Monthly Archives: June 2014

Second skirt

First, I need to make a confession – this skirt isn’t quite finished.  All that’s left is to hem the shell, but it has been sitting like that for a while now so it is time to admit that I’m unlikely to finish this any time soon.  However, I learnt a lot while making this and feel it was an important part of my learning to sew journey so want to blog about it.

pencil skirt front

The pattern is the Naughty Secretary skirt from Diana Rupp‘s Sew Everything Workshop book, which I discovered when I took her Craftsy Sewing Studio class.  I really enjoyed the class, which features two projects – a simple cushion cover and this skirt.  While pencil skirts are not my usual style, I had enough fabric left over from my Miette skirt to make this so thought I’d give it a go.

pencil skirt side

Making the shell went pretty smoothly.  I’m quite happy with the invisible zip – helped out from the extra practice I got while struggling with the toile zip!

pencil skirt zip

There isn’t a waistband, instead bias tape is used as a facing.  I’d recently brought some navy blue cotton with a strawberry print so decided to make my own bias tape using this for a fun detail on the inside.  I understitched the facing so that it would lie flat and not peak out.  This little detail is my favourite part of the skirt.

pencil skirt bias facing

I definitely wanted to line this so I could wear it all year round and not get annoyed by the skirt riding up when wearing tights.  Initially I brought a fairly cheap lining fabric from Goldhawk Road, but it felt horrible when I was pressing it in preparation for cutting – very clingy and lots of static, definitely wouldn’t do.  So instead I ended up buying a lining fabric from John Lewis that cost as much per metre as the main fabric, but it feels lovely and was easy to work with.

The class goes through making up the lining in the same way as the main skirt, which is obviously fine, but I didn’t want to have the lining showing through the slit.  So I was very happy when I found this tutorial on sewing a vent lining.  I’d gone through all the steps for drafting the lining including adding a bit of extra room around the hips, so it was disappointing when I tried the lining on and found it was too tight.  I guess my main fabric must have a bit of give, but the lining doesn’t.  I unpicked the seams and sewed again with as small a seam allowance as I could get away with, so it is now wearable but still a bit tight when sitting down.

pencil skirt lining

I tried to sew the curves above the lining vent by machine, but was having such a hard time getting the concave and convex curves to match properly that I ended up hand sewing this bit.  I am happy with the end result of the vent though – the lining is nicely attached and is unlikely to show when wearing.

pencil skirt vent

So why don’t I just quickly machine hem the skirt and be done with it? – I’m afraid the perfectionist in me won’t allow it!  I’ve finished the waistband such that stitching is not visible on the outside and feel the hem ought to get the same treatment.  If I think I’ll wear this skirt (or a friend would like it), I’ll be more than happy to take the time to slip stitch the hem, but for now I’d rather spend my craft time on other projects.

Plenty of things learnt with this project:

  • Inserting an invisible zip
  • Fitting a skirt
  • Making sure you check the fit of tight skirts sitting down as well as standing and walking
  • Using bias binding as a facing
  • Understitching
  • Lining a skirt
  • Sewing and lining a vent

Meet Kevin the crochet minion

In the film Despicable Me 2 some of the minions got names:

Kevin the minion Despicable Me 2 poster

Since my dad is called Kevin and I was looking for a new crochet project after the monster amigurumi, I decided to have a go at making a Kevin crochet minion.

Kevin the crochet minion

I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times and was enjoying experimenting with different crochet shapes to get just the right look.  There were quite a few tries before I was happy with the final look:

Minion pieces

A bonus was that when put together little Kevin was able to stand up on his own.

Kevin the crochet minion

This wasn’t a quick project as there was lots of undoing and redoing and working on small details, but I really enjoyed the process and am very happy with the finished character.

Here are some photos of Kevin exploring his new home:

Kevin the crochet minion with a bunch of bananas
Kevin the crochet minion looking at stairs
Those stairs look pretty big…
Kevin the minion at computer
Hmm, what does this do…
Kevin the crochet minion with a tin of chocolates
Mmm, chocolates


How NOT to install an invisible zip

I managed to create a rather undesired effect with my first invisible zip installation!

Distorted zip open

Lots of tutorials for invisible zips advise you to press open the zipper tape before inserting the zip so that you can get at the fold where the stitching should go easier.  They also give you plenty of caution about not touching the zipper teeth with the iron.  However, I was so focused on avoiding the zipper teeth, that I didn’t think to check the heat settings for my zip, so continued with my iron on the high cotton setting.

Sadly this seems to have melted and distorted the tape such that one side is now curved instead of straight!

Distorted zip closed

The strangest thing though is that I didn’t notice this until I had inserted the zip in my skirt toile and couldn’t understand why the skirt looked fine on one side but weirdly distorted on the other.  I unpicked the zip and clearly saw the problem.

I was then baffled by how I’d managed to install the zip in the first place and wished I’d taken a photo of the toile to prove that I had!  Maybe the tape was still curving as I installed the zip, or I was just so focused on the process of installing my first zip that I didn’t see the fault.

Distorted zip and normal zip

Anyway, I tried again with the zip I’d brought for the real skirt, but didn’t press it open this time.  (in the meantime I’d come across some other tutorials that strongly advise NOT pressing the zipper tape open such as Sunni Standing from A Fashionable Stitch who has done a great Craftsy mini class on Mastering Zipper Techniques, which is free!  If you haven’t already, I’d recommend checking it out)

Now the zip looked nice and smooth and at least I’d got in a bit more practice of installing the zip before tackling the real skirt.  Plus I learnt a very valuable lesson about checking heat settings before pressing!

Invisible zip

Have you ever been so focused on avoiding one mistake that you didn’t see the other mistake you were making?

Belcarra blouse adjustment: broadening the shoulders

When I made a toile of the Sewaholic Belcarra Blouse the fit was pretty good, the only niggle I had was that it felt too tight across the shoulders – it was a bit uncomfortable when moving my arms and the neckline was being pulled wider.

Here’s how I adjusted the shoulders: (note – I don’t know if this is the “correct” way to do this kind of adjustment, but I was happy with the results (see my first finished Belcarra here) so thought I’d share in case it is useful to anyone else)

In the pictures, the blue pen shows the markings traced from the pattern, the red pen shows the adjustments.

Belcarra shoulder adjustment picture 1

  • Measure 1.5cm (the seam allowance) in around the corner of the seam that connects to the blouse front (or back – you need to adjust both shoulder pieces) and the underarm seam, mark point A where the stitching lines here meet
  • Draw a line from the centre of the shoulder seam notch going through point A, to the edge

Belcarra shoulder adjustment picture 2

  • Cut along this line from each edge towards point A, do not cut all the way along – you want to leave point A as a pivot point
  • Tape one side of the cut edge to some additional paper (I’ve just used standard tracing paper)
  • At the shoulder seam, measure from the edge of your taped down side and mark a short line B to indicate how much you want to lengthen the shoulder seam by (I lengthened by 1.5cm)

Belcarra shoulder adjustment picture 3

  • Pivot the free side such that the shoulder seam meets line B and tape in place

Belcarra shoulder adjustment picture 4

  • You’ll see that the shoulder seam now has a step where you’ve broken the line. Fix this by using a French curve or go free hand to draw a new line from the lower part of the sleeve to the neckline. (You have now both lengthened the shoulder and added a bit of extra width)
  • Make sure your notch is clearly visible

Belcarra shoulder adjustment picture 5

  • If you are making view A or C of the blouse, that’s it, you just need to cut out your new shoulder piece and repeat these steps on the back shoulder
  • If you are making view B, extend the tuck lines to the edge of the piece so that you have straight lines again. Repeat adjustments on back shoulder

Do you know of a different, perhaps better, way to adjust raglan sleeves for broader shoulders?

Sewaholic Belcarra Blouse

Sewaholic Belcarra blouse front and side view

I LOVE this top!  I’ve been admiring Sewaholic‘s designs for a while and am tempted by pretty much all of Tasia’s patterns.  When I saw the Belcarra (beginner friendly) released and heard about the sew-along I knew this was the next top I wanted to try.

Sewaholic Belcarra blouse front

Was pretty happy when I tried on my toile as the fit was generally good without any changes.  The only problem was that it felt too tight across the shoulders to the point that I’d be unlikely to wear it.  I searched for raglan sleeve broad should adjustments, but didn’t find anything helpful so I made a guess at what to do (you can see what I did here).  I think it turned out quite well, the top certainly feels comfortable, although that could be due to the softer/drapier fabric used in the final version.  I also narrowed the neckline by 1cm as per the instructions here.

Sewaholic Belcarra blouse side

The fabric is a lovely soft viscose from Goldhawk Road.  I brought this fabric on the recent NYlon meet up, it seemed to be one of the fabrics of the day as I meet quite a few other sewists who’d brought it too, look forward to seeing what they create with it!

This was my first time sewing with viscose and I love it.  Needs a little more care than cotton, but I love the softness and drape, definitely think it has worked well for this top.

Sewaholic Belcarra blouse side back view

The top is quite straight forward to sew up, good instructions and the sew-along provides more details/photos.  I did find the cuffs a bit tricky, so on the final version I hand basted them in place before sewing and was much happier with the result.  I used French seams throughout, which even though there are curved seams worked well.

Please excuse the creases in the photos, I’d been wearing the top for a few hours before they were taken, will have to remember to think about that for future blog photos!

Sewaholic Belcarra blouse back view

I’ll definitely be making some more versions of this top, just what I need for extending my summer wardrobe.  So happy with this top that I couldn’t resist a jumping photo!

Sewaholic Belcarra blouse jumping

Things I learnt:

  • Sewing raglan sleeves
  • Sewing with viscose
  • Using a bias strip as a binding
  • Sewing cuffs

Fit and fabric lessons with a couple of Sorbettos

The Colette Sorbetto definitely seems to be a winner among bloggers, there are loads of great versions out there, a couple of my favourites are by Handmade Jane and A Stitching Odyssey for the fabric/bias binding colour combinations.  A simple but stylish tank top, that is also free – I had to try it!

Colette Sorbetto front

I made a toile in calico first to check the fit and decided to make a few changes to the pattern:

  • Shorten the darts by 2cm
  • Lengthen armholes by 2cm
  • Lower the waistline a further 2.5cm
  • Lengthen at hip by 3.5 cm (although I ended up cutting the same amount from the hem once made up so all I achieved here was to narrow the hem 🙁 )
  • Grade down a size above waist

Quite a few changes, so I wanted to test them out before cutting into any nice fabric, but the calico was far too stiff for this kind of top.  Luckily I had enough of the London print cotton left to make this and if it went well then I’d get a fun wearable top.  I used store brought white bias binding for the neck and armholes.

Colette Sorbetto binding detail

As soon as I cut out the pieces I realised I should have paid attention to the pattern placement if I wanted a top to wear out – nearly had rather unfortunate placement of a couple of London eyes.  A good lesson to learn!

After lengthening the top, it was now far too tight around the hips so I did a bit of a makeshift job of creating side slits, not the easiest thing to do as I’d used French seams for the first time (love how neat the inside is!), but it just about worked.

Colette Sorbetto side split

Colette Sorbetto french seams and side split

The top looks ok, but the fit still wasn’t right – now it felt a bit too loose around the arms and shoulders, as well as being far too tight at the bottom.  I thought the fabric was still too stiff for the style of top, which was disappointing as I had another a couple of other printed cottons in mind for this, but they were either similar weight or heavier so clearly wouldn’t work.

Colette Sorbetto back

So I headed off to Goldhawk Road and brought a check shirting cotton since that was one of the recommended fabric choices (as if getting the fit right wasn’t enough I also wanted to take on the challenges of pattern matching and making my own bias tape!).  My round two pattern adjustments were:

  • Shorten armholes by 1.5cm (so 0.5 cm longer than original pattern)
  • Lengthen the waist by an additional 1cm (to compensate for shortening at the armholes)
  • Returned waist to hem to the original angle and then lengthened by 1cm at hem
  • Raise bust dart by 2cm

The fit was definitely better, but on wearing I think it is now a little too tight around the bust.

Colette Sorbetto front

I am quite happy with the horizontal pattern matching, but didn’t think about vertical matching.  I don’t think it looks too bad, but definitely something to think about when cutting fabric in future.

Colette Sorbetto side and back

For the bias binding, I used the continuous loop method explained in Coletterie.  I’d brought a bias tape maker, but didn’t find it at all helpful, so ended up just folding and pressing by hand.  I’m really happy with the bias binding on both tops, definitely worth taking your time over.

Colette Sorbetto binding detail

I wore this top to Rachel’s NYlon meet up (with my Miette) so that I’d have a handmade outfit, but not sure I’ll get a lot more wear out of this as the fabric is still too crisp for my liking on this style of top.  Funnily, I’ve been wearing the London print Sorbetto as a PJ top and after a few washes the fabric has softened up and I now quite like the looser fit!

So it seems I need to adjust the pattern again and try a softer/drapier fabric to get a Sorbetto I’m really happy with, but I’m going to take a break from this pattern first.

Lots of firsts and useful learning though:

  • Making a pleat
  • Sewing darts
  • French seams
  • Applying bias binding
  • Making bias binding
  • Fit adjustments (think I might be verging on over fitting though!)
  • Matching stripes

Another good beginner project: Pyjama bottoms

Pyjama bottoms definitely make a good beginner project – straight forward stitching and they are not closely fitted. I quite fancied a new fun print pair of pyjamas and was excited to be able to make them the right length!

Pyjama bottoms

I found this fun London print fabric on Goldhawk Road that was just what I was looking for.  I am not sure if this would be described as a lightweight quilting cotton or a cotton poplin, but it worked well for the pyjamas.

Pyjama bottoms

I used Simplicity’s Easy PJ Pants pattern – a free PDF download that I found via Did You Make That?.  Unfortunately I think something went wrong with the sizing when I printed this as I had to shorten the pattern (I’m pretty tall so definitely wasn’t expecting this), but the print out didn’t include a test square (or I missed it) so I couldn’t check.

After quite a lot of measuring of the flat pattern vs existing pyjamas to try and get the right size cut I ended up with a pair of wearable pyjamas, but they are snugger than I would like around the hips.  Long enough though!

Pyjama bottoms

New techniques I learnt:

  • Making button holes (loving the easy buttonhole foot that came with my sewing machine)
  • Making an elasticated waistband

Pyjama bottoms buttonhole detail

I like these pyjama bottoms, but in all honesty not sure how much wear they’ll get due to the fit. These have a horizontal waist all way around, but I’ve now seen other trouser patterns that angle up at the back, which I think would help make them more comfy for lounging around in. So next time I make pyjamas I’ll try a different pattern, luckily I now have one after getting my (signed 🙂 ) copy of Love At First Stitch at the Make Good Festival:

Love at first stitch