"" the girl who makes things

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Ginger Jeans

In every sewist's life there comes a point when you really want to go beyond the basics and try something daring. I'd say making jeans was one of those points for me. All those pieces, all that top-stitching, metal zippers and studs - they look so complicated. But they're not really, although they do look impressive.

I'd had my eye on the Ginger Jeans pattern by Closet Case for a long time. In fact, so long that I bought the pattern over a year ago and let it sit on my desktop until this winter. Finally I printed it off and set to work on tracing the pieces.

Sorry about the tired face!

As I expected, I fell directly between three sizes, a 4 at the waist and 8 at the hips. I decided to go for the middle ground, a 6 with the knowledge that I'd probably have to do a bit of adjustment once made up. I was glad to see that the garment measurements were included, which usually tells you more about which size to go for. I already know that I have a long waist, but the measurements told me that I needed to increase the crotch length by about 10cm. I actually lengthened by 8cm, erring on the safe side. It was a good decision as the fabric is stretchy and the band perfectly reaches my waist.

I'm going to say that these jeans are a 'wearable toile'. It was my first time making them so my expectations were low and I didn't want to cut into expensive fabric before I'd had a dry run. Therefore, the fabric I bought was cheap - 5 euros a metre - and not the best quality. It's a little bit itchy and the dye isn't totally fixed so it leaves little blue marks everywhere. Now I know what I'm doing I want to buy some better quality denim and have another go.

Fabric problems aside, I'm super pleased with the outcome of this project. There are only a few things I'd change about the fit: I'd take in the waistband by another 1.5cm and make a swayback adjustment to reduce the wrinkling at the back. That said, these are still the best fitting jeans I've ever owned so definitely worth the labour.

I'd recommend this pattern to anyone who's interested in making jeans for the first time. The instructions are really detailed and if you need more information there's also a sew along on the Closet Case blog.

On a vaguely related topic I've recently read two interesting blog posts that got me thinking. One was from This Blog is Not For You about mindful sewing. Charlie points out something that I've noticed about the sewing community - how much content is moving away from blogs and on to Instagram. What does this say about how we view our hobby? Are we more concerned about consuming more and more content, faster and faster? I know I'm guilty of this. The other was from What Katie Sews about careful wardrobe planning. It's very tempting as a sewist to make quick projects, but how much do I actually wear them? Isn't this just falling into the same trap as fast fashion? Katie suggests choosing projects that take longer to plan, prepare and construct so that you make something worthy of your sewing time. I'm all in favour of that.

Anyway, to loop those two loose threads together, I think making my Ginger Jeans showed me how taking a bit more time over a more complicated project is not only enjoyable but also gives me something I'll wear again and again. Also, despite my current addiction to Instagram, I need to take a bit of time to sit down and write, hens this blog post. Maybe that'll be my mantra for this year: slow sewing, slow blogging. 

Friday, 26 January 2018

A bomber jacket

After a long break, between last summer and Christmas, I've suddenly got my sewing mojo back. I'm surprised at how many things I'm managing to tick off my sewing list. What's the reason for this sudden outburst of creative energy, I wonder? I have a theory. I'm doing a professional qualification alongside working full-time at the moment, and looming deadlines have sent me into procrastination overdrive. Somehow, having less time to sew means I'm actually giving myself more time to sew. Weird paradox.

This bomber jacket's been on my to-sew list for a while. In fact, ever since I saw the first episode of Portugal's version of the Great British Sewing Bee (Cosido a Mao) I've been obsessed with the idea of making one like the contestants made on the show. The network's website actually lets you download the pdf pattern for free, but for some reason when I tried, it wouldn't print. I was actually willing to pay for a similar pattern but after a quick Google search I found this version on Mood Fabric's website from a community member. Best of all, it was free!

Now, there was just one problem with this pdf pattern: it's not so easy to put together. There are no little joining tags and some of the lines don't match up neatly. Also, I managed to mix up the papers so they weren't in the right order. I ended up laying them all out on the living room floor and piecing them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Luckily, I quite like a challenge and I didn't mind giving my brain a work out, but maybe don't try it if you're a pdf novice. 

Once I had the pattern pieces I set about looking for the fabric. I had plain grey in mind, but then I found this fabric in Feira dos Tecidos and, BIG FLORAL PRINT you say?! Any other sensible fabric options went out the window. If you want to see how much I love big floral print fabrics, then just look at my Instagram account

I'd say this is a scuba-type polyester, fairly thick and stretchy. I hardly ever look at fabric labels now and mostly go on the feel and texture. It's served me well so far. I cut a size 10 which turned out to be fine. I could do with a little more space around the shoulders, but stretchy fabric is forgiving. 

The instructions are quite minimal so I used my instincts to sew the jacket together. It was easy and, as I decided not to include a lining, quick. I over-locked the seams and top-stitched the edges. The zipper is a little bit wavy, probably because I over stretched the fabric. Next time I might use some twill tape or interfacing to stabilize it. I hand stitched some white ribbon over the zipper tape to hide the white stitches which looked ugly against the grey tape. 

I've already had lots of lovely compliments from people when I wear this jacket, so it's definitely a winner. No doubt I'll think about making another, especially after all the effort it took to put the pattern together!

A big thanks to my very talented boyfriend for these photos. Check out his photography skills on his Instagram account, the pictures are truly amazing. In case you're wondering, these photos were taken down by the Tejo River in Lisbon.

Friday, 12 January 2018

And that's a wrap

I'd never worn, owned or made a wrap dress before, but for some reason I ended up making three last summer. The first was my Kielo wrap dress, then this Ultimate Wrap Dress by Sew Over It, which was so good I had to make another one in blue velvet.

The fabric is jersey cotton with blue and red apple print. It's fairly thick so no lining was needed.

I cut a size 8 with no adjustments as the fabric is very stretchy. The whole project came together without a hiccup. 

To stabilize the fabric I sewed twill tape to the edge of the facing where it meets the neckline and also the shoulder seams. I can't remember where I read this advice, but it really helps to prevent the jersey from over-stretching and gaping at the front. Sewaholic has some great advice on how to do this.

The only thing I'd change about this dress is that it's a little too short on me. I prefer my dresses to be longer nowadays so next time, I'll definitely lengthen it. Apart from that I love this pattern, it's incredibly elegant and lady-like. A great weekend sewing project.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Culottes of flowers

A while ago I made a resolution not to buy any more flower print fabric. And then I completely broke it. The trouble is, the way I feel about floral fabric is similar to the way I feel about beautifully displayed patisserie cakes. I know I don't need them, but I want one. Plain fabric just doesn't get my heart racing, even though it's far more versatile and I'd probably wear it more. It's the carrot sticks of the fabric world.
Feira dos tecidos in Rossio, Lisbon is one of my usual haunts for interesting patterns at low prices. The off-cuts of slightly spoiled fabrics are thrown into bargain buckets and sold for 2-6 Euros for a metre or two. I found this drapey viscose and fell in love. I had vague plans to turn it into a skirt or pair of trousers.
This summer the trouser shape de jour seemed to be culottes. I wasn't so sure about how this style would suit me so I did a bit of 'virtual shopping' (going into shops, trying on clothes, turning them inside out to see how they're made and then putting them back on the rail). I particularly liked the culottes with an elasticated waistband. So comfy! As I don't have ready access to paper patterns in Portugal I had to make do with a pattern I already had, Simplicity 1520 pyjama trousers. The trousers made a good base for what I had in mind, all I had to do was widen and shorten the legs.
I'm pleased with the outcome of these culottes but I haven't worn them as much as I wanted to. The simple truth is, the large flower design is too loud for my slightly minimal sartorial tastes. I'm quite a shy person and big, bold patterns make me feel too noticeable. And there's the paradox: sometimes I don't like wearing what I really want to sew.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

A botanical Kielo dress

Bom dia qeridos. You know you've been out of the UK for a long time when the rain makes a refreshing change from the intense heat. I've finally finished work for the summer and now I'm back in Yorkshire for a much needed break. Getting a bit more free time means that I've been able to take stock of some of my sewing projects. 

You know, the hardest thing about updating this blog is taking the photos. I'm not a natural model, in fact I'm intensely camera shy and I'd rather just stick the clothes on a mannequin, but that would hardly be authentic. So in a fit of productiveness I gathered up my recent items and snapped a few pictures. I'm afraid you'll just have to put with my goony face. First up is this Kielo wrap dress.

This was the first Named pattern I ever bought and it sat on my shelf for three years. It's one of those patterns that looks incredibly simple, but for some reason I kept botching it up. In my first attempt I drew out the pattern pieces but forgot to add the seam allowances (I think Named now include them). In my second attempt I had no idea how to handle stretchy fabric and cut out three decidedly wonky pieces. Everything went in the bin and I didn't touch the pattern until June this year when I took a deep breath and started again.

Thankfully, experience has taught me a lot about how to handle stretchy fabric (thanks to some online tutorials) so my third attempt was a resounding success.

I had a particular destination in mind for this dress, an August wedding in Wales. I found this gorgeously soft cotton jersey in Feira dos Tecidos in Lisbon. It's very thin so an underskirt is needed. What I really love about it is the botanical print which reminds me of those detailed drawings botanists used to make in the Victorian period. It's a floral design without being chintzy or twee.

The whole project didn't take much time, about half a day. The design is simple and consists of just four pattern pieces. The instructions were minimal so I had a few doubts about how to finish the armholes, but I believe that Named has updated most of it's patterns so this might have changed. It's possible to add sleeves too if you follow the company's instructions here.

The wrap effect is created by wrapping the two 'wings' of the dress around your body with a waist tie. I haven't seen any ready-to-wear dresses in the shops which are anything like this design so it really feels like a special piece. And isn't that the point of dressmaking? To make clothes which are unique? I wore it to the wedding and got lots of nice compliments, I just hope the summer lasts when I go back to Portugal so I can wear it a bit longer!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Beach Ready - sewing swimwear

Well hello there! I'm back on the blog for the first time this year, how did that happen?! I certainly wasn't planning on staying away this long but, as always, life and procrastination took over.

This year has definitely felt a lot busier than the last. I've been trying to do more with my free time, in particular read more, exercise more, make home improvements and work on my Portuguese. The result of this is that I've had very little time for sewing and even less for blogging as they move further and further down in priority. It's a shame as one of the few things that helps to relax is being at my sewing machine.

It's a good thing, therefore, that my partner bought me a sewing workshop voucher for Christmas, otherwise I might never have made the time for what turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable day.

I found Campanhia das Agulhas on Instagram last year. I spent a lot of time browsing their feed and searching through their workshops, almost coming close to signing up before chickening out, worrying that my Portuguese wasn't good enough to participate. In end I mentioned it to my boyfriend and he dutifully bought me the voucher.

I think it was the push I needed. Once I had the voucher and the pressure to spend it I started researching the workshops and thought I wouldn't mind trying my hand at swimwear. I've experimented with sewing lycra before but definitely felt that my skills were lacking.

Before the workshop I received an email from the teacher, asking what fabric I wanted and the type of pattern I was going to use. A bikini, trikini and swimsuit were the styles on offer so I opted for a trikini as I've never owned one, or even tried one on before and thought it'd be an interesting experiment.

The workshop was one full day with all materials and equipment provided. The night before I slept badly, worrying about spending a whole day speaking and trying to follow instructions in Portuguese. As it turned out, my worries were completely unjustified. I had a fantastic day, surrounded by wonderfully supportive women (and a man!) who helped, guided and encouraged me and each other throughout the day.

We started in the morning and our teacher talked us through each pattern and the properties of lycra. Then we went to our separate work stations and traced our patterns. My trikini consists of two pieces: a bikini top and a body. I cut a larger size for the body as I'm fairly tall and lycra doesn't stretch as far length-ways.

Next we drew our pattern pieces directly on to the fabric using a pencil - it's a bad idea to pin pattern pieces as the fabric can distort. After we'd cut out our pieces we attached lining to the front bikin top and body only.

Once I'd assembled the whole suit, I tried it on for fit. I made one small adjustment - the gusset was too wide so I narrowed it by a couple of centimeters either side. The final, and trickiest, stage was attaching elastic to the outer edges of the trikini. For this we needed to use an overlocker, and the margin for error was tight. The elastic had to be attached to the wrong side so that it could be folded over and top-stitched. By the end of the day I was so mentally exhausted that I sewed the elastic to the right side of the bikini top - an hour of unpicking ensued. Luckily I was able to finish everything at home.

The day was a challenge for both my sewing and linguistic skills, but I learnt so much, it was like fitting ten Portuguese and dressmaking lessons into one day. My head felt like it'd been pureed with an electric whisk, but once a week had passed everything settled in place.

So here's my take home message: if you've ever felt like doing a workshop or trying something in a different language, but held yourself back with feelings of inadequacy, just do it. It totally pays off to throw yourself in every now and then.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

A Holly-Anna hybrid

This post may be a little out of season. Apologies. I made this dress in late September when the weather was still warm in Portugal and it was feasible to walk around in little more than a frock and cardigan. Now, as I type, I'm huddled up in a big fluffy dressing gown with a mug of tea in my hand. I don't know why it's taken me so long to publish this post but still, it's cheering to look back at photos of warmer times and be reminded that they will come again!

The fabric came first. I found it in Feira dos Tecidos when the summer sales were on. I think it's a kind of synthetic crepe with a bold palm leaf print. I had some idea about turning it into a skirt or tunic, but nothing too complicated or time-consuming. I haven't been very ambitious with my sewing recently, partly due to lack of time and resources.

While I was perusing Instagram over the summer, I saw a number of BHL Holly jumpsuits come up on my feed. I have the pattern for both the Anna dress and the Holly jumpsuit so I came up with the idea of combining both in a summer dress. I've used the Holly pattern a couple of times, but I've never used the draped-front bodice before. The fabric seemed like the perfect material to try.

I fore-went the muslin and cut a size 10 all over. Unfortunately this didn't work out on the bodice which was way too big. Also the Holly top and Anna skirt side seams didn't match up, which showed my classic lack of planning and perfectionism. In the end, I unpicked the bodice and took a massive 2 inches out of the back panel. Once I'd attached the bias binding the mistake was well covered.

I can't remember exactly why I decided to use halter-neck straps. I think it was an unplanned, momentary decision that just seemed to work. I really like the way they look and the flexibility they afford, through being able to adjust them.

It's probably going to take another six moths before I can actually wear this dress again. Nevertheless, I'm pleased with the outcome and I'm glad it's in my wardrobe, ready and waiting to be worn.