Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Perfecting a Belcarra

Did I mention I have a current fixation with sewing tops? No? Well I've been at it again, this time trying out a pattern I've had for a while and attempted once with quilting weight cotton. It didn't go so well.

This is yet another Sewaholic pattern (I haven't taken out shares with them, honest), the lovely and drapey Belcarra blouse.

I mentioned that I have already used this pattern, about a year ago. I wanted to make a muslin type thing as I had never sewn a raglan sleeve before, so I dove into my stash and pulled out a cute patterned cotton. Wearable muslin was my thought, and off I went.

I just stuck with a very simple view A. and it looks pretty good. In fact the fit is pretty sweet for what it is intended to be, which is a loose drapey blouse, the kind you may wear with some skinny jeans. Making it was really easy, Sewaholic patterns come with great instructions and are usually a fun project to work on. The flaw in this top is the fabric that I chose to use. I will admit that it's experiments like this which have helped me learn loads about fabric types and what they are suitable for.

This cotton is actually a vintage one, I know this because I stole it from my Mums fabric stash many years ago (sorry Mum), and she had this for a good long while. This means I have held on to the top since making it but only ever worn it twice.

It feels tight over the bust and shoulders and when I sit down it kind of lifts in the same way I would imagine an armour breastplate lifting. I felt quite disappointed with the pattern because of this, but really on reflection, this was probably misplaced.

So I decided to go back and make another out of the right kind of material. I bought a blue/grey crepe a while ago with the intention of making a t-shirt shaped top with an exposed zip on the back. But when it turned up it just kept whispering to me "I wanna be a Belcarra". So I caved!

Oh come on woman... Crack a smile once in a while! 

This version, while made up exactly the same as the last one, managed to come out bigger! No idea how this happened, I guess I can only blame the crepe. I really love this though, it's big, it drapes beautifully, it's got shoulder pleats... Oh did I not mention the shoulder pleats...


I thought it would be nice to make this one a bit more interesting, so I made up version B. with cute little pleats sewn in. I was nervous about this as I've never pleated like this before, but they work and I am sooooooo smug... Not even sorry.

The rear view really shows how loose it is. I might use the neckline adjustment which appears on the Sewaholic blog as a little tutorial to narrow the collar next time, it does sometimes wander, but really not too badly. The crepe doesn't come out well in these photos, but it's really a double shade kind of effect which makes me think of tv static.

So the Belcarra pattern may have sat in my pattern box for a year, but after success with the right kind of fabric I will most likely be bringing it out again to make more of these beauties.

Sorry... Gratuatous pleat photo

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Renfrew and frew and frew and frew

So I made myself a couple of t shirts... Four to be specific. I had a stockpile of t shirt fabric and the Sewaholic Renfrew pattern, so I just went to town with it!

There is method to this t shirt madness. I may have mentioned that tops are missing in my handmade wardrobe so over the next few months I will be focussing on filling this gap. So enough of this nonsense.... And down to my t shirts!

I tried a few different fabrics and a few different constructions to keep things interesting. But I did stick to the one neckline type, I wasn't feeling adventurous enough for the v neck. I have plans for this though as I still have a fair chunk of jersey left from each one. I also quite fancy trying the strange turtle neck/scarf type collar. But that's for a later date.

So I did mostly stick to view A. but with some view B. sleeves too.

#1 the wearable muslin...

Can you remember that 100% cotton that arrived in an attractive brown, which I dyed? Well here it is in all its glory! In Renfrew view A. I just cut and made it in an unaltered size 8, and was quite surprised to find it fit just fine! 

#1 is very comfy and I love the fabric, but I really did make a hash of dying it which is why it looks tie-dyed-tastic! And if you think the front is bad... Wait till you see the back...

Erm... No. So I shall be dying this once more.. Probably to black to get rid of that lovely blotch on the back. But anyway, onwards to #2...

This fabric is God only knows what. I bought it from an eBay seller who described it as 'vintage style jersey fabric'. I wouldn't have said vintage, but I love the geometric pattern. It's quite thick and has minimum stretch to it. I went short sleeve because of the busy pattern, the neck line and sleeves are finished with bands but the hem is just folded and twin needle stitched.

This is I think my favourite one, but I wish I'd made the hem an inch longer.


This t shirt nearly didn't exist.. This jersey is soooo flimsy and soooo thin it was nigh on impossible to sew with! So I hedged my bets and have simply folded and twin needle stitched the neckline, sleeves, and hem. Wobbly stitching at that! Side effect of this is a very wide neckline, meaning bra strap exposure risk!

Aside from this little issue though, it's a lovely top. It keeps its nice shape over the body, so I will very probably wear it lots over the summer.

Aaaaand #4...

Another very light and drapey jersey, another 100% cotton. But one I could work with pretty easily. Because it's very fine, the waistband on the bottom does cling a little. And is perhaps snigger than I would like. But I love the softness and colour. 

I really enjoyed making these t shirts. The pattern is a fantastic and easy one to make up, and these are all fantastic wardrobe staples. Next step... V neck t shirts!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

When you're just not feeling it...

I started a project a while ago as something to wear during the springtime. It makes sense, surely, to knit it now and have it ready for when the weather warms up (or wear it immediately after its finished and shiver a little). Ok, so I chose I really beautiful pattern from Ravelry (big surprise) written by Jennifer Dassau called Lorem Ipsum.

This is a raglan cardigan constructed neck to hem, and I really love the way the pattern is written and the cardigan starts to form on the needles

See here the raglan sleeves growing from the neck. I mean this is an awesome pattern... And look how pretty the finished item is...

But all I could think of throughout making this was... I'm going to look like Rab C. Nesbitt!! 

Erm... No thanks. Now at this point I want to stress how wonderful the pattern is and urge you to browse all of the really pretty finished cardigans... But for me, I just wasn't feeling it.

It really brought home to me how each person has patterns which are suited to them, and while we might find others adorable... Would we ever end up using them? And so I decided to bring in the frog...

And return the cardigan to the balls from whence it came! I love this about knitting... If you ain't feeling it, just start again!

I do blame the yarn choice for my general meh with this cardigan though.This is a merino wool, but it doesn't have the squishy softness merino usually has, it's slightly crunchy and has shed a bit, in fact I feel kind of lukewarm about it (I'm hoping a nice soak will loosen it up a bit). So really, to feel more affection, I really should be using a pattern that I absolutely know I'm going to love...

Let me introduce you to the Bailey Cardigan by Amy Christoffers (also available on Ravelry... Would you believe it)...

This lovely piece of bulky goodness looks right up my alley. It's simple but has pockets... POCKETS!! And I think will do the yarn much more credit. So I have begun again, and only time will tell whether this one gets more love from me.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Wardrobe Architect... The Plan

So I have reviewed how my winter sewing has gone, I've assessed what items and colours I need for spring/summer, so what plans do I have on my sewing list?

I shall mostly be focussing on separates, especially as I seem to very lacking in blouses and t shirts for work and for play! I have actually already begun working on this and am neck deep in a pile of Renfrews which I have yet to photograph.

On top of these I have a Burda 6914 blouse on my list, to make with a linen textured crepe, and to include sleeves from the dress version.

And in a similar shape I have Butterick 6183, using a grey textured crepe . I'm thinking of using the stripes in the fabric to create a yoke contrast effect.

I will also be making another New Look 6483, probably in black, a bit boring but I don't have many black blouses. To keep things interesting and give myself a challenge I have a pair of trousers on my list.. I know... Trousers! I've never made a pair before, never even made pyjama bottoms. I love the shape of cigarette trousers though (bare ankles and loafers... Love!), and these have a side zip which makes them on the easier side of things. I see many muslins in my future.

And finally, to inject a bit of life into the proceedings, I will be making myself a skirt. I found this beautiful Korean cotton online a while ago and think it would make a beautiful Delphine skirt. Just for fun.

So this list doesn't look as exciting as it perhaps could be, but all of these items are things I know I will wear the hell out of. And I also know I'm going to end up adding bits in here and there depending on what catches my eye (I can never resist a beautiful fabric!!).

Now... To use the same principles to plan some spring knitting!!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Wardrobe Architect - Spring and Summer planning

So after my last season of making stuff and being more thoughtful about what stuff I make, I have decided to be even more thoughtful about the stuff I make for the next season.

That's the short version. The long version can of course be found on the Coletterie blog, and after talking about how useful the short version I used over the winter was, I have decided to follow the long version just that little bit more closely to help me decide on what I need in my wardrobe and what I want to plan for my spring of sewing.

So get ready folks... This one might be a bit more talky than I usually do...

So Spring is around the corner, but I live in England (rain), and the north of England at that (cold rain), so I decided it was probably right that I took the expected climate into consideration as well as the shapes and colours that I want to wear over the summer. I joke that we get mostly rain up here, but it's really not far from the truth. The weather is changeable and can be tropical one day and freezing the next. It's no surprise really that I am an avid cardigan wearer. My spring wardrobe really needs to include layers that can be pulled on on the chilly days, and discarded on the warm days. 
I have been seeing a lot of the heavy cardigan/coat hybrids over winter, and I wonder if a summer version could be made, just that little bit lighter but still big and snug.

I've thought a lot about where I mostly wear clothes (I know, I know, on my body is the most obvious answer). While I am not a workaholic, I do spend most of my time at work where I am required to be smart, and need to feel comfortable. T shirts and slouchy trousers are ideal, with the obvious cardigan. I also really like to wear blouses and love floaty fabrics in the summer. When I'm not working I spend most of my time wearing casual clothes, enter skinny (but stretchy) jeans and baggy tops. I very rarely dress very smart or fancy, even when I'm going out for drinks or food, so I can keep very fancy sewing for special occasions.

Now I'm not just talking about stretchy clothes and slippers here, it's important to feel comfortable in what you are wearing in order to feel confident about yourself. This is the topic that I have thought the most about after the realisation that I'm not very comfortable in dresses at work (while I do love to wear them out of work). I have also thought about how I feel in the clothes I wear at the moment. One thing that really stood out was that if I am going to remove the cardigan at any point (sometimes a good cardigan can feel like armour), I really prefer to have my shoulders and preferably upper arms covered.
So thinking about the blouses that I do love to wear, they all seem to hover around the same basic t shirt blouse shape.

This thing about comfort has really brought home to me the things I don't like to wear (or don't feel comfortable wearing) more than the things I like. For example, I have been surprised by the fact that I don't like low cut necklines, or very tight tops (even t shirts). I don't mind short skirts but only with tights (or much more excercise, which we all know isn't happening). And I prefer my waistlines to sit slightly on the hips (even in skirts that are meant to be high waisted).
I guess knowing what to avoid is half the battle.

I have mentioned the shapes of clothing that I like to wear quite a bit already so I won't bore you with this section again, but I shall simply stick to the shapes of last season...

Ooh look a giant cardigan too... Ahem... How did that get in there..

Colours and patterns...
Here is another section which surprised me the more I thought about it. I have always been a pattern girl, I would find at least one thing with patterns on for each outfit and feel very happy. But recently I have realised that I only wear patterned clothes every now and again (usually in the form of a frock or a t shirt), and I much prefer matching nice colours together. I do really feel drawn to texture in fabrics though, and naturally feeling fabrics.
The colours I have been drawn to are very... Gentle? That's the only word which kept springing to mind. I'm drawn to greys, and have accepted that I am a grey person, and that this is ok in spite of what people used to say at school.
So my colour palate includes neutrals of grey, cream, white and black.

My mid neutrals include blues, navy and sea blue.

No this is not me indicating that I will knit all of my mid neutrals... I just loved the pictures.
And my colour for a bit of pop can still be red, because I loved it last season.

Planned makes...
So where does all of this leave me? Planning my makes around what I feel is missing from my wardrobe would really mean this is the year of the blouse and cardigan. But I would really love to challenge myself by making my first ever pair of trousers.
So please talk amongst yourselves while I go and find some fabrics and start making lists. This has been a very talky post, so I shall leave my actual planning until next time.

All photos have been 'borrowed' from Instagram unless otherwise stated, just in case you're wondering

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Winter Wardrobe Architect

So last year I talked a little about the Wardrobe Architect series which can be found on the Coletterie blog. It has been adopted by many many people out there in the blogosphere. I decided that while planning my winter wardrobe and my planned winter makes, I would adopt some of the Architect principles and be more thoughtful about the things that I both make and buy.

So how easy was it? And how well did I follow this?

Cleaning out my wardrobe of things that I don't wear and don't feel good in was really super easy, and I would recommend this for anyone. It is really reassuring that what I choose to put on in the morning will fit me, and be something I want to wear, and wow did this process make space!! I couldn't believe some of the things I was keeping hold of that were just downright shabby, never mind the things that probably never fit me properly.

When considering the shapes and styles of clothes that I wear I came up with three, my office wear of loose fitting trousers and a jumper/blouse, skinny jeans with a floaty loose top, and a flared skirt/dress. All three tend to include a cardigan of some shape or form (I looove my cardigans).

When I thought about my colour palate I chose greys and deep blues with red as the pop colour

So using these as guidelines I picket out a few pieces to make over the winter, knowing that things get in the way and I'm easily distracted I just picket out five items for my to do list.

As well as these patterns which were already in my library I wanted to make a sweatshirt too, as I may have mentioned before, this turned out to be the Fraser sweatshirt from Sewaholic.

It was relatively easy to stick to this plan, I bought fabrics with my colours in mind, even the extra projects (knitting) were much more thoughtful too. I made sure what I made would be something I would really want to wear again and again.

So from my list I made everything except the shirt dress, which I just never had time for. The colours are pretty accurate too. Most importantly, everything above here I have worn multiple times (in fact I dare you to try to pry me out of my Fraser sweatshirt!)

I got a little closer to the architect method with my knitting, my owls jumper made it into regular circulation

The rest of them didn't even get finished, so I'll let you know how they do when they are finished.

So then... Conclusions

I really enjoyed thinking about what I wear in this way, meaning that the things I make actually make it into weekly rotation. It has helped me to think about how my clothes fit together to make an outfit, how solids and patterns can fit together. It also really illustrated how the things that I want to wear, and the things I reach for everyday are very different (I really thought I'd wear skirts and dresses more for work).

Most importantly, it really showed up where there are big gaps in my wardrobe which I can fill with me-mades.

I will absolutely be using this to plan my spring makes, and hopefully the winter experiment might help me to use this tool even more effectively.

A tale of two sweatshirts

Part of my winter sewing planning included making a snugly sweatshirt. I had planned to hack one of my pre used patterns, but then I spotted the Fraser sweatshirt from Sewaholic patterns.

This is exactly what I had in mind for my sweater, I doubt I could have effectively hacked this, and I definately couldn't have hacked that gorgeous built in collar. So I promptly bought it (and their Renfrew t shirt pattern too... I couldn't resist) and set too making it. I had a red quilted jersey set aside for this sweatshirt, but I spontaneously decided to make the sleeves from view A with the body from view B.. Just to be awkward.

The pattern is super easy, I'd say it sews up from cutting to finishing in about 4 hours, it might be quicker if you have a serger... But I don't, so I zig zag stitched away at the size 8, and came out with...

Now, first things first... I really don't like this fabric... When I had it on the clothes horse after washing it I thought it would be perfect, but wearing it.... It's slinky!! This fabric would be awesome for sportswear, but I am not sporty, I like cosy things, with naturally feeling fabrics. This is just wrong.

Now let's move on to what I have been talking about regarding fitting, this jumper doesn't quite fit properly. I may have mentioned my narrow shoulders, the sleeves here are hanging off them.

Although I kinda like the shoulder patches. Also I have a small top half which morphs into quite wide hips... This sweatshirt is squeezed really tightly over my curvy hips.

Just look at that left shoulder... Urgh! So after trying it on I can absolutely say I will never be wearing this sweatshirt, which is a shame because it is quite nice to look at, it's just not what I wanted.

Ah well, I shall put it in a bag for a charity shop, maybe someone else will wear it and love it.

So back to the drawing board, I used my newly acquired fitting skills to take in the shoulders, and scaled out the pattern an extra size to cover my hips. I also went back to search for a better (for me) jersey, and I found an awesome fleece backed grey number (I did say I wanted cosy). I also decided to try the cute little collar version, but I hacked the sleeves to make them full length but without the shoulder patch...

Now THIS jumper is what I was looking for. The shoulders, while only having a minor adjustment, feel much better, and the waistband sits comfortably. 

The collar is made with the jersey that I dyed a little while ago, I love it with the grey. And because the neckband would have been soooooo bulky with the fleece backed jersey, I used a grey ribbing instead

I found a tutorial on the Sewaholic blog to give a bit more guidance for getting those points nice and sharp, I highly recommend you check it out! The ribbing is slightly darker than the rest of the sweatshirt, but having the red in between really helps.

One day I will also learn how to make a sway-back adjustment, but on this jumper I think it's just fine having the extra bagginess there.

I have already worn this sweatshirt loads, it is super warm and snug thanks to the fleece. I am in love with it. I have a feeling that this 'winter' pattern will sneak it's way into my summer sewing plans too, because summer up in the North East can still be pretty chilly!

Maybe I should hold onto that red one, it might come in handy over summer.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Making clothes that fit

I have a confession to make. When people ask me if I have made something I am wearing I usually say yes, then point out the mistake, the flaw, the thing that I am least happy about with it. I'm not sure if this is a bit of a British thing to do, or whether I just do it because I know I make mistakes, and I'm almost apologising for making something less that perfect.
One of the major issues I have had with almost everything I have made is that it just doesn't quite fit right! I have blouses which are too baggy, I have dresses that are too short, I have tops that pull tight over my chest. Well this year I dcided that enough was enough!! And I bought a book on how to adjust a sewing pattern to fit your body's little quirks. I found this book on Amazon which had some good reviews so I thought I would give it a shot...

It has chapters dedicated to particular body types and how to fix the sewing pattern to accommodate them. Because of this book I also discovered that I really needed to invest in a French curve, which makes the adjusting a piece of cake.

I will confess that I haven't taken measurements of my body properly, but I know which bits of a pattern need to be fixed (narrow shoulders I'm looking at you!!). So I just dove straight in with a pattern I have used before, but always feel very dissatisfied with the finished result. One of my earlier makes.. The Lady Skater Dress...

In this version there is a chunk of fabric under the arms due to the fact the armscythe doesn't sit right, and the waist is just faaaaaaar too high... So I set to the pattern with my French curve and my tape measure, and I came out with the new improved lady skater dress...

As you can see... No bulky underarm! And a waist that sits where a waist should sit! I am really happy with this second attempt, but I am not happy with those winter knees... Put some tights on girl!!

Much better.. Although I don't look too happy about it, oh dear. What has really stood out for me making this version of the dress is how much more flattering it feels. I don't feel like I have monster hips anymore! Which is really all a girl can ask for. 

Having the waist in the right place also means I'm not constantly tugging the skirt down so I'm much more comfortable too. 

Maybe the different sleeve length also contributes to just feeling more in proportion, though I just made them short because I thought the print would look too busy on longer sleeves.

In a nutshell, because I know it fits me properly, this is my new favourite dress. And when people ask if I made it I simply say 'yes, thank you'