His n’ hers

I read somewhere once that making clothing for a significant other signals the death knell for your relationship. It’s basically sod’s law – you put all that care and attention into doing a nice thing for your partner but then you break up, rendering all that effort wasted. Coincidentally I’ve never made anything for Chris to wear, but since we’ve been together for nearly five years and married for almost one, I think I can chance it. After all, divorce is expensive.

Anyway, Chris is just about as enthusiastic about spending time in his PJs as I am, so it seemed like a natural choice to make him a pair. When I bought that Ikea duvet for my Carolyn pyjamas, I knew I’d be able to get more than one pair out of it. I’d only used about a metre, which left me with just enough for some bottoms for Chris and the longer length Carolyn bottoms for me. And when I say just enough, I mean it – it was a real squeeze fitting the pattern pieces in, so any stripe matching you might see in these photos is a complete fluke.

New Look 6859 front

I spent a bit of time searching for a men’s pj pattern. Chris wanted a fly front, but none of the Big Four seem to do them as far as I can tell (please do prove me wrong though!). I eventually settled on New Look 6859 as view A looked like a straightforward pattern without any fancy bits (unless you want them – unlikely with Chris). They’re a basic pyjama with slash pockets, an elasticated waist and a mock-drawstring, with sizes in XS to XXL.

New Look 6859 crotch

It’s a small thing, but I really like the twill tape mock-drawstring here. I just think it looks cute. 

This was my first time using a Big Four pattern and I have to say that my experience with it was largely positive. The pieces (all three of them) fit together easily and the instructions, though brief, were clear. They even included a tip on inserting elastic into a casing, which is something I’ve been struggling with lately. To avoid getting the elastic stuck under wayward seam allowances, simply baste them down before you stitch the casing. It’s so simple, I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before!

New Look 6859 back

It was a pretty quick sew, too. I did most of it in a morning, and completed it that evening when I could get Chris to try them on for size. The sizing is probably the thing I’m most unhappy with – I cut them based on Chris’ hip measurement which is precisely between an L and an XL. I went for the larger size but they do look rather baggy on him. They’re only pyjamas and he says they are comfy to wear so I won’t alter this pair, but I’d size down if I was making them again.

New Look 6859 camouflage

If you can make out the PJs beyond the duvet cover camouflage here, you’ll see that there is a lot of excess fabric down the leg – they might be comfy but that’s a definite size down next time.

I don’t have much to say about my Carolyn bottoms. They’re exactly the same construction as the shorts, only a little longer, so I knew they’d fit nicely through the hips. I took an inch off the drafted length, and I think for my next pair I’ll take off a further inch as they’re skimming the floor a little. Still, I enjoyed making them, and they’ll serve me very nicely through the autumn. I don’t wear long sleeves in bed unless it’s really cold, so I’ll be wearing these with the Carolyn shirt I’ve already made. I’ve really enjoyed having coordinated PJs over the summer that I’m feeling a bit disappointed with my tatty old RTW pairs.

Carolyn longer length front

Anyway, I do like making pyjamas – they’re a quick and satisfying project, and it is kinda fun to be matchy matchy with your husband and your duvet cover. My PJ love is not going anywhere and I’m looking forward to making snugglier pairs as winter approaches.

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Pattern review: Jennifer Lauren Handmade Afternoon Blouse

Hi everybody! Today I’m sharing something that wasn’t in my plans at the start of the month, but I’ve managed to incorporate it into Sew My Stash September anyway. A few months ago I signed up to be a pattern reviewer for Jennifer Lauren Handmade. In exchange for an honest review, you get a pdf copy of one of Jennifer’s patterns, and there’s a different one each month. I won’t be reviewing a pattern every time, but I did stick my hand up for this month’s pattern, the Afternoon Blouse.

Now, I have made this before, but it was way, way back when I had just started sewing. My last version was in a Liberty lawn and looking back it is definitely not my best make (unfinished facings, shocking topstitching etc). I wanted to revisit it to see how far I have come.

Front resize

My choices

When I made the pattern first time around it was only a top with a choice between a round or square neckline finish. The reissued version now includes a shift dress extension with an elasticated or pleated waist in the back. I’m not really a fan of shift dresses on me, so I went for the blouse with the round neck finish. The fabric recommendations span drapey fabrics like voile or rayon, through to stiffer fabrics like quilting cotton. Something crisper might be good for the dress version, but I think the top works best in something nice and flowy. I had just the right amount of rayon left over from my last Penny dress, and this was the perfect opportunity to save it from my stash. I only wish I had more so I could attempt to pattern match – it doesn’t match through the front seam and now it’s all I can look at.

The pdf pattern

We all know that printing, taping and cutting out pdf patterns can be a hell of a faff, so anything to reduce the time is a good thing in my book. I was impressed that Jennifer has taken the time to show which pages you need to print depending on the version you’re making. Saves time and trees. However, putting the pattern together could be made a bit simpler. There aren’t any triangles on the pdf to help you line things up and keep track of what sheet attaches to which. You could refer to the instructions for this but I think it would be helpful to do it straight from the pattern.

Side resize

Construction

The Afternoon Blouse has just four pattern pieces (front, back and two facing pieces). It features kimono sleeves and there’s no fitting around the bust to mess about with. It’s a simple sew, but the crossover neckline keeps things interesting, and is probably the most challenging part, especially if you’re a beginner. You need to do some pretty accurate sewing to ensure that there aren’t any holes beneath where the round extensions cross over. I found the drafting to be accurate and well thought out here, and the whole blouse came together for me without any issues. I’d note that there are no notches on the pattern to help you match pieces, and while I didn’t find that a problem while sewing, others might find them useful.

Bust detail resize

Instructions

My main criticism of the pattern is with the instructions, but even then these are minor points as they’re pretty easy to follow. I struggled a bit to get the neckline lying flat, and in a thicker fabric I think the facing might pop out, particularly around the back neckline. You secure the facing with a couple of hand stitches at the shoulder and beneath the crossover, but I think some understitching might help. You wouldn’t be able to understitch the entire facing but certainly around the majority of the front and back neckline before you get to the crossover.

Speaking of hand stitching, there is a mistake in the instructions about this. In the “Attaching the facing” section, points five and six are the wrong way round, so it has you stitching the facing down before you’ve turned it the right side out. I told Jennifer about this via email, so hopefully it’ll be updated pretty quickly.

Fit

I cut a size 12 around the bust, blending out to a 16 at the hips, which is a usual adjustment for me. The fit seems pretty spot on – there’s no gaping across the bust and it’s cut high enough to be decent but not too buttoned up. The lack of shaping means it’s quite a loose fit, which I like – it has just the right volume so in rayon it looks nicely poofy when tucked in but also soft and flowy when worn loose.

Back resize

All in all…

I might have a few small issues with the pattern here and there, but these are so small they didn’t affect my enjoyment in sewing this top at all. Because, really, I bloody love this top. Chris even said he liked it without me having to prompt that I’d made something new. That doesn’t happen often. It’s a good top to have in your collection – quick to put together, simple to fit and easy to wear. This particular version is smart enough for work but I can see it doing very nicely for date night when worn with jeans, too.

Recommended.

 

 

My top five reasons for sewing your stash

I’m probably not the only magpie sewist, spotting cute fabrics and snapping them up with vague ideas of what they’ll become only for them to sit in my stash. It’s a slippery slope towards drowning in cloth, and while that might be a nice way to go, it’s probably a good idea to reduce the stash a little bit. Here are my top five reasons for sewing through your stash.

  • That really pretty piece of rayon/silk/cotton/whatever deserves to be seen! I don’t hold with the idea that some fabrics are too good to be sewn. You bought it because you loved it, so don’t let it languish in a box, bag or cupboard Now let the rest of the world love it too, in the form of a beautiful garment.
  • Let’s face it, we could all do with the space. If you’ve got fabric poking out of random places like kitchen drawers or the bathroom cabinet, it’s probably time to do something about it.
  • It’s a potential opportunity to learn some new skills. If you’re scared of cutting into that precious bit of silk, take a deep breath and just do it. There are so many useful free online resources out there that it’s like having your own private teacher there with you.
  • Sewing from your stash means that you’ll probably save a bit of money, at least in the short term. Spend that money on something fun, like going ziplining, taking a class or a mountain of sweets.
  • Having a good rummage through your stash can be a great source of inspiration. You might find something that you’d forgotten about and decide that it would be perfect for the pattern you’ve been dreaming about.

And don’t forget that when you’re done, you get to buy more fabric! Yay!

The replacements: Winslow culottes

Do you remember a month or two ago I made some Helen’s Closet Winslow culottes in bright red rayon? I loved those culottes. When I wore them with my stripy Scout tee I felt like I was on a 1930s cruise where I would perhaps bump into Poirot and help him solve a murder (who am I kidding, I would totally just be a hanger-on while he did all the sleuthing). They were so good for keeping me cool in the summer heat and I wore them on near-constant rotation. But why the past tense? Well, a few weeks ago I was in one of our many local drinking establishments, and I caught the culottes on a nail while squeezing past a table to get to the loo. Luckily my modestly was protected and I managed to make it home without flashing my rear to all of Fremont, but I was gutted that they weren’t salvageable.

Front

That’s my recent Agnes top I’m wearing too. 

I’m not sure I would have made another floaty pair this late in the year, but it’s still quite warm here (well, not this weekend) and we’ve got a couple of hot-weather holidays coming up, so it seemed sensible to make some more. And it meant that I could shift this Cotton & Steel rayon that’s been in my stash since June. Winning all round, I think.

I like this rayon. It’s got the drape I’m looking for, but it feels a bit more substantial than the red stuff of my first pair. I bought two yards from Drygoods Design, and I just managed to squeeze the knee length culottes out of it. It’s quite a skinny length (44 inches wide) and the back pattern piece is a tiny bit too broad to fit on the lengthwise grain. Luckily I could get them on the crosswise grain, but it meant having to use the selvedge. It’s something to bear in mind if ever I want to make the longer length (and I think I will… I have a wedding coming up in October, and these could be a good option).

Selvedge

I wish I’d remembered to get a proper picture of the selvedge cos they’re really cool on Cotton and Steel fabrics.

One of the things I love about the Winslow culottes is that it’s a really quick sew, although I made them over a couple of sessions. This approach paid off because I managed to do a pretty good job of the invisible zip – it’s not often that I manage to get the waistband meeting properly at all matching points! *pats self on back*

Back

Bit of a windy day on the roof, but I suppose you get to see the movement in the fabric. 

They had their first outing while camping last weekend, and I was glad of combination of the airiness of a skirt and coverage of shorts over what was a really very warm trip. I’m glad I’ve made them but I do miss that red pair. There may be more in my future…

Side

 

My mammoth prep session

Just a quick one from me today because I’m pretty pleased with myself. For me, the most tedious, mind-numbing, soul-destroying part of sewing is the cutting out and marking. It takes soooo long! I’m impatient to get to the actual sewing part, but at the same time I don’t want to cut corners (literally and figuratively) so I want to get that part right, however much I hate it. And don’t get me started on attaching interfacing.

With a long list of things to sew this month I’m keen to try and save time where I can, so I spent a couple of afternoons this week cutting out, marking up and attaching interfacing to all my September projects. The whole process was deathly boring, though it is very nice to be able to pick up any of the pieces without having to faff about before I switch on my machine. I also like the idea of working through the pile of projects – almost like a visual to-do list.

With the exception of the Ultimate Shirt, all my projects this month should be quite fast sews – hopefully even faster now they’re all ready to go.

What do you do to save yourself some time when you’re sewing?

Cut out projects

One of the other reasons prep sessions take so long is that I try and save interfacing by using the scraps from one bit to cover others. Takes forever, but I’m pleased not to be needlessly throwing it away.

Scraps

My pile of fabric scraps. Destined to be recycled at my local H&M soon!

The quickest of wins

Hey everybody! Hope your Tuesday has been treating you well! I have returned from a weekend’s camping at Baker Lake with some friends. It was a lot of fun – we went on a hike to some local hot springs (which smelt of rotten eggs), tried out an inflatable kayak and I finished my book. While it was great to be out of the heat of the city, I’m glad to be home and clean again. From my experience so far, American campsites don’t have showers and the loos, if they exist at all, are not of the flushing type…

Anyway, after the activity of the weekend I’m pretty tired, due in part to the anti-histamines I’ve been taking for some pretty impressive insect bites. I wanted to carry on my stash-busting crusade today but I needed a quick win to suit my attention span. I had an 85cm x 75cm piece of white jersey left over from my Agnes top which wasn’t going to make anything useful for me, but I didn’t want it to end up in the bin. The Made by Rae baby tights seemed like the perfect match. It was also a good chance to practice my jersey skills again, and make part of a gift for a couple of my friends in the UK who are expecting.

Three tights

The pattern calls for 3/4 inch elastic, but I ran out for the third pair (right) and had to use 1/2 inch instead. 

The pattern, which fits babies aged 3-6 months, is super simple – just a single piece that you cut on the fold twice. I managed to get three pairs of tights out of my fabric, and I reckon if I’d been a tiny bit more economical with my cutting I could have got a fourth. Oh well. I overlocked the crotch and leg seams and discovered that I need to get a bit better at overlocking round curves, but I’m generally happy with what I achieved.

Pattern pieces

The pattern piece – I often trace off a duplicate if I know I have to cut two of the same piece. It means I can lay everything out together and not have to fanny about with pinning multiple times.

After that all I needed to do was attach the elastic, for which I switched to my normal machine. I folded the fabric over the elastic and zigzagged it in place, then folded the elastic over again before stitching so the raw edges are concealed. It was a bit of a fiddle to stretch the elastic and make sure the fabric was covering it, but I managed ok.

And that was it! I made the three pairs in about an hour and a half from cutting to snipping the threads, which must make this one of the quickest projects I’ve ever done. Obviously since the intended recipients aren’t even born yet, I’ve got no idea whether they’ll fit, but all being well we’ll find out in a couple of months!

Tights and dress

I’ll be giving the tights as part of a gift which includes the Made by Rae Little Geranium dress. This was made from the scraps left from my Chardon skirt from last year. 

On the cutting table: September

Hi everyone! It’s Labor Day weekend here in the US and I am off-grid at a campsite somewhere between Seattle and Canada.  But, thanks to the magic of WordPress’ scheduling function I can share my plans for Sew My Stash September!

So let’s get this thing done! Throughout the month I’ll be sewing exclusively from my fabric stash with patterns that I already own, basically because I want space for more fabric. It’s going to be a busy month, and I am in the middle of a job hunt, so if I get even half of this done, I’ll be pleased with myself. It’s good to have ambition, though, yes?!

With this in mind, September’s plans are all about quick wins, but with one more involved project. So here goes. In no particular order, this month I will mostly be sewing:

  • His n’ hers PJ bottoms from the rest of the Ikea duvet cover I used for my Carolyns. I’ll be using the longer length Carolyn bottoms for me and New Look 6859 for Chris. My first Big 4 pattern!
  • The one that’ll take the most time is a new Sew Over It Ultimate Shirt in this BEAUTIFUL rayon I got in Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. Britex is not a cheap shop and I limited myself to one piece of fabric from their huge collection. It was always destined to become an Ultimate Shirt, but I was waiting for cooler weather before cutting it – the colours and pattern scream autumn to me.
Bird rayon

So. Pretty. 

  • Some baby leggings from a Made by Rae free pattern. Two of my friends are pregnant and due in October. I don’t know what they’re having just yet but on the off chance they have girls (it’s a 50/50 chance, right?), these will form part of a couple of cute little outfits I’ve making. I’ll be making them from the leftover jersey from my Agnes top.
  • A pair of Helen’s Closet Winslow culottes in this funky Cotton + Steel rayon I got ages ago from Drygoods Design in Seattle. I had a bit of a disaster with my red pair so these will be a replacement pair.
Cotton and Steel rayon

This one didn’t photograph so well, but the blue is a darker navy. 

  • A pair of Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dresses. The blue denim was one of the pieces I brought with me from London, and I bought the stripy stuff at Our Fabric Stash in Pike Place Market. I’ve got some dungaree buckles in my button pot too, and I’ve been itching to get rid of them for too long.
Cleo dresses

I got the patches in the Fremont Vintage Mall. It’s basically a junk shop but you can find some gems if you’re in the mood for a rummage. 

That’s seven items in all – if I manage to get most of this done I’ll have made a healthy dent in my fabric collection. When I was going through the stash, I found that I had ideas for the rest of it, but it’s good to be vaguely realistic, isn’t it?

Are you joining in with Sew My Stash September (click here for more)? What’s on your list?

 

Simple Sew Shannon trousers: a work in progress

Hi everyone! It’s the first day of Sew My Stash September and I’m here today to show you the last of my August makes. I’m gonna include it in SMSS, though, because this fabric has been in my stash for at least a year. I bought it in Balham with the intention of using it on the Simple Sew Shannon trousers and I’ve finally got round to making them up.

I got the pattern free with an issue of Love Sewing a year or two ago and liked the look of them immediately. In a world of skinny jeans, wide-legged trousers are a breath of fresh air when you have chunky legs like mine. I thought I could also see myself in the shorts, which isn’t something you’ll often hear me say. It must have been love. It’s not quite over now, but this relationship needs work.

Front

The wrinkles across the front look worse than they actually are – think that’s mostly because I’m pulling on the pockets with my thumbs.

Now, I’ve never fitted a pair of trousers without help before. My last pair were the Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers which I made a couple of years ago (and then promptly shrank in the wash). With this in mind I figured that these could be a wearable muslin at least. Based on my measurements (note that the pattern envelope only gives finished measurements) I cut a 12 at the waist and graded to a 16 at the hips. The fit is perfect round the waist but I need at least a size up around the hips – I could barely get the zip up. I let them out a bit, meaning a bunch of tedious unpicking, and minuscule seam allowances. You can see in the photos that the zip is still pulling so I think they still need extra work for me to be happy.

Side

Yep, there’s a little bit of pulling there, and I’m not entirely happy with the way the pockets lie.

Part of the problem was due to the construction which I found downright odd. I sewed them up as per the instructions but I wish I’d read them through properly and made the decision to do something a bit more sensible. Instead of assembling the legs before attaching the waistband, you stitch the crotch seams and one side seam first, so the waistband can go on flat. You then put the zip in, without sewing up the inside legs first. This means that if you follow the instructions to the letter, you can’t do any fitting until they’re just about finished. I’d have preferred to try the pants on, sans waistband, and then adjust as appropriate. Oh well, lesson learned.

Instructions

Yeah, bit odd. 

So, yeah, the fitting was a ballache, and if/when I make these again I’ll need to make some significant changes to the pattern. But that’s not my only beef with the Shannon trousers. The envelope is marked as being for “adventurous beginners” and there’s nothing too difficult in terms of actual sewing, but the instructions are very brief, missing out important details that I think would be useful for beginners. For example, when you sew the waistband and facing, it would be good to grade the seams, and I’d want to keep it lying flat with something more secure than understitching. It also assumes that you know how to insert an invisible zip properly, because the instructions are basically inadequate. This kind of thing is fine if you’ve got a few projects under your belt, but if this is your first foray into zips you’re probably going to want your hand held a bit more. Hell, I need a reminder about invisible zips every time and I’ve put loads in!

Back

We’re going away this weekend so these photos were taken really quickly this morning, hence the wet hair. Kevin Keegan perm is not usually the look I go for. 

It’s funny what a difference a wash and press can do for your makes. When I tried these on fresh off the machine I was convinced they were destined for the bin. But now I’ve tried them on again I’m feeling a bit better about them. Because of the tiny seam allowance I’m not sure they’ll get a lot of wear (something about it makes me nervous), but it shouldn’t take too much to alter the fit on the pattern. I’ll have another go, but it may be next month before I revisit them.

Sew My Stash September – who’s with me?!

Guys, I’ve been inspired. I’m declaring next month to be Sew My Stash September on Stuff Jo Has Made. For the month of September 2017, I will only sew with fabric from my stash, using patterns that are already in my collection. 

I was listening to episode three of the Love to Sew podcast on stashes the other day and it got me thinking. Presenters Helen and Caroline were talking about the size of their stashes and how you could think of them as collections, rather than something to sew with. Now compared to some, I have a fairly modest stash with just 19 pieces. But with a sewing space as small and compact as mine I can’t afford to think of my stash in that way. I brought maybe seven or eight pieces of fabric with me from the UK, and I’ve not done too badly at using them since arriving in the US (see here and here). However, my stash levels have been creeping up a bit and if I buy any more I risk being swamped by fabric. It’s time to do something about it.

Boxed stash

This is my stash box. It fits in an Ikea Kallax shelf and there’s not much space left in it.

So for September I’m going to make a real effort to put a significant dent in my stash. For me, that means I won’t be buying any new fabric or patterns just to suit my whim. We’ll soon be in autumn which will suit many of my fabrics, and I’ve got plenty of choice between my paper patterns and my pdfs. I don’t need new fabric right now (even though I may want it). What I need is the impetus to shift some of that stash.

While I reckon a brief stash diet is completely doable, I’ve gotta give myself a loophole. I’m allowed to buy notions and linings, and free pdf patterns don’t count. Mainly because I’ve got vague plans to make some baby tights for some friends with the leftover jersey from my Agnes top and I’ve got no idea how to go about it.

Want to join in?

If you need some motivation to get through your stash, let’s do it together! If you’re like me, you bought that fabric because you love it and it deserves to be seen rather than sitting in a box in your sewing space. Use September as a good excuse to get it done. I’ll be posting my progress on here and on Instagram (@stuffjohasmade), so if you’d like to join in use the hashtag #sewmystashseptember or tag your blog post with Sew My Stash September. Hope to see you there!

The plain white tee

Hey hey! How’s your Sunday going? We’ve had a bit of a whirlwind week entertaining both sets of parents. They all arrived last Friday and in that time we’ve been whale watching, walked the meadows of Mount Rainier, seen the eclipse and been on a float plane flight around the city. It’s been lovely to catch up, but man, was it tiring!? The other bit of news is that I am now legally able to work in the US! My work permit came through this week, so the job hunt starts tomorrow. Wish me luck, and if you know anyone in Seattle who’d love an internal comms bod in their business, send ’em my way.

Mum Mt Rainier

In the meadows on Mount Rainier with my mum. Felt like we were in Heidi or something.

Anyway, sewing! This week I’ve taken a break from making girly dresses in fabulous prints in favour of making something a bit more basic. And you can’t get more basic than a plain white t-shirt. One of the paper patterns I brought with me to the US was the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top. With its close-fitting cut, it struck me as a good potential layering piece, but also a nice way to show off some pretty fabric. I’ve never been entirely happy about sewing with knits (I blame my experience with my first Moneta), but I want to improve.

Front

The Agnes is a close fit, and it’s reminded me that I need a better, smoother bra. There’s a reason you’re not going to see a full shot of my back…

It’s a good job I was up for a challenge because the pattern calls for a lighter jersey than I’ve been used to sewing with. Thinking that I’d be able to see my mistakes more clearly I opted for a plain, off-white bamboo jersey from Harts Fabrics and I was pretty pleased with my choice. It’s silky and soft, and you can tell that the quality is there. I like it, but my sewing machine did not. I tested out my zigzag stitching on a scrap before committing to the pattern pieces – I think I got maybe six zigzags out of a six-inch line. I couldn’t be bothered to go out and get more needles, so I decided to have a go at sewing it on my overlocker – another first for me. It just needed to be topstitched with a twin needle.

And do you know what? It was pretty easy! There were a few fiddly bits to manage with the overlocker, but apart from that I didn’t have any issues. I hand basted the stabilising ribbon at the shoulder so I didn’t accidentally overlock my pins, and I did the same with the neckband. I spent ages pinning and basting the neckline before overlocking – the neck band is 10% smaller than the neckline and I wanted to make sure that it was even and wrinkle-free. It’s a tiny bit wrinkly at the back but not enough to be really noticeable.

Back neckline

Things to improve for next time: wonky twin-needle topstitching. But otherwise, I’m pretty pleased with that effort.

I graded from a size 4 at the bust and waist to a 6 at the hips. From my measurements I should be a size 7 hip in Tilly’s patterns, but I know from experience this is a little bit too roomy – I’m pretty pleased with the fit as is. If I’m being picky I could maybe stand a little bit more space around the arms but that’s what stretchy fabric is for, eh?

Now that I’ve had a go and didn’t mess it up, I want to make more! It’ll be a useful long-sleeved top for cooler weather and with plenty of pretty jersey around, who am I to refuse?!

Side

Another thing I may change for next time is the sleeve length – I quite like the elbow-length sleeve here, but a short sleeve would also be good.