Does split sizing equal a splitting headache?

So this week Colette released their new pattern, the Penny shirt dress. I’m on their Pattern Insider email list, so I got a sneak peek on Monday morning and was smitten from the off. It looks like a lovely pattern with some interesting features – I particularly like the belt detail on version 2, and the sleeves on version 1 are super pretty. Obviously, I’ve already bought it.

 

Anyway, I note that Colette have introduced split sizing to their printed patterns; something they’ve been doing with their Seamwork patterns since the beginning of the year. I get why they do it – you need to draft differently for different body types, plus it gets confusing if there are too many sizes on a single sheet. If you buy the misses (0-16) or curvy (18-26) printed Penny pattern directly from Colette’s online shop, you also get access to both ranges in pdf format so you can grade more easily. You can also buy the pdf on its own, if that’s your preference. For more about Colette’s approach to split sizing, click here.

This is a great development from Colette – they’re doing their best to be inclusive and cater for as many of their customers as possible. As someone whose body spans the misses and curvy ranges by as many as four sizes between waist and hips, having the option to grade is essential. I wish more pattern companies would follow suit, and when I say that I’m looking particularly at the Big Four. A quick scan of the McCalls website shows that their patterns come in two size ranges, with a crossover of one size (e.g. the ubiquitous M6696 shirt dress comes in sizes 8-16 and 16-24). PDF provision is patchy, and even when they do exist they’re split between the same size ranges. Basically, if you want to grade between the ranges you have to spend your money twice.

This puts me off buying from them. My pattern drafting skills ain’t all that, and the sizing/grading advice on the McCalls website to pick from my hip size and alter the waist is a bit of a ball ache (yes, I am lazy). Would it be cost-effective for them to offer grouped PDFs a la Colette? Or is it worth doing a mid-sized range of printed patterns in addition to the misses and curvy sizes so that there’s more overlap? How would this affect their design process? Should I just bite the bullet and give the Big Four a go?

 

 

The silk that almost got the better of me

Hi everybody! How’s your Sunday going? I’m posting this with one eye on Game of Thrones (don’t worry, no spoilers) to bring you something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while but just never got round to it. Part of my Me Made May pledge this year was to finally cut into some blue silk I’d bought from the Man Outside Sainsburys at Walthamstow Market last year. Well, I may not have blogged about it at the time, but I am still a woman of my word and I completed a new Sew Over It Alex shirt well before my 31 May deadline.

 

Front

Thought I’d change up the location today – this is the ground floor courtyard in my building and an attractive water feature.

I’ve covered the Alex dress and shirt before this year, so I won’t say much about the pattern – just assume that I made it in the same way, yes? You’d think that by my third attempt on a pattern everything would be plain sailing, but no! From start to finish, this Alex was a pain in the proverbial.

I had originally planned to make an Alex dress out of this, thinking I had bought more than I did. It turned out I only had 1.5m, so I had to settle for the shirt instead. Even then I had to do some pattern Tetris and single layer cutting to eke it out of the length. If that had been my only issue with the fabric I think I’d be ok with this make, but sewing it turned out to be a massive ball ache.

Side

I wanted to treat the fabric nicely, so I went out and bought sharp needles and some proper silk pins. Turns out I needn’t have bothered. The pins were super difficult to push through the layers, and when I tried sewing a scrap, my machine let out a big fat ‘nope’. I don’t think it managed to sew a single stitch. I tried several different needles and finally settled on a 70/10, which was the best of a bad bunch. The machine was still skipping stitches so I ended up taking things reeeeaaally slowly but there are a few places where I had to go over the seams more than once. All this made me wonder whether the Man Outside Sainsburys was mistaken in telling me it was a silk, but I did a burn test and it looks like he was telling me the truth.

Anyway, since the fabric and hardware weren’t playing ball, I figured that I’d probably have issues with sewing the buttonholes. I ended up only doing them on the button tabs and even then I had to unpick a few times. I didn’t want to risk it on the placket, so I ended up just sewing the buttons straight through. I can get it over my head without any bother so they don’t need to be functional.

Back

Despite my issues, I do still like the finished result. It was worth the extra effort to go slowly, I’m pleased with how it looks and it does feel nice to wear. Now that we’re in the middle of summer, it’s a little too warm for me to wear it right now, but I’m sure it’ll be in heavy rotation once the autumn arrives.

 

Penny for my thoughts

I’m thinking of renaming my blog. Confessions of a Broken Record sounds about right, since today’s post is about yet another shirt dress. That Winslow culottes post probably lulled you into a false sense of security, but mwhahaha here I am to talk to you about my Penny dress!

My love of Sew Over It’s patterns is well-documented, and I had to have this one as soon as it was released in June. Of course I did; it’s a shirt dress. The Penny is a casual day dress, with a button-up bodice and a circle skirt attached to an elasticated waist. I reckon I’ve been missing out on a whole world of swishing and twirling since I last made a circle skirt several years ago, so it’s definitely time to give it another go.

DSC_0591

To maximise my Penny’s swish factor, I went for this summery rayon (unfortunately out of stock) from Harts Fabric’s online store. I am fast falling in love with Harts – they’ve got a great selection and their service is really prompt. I managed to eke the dress out of 2.5 yards (the US is not on board with the metric system) with a bit of pattern Tetris and some single layer cutting.

Side

This is the only side photo I got where I wasn’t gurning. Looking at this pic, I may add an extra bit of length in the bodice as it’s pulling up slightly at the front.

Now, normally I find SOI’s instructions super clear. Really, it’s difficult to go too far wrong with their patterns, but this time I found them a bit confusing in a few places. I had to add notches to the skirt waistline so I could attach the bodice evenly, while the button placket construction was just a bit odd. You’re supposed to partially fold the facing out to the front of the bodice, but the instructions don’t specify by how much. It was only by looking at a kink in the facing piece that I had an idea of what was supposed to happen. It didn’t really make sense until attaching the collar. I think this could put off an adventurous beginner.

Other than those little blips the dress came together really nicely. A special shout out should go to Chris, who very patiently helped me level out the hem. I left it to hang for a day and in that time the bias shifted by 3.5 inches (apparently I’m not on board with the metric system either). Since I don’t have a dummy anymore I had to put it on to mark it accurately. Chris got his tape measure out and diligently marked out an even line with pins. He was bothered it wasn’t right but I think his eyes were playing tricks on him as it looks pretty good to me.

Back

Of course, I love this dress. As soon as I finished the hem I spent a good hour swishing and twirling around the flat in it. It’s light and floaty and will see me through the summer very nicely. I’ll definitely be making more, because I am so not over making shirt dresses just yet (not sorry) but I’ll make sure I’ve got my June/July sewing plans out of the way first.

Do you get obsessed with sewing particular garments?

 

New to me: Helen’s Closet Winslow culottes

I spend most of my year in either jeans or skirts/dresses, with my legs covered in thick black tights. That’s fine for nine months out of 12 in Seattle, but now that summer’s here it’s time for my pasty-white pins to see the light of day. Now, I will never have the legs of a gazelle and in the summer that means I’m a victim of chub rub. The struggle is real, y’all. I can cope with a London summer, which lasts about two weeks if you’re lucky, but I’m told that we can expect consistently higher temperatures from mid-June well into September. It’s time to try making shorts.

Unlike Homer Simpson, short shorts are really not for me, but knee-length is definitely more within my comfort-zone. And if it can look like a skirt but with the anti-chafing benefits, so much the better. Culottes are the definitely the answer. After seeing so many ace versions around the internet (here, here and here) , I thought I’d give the Winslow culottes by Helen’s Closet a go.

That’s a Grainline Scout tee I’m wearing on top too.

One of the things I like about them is how they can work in a range of lengths – the pattern includes four lengths from short shorts to trousers (and also tells you which PDF pages to print – super useful).  True to form, I cut the knee-length version in bright red rayon which I thought would be light and breezy for when the mercury climbs.

It was quite breezy yesterday so these photos look like I’m standing in a wind tunnel.

With only four pattern pieces and super-clear instructions, sewing up these culottes was a cinch. There are some nice optional features, too. I particularly like the recommendation to put a bar tack in at either end of the in-seam pocket openings to help the pocket to sit forward. Sometimes I think understitching isn’t enough, especially in a slinky fabric, so giving it an extra bit of encouragement is a great idea.

Check out the bar tacks at either end of the pocket opening.

If I had any issues it was with the fabric itself. Rayon is super slinky so obviously I used extra pins where I could, but no matter how many I used I still couldn’t get the pleats to hold together completely through the machine, so they’re not quite as sharp as I would have liked at the waistband. I’m also trying to save a bit of space in my sewing area (it’s a corner of my living room), so at the moment I am overlocking insides in either black or white thread, depending on the colour of the fabric. I went for black in this instance, which seems to have worked out ok, but I think if the fabric was any lighter in weight it’d be noticeable.

I wore these out and about yesterday and felt comfortable all day. It was a reasonably windy day and it was refreshing (ahem) to be able to walk around town without flashing my undies to the good folk of Seattle. I have one change to make for my next pair, which is to raise the crotch by about an inch and a half. At the moment it’s a little bit too low, which means I don’t get any of the anti-chafing benefits. I’m looking forward to that next pair, which will be in a palm-leaf print cotton for a Hawaiian vibe – I’m staring at it longingly as I type.

No more Marilyn moments!

If you’re looking to dip your toe into shorts/trouser-making, this is a great pattern to try. Easy to fit, easy to sew, easy to wear. Recommended!

This post also appears on the Monthly Stitch blog as part of their New to Me challenge for Indie Pattern Month 2017. Check out the other entries here and be inspired!

On the cutting table: July

What’s on my cutting table this month? Exactly the same as what was on it last month, because I summarily failed to do any real sewing in June. It was a bit of a hectic month, with my last few weekends taken up with travelling and camping. Great fun, but it’s left me completely shattered.

Anyway, I’m back on it now and I’m continuing with my plans. Happily, it’s Indie Pattern Month over on the Monthly Stitch, so a lot of my sewing could end up on there too. If I can get it finished my Penny dress will be for the Dresses challenge, though I’m fast running out of time with a waist to finish, a hem to level and photos to be taken. It might end up as an amnesty post at the end of the month. My Winslow culottes are done and waiting for photos before the New to Me week and I may try and get my Carolyn pjs ready by the end of that week too, though I won’t push myself to get them done.

Sewing table

It’s never normally this neat.

Finally, thanks for all your responses on my last post on Love Sewing. It seems that many of you feel the same way, but several also pointed out the pressures that hobby magazines are under. It’s good to see things from both sides, so do go and check out the comments.

#sewtogetherforsummer: part two

Are you sick of shirt and shirt dress posts yet? I hope not, cos here’s another one! I like a fitted shirt dress, but I’m finding myself increasingly drawn to slouchier shapes, so I thought I’d have a bash at the Alex shirt dress from the Sew Over It City Break ebook. I’ve already made two versions of the shirt (one here and one as-yet unblogged) with great success, so it was definitely time to make the dress for the summer, and in time for the Sew Together for Summer deadline on 21 June too!

Front

I might add an extra button at the bottom there – that might just get indecent.

The fabric is a lovely mint green chambray from Threadbare Fabrics, a denim specialist in LA (I think they’re online only though). I love chambray – I love how stitches look on it, presses beautifully and pretty much succumbs to your every whim. This one is no different, but it has a linen-y feel rather than a more closely woven chambray.

Side

You can see the high-low hem detail here – the only real difference (apart from the length) between the shirt and dress pattern.

One of the things I like about the Alex dress/shirt is that it is so slouchy I don’t need to make any alterations to accommodate my rear. According to the sizing chart I should grade up two sizes at the hips, but the finished measurements told me I wouldn’t need to. Yay for no extra work! Having said that though, I did think it would end up a bit long especially with the high-low hem that is more pronounced than on the shirt version. I took off two inches, but if/when (let’s face it, I’m making another) I make it again I’ll add an inch back on. This dress is fine for casual, but it’s a bit short for summer office for my personal taste.

Button tab

So pleased with the button tabs – so crisp!

I said in my previous Alex post that I found the order of construction a bit odd. If you follow the instructions to the letter you should put the collar after completing the yoke but before sewing the side seams. That just seems a bit weird to me – you have fabric flying everywhere so why not make it easier for yourself? I also completed the button tabs in full before sewing up the sleeves. It struck me as easier to insert a buttonhole on the tab before attaching it to the sleeve, as well as popping the button on the other side. This meant that I wasn’t faffing about with hand sewing and manipulating a whole dress around the machine when I was basically sewing on an extremity.

Anyway, this dress is ace, and I am pretty taken with it. It does need a belt (uncinched it looks like a cross between a nightgown and surgical scrubs) but I would pretty much always wear one with a shirt dress anyway. It’ll see a lot of action over the coming months. Yay!

Back

In the background to the right – that’s a HAMMOCK! Will be staking my claim on the next sunny day.

 

On the cutting table: June

So I spent most of yesterday glued to the UK election coverage. There were snacks and Dimbleby. It was awesome. While I’m worried about what the Tory/DUP coalition will bring, how long it will last and what effect that will have on Brexit, I’m suddenly more optimistic for Labour. Fingers crossed they can continue to put aside their differences and form the effective and coherent opposition that’s been MIA for too long. I hope my optimism lasts…

Anyway, let’s put the hot takes to one side and talk about sewing instead! The weather is definitely on the turn here in Seattle. The rain finally seems to be abating and it seems like summer might just be on the way. And of course, I have not prepped for this at all! This months plans are basically panic represented through the medium of sewing.

Despite not finishing my quilt last month (I didn’t want to swathe myself in a duvet in the summer, sorry not sorry), I did manage to make four things in May, so I’m sticking to the four items rule:

  • One day I looked at my duvet cover and decided that it would look awesome as a pair of pyjamas. As you do. So I bought another and the Closet Case Patterns Carolyn pj pattern and decided that would be a good idea. As all I have are winter pjs, these will be short in the leg and the sleeve and if Chris is lucky he may get a pair too (obvs done in a man’s pattern).
  • Running tights. I’ve recently taken up running again and I have a problem with tights. If I choose a size to fit my waist, the leg seams cut into my legs causing unsightly bulges. If I choose a size to fit my legs, they’re too big round the waist and end up falling down as I run, which is a bad look. I’m going to try the Seamwork Aries leggings, with the intention of grading to fit my weird body.
Aries leggings

Source. I wish I was this bendy.

  • I love the new Penny dress from Sew Over It (available via their PDF Club at the moment, but launching IRL later this month I think). Of course I would. It’s by Sew Over It and it’s a shirt dress. I’ve ordered some lovely rayon from Hart’s Fabric that I can’t wait to sew up, cos it will be super cool and lightweight. Bring it on.
  • Sub point. The Penny dress looks suspiciously similar to the current SOI sewalong in Simply Sewing in the UK. If you’ve already bought the magazine you could probably hack it into a Penny by shortening the skirt and lopping off the sleeves. Just sayin’.

What are you making this month?

You’d give me a job, right?

Morning all! I’ve got a morning of shorts-toiling planned (toile and toil are so close, aren’t they?), so I’m coming at you early doors to share an outfit that’s been sitting in my blog queue for a bit too long.

At some point, I’m going to get a job here in Seattle. However, there’s no sign of that work permit coming through just yet and boredom is beginning to set in. That doesn’t stop me from making interview and work-appropriate clothing though! Truth be told, I didn’t sew either of these pieces with jobs in mind, but I think the outfit would work nicely for a summer office wardrobe.

Front

More roof porn. I love the roof. Had my dinner up there last night and everything.

The blouse is the Ultimate Shirt by Sew Over It and is one of my May makes. I’ve been hankering after a plain white shirt for so long. I think they’re a great basic – they layer well, they can be smart or casual and look super-crisp.

I managed to squeeze the class in before leaving the UK and I’m so glad I did because I learned so much about shirt construction. The shirt is fitted (thanks to Julie at SOI for helping out with that) and has bias bound cuffs and a collar stand to get to grips with. The only feature it doesn’t have is a lined yoke, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those on a fitted shirt (please prove me wrong though!).

Cuff close up

Here’s a close-up of that bias-bound cuff. You could add top stitching to the cuff itself, but I think it doesn’t need it here. I’m most likely to wear it with sleeves rolled up anyway, cos I’m ready to get stuck in. Obvs.

I’ve made three versions of this so far (pictured below) but this particular version is in some cotton shirting I picked up at District Fabric not long after I arrived. It was generally beautiful to sew with, though I will admit that it was possibly a little bit too thick for the French seams I attempted as my machine struggled a bit. We got there in the end, but I’d overlock throughout if I was doing it again. No matter – I’m really pleased with the finished effect and think it looks properly smart. Obviously, given my current obsession with shirts and shirt dresses, I’ve got another planned – this time in a floaty red rayon. Can’t wait.

Red ultimate shirt

This is the one I made in the class. That’s Atelier Brunette cotton lawn, which is lovely!

Blue ultimate shirt

My second one is in blue cotton lawn and this is an awkward photo taken at the Seattle Symphony Hall while waiting for Russell Howard to start (he was awesome).

The other half of the outfit is a long-overdue revisit of the Colette Zinnia skirt (V2). I first made this a few years ago and ended up throwing it across the room in frustration at my inability to insert an invisible zip. While I eventually ended up loving the skirt and wearing it all the time, it bit the dust earlier this year so it didn’t make it to Seattle. Not a bad excuse to make a new one though, eh?

Back

The back. The only thing that is wrong here is I think I put the button band on the wrong side. It just feels wrong when I do it up. Oh well.

I don’t have much to say about the construction, other than I have now conquered my fear of invisible zips. This one went in with no issues. First time! The real star of this skirt is the fabric, though. It’s a pink chambray that I picked up in the Village Haberdashery before leaving the UK. Nowt special about that, you might say, but this one SPARKLES! It’s got gold thread woven through it so it’s got a lovely sheen which screams summer to me. Unfortunately the photos don’t pick up on the sparkle, but I assure you it is there.

If you’re a long-term reader of this blog, you’ll know that I love versatile separates. These fit the bill perfectly. I’ll wear both of them throughout the summer, and if/when I get that work permit, they’ll be ready for interviews/office work at the drop of a hat. Anyone want to employ me?! (pleeeeeaaaasssseee?)

Side

Thinking of making this my Linked In pic tbh.

 

How I got on with Me Made May 2017

Here we are in June, so it’s time for that Me Made May round up I’ve been putting off!

This year I wasn’t sure how I’d get on – at least half of my me-made stuff is for work and as I am currently a lady of leisure my casual wardrobe needed to stretch further. I pledged to do five days a week, and I managed it without really trying that hard. Yes, there were a few repeats, but that’s just a reflection of how much I like those particular clothes (I’m looking at you, stripy Scout tee). I’m also a bit pleased that I managed to wear a mix of things – the weather here has run the full gamut of wet and windy to oh so very hot, so I’ve managed to bust out a summer dress or two as well as stuff for cooler temperatures.

So what did I learn? Well, I’m pretty obsessed with shirts and shirt dresses at the moment (you’re gonna be sick of seeing them over the next few posts) and I have a gaping trouser/short-shaped hole in my wardrobe. Not just amongst my me-made stuff. I have three pairs of jeans that I wear all the time, and that’s great from autumn through to spring, but I could do with something lighter for the summer. Shorts ahoy!

In general, I was pretty good at posting photos on Instagram every day, but I definitely petered out in the last few days. Here’s a quick round-up of my faves from the last few weeks.

5 Sew Over It Alex shirt stars

Alex shirt from week one

 

Deer and Doe Chardon

I went almost the entire month without doing a mirror selfie – this one, of my first Chardon, was from last weekend.

Deer and Doe Datura

We have a blackboard wall in our flat (because why not?) and this is one of my Deer & Doe Daturas.

Stripy scout

This stripy Scout tee is the most worn of the month – at least three times – which means it was constantly in the wash.

Ultimate shirt and Cressida skirt

There’s a post on this one coming up soon – I’ve made three So Over It Ultimate shirts since February and this white one is the shirt of my dreams. The skirt is the Jennifer Lauren Cressida.

Zig Zag scout

Scouts were a big feature of my month. This one also got worn several times cos it’s awesome and the print is funky.

The second part of my pledge was to finally cut into the silk I got last year from the Man Outside Sainsburys. My original plan was a Sew Over It Alex shirt dress, but I didn’t have enough to do it, so it ended up as just the shirt. I need to take photos of it, but it’s made and ready to be posted soon! Well done me.

Did you take part in Me Made May? What did you learn?

Sew together for summer

I’m taking a new tack with Me Made May. I’m doing a daily post on Instagram (I’m @stuffjohasmade in case you’re interested) but on here I think I’ll just do a round up at the end of the month. Part of this is sheer laziness, but it’s also because we’ve invested in a fancy camera and the weather’s suddenly gone from grotty to glorious, so I’m suddenly a bit more interested in taking pictures.

First up, it’s my entry in the Sew Together for Summer contest. The competition is the brainchild of Sarah of Sew Sarah Smith (@sewsarahsmith), Monika (@rocco.sienna) and Suzy (@sewing_in_spain) These lovely ladies seem to have read my mind; all I am making at the moment is shirts and shirt dresses, and all you have to do to join in is whip up a shirt dress and share it on Instagram!

So for my entry, I decided to revisit an old faithful. I’m flying back to the UK next month for a wedding and obvs I need a new dress. I’m trying to sew things from my pattern stash rather than buying new, and the Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress seemed perfect for the task. I’ve made it a few times before, I know it fits nicely and it’s reasonably simple to sew up.

Front

This was taken on the roof of our building. It’s a bit of a sun trap and has awesome views over Lake Union to downtown Seattle. It’s basically what sold me on living there. And there’s a chicken coop up there too!

I picked up my fabric in Dry Goods Design in Seattle. It’s a lovely, buttery soft cotton lawn with a nice handle, and was a dream to sew with. I had no issues working with it, apart from when my machine decided that buttonholes were a bad idea. I had to unpick a few but they generally went off without too much bother. The buttons themselves are from another shop in Seattle, Nancy’s Sewing Basket. It’s a great shop with a brilliant range of dressmaking fabrics and notions, but it’s at the top of a massive hill (a bit of a feature in Seattle) so I’ll be visiting only when I have a good shopping list. Seriously, that hill is steep.

Back

The back. Plenty of space in that hem for bad wedding dancing.

I’m pretty pleased with the finished result. The wedding’s in Norfolk and I’m hoping for some good weather. The dress feels light and airy, so should see me through the day right up to the point where we’re drunkenly singing Take That’s Never Forget at the end of the night. And isn’t that what weddings should be about? Dresses and drunkeness?

Collar close up

Here’s the collar. The fabric is so nice to work with that it was easy to get a crisp finish with my iron.

Bonus top!

I… ermm… accidentally bought too much fabric and ended up with enough left over to make a bonus top! I managed to squeeze out a new version of my copied RTW top. I wore it this weekend when we visited Bainbridge Island for a spot of exploring and wine tasting. Mostly wine tasting. I had to have a nap when we got home.

Photo May 20, 13 28 55

Pre-wine tasting.