Tag Archives: sewing challenge

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?!

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!

Simplicity turns 90: floral fever for Valentine & Stitch

When I saw that Simplicity were holding a sewing contest to celebrate their 90th birthday, I couldn’t resist. I grew up wearing Simplicity clothes my mum made for me, and they were the first patterns I used when I returned to sewing after my daughter was born. So I rolled up my sleeves, stepped out of my comfort zone, and chose the “vintage” category (why do the words “step out of my comfort zone” always send a chill through my bones?!) I also signed up to sew the men’s shirt as I have been meaning to make Rich a new shirt for a while – I had a lovely cotton voile that he had thought I’d bought for him (because it was similar to the fabric of his favourite summer shirt) and he seemed quite downcast when I said I’d bought it for me, so I’d secretly been plotting to use it for him! (And this was 2 and a half years ago, so you can see how speedy I am at getting on with such things…)

Challenge #1: Vintage make

First off, let me say that the design and detail of this pattern (Simplicity 8342) is really interesting and well thought through. In particular I love the cap sleeves of the version I chose. Let me also say that it is NOT my style at all, and I knew that before starting. So any “negatives” I might express aren’t about the pattern itself, but about how I feel wearing the top.

The finished top. I know I’m smiling, but inside I’m wondering if I have muffin top!!

The construction of this top is quite complex. I can see why it was chosen for a challenge, as for a small summer top it takes a lot of time and attention. I followed the instructions to the letter except for a couple of additions:

At the centre front, rather than sewing from each side to the centre and then handstitching the centre, I sewed as one seam, carefully feeding it through my overlocker so that I didn’t pull it out of shape. This worked well, and gives a nice neat finish at centre front. You can also see in the montage below some of the nice finishings you get on the right side of the top (definitely worth a bit of complex construction!):

At the centre back, after I had basted the back straps and checked the fit I coverstitched them in place, stitching exactly over the lines of stitching I used to secure my elastic channel in place. This made a neater finish:

It does mean that the straps are not attached until about 1” below the top of the centre back, but the top is so fitted that they can’t possibly gape! I would have preferred the inside finish of the straps at the back to be neater (top right pic), but I’m not sure how you would manage this (I did scratch my head over it, and came up with a big fat nothing!)

Here are my general thoughts on this pattern:

The cap sleeves really are very pretty and flattering, and the way the straps and ties are lined makes these features very neat:

The adjustable straps also allow you to make sure you can fit it perfectly to your torso.

The numerous pattern pieces are quite small, so I made the whole top from offcuts of the Dune maxi dress I blogged about here.

If I were to sew this again, the one thing I’d do differently would be to secure the back elastic right at the inner edge of the seam allowance, rather than including it in the seam allowance (as the seam here is very bulky).

To finish this section, here’s a little gallery of the finished top:

I can see objectively that this is a very pretty top, and you already know from my earlier post how much I love this fabric! The style is something I need to get used to though, as I’m more used to trying to hide my curves than to celebrating them! Nonetheless, it’s a nice summery piece to wear with jeans. Plus I had a glorious day to photograph it on – that rainbow line isn’t a filter, it’s just the light bouncing off the camera lens!

Challenge #2: Menswear

Next up is Rich’s shirt. This is Simplicity 8180. It’s advertised as a “3-hour shirt”, and it is pretty simple in terms of construction. I think this was my big problem with it – because some of the detail was quite simplified, it wasn’t what I was expecting and so I found it quite counter-intuitive at times. I have to say though that it would be great as a first introduction to sewing a men’s shirt. After reading the pattern instructions I did note down some things I would do differently, and here is a retrospective look at them:

The first thing I did differently was to use felled seams. I find them so much neater and more professional looking than the recommended “press open and finish as desired” method. Top left is the seam from the outside, top right from the inside. This also gives a lovely neat cross at seam joins, as you can see in the bottom right photo (the bottom left shows some topstitching detail I also added):

I also used a trick for the interfacing that is by no means new or original to me, but I’ll note it here:

 

  1. On the edge that will be visible on the inside of the garment, sew the right side of the fabric to the non-fusible side of the facing with a 1/8” seam (top right pic).
  2. Turn out so that the wrong side of the fabric faces the fusible side of the facing.
  3. Very carefully, press this seam on the right side of the fabric.
  4. Fuse the rest of the interfacing to the fabric.

Then you end up with a neat enclosed seam (left pic, and closeup on bottom right), rather than having to finish the seam allowances with an overlocker or a zigzag stitch.

I mentioned before in my post about sewing jeans that I don’t trim the seams for the waistband corners, but use them to strengthen the corner. I decided to do the same for the collar, even though it’s not a 90 degree angle (I got out my protractor and can confirm it’s 75 degrees!) and was pleased that it worked. Here is my process:

  1. Fold corner down inwards (top left pic).
  2. Fold each seam on top of the corner to make a diagonal join (top right and bottom left pics).
  3. Hold in place with one hand, then with the other reach through on the right side of the fabric, and pull gently to the right side.
  4. Use a point turner to neaten.

As you can see from the bottom right pic, it worked really well. I also topstitched the collar, which the instructions don’t call for, but I like it for a cleaner and more professional finish. I used the method I mentioned in my last Morgan jeans post for the corner topstitching, and that gave a lovely crisp corner:

  1. Knot one end of a piece of thread, and pass through the corner (top left pic).
  2. As you are sewing, when you approach the corner, pull gently on the loose end of the thread to lift the fabric away from the feed dogs (bottom left pic).
  3. Leave the needle down in the fabric at the corner as you turn the fabric round (top right pic).
  4. Keep pulling gently on the thread as you sew down the other side.

Another success! Beautiful topstitched corners. Though please forgive the shadows on these past two picture montages: I did the sewing in the evenings and so the photos are taken in artificial light!

I also topstitched all the way along the centre front and centre back, to keep my edges neat and crisp. You can see that in the photo higher up the page.

I did everything else according to the instructions, until…

When everything was sewn in place, I got Rich to try it on. It was ENORMOUS. I had chosen a size M based on his measurements, which was no surprise as he is a size M in every sewing pattern I’ve made for him (as well as in RTW). But when he put it on he looked like one of those adverts for weight loss where the person puts on the shirt that used to be tight to show how slim they now are. Seriously, I wanted to weep. It was too late to start playing around with darts without unpicking the whole thing, and I was only a week away from the deadline at this point! So I brought out the original and beloved shirt, and laid it on top of mine. You can see here how much bigger mine was:

So I pinned carefully around the outline of the RTW shirt, then got out my French curve and some tailor’s chalk and measured a new outline that was mirrored on both sides. I then added seam allowances, and cut along my new line. I also cut 2 inches off the length and the sleeve length by using my overlocker, as a quick way of ensuring I kept the original shaping of the shirt. The pic at top right shows you just how much fabric came off each side seam, and the bottom shows a mistake of mine: I hadn’t realised that there was a chunk cut out of my shirt bottom at centre back! So talk about a blessing in disguise, since that’s exactly the amount I needed to chop off to make the shirt the right length!! You can see from the offcut piece that I also shaped the shirt mimicking the much-loved RTW one. So finally I get to take my turn behind the camera! This is the finished result:

Overall the resulting silhouette is much better, but the real shame is that the shoulder seam sits too low down on the arm because it came up so large. It’s not unwearable, but it’s not perfect and that bothers me, especially when you look at this back view:

So would I make this shirt again? Probably not, though I would certainly recommend it to beginners. I loved taking part in the challenge, but overall I prefer a men’s shirt with a collar stand and button placket, and also with a back yoke and darts or pleats. I would also sooner go with a tried and true pattern that I know fits Rich, than mess around trying to adapt the pattern pieces for a better fit. But there is also a pattern for a tie included in this packet, and that I may just try! And all things considered, this is still a nice shirt that Rich can wear in the summer, and I know that in terms of finish it looks good. More importantly, Rich likes it – so if he’s happy, then so am I!

So to finish, here are some “floral fever” shots of our duo of Simplicity challenge makes:

I’m wearing my top here with a Colette Mabel pencil skirt. I thought I’d try to go for the full-on curvalicious silhouette, but I’ll give you three guesses as to how comfortable I felt in it!!

And finally, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SIMPLICITY! Thank you for this fun competition!

Sleevefest 2017: we have a winner!

It hardly seems any time at all since I sat down to write a blog post for the launch of the Sleevefest summer sewing challenge… and now here we are at the start of Autumn, after more than 200 entries to the challenge, 6 prizewinners drawn at random, 10 sleeves shortlisted for the final prize, nearly 500 votes cast, and many new sewing friendships made!

The ten finalists

I’m going to talk about all ten finalists in just a moment, but first let me give you the big announcement: the champion of sleeves is… Ersan! He made this sublime bustier with deconstructed sleeves for his beautiful niece:

Diane and I were particularly impressed with the fit (Ersan self-drafted this pattern based on his niece’s measurements) and the creativity of the make, and you all were too! So Ersan wins a £25 voucher to spend at Sew Essential, and a bespoke Angelina pattern from us here at Valentine & Stitch, tailored to the measurements of a person of his choice.

Ersan’s sewing in progress

So now onto the selection process and the other nine finalists. We didn’t know how on earth we were going to choose only ten sleeves with all the amazing creations that Sleevefest had generated (check out the #sleevefest2017 hashtag for some wonderful inspiration!), but Diane’s original idea for the challenge had been to do something creative with sleeve design, so we decided to focus on sleeves that had some kind of hack, self-drafting, or original design. Then we each whittled it down to ten favourites, and had some discussion back and forth about the final shortlist. And without further ado, here are those lovely sleeves!

Melissa wowed us with her take on the Sew Over It Ultimate shift dress: she did a three-quarter sleeve, but added a pleated picot-edged trim to both the sleeves and the hem. The result is both classic and original: the perfect little black dress!

 

Sarah made this gorgeous shirt with a ruffled cuff detail that goes all around the sleeve placket and sleeve hem. She said in her Instagram post that she had been inspired by a picture posted by someone she follows on Instagram, and she had recreated the look on New Look 6599. As always, Sarah’s sewing and attention to detail is meticulous, and the finished result is just beautiful.

 

Michelle made this stunning red coat: it’s based on the Named Patterns Isla trench coat, but she added these fabulous ruffle sleeves to create a unique piece that we all want to borrow! You can find out more about Michelle’s sewing adventures here, but in the meantime swoon over her coat:

 

Next up is Kelly, who designed this dreamy sleeve. A friend of hers had a RTW top with a similar cuff detail and so she self-drafted the sleeve based on the RTW garment, and attached it to the Simplicity-New Look 6378 kimono pattern – you can read more about her process here, and see more photos of her beautiful floaty kimono!

 

Pauline loves to recreate designer styles in her sewing, and this entry was no exception. She had seen an Anthropologie dress with grommets and a ribbon tie on the sleeves, and she made her own version using the Tilly and the Buttons Coco pattern. Also, look at her perfect stripe matching, and check out her blog post on how she made this dress!

 

Barbara’s top is not only beautiful to look at, but has a lovely story behind it too. She was given a beautiful nightgown as family heirloom, and she refashioned it to make something new. She wanted to honour the original garment with its delicate crochet detail and micropleats, but make something she could wear in everyday life, and she came up with this fabulous bell-sleeved top. Wearing this must be like wearing a little piece of family history.

 

Arianwen stunned all of us with her original take on the “sleeve”: when she hears “sleeves” she always thinks of tattoos, and so she hand-embroidered the bodice of her Butterick 6412 dress with tattoos – anchors, mermaids, “Hello Sailor”, you name it, she embroidered it! Inspired and one of a kind.

 

Suzy made some beautiful garments for Sleevefest, including an amazing sheer sleeve for herself and a bridal kimono for a friend of hers, but the one we chose was this fabulous lace insert. Suzy took a tried and true pattern (Simplicity-New Look 6179) and deconstructed the sleeve to add these inserts with bell cuffs, which make the whole top look so pretty and stand-out.

 

And finally, Carolyn is wonderful at refashioning garments to make something unique to her. She created some wonderful sleeves for Sleevefest by using oversized men’s shirts and tailoring them with different details such as peplum, puff sleeves, and mixing and matching designs. The one that really stood out for us was this gorgeous blue checked one, which manages to be both casual and smart at the same time!

 

We loved all the finalists’ entries so much, so Rich and I have decided to offer each of the nine runners-up a Valentine & Stitch pattern of their choice. Congratulations to all of our finalists, and thank you to everyone who supported Sleevefest: our sponsors, our entrants, and all of our fellow sewists who made this so much fun.

Diane and I are hoping to bring you another fest next summer, so stay tuned!

Thank you so much to everyone who was involved in Sleevefest, and keep up the sleeve love 😉

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!

#SLEEVEFEST2017 !!!

One Friday night at the start of June, I was making a massive batch of chocolate macarons when a message popped up for me on Instagram. It was my lovely IG friend Diane, aka @dream.cut.sew, mentioning that she’d had an idea for a photo challenge to tie in with the Year of the Sleeve, and asking whether I’d be interested in co-hosting. I was up to my elbows in ground almonds and icing sugar, had three birthday cakes to make for the following week, a pattern launching the week after that, and a busy schedule at work… so of course I said “YES” immediately! And here’s why I said yes:
Firstly, Sleevefest! What a brilliant idea to bring together a community of sewists on Instagram in a creative and fun way. I love the idea of the Year of the Sleeve, promoted by Sewing and Design School, who hosted the #sewapril2017 challenge that I participated in during my first month on Instagram (and who are one of our sponsors for Sleevefest!) I’ll talk more about the details of Sleevefest in a moment, but first I just want to tell you my second reason for saying yes:
Diane. She’s an amazing sewist and a truly lovely lady. I only joined Instagram a few months ago, and Diane was kind enough to follow me on day 1, when my following was in single figures. She didn’t need to, she was already established in the IG sewing community, and it wasn’t a cynical ‘follow-for-follow’ thing – I’d already started following her. In those first days I almost shut down my account many times. Do you know the main reason I didn’t? Diane. She had faith in me on the first day. And I read her blog that weekend, and was blown away by her talent (which, by the way, is always understated and never showy-offy, and yes that’s a word 😉 ). So much of what she wrote and photographed resonated with me: being taught to sew by her mum, never being satisfied with a ‘that’ll do’ kind of a job, attention to detail, personalisation of patterns… not to mention coming to the social media community long after coming to sewing, and long after it had already been established. If she could do it, I could too.
So we spent a week or so emailing to work out the details, and who to approach as sponsors. The second week of planning we approached all our sponsors, while Rich, the unsung hero of Valentine & Stitch, started working up a graphic image for us based on a sketch I made. By week 3 we had our sponsors, our signature image, and our ‘rules of play’, and then everything came together! We’ve had so much fun planning it and releasing our ‘teasers’ on Instagram, and the most fun is yet to come – seeing all the sleeves!

So, how does Sleevefest work? Well, to join in, the first thing you need is a public Instagram account. Then you follow Diane and me on Instagram (@dream.cut.sew and @valentine.and.stitch) and re-post our announcement (which you can find on both our Instagram pages), tagging us both so we know you’re participating. Then comes the fun part: make, pattern-hack or decorate any sleeve on any garment in any fabric, and then at any time between now and 31 August post a photo of your handmade sleeve, tagging us both again and using the hashtag #sleevefest2017. You can enter as many times as you like, as long as you follow the rules for each separate entry:
1. You must post pics of a new make that you’re working on for sleevefest.
2. You may enter as many times as you like, just make sure you put all the tags on each entry.
3. Winners will be selected from all the entries after the end date of 31 August 2017.
Please feel free to post work-in-progress photos too! There are lots of great prizes up for grabs: after the closing date, 5 winners will be selected at random, and each will receive one of the following:
From Sewing and Design School, experts in sewing instruction, and the brains behind both SewApril and Year of the Sleeve: e-book of Jan Minott’s Total Pattern Fit
From EmmaOneSock, a fantastic resource for designer fashion fabrics: $35 gift card
From Dragonfly Fabrics, a family-run sewing store selling beautiful quality fabrics and a wide range of independent sewing patterns: Two paper patterns (with fun sleeves!), the Azaire dress and top by Gather and the Primrose Peplum by Sew Caroline
From Ditto Fabrics, a treasure trove of fabulous fabrics: £25 gift card
From Suzy Magazine, the new magazine for the fashion-forward sewist: Two issues of the magazine

PLUS, there will be an additional prize that you can vote for! Diane and I will choose our ten favourite sleeves, and then it’s over to you to vote for the one you like best. Rich and I have teamed up with Sew Essential to offer a fabulous prize! The winner will get a bespoke pattern of our Angelina dress and top (we’ll contact you to ask for your body measurements so that we can tailor the pattern to you), and a £25 voucher to spend at Sew Essential, so you can buy the fabric to make it with, or indeed something else from their amazing collection of fabrics, patterns (indie and big 4) and haberdashery! They have everything you need for your sewing projects, and are a business of sewing enthusiasts always willing to help and answer your questions. So you can get a bespoke pattern from us AND a chance to buy some pretty things from Sew Essential to go with it, or to kickstart a new project. Pretty great, right?

You can read more about Sleevefest on our dedicated page, and more about our sponsors on Diane’s blog post.

So what are you waiting for? Start making your sleeves! We can’t wait to see what you come up with 😀