Monthly Archives: October 2017

The pattern that kept on morphing and other stories: Make A Garment A Month (MAGAM) sewalong

This is the story of a dress that became a bolero that became a sweater that became a cardigan. I’m no good at building suspense, so I’m going to jump right in with the finished result, and then give you its “origin story”!!

I don’t know which I love more: the cardigan, or the autumn colours in the garden!

Not long after I opened my Instagram account back in the Springtime, I noticed a challenge called MAGAM (Make A Garment A Month), hosted by Sarah Liz. The idea behind MAGAM is to provide a monthly theme that participants take as inspiration: it seemed a lovely supportive way to foster slow sewing by focusing on one garment every month, so I finally took the plunge and joined in for September.

Happily for me, the September theme was Shirty Skirty” (make a shirt or a skirt). This is non-UK use of “shirt”, i.e. any kind of top (I don’t often wear what I would call a shirt, which elsewhere would be called a button-down, so the language slippage suited me well). So I eased myself into MAGAM with the McCalls M7542 pattern from Sew Now magazine, using a rayon jersey and following my own tutorial for adapting it to a knit fabric. Well, I say “following my own tutorial”, but I didn’t really – I thought I could remember it so I went ahead and kept only the original instructions in front of me, which meant I attached the sleeves as if it were a woven! A bout of unpicking later, I returned to my tutorial with my head hanging in shame, and the rest went swimmingly.

My first MAGAM entry

The theme for October was more challenging: “Original October”. I mulled this one over for a good while. It did coincide with the development of our next pattern, which is obviously an original design, but it seemed too simple just to say “well I’ll make up one of our new dresses”.

First sneak peek of the forthcoming dress pattern!

However, the #cosycardichallenge was in full swing and for a while now I’ve wanted a lightweight fitted cardigan to wear over sleeveless dresses and extend their wearable life into autumn, and so I decided to adapt the dress pattern to become a cropped/ bolero cardigan. I did this without too much difficulty, just cutting off the pattern pieces of the scoop-neck version under the bust and drawing in a curve, but when I came to try it on I realised it would only really go with empire line dresses (it’s pictured here with my refashioned silk skirt) – with anything else it just sort of looked like I’d run out of fabric.

One of only two dresses I can wear this with!

Back to the drafting software (with my trusty sidekick aka technical department aka Rich beside me) and we went for a hip-length slightly flared look, with a high-low hem and a higher neckline. I started off by trying out the design as a sweater to test the shape before drafting the front placket, and I loved it (fully aided by the fact that I sewed it up in the softest jacquard ever, given to me as a birthday gift).

That’s more like it!

So I was ready to try it out as a cardigan, but not *quite* ready to cut into the beautiful jacquard from Lillestoff that I had earmarked for the project. My interim make was from a lovely floral French terry from Raspberry Creek Fabrics that I’ve been hoarding for a year now, and I liked the shape of the result BUT… ugh, well, it was just the wrong combination of fabric and style. I went for a scoop neck and standard hem, and the finished result reminds me of a housecoat or something.

You’ve got to love taking photos on a windy day!

I love the fabric, but this wasn’t the right project for it. I’ll see if I wear it, and if not I’ll scale it down into something for my daughter. And another reason to be glad I made this first version before cutting into my jacquard: I had ordered some interfacing online and the quality was just terrible. It didn’t move with the fabric at all, and if you look closely it has caused a couple of ripples in the front placket. Not the end of the world, but I would have been sad if that had been my precious jacquard.

So for the final version I decided to combine the higher neckline and the high-low hem, bought some more interfacing (never again will I stray from the goodness that is Vilene) and off I went…

The finished cardigan, origin story complete

I love this cardigan so much. Re-drafting was a good idea, as instead of just “chopping off” the dress pattern, we created an new line for this length, and it works much better. In particular, I really enjoyed thinking about the construction process, and how to make all the finishings look professional. I do love a garment that looks as pretty on the inside as it does on the outside!

Close-ups of the details: front placket, high-low hem, hem meeting facing, and inside the placket.

I used KAM snaps for the closures – I had always previously used the kind of snaps that you have to hammer on, but I was convinced by Sarah’s evangelising about the joy of attaching snaps with pliers and now I want to put KAM snaps on EVERYTHING!!!

In the end I think this particular version works better with jeans as the small pattern on the fabric means it doesn’t really go with a lot of my patterned dresses. But that could just be me falling back into my comfort zone, as jeans are basically my uniform! But it still goes well with these two sleeveless dresses:

Action shots (by which I mean “walking slowly towards the camera”). I like to photograph the movement of a garment so I can see how it looks when I’m not just standing facing a mirror!

The left one is a Deer and Doe sleeveless aubépine, and the right one is a maxi Dune from our own collection. The cardigan definitely helps both of these summer dresses transition into autumn. So either I need more solid dresses, or I need to make more cardigans in solid colours. Or both!!! And you know me by now, I don’t need much of an excuse to make a new garment…

So I’m really happy to be part of MAGAM, and I’m looking forward to the November challenge. As long as it’s not “sew a coat inspired by a classic French film”, because, you know, why do that to myself twice in one year?!!

In other news, encouraged by my lovely friend Diane, I’m trying to get my head round Pinterest at the moment, though it hasn’t synced to our site yet and I have yet to create any boards beyond this one image! But here is (I think?!) a link to my Pinterest page, which hopefully I shall work on soon! So if you have a Pinterest account do come and befriend me as I am LOST over there!

What about you? Have you joined MAGAM or the cosy cardi challenge? Any favourite makes/ stories to share? What about Pinterest? How do you use it efficiently and am I truly the last to join the party?!

A4 tiled or A0 copyshop? Working with PDF patterns, and a review of Netprinter

OK, first of all, in manner of a modern-day Miss Marple I have solved the mystery of the missing upper collar piece from my Deneuve coat. This weekend I discovered it nestling between two books on a sewing room shelf lower down than where I keep my in-progress makes. And when I say “lower down”, that is a super-sleuth knowing euphemism for “toddler height”…

The mystery of the lost collar piece is solved. And gives me an excuse to show you one last photo of THAT COAT (and my flower umbrella, which henceforth I want on all my photoshoots).

Right, onto the order of the day: PDF patterns! As many of you will know, we create our patterns in two formats: the A4 tiled format that you assemble yourself, and single-page files (typically A0) that can be printed in large format at a copy shop. So today I’m going to talk about the benefits of each, and about my experience of ordering A0 printouts from Netprinter, a printing company based in Plymouth, UK.

When we started up as a PDF pattern company, there were a few “must-haves” that I discussed with Rich. Firstly, as little paper wastage as possible. Secondly, a user-friendly design. Thirdly, the option of A0/ copyshop format, for those customers who might prefer traditional “paper” patterns. Rich exceeded what I had asked for: he puts his long-abandoned Tetris skills to good use playing around with the pattern pieces to make sure they fit together as neatly as possible on the page, and uses a distinct colour and outline for each size. Then he adds in the little triangles on each inner edge to help line up the pattern pages, and puts a pale grey number in the centre of each sheet. A sample sticking layout looks like this:

Dune tank top tiled PDF layout

And here are my top recommendations for sticking together A4 tiled PDFs:

  1. Stick your pattern pages together on a table, so that you’re not crouching over on the floor.
  2. Use a guillotine/ paper cutter to trim edges. You can purchase them from most office supplies or stationery stores, and they are way quicker than scissors. I use a small one from good old WHSmith, and I typically cut 4 pages at a time.
  3. Cut only 2 edges of each piece. I always cut the right hand long side and the bottom short side. This makes the pages all the same size, and easy to line up.
  4. Use a tape dispenser! You wouldn’t believe how long I used to spend cutting small pieces of tape with my special tape scissors (not that the scissors themselves are anything special, I just mean they were blunted from cutting tape so they became designated tape scissors!) My tape dispenser has revolutionised my PDF-sticking. I know some people use glue sticks: I’ve never tried this (I can’t help but think of all the craftwork my daughter brings home from school and how the glued-on bits invariably come unstuck!), but feel free to argue the case in the comments below!!

But what about the people who don’t like sticking together a tiled PDF? Well, this is where the online copyshops come in! My impression from some Instagram comments is that in other countries there are more bricks-and-mortar copyshops than we are used to here in the UK – my sole local copyshop charges something exorbitant for an A0 sheet.  Enter Netprinter, who are becoming more and more known in the sewing community. Before recommending them I wanted to try out their service, and the things I was particularly interested in were the following:

  1. Cost per A0 sheet
  2. Cost of P&P
  3. Whether files larger than A0 could be printed (since we have 2 maxi length patterns whose pattern pieces are larger than a standard A0 sheet)
  4. Quality of service.

I had a chat with the manager, Simon, over on Instagram, and he gave me an email address to write and discuss my order (the email contact details are also available on their website). I sent over all the details: most of our files are standard A0, though the Dune maxi dress is A0 portrait width but longer, and the Edie cardigan is A0 landscape but longer. I’ll come back to these two in a moment.

Simple upload page to place your order

I was offered a choice of standard 80gsm paper at 75p per A0 sheet, or the 60gsm weight that Netprinter have sourced especially for the sewing community, at £1.50 per sheet. I thought it would be good to have a comparison, so I ordered each file in both weights of paper.

The 60gsm paper is the one automatically offered under the new “Sewing pattern printing” section of the website; the 80gsm paper is available via the “Plan printing” section. I can see why the 60gsm paper has been sourced for sewists, as it is more lightweight and so it is easier to pin to fabric if you’re cutting straight into your pattern sheet rather than tracing off your size. However, my personal preference was for the 80gsm paper, as I like to have the full sheet to keep intact, and I find the standard letter paper weight to be more durable in this respect. But  I think it’s great to have the option, so big thumbs up there.

I didn’t try the colour printing service as I’m happy with black and white. However, you can have your A0 file printed in colour on 60gsm weight paper for £4 per sheet. The quality of the black and white printing was great (don’t be fooled by my pics – the lines don’t show up very well in all of them, but that was down to the lighting and taking photos of large sheets of paper from afar!), and I was really impressed by how accurately and meticulously all my printouts had been folded – they will be simple to store, and to re-fold after use.

My completed order, neatly folded and packed in an A4-sized box#

My order was dealt with on the day I placed it (even though I placed the order in the afternoon) and I received it the following day via DPD (signed-for delivery with a one-hour timeslot). Netprinter’s delivery charges are £3.00 for up to 14 patterns (if you want guaranteed next day delivery there is a higher charge of £8.50 for up to 15 patterns, and the charges for shipping to Europe are set at £15, though this is for up to 100 patterns so if you had a mega order or were putting in an order with a group of sewing friends, it would work out very reasonably).

If you are having files larger than A0 printed, be sure to check that they are A0 PORTRAIT width, whatever the length. This is the case for the Dune maxi file, and it means it can just be printed on a longer roll of paper. I was charged £2.50 on 60gsm paper and £1.60 on 80gsm paper for these printouts. For Edie, the single file is A0 landscape, which is not a size of printout that’s offered by Netprinter, so we used our alternative Edie copy shop files (where the pattern is split into two A0 sheets). This was very simple and just means that you stick two A0 sheets together to create your master sheet.

I may not have gone for colour printing, but I compensate with explosions of colour on the finished garment!

So would I recommend Netprinter? Yes, definitely. They offer a professional service, and they clearly work hard to ensure that they deal with orders quickly. In particular, if you are just dealing with standard sized files that you can upload to the system, it’s about as speedy as you can get. And so in this age of instant gratification, Netprinter makes a valuable contribution to the sewing community by delivering printouts of PDF patterns to your door the very next day – possibly before you’d have had time to cut and stick together your A4 tiled PDF. Given the flat-rate postage fee, though, it’s worth waiting until you have several patterns to print off in one go – that would certainly be how to make the most of your order. I highly recommend Netprinter to all our A0-loving customers and sewing friends in the UK, and recommend that those further afield seek out a similar service, as if you want one single large pattern sheet then the A0 option is definitely worth considering!

What about you, sewing friends? Any thoughts on PDF vs paper patterns, or on A4 tiled vs A0 pattern sheets? Or perhaps you have sticking tips for A4 tiled patterns that you’d like to share?

Till next time, happy sewing/ sticking/ cutting!

Sewing the Scene: making (and unmaking) my Coat of Dreams

The challenge: sew a garment or outfit inspired by a film or TV show.

The inspiration: Catherine Deneuve’s dreamy vanilla-coloured scallop-placketed coat in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.

The result: here’s a teaser, but oh there’s a story behind it…

Back in July I was dipping into the Vintage Pledge sewing challenge on Instagram: I don’t really sew vintage, but I do like looking at vintage details and thinking about how they might be incorporated into more modern shapes and fabrics. So when Marie encouraged me to join in, I thought why not just post something on the days when I have something to say. One of the daily prompts was “Filmspiration”, and I immediately thought of this coat that Catherine Deneuve wore in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg:

…so I posted a photo and thought no more of it. One of my Instagram friends suggested I could probably make a similar coat based on Vogue 9040, but I didn’t really think I ever would… until I started following Jo, who was just launching a challenge called Sewing the Scene, where participants sew a garment or an outfit inspired by a film or TV show. It felt like the stars were aligning, and with 2 and a half months until the deadline, I thought WHY NOT. Plenty of time, right? So I pledged to make it, bought the pattern, bought the fabric and lining (100% wool in vanilla, and acetate lining in rose, both from Fabworks), and sat back. Because we all know that by ignoring a project, it sews itself while you get on with other things, don’t we?

September came, and I posted on Instagram a photo of my sewing plans:

The blue sweater knit became a maxi Edie cardigan, the purple floral became the first wearable toile of our next pattern, and the grey floral became the first wearable toile of a dress we’re designing for girls. I also made Rich’s Simplicity shirt and two more Edies, panic-sewed a new maxi Dune to wear to the Great British Sewing Bee live, turned a silk skirt into a dress, made two M7542 knit hack tops and two pairs of knickers. The wool and the lining just sat there.

And then it was October. OK, in fairness, I’d done a lot of preparation in September: I’d adapted and cut all the pattern pieces, and cut out all of my pieces from the fabric (or so I thought. Just dropping that in there now; consider yourself forewarned). Knowing that this coat is probably just going to be made this once, and in any case only ever for me, I cut straight into the pattern sheets. I made my standard adaptations: I reduced the torso length by 5/8”, and I graded between sizes from bust to waist.

Like I needed an excuse to grab my cheeriest umbrella and do a photoshoot!

So it was several hours of adapting pattern pieces and cutting them out before I even made it close to my fabric. I cut out all the main fabric pieces first, and I only just had enough fabric, which quite surprised me as I’d over-ordered. Well, the reason for this lack of excess fabric is because I am a MORON and I cut out all the lining pieces in my main fabric too! I was looking only at the instructions and not at the names of the pattern pieces, and since the pattern pieces just said “cut 2” rather than “cut 2: lining”, even if the pattern piece was named “front bodice lining”, I had gone ahead and cut it out of the main fabric. Sigh. So then I cut out all the lining pieces (making sure it was lining pieces and ONLY lining pieces I was cutting), and ended up with a chunk of leftover lining that went into my scraps box.

I was going to use sew-in interfacing, but while I was at #GBSBlive I went to the Vilesiline stand to buy some, and the lovely lady there told me I could get away with fusible. But it’s for a wool coat, I protested politely, I don’t want to scorch the wool with the iron . Fear not, said she, waving an unblemished strip of silk with interfacing fused to it, just use a pressing cloth. And I did. I must say that it didn’t fuse brilliantly on every square millimetre of fabric, but given that sew-in interfacing would only be attached at the edges anyway and it saved me a lot of time, I remain eternally grateful to the Vilesiline lady…

And now let the sewing begin! The coat actually went together really easily. It was so straightforward, though I think the “average” rating is fair as the instructions are a little sparse and there’s a lot of easing to do with the princess seams and the set-in sleeves.

Back view, and some shots of the pockets under construction. I love the rose-coloured lining!

So it was all going great until it came to the collar. I was vaguely aware of only having cut one set of collar pieces, which didn’t seem right. It wasn’t right. I had cut the under collar, but not the upper collar. So I went back to my pattern enveloped to retrieve the pattern piece, and scrupulously went through its contents roughly a million times.

I had lost the pattern piece.

How??!! I mean, how do you just LOSE a pattern piece? It must be my obsessive need to tidy things away – I had put all the offcuts of my pattern sheets straight in the recycling bin, so I must have inadvertently chucked the collar piece in with them. So I got the under collar piece, which is joined with a centre seam, and was all set to just draft a new pattern piece taking off the seam allowance to be cut on the fold, when I realised I didn’t have enough fabric left (because I’d used all my spare fabric cutting unnecessary lining pieces, argh!!)

So the only thing for it was to use the under collar piece, and have a centre seam down the back of my collar. It’s not the end of the world as my hair will normally cover it and most people would probably just assume it’s a design feature if they noticed it at all, but… ugh, I’m annoyed at myself. Also, OF COURSE the upper collar piece would have been slightly larger than the under collar, so that the collar sits nicely with the underneath not poking out, but did this occur to me until I had sewn it? It’s funny (well, not that funny…) but if I had had the upper collar piece and was making an under collar from it, I’d have trimmed 1/8″ off the under collar without even thinking about it, but for some reason when the process was reversed, did it even enter my mind to add that 1/8″ on? It did not. So when I’d sewed on the collar, there was a bit too much fabric hanging around underneath. By this point I’d already trimmed the seams so it was too late to unpick, trim the under collar and re-sew… So, prepare to gasp in horror: I cut the under collar open.

My disembowelled collar. At this point it was make or break…

I cut an incision the whole way around, 5/8” from the seam, and then sewed it back together with a narrow seam allowance, just to take a little of the volume out of it. I felt like a surgeon (and not a very skilled one), though the resulting collar was much better.

Phew!

I lost another pattern piece too: the upper sleeve lining. I almost gave up at that point, but what can I say… I’m stubborn… so I compared the lower sleeve piece with the lower sleeve lining piece, and found that they were identical except that the lining piece was 11.5cm shorter. By this stage I was pretty convinced I was NEVER making this pattern again, so I just shortened the upper sleeve piece by 11.5 cm, following the curve of the hem line, and chucked my offcut piece in the recycling bin. Take note of this part; it will come back to haunt me later.

OK, onto the cuffs. Deneuve’s coat had beautiful cuffs, and I had thought that I could use the cuffs for view D to attach to my view A sleeves. Well I read those instructions at least 5 times and I could not see the stage where you attach the view D cuffs. I’m sure it’s there somewhere, and it’s just my poor tired brain that couldn’t see the wood for the trees, but I gave up and decided to figure it out for myself. So I measured how long I wanted them to be, added 5/8” seam allowance to this measurement, and pressed a gentle fold in the cuff. I sewed the (shorter) inner side to the cuff, and then when it came to the finishing touches, that 5/8” on the longer outer side would turn up into the inside of the sleeve, and attach to the lining. Except it wouldn’t, since the sleeve lining is 11.5cm shorter than the actual sleeve, because what I’m using as cuffs are supposed to be some kind of inner sleeve facing. OK, deep breath, it’s fine, all I need is my main sleeve pieces to cut new sleeve linings.

Do you see the problem coming? I HAD CHOPPED 11.5CM OFF MY SLEEVE PIECE TO MAKE THE LOST LINING PIECE, AND CHUCKED THE REST IN THE RECYCLING. There was no pattern piece to use. So I redrafted the piece, adding back in the section I had consigned to the recycling bin. And thankfully there was that piece of lining left over in my scraps box, and it was JUST big enough (I’m talking to within a few millimetres!) to get my sleeve pieces. At this point, choirs of angels were singing hallelujah in the skies.

The rest of the process was pretty simple and straightforward. If I’d just done the coat straight out of the packet (and not lost half my pattern pieces), I think I’d have even gone so far as to call it a relatively quick sew. The big detail, of course, was that scalloped front! I’d gone all mathematical to draft that part onto my pattern piece (it’s never a good idea when I go mathematical. It’s an area of my brain that should have a sign on it saying “ENTER AT YOUR OWN PERIL”). I can’t even remember how I worked it all out, so let’s just say that I did (with the help of a tiny bowl from our kitchen cupboard whose use has never been entirely clear to me until now), but right up until I sewed it I had no idea if it was actually going to work. Talk about a wing and a prayer…

Ta-daaaaaa!

I’m not entirely happy with my scallops. I wanted them to be plumper. Looking at the finished result, I shouldn’t have taken the points so far in – my scallops should have been more half-moon shaped than ¾ moon (but, you know, enter the maths zone at your peril). Because this is the stand-out feature of the coat, I’m disappointed with it. I wish I’d had time to make a toile first – maybe a lesson learned about not sewing to a deadline?

Given the number of cute little dresses and cardigans Deneuve wore in this film, in some ways I’m kicking myself for choosing to sew the coat for this challenge. Maybe I should have just let it stay in my head in the Gallery of Beautiful Things. I’m happy, though, to have made it, and I shall try to learn from this (note to self: DO NOT recycle until the END of the project, and DO NOT sew a big project to a deadline unless there has been time for a toile!) But for now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be twirling around with an umbrella in my hand, channelling Deneuve.

Till next time, sewing friends, have a great week!