Category Archives: Seamwork

A Seamwork upcycle: Mesa dress to Alice top

Hello, sewing friends! I’m sharing quite a simple project today, as I’m working away behind the scenes sewing my Day and Night dress challenge dresses and developing our 2018 patterns! This little top is part of my sewing resolution to make more of what I already have: in this case, a garment that was past its best, and a long-standing Seamwork subscription. So here is the story of my first upcycle of 2018, but be warned: it’s more “gritty realism” than love story!

Seamwork upcycle

I expect most of the sewing world is familiar with Seamwork by now: it’s the monthly sewing magazine from Colette Patterns, and has now been going for a little over three years. Each month subscribers get two credits (though now for new subscribers it’s one credit for a standard subscription and two for a premium subscription), which can be exchanged for PDF patterns. A couple of years ago a new feature was introduced whereby instead of just getting the two patterns with that month’s issue, subscribers could choose to “spend” their credits on patterns from the back catalogue, or from the Colette catalogue. But because I’ve had a subscription since the beginning, this didn’t really offer me much more variety. I bought a few Colette patterns, but I have still ended up with a load of unused credits, and a whole library of patterns I haven’t downloaded. So, in the interests of making use of what I have, I thought I’d give a few of the patterns a try, and printed off the Alice t-shirt, the Sadie sweatshirt, the Jill coatigan and the Shelly leggings.

I have mixed feelings about the Seamwork patterns. I’ve tried quite a few now, and the fit/ block isn’t quite right for me. My favourite is the Winona dress, which I’ve made without the bottom panel and which only needed my standard modifications (grade from XS-S, remove 5/8” from bodice) to be just right, but most of the others, while they look great on other people, are at best a bit “meh” on me (I’m looking at you, Astoria, Aurora, Neenah and Oslo!)

I did, however, like the look of the Alice t-shirt from the September 2017 issue. It looked comfy, and a nice short-ish length – and let’s face it, I can’t only wear Ballerina tops forever, can I? Plus the neckline on Alice is higher than on the Ballerina, so I thought it would be a good cool weather layer.

Seamwork Alice (image taken from www.seamwork.com)

A few years ago when the Mesa dress (a knit shift dress) was released, I made quite a number of them (grading from XS at the bust to S at the waist and M at the hips – it’s quite close-fitting otherwise – and using the length of L), and one of them in particular has started pilling quite a bit. But the fabric it’s made from has quite a deep colour saturation, so you can see it on the reverse side too.

The right side is the wrong side and the wrong side is the right side…

I have made loads of things with this fabric over the years (most recently I used it for my Be Bashful Bikini), and often when I get undressed and turn my garments inside out to wash, I think that the inside looks really pretty. AND, the inside doesn’t pill! So you can guess what’s coming: transformation of the Mesa dress into an Alice t-shirt, using the wrong side of the fabric.

A thread dilemma

I had my burgundy thread in my coverstitch machine for the hemming, but because the inside of the fabric was the darker side, I wanted a burgundy in the overlocker too. I didn’t really want to switch my threads every time I switched machines, so I used a slightly lighter thread in the overlocker, BUT I only had three matching ones, so for the right needle I used a brighter red.

Burgundy/ maroon/ wine/ bordeaux…

Was this too lazy? I do like the insides of my clothes to look beautiful, so I feel maybe I should have kept unthreading and re-threading… because my inside seams aren’t quite a perfect colour match. All the more annoying as when I tidied up my thread box only a day after making this, I found another of the slightly lighter threads, so I could have had all four in the overlocker… [grinds teeth in frustration]

You can also see the pilling on this pic

What’s your thinking here? Acceptable, or just plain lazy?

So, onto the pattern tetris. You’d think that making a top from a dress wouldn’t be too challenging, but my bodice pattern pieces only just fit on! (Mesa is VERY short, which is why I’d always extended the length to a size L).

Alice just squeezed onto Mesa!

But that makes for less waste, so we’ll call it a win. I had lengthened the sleeves of this Mesa dress (it’s supposed to be short sleeved), so I was almost able to squeeze the Alice sleeves onto them. The Alice sleeves are narrower (alarm bell! You know I’m coming back to this!), but were a little longer. I could have done a ¾ sleeve, but by now you know my love of cuffs well enough to know what’s coming next: I used the remaining fabric from the top of the bodice to draft little cuffs to finish the sleeve.

Cuff love is my theme for 2018!

The only piece that I couldn’t squeeze out of my original Mesa was the neckband, so I delved into my scrap bag and found some offcuts of the fabric to make the neckband.

This is all that was left of the original dress after I’d cut out the pieces!

I did measure the neckband first, as in the past I have found Seamwork neckbands to be a little on the baggy side: it was 90% of the neck circumference. My ideal is 85%, but I thought I’d just go for the 90% to get a proper idea of how the pattern is meant to be. Argh, I should have just gone with my instincts. It’s OK, but I know it would sit a little flatter if it was just a smidge tighter, so I’m annoyed with myself for not shortening it.

The construction was straightforward and held no surprises. The only challenge was to keep remembering that I was using the wrong side of the fabric: when I had to pin right sides together, my brain just melted and I kept pinning the ACTUAL right sides rather than the “wrong-side-turned-right-side”.

OK, so, back to those sleeves… I had found when I made Astoria a few years ago that the sleeves were very tight on me, and the same is true of Alice. I don’t understand it as I don’t have proportionally wide arms, and yet no-one else whose Astorias I’ve seen seems to have this problem… Anyway, it does mean I feel a little like I’m wearing bandages on my forearms. When I went back to the original picture to put it in this blog post, I noticed the sleeves look tight on the model too – if I’d noticed that sooner, maybe I’d have let them out a bit… oh hindsight, how clear and cruel you are!

You can see here that there’s little or no ease in my sleeves.

Overall, this t-shirt turned out fine, but compared to my beloved Ballerina top it’s not as comfy or as flattering. I definitely couldn’t wear it after a big meal, as it’s quite clingy round the tummy. It seems a little longer on me than on the promotional photos, which is probably just down to me being short-waisted, but it also pulls quite a bit over the bust, as it’s a very snug fit under the arm. If you look closely you can see these issues in the photo above, but here are some close-up pictures that leave no doubt:

I can’t quite believe I’m inviting you to scrutinise wrinkles on my belly and bust, but I did say it was going to be gritty realism!

On the plus side, the slim fit means I can easily throw a cardigan on over it. And I do love the cuffs! But to really give this fabric a new lease of life, perhaps I should have made a Ballerina top? What’s your thinking here, would you favour making a TNT on repeat or trying new things?

In all these photos I’m wearing it with my denim-look Eléonore jeggings, which seem to go with everything:

Eléonore forever!

Since I’ve printed out another three Seamwork patterns I may try them, but I think after three years I’m finally realising they’re not quite right for me.

Is there a pattern from Seamwork that you recommend before my subscription expires? Or do you have a favourite t-shirt pattern that could rival my love for the Ballerina top?!

Sewalong: The Florence bra (Seamwork magazine)

Back in April, my wonderful sewing friend Kelly and I were chatting on an Instagram thread about sewing underwear. We had both thought about making our own bras, and we both had the Seamwork Florence pattern, but we’d never got round to doing it. So we decided to do it together, and give each other the push we needed to get on with it! It has been so much fun sewing a bra AND doing it with Kelly. You know how you meet someone on social media and wish you knew them in real life? That’s me with Kelly. She’s not only talented and creative, but also a truly lovely and generous person. We chose the start of June as our bra sewalong time, although we postponed by a couple of weeks so that Kelly’s supplies could arrive before we started. Once they arrived, we decided to do set stages each day, and send each other pictures of each completed stage so that despite the time zone difference we could still feel like we were doing it together.

 

In my head I was going to go for a nice classic bra, but somehow along with my white stretch lace I ended up ordering neon pink straps and elastic. So obviously the only thing to do for the contrast cup sections was go for a bright green floral. I did check on Instagram whether I needed to dial back the crazy, but the lovely community of IG sewists told me to go for it… so here is the story of the brightest bra I’ve ever owned!

 

It was easy to print and stick together the pattern, as there were so few pieces and they were small. I chose an XS as I am not well endowed, and even the measurements for the XS were a little large for me! The only issue with the pattern was a slightly wonky curve on the side cup. I checked all the other sizes and there was no wobble on those, so I guessed it was an accident and re-drew the curve, which made it fit perfectly with the corresponding front cup piece.

 

This was my first time making bra straps, and it was fun! The hardest part was just teasing the plush elastic back through the slider, so you can see that the sewing itself was pretty straightforward! The cups also went together easily. The pattern calls for a zigzag or a twin needle topstitch on the side cup, and I went for a zigzag as this is the stitch I see on my RTW bras.

 

The trickiest part was sewing the cups to the straps. I followed the instructions (right sides together, then flip the elastic to the back), but because of the angle of the cup, there was an ugly excess of the top point of the cup visible on the right side of the strap. I unpicked and tucked the top point under:

 

Then I got to use the triple-point zigzag stitch on my machine for the first time! (I’m not the only one who gets excited about using a new stitch, right?!) Because my side cup and my cup front were made from different colour fabrics, I did each bit separately with matching thread. It was worth that extra effort as the stitching blends really well into the bra. BUT… when I attached the cups to the bra, things started going less well.

 

Firstly, you sew each cup in from the side towards the middle, but there were no instructions for making that centre seam look neat when they meet in the middle. I did some careful pinning and got a centre point, which I then stitched in place with a bar tack so the seam didn’t peep out over my (admittedly not terribly impressive) cleavage. I also decided to topstitch the seams where the cups meet the bra, so that they too would stay in place.

 

Then the centre back seam is sewn (again, I topstitched to avoid bits of seam peeking out) and the straps are attached to the back of the bra. At this point I tried the bra on, and it wasn’t a happy moment. The straps flipped out at the sides, and the fit didn’t seem great. After long perusals and a chat online with Kelly, I concluded the cup fit in itself was fine, but it’s that centre meeting point that was pulling the cups in an odd way. I couldn’t fix that, but I could fix the straps with another line of topstitching. I compared with my RTW bras and found that the straps on those were only attached at the top of the cup – so I think it’s the fact of attaching a strap along the curved angle of a cup and then wanting it to sit flat that’s the problem. I don’t know if this would be an issue for larger cup sizes as you’d have more… er… filling out the bra and pushing against the straps to make them sit nicely. But for me and my XS cups… there wasn’t much my body could do to help it along!

The final stage was to sew the elastic along the bottom, and that did help cinch things in a bit. I can’t deny it’s a comfy bra, and I do like it but I just don’t love it. I had to do a lot of extra work to make it look as nice as it does, which takes it well beyond the quick sew it’s promoted as. I learnt a lot though, and I have another bra pattern waiting in the wings that I may try next…

This sewalong was so much fun! If you haven’t already read Kelly’s post, you can find it here, and marvel at her beautiful bra!

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!