Monday, 6 April 2015

Completed: Stripey Sailor Tee and a Cautionary Tale

Have you realised how close we are to Me Made May 15? We are about 4 weeks away and I have so much that I wanted to sew before then. I definitely want to take part this year, but it will be trickier as I'll still be off work, however the bulk of my handmade wardrobe is workwear. Still thinking about what my challenge will be.

Incidentally, Baby Boy will also be 1 in about 4 weeks. Yup. No idea, either.


Anyway, enter a quick and easy make that only took a few hours. This is the Marilla Walker Sailor Tee, a free pattern that I only discovered last week. I've discovered Marilla fairly recently through Instagram, and while I haven't bought any of her patterns, I am considering the Maya dress/blouse. Anyway, I was off down an internet rabbit hole when I came across this pattern. I love the shoulder gussets, particularly with a striped fabric, which just add a little something to an otherwise straightforward tee. The pattern can also be made into a dress.

Marilla Walker Sailor Tee
The fabric is from the stash. No idea of fabric composition, but it's drapey and a little sheer with very little stretch. I had earmarked it for a Hemlock, but those shoulder gussets won me over.

The pattern is really straightforward. It's really just a series of squares and rectangles, and very few pattern pieces. I struggled a bit with cutting this fabric. It's really shifty and I found it hard to keep the pattern pieces on grain; with stripes it would have been really obvious if something had gone awry. I also wanted to match the stripes which added a little more complexity. So, all in all, it took me about 1.5 hours just to get the pieces cut, which I achieved by eventually cutting the fabric in a single layer. Because it was such a bugger to cut, I omitted the extraneous parts - the pocket and the underarm gussets. The fewer pieces to cut the better and I didn't necessarily feel they added to the tee. After cutting this though, I am seeing that having a rotary cutter would be beneficial. With scissors, I found it really hard to cut accurately.

Small Boy was adamant I had to copy Marilla's pose, even though I have no underarm gussets to show off!
The pattern is only available in one size, which Marilla says is roughly a UK size 12 or a medium. I'm an 8/10, so this is probably boxier on me than intended, but I'm happy with the fit. The one thing I would change next time would be to add maybe about an inch to the length of the shoulder gussets. As they are they sit a little wide, and show my bra straps. I don't actually mind that per se, but it does feel a little big so I'd alter it for next time.

I added about 10cm to the length because it's designed to be quite cropped, and as much as I like the look, after 2 pregnancies and 2 c-sections, I'm not comfortable wearing it. In the end though I cut about 6.5cm back off, and stuck to the recommended 2cm hem. Otherwise, excluding the omitted bits, I made the pattern as directed. The observant amongst you will have noticed that it doesn't particularly look like I have lengthened the tee. That is because Cautionary Tale: I DID NOT PREWASH THE FABRIC. And guess what? After one wash, it shrank!!! Gutted was not the word I employed when I realised. However, as you can see, it's still wearable, if a little short for comfort. Also the armscyes shrank, meaning it's a little tighter than meant there, and meaning my rectangular sleeves are now a bit more trapezoid in shape.

Marilla suggests using woven or bias tape to stabilise the neckline. Because my fabric is a little sheer, I thought bias tape might be too heavy, so instead I used the selvedge from my fabric. This worked. Kind of. It worked in that it provides stability, but it does mean I have raw edges on the inside, which initially showed at the neckline. I had to trim the fabric right back to the stitching line, and to try to roll the seam to the inside. It also shows more because the stripe on the stabilising strip is perpendicular to the strip running across the top - so you see the black stripes. Also, because I misunderstood the instructions initially, one of my stabilising strips is sewn wrong side out. I think it looks OK though. Ditto the stripe matching, which is not perfect but not bad for a first attempt. Although the more I look at it the more it bugs me, so I'll just stop looking. Just realised I failed to get photos of this though, so you'll have to trust me on that one!

You can see it looks far boxier in this photo than the one at the top of this post, which I took pre-wash.
Gusset, plus selvedge used to stablise neckline.
Trapezoid shaped sleeve. Sigh. Oh, and a bit of stripe matching here too!
There's not much more to say about this really. I love the tee. Super comfy, interesting and a quick sew. What's not to love? My only complaint is that although the sun has been shining a bit, the temperature dictates that I wear a cardigan, thus covering up those lovely shoulder gussets!!

I am disappointed about the shrinkage. It's not the end of the world, but that alongside the slightly unmatched stripes and the too wide neckline are making me want to remake this. I have enough fabric, which I have now prewashed, twice just to be sure. I just need to psyche myself up to cut it out again!

Are you taking part in MMM15? And if so, are you panic sewing?

Friday, 3 April 2015

Completed: Metallic Gold Linden Sweatshirt

I'm posting out of order here, but this sweatshirt got so much love on IG this morning that I thought I'd better prioritise it. This is my new favourite top. I love it so, so, so much. It's not very often that my mental image of how something will look matches the reality. I'm usually disappointed by something. Not this time.

Let's start with the fabric since that's what this sweatshirt is all about. I was browsing the web, Etsy in particular, for French terry for a different project, when I stumbled across this metallic foil french terry in gold and grey from Miss Matatabi (she also has a few other metallic French terrys (terries?)). It was a no brainer, as my Dad would say. I instantly knew what I wanted to make - a Grainline Linden Sweatshirt, with the metallic on the front bodice and the rest in plain grey marl. I quickly double checked to make sure the front bodice would fit into half a metre - in a size 4 it does, just - and placed the order.  I then spent quite a bit of time scouring the internet for a suitable plain grey marl french terry, before finding one from a different Japanese Etsy seller, Nuttafabric. It seems to have sold out, but it's cotton with quite a bit of stretch. I also notice Miss Matatabi has a plain grey marl, so I'm going to assume that I did check that first, and that it's been recently added...

French terry, in case you are unsure, is like normal sweatshirt fabric on the right side, with a loop back, a bit like towelling on the back. It's lovely and soft and quite drapey, but thinner than fleecey sweatshirting and as a result, not overly warm - at least the stuff I bought isn't. I struggled to find any in the UK, hence buying from Japan, but I have since discovered that if you search for "loop back", or simply "sweatshirt fabric" you are more likely to have success - if you search for the latter, double check whether it is fleece back or loop back. Perhaps "French Terry" is an American term?

Before cutting out, I did have a bit of a change of mind and briefly considered making both the front and back bodice in the metallic fabric. I put the question out to IG but the overwhelming response was in favour of my initial plan, which was good because I probably would have done that anyway. I couldn't really picture it with a metallic back, and I think I made the right choice. Plus, I know the gold foil will eventually fade/wear away, so this means I can always make another! :) On that subject, I thought I would take care not to wash this too often, to ensure the foil lasts as long as possible. Best laid plans and all that: so far today it has had banana mashed into it and it has been peed on - both after these photos were taken, luckily for you!

I've made the Linden before, but this time I made the following changes:

  • Retraced the pattern pieces, this time extending the seam allowance to 1/2". The pattern includes a 1/4" SA which I just found tricky to manage on my last version, particularly as I sewed both that version and this on my sewing machine. Adding the extra SA definitely helped on this one, and where necessary (e.g. on the neck, wrist and hem bands) I just trimmed them back to 1/4" to reduce bulk.
  • To counter the gaping on the neckline on my previous version, I pinched out a dart on either side. Each dart was about 3cm in width and about 6cm in length. They could do with some finessing as they are not perfectly aligned, but this has made a vast improvement to the fit on the neck. For future versions, I may take the excess out of the raglan sleeve seam, but I quite like the look of the darts on this version. Plus I've seen similar on RTW so it feels OK to have done it!
  • Despite the reduction in the neckline circumference, I didn't reduce the length of the neck band. I used the Maria Denmark Kimono tee instructions to measure a new neckband... which strangely turned out to be larger than the original Linden neckband pattern piece. Hmmmm. So I just used the same Linden pattern piece and it seems to fit perfectly well. Not sure I really understand, so I'm just going with it.
  • I used self fabric for the neck, hem and wrist bands. I did cut them out in the same ribbing I used last time (I have a lot leftover), but it just didn't feel right to use them for this version. I vastly prefer the look of the self fabric, particularly at the neck.
  • Top stitched both the neckband and the raglan seam allowances with a twin needle.

The make itself was nice and easy, but the fabric was a little tricky. The cut edges curled badly, which made keeping to seam allowances very difficult, particularly when attaching the neck/wrist/hem band, where I had 3 layers, curling in different directions, which I was trying to straighten out while stretching the band to fit the fabric and keeping an eye on the SA. I could have done with a couple of pairs of extra hands to tell the truth. I ended up basting the neck and hem band on first. The neck and wrist bands are quite neat but the hem band is a bit of a mess with very inconsistant seam allowances. By then though, I was sewing tired. Always a bad idea. The fabric also frayed - unusual for a knit - so all seams are overlocked.

But, hem band aside, I am delighted with this sweatshirt. Absolutely love it. I love that it's casual but a bit more special. Even just wearing it as I am in these photos with jeans and converse, it makes me feel a bit more cool. I can wear a long sleeved tee(s) underneath it right now, but it will be wearable right through spring and into summer with just a cami underneath. Be prepared to see this in high rotation throughout Me Made May!

Hooray for metallic sweatshirts!!!

Shoulder dart. Also seam on neck band doesn't *quite* match up!
Top stitching

Finally, when I asked P to take photos of me outside for this post, he refused. Apparently everyone looks at him when he takes photos of me!! I would have thought they'd probably be looking at me, wondering why I'm having my photo taken, but anyway. So, it was back to me taking "self portraits" in the livingroom. Until, that is, he decided to join in...

Next up: a lesson in why you should always prewash...

Monday, 23 March 2015


I have bashed on a bit about fabric recently: guilt over my stash; wanting to buy it all; attempting to buy it all. I'm sorry. This is probably getting pretty monotonous. One last point about fabric, and then I promise I'll shut up about it. ****Warning - this is not an earth-shattering discovery. Be prepared to be underwhelmed. Lets just call it closure.*** A couple of months ago I became obsessed with this fabric:

Cotton and Steel Bespoke Double Gauze - Ephemera

Utterly obsessed. Initially I wanted to make a blouse like Rae, but then I saw this blanket on Instagram, posted by Rashida Coleman-Hale:

And I became even more fixated. I dreamed about it. I  kept the page open permanently on the iPad so I could go in and gaze lovingly at it on The Village Haberdashery website every day. I have been wanting to make a throw/blanket for our living room for a while, and this seemed ideal. Apart from the fact that the fabric just didn't go with anything in else in the room. I even ordered a sample to check. That took me on a different fabric/blanket journey which is for another post, but I consoled myself by going back to the blouse inspiration and thinking I could make that. I should probably mention at this point that I hadn't actually bought the fabric. 

I got a TVH gift card for Christmas, and I was kind of holding off until I figured out what I was going to spend the rest on, to save on postage. I hopped onto the TVH website earlier this week to have a look again, thinking I'd  just place the order. You can probably guess where this is going. It's sold out. "Never mind" I thought, "I can buy it from Miss Matatabi". Nope - she only had half a metre left. And do you know what? I wasn't that bothered. I'm looking at the pictures above now, and I still think it's a beautiful fabric, and I would have loved to have made the blouse (I was going to do a Scout with a raised neckline and possibly different sleeves). The fabric is deliciously soft. I probably would have worn it lots in the summer. But, well... if sewing has taught me anything, it's that there will be other fabrics. It does actually come in other colourways, and there are other double gauzes still available in the range. I may well buy one of them - I still like the idea of a double gauze blouse. But then again I might not. 

Moral of the tale? I don't need to buy all the fabrics. Time won't end, no natural disasters will occur, I won't even be that upset about it, if I don't. As I said, it's not an earth shattering discovery, but it did give me pause for thought. Alison wrote something recently that chimed with this:

Same goes for fabric, why do I need to make everything I like, I wouldn't buy everything I like and all that will happen is I will have a wardrobe full of 'stuff' that doesn't get worn. 
I wouldn't buy everything I like either, so why do I think I need all the fabric? Answer: I don't.

Thank you for bearing with me on this. Lets all hope I have finally got it into my thick skull, and that normal service will resume shortly.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Spring cleaning

Happy Mothers Day!

Yesterday, I had a free day. I had intended to go to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival with my Mother in Law, but she changed her mind, and as I don't knit, it seemed a bit pointless to go myself. So, I decided to put the day to good use and I cleared out the Hall Cupboard of Doom (Duh Duh Duuuuuh!)  I thought you might like to see. Bear with me. This is sewing related.

I didn't take any before photos, other than the one below which I took ages ago. This cupboard is our only "built in" storage in the flat and is housed beneath our upstairs neighbour's staircase. It's pretty deep, but narrow, and obviously doesn't have full height all the way back. In this we store coats, hats and gloves etc, vacuum, most of my sewing stuff, our filing cabinet, shopping bags, a buggy, lightbulbs etc, vases, kids art and craft stuff, wellies, and generally just loads and loads of crap. What you can't see from this photo is that you couldn't actually walk into the cupboard, which was litttered with carrier bags containing piles of Baby Boy's stuff that he has grown out of, other things to be donated and fabric/sewing supplies.

The process was straightforward: take everything out and put it into one of 3 piles. Charity shop, chuck/recycle or keep.

I filled 2 binliners with fabric to be recycled, and one with rubbish to be thrown out. The former wass was small fabric scraps and items I'd been keeping because they might be useful. I had 4 pairs of holey jeans in there!!! While sometimes small scraps can be useful, I just don't have the space to keep them, so out they went.

Fabric to be recycled
The plastic box where I previously kept my fabric wasn't really working. It was too big to pull out, which meant I couldn't access what was in there, so it was moved to the boys' bedroom for toy storage. This left me with piles of stuff that needed rehoused. So, we decided at 4pm that we should go to Ikea! Actually it was fine. It was pretty quiet and we had our tea there. We went with a specific list and while we still didn't get home til after 7pm, we spent less than £40!!! I consider that a success.

I didn't get it finished last night, so I did it this morning. Which led onto clearing out the top of our wardrobe too. Not quite your typical Mothers Day, but I was glad to get it done. It feels so much better!

So, what does it look like now?

I replaced the large plastic box in the first photo with 2 Drona cubes from Ikea. The space on the second shelf is where the vacuum will sit.

The green boxes houses large scraps (anything large enough to make pocket linings or bias binding, or larger), plus some craft bits and bobs like felt. The turquoise box contains silk and cotton fabric, plus a couple of fabrics I plan to sew with next. The fabric bag with the face contains my most used sewing equipment, plus cables for sewing machine and overlocker. This is the bag I used to take to my sewing class. Although I haven't been for over a year, I still keep those things in a bag.

The very top shelf (just seen) has lightbulbs, hoover bags and also the boys' craft box. Second shelf down: wooden box contains interfacing and wadding. The plastic basket holds my paper patterns, while the coloured folders are for printed PDFs. With a bag of toy stuffing on top. Bottom shelf: vintage sewing box, thread, pins, buttons. I bought a glass jar in Ikea for the thread but it doesn't all fit, so I need to get another. The remaining thread (black, white and grey) are in a sandwich bag for the time being.

The cardboard (Molton Brown) box holds ribbons and trims. The vintage sewing box needs done up at some point. It is missing several screws. It contains zips, fastenings and some other bits and bobs.

Thread. I sorted it by colour. Saddo.

Beneath the coats (which are on the left of the cupboard): the nappy box contains my overlocker thread. The orange Sainsbury's bag has stuff to be refashioned/repaired, and the John Lewis bag contains a WIP, namely my coat. Also, the car seat to the right.

Overlocker thread. Finally, it has a home!

This hasn't really changed, but it shows the buggy, the filing cabinet, my overlocker, plus on the shelf, my current sewing machine and my old sewing machine, which was originally mum's - she got it for her 21st birthday. I don't ever use it but I can't bring myself to get rid of it. It does work, so one day I will get it serviced so that I can use it.

I was really tempted to get a Raskog, which seems to be the sewing accessory of the moment, but I don't really need it.

When clearing through things, I found a couple of picture hanging kits from Ikea. I was able to combine the contents into one box, leaving this one which is perfect for bobbin storage!

Unfortunately I still have too much sewing stuff to fit in the cupboard. I previously had stored more fabric in this vintage picnic basket on top of our wardrobe, but again it wasn't really accessible because there was so much other junk up there. Which was why I found myself clearing through that this morning. Sorry no before pic, but imagine excessive cardboard boxes (a lot of which were empty???!!!! Seriously, past Helen, what were you thinking?), a 25 year old rucksack, suitcases and lots and lots of dust. 


We still have to keep our suitcases there, but at least now it's still ones that we use (they are to the right, not in the photo). I kept a couple of the boxes - you know, useful things like bridal hair decorations and Venetian masks - but they are now labelled . The bottom vintage picnic basket contains polyesters and poly/cottons, plus knits. The top one is empty, but at least it looks nice and can be used at some point in the future.

It all feels so much nicer and cleaner and easier to access. I keep going into the cupboard just to look. And having gone through my stash, I have a clearer picture of what I have. Actually, there wasn't too much that I had forgotten about, but it made me realise why I haven't been sewing from the stash. Not only could I not access it, but very few of the fabrics in there fit my current wardrobe. Previously my sewing was all about skirts, blouses and dresses, all in wovens: cotton and silk. And my stash pretty much reflects this. But that's what I wear to the office, and for the past 11 months I've been on Maternity leave. And when I'm on Maternity leave, I wear jeans and t-shirts, and jumpers and cardigans, and my stash does not reflect that whatsoever!

TBH I'm in a bit of a rut, clothes wise, particularly as in the morning I tend to just throw on whatever is clean and doesn't need ironed, so with a bit of organisation I could wear a bit more blouses and possibly even casual dresses, especially as the weather is improving a bit and I'm no longer breastfeeding. And I will be going back to work at some point, so I will be able to use those woven fabrics in the future, which makes me feel better. But I do feel a bit better about having bought fabric recently - because what I have bought fits my current wardrobe. I just need to make sure I sew it up before I buy even more, and before I return to work!

Finally, I'd like to add I did have a nice Mothers Day in the end - my first with 2 children - I got the satisfaction from this being organised, we went out for lunch to the local pub, and I got a The Village Haberdashery gift card, plus the promise of child free sewing time from the boys. And, perhaps best of all, my first ever hand written card from Small Boy.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Completed: When is a quilt not a quilt?

What is the definition of a quilt? Does it need to be pieced? It probably needs to be quilted at the very least. If it's neither pieced, nor quilted, is it simply a blanket? I ask, because I don't know what to call my latest project. 

Photo bombed by Winnie the Pooh
I have wanted a blanket for a while - our flat used to be freezing, especially post 9pm when the heating goes off. Since we had cavity wall insulation a few years ago, this has been less of a problem, but I still wanted a cosy blanket that I could keep in the living room, which looked nice in the living room. I have been giving some thought recently to making our house look a bit more, well, grown up. Previously I took great pride in my "mismatched" approach, and I do still abhor anything too matchy matchy, or symmetrical, but recently I've started to wonder if maybe, my stuff just doesn't really go. 

I spoke previously about my double gauze journey: once I realised that the C&S double gauze just wasn't going to work, I started to browse other ideas. Nani Iro is a fabric designer that properly came to my attention last summer, so I thought I'd take a look - and fell in love (again? Yes, but this time it was REAL) with this fabric:

Nani Iro Water Window wata gauze - C from Miss Matatabi

I wanted something different for the back, and so convo-ed Frances at Miss Matatabi for a suggestion. She came up with a couple of options, pretty much immediately. Neither I would have chosen myself, so it was nice to get different ideas. I went with her suggestion of Mountain Views in natural, which i was pleased to discover on arrival has lovely shiny metallic bits.

The fabrics are a bit different to each othher. The Water Window is called Wata Double Gauze and it is a much softer, looser weave to the Mountain Views, which feels quite stiff in comparison (it's not, just in comparison). They were also different widths which was slightly annoying.

After some consultation with some quilting friends on IG (thanks Nessa and Katy) I opted to use cotton batting in the middle, which I got from Mandors in Glasgow. It wasn't particularly cheap at something like £16/m, but it's super wide (about 2m), so I as able to get away with a "generous metre".

I didn't bind the quilt. This was an aesthetic choice. I didn't want to compete with the main fabric. It also meant buying less stuff, and made for a quicker project. Instead, I sewed the front and back (sandwiching the batting in there too) right sides together, leaving an opening,  turned them through, hand stitched the opening closed, and then top stitched about half an inch from the edge, all the way around. I like the clean finish this gives, and it also allowed me to keep the "watermark" with the name of the fabric, which is rather nice I think. My edges are not completely square - the shifty nature of the double gauze made this difficult - but since the print is deliberately wonky, I'm not too bothered. I got it as straight as I could, and left it at that.

I also didn't quilt the quilt. Which is why it's probably not a quilt. Instead I did occasional stitches (there must be a proper quilting name for this) every so often. I literally just sewed 2 stitches "on the spot", leaving long tails which I then tied. Again, I like this. It doesn't mess or compete with the print and it keeps the blanket nice and drapey. As much as I love the look of quilting, I do think it adds body.
Teeny tiny stitch where the 4 squares meet.

The underside of the stitch
I am absolutely delighted with my resultant blanket. It's lovely and cosy and absolutely beautiful to look at. So much so, that I am considering buying more for when the inevitable child spills something/pukes over it. I did consider banning them from ever touching it, but I've been trying not to be mean mummy lately.

I also made a cushion cover, while I was on this home dec kick. A couple of our cushions are in a very sad state, and have been torn for a long while. One I want to try to mend, bit the other I decided just to re-cover.

I bought the fabric from John Lewis. It was part of the 150 years range from last year and was in the sale - not the crazy bargainous £5 sale, but half price which put it at a much more reasonable £9/m. It's a cotton poplin, so a bit lightweight for interiors, but hopefully it'll last ok. I bought half a metre of each, and I have enough leftover to make another (smaller) cushion. This was my first ever attempt at piping and I love it! I just used a zip foot, which I thought gave OK results, but I think I will buy a piping foot if I use it again, particularly for garment sewing.

I used these tutorials for attaching the zip, the piping (here and here) and joining the piping ends. I recycled the zip from the old cushion cover. I messed the zip up a bit, but it's not bad for a first attempt (I only ever use invisible zips in clothing, so a standard zip was strange, for me!), and my piping pride more than makes up for it. I love it, and I love how well the colours go together, and go with the blanket. Without being too matchy matchy!!!! :)

Now to get back to sewing some clothes!