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Chardon & Flamingoes

This outfit is one I whipped up in my week off work – I’m working towards something of a capsule wardrobe, which seems to be the hot thing of the minute! I really just want my wardrobe to be full of clothes I love where everything can work with everything else. I’ve owned a copy of the Deer & Doe Chardon skirt for a long time, and I finally got around to making it up. This was designed to be a wearable test version, but I actually really like it. It’s a designer cotton I got at Fabric-a-brac for a steal, and it’s a tiny plaid. I made version A of the skirt, without the belt loops.

This photo is from the previous failed photo shoot and I had to heighten the contrast but it shows off the pattern of the fabric quite well. It has a little coral/pink line running through the plaid which I quite like. It frays like a bitch though, so all the seams inside are serged, and the waist facings are turned under and handstitched into place. Instead of the recommended bias hem finish, I just turned it under twice and stitched it and it worked fine. I made a size 46, which is the largest size the pattern goes up to and the size I usually make for Deer & Doe patterns. It could stand to be a tiny bit snugger in the waist but I’m happy with it, I’d prefer this than it digging into me whenever I sit down. I used the length of the shortest size though, which is fairly standard for me.

Such an awkward photo, god. What am I even doing with that hand?! I used leftover pocketing from Luke’s jeans for the pockets. I love things with pockets.

I used a pink zip from my stash because it was the only zip that was the right length, and I liked the little peep of pink that matches the pink stripe running through the plaid. It was very easy to make this skirt, and I made it in a day. I already have fabric lined up for two more, including one that’s going to be repurposed from an old kimono! I’m excited.

The blouse is a pattern I’ve used before, from Bootstrap Patterns – I thought I had blogged about it, but apparently I only posted it to Instagram. Oops! It’s called Tunic with Long Back, and it’s become my go-to blouse pattern. Here is my previous version, in a $3 buy from Fabric-a-brac:

I wear it quite a bit with jeans, but I wanted something a bit flowy for my next one, and also without the hi-lo hem. I bought a gorgeous flamingo-print rayon voile from Hart’s Fabric earlier this year, and decided it was the perfect candidate for the next blouse. Sadly, it seems they’ve sold out – the fabric felt so soft and drapy, it’s honestly the nicest fabric I’ve ever touched! I need more rayon voile in my life. I don’t usually wear the blouse with the checked skirt as above, I have a navy blue midi skirt with pleats I bought from Uniqlo in Japan that suits it perfectly. Or, I wear it with jeans as pictured below:

I made bias binding from the same flamingo fabric to hem it, since it has quite a curve on the sides and it made it much easier to deal with. Making the binding was a bit time-consuming though as it was too floaty to put through my Clover bias binding maker and kept slipping everywhere, so I had to do it the old-fashioned way – pressing it in half and then pressing each half towards the middle. Worth it though! The blouse has facings, which tend to flip out in thi fabric, so I tacked them to the shoulder seams and catch-stitched them in a few strategic places. Any tips on how to secure them further would be great though!

Of course, I had to add one of my labels to this blouse, since I love it so much! I’ve worn it to an indie gig, to lunch with friends and out to dinner with the family – and I’ve got more planned too, in a kitty plaid and another rayon fabric I’ve had stashed!

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Butterick Spring Patterns & an exciting Style Arc release!

I’m not usually a big fan of Butterick patterns, I have to admit. If I had to describe their general style in a word, I’d probably go for matronly. But I was just browsing through their new spring releases, and I have to say, a couple caught my eye!

This dress is my favourite. I think the waistband would be flattering, and I like the interesting neck detail. I’m usually quite wary of wrap tops/dresses, because in my experience there’s always a bit of gaping going on, or it slides down awkwardly around my bosom and makes me look lopsided. But maybe this one would be okay?

This pattern is actually part of a set – a shift dress, blouse, skirt, pants and jacket. It’s probably mostly a result of the fabric they used, but I really like all of it! Especially the dress and blouse.

Who knows when these patterns will become available in NZ – it’s quite depressing how long it takes for the new releases to filter through down here, and then the price of them makes it difficult to justify buying them.

Also, not part of the Butterick collection, but how awesome are these culottes from Style Arc?

I admit, I’m reticent to try another Style Arc pattern after the Camilla blouse disaster, but these culottes have me intrigued. Culottes have been a bit of a hot trend in the sewing community lately, and I’ve resisted so far. My memories of culottes as a child include poo-brown ones I had to wear as a Brownie that rode up my crotch, and I’m not anxious to repeat the experience. That said, these are flowy and, from the description, seem like they’d have the appearance of a skirt – kind of like a long version of the Megan Nielsen Tania culottes, perhaps? I’m intrigued. They’re not available as a PDF yet, but when they are, I might give them a go.

Are there any patterns you’re particularly excited about at the moment?

 

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Sewing goodies: Merchant & Mills jumper/sweater

As some of you may have seen on my Instagram (I’m kirstyteacat on there if you want to add me for pictures of cats and sewing), I recently bought a sewing-themed jumper from Uniqlo Japan, as part of their collaboration with Merchant & Mills. I was following in the footsteps of Novita from verypurpleperson and yoshimi the flying squirrel, who both showed photos of theirs on Instagram too.

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A few of you asked how I went about ordering it, so I thought I’d do a little post on it.

First of all, note first that Uniqlo Japan do not ship outside of Japan, nor do they accept foreign credit cards. Boo. However, there are companies around who will buy things for you from Japanese companies and ship them to you, for varying fees. I used a company called Sendico – I have no affiliation with them, and it was the first time I’d used them, but since everything went smoothly I’m happy to recommend them.

Second, you need to decide what you want to buy!

Here is a link to the page of Uniqlo Japan’s x Merchant & Mills products. There are five sweater/jumper options, and six tote bags to choose from. Important: DO consult the size chart (it’s the button right under the sizes on the individual garment page) – Japanese sizes are significantly smaller than Western sizes, for the most part, although Uniqlo is a little better than other places. I got an XXL, and it fits perfectly. For reference, I tend to wear an AU 12/14 or a US 10/12. Returning it will not be possible, so order carefully.

Once you’ve picked out what you want, you need let Sendico know. First, though, you need to make a Sendico account. After you’ve done that, at Sendico’s page, up the top click the link to “Other Japanese Online Stores”. Enter the URL of the item you want to purchase, the title and the colour and size in the comments. They have instructions there to help you. Then someone from Sendico will have a look at it, tell you how much you need to pay (cost of the item plus tax and shipping to them in Japan), and then you can pay this amount via Paypal or credit card. Once it arrives at their warehouse (and this took about a week for me, as I stupidly ordered right before Christmas/New Year, when everything shuts down), they will let you know how much you need to pay to get it to wherever you are. Once you pay that, they’ll package it up and send it along!

The sweater costs 2955 yen, plus a 500 yen Sendico service fee. The shipping to me, via EMS with tracking, to New Zealand, was 1860 yen, and it arrived in about 3 days after Sendico sent it, complete with a New Year’s card and bonus sheep phone charm! It’s not the cheapest sweater I’ve ever bought, certainly, but I love that it’s sewing themed, and I love Uniqlo’s clothing anyway – I try not to buy much RTW these days, but Uniqlo always has good quality, affordable clothes. The sweater is soft and warm, and I can’t wait to wear it when the weather here cools down a bit!

I hope this helps you if you wanted to buy your own sewing sweater, and if you have any other questions, I’ll help as much as I can.

 

 

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Strawberry Francoise

Here we are on New Year’s Eve, and I’ve just completed my last make of 2014. Phew! The pattern is the Francoise Dress by Tilly & the Buttons, made up in a multi-coloured strawberry cotton fabric my husband brought me back as a souvenir from Estonia. As the strawberry fabric was a little sheer, I lined it with a cotton white siri fabric I bought from Gertie’s Etsy store a long while back.

I made it up in a size 5 – kind of. My measurements went 5-6-5, but when I made that up in a quick muslin, it was too loose around the waist, so I cut a straight 5. I moved the side darts down by 4″, and the curved French darts down by a few inches, too. I also shortened the darts. I’ve read a few complaints about the darts in this dress- mostly that they sit too high on most people who’ve made it. I’m short and have a low set bust, so I fully expected to have to move them. Unfortunately, Tilly does not provide much information on the moving/shortening of the curved darts, and as they’re quite unusual on patterns today (that I’ve found), I struggled a bit to find any kind of resource on how to deal with them. There’s probably an easy, obvious way that I didn’t think of though. I ended up having to mostly redraw the top part of them.

Lining this was a bitch, plain and simple. I couldn’t find anyone who had made it and lined it, and again, Tilly doesn’t mention the possibility of lining it in her sewalong. Perhaps it isn’t designed to be lined. Lining a one piece, sleeveless dress is not easy. I spent some time looking at various tutorials for lining sleeveless dresses – some people recommend sewing only the shoulder seams together, some recommend everything but the shoulder seams. I tried as hard as possible to get all the seams encased between the lining and main fabric, but I didn’t succeed with the side seams, so I pinked those. In retrospect, I can see how I could have done it in an easier, cleaner fashion, but hindsight is always 20/20, no? I did find lining it made the armholes tighter, too – I’d like a smidge more room there in future.

The back looks tight, but it doesn’t feel tight to wear. I did a lapped zipper rather than the invisible zip the pattern called for – I did try the invisible zip, but a) it was a cheap one and even a low heat iron warped the tape itself, never mind the coils. I forged on anyway, but I don’t have an invisible zip foot for my Husky and anyone who says you can achieve a good result with a regular zip foot is deluded. I have never achieved a zip that could be called invisible with a regular zip foot, and this attempt was no different. And yes, I ironed the coils back (as much as I could with my crappy zip), and adjusted my needle as much as my machine allowed, but no dice. So handpicked lapped zip it was, and despite appearances in this photo, it went in well. Unfortunately, it presented problems with the lining and how to attach it to the zip. I managed to get it looking nice on the inside, but it required extra rows of stitching.

Once I tried it on, I was a bit deflated – despite my muslin, it was still a bit baggy under the boobs and accentuated my tummy. I took it off again and took in the curved darts by another 1/2″ on each side at the top, and I like the result much better. However, the curve on them near the tip ended up quite severe and was difficult to press. You can’t really tell with this busy print though. Speaking of the print, I think it may have been printed off grain, as I made sure to cut the pattern on grain and the strawberries still seem to be falling on a slight diagonal rather than directly horizontal. Oh well.

In the end, I’m happy enough with the result – it will definitely get worn this summer for sure as it’s nice and light and cute.

Here’s to more productive sewing and more cute outfits in 2015!

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Sewing for the husband: Colette Negroni

Luke and I have spoken quite a few times about me making him some clothes. He’s expressed interest in having a handmade wardrobe, and I’ve been excited to do it for him, but it’s taken a long time to come to fruition. I have, in the past whipped him up some pyjama pants and underpants, but they haven’t really been blog-worthy and, quite frankly, were not my best work. But, finally, I have completed the first proper item of clothing for him – the Colette Negroni!

Excuse wrinkles, this was the second day of wearing. Luke picked out the fabric himself, and we got it from an Etsy store called landofoh based in Korea – it’s a lightweight cotton shirting, and it was a dream to work with. It pressed perfectly and felt soft to the touch, and light enough for summer wear. I tried my absolute best to match the plaid, and I’m pretty proud of how well I succeeded. I did want to cut the yoke on the bias, but unfortunately when ordering the fabric I didn’t take into account extra for plaid matching, so that idea was scrapped. In the end, only the pockets were cut on the bias.

Plaid matching like a boss!
I made a size L, but with the longest length, because Luke is 6’4″. That said, looking at the photos I do think it could stand to be a little shorter. Luke’s not bothered by it, though, and as long as he’s happy, I’m happy. I didn’t make any other adjustments except to shorten the sleeve by 4cm, which I was surprised I had to do. As mentioned, Luke is tall, and often has problems with too-short sleeves, so that was the last place I expected to have to remove length! I think they could do with being a tad shorter, but again, Luke’s happy with them at this length. I didn’t make a muslin (I know, living on the edge) – instead, I measured the yoke and sleeves of an existing shirt of his and when they came up almost the same as the pattern (except for the sleeves), I knew we were good to go.
In the absence of a bias-cut yoke, I deliberately offset the plaid instead
Construction wise, this was a slow make. I wanted to take my time with it, because I wanted it to be really, really good. Combined with a heavy workload, this meant I sewed it in small, half-hour blocks in the evening. I actually really enjoyed sewing it this way – I didn’t feel stressed out, I could take my time and follow the instructions and make sure it was done right. And can I just say, the instructions on this pattern are fantastic. Every seam is enclosed! The side and sleeves seams are flat-felled, and the yoke uses the much-spoken-of burrito method, which is almost magical in the way it works out. The only thing I didn’t like was the facings – they’re quite wide, and when hemming, it gets a bit bulky down there at the front where the layers are. Also, they’re not tacked down in any way which just seems a bit weird to me. I mean, the buttons and buttonholes stop them just folding out, but it still feels a bit half-finished, in my opinion. That aside, though, I highly recommend this pattern.

We looked through my stash for buttons and found these perfect brown ones! A while back I bought a big bag of zips and buttons from the Salvation Army for $5, and these were hiding in there. I added an extra button + buttonhole to the front of the shirt, as I felt it ended too soon and would flap open in the breeze without it. As an aside, I nearly threw my sewing machine out the window in a rage when I couldn’t get my one-step buttonhole foot to work. I tried everything, read the manual from cover to cover, but it just kept stitching in place and not, you know, moving forward to create a buttonhole. Turns out, you not only need to pull the little lever down, but you also need to push it back. I felt pretty silly when I finally worked it out, but in my defense, the manual doesn’t mention that! Luckily I practiced on scraps first.

I’ve fallen in love with using fabric as interfacing recently, and as a result I don’t think I can ever go back to fusible. It always bubbles in the wash, and just generally looks like crap. For this shirt, I found some grey lightweight cotton in my stash, and I used this for the interfacing for the collar, cuffs (pictured above) and facings. I also used it for the inner yoke as a contrast, and on the inner cuffs. The cuffs were kind of an accident – I somehow didn’t realise I had to cut FOUR cuff pieces and only cut two, and by the time I realised, there was almost no plaid fabric left (I really had to Tetris that shit to get all the pieces cut out in the first place). So contrast cuffs it was! I sewed the interfacing on with a 3/8″ seam allowance, and then I trimmed the interfacing from the seam allowance as closely to the stitching as I could to reduce bulk. It worked so well, and gives just the right amount of structure to the shirt – I couldn’t be happier with the result!

Despite appearances (I wish he’d smiled in these photos!) Luke loves the shirt, and to me, that’s the best part. I get a real kick out of seeing him in it, and I’m really excited to make him more clothes! Next in line is a pair of shorts, out of some blue drill I bought. He’s not very keen on shorts, but as I pointed out, when you live in the southern hemisphere and summer comes around, you want shorts!

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Dotty Camilla Blouse

After battling with this blouse since August (!), I am so, so pleased to finally be finished with it. It is, by far, the most challenging thing I have ever sewn, due to a combination of pattern, fabric choice and sizing, but I’m pleased to say that I really like the finished version.

This was my first time using a Style Arc pattern, and it’s their Camilla blouse. Style Arc are an Australian indie sewing pattern company, and they have a pretty good variety of patterns. I’ve been wanting a popover style shirt for some time, so I thought Camilla would be perfect. As you may know, Style Arc offer single sized patterns, which was my first problem, as my measurements fell on the border of two sizes, and my upper arm measurement into another, yet larger, size. After exchanging a few emails with Chloe at Style Arc, and giving her my measurements, she suggested a 16, which is what I bought, and I also got the Emily knit top as my free pattern.

So the patterns arrived, and I was immediately a little bit disappointed at the lack of instructions. I don’t need an awful lot of hand-holding in my sewing these days, but for me part of the fun of trying out new pattern companies is to learn new techniques or ways of doing things. The instructions for Style Arc are mostly text, with one or two diagrams. They refer you to their website for further, detailed instructions, which is another issue I’ll address in a minute.

I was also disappointed due to the misleading line art on the website – the Camilla blouse seems as if it has some nice shaping at the waist in the sketches. However, looking at the pattern pieces, that is not the case. It maybe goes in at the waist by a mm, possibly a little more, but really, it pretty much goes out in a straight line to the hips.

The pattern pieces also baffled me – the front and back of the blouse are 1 large piece each – no cutting on the fold here, which to me seems a needless waste of paper. I folded them in half myself and cut them that way. Also, there were errors in the pattern – on the instructions, 11 pattern pieces were listed, but there were 12 to cut out, and the number of pieces to cut differed between the listed instructions and what was written on the actual pieces. The pattern pieces are not numbered, and the names of them are cut off due to, I suppose, there not being enough space, so you get things like “CAMILLE_BLOUSE_SLEEV” on all the sleeve pieces, which further complicates things (and looks, in my opinion, unprofessional). I emailed Chloe regarding this, and she confirmed that I had, indeed, found some errors and to her credit, she apologised and said they would be fixed, and forwarded me some photos of the finished blouse to help me out.

So it’s not all negative, I will say I liked the inclusion of a swatch of fabric as a suggestion for what to use – it’s a nice touch. And despite the errors, Chloe is very responsive when you do contact her, and happy to offer help with choosing your size.

So I made a muslin and asked you lovely people for help, and then, overwhelmed by the number of adjustments necessary, I left it alone for about a month. But it nagged at me, and so I bought more muslin, went back, and started to fix it up. I ended up making 4 muslins in total to get the fit I wanted. My first mistake was getting the 16 – the blouse was too big on the shoulders and upper chest. I should have used my high bust measurement and gotten the 14 to fix those issues, and done a FBA (which I had to do anyway on the 16). I bought Fit For Real People, which despite it’s amusingly naff photos, was a huge help. In the end, I made the following adjustments:

  • 1.5cm narrow shoulder adjustment
  • 2.5cm FBA, using Marie Denmark’s Easy FBA tutorial
  • 4cm full bicep adjustment
  • Removed 1.5cm of sleeve ease using the tutorial by Green Apples
  • Shortened the sleeves by at least 4cm, I’m not sure of the exact amount as I removed a bit more later
  • Removed 5cm from the centre back piece to remove the gathering at the back of the yoke, as it was making it billow out in a weird way
  • Added 2cm to the centre back of the yoke piece as it was straining a little across my shoulders when I stretched my arms out and subsequently 2cm to the collar to match the yoke
  • Eliminated the pocket
  • Shortened the neck split by 3cm

Phew! It was a lot of work, to be honest, some of which could have been eliminated if nested sizing was available. But I learned a lot, and I’m really super happy with the fit I have now. The only thing I would change in a future version would be to lengthen the sleeves just a tad. They’re fine when I have my arms by my sides, but when I stretch them out, they feel a tiny bit short.

My fabric choice made things ten times more difficult, too – it’s not the fabric I wanted to use for my final version. I was anticipating problems the first time I put the whole blouse together, and didn’t want to ruin nice fabric, so I used this slinky fabric from my stash – part of a huge box I bought off Trademe recently. It’s some kind of polyester, I think, and it slipped and slid everywhere, any chance it could. I cut out it with my rotary cutter and a lot of pattern weights (tuna cans), and then I used something called “ironing aid” on each piece, which made it much more stable. For interfacing on the sleeve and neck placket, I used self fabric, as I’m not a big fan of fusible interfacing. For the collar, I used some (quite expensive) tricot interfacing I got locally for a wool skirt, which worked wonderfully. I didn’t interface the seam allowances to reduce bulk.

When it came time for the neck placket, I went onto Style Arc’s website as the instructions directed, to their section on neck split tabs and sleeve plackets. Unfortunately, it was no help, as the instructions are general, not tailored to each pattern, and the pattern piece for the Camilla blouse neck placket does not resemble anything in their tutorial. So I drafted my own placket piece like a larger version of a sleeve placket using the tutorial by Off the Cuff, and sewed it using the absolutely fantastic video by Pauline Alice (it’s for her Carme blouse, but it’s very useful for any neck placket, I would think), and I’m so proud of how it turned out. It looks a little off-kilter in this photo, but that’s due to the fabric slipping around – it’s straight, I promise! You’ll notice it’s sewed up twice – once where a placket is usually anchored, and then again further up. This is due to my sewing machine absolutely REFUSING to sew a buttonhole in this fabric, and me giving up and just stitching it closed. I can still pop the blouse on easily, and it’s not indecent in the cleavage area. Win win. I might sew some buttons on it later on.
Of course, I had the same buttonhole issue when it came to the cuffs, but browsing Instagram one day I saw someone mention snaps as an alternative to buttonholes, and I thought that was the perfect solution. I ordered some pearl snaps from a local sewing shop, and a press tool, and they just arrived today. They were fantastically easy to apply (I was gentle with the hammer though, I’ve heard horror stories of people smashing the snaps with too much force!) and they look great. Problem solved!
So if you’ve stuck with me through this long and wordy review, I appreciate it. I feel like I’ve been helped by so many people through this project, through blog comments, tutorials that other bloggers have made available and advice through social media, and I really am happy to be part of such a helpful community with so many resources available. 
As for whether or not I’ll try another pattern from Style Arc, sadly I’m not sure that I will. I probably will sew the Emily top, as I already have the pattern now and sizing is more forgiving in knits, but I’m really put off by the single sizing, pattern errors and lack of instruction that comes with them, considering the price.

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Just another blog hop, move along if you’re tired of seeing them!

I know that by now, the sewing blogosphere is getting a little bit tired of the whole blog hop thing. So I apologise in advance for hopping on the bandwagon (pun intended), but my good friend Chuleelan over at CSews nominated me and it would be rude to refuse! I met Chuleelan when I lived in Berkeley, and she’s a lovely person, and a great seamstress, too. Basically, if you’re not aware, the blog hop (or this one at least) is just four questions about the blogging process. So let’s hop to it!

1. Why do I write?

Why indeed. I write because I enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed writing, from when I was a small child writing about otter tea parties, to my Livejournal I’ve had for the past 14 years. I write this blog, specifically, because I like to show off my sewing creations and be part of the sewing community. It’s nice to share a hobby with others who enjoy doing the same.

2. What am I working on?

I’m almost finished the interminable StyleArc Camilla blouse, which I asked for fitting help on, oh, back in August. I’m very much the opposite of fast fashion right now, it would seem. The whole thing has been an uphill battle from start to (very nearly) finish, and I’m just waiting on some snap buttons to arrive in the mail to be done with it. I’ve also cut out the PDF pattern to make Luke a Colette Negroni shirt, which I’m pretty excited about making! In non-sewing-but-still-crafting news, I’m halfway through knitting a sweater my Mom showed me in a Spotlight magazine, which is what I do in the evenings when my sewing has gone tits up yet again.

3. How does my blog differ from others in its genre?

I’m not really sure that it does. I’m not bothered by this, though – I never’t set out to make an violently different sewing blog. It’s just stuff I like to make, usually cute, and rambling on how I made it. 

4. How does my writing process work?

I start with photos. Usually three or four, sometimes a couple of extras if the inside of the garment is worth displaying. Then I just type up the rest around those, trying to cover all the aspects of construction, type of fabric, cost, pattern review – those kind of things. I don’t plan it much, or read over it after I’ve written it – it’s just off the cuff. 
Every once in a while I’ll feel a bit stressed that I haven’t blogged in a while, and think maybe people will forget I exist, and think about making a more introspective, navel-gazing blog post, but I usually resist the temptation because I figure I’d rather have good content worth waiting for than boring drivel no one wants to read. 

Now comes the part where I’m supposed to nominate two other bloggers to answer these questions, but I feel like everyone on my sewing blog feed has already done it (or maybe it just feels that way(, so I’ll pass on that part of it. 

 Hopefully I’ll actually have a finished garment to show off soon!

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