All posts by Alex

V neck top with gathers

This top has been a few months in the making largely due to flat renovations taking up a lot of my free time plus having to pack up my sewing machine while the work was being done. However I am now happily reunited with my sewing machine and enjoying the new look flat – which includes a sewing corner with shelves for sewing bits and bobs.

Beige V neck top with gathers and contrast navy blue trim

Believe it or not, this started from the Colette Sorbetto pattern, but the following changes took it a long way from the original design:

  • Add front and back yokes
  • Convert bust darts into gathering at the shoulder yokes
  • Add gathering to the centre back below yoke
  • Raise back neckline
  • Remove front pleat
  • Convert front neckline into a V neck
  • Neckline binding continues to create contrast line down centre front
  • Add slight curve to front and back hems

Beige V neck top back view

The part that took the most time to consider was the stripe down the centre. I have to admit I often found myself thinking about various construction options when I was walking or during other mental down time. But working out details like this is something I really enjoy about making things and it is so satisfying when it works!

Beige V neck top contrast trim detail

In the end I decided to cut the front piece down the centre without a seam allowance then bind all around the raw edge of the front and neckline and sew the centre binding pieces together. It worked out ok, but was quite tricky to do to ensure that the binding was totally straight and even. I think it would be a lot easier to include an allowance at the centre front for overlapping the two sides after completing the binding. I didn’t do this originally because I wanted to minimise bulk, but with a light drapey fabric it shouldn’t be too bad.

Beige V neck top

The fabric used was supposedly viscose (the same as I used for my black Belcarra) in two different colour ways – beige and navy blue. However the beige fabric felt and behaved very differently. It was becoming quite static under the iron and was very difficult to press, so I suspect it is actually a synthetic. It feels alright to wear though and its resistance to pressing also means it doesn’t wrinkle much – the photos are taken after a full day of wearing – which is definitely a plus.

Beige V neck top back view

When I tried it on part way though making I was concerned that I’d added too much ease in with the gathers and it was going to look too big for me. However, I think the finished result is ok and I’m quite glad to get this finished to be honest since it was started so long ago.

Beige V neck top worn with cardigan

Although the weather is getting decidedly colder now and I’m unlikely to be going sleeveless much (especially as I really feel the cold!), I think it looks fine under a cardigan so I should still get some wear out of it in the coming months.

Another crochet minion

Kevin the minion became an instant hit in my family, but we didn’t want him to get lonely or bored so meet his friend, Ed:

Crochet minion front view

Crochet minion side view

This minion was much quicker to make as I’d already figured out the basic pattern with Kevin.  It was easy to shorten his body to be “regular” minion size.  After threading through his hair I gave him gradually shorter haircuts until the length seemed right.  Then there was only a little trial and error to get his bigger, single eye looking good.

Crochet minions

Kevin looks happy to have a friend!  The minions are proving quite popular, so I’ll be making some more variations, but for now I’ll leave you with Kevin and Ed having a little explore…

Crochet minions and horse ornament

Crochet minions in flowers

Crochet minions

Crochet minions

Crochet minions

Crochet minions and house

Cotton Belcarra Blouse

As I was so happy with my first Sewaholic Belcarra blouse, it wasn’t long before I made a second one:

Belcarra blouse in cotton lawn

This time I used cotton lawn (from Goldhawk Road), so it doesn’t drape as much as my first viscose version but it still looks ok and is great to wear in the hot weather we’ve been having in London lately.

While shopping for the fabric, I was choosing between a few lovely (but very colourful and busy) cotton lawn prints and so decided to step out of the shop for a little breather while I debated the look I wanted.  But then as I was leaving the shop, I noticed this fabric by the door – pretty unassuming in comparison to the others, but I was drawn to it (and it didn’t hurt that it was a lot cheaper!).  I decided to go for this one as a trial run since I wasn’t sure how much I’d like the look of the top in cotton.  However, I’m now very glad I went with this simple print as it is so easy to wear.   I’ve also noticed that I don’t have many light coloured tops, so this is a welcome addition to my wardrobe.

Must try to remember to give plain and simple fabrics fair consideration on future fabric shopping trips!

Belcarra blouse in cotton lawn

Since it is a simple print I thought it would be a good one to try out the shoulder pin tucks of view B.  I like how this detail adds a bit more interest to the top.

Belcarra blouse pin tuck detail

Adjustments wise, I narrowed the neckline and broadened the shoulders as with my first Belcarra and I shortened the front by 1.5cm (gently curving to meet the original hem line in the back) so it sits better on me.

Not too much to say about the construction as it was straightforward the second time around.  There was a bit of unpicking when I realised I’d folded to a seam notch instead of a tuck notch on my first shoulder, but luckily the holes from the incorrect stitching line pretty much disappeared with a bit of steam pressing .  As with my first version I found the cuffs a bit tricky to insert, but this is definitely getting easier with practice.

My first two Belcarras are getting a good amount of wear, so there could be another one soon…

Simplicity 1693

My sewing plans at the moment have a focus on summery tops as with the good weather we’ve been having of late, I’ve realised I don’t have many tops that I like to wear when it is warm and sunny.

Recently I was kindly offered a Simplicity pattern of my choice in exchange for a review and after drooling over a few dresses that in reality were beyond my current capabilities (and that I’d be unlikely to wear much), I homed in on Simplicity 1693 as it fits right in with my more summer tops plan and includes an impressive number of variations.

For my first version I made view C but without the waist elastic.  I was so pleased with the finished top that I wore it out just a few hours after finishing it!

Simplicity 1693

You may recognise the fabric from my first Belcarra.  It felt a little weird making another top from the same fabric so soon, but I knew that it would drape the way I wanted so went ahead.

The only issue I had with the pattern was the sizing.  Going by the size chart, I should have been a 14 grading to 16, but luckily I made a quick toile and found that the top swamped me.  I then compared the pattern pieces to those of the Belcarra and Sorbetto tops I’ve made and decided that a 12 grading to 14 should fit better.  I also lengthened the pattern by 3 cm at the hem since I’m tall.

Simplicity 1693 side view

The top is pretty straight forward to sew together and I used French seams throughout (the pattern instructions include details on how to do them).  My darts ended up rather wonky, which I think was due to a combination of my trying a new method of making the pattern marks (dressmakers carbon and tracing wheel instead of pins and marking pencils) and the fabric being more mobile than the cottons I’d generally used so far.  Luckily the dark fabric and print do a good job of hiding the wonky-ness!

The neckline and armholes are finished with bias binding facings, so I made bias strips with the same fabric.  For the armholes I tried out the technique described by Lauren of lladybird as part of her outfit along, except I folded the bias tape in half before applying (a la the Belcarra instructions) instead of folding and pressing twice once sewn on.  Even though I’m not taking part in the outfit along, I’ve really been enjoying Lauren’s detailed posts and feel like I’ve learnt loads – the time and thought she has put in is quite something.

Simplicity 1693 front view

I like the button closure detail at the back of this top (the neck is large enough for me that the button opening isn’t necessary, but I like how it looks) and this provided my first go at making a thread loop.  I found a few different ways of doing this online, but ended up just following the diagram in the pattern, think it has worked out ok for a first attempt, you can’t really see it anyway.

Simplicity 1693 button detail

The button closure means there is a centre back seam to this top.  I did think about pattern matching this seam, but didn’t have much fabric left so decided instead to place the pieces such that there wouldn’t be a bright or big flower along the seam so that it is somewhat disguised, I think this worked out ok.

Simplicity 1693 back

Trying the top on pre-hemming it looked a bit longer at the front than the back (I think this must be due to my shape or posture because I noticed the same with the Belcarra).  This was really noticeable if I wore a belt (to try to test out how it would look with the waist elastic), so I decided to trim a bit off the front.  I got a bit carried away and took about 4.5 cm off the centre front, tapering to the original length at the side seams.  I didn’t think the top looked very good with the belt any more so left out the elasticated waist, but I quite like the gentle high/low hem that this has created (like a subtler version of view F).

Overall I’m pretty happy with this top and now will be on the lookout for suitable fabric to make a contrast collar version…

New for me with this make:

  • Making a thread loop
  • New method of applying a bias facing

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?