Category Archives: MAGAM sewalong

When Zadig met Apollon: Designin’ December and the MAGAM sewalong

When Sarah Liz announced that the theme for December’s MAGAM (Make a Garment a Month) sewalong was going to be a joint challenge with Linda’s Designin’ December, I felt torn. I really wanted to take part for so many reasons: the idea is fantastic, both hosts are lovely, and I love how these challenges push me to think creatively about gaps in my wardrobe, BUT… it’s December. You know, the month I spend running around in manner of over-achieving headless chicken, baking, buying gifts, writing cards, sewing nativity costumes, wrapping gifts… not to mention preparing for my son’s birthday, which is 2 days before Christmas and always needs extra thought to make sure his celebration isn’t eclipsed by Christmas. Not much time for selfish sewing.

Oh but come on!!! Designin’ December?! You know where this is going, don’t you? I made something. A great thing. This thing:

So, the idea of Designin’ December is that you find a look from the catwalks and recreate it. If there’s one thing I learnt from my Sewing the Scene coat (apart from the importance of not losing pattern pieces at a rate of knots) it was that I need the make to be something I’ll actually wear (I STILL haven’t worn my Deneuve coat, despite the weather being perfect for it!) so I wasn’t sure I would find something. For a brief moment I flirted with the idea of combining this challenge with my red velvet dress for the Little Red Dress Project, since velvet has been big this season and I was sure to find something on the catwalks that I’d like, but it kind of felt like a cop out to basically lump three challenges together (whether or not I finish my red dress in time for the pre-Christmas reveal is anyone’s guess, by the way). So I looked at too many images of the Autumn/Winter collections, and got no real ideas. Focus, Helen. What do you like to wear?

I went back to the winter collection of one of my favourite fashion houses, Zadig & Voltaire, and noticed they released a lot of sweater dresses this year. I was particularly drawn to the shape of this one:

Photo credit: www.vogue.com

And when I realised it looked very much like the dress version of my trusty Apollon sweatshirt… well that was that.

Yellow isn’t my thing, nor are geometric lines, and nor is ostentatious wearing of a brand name (though I did wonder what would happen if I followed Zadig & Voltaire’s lead and emblazoned the first word of our logo across the front – can you imagine the awkward situations if I’d strutted around with “VALENTINE” written across my chest?!), but the whole point of this challenge is that you adapt it to suit your style. And when I found this glorious grey marl sweater knit on the Califabrics website, practically begging me to be made into a sweater dress, I decided to just go for it.

Let me take a moment to wax lyrical about this fabric. It’s cotton, which is a BIG WIN in my book – I hate synthetic fabrics, I just end up sweating and feeling unpleasant (plus I found out recently that polyester contributes to the pollution in our oceans, as the fibres can get down drains and into the open waters! Eek!) and when it arrived I actually did a little “yippee” noise! It’s so soft and snuggly, and I confess to having instantly gone back on their website to order it in the other colourway

The construction held no surprises. It’s the first time I’ve made Apollon in anything other than sweatshirt fabric, but it came together really well. At first I thought I might widen the neckline a little to be more like the Zadig & Voltaire one, but I love the neckline as it is and so I reined myself in. Again, learn from the Deneuve coat! I also debated about sizing up, to get the “oversized” look of the Z&V version, so I tried on one of my older Apollon sweatshirt dresses and actually it’s pretty oversized already. Add that to the fact that the sweater knit is less chunky than sweatshirting, and the oversizing pretty much did itself. So, note to self: if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. I also decided against lengthening the arms à la Zadig & Voltaire, as I’d have gone crazy pushing those sleeves up every time I wanted to wash my hands or pick something up or just, you know, do anything. So basically, all this to say I sewed up my Apollon without any modifications, and as a result…

Even bare legs in winter can’t stop me smiling at this one

I have a garment I will WEAR TO DEATH.

Seriously, I love it.

The only thing I would normally do but didn’t is to topstitch down the seam allowances on the neckband, cuffs and waistband. I mentioned here that I like to do this so that they don’t ping back up after washing, but with the delicate sweater knit I thought it would be a shame to add in any visible stitching (since all the raw edges are finished with a band, there is otherwise no stitching visible on the right side of the garment).

You can see that the inside seam isn’t stitched down, but it looks so pretty from the outside!

If I have to press my seam allowances after washing, it will be worth it (I’m not sure if it’s clear how significant a statement that is; I rarely press clothes apart from while I’m making them!!)

One thing I didn’t mention in my last post about Apollon is that the waistband is one long piece with a centre back seam, rather than two pieces joined together at the sides.

Thumbs up for the waistband

I quite like this as a construction method: no effort needed to match up the side seams! Though speaking of matching up the side seams, can we just take a moment to admire the cuffs?!

Pause for cuff love

I’ve styled the dress with chunky boots here to emulate as far as possible the styling of the Z&V image, but this is waaay too short for me to wear with bare legs! Not to mention how cold I’d get. But just for fun, I did a tiny homage and put on a beanie hat like the catwalk pics anyway. I even did a little “catwalk strut”, but clearly I need to work on my “effortlessly cool” face.

Yep, if I have to wear a hat, it’s going to be pink!

It’s safe to say I felt a little daft wearing a hat and boots and bare legs outdoors in December, but in real life I’m going to be wearing this with leggings, as styled here:

I absolutely LOVE this sweater dress. It may not be the most haute couture garment from the catwalks this season, but it’s one that suits my style, my wardrobe, and my life. Plus I’d never really thought of sewing a sweatshirt patterns with a sweater knit fabric, so once again the MAGAM sewalong has made me think outside my usual box.

Thanks to both Sarah Liz and Linda for this fun challenge! It was worth getting cold legs for 😉

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Winter wardrobe staples: Papercut Patterns Rise turtleneck and Jalie Patterns Eléonore jeggings

I love sewing pretty things, show-stopping things, “wow” things… but I hardly ever wear them. I’ll let you into a secret… I still haven’t worn my Deneuve coat. It might be beautiful, but it’s not my style, and this was an expensive and labour-intensive realisation. Most days I wear a t-shirt and jeans: they’re the things I reach for and wear to tatters, so they’re the things I need to spend time on. These thoughts were prompted by the theme for the November MAGAM (Make a Garment a Month), sewalong, which was “November Needs”: look in your closet and see what you need, then pledge to make it. I don’t know how Sarah Liz thinks of these brilliant themes each month, but I’m so glad she does, because I took a long hard look at my clothes and it was pretty obvious what my wardrobe is missing… SOLIDS. So here’s the outfit I made, and the story behind it:

I feel I have a split personality with clothes: the few RTW things I still have left over from the days before I was on a mission to have a 100% handmade wardrobe are pretty much all solids, whereas the fabrics I choose to sew with are predominantly patterns. And not mix’n’match patterns, not stripes or polka dots or geometrics… no… flowers. Colours. The deepest expression of some wild and free side of myself I must have been repressing in my RTW years. I don’t know why it is that I’m always drawn to fabric that’s the opposite of what I’d buy as a garment, but there we are. Let’s not start analysing it, or I’ll never get to tell you about these two makes…

Of all the handmade things in my winter wardrobe, the only things in solid colours were my Edie cardigans, my jeans, two dresses and two barely-worn pencil skirts. So I wanted to make a top and a bottom that could be mixed and matched with lots of different things.

For the top, I chose a pattern I know and love: the Papercut Patterns Rise turtleneck. I’ve made this a couple of times and I really like it. It’s a closely fitted top or sweater (there is also an option called Fall in the same pattern, which is a more relaxed fit with dropped shoulders; I haven’t tried that one yet).

For the bottom, I took a gamble. I had made the Jalie Patterns Eléonore jeans back in the summer. They call for woven stretch denim, but the denim has to have at least 20% stretch (i.e. more than most woven denims available to me actually have). Back when I blogged about that pair, Sue commented that she had never thought to make them in a woven, and had always used ponte for her versions. I thought this sounded like a super plan, as I found them to be more jegging-y than jeans-y, and I liked the idea of a ponte-esque jegging, but wanted something with natural fibres. So I ordered this denim-look heavyweight cotton blend jersey from Lillestoff, and set to work.

The top went together really easily: I did my standard grading of an XS at the bust to a S at the waist, and it’s a lovely fit. I chose a plain black cotton jersey from Girl Charlee for this, it’s 95% cotton and 5% spandex, and I love sewing with it. The whole top went together really easily (one of those where you don’t really have to look at the instructions: shoulders, neck, sleeves, sides, hem). I really like it in plain black, it feels timeless and elegant.

Hard to go wrong with a black turtleneck!

But it wasn’t much of a risk, was it? TNT pattern in a solid colour, and a fabric I’ve already used in several colourways. So let’s talk about the jeans…

I cut out the same size I had used in the woven stretch denim: size R. I didn’t want to try sizing down to compensate for using a knit fabric as I’d found the woven ones a bit too skintight and so I liked the idea of these having a bit more give in them. I did consider omitting the more “jeans-like” details such as the pockets and the faux fly front, but I’m an “in for a penny, in for a pound” kind of girl and I thought why not go the whole hog, then if I don’t like them I won’t torment myself wondering if the pockets would have made all the difference! So I followed the instructions to the letter, including the topstitching. I did my topstitching in standard navy thread though, as I wasn’t convinced that a contrast topstitching thread would work on the jersey.

The jeggings came together much faster than I anticipated – I can’t decide whether this is because of using a knit fabric, or because I’d already sewn the pattern once before. Let’s call it a happy combination of the two! But did it work?

Oh yes. Oh yes. OH YES!!!!!! I *LOVE* this pattern made up in a jersey fabric. So comfortable, but still stylish. And because of the denim-look jersey, they look like jeans but took a fraction of the time to make and have a stretchy waistband! I seriously cannot wait to make a few more of these.

There were no problems with either of these makes, and I’d highly recommend both. As for what they have brought to my wardrobe, well firstly I love how they look together. But they also both go with loads of other handmade garments, so my choices are multiple! The turtleneck looks great paired with my floral Margarita skirt and my ponte skater dress:

And the jeggings go with EVERYTHING! Seriously, everything (though I’ll spare you photos of me parading my entire wardrobe to prove the point)! Plus the whole look can be made more wintry with boots and a maxi cardigan:

So this month’s MAGAM theme was a massive success for me. I’m not stopping there: I have a few more solid fabrics now, and plans for them all! Watch this space…

Me “watching this space” 😉

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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?!