My top five hits of 2017

Hi everyone! We’re two weeks away from a new year, so I’m emerging from my mince pie coma to review the old one, following Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow’s Top Five series. I might not have finished my sewing for this year just yet (I am panic sewing shorts for my trip to Hawaii next week. Did I mention I’m going to Hawaii? I can’t wait), but this year has been particularly busy for me, sewing-wise. I’ve made a grand total of 32 garments for myself, plus a giant quilt, and I’ve taken on projects that pushed my skills a little.

Looking back, this has definitely been the year of the tried n’ true (TNT) pattern for me. I fell in love with just about every pattern I tried and made multiple versions of them all. So let’s take a look at the five patterns I just couldn’t quit in 2017.

Deer and Doe Plantain top

This year I think I finally got over my fear of knits. Rather than faffing about with zigzag stitches on my sewing machine, I tried out sewing on my overlocker instead. And do you know what? It was pretty simple. I only made the Plantain for the first time a month or so ago, but it’s fast become a favourite, and I’ve made two more since (yet to be blogged). It’s a straightforward sew and I like the relaxed fit through the waist which makes it great with jeans – basically the basic t-shirt of my dreams.

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Helen’s Closet Winslow culottes

Oh my Winslow culottes, how do I love thee? Seattle gets a reliable hot summer (more than hot enough for me, anyway), and I wanted something that would help me stay cool AND combat the dreaded chub rub. The Winslows in rayon were the perfect solution. Soft, flowy and a reasonably quick make. When you’re doing your best to stay out of the heat, minimal time at the iron is key. I wore my Winslows throughout the summer, and when I accidentally ruined my first pair, I made another straight away.

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Closet Case Patterns Carolyn PJs

The Carolyns were another response to the heat. I only brought flannel pjs with me when we moved, so I needed something a bit lighter to sleep in. One day it occurred to me that my duvet cover would make a perfect classic pjs, so I hit Ikea up and got cracking on the summer version (with shorts and short-sleeved top). And they’re awesome. So light and comfortable! Turns out that a queen-sized duvet is a bountiful source of fabric, so I made the long pants for autumn/winter and some PJs for Chris with the excess. I also had a go at inserting piping for the first time and now I want to put it on everything.

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Sew Over It Penny dress

When Sew Over It released the Penny dress back in June it was love at first sight. I was having a major shirt/shirtdress phase, and the Penny scratched an itch for a smart summer dress with buttons and a collar. I made a couple of versions in rayon and despite a tantrum over a wonky hem, I love them to death. Whenever I wear my Pennys, I spend most of my time twirling about in them.

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Sew Over It Alex shirt/shirt dress

When I say I had a shirtdress moment this year, maybe I should expand it to include anything with a  button. I made so many shirts and shirtdresses in 2017 it’s ridiculous, but I think the Alex shirt was my first make of the year. I made it in a bit of a panic in time for my hen do (which happened after I got married, but that’s another story), and this version in black rayon has been my go-to casual going out top ever since. It’s so cute! It’s got enough space in it that I can easily get it on over my head without buttons, and I love the relaxed look – it looks good tucked or untucked. I’ve since made the shirt dress version in a chambray, another shirt in blue silk and I have another on my sewing table right now.

alex-front

We got a better camera in May, so my photos suddenly got marginally better. 

 

 

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Against the clock: part 2

Did you take part in the Cosy Cardi Challenge on Instagram? Amanda from I Sew A Lot and the Stitch Sisters encouraged us to sew a snuggly cardi before the end of October and I thought it sounded right up my street. I love a cardi but I’ve never made my own, so this seemed like a good opportunity.  But, as seems to be my way at the moment, I left it until the last minute to take part. And when I say last minute I mean I hadn’t even cut anything out on the morning of the deadline day. Usually, the UK is eight hours ahead of Seattle, but by happy coincidence the deadline fell the day after the clocks went back in the UK. Ours went back a week later so on deadline day we were nine hours behind – time was actually on my side for once (sort of)!

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There’s a bit of extra fabric in the sleeves, but that’s an actual design feature (it says so in the instructions!)  – means you have snuggly hands too!

Anyway, my finished cardi is something of a birthday present. I got a little bit of money plus a voucher for Harts Fabric for my birthday at the end of September, and I bought the Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan and some soft n’ snuggly knit to make it. All the knit fabric I’ve used so far has been reasonably well behaved, but this one was a little curly so I cut out the pattern pieces very carefully (a medium blended to extra-large at the hips). I also didn’t fancy putting it through my sewing machine for fear of stretching it out of shape, so I cracked out my overlocker instead.

It was a really fast, easy sew, too. The pattern is really simple and well thought out, and the instructions are so clear it’s hard to go wrong. They even offered some beginners’ tips, like stabilising your patch pockets with tear away tissue paper. My only beef with the comprehensive instructions are that they don’t give an example of what a short zig zag stitch actually is – I looked it up in a Tilly and the Buttons pattern instead, which recommends 1.5 width by 2.2 length for seams, then 2.5 by 2.5 for topstitching.

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That’s kind of academic here as I only used my machine for the final step, where you topstitch the front band seam to the cardigan body. If I was making it again, I probably would switch between my overlocker and standard machine a bit more. I did all the seams on the overlocker so where the instructions recommended pressing seams open, I pressed them to one side which has meant a little bulk in some places. Not enough to annoy me about the finished garment, but maybe something to consider next time.

In all, the Blackwood took me a couple of hours to put together. I’m pleased with how it’s turned out – I’m happy with the fit and the fabric feels suitably snuggly against my skin. But mostly, I’m really pleased that I managed to sew it in such a short space of time. I messed around a lot while I was sewing – snack breaks, just-checking-the-news breaks, oh-look-a-squirrel breaks – but I still managed to finish and get a quick pic taken before the deadline. Well done me!

I’m glad I took part – it was a great challenge to gently push me into sewing something new, I’ve got something that slots nicely into my wardrobe and it’s another step towards confidence with knits. Yay!

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It’s pretty cold and wet in Seattle this weekend, so indoor photos it is. It also means I have to tidy up the bedroom, which can’t hurt, I suppose…

Against the clock

Hi everybody! I’m back in the US after a bit of a whirlwind weekend in the UK. I’d been looking forward to this weekend for a long time – my oldest friend Chloe got married and asked me to do a reading at the wedding. I was delighted to be involved in the day – it was a lovely, laid-back do, with lots of joy and laughter. Chloe and James looked truly happy and it was the best start to married life they could have hoped for.

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The happiest of couples. 

Anyway, I wanted to make my outfit, but I knew I didn’t want to make a party dress. I’ve got a few of those and I never wear them, plus autumn in the UK is a tricky time to dress for. Separates were the answer. I’m still really enjoying the whole 1930s-extra-in-Poirot look, so I wanted something drapey and a bit sophis. The Winslows were a good bet – quick and easy to make and with the Sew Over It Anderson Blouse for the top, I thought it’d be a pretty good outfit.

Naomi warned me about the Anderson Blouse earlier this month as she’d seen some negative reviews around the internet, so I erred on the side of caution and made a muslin. The hem is super wide and is gathered in with a ribbon, but I left this out as I’d be tucking it in anyway, so I just cut a size 12 and had plenty of room for my hips. As it turned out, the only alteration I made was to shorten the sleeves by an inch. Looking at the photos I think I’ll take off more – the cuffs aren’t snug to the wrist so they look a bit long without any wrist puff action.

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These photos aren’t the best – snatched pre-dinner by my mum on her point and shoot camera. I should have taken mine but it was too much for my luggage. Instead, let’s admire that flamingo fabric! It’s rayon from Harts Fabric (still in stock I think). 

I did have a few issues with the instructions. The pictures aren’t all that clear and I fudged the neckline bias binding. It wasn’t clear which side you’re supposed to attach it to, so I guessed that it should face the inside. The pattern piece is about two inches wide, but I think it ended up about a quarter of an inch wide when stitched. I’m obviously doing something wrong there, and I can’t work out what it is. Not a major problem, as I’m happy with what I’ve managed, but I’d like to know how to do it right!

My other issues with my final version were of my own making. I sat down to make it on Wednesday. I was due to fly on Thursday. I’m not a speed-sewist and for good reason. In my haste to get things done I sewed the hem end to sleeve end, right sides together, and then overlocked it, resulting in a weird Mobius strip of a seam. I didn’t notice my mistake until I went to set the sleeve in and realized that it wasn’t going to happen. I wanted to finish it off that night, but with a Girl Scout meeting to get to and some serious unpicking to sort out, it was going to be a race to the finish instead.

Mistake

Yeah. Completely wrong. 

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I finished it on Thursday morning with just enough time to pack, shower and get to the airport. It was stressful. I sewed the cuff poppers the wrong way round on one side. Moral of the story: don’t leave things to the last minute.

The pants

I’m now four pairs of Winslow culottes in and I don’t really have much to say about them anymore, construction-wise. I will say, however, that these are not quite how I envisioned them. I had three metres of flowy black triple crepe in my stash that would have been perfect for these, but it’s a shame that it was IMPOSSIBLE to sew with. I tried just about every needle in my pot and not one could produce two stitches together. I gave up and hit my local JoAnn store in a panic, ending up with thicker crepe that was much better behaved.

I thought I would make a full length pair, but with the super-wide leg I looked like a cross between MC Hammer and Morticia Addams. I asked Chris for his opinion: “Well, they’re certainly a statement, aren’t they?” Thanks, sweetheart, that’s very diplomatic. I lopped seven or eight inches off the bottom to show off my shoes instead.

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SO VERY WIDE LEGS. I wouldn’t normally go this wide (my bum looks huge), but it was fun swanning about in them all day.

It was probably the right decision as I had a number of lovely compliments about my outfit from other wedding guests throughout the day. The venue, Kirklinton Hall, is basically a ruin with a roof (think Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre, after Bertha burns it down), so a lot of it is open to the elements, but I was warm enough all day, AND I didn’t have to worry about sudden gusts of wind exposing my pants to all and sundry. Win.

So yeah, none of this outfit went according to plan, but in the end I’m pleased with what I achieved, and that I’ve got a couple of pieces with more mileage than a party dress.

Kirklinton Hall

Thornfield, I mean Kirklinton Hall.

 

 

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.

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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*

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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…

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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: 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?