Friday, 2 April 2021

Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans - DIY Balloon Jeans Hack

I've always enjoyed the in-depth sewing process of making a pair of jeans. Not only are they enjoyable to make as the sewing involves more thought than a simple top, being able to wear a pair of handmade jeans is an amazing feeling. As my sewing skills and confidence has increased I've started to hack sewing patterns into different styles but I've previously steered away from hacking jeans patterns. The fitting is more complicated on jeans, and I worried that I wouldn't get the proportions right. Now that I've made quite a few pairs of jeans I feel more comfortable with the fitting and sewing process and after the success of my flared jeans hack I thought I'd venture further jeans hacks.

The Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans is a great pattern for non-stretch jeans, I made my first pair out of corduroy last year and have recently made a wide-legged pair. I especially like how high-waisted they are, making them comfortable to wear. Having made two pairs previously I've managed to alter the back pieces to get the pattern to fit me perfectly at the waist, so it seemed like a good pattern to use as a base for future jeans hacks. With three different views, the pattern also has a variety of different leg-widths which provide a great starting point.

Quite a few different styles of jeans have emerged recently and I always like to use RTW clothes as sewing inspiration. One style that I kept going back to was balloon jeans, which have a fitted waist and ankle but go out in a balloon-shape before coming back in. I looked at quite a few photos online and the main technique seemed to be having darts around the base of the leg to bring the fabric in whilst keeping volume around the knee.

In order to make these jeans I cut my fabric pieces out as view C of the Dawn Jeans which are wide-legged, I made a pair of these without any hacks a few months ago. For this pair, I constructed the jeans as usual until it came to sewing the legs together, at which point I basted both the inner leg seam and the side seams in place. Then came a lot of pinning! I tried the jeans on and basically pinned the shape I wanted in place. The wide-legged jeans were quite a bit wider than what I wanted for the balloon jeans so I took quite a bit of fabric out from both the inner leg and side seams, especially around the thigh/knee area. 

To get the shaping that I wanted I needed to add in some darts. Again I basted these in place so that they could easily be unpicked and re-sewn at a different length. I was expecting the darts to take ages to get right but they were surprisingly straightforward to do, I added one up the middle of the back and two in the front at equal distances from the side seams. My darts ended up being about 1" wide at the bottom and 11" long, but depending on how much fabric you want taking in at the ankles you could vary the width.

Once the darts were in place I basted the seams for a second time, following the shape that the pins made. This took quite a while to get right and I ended up taking more fabric out than I was expecting as I found that I didn't like the really baggy look that the jeans had. The great thing about making these myself is that I was able to create a pair of balloon jeans which go out in the right shape but weren't too baggy, I think I might have found a RTW pair a bit loose and harder to wear.

I'm very pleased with the shape that I created, like I said they don't go out too much so aren't overly baggy but the balloon shape is there and is especially visible from the side. 

Because the legs are quite loose it was important to me to make sure that the waistband fit really well. It means that the jeans can be worn with a more fitted top to balance out the looser legs and I think having a pair of jeans that fits well on the waist makes them seem a bit smarter, not to mention that they're much nicer to wear if they fit.

It's taken me so long to get the fit of jeans right but I've finally got there with the Dawn Jeans. The main adjustment I made to the pattern was to remove a wedge from the centre back seam and also take the side seams in by 2cm either side at the top. I wrote more about the fitting process in this post. I'd really recommend making a jeans pattern without hacking it several times to get the fit right and to then transfer those markings to the pattern. Having the pattern already altered to fit me makes the sewing process so much more enjoyable as I don't have to think about adjusting the fit every time I make a pair of jeans, I can then focus on hacks to the leg shape instead. 

As well as having darts to shape the legs, the main thing I noticed when looking at RTW balloon jeans was that they featured pleats at the waist. I did consider leaving off the pleats as I was worried about over-hacking, but they link to the more relaxed style so seemed like a necessary addition. Fortunately the denim I used was the perfect weight. I'm not sure the pleats would have worked in a thicker fabric, I didn't want them to stick out stiffly.

In the end adding the pleats was a fairly simple pattern adjustment. When cutting out the front trouser piece I marked on the pattern where I wanted the pleat to go (ideally about 1/2" away from the pocket) and then moved my pattern piece to add in an extra 2" of fabric which would then be folded to create the pleat. The proper way of doing this would be to alter the pattern but my lazy method worked fine too!

Initially, I folded and basted the pleats in place and just left them as they were. However, when I tried the trousers on the pleats seemed to get a bit lost among the other features and didn't really stand out enough. To get past this I sewed together the pleat, adding about 1" of stitching down from the waistband. It's hard to explain but this post gives you an idea of what I did, you can see from the photo that it makes the pleat stay in place at the top. The pleats remind me of these trousers that I made a few years ago and loved wearing.

I really enjoyed adding topstitching to these jeans. I used a matching colour thread (I didn't want a contrast colour to take away from the leg shape which is the main feature) but I think that the texture of a heavyweight thread adds a lot of interest, especially around the waistband and on the back pockets.

Possibly my favourite feature was my decision to add topstitching to the darts on the leg. I wasn't planning to do this but kept thinking that it could look really cool, so I decided to go for it and I love how it looks. It makes the darts seem purposeful and ties the legs to the waist. It helps that the inseam has a double row of topstitching which I then repeated for the hem, again drawing it all together.

When it came to hemming the jeans it took me quite a while to decide what length I wanted them. I turned them up by a couple of inches to start with and really liked the slightly cropped length. However, I've noticed that the length of jeans seems to be increasing so I wanted them to be slightly  longer. When I compared the two lengths I actually really liked both of them, in the end I went for the longer length but either would have been nice.

Like all handmade jeans these were only complete once I added rivets. They're surprisingly easy to add but I think they go a long way in making these look shop bought rather than handmade. I chose to go for silver rivets with this colour denim although it probably would have looked nice with bronze ones too.

Another lovely detail of handmade jeans is being able to add pocket bag lining fabric. This is always something that I like to do in a fun contrast fabric, it isn't visible from the outside but always makes me smile when I put the jeans on. I chose to use this floral cotton print from Craft Cotton Co, I think it pairs perfectly with the navy denim.

I couldn't resist adding a 'pattern hacker' label to the back pocket. I tend to add labels to the insides of makes but this one is so perfect for these jeans and it's quite subtle so isn't too much of a statement.

I'm honestly slightly surprised by how well these turned out! I had a very clear picture of what I wanted these jeans to look like in my head but it's often really hard to transfer that onto an actual garment, especially without a ready-made pattern. The time it took to baste the side seams of these jeans really paid off as the width is just right. I also love how the darts are used to bring the fabric back in at the bottom, it's a clever design feature that I like the look of too. I'm definitely going to be hacking the Dawn Jeans again, once the fit has been perfected the possibilities are endless!

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Sparkly Tilly and the Buttons Freya Top

Despite having made countless Tilly and the Buttons Freya tops, it's still a pattern that I turn to again and again. Not only is it perfect to hack, the original version with a mock neck can be made to look completely different depending on the length and fabric choice. As soon as I saw this fabric from Minerva I knew that I wanted to make a cropped turtleneck top from it. It was exactly the kind of fabric I've seen RTW tops made from and my sister even has a turtleneck top made out of a lurex rib like this one. Most of the time I use RTW clothes to inspire my sewing, but sometimes I want to make something exactly as I've seen it so when the right fabric comes along the plan falls perfectly into place.

The top that I wanted to recreate was a fairly simple cropped turtleneck neck which seemed like a great way to show off an interesting fabric like this one. I like that it isn't too bright, for me having a sparkly fabric which was also brightly coloured would feel a bit much to wear but having a black lurex fabric like this one is perfect. It means that I can wear the top not just as a going out top but also as something that can be dressed down.

One thing that I've found to be quite annoying when shortening the Freya top (or any similar pattern) is that the side seams flare out slightly at the hem. It's because the pattern side seams are designed to be curved not straight, and I often forget about it until after I've sewn the hem. I regret not doing this on my most recent Freya, so for this top I straightened the edges of the pattern pieces  before sewing the side seams so that the hem lies completely flat. I also made sure that the hem was 1" deep which is a must on stretch fabrics to avoid it turning up.

I've made turtleneck tops out of quite a few different jersey fabrics with varying degrees of stretch but using a rib tends to give the best results. My zip-neck Freya top made from a red rib fabric my favourite of all the Freyas that I've made. Ribs are great because they're so stretchy, but they also bounce back into shape really well meaning that the neckband doesn't get stretched out. I've found this to be true when comparing two Freya tops that I made ages ago, this one is made from a really stretchy rib and is much easier to take on and off than this one. I also like that rib offers a different texture to a cotton jersey so that even if the fabric is plain the top doesn't feel boring. 

The only problem I found when it came to making this top was that the right side of the fabric is quite itchy. This isn't a problem for most of the top because its the inner fabric that I can feel (which is very soft and comfortable to wear) but it did pose an issue when it came to the neckband. The neckband of the Freya top is designed to be folded in half with the right side of the fabric on both the inside and the outside of the neckband. When I tried the top on the neck kept bothering me, so I unpicked it and resewed it so that the inner layer of the neckband has the wrong side of the fabric touching the neck. It was really simple to do, I just added in a seam around the top and cut the neckband into two pieces rather than folding it in half. I don't think you'd need to do this with a thin neckband but it was an easy adjustment to make on this top and has made a big difference.

The best part about this top is that I was able to make an improvement on the RTW version in avoiding having the right side of the fabric touching my neck. It's the kind of thing that RTW clothes wouldn't think to do, but when the clothes are homemade they can be tailored exactly to your wishes. I'm really happy with how this top turned out and have already worn it to a zoom-party! Hopefully I'll be able to wear it out in the real world at some point soon.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Handmade Sherpa-lined Corduroy Hooded Jacket


About couple of months ago I set myself a sewing challenge to make a jacket using only leftover fabrics. I wanted to see if I could use up those pieces of fabric that seem to be too small to make anything out of, while making something really nice to wear. I've already written about the step-by-step process of making this jacket, where you can see how I went about piecing tiny fabric scraps and the way in which it came together. Because I love it so much (and because it took so long to make!) I wanted to share some more photos and details of the finished jacket.

The main fabrics I used for this project was a corduroy leftover form my Dawn Jeans with sherpa that I used for my Sherpa Jacket for the lining. I love how the two fabrics go together and the sherpa also adds a cosy feel. I like the idea of having a lining fabric which is secretly the main feature, just like with my Kelly Anorak which had a contrast lining the sherpa here is visible in the hood.

I've made quite a few jackets before and they often turn out to be some of my favourite projects. My Kelly Anorak was a real turning point in my sewing skills, it was a really complex make that took a long time and I'm really proud of it. I then made a fluffy pink jacket which I love, it was so fun to make and to sew with a slightly different fabric. Most recently I made my sherpa jacket which has been one of my most worn garments ever.

I wasn't planning on making another jacket (I probably have more than I need) but as soon as I had the idea of making a corduroy jacket lined with sherpa I couldn't let it go. By challenging myself to only use fabrics that I had in my stash it didn't feel frivolous to make another jacket and also meant that I had a good sewing challenge. This jacket is a copy of a RTW one, but I drafted the lining, facing, denim panels etc myself.

If you've read the blog post about the jacket construction you'll know that the denim panels weren't intentional but rather were added when I realised that I didn't have enough corduroy fabric. In keeping with only using fabrics from my stash I found an old pair of jeans which I cut up to create a panel in the back. Denim is always a great fabric to up-cycle as the seams can be used to add design interest, which is what I did when I made this top from old pairs of jeans. For my corduroy jacket I kept the two side seams and then added a third seam down the middle to create a piece that was wide enough to span the back bodice.

When it became apparent that I'd need another fabric I was slightly concerned that it would be too busy having three fabrics with very different textures - corduroy, sherpa and denim. But I love the addition of the denim and can't imagine the jacket without it. Limited corduroy fabric meant that I had to add a denim panel to the sleeves too, in order to make it look purposeful I added a rectangle that only covered half the width of the sleeve and left the elastic channel in corduroy. You can read more about the process of doing that in the construction post.

For most of the project I was working with really tiny scraps of corduroy. Half of the hood is made from pieced-together scraps, and when I decided to add a facing I had to sew together whatever was left of the fabric. It was exactly the kind of challenge that I'd set out for, I wanted a project that would make me think when trying to find solutions rather than one that was broken into simple steps. I often vary between more complex makes like this one and simple tops that can be sewn up in an afternoon, both are projects that I enjoy depending on what else I'm doing. When it came to this jacket I had a lot of time in lockdown to sew so it was the perfect opportunity to try something a bit different, but simple t-shirts are ideal makes when sewing time is limited.

It was definitely worth adding a facing, I think it's the kind of detail that really elevates a homemade garment. I regretted not adding a facing to my pink fluffy jacket, the lining is visible when I wear it undone which bothers me a bit and doesn't happen with my sherpa jacket thanks to the facing. It probably wasn't as necessary with this jacket because the lining is one of the main features so I don't mind it being seen, but it's still a nice detail to have.

Much like the other jackets I've made, the hem on this one is finished with an elastic channel. I really like having elastic to draw the jacket in at the bottom and it also means that everything is finished off neatly inside with no raw edges showing. Finding that Prym make a circle zip pull has been one of my best discoveries in terms of finishing makes off, it's a detail that I didn't realise could be added to a handmade jacket but that I always like having on RTW ones.

Despite being unsure about adding the denim the three fabrics go so well together. Sherpa is a fabric that I've seen a lot of recently and it's so perfect for jackets. This is the sherpa that I used, I've now made two different jackets with it but it gives a very different feel when used as the lining rather than the main fabric.

I didn't want to line the sleeves in the sherpa (it would have made the jacket annoying to take on and off) but I was also keen to stick to only using fabrics from my stash. I first used this grey lining fabric on the sleeves of my Kelly Anorak and then again to line my pink fluffy jacket, so I was very pleased to find that there was enough leftover. In order to make the sleeves the same thickness as the rest of the jacket I also added a layer of quilt wadding between the corduroy and lining fabric which I explained here.

This is definitely one of my proudest makes, I created my own pattern to make it and spent a long time piecing together scraps and overcoming fabric shortages. I'm also so proud of how it looks, the denim panels might have been accidental but I love the detail they add. Considering how much I wear my sherpa jacket I'm certain this one will get a lot of wear too, and it's different to the other jackets I own. If you'd like to read more about the process of making this jacket, you can do so here. I'd like to try a similar project again in the future to use up more fabric leftovers, but in the mean time I think some simple sewing sounds like a good idea! 

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Handmade Ruched Front Top

Recently, I've been enjoying sewing with leftover fabrics from my stash. These are fabrics that I've already made something out of but didn't fully use up, so they're not usually big enough to make something like a dress put are perfect for t-shirts. It's been a particularly good thing to do recently as I haven't been able to visit any fabric shops to buy new fabrics and I like being able to use up bits of fabric that would otherwise be lying around taking up space for years. This jacket is the perfect example of using up leftover fabrics from several different projects, although for the most part my leftover makes aren't that complicated.

With this fabric I was lucky to have enough leftover to make a long-sleeved top, although most leftover projects have to be sleeveless due to fabric restrictions. I actually got this fabric over a year ago from Minerva, I really liked the lilac colour but it was more drapey and lightweight than I was expecting so I wasn't sure what to make from it. I ended up making a simple t-shirt for my sister which she's worn as a pyjama top, but I wanted to try and do the fabric justice by making something a bit nicer out of it. Because of its drape I thought it would be perfect for something involving gathers or ruching which tend to work best with lightweight fabrics.

Having been really stuck with what to make when I initially received the fabric I knew exactly what I wanted this time round. The best thing about sewing from leftover fabric which would otherwise never be used is the opportunity to give any technique a go. I love being able to try out new details without the fear of wasting fabric, although these simple tops often turn out really well.
I've made quite a few different tops with ruching details over the last year or so and also want to try out putting ruching into the side seam in the future. I initially made this grey top which has a ruching effect created by ties and really enjoy wearing it, so I then made another similar top out of Tilly and the Buttons jersey. Both of those makes turned out really well, so I know that ruching is a good detail to add to t-shirts.

I didn't want to make another top using the channel and ties so decided to use elastic to add the ruching detail. I first tried this out on this top where I added elastic to just the neckline rather than going all the way down the top. I like both versions, it's great to be able to make a simple adjustment like changing the length of the elastic to create a completely different top. One thing that I took into account after making the other elasticated top was to make the neckline a bit wider. It's hard to know how wide to make the neckline when cutting it as it does change size slightly after the neckband and elastic has been added, but I think slightly wider is better as the neckband will bring it in. I'm also really pleased with how this neckband looks, it's definitely an improvement from the first v-neck t-shirt I made although gathering hides a multitude of sins!

Having added ruching to two tops made from plain fabrics and two from printed fabrics, I really think that it's a detail that looks good on a lot of different fabrics. It can be used to add interest to a plain top as well as being a more subtle addition to a busy fabric. I tend to mainly wear plain tops and to me having a ruched front is the perfect way to make a simple t-shirt more interesting. I'd like to add it to a plain black or white t-shirt next in order to create more basics that aren't boring.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

English Paper Piecing Quilt Update

Part of the process of making my English paper piecing quilt has involved writing updates as I go, something that I've really enjoyed doing. I like being able to go through past posts and see how much the quilt has changed, especially in terms of the colour gradient. From the beginning this was intended to be a calming long-term project so it feels right that the blog posts make it more about the sewing process than the final product. 
The quilt has got so big that I can't hold it myself and show it all in one go anymore. I took a similar photo back in July when I last wrote an update and as usual I can't believe how much it's changed since. The two most recent rows that I've added have involved a lot of new fabrics and colours which have made it really come together. To get more of an idea of how the quilt has evolved over time you can see what it looked like in June 2019, August 2019, February 2020 and July 2020

Adding in the pinks was something that I was way too excited to do - being in lockdown has brought the threshold for exciting things quite far down! It's been tempting to add more colour into the quilt at an earlier stage but for the gradient to work the fabrics need to be added in the right order. I realised when cutting out the fabrics for the next row that I didn't have enough of some of them, something that I hadn't thought would happen. When I started the quilt I struggled to buy all the Alison Glass 2018 Sun Prints from the same place and 1.5 years on its become even harder to source an old collection. Fortunately I only had to buy more of three of the fabrics, but it was still annoying to have to get them from three different online shops.
What I wasn't expecting was to need to buy more of the green/yellow colours. When I first started the quilt I ran out of some of the blues fairly quickly but seeing as they won't be featuring again haven't needed to buy more. The greens and yellows are the fabrics that form the in-between bit of the quilt, they don't stand out so I didn't realise how much I'd used them but they draw the brighter colours together. Having a colour gradient as it means I've completely run out of some of my earlier fabrics whilst others have only been used for one block which is strange.

I love seeing this quilt come together and each block that is added changes it slightly. Taking photos every two or so rows is a great opportunity for me to actually have a look at the quilt as a whole rather than just the block that I'm in the process of sewing on. It's definitely thanks to the bright colours that it's worked so well and I'm glad I went with it, despite being unsure whether or not to add a grey or white at the beginning. Having said that I love the stained glass window look that the wrong side has with the papers still in, so I'd definitely like to make a quilt that has only snippets of colour in the future.

This isn't a very good photo for giving an idea of proportions but it's really big now! I think only two more rows need to be added to the side and possibly three or four more to the bottom, although I'm not sure if quilts are meant to stay square. I've spent a long time thinking about the next stage in the process, like I said it was always intended to be a soothing project so I'm sad about the thought of it being finished. I do have plans to hand quilt it though which should take a pretty long time! On the plus side I can start planning my next English paper piecing quilt soon.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans - Flares Hack

At the start of last year I made myself a pair of Dawn Jeans out of grey corduroy. I chose to make the tapered leg version which was the style that I liked the most, and the one that I thought would look best out of the corduroy fabric. Those jeans turned out really well and I was especially pleased with how well they fit at the back, but I found that I just wasn't wearing them very much. I think the main problem was to do with the hem - after initially hemming the jeans as the pattern suggested I decided that I preferred how they looked rolled up, which is how I wore them. The issue was that they weren't quite long enough to roll up twice and so ended up being slightly too short, making them tricky to wear during cold weather. At least I think that's why I wasn't wearing them, often it's really hard to tell why some clothes get worn and others don't! I'm sure a lot of it comes down to habit. 

There were two things that I really liked about the jeans: the fabric and the fit. Because of this I really didn't want them to be left unworn at the back of the wardrobe and I wanted to try and alter them so that they'd get more wear. I recently bought a pair of flared jeans which I've really enjoyed wearing and thought about making a pair out of corduroy. Thinking about a pair of corduroy flares made me think about the corduroy jeans that I made and I started to wonder how I could hack them. It was a bit of a risk and I had no idea whether or not it would work, but I justified the process with the knowledge that my jeans weren't getting enough wear as they were and it would be a shame to waste the fabric (not to mention wasting the time I spent sewing them!).

Obviously a pattern piece would ideally be flared before the fabric was cut out so that the only seams necessary are the side and inner ones. Because I already had my fabric cut and sewn into a tapered leg this wasn't possible. My method of overcoming this was to add four triangular wedges of fabric into the seams. I used my RTW flared jeans as a guidance to know at what point the jeans should start to flare out (mine turned out to be just below the knee) and also how wide to make them at the bottom. I think the method worked pretty well overall, I simply unpicked the seams about halfway and resewed them adding in the triangle, kind of like adding a godet. 
It's not quite as neat as I would like it to be, but I think that for an alteration to make a pair of jeans more wearable it looks good. Fortunately the corduroy is pretty forgiving and the seams are partially hidden, something that I also found when making a jacket from the same fabric. I wanted to hide the panels as much as possible but with another fabric I think it could look nice to have contrast flared panels, especially in two shades of denim.

I originally added in the triangles and, trying to preserve as much length as possible, left the hem raw. The plan was to leave them like this but after wearing them out of the house they really didn't feel long enough. The style of flared trousers is to have a very long hem with hardly any shoe showing so the proportions weren't right. Again, this wasn't an ideal situation to be in and I ended up having to add on a band that was a couple of inches deep across the bottom of the jeans to lengthen them. It doesn't look bad and I think it's preferable to having them too short, but it would have been nicer to avoid doing this. I do have to keep reminding myself that this is a hack done to save an existing pair of jeans, and when the trouser dissection is taken into account I think the result is pretty good!

Since altering them I've already worn these jeans at least as much as when they were tapered, if not more. Flares are something that are slowly creeping back in and I'd love to make a pair from scratch at some point. It was nice to have these semi-made though so that I didn't have to worry about sewing a fly and fitting the waistband. The only thing I'd like to change (and again, it's not a problem when taking into account that these started off as a completely different pair of jeans) is that there isn't a huge difference between the width above and below the knee. I don't want the flare to be wild but ideally the jeans would be made from a stretch denim so that they are fitted on the things and appear to go out more at the bottom. The corduroy that I used doesn't have any stretch in it and the original pattern is designed for a looser mom-jeans look, hence the width of these. I am very pleased with the changes overall though, it feels like getting a new pair of trousers without having to put lots of effort into making them!