Sunday, 23 August 2015

When sad things happen to nice fabric: vintage McCalls 5700 chambray polka dot shirt

One of the reasons I think many of us have beautiful and lovely fabrics sitting in our stashes unused is because of a fear of ruining it. I know it's certainly the case for me - many times I've either completely stuffed up the project or I've made it into something less than stellar that made me wish I'd waited for a better pattern or project idea to come along. And that's why I have many pieces in my fabric stash that I really want to use but just can't bring myself to do so.

Sadly my latest project is a bit of both - a few small stuff ups and a poor pattern choice has meant that  I used this lovely dark indigo chambray with polka dots in a poor way. It's only a Robert Kaufman fabric bought from last year so it's not irreplaceable, but still I wish I'd made something better than this:

I wanted to make a loose fitting shirt to layer over t-shirts to wear with skinny pants for a casual winter look. I almost reached for a standard button down shirt pattern of which I have many, when I came across a vintage McCalls pattern in my stash which is a raglan sleeve woven shirt pattern. I am inexplicably drawn to raglan sleeves (probably all sorts wrong for my narrow, sloping shoulders but still I love the style) and it is a 1977 pattern (my birth year) which I took as a good sign to try it out.

I did say I wanted a loose fit, but this pattern turned out huge. I didn't get a photo of it but basically it looked like an oversized art smock. Easily fixed though - I ended up taking 10cm out of the side seams and the sleeves to get it a bit more slim line but still a relaxed fit. The back has an inverted centre pleat which adds quite a bit of volume to the back and is the complete opposite of my usual obsession of removing excess fabric in my lower back area, but a different silhouette is good for a change:

Unfortunately re-sewing those side seams led to a stuff up - I accidentally caught the fabric in the side seam when I was overlocking the edge and cut a nick which is of course right in the centre front and too low to cover up with a pocket:

I applied some of that iron on mending tape to the back of it which I hope will hold. I may need to sew it down after a few washes if it starts fraying though. So annoying when something like that happens!

The collar is a one piece collar (i.e. the collar stand and collar are combined) which is not my favourite way of doing things because it means the collar tends to sit more widely open and it doesn't seem to roll over properly the whole way around the collar, although it easier and quicker to sew. I suppose I could have put that first button up a little higher (or put another one in) to bring it in closer, but I don't think it looks too bad and certainly has a 1970s vibe:

Buttoned up to the top just looks a bit too work shirt style to me and a bit lopsided for some reason:

I do like the curved hem at the sides, and I remember to shorten the shirt quite significantly (about 20cm) from the pattern because I didn't want a tunic length shirt:

So overall not one of my best projects, but it's not always rainbows and lollipops around here. Or highly structured tailored jackets and pencil skirts! I might try styling it differently before I give up on it, perhaps some skinny pants would make it work after all except that I don't have any and I don't plan on doing double denim. And if it is unsalvageable, well I guess I can always order some more fabric!

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Vogue 9716 - tailored white wool jacket

I've had a terrible case of start-everything-but-finish-very-little lately - I think I currently have about 5 projects in varying stages of progress (not to mention a rather large box of UFOs that have been hanging around for years). I forced myself to finish this latest project because although we are still having very cold weather our winter will shortly come to an end and I really want to get some wear from this tailored jacket I've made in a polyester-wool blend:

Vogue 9716 white wool tailored jacket with inset collar

I used Vogue 9716, which is an OOP pattern from 1995 which doesn't seem that long ago to me! It's an obscure pattern and I could find no reference to it on the internets except for a few for sale on etsy and eBay. I'm not sure what the difference is between Vogue Woman and ordinary Vogue patterns - the body measurements are the same, so maybe they are a more mature style perhaps?

I've actually sewn this jacket before in my pre-blogging days in a powder blue cotton sateen which was terribly frumpy - those extended shoulders and mid thigh length certainly do not suit me at all. That jacket has long since gone off to the charity shop.

For this version I shortened it significantly, by almost 15cm which meant I had to leave off those patch pockets, and I narrowed the shoulders to a more natural line because I didn't plan on wearing armour style shoulder pads with this jacket. I also nipped in the centre back seam and princess seams on the back to deal with my swayback - there is still a little bit of excess fabric in the back but I really didn't want a jacket to be too fitted since it's meant to be worn over other garments.

Vogue 9716 white wool tailored jacket with inset collar

Vogue 9716 white wool tailored jacket with inset collar

I only did a minimal amount of tailoring since there was no rolled collar or lapels to pad stitch and support, but I put in a back stay in a crisp cotton to prevent the shoulders stretching out and I added a sleeve header to get that nice rounded look to the top of the sleeve. I left out shoulder pads though because I felt it was structured enough without them:

Vogue 9716 white wool tailored jacket with inset collar

I really do like that inset collar - tailored jackets with a quirky collar is definitely my favourite garment to make and wear. I find them a bit more feminine and interesting than a traditional notched lapel tailored jacket, especially when worn with a dress. I could have done a much better job in grading the seam allowances though, because the wool is quite thick and the ridge of the seam allowances is clearly visible.

Vogue 9716 white wool tailored jacket with inset collar
But apart from that nitpicking (why are we so harsh on ourselves?) I'm really pleased with how the jacket has turned out. A white jacket will go with so many things in my wardrobe so it will be really useful. I just need to stay away from my small children when I'm wearing it though!

Vogue 9716 white wool tailored jacket with inset collar

Vogue 9716 white wool tailored jacket with inset collar

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Burda of the Month: 07/2015 #115 - sometimes you just want something easy

I'm still fiddling around with the fit on my May Burda project so I decided to move on ahead with the July project so at least I could say I sewed it within the same month of issue. This was another issue that not much caught my eye - so I picked out a simple dress pattern to use up some lovely fabric I bought last week at the Fabric Store sale:

It's still very cold here in Sydney, hence the tights. This pattern is 7/2015 #115, which looks like this:

It's just a simple gathered rectangle attached to a loosely fitted bodice, which I thought would not interrupt the fabric print too much. The fabric is a light polished cotton with a woven stripe running through it. I underlined the skirt portion in a thin cotton poplin to stop any transparency issues, which is why it's sticking to my stockings in these photos.

There's not much to say about this pattern really, because it is very simple. I left off the hem band and just cut the skirt portion long enough to fit me with a decent hem. I also forgot to put those inseam pockets in before I sewed the side seams and was too lazy to unpick and put them in, which I'm sure I'll regret because pockets are always handy.

I also cut the back bodice on the fold line because I couldn't see the point of having a centre back seam - there's no shaping there and no opening so cutting it on the fold made no difference fitting wise and also meant that I didn't have to do any pattern matching:

I do like that the skirt is gathered before it is sewn to the bodice, and then it's further cinched in by elastic because it means that the bodice isn't as blousey as it would have been without doing it this way and it avoids the need for a zipper. But I didn't particularly care for Burda's instructions to sew the elastic to the seam allowance at the waist line - you have to use quite narrow elastic and it makes the seam allowance dig into the body a bit and cause a bit of ridge at the waist line. If I were to make this again (or undo this and remake it) I would make the seam allowance bigger and sew down the seam allowance to the bodice to create a casing for elastic to be inserted into.

It definitely needs a waist tie like the pattern suggests, or a wider belt with belt loops because my narrow belt kept slipping off the waist seam due to that ridge caused by the elastic. And without anything at the waist it looks a bit bland:

But overall I like this pattern - simple, quick and easy to make which is perfect for a simple summer dress. The neckline is wide enough to get on without needing a zipper but isn't too wide to reveal a bra strap. The skirt is nicely gathered without being over the top voluminous, be wary of a windy day kind of skirt:

And most of all I'm impressed with myself for sewing up fabric within a week of purchasing it - it doesn't happen all that often I must admit!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Burda of the month: 6/2015 #116 draped top

Those of you that have been paying close attention may have noticed that I haven't posted a Burda of the month project for the last, oh, 3 months. I got very annoyed because the May issue didn't arrive until June 1 and was then followed the very next day by the June issue - both landing in a very busy month which I didn't get a chance to sew anything from them. And then to top it off the July issue arrived on June 30 - that would be 3 months worth of Burda in one single month.

I'm part way through making my project from the May issue, but I'm having some annoying fit issues that I'm still contemplating the best way of fixing. So I decided to skip forward to the June issue and make a rather simple top, since nothing else really caught my eye. Funnily enough for a pattern made of two pieces it gave me just as many fit issues as any complicated pattern.

I'm going to say this right up front - this project is a wadder and will not even make it into my wardrobe at all. But for the record, here's my completed project: Burda 6/2015 #116:

Burda 6/2015 #116 drape front blouse

Burda 6/2015 #116 drape front blouse
Burda 6/2015 #116B

If you are a sewing purist that appreciates fine finishes and proper techniques you may want to stop reading now - because between the unsophisticated pattern design and my dodgy fixes this is not my finest moment.

Let's start with how bad the pattern is - I should have known from the outset that it was going to be all sorts of wrong. It has only one pattern piece - the front and back is the same, and it is cut on the fold.

The v-neckline is created by cutting a slit down the centre of the piece, and spreading the piece open which creates the shoulders, causes the draping of fabric along the front and technically should have straightened that pointy hem out:

Burda 6/2015 #116 drape front blouse

I've used a very fine cotton fabric that has been in the stash a long time that drapes very well, so I thought it might be ok. But instead I ended up with this top that gaped open very badly at the top of my arms at the bustline:

Burda 6/2015 #116 drape front blouse

But I'm not the only one that had this problem - there is a version on the Russian burdastyle website that looks exactly like the one I've made, although there are two other versions that don't seem to have the problem.  I didn't cut my v - neckline as deep as the pattern was designed, so I don't know if that has caused this, but at this point I knew that this was going to be a wadder.

The Burda pattern instructions instruct you to leave the neckline raw, but use a binding strip for the armhole edges which struck me as very strange because the fabric suggestion is for silk satin (view B is for a knit) which would surely unravel and look terrible. Surely Burda could have drafted a facing for the neckline?

 Since I thought this was a losing battle, I just turned the overlocked edge under and top-stitched. Which of course on a v-neck doesn't work very well (remember purists I did warn you to look away!):

Burda 6/2015 #116 drape front blouse

Anyway I still wasn't happy with that gaping at the shoulders, so I decided to baste in a dart to take out that excess. It took out away the gaping but it didn't really improve the top (look, I can barely crack a smile at this point):

Burda 6/2015 #116 drape front blouse

The drape on the front view looks ok, but the side view makes this look like a maternity top which I definitely do not need:

Burda 6/2015 #116 drape front blouse

And there is loads of excess fabric in the back:

Burda 6/2015 #116 drape front blouse

I tried tucking it in and hiding it beneath a jacket, but that defeats the point of a lightweight, drapey top doesn't it?

Burda 6/2015 #116 drape front blouse

My humble opinion - I do not recommend this pattern at all. I like the pleats at the shoulder and the overall idea of the top, but that neckline is just lazy drafting and I'm pretty sure you could find a better pattern for a v-neck top with draping. I just don't think an easy pattern needs to be this poorly designed.

But the good thing about my Burda challenge is that it forces me to try something different sometimes, and nothing has been lost but a bit of stash fabric and a few hours of my time. Onwards and upwards for the next project I say.

By the way it still is bitterly cold here in Sydney, I've just cranked up the heat to take these photos!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Sewing in the polar vortex: Kwik Sew 3740 cowl neck top

It's been so chilly here in Sydney lately that the single digit overnight temperatures have made the 6pm news (apparently we're in a polar vortex) and prominently in our major metropolitan newspaper. In the part of Sydney I am there hasn't been any frost let alone snow, and during the day it's been sunny with temps between 15 - 18C so life has continued on as normal with just an extra coat to go with the sunscreen and hat!

It seems that us Sydneysiders in general just cannot cope with the cold. Myself as well - I've spent far too many nights recently curled up on the lounge under a blanket with hardly any motivation to venture in to my sewing room, hence the blog silence of late. But as they say in the business, here's one I prepared earlier!

Kwik Sew 3740 cowl neck top in red wool knit

Back in May I had a weekend away with my Australian Sewing Guild group which was not only lots of fun but also quite productive. I made this cowl neck top from Kwik Sew 3740 on the first night, and it took about two hours from cutting out to finishing because it's such a simple pattern and I made it mostly on the overlocker apart from twin stitching the hems. I had been planning to make this for such a long time after seeing lots of lovely versions around (see Sharon , Kyle, Shannon and Sue) - I have no idea why I took so long to get around to making this one. It won't be the last one though.
Kwik Sew 3740 - image via
The fabric I used is some type of wool knit that came in a big tubular piece but it's exact composition is unknown because I bought it for a bargain price at the Fabric Cave at Meadowbank last year (a charity shop selling donated fabric and other craft materials for those not familiar with the bounty that is the Fabric Cave!). The fabric pressed beautifully, is not too scratchy and is the most wonderful deep shade of red.

I made a straight size small, and the size isn't too bad - it's loose enough to layer over another top for extra warmth. It's a bit long when untucked, and it definitely looks better tucked in especially at the back because it disguises the likely fabric pooling at my swayback I will have:

Kwik Sew 3740 cowl neck top in red wool knit

Kwik Sew 3740 cowl neck top in red wool knit

The neckline is exactly as wide as the pattern envelope shows, so that wasn't a surprise but I wasn't expecting the shoulders to be so wide - the seam line is so far off my shoulder it's almost a dropped shoulder.
Kwik Sew 3740 cowl neck top in red wool knit

That cowl is quite big and it does need to be carefully arranged to sit properly otherwise it looks like a scrunched up mess, but it would probably sit a bit better in a more slinky knit.

Kwik Sew 3740 cowl neck top in red wool knit

My verdict: this is a great pattern with Kwik Sew's usual precision drafting. Their patterns may have the most boring cover envelopes, but they sure are reliable when it comes to proper drafting. For my next version (and I'm hoping that will be sometime this winter) I think I will try to raise the neckline a little because it's a bit too cold to have that much chest area out in the cold air!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

So, I've been busily sewing....

At the risk of sounding like a trashy 1980s style souvenir t-shirt (you know the ones: my grandma went to Singapore and all I got was this lousy t-shirt), but I have to say it: I've been sewing like a crazy woman and all I've got to show for it is a few lousy blog photos because it's all for other people!

My daughter's school held its annual fete recently which took an enormous amount of time and effort before the day in terms of organising, selling raffle tickets let alone on the actual day. I was the stall co-ordinator for my daughter's class, and we were allocated the second hand clothing stall so I spent about 3 months lugging home bags of donated clothes from school to sort, wash and store in a large pile in my sewing room. The fete was a huge success though - we made nearly $60,000 and my stall made nearly $900 which is a great result and will go towards installing air conditioning in all our classrooms, upgrading computers and replenishing the library. All things you would think the government would provide (it's a public school) but they don't.

Being a little too quick to volunteer my sewing talents, I ended up hemming tablecloths, making drawstring bags and sewing bunting. Oh the bunting! It took way longer to make than I could ever have imagined:

fabric bunting

fabric bunting

fabric bunting

That's about 70 metres of bunting altogether. The actual sewing of triangles to the bias tape wasn't the longest bit, but cutting out all those triangles and sewing them together took many, many hours. Luckily it looked great, we can reuse it next year and all the fabric I used from stash to make it (about 8m) has now balanced out a recent on-line fabric purchase binge!

Next up I offered to make Anna and her friends matching t-shirts for the sports carnival that was scheduled for last Thursday. Her school decided to have a retro themed sports carnival (in the early years it's all about fun and not competition) so I thought a 1970s style raglan t-shirt worn with some sweatbands would be extremely funny in a cute way. Unfortunately the sports carnival was postponed until mid July due to bad weather, but I did finish all these t-shirts:

1970s style raglan sleeve sports t-shirt

I used Kwik Sew 2893 (now OOP) which is just a basic tshirt pattern but is drafted really well (all the notches lined up and the pattern piece for the neckband was spot on) and the sizing of the pattern is quite accurate which in itself is somewhat amazing for a child sewing pattern. I made sizes small and medium for 6 and 7 year old kids and all the tshirts fit very well.

I thought the curved hems, and contrasting sleeves and neckbinding were very retro. The different colours are for their different teams. The lettering on the front is made from iron on transfer paper and each t-shirt has their name and year of birth which the kids thought was very cool so the effort was worth it, even if I ended up making these really quickly for no reason.

Finally I had to make an emergency pair of pyjamas for Anna. Anna's school was holding a wear your pyjamas to school day to raise money for some good cause, and it wasn't until the night before that I realised that Anna has had a spectacular growth spurt and all of her pyjamas were way too short. And here's where the value of having a large stash of fabrics and patterns really proves it worth: I was able to dig out a lovely soft piece of pink check flannelette and some textured knit (like the fabric used for spencers) and made a simple pair of pants and raglan tee using the same Kwik Sew pattern again since it was still out on my cutting table:

pink check flannelette pyjamas and white knit raglan top

Pyjama disaster averted, more fabric used from the stash and all done in about the same amount of time it would have taken me to to get to the shops!

So now that's all over and done with, I can get back to my regular sewing projects. I have a blazer for myself about 85% done which I want to finish very soon and I do need to get cracking on my June and July Burda projects because if I let that get too far behind I'm sure I'll never catch up again. Hopefully I have something more exciting to share next time I post

Monday, 1 June 2015

Simplicity 1467: from 15 year old UFO to wearable muslin

After my disappointment with the fit of the blue jacket from a few posts back (which I've pulled apart but haven't finished yet) I decided the wise thing would be to make muslins for jacket patterns at the very least, even if I continue being lazy towards other projects. Ironically this one needed only a few minor tweaks for it to turn out to be very wearable, and it's made from a very old UFO so it's a winner all round!

Jacket - Simplicity 1460, Skirt Burda 9/2013 #130, Top Vogue 1826
A bit of back story: I started making a knee length princess seamed coat from this fabric to wear to the horse races one spring Saturday back in 2000ish. In the tradition of all projects destined to fail, I started making this a few days before it was needed and once the occasion passed without the jacket finished in time all motivation was lost and it has sat in my UFO box ever since. I was using one of those multi sized New Look patterns and didn't realise I had cut a size 22 for the side pieces and a size 8 for the rest until I had sewn and overlocked the seams - unpicking the seams in a loose woven fabric like this just was not appealing so it didn't get done! And then I realised I would probably never wear a knee length coat in this fabric, it would be just too much pink for me so as a result it never got finished but yet I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.

So here we are 15 years later, I wanted to make a muslin of Simplicity 1467 because there are no pattern reviews of the jacket pattern and I decided to cut into this sad, half made project because it closely resembled the final fabric I wanted to use. The fabric is a poly wool tweed, certainly not expensive but still quite pretty and deserving of a second chance at becoming a finished project.

image from Simplicity
First version - aside from making full length sleeves and my usual narrow shoulder adjustment I made the pattern exactly as per the envelope. No photos of this version (I sew late at night) but let me just say that the gathers at the centre back in this lofty and thick fabric gave me a bit of a Kim Kardashian bubble butt look - aka not good! I also had a bit of extra fabric along the princess seam at the bust line.

Second version - I changed the gathers at the centre back into an inverted pleat to get it to sit a bit flatter and I flattened the curve of the princess seam on the side front pieces (basically a small bust adjustment). I thought at this stage it was pretty good, until I took some photos of it! Uneven hem:

Gathers at the side sticking out:

And that pleat at the back was not such a good idea after all:

Verdict: out came the unpicker once again!

Third and final version: I recut the peplum pieces to take out the excess fabric so the jacket sits smoothly all around the waistline now. I let down the hem as much as I could so it has barely a 1cm hem now but because I had clipped the corners of the yoke at the bottom centre fronts I couldn't let the hem down there, so I cut off the yoke at the waist and continued the peplum to the centre front. So basically the final version looks quite different from the original pattern.

Final thoughts - I really like this jacket so it was worth the effort in the end. In fact I like this version so much I decided not to make a version from the fabric I had intended to use which is a white textured wool because I figure two winter weight jackets from this pattern might be a little too much since it's rather distinctive.

But I will make this pattern again in spring or summer in a lightweight fabric - in a future version I'll leave off the gathers at the back because I really don't need any extra fabric in that particular spot. I'll also put separating zipper down the front because not having a closure annoys me - the fronts never sit evenly and it makes the hem look rather uneven although they are straight. I'll also lengthen the peplum so I can make a decent hem on the jacket.  

And that's one less UFO in my big box of shamefully unfinished projects and one more finished garment.