Category Archives: Sewing for me

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 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…

Dune top and maxi dress

Dune is here! And I’m even writing the blog post to accompany it on the day of the actual launch. That’s a first 😉

If you read my recent blog post about drafting Dune, you’ll know that we were heading towards the 6th version and I thought that would be the final one. Nope. It was the 9th. At least, I think it was, we made so many of them over the course of that fortnight that there might have been more! We weren’t making big changes: it was the combination of getting the kick hem exactly right and making sure there was the right amount of fabric in the back (not pulling across the lower back, but still fitted). We’re talking a few millimetres difference in each draft, but the 6th, 7th and 8th drafts came and went and it still wasn’t perfect. You know what they say, the ninth’s a charm 😉

We were still on the 8th version when we made the dress option. Happily, all the modifications we’d already made to the top came into their own and that one was just as we imagined it straight away! The only issue was that it was the perfect length unhemmed, and so we went back and added an inch to the length to take the seam allowance into account.

So, Dune is a maxi dress! I was so excited and nervous about that. I have never worn a maxi dress before, I always feel swamped in them, and find they just hang down from the hips and make me look the width of my hips all the way to the floor. So what we wanted from this was for it to be fitted to the waist, then gently flow to the ankles without being too voluminous. I tried this on and couldn’t believe how good I felt in it. And then the reaction from the lovely IG sewing community when I posted a toile was just amazing, so it felt like the right decision! This one was made from a lovely soft cotton jersey from Girl Charlee. Here are some shots of maxi Dune in action, so you can see the swishiness of the dress:

Because it’s important to get the length just right on a maxi dress, Rich has written a tutorial for you to make sure that your Dune maxi is just perfect for you: Look for ‘Maxi dress length’ under the ‘Tutorials’ tab in the ‘Patterns’ section of the menu bar; do have a look if you’re planning to make the maxi version!

Of course the basic version of Dune is a summer tank top. As you might know from my last post and the pics I’ve posted on Instagram, we wanted to create a sleeveless summer top that would be flattering and fitted while still leaving enough room to have an ice cream or two! Dune has a subtle cutaway at the shoulder to flatter the top line, but will still cover bra straps. It has both a higher neck option and a scoop neck variation, and a pretty kick hem that has a slimming effect on the legs.

We recommend that you choose a fairly lightweight fabric for Dune, to keep that floatiness over the hips in the top and over the legs in the dress. It will work in a heavier or stiffer fabric, though the effect at the hem will be more structured (but hey, you may prefer that!) You can see in the green floral version above that I used a more stable fabric (polycotton blend, again from Girl Charlee) and it still has some drape, but is slightly more structured at the hem.

Practising my “looking off into the distance” pose 😉

The finishings of the neck and arms are done with bands, which you can either sew up as invisible bands or exposed/ contrasting ones. The method in the instruction booklet makes the bands up into a circle first and then attaches them to the neckline/ arm hole, but if you are a beginner and want a slightly easier method, check out the second tutorial we’ve created, ‘Alternative binding method’ (also under ‘Patterns’ then ‘Tutorials’ on the website), for an alternative way to do the finishings!

The instruction booklet now has a new feature too: a print layout, and a clear indication of how many sheets of paper you will need. We will be doing this for all our patterns from now on!

We hope you will love Dune this summer. And, just in case you wondered why the co-host of Sleevefest is releasing a sleeveless pattern… we will be offering a free sleeve bonus download that you can customise any way you like, PLUS tutorials for how to hack it to create different looks! So watch out for those…

So I’ll leave you with a gallery of different angles. We hope you’ll love Dune as much as we do! Till next time, thanks for reading!

 

New Valentine & Stitch patterns: Lotus and Loulou

It is already well over a month since we released our first pattern, the Lotus top, and I am finally getting around to writing a post to accompany the launch… and didn’t even manage to do it before we released our second pattern, Loulou! I definitely need to get speedier at blog-writing…  so here’s a “twofer”, a closer look at the two free patterns that have launched Valentine & Stitch…

Releasing Lotus was so exciting, and it has been even more exciting to see completed versions popping up on Instagram – look for the hashtag #vslotus, or some people have also used #lotustop. The lovely Kelly of Sewing Unaffiliated also wrote a blog post about it here – check it out and read her blog often, you won’t be disappointed!

My first Lotus is the one I call my ‘workout Lotus’. I used to practise yoga a lot, and although I don’t get the chance any more and most of my exercise comes from cycling, I still dream of a day when I’ll get back to it… and when I do my wardrobe will be ready! This Lotus is sewn in a pink viscose jersey from Backstitch – they don’t have it any more but they do have it in a blue colour way, or they have a pink one with narrower stripes. This fabric was such a dream to work with – delicate but still stable enough to hold its shape. I don’t mind visible bra straps as long as they’re co-ordinated so I happily wear this with a bright pink bra, or layered over a sports bra or vest. It does also look nice with a strapless bra – or no bra, which is an option if, like me, you’re not well endowed…

As soon as I made my first Lotus, I could see it in a slinky soft black fabric to pair with skinny jeans or leggings. The off-the-shoulder neckline is sexy without being too revealing, and the swingy fit means I could eat and drink to my heart’s content and still feel comfy. So I call this my ‘date night’ Lotus, even though our ‘date nights’ involve sitting in front of a computer calculating formulae to draft patterns! This version, like all the Lotuses I’ve made for myself, is graded from an XS at the bust to a S at the waist and hips. I made it with a slinky jersey from Fabworks that was a total bargain at £6 a metre, which makes me officially a very cheap date! I used 70cm, so Lotus is definitely a good stashbuster! The fabric wasn’t the easiest to work with as it wanted to slip around everywhere, so I had to take it slowly. The thread tension on my machine went haywire part-way through one of the sleeve hems, so that got unpicked and re-sewn three times (the third was my own fault for not catching the raw edge in the inside stitching. NEVER try to hem a slippy fabric without pins. Even if you’re ready to stick said pins in your own fingers). Apart from that, it was a fun sew and I love the result!

Version B of Lotus is a shorter t-shirt length, and can be casual or dressy depending on your fabric choice. This one is made with a crepe jersey and I call it my ‘office Lotus’ as I wear this one to work with a pencil skirt. The fabric has good drape but more of a structure to it than the slinky date night fabric, so it makes a lovely smart but comfortable top to wear to the office. The fabric was really easy to sew – I thought its thickness might make the hems a bit tricky, but it was very stable and easy to work with.

The fourth and final Lotus I’ve sewn for myself so far is this casual t-shirt version. It’s made from a light cotton jersey with a nice drape, and it looks perfect with jeans at the weekend. I don’t always want a top that’s tight across the tummy if I’m indulging at the weekend, but I do like a top to be fitted at the bust so it doesn’t look like a sack. This version of Lotus ticks all my t-shirt boxes! (and you get a view of our crazy wallpaper as a bonus for this one. You’re welcome ;-))

The last Lotus I made was a Mother’s Day gift for my mum. She helped me with the fitting of the pattern as we buy the same size clothes in RTW but have very different body shapes so it was really helpful to make sure the cut was going to be flattering on all body shapes. As a thank you, I sewed her a tailor-made Lotus: she likes the front and back necklines to be higher on her t-shirts, so this neckline was just for her. It follows the neckline shape of the Lotus version B, but with everything raised by a couple of centimetres. If you want to do this modification it’s simple with a French curve, but just beware that the neck hemming is a little harder because there’s less room for manoeuvre. It might be worth adding a neckband if you do want to raise the neckline Mum wears this with bright coloured slim fit jeans, and it looks so summery!

HELLO LOULOU!!!

Our next pattern is the Loulou “modesty shorties” for girls (I only discovered this term recently!) I love that we live in an age where girls can play the same games as boys, but sometimes dresses aren’t too practical… enter Loulou! If, like me, you sew for a little girl who loves dresses but also loves to run, climb, and throw herself around, then this pattern will become a staple! Loulou is simple and quick to make, and although it does come with fabric requirements, really it can be made out of scraps or offcuts. I have also made some out of last year’s dresses, so that the fabric is recycled!

 

When I did a preview of Loulou on Instagram, a number of people said they wished the sizes went higher, and so we have extended the range to go up to age 14.

A few IG friends have asked for this pattern in women’s sizes so we will be doing that at some point, but in the meantime look what fun I had with the older girls pattern!

 

I used the girls age 14 size and made pyjama shorts for summer. I used ¼” seam allowances in case I couldn’t squeeze into the age 14, but in the end I could have kept them at 3/8”. Since they’re for sleeping in, it’s quite nice to have them looser though.

 

My latest sew was for my daughter’s birthday, she wanted a twirly skirt and so we made a pattern for her that we’ll work into a proper pattern in the next few months – the Loulou shorties fit underneath! So she got a beautiful AND practical birthday skirt.

We’d love to hear how you get on sewing Loulou!

McCall’s 7574 scuba dress

A couple of weeks ago I saw some photos on Melissa Watson’s Instagram feed of a gorgeous dress/ top pattern she had just released with Mccalls. I drooled over it for about half an hour, and then gave in and ordered a copy! It jumped straight to the top of my to-do list, and now becomes the first make I’m devoting a blog post to 🙂 It’s meant for stretch fabrics, and I decided to start with the dress. I sewed all the seams on an overlocker, did the topstitching on a regular machine, and the hems on a coverstitch machine.

I made a toile – I always try to do this, especially if it’s a pattern company I’m not familiar with (yup, confession: this is the first time I’ve sewed a Mccalls pattern!), and I graded from a UK size 8 (US size 4) at the top to a 12 (US 8) at the hips. I’d normally grade to a 10 (US 6) at the hips, but this looked pretty close fitting and I didn’t want it to be too tight across the tummy (which is definitely not my best feature). My toile came up a little large across the shoulders, bust and upper arms, but seemed perfect across the hips and tummy, so I made my adjustments on the pattern pieces (included with the pattern are helpful guides for all sorts of adjustments, and recommendations for ‘tissue fitting’ but, I must confess, I didn’t do this – the toile is my alternative!)

No, that fabric wasn’t meant for me. Pink camo jersey… it’s supposed to be for my daughter, but I had 3 metres and she’s only small, so I figured I could borrow some 🙂

Once I was happy with the fit, I cut out my ‘proper’ version in this floral scuba.

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I’ve never sewn with scuba before, so it was my first Mccalls pattern and my first time using scuba… and I should have made my toile from the scuba. It’s much less clingy than the cotton jersey I used for the toile, and it just hung off my hips like a tent. I wish I’d photographed it but I didn’t think to take a pic (still not used to thinking ahead to blogging!) I felt quite demoralised at that point, because in my head this dress looked so stunning, and in reality it looked more like a hospital gown (even if it would have been a hospital gown adorned with huge digitally printed flowers). I did wonder whether to just cut it to the cropped top length since the fit across the shoulders and bust was great, but I really did want the dress, so it got unstitched and re-measured… I took in the sides by about an inch each from the waist down, so my initial generous grading was totally pointless Proportionally speaking it worked out though, as after my toile fit the top of the finished version ended up as a UK size 4/ US 0, so I’ll know in future that using scuba might mean I need to go down a size or two.

(I’ve cropped most of the photos, because believe it or not, that ‘oh, is the camera going off?’ face is actually pretty much the best facial expression I managed to capture on film…)

As for the dress itself, the design is beautiful. My favourite part is the shape of the raglan sleeve: it’s so flattering, following the shoulder line, and is an interesting detail that sets this dress out of the ordinary. I also like the two-piece sleeves and the two-piece back – it helps the dress to fit beautifully which, since it’s quite form-fitting, really makes the difference.

 

The shirt-tail hem isn’t a look I’ve tried before – I almost altered it to a regular shift dress hem before I even began, and then decided to just trust the pattern – and it’s great! Lesson: I must not be afraid to try something new. The overall length of the dress means I want to wear this with heels rather than flats, but that’s fine as the fabric isn’t exactly casual!

I don’t know if I made the right choice with the fabric – I’m not sure I can pull off such a statement print, so I’m going to have to develop some attitude to wear this out of the house. I don’t think it’s a ‘blend into the background’ kind of a garment, so one to wear when I feel like strutting.

Finally, a moderately successful selfie!

The pattern itself is faultless: the instructions were clear and the fit advice was useful. Overall, I’m really pleased with this pattern, and predict that I’ll be making the tunic version before long (maybe not in a scuba… and maybe in a smaller print!)

My sewing story

And so I find myself writing my first ever blog post. It’s not something I ever thought I’d do, but here I am, and I hope you’ll stay with me! Rather than launch straight into my makes, I thought I’d talk a bit about how I came to be here, so you can get to know me a little. I’d love it if you’d leave me comments so I can get to know you too! Bear with me for a couple of paragraphs, and then I’ll stick some photos in 🙂

I started sewing as a child: my mum taught me to hand sew, and I did a lot of embroidery and made stuffed toys and accessories. As a teenager, my sewing adventures were along the lines of ‘cut the calf seams of my jeans to insert corduroy godets and make flares’ or ‘chop off my jeans at the hip to make mini shorts’… accessorised with carefully pre-scuffed Doc Marten boots of course. It was the 1990s, after all…

In my twenties I mostly exercised my sewing skills by sewing on the odd button and raising or lengthening hems. The sewing highlight of those years was a fancy dress outfit: I was living in Paris at the time, and my friend had a themed party where we all had to come dressed as characters from Beatles songs (to this day I think it was the best theme ever). So off I went to a little fabric shop in Montmartre, and bought 3 metres of cheap black fabric with silver stars all over it. Equipped with one small needle and a reel of thread, I made a floor-length strapless gown with a corseted back and a train, added some cheap sparkly jewellery, and ta-da: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I caught the metro there with Lady Madonna and Penny Lane, obviously…

Through my twenties and early thirties I bought a lot of ‘disposable’ fashion, buying for the sake of buying, and not really thinking much about process or waste. Then when I was pregnant with my first child and found out we were expecting a baby girl, suddenly I wanted to sew for her the way my mum had done for me. So we grabbed a bunch of old pillowcases, sat in front of my mum’s machine, and she kept me at it until I could sew. I couldn’t be more grateful.

So there I was, sewing baby clothes (on a new machine – a birthday gift from my parents), and loving seeing my daughter in things I had made for her (mostly by Simplicity and Butterick, if you’re interested!)

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And then I thought, why not sew for myself?

Enter the Sorbetto top from Colette Patterns. Around this time I was doing LOOOONG breastfeeds for my daughter, and I had plenty of time to read ‘sewing theory’ and sewing blogs with one hand while nursing her with the other. So I got my head round darts, bias binding, and all the rest of it, and took the plunge. 6 Sorbetto tops later, I was ready to call myself a sewist. I started with fairly simple designs: Colette’s Laurel and Sencha, a few Simplicity tops and skirts, and some projects from the Great British Sewing Bee books (this was when GBSB was starting out, perfect timing for me!)

And then I was pregnant again. So my handmade clothes didn’t fit my burgeoning belly and boobs any more, and I went back to sewing for my daughter, as well as whipping up a few maternity dresses and tops.

(I don’t know why pregnancy made me go all-out for pink…)

When our baby boy was born, my first projects for him were self-drafted trousers when he was at that awkward stage of being too big for his 0-3 month clothes but swamped by his 3-6 month ones. Then I discovered Oliver and S, and made his baptism outfit from their Lullaby Layette pattern (mine was a sleeveless Deer and Doe Aubépine :)).

Around this time, I discovered jersey… and I’ve never looked back. 90% of my makes are now in knit fabrics, with my favourites being the Marianne by Christine Haynes, Mesa and Winona by Seamwork, the Camas blouse from Thread Theory, and the wonderful Skater dress from Tanya Whelan’s superb book Sew many dresses sew little time.

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As for my favourite makes for children, there are plenty to show you soon, but for now I’ll give a shout-out to the Snapdragon dress from Sew like my mom and the Kensington t-shirt from Hey June Handmade…

OK, so there are a few exceptions to my “jersey rules” mantra: the top one is JEANS. I am so grateful to Heather of Closet Case Patterns for her Ginger and Morgan designs. And I also like jackets, especially the (for me much-missed) Pavot by Deer and Doe and the Secret Agent Trench by Oliver and S. I’ll blog about all of those another day.

(Less-than-perfect pics of my oh-so-beautiful Ginger jeans… I took them before I decided to start a blog! Better ones to come soon, I promise!)

It’s my love of jersey that kick-started my search for the perfect t-shirt. I tried so many, but there wasn’t one that made me stop my search. So I studied pattern drafting while my husband, a professional computer whizz, studied CAD (computer assisted design). We brought the two together, and Valentine and Stitch patterns was born. Watch this space for more on that, but for now here’s a little peek at one of my designs for children…

And so here I am, the newest sewing blogger on the block. At first I just started reading blogs to get a sense of how particular patterns would fit, and whether they would suit me. I didn’t think blogging was something I’d do myself (so many excuses: how will I set it up? When will I find the time? Who will want to read it anyway?) But I started to feel like I knew these people, and so here I am, hoping to connect with you, and to give something back to the sewing community that has given me so much.

Thank you for reading my first blog post, and I hope you’ll keep coming back!