New pattern: Edie, the cardigan for all seasons

We’re very excited to be launching our new pattern, Edie! Read on for everything you need to know about Edie, as well as a special launch week discount code!

We had always planned to design a cardigan for release after summer, and Edie is making us feel just a little bit less sad about the cooler weather! There are two lengths to choose from, and depending on your fabric choice Edie can be smart, casual, cosy, or downright shop-stopping! Edie is a longline open-front cardigan, fitted through the back and floaty at the front. The unique shaping of the front pieces give Edie a beautiful drape, but also make the front wide enough to wrap around you if you want to cosy up in your new cardigan.

Time for the photo gallery! So far I’ve made four versions of Edie, shall we start with the standard length?

In the last days of summer I made this from a lightweight lace-effect polyester jersey from Minerva Crafts. I had spent half the summer wishing I had a cardigan with me, one that would go with everything and could be rolled up in a bag and pulled out as needed. Of course I finished this Edie on the hottest day of summer, but I still threw it on to take some photos anyway!

My other standard-length Edie is in this gorgeous “cotton cashmere” sweater knit from Emma OneSock. Who doesn’t need a black cardigan in the cooler seasons?! I think this is the one I’ll wear the most, as it goes with pretty much everything. I’ve worn it with the sleeveless Angelina dress pictured above, with jeans, with a Margarita skirt, belted over a dress (pictured below), and on our wedding anniversary earlier this month I wore it with my one of my maxi Dunes (also pictured below, battling against the wind in our local park!):

 

Speaking of maxi length, let’s look at the second version of Edie! I’ve truly jumped on the maxi trend this year, and after the Dune dress we wanted a maxi cardigan too. About 15 years ago I had a knee-length cardigan that I wore to death because it made any outfit look instantly elegant, and that’s exactly our hope for maxi Edie. My first one is in this gorgeous blue marl sweater knit, again from Emma OneSock, and I am in love:

After making this one, I wondered whether Edie could function as a ‘coatigan’ until the really cold weather kicks in, so I pulled this quilted sweatshirting out of my stash and went for it. I was a little bit afraid that the quilting might make it look more like a dressing gown than a cardigan, but I was pleased with the result:

This one looks particularly good belted, and is so cosy in this sweatshirt fabric. In the instruction booklet we do recommend that if you’re using a thicker fabric like this, you might like to widen the sleeves so that you can still wear something long-sleeved underneath without the sleeves feeling tight: we’ve prepared a tutorial on this here. For reference, the sleeves are NOT widened in these pics, and I find them fine over a long-sleeved t-shirt, but over anything thicker I’d want them to have a little more ease. And note the awkward arm placement in the right-hand photo. to try and show you what the sleeve looks like in a thicker fabric!).

The instruction booklet has a guide regarding the maxi length, so that you can make sure you get it right for you (and if you want a reminder of our sizing guide, you can find it here). You can follow the suggestions in the instruction booklet, or make a quick sleeveless toile out of old or unloved fabric, like I did:

Pink camo for the win again!

One more tutorial for Edie: we recommend that if you don’t want the back neckline to stretch, you stabilise it. This is not essential, and I haven’t done it for all of mine. In particular, though, if you do a rolled hem as I have, the neckline will stretch a little with wear – it gives a casual look which I quite like in a cardigan, but if that’s not the look you want then do follow the tutorial. Here are a couple of pics to show you what the rolled hem neckline looks like unstabilised after a few wears, and then you can make your own decision about whether or not you want to include this step!

I like the way that the “lettuce” effect mirrors the finishes in the rest of the cardigan, but if you prefer a more structured neckline at the back then do follow the tutorial to stabilise it! Next, here are some back views of the different versions:

 

And finally, if you follow us on Instagram you might have spotted some “twirling” shots, as what would a photo shoot be with no twirling?! So here is a little compilation of me and my Edies spinning around:

So Edie is taking me from casual coverup to layering staple to style statement to cool weather elegance. What do you think? Which Edie is your favourite?

To get your copy of Edie, visit the pattern page here, and use the code EDIE25 at checkout for 25% off during launch week! Code valid until midnight BST on Tuesday 26 September 2017.

Simplicity turns 90: floral fever for Valentine & Stitch

When I saw that Simplicity were holding a sewing contest to celebrate their 90th birthday, I couldn’t resist. I grew up wearing Simplicity clothes my mum made for me, and they were the first patterns I used when I returned to sewing after my daughter was born. So I rolled up my sleeves, stepped out of my comfort zone, and chose the “vintage” category (why do the words “step out of my comfort zone” always send a chill through my bones?!) I also signed up to sew the men’s shirt as I have been meaning to make Rich a new shirt for a while – I had a lovely cotton voile that he had thought I’d bought for him (because it was similar to the fabric of his favourite summer shirt) and he seemed quite downcast when I said I’d bought it for me, so I’d secretly been plotting to use it for him! (And this was 2 and a half years ago, so you can see how speedy I am at getting on with such things…)

Challenge #1: Vintage make

First off, let me say that the design and detail of this pattern (Simplicity 8342) is really interesting and well thought through. In particular I love the cap sleeves of the version I chose. Let me also say that it is NOT my style at all, and I knew that before starting. So any “negatives” I might express aren’t about the pattern itself, but about how I feel wearing the top.

The finished top. I know I’m smiling, but inside I’m wondering if I have muffin top!!

The construction of this top is quite complex. I can see why it was chosen for a challenge, as for a small summer top it takes a lot of time and attention. I followed the instructions to the letter except for a couple of additions:

At the centre front, rather than sewing from each side to the centre and then handstitching the centre, I sewed as one seam, carefully feeding it through my overlocker so that I didn’t pull it out of shape. This worked well, and gives a nice neat finish at centre front. You can also see in the montage below some of the nice finishings you get on the right side of the top (definitely worth a bit of complex construction!):

At the centre back, after I had basted the back straps and checked the fit I coverstitched them in place, stitching exactly over the lines of stitching I used to secure my elastic channel in place. This made a neater finish:

It does mean that the straps are not attached until about 1” below the top of the centre back, but the top is so fitted that they can’t possibly gape! I would have preferred the inside finish of the straps at the back to be neater (top right pic), but I’m not sure how you would manage this (I did scratch my head over it, and came up with a big fat nothing!)

Here are my general thoughts on this pattern:

The cap sleeves really are very pretty and flattering, and the way the straps and ties are lined makes these features very neat:

The adjustable straps also allow you to make sure you can fit it perfectly to your torso.

The numerous pattern pieces are quite small, so I made the whole top from offcuts of the Dune maxi dress I blogged about here.

If I were to sew this again, the one thing I’d do differently would be to secure the back elastic right at the inner edge of the seam allowance, rather than including it in the seam allowance (as the seam here is very bulky).

To finish this section, here’s a little gallery of the finished top:

I can see objectively that this is a very pretty top, and you already know from my earlier post how much I love this fabric! The style is something I need to get used to though, as I’m more used to trying to hide my curves than to celebrating them! Nonetheless, it’s a nice summery piece to wear with jeans. Plus I had a glorious day to photograph it on – that rainbow line isn’t a filter, it’s just the light bouncing off the camera lens!

Challenge #2: Menswear

Next up is Rich’s shirt. This is Simplicity 8180. It’s advertised as a “3-hour shirt”, and it is pretty simple in terms of construction. I think this was my big problem with it – because some of the detail was quite simplified, it wasn’t what I was expecting and so I found it quite counter-intuitive at times. I have to say though that it would be great as a first introduction to sewing a men’s shirt. After reading the pattern instructions I did note down some things I would do differently, and here is a retrospective look at them:

The first thing I did differently was to use felled seams. I find them so much neater and more professional looking than the recommended “press open and finish as desired” method. Top left is the seam from the outside, top right from the inside. This also gives a lovely neat cross at seam joins, as you can see in the bottom right photo (the bottom left shows some topstitching detail I also added):

I also used a trick for the interfacing that is by no means new or original to me, but I’ll note it here:

 

  1. On the edge that will be visible on the inside of the garment, sew the right side of the fabric to the non-fusible side of the facing with a 1/8” seam (top right pic).
  2. Turn out so that the wrong side of the fabric faces the fusible side of the facing.
  3. Very carefully, press this seam on the right side of the fabric.
  4. Fuse the rest of the interfacing to the fabric.

Then you end up with a neat enclosed seam (left pic, and closeup on bottom right), rather than having to finish the seam allowances with an overlocker or a zigzag stitch.

I mentioned before in my post about sewing jeans that I don’t trim the seams for the waistband corners, but use them to strengthen the corner. I decided to do the same for the collar, even though it’s not a 90 degree angle (I got out my protractor and can confirm it’s 75 degrees!) and was pleased that it worked. Here is my process:

  1. Fold corner down inwards (top left pic).
  2. Fold each seam on top of the corner to make a diagonal join (top right and bottom left pics).
  3. Hold in place with one hand, then with the other reach through on the right side of the fabric, and pull gently to the right side.
  4. Use a point turner to neaten.

As you can see from the bottom right pic, it worked really well. I also topstitched the collar, which the instructions don’t call for, but I like it for a cleaner and more professional finish. I used the method I mentioned in my last Morgan jeans post for the corner topstitching, and that gave a lovely crisp corner:

  1. Knot one end of a piece of thread, and pass through the corner (top left pic).
  2. As you are sewing, when you approach the corner, pull gently on the loose end of the thread to lift the fabric away from the feed dogs (bottom left pic).
  3. Leave the needle down in the fabric at the corner as you turn the fabric round (top right pic).
  4. Keep pulling gently on the thread as you sew down the other side.

Another success! Beautiful topstitched corners. Though please forgive the shadows on these past two picture montages: I did the sewing in the evenings and so the photos are taken in artificial light!

I also topstitched all the way along the centre front and centre back, to keep my edges neat and crisp. You can see that in the photo higher up the page.

I did everything else according to the instructions, until…

When everything was sewn in place, I got Rich to try it on. It was ENORMOUS. I had chosen a size M based on his measurements, which was no surprise as he is a size M in every sewing pattern I’ve made for him (as well as in RTW). But when he put it on he looked like one of those adverts for weight loss where the person puts on the shirt that used to be tight to show how slim they now are. Seriously, I wanted to weep. It was too late to start playing around with darts without unpicking the whole thing, and I was only a week away from the deadline at this point! So I brought out the original and beloved shirt, and laid it on top of mine. You can see here how much bigger mine was:

So I pinned carefully around the outline of the RTW shirt, then got out my French curve and some tailor’s chalk and measured a new outline that was mirrored on both sides. I then added seam allowances, and cut along my new line. I also cut 2 inches off the length and the sleeve length by using my overlocker, as a quick way of ensuring I kept the original shaping of the shirt. The pic at top right shows you just how much fabric came off each side seam, and the bottom shows a mistake of mine: I hadn’t realised that there was a chunk cut out of my shirt bottom at centre back! So talk about a blessing in disguise, since that’s exactly the amount I needed to chop off to make the shirt the right length!! You can see from the offcut piece that I also shaped the shirt mimicking the much-loved RTW one. So finally I get to take my turn behind the camera! This is the finished result:

Overall the resulting silhouette is much better, but the real shame is that the shoulder seam sits too low down on the arm because it came up so large. It’s not unwearable, but it’s not perfect and that bothers me, especially when you look at this back view:

So would I make this shirt again? Probably not, though I would certainly recommend it to beginners. I loved taking part in the challenge, but overall I prefer a men’s shirt with a collar stand and button placket, and also with a back yoke and darts or pleats. I would also sooner go with a tried and true pattern that I know fits Rich, than mess around trying to adapt the pattern pieces for a better fit. But there is also a pattern for a tie included in this packet, and that I may just try! And all things considered, this is still a nice shirt that Rich can wear in the summer, and I know that in terms of finish it looks good. More importantly, Rich likes it – so if he’s happy, then so am I!

So to finish, here are some “floral fever” shots of our duo of Simplicity challenge makes:

I’m wearing my top here with a Colette Mabel pencil skirt. I thought I’d try to go for the full-on curvalicious silhouette, but I’ll give you three guesses as to how comfortable I felt in it!!

And finally, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SIMPLICITY! Thank you for this fun competition!

Sleevefest 2017: we have a winner!

It hardly seems any time at all since I sat down to write a blog post for the launch of the Sleevefest summer sewing challenge… and now here we are at the start of Autumn, after more than 200 entries to the challenge, 6 prizewinners drawn at random, 10 sleeves shortlisted for the final prize, nearly 500 votes cast, and many new sewing friendships made!

The ten finalists

I’m going to talk about all ten finalists in just a moment, but first let me give you the big announcement: the champion of sleeves is… Ersan! He made this sublime bustier with deconstructed sleeves for his beautiful niece:

Diane and I were particularly impressed with the fit (Ersan self-drafted this pattern based on his niece’s measurements) and the creativity of the make, and you all were too! So Ersan wins a £25 voucher to spend at Sew Essential, and a bespoke Angelina pattern from us here at Valentine & Stitch, tailored to the measurements of a person of his choice.

Ersan’s sewing in progress

So now onto the selection process and the other nine finalists. We didn’t know how on earth we were going to choose only ten sleeves with all the amazing creations that Sleevefest had generated (check out the #sleevefest2017 hashtag for some wonderful inspiration!), but Diane’s original idea for the challenge had been to do something creative with sleeve design, so we decided to focus on sleeves that had some kind of hack, self-drafting, or original design. Then we each whittled it down to ten favourites, and had some discussion back and forth about the final shortlist. And without further ado, here are those lovely sleeves!

Melissa wowed us with her take on the Sew Over It Ultimate shift dress: she did a three-quarter sleeve, but added a pleated picot-edged trim to both the sleeves and the hem. The result is both classic and original: the perfect little black dress!

 

Sarah made this gorgeous shirt with a ruffled cuff detail that goes all around the sleeve placket and sleeve hem. She said in her Instagram post that she had been inspired by a picture posted by someone she follows on Instagram, and she had recreated the look on New Look 6599. As always, Sarah’s sewing and attention to detail is meticulous, and the finished result is just beautiful.

 

Michelle made this stunning red coat: it’s based on the Named Patterns Isla trench coat, but she added these fabulous ruffle sleeves to create a unique piece that we all want to borrow! You can find out more about Michelle’s sewing adventures here, but in the meantime swoon over her coat:

 

Next up is Kelly, who designed this dreamy sleeve. A friend of hers had a RTW top with a similar cuff detail and so she self-drafted the sleeve based on the RTW garment, and attached it to the Simplicity-New Look 6378 kimono pattern – you can read more about her process here, and see more photos of her beautiful floaty kimono!

 

Pauline loves to recreate designer styles in her sewing, and this entry was no exception. She had seen an Anthropologie dress with grommets and a ribbon tie on the sleeves, and she made her own version using the Tilly and the Buttons Coco pattern. Also, look at her perfect stripe matching, and check out her blog post on how she made this dress!

 

Barbara’s top is not only beautiful to look at, but has a lovely story behind it too. She was given a beautiful nightgown as family heirloom, and she refashioned it to make something new. She wanted to honour the original garment with its delicate crochet detail and micropleats, but make something she could wear in everyday life, and she came up with this fabulous bell-sleeved top. Wearing this must be like wearing a little piece of family history.

 

Arianwen stunned all of us with her original take on the “sleeve”: when she hears “sleeves” she always thinks of tattoos, and so she hand-embroidered the bodice of her Butterick 6412 dress with tattoos – anchors, mermaids, “Hello Sailor”, you name it, she embroidered it! Inspired and one of a kind.

 

Suzy made some beautiful garments for Sleevefest, including an amazing sheer sleeve for herself and a bridal kimono for a friend of hers, but the one we chose was this fabulous lace insert. Suzy took a tried and true pattern (Simplicity-New Look 6179) and deconstructed the sleeve to add these inserts with bell cuffs, which make the whole top look so pretty and stand-out.

 

And finally, Carolyn is wonderful at refashioning garments to make something unique to her. She created some wonderful sleeves for Sleevefest by using oversized men’s shirts and tailoring them with different details such as peplum, puff sleeves, and mixing and matching designs. The one that really stood out for us was this gorgeous blue checked one, which manages to be both casual and smart at the same time!

 

We loved all the finalists’ entries so much, so Rich and I have decided to offer each of the nine runners-up a Valentine & Stitch pattern of their choice. Congratulations to all of our finalists, and thank you to everyone who supported Sleevefest: our sponsors, our entrants, and all of our fellow sewists who made this so much fun.

Diane and I are hoping to bring you another fest next summer, so stay tuned!

Thank you so much to everyone who was involved in Sleevefest, and keep up the sleeve love 😉

A summery summary: my handmade holiday 2017

Hello, sewing friends! Just popping in today to share some of my holiday wardrobe hits and misses! Summer seems to have come and gone in the blink of an eye – I always feel a bit sad at the start of autumn, as I love long days and warm evenings and sunshine (even though that has been in short supply in the UK these last months!) My most-worn items were cropped jeans (a couple of RTW ones, but mostly Morgans but also my Eleonore jeans BEFORE the me-made tragedy I posted on IG recently, shown below in the bottom left photo) and comfy sleeveless tops – one Hey June Handmade Santa Fe top (bottom right), and otherwise various choices from my spiralling-out-of-control range of Dune tops.

The lovely Bridget recently reviewed Dune and set out her criteria for the perfect summer tank top – check out her blog post here and marvel that she managed to get the phrase “moisture-ick” into a sentence without sounding weird (if we’re playing blog bingo, she totally wins!) I agree with her criteria 100%, so it’s no wonder that Dune was my most-worn piece. I mostly wore the tops with cropped jeans as shown above (including a few outings for my sewing fail jeans blogged in my last post!), but I also paired my navy blue one with one of my Margarita skirts, and that was a really comfy outfit.

This Margarita also paired really well with an old white RTW shirt that I found gathering dust in a drawer, and which has made me wonder about making something similar.

I need more solid items in my me-made wardrobe, as although when I used to buy RTW I bought almost exclusively solids in neutral colours, something about sewing my own clothes released a different version of me I hadn’t met before, one who loves COLOUR and FLORALS! But the problem with making everything in colourful florals is that I often don’t have separates that work together! However, what about this little number?

I have waxed lyrical before about this Paparounes fabric by Katarina Roccella for Art Gallery Fabrics, but having squeezed a top and a skirt for me plus a skort and a pair of shorties for my daughter out of only 1.5m of fabric, I wasn’t going to buy more to sew another dress in it as my summer wardrobe might start to look a little “same-y”. But when I saw my two separates sitting together in my drawer, I had a “Eureka” moment! What if they could go together to look like a dress? I’m so pleased with this discovery, because now I can have my Paparounes summer “dress” without even having to sew anything new!

Surprisingly, I didn’t wear many “real” dresses this holiday. Well, perhaps not that surprising in that we didn’t exactly have glorious weather, but given that I usually find dresses the easiest thing to wear (a whole outfit without thinking about what goes with what is always a winner, right?) it was unusual for me. I did get one outing for this sundress, which is from the Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time book that I’ve mentioned before.

This book is great for getting your perfect-fitting bodice block, and from there you can modify it any way you choose to give you endless possibilities in your wardrobe. I don’t often sew with wovens but when I do I want it to fit properly, so it’s worth getting your fit perfect (I lost count of the number of toiles I made before I got mine, so now I’m never allowed to gain or lose weight because I don’t want to do it again!!) I did feel a little less comfortable in this dress, as it’s so very fitted (and despite my protestation above, I think I’ve gained a couple of pounds since I made it last year) and it made me realise why I reach for comfy knits rather than fitted wovens. But it’s good to learn lessons about my own wardrobe habits, and try to remember them when I make my sewing wish list!

The other dresses I wore were my Dune maxis. My lovely IG friend Maxine posted a picture of her Dune maxi, saying she was going to wear it to travel in on holiday, and I thought that was a great idea! It would never have occurred to me – I always wear my most comfortable jeans to travel in, but it was like a whole new travel wardrobe opened up with Maxine’s comment! Who wouldn’t want to travel swathed in lovely soft jersey? Genius. So my black and white maxi Dune was my travel outfit (pictured at the top of this post with my new M7542 top, as I don’t have any photos from the journeys!) I also made a floral Dune maxi while on holiday – I wasn’t going to sew at all while we were off work, but I made an exception when I got this beautiful plum floral fabric from Maud’s Fabric Finds:

It’s another Art Gallery Fabrics jersey, this time by Maureen Cracknell. I made an alteration to my pattern and kept the size XS all the way through to the waist (normally I grade it between bust and waist) and this was a mistake –it’s just a bit clingier than I would like while on holiday (a time for eating and drinking aplenty, when I need clothes to be forgiving!) but it did have the wow factor with this gorgeous print, so it’ll still get plenty of wear. I also had enough left from offcuts to make my first entry for the Simplicity turns 90 contest last week:

I’ll be doing a full pattern review of this just as soon as I’ve sewn my other entry to the contest, which will be a shirt for Rich!

So, what can we conclude? I still love jeans, but am happy to be wearing mostly me-made ones these days. Knits rule in my wardrobe, and basically the older I get the more I prioritise comfort. And I wear more of our own designs than of anything else, which makes sense as the idea behind Valentine & Stitch has always been to design things I want to wear and hope that others will like them too!

And finally, we just finished the design of our next pattern, Edie. It was always our plan to do a cardigan next, but I literally couldn’t wait to make this as I spent quite a few days on holiday shivering and wishing I had another layer on!

My first version has been a summer one, but I’m eagerly waiting to cut into some sweater knits to make autumn versions… I’ll be back soon to talk about those, I’m sure!

What about you? What are your summer essentials?

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…

Anyone for Margaritas? New free pattern!

We’re taking our summer break soon, so there will be a break from pattern-making until the end of the summer… but we’re not leaving you at a loss for your next sewing project! While we’re away, we hope you will enjoy our latest free pattern, Margarita!

Margarita is a skirt for women, designed as always for knit/ jersey fabrics. As a summer skirt, a cotton jersey Margarita is the easiest thing to wear with a t-shirt, and for the cooler seasons you can sew it up in ponte or scuba to wear with tights.

Margarita came about because earlier this summer I mentioned to Rich that I’d love a quarter-circle skirt with a wide waistband, and later that day I found him sticking together PDF pages because he’d just drafted me one! It was a perfect fit and such a quick and simple sew, that we decided to grade it into a proper Valentine & Stitch pattern so you could all enjoy it!

Action shot! (If “walking” counts as an action)

I’ve made a few of these skirts now: the summer version is in cotton jersey, and as you can see it pairs very well with a tucked-in Dune top! It’s comfy but still looks put together, and will keep you nice and cool on warmer days! The cooler weather version is made up here in scuba. You may remember an earlier outing for this fabric, in my much-admired but rarely worn McCalls dress. I loved the fabric but wasn’t sure I was comfortable in it as one solid block on the dress… but I had just enough left over to try a Margarita! And I’m so unbelievably happy with this skirt – I feel much more comfortable with this bold fabric being used for a separate, and it works really well with a plain black t-shirt. It will be perfect for a smart winter wardrobe.

I’ve also tried adding elastic into the waistband of the lighter jersey version, to give a bit more support over the tummy. This is a super-simple method detailed in the instruction booklet, and it ends up looking like this on the inside:

You can see it in action here in my beloved Paparounes fabric!

(Weird body-pop angle in the first pose. Clearly solved by bending forwards for the next one.)

Plus this one matches the Daisy skirt I made for my daughter, so it gets the thumbs up from her too.

I’ll be checking in on Instagram over the next few weeks to keep up with Sleevefest, and we have some more sleeve hack tutorials prepared to post while we’re off – in the meantime, hope you all have a wonderful summer, doing lots of whatever makes you happy!

OOPS!!! Margarita coming on Friday!

Well, that was a technical blooper! I was just editing a new post to advertise a free pattern we’re releasing on Friday, and I managed to publish it instead of updating it. Sorry to all those who subscribe to the blog via email – please ignore the message you’ve received with the new post; you’ll get it properly on Friday, along with details of how to download the pattern! But since you’ve already had a sneak peek, let me just publish one here for everyone: this is Margarita!

Margarita is a cute, comfy, simple skirt designed for knit fabrics, and can be yours for free as of this Friday!

We’ll be back then with all the details. Sorry once again for posting too soon – hope you will forgive the extra message when you get your hands on Margarita!!