Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Overlocker Unlocked - Insides

Other than the speed at which garments (mainly jersey ones) can be sewn on an overlocker, by far the best thing about overlocking for me is how beautifully finished the insides are. I love being able to put on a garment and admire the seams, somehow it just makes getting dressed in the morning that bit better (or at least to me it does)! In a lot of my un-overlocked garments the seams are fraying or the stitching is less secure and is starting to break. Even finishing edges with a zigzag stitch doesn't prevent fraying completely so it feels like such a treat to have beautifully overlocked seams without a fraying edge in sight. Today I thought I'd go through some photos of the insides of some of the overlocked garments I've made.
Personally, I enjoy spending time on projects to make them look beautiful on the inside as well as outside but it's tempting to just get the sewing finished without having to bother making the wrong side of a garment look nice too - after all, no one will see it. Overlocking is a great way to get a lovely finish on the inside but without spending too much time on this step.

Let's begin with some jersey makes. Although knit fabrics don't benefit from overlocking to counter fraying in the same way that woven fabrics do, it's still a really good idea to overlock them if you're able to. Not only does it speed up the process and allow for neat insides, the stitching has the massive benefit of being stretchy. I would also add that it's worth taking the extra time to change the overlocking thread to a matching colour, even it it's just from white to black. Although you can't see the stitching on the right side, if your fabric has a really big contrast (for example if the fabric is black and the thread is white) there is always a slight chance that the stitches will show through. I've written a tutorial here on a really quick way to change the threads of an overlocker if that's something you're interested in.

I've found that on jersey fabrics in particular overlocking has really helped to improve my neckbands. I have to say though, overlocking neckbands is a mixed blessing; I believe it was on this t-shirt that I had to unpick the neckband after I sewed it on the wrong way. It took a long time! However, I still think that the promise of a beautifully neat neckband outweighs the threat of unpicking and after that incident I always check multiple times before beginning to sew a neckband. I actually really enjoy sewing neckbands now. Despite their annoying tendency to gather, I've found that with lots of pins and stretching the neckband as I sew has solved this problem and I love the finish that an overlocked and topstitched neckband gives.

The inside of this t-shirt in particular is a classic example as to why putting on overlocked clothes makes me so happy! It just looks so neat and professional...

Moving onto some pictures of woven tops. I explained in this post the approach I like to take when overlocking woven fabrics and I really love the above picture. Sewing with denim is probably my main exception to my match the thread with the fabric rule, because I love the contrast between the white overlocking and the dark denim. So long as the thread tension is high enough the stitching shouldn't show through at the seams and I've also found that the thread tends to show less with woven fabrics than with knit fabrics. Even though it's only me who sees the inside it still makes me happy! 

In the case of fraying seams you really cannot beat an overlocker. I actually find the pattern of overlocking stitches quite nice too and on a pressed seam it gives a similar affect to a hong-kong finish which is quite nice. I don't have any photos of the tops I made before I knew that woven seams had to be finished but take my word for it, once you see something fray quite that badly you won't make the same mistake twice!
I hope you enjoyed looking at a few photos, this was somewhat different to what I usually write about but I really love being able to reflect on previous garments and I also love a bit of overlocking!

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

Monday, 8 October 2018

Pink Rib Top

As you may have noticed, blush pink (or any kind of pink for that matter) isn't a colour that I tend to wear or sew with. Despite this, I've been thinking more and more about sewing a garment in blush pink, particularly as I've seen quite a few items in this colour on the high street recently. When I was choosing this fabric on the Minerva Crafts website, I very nearly fell back on a navy or grey colour way, but I was determined to try out the blush pink and I'm so glad that this fabric gave me the option to do that because I love it! I can already see many more garments this colour in creeping into my wardrobe via my sewing machine...

I wasn't sure how stretchy the fabric would be and I did initially expect it to have a much larger stretch percentage like a typical rib fabric does. Because of this, when the fabric arrived I wasn't initially sure about what to make out of it. I often find that rather than rushing into a project (which is tempting when gorgeous fabric arrives in the post!) I much prefer the end result if I think about the design of the garment for a while so that I end up with a finished item which is perfect for both the fabric and what I want to wear.
As often is the case, it was my Mum who first came up with the idea for this top. I love mock neck and turtleneck collars and I had initially planned to make a Freya top out of the fabric. Because the fabric is nowhere near stretchy enough to make a Freya, I started to think of different options which could still involve a high neck. My Mum suggested a much wider collar which sat further away from my neck with the top coming into a boxier shape similar to the Linden. While I was still pondering over which pattern I could use/hack, one of my friends came round wearing the perfect jumper. It was exactly the pattern I was looking for and although I can't find the exact jumper on the shop's website anymore, picture a grey knitted version of this top. Of course I immediately asked if I could borrow it to copy and she very kindly leant it to me and it really is the perfect pattern!

I've made so many tops and jumpers that the techniques are comfortably familiar. I did want to add another detail to this top though, so I decided to leave the back longer than the front and create a split-hem. This was so simple to do and I love it! It's a really simple detail but I think that it adds a lovely bit of interest to the top. It also means that I'm going to be adding split-hems to a lot more tops in the future!
Other than adding the split-hem, I pretty much copied the jumper exactly. I was initially worried about the width of the sleeves which are quite wide. While the width looks great with the heavier knit of the ready-to-wear jumper, I was worried that the medium weight rib fabric would collapse rather than holding the shape and that it would look a bit strange. Expecting to have to take in the sleeves I tried the top on and found that I actually really like the width of the sleeves. I think it works really well with the boxy shape of the top and the drop shoulder.

As you've probably guessed by now I absolutely love this top! It's exactly the time of top that I'll wear continuously over the next few months, certainly with a thermal underneath as the temperatures drop! My Mum said she loved it too, which is always the best compliment. Part of the success is definitely the fabric, the drape is so lovely and as it turns out the colour is a winner.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Flossie Teacakes Guide To EPP - Book Review

I have a very exciting book review to share today! Although my sewing tends to be mainly dressmaking based and this blog reflects this, English paper piecing has always been something that I love to do. I find that hand piecing is extremely meditative and relaxing, and EPP is perfect to bring away on holiday or to sew in the evenings while watching television. One of my favourite blogs Flossie Teacakes (which I have mentioned before) is one of the most fantastic places for seeking English paper piecing inspiration. As someone who creates the most astonishingly beautiful and intricate projects, it seems only natural to me that Florence should write a book on EPP and for the said book to be wonderful.

What I love about this book is that it seems to cover everything. It's split into five sections: The World of English Paper Piecing, Spotlight on Modern EPPers, Introduction to English Paper Piecing and the final two sections are on sewing the patterns included with the book. While it's perfect for beginners and has clear and detailed instructions on how to learn how to paper piece, it also provides both information and instructions for people of all abilities. One of my favourites sub-sections is the one on fussy cutting, a method which I haven't yet tried but that I've always wanted to.

I enjoyed reading all of the sections but I think that my favourite has to be the first one, The World of English Paper Piecing. History is my favourite subject and I love to read about it; sewing is my favourite hobby and something that I am also passionate about. To be able to combine sewing and history and read about this in a book is one of the things that for me made this book so enjoyable to read. I particularly enjoyed reading about Lucy Boston, 'the woman behind one of the most famous English paper piecing patterns.

Florence also includes several extracts all about the psychology of sewing, such as working with our hands. It's a fascinating read in itself, in my opinion even for people who don't sew. One of the things that I liked about the book was the layout, it seemed to be a way starting an EPPed journey from learning about it's history to hearing about modern makers and finally creating your own project. I also liked how the section on modern EPPers was placed after the historical section, for me it allowed the idea that this is a something that is still continued today despite being hundreds of years old to really resonate.

As I mentioned, at the end of the book there are patterns! I still can't believe that as well as interesting reads and never-ending inspiration as well as tips, there are patterns available with the book too. I decided to make one of the three rosettes, the Billilla rosette. It features an interesting but not intricate pattern and was a really satisfying sew. One of the great things about rosettes is that they are much faster to complete than ordinary EPP projects, although now I've made it I'm not quite sure what to do with it! One of the things I liked about the design is that it looks great fussy-cut (see the front cover of the book for what I mean) and I think it would be a great pattern to use for a first fussy-cut project.

Overall, I honestly couldn't recommend this book enough! It seems to contain everything you need to know about English Paper Piecing and more, not to mention the fact that the pictures included are inspiring and Florence's style of writing is brilliant. I know that this is a book that I'll be going back to time and again to re-read the articles inside and try out some of the other projects. 

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Art Gallery Frankie T-Shirt

After the success of my last Frankie t-shirt, I knew that another one would be imminent. I've made quite a few t-shirts this year and found that I didn't dislike the task of 'boring' sewing as much as I anticipated. For me, a t-shirt is a nice and speedy sew that is the perfect thing to make after a long project, when you feel in need of a satisfyingly quick sew. My green Frankie and my Paris top were probably my most worn t-shirts in summer and I decided to make another Frankie to enjoy the last few rays of September sunshine with. 

One of the nice things about re-making a pattern is that you know already that it will be a success style-wise. Rather than having to check and double check hem length I simply placed my previous t-shirt on top of this one and pinned the length according to that. I knew that I liked the slightly cropped length of my other top and that I wanted this version to have that too. The same went for sewing the side seams: I used the same seam allowance as on my other version so that it would fit the same way. All of these things meant that what was already a very quick sew became even quicker, and I had a new t-shirt in no time at all.

I was actually quite surprised at how much I enjoyed wearing a green top, which isn't a colour normally associated with my wardrobe. The fabric for this top is probably more classically what I would go for - in other words it's blue! I do love this fabric though. It's an Art Gallery jersey fabric which is really amazing quality. I also really like the pattern which is a bit different to your everyday blue and white combination. The downside to such gorgeous fabric is that it is quite expensive, but then again 1 metre was the perfect amount to make this top with.

Even though I used exactly the same pattern and sizing for both t-shirts, they are quite different mainly due to the fabric choice but also the fabric weight: the Art Gallery jersey is slightly lighter-weight meaning that it has a bit more drape. There isn't much else to say about both this top and the pattern that hasn't already been said, but to conclude I think this is a great simple make which is bound to get lots of wear. It's nice to have another tried and tested pattern to add to the list too.

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.