Saturday, 22 September 2018

Overlocker Unlocked - Overlocking Woven and Stretch Fabrics

I don't know about you, but now that I have an overlocker I can't imagine not having one. I love the finished look it gives and I just love using the machine too! It seems hard to remember a time when I didn't have an overlocker but I've only very recently started using one. Furthermore, I never really needed one. Of course, having an overlocker makes some parts of sewing a lot easier but overlocking definitely isn't a necessity. Today I thought that I'd go through the two main things I use my overlocker - finishing seams on woven fabrics and sewing stretch fabrics - and how using an overlocker has changed my approach to these things slightly.

To begin with, woven fabrics. I think that while overlocking woven fabrics can do a wonderful job at preventing them to fray, it can often be time consuming and unnecessary. Before I began using my overlocker, I would finish the seams using a zig-zag stitch after I sewed them. Instructions for woven patterns often tell you to do this and while it works fine with a sewing machine I wouldn't recommend doing it with an overlocker for several reasons. The first is that an overlocker is far less malleable than a sewing machine - you can't get it to sew in a small gap or begin and end sewing in a precise location. Overlocking takes a long time to unpick and the damages may be unrepairable if the blade slices into the fabric. A normal sewing machine is much easier to unpick and much harder to completely wreck a garment with! Because of this it can be better to revert back to a zig-zag stitch on your normal machine if the seam you need to finish is particularly intricate. 

The second reason I wouldn't recommend sewing a seam on your sewing machine and then finishing that seam with an overlocker is that it is time consuming. If you're using the same machine for the entirety of a project all you have to do is switch the dial to a zig zag stitch and you can carry on sewing in no time. With an overlocker, it's different. You have to actually switch machines. While this doesn't take all that long in theory, in practice it can take a while especially if you're having to do it continuously. For me, although I do have enough space to have two machines side by side on my sewing table at once, complications to do with plug sockets, mixing up pedals, tangling wires and having to put everything else to one side mean that it just isn't practical to do this. 
Because of all this, I find it much easier to do all overlocking in one go. It means that I can comfortably use just the one machine and it also prevents later problems of having to overlock while partway through a project. I like to overlock around the outside of each pattern piece straight after cutting the fabric and before I begin sewing. For fabrics that fray a lot it also has the knock-on effect of meaning that the fabric won't fray mid-project. 

When it comes to overlocking jersey fabrics, I like to take the opposite approach. One of the things that I LOVE about overlocking is the fact that it cuts off any extra fabric. While the blade is slightly nerve-wracking and takes a while to get used to at first, it's a feature that I love using especially on jersey. It allows for such a clean finish. Sewing with woven fabrics tends to be a lot more intricate than sewing with jersey fabrics, and because of this a stretch garment can be sewn up in absolutely no time on an overlocker. I now very rarely sew knits on a regular sewing machine and I was wondering about whether there are actually some downsides to this. 
On a whole, I think that if you can, you should absolutely sew the entirety of a jersey garment on an overlocker. The main (and possibly only) downside I could come up with to this is that you can't actually see what seam allowance you used. This may be fine if you are only using a particuar pattern once or are happy to sew with the given seam allowance but I find that I often make the seam allowance smaller or larger depending on how well the pattern fits me: it's a really easy adjustment and means that you don't have to trace out another pattern size.
On a woven garment I often measure the seam allowance that I have used on a previous make using that same pattern so that I can replicate it. But on a jersey top that has had any excess fabric cut off of the seam, I can't go back and check what seam allowance I used. While this is by no means a big problem, it can be slightly frustrating if I want to make another version of a pattern to be the same size as my previous version. I guess I should just always note down which seam allowance I used where, but somehow that never crosses my mind when I'm actually sewing!

I hope you enjoyed reading a few of my thoughts about when overlockers may in fact hinder sewing and that you may have taken a few tips away with you too. To conclude, I absolutely love using my overlocker and will definitely continue using it, I just thought it would be interesting to note a few things down!

If you'd like to read the other posts in this series, you can do so here.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Chunky Rib Charcoal Grey Dress

An easy to wear casual jersey dress is a project that I've had at the back of my mind for some time. Not the kind of project that I wanted to make immediately, more the kind of project that was waiting to be made when the perfect fabric was discovered. When I did come across this fabric, I knew immediately that it was the right one to make this dress out of and I'm so happy I waited for the right fabric rather than trying to look for it because it really is perfect! To make this dress, I used this charcoal grey chunky rib fabric from Like Sew Amazing. The photo of the fabric on their website is somewhat underwhelming, but in real life it has a gorgeous texture to it and despite being a dark colour is a really nice shade of grey. It isn't like any fabric I've sewn with before either - it's super stretchy like a normal rib is, but it's also really chunky. I'd compare it to a stretchy version of chunky needlecord, if you're able to picture that! It also looks strangely similar to carpet samples...

Despite the intrigue of the fabric it was a joy to sew with. Sewing with knits has become so much easier now that I have my overlocker! This was a super quick make as well, I love it when a garment comes together quickly. I decided to self-draft the pattern. It's pretty much the same as the one I used for my black top only I descended it into a dress. For the dress shape I used the Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress to determine where it should go in at the waist etc, but I minimised the A-line shape quite by quite a lot. As you can see by my previous version the Coco has got a striking A-line shape common with quite a few Tilly and the Buttons patterns. Personally, I'm not a fan of the shape and I much prefer the way this dress comes in rather than out.

Although not visible in the photos the neckline has got a neckband around it. I really love the look of neckbands (although I love sewing them slightly less!) I just find that on jersey they give a cleaner and more professional finish to a bias bound neckline or simply turning the fabric under and topstitching it.
I'm so pleased with this dress. I had quite a strong view of what it should look like in my mind and often the finished garment can be not quite right when you have a strong opinion to begin with, but with this dress it came out exactly how I pictured it and I love that. I expect it will be a long time until I can wear it without tights again but hopefully I'll be able to wear it thoughout the colder months too with layering.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Pyjamas for Me

Despite having made what feels like an infinite number of pyjama shorts and trousers, what I found myself in need of this summer was a pair of pyjama shorts. The reason I appear to have made so many pairs yet ended up owning so few is due to the fact that every time I make pyjamas they seem tend to be for another person (that other person being almost exclusively my sister who owns several lovely pairs of handmade pyjama shorts!). I was wondering why this was the case and I think it's to do with the fact that while I don't mind sewing simple projects such as pyjamas for others - in fact, I enjoy it - when it comes to sewing for myself I would rather spend my sewing time making something more exciting. However, the combination of this lack of pyjama shorts and incredibly hot weather led to a pair of pyjama shorts being made for me this time, as well as the discovery that they are something that I think I will be sewing many more of!

There are a lot of obvious benefits to sewing pyjamas: you can use lovely prints that might not be every day kind of fabrics, they are really easy and quick to make, they can be made out of a variety of fabrics (cotton, jersey etc) and they make great presents. I have made three pairs of pyjama shorts for my sister (here, here, here) and she wears them all the time. The only downside to this is that every time she wears them I wish that I had a pair too! I do have my lovely liberty pyjamas to wear in the summer though and now I have these which I also love. The fabric I used is a lovely cotton print from Craft Cotton Co. I really like both the colour and the design of fabric, but the best part is definitely the quality of the cotton which feels like such a luxury to wear. As I mentioned above, I love using fabrics that I might not necessarily wear during the day and I know that this fabric will get so much more wear as pyjamas as it would as, say, a blouse.

To make these shorts I used the Margot Pyjamas pattern form Love at First Stitch. I've used the shortened version of this pattern for pretty much every version of pyjama shorts that I've made so it's nice to know that a pattern will turn out well. It's such a simple pattern so the pyjamas were sewn in no time and were finished in time to bring on holiday where they were much needed and got lots of wear.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Re-fashioned Hadley Top

I know, I know, the incredibly grey end to the summer makes sunshine seem like a distant event buried deep in the past and it may seem that this top is the most seasonally inappropriate thing I could possibly talk about (although to be fair I could be posting this in December) and it probably is but... I just can't resist sharing some summer makes that I made before I went on holiday. And yes, believe it or not, when I made this and wore it it was entirely appropriate for the crazy heatwave we were having! I took these photos while I was on holiday - it was very hot and incredibly beautiful - so in a way this top is a lovely memory of my summer too.

This top is actually a re-fashion project which I find adds a lovely bit of character to a garment. I love the idea that it started off as somehting completely different and it always makes me smile to think that whenever I put it on. Having recently cleared out some old clothes, I decided to keep too-small jeans for their fabric. I love the faded look that denim gets after it's been worn for a while and old jeans are perfect for achieving this affect. I think I used the best part of 3 pairs of jeans and a pair of shorts for this top, although they were mainly children sizes and so there was less fabric. Last time I sewed a garment out of an old pair of jeans it was my button-up skirt which I love and have worn a lot and this time I decided to make a top.

I was completely inspired by this gorgeous dress by Megan Nielsen when I made this top. It was one of those projects where I absolutely didn't have it in mind and then made it almost immediately after forming the idea. One of the things that I love about this top is that the back is completely different to the front and that despite using only jean denim each denim is a different of the colour and has been worn and faded in different places.

As you can imagine there were quite a few pattern pieces for this make and I had to keep checking the formation of the pattern as the pieces fit together a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. For the pattern, I used the Grainline Studio Hadley Top which I love the shape of. The fabric is probably a bit too heavyweight for it making the top slightly more boxy, but I found that this really doens't bother me as much as I thought it would. I would really like to make another Hadley top for myself out of a drapier fabric, especially because my Mum has worn the one that I made her a lot and every time she wears it I want one for myself!
You can see how I divided the pattern piece into sections, the back is pretty similar to the front. It was surprisingly easy to do, I just sewed the pieces together to create the bodice pieces and then sewed the top as per the instructions. 

I really love this top. The colours and proportions are just right and I wore it a lot in the summer. I debated for quite a while wether or not to use contrast topstitching along the centre front and back and in the end I went for a contrast light grey and I love this addition, it reminds me of topsitching on actual jeans. Overall, this top just makes me really happy and reminds me of a lovely summer - I'm just counting down the days until it's warm enough to wear it again!

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.