Tilly and the Buttons “Agnes” Top

So I’ve been a bit remiss in blogging about my sewing (yes, again) but this is the first of a series of posts catching up.

One of the hazards of regular wardrobe analysis and decluttering is realizing that you are short of a certain type of garment but then added to that is the delay when you are aiming to sew rather than buy the replacements!

The Tilly & the Buttons Agnes top was one such item. I decided my wardrobe needed some more “basic but pretty” jersey tops and that it was about time I had a go at sewing with knits. I liked that Agnes has a bit of a vintage flair and that there are lots of options: long or 3/4 sleeves, ruched or plain shoulders, ruched or plain neckline. From one pattern you could style up a whole range of distinguishable tops.

Of course for now I’ve just made the one. But I do have another jersey fabric in stock for version 2. For the first attempt I decided on 3/4 sleeves with all the ruching – no one can say I shy away from a challenge!
The ruching was really the most obviously tricky part of this. I’ve never really sewn with elastic before except for the Sew Over It knickers when I ended up really going overboard with the tension…

I don’t know if I was too cautious but I seemed to have the opposite problem with this, or maybe it was the fabric needed a bit more oomf to pull it in, but anyway when I tackled the bust ruching the first few attempts didn’t really scrunch up that much. I think I had 2 or 3 attempts and then decided I had to live with it as the fabric was getting a bit worked over through all the unpicking and zigzag stitching. The sleeves worked out better so I think it’s just a case of practice practice!

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I did appreciate the instructions for the ruching. They were very clear and the only method I’ve come across which seemed to have some precision behind it. Basically it involves cutting a specified length of elastic and stretching it on the fabric as you sew with the end of the elastic matching a marked point on the fabric. I think this is supposed to help you avoid over or under stretching the elastic.

The other construction element I had some trouble with was the neckband. But this was mostly because of lack of familiarity of the construction of knit garments and so I couldn’t visualize what it was I was trying to make. However I just followed the instructions through logically and lo the neckband turned out ok. It did take a couple of attempts at pinning evenly before sewing, as the band is smaller than the neck opening in order to pull it in. But you want a smooth finish of course with no gathers or puckering.

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All in all I quite enjoyed knit sewing, certainly there’s very minimal pressing as that is almost ineffective anyway, and no seam finishing. That said, despite using a walking foot the hemline stretched out a bit, and I’m not a fan of the way the raw edges curl up inside the hem. The pattern tips recommend using a knit tape to stabilize the hems but my machine very strongly objected to this, and jammed every time after a few stitches.

Since sewing this top I’ve discovered the overstitch feature of my sewing machine so I think I would either try to use this for hemming, and or stick with zig zag stitch and in either case try to enclose the raw edge inside the hem.

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Next Agnes will be coming up very soon I’m sure!

Also I reviewed this pattern on The Fold Line: Certainstyle reviews Agnes on the Fold Line

2016 does 1926: Dorothy Perkins flapper dress rework

So it’s been a long six months since my last blog post! I really am terrible at keeping up with these things.

I have still been striving to make more of my own clothes, but I’m nowhere near the sewing rate I’d like to be at.

Since my last post I made a pair of trousers at the Sew Over It workshop, but haven’t managed to make another yet. I also made a pair of Sew Over It knickers, another thing that I’d like to make more of. I finished the scandi-style crochet jumper (just in time for spring) and the latest things I’ve made in April were a navy blazer for concert band uniform and a Tilly & the Buttons Agnes top. I’m particularly proud of these last two because they are some of the most technical things I’ve made & also that I am most pleased with the fit and finish of.

Anyway, I’ll probably post about those at some point later on. Certainly I’ll be making the Agnes top again and again in different pattern options.

Today, I decided on an impromptu re-work project. It’s Simon’s birthday this week, and we’re going to White Mink in Clapham on Friday night. It’s a 20s themed electroswing dance night, and I suddenly realised I had nothing to wear! Well, nothing that I could comfortably dance the night away in anyway.

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Me in a too-long dress, doing some kind of Charleston wave thing…

Fortunately, yesterday was also a day when I decided to sort through the latest bag of castoffs for eBay sales from mum, and lo and behold I found this flapper style dress from Dorothy Perkins. I reckon it might have been one she picked up in a charity shop because the label style looks a bit older than the current ones.

The dress has a stretchy underslip and a lace/crochet style overlay. It’s comfy and fits well – just one problem. It’s about 2 feet too long for me, and with the clingy slip I didn’t have much legroom for Charleston steps…

Taking up the slip was no trouble – I measured up from the floor to the height I wanted the hem to be whilst wearing it, then with the dress on my mannequin I chopped into it. A quick pinning and then overlocked on my sewing machine. I don’t have an overlocker, but my sewing machine has an overlock stitch which I recently discovered and have a feeling I’ll be making more and more use of!
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Overlocked new hem

The lace was going to be a bit more tricky. I wasn’t sure if I cut into it whether it would hold together long enough to restitch or whether it would unravel immediately. I played around with an idea of using some leftover silver fabric scrap to make a dropped waistband, and restitching the cut edges of the lace to that. But I didn’t really like how that was going to look, and decided I had to somehow preserve the clean lines of the dress without breaking it up with a feature or an obvious stitch.
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So I moved my focus back down to the hem. I knew I wanted to keep the scallop-edge detail, and that I wanted the new underslip hemline to hit roughly at the peak of the scallop so the lace would hang over. I took a deep breath and cut into the lace at the new hemline…it didn’t immediately unravel! Phew. I trimmed down the piece of scalloping to just above the peaks, then with the dress laid flat I pinned the pieces of lace RS together matching the seams. I say pinned, there wasn’t a lot to pin securely so it was a bit loose!
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Next I stared at my sewing machine for about 5 minutes trying to work out what stitch to use. In the end I decided to stick with overlock, but instead of catching the raw edges I stitched about 1cm in from the edge. I hoped that this would create a secure bound seam that would hold the lace together. Once sewn, I trimmed back the raw edges quite close to the new stitching, to reduce bulk, and pressed. The lace doesn’t press that well but it did help flatten the seam.

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Overlocked lace seam
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Shortened lace hem

I had aimed for the seam to be level with the hemline, in the end it’s fallen a bit lower but I decided that trying to unpick black overlock stitching from black lace would be a disaster. I’m happy with the new length anyway so I’ve decided to leave it.

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Ready to Charleston!

 

#thewardrobechallenge – 6 month review

So, it’s just over six months since I set myself The Wardrobe Challenge, to make one item per month and strive to stop buying high street and make more of my own clothes.

So how have I done?

April – The challenge begins! I started out quite well, making the Lottie Simple Sew blouse just a few weeks in.

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May – Still on a roll, I made the New Look 60s mod dress.

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June – this is where the summer hit and life got in the way of my still-slow and methodical sewing somewhat. I excused myself by going on the invaluable pattern-fitting workshop from Thrifty Stitcher. Clare-Louise Hardie. I still think this was a great choice, I learnt so much that I use every time I sew a garment now.

July – Again, a bit of an excuse month as I was busy every weekend. I bought preloved/vintage though, and reworked a Julien McDonald dress for my Roman holiday.

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August – ok, this was a fail month. I’ve hunted high and low and I can’t find a single stitchy thing to attribute to August.

September – maybe not clothes, but I made the clutch bags for the bridesmaids (myself included!) for one of my best friend’s weddings. I also went to a learn-to-knit evening from London Craft Club!

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October – I made a GBSB sleeveless shell top (very seasonal, I know, but I’m trying to use up my fabric stash!) on a Sunday afternoon, possibly the fastest sew from scratch. Also the first time I really used my dress form in earnest. I’ve also started to crochet a fair-isle inspired jumper.

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For November, I’ve signed up to Sew Over It‘s Ultimate Trousers workshop. I’m really looking forward to that because trousers are nearly impossible for me to buy fitting off the peg. The design is really nice, with a side zip and a bit of a vintage flair, and you come away from the workshop with a pair of trousers and fully fitted pattern!

So what’s the verdict? I’m a bit disappointed with myself that I didn’t manage to make more, but then again life has to be about balance. In the last six months I have also started a new relationship (around the time I started the challenge, in fact!), travelled to Brighton, Cornwall (twice), Durham, Rome and Portugal, been a bridesmaid, been to a vintage music festival, taken up Lindy Hop, and generally got on with everything else life brings!

The important thing is that embarking on this challenge has made me be critical of my purchasing (more so than even before), and I’m determined to keep sewing and improving my skills.

Here’s to the next six months!

A botched cami and a pattern fitting workshop

So #thewardrobechallenge didn’t go so well in June. Somehow the month ran away with me and so a couple of weeks ago I decided to try and bust some of the fabric stash and make something quick and easy for summer – the Cami top from the 1st GBSB book. Adapted slightly – just made simply in cotton without the ruched detail or lace trim. Since I took notes on the last GBSB top I made from the same book, I cut the size up and didn’t worry too much about alterations or testing the pattern.

As it was a simple sew and I wanted to get cracking, I also constructed most of the garment and didn’t actually try it on until I needed to find the strap lengths.

At which point it clearly wasn’t going to fit at all. I’m not sure why two patterns from the same book can be so different in fit but it’s not even close, and I haven’t changed THAT much in size. So I threw the half-made thing back in the pile in annoyance and spent a few days trying to think up ways of salvaging it (mostly involving adding panels) before giving it up as a lost cause. At some point I’ll rip out all the stitching and the fabric is probably destined for some other random project.

I then sat down to read the “Sew your Size” supplement that came with Sew magazine a few weeks ago. Literally 2 pages in they recommended a pattern fitting workshop run by Clare-Louise Hardie. I looked it up and there was one such workshop running this Sunday (I was free) and it was within reasonable distance of my boyfriend’s place in North London. Fine, I thought, let’s achieve one thing in June at least, and hopefully avoid similar future cock-ups!

I would 100% recommend this and probably any other workshop run by Clare-Louise. There were just four of us during the 3-hour (+ a bit, we overran!) session which meant that as well as general principles such as measurement-taking, we all had the chance to study our own foibles and understand the likely pattern alterations we’d come across time and again. We had sample patterns to look at but we’d also all brought one of our own from home. I definitely found having a “live example” much more practical to understand what changes were being made and why.

We talked about the way the big pattern companies work in how they design their products – apparently it is quite common for them to allow for the fact that people will be in denial about their size and cut too small – so if you do actually try and cut your ready-to-wear size it will probably come up big. Add to that the fact that their measurements per size all vary and it’s really a lottery – unless you measure properly and study the information given on the pattern pack to work out what you really need.

We learnt about wear ease and design ease too – an important factor that I hadn’t previously considered at all when looking at measurements. Practising with our patterns, we all tissue-fitted a garment so that we could see any glaring issues straight away, and learnt how to fix these. In my case I had a bit of a revelation, because I have always thought that full bust alterations were inevitable to get things to fit right. Not so! Instead we added some width at the side seams, and it turns out I have broad shoulders so we also added at the centre-back, and did a sway-back alteration to improve fit. Having added at the side seams, a bit more shaping was necessary because I do have a fairly defined waist, so we pin-fitted that in order to re-draw stitching and cutting lines on the pattern.

This workshop was really such good value, I can’t overstate my recommendation. If you have been finding it frustrating getting home-sewn garments to fit, find the commercial pattern packs confusing or get easily lost in the minefield of online resources, really just get booked on to one of Clare-Louise’s workshops because there is no substitute for in person tutorial and discussion, and the group environment adds to the benefit because you can also learn from other people’s body types and alterations too!

July is going to be pretty hectic for me (I’m away 3 out of 4 weekends) so I don’t hold out much hope of a great leap forward for home sewn clothes – but my trips do include Brighton, Rome and Birmingham so I will be on the lookout for vintage or indie bargains!

 

#Wardrobe Challenge: New Look 6145 Sixties Mod dress

Ok so it’s the end of May and thanks to the bank holiday I just about snuck in this month’s Wardrobe Challenge handmade item.

The latest pattern to come with my Sew magazine subscription was Simplicity New Look’s 6145 – a variety of sixties dresses. This screamed out as perfect for the zany bright lime/daisy print fabric I bought way back in MARCH at the Knitting & Stitching show.
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According to my measurements I needed to make up a size US 18 – but having now done it I would size down as well as make a few other personal alterations – I already shortened the pattern by 2 inches, but my other notes include raising the bust dart, narrowing the neckline (as it currently sits out on my shoulders, which is an ok style but it’s not meant to do that!) and also somehow taking some volume out of the upper back, which is currently tending to bag a bit.
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As far as sewing goes, I found it relatively straightforward. I can’t say how much of that is the clarity of the pattern and how much my improving skills, a bit of both I suspect. Even making an unlined sleeveless version (E) and leaving out the additional neck interfacings (which seemed unecessary to me, as the pattern already takes account of facings using the main fabric), there were 20 stages in all. I think pattern tracing and altering took about 1.5 hours, fabric cutting another hour or so and I pretty much spent about 6 hours on construction and fitting.
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The fabric was very forgiving – it’s a no iron (although I did have to press seams under a cloth) and super easy to sew. I used chiffon for the collar and in hindsight should have thought to buy a metre as I needed the bias – another note for next time! It’s slightly bias cut, but not enough. I’m sure it would sit better if it was properly cut.
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I think this is the best finished of all the items I’ve made. I feel like I’m really starting to crack zips now, and I did use understitching for the facings (learnt in Celia Banks’ workshop). But I really need to work on fitting things better, because I’m not 100% happy with the fit of this even though I’ve tweaked things, it’s not fully fixable, and I already know that means I’ll turn aside to wear something else on numerous occasions (and maybe also because it IS a bit of a statement….!)
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Simple Sew Lottie Blouse

So month 1 of my wardrobe challenge is in motion, I’ve made April’s garment (and it’s only halfway through the month!)

The Pattern: Simple Sew Lottie Blouse, freebie with an issue of LoveSewing magazine
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The fabric: Blue viscose floral bought from the Knitting & Stitching show.
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Fortunately I had to make minimal pattern alterations on this one, I pretty much followed the size 14 pattern with the size 16 bust. The fabric was very forgiving to sew, the most annoying thing being its slipperiness both in piecing out and on the machine.

Construction was fairly straightforward. Essentially 1) darts 2) shoulders 3) neck binding 4) sleeves 5) close up sleeve and side seams 6) collar/necktie

I am not convinced I understood the neck binding and collar parts properly. I seem to have a spare bit of binding fabric – the pattern says cut 2 but only has instructions for sewing in one – and the second piece on its own wouldn’t be enough for binding the armholes on the sleeveless version. The pattern shows the binding only applied around the ‘keyhole’ of the blouse neckline, whereas I found it actually went up nearly as far as the collar itself. Then later when you apply the necktie, it appears that this forms the back collar and I stitched it to overlap and cover the ends of the binding. This seemed to be the only logical thing to do but I’m not sure it’s the neatest finish, as I have a raw edge on the inside of the collar at the back rather than it being properly bound in.
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If I made this again I think I would also close up the keyhole a bit, as it’s a bit deep for my tastes although the pussybow does a lot to help conceal that.

I believe this is meant to be quite loose fitting and that suits me for summer but again in a future incarnation I might bring in the sides and make it a tad more fitted.

I am quite please with the sleeves, this isn’t really something I have got to grips with much yet. I used a gathering technique learnt at Celia Banks’ workshop to help ease the tops into the armholes. The sew wasn’t perfect but it looks better from the outside than it does from the inside!!

I meant to post a video of some of the sewing here but I forgot the camera was on so there’s a lot of nothing…and at some point the battery died. I’ll have to do some editing to see what I can actually salvage!