Monthly Archives: June 2017

#SLEEVEFEST2017 !!!

One Friday night at the start of June, I was making a massive batch of chocolate macarons when a message popped up for me on Instagram. It was my lovely IG friend Diane, aka @dream.cut.sew, mentioning that she’d had an idea for a photo challenge to tie in with the Year of the Sleeve, and asking whether I’d be interested in co-hosting. I was up to my elbows in ground almonds and icing sugar, had three birthday cakes to make for the following week, a pattern launching the week after that, and a busy schedule at work… so of course I said “YES” immediately! And here’s why I said yes:
Firstly, Sleevefest! What a brilliant idea to bring together a community of sewists on Instagram in a creative and fun way. I love the idea of the Year of the Sleeve, promoted by Sewing and Design School, who hosted the #sewapril2017 challenge that I participated in during my first month on Instagram (and who are one of our sponsors for Sleevefest!) I’ll talk more about the details of Sleevefest in a moment, but first I just want to tell you my second reason for saying yes:
Diane. She’s an amazing sewist and a truly lovely lady. I only joined Instagram a few months ago, and Diane was kind enough to follow me on day 1, when my following was in single figures. She didn’t need to, she was already established in the IG sewing community, and it wasn’t a cynical ‘follow-for-follow’ thing – I’d already started following her. In those first days I almost shut down my account many times. Do you know the main reason I didn’t? Diane. She had faith in me on the first day. And I read her blog that weekend, and was blown away by her talent (which, by the way, is always understated and never showy-offy, and yes that’s a word 😉 ). So much of what she wrote and photographed resonated with me: being taught to sew by her mum, never being satisfied with a ‘that’ll do’ kind of a job, attention to detail, personalisation of patterns… not to mention coming to the social media community long after coming to sewing, and long after it had already been established. If she could do it, I could too.
So we spent a week or so emailing to work out the details, and who to approach as sponsors. The second week of planning we approached all our sponsors, while Rich, the unsung hero of Valentine & Stitch, started working up a graphic image for us based on a sketch I made. By week 3 we had our sponsors, our signature image, and our ‘rules of play’, and then everything came together! We’ve had so much fun planning it and releasing our ‘teasers’ on Instagram, and the most fun is yet to come – seeing all the sleeves!

So, how does Sleevefest work? Well, to join in, the first thing you need is a public Instagram account. Then you follow Diane and me on Instagram (@dream.cut.sew and @valentine.and.stitch) and re-post our announcement (which you can find on both our Instagram pages), tagging us both so we know you’re participating. Then comes the fun part: make, pattern-hack or decorate any sleeve on any garment in any fabric, and then at any time between now and 31 August post a photo of your handmade sleeve, tagging us both again and using the hashtag #sleevefest2017. You can enter as many times as you like, as long as you follow the rules for each separate entry:
1. You must post pics of a new make that you’re working on for sleevefest.
2. You may enter as many times as you like, just make sure you put all the tags on each entry.
3. Winners will be selected from all the entries after the end date of 31 August 2017.
Please feel free to post work-in-progress photos too! There are lots of great prizes up for grabs: after the closing date, 5 winners will be selected at random, and each will receive one of the following:
From Sewing and Design School, experts in sewing instruction, and the brains behind both SewApril and Year of the Sleeve: e-book of Jan Minott’s Total Pattern Fit
From EmmaOneSock, a fantastic resource for designer fashion fabrics: $35 gift card
From Dragonfly Fabrics, a family-run sewing store selling beautiful quality fabrics and a wide range of independent sewing patterns: Two paper patterns (with fun sleeves!), the Azaire dress and top by Gather and the Primrose Peplum by Sew Caroline
From Ditto Fabrics, a treasure trove of fabulous fabrics: £25 gift card
From Suzy Magazine, the new magazine for the fashion-forward sewist: Two issues of the magazine

PLUS, there will be an additional prize that you can vote for! Diane and I will choose our ten favourite sleeves, and then it’s over to you to vote for the one you like best. Rich and I have teamed up with Sew Essential to offer a fabulous prize! The winner will get a bespoke pattern of our Angelina dress and top (we’ll contact you to ask for your body measurements so that we can tailor the pattern to you), and a £25 voucher to spend at Sew Essential, so you can buy the fabric to make it with, or indeed something else from their amazing collection of fabrics, patterns (indie and big 4) and haberdashery! They have everything you need for your sewing projects, and are a business of sewing enthusiasts always willing to help and answer your questions. So you can get a bespoke pattern from us AND a chance to buy some pretty things from Sew Essential to go with it, or to kickstart a new project. Pretty great, right?

You can read more about Sleevefest on our dedicated page, and more about our sponsors on Diane’s blog post.

So what are you waiting for? Start making your sleeves! We can’t wait to see what you come up with 😀

Sewalong: The Florence bra (Seamwork magazine)

Back in April, my wonderful sewing friend Kelly and I were chatting on an Instagram thread about sewing underwear. We had both thought about making our own bras, and we both had the Seamwork Florence pattern, but we’d never got round to doing it. So we decided to do it together, and give each other the push we needed to get on with it! It has been so much fun sewing a bra AND doing it with Kelly. You know how you meet someone on social media and wish you knew them in real life? That’s me with Kelly. She’s not only talented and creative, but also a truly lovely and generous person. We chose the start of June as our bra sewalong time, although we postponed by a couple of weeks so that Kelly’s supplies could arrive before we started. Once they arrived, we decided to do set stages each day, and send each other pictures of each completed stage so that despite the time zone difference we could still feel like we were doing it together.

 

In my head I was going to go for a nice classic bra, but somehow along with my white stretch lace I ended up ordering neon pink straps and elastic. So obviously the only thing to do for the contrast cup sections was go for a bright green floral. I did check on Instagram whether I needed to dial back the crazy, but the lovely community of IG sewists told me to go for it… so here is the story of the brightest bra I’ve ever owned!

 

It was easy to print and stick together the pattern, as there were so few pieces and they were small. I chose an XS as I am not well endowed, and even the measurements for the XS were a little large for me! The only issue with the pattern was a slightly wonky curve on the side cup. I checked all the other sizes and there was no wobble on those, so I guessed it was an accident and re-drew the curve, which made it fit perfectly with the corresponding front cup piece.

 

This was my first time making bra straps, and it was fun! The hardest part was just teasing the plush elastic back through the slider, so you can see that the sewing itself was pretty straightforward! The cups also went together easily. The pattern calls for a zigzag or a twin needle topstitch on the side cup, and I went for a zigzag as this is the stitch I see on my RTW bras.

 

The trickiest part was sewing the cups to the straps. I followed the instructions (right sides together, then flip the elastic to the back), but because of the angle of the cup, there was an ugly excess of the top point of the cup visible on the right side of the strap. I unpicked and tucked the top point under:

 

Then I got to use the triple-point zigzag stitch on my machine for the first time! (I’m not the only one who gets excited about using a new stitch, right?!) Because my side cup and my cup front were made from different colour fabrics, I did each bit separately with matching thread. It was worth that extra effort as the stitching blends really well into the bra. BUT… when I attached the cups to the bra, things started going less well.

 

Firstly, you sew each cup in from the side towards the middle, but there were no instructions for making that centre seam look neat when they meet in the middle. I did some careful pinning and got a centre point, which I then stitched in place with a bar tack so the seam didn’t peep out over my (admittedly not terribly impressive) cleavage. I also decided to topstitch the seams where the cups meet the bra, so that they too would stay in place.

 

Then the centre back seam is sewn (again, I topstitched to avoid bits of seam peeking out) and the straps are attached to the back of the bra. At this point I tried the bra on, and it wasn’t a happy moment. The straps flipped out at the sides, and the fit didn’t seem great. After long perusals and a chat online with Kelly, I concluded the cup fit in itself was fine, but it’s that centre meeting point that was pulling the cups in an odd way. I couldn’t fix that, but I could fix the straps with another line of topstitching. I compared with my RTW bras and found that the straps on those were only attached at the top of the cup – so I think it’s the fact of attaching a strap along the curved angle of a cup and then wanting it to sit flat that’s the problem. I don’t know if this would be an issue for larger cup sizes as you’d have more… er… filling out the bra and pushing against the straps to make them sit nicely. But for me and my XS cups… there wasn’t much my body could do to help it along!

The final stage was to sew the elastic along the bottom, and that did help cinch things in a bit. I can’t deny it’s a comfy bra, and I do like it but I just don’t love it. I had to do a lot of extra work to make it look as nice as it does, which takes it well beyond the quick sew it’s promoted as. I learnt a lot though, and I have another bra pattern waiting in the wings that I may try next…

This sewalong was so much fun! If you haven’t already read Kelly’s post, you can find it here, and marvel at her beautiful bra!

Angelina is here!

Excitement has been at full pitch here with the release of our new pattern for women, Angelina! Angelina has SIX different versions: you can make it as a top or a dress with three different sleeve options for each. It’s incredibly versatile, and has already become the staple of my Spring/ Summer wardrobe. Here’s a look at the different versions, and ideas of how to style Angelina:

The simplest version of Angelina is the sleeveless one. It can be made casual, like this t-shirt in Art Gallery Fabrics jersey, or smarter like my polka dot dress that I’ve worn for work a few times already.

The sleeveless dress also looks good with leggings and a cardigan, so can be adapted for cooler weather. I can’t stop making this version! I did a black and white one which has been perfect for work, and then earlier this week I made this grey floral version, which is a little more casual for the lovely sun we’ve been having in the UK lately.

I was also asked for a back view, so this is what the sleeveless version looks like from the back:

It’s harder than I thought to take pictures of your own back

 

 

 

The wavy dress hem isn’t part of the pattern. My fabric didn’t wash well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next option is short flutter sleeves. This works well to make a simple t-shirt a bit more eye-catching, like this rose polka dot version. I also made it in this pretty teal viscose for a stylish more formal dress, and I think this is my most elegant Angelina so far:

 

The third option is elbow-length flutter sleeves. This makes Angelina more dressy, as you can see from the floral dress which was the first one I previewed on Instagram:

Handle of a child’s wheelbarrow bottom left. Just keepin’ it real folks 😉

The sleeves are so swishy and fun! This last one I’m showing you is a definite sewing fail, but I thought you might like the idea behind it:

 

I did a lace overlay with lace sleeves. I disliked it almost instantly, even though I loved the idea! I think it’s just because the colour does nothing for me – it looked cream on the website I ordered from (though in fairness the colour was called ‘latte’ – it does look like a milky coffee, but I assumed it meant latte as in milky coloured!!) This one ended up being a bit of an experiment – since I wasn’t keen on the lace, I thought it didn’t matter if I didn’t like the end result, so I tried just hemming all the edges with a narrow overlocker stitch (the white thread was what was in my overlocker and I’d already given up on this garment being wearable to pick out the white fabric underneath the bodice). I still don’t like the colour of this top, but I’m glad to have tried something new!

 

And since I don’t want to leave it on a low note, here is a montage of my favourite Angelina shots – including some bloopers!

Don’t forget that you can buy Angelina for 30% off with the code INSTA30 until midnight tonight (BST)!

Drafting diary: the Dune top and dress

We’re currently drafting our next pattern for women, a sleeveless summer top and dress, and I thought it would be fun to let you see how a pattern develops at each stage of the testing process!

It starts with an idea, usually accompanied by a sketch. Then we sit down together at the computer and I tell Rich what my vision of the garment is, and he works out the formulae to make it a reality. This isn’t just formulae to make it fit me, but rather ones that will adapt through the sizes (and I’m between sizes, so we don’t use my measurements as base ones!)

The latest (but not final) version of Dune

We also struggled with a name for this one. There is a story behind the names of all our patterns (if ever you’re interested, ask me and I’ll share!) but this one we were stumped. Everything we came up with sounded wrong – I thought I had found the perfect name and Rich vetoed it because it had been used for a not-so-great model of car back in the 90s or something! A few Instagram friends made suggestions, but they had either been used by other pattern companies, or were names I’d already earmarked for future patterns, so nothing felt right. I wanted something summery, that made you think of sun and breeze and cool drinks and holidays. So after much wrenching out of hair and grinding of teeth we came up with… Dune. And it’s perfect, because on our first holiday together we climbed the Dune du Pyla in south-west France, sixteen years after I’d failed to climb it with my dad as a stroppy teenager because the wind was blowing my hair in my face. As you can see from this photo, I got over the hair issue later in life!

The first draft is always sewn up in cheap or recycled fabric, as this is basically just a toile to see where the fit is good and where it needs work. Our first version of Dune looked promising, just a little gaping at the back of the neck, which we altered and then re-printed. The next version looked like this:

(check out my Instagram feed for a funny story about the pink capris…)

The armscye was too high, and the curve into the armscye not wide enough (you can see the creases by my right arm). So back we go to the computer, and the next version looked like this:

Armscye was still too high to be totally comfortable, and once the neckband was attached the back was still gaping a little. Wearable but not perfect, so back to the computer to make those alterations and… next version!

This one was an almost perfect fit, but I always do the ‘wear for a day’ test for each version, and after a day running around the park, I felt it was a little too short as I kept flashing my lower back. We thought the next one with a slightly longer cut would be the final one, but we also took a little more off the centre back, and this was the result:

 

 

The length works well, but the excess removed from the centre back means that the top pulls a little over the back, as you can see from this side view.

Next lot of alterations done, and now I’m about to sew up this sixth version… hopefully it’ll be the one!

New Valentine & Stitch patterns: Lotus and Loulou

It is already well over a month since we released our first pattern, the Lotus top, and I am finally getting around to writing a post to accompany the launch… and didn’t even manage to do it before we released our second pattern, Loulou! I definitely need to get speedier at blog-writing…  so here’s a “twofer”, a closer look at the two free patterns that have launched Valentine & Stitch…

Releasing Lotus was so exciting, and it has been even more exciting to see completed versions popping up on Instagram – look for the hashtag #vslotus, or some people have also used #lotustop. The lovely Kelly of Sewing Unaffiliated also wrote a blog post about it here – check it out and read her blog often, you won’t be disappointed!

My first Lotus is the one I call my ‘workout Lotus’. I used to practise yoga a lot, and although I don’t get the chance any more and most of my exercise comes from cycling, I still dream of a day when I’ll get back to it… and when I do my wardrobe will be ready! This Lotus is sewn in a pink viscose jersey from Backstitch – they don’t have it any more but they do have it in a blue colour way, or they have a pink one with narrower stripes. This fabric was such a dream to work with – delicate but still stable enough to hold its shape. I don’t mind visible bra straps as long as they’re co-ordinated so I happily wear this with a bright pink bra, or layered over a sports bra or vest. It does also look nice with a strapless bra – or no bra, which is an option if, like me, you’re not well endowed…

As soon as I made my first Lotus, I could see it in a slinky soft black fabric to pair with skinny jeans or leggings. The off-the-shoulder neckline is sexy without being too revealing, and the swingy fit means I could eat and drink to my heart’s content and still feel comfy. So I call this my ‘date night’ Lotus, even though our ‘date nights’ involve sitting in front of a computer calculating formulae to draft patterns! This version, like all the Lotuses I’ve made for myself, is graded from an XS at the bust to a S at the waist and hips. I made it with a slinky jersey from Fabworks that was a total bargain at £6 a metre, which makes me officially a very cheap date! I used 70cm, so Lotus is definitely a good stashbuster! The fabric wasn’t the easiest to work with as it wanted to slip around everywhere, so I had to take it slowly. The thread tension on my machine went haywire part-way through one of the sleeve hems, so that got unpicked and re-sewn three times (the third was my own fault for not catching the raw edge in the inside stitching. NEVER try to hem a slippy fabric without pins. Even if you’re ready to stick said pins in your own fingers). Apart from that, it was a fun sew and I love the result!

Version B of Lotus is a shorter t-shirt length, and can be casual or dressy depending on your fabric choice. This one is made with a crepe jersey and I call it my ‘office Lotus’ as I wear this one to work with a pencil skirt. The fabric has good drape but more of a structure to it than the slinky date night fabric, so it makes a lovely smart but comfortable top to wear to the office. The fabric was really easy to sew – I thought its thickness might make the hems a bit tricky, but it was very stable and easy to work with.

The fourth and final Lotus I’ve sewn for myself so far is this casual t-shirt version. It’s made from a light cotton jersey with a nice drape, and it looks perfect with jeans at the weekend. I don’t always want a top that’s tight across the tummy if I’m indulging at the weekend, but I do like a top to be fitted at the bust so it doesn’t look like a sack. This version of Lotus ticks all my t-shirt boxes! (and you get a view of our crazy wallpaper as a bonus for this one. You’re welcome ;-))

The last Lotus I made was a Mother’s Day gift for my mum. She helped me with the fitting of the pattern as we buy the same size clothes in RTW but have very different body shapes so it was really helpful to make sure the cut was going to be flattering on all body shapes. As a thank you, I sewed her a tailor-made Lotus: she likes the front and back necklines to be higher on her t-shirts, so this neckline was just for her. It follows the neckline shape of the Lotus version B, but with everything raised by a couple of centimetres. If you want to do this modification it’s simple with a French curve, but just beware that the neck hemming is a little harder because there’s less room for manoeuvre. It might be worth adding a neckband if you do want to raise the neckline Mum wears this with bright coloured slim fit jeans, and it looks so summery!

HELLO LOULOU!!!

Our next pattern is the Loulou “modesty shorties” for girls (I only discovered this term recently!) I love that we live in an age where girls can play the same games as boys, but sometimes dresses aren’t too practical… enter Loulou! If, like me, you sew for a little girl who loves dresses but also loves to run, climb, and throw herself around, then this pattern will become a staple! Loulou is simple and quick to make, and although it does come with fabric requirements, really it can be made out of scraps or offcuts. I have also made some out of last year’s dresses, so that the fabric is recycled!

 

When I did a preview of Loulou on Instagram, a number of people said they wished the sizes went higher, and so we have extended the range to go up to age 14.

A few IG friends have asked for this pattern in women’s sizes so we will be doing that at some point, but in the meantime look what fun I had with the older girls pattern!

 

I used the girls age 14 size and made pyjama shorts for summer. I used ¼” seam allowances in case I couldn’t squeeze into the age 14, but in the end I could have kept them at 3/8”. Since they’re for sleeping in, it’s quite nice to have them looser though.

 

My latest sew was for my daughter’s birthday, she wanted a twirly skirt and so we made a pattern for her that we’ll work into a proper pattern in the next few months – the Loulou shorties fit underneath! So she got a beautiful AND practical birthday skirt.

We’d love to hear how you get on sewing Loulou!