Monthly Archives: August 2017

Sewing fail: my third pair of Morgan jeans

I think it’s a well-known fact by now that I like sewing my own jeans. I might have mentioned it once or twice. So this pair of cropped Morgan jeans was supposed to be THE ONE, after making enough pairs to know exactly what I wanted to tweak to make them perfect. THE ONE, I tell you!

They look quite good, right?

But they were a big fat SEWING FAIL.

The first mistake was the fabric. I got so excited when I saw this lovely 100% cotton denim on the Fabrics Galore website, that I ordered it without checking the weight. It’s a 4oz denim, more of a chambray really, and I was so disappointed when it turned up. It went in the stash, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, but some crazy little voice told me to give the jeans a go with it anyway, since I didn’t really have anything else I wanted to use it for and I did want another pair of jeans. I really shouldn’t trust the crazy little voice…

So, spoiler: the main reason for the fail is that the fabric is not really heavy enough for jeans. But it doesn’t stop there…

In my last two pairs of Morgan jeans and both my Gingers, one thing I’ve noticed is that the pocket facing is a little small, and peeks out of the pocket when I sit down. I made a mental note to make the inside curve a bit larger next time. Should’ve made a written note… that was my next fail! As you can see from these photos, the pocket facing pulls quite a bit because the fabric isn’t heavy enough to keep it down.

I also used regular buttons on the button placket, as I was worried the fabric wouldn’t be quite strong enough to withstand jeans hardware, so the only proper jeans button is the one on the waistband.

That’s about the best thing I can say about the waistband, because…

The waistband was my biggest error. I didn’t have enough denim to use for the waistband lining, so I chose a quilting cotton that matched my pocket linings. Because it’s pretty lightweight for a waistband, and because there’s no stretch in the denim, I interfaced it to make it a bit sturdier. Good idea, I hear you cry, she’s got this jeans thing down to a fine art… but if you read my last post about Closet Case Patterns jeans, you’ll know I interfaced the waistband on my first pair of Gingers and had to unpick and re-do the whole thing because it made the waistband so uncomfortable. So why why why oh why did I do it again? Well, the Gingers use stretch denim, so the interfacing restricted the stretch. Morgan specifies no stretch, so I thought it would be a good idea. Too much thinking going on with these jeans – the waistband is so unforgiving, I might as well have interfaced it with steel rods.

To make matters worse, this wasn’t even the first time I’d stitched this waistband. Oh no, the first time I stitched it on with the wrong side facing out!

So I’d already spent an entire evening unpicking my extremely tiny stitches to re-attach the waistband. Pour me a gin…

The one thing I like about my waistband (there has to be something!) is that I attached the waistband to the waistband lining with a 3/8” seam rather than 5/8”. In my last two pairs I found the waistband a little too narrow, so this was a good way of adding extra depth without re-drawing the whole pattern piece. Every cloud…

OK, if we’re moving on to silver linings, here are some more:

Topstitching. Oh I love topstitching. As you can see from the close-ups, I use a short stitch for greater accuracy (I set my stitch length at 2.2). I also love the little flower stitch on my machine, so I measured out the length of a full flower motif, and marked on my back pockets where I’d have to start and finish the flower stitch to have four parallel flowers on each side. I think one of the reasons I’m so disappointed with the failure of these jeans is all the work that went into those pockets! But you can see from the second pic that even they are too flimsy once I’m wearing the jeans:

Next silver lining: while I was making these jeans, a perfectly timed little sewing tip landed in my inbox from the Colette Patterns “Snippets” email list. The suggestion is that you pass a length of thread through the corners of the area you’re topstitching (in this case, the waistband), and when you get to the corner you pull on the thread to stop the fabric getting chewed up by the feed dogs. I used topstitching thread to pull on, as it’s stronger and so wouldn’t break, and it worked perfectly! Then afterwards you just pull that thread out, and you’re left with a gorgeous topstitched corner.

(Yes, I marked my button placement with a biro. It was removed by shoving an awl through it to create the hole for the jeans button, so don’t hold it against me!)

I’d add another little tip here, too: the pattern instructions for both Morgan and Ginger have you start the topstitching at one of the corners. You couldn’t really pick a trickier place to start and end your topstitching (especially if you’re doing a backstitch or a lockstitch), so I prefer to start just above one of the side seams. I either start with a lockstitch, and then when I get back round to where I started, I lockstitch again, or I just start stitching with a normal stitch and then when I get back round to the start I carry on stitching over my original stitch line and then secure the threads on the inside. Both methods work well – the second one is easier, so it’s good if you’re new to topstitching or sewing jeans for the first time.

I also used the technique for turning out the waistband corners that I mentioned in an earlier blog post about sewing jeans – this time I folded the seam allowances down over the corner before turning it out, and it worked really well.

So there are many features of these jeans that I’m really pleased with, and yet they are one of the least wearable items in my wardrobe. I’ve tried wearing them out twice, and they just make me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. But who wants to end on a negative note? Here’s a picture of them in action at the seaside, shortly before they got soaked when I recklessly ran too far into the sea.

Till next time, sewing friends, and thanks for reading!

Selfless sewing: a Dune top for my lovely mum

Many of you will already know that it was my mum who taught me to sew. I’ve also talked about her a couple of times on Instagram, and shared photos of her wearing her handmade dresses in the 1970s:

I haven’t sewn many garments for her, but sometimes there is just something that feels like a perfect match! I have a special project on the back burner, but while we were drafting Dune, Mum mentioned that she loved the shape of it, the way it skims over the tummy and hips but is still fitted, and so I knew I had to make one for her. She’s normally a size small, but I know that for summer she likes looser tops, often a bit longer, so I did a quick toile in a size medium. The extra width gives more of a swing, and the additional length of the larger size made the top the perfect length for her. The only thing I needed to alter was the armscye – it was a little too loose in a medium, but in a small would have been too tight to fit nicely with the rest of the top, so I just measured in a centimetre and then joined that up to the side seam with my French curve.

It was easy to choose the fabric for my mum! I had already spotted this gorgeous Lotus flower cotton jersey from Girl Charlee, the navy is quite warm toned (which is just her kind of colour) and the dusky pink, chartreuse and beige accents are also perfect colours for her. Girl Charlee only sell by the metre, so although I didn’t need that much (the Dune top doesn’t take up much fabric) I have a little left over that will be nice as a feature on another project (or perhaps as a pair of Loulou shorties for my daughter or knickers for me!)

I wanted to take my time over this, and make it perfect for my mum. But “slow sewing” took on an entirely new meaning for me after my two-year-old son was let loose in the sewing room! I walked in one morning to find that he’d climbed up onto the desk and was merrily swapping all the thread cones in my overlocker and coverstitch machine. It was like a thread crime scene. Although It didn’t take me too long to re-thread them all, what I didn’t realise was that he’d played with the thread tension dials too! So my stitching came out like this (I’ve turned up the saturation and contrast in the hope you can see it, as it was a blurry photo!):

Hand me the seam ripper! I spent over an hour on that seam alone! The thing is though, I can’t get cross with my little boy, because every time I tell him off he just says “Sarry Memmy, I not do it ‘gain” and smiles at me, and my heart just melts and all is forgiven.

So back to the sewing… once I had sorted out my settings, it was plain sailing. I mean, I’ve already made about a million Dune tops in the drafting process, so let’s just say the instruction booklet is no longer necessary! And the big question… did Mum like it?

YES SHE DID!!! It’s the perfect fabric for her, and the perfect fit too. I’m really pleased to see another aspect to Dune – making it a size bigger, with a few adjustments, to get a swingier fit and a longer length without having to adjust the kick hem! I’ve been living in my Dunes the last couple of months, and this one has been my mum’s most-worn top this summer too. She can throw a cardigan over it for cooler days, or wear it with jeans, and on sunny days it’s a perfect top to wear with fitted shorts or capris.

Making this top has made me so happy. If my mum hadn’t been a sewist, and hadn’t shared her skills with me so generously, I don’t know if I’d ever have come to sewing, much less to pattern design. And I just can’t imagine my life without sewing in it! I owe her a lot, and I like being able to give something back by making lovely things for her to wear. And yesterday she came over wearing her Dune, while I was wearing one of my maxi versions! So here is a bonus photo I like to call “Dune extravaganza” 😉

Mother-daughter Dune day!

What about you, do you sew for other people? How does it make you feel when you see them wearing something you’ve made?

Sewing McCalls 7542 in a knit fabric for Sleevefest

A while before Diane and I started thinking about the Sleevefest sewing challenge, I had noticed this McCall’s pattern cropping up on Instagram – M7542 is a fitted top with five statement sleeve options. About half-way through Sleevefest, Sew Now magazine included it as a free pattern in their August issue, and so I got the pattern to make up in honour of Sleevefest!

The pattern is for woven fabrics: it has bust darts at the front and neck darts at the back, and these give the top a semi-fitted shape. The back is finished with a small placket and a hook and eye closure at the neckline. Four of the five sleeve options come from a short fitted sleeve that is embellished with a pleated, gathered, bubble or trumpet cuff. The first three come to the elbow, the trumpet cuff is asymmetrical and drapes to the wrist on the inner arm. Then the fifth option is a tulip-style crossover sleeve that also ends at the elbow.

I love love love the dramatic trumpet sleeve (view B), and that’s the one I thought I’d make, BUT I did want a top I could wear in my everyday life, and so I decided to start with my second favourite, the tulip sleeve (view A).

Look at that sleeve-y goodness!

You know what’s coming next. This pattern is for wovens, and I love sewing with knits. Although I had mentally earmarked a gorgeous eyelet fabric I have in my stash, I was looking at the pattern and I thought that actually the shape of the bodice wasn’t going to do me any favours. This top really is all about the sleeve, but if I was going to get wear out of it, I had to feel good in it. Sooooo… I decided to adapt the pattern for use with a knit fabric.

This will work for pretty much any woven top, so here’s what I did:

First, I decided on my size. The size charts put me as a UK 10 for the bust and a 10-12 for the waist and hips. Although making the pattern in a knit would usually mean that I’d go down a size, in my head I had already envisaged this being loose and floaty, so I kept to those sizes and graded from a size 10 to a 12 at the waist. I have already learned that McCalls patterns tend to come up big on me – remember my M7574 dress? – but I thought I’d just go for it as I was aiming for an oversized look. I’d already ordered this dreamy slub viscose jersey from Minerva Crafts, and it was begging to be made into a floaty top. Also, when it arrived I found that it’s a little see-through, so I couldn’t risk the top being too tight as I didn’t want my bra to show through!

Gratuitous sleeve poses

So, onto the modifications. The first thing to do is to remove the darts – you just don’t need them in a knit unless you have a much more impressive chest than I do. This is a simple alteration to make, illustrated below: you find the point of the bust dart in your size, and then draw a straight vertical line from here to the hem. Then cut this line from the hem upwards. Then cut along ONE of the lines of the bust dart, towards the point of the dart. You’ll end up with a piece cut out of your pattern: tilt this upwards until the line of the bust dart you have cut meets exactly with the uncut line. Tape this in place. You have now created a lovely slash and spread which will give you a nice floaty garment! Tape some pattern tracing paper to the back of your pattern to fill in the gap, and use a French curve to join up the hem in the space you have created.

Remove the back darts in the same way. For this top, it makes the back slightly more flared than the front, but I liked the idea of a swingy back so I didn’t do any further modifications to the shape in that respect. However, since the pattern piece for the back has a shaped centre seam to enhance the fit, I needed to take that out for my floaty top and create a back bodice piece that could be cut on the fold. This is super-simple: I just measured in the 5/8” seam allowance at the neckline, and drew a straight line down to the hem, parallel to the grainline arrow. I then cut along this line and marked the new pattern piece to be cut on the fold.

There are no modifications to be made to the sleeve pieces, only to the way you sew up the sleeves. Basically, the top can now be sewn like any other t-shirt, with a bit of special attention to the tulip sleeves. I used an overlocker for all my seams, but keep in mind that you need to use a 5/8” seam rather than the 3/8” you would normally use for knits, as the pattern is designed for wovens. I also decided to do rolled hems for my finishings, to enhance the floaty look.

Floatiness in action with some “walking towards camera” shots

So, here’s how I did it:

  1. Attach the front to the back at the shoulders, and press the seam to the back.
  2. Finish the neckline (I used a rolled hem, but you could press under and hem with a twin needle or coverstitch machine, or draft a neckband).
  3. Hem the sleeve front and back pieces. I used a narrow rolled hem on my overlocker, giving a lettuce effect to the hems.
  4. Baste the back sleeve pieces onto the front sleeve pieces as indicated in the instructions (step 14), aligning the large circle marking on each piece. DO NOT sew the sleeve seams as directed in the instructions (step 12): this instruction is for set-in sleeves, and with this knit fabric modification we can sew the sleeve seam at the same time as the side seam.

    Omit step 12; you’ve already done step 13; do step 14!

  5. Pin the sleeves to the armscyes, right sides together. Align the large circle with the shoulder seam and the underarm edges of the bodice and sleeve. Ease the sleeve into the armscye, pinning every inch or so.
  6. Sew the sleeve to the bodice, and press the seam towards the sleeve.
  7. Pin the side seams, right sides together: pin at the underarm seam, the bodice hem and the sleeve hem, and then line up the seams, pinning every inch or so.
  8. At this point, I recommend basting the sleeve hem. Since you’ve done a rolled hem, you won’t be turning up the sleeve hem again, and so you want the edges of your sleeve to align nicely at the seam. Using a regular sewing machine and a long straight stitch, baste together from the hem edge downwards – just an inch or two will suffice.
  9. Sew the side seams from the bottom of the bodice hem all the way up to the sleeve hem. Remove your basting stitches.

Ta-daaa!! Beautifully aligned seams, thanks to the basting.

At this point I tried on my top, and I wasn’t too keen on the neckline. It’s quite a high neckline, and because I’d done the rolled hem, it stood a bit proud from my shoulders, a bit like a mini ruff!

Awkward tilted head pose, trying to show how the neckline looks!

I played around with a few ideas and ALMOST went with boat neck, but I thought a soft v neck would look perfect with the lines of those tulip sleeves, and with the rolled hem would create an almost scalloped effect. So I went back to my pattern pieces and traced the neckline I wanted onto them, then carefully folded my top in half, creating centre fold lines at the front and back, and pinned the pattern pieces back onto the bodice before cutting along my new necklines and doing a new rolled hem.

New neckline, same awkward head tilt. Ignore my frown lines – I promise I do love this top!

I recommend doing this stage MUCH earlier – i.e. when you’re prepping your pattern pieces! Anyway, only one more stage to go:

  1. Hem the bottom of the garment – I used a rolled hem again, to be in keeping with the rest of my top.

That’s it! A whole new way to sew this already versatile pattern. Plus, once you’ve done all the modifications to your pattern pieces, this is a super-quick sew! How long do you think it’ll be before I do it with that AMAZING trumpet sleeve?! This is a fabulous top to wear with jeans (in these photos I’m wearing one of my pairs of Ginger jeans), and it feels so comfortable but yet is a bit more special than a regular t-shirt. When I put it on for this photo shoot, I couldn’t help remembering a time when I lived in Paris and would treat myself to coffee and cake at a smart salon de thé, and the ladies there always looked so expensive. I remember thinking I could never look like that, whatever clothes or makeup I wore… and when I put this outfit on, I felt like those ladies! The irony is that the denim for my jeans was a remnant at around £7, and the fabric for my top cost £3.99! Who knew “expensive” could be so cheap 😉

Have I mentioned how much I love this look?

For more gorgeous sleeves, including some wonderful variations on this pattern, check out the #sleevefest2017 hashtag on Instagram! And to find out more about how Sew Now magazine styled this pattern for their August issue, click here.

OK OK, last photo I promise!

Till next time, happy sewing!

Streeeeetching myself: Eléonore stretch jeans by Jalie patterns

My love of sewing jeans has been documented here before: I really enjoy getting stuck into a bigger, more complex project amongst my quicker sews or as a break from drafting patterns. The jeans patterns I’ve worked with so far have both been by Closet Case Files: the Ginger skinnies and Morgan boyfriend jeans probably need no further introduction to most sewists these days! So you might think that I didn’t need another jeans pattern (ha! Can you ever have too many patterns?!), but I really liked the idea of a simpler style of jeans for casual everyday wear in the summer.

Enter the Jalie patterns Eléonore jeans. I’ve never used a Jalie pattern before, but I kind of loved them already: a mother-daughter team, bilingual English and French, based in Canada (OK, I’ve only been to Canada once but I loved it!), offering a range of patterns for the whole family… I’m sold before I even start. So even though I’m probably doing my jeans journey the wrong way round by starting with the Gingers and Morgans and then going for a simpler pull-on pair, I bought the PDF pattern and got sticking!

Anyway, I went for a size R – this was quite surprising to me, as it’s the smallest women’s size. I’m usually the second or third smallest when it comes to trousers/ skirts (I wear a UK size 10/ US size 6 on the bottom half!) However, I always trust the table of measurements, so R it was. My main worry was going to be hip splurge – the jeans are elasticated and I didn’t want to end up with muffin top if they were a bit tight. Trust in the table of measurements…

There was a lot riding on getting the size right, because I only had a yard of fabric! I couldn’t find in the UK any denim with the requisite 20% stretch that wasn’t a polyester blend, and I really wanted cotton for the summer. So I found this beautiful slub stretch denim at EmmaOneSock, an independent online fabric store in the US who I “met” on Instagram during the SewApril challenge (and who is one of our sponsors for Sleevefest!) Now, because you have to pay customs charges for anything over £15 in value coming into the UK, and because it worked out as just under £15 per yard, I could only order the one yard. At least it meant that I didn’t have to dither over whether to make the jeans or the capris – I only had enough fabric for the capris!!

So I got creative with my pattern piece placement to make sure I could get every pattern piece out of my precious yard (OK, tell me: do you use the cutting layouts? I rarely do, and they’re my least favourite thing to figure out when we’re drafting patterns!) Anyway, here are some inside and outside views of Eléonore in progress:

I really enjoyed sewing these jeans. They have a lot of the detail of making “real” jeans (like the topstitching, even down to the faux fly front) but come together much more quickly. If you want to make jeans but don’t want to launch straight into the Gingers/ Morgans of this world, these are a very good starting point. But, the big question: did they fit?

YES!!!!

OK, I have a couple of reservations. Firstly, there are instructions for altering these to make them “slim fit”. Now, I’m not sure how much slimmer these could get! They’re pretty skin-tight. And I don’t have disproportionately wide legs or anything! I wonder if this may be related to my surprise at having fallen in the smallest size for women? But the thing is, around the hips they fit PERFECTLY. I mean, I could not have asked for more. No hip splurge, no muffin top, they’re just lovely.

So if I were to size up and get the “non-slim fit”, presumably they’d be too loose over the hips. Conundrum.

The other detail I wasn’t so keen on is the length. When I sewed the hem as indicated, the capris hit just below the knee. Well, I think that’s just about the most unflattering place they could hit – right where my calf is widest. In fairness, I do a lot of cycling, so maybe my calves are bulkier there, but not abnormally so! Even so, they do look longer in the cover photo.

So I unpicked my hems and made them narrower, and the end result is more mid-calf, as in the cover pic. I do have long legs for my height (along with a ridiculously short torso), so that could be a factor, as could (once again) the fact that I ended up using the smallest size, as like most patterns the length increases with the size. In all honesty, I would have preferred another inch on the finished garment. But given my fabric constraints, it wouldn’t have been possible even if the pattern piece had been longer, so it’s by no means a complaint!

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with these. I’d make them again in the full length, but I think I’d call them “jeggings” rather than jeans! They have certainly withstood the stretch test: I did some yoga poses, some bending, and some curling up, and not a single stitch popped. If that isn’t a result, I don’t know what is…