Tuesday 30 June 2015

Please HELP! Trouser Fitting Knowledge Required...

(slinky red capris: from Stop Staring)

So I kind of ear-marked the second half of 2015 for nailing trouser making and fitting. I can't help but notice that June is on it's way out, so it's time to get schooled. The thing is, I don't just want to make a couple of passable/wearable pairs for myself; ideally I'd like to go deep so I can really understand them to help other people with fit and figure issues that may be different to my own. Sewing bloggers of the world, PUH-LEASE can you direct me towards some knowledge?! I want to know everything, but in the meantime these are my specific areas of confusion:

(sailor skinnies: from La Redoute)

The Long and Short of it 

When making for myself, I've realised that there's one pattern alterations I will definitely need to make. My main fit issue seems to be my shortwaisted-ness (my natural waist line is a bit higher up than 'average'). To accommodate that I know I need to slash and spread the front and back trouser pattern pieces like this, but how much to spread? Presumably I'd need to know my rise measurement, however an evening (well, hour or so, I don't get much time to myself these days!) spent on Google and YouTube failed to unearth an accurate method to do so. Any ideas?

(epic 70's style denim flares: image source)

All Rise

Also, how do you know what rise shape you need? There seems to be such a variety of rise curves, in sewing patterns, particularly the back rise, surely they won't all fit your specific figure straight out the packet? I've read a couple of times on blogs and Instagram about sewers 'scooping out' more from the rise and things like that. WHY are they doing that?! How do they how much to scoop out? Plus, I've seen some jeans patterns that have a back rise that is not very curved at all, more a diagonal line than a classic 'J' shape. What's that all about? Is it related to how wide the legs are? Are the rise shapes of skinny-legged jeans and trousers different to the rise shapes of wide-legged trousers? Agh! My mind is close to explosion.

(galloon print slim legged trousers: from Orla Kiely)


That Coletterie 'Pant Fitting Cheat Sheet' and enclosed links are a nice opener, but they don't really have the depth of explanation or detailed illustrations that I'm looking for. The cheat sheet post does recommend three books for further reading: 'Fitting and Pattern Alteration''Pants for Real People' and 'Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns'. Do you own any of these, or any other fit/pattern alteration book, and could you recommend it for trousers? Or have you found a particularly useful blog post, YouTube clip or something else that you think could start shedding some light on the baffling world of making well fitting trousers? Enormo-thanks in advance.

(why don't I own red sailor flares yet? image source)

Thursday 25 June 2015

African Wax Print Geranium Dress: Plus, I'm Tapping Out

Here it is peops, my second and final garment for this summer's 'Traveling' themed KCW. And I give up. But let's talk about the garment first. Oh, and if you don't like pictures of cute toddlers, or the colour orange, or eyes, then you may want to skip this post entirely. 


This is my second go using the Made By Rae's Geranium pattern for Dolores, and my forth go at it in total. I wrote pretty thoroughly about it in the Liberty print version blog post if you want to know my thoughts on it. But you can probably guess how I feel about it simply by the fact that I've made it four times now. 

This time round I used the plain armholes like the Liberty print one, but opted for the V-notch neckline and gathered skirt options. I'm not sure why, but I feel a bold print (and let's face it, you don't get much bolder than this one!) suits the gathered skirt style, and plain or very subtle/small prints look better with the pleated style. I think the formulae of crazy fabric + traditional style OR traditional/subtle fabric + more interesting design works well for children's wear.

Fabric and Notions:

If you've been following my blog for a couple of years, this fabric may look familiar; it once took the form of a big fat horrendous FAIL of a maternity garment. Once I had finally stopped laughing about that dress, I put it away with the intention of reusing the fabric, even though I still have metres and metres of it left uncut. I just couldn't waste the fabric, like I'd wasted my time and energy.

If you've made it this far into the post, it's probably already seared your retinas, however let me tell you a bit more about it. It's a medium weight African wax cotton fabric printed with an insane design of eyes and abstract Aztec-y diamonds. It feels and behaves like quilting cotton, and kind of makes the skirt stick out a little bit. I worked hard to achieve a linear pattern match at the seams, but through absolutely no effort on my part, I seem to have nailed an almost exact pattern match on the skirt's back seam and one of the side seams. Like, the eyes are complete. I don't think I couldn't have done that if I'd tried. 

The bodice is lined in a scrap of cream silk habotai from my stash, and despite intense amounts of clipping into the bodice seam allowances before turning it through and very careful pressing, you get slight glimpses of it peeking out. I'm not about to attempt to source bright orange lining fabric and then try to buy only 15 cms of it though, so I'll have to get over it. 

To extend the African theme further still, I used these little zebra buttons for the back closure. They were a gift from the lovely Maggie from Textile Garden (my sponsors, FYI). You can find the zebra ones, plus many many more amazing novelty buttons here. My initial button choice was some giraffes (also given to me by Maggie), but they required vertical button holes which really wouldn't have worked for this dress. No matter, African savannah theme remains intact. (Please don't leave a comment if you happen to know that African wax fabric is from an entirely different part of Africa than where zebras live or something!)

Thoughts on the Dress:

Aside from nearly making my eyes bleed when I look at it, I think this is a pretty awesome garment. The only thing I'd criticise, aside from the aforementioned comment on the lining peeking out, it that the scale of the V-notch is a little small for my liking. If I use this pattern again (which I probably will) and use the V-notch option (which I probably will), I'll make it bigger so it stands out more, even if I'm using more subtle fabric.

The only other thing that could have improved the final look is if I'd found the time and energy to make a matching sun hat. However, I really don't think this dress will get that much wear that it warrants its own special hat! 

Thoughts on This Season's KCW:

So that's me done. I've only completed two garments this time, and I probably didn't sew for a total of seven hours (although I've definitely stopped trying to complete the required seven hours within the specified week). The truth is, I've been ill all week and struggling to entertain Dolores at the same time. She's been sick too and neither of us have had much sleep for agessssss. I was hoping to complete the two projects that I had had brewing anyway, and then bust out something fresh (to me) inspired by the Traveling theme. But it wasn't meant to be.

And, not that anyone should notice this, but I've been blogging way more frequently for the last couple of months than has been my usual routine. I've still got a bit of a backlog of projects to share and topics to discuss in blog post form, but I need to slow up a bit again because I'm heaping pressure and stress onto myself for no good reason. Hmm, starting to realise why I might be ill at the moment! I'm going house-sitting tomorrow for a five days, so that's drawn a line under the challenge, as well as running out of steam. Anyway, this wasn't meant to be a pity party, I just wanted to explain why I'm sadly tapping out of this awesome sewing challenge early. On the plus side, I have to say that sewing (and children's wear sewing in particular) is a regular activity for me at the moment, so if one of the motivations behind the KCW challenges is to kick start someone's flagging sewjo, then I'm pleased to say that I don't feel I need to gain that from it. If you are taking part, I really hope you are having a super fun week!

Tuesday 23 June 2015

'Hola' Batwing Sweatshirt

My first make for the summer Kid's Clothes Week challenge! I must admit that, even though the challenge officially started just yesterday (22nd June), I actually made this at the weekend. This is because I'll be working all next weekend so won't get a chance to sew at all, so I was 'making time'. Not that this was a particularly time consuming garment, it could have easily been completed in a day if there were no cheeky toddler about requiring entertaining, feeding, changing etc.  

Pattern and Construction:

The names of the garment patterns in Ottobre magazine usually relates to the fabric they have used in the version photographed. I say this in the hope that it won't be odd when stating that I used the Meow Meow sweatshirt pattern for this project! The spring 1/2015 edition of Ottobre magazine (pictured above) has been well worth the tenner it cost as this is the second or third pattern I've used from it with many more that I plan to try in the future.  

The Meow Meow sweatshirt is a simple batwing style comprising of just one piece for the front, one for the back and a neck band. Dolores currently fits about a Size 80, but seeing as we are coming into summer, I chose to make the Size 86 so hopefully it'll fit her during the Autumn or even next Spring. Having said that, it's come out massive, but I'm sure it'll fit at some point! I may trace out the Size 80 for this Autumn after all...

I knew that I would be making a self neck binding rather than ribbing as recommended by the pattern, so I applied the lesson I learnt from the Lightning Flash raglan sweatshirt and cut the neck binding piece 2 cm longer than the pattern piece suggests. After faffing about with the appliqué, the actual garment construction was super quick, as I'm sure you can imagine from a pattern that consists of just two pieces plus binding. I couldn't even be bothered to switch back and forth between my sewing machine and overlocker, so I stitched it all on my regular sewing machine using a narrow lightning stitch for the seams.  

I hemmed the bottom and the sleeves with my newly befriended twin needle, as well as topstitching down the neck binding seam allowance. I took it slowly, particularly round the neckline, as my twin needle is realistically too fine to be forced through all those layers. We won though. 

Fabric and Applique: 

Instead of using sweatshirting as recommend by the pattern, I used yet more of the synthetic maroon double knit from my stash that, apparently, will never run out. I previously used it to make myself Hudson pants/jogging bottoms (which, despite all my moaning about the fit, I've worn HEAPS about the house) and countless pairs of toddler leggings. I'm not sure if this double knit is quite stretchy enough for this pattern, time will tell when Dolores is big enough to wear it, so I'm kind of treating this as an experiment and am not too emotionally attached to this garment. 

Back in the day (well, about ten years ago) I used to make a lot of appliquéd bags and I've really got back into appliqué to embellish clothes for Dolores (see aforementioned Lightning flash sweatshirt and Fawn pinafore dress). Running with the KCW theme of Traveling, I took it in the direction of languages that you may encounter when traveling around the world. I used a scrap of star print denim/chambray that was recently and kindly donated to me by Gill from Vintage Rock Chick which I fused with bondaweb before cutting the letters out. I also applied some fusible interfacing on the back of the front piece covering the area that would be appliquéd. I then used a satin stitch (basically a zigzag stitch with the stitch length cranked down to 0.2) and a fancy appliqué machine foot (blog post coming soon...) to stitch round the edges of each letter. 


The ideas for this top, or at least something similar, had been floating round my brain for a while. I'm glad that this top now exists so that bit of brain-space can now be filled with new project ideas. However, I'm not sure if the reality has been as successful as I pictured it to be. I can't decide if it's a poor fabric choice for this type of garment, a poor fabric choice in general, a poor colour combination, a poor choice of appliqué thread colour, or what.

As I say, I wasn't overly attached to this project and am ok with winning some and losing others. I'll put it away now and pull it back out when Dolores is big enough to wear it. Hopefully then I will gain some insight about what is wrong with it, or if in fact it isn't that bad after all. As Marilla Walker wisely commented on a previous blog post of mine, 'Time is an excellent healer, especially when everything else is in the wash!!!'. Amen to that.

Sunday 21 June 2015

Kid's Clothes Week Sewalong June 2015: Traveling!

kid's clothes week

I don't know how they do it, but the organisers of the Kid's Clothes Week challenge have come up with ANOTHER awesome and inspiring theme for this summer. Although following the theme of KCW is entirely optional (the only stipulation is to sew for at least one hour per day for a week), 'Traveling' can be taken in soooo many directions that it'd be hard to not come up with a project plan that could be even vaguely linked to it. 

(tourist T-shirt image source: Boden)

This season's challenge starts really soon: like, TOMORROW! And as ever they have had some really great blog posts packed with interesting suggestions of how to interpret the theme, if you wish to. There are some lovely ideas linked to transportation, holidaying at the seaside and different parts of the world.  Personally, I'm really into the idea of road trips, which could be a fun direction to take the traveling theme. That said, I'm pretty sure of what I'm going to make now and the two ideas I'm currently rolling with don't really link to that. 

(airplane applique inspiration image source: hilemanhouse on Etsy)

One of the things I love about KCW, particularly when the theme is as open to interpretation as this one, is that it can be a kick up the bum to simply push forward with some ideas that have been brewing away anyhow. So that is what I am going to do. However, I have included a few other potential points of inspiration for the Traveling theme that have been lurking on my Pinterest boards. 

(skyline dress image source: nanamar on flickr)

So, what about you? Are you going to take part this season? If you are, or even if you aren't, what direction will/would you take this particular theme? 

(mini messenger bag image source: crazylittleprojects.com

Friday 19 June 2015

Refashion Friday: Remade Leopard Print Agnes Top

After the success of my first TATB Agnes top, I knew that it wouldn't be long before another sprang forth from my machine! This time round, I've really explored this pattern's trashier, Rockabilly possibilities. 


I used the same pattern as my previous version, which graded from the Size 3 at the shoulders and bust out the Size 4 for the waist and hips. The only change I did make was to implement what I learnt from the stripy version: that I needed to grade out to a Size 4 around the upper arm part of the sleeves. I fannied about applying, unpicking and the re-applying elastic for the front neckline gathering detail. However, I ended up unpicking it for good as the print is so busy on this fabric that the gathering kind of got lost. 


I bought this humungous, nasty-synthetic leopard print top (pictured above) from a charity a few months ago. Amusingly, the garment label tried to claim a hefty cotton content in the fibre composition. If that is the case, then I can legitimately claim to be 75% inuit. I intended to make some baby trousers from it but ended up finding something else instead which was more suitable. So this top had been knocking about in my sewing corner clogging up the place for months, until inspiration struck.  


I cut along the original top's seam lines to harvest as much fabric from it as possible. When laying down the Agnes top pattern pieces on to the fabric, I positioned the bottom edges 2 cm lower (see above) so I could use the original top's existing hem on the front, back and sleeve pieces. By eliminating the need to hem, this became a really quick make. I used my overlocker for everything except for topstitching down the neck seam allowance. I did that with the twin needle that came with my regular sewing machine (see below). It's my most successful attempt to use a twin needle so far! 


This top is awesome, in a trashy diva kind of way. I'm wearing it in these pictures with my denim high waist bow skirt, but I'd love to make some stretchy black capri pants to wear it with. Although I don't like to think what I'd smell like after a day in that synthetic substance! 

I have plans for one more Agnes top project in the near future, then that's my Agnes-appropriate stash busted and I'll have to move on. I'm going to try the poofy sleeve version next, I'm excited to give that feature a try. Have you sewn the Agnes top pattern yet? Or do you have plans to? Which is your favourite combo of features? 

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Liberty Print Geranium Dress

A couple of Saturday's ago I taught a class at the Village Haberdashery on how to make the Geranium dress pattern by Made By Rae. Getting to and from the VH from where I live usually takes at least 3.5 hours door to door, so when I finally got home I was exhausted. When I arrived home, I got changed and poured myself a glass of wine, but instead of watching some TV or some other equally relaxing/brain-numbing activity, I got some fabric out and started making this dress. We have been invited to a baptism party the following day (not my family's usual habitat), and I realised Dolores didn't have anything suitably pretty to wear. Super-tired? Check. Imminent deadline? Check. Not ideal circumstances for a sewing project!  However I couldn't be more happy with the outcome.


I've waxed lyrical about the Geranium dress pattern before, and now that I have made it a few times I can confirm that it really is a very well drafted pattern with many awesome design options. You could make a squillion variations from the same pattern, the results of which would all look like very different garments. For this dress I used the U-shaped cut out neckline, plain armholes, pleated skirt and dress length options (phew!). I did, however, avoid the in-seam pockets which are part of the pleated skirt option. I don't think Dolores would know what to do with in-seam pockets just yet, plus I can imagine that her running around with her hands in some pockets would result in lots more falling over than happens already!

Having taught how to sew the pattern earlier that day, the construction method was firmly imprinted in my brain so I didn't need to spend time referring back to the instructions. Therefore, I managed to cut out and make this dress in about two hours total (I left the buttonholes to do in the daylight the following day before the party!). I used the 18-24 months pieces, Dolores is 20 months now and the fit is spot on. 


I've admitted to this before, but I keep most of my fabric stash in Dolores's bedroom! It's all folded neatly and a set of shelves, and personally I think it looks quite pretty. Whilst I'm rocking her before putting her down to sleep, the fabric is in my sightline and I'm reminded of what I have stashed away. I was so pleased to finally use this beautiful fabric that had been on those shelves for a couple of years! It was a gift from the very lovely Susan who runs Sewbox.co.uk who sent me this and another Liberty print cotton whilst I was pregnant. At the time I obviously didn't know that Dolores would end up with such bright blue eyes, and I LOVE dressing her in blue garments because they accentuate that feature. This Liberty cotton is from the Bloomsbury collection, the print design called is Charles. Sewbox no longer seems to have this exact print, but there are three other colour-ways you can find here.  

This Liberty cotton has a bit more body than the other Liberty Bloomsbury fabric she sent, which is great because it helped to make the pleats and U-shaped cutout detail really nice and crisp. I used the same fabric to line the bodice, and in total the pattern used under a metre. If I get round to it, I'll going to see if I can squeeze a pair of shorts for Dolores out of what is left over. 


I can't tell you how much I love this little dress. Dolores rarely seems to acknowledge the clothes that she's wearing, but when we first put this dress on her she, too, seemed pretty pleased with herself! I'm so happy with the pairing of fabric and pattern, and the fit is really good. I want to make the most of having traced the pattern pieces, so I plan to make another for this summer, although I'm very aware that woven garments have a much shorter lifespan in terms of fit than all the knit garments that I usually make for her have.  

What about you? What pattern have you been thoroughly impressed by recently? What fabric and pattern combo have you used that turned out to be spot on?

Monday 15 June 2015

Organic Jersey Anchor Yoke T-shirt

The last few months have been really productive for me, sewing-wise. I've been making time to sew almost everyday, as I've figured out that I really need to do so for the benefits on my mental health. But with all the Me-Made-May'15 documentation posts and the celebration giveaways recently, I have ended up with a bit of a backlog of projects to share with you, all along with other stuff I want to post about. So I better get on with it... 

Here's a top that you would have seen briefly if you'd read my Thoughts on Organic Cotton post. It's the second garment that I squeezed out of the metre of maroon organic jersey that was sent to me by Only Organic Fabric Shop (the first being a pair of ruched leggings). 


The children's wear editions of the Ottobre magazines are so awesome for knit patterns. This is the Autumn Forest jersey top pattern from the 4/2014 edition of Ottobre magazine, and although the version photographed in the magazine was made in all the one print, it is ripe for contrast details. I think this pattern could be made in so many different ways, and end up looking totally different each time, which is one of the things I look for when deciding which pattern I can be arsed to trace out. Plus, with this specific pattern you could easily shorten the sleeves or lengthen it into a dress. 

The other reason why I decided to try this pattern was that the silhouette looked pretty skinny, as is Dolores. Recently I've started combining sizes on garments for her as a matter of course, using one size for the width and the next size up for the length. But I went for the straight Size 86 (the smallest for this pattern) as it already seemed to reflect her proportions. Perhaps the line drawing (pictured below) is meant to represent the larger sizes which are graded to get considerably longer but not much wider than the smallest, or perhaps the drawing is just not that accurate, as the finished garment (see the picture at the top of the post) is not as skinny as the drawing suggested it would be. I'm sure it'll fine though, it's the same proportions as most of the secondhand, shop-bought long sleeved T-shirts she already owns anyway. 

I'm also a tiny bit disappointed that the gathered front section isn't as gathered as the drawing indicates it would be. I may slash and flare the pattern out for a bit more fullness for next time. Alternatively, I may concentrate the gathering into a smaller distance so it ends up a bit of a bolder feature.  

This top is still too big for her really, right now she's more of a Size 80. I just wanted to try it on her and get some pictures, and I think that including some modelled photos in a blog post where possible is always more fun. 


As previously mentioned, the maroon cotton jersey was given to me to review, and I did so pretty thoroughly in the ruched leggings post. I deliberately made a garment that could be worn immediately (the leggings) so I could find out quickly how this fabric copes with multiple wearings and washes, and another garment that is too big to have in the 'bank'. This cotton jersey is beautifully soft and fine, a great fabric for making children's wear from. 

The contrast anchor fabric that I used for the yoke and sleeves bindings came from a vintage 70's T-shirt that was too small for me to wear as it was. If it's looking familiar to you that's because I harvested some of it a few years ago to make my Mariner T-shirt. I guess it is inevitable that children are dressed in their parents' style, until they are big enough to assert their own will on the matter! I think that, until kids do start to express an opinion about their clothing, all you can do is try to consider the personality and usual activities of the child you are sewing for, and just have fun with it. Initially, I planned on using a delicate stretch lace overlay for the yoke section of this top, then I remembered who I was sewing for and decided that would not reflect the personality of my crazy little girl! 


I can definitely see myself making this pattern again, however I won't attach the neck binding as I have done here. I tried to cut corners by simply overlocking a folded strip of fabric to the neckline, as I would with a women's garment, but when the curve of the neck hole is so tight it clearly doesn't sit very well, despite pressing the hell out of it. I've learnt from that mistake and next time I will apply the neck binding over the raw edge, not just to the raw edge, as the instructions suggested in the first place!

If it bothered me a touch more, I'd unpick it and use the other method. But for a child's jersey top that is going to get trashed at some point, I think I'll just chalk it up to experience. Despite the couple of grievances I have with this pattern, as discussed above, I'll definitely have at least one more whirl at it  some point. I feel it has so much potential to be a great alternative-T-shirt pattern. And as for the fabric, once again it was a joy to sew with, and hopefully will be lovely for her to wear, although I may never get a considered review from the model herself!

Saturday 13 June 2015

My New Sewing Machine: Janome DKS30

Despite the obviously main topic of this blog, I never though to write about my new sewing machine. I don't tend to talk about sewing equipment here, partly because I'm not a tech-head of any kind, and partly because I try not to perpetuate the idea that being into sewing requires buying loads of 'stuff'. However, I was talking to a bunch of lovely students whilst teaching a class recently, and most of them commented that they found reading reviews of sewing machines on sewing blogs had been really useful to them when they started getting into sewing and were looking for advice. So I'm going to briefly talk about mine. 

Secondhand Vs. New

Now, as you probably know, I am ALL about buying and using secondhand stuff where possible. I'm not going to pretend that by living in a developed nation like the UK I don't have a large carbon footprint, but by consuming stuff that already exists rather than generating more 'need' for new products, that footprint can undoubtedly be reduced. And trying to reduce our carbon footprint is something that we all should be in the business of where we can. So why the hell have I bought a brand spanking new sewing machine then? Well, lemme tell you. 

I've been sewing in some form or another since my A-levels (about 18 years ago, wha?!). I've always had secondhand sewing machines that whole time but in about the last five years I've gone through them at a pretty alarming rate. Despite getting them serviced regularly, recently they've been lasting me only about 18 months on average, probably because I tend to sew more often than domestic sewing machines are really designed for (like, daily). When my most recent machine died and couldn't be resurrected by the local sewing machine guy, I thought about contacting my usual secondhand sewing machine purveyor who I totally trust and would recommend in a heart beat. But then I thought about it some more and decided this time I would move to level 4 of how I consume: buy the best new version I can afford, and take bloody good care of it! I've spent the same amount of money on secondhand sewing machines in recent years as I did on this Janome DKS30, and I'm hoping that with regular servicing I can make it last a longgggg time. 

I'm kind of in the in-between position where I don't sew quite enough (or have the space or money) for an industrial sewing machine, but probably sew a bit too regularly for most domestics. And I like the different stitch settings and buttonhole functions on a domestic, as well as being able to move it about with ease. Fingers crossed stretching my budget for a decent domestic sewing machine will prove the right choice, but I would (and usually do) recommend that people think about getting a serviced secondhand sewing machine, especially if they are just starting out and sewing hasn't taken over their lives (yet) like it has mine! 

Why the Janome DKS30?

I've used the Janome DKS100 at Tilly's HQ whilst teaching the Coco and Zips and Buttonholes classes, and was really impressed. I've tried a number of different Janome models as all the sewing schools I've worked for use them, but the DKS100 felt a bit more solid and reliable, and was generally more of a joy to use. The DKS30 (the one I bought) is pretty much the same but with fewer pre-set pattern stitches and is orange rather than blue. Oh, and fifty quid cheaper. It was still pretty expensive though, £450 to be precise. It was a stretch, financially, but everyone I spoke to about my dilemma  seemed to think that buying a decent machine was a no-brainer considering it is such a big part of how I make money and use my spare time. I could easily have opted for a more pared down model, but  enjoyable features like an auto thread cutter felt like justifiable extras if I was shelling out for a new machine anyhow. Plus, my sewing area is in the corner of our downstairs (which is just one big room) so my machine is always on view, therefore I wanted one that is nice to look at. Plus the orange matches the cushions on our sofa!  

So far I've been super pleased with it. It is light-weight enough to take it on and off my sewing table with ease when I want to change to using my overlocker, but doesn't feel flimsy or plastic-y. The auto thread cutter is awesome, and I use the needle up/down button all the time as well. My previous sewing machine didn't have an automatic one-step buttonhole function, so it's great to have one of those back in my life again, and I've had my most successful twin-needle attempts so far on it as well! Here's hoping that all these functions continue to work for many many years to come....

Thursday 11 June 2015

Stripy Agnes Top

It's very rare that I make a pattern within a couple of years of its release, let alone a couple of months. But I've firmly fallen in love with Tilly's new top pattern, Agnes, and I had appropriate fabric on hand so I jumped right in with uncharacteristic speed. It'd be hard for me to argue that I need another stripy top, but I do only have two short-sleeved jersey tops/T-shirts and both of those are looking pretty ropey these days. Therefore I've filled a wardrobe gap with a style that I know I'm going to wear! 


First off, full disclosure: I was given this pattern for free but without any expectation that I would write a review or even actually sew it. I'm not in the market of sewing anything that I genuinely am not interested in making or wearing, but this particular pattern is so up my street that I've given it a spare set of keys in case I ever get locked out! In fact, it's very similar to a self-drafted scoop neck top pattern with gathered sleeveheads that I used to make this black top (third picture down from the top) and this leopard print version (seventh picture down from the top). The general fit is almost the same to my self-drafted attempt, but I love the dramatic ruched sleeves and cute gathered neckline/bust detail included in the Agnes pattern. 

I plan to make a bunch of tops from this pattern, I really like how the different elements of this style can be mixed and matched for a lot of different looks. I chose to start with the gathered neckline variation and the plain half-sleeves. I blended between sizes from the Size 3 at the bust to a Size 4 for the waist and below. This worked out perfectly for the body, but the Size 3 sleeves were too tight for my 'substantial' upper arms. I ended up having to cut them down to the shorter length sleeves that you see in these pictures. As I said before, I'm pretty low on short-sleeves tops and T-shirts so it was no bad thing in the end. For my next version (which I actually finished making last night!) I've blended out from the underarm points to the Size 4 for the rest of the sleeve.  


This is some slinky jersey that was cut from a sample piece that was donated to the textile recycling charity that I used to work for. We used to be sent sooo much fabric to work with, way more than we could ever use up. So if there were pieces that weren't appropriate for the clothing range we made, or the lengths were so long that we could cut off a metre or two and still not be able to use it all, we would sometimes buy them for ourselves by making a donation to the charity via the 'karma tin'. I'm finally running pretty low of knit fabric that I acquired this way! This stripy jersey may look familiar to you, I've used it before for my long-sleeved Dolores batwing top, which I wear A LOT. It's very drapey, but its fine weight and excellent stretch and recovery works well with the snug silhouette of this pattern.


Ah this top is so pretty! It's sexy and fun, with a kind of retro/French/Rockabilly vibe (IMO). I love the way the gathered neckline detail distorts the stripes of the fabric. Or rather the stripes of the fabric highlight the gathered neckline detail. Either/Or. However, I'm not sure if the position of the gathered part looks quite right on me or not. My boobs aren't quite as high and pert as they were before breast-feeding took its toll on them and the gathering sits kind of high up on me. I've experimented with making the gathers lower down, but it looked a bit odd as I think it really needs to start at the bottom of the neck binding as it is indicated on the pattern to get the gentle sweetheart neckline. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Am I over-thinking it? I'll give the top a few wears to see if the position of the gathering continues to bother me or not. I doubt that it will!  

Monday 8 June 2015

Organic Jersey Ruched Leggings

Thanks everyone who commented on my recent blog post about organic cotton. It was fantastic to read so many thoughts and perspectives on the topic. Now that my little girl isn't so tiny, I'm getting more sleep and feeling generally a bit less brain dead. It feels great to get back to discussing some of the wider subjects around sewing that I feel are so important. 

As I mentioned in the Thoughts on Organic Cotton blog post, I have been lucky enough to have received a few different pieces of organic cotton to sew with and review. The first piece I was sent was this maroon jersey from Only Organic Fabric Store, which is based in France and sells only GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified fabric. I chose to make the type of garment that would test it to the max: toddler leggings! Only a crazy toddler could put them through the most rigorous trials of performance and repeated laundering! Luckily I know one such crazy toddler...


Having now made more pairs of Playful Kitty leggings than I care to remember, I was looking for a pattern that would be a bit more interesting to make, but equally practical to wear and match with other garments. Having a nose through my stash of children's wear Ottobre magazines, I found the Green Lines Leggings pattern (pictured below) from Ottobre magazine issue 1/2014. 

They have the same general snug silhouette of the Playful Kitty ones, but with some added ruching on both side of the front leg piece. The blurb in the magazine spoke of how this ruching allows for increased movement for the crawling baby/scampering toddler (depending on who you're making them for). I'm not sure if that's really true, but I thought it gave an interesting look to an otherwise pretty plain style of garment. 

To accommodate the ruching, the front leg pattern piece is significantly longer than the back (see above). You create the ruching by applying elastic between two points with the seam allowance of both leg seams before you stitch the front and back leg pieces together. I was concerned that this might create uncomfortable leg seams, particularly because I used regular elastic (albeit very thin) rather than the clear elastic that the pattern suggests, but after the elastic gets covered by the overlocking of the leg seams, it felt fine and Dolores has never expressed any annoyance whilst wearing them. 

I blended sizes, using the size 74 for width and size 80 (plus 1cm) for the length as Dolores is a bit of a thinifer. This turned out to be the perfect size combo and I'll definitely employ this ratio again, perhaps with the same pattern by tracing the next batch of sizes up.


After confirming that I was interested in reviewing some fabric, Only Organic Fabric Store sent me some swatches of about eight colours of jersey that I could choose from. Apart from the white, most of the shades were quite muted tones, which isn't what I usually go for as I tend to favour bright, clear tones. However, I went for the maroon and they sent me a metre to play with. It was quite thin and soft, but also sturdy and I found it quite easy to cut out and sew with. I was amazed that it is 100% cotton, because it has a good amount of stretch with fantastic recovery. Some of the 100% organic cotton knits that I've previously used have been a bit lacking when it comes to recovery, which of course is not ideal when making leggings!

Having made these leggings a few months ago, they have seen A LOT of wear and A LOT of laundering. Dolores really has given them a beating and they are still going strong. The fabric has held up extremely well, with virtually no fading, no pilling, no thinning on the knees, or any other real visible signs of wear. I didn't have very high hopes of such a fine jersey, but I am genuinely impressed. When Dolores is no longer small enough for me to squeeze a pair of leggings out of second hand T-shirts, I'll be tempted to splash out on some of their grey marl jersey for leggings making purposes. 

If you want to learn more about both GOTS certified fabric and the Only Organic Fabric Store, the owner Stephanie discusses both at length in a really interesting interview with Toxic Free Talk Radio here. I couldn't get the audio to work very well on my laptop but you can also read the transcript of their conversation. For me, it shed a lot of light on what goes into identifying a product as 'organic', which in turn explains why truly organic cotton is so much more expensive than regular cotton. 

After the success of the maroon pair, and after all the faff that goes with tracing pattern pieces and adding seam allowances, I wanted to make another! I used some navy and white striped jersey that the very awesome Jenna kindly sent me. I hoped that the stripes would give a cool visual effect with the ruching, but I think these stripes are a bit too narrow for that and they kind of hid rather than highlighted the ruched effect. They have been a fabulous and useful garment though which have also seen A LOT of wear. Interestingly, this almost-definately-not-organic-cotton striped pair ended up showing many more signs of wear and laundering than the maroon pair and actually developed a few tiny holes in the bum after a while! 


These have been great garments and I'm definitely going to make more in bigger sizes. I have been thoroughly impressed by the organic jersey and am excited to share with you the other garment I made from it in another blog post in the near future. The striped pair (which have now been decommissioned), although not surviving the 'crazy toddler test' quite as well, did themselves proud too. Regarding the results from this unscientific test, it could be argued that the organic cotton, although more expensive on the outset, might not be so expensive after all when you consider that the final garment may well last longer than using a cheaper, non-organic cotton fabric to sew from.    
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