Tag Archives: handmade wardrobe

“Join in January”: seasonal sewing and the cult of the cuff

A couple of weeks ago I set out my annual plans for the MAGAM (Make a Garment a Month) sewalong: The organiser, Sarah Liz, had asked participants to think ahead to the whole year, and plan accordingly. While I don’t always plan my sewing too far in advance (what seems like a great idea in January might have been relegated to “what was I thinking?” status by June), I liked the opportunity for organising my thoughts and really thinking about what my wardrobe needs. My plans were divided into four categories: patterns I want to draft, fabrics I want to use, specific garments I want to make, and wildcards. I started off with one from the “patterns I want to draft” category, as it was seasonally appropriate and a gap in my wardrobe: I wanted a fitted sweater, finished with bands on the neck, wrists and waist. I was dreaming of using up the leftovers of the beautiful sweater knit I used for my Designin’ December project, and I had a very specific vision of how I wanted it to be. Basically, in my usual “spoiler” way of showing you the finished product at the start, this is how I imagined it:

And so here is how it came to be…

Right back when we were starting to use the pattern drafting software, before I had a blog and before Valentine & Stitch even existed, we spent a very long time designing my “perfect” long-sleeved t-shirt. It was to be fitted through the bust, slightly more forgiving over the tummy (because I’m never going to do stomach crunches) but still fitted over the hips, loose under the arms (I can’t stand anything that restricts me there), and full-length sleeves. It’s not a design we ever released, as although it’s fully gradable between the sizes, there are so many t-shirt patterns out there from more established designers that I doubted there’d be a market for ours. But it was there, waiting patiently to become something more exciting when the time came. And now is its moment to shine!

Shining like the winter sun!

Because the underlying shape was already there, all we had to do was alter certain details to turn it into the sweater I had in mind. I tried everything out on paper first: I raised the neckline and brought the shoulders in and then drafted a turtleneck band. Next I shortened the sleeves and drafted a cuff, and then shortened the length and… didn’t draft a waistband. I had it in my head that it would be super-flattering to just use the flared bottom of the sweater, turn the hem into a straight line, and flip the new pattern piece horizontally to make it into a band. So I tried this out with some horrid polyester jersey (yes this part is important!) from deep in my stash, and it looked half-decent.

First draft. If I look ill at ease, it’s because that fabric is ITCHY!

There were things that needed altering: the sleeves were too short, I wanted a little more length in the body, and there was some excess fabric over the high bust and upper arm, but overall the shape was looking good, and the bottom band seemed to hold itself nicely. The cuffs were perfect because, you know, they’re CUFFS, and the turtleneck was also just right (basically we can just call it a neck cuff). So we transferred all of my calculations to the computer, and made the alterations mentioned above. Excitedly, I printed out my new pattern, cut into my beautiful sweater knit, and sewed it up full of anticipation.

Then I tried it on.

The horrid polyester jersey had been much more rigid than my cotton sweater knit. In my “proper” fabric, the band didn’t have enough weight to give a nice shape – it just sort of pointed out at the bottom and made a “v” at the side.

Forgive my unbrushed hair. This is my “didn’t realise I was going to take blog photos today” natural state!!

I could have worn it. It was okay. But I don’t want an “okay” sweater, especially not when I’ve used such special fabric for it!

So I unpicked the hem band.

The whole thing.

The whole overlocked thing.

It was not fun.

Rich drafted me a “traditional” waistband of the same depth instead, and I cut that out of my last stretch of fabric, assembled it, and attached it to my bodice.

Sometimes it pays to do the boring tasks… I love this sweater SO MUCH!!

It’s just the right amount of fitted for me – you can see from the side views that it doesn’t cling to my tummy, but the waistband cinches in nicely at the hips (which makes me think: is it still a waistband if it sits on the hips? Is there such a thing as a “hip band”? Or is that something you’d use in an intensive physiotherapy session?)

Much better without the weird “side v” thing. Also upholding my fundamental belief that sweaters are just better with cuffs.

I’m wearing my sweater here with a new pair of Eléonore jeggings: I made these ones from a cotton velour, with the idea that they’d be posh sweatpants, but actually they look too nice to be sweatpants!

I also took a few photos with my hair tied up so you can see the fit across the shoulders, chest and back properly. If I look moody, it’s because I don’t photograph well with my hair back 😉

AND there was even a moment of sewing serendipity: remember that unpicked waistband? I was trying to decide if I could use it somehow. I laid my hand on it, and it jumped out at me. Fingerless mitts!

Now, here’s the part where I am in awe of Rich’s technical talent. I can draft on paper, and so I can design a mitt based on my palm circumference. He, however, can take my calculations and turn them into formulae that grade the pieces between sizes according to standard glove sizes. Don’t ask me how – I sit there beside him and try to grasp it but, you know, it’s MATHS. There’s a special switch in my brain that always defaults to “off”.

Anyway, there are three happy upshots of all this. Number one: I have mitts to match my sweater. Number two: I didn’t waste any of my gorgeous fabric. Number three: we’re turning the mitts into a little pattern that we’ll add to our free patterns collection once it’s ready! So save your scraps of sweater knit, French terry etc. – they can become mitts!

You won’t be surprised to know I’m dithering about a name for them…

But they make me smile!

Have a great week, and thanks as always for reading.

 

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!

Pin these ideas:

Sewing resolutions (or: why I will not be wearing crushed velvet in 2018)

Hello and happy new year! I hope that everyone reading this has had a wonderful and joyful Christmas and festive season. We had two weeks off – and offline – and it was such a tonic. I have enjoyed going back to the immediacy of living in the moment I’m in, and two weeks without using my phone has totally smoothed out the frown lines I acquired lately – seriously, I feel like I’ve had non-surgical Botox! With this in mind, I have resolved to spend less time on Instagram in 2018 (along with reading more and going to bed earlier). How do you feel about new year’s resolutions? I always make them, ranging from small, achievable changes like making sure I drink 2 litres of water a day (that was my resolution for 1998 and it’s still going strong!) to bigger things that are renewed every year like being more patient. I accept that by the end of the year some resolutions will have become embedded and others will still be works in progress (I think I’ll be making the patient one every year forever…) This year I made 5 sewing resolutions, and you can place your bets now on which I’ll have stuck to by the end of the year…

1. Only sew things I will wear

This one really hit me with my final make of 2017, the velvet dress I made for the Little Red Dress Project. Despite not having worn velvet since I was a teenager, with velvet popping up just about everywhere last season I couldn’t shake the idea of a red velvet dress. We were working on the Cassandra pattern at the time, so I had a vision of a swingy red velvet Cassandra to wear over the holidays. I modified the pattern to make it a v neck, and (foolishly, as it turns out) turned the fitted sleeves into bell sleeves using this method, and finished them with a rolled hem.

It just all felt a little too Kate Bush…

But oh dear… the combination of crushed velvet and the flared sleeve just made me feel like it was 1992 again and I should have dyed my hair mahogany and donned my carefully pre-scuffed Doc Martens (yep, along with Rimmel Black Cherries lipstick and the Levellers’ Levelling the land album, those things pretty much sum up 1992 for me). So this resolution is about making clothes that reflect me, and not letting over-excited creativity lead me someplace where I don’t recognise myself.

2. Slow sewing (reboot)

This was one of my resolutions for 2017, and it has been a bit hit and miss so I’m renewing my resolve for 2018! I first discovered the “slow food” movement in 2011, when we were planning a holiday through France. I had never heard of the slow movement before, and it appealed to me on a very deep level. Life feels so hectic a lot of the time, and taking time to appreciate the moment, filter out all the noise and stress, enjoy small things and really see what’s around me is… well, kind of like my Holy Grail.

Slow holiday 2011. This is one of my favourite places on earth.

For me, “slow sewing” doesn’t necessarily mean complex projects, or making a simple one last longer than it has to, but rather taking time over every detail of every project and enjoying the process as well as the end result. So, not like my red velvet dress. One of the rules of the Little Red Dress project is that there should be no reveal until the week before Christmas. I imagined that I would be ready and waiting with my dress and my photos, serenely welcoming the week when I could show it to you.

Hahahahahahaha. Know thyself! I started it at the beginning of reveal week.

I could have just abandoned the idea, but then what was I going to do with 2 metres of red velvet? So I whipped it up in about an hour. But speed sewing or sewing to a tight deadline takes away what I really love about sewing – how it rests my mind, gives me time and space to create,  and means that while I’m doing it I can’t get sidetracked  by anything else on my ever-expanding “to do list”. So I’m on the slow wagon this year, hoping not to fall off too many times!

3. Mindful designing

This is connected to “slow sewing”, and isn’t so much about changing how we do things, but about having a design ethos. We have far more ideas than time, and I want to learn how to feel ok with just focussing on a few. We released 8 patterns in 2017, because as a brand new company it seemed right to build a catalogue. Our goal for 2018 is to release 4 patterns, and we’re starting the year with a research and design phase to develop them and see where the process takes us. And all of my makes will be sporting one of these gorgeous V&S labels that Rich made me for Christmas!

He also got me tickets to see A-ha. It’s hard to say which I love the most.

4. Making use of what I already have

This is not only about using fabric from my stash, but also seeing how garments I no longer wear can be given a new lease of life. I made a start on this last year with my silk skirt refashion, and I have this idea in my head to use all our old jeans and scraps of denim to make myself a denim jacket – let’s just see if that one ever comes to pass, or whether it’s back on the list for 2019!

It’s going to be a jeans patchwork…

I generally find it quite hard to squeeze one garment out of another (it’s always narrower in one part than I need it to be!) so I may have to think about combining this goal with my final resolution:

5. Sewing more for my children

My daughter always has lots of handmade clothes, my son only a few things. But I just love sewing for him as well, and he loves it too. Just before Christmas I made them these penguin sweatshirts, using the Everyday sweatshirt pattern.

Who doesn’t love penguins?!

The moment I showed them their finished sweatshirts they were yanking off their clothes so they could put these on – cue my heart bursting out of my body! And my daughter wore this dress on Christmas Day, from a pattern which will be our first release of 2018 and has a special place in my heart!

If there’s one thing I love more than a beautiful dress, it’s my beautiful girl wearing it!

And finally, while I was writing this post, Sarah Liz published a new take on the MAGAM sewalong for 2018, asking participants to set out their sewing plans for the year. This sits well with my theme of resolutions, and I find this challenge to be one that really channels my creativity well, so I’m signing up for the whole year! MAGAM is about “selfish sewing”, so my 12 plans are all for me and I’m including 3 things I want to design, 3 fabrics I want to use up, 4 specific garments for my handmade wardrobe and 2 “wildcards”. So here they are, in no particular order:

Design
1. A fitted sweater for cool weather
2. Knickers
3. Sleeveless summer swing dress

Fabrics

4. A faux leather jersey that’s too thin for the jacket I originally had in mind
5. A beautiful jacquard I got for Christmas
6. A woven fabric from the days before my monogamous relationship with knits (top contenders are a floral lawn and a lattice eyelet).

Specific garments
7. Leggings
8. A tunic-length top
9. A summer cover-up
10. A Christmas dress I will actually wear (ok ok you get the picture: no more crushed velvet)

Wildcards
11. THAT recycled denim jacket
12. Try a new-to-me pattern company

So there we are, my goals for 2018. They sound quite ambitious but actually I think they’re pretty connected, and just manifestations of a desire to slow down, enjoy things, and make wearable, durable garments. Do any of my resolutions resonate with you? Do you make resolutions in the new year? And do you have any sewing resolutions or goals for 2018?

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” 😉

Pin this look:

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?

Sewing the Scene: making (and unmaking) my Coat of Dreams

The challenge: sew a garment or outfit inspired by a film or TV show.

The inspiration: Catherine Deneuve’s dreamy vanilla-coloured scallop-placketed coat in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.

The result: here’s a teaser, but oh there’s a story behind it…

Back in July I was dipping into the Vintage Pledge sewing challenge on Instagram: I don’t really sew vintage, but I do like looking at vintage details and thinking about how they might be incorporated into more modern shapes and fabrics. So when Marie encouraged me to join in, I thought why not just post something on the days when I have something to say. One of the daily prompts was “Filmspiration”, and I immediately thought of this coat that Catherine Deneuve wore in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg:

…so I posted a photo and thought no more of it. One of my Instagram friends suggested I could probably make a similar coat based on Vogue 9040, but I didn’t really think I ever would… until I started following Jo, who was just launching a challenge called Sewing the Scene, where participants sew a garment or an outfit inspired by a film or TV show. It felt like the stars were aligning, and with 2 and a half months until the deadline, I thought WHY NOT. Plenty of time, right? So I pledged to make it, bought the pattern, bought the fabric and lining (100% wool in vanilla, and acetate lining in rose, both from Fabworks), and sat back. Because we all know that by ignoring a project, it sews itself while you get on with other things, don’t we?

September came, and I posted on Instagram a photo of my sewing plans:

The blue sweater knit became a maxi Edie cardigan, the purple floral became the first wearable toile of our next pattern, and the grey floral became the first wearable toile of a dress we’re designing for girls. I also made Rich’s Simplicity shirt and two more Edies, panic-sewed a new maxi Dune to wear to the Great British Sewing Bee live, turned a silk skirt into a dress, made two M7542 knit hack tops and two pairs of knickers. The wool and the lining just sat there.

And then it was October. OK, in fairness, I’d done a lot of preparation in September: I’d adapted and cut all the pattern pieces, and cut out all of my pieces from the fabric (or so I thought. Just dropping that in there now; consider yourself forewarned). Knowing that this coat is probably just going to be made this once, and in any case only ever for me, I cut straight into the pattern sheets. I made my standard adaptations: I reduced the torso length by 5/8”, and I graded between sizes from bust to waist.

Like I needed an excuse to grab my cheeriest umbrella and do a photoshoot!

So it was several hours of adapting pattern pieces and cutting them out before I even made it close to my fabric. I cut out all the main fabric pieces first, and I only just had enough fabric, which quite surprised me as I’d over-ordered. Well, the reason for this lack of excess fabric is because I am a MORON and I cut out all the lining pieces in my main fabric too! I was looking only at the instructions and not at the names of the pattern pieces, and since the pattern pieces just said “cut 2” rather than “cut 2: lining”, even if the pattern piece was named “front bodice lining”, I had gone ahead and cut it out of the main fabric. Sigh. So then I cut out all the lining pieces (making sure it was lining pieces and ONLY lining pieces I was cutting), and ended up with a chunk of leftover lining that went into my scraps box.

I was going to use sew-in interfacing, but while I was at #GBSBlive I went to the Vilesiline stand to buy some, and the lovely lady there told me I could get away with fusible. But it’s for a wool coat, I protested politely, I don’t want to scorch the wool with the iron . Fear not, said she, waving an unblemished strip of silk with interfacing fused to it, just use a pressing cloth. And I did. I must say that it didn’t fuse brilliantly on every square millimetre of fabric, but given that sew-in interfacing would only be attached at the edges anyway and it saved me a lot of time, I remain eternally grateful to the Vilesiline lady…

And now let the sewing begin! The coat actually went together really easily. It was so straightforward, though I think the “average” rating is fair as the instructions are a little sparse and there’s a lot of easing to do with the princess seams and the set-in sleeves.

Back view, and some shots of the pockets under construction. I love the rose-coloured lining!

So it was all going great until it came to the collar. I was vaguely aware of only having cut one set of collar pieces, which didn’t seem right. It wasn’t right. I had cut the under collar, but not the upper collar. So I went back to my pattern enveloped to retrieve the pattern piece, and scrupulously went through its contents roughly a million times.

I had lost the pattern piece.

How??!! I mean, how do you just LOSE a pattern piece? It must be my obsessive need to tidy things away – I had put all the offcuts of my pattern sheets straight in the recycling bin, so I must have inadvertently chucked the collar piece in with them. So I got the under collar piece, which is joined with a centre seam, and was all set to just draft a new pattern piece taking off the seam allowance to be cut on the fold, when I realised I didn’t have enough fabric left (because I’d used all my spare fabric cutting unnecessary lining pieces, argh!!)

So the only thing for it was to use the under collar piece, and have a centre seam down the back of my collar. It’s not the end of the world as my hair will normally cover it and most people would probably just assume it’s a design feature if they noticed it at all, but… ugh, I’m annoyed at myself. Also, OF COURSE the upper collar piece would have been slightly larger than the under collar, so that the collar sits nicely with the underneath not poking out, but did this occur to me until I had sewn it? It’s funny (well, not that funny…) but if I had had the upper collar piece and was making an under collar from it, I’d have trimmed 1/8″ off the under collar without even thinking about it, but for some reason when the process was reversed, did it even enter my mind to add that 1/8″ on? It did not. So when I’d sewed on the collar, there was a bit too much fabric hanging around underneath. By this point I’d already trimmed the seams so it was too late to unpick, trim the under collar and re-sew… So, prepare to gasp in horror: I cut the under collar open.

My disembowelled collar. At this point it was make or break…

I cut an incision the whole way around, 5/8” from the seam, and then sewed it back together with a narrow seam allowance, just to take a little of the volume out of it. I felt like a surgeon (and not a very skilled one), though the resulting collar was much better.

Phew!

I lost another pattern piece too: the upper sleeve lining. I almost gave up at that point, but what can I say… I’m stubborn… so I compared the lower sleeve piece with the lower sleeve lining piece, and found that they were identical except that the lining piece was 11.5cm shorter. By this stage I was pretty convinced I was NEVER making this pattern again, so I just shortened the upper sleeve piece by 11.5 cm, following the curve of the hem line, and chucked my offcut piece in the recycling bin. Take note of this part; it will come back to haunt me later.

OK, onto the cuffs. Deneuve’s coat had beautiful cuffs, and I had thought that I could use the cuffs for view D to attach to my view A sleeves. Well I read those instructions at least 5 times and I could not see the stage where you attach the view D cuffs. I’m sure it’s there somewhere, and it’s just my poor tired brain that couldn’t see the wood for the trees, but I gave up and decided to figure it out for myself. So I measured how long I wanted them to be, added 5/8” seam allowance to this measurement, and pressed a gentle fold in the cuff. I sewed the (shorter) inner side to the cuff, and then when it came to the finishing touches, that 5/8” on the longer outer side would turn up into the inside of the sleeve, and attach to the lining. Except it wouldn’t, since the sleeve lining is 11.5cm shorter than the actual sleeve, because what I’m using as cuffs are supposed to be some kind of inner sleeve facing. OK, deep breath, it’s fine, all I need is my main sleeve pieces to cut new sleeve linings.

Do you see the problem coming? I HAD CHOPPED 11.5CM OFF MY SLEEVE PIECE TO MAKE THE LOST LINING PIECE, AND CHUCKED THE REST IN THE RECYCLING. There was no pattern piece to use. So I redrafted the piece, adding back in the section I had consigned to the recycling bin. And thankfully there was that piece of lining left over in my scraps box, and it was JUST big enough (I’m talking to within a few millimetres!) to get my sleeve pieces. At this point, choirs of angels were singing hallelujah in the skies.

The rest of the process was pretty simple and straightforward. If I’d just done the coat straight out of the packet (and not lost half my pattern pieces), I think I’d have even gone so far as to call it a relatively quick sew. The big detail, of course, was that scalloped front! I’d gone all mathematical to draft that part onto my pattern piece (it’s never a good idea when I go mathematical. It’s an area of my brain that should have a sign on it saying “ENTER AT YOUR OWN PERIL”). I can’t even remember how I worked it all out, so let’s just say that I did (with the help of a tiny bowl from our kitchen cupboard whose use has never been entirely clear to me until now), but right up until I sewed it I had no idea if it was actually going to work. Talk about a wing and a prayer…

Ta-daaaaaa!

I’m not entirely happy with my scallops. I wanted them to be plumper. Looking at the finished result, I shouldn’t have taken the points so far in – my scallops should have been more half-moon shaped than ¾ moon (but, you know, enter the maths zone at your peril). Because this is the stand-out feature of the coat, I’m disappointed with it. I wish I’d had time to make a toile first – maybe a lesson learned about not sewing to a deadline?

Given the number of cute little dresses and cardigans Deneuve wore in this film, in some ways I’m kicking myself for choosing to sew the coat for this challenge. Maybe I should have just let it stay in my head in the Gallery of Beautiful Things. I’m happy, though, to have made it, and I shall try to learn from this (note to self: DO NOT recycle until the END of the project, and DO NOT sew a big project to a deadline unless there has been time for a toile!) But for now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be twirling around with an umbrella in my hand, channelling Deneuve.

Till next time, sewing friends, have a great week!

New pattern: Edie, the cardigan for all seasons

We’re very excited to be launching our new pattern, Edie! Read on for everything you need to know about Edie, as well as a special launch week discount code!

We had always planned to design a cardigan for release after summer, and Edie is making us feel just a little bit less sad about the cooler weather! There are two lengths to choose from, and depending on your fabric choice Edie can be smart, casual, cosy, or downright shop-stopping! Edie is a longline open-front cardigan, fitted through the back and floaty at the front. The unique shaping of the front pieces give Edie a beautiful drape, but also make the front wide enough to wrap around you if you want to cosy up in your new cardigan.

Time for the photo gallery! So far I’ve made four versions of Edie, shall we start with the standard length?

In the last days of summer I made this from a lightweight lace-effect polyester jersey from Minerva Crafts. I had spent half the summer wishing I had a cardigan with me, one that would go with everything and could be rolled up in a bag and pulled out as needed. Of course I finished this Edie on the hottest day of summer, but I still threw it on to take some photos anyway!

My other standard-length Edie is in this gorgeous “cotton cashmere” sweater knit from Emma OneSock. Who doesn’t need a black cardigan in the cooler seasons?! I think this is the one I’ll wear the most, as it goes with pretty much everything. I’ve worn it with the sleeveless Angelina dress pictured above, with jeans, with a Margarita skirt, belted over a dress (pictured below), and on our wedding anniversary earlier this month I wore it with my one of my maxi Dunes (also pictured below, battling against the wind in our local park!):

 

Speaking of maxi length, let’s look at the second version of Edie! I’ve truly jumped on the maxi trend this year, and after the Dune dress we wanted a maxi cardigan too. About 15 years ago I had a knee-length cardigan that I wore to death because it made any outfit look instantly elegant, and that’s exactly our hope for maxi Edie. My first one is in this gorgeous blue marl sweater knit, again from Emma OneSock, and I am in love:

After making this one, I wondered whether Edie could function as a ‘coatigan’ until the really cold weather kicks in, so I pulled this quilted sweatshirting out of my stash and went for it. I was a little bit afraid that the quilting might make it look more like a dressing gown than a cardigan, but I was pleased with the result:

This one looks particularly good belted, and is so cosy in this sweatshirt fabric. In the instruction booklet we do recommend that if you’re using a thicker fabric like this, you might like to widen the sleeves so that you can still wear something long-sleeved underneath without the sleeves feeling tight: we’ve prepared a tutorial on this here. For reference, the sleeves are NOT widened in these pics, and I find them fine over a long-sleeved t-shirt, but over anything thicker I’d want them to have a little more ease. And note the awkward arm placement in the right-hand photo. to try and show you what the sleeve looks like in a thicker fabric!).

The instruction booklet has a guide regarding the maxi length, so that you can make sure you get it right for you (and if you want a reminder of our sizing guide, you can find it here). You can follow the suggestions in the instruction booklet, or make a quick sleeveless toile out of old or unloved fabric, like I did:

Pink camo for the win again!

One more tutorial for Edie: we recommend that if you don’t want the back neckline to stretch, you stabilise it. This is not essential, and I haven’t done it for all of mine. In particular, though, if you do a rolled hem as I have, the neckline will stretch a little with wear – it gives a casual look which I quite like in a cardigan, but if that’s not the look you want then do follow the tutorial. Here are a couple of pics to show you what the rolled hem neckline looks like unstabilised after a few wears, and then you can make your own decision about whether or not you want to include this step!

I like the way that the “lettuce” effect mirrors the finishes in the rest of the cardigan, but if you prefer a more structured neckline at the back then do follow the tutorial to stabilise it! Next, here are some back views of the different versions:

 

And finally, if you follow us on Instagram you might have spotted some “twirling” shots, as what would a photo shoot be with no twirling?! So here is a little compilation of me and my Edies spinning around:

So Edie is taking me from casual coverup to layering staple to style statement to cool weather elegance. What do you think? Which Edie is your favourite?

To get your copy of Edie, visit the pattern page here, and use the code EDIE25 at checkout for 25% off during launch week! Code valid until midnight BST on Tuesday 26 September 2017.

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!

Anyone for Margaritas? New free pattern!

We’re taking our summer break soon, so there will be a break from pattern-making until the end of the summer… but we’re not leaving you at a loss for your next sewing project! While we’re away, we hope you will enjoy our latest free pattern, Margarita!

Margarita is a skirt for women, designed as always for knit/ jersey fabrics. As a summer skirt, a cotton jersey Margarita is the easiest thing to wear with a t-shirt, and for the cooler seasons you can sew it up in ponte or scuba to wear with tights.

Margarita came about because earlier this summer I mentioned to Rich that I’d love a quarter-circle skirt with a wide waistband, and later that day I found him sticking together PDF pages because he’d just drafted me one! It was a perfect fit and such a quick and simple sew, that we decided to grade it into a proper Valentine & Stitch pattern so you could all enjoy it!

Action shot! (If “walking” counts as an action)

I’ve made a few of these skirts now: the summer version is in cotton jersey, and as you can see it pairs very well with a tucked-in Dune top! It’s comfy but still looks put together, and will keep you nice and cool on warmer days! The cooler weather version is made up here in scuba. You may remember an earlier outing for this fabric, in my much-admired but rarely worn McCalls dress. I loved the fabric but wasn’t sure I was comfortable in it as one solid block on the dress… but I had just enough left over to try a Margarita! And I’m so unbelievably happy with this skirt – I feel much more comfortable with this bold fabric being used for a separate, and it works really well with a plain black t-shirt. It will be perfect for a smart winter wardrobe.

I’ve also tried adding elastic into the waistband of the lighter jersey version, to give a bit more support over the tummy. This is a super-simple method detailed in the instruction booklet, and it ends up looking like this on the inside:

You can see it in action here in my beloved Paparounes fabric!

(Weird body-pop angle in the first pose. Clearly solved by bending forwards for the next one.)

Plus this one matches the Daisy skirt I made for my daughter, so it gets the thumbs up from her too.

I’ll be checking in on Instagram over the next few weeks to keep up with Sleevefest, and we have some more sleeve hack tutorials prepared to post while we’re off – in the meantime, hope you all have a wonderful summer, doing lots of whatever makes you happy!