Category Archives: Sewing for me

SCRAPBUSTERS: A trio of Ballerinas and a duo of nameless panties

Here’s a random fact about me: I hate waste. I have a horror of landfill, and although I am nowhere near eco-warrior status, I am all too aware of the dangers of the “disposable” trend that seems to be the norm these days. I think that one of the great things about sewing is that we are more likely to make garments we love and will use, but what about all the leftover bits of fabric that end up languishing in a storage box, or the garments that hang in the wardrobe, unloved and unworn? If you read my post about my sewing resolutions for 2018, you might remember that I said I wanted to make use of things I already have rather than buying more. Well, when I made a recent version of Jenny Hellström’s Ballerina top, I remembered how narrow the pattern pieces are (because it’s such a slim fit top), making it perfect for using up remnants. My love for this pattern knows no bounds, so today I want to show you three scrapbusting modifications I made to it to use up my remnants, including one epic rescue mission.

Three, you say? But what about that “slow sewing” resolution from only a week ago? Fear not, the makes in this post were sewn bit by bit over the last two months, but all blogged together as they’re quite similar!

My standard “no good at building up suspense” opening pic

The first pieces of leftover fabric were this Girl Charlee floral, which I had left over from my GBSB Dune dress. Because the maxi dress pattern pieces are so much wider at the bottom than at the top, there are decent-sized chunks of fabric left over beside the bodice part after cutting out; they’re wide enough to cut sleeves from, and they’re also just big enough to accommodate the bodice pieces of a Ballerina top! I’d already used some of the remnants of this fabric to make a top for my daughter, so I was quite limited in what I had left. I had just enough for a front and back, but then not enough single pieces for the sleeves. So I decided to do a small modification to the pattern, and shorten the sleeves.

Sideways glance. I’d like to say I was contemplating my sleeves, but really I was just hoping to get the photos done before the rain came.

Since the sleeve is so close-fitting, I didn’t need to alter the line at all, just mark where I’d have to cut it off. I had just enough to make elbow-length sleeves: this isn’t a length I used to like, but since we offered it as an option on the Cassandra pattern, I’ve been getting more into it, so I decided to go for that rather than “short short” sleeves.

I usually find that designers choose specific features for a reason, and I think the ¾ length sleeves of the original pattern work best with the cut, but this is definitely a cute and very wearable t-shirt of the kind that will be in heavy rotation!

and now I’m looking downwards. There are only so many ways you can photograph a sleeve…

AND, bonus make: there were just enough scraps of offcuts left to try out the latest draft of the panties pattern we’re working on!

pretty panties!

I’m in love with the combination of this floral fabric and the pale coral lace. Plus from three metres of fabric I got a maxi dress, a peplum top for my daughter, a t-shirt, and a pair of knickers. That’s pretty hard-working fabric!

My next scraps were rescued from an early version of the Cassandra dress. When we were drafting we initially put too much swing in it, and it felt sack-like (we felt we’d crossed the line from “eat, drink, be merry, and your tummy still won’t show” to “is she eating for two?”, so went back to the drafting stage!) I’d made it in one of my favourite fabrics, so was gutted when I realised that we needed to make further adjustments. I put it in my wardrobe and thought I’d get some wear out of it anyway… but it just sat there, ignored and unloved. Time to reach for the scissors…

So much better as a Ballerina top!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I always find it hard to cut pattern pieces out of existing garments, because the ones you’re cutting from are often narrower in the wrong place than you need them to be. So I carefully cut all the seams to maximise fabric usage, and managed to get the bodice front and back from the skirt part of the dress. The sleeves could be cut down for the Ballerina sleeves, as the Cassandra ones are slightly wider, and then there was a bit left at the bodice top that wasn’t going to be big enough to save.

Can you spot the difference in this version? Look at the dress version of the Ballerina top on the pattern packet: it has cuffs. Cuffs that would just squeeze into my last little bit of fabric! So I decided to go for it, and make some cuffs for the top.

Behold! Cuffs on the dress version!

Now I do like a cuff. I won’t lie to you: a big part of this is dispensing with the need to hem sleeves. I don’t know why I dislike hemming sleeves, it’s not that it’s hard or anything, but it’s as if in my head it’s harder than it is in reality. So bring on the cuffs.

Cuff love

It’s a nice new twist on a TNT pattern, especially since the pattern itself doesn’t offer a variety of options. I wonder whether it might have been better in a more casual or even contrast fabric, but I do like how it adds some length to the sleeve. Because the fabric print is quite busy, the photos don’t show it brilliantly, but I promise they’re there!

AND there was just enough fabric left from the scraps of the original dress to make… another pair of our new knickers!

Ta-daaa! Scrapbusting like a boss. Plus more pretty lace.

We’re still undecided about a name for these, hence the “nameless panties” of the title. I have a name that I’m 90% certain about, but watch this space…

Anyway, on to the final make… This was less of a desire to use up scraps and more of a rescue mission. I had this idea in my head that it would be great to hack the Dune maxi into a skirt. But you know how I’ve ignored the voice of reason before? I did it again. I cut it off at the high waist instead of the low waist, but attached a waistband that fit my low waist. So it was either too long if I wore the waistband at the right place, or too baggy if I hoiked it up. Also, you know what I said earlier about designers making choices for a reason? Dune is a great dress, because of its skimming lines. You lose the whole skim factor if you make it into a waistbanded skirt. So yes, when I started out on this one my voice of reason might as well have been screaming at me from another room while I sang my heart out wearing headphones and doing the vacuuming, because I just didn’t hear it…

Sit tight, there’s a story behind this top…

Anyway, I was left with two large pieces of navy fabric in a skirt shape. By a wing and a prayer I managed to squeeze the bodice of the Cassandra top and an elbow-length sleeve out of each piece (I’m talking to within a couple of millimetres). While I was attaching the sleeves, I noticed I was struggling to set the sleeves nicely. I thought it was strange, but I put it down to being tired and a bit fed up of my rescue project.

Well, when I came to try on the top, I could barely squeeze my arms into the sleeves.

No, I hadn’t been eating lots of spinach (OK, if you never saw Popeye, that joke just went down like a lead balloon).

Instead of the Cassandra elbow length sleeves, I’d grabbed the pattern piece for a pattern I’d been making for my 4-year-old daughter.

No, don’t ask how I could be so stupid.

My remaining pieces of fabric were even smaller now. No way even my trusty Ballerina top could fit onto those. BUT… part of it could. From about the armscye down, in fact. And I had some remnants of black cotton jersey of roughly the same weight left over from my Rise turtleneck. I managed to get the upper parts of the bodice front and back, plus a neckband, with a tiny bit left over – just big enough for short sleeves – from the black jersey. So I was going to make this a short-sleeved top, until I realised that in my offcuts from the original navy maxi skirt I had a couple of pieces big enough to make the rest of the sleeve piece. Hurray!

I’m going to pretend that this is what these fabrics were destined for all along.

The only drawback is that it’s a bit, well, Vulcan…

Live long and prosper, friends…

Till next time, have a great week!

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The Ballerina top by Jenny Hellström (aka my favourite t-shirt)

I’m just going to come right out and say it: this pattern is pretty close to t-shirt perfection. With practically every t-shirt pattern I’ve tried before, there’s always been something that I end up wanting to alter. The perfect t-shirt is something of a holy grail, and since I like different kinds of t-shirts for different outfits and occasions, I need more than one perfect pattern. Today I want to talk about the close-fitting kind with negative ease. You may recall that I’m not entirely comfortable with close-fitting clothes – I talked about it with my Simplicity summer challenge make and in my post on “The Power of Sewing” – so to feel good, really REALLY good, in a close-fitting top is no mean feat.

Enter the Ballerina top by Jenny Hellström. If you don’t already know of this Swedish designer, I highly recommend you visit her site: I love her designs, and although they are on the pricey side, they are a thing of beauty and also make perfect gifts (I was gifted this pattern and the Doctor’s Orders cardigan last Christmas). I love the cardigan too and perhaps I’ll get to talk about that another day, but today I want to focus on this top.

Photo from http://www.jennyhellstrom.se/

If you like multiple options in your patterns, then perhaps this isn’t the one for you – there is one design for the top, though there is a bodycon dress option too (I did try a toile of that but I refer you to my earlier statement about not feeling comfortable in very form-fitting clothes!) However, if you are a confident sewist, you could easily use this as a basis to alter sleeve length, neckline etc (though I think that neckline is pretty perfect as it is!)

I mean… let’s face it, the chances of me ever feeling like a ballerina are fairly slim. But this neckline is about as close as I get.

Neckline perfection

The construction of the top is exactly as you would expect: sew the shoulder seams, sew the neckband, attach the neckband, sew the sleeves, sew the side seams, hem. The instructions are written only, no illustrations, so absolute beginners may be put off but if you’ve ever made a t-shirt then you wouldn’t really need illustrations as there are no surprises. The only thing I added was to topstitch the neckband in place with my coverstitch machine, so that the seam didn’t flip upwards after washing.

As you might expect since I design patterns myself, I have a critical eye when it comes to the drafting of others. I prefer not to say when I find something to be badly drafted, but I will shout it from the rooftops if something is beautifully drafted. Get me a ladder and a megaphone, because THIS IS. I know how hard it is to get a simple design exactly right, and it irritates me when simple isn’t done well. You can’t say that of Jenny Hellström – this pattern is perfect. It clings without ruching up anywhere, the neckline is sublime, and the contours and shaping are spot-on. Plus the hem has a gentle curve – am I alone in disliking a straight line for a hem? – so the shaping is very flattering.

OK OK, it ruches up a tiny bit if you do twisty poses.

I love this top with jeans (in all these photos I’m wearing my denim jersey Eleonore jeans); I think it would also look lovely with a navy skirt or even a grey one, and am thinking of making a navy ponte Margarita to dress it up a little.

The only thing that might put you off Jenny’s patterns is the Burda magazine-style pattern sheet. Pattern pieces overlap and so you have to be careful when tracing, and seam allowances aren’t included so you have to add those. I won’t pretend that either of these things are desirable activities for me, but this top is SO worth it.

Running out of ways to photograph this. So let’s find a different spot to stand in while attempting to look natural.

Shall we talk about the fabric? This is one of the “Club Knits” from Utah-based retailer Raspberry Creek Fabrics, and is 95% cotton and 5% spandex. It’s from a collection they released a year ago so they don’t have this design any more, but it seems to be kind of a signature style of the company so there are variations on it still available. I haven’t been able to purchase frequently from this store as it’s in the US and so I can only order small amounts because of customs and taxes, but I’ve been really happy with the ones I have received. The jersey is lovely and stable – it may not have the buttery softness of, say, the Art Gallery Fabrics cotton jersey, but it has a weightier feel to it and it is a dream to sew as its slightly heavier composition means that it doesn’t curl at all at the edges. It’s a perfect fabric to use if you’re new to knits, or if you need to cleanse your palate after working with tricky fabrics for a few projects! There is a French terry option too, and I have also used that, but I prefer the cotton jersey (this is just personal taste).

To conclude: well, when you’ve exhausted words, say it in Emoji. This garment is 100% “heart eyes heart eyes love hearts smiley face” 😉

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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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All sweatshirts are not created equal: I AM Apollon by I AM Patterns

Firstly, thank you so much for your touching reactions to my last blog post, both here and over on Instagram. I have felt overwhelmed (in a good way!) by every message.

I’m back today with a very different kind of post: I’m here to sing the praises of the humble sweatshirt! A wardrobe staple, and I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect pattern. The favourite of those I’ve tried so far is the Apollon from I AM Patterns (yes I know, my skills at building suspense are not getting any better!)

Apollon in all its glory (though please ignore the less than glorious creases from having been stuffed in a drawer since last winter).

But this is a tale of a quest, so back to the beginning we go…

At first glance, sweatshirts seem pretty simple: front, back, sleeves, cuffs, a neck band and a hem band. How do you go wrong? Well, pretty easily, as it turns out. Don’t we all have our own idea of what makes a perfect sweatshirt? For me it is: neckline reasonably high, but not too high. Probably crew neck. Length hitting at low hip so it doesn’t expose my tummy when I stretch or move. Slouchy fit but not shapeless. Definitely not too tight, especially on the sleeves and under the arms.

Quite a tall order, I know.

But I AM Patterns did it.

I almost didn’t buy this pattern, as I already had several sweatshirt patterns. But I wasn’t entirely blown away by any of them, and so I thought it was worth investing in another!

So why do I like it so much? Well, maybe I should start by telling you a bit about the ones I liked less. First up, and I know this will be controversial because it seems to be the undisputed favourite of the sewing community: the Linden by Grainline Studio. I did hesitate for the longest time over whether to buy this, and I must have talked about it so much that in the end Rich bought it for me a couple of years ago, along with the Scout tee pattern! The Linden is certainly a great pattern and well designed, but the reason for my tergiversating (I think I just won blog bingo FOREVER with that word) was the reason I was underwhelmed: the boxy style that Grainline is known for just doesn’t suit me. Aesthetically, I love it. But I don’t feel it does anything for me:

Linden sweatshirt… I wish I loved it more

I just look kind of shapeless underneath it! In fact the Scout tee I got at the same time is the ONLY pattern I have never even bothered finishing – it looked so awful on me that I never hemmed it, just recycled the fabric. It’s such a shame as I love the look of Grainline patterns, especially the Driftless cardigan and the Morris blazer, but my body shape is just all wrong for them. The one way I do think the Linden has worked better for me is to combine the long cuffed sleeves with the shorter bodice: the length and the very subtle high-low hem is more flattering to my body shape, so I can make it out of regular jersey, like this lovely lilac floral, as a twist on a raglan t-shirt:

Feeling the Linden love more styled this way!

And speaking of raglan t-shirts, next up is the Lane raglan by Hey June Handmade. This is advertised as a t-shirt, but the designer suggests that if you size up it can be made as a sweatshirt. As a t-shirt it wasn’t quite the shape I was looking for, though it looked better when I removed 2 inches from the bodice (my standard adjustment is to remove 5/8”). So I sized up for the sweatshirt version, took out my 2 inches, and it was all pretty straightforward.

Lane raglan made as a sweatshirt

I LOVE the neckline of this top and find it very flattering, but it doesn’t work quite as well on a sweatshirt because it’s lower than I would like and so leaves me a little chilly on a cold day. I do wear this top a lot though, and I think that the addition of the sweatshirt hem creates a lovely shape.

But back to the Apollon, because in addition to the standard sweatshirt length shown at the top of this post, you can also make it as a dress! Well, they call it a dress, I am obviously either taller than the women they design for or way more prudish, because I’d call it a tunic. Though when I was 20 I’d have called it practically knee-length, so I am prepared to accept that I’m the one with the issue, not the pattern nomenclature! (Look at that, I got “tergiversate” and “nomenclature” in the same blog post. I am on a ROLL).

Dress? Tunic? Either way, I love it! (Excuse the year-old creases again!!)

Anyway, I do love the Apollon at this length, it’s perfect to wear with leggings (though in my pics I’m wearing it with skinny jeans, as I took all these photos on the same day and it was enough to run indoors and change my sweatshirt five times without adding leggings into the mix too!!) I also used the same blue sweatshirting I’d used for the shorter length, as I bought loads of it. But at least it’s plain and easy to wear, don’t even ask me how much of the purple roses fabric I have left even after making countless garments in it…

With both lengths of Apollon I graded between size 36 at the bust and 38 at the waist. The sizing is European, so I chose based on the table of measurements. The sizing was generous, but generous is good in a sweatshirt, I’d say. The grading also gave it a bit of shaping so it wasn’t straight up and straight down, and I like the result.

I also think the neckline is perfect – not too high, not too low, but just right, and the hem band is just the right proportion too so that it’s not cinching in too much and pulling in the bodice but it’s not hanging loosely either. Not too loose, not too tight. Just right. Let’s just call this my “Goldilocks” sweatshirt! I AM Patterns describe it as a “feminine version of the classic sweatshirt”, and it’s as good as it sounds.

I’m going to leave you with a montage so you can see all four together and judge for yourself whether or not you agree with me about the one that suits me best! I’ve tried to do the same pose for all four shots so that you can get an accurate comparison. And also because that is basically my “camera pose”.

Which is best? Are you with me on Apollon, or do you see something I don’t with the others?

Tell me what you think! Have you tried Apollon? Do you have particular requirements in a sweatshirt too?

The Power of Sewing: On my favourite pattern, body confidence, and design philosophy

I think we’re probably all agreed that sewing is more than just a hobby; it’s a way to express ourselves, to empower ourselves, and to take care of ourselves. There are plenty of hashtags floating around that tell us so: #sewingismysuperpower, #sewingkeepsmesane, #sewingismytherapy and so on, and the sentiment I truly love is in Sarah’s strapline for her blog, that sewing soothes the soul. Ever since Rich and I set up Valentine & Stitch these sentiments have become even more relevant to me, as we embark on a journey that not only soothes my soul, but allows us to connect with many other people on a journey of their own.

If I had to pick one pattern we’ve designed that most reflects both me as a person and the company we’re building, I wouldn’t hesitate: it’s Dune. What started out as an idea for a simple sleeveless summer top just grew (literally) into a dress that makes me feel like a bombshell every time I wear one. What’s that got to do with body confidence and design philosophy more generally, I hear you cry? EVERYTHING. Because despite regularly being told by acquaintances that it’s “alright for me” because I’m slim (don’t even get me started on this…), I have a difficult relationship with my body and sewing is one of the ways in which I give myself confidence. Can you feel a backstory coming on?!

Any excuse to trot this photo out. I still can’t quite believe that’s me!

Let me start with the opening lines of a poem I have long loved: “The Ideal” by James Fenton.

This is where I came from.

I passed this way.

This should not be shameful

Or hard to say.

When I was 12, something pretty awful happened in my life. Despite the beautiful sentiment in Fenton’s poem, I do find it hard to say, so we’ll leave the details out of it, but I dealt with it by “secret eating”. Within a year I had gone from wearing children’s clothes to wearing a women’s size 16. I spent my teenage years feeling alienated in my own body. And that’s not to say that being heavier or curvier is somehow fundamentally less “right”, not at all, it’s just not my natural body shape and on me it was an outward sign of things not being right inside. It wasn’t until I was 30 that I started to take back control of my body – that’s 18 years of feeling like a stranger to myself. Inside me there is still a girl who looks in the mirror and can’t truly see herself.  I dress for that girl, as she was then, young and lonely and insecure, as well as for me, as I am now, age 40 and happy and confident. My clothes need to flatter my figure, show off my good points, and help me forget – or not care? – about the less good points. I found that I was routinely making an array of alterations to even seemingly simple patterns to feel good in them, and so a plan began to form to design my own patterns: simple, thoughtful designs that would be easy to sew and easy to wear. So with a lot of determination, unwavering support from Rich, old-fashioned hard graft from both of us, and more than a few melodramatic declarations that we are Just. Giving. Up. Right. Now. Really (from Rich. OK, OK, from me)… Valentine & Stitch was born…

If in doubt, stick your leg to one side and drop your hip.

That girl I just told you about always dreamed of wearing swishy dresses. But they would just hang off her hips and make her look as wide as her hips all the way to the floor. So when we were designing Dune, and the original plan was to make a knee-length version, on a whim I said to Rich “let’s try it as a maxi dress instead!” The directive (am I the only one who hears that word and thinks of WALL-E?!): keep the design philosophy of the Dune top (fitted at the bust, skimming over the tummy, kicking out at the hem) to create a dress that skims gently over all the areas I (and many women) feel self-conscious about, and then swooshes and swirls around at the ankles. For the first time in my life, I am wearing maxi dresses, and it makes me feel like I’m walking on air.

Swish! Swoosh!

Every time I wear a Dune dress, I feel amazing. If you follow me on Instagram you may remember I had a bit of a saga planning my outfit for the GBSB live event (in a nutshell: made a dress a week in advance. Felt serene and mildly smug. Tried dress on again three days beforehand. Realised dress looked sack-like. Panicked. Needed seasonally-appropriate feel-good dress. Made new Dune at the eleventh hour). By the skin of my teeth I was ready to go, and from the moment I met Sarah on the train until the moment I said a reluctant goodbye, I felt fabulous. The power of a TNT pattern, right?

Having fun at the GBSB live.

What a great day that was… you can’t see much of my dress in the end as I was wearing my blue maxi Edie over it in all the pics, but the highlight wasn’t the dress, it was meeting all these lovely ladies in real life. You might recognise some familiar faces! But I’m including the next photo to show you a glimpse of my younger self. Mark from Girl Charlee took this photo for his Instagram stories as my dress is made from Girl Charlee fabric: look how much less comfortable I am when I don’t know where to put my arms or how to tilt my head…

Unfamiliar camera pointing at me! No-one telling me where to put my hands or where to look! PANIC STATIONS!!

I don’t think we ever really shed our past selves, and maybe that’s a good thing. My younger self reminds me every day how lucky I am to have the life I have now.

And because you can never have too many “instant boost” dresses, I made a second autumnal Dune from a plain navy fabric… with both of these two I extended the hem length to the next size up, so that they can be worn with a small heel if I want to. And here are both of my new Dune dresses, with me safely back in my “hand on hip” comfort zone in my favourite corner of our garden:

I thought the navy one would look quite casual as it’s a plain cotton jersey (also from Girl Charlee), but actually with a pair of pumps (as opposed to the barefoot prancing around for the photos of the floral version!) it looks smart enough to wear to a more formal occasion! And with flat sandals next summer it’ll be great for everyday wear too. And did I mention I feel amazing in it?!

So that’s the story of my love affair with Dune, the importance of sewing in my positive self image, the awkward girl I still carry around inside me, and our priorities when we design our patterns. I have long felt that teaching me to sew was one of the greatest gifts my mum gave me, as in doing so she gave me the ability to empower myself, to make my own rules about what to wear, and to feel fabulous.

The final stanza of Fenton’s poem opens with this line: “This is my past, which I shall not discard”. We are all made up of our past as well as our present selves, and every day that I achieve a positive self image I feel I am not only making the best of who I am but also honouring who I have been.

What about you, what does sewing bring to your life? Do you have a pattern that makes you feel like a superstar every time you wear it?

Finding my inner re-fashionista

Before and after (I may need to work on my suspense-building skills)

I’m pretty excited about this latest make, because it has breathed new life into an unloved garment! Recently I was sorting through my clothes and was going to give a whole bunch of silk dresses and tops to a charity shop (they’re RTW and a little bit loose, plus they don’t feel like “me” any more), and it just seemed so wasteful. I mean, here I was, a sewist, with armfuls of gorgeous barely-worn silk, about to send these garments away. This coincided with two things: starting to read a book my husband bought me about tailoring and alterations, and noticing more and more “refashions” popping up on Instagram. So I decided to see if at least some of these garments could become something else. My big criteria are: 1. it has to look like something that’s been made from scratch and 2. it has to be something I would actually want to make and wear. So here goes…

First up is the navy blue silk skirt in the photos below, purchased in a panic from Phase Eight in 2013. My daughter was 3 months old, I was breastfeeding (read: my normally nothing-to-write-home-about boobs were ENORMOUS), the rest of my body was not the shape it had been pre-pregnancy, and my husband’s oldest friend was getting married. I splashed out £200 on a dress from a luxury maternity brand online, and when it came it looked like a very expensive sack, so I returned it. Days before the wedding I had nothing to wear, but I had a navy eyelet jacket and a navy breastfeeding camisole, so in a panic I bought this skirt. I spent the whole wedding day feeling uncomfortable and frumpy, because it’s so NOT my style – midi length, voluminous, loose around the midriff… everything I don’t want in a skirt. It’s never been worn since. I mean, even my beloved M7542 top couldn’t save it…

So I looked closely at the construction. There was a wide jersey band at the top, and if I pulled that up over my chest it looked like quite a nice strapless dress (though in danger of falling down because I now have my pre-babies bust back!), so it was an easy step to think that if I just added a jersey bodice, it could work as a knee-length formal dress. I imagine that my process for transforming it could work on many skirts, so I hope it might be useful to see how I did it:

For the bodice I chose the high-necked version of Dune. I’d practically lived in this style all summer, so I knew the shape was good for me. It was easy to measure as Dune flares out from the high waist, so I just drew a straight line across the front and back pieces at that point, to get a piece that when seam allowances were sewn in would be a fitted empire-length bodice. My mistake was to cut a size S rather than XS. I’d really liked the look of the one I made my mum that was slightly looser, and Bridget’s sized-up Dune, and so I thought I’d give that a go (should have tried it with a toile first). So it’s a little looser than it would ideally be, but I’ll come back to that later.

I had small pieces left of some plain navy cotton jersey from Girl Charlee that I’d used to make (you guessed it) a Dune top early in the drafting process, and there was just enough to make a front and back bodice with a bit left over. I wanted to line this bodice for a more formal look rather than do the neck and armband finishes, and there was enough fabric left for a front lining piece, but for the back I had to use remnants of the plum floral fabric I used for my maxi Dune and my Simplicity vintage top. While I was cutting it I thought about trimming the edges of my lining pieces so that they would roll inwards, but for some reason best known to my subconscious, I ignored that thought (second mistake).

Anyway, on to the construction: I did the bodice using the burrito lining method. I totally blanked while I was doing it and was staring at my bodice and lining pieces wondering how on earth I have done it before. I refused to look it up (because I am stubborn and because I was cross with myself for blanking!) and eventually after one brief date with the seamripper I had my lined bodice.

Originally I had just been going to slip the finished bodice over the jersey band of the skirt and sew it on and then cover the seam with some lace (which would be a simple method if you wanted to try something like this on a skirt that didn’t have a convenient waistband!), but the band was just attached to the skirt with a simple overlocked seam, so I thought I’d take a risk and replace it. I pinned the right side of the bodice bottom to the right side of the skirt top, just below the seam so that the original seam would be cut off (otherwise it would have been too bulky with the original seam plus my own new seam all overlocked together) and then took a deep breath and snipped off the waistband.

No going back now…

Then I took the whole thing to my overlocker. I kept the original seam to the right of the blade so it would get cut off as I sewed my new seam – there was no mathematical measurement here, I just kept my forefinger under the original seam underneath and made sure it was always flush to the edge of my overlocker plate so the blade would cut it cleanly at the join.

(Stage right you can just spy my trusty pastry-brush-turned-overlocker-cleaner. I swear by this for getting all the fluff out of my machine. Just don’t ever use it to do an egg wash again!)

Once the seam was done, it was the moment of truth… I turned it all right side out, and aside from looking a little wavy (to be expected when you’re joining two such different fabrics I guess) it seemed to have worked – all the original seam was cut off, and all the raw edges of the bodice had been properly caught in the new seam.

One gentle press later and…

Look at this! I have a new dress, people! It’s floaty and swooshy and so so pretty. It has great movement (which I was more than happy to test with a little twirling session) and both the volume and the length are all at the right place now to be flattering. Below are 3 pics of how it looks from the front, plus one slightly sheepish shot:

The bottom right photo may not be a great shot of the dress but I’m including it for its amusement factor: I had just been taking the twirling shots in the previous montage, and stumbled into the flowerbed… that’s my “that didn’t get caught on camera did it?” face…

There are two things I would do differently if I was starting over again:

  1. Go with my tried and trusted size and do XS across the bust. It currently gapes slightly at the armscyes and at the centre front and back, so it’s just that little bit off perfect and will probably annoy me forever (because I’m obsessive like that).
  2. Trim the neckline and armscyes of the bodice lining, to make sure none of the lining peeks out while I’m wearing it.

The thing I’m cross about is that I considered doing both of these things to start with, and I just ignored that little voice of reason! But other than that, I’m really happy with this refashion. I now have a pretty dress to wear to formal occasions, it took very little time to do, and all of it was made from resources I already had lying around the house. I’m calling this one a win!

Have you ever re-styled something from your closet? Do you have any tips to share??

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…