Sunday, 21 June 2020

Wide Leg Trousers in Navy Twill

 It's been a while.  Lockdown life is busy.  I've been doing lots of crafty social media for others and that doesn't leave me much time for my own!  Plus we've had our daughter sitting exams in the house and all of us working from home.  We're all safe and well, just missing our usual social activities and the family members we can't see, but thankful for the ones who live close by and doorstep socially distant chats!  Joni is living her best life with everyone at home and even Buffy, our cat is enjoying the extra company.  In May I managed to make a few garments I'm yet to share here so time to catch up!


I liked my M7445 wide leg denim trousers so much I made another pair.  This time in a gorgeous navy twill from Clothspot called Salthouse.  It's the most wonderful quality- deadstock from a top UK designer (think suits and multi-coloured stripes), a deep dark colour and has a little bit of ease so it worked beautifully for this pattern.   I did the same sizing and mods as my denim pair.  The hem was sewn by using a herringbone stitch which is a great stitch for a flat hem that you won't catch as your feet go through the trouser legs. M7445 such a great pattern, a real shame that it's recently discontinued, it's worth tracking down on eBay or Etsy.


 I did the same sizing and mods as my denim pair. although I didn't bind the waistband facing, I just overlocked the edge.  The hem was sewn by using a herringbone/catch stitch which is a great option for a flat hem that you won't catch as your feet go through the trouser legs and the stitches hardly show on the right side of the fabric.  M7445 such a great pattern, a real shame that it's recently discontinued, it's worth tracking down on eBay or Etsy.


Back soon with more clothing makes.  I'll leave you with a group of young ducks we spotted on our most recent walk by the river.  Over the lockdown months, we've seen young ducklings and they're growing up quickly!

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Time Passing

Where are we now?  Many weeks into lockdown, a slight easing of restrictions in the UK but for our household, little has changed.  We are mainly staying in.  Husband is working from home, daughter is studying and taking University exams at home, I am also working from home too working on social media stuff for gorgeous fabric store Clothspot and also for a new venture, CraftyMonkies & their online crafty workshops (including sewing, quilting, papercraft and screenprinting!) and lots of sewing.  



Twins were born in my husbands family just before all the crazy COVID stuff began so these quilts were started mid-March, and finished a few week's later.  I used a pattern in Lori Holt's Spelling Bee book and stash fabrics.   I added a couple of teal/turquoise prints bought at the last meet-up I went to in March.  I wanted some subtle colour differences between the two but also a pair.  They are now with the new arrivals who are doing well.  It may be quite a while until we can see them in person but we catch up with their progress via photos and videos, they are unbelievably cute!


Last night I started a mental list of all the stuff I'd sewed since my day job stopped and we started living life at home.  My hands were aching yesterday, a bit overstrained and as I totted up my makes, I'm not surprised.  I do tend to throw myself into something in a stressful situation, often with a high degree on intensity.  This has been one of those times.  Part of me loves the time stretching ahead.  I've made so many things I've wanted to make for years.  My fabric and thread stores have provided all I've needed and my wardrobe is getting refreshed- I'll share all the makes once I get myself photographed.  And then there are the obligatory masks - mainly for others, I try to avoid situations where I would need to wear one.  I've used lawn and poplin, including Liberty to concentrate on comfort to encourage the wearer to keep it on when required.  These ones are using Monica's Happy Zombie pattern.  I've made some others mixing this pattern with the Dhurata Davies Mask.  I like a mask with some shaping- both these patterns use darts, and they both avoid a centre seam. 


Spring has been spectacular.  In our daily walks, we've seen so much beauty.  Our little city is so quiet right now and the pathways are often less frequented than the parks and open spaces so we've seen many beautiful sights, often unexpected.   Most of the time, I try not to think far ahead, just concentrate on the day we are in and enjoy it.  The time together has been a treasure and I feel very lucky.  But I won't lie, some days I'm flat, tired, worried, scared and on those days I hide away, sleep the time off if I can.  Then the feeling subsides, I make stuff, work, cook, garden (not this one, ours is a tiny courtyard), walk Joni and repeat.  I try not to dwell, just keep on keeping on and looking for the positives.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Book review: Sewing Basics for Everybody by Wendy Ward


Wendy Ward is one of the most reliable voices in sewing today. She released Sewing Basics for Everybody earlier this year and the blog hop promo tour is currently active.  I wasn't able to take part this time as I had work commitments scheduled at this time (that was back in the pre lockdown life!) but I did very kindly receive a copy to review.  I find that with each of Wendy's books, the style gets closer to her true aesthetic and this book really feels like her functional style has been given the freedom to create a modern utilitarian capsule wardrobe.  The keyword in the title is 'Every': this book is based on five core basic patterns with full variations and instructions to make twenty different designs in woven and knitted fabrics for any gender, age or body shape.


The book is divided into two main parts: Techniques and Projects.  In the first section, there's lots of detailed information in writing, diagrams and tables. It's packed with a comprehensive range of tutorials that cover the key skills throughout the book from adding a bust dart to, sewing welt pockets, and even stencil painting.  Then the main part of the book concentrates on the projects with a chunky chapter (including variations) devoted to each of the five core patterns.  These sections are photo-heavy and feature a diverse range of models- different genders, ages etc.  The photos are crisp and concentrate on cropped close-ups of the garments.  


The instructions are supported by Wendy's excellent diagrams throughout like the tunic dress (below) variation of the Felix sweatshirt.


The 'Harper' pants stood out to me as a classic slouchy pant.  They reminded me of how I started sewing garments in my teens.  I would take my dad's old discarded trousers and pleat the waist and peg the legs until they fitted teenage-me (we're talking circa 1985).  I have photographic evidence somewhere!  I really like the pleated hem detail (far right purple pants) to narrow the leg. 



The Kim jumpsuit is a great style with three distinctive variations.  Fiona from Diary of a Chain Stitcher has made a great vintage workwear version.



As with Wendy's other books, there are full-size pattern pieces to trace off (some pieces need to be traced off more than one sheet) at the back of the book.  As ever with Wendy, these are garments designed to be sewn on a regular domestic sewing machine and her attention to detail with plackets. cuffs, pockets, zips, linings and more will either teach you new skills or brush up your existing ones

Read my other reviews of Wendy's books:

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Closet Case Cielo Top in Sky Blue Cotton Crepe

This is my second Closet Case Cielo top.  I made the first last summer as a test piece with some left-over navy double gauze (from this skirt)  I chose the short sleeve version and the end result was meh. A boxy, non-descript top that I wore when I couldn't find anything else to work but a bit too boxy, the neck looked too wide and the overall look looked big rather than oversized.  I did like some of the details - the back shoulders have an interesting extra section- so I resolved to try the more dramatic long sleeve version with another fabric.   Here it is and I love it!


This is a size 3 made in cotton crepe from my stash, several years old and a good weight and drape for this top.  I did attempt the full lantern sleeve but it looked better without the low cuff sections.  I did make a change to this version, I took 1/4" off the centre front and centre back of the bodice pattern pieces.  this makes a 1" reduction to the diameter of the top and works better on my frame.  There's a boxy quality but it's slightly more fitted.  It's an adjustment I've used a few times- here on the Merchant and Mills Camber Dress, and here on my second Named Clothing Kanerva top.   The only other change was adding a high back adjustment.  The sleeve and bodice hems are overlocked and turned up by 1/2".  I used the bias binding finish on the neck.




It's a top that definitely benefits from the right fabric choice.  I do have some viscose crepe with a similar weight to this and I'm tempted to try a dress version mashing the full elbow-length sleeve top with the lower half of the Fibremood Holly dress, complete with a tie.  We'll see if that happens anytime soon!  I'm finding that my concentration is leading to mistakes with my lockdown sewing projects. 

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Marilla Walker's Belmenite Dress in Chambray

When Marilla Walker released her Belemnite pattern late last year,  I was smitten.  The 70s aesthetic, statement sleeves, relaxed fit-and-flare shape, the midi length - what's not to like?  I had a long length of medium weight chambray in my stash, plus a matching zip and thread so no additional purchases needed.  As part of my social media work for ClothSpot, Alice, Judy and myself each chose three garments for #makenine2020, a new year sewing community initiative started by Rochelle of Lucy Lucille.  The Belemnite was one of mine, along with the completed McCalls M74445 wide-leg trousers and the Closet Case Cielo top pattern (pics & post of that coming soon).  



I opted for view A.  The sleeves are set-in flat with a single fabric piece for each sleeve which joins the front/back bodice sections.  It's a really interesting construction method which works well with flat fell seams (how-to notes on these are included in the instructions) for a neat method that encloses the raw edges and adds topstitch detail.  I made a size 3 grading to size 4 at the waist, matching my body measurements to the pattern.  I made a couple of changes.  Firstly I made a small, high round back alteration, just 1/4", using this method.  It stops the front neck pulling back.  I add this change to almost every bodice that I ever make!  I also reduced the bust cup size as there is very little difference between my upper and full bust measurements.  Marilla covers detailed small and full bust adjustments in the instructions and I followed these to the letter.  They worked perfectly, the V lies flat with no gaping and the dress is an excellent fit.






The belt is long enough to tie at the front or back- there's a slight change in look with each tie style. I did toy with the idea of adding pockets but left them this time as I wasn't quite sure of the skirt's fullness.  I might add them to the next Belemnite.  The skirt deserves a special mention.  I love the lantern shape, subtle and much more economical use of fabric than long a-line skirt pieces.  I like the midi-length too.  It's a very wearable dress.  I wore it to The Stitch Festival which feels like many moons ago but instead was at the end of February.  I've been wearing it at home on lockdown and its a comfortable wear which makes me feel like I'm making an effort, especially on my daily walk, and not just living in yoga pants.  I would like to try the button-down front option with shorter sleeves so I have a dress to wear indoors in warmer weather, and outdoors when that time comes...I have a long length of Liberty lawn which might just work...I have loved Marilla's instructions and her pattern drafting so I am tempted to try more of her patterns, maybe the Maya top next?

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Keep Going


The embroidered words have never been truer, these are times for being kind and keeping going.  Routines have changed for us all and we're making the most of all the positives like getting out for quiet walks every day.  Although we're in an urban location, it's close to lots of green areas and a river so we get out each morning, walk Joni and enjoy spring carrying on regardless.




The tulip is from our tiny courtyard garden.  I'm always grateful for having planted bulbs back in autumn and this year, doubly so.  This variety is called 'Early Foxtrot' and each day the pink deepens slightly, very pretty.  Our daughter is home with us, returned from university a couple of weeks ago and she's been baking so we have something to enjoy with morning coffee when we get together from various home working, study and other tasks.  These oat and cinnamon vegan cookies are from Nora Cook's website, we skipped the icing, they didn't need it and the flaxseed egg replacement works really well. 


Some sewing is happening but it is erratic.  My concentration is patchy.  I am concentrating on exercising, getting my dopamine hit from Joe Wicks, plus some yoga from a friend putting her local classes online for the first time, walking, finishing work tasks and sewing when the mood takes me.  I dip in and out of 'news' and removed my radio from my bedside table- I've had a radio next to my bed for over 30 years. Instead, I downloaded the Calm app  (it has a 7-day free trial) and I listen to various non-fiction soporific narratives to send me to sleep.  If I wake up at 4am, which can be the case, I listen to another and I either return to slumber or it stops my mind racing. Otherwise, I'm keeping on, keeping on. I've sewn some clothes and quilts that I'll be sharing shortly. The embroidered hoop pattern is from Cozy Blue by the way.  Meanwhile, sending love to you all xxx

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

New Patchwork & Quilting Basics by Jo Avery: Blog Tour

Welcome to my turn on the lovely Jo Avery's New Patchwork & Quilting Basics book tour! I've known Jo since the Fat Quarterly retreat days and she is such a vibrant person buzzing with ideas and creativity.  Her book is a slice of Jo Avery, packed full of tips and advice from beginner to the more experienced quilter.  I've also taken a few of Jo's classes at the Threadhouse Retreats and she is a great teacher, always looking for a more efficient way of doing things or simplifying a process so it's in reach of all abilities and the same approach can be seen throughout her skills-builder book. Packed full of quick methods for maximum impact,  She's a whizz with colour and it shines throughout the bright and colourful pages.


I made a block from the Bedding Plants Quilt- my favourite project and the culmination of all the skills and techniques covered in the book.  I rummaged through my vintage scraps to find lots of bright prints for the on-point tulip blocks.  The instructions are clear and efficient, Jo's naturally encouraging tone comes through.  She emphasis accepting momentary imperfections and moving on so you can see the bigger picture, sage advice!  


I made five tulips and they came together really quickly.  I squared it off and I think in the true spirit of Jo, I might make it into a large zip pouch!




Find all the links to the rest of the blog hop and where to buy a signed copy over at Jo's blog.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Yay, trousers at last! M7445 Palmer Pletsch Wide Leg Pant in Denim

I have only one pair of trousers in my wardrobe, these dating from 2014.  I don't have any jeans- I know, it's weird.   But I hate the feel of a skinny jean, I don't do much in the way of clothes shopping and when I go to the beach or dog walking, I usually put on joggers or yoga pants. I have had a longing for a comfortable stylish pair of denim wide-leg trousers and I have been looking out for a pattern.  I'd see Katie of What Katies Sews reporting on a couple of pairs, and Diane of Dream Cut Sew who had created a couple of gorgeous looking versions- both inspired me!  As part of my social media work for Clothspot, the team of owner Alice, accountant-in-chief Judy, and me are taking part in #makenine2020, we selected nine garments (three each) to make this year and McCalls 7445 is my first!





This is a Palmer Pletsch pattern which uses their tissue fitting method before cutting into any fabric. The aim is that any obvious alterations can be done to the tissue first.  Large seam allowances are built in to provide extra fabric for fitting- on this pattern, the leg seams all feature 1" seam allowance.
The tissue fitting was a little hit and miss. It gave me a broad idea of length/width fit but once I moved on to the fabric, a 13oz denim with a little elastane for ease, it was a lot easier to feel how the final fit would be. 

I decided I wanted the faced waist finish and moved the zip from the centre to the side.  I also opted for a concealed zip. I cut a size 12 which was closest to my body measurements.  I only needed minor adjustments,, a slight reduction of the crotch seam to reduce bagginess at the front, but I did machine baste the seams several times to get to that point!  

To stop the waistline stretching out with all the trying on, I sewed a 3/8" woven black tape to the seam line for stability. When I did add the facing near the end of construction, it was quite a lot smaller and needed a lot of easing in. I also found the waist sat lower than I thought it would looking at the pattern images. I might add a waistband on a future pair.

 I like to make the insides comfortable to wear and pretty for me to look at so I bound the facing edges and the crotch seam with bias Liberty lawn strips and a Hong Kong finish, as well as adding a zipper tab cover.

The only other alteration was to take 7/8" off the length, I'm 5'5" tall.  



When I add a concealed/invisible zip, I've found life is a lot easier if I sew a double run of stitches. To prepare, I add lightweight interfacing strips to the wrong side of what will form the zipper seam, allow to cool and overlock the fabric edge.  I then pin the first half of the zip in place and with a standard zipper foot, a long stitch and the outer edge of the zip just meeting the overlocker stitches and I sew the very edge of the zip to the seam fabric. One half of the zipper is now nicely secured so I change to the invisible zip foot and sew a second line of stitches close to the zipper teeth.  Repeat on the other side. 


They are exactly what I wanted.  Denim, comfortable, stylish and incredibly wearable. I wasn't sure about the angled pocket initially but now it's one of my favourite features.  The vertical opening section is stitched down to keep the pockets flat but still useable, plus I used lighter-weight denim for the facing to reduce bulk.  


They fit into the much-worn category of my wardrobe already.  My next pair are from this exceptional quality dark navy cotton twill from Clothspot.  It has a touch of elastane for ease just like the denim so I think it will work well.  Yay for trouser success! I'm wearing this pair with a favourite striped version of the top from 'She Wears the Pants'

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Fibre Mood Holly Dress in Liberty Crepe

I made this dress just in time for Christmas so I'm playing a little catch up here.  It's the Holly dress from Fibre Mood. I saw a few versions popping up on Instagram and I liked the winter-friendly style: long Bishop sleeves, high neck, midi length.  Fibre Mood is based in Belgium and sell quarterly magazines (physical and digital) but also single PDF and paper patterns.  The PDF has overlapping pattern pieces so they need to be traced off and seam allowances have to be added too but I usually trace off anyway and fewer sheets to print means less to pay on the copy shop print- I use Dottyprint






I cut a size 36 based on my bust and hip measurements, then made my standard high round back adjustment and added 5/8" (1.5cm) seam allowances rather than the recommended 1cm so I had extra to play with.  I did tweak the fit a little, the shoulders were snug at the back so I let the seam out 1/4" or so and graded that into the shoulder and underarm.  I am quite narrow across the shoulder, I have read reviews where the shoulder width is commented on as being on the small size.  Not much else needed changing. I stopped the zip at the neck seam (rather than ending at the top of the collar) and added a button and loop elastic sewn in the seam as I don't like constriction at the neck.  The sleeves have a bias strip opening which is a finish I really like and enjoy sewing- quilters are used to narrow seams!  Although the cuff looks like a button closure, the pearl buttons are just decorative- I used black snap fasteners from my vintage notions stash.  




The fabric is Liberty Tana cotton crepe (eBay purchase) in 'Mitsi' which has been waiting at least four years for the right pattern!  It has good opacity and more drape than Liberty lawn.  It's also easy to cut and sew with, but hard to find (Alice Caroline currently has some).  For a similar weight and feel Atelier Brunette viscose crepe is a good option. I had two metres and I just about squeezed the pattern out of the fabric (the belt was pieced at the end from the scraps) so there was minimal wastage.  I wasn't sure this print was going to suit me whatever I chose to make with it but I've been surprised and loved wearing it.  It's feminine without shouting Liberty!  When I'm at home I leave the belt off and often wear it with a jumper but if I'm meeting someone or going out, it smartens up with the tie belt.  There are no pockets and I don't think I would add them with this style, the skirt is not particularly full so pockets would be a bit bulky and maybe too visible with a crepe.  I've seen the same pattern made up as a top too, great option!  I like the modern Victorian vibe and that the lines are simple and not too fussy; I'm not into the frills and overlay skirt layers that are everywhere at the moment. Check out #fibremoodholly on Instagram to see lots of top and dress versions.