Tag Archives: sewing pattern design

“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.

 

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?!

Drafting diary: the Dune top and dress

We’re currently drafting our next pattern for women, a sleeveless summer top and dress, and I thought it would be fun to let you see how a pattern develops at each stage of the testing process!

It starts with an idea, usually accompanied by a sketch. Then we sit down together at the computer and I tell Rich what my vision of the garment is, and he works out the formulae to make it a reality. This isn’t just formulae to make it fit me, but rather ones that will adapt through the sizes (and I’m between sizes, so we don’t use my measurements as base ones!)

The latest (but not final) version of Dune

We also struggled with a name for this one. There is a story behind the names of all our patterns (if ever you’re interested, ask me and I’ll share!) but this one we were stumped. Everything we came up with sounded wrong – I thought I had found the perfect name and Rich vetoed it because it had been used for a not-so-great model of car back in the 90s or something! A few Instagram friends made suggestions, but they had either been used by other pattern companies, or were names I’d already earmarked for future patterns, so nothing felt right. I wanted something summery, that made you think of sun and breeze and cool drinks and holidays. So after much wrenching out of hair and grinding of teeth we came up with… Dune. And it’s perfect, because on our first holiday together we climbed the Dune du Pyla in south-west France, sixteen years after I’d failed to climb it with my dad as a stroppy teenager because the wind was blowing my hair in my face. As you can see from this photo, I got over the hair issue later in life!

The first draft is always sewn up in cheap or recycled fabric, as this is basically just a toile to see where the fit is good and where it needs work. Our first version of Dune looked promising, just a little gaping at the back of the neck, which we altered and then re-printed. The next version looked like this:

(check out my Instagram feed for a funny story about the pink capris…)

The armscye was too high, and the curve into the armscye not wide enough (you can see the creases by my right arm). So back we go to the computer, and the next version looked like this:

Armscye was still too high to be totally comfortable, and once the neckband was attached the back was still gaping a little. Wearable but not perfect, so back to the computer to make those alterations and… next version!

This one was an almost perfect fit, but I always do the ‘wear for a day’ test for each version, and after a day running around the park, I felt it was a little too short as I kept flashing my lower back. We thought the next one with a slightly longer cut would be the final one, but we also took a little more off the centre back, and this was the result:

 

 

The length works well, but the excess removed from the centre back means that the top pulls a little over the back, as you can see from this side view.

Next lot of alterations done, and now I’m about to sew up this sixth version… hopefully it’ll be the one!