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

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