Tag Archives: MAGAM sewalong

“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.

 

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 pattern that kept on morphing and other stories: Make A Garment A Month (MAGAM) sewalong

This is the story of a dress that became a bolero that became a sweater that became a cardigan. I’m no good at building suspense, so I’m going to jump right in with the finished result, and then give you its “origin story”!!

I don’t know which I love more: the cardigan, or the autumn colours in the garden!

Not long after I opened my Instagram account back in the Springtime, I noticed a challenge called MAGAM (Make A Garment A Month), hosted by Sarah Liz. The idea behind MAGAM is to provide a monthly theme that participants take as inspiration: it seemed a lovely supportive way to foster slow sewing by focusing on one garment every month, so I finally took the plunge and joined in for September.

Happily for me, the September theme was Shirty Skirty” (make a shirt or a skirt). This is non-UK use of “shirt”, i.e. any kind of top (I don’t often wear what I would call a shirt, which elsewhere would be called a button-down, so the language slippage suited me well). So I eased myself into MAGAM with the McCalls M7542 pattern from Sew Now magazine, using a rayon jersey and following my own tutorial for adapting it to a knit fabric. Well, I say “following my own tutorial”, but I didn’t really – I thought I could remember it so I went ahead and kept only the original instructions in front of me, which meant I attached the sleeves as if it were a woven! A bout of unpicking later, I returned to my tutorial with my head hanging in shame, and the rest went swimmingly.

My first MAGAM entry

The theme for October was more challenging: “Original October”. I mulled this one over for a good while. It did coincide with the development of our next pattern, which is obviously an original design, but it seemed too simple just to say “well I’ll make up one of our new dresses”.

First sneak peek of the forthcoming dress pattern!

However, the #cosycardichallenge was in full swing and for a while now I’ve wanted a lightweight fitted cardigan to wear over sleeveless dresses and extend their wearable life into autumn, and so I decided to adapt the dress pattern to become a cropped/ bolero cardigan. I did this without too much difficulty, just cutting off the pattern pieces of the scoop-neck version under the bust and drawing in a curve, but when I came to try it on I realised it would only really go with empire line dresses (it’s pictured here with my refashioned silk skirt) – with anything else it just sort of looked like I’d run out of fabric.

One of only two dresses I can wear this with!

Back to the drafting software (with my trusty sidekick aka technical department aka Rich beside me) and we went for a hip-length slightly flared look, with a high-low hem and a higher neckline. I started off by trying out the design as a sweater to test the shape before drafting the front placket, and I loved it (fully aided by the fact that I sewed it up in the softest jacquard ever, given to me as a birthday gift).

That’s more like it!

So I was ready to try it out as a cardigan, but not *quite* ready to cut into the beautiful jacquard from Lillestoff that I had earmarked for the project. My interim make was from a lovely floral French terry from Raspberry Creek Fabrics that I’ve been hoarding for a year now, and I liked the shape of the result BUT… ugh, well, it was just the wrong combination of fabric and style. I went for a scoop neck and standard hem, and the finished result reminds me of a housecoat or something.

You’ve got to love taking photos on a windy day!

I love the fabric, but this wasn’t the right project for it. I’ll see if I wear it, and if not I’ll scale it down into something for my daughter. And another reason to be glad I made this first version before cutting into my jacquard: I had ordered some interfacing online and the quality was just terrible. It didn’t move with the fabric at all, and if you look closely it has caused a couple of ripples in the front placket. Not the end of the world, but I would have been sad if that had been my precious jacquard.

So for the final version I decided to combine the higher neckline and the high-low hem, bought some more interfacing (never again will I stray from the goodness that is Vilene) and off I went…

The finished cardigan, origin story complete

I love this cardigan so much. Re-drafting was a good idea, as instead of just “chopping off” the dress pattern, we created an new line for this length, and it works much better. In particular, I really enjoyed thinking about the construction process, and how to make all the finishings look professional. I do love a garment that looks as pretty on the inside as it does on the outside!

Close-ups of the details: front placket, high-low hem, hem meeting facing, and inside the placket.

I used KAM snaps for the closures – I had always previously used the kind of snaps that you have to hammer on, but I was convinced by Sarah’s evangelising about the joy of attaching snaps with pliers and now I want to put KAM snaps on EVERYTHING!!!

In the end I think this particular version works better with jeans as the small pattern on the fabric means it doesn’t really go with a lot of my patterned dresses. But that could just be me falling back into my comfort zone, as jeans are basically my uniform! But it still goes well with these two sleeveless dresses:

Action shots (by which I mean “walking slowly towards the camera”). I like to photograph the movement of a garment so I can see how it looks when I’m not just standing facing a mirror!

The left one is a Deer and Doe sleeveless aubépine, and the right one is a maxi Dune from our own collection. The cardigan definitely helps both of these summer dresses transition into autumn. So either I need more solid dresses, or I need to make more cardigans in solid colours. Or both!!! And you know me by now, I don’t need much of an excuse to make a new garment…

So I’m really happy to be part of MAGAM, and I’m looking forward to the November challenge. As long as it’s not “sew a coat inspired by a classic French film”, because, you know, why do that to myself twice in one year?!!

In other news, encouraged by my lovely friend Diane, I’m trying to get my head round Pinterest at the moment, though it hasn’t synced to our site yet and I have yet to create any boards beyond this one image! But here is (I think?!) a link to my Pinterest page, which hopefully I shall work on soon! So if you have a Pinterest account do come and befriend me as I am LOST over there!

What about you? Have you joined MAGAM or the cosy cardi challenge? Any favourite makes/ stories to share? What about Pinterest? How do you use it efficiently and am I truly the last to join the party?!