Category Archives: Closet Case Patterns

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!

Sewing jeans: Ginger and Morgan (Closet Case Patterns)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll already know that I love making jeans. I started making my own earlier this year, when I noticed that all my RTW jeans seemed to be giving up the ghost simultaneously, like they’d all decided together that they wanted to retire en masse. In fairness to my jeans, they were all purchased circa 2009-10, so apart from my two pregnancies when they got a bit of a rest, they had been working very hard for quite some time.

First off I just tried to find new ones. I don’t know whether styles have changed since I last bought jeans, or whether I’m just more picky about fit now that I sew for myself, but nothing felt great. So I decided to take the plunge and buy a couple of patterns I’d had my eye on for some time: The Ginger skinny jeans and the Morgan boyfriend jeans by Closet Case Patterns.

I made my first pair of Ginger skinnies before I used social media, so I don’t have any photos of the construction process, but this is the finished result:

This is the low rise fit with no alterations, so I was pretty chuffed as you can imagine. If you’re planning on making jeans, set aside some time: I’d say these took me about 9 hours in total (though my later ones have gone together a bit quicker as I’m used to the instructions now). The one thing I regretted was having interfaced the waistband: the instructions recommend it for the high rise version, but leave it up to you for the low rise version. Well, it was like having a band of steel round my abdomen every time I sat down (in case there is any doubt, this is not my preferred fit ;)). So I unpicked the waistband and ordered some new denim to make another, skipping the interfacing. That worked much better, though I ran out of topstitching thread so thought I’d just hammer the button on and then redo the topstitching another time… what a fool! You can’t topstitch once the button is on, and you can’t remove the button. So my first pair of jeans are wearable but have an odd-looking only-topstitched-along-the-bottom-edge waistband, so I try to wear them only with longer length tops (note strategic angle of this pic!) They are also a little tight fitting at the back of the knee (you can just see a bit of wrinkling in the photo), so I find that after a whole day wearing them I quite look forward to taking them off.

You can see that they don’t have much give over the knees, though I’m happy to report that so far no stitching has popped open when I move around!

Lesson noted for the next pair of Gingers…

The next jeans I tried were the more relaxed fitting Morgan boyfriend jeans. Again, they fitted straight out of the packet, and I like them even more than the Gingers (which is high praise indeed!) I made this Capri version out of gorgeous organic denim by Amandine Cha.

it’s fully reversible and I do slightly prefer the darker side (which you can see in the turnups), but I made these using the lighter side because I’d already made my husband a pair of shorts in the darker side and didn’t want to go all “Howard and Hilda”…

This still makes me laugh 30 years on! To see Howard and Hilda in all their matchy-matchy splendour, look for old videos of “Ever Decreasing Circles” on YouTube 🙂

The mistake I made was with the buttons. I hadn’t clocked this with the Gingers as they have a zip fly, so I hammered in my jeans buttons to correspond to the centre of the buttonhole, as I would with ordinary buttons. But because there’s so much pressure pulling on the buttons, this makes the fly gape a little. At first I didn’t realise this was the issue, I thought I must have just gained a little weight!! So I didn’t realise I should rectify it for my second pair, which followed quite swiftly:

I’m ambivalent about these ones, but take full responsibility for my own ambivalence: the pattern calls for denim with no stretch, but I had a length of the stretch denim left after my second waistband attempt, and so I thought it might make for a super-comfy pair of jeans if I used the stretch denim on the boyfriend cut. Well, it does, they are indeed super-comfy, but they’re also not the most flattering, as they just look a bit too big (you can see it more on the photo of the back). BUT, how gorgeous is the red topstitching?

And I couldn’t resist playing around with one of the decorative stitches on my machine for the back pocket detail. I attached the buttons as I had done the previous time, and again there was that gaping at the fly, even though the jeans were actually quite roomy on me. And the penny finally dropped (OK OK, what I really mean is I showed it to my husband and he explained it to me): the buttons need to be attached at the furthest point of the buttonhole in order to sit perfectly.

This is the face of someone who spent ages getting a fly perfectly installed, only to hammer the buttons in the wrong place.

So onwards to the next pair of Gingers, armed with all the lessons learned.

When I finally got round to starting these, I couldn’t remember whether I’d cut out Gingers or Morgans! Turned out the jeans were Gingers and the pockets were Morgans. I still have no idea why.

For this pair I reduced the seam allowance around the knee to 3/8”, and it has given me plenty of ease to wear them comfortably all day.

I also went for red topstitching again (thanks to some encouragement from my Instafriends!), and although in the end I couldn’t use that lovely faux leather trim, I did get happy with the rivets:

Is it just me, or does it feel a bit wrong to spend hours making a garment and then punch holes in it so that you can poke your rivets through?!

I also decided to assemble and attach the waistband with a 3/8” seam allowance, as on my other pair I did notice a little bit of hip splurge, and let’s face it, no-one needs to see that. So it was a bit of a punt, but I gave it a go and I’m so unbelievably happy with this tiny modification! The rise is just perfect for me. The one thing I wish I’d done is put two buttons on the waistband (one above the other) since it’s now 1/2″ deeper, so that’ll be how I do the next pair. At least I got the button placement right, finally!

Hello, most favourite jeans ever!

Also, my favourite little tip for the waistband: as is usually the case with turning out a point, the instructions advise you to snip diagonally across the corner, making sure that you don’t cut into the stitches. But just before I sewed this waistband, I was pulling down my favourite pair of RTW jeans and I noticed something (I’m not the only one who inspects RTW clothing to see how it’s constructed, you all do that too right?!):

That’s what a RTW buttonhole looks like after 9 years of tireless service 😉

See that bulge in each corner, that looks square-shaped? That’s not a clipped-off corner, that’s all the seam allowance folded over inside the waistband corner. So I thought I’d give it a go, as I’m always quite nervous about how long those clipped corners will last before they start fraying. Plus this would involve no cutting or sewing, so the worst that could happen was that it wouldn’t work and I just would follow the instructions.

So I sewed the waistband and waistband lining right sides together as instructed, but then instead of clipping the corner, I grabbed hold of it with the thumb and forefinger of one hand, turned the waistband right side out with the other, and used my point turner to get the insides sitting flat and the corner looking neat. And it worked! I don’t know how this would work on a point that isn’t a right angle, but I’m so pleased with it as a little trick for this (or any) waistband. No need to worry about cutting too close to the stitches or about the corner fraying!

Yippee!

If you look very closely in this pic, you can see that the top of the waistband above the button flips outwards a bit – hence my desire to put two buttons on next time. I”m sure it won’t be long before I’m making Ginger #3…

 

But for now, the next stop in my jeans adventure is the Jalie Eléonore pull-on jeans. I’m really excited to try a different style, and will report back soon on how that goes!

I’ve finally washed my fabric. It’s all crinkly now and needs a good press. Photo taken of unwashed and unwrinkled stretch denim in all its glory.

Thanks for reading my adventures in sewing jeans, have a great end of the week and till soon!

Me-Made May 2017

This was the first year that I participated in Me-Made May. I’ve been aware of it for a few years and sort of ‘played along at home’, but since I wasn’t using social media it was really just me at home picking out handmade stuff to wear! This year I signed up officially, and pledged to do the following: 1. Wear at least one item of handmade clothing every day in May. 2. Make at least one pair of knickers. 3. Use the process to reflect on which clothes I reach for most often, and which I could consider refashioning or recycling for me or my children. So here’s how I got on…

Goal 1 was pretty straightforward, as I already wear me-made every day. I didn’t want to repeat outfits, so it did make me reach to the depths of my wardrobe to find things that I don’t wear as often (and was helped by the indecisive weather, as I wore sweatshirts and sundresses on different days!) Here are two dresses I don’t wear often, that each got an outing:

Goal 1 also helped me to realise what I want to wear, as there were days when I just automatically reached for something I’d already worn in the month, and then had to look for something similar instead. So I shall be sewing more of my favourite patterns, and trying to sew things that I know will be worn often.

Goal 2 has been fun! I made only 2 pairs of knickers in the end, one in a woven fabric and one in jersey. I liked both, and will be making more with offcuts from other projects!

Goal 3 has had mixed results. The few things I was considering refashioning went down pretty well on Instagram, leading me to wonder whether I should just try to ‘own’ the look a little more! I did make a few decisions though: my McCalls scuba dress that I blogged about here is going to get chopped down to tunic length; one of my Mesa dresses that is thoroughly pilled but has a pretty design on the reverse is going to become a dress for my daughter, and another one where I’m not sure about the fabric may become a couple of pairs of knickers.

So which patterns do I wear most? Check out my pie chart!

 

This tells me a lot: 1. I prefer indie pattern companies; 2. I often wear the same style in different fabrics; 3. I like making and wearing my own designs.

As for what I reach for most often, and where the gaps in my handmade wardrobe are… well, this was the most useful part of the Me-Made May process for me. Time for another pie chart!

 

I have realised I have two very separate wardrobes: a work one and a home one. For work I like dresses with simple shapes, usually in fairly muted tones:

 

For home I like jeans and t-shirts, with sweatshirts or hoodies if it’s cold, and I go for brighter colours:

I have 3 pairs of me-made jeans (including one cropped pair), but clearly I need a couple more pairs if I want to dress handmade every day. I also only recently discovered a love of tunic-length tops (I’ve grouped it in with ‘t-shirts’ here), so that’s another thing to make more of – I’m thinking of using our Lotus pattern, but combining the length of version A with the neckline of version B. Also don’t let the low entry for sweatpants fool you – there was only one day when I wore them all day long, but plenty of days when I wore them before or after whatever I was wearing for the middle of the day!! Another thing not shown on the pie chart is how much of what I wore was in knit fabrics. There were only 3 woven dresses (all Deer & Doe patterns), and jeans. Apart from that, everything was knits. And as you can see, I like wearing pink and blue, and occasionally I even branch out towards purple.

The new garments I’ve made this month are: 6 versions of our new Angelina pattern (the 3 different tops and the 3 different dresses), 2 pairs of knickers, 1 pair of sweatpants, 3 pairs of our Loulou modesty shorts (two for my daughter, and one for myself using the age 14 size! I’ll get a pic up on Instagram soon 🙂 and 2 prototypes of a new summer tank top). I’ve also cut out my next pair of jeans, to be made in June I hope! So now I just need to decide whether I accept that I am not a wearer of skirts, shirts and cardigans, or whether I need to branch out and maybe try some more styles… till next time, thanks for reading!