Tag Archives: Sewaholic

Belcarra dress

Hello! For various reasons I’ve been quiet here a few months, but have been doing plenty of sewing and I’m looking forward to sharing my makes with you¬†over the next few weeks…

First up, a dress that I’ve been imagining/planning to make for some time. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a fan of the Sewaholic Belcarra blouse, having made five to date and was keen to try adapting it to a dress. I debated between lengthening the pattern pieces into a kind of A line shift dress and this adaptation of adding an elastic waistband and gathered skirt, which I felt would work better with my fabric choice.

Belcarra dress front view

The main fabric is a lovely viscose from Minerva crafts (although I’ve also spotted some other suppliers selling it too). With the stripy design I thought a rectangular gathered skirt would work well. The black fabric is also a viscose from Minerva, that I’ve used in a few makes.

Belcarra dress back view

To convert the pattern to a dress I shortened the top length to a couple of inches lower than my waist (because I want to create a blousey effect) and squared off the side seam. For the waistband, I simply cut two rectangles the same length as the waist and 5.7cm wide (so the finished waistband is 2.7cm once the seam allowances are sewn up) to make a casing through which I inserted 1 inch wide elastic.

Belcarra dress waistband

I then ran into a bit of an issue as I realised I didn’t have enough fabric to make the width and length of skirt that I had in mind if I also wanted to ensure the stripes matched. I umm-ed and ahh-ed for a little while and then decided to go shorter than I’d intended, but add a black hem band to give a bit more length. I actually think the black hem band nicely balances the design ūüôā However, I was so focused on making the most of the fabric that I had that I ended up cutting a pretty wide skirt and it wasn’t until I’d sewn it up with the pockets that I realised I’d probably gone a bit over the top with the width! By this point I really couldn’t face unpicking everything (I’d used french seams for everything, including the pockets) so decided to try it as is.

Belcarra dress front view

In these photos I think the dress looks fine and the fabric is drapey enough that the wide skirt looks ok. However, the first day I wore this out was pretty windy and with the light and wide skirt fabric I felt like it had a tendency to blow up a bit too much so I mostly had my hands anchored into the pockets to keep it under control!

Belcarra dress pocket

I did take quite a bit of time over getting the stripes matching at the seams, they even match at the pockets! I also spent a while holding the fabric up in front of me deciding what stripes I wanted cutting across my torso. With hindsight, I think it might be a bit more flattering to have the widest stripe running across the bust rather than below it, I’ll just take that as a lesson learnt ūüôā

Belcarra dress side view

The jury is still out on how much I like this dress, its not as flattering as I’d hoped and there are certainly a few things I’d do differently if I made it again. But it is still a nice light and comfy dress for warmer weather, just so long as its not windy!

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

Yep, it is another Belcarra blouse!

My sewing juices were so well¬†revived after making¬†my black Sewaholic Belcarra, that it wasn’t long until I had another cut and ready to go.

Sewaholic Belcarra

I saw the main fabric for this top (a printed viscose)¬†on the Minerva Crafts website last summer and was instantly drawn to it with this vision of a Belcarra using¬†some black trim for the cuffs and around the neck, but at ¬£9.99 a metre it is the most expensive fabric I’ve brought so far and back then I was too scared that I would mess it up.

Now I’m trying to be less fearful and get better at embracing mistakes as part of the learning process, so decided to treat myself and I’m very glad I did!

back view

I was rather concerned when I opened the parcel as the fabric felt crisp and stiff, not at all the drapey loveliness that I was expecting from viscose! Thankfully it soften up nicely after a pre wash. Not quite as soft and drapey as the black viscose used in my previous Belcarra (and for the contrast pieces in this one) but it still has enough drape to be suitable for this top.

One slight gripe was that the grid pattern sloped¬†off grain about 30 cm from each selvedge and since I’d only brought a metre I couldn’t avoid using this part. You can see the pattern sloping down more on the left side of this photo, but hopefully wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t point it out!

Sewaholic Belcarra

Although not a precise grid, I did take care when cutting to try and get the pattern roughly lining up.

side view

After taking my time cutting out, the top came together pretty smoothly. The only additional pattern change I made was to use the bias strip (half and inch narrower than the original pattern one) for a bound neckline instead of as a facing. I really like the solid black cuffs and neck edge and was even brave enough to use black thread as a contrast for the cuff and hem stitching.

Neck and cuff detail

I’ll move on to a different pattern next, but I doubt this will be my last Belcarra. I’m already feeling the need for an ivory or cream version for summer…

Getting my sewing mojo back with a black Belcarra

After all my recent fitting and toiling, making this Sewaholic¬†Belcarra blouse felt wonderful! ¬†I could enjoy taking my time getting a good finish as I knew I’d have a well fitting garment at the end of it.

Belcarra 4 front

The black one is actually my fourth Belcarra blouse – I made this third flowery version shortly after my second from a lovely viscose fabric brought on Goldhawk Road.

Belcarra 3 front

For the third Belcarra, I used a narrower bias strip and sewed it on using a 3/8 inch seam allowance to make the neckline a little smaller. ¬†It doesn’t feel like the neckline actually is any smaller, but I wonder if I had stretched the neckline out a little, so for the fourth version I made sure to stay stitch the neckline as soon as I’d cut out the fabric.

I also had a valuable¬†lesson in paying attention when using scissors near fabric when I snipped some of the sleeve while trimming the french seam. ¬†Oops! ¬†Luckily, it was only small and near the underarm so just took¬†a little darning and isn’t really visible.

Belcarra 3 hole

The only niggle I have with the third version is that the fold on the cuffs doesn’t want to lie flat after washing. ¬†I suspect this could mean that I didn’t cut the fabric exactly on the bias. ¬†Hence for this fourth Belcarra, I really took my time over the cutting.

The fabric for the black¬†Belcarra is my first online fabric purchase – this viscose from Minerva Crafts. ¬†It is wonderfully soft and drapey and it comes in twelve other colours so I’ll no doubt be ordering more soon.

Black Bercarra side view

I had thought about going for the pin tuck sleeves version since I was using a solid colour, but a plain and simple (but well made) black top was what I really wanted. ¬†Perhaps not the most exciting blog make, but a top I am very pleased with and one that should get lots of wear ūüôā

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt with buttons

The original intention for this fabric and wonderfully matching buttons was a Tilly and the Buttons Miette skirt with button tabs instead of the waist ties along the lines of this.  However, when Sewaholic started converting their existing patterns to PDF, I decided to make things easier for myself and go with the Hollyburn skirt which had everything I wanted from the skirt already in the pattern.  I purchased the PDF and starting putting it together within 24 hours of release!

Fabric and buttons

Since the skirt is only fitted at the waist, I didn’t make a toile. ¬†It fits pretty good although if making again I’d probably change the waistband so it is slightly curved as I’m generally not so keen on the look of straight waistbands on me, maybe because I tend to prefer wearing skirts lower than my natural waistline.

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt

I went with view B for the length/flare as well as the button tabs. ¬†I thought it was likely I’d want my skirt a bit shorter than this, but view C looked likely to come up too short on me given my height. ¬†I ended up cutting 6.5 cm off the hem and using a 2 cm hem allowance.

The fabric is a lovely soft cotton drill/twill (I’m not quite sure of the difference yet!) from the same shop on Goldhawk Road that I got the fabric for my Miette skirt. ¬†The buttons are from John Lewis – I was so chuffed when I found them as the small bit of pink is a near perfect match to the fabric colour.

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt button tab and top stitching detail

I decided to try top stitching instead of slip stitch around the waistband. ¬†I’ve seen a tip on a few blogs to use a blind hem foot to help keep the stitching even. ¬†This worked a treat and as a bonus means I’ve now used all the feet that came with my sewing machine!

Another first was inserting a regular, centred zip (I’d only used invisible zips previously). ¬†I didn’t practice on a scrap beforehand and did end up unpicking and starting again, but that was more me being a bit picky and thinking I could do better rather than there being anything especially wrong with my first attempt.

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt back with centred zip

To finish off I decided to use one of the decorative stitches on my machine while hemming. ¬†There’s something about decorative stitching in a shade to match the fabric that I quite like – maybe it is the added texture or maybe it just feels a bit more luxurious. ¬†Given the width of this hem, I was quite happy to be finishing it by machine!

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt hem with decorative stitching

Overall an enjoyable make resulting in a skirt I can definitely see getting a good amount of wear. ¬†And to finish, I couldn’t resist trying out a¬†twirling shot, partly to see how much the skirt flared, but mainly just for the fun of it!

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt twirling

A whole lotta toile

We had been having a lot of hot and sunny weather this summer in London and I’ve found that I’m happiest and most comfortable wearing shorts in such weather. ¬†So since I’d been admiring the Sewaholic Thurlow trousers/shorts pattern for a while it seemed time to take the plunge and make my own shorts!

This pattern has a couple of key new sewing features that I was keen to learn (welt pockets and a fly zip front) and I really like the style of these trousers – I cannot imagine making shorts or trousers that don’t have good functioning pockets – so was excited at the prospect of making many different versions once I had the basic fit right.

Getting the fit right proved a lot more challenging than I expected!

I of course started out making up a toile (muslin). ¬†This looked pretty good from the front straight away, but the back was all kinds of wrong. ¬†Around the seat it looked like my bum was eating the trousers, but just above I had excess fabric causing an unsightly bulge. ¬†I referred to LOTS of online resources on trouser fitting (Lladybird’s Thurlow sewalong is a great starting point for this) but was left feeling rather confused as the fabric eating seemed to imply I needed a longer centre back seam, but did the excess fabric higher up imply a shorter centre back seam was needed???

Thurlow toiles

To cut a long story short, four toiles, copious notes and plenty of help from the fitting lesson of Craftsy class “One pattern, many looks: pants” later I was finally getting towards a pattern that fit. ¬†The key adjustments I needed to make seemed to be full seat and dropped seat (this is how Kathy describes them in the Craftsy class) but I also took in the centre back seam a lot (I think this was probably due to starting out with too big a size) which then meant adjusting the side seams on all relevant pattern pieces to get the balance back.

This might sound like a lot of effort for a pair of shorts, but during this process, I came across a few articles on the topic of learning which felt very relevant. ¬†It seems that many of us¬†as adults can be prone to giving up on learning something because we feel stupid for making mistakes, it is getting¬†too hard or we just get really frustrated. ¬†I particularly liked this post by Tara Mohr on Giving yourself permission to learn:¬†I‚Äôd forgotten ‚ÄĒ or maybe never fully realized ‚ÄĒ how much effort and failure is involved in learning anything“. ¬†Being conscious of this, I gave myself breaks when I needed them¬†and¬†was determined not to give up.

When I finally had a toile that was looking decent I found myself putting it on a few times just to check that I hadn’t dreamed it!

Since I was making quite a lot of changes to the pattern pieces, I made up a fifth toile and this time included most of the details for some practice. ¬†Funnily enough my first welt pocket looks better than the second – my attempt to streamline clearly didn’t work so well. ¬†It took me three goes to get the fly zip installation correctly aligned so I’m very glad I practiced that and I’m now finally ready to make up a proper pair – just as the weather is turning and starting to feel like autumn!

Thurlow toile welt pockets

Thurlow toile fly zip

While I may not get much more chance to wear shorts this year, I have a few ideas for trousers I’d like to make so shouldn’t¬†have to wait until next summer to feel the benefit of all this hard work.

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…

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?