It was cheap stuff - about £4 a metre - so I didn’t mind sacrificing it for this experiment. On the minus side, it is a little stiff, but as a bonus I decided to skip interfacing the collar and stand and the button band, and it seemed to work out OK.

As you might have guessed by the name, the shirtdress is a mash-up of the Melilot Shirt and Alex Shirtdress (from the My Capsule Wardrobe City Break collection from Sew Over It). I literally cut off the dress section of the Alex and lined it up with the bottom of the Melilot to where it looked right and winged it with a little spare paper in back to fill in any gaps.

I think it works reasonably well when the dress is belted, as the skirt portion of the Alex has quite an A-line shape that kicks out from the hips which looks a little weird unbelted (I might have lined up the hips too low when mashing the patterns together).

With a belt the flaring gets hitched up to the right place, but in the stiff fabric it still wants to fold in on itself a little bit. In future versions I’d probably skim a fair bit off each side seam for the skirt portion (taking a note of where it naturally wants to fall) and perhaps raise the side slits to ensure that my stride wasn’t affected. But for now, the shape and length works for me and I like the hi-lo shirttail shape to the skirt, so I’m pretty pleased with the experiment!

Another change I’ve thought about incorporating is to alter the back of the Melilot to include a yoke and a box pleat - although I’m not sure how this’d work with the cut-on sleeves. This is basically making it even more like the Kalle - so if I wasn’t so stubbornly cheap I might have just bit the bullet and bought that pattern to reduce the workload. Having said that, I think there’s something to be gained from experimenting, hacking and tweaking that builds skills and confidence and forces you to think about the elements you like and how to achieve them with the best results.

Thanks for reading, I have more Melilot-related makes to share soon (it may have been an expensive pattern but one that I have certainly got good use out of!).

NorseOtter xx

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Scuba Wiggle Dress (Has Finally Surfaced...)

Hi everyone!

I am very happy to have finally finished this dress. It's been worn by my mannequin in a state of near-completion since at least the release of Trainspotting: T2 (I know this because I remember having some friends back to the flat after the cinema who admired it).

This is the wiggle dress from Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, and I've been planning to make it for at least 3 years... I finally got around to it, then had a bit of a mental blockade about finishing it when I tried it on and realised that my pattern placement wasn't quite what I wanted. I'd managed to place lighter colours for the side front panels, which ideally should be darker for the most flattering effect, and they were almost mirror images but not quite symmetrical. There's also a bit of off-centre mirroring on the back. I was a bit underwhelmed after trying it on and discovering it was a bit of a boxy fit.

Sometimes it takes a while to get into the right frame of mind to get around to adjusting fit on something you feel ambivalent about, and even though I knew it would be easy enough, I just couldn't find the enthusiasm for it. Eventually I decided to use the Easter weekend to appeal to my boyfriend and get him to help me pin out the excess on the seams.

I made this up a size smaller than my measurements to account for the stretch in the scuba (the pattern is intended for wovens, but I was inspired by this version from Sabine Sibille Sews) – it's a 6 in Gertie's sizing chart. I thought about doing an FBA and a swayback adjustment on the pattern, but instead just made these tweaks to the seams after it was basted together, as there are two double-ended darts each side of the back pieces, one on each of the side fronts, plus princess seams on the front to play with. I ended up carving in a bit on each seam and dart to nip in the waist a bit more, and taking a fair bit off the side seams over the hips as I think Gertie drafts for a bigger hip to waist ratio than I have.

Once that was done I was a lot more pleased with it and it was a quick dash to the finishing line after all those months languishing! This is one of those fabrics bought with the pattern in mind, and the pairing kept cropping up on my seasonal 'to make' lists but just kept getting pushed to the back of the queue for some reason. I'm actually really pleased with the finished result though, I wore it to Easter lunch at some friends and it was flattering and comfortable all day, and being scuba it wasn't too constricting after a big meal!

t's funny that I lost faith in this one more than once because I actually think it's a winner and have some more scuba to make up another one, bought at the same time as this digital floral print (both from Mermaid Fabrics on Mare Street's Narrow Way in Hackney, a regular lunch hour haunt of mine when I worked in that area a couple of years ago). I have wavered and thought to make something different with the leopard print version (some of which has already been made into a pencil skirt) but with the success of this I think my instincts were right, and it's actually pretty satisfying to have a project that I know will work really well for it. It's a nice shape, works for lots of occasions, and I like the kimono sleeve with gusset details which was a new technique for me (not very easy to spot in the pictures below).

Other than tweaking the fit this was really easy to make, and I followed everything as instructed except for using an invisible zip instead of a lapped one because of the bulk of the scuba. I basted everything together on my sewing machine and when happy with the fit overlocked all the seams. Next time I'd probably have to hand-baste the walking vent though as the needle did leave marks – I'm lucky that I was taking in all the other seams rather than letting them out really – maybe my needle was too thick?

I didn't transfer any of the fit adjustments onto my traced off paper pattern so will have to go through the same process on my next version of getting a volunteer to pin me in a little (although I have a rough idea of how much came off and where, I'm sure there'll still be a bit of trial and error). The only thing I might change is to bring in the neckline a little as it is wide enough to show the straps on some of my bras.

Very glad to have finally made this and am looking forward to more occasions to wear it before the weather gets too warm for a close-fitting scuba sleeve! Has anyone else cleared a long-in-the-works project off their list recently?

NorseOtter xx

Monday, 17 April 2017

Checked Kecks

Hi everyone,

Hope you've all had a lovely bank holiday weekend? I've taken mine quite easy, caught up with family and friends and have managed to finish off a couple of things.

I have always wanted a pair of tartan trousers. I remember going to Camden Market as a teenager and trying on the classic red punk pairs there but them never looking quite right on me. A few weeks ago my manager was doing a clearout of the house she grew up in and very kindly gifted me a whole swathe of fabrics that her late mother had in her stash (more of this lovely stuff to appear as I sew it up!). As soon as I saw this fabulous blue and green tartan I knew that I had to make it into some trousers, especially after the success of my first Sew Over It Cigarette pants. The fabric is a firmer weave and I think a woollen, but I used the pattern with the adjustments I'd made for the crepe pair I made in class and hoped for the best. If you're wondering why there are so many rear-view pictures in this post, it's because that's where I did most of the adjustments on the pattern to get a decent fit- adding room for my bum, and also taking out some width at the back of the thigh underneath. 

I think they came out pretty well. This is the second full day of wear shown in the pictures and I think they have relaxed in fit a little. I think it also shows a bit more in contrast to my skintight polo neck (inherited from my aunt along with some other '80s punk gear).

I did my best at pattern matching and other than the centre back waistband it was a success. Sew Over It patterns instruct you to overlock all your pieces before sewing together, so was very careful about print matching my side-seams and hoping it would work out fit-wise as my notches had been trimmed off! If making these another time I think I would overlock after sewing the seams rather than beforehand, as you don't gain anything by doing this and I'd rather not lose my notches again.

I made everything up the same as my first pair apart from some minor details. I decided to use stay tape to stabilise the slant pockets, but I'm not sure I applied it correctly as they do still stretch out a little. I also did a double-turned hem and made the legs a little more cropped in length by turning them up more. 

My first pair were hemmed as per the instructions – just overlocked, turned once and handstitched into place, but I find when I want to cuff these I'm not keen on the line of overlocking showing, so I made sure it was hidden on this pair (not that I'd be likely to turn these up any more). One thing to try in future is adding belt loops, which I wish I had in hindsight with this pair to cope with the fit relaxing over the course of the day.

Another small thing is that I followed the fly front instructions as given on the pattern, and I don't think the result is very neat. For some reason the zip teeth are very close to the opening, even though the fly facings are pretty deep, but I checked back through and I followed everything as written as far as I can tell. My fly front came out better in class, but I think the teacher might have used her expertise rather than slavishly following the instructions to ensure a better finish. To be honest I might just follow the Ginger Jeans fly front method of construction next time (minus all the extra jeans topstitching) as I've never had a problem with that and it always turns up a neat result. You can see the pocket bags and stay for these are made with scraps from my first Melilot shirt

I'm very happy to finally have a pair of tartan trousers, now I just need to try and make sure I have enough neutral tops to pair them with! So far I've worn them with a white shirt to the office (I don't think I could get away with the skin-tight polo neck there, especially with the 'Sex, Lies, Religion' slogan) and I think they would look great with a plain white t-shirt with short cuffed sleeves, or a plain white boatneck t-shirt with ¾ length sleeves.

Have you ever sewn something to complete a previously unfulfilled fashion vision? 

Happy making!

NorseOtter xx

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Hemlock and Cigarettes

Hi everyone!

Sounds like a toxic combination, doesn't it? I've got a double-whammy for you today, but I have to say that I'm not sure these pieces go together that well. First up is a Hemlock Tee, the free one-size boxy top PDF pattern from Grainline that I made up a little while ago when I needed a nice quick and easy project but haven't had the chance to photograph until now.

The Hemlock is made with some old jersey that my mum donated to me (along with the stuff I made my beige Plantain from), it's probably from the 1980s. It doesn't have very much stretch to it, and similarly to the Plantain I had to make the sleeves a bit shorter to fit it onto the narrow fabric. I really like the colour of this top, although the weird sheen that sometimes appears isn't my favourite feature. I'm not sure about this style on me though, I don't know if I really look effortlessly stylish in these kinds of tops like others do, or just a bit slovenly. Anyway, it was a very easy make, the only thing I managed to mess up a little bit was the back of my neckband where it's a bit puckered, and I have to confess it's a little weak under the arms as I haven't quite mastered turning neat corners with my overlocker yet!

I've worn this a few times as I made it back in January, and I took it away with me to Madrid, where I wore it with the same trousers but was feeling and looking too ill to get many snaps then, even though it was a beautiful day in the Parque del Buen Retiro (doesn't it just suck when you're ill on holiday?). I also paired it with my shortened Elisalex – one of the first dresses I ever made and still going strong, especially now I've lost some of the length to make it more wearable and easier to walk in - perfect for exploring the city and checking out Templo Debod!

The trousers are Sew Over It Cigarette Pants, which I made in February in their Cigarette Pants class. I'm pretty pleased with these but they're not quite as slimline as I wanted them to be – but I learnt a lot from the class that I hope to apply to the next pair. If I'm brutally honest, if I had left these as drafted without fitting them they would have looked dreadful on me – luckily with the help of the tutor, we made quite a few adjustments to get the look and fit that I wanted, and I'm so pleased about this as it would have taken a lot of trial and error on my own. I think that's the main benefit of the course really, as by this point in my sewing I've tackled trouser construction a few times and it's really fit that concerns me as being the trickiest part to get right.

For this pair, we added 3/4” inch more room at the fullest part of the rear, made a 1/4” swayback adjustment at centre back and at the waistband, and took out some room at the back of the thigh. This fit pretty well when I had the trousers constructed, but I didn't entirely like the look of the pants on me as they didn't have that Audrey Hepburn-esque look I was going for – they looked much more like a uniform at that stage being straight cut but not slim enough in the legs. The teacher helped me pin in until I was happy with the fit and I shave a bit off the side seams both inner and outer til I was happy with the look, and I transferred all the changes as best I could to the paper pattern (which was very beat-up by this stage!).

I enjoyed the class experience and would say it's set me up well for handling trouser-making with more confidence. Big pros are obviously the fitting supervision, and as we had a small class this time around – just three of us plus the tutor - so we really got a lot of one-on-one time to tweak personal fitting as well as enjoying one anothers' company. 

A small drawback was that we did a few time-consuming things in class that didn't need supervision – like cutting out our patterns (I would have much rather traced mine so I could work with the other fabrics and sizes in future or have a basis for design changes) and cutting out our fabric, which actually I probably would have done more carefully at home! That said, we did get to try on pre-made muslins in class which helped us pick our size before cutting, so this is obviously a huge help and time-saving step that offsets my mild gripe.

My trousers are made up in crepe rio from the Sew Over It shop – this is one of the recommended fabrics for the trousers and is lovely and comfortable to wear and thankfully didn't shrink in the wash, as the fabric went straight from the shop floor to the cutting table without the usual pre-washing. It does however tend to grow while wearing it, which is why these trousers (which have been worn a few times now) look quite loose in the pictures. I think they've relaxed in the waistband and are sitting lower on the hip, as well as having grown a little in the leg. To counter-act this I wear them with the hems rolled to give that '80s cuffed look (which sadly hides my hems which were finished lovingly as instructed by overlocking then turning up and invisibly catch-stitching into place by hand). I have another pair of Cigarette Pants in the works that are cut in a more stable tartan fabric, and I hope these will keep their shape a little more. I also really hope they fit, as I was working with the adjusted pattern piece for the crepe pair so I hope it still works for a fabric with tighter weave!

I'm really excited to sew my next pair of trousers, even more so now that I picked up a couple of issues of Patrones when in Spain, which is basically a pattern catalogue with all the pattern sheets over-printed as they are with Burda Magazine. The issue I picked up is all about separates, so there are several lovely pairs of trousers I'd be keen to apply the adjustments I learnt in class to! (And several lovely shirts to wear them with...)

Happy Spring making everyone!

NorseOtter xx

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Sew Over It Alex Shirt

Hi everyone! 

It's been a while, and I have to confess I've given into slacking off blogging again while the light and weather has been too bad to get decent photos. I have a little stack of things I've been making to share with you as photo opportunities arise however!

I got my brother to buy me the Sew Over It City Break Capsule Wardrobe collection for my birthday back in January, and the first thing I've made out of it is the Alex Shirt. I plan to make the shirtdress version at some point too, but didn't quite have enough of my intended fabric this time.

I've used some drapey cotton that I bought in Istanbul. I do like it, but I'm not sure if it's the quality or if maybe I washed it on a rougher-than-intended setting in the machine, but there are a few weak spots in the fabric that I've noticed as I was sewing this up. To be honest, I only really bought this fabric as I'd decided to have a nosey in one of the shops in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and ended up waking up the very elderly gentleman who was looking after the shop. After that I couldn't leave empty-handed, so grabbed a couple of metres of this. It wasn't very expensive, but not a crazy bargain either. I'm sure I could have done better with more of a rummage around the open market areas (see photo of me posing with textile merchant statue below) but I was a bit overwhelmed by choice! I'm glad I'm making what I did get up finally after a year and a half in the stash, and I think paired with this pattern looks a bit '70s bohemian art teacher.

It's come together pretty well but could have been better cut, I was a bit distracted by other less than fun things happening in my life so I wasn't as in the zone as much as I should have been. The pattern matching isn't really happening everywhere (and I had to rip out and re-stitch in place one of the pockets as it was a bit lopsided) but is decent enough across the front.

I like this pattern. It's simple, flowy and easy-wear. Perfect in fact for a weekend getaway. It actually feels quite pyjama-y (in a nice way) in this fabric so I'm tempted to make another without the sleeve tabs and maybe experimenting with a bit of piping around the collar, bottom of sleeves and top of pocket as an actual pyjama top. It's quite a simple make with stripped back details like an easy convertible collar, roll-up sleeves with tab, a nice box pleat for more room beneath the yoke in the back, and simple folded back button bands. I like the more relaxed look, and of course this means it's a simple enough make to whip up in time for your chosen getaway! In these shots I've already had a previous full day's wear, but it's casual enough to look OK with a bit of rumpling – again, good for holidays!

All of the patterns in this collection have this simplified aesthetic and quick turnaround potential, which of course you can embellish if you have the time and expertise. I actually quite like the idea of the curated collection in itself and while I may not end up making all of the patterns offered in the booklet, I can easily see where I could swap out other patterns in my collection to make a more 'me' version of the capsule wardrobe. The Erin skirt is definitely on my make list though, and the Molly top and dress are tempting in their simplicity. I don't really need to make the Mia jeans as I have the Safrans (which I've paired the shirt with here) that are similar but have cute front pocket detailing, but if I find some interesting stretch denim colours I may make a pair of Mias up to try the fit. The Lola coat looks elegant but I worry the waterfall style may make me look a bit frumpy with my bust. I really like the Alex shirt and shirtdress in itself but I can see mash-up potential with my beloved Melilot shirt pattern too.

I cut the size 12 straight out. Technically I should have sized up at the bust, but in such a loose-fitting style I couldn't be bothered to do an FBA and didn't want to grade between sizes as I wanted the shoulders to be small enough. It looks fine, but a fitting stickler would probably notice my side seams are pulling forward a little. I think I might try and adjust this somehow for the next version, but want to avoid darts to keep the lines simple.

I made this up as instructed except that I decided on my own button placement so have 7 instead of 5 buttons to ensure there was no bust gaping. I also decided to do french seams instead of overlocking as I thought this fabric needed the added strength and would look nicer (plus this only involved setting up one machine, although of course requires a lot more pressing!). I also made sure to stay stitch the neckline and arm holes, which the instructions don't tell you to do- but I would definitely recommend it as there is a fair bit of manipulation around the curved areas, especially when the instructions have you twist the yokes to achieve a neatly encased finish. I also decided to stitch in the ditch to secure my collar as my handstitching was looking a bit shoddy and I realised too late that I'd attached the machine-stitched side with a basting stitch by mistake so wanted to make sure it was secure. I did my first ever sleeve tabs for this shirt - I quite like them! For future versions I think I could mash up with the Melilot sleeve to get the tower placket for more variation though, although I'd keep the just-off the shoulder sleeve heads of the Alex rather than the properly dropped sleeves of the Melilot, as I think it's more flattering on my slightly thick upper arms. 

I'm looking forward to taking this away to Madrid with me, and am planning to make many more, especially now Spring seems to be in the air! I'll leave with this snap of me enjoying a post-photoshoot patty. 

What are you making for Spring?

NorseOtter xx