Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Playing Teacher: Another Tate Top

We gifted my sister Gen a sewing machine for her 18th birthday. I knew she was interested in sewing and I kind of assumed she had some very basic sewing knowledge just because, well, why not? She didn't, because, well, why would she (silly me!)? I promised her a sewing lesson on Boxing day and arrived with a few bits and pieces that she wouldn't already have. I sat in front of her sewing machine with her. She knew nothing, and I realised just how much there was to learn before even turning the machine on!

I took her through the basics: thread the needle, fill the bobbin, straight stitch, zig zag stitch, stitch lengths and back stitching. She practiced for a few minutes on some scrap fabrics. Gen was keen to get straight into trying a pattern after this despite knowing nothing -  really nothing! I told her the first step was to iron the fabric before we can cut out the pattern pieces. She said she didn't know how to iron...

I chose the Tate Top for Gen because its an incredibly simple pattern with no tricky closures, it only requires fitting around the bust and I had it on hand. Gen cut a size 0, after talking through taking measurements, pattern sizing and ease. I ran through how to cut the pieces from the fabric and we got started with the sewing. 

By the end of the day she had a finished top, made from some spotlight cotton lawn I'd gifted her and she knew how to sew darts, finish her seams with zig zag and do french seams, make a hem, use bias binding, hand sew a hook and eye, and, get this, iron!

The top isn't perfect but it looks great and no one would be able to tell that some of stitching is a little wonky or that it was hand made. I think Gen did an absolutely amazing job and it was lovely to teach someone so keen to learn. In hindsight, maybe I should have started her on a tote bag or something similar but I think she's more interested in sewing clothes, so why not jump straight in to it?

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Sewing in 2014

It's time to look back on the year that was. This is my version of Gillian's wonderful Top 5 in 2014, but I'm going to try and keep it short and sweet and fit everything into one post.

What I've Sewn in 2014:
I've recorded 132 Garments in my sewing notebook, not including a few half makes / WIPs.
Of these, 95 were made for myself. It feels like I sewed a lot more for others than I actually I did. I guess that says something about the extra mental effort and time it takes to sew for others. The below pie chart shows the number of garments I made by recipient.

Suffice to say my wardrobe is pretty full! Focusing only on me, me, me the below pie charts shorts the number of each type of garment I sewed for my own wardrobe. One quarter of everything I sewed for myself was dresses! No surprises there. 

I mostly sewed up Indie Patterns with only 10 garments made from Vogue, Simplicity or McCall's Patterns. The Indie Pattern Companies I made most garments from were Colette (15 garments) and Grainline Studio (12). Overall I sewed up garments from 38 different designers!

Highlights of 2014:
This is super hard to narrow down. I've sewn so many things I love this year. So, I've chosen a few most made and worn patterns that fitted effortlessly into my wardrobe and I constantly reach for: Coppelia Cardy
Alder Shirtdresses and Moss Skirts. I'm so darn chuffed with the way my colour blocked Jackie coat turned out and I feel proud every time Tim wears shorts, shirts or the Albion Coat I made him.

Left to right, top to bottom: Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress; Iconic patterns Jackie Coat; Colette Albion coat; Grainline Studio Moss mini; Papercut Pattern Coppelia cardigan; Colette Negroni Shirt

Misses of 2014:
While quite a few items didn't turn out as planned these are four that I finished that have had least wear. The Elisalex dress took me almost the whole year to complete and now I cant stand to look at it and the grumpy gathered skirt was much the same. I made a few mistakes and now cant stand to wear it. Knit dresses are just are not for me! I'll probably pass my Moneta dress pattern on to someone who will get more use from it.

Reflections of past goals:
  1. I'm amazed at how much I've learnt this year. I sewed like a maniac, particularly at the beginning of the year when I took a few months off my studies and work. I don't think I'll ever have the drive to sew as much and as quickly as I did at that time and that's ok with me. It was a great experience to learn as much as I could in a short period of time.
  2. Slowing down and enjoying each sewing process: I found a nice balance. I really took my time on certain projects like my colour blocked Jackie coat but I also enjoy racing through an easy project from time to time.
  3. Get social with my sewing buddies:  Success! I attended Social sewing days, fabric shop crawls, coffee/lunch catch up, Mocktails and Sewaway. 
  4. Participate in Me-Made-May: I participated, wore me-made everyday and blogged all about it. I really enjoyed MMM '14 and look forward to doing it again next year.
  5. Sew Cheap Challenge: In January I blogged about my Tips and Tricks for Sewing on the cheap and a taste of some of the great free patterns available online. I also made a goal to Make 12 new-to-me free patterns during 2014, one for each month, and review them here. I achieved this goal and have some of my favourite garments because of it. I also have a few wadders. I wont be continuing with this monthly challenge in 2014 but I will continue to make up and review free patterns as the urge hits.
New Goals:
  1. Pants: yeah...I should make pants. I don't wear pants much as I don't like the way RTW pants fit around pretty much any of my lower region. But perhaps making my own will change my pants wearing world. Or perhaps it will be terrible awful experience?
  2. Winter coat/jacket: I'd like to make a yearly tradition of making myself a new winter coat. I'm pretty keen to try out the Minoru jacket and a women's version of the Albion.
  3. Sew more things I don't have to iron! I'm wearing dresses all the time because I just cant be bothered ironing my blouses. I need to iron more, and make more tops I don't have to iron.
That's it, thanks for sticking with me. Wishing everyone a happy and sewing-filled New Year. 

Christmas Gifts For Nieces & Nephews

Another installment in Christmas gift sewing 2014. This time, the gifts I sewed for some of my nieces and Nephews.

For my youngest niece, V, I made the free Pleated Playsuit Pattern by Elegance & Elephants out of some left over quilting cotton and bird linen from her mum's Alice top. I cut a size 2 and followed the instructions baring two changes: I extended the short cuffs so they could be folded up and tacked down and used two rows of 1/4"elastic instead of 1/2"elastic because that's what I had on hand.

I love this pattern and will definitely make it up again some time. If only it cam in my size!

I made V and two older nieces, A & A, drawstring skirts using Melly Sews tutorial. I've made up this skirt before and I think it's a great pattern to sew for kids who you don't have the exact measurements of. The drawstring means they can always draw the skirt tighter or looser.

I made the girls skirts in various cotton drills and poplins from spotlight. They are super bright and fun. Hopefully the girls think so too. I especially like the way the folded over pocket flaps look on the stripey version. V striped down to get straight into her skirt during Christmas lunch. She seemed particularly keen on the pockets.

My nephews J and R received new MADE Kid Shorts as they have grown out of last years versions. I have definitely gotten my moneys worth from this pattern. I think I would've sewn at least 30 pairs now. 

I made these shorts from some cotton drills (green stars and black and white geometirc print) and cotton poplin (hot air balloons). I asked Tim to come help me pick out the fabrics for the boys as I really struggle to see "manly" fabrics among the sea of floral's, pinks and purples. I'm not sure if we hit the mark, but we tried.

Like last time, I added welt zipper pockets for the boys shorts in addition to back patch pockets. I used fabrics left over from Tim's Pooch PJ Shorts for the pocket linings so there is a little bit of fun in each pocket! I also added cuffs to J's pair of shorts as they are popular at the moment and I thought he might like them.

Thanks goodness another year of Christmas sewing is over! While these are all simple patterns they do take a bit of time to come together each year from planning to gifting. It is super fun sewing up clothes in such bright and sturdy fabrics though and I love seeing the kids in their gifted clothes during the year.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Spotty Jed's and Pooch Darcy Boxers

First up in blogging Christmas gifts are Tim's Jed's and Darcy Shorts.

I made a pair of Thread Theory Jedediah Shorts for Tim last November and he wears them all the time. As a part of his Christmas gift I decided to make another pair, this time from some navy and white spotty drill from Spotlight. I left sewing Tim's gifts until I'd finished sewing for my nieces, nephews and others. I was putting these shorts off as they were quite a big project last November. Turns out, after another year of sewing experience they were relatively simple and quick!

I made up size 32 again and they fit great. I followed the instructions exactly except for the bias binding the seams. I made the binding, but piked out deciding that the overlocker looked neater than the bias. For this version I rolled up the hem and sewed them down at the side seams. Even with the rolled hem I cut 2" of the shorts. I need to remember to make this change to the pattern next time so as not to waist the fabric.

This time around I took the time to add the decorational stitching on the back pocket, although you can't really see it, and I also used this method to reinforce the pocket and hide all raw seams. My only other change was to fold under the waistband seam allowance and stitch in the ditch rather than leaving the bound edge exposed.

The instructions are reasonably good and where they lack the sew along holds your hand. Two things I love about this pattern/instructions are the fly insertion instruction and also the way the waist band centre front is attached. The instructions really simplify the methods and provide a very professional look I think. Tim wore these Christmas day and looked fabulous in them if I do say so myself!

I also made up the Measure Twice Cut Once Darcy Shorts for some PJ shorts for Tim. They have a functional button fly and an exposed waistband. I cut a size large which looked ginormous before adding the waistband but the fit turned out perfect.  I made them from some Dog cotton from Spotlight and they are pretty darn cute. 

The instructions have a women's and a men's variation. I followed the Men's in addition to adding 7cm of length to each short leg so that the hems hit just above the knees. The instructions were very detailed and easy to follow. However the elastic length and button placement is left for you to decide. Tim really likes these Jammie shorts and they are perfect for out summer nights. 

Friday, 26 December 2014

The Real Christmas Dress: Tate Dress

Merry Christmas everyone! I blogged earlier in the month that I'd made a lovely Liberty Alder Shirtdress and that I'd wear it Christmas day as I didn't have time to make a Christmas specific dress. The Monday night before Christmas I changed my mind. I saw some stunning silk on the Tessuti online shop and decided to make a dress version of the Free Tate Top pattern to wear Christmas day.

I only had Christmas Eve to make the dress as well as quite a few other chores to do so I'm really glad I chose such a simple pattern and one I'd already made up once. I modified the Tate Top Pattern by adding 8" to the length from the hem front and back. I also marked the Hem 2"wider at the bottom side seam and graded form the waist notch down to the new hem.  Huzzah, it's now a dress pattern!

I bought this gorgeous Silk crepe de chine called Envy Part One that I can no longer see on the Tessuti website. It was slightly sheer so I also bought some cotton/silk voile to line it. The fabric was gorgeous to work with and I was very lucky to have received some fine fabric pins from my Social Sewing Secret Santa on the weekend which made working with the silk that much easier. Warning: fine silk pins can go very deep into your fingers , very quickly, before you notice and they are even trickier to find on the carpet. 

The Tate top doesn't have any instructions and isn't designed to be lined. I simply cut two versions of the dress (one in the silk, one in the voile) and sewed them together at the neckline and armhole before turning right side out and seams the side and back seams. It's a very easy pattern to line!

I used a black fabric button and self fabric loops for the closure instead of a zip or hook and eye. I really like the way it looks.

The Tate Top is designed with a back hem scoop. I kept this feature on the dress rather than straightening out the seams. I think the curved hem scoop adds to the floatyness of the dress. The dress was perfect for Christmas day, a little bit special as well as comfortable with plenty of belly room for the excessive eating and drinking.

Here's a picture of Tim and I Christmas  morning. Tim's wearing his new Thread Theory Jedediah shorts which I'll blog in the next few days. I have lots of Christmas gifts to blog about and they were all well received. We had a wonderful between my family and Tim's with absolutely stunning weather.

I'm on holidays for the next two weeks and I'm hoping to spend at least some of that time sewing new things for myself. Holidays, Woohoo! Today I'm off to my sister's to give her a sewing lesson on her new machine, and I just happen to be wearing my Alder Christmas shirtdress which is now more of a Boxing day dress. Happy holidays everyone, I hope you had a lovely day yesterday/today with family and Friends.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Sew Cheap December (Final!) Free Pattern Review: Tate Top

This year has absolutely flown and this is my final (!) monthly Sew Cheap Make and Free Pattern Review of the year. I sewed this top up last night after stressing that I still had so much Christmas present making to do. Self sabotage at its best! This is the Workroom Social Free Tate Top Pattern. It's a racer back top with a zipper closure and front neckline darts with options for a square racer back, cropped length or tunic length. The top is available in multi sizing but is drafted for a B cup.

The PDF pattern came together easily with four pattern pieces: front bodice, back version A, and two pieces to make up back version b. I decided to make the traditional racerback version as there are no line drawings or pictures of the square back and I've never tried that style on. I cut a size 8 based on the final measurements in the tunic length. Only final measurements are provided so remember to pick the size based on your bust measurement plus ease.

My fabric is a I-cant-quite-remember-what from Darn Cheap fabrics, bought last year. I bought this fabric as soon as it was made available but I just couldn't picture it as anything. I'm so happy I decided on this top for it. I'm also pleased I took a little extra care in getting the stripes to match up at the seams. 

Changes: I did make a couple of simple changes. I didn't think a zip was necessary so I left a slit at the centre back neckline and added a hook and eye. I much prefer this finish on a summer blouse. I took about 3" of the front, and a bit more from the back before hemming, this also removed some of the curved back hem line. The tunic length was like a dress on me. However, this did make me think what a fun dress this would make by adding 10" or so.

There are absolutely no instructions provided for this pattern. The website states that instructions were provided for those taking part in The Sewing Party classes. However, this top is a very basic design so anybody with a few garments under their belt would be able to put this together. Construction is: neckline darts; centre back seam with zip or slit; shoulders; side seams bias binding neckline and armholes. Seam allowances are included at 5/8". 

I French seamed the side and shoulders seams, but stitched and overlocked the centre back before pressing seam allowances away from each other and stitching around the slit at the upper back neckline. 

I really like the way this top turned out and I will definitely use the patten again. what a fabulous summer staple pattern. I can see it made up in a whole range of gorgeous bright silks and rayons. The fit is really good. I definitely recommend giving this pattern a go. However those with a bigger cup size will definitely have to consider a FBA.

Tim took photos this morning as we headed out the door (hence the tired eyes) and I get the pleasure of wearing a new top to a sad goodbye lunch for a wonderful colleague and friend followed by a cheerful celebration dinner of mine and Tim's anniversary.

If you like this post, check out my Sew Cheap: Top Tips Sew Cheap: Free Patterns and previous Sew Cheap posts. 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Christmas Liberty Alder Shirtdress

I wanted to make a dress especially for Christmas day but I don't think that's going to happen with all the present sewing I still have ahead of me. Instead I think I'll wear this newly made Liberty Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress. The colourway is pretty perfect for Christmas and I'll certainly be comfortable.

I bought the Eleonora Pink Red Liberty from Tessuti a few months back and immediately cut out a version B size 8 Alder Shirtdress. The pattern pieces then sat in a pile in my sewing room for some weeks. I think I was all buttoned out after making my three previous alder shirtdresses, alder shirts, and Tim's shirt.

There isn't much to say about making this dress that hasn't been said previously. The instructions are excellent and the dress is particularly simple to make if you already have shirt making experience. If not easier to make than a shirt as you don't have to worry about setting in sleeves and attaching cuffs.

The Liberty was amazing to sew with and press. It also feels great to wear and breaths well in the heat. I used self fabric bias binding as I've recently found that the pre-purchased binding often doesn't wear as well and the short time it takes to make it is well worth the effort. The buttons are tan coloured with black stripes coming from the centre.

I love this pattern and I know I'll get heaps of wear from the four I've made up all summer long, add tights and they're winter appropriate too.

So unless I'm feeling particularly ambitious Christmas eve this will be my Christmas day dress. Anyone else thinking they might squeeze in last minute hand-made Christmas dress?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Bluegingerdoll Odette Dress

The Odette Dress by Bluegingerdoll was released a little while ago now and I've been meaning to blog about it for some time. The dress is a fit and flare with a lined bodice, several sleeve options and a V neckline with an optional buttoned insert.

I pattern tested the Odette for Abby and had a great experience with the pattern and instructions. I cut a size 8 bust - 10 waist/hips in version A. The fit was pretty well spot on except for needing to remove a little extra length from the hem. For the fabrics I used a stiff floral cotton and an orange cotton sateen from The Cloth Shop. I love the combination and hoped that it would be quite a quirky dress. I decided to make flat piping for the bodice neckline and use the contrast for the inset as well.

First, let me talk about what I love about this dress. The design is incredibly sweet. I love the contrasting inset but love the dress equally with it removed. 

The bodice is a great fit and the fabric is so fun. The lack of drape meant it was perfect for a fitted bodice compared to a full skirt for example. While my neckline binding is slightly dodgy I don't think it's too noticeable. I'm not normally one to wear gored skirts but I love the fullness it adds to this dress design. 

Okay, here comes the not so great part. For some reason, I cut corners on this dress and felt the "need for speed" sewing. I had quite a bit else going on at the time of making it and I pumped out the dress way too quickly, not taking the time to make good decisions about the quality of my stitching. 

From afar this dress looks pretty darn cute. Up close it is a total red hot mess. The hem of the skirt and where I attached the skirt to the bodice by stitching in the ditch is just plain gross. I'm embarrassed to even show this sewing. The zipper insertion was a case of good enough for now. But it is truly not good enough. It's a good 1/4"out at the waist seams. What was I thinking?

What's worse is the fit is great, I really like the design and the fabric is so fun! So, why oh why didn't I take the time to make this dress wearable with out being totally embarrassed about my shoddy sewing? This make taught me a lot about what I want out of sewing and that it's not just about ticking another garment off my list.

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Elisalex Dress Journey & Unintentional Copycat

Making this Elisalex Dress was quite the journey. I bought the pattern from indie stitches in April. Perhaps it wouldn't be such a frustration if I was sewing it up now, instead of earlier in the year when my sewing skills were still fairly wobbly. But I doubt it.  Here's a photo of the final product before I get on with the gory details.

According to my measurements I cut a size 12 grading to a 14 waist and hips. I cut the skirt length the smallest size as I knew it would be longer than my preference. I used the same thick poly fabric as my A-line Libby skirt and some floral cotton I picked up at an op shop for the lining. This dress is an unintential copycat of Busy Lizzy from Brizzy's third elisalex. It was meant to be a wearable muslin that I planned to wear out to a friends birthday dinner in May this year. That didn't happen.  

Sewing up the dress wasn't too much hassle. The instructions were fine, I followed them closely, and everything came together easily. When I tried on pre-zipper insertion I noticed a few problem areas. the waist seam was too low, the straps were too long, the bodice too tight at the sides and there was massive gapeing on both the back and front neckline. I made the following adjustments: 
  1. Took the waist seam up by 1/2".
  2. Took the straps in by 1/4"
  3. Took out the bodice side seams 1/4"
  4. Inserted the zipper with a larger seam allowance at the top of the CB grading down to normal S/A by the waist to remove some back gape
  5. Shortened skirt so that you could see my ankles...also my knees (took 9" off!).

These kind of adjustment aren't totally crazy, and I expected to have to make a few changes so I wasn't too bothered. I finished the dress and tried it on. It fit (just) and I was trying to convince my self it looked OK. I went to show Tim and it was clear that this dress was still all wrong on me. Alas, I wore a different outfit that night and Elisalex sat under my sewing table for months. 

Before Frocktails (September) I had the sudden inspiration to fix this dress so that it could be a back up option if I didn't get around to making my Elisalex Emery Hybrid (so glad I did though!). I tried it on, pinned some problem areas and took a few shots. In the photos you can see that there is still about an inch of excess fabric in the shoulders; the waist is still too long (about 3/8"); there is a lot of excess fabric at the back waist, and; it's just too tight! I didn't take a side on shot (sorry!), but when looking side one you could also see that the back waist dropped down at the CB (about 3/4" lower than the front and sides) which made the skirt lopsided and also my chest was squished flat by the too tight upper bodice. 

More changes followed:

  1. Took in the shoulder seams by 1/2"
  2. Took out the front princess seams, in particular around the bust region and less so at the waist.
  3. Unpicked the skirt from the bodice, trimmed down the bodice waist by 1/4"at the front and sides grading up to a 3/4"at the centre back. This helped with the skirt dropping at the centre back and the excess fabric at the back. 
So how does it look now? Still no where near perfect. It fits much better than it did and is definitely wearable. However there is still gape-age at the back neckline, the front bodice still gives the effect of flattening out my front, and there is still some excess fabric in the back bodice. But, its wearable...

Will I wear it? Well I finished this dress in September and I haven't worn it yet except to get blog photos. It's not flattering, and more than that, when I look at it on all I see are the problems I had with fitting this pattern. The fabric isn't helping. I think it looks really effective  but it doesn't feel great to wear and it puckered along the seams and hem.

Will I sew another Elisalex Dress? Nope, I'll definitely use the (shortened) skirt pattern to hack other dresses and also to make skirts, but that bodice doesn't remotely fit my body. The bodice pattern doesn't flatter my shape, its roomy where it shouldn't be and tight and flattening where I need the room. Obviously my body isn't the BHL type. I know it would be possible to alter the bodice pattern but I just don't think it's worth it. I have other princess seamed dresses/ bodice patterns that fit me much better. I've read a mixed reception about the Elisalex pattern. For so many its their go-to party dress pattern that works everytime. For others, like me, the fitting and muslin's required to make it work are just too much. 

Am I happy I finally finished the dress? Yes! I don't know if I'll where this dress, but I'm so glad I finished it and it no longer haunts me from the corner of my sewing room.