Thursday, 30 August 2018

Tropical Top

One of my favourtie things about sewing is being able to recerate a garment, style or trend. I talked more in depth about this 'super power' here, and this top is another example of one that was inspired by a top of the highstreet and altered to make it just right forthe wearer. It was one of my lovely friend's birthday recently, and when I offered to make her a top she immediately took me up on the offer. It was the second time (after this jumper) that I made an item of clothing for another person who isn't in my family, something which is always quite nerve wracking!

Making this top was definitely a challenge, but I thouroughly enjoyed it! The actual design of the top (other than the tie) is quite simple, but the difficulties came in other forms. We talked quite a lot about different styles and in the end my friend asked me to recreate this ready-to-wear top. It would have been a fairly straightforward copying had I had a physical copy of the top but I did not. We even went to our local Pull & Bear so that I could have a look at the construction of the top but (of course!) they didn't have any in stock. This left me with nothing other than the images on their website to recreate the top, which as you can imagine was not ideal.  

I would really love to properly learn how to use a dress form to design and draft patterns. I created this top by draping the fabric over my mannequin, cutting, sewing and pinning spare bits of calico fabric to use as toiles and taking lots of measurements. And... it worked!! I was delighted with the finished top on the dress form but the moment of truth came when my friend tried it on; not only did it fit but she loved it and very kindly wore it at her party that weekend. 
The hardest part of drafting the top was probably the armhole, which I think has a fine line between being too high and too low. The knot looks fairly intricate but is actually nowhere near as difficult as it looks: it's just the bodice pieces coming to a long point on either side to form two pieces which can then be tied together. At my friend's request I kept the hole as shown in the orignial top, but sewed the two bodice pieces together partly to create a much smaller hole than it originally was.
I'm so proud to have been able to recreate something without a pattern and that the reciever loves. In fact, when my sister saw this top on the dress form she asked for a similar one out of the leaftover fabric, so I have another one to show you very soon!

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Overlocker Unlocked - A Quick & Easy Way to Change the 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. If you'd like to find out more on how to set up the threads at the start, which thread to use, how often to change it etc then you can find all of that here.

Today I wanted to share a cheat method of changing the overlocker thread than I knew I had to photograph and explain as soon as I discovered it; no-one with an overlocker should be kept in the dark about this method!
The only thing to bear in mind about this way of changing the thread is that you need to make sure you do this before the thread runs out completely.

The first thing to do is cut the thread of each of the spools, leaving about 2" of thread beyond the metal part (witht the holes in it) at the top of your overlocker. You can then replace each of the old spools witht the new ones, making sure that the thread from the old spools (in my case the black thread) is still running through all of the other parts of the machine.

Tie the new old thread together in a tight and secure double knot. Leave about 1cm of thread either side so that the knot doens't unravel, but not too much or it will get stuck.

Turn the tension disks to zero - this is really important or the thread will snap. It helps to make a note of what your original tension is before hand to avoid having to spend time adjusting it later.

Carefully lift the thread from each spool one at a time and pull down until the knots are positioned below the tension disks. Make sure that you're pulling the thread down off of the new spools and not up from the old thread still inside the machine.

Hold onto the threads coming out behind the foot and gently tug them until the new thread starts to move through the machine. If you're careful you should be able to hold onto all four threads at once, but  you can pull each thread individually if you'd prefer not to take any chances. The threads should come through quite happily thanks to the lowered tension, but the knots might not fit through the eyes of the needle; if this is the case, simply pull them as far through the machine as possible and cut above the knot when you reach the needles and rethread them.

The last thing to do is to re-adjust the tension disks back to your original tension. I've forgotten to do this a couple of times and trust me, it's incredibly infuriating sewing all the way down a seam only to find that the tension it too low to have actually sewn the seam!

And that's it. It's a surprisingly quick and easy technique for a method that will save you countless (painful!) hours of having to thread the overlocker from scratch. You can find the other posts in this series here.

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...