Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sewing Against the Clock: A Quick Pencil Skirt in Scuba to Wear Out Straightaway!

Hi folks,

Happy Bank Holiday weekend! I am feeling super-rested as I've just had the week off work- had some holiday to use up but nowhere to go. It's nice being a homebody sometimes- I had grand sewing plans and ideas to go for a jog/ swim/ refreshing walk every day, but in reality I slept in, read for hours in my PJs, did some cleaning (very unlike me!) before slowly settling in for a bit less of a sewing sesh than originally intended. I told everyone at work I'd be coming back with a new pair of jeans- but actually I've only just assembled the front pockets on my Gingers! Still got the rest of today and all of Monday to try and get a bit more done though...

Maybe making this Gertie Easy Knit Pencil Skirt was too small of a morsel for a palate-cleanser before cracking on with jeans! Excuse me if I use the term 'palate-cleanser' too much- I find I'm learning all the time so it really is nice to go back to something really easy between taxing projects.

And this skirt is really easy- I actually whipped it up in something like an hour (including cutting, and this is unheard of for me, I'm pretty slow usually) directly after finishing my boyfriend's Chicken Shirt. I basically got him to try the finished shirt on, mentioned I fancied going out that evening, he got a call inviting us to a punk gig, and bang! I knocked the skirt out so I would have something new and appropriate to wear. If you read the Chicken Shirt post you'll recognise the setting- we shot these photos on the stroll to the gig venue. Excuse the weird expressions- the evening sun was still pretty bright!

Not too much to say about this- I didn't even have to make any fitting adjustments. The skirt is my first scuba project though and wasn't prewashed so I hope it won't shrink! I've seen in my Great British Sewing Bee book it says to wash neoprene (is neoprene the same as scuba?) in the bath with a mild detergent and to lie flat to dry, which I will do (unfortunately it being a white background means it's already a little dirty after 3 wears) but I don't really know that much else about scuba and I have a lot more to use up!

I plan to make a Gertie wiggle dress out of some digital floral scuba I have (inspired by Sabine Sibille Sews's version), and maybe the sultry sheath out of the rest of the white leopard stuff. Does anyone have any tips with scuba? What do you do about facings? Do you omit and do a turn-and-stitch instead, or twin-needle it? What if you want a more formal, clean finish? Would a binding work? So many questions!

I did manage to glean the following information about scuba jersey from the blogosphere though and took away this knowledge:

- Stitch with a ballpoint needle, size 80 I think.
- Don't bother about finishing seam edges as it won't fray and you don't want the extra bulk. You don't even have to hem if you don't want to, but I did a twin needle jobbie.
- If it's a thick scuba then go a size down.

I didn't size down with this one and it fits comfortably- if it was any tighter it would have the sexy negative ease but would be more restrictive to wear. As it is I can cycle in it, which is a real plus in my book! I'm not sure what I'll do if I do the sheath and wiggle dresses- I guess I can always baste together at my regular size and take in more as necessary.

Hopefully next time I will have some jeans to share with you! Scuba advice very welcome. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

NorseOtter xxx

Sunday, 17 May 2015

What a Coop! Or How I Rescued What Was Nearly a Clucking Disaster....

Hello hello!

Apologies for the terrible puns. This is my other gift project that I've been working on- delivered a little late for the bf's bday but due to fitting issues rather than poor work ethic.

The shirt is from Great British Sewing Bee Book 2 'Sew Your Own Wardrobe'- I've had this book a while and made a couple things from it (Box-Pleat Skirt x2, Simple T-Shirt) and any issues I've had so far I'd always assumed were due to my beginner status- somehow mucking things up. With the Box-Pleat skirt it was hard to tell whether I had the pleat placements on the back right- they seemed unflattering but as there were no back-view photos or technical drawings it was impossible to tell!

Long story short however is that there are genuinely issues with the patterns, and while it's not produced any major disasters for me previously, with this shirt it was a real headache! It's kind of put me off making some of the other patterns from this book- I had earmarked the Shift Dress and the Summer Dress to make soon and was gearing up to the 1930s Shirt.

So, what were my issues? I made this shirt in size M as my bf's measurements were between S & M (hehe) but he's quite tall so I erred on what I thought was the safe side. However the collar and sleeves came up ridiculously small! When I say ridiculously, he could just about get his arms into the sleeves, but the armscye was cutting right into his armpit with absolutely no ease. The collar I would adjust for next time, as it is a bit choking when fully done up, but looks fine with the top button undone so I left as is for this version.

I did get him to try the shirt on for fit a few times during the making process, but for some reason thought the collar and sleeves would open out when all the pieces were attached. I was very wrong! I wish I'd just basted things in to check, but instead went the whole hog and nicely finished everything before the final try-on. I was on the verge of tears when it became apparent that the sleeves were just not going to work! Plus the cuffs came out weird and lumpy.

After a week of sulking, I finally got to unpicking and seeing what I could do. I didn't have much fabric left to work with so pattern placement on the sleeves was not a consideration I could afford. I found a shirt with a similar style in the bf's closet and as best I could copied the shape of the sleeve, and drew the lower armscye shape directly onto my shirt and scooped it out a little more. I then compared my new sleeve drawing with the original pattern piece and overlaid them so that the head of the sleeve matched the original but included the newly-drafted lower armscye and sleeve shape and drafted a final pattern from that. My new sleeves only just fit on the scrap of fabric I had left- in fact I had to lose about 3cm from the bottom edge but it just about worked!

Annoyingly as I'd finished and trimmed the armholes there was a bit less fabric on the torso to work with, and I didn't have the markers to match with the newly-drafted sleeve when setting in. This time I did baste in and get the bf to try on to make sure it would fit (not that there would have been anything I could have done if it didn't by that point- although a smarter person would have probably cut the new draft sleeve from spare scrap fabric rather than their final remaining piece of fashion fabric in case things did go wrong!). Luckily this time it fit comfortably and looked decent enough. As the cuffs had looked weird the first time around I didn't bother with them this time and just made a 1.5cm hem outward and topstitched a 3cm turn-up to encase this. I also topstitched two lines of stitching around the head of the sleeve to strengthen the join at the armhole. It's not super-neat on the inside as this is something I only thought about afterwards, but it looks good from the outside.

I have bothered to trace my alterations over to the original pattern pieces as I think it's a nice shirt design, but next time I think I would add maybe an inch of width to centre back and front as although the shirt is designed to be slim-fitting it could do with a tiny bit more ease around the hips and shoulders. It could maybe do with a little more length too- if I made again I would go back and compare with one if his shirts again and make a few more tweaks based on that.

It's frustrating and disappointing that the original pattern was so off- those armholes would not have accommodated anyone comfortably, and I think that's a major drafting flaw, especially for a book designed for beginners. It wasn't that easy to know exactly what to do to fix the situation either with my limited experience- most alteration tutorials you can find online are aimed at fitting women. In my search I did find several negative reviews of the book's drafting however- next time I buy a pattern book I will definitely do a bit more research first as badly-drafted patterns are more hassle than they're worth. I think technical drawings so you can see clearly what you're aiming for are a must going forward too, as sometimes when trying new processes you can't clearly see how you're going to end up with the intended result (so it's helpful to know exactly what that's supposed to look like!).

Here ends my tale of woe. I'm happy I managed to rescue this- he's very happy with it and wore it out last night (and he even had to fend off a few interested womenfolk who were complimenting him on it!). I'm glad the chickens from Goldhawk Road ended up looking good- the pattern placement was a bit of a challenge at times but I think I got a nice balance on the front (and check my pocket matching!). The buttons are cute- we went with bright in the end as we had a choice from his grandma's stash but I thought this would make the shirt look more 'fresh'.

Now to make lots of nice things just for me! No more unselfish sewing for a while. Have you ever had a bad experience with an ill-drafted pattern?

Until next time,

NorseOtter xxx

Monday, 4 May 2015

Hackety-Hash: Lady Pencil Dress

Hello folks!

It's the Bank Holiday weekend over here and I'm having a nice relaxing Monday off after all the over-indulgence celebrating my boyfriend's birthday and our 5 year anniversary. His birthday is actually on Tuesday and I'm in the process of making him a shirt (just over halfway through, might finish in time?!), but today's post is something that should have been finished ages ago except I snapped my twin needle when adding the final touches, had to wait a while for a new one to be delivered, then was too wrapped up in a course I was on to get round to finishing.

So this is the dress! It was supposed to be a palate-cleanser between gift projects, a nice little bateau-neck Lady Skater with short sleeves made with this stripy stuff I picked up for £1.50 from the scrap bin at the Knitting and Stitching show. However I didn't think through positioning the pattern pieces and only realised halfway through that to be able to get the Lady Skater skirt on I would have to omit the sleeves, and piece the back skirt by having a centre back seam. This might have been fine, except I managed to cut the skirt pieces as both the same side, so would have had to have one piece wrong side out to be able to match the stripes. ARGH. I also didn't have quite enough fabric for the bodice and had to piece the front bodice at the shoulder- I just winged it and managed to hide the seam within a black stripe (hopefully nobody will ever notice).

I left it for a while as I wasn't loving the idea of having a wrong-side out skirt panel, as although the pattern is the same on both sides there's a real textural difference. The right side is ridged, and the wrong side is flat and smooth for wearing against the skin. Then a brainwave struck - maybe if I used the Gertie Easy Knit Pencil skirt pattern as the pieces were narrower I might be able to get all skirt pieces matching up with the right sides out.

It worked- but as you can see I've got a bit of a curved hem going up in the centre. I didn't want to lose any more length by straightening it out so have kept it as a 'design feature'.

So this wasn't in any way the easy project I wanted it to be, nor did it end up in the dress I was imagining! It's OK and wearable as a day dress though (and hell, it only cost £1.50 plus £4 for the new twin needle), even if the skirt does have a tendency to ride up when walking. I don't think the Lady Skater bodice and Gertie Easy Knit Pencil Skirt are really a match made in heaven- I should have perhaps remembered that the waistband on the skirt includes extra length for the elastic and facing so there's a bit too much length in the torso. Plus I should really do a swayback adjustment (as you can see from my first Lady Skater) and maybe even an FBA to get it fitting nicely. You can see from the back view there's a fair bit of creasing in at the waist.

I am quite proud of my stripe-matching though. It's not 100% perfect, but you can't really tell that there's a centre back seam in the skirt (can you?). I bought a walking foot recently as I plan to make a dress in corduroy soon so I used this to help get better control over the stripes, but I should have remembered to swap back to a standard foot for twin-needling as they somehow got snagged up and broke the needle. Lessons for next time!

I don't think I'd make this dress again, even though I like the shape. I'd probably try and get the front and back on a piece each if I could and maybe modify a pattern like the Jorna dress to get the right effect. Or just make up a sheath dress pattern in the first place!

Hope everyone's had a great weekend, I'd better get back to shirt-making (wish me luck!),

NorseOtter xxx