Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pattern favourites: Melly sews high low top and Black Spinel trousers

When I was in Melbourne last year I picked up a couple of metres of a light weight plaid cotton from Rathdowne Fabrics. It's been staring at me from the stash all summer, and though I'd envisioned making a Grainline Archer with it I haven't tried that pattern yet (though hope I get the courage to soon!) and I really wanted to use it now! I wanted to use it on a pattern I knew would work, was simple, quick and pretty fail-safe, so I chose the Melly Sews high low top. The one I made this time last year has had heaps of wear.

If you don't know this pattern, it's a free one but only available in one size (Melissa's, and as it turns out, mine too - I'm about an Australian size 10/12). There are set in sleeves, bust darts and a high low hem. As with the last one, the fit is good for me so it didn't need adjusting, the only thing I did differently again was to add elastic to the sleeve cuffs as I feel it creates a nicer silhouette on me. For this I just turned a small hem up twice and left a gap where I threaded thin elastic. Also I smoothed out the hem curve a little so it created a hemline that was easier to hem by turning up twice and sewing down. Though I kind of wish I'd used bias binding here too as well as the neckline as it makes such a nice finish and adds a little weight.

I'm pretty happy with my top and think the balance of the style with the busy plaid works well.

I thought I'd also mention my trousers here which I made ages ago but I haven't blogged. They are Black Spinel Pants from the Japanese brand Tamanegi-kobo. This is my third pair and this pattern is definitely another favourite of mine. The first pair I made 3 years ago and have worn out, the second were a merino blend khaki pair which I wore to death last winter, but these are my favourites of the three: so comfortable, versatile and just great to wear.

I love the design description on the Tamanegi-kobo website:
Super skinny leggings using stretch woven fabric inspired from knit leggings. Biker pants like cutting and engineered with three dimensional design including articulated knees. Waistband is elasticated and easy construction. Front width is narrower and pocket placement is lower, which will have the effect of looking skinny. Even coordinate with simple Tee shirt will still make you look stylish. Topstitch is the key point. Go crazy with thicker thread and color!

Apologies for the butt shot but I wanted to show you the detail of pockets, yoke and top stitching (over exposed pic so that hopefully you can make it out).

These details make the trousers look almost like jeans, or at least less like leggings, so I feel I can wear them with quite a few different tops. I'm not a huge leggings wearer, and when I do wear them I always like my tops to cover my bottom & crotch, but these are that bit more substantial. Plus they are made in a shark skin type fabric which is about a medium weight.

I have changed a couple of things along my journey with this pattern: I lowered the waist (I prefer waistbands to sit on my hips), narrowed the leg a little and to this pair I drafted some front pockets to add to the detail but also to make them infinitely more practical. I'm sure no. 4 will occur, I love this pattern so much :-)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Summer sewing: Emma & Diana

Hi! Despite my lack of blog posts - January was the first month I didn't post in the almost 5 years I've been blogging :-(  I have been having fun sewing as usual, just not taking pics and writing!

So here are two things I've made over summer that I'm enjoying wearing... Emma pants and Diana cami from Spit Up and Stilettos (formerly Sewloft). First the pants...

This is the first time I've made pants with a fly/zip opening, though I've been wanting to for ages. I've tired all sorts of pull on trousers and also fly front shorts, but not actual trousers, so I'm excited that I've tackled it, and I'm pretty pleased with the results.

What attracted me to this pattern was the shape of the trousers: slim fit, side slash pockets, lowish waist and cropped leg. I  found the instructions easy to follow and the techniques quite sophisticated. For example I hadn't used this particular method for pocket construction but loved it and found it very professional looking and well finished.

I used a light weight cotton with some stretch from Remnant Warehouse. It's a neutral grey colour and light weight enough to be worn in summer when I'm feeling like pants over a skirt or dress (shorts for me are relegated to home or beach wear). The fit is not absolutely perfect (the crotch could do with some slight adjustments), but overall they're fine and certainly fill a gap in my wardrobe. I suspect that as I make more trousers I will get more picky about fit (and possibly look back at these and cringe!), but I think that's OK - as sewists we build on our knowledge bit by bit and improve with time and practice.

Next time I would try a heavier weight fabric, as I think it would sit better, adjust that crotch slightly and also lengthen the legs a bit as I had to turn the tiniest of hems so that they wouldn't end up shorter than I wanted for my average height (I'm 5'6" or 168cm).

When I downloaded the Emma pattern I also downloaded the Diana cami and thought it might look nice together so tried it. I used a scrap of fabric thinking that it might be a wearable musline to wear to bed with pyjama shorts, but I like it so much that it's gone to the ordinary wardrobe :-) The construction is just 2 pieces, front and back, no bust darts or shaping, the neckline and armholes are bound with self bias binding and the straps are thin spaghetti straps from the same fabric.

I love the racer style back and also the boxy fit. It would obviously look different in differently draping fabrics, and I think would look fabulous extended to a dress. On an underwear note, I think this pattern deserves a strapless bra, if you can bear it, to show off the lovely back without distraction.

* Having said all that and stated how much I like both of these pieces, I struggled to decide whether to publish this blog post, as I learnt just yesterday of the copyright dispute issue happening around this pattern company (I don't think these designs in particular but am not sure). I don't know much at all about it but it always saddens me to hear of copyright issues. I would love to think that someone would not knowingly take the design/s of another and call them their own to profit, but who knows really what happens. All I'll say is that I hope the issue is sorted out as this sewing community in general is so fantastic.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Modified Zippy Top

Hello and happy holidays! I hope you're enjoying the festive season and getting in some sewing/crafting time ;-)

I seem to have a pattern crush on the See Kate Sew Zippy Top at the moment, I've made 3 for myself and 2 for the recent school fete, with plans afoot for 2 more! What I love about it is the simple shape, lovely neckline and sleeves and the scope for adaptation.

This is my latest one, a slighlty more dressy version. I think it's the fabric that really makes this version. Last time I was at mylocal thrift shop a garment caught my eye - I don't tend to shop for clothes at the thrift shop (or anywhere else) these days but I do go looking for fabric to upcycle. The garment was a large kaftan type top from H&M in polyester. My kids say this is my zebra top :-) but I think it looks like a lovely watercolour landscape painting, or something like that. No matter what, I really like it.

I unpicked the existing seams to get maximum area and cut out my pieces as usual. This time I omitted the zip as the fabric is very light weight and delicate and I thought the weight of the zip and facing might pull it out of shape. Also the neckline is wide enough to comfortably go over the head without an opening. I simply turned over the edges of the neckline and armholes twice and sewed a small hem. I wouldn't normally do this as I find it can look messy but in this very sheer fabric and with the busy print it worked fine. I also did my usual length for the hem - I found the crop length too short but the other length too long to be flattering for me so I went in between.

As a decorative element I slightly gathered the shoulder seam and added ties (repurposed from the original top). I really love this type of detail and the extra touch it adds without too much effort.

I really like this version of the pattern. I've worn it with these grey/black jeans but I can also picture it with my favourite black stretch satin cigarette pants for a more dressy evening.

Do you have a pattern crush at the moment? Do tell!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Summer sewing : : jersey maxi skirt

I've been wanting a maxi skirt or two to add to my summer wardrobe, for those days when you know, you don't feel like having to be careful when you bend over, or maybe your legs need attention (or 'deforesting' as a friend used to say :-). I'd been thinking about the Sewaholic Gabriola but knew I would labour over the details of that pattern... what I wanted was a quick and easy project.

Trawling through my knits stash I found a quite fluid and lovely navy blue jersey-type fabric. I'm not sure where I got it, possibly my Melbourne trip with Deb earlier in the year. The GJs $2p/m and $4p/m tables were great for fabric to experiment on. Then I found a tutorial online to use as a base and kind of winged it from there (I can't seem to find the tutorial again, sorry, but there are plenty if you Google 'jersey maxi skirt tutorial').

The shape is essentially just an exaggerated A line sewn onto a yoga-style waistband. No closures or fussing, taking advantage of the stretch and drape of the fabric.

Yoga style waistbands really appeal to me as they're so comfy and also add a bit of reassuring stability to delicate or flowy fabrics. To further the safety aspect I added a row of wide elastic into the inner waistband (under the yoga band as you can sort of see below) - when my kids were smaller I had several alarming incidents with clothes where I almost had a loose skirt pulled down, loose top pulled up etc and it has left me not wanting to take any chances!!

And just a note about styling my skirt... I  knew the loose shape would suit a fitted or slimline top, but nothing I tried looked right. I tried the Wiksten tank above, untucked as I always do, but that wasn't structured enough - then a funny thing happened where a bit of the hem got caught in the skirt waist and I had an 'ah ha' moment - tucked looked sooo much better, even though I never wear things tucked (well I do now :-). I love lessons like this where you are forced to deviate from what you normally do and go out of your comfort zone. I think this old dog has learnt a new trick ;-)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tween sewing

Several years ago I made my eldest girl a Sophie Tunic from Sisboom as a sun/beach cover-up. She's loved it and worn it to death but for a while now it's been way too small and she's been asking for an update. So when we were in a fabric store together recently I asked her to pick out a new fabric. She chose this lovely Cloud 9 printed cotton (proud mother moment ;-)

I think this is a great style for kids, not too cutesy or fussy and easy to wear. The fabric was lovely to work with and the top came together well and easily. If anything I find the Sisboom patterns a bit over-explained but then I guess that makes sure newbie sewers are covered.

The only change I made was to add sleeve tabs.  The tab pattern is from my Make it Perfect Shearwater Kaftan pattern, which is like a grown-up version of the Sophie tunic. Make it Perfect now also have a little girl 'mini' version of the Shearwater, but as I already had the Sisboom pattern I thought I'd better save my pennies and re-use it. Don't you love kids patterns with a large range of sizes!

I also made her some new shorts, which happen to go reasonably well with the shirt. The pattern is Dana from Madeit's Shorts pattern, which is a great basic, especially for someone with a few kids to clothe - the sizing goes from 12 months to 10 years and Dana includes lots of tutorials for variations on her website/ It's one of those patterns where I wondered whether I should draft them myself, but really, for $8 you get all of those sizes already drafted, and who doesn't like to support the lovely indie designers. This is the 4th pair of shorts I've made from this pattern and I'm sure there will be many more.

For these I used a piece of black linen with some stretch my my stash, redesigned the front to add sewn in pockets (easy to do if you've sewn pockets before) and added 2 large decorative buttons.

She likes the whole outfit so we're both happy :-)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tessuti Alice top

I had one of those rare reactions to seeing a new pattern recently: I wanted to buy and make it immediately! Tessuti's new Alice Top & dress pattern was the culprit.

I made a shameless copycat version, though my fabric is just a plain old cotton (from a thrifted doona/duvet cover) rather than the fine linen of the sample. The drape is not quite as nice but it's the same thin blue and white stripe and I love it :-)

This is my first Tessuti pattern and I enjoyed making it. The instructions were easy to understand and thorough, and the top went together well. I've always loved smock tops (either when pregnant or not!)and this one has a lovely armhole detail too. I made the size small with no alterations apart from shortening it, though in hindsight I think I was a bit over enthusiastic and next time will leave a few more centimetres in length.

I'm thinking this top will be a real workhorse over spring and summer and can definitely see myself making more, though I don't think I'll try the dress, as anything sack-like tends to swamp me and my shapeless legs poking out of the bottom look a bit ridiculous ;-)

But now I really need to get onto sewing some trousers, as I'm sadly lacking! I'm thinking Spit up and Stilettos' Emma Pant (previously known as Sewloft - have you seen their patterns are free now? Such an amazing thing to do), or a woven pair of Hudson Pants... I really should make both, it's getting too hot here for jeans. What's on your list at the moment?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Another new bag and a mini Maximus cowl

It was that time again recently - time to make a new bag - and an idea had been brewing in my head for a while...

Usually my bags wear out with use, but this time the old one was still going but just didn't have the functionality I needed. You see we're going on a trip, and as much as I like the previous bag, the fact that I can't use it messenger style accross my body drives me mad. Especially when I'm walking any distance or when I'm wearing my minoru jacket - something about that jacket (maybe the big collar and raglan sleeves?) makes bags fall off my shoulder - grr!

After making so many bags (there are a stack to see if you're interested under the 'bag' category over on the right there >) I've come to know what's useful for me personally, so this time around I had a pretty tight list of practical requirements:
Something that could be worn messenger style...

Or on the shoulder...

With internal pockets for pen, phone, lip balm etc, ...

A key fob inside is handy and so is a zip pocket, and also an external zip pocket to quickly stuff keys into on the run.

Regarding the look of the bag I wanted something quite utilitarian looking but with some nice details. As I knew what I wanted I didn't use a pattern but made it by cutting a simple rectangular shape with cut away corners (not sure what the proper name for that is?) to give a hobo bag feel.

I used an old thrifted leather belt for the strap. I can't remember where I got the idea from, but I cut the belt while it was buckled and then attached each end to a side, handstitching it on with hemp thread. I hope it holds! Must remember not to carry any heavy kid water bottles in it! Using a belt sounds a bit naff and gimmicky but I think it comes off OK and does the job, plus adds the slight bit of grunge I was after. I do like a bit of grunge :-)

I had a great piece of grey linen I wanted to use for the outer, and even though it is cool toned and the belt is warm I thought they went together nicely, and decided to accentuate the warm/cool thing by adding brown taped zips (with silver coloured metal teeth) and brown toned fabric inside. It sounds like a lot of navel gazing but I really love experimenting and putting all the little details together :-)

All the materials I used are from my stash (yay stash busting!), some things I'd been hoarding for ages. I always cut off zips, buckles, buttons, sliders etc when I throw away an old bag (or whatever) and just put them away for another day. It's so satisfying being able to use them up one day, and feels great to not have to go out and buy yet more stuff, which is the positive side to stash hoarding I guess. And a friend recently gave me the inside fabric which I love (hello H if you happen to be reading! And thank you!).

The cowl I'm wearing here (note the warm/cool thing with the cowl & briar too :-) is the Maximus pattern from Chic Knits. I'm calling it my mini maximus because I ran out of wool and so it's smaller than the pattern specifies. It was such an enjoyable knit, on big needles, very quick and satisfying, if you're looking for a project I'd recommend it.

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