Plaid Colette Laurel dress

I’ve been admiring plaid dresses for a while now with the desire to make one myself, so after the success of my first Laurel dress I dived straight into another with this cotton and viscose blend from Minerva Crafts. I think the fabric has a great combination of weight and drape for this style of dress so I’ll definitely keep an eye out for other cotton and viscose blends in the future.

Plaid Laurel dress front

I have to admit I can be a bit of a perfectionist which I did have to be conscious of at times. Part of the enjoyment for me of making this dress was working through the plaid matching and placement, but I also tried to make sure I didn’t get too obsessed with it and there were a couple of occasions where I stepped away from the dress for a day to two to check if the mismatch I was seeing was really worth unpicking and redoing!

Plaid Laurel neck binding
The neck binding did get unpicked and redone.

Cutting out took a lot longer than usual due to getting the plaid placement and symmetry right. But I’m pretty pleased with how it all turned out and think it was worth the extra effort. I found the plaid layout diagrams in this post by Really Handmade very useful.

Plaid Laurel dress back

With my first Laurel I used the bias binding as a facing but with this one I wanted it to be a feature so sewed it on as binding as per the instructions. For the back neck, I didn’t want to break up the plaid with a dart so I gathered the neck into the bias binding instead. I had expected the gathering to be visible, but actually with a bit of steam the fabric pretty much eased itself in giving a smoother neckline than I’d expected.

Plaid Laurel back detail

The other change I made was to make the pockets a little bigger so that they were the width of two inner squares. I also like the bigger pockets for practical reasons so will likely stick with this size for future Laurels. As I had plenty of fabric I cut out a couple of pocket plaid placement options to try out against the actual dress – one centred on an open square (my final preference) and the other centred on an intersection. So again, this was not a speedy sew!

The binding and hem are all sewn by hand, which I quite enjoyed and think it was worth it for the look of the uninterrupted fabric design.

Plaid Laurel dress front

The dress has a had good amount of wear already and is very comfortable. It works well with both under and over layers in the winter or on its own now that spring is finally here. All in all I’m very happy with my first plaid dress and doubt it will be my last!

Have you sewn with plaid? Do you enjoy taking time over matching or prefer a quicker sew?

My new favourite fabric marker

While I’ve been sewing, I’ve built up a small collection of fabric marking tools, some that get used a lot, some hardly ever. But recently I discovered a surprising new favourite – a slither of soap!

Soap as a fabric marker

I got the tip from Kathy Ruddy in the Craftsy class One Pattern, Many Looks: Pants and only recently tried it, but love it already! The soap glides very easily over the fabric and you can easily create a thin but distinct line. You can also be confident that it will completely wash out.

As I’ve tried a few different methods for marking fabric, I thought I’d do a quick run through of how I find them to work with:

Fabric markers

Air erasable fabric pen

  • Use frequently
  • Pros: glides fairly easily over the fabric to create a smooth line
  • Cons: only one colour so not useful on darker fabrics; with some fabrics it can fade pretty quickly so you need to reapply and/or only use with projects that will be made in a short period of time; if high accuracy is required, the mark created may be too thick

Chalk pencils

  • Use frequently, but generally just for making small marks unless the fabric is very stable
  • Pros: good control over mark size, mark doesn’t fade or brush off through normal fabric handling
  • Cons: need to use reasonable pressure to make mark which can pull fabric out of shape

Clover Chaco line pen

  • Use occasionally
  • Pros: can make a good mark with light pressure, so does not distort the fabric
  • Cons: if you aren’t careful, the chalk can smudge or get a bit messy

Dressmakers carbon paper

  • Only used once or twice
  • Pros: creates a neat marking (dots rather than a line)
  • Cons: I found it a bit tedious to use; I also prefer making a line than the dots this created, especially if you are using fabric with a busy pattern as the dots could easily get lost

Soap slither

  • New, but expect to be frequent
  • Pros: easily glides over fabric; can create a thin line; easily washes out
  • Cons: wouldn’t work on light coloured fabrics unless I can find a dark coloured soap; not useful if you will still need the marking after pressing as it quickly faded under the steam

Thread (using a running stitch)

  • Use frequently
  • Pros: Won’t disappear or fade (I join the ends together to be sure that it won’t get pulled out accidentally); easy to remove
  • Cons: takes longer as I typically use one of the other methods to draw a line first and then stitch over it

Do you have a favourite fabric marker? Have you discovered any regular household objects that make good sewing accessories?

Viscose Colette Laurel

Can you believe I’ve been sewing for around two years and this is the first dress I’ve made?!

Colette Laurel front

There have been a couple of false starts in the past (with patterns from Simplicity and McCalls) where the scale of fitting issues I was facing made me take a break for my own sanity, but I never got back to them. This time however, I used the Colette Laurel which allowed me a little head start as from my previous Colette makes I had an idea of some of the adjustments I’d need to make (lengthening and small bust adjustment). Sure enough, the toile was nearly passable for wearing so I went straight to “proper” fabric with my second round of adjustments. I used a metre and a half of this navy blue viscose from Minerva Crafts so at £6 it wouldn’t be breaking the bank if it didn’t turn out great.

I have to say I’m very happy with the result! I think this is a great easy to wear style, suitable for both work and an evening out. I don’t wear dresses very much (in part due to difficultly finding ready to wear ones that fit my tall frame), but when I do I tend to feel very put together.

Colette Laurel

I did end up making quite a few changes to the pattern:

  • Lengthened both in the body and the skirt
  • Small bust adjustment
  • Broadened the shoulders
  • Added darts at the back neckline
  • Shortened the sleeves
  • Straightened the curve around the hips
  • Increased the depth of the back waist darts
  • Curved the centre back seam in at the waist

But it didn’t feel too onerous as some of them were done while sewing up – deepening the waist darts and adding the back neck darts. Since this fabric is more drapey than the old cotton bedding I used for the toile, the neck darts were especially needed to stop the dress sagging into a hunchback shape.

Also worth mentioning, these are my first set in sleeves! I took my time and hand basted the sleeves before sewing, which was totally worth it as there is not a pucker in sight.

Colette Laurel pocket

Now that I’ve successfully made a dress, with set in sleeves to boot, I feel ready to tackle a host of different pattern styles. But first up will be another Laurel – I want to maximise sewing enjoyment knowing that the fit will be wearable and there’s a plaid fabric that I’ve had my eye on for this style of dress for a little while…

First knitted socks

Hello there! I’ve got some more knitting to share with you today – my first pair of socks.

While out shopping a while ago I found myself drawn to the lovely selection of self patterning sock yarns available. I think I’ve been a little envious of numerous knitted socks that I’ve seen on the blogosphere, so went ahead and brought myself a ball of Regia Snowflake Ski 07708. The practical side of me was very happy to see that the yarn is machine washable up to 40 degrees (can’t be doing with hand washing socks)! Then I set about finding a suitable pattern…

self striping socks front

The a nice ribbed sock pattern by Glenna of Glenna Knits fit the bill nicely – I figured the ribbing would help make all the knitting on small needles a bit more interesting while not adding to the complexity (since this is my first pair after all) and it is kindly provided as a free pattern.

I treated myself to some bamboo 2.5mm double pointed needles (dpns) for this, which were great to work with. I’ve found that I am more comfortable using 5 dpns than the 4 assumed in the pattern which meant I had to concentrate a little more when working the heel and gusset as the pattern references needle number, but it wasn’t a big deal.

self striping socks back view

As I have big feet (that are totally in proportion with my tall frame!) I sized up the pattern by casting on 72 stitches instead of 64. I’ve also since realised that the choice of a ribbed pattern was a great move for my first pair of socks as it makes the fit pretty forgiving!

The stitch repeat in the heel is not one I’ve come across before and I was a little unsure how it would turn out, but all is fine and I guess the pattern helps to give the heel a bit of extra strength? As well as the totally new to me technique of creating the heel and gusset, I enjoyed getting a bit more practice of Kitchener stitch (aided by the free Craftsy class Ins & Outs of Grafting) to close up the toes. It is so satisfying to create the invisible join!

self striping socks side detail

The perfectionist in me of course wanted to knit up two identical socks, so I made sure to start the first sock at a point where there was a distinct colour change in the yarn that I could use again for the second one. Came out pretty well even if I do say so myself!

I’m very happy with these socks and love wearing them around the house keeping my feet warm in cold weather. Unfortunately I’ve found that the wool makes them too itchy to be comfortable wearing next to my skin (a problem I always have with wool), hence I’m usually wearing them over tights as in the pictures.

self striping socks side view

For my next pair I’ll be hunting out some cotton sock yarn so that I have the option of wearing them as regular socks as well as over tights. I’m finding the vast majority of sock yarn is a wool blend, especially the ones dyed to be self patterning, so if you know of any good cotton alternatives please let me know!

Knitted hat

Hi there! I’ve been a bit quiet here, but with the new year I’m refreshed and making good progress with a few projects so hope to be posting regularly again. To start, I’d like to share with you this hat that I finished last month.

I hadn’t done much knitting over the last year or two, but after discovering that a couple of my colleagues knit and looking through some of the fantastic things they’ve made I was inspired to pick up the needles again.

For a few years now I’ve been meaning to knit myself a hat as the store brought one that I used to wear would get a bit itchy after a while. I’ve had visions of designing a stranded knitting pattern along with ear flaps, but decided to start simple to ease myself back in. I’d also expected it to get colder earlier in the season and so was keen to be able to finish the hat fairly quickly!

Knitted hat

I made this using a yarn that I’d brought in New York a few years ago – Malabrigo Rios colour Archangel 850. The yarn is lovely and soft, so comfortable to wear all day. Plus it says it has good washability, so practical too!

To make the hat, I used the gauge from a test square and my head circumference to calculate the number of stitches required and started out with single ribbing, knitting it long enough to turn up. For the main body of the hat I wanted something a little more interesting than simply stocking stitch but as the yarn has a lovely variegated colour I also didn’t want a fussy pattern, so I settled on an uneven basket weave.

Knitted hat flat

I knit the hat using a circular needle so it was a quick make with no sewing up at the end. It wasn’t until I got to the decreasing that I realised I didn’t have any double pointed needles of the right size, but as I was impatient to finish by that time I decided to try using the magic loop method for the first time. While the first few rounds were not the easiest since the number of stitches was so high in comparison to the length of the needle, I managed to make it work and finished up the hat very quickly. I am happy to have tried a new technique and can certainly see its appeal for projects that you take travelling.

All in all, I’m very happy with this hat and it is starting to get plenty of wear now that it is turning colder here in London. I think I’ve caught the knitting bug again, so am already working on some socks for my next project…

Sewaholic Thurlow shorts – my Made Up pledge

If you haven’t come across it yet, The Made Up Initiative was launched by Karen of Did You Make That? to raise money for the National Literacy Trust. The idea was that when you made a donation, if you wanted, to also make a pledge to make something by September 10th. My pledge was to finally make some Sewaholic Thurlow shorts after all the toiles I made last summer. I didn’t quite finish them by the deadline, but am not bothered by that as I’m happy to have finally made a wearable pair, which I probably wouldn’t have done without the pledge! If you would like to donate, you still can at the Justgiving page.

Blue Thurlow shorts front view

These shorts are my most involved make so far with lots of new techniques, which I enjoyed working through and highlighting by adding some top stitching around the pockets and waistband. There are plenty of little things that I think I could do a bit better next time, but I’m still very happy with the overall finish of these.

Blue Thurlow shorts side view

I went for the cuffed short version although being tall, I lengthened the legs so the finished length is probably similar to the straight version of the pattern. One good thing about not making these up until now is that I was able to make the back pockets bigger in order to fit the larger phone that I now have. I love that sewing my own clothes gives me the flexibility to do that!

After cutting out I realised I’d marked the right and wrong sides of the fabric incorrectly, but this turned out to be a happy mistake as it reversed the fly zip and I prefer it this way round as it is the same as all my other trousers.

Blue Thurlow shorts back view

The fabric is this stretch cotton from the Sew Over It Islington store. It was my first time working with a stretch fabric and think it was definitely a good idea as it helps the fit be a bit more forgiving. This fabric is a nice weight for shorts, light enough to be comfortable in warm weather but sturdy enough to cope with the wear that shorts will get.

Blue Thurlow shorts

In terms of construction, the instructions are pretty good and I consulted Lladybird’s sewalong when I wanted a bit more guidance. The main new techniques for me were the welt pockets and fly zip, but by slowly working my way through they came out quite well. I was a bit concerned with the welt pockets when I first turned them out as there seemed to be a big gap, but some careful pressing was able to sort that out.

I did deviate from the instructions a little bit: I only interfaced the waistband facing, but think the finish would have been better if I’d interfaced both sides of the waistband as instructed – despite grading the seam allowances you can see a bump on the outside. I didn’t sew the back extension as instructed as I found it hard to get a smooth finish on the back waistband edge, so instead sewed the waistband together before attaching. The belt loops seemed very long so I cut them down to be more in line with the waistband width – not such a good idea as they are now too thin for any of my belts! And after checking my ready to wear trousers can see that the belt loops are usually longer than the waistband – I’ll know better next time!

Blue Thurlow shorts welt pocket

Despite all the fitting work of last summer, I did a bit of unpicking after trying them on to remove about 4 cm from the back inseam legs as there was way too much fabric there. While I do think these are wearable, the fit is not right yet – both back and front crotch curves could do with some adjusting. I have some ideas on how to correct these, but really I think it is time to admit I need some help with this, so I’ve signed up for the Sew Over It Ultimate Trouser class. Hopefully with the help of an expert I’ll be able to get a trouser pattern that is well fitting and then as it is a simple trouser shape I hope to be able to use that as a block to create different trouser styles from. I’m already pondering whether I’ll be able to hack the pattern in between classes to add some pockets!

Back to the Thurlows, I’ll leave you with my favourite photo – showing the contrast check fabric I used for the lining pieces. It might sound a little strange, but I really enjoy seeing pictures of the contrast linings that sewers often use, especially when they are fun prints. I’ve already got a colourful elephant print cotton pegged for that purpose in a future garment or two!

Blue Thurlow shorts fly zip and lining

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.

Self drafted kimono sleeve top

Hello there, I’ve got another self draft to share with you today.

This time, a short sleeved kimono top, a basic shape so I thought it would be simple to draft.  I think it has turned out ok, but wasn’t quite as simple as I had imagined!

Kimono top front 1

To create the pattern, I traced around three different top patterns I’ve made that fit reasonably well (Sewaholic Belcarra, Colette Sorbetto and Simplicity 1693), lining them up so that the waist point was the same for each trace.  Then had a bit of a gut feel attempt at drawing the kimono top pattern (aided by internet pictures to get the basic shape).

Kimono top front 3

The arms didn’t fit at all well when I first tried it on!  They were far too tight around the arms and felt a bit long so I cut about 5cm off and lowered the arm opening by about 10cm.  This meant I didn’t have enough material to create a neat finish all around the arms, but as long as no one inspects my underarms close up this should be fine!

Kimono top back

The fabric is a woven viscose from Fabric Land in Brighton.  Given the boxy style, I definitely think a drapey fabric was required.  I’m not sure if I’d like this top in a solid colour (would want to tweak the arms a bit and perhaps make a bit more fitted first), but with this spotty fabric I think it works quite well.

Kimono top front 2

All in all, I’m quite pleased with this as a first version. There are definitely improvements to be made fit wise, particularly around the arms, but I think they would be worthwhile working on as the simplicity of the style would be great for showing off interesting fabrics.