Saturday, 31 December 2016

Heather: Happy New Jeans!

This week marks one whole year since I joined the Sew It Yourself Challenge!  Earlier in the year I decided that my final project for this challenge would be a pair of really well fitting jeans. Technically the challenge allowed me to purchase jeans, but I've been wearing a great pair from Dorothy Perkins for almost 10 years and I couldn't find anything on the high street to meet my needs. These have finally given up the ghost and so I needed to find a replacement pretty quickly! (I never realised how often I wanted to wear jeans until I didn't have them!).

Thankfully, stylish jeans patterns are becoming more and more popular, so I had plenty of great indie patterns to choose from! I narrowed the search down to the Sew Over It 'Ultimate Trousers', the Closet Case Patterns 'Ginger Jeans' and the Deer and Doe 'Safran Jeans'. In the end the decision was simply a case of which one I wanted to try first and the Ginger Jeans won the toss. 

One of the major worries with considering any jeans, handmade or otherwise, is the fit. We have all experienced the misery of visiting the high street fitting rooms with 30 pairs of jeans and finding nothing at all. Thankfully the last garment I purchased before starting the challenge was a really excellent fitting pair of chinos from Fat Face. I used these and my trouser block to guide my cutting, and decided on an 8 waist, graded to a 10 at the hip and back in to an 8 for the legs. I graded the back panels further to a 12 at the widest part of the bottom to make sure I had enough room to sit down! 

The next challenge was finding a suitable denim. The pattern required the fabric to be at least 2% stretch and the jeans I was trying to replace were a very dark, overdyed indigo denim. Sounds straightforward, I hear you say, but try as I might I found it difficult to find anything of this specific nature. (I've subsequently found a few good denim suppliers, but please do share your favourites with me in the comments below!) I even took a trip to the fabric markets in Birmingham (what a chore! 😉) but found very little variety. I requested a few samples from The Denim Company which were really nice quality, but in the end I headed over to new favourite Sew Essential for some of their Dark Blue Medium Weight Stretch Denim. It wasn't necessarily the shade of blue that I wanted but the fabric properties were suitable and I figured it would be good for practice pair.

Denim swatches 
I have a confession to make here... I didn't pre-wash this denim! I put a small piece in the machine with some old trousers that I was dying and didn't get any shrinkage so decided to risk it! 

So, the only thing that remained was to just get on with it! After cutting, I followed the instructions closely (really, I did!), starting by constructing the front sections, back pockets and fly front. I chose a contrast front pocket fabric for a bit of fun and a back pocket design from a selection released by Closet Case with their newsletter signup. I printed the pocket design twice, once as a mirror image, and then pinned this to the pocket, carefully lining up the design and then topstitching over the paper to ensure accuracy. Peeling off the perforated paper was very satisfying!  

My husband chose the white topstitching thread, which I wasn't sure would work, but I think it looks great!
 The fly front instructions and diagrams were clear enough, though I did have to reread them a few times, and compare with other trousers to really understand how they should look. When I made the Jedediah Pants for my husband back in September I found the instructions for flat-felled seams to be particularly good, and so I followed this technique throughout rather than using the faux flat-fell technique detailed in the instructions for these jeans. 

At the final fitting stage I took 1/2" out of the centre back seam (after wearing for half a day I probably could have got away with an inch) and attached the waistband according to the instructions. I was really impressed with how well my machine handled the denim. At the centre back the needle had to pass through 10 layers of denim in order to attach the belt loop through the flat seam, and it barely even slowed down. The topstitching needle I purchased also really helped with this and I didn't break any needles during the process!

I'm really pleased with the final result! 


Update: By the end of the day I started to think that I probably could have gotten away with a size smaller all round, especially across the back waistband, so fingers crossed they will bounce back in the wash!  


So all that's left is for me to say a huge thanks to Bridie for inviting me to join the challenge. I've had a really enjoyable year improving my sewing skills, getting to know my shape, and becoming part of such an amazing sewing community. I'll be still writing about sewing over at my blog 'Dresstoration', you can follow me on Instagram for all my latest sewing news, and I hope you'll still see the occasional guest post here too. 

Happy sewing  and a Happy New Year to you all!

Monday, 26 December 2016

Heather: The night before Christmas...

... I wasn't sewing (!), having finished my dress with loads of time to spare (around lunch time on Christmas Eve). I’d been planning my dress for quite a while this year, but with so many lovely gifts on the making list I wasn’t convinced I’d actually get the time to finish it.
Last year some time a friend of mine had a big destash and gave me three sackfuls of beautiful fabric, which included some stunning Chinese style silk brocade. It sat undisturbed in my stash until I picked up an edition of Love Sewing magazine in Autumn 2016 with the Lily dress on the cover. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be especially interested in a Chinese style dress, but the opportunity was too good to miss with such a perfect fabric option in my stash. I chose option D for the collar and wavy edge detail at the neckline, with the short sleeves from option B/C.
Upon inspection, what looks to be a very technical pattern is actually quite straightforward: simple front and back skirt and back bodice panels, with just the shoulder detail adding a little more of a challenge. I knew the bodice would need some alteration to achieve a good fit, so I started by cutting out the skirt panels and getting those out of the way. I then used my trusty pattern block to check the bodice fit. Now, normally I find that Simple Sew patterns are generously fitted and I tend to need to take 1/2″ out of the back length and grade the width from an 8 bust to a 12 waist. The measurements on the back of the pattern also indicated this would be the case. I was surprised, then, that after comparing to my pattern block, I found myself needing a 12 bodice graded only slightly to a 10 under the arms, and then out to a 14 waist! This pattern is a completely different fit to other garments in the range and just goes to show the need to measure twice on every pattern! 
Those of you who are avid Sewing Bee fans will remember a challenge in the middle of the series where the contestants were tasked with making a Cheongsam Chinese-style top, which had many similar features to my garment. You may also remember that many of the sewists struggled with the relentless fray in the fabric (seriously, I’ve never seen anything like it!) and how easily it could pull out of shape, even with careful sewing. For this reason I stabilised each of the seams on the shoulder detail with interfacing before stitching, clipping and grading the seams and turning through.

Bodice complete, I gathered the skirt (not recommended in this fabric!) and attached it to the bodice.
And I hated it! Granted, in this (poor quality) picture the seams haven’t been pressed open and it’s not hanging straight on the mannequin, but it just didn’t look right. I felt the full skirt gave me a bit more room for the Christmas Turkey than I possibly needed and I knew I just wouldn’t wear it. 
After 24 hours of consideration and a quick walk around the shops for inspiration, I spent the evening of the 23rd removing and recutting the skirt panels using the skirt section from Threadcount 1613, which I used in my previous post for the Velvet Burnout dress. The straight skirt sits so much better than the a-line one, and is much more in-keeping with the Chinese style. 
I finished off the dress with some traditional frog fasteners, purchased from a fair trade supplier in Hong Kong via Etsy.
So here I am wearing my dress on Christmas Day!
After a whole day of wearing it I was being driven totally mad by the sleeves and I will definitely be taking them off and recutting them an inch winder across the arm. I’d probably also widen the shoulder width if I made it again, and whilst I much preferred the straight skirt, I definitely should have allowed more room for turkey! But I got lots of lovely compliments on the day and it definitely did the job of being a “wow” Christmas Day dress.
Me and my “little” Bro continuing the lifelong tradition of a picture in front of the tree on Christmas Day.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Heather: Speedy makes and December sew far

Once again it's been a month since I shared my makes with you (really, where has 2016 gone?), but it's been a really productive month at the sewing machine, so I thought I'd give you a bumper roundup of some of my recent makes. Each of these projects were "speedy sews", made in a single evening, or in some cases, just a few hours! Hopefully you'll feel inspired. 

Velvet Burnout Party Dress
First up is Threadcount 1613 made up in a sparkle velvet burnout fabric, made up in around 4 hours. I made quite a few adjustments to this pattern, particularly on the back panels and shoulders, both of which were shortened and tweaked by about an inch to get a more precise fit in the bodice. The fabric itself is quite firm- it has stretch but behaves more like a stretch denim than a jersey- but this allowed for a really close fit without compromising my ability to breathe! 

I'm not normally a fan of a peplum, always believing them to make my bum look big, but I pinned this one together and was pleasantly surprised with the fit and styling, so it made the final cut!

Floral Heather Dress
Next up, a version of the Heather Dress by Sew Over It (I had to!). Again, a one-evening make as I had already made a version in red sweater knit for practice and I was able to make the entire garment on the overlocker. The fabric is a heavy weight jersey with a low % stretch. The slightly lower than required stretch meant that I needed to allow a little more room over the bust and across the arms than the previous version. I also made two simple alterations to this pattern, adding a cuff to the sleeves (cut sleeves shorter, sew a rectangle of fabric, short edges together, fold lengthways, attach to sleeve!) and a slightly deeper neck band for a roll neck effect. This dress is so comfortable that I want one in every colour!


Stripy Jumper Dress
My next speedy make was a self drafted jumper dress made after work on a Friday evening (started at 4.30) and worn out to dinner the very same night (at 6.30!). The pattern started life as a simple shift dress from Burda, to which I added a grown on sleeve, to make, essentially, a giant t-shirt! I've made this pattern up before in black and white ponte and it's a real wardrobe staple for warmer days in the office, so when I saw the pink and navy stripe I knew exactly what I wanted to make. On this version I lengthened the sleeve to the elbow and then added a panel for the lower sleeve. I also added a wide neckband for an extra level of coziness! 

Dashwood Annabelle 
And last, but by no means least, we have Annabelle, the absolutely gorgeous new floral dress I whipped up last weekend to wear out for lunch with my Nanna. The pattern was free with December's Love Sewing Magazine and the design was quite straightforward. The new Paper Meadow range by Dashwood has some beautiful coordinating fabrics and I knew straight away I wanted to use these together. I also picked up some orange cotton lawn to use as the lining and set to work! As usual I shortened the back length by about an inch at the lower back, and also at the shoulder by 1/4". I did also adjust the front bodice length slightly at the neckline, deepening the curve by about 1/2". I started sewing after Saturday night's Strictly and was at the restaurant by Midday on Sunday! 

All of the fabrics used were sourced from Fabric Corner at the Craftea Sewing Bee Shop, 22-24 Melville St, Lincoln. Call in for your next speedy sewing project!