Sunday, 19 August 2018

A Minttu Swing Top for my Mum

With the heatwave we are currently faced with sleeveless tops seem to be the way to go, and so I have been busy sewing several. I've already made my Mum a Hadley Top and a couple of weeks ago I made her the Minttu Swing Top by Named Clothing. It was my first time using a Named pattern although there are several that I've wanted to make for a while as the style of many of their patterns are really nice.

Despite the fact that the design of this top is very simple and that there are few pattern pieces, the actual contruction of it proved to be a bit of an annoyance and extremely confusing. The main problem that I was faced with was that when my Mum first tried the top on, it was way too small. After double and triple checking the size I cut out and the seam allowance I used I really couldn't find an obvious fault. The size I chose should have matched her measurements exactly. I don't know if this has something to do with the fabric I used (woven, not jersey as recommended by the pattern) but even if I had used a stretch fabric it still would have been too small. It was too tight across the bust, underneath the armholes and also at the neckline. Of course I may have just made  a mistake with the size I chose, but I was wondering wether or not others have found some problems with the sizing of Named patterns?

Nevertheless, I was determined to find some kind of solution for this top. The solution that I found came in the form of slicing down the centre back. I always find cutting fabric slightly scary, especially when you're cutting down the middle the back of a top! At this point, my Adjustoform was completely invaluable. I was able to change the measurements to those of my Mum and created a trapezium shape which I then inserted into the centre back. This made not only the neckline larger but also created more room throughout the rest of the top. 

Other than the sizing issue, the other confusion I had was the all-in-one armhole and neckline facing. It's the first time that I tested out the technique but I really like the finish, and once you get the hang of it it makes sense. The instructions are a bit confusing but I found a really clear and helpful YouTube video which I'd highly recommend. 

I also left a key hole opening on the left side of the insert which I then topstitched in orange and bar tacked along the bottom. This actually became one of my favourite details. You've also probably noticed the orange piping by now. It was my Mum's idea to add it and it adds a lovely bit of colour to the otherwise plain fabric. The piping is a really gorgeous fabric bought from Petit Pan. The great thing about the trapeze style is that it was easy to add the piping in the seam. The orange topstichting around the key hole I added on the left and the piping on the right, which I think balances out the proportions nicely.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Adjustoform Dress Form Review

A few months ago I was lucky enough to receive a very exciting package in the post... a dressmaking model! A dress form is one of those pieces of equiptment that I have always considered to be super professional and so having my own is incredibly exciting. My dress form is from Adjustoform, a company that creates not only dressmaking dummies but adjustable ones (more on that it a bit!). The model I have isn't actually avaliable anymore but if you have a look on their website you can find a plethora of different models, including dress forms for men and children as well as numerous designs for women.

Receiving my dress form was extremely exciting! Although it looks like a complicated assortment of random parts to begin with, assembling it was actually quite simple. It was fairly self explanatory to put together but if you do need some help Adjustoform have some helpful videos on their website.

For me, by far the best thing about Adjustoform dress forms is that they are (of course) adjustable. It's a really great feature as it means that I've been able to use it not just for me but also when sewing for others. The sizing can be changed really easily, simply by turning the dials, which means that you can change between projects really easily. So far, I've used it for making tops for my Mum, my sister and a friend, as well as lots for me! It's especially great for sewing for others because it means that they don't have to continuously try on the garment you're making them and consequently avoid being stabbed by pins.

For me, the main thing I wondered about dress forms was what exactly they could be used for. To be honest, I struggled at first to know exactly how to use it. The obvious use for a dress form is fitting garments, and because I was working on projects which could easily be fitted on me not on a mannequin, I didn't really feel the need to use it. That was until I was working on a pattern hack, and suddenly a dress form became invaluable!
So, as aforementioned, a dress form is perfect for pattern hacking. When making tweaks to a pattern it is so helpful to have an actual model to use and not have to have something pinned to yourself every five minutes. I've also recently been doing some pattern drafting and designing my own garments, things that would be impossible without a dress form to pin and manipulate fabric on.
If you're stuck for more ways to use a dress form, Tilly and the Buttons have a great post about that.

I had a lot of fun capturing this photo of the 'insides' of my dress form which depicts the dials for adjusting the sizes quite clearly once you get past the strangeness of both the photo and the idea that a fake model of a body has an internal structure! On a whole, I'm delighted with this new piece of sewing equiptment. I've loved using it so far and I'm excited for many future projects created with the help of my Adjustoform.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Gingham Shorts for Summer

With the summer holidays fast approaching and the current situation of being in the middle of an extremely hot and sticky heatwave, I knew that a pair of shorts were exactly what I needed to make. When I saw this lovely gingham fabric from Minerva Crafts, the heat and the need for shorts and a want for a paperbag waist all combined within my mind to create these.
Initially, I planned to use the Megan Nielsen Flint pattern to sew these shorts, but the copy that I have ordered isn't going to arrive for a while and the aforementioned heat/need for shorts/ paperbag waist coveting combination called for some pattern hacking.

The pattern hacking in question was actually relatively simple. I've used the Tilly and the Buttons Marigold pattern quite a few times in the past, and almost exclusively for pattern hacks. My absolute favourite (and most worn) hack has been my wide-legged trousers, and I basically wanted to make a shorts version of those. Obviously, the main adjustment that I made to the pattern in this case was to shorten it quite a bit. I also sewed the side seams with a slightly smaller than usual seam allowance so that they would be a bit wider. I was initially unsure how long to leave the shorts and managed to find the right proportions once they were finished. I think that the length of garments is so important to find exactly the right length so that the proportions are correct, and the main problem that I had with these shorts was that at first they looked too long despite being the right length. Because of the paper bag waist, the top of the shorts appeared to be much higher than my natural waist (even though the elastic was comfortably around my waist) and as I wanted to tuck my top in there just seemed to be too much of a gingham:plain t-shirt ratio.

To fix the 'too much gingham' problem, I lowered the waistband by a further 1". I say by a further 1" because lowering the crotch seam is the first thing that I do when using the Marigold pattern, having now learnt that it is much too long for my liking. With this adjustment already in place the elastic was nicely positioned at my waist, so by lowering the waistband by 1" on top of this they elastic isn't in the most comfortable position that it could be in, but this doesn't bother me and I think that resulting lowered ruffle looks much better than it did previously.
Other than the length, the other obvious change that I made to the pattern was to add a paper bag waist. I've seen a lot of them on high street clothing recently and it's been something that I wanted to try and recreate for a while. It was such a simple thing to do too - all I did was to measure the circumference the waistband pieces once they were cut and the side seams sewn and multiply this by 1.5. I then cut out a piece of fabric which was this length by a width of about 4". By sewing this rectangle together at the side seams, folding it wrong sides together and gathering it I was then able to sew a lined paper bag waist with the seams enclosed within the waistband. The instructions will state to sew the waistband and waistband facing together along the top right sides together; to add the ruffle, simply sandwich it between these two pieces and sew it all together at once.

Although this is a gathered paper bag waist and I really like the style, I would also like to try sewing a pleated paper bag waist at some point, as I think that the lines would look really sleek and elegant. Initially, I planned to add a tie around the waist too, but once I added the paper bag waist I decided that it was busy enough with all the gathering going on and I'm glad not to have added that extra detail.
There were a few worrying parts to making these shorts and I did wonder at times whether or not they would be wearable in public or if they would look too crazy, but I'm so happy I finished them because I really like them, and It's good to know that I can hack this pattern into shorts again. And of course I'm so pleased to have a pair of shorts to wear in this insane heat!

Thursday, 2 August 2018

The Perfect Denim Skirt

My jeans refashion skirt which I made last year is one of my favourite and most worn handmade items. Because I wear it so often I really wanted to make another short and casual skirt, and a perfect denim skirt is exactly what I needed for summer. There are so many skirt patterns avaliable but I wasn't conviced by any as I couldn't decide on the style that I wanted. The idea suddenly just clicked one day and I knew that a skirt with a fly was the way to go. I actually owned the Moss skirt pattern by Grainline studio already and have used it before but I was originally heasitant to use it for this skirt because I find that the waistband is just too low. The skirt is actually designed to sit on the hips but it's just not a style that I find comfortable, I much prefer high-waisted garments.
It is actually fairly simple in theory to combat this problem. The only change that I made to the pattern was to cut the skirt longer because what I esentially did was to wear the skirt with the waistband around my waist rather than on my hips. What makes this difficult in practice is that the waistband then required a lot more adjusting than before. The adjustments that I made were very similar to those that I made on my Ginger jeans, namely taking in the side seams of the waistband, adding a dart in the centre back and taking out a wedge of fabric from the back yoke.

My absolute favourite part of this skirt is the ribbon down the sides. Stripes down the sides of clothing (trousers, skirts, shorts) has been something that I've noticed in shops recently and it's something that I love and really wanted to recreate. As with a lot of extra details on my sewing, it was my Mum's idea to add the stripes and I immediately thought that it would be the perfect additon. I wasn't sure wether I would find the right ribbon but I found the perfect pattern/colour/width combination at my local craft shop. I love having a classic denim skirt as it goes with everything and I was initially worried that the stripe would make it less versatile but it's subtle enough to add a lovely extra detail but not that it makes the skirt impossible to wear in the slightest. 

I managed to squeeze this skirt out of just enough fabric, left over from my Ginger jeans. I love the colour of this denim and it's really good quality too so I was really pleased to have been able to use up the little I had left. One of the great things about mini skirts is that they hardly require any fabric at all.
I couldn't be happier with this skirt. I've worn it so so much since making it, especially as we have been having having a crazy heatwave, and I especially love the ribbon going down the sides. I'll definitely be trying that again as I love how it looks. Maybe a pair of trousers with stripes down the sides are next on the agenda...

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Overlocker Unlocked - Thread

The threads in an overlocker are, in my opinion, by far the most daunting aspect. So daunting in fact that I decided to cover them in two seperate blog posts. Today, I'm going to be talking about how to set up the threads at the start, which thread to use, how often to change the thread etc, but keep an eye out for lots more overlocking thread goodness very soon!

An Overview

So, first of all, what are all the threads for and what do they do? Most overlockers have three or four threads (although two and five thread overlockers do also exist). Four thread overlockers are best for sewing with heavier, more durable fabrics, as they produce a stronger seam. Three thread overlocking isn't as strong as overlocking with four threads but it's less bulky so is good for sewing with lighter-weight and more delicate fabrics. You can easily convert a four thread overlocker into a three thread one, simply by leaving one of the needles unthreaded. For a wider seam, leave the right needle unthreaded and for a narrower seam leave the left one unthreaded.

How to thread the machine

I'm not going to cover threading the machine from scratch as a) we'd be here all day and b) there are lots of good sources already avaliable. Luckily, overlockers don't actually need to be threaded from scratch very often. Personally, I found this video quite helpful for and if you have a copy of Stretch! there is a great section all about threading your overlocker.
Fortunately most overlockers have a colour-coded diagram printed on them (like the one above) which is really helpful to help get your head around all the different threads.

What equiptment do you need?

You don't really need any equipment to help you thread an overlocker (except for thread of course) but you can purchase fine pointed tweezers to help pull the threads through. I don't actually own a pair of these but they would have certainly made my life a lot easier!
The main thing you need - and this is essential - is patience. To begin with, it took me an absolute age to thread my overlocker. I promise it gets easier though, and you will find that with time it also becomes much faster. The main thing is to not give up and not throw your overlocker out of the window, something that crossed my mind several times during the painfully long and failing attemps.

How to change the thread

I'm going to cover a quick and easy way to change the overlocker thread in another post, so look out for that.

How many colours do you need?

One of the great things about overlocking is that you can't see it: it's hidden away inside the garment. Because of this, the colour thread you use doesn't have to match the fabric you're sewing with exactly. Due to the fact that you need four threads, it will get used up fairly quickly too so it's much cheaper to have a few spools of the colours that you sew with most often rather than buying new colours to match every project. I'd recommend having black and white, but navy, grey and cream are also common colours that you might find helpful to have. Of course, if you're sewing with a sheer farbic then you may want to buy thread to match that colour exactly but as a general rule I'd say that 2-4 different colours are the way to go.

How often should you change the thread?

As aforementioned you absolutely don't have to change the thread with every project. I only actaully black and white thread and while I don't mind which one I use so much on woven fabrics, I like to use the closest match (in my case either light or dark) when sewing with knit fabrics. I'd say that it's most important to change colour thread if you are working with sheer fabric or on a garment where you particularly care about what the inside looks like.

Where and how to buy thread

There are two key rules to buying thread: quality and quantity. Quantity because overlocking thread gets used up very quickly and quality because there is nothing more anoying than thread that snaps continuously. It's best to buy your thread in cones and in bulk. I actually bought 4x5000 yards times two as I bought two different colours. That's 40,000 yards (36,576 metres) something that I still can't quite believe but at least I know that it will last me a long time!
I bought this thread from Jaycotts, and I find that not only is it great quality but the colour is good too.

Phew! That was quite a lot! I hope you found this helpful. You can find the other posts in the series here.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Summer Pyjamas

I've mentioned it so many times before but pyjamas are one of my favourite things to sew when I just want a quick and easy project. I recently made my sister a pair of pyjama shorts, and they appear to have been an instant success (another thing I love about pyjamas: they get so much wear!) so she asked me to sew her another pair for the summer. You might remember these shorts that I made her last year - unfortunately, she has now grown out of them. While disappointing because the fabric is so lovely it was to be expected and it also gave me the perfect opportunity to make her another pair!

The fabric that I used for these is very similar to that of the other pair, which isn't surprising as it's from the same shop. I first discovered Petit Pan when I visited Paris last year, and I immediately loved all of their prints. They're printed onto lovely quality cotton fabrics and they also have a great selection of waxed cottons. Luckily my mum and sister both really like their designs too, so it gave me the perfect excuse to sew with some of the fabric when my sister found some that she liked when she recently re-visited the shop. Petit Pan also have an online shop and I think they have at least one branch in the UK, so I would highly recommend having a look.
As usual I used the Tilly and the Buttons Margot Pyjamas, which just seem to fit really well. They are also very simple to sew. I really need to make myself a pair and am rather sad to part with these lovely shorts! They have already had a lot of wear though, probably because we are currently mid-heatwave.

As I mentioned Petit Pan also have a selection of waxed cottons, most of which are available in pre-cut sizes. I realised that I never shared this fabric basket that I made for my Mum and thought that while on the subject of Petit Pan fabric it would be nice to mention it. Fabric baskets are so simple to make and also perfect for gifts, I made this to give to my Mum alongside her embroidery hoop at Christmas. I love the pink fabric especially with the contrast of the dark grey and the piping was a perfect addition!

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Pink and Grey Linden

My mustard Linden sweatshirt is one of my favourite makes. I knew as soon as I finished it that another one would be imminent, and to be honest I'm surprised that it has taken me this long to make another! I love the bright mustard colour but decided to make one which was slightly easier to wear with a wider variety of things this time, and I thought of the Linden almost immediately when I saw this fabric in Higgs and Higgs.

As I said, I wanted to make a Linden which was slightly more versatile than my previous one. However, I didn't want it to be boring, especially as recently I've been trying to sew more basics which have a slight twist in them. If you read about my plan for this fabric when I bought it you'll remember that I chose a pale pink ribbing to contrast the light grey. Well, that's exactly what I did, and I love it! It was such an easy addition with a contrast neckband and an additional band at the sleeve hem but I think it really transforms the top.
The fabric itself is also really lovely and special in that it has a really interesting texture. I love finding knits that are more interesting than typical and Higgs and Higgs has got some great textured knits. This fabric is actually the same as the one that I made my Mum's Stella hoodie out of, only the pattern is slightly different. Although the fabrics are different I'm sure we won't be wearing our tops at the same time! I think the fact that we both picked this fabric goes to show how gorgeous it is.

It's no secret that I love the Linden sweatshirt. I've made so many, both for me (here, here) and for my Mum (here, here). I love how they all look completely different depending on the variation and fabric used. View B, which is the view I used for my mustard linden and for this one, is my favourite though. I think that the style lines show particularly well in a heavier weight fabric and I love the curved hem which is higher at the front than the back. The proportions are just right too: I very rarely use the original pattern length for hems but the suggested length and sleeve length is just perfect for me on this view of the Linden.