Saturday, 16 December 2017

I ❤ the Lander Pants: A Very Wearable Muslin in Black Cotton Drill

I bought the True Bias Lander Pants pattern as soon as it was released, hoping to make up the shorts in time for my last holiday. This was a bit too ambitious, but I’m glad I’ve had a chance to make them within a couple of months of purchase. Usually it can take me quite a while to get round to it, despite my best intentions!

These are made up of some non-stretch black cotton drill that I made up my vintage Simplicity skirt in a couple of years ago. I didn’t have quite enough so had to shorten the cropped length a little more, and the waistband is actually leftover black stretch denim from my Gingers that’s a decent colour match (which hopefully hasn't affected the fit too much).

Despite being cobbled together with remnants from my stash, I love these, and that sings to the quality of the pattern! I love the high waist, the exposed button fly (my buttons are just plain silver from Prym, and I did manage to snap one when hammering in!), and the flattering transition from close fitting around the lower torso to a looser but structured flow over the legs.

There are (always!) some things I’d tweak next time for fit, although I have been wearing these continually since making them and haven't been bothered too much by my perceived fit issues. As we sewists always like to say, the fit may not be perfect but it's still better than RTW, and they’ve turned out flattering anyway, very easy to wear, and go with so much in my wardrobe.

I made the size 10 at the waist, graded to a 12 over the hips. I had to fold up the pattern in the legs at the lengthen/ shorten line and lose approx 2 inches of length even on the cropped version due to fabric restrictions, so I decided to do a small double-turned hem of ⅜” then ½” (rather than the deep hem of ¼” followed by 3” called for by the pattern). I really like the length I ended up with, but am keen to make a ‘70s style mid-blue full-length pair.

There are a couple of things I could have done better that I’ll pay closer attention to next time:
  • I managed to slightly misalign the tops of the back pockets so they’re a bit wonky. Not sure if this was a cutting or marking error, but as the fabric is such a dark, matte black it’s not really easy to tell (and impossible in these photos, sorry!). Will be more careful next time though!
  • I might make a note to remind myself where to topstitch, as while blindly following instructions to edgestitch I didn’t think to switch up the thread for the pockets, so only the fly, hem and waistband are topstitched.
  • I also slightly misaligned the waistband button (the perils of marking button placement yourself while bending over to do so!), so it’s allowing more gape there than if the buttons were in a straight line, which I think be more sturdy. I do also need to make some fit adjustments there for my belly.
  • You can see little glimpses of the pocket lining on the outline of the pockets on the front leg. I did trim as per the instructions, but I should have made more effort to match up the raw edges so the lining would be pulled to the inside further. Next time I’d be more careful in this step and maybe use a dark rather than contrast lining to be on the safe side!
  • This is personal preference, but the pattern has you put the belt loops on the side seams. I actually think it’s more visually slimming the have the side belt loops tucked a few centimetres back from the side seams so they’re not visible from the front, giving a more streamlined silhouette. I kept them as is for this pair, but next time I’d amend them as per the spacing on the Ginger jeans. 

You may be able to advise me further on this (although I think it’s hard to tell in this black) but the fit adjustments I think I need are:

  • Full belly adjustment (wah).
  • Full seat adjustment.
  • Maybe a swayback too.

I could perhaps have given myself a bit more room in both these areas but adjusting along the generous 1” seam allowance at the sides (or just making a straight size 12 instead of narrowing to a 10 at the waist), but not sure if that would achieve the best results. Anyway, these are not a terrible fit out of the packet, even if I do need to remember to suck my belly in a bit more!

I’d love to make another pair; I really like them in this black drill, but maybe a navy and/ or burgundy pair (like the pattern's official photos) would be nice. And of course the mid-blue pair dreamed up above. What do you think?

I’m on a real trouser-making kick at the moment; I still don’t have fitting nailed, but I’m loving having a decent selection of me-made bottoms in my wardrobe. I’ve already made a pair of Winslows which hopefully I’ll have some free time to catch the light and photograph soon, and I’ve bought supplies to make the Mimi G flares pattern Simplicity 1283 (inspired by Laura Dern’s character’s elegant flares in Big Little Lies, even though she and I are hardly body doubles!).

I’ve just watched Godless too and I want a pair of trousers like the amazing floor-sweeping ones Alice wears, with a buttoned waistband (I like her princess seamed blouses too). Perhaps modifying my Flints and adding a button front to the Elisalex bodice? After a couple of festive drinks I also bought the Marilla Walker Roberts Collection (and the Isca for the lovely shirt variation) on a whim, even though I swore I’d never do the overalls thing, so watch out to see if I make that a reality!

Anyway, exciting trouser plans aside, I’d better crack on with handmade Christmas gifts. I hope your festive making is going well, whether it’s party wear for yourself or gifts for others!

NorseOtter xxx

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Fancy Festive Outfit: Flint Pants and Anjelica Huston Top in Emerald Silk

I've been working on something rather special recently, and while simple a little more involved. This is an outfit made especially for my friends' wedding where the dress code was "smart but colourful". I'm not sure how smart this is, and it does definitely feel and look like luxe pyjamas, but it is colourful! I wanted the jumpsuit look, but without the impracticality, so decided to match up the Flint pants with a drapy cowl neck top discovered in the back of my Famous Frocks: Little Black Dress book.

I've been hoarding this emerald green silk from Goldhawk Road for ever (although I feel like the last time I was in Classic Textiles it was still there). I had initially intended to make a Colette Licorice dress, using the matte reverse of the silk, but went off the idea (I'm still torn about whether I want to make that dress- maybe in a dark crepe with full length sleeves and no waist tie it might be more me?).

I was debating whether to use the reverse for this outfit too, but the idea of special occasion shininess won out. I've not worked much with silk before; the one time I did it was raw and slubby so the rougher texture made it easier to cut and handle. This time I tried to follow all the best practice tips out there: I starched when ironing to lose some of the slipperiness; cut everything out on a single layer using a fresh rotary blade in my cutter; I bought some silk pins especially and used the tissue paper method to stop the seams slipping through the machine (which was equipped with a fresh and fine microtex needle).

I French seamed most seams too, although I did use the overlocker where necessary but I'm not as keen on this finish as the navy thread looks a bit shoddy, but I wasn't going to rush out and buy 3 cones of matching green thread - especially when I'd bought the original thread ages ago with my original sewing plan in mind. I tried to avoid handling the pieces too much as well to minimise distortion (although I'm sure there was some). I think all this worked in my favour, but I may have stretched out the back neck a little for the top.

These are the Flint pants, which I chose for the luxe Miss Fisher-esque 20s pyjama look, but also because I thought my first go in silk should be in a relatively simple pattern that I'm confident with the fit. This is the flat waistband version, but instead of adding buttons I decided to sew in four tiny polyester snaps to keep the front smooth and avoid any pulling. I made a couple of tiny tweaks - one to add more space over my "rump apex", another to pinch out a swayback ripple just under the waistline, and another to smooth the rear crotch curve. I also shortened the legs, but in trying on during construction I preferred the longer length so just did a baby hem to preserve as much of this as possible.

I swear the adjustments I made were tiny, and all but the swayback should have added rather than taken away space, but the net result seems to have been that these are a little tighter than planned! Eep. Not sure whether this is to do with the linen I made my first pair in being more relaxed weave and dropping to accommodate my curves, or whether the tweaks were a bad idea, or the French seams made the fit a little closer; or somewhere between all three! I've not dared to let anything out because of the potential needle scarring on the silk. For my next pair I might add in a wider seam allowance over the hips and see if this fixes some of the other issues...You can really see my belly and bum threatening to bust the seams in the images above and below! The silk does really show everything though, including the pocket outlines in some shots, so I guess I'll have to just suck it up (and suck it in!).

The top is the variation pattern for the  Anjelica Huston inspired dress from the Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress book and I made no adjustments at all. It's quite loose fitting but in a way that I think speaks to 1920s elegance; plus it's a pull-on top so can't be too close to the body. It's my first ever bias-cut make, and the cutting out was definitely the lengthiest part of the process, otherwise it was very easy and I think quite flattering. I'd certainly consider making it again, and I like the way it pairs with the Flint.

All in all though I am pleased with this outfit, even if I have to remember to suck my belly in and stand very straight! The upside of it being silk is that i could very comfortably sleep in it if I stumbled in late after a night of festive merriment. I'll leave you with my demonic face from the image below, don't have nightmares kids...!

NorseOtter xx

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Trio of Tees

Hi everyone!

Time for something a little different, and I have multiple models that aren't me for this blog post. Over the summer I had a bit of t-shirt making run (although I neglected to make any for myself and I really should, plain t-shirts are an essential and so quick to make up!).

My friend Scott was turning thirty, my brother's birthday was coming up and he hadn't yet been made anything by me, and Angus as usual had to be the guinea pig for project to check whether the pattern was going to work out. So: three tees, back-to-back.

The pattern is the Classic Men's T-Shirt from the Great British Sewing Bee Book 'Fashion with Fabric'. I don't have the book; but the pattern (plus instructions) are free to download from Love Sewing magazine's website here:

As I had a struggle with the button-down shirt I'd made from a previous GBSB book I didn't entirely trust the pattern, so made it up in scraps for Angus. The white section had to be cut on the cross-grain because my scraps were odd sizes, luckily it doesn't seem to have affected the overall hang too much. It's resulted in a rather oversized, loose-hanging look that Angus likes for a retro feel for this version (and he matches the cat!), but for Scott I knew he'd prefer something a little more fitted, so I went down a few sizes.

Making a plain t-shirt didn't seem fancy enough for a gift so I decided to do some colour blocking. This was necessary for Angus's scrap shirt, and it worked out pretty well, so I decided to use it again with the same proportions for the others. I just cut the pattern horizontally across from just below the armscye to centre front and back on both sides and added seam allowances. I could perhaps have lowered the seam a little to match the sleeve length, but it works out pretty well with the rolled-up sleeves.

I used melange jersey from Ray Stitch (many more colours available, but this bordeaux is my favourite). The fabric is much better quality than the scraps I used for Angus's tee so resulted in a garment that didn't drape as much and held its shape pretty well, with nice recovery. As you can see here, the seam allowance trimmings from my brother's shirt have made a very popular cat toy - she just loves how the fabric pings back when she tries to drag it away!

I should probably say the pattern is a pretty decent basic and the proportions look right. It'd be easy enough to customise further, and you can't argue with the price! If there's one thing I would have done differently it would be to make the sleeves shorter, but that's personal preference really. As you can see here they look pretty good rolled up to the desired length, whereas if you leave them at the length as-drafted you end up with them finishing just above the elbow.

Having fabric left over from Scott's t-shirt and the joy of making something relatively simple that looks pretty professional (if I do say so myself) I decided to repeat the trick for my brother, but to mix up the colourway a little. I had to keep the bordeaux in as I love the colour (although maybe I should have saved some for myself?). His style is more understated so I went for a semi-fitted look, keeping the sleeve length as is for him. I also decided to topstitch the chest join seam down, just to add a slightly different touch. Here's how it turned out!

T-shirts are really nice projects if you have an overlocker and a twin needle (although they can be made on a regular sewing machine too, but as mine's from the '70s it's not really designed to handle stretch fabrics). There are loads of nice free women's t-shirts out there too, although they may need adjusting for fit across the bust (men are so much easier to sew for when it comes to fit!). I've tried the Plantain and liked it (it was my first ever jersey project and made using my cranky old Toyota too, I'm certain I'd get better results now); I recently came across Secondo Piano's Basic InstincT tee which looks like something I'd like to have a go at, but I think I may have missed the boat seasonally now.

What's your favourite classic t-shirt pattern?

NorseOtter xx

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Not for the skint; fancy linen Flint!

Eesh, that's a horrible title. Apologies also for some of the wonky photos - we were out at a beautiful setting so I tried to ensure my new make got captured at the same time, but not all of these on-the-fly camera phone pics worked out as well as I hoped.

So, nobody could ever accuse me of being an early adopter. When trends come out I wait around and see them appear on a variety of different figures and styled in different ways before I decide whether it's for me. There have been many examples recently, especially my last two posts - the matching crop top and midi skirt set, and the K2444, not trendy now but once a very popular pattern.

Here's my version of the Flint pants, and pretty much the most classic, unoriginal take on them. I have to admit I liked them when they first were released, but I'd recently donated a whole bunch of 3/4 length trousers, wide legged trousers and culottey things to charity thinking they'd never come back in style, and I swear the very next week they did. So here I am working hard to build back up what I gave away - but I'm not sure it's the best decision. I was always drawn to the elegant high-waisted and loose-legged looks from the '40s, but on me and my squidgy middle I fear they always look unflattering and don't quite live up to the dream.

I've made up the shorts from some leftover denim to try out a radical re-drawing of the front and back curve which seemed to work pretty well (maybe I'll share these in the future along with some previously unblogged tees). That was the only adjustment I made, so I rapidly made them up again for the final version - and possibly the most expensive garment I've ever made - in Merchant and Mills linen from Ray Stitch. This is the version with the cute ties to one side - although in both my denim and linen versions there's a little bit of fraying at the points so I'll have to do something to prevent that next time - perhaps I trimmed too close before turning the right way round?

They seem to fit OK, but I do still feel a little frumpy. Maybe I just need to get used to the style, but I feel like the drape falls from the thickest part of my silhouette and covers where I taper in again. I decided to sew two hidden buttons on the inside waistband, to avoid pulling when I've had a big meal. The waistband does tend to relax a little over the day, so maybe in future I'd look into stabilising it a bit more for a sleeker look and better hold to the true waist. They are incredibly fun to canter down the stairs in though, as the fabric moves beautifully (goofy demo as below).

Another factor that annoys me is that not only am I a bit late to jump on the bandwagon, but I am just a bit darn late in the season - hopefully these will get a couple of wears on holiday but that might be pushing it a bit, it's chilly for linen in all honesty. Perhaps I'll just have to try a pair in wool? They are a lovely quick and relatively easy make, although for the next pair I'll try and slow down to ensure the waistband works for me.

Anybody else tried a trend that you weren't sure was for you?

NorseOtter xx

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Project Runway Style in Vintage Fabric: Simplicity K2444

Hi everyone!

My making this year has been half decided by pattern and half by fabric, as I’m determined to use up some of the lovely pieces I’ve bought over the last two years and make sure that the rest all fits in one place (and is no longer spilling over into random bags and boxes)!

This dress falls into the latter category, and is another vintage piece of fabric given to me by my ex-boss. I think it might be my favourite piece from those she donated - the colours are so lovely, and the print abstract enough that while it gives a vintage feel, it's not too dated.

The pattern is Simplicity K2444, one of the Project Runway patterns which I believe was popular a few years ago just before I started sewing, and fell into my hands at the Knitting and Stitching Show 2015 when I bought a £5 bundle of back-issue sewing magazines. I was tempted by Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity 1873, but annoyingly the copy I have is in the smaller size range. My measurements fall in the middle but just on the large side (but apparently that dress comes up big so maybe I’ll get away with it for next time!).

I didn’t toile the K2444 but decided to apply some adjustments straight off the bat and hope for the best:

  • A 1” FBA. I’m not sure entirely what I did - as the bodice has angled waist darts, it’s not the most straightforward of FBAs and I didn’t want to add in side darts, so I ended up just easing in the extra length I added to the front bodice into the side seams, which does make it a bit baggier than ideal

  • Pinched a tiny bit of excess out of the neckline (which I remembered to adjust for in the facing, but not the collar stand, which is why I think it’s a bit flappy

  • Took a small wedge out of the lower back bodice as a swayback adjustment (looking at this I could perhaps do with less fabric in the upper back too)

  • Had to take a wedge off the side seams at the bottom of the skirt, as my fabric wasn’t quite wide enough (which has resulted in a hem that slightly curves up at the sides, giving a very soft tulip look, whoops).

I also made some minor non-fitting related changes:

  • Added a cotton lawn skirt lining as the fabric is slightly sheer in strong light (I had meant to do a full lining but was guessing the quantities and didn’t have buy quite enough fabric)
  • Omitted the pockets. I cut them out, but wasn’t sure how they’d work with a lined skirt.

I’m quite pleased with this. It’s not as easy a make as I thought it was going to be, as I had several fitting tweaks to work through, and then ended up having to make a few on-the-fly adjustments that caused some stopping and starting in the making process - like having to go out and buy lining and adjust the pattern to omit the pleats in cutting it out.

I also encountered a small setback when I thought I had the right zip in my stash, but after insertion it turned out to be way too short, only making it down to the waist seam. I very nearly just left it at that, but realised I’d be condemning myself to a life of struggling to wriggle in and out of the frock and would therefore never wear it, so I resentfully decided to be sensible, unpick my work and buy a long enough zip for the job.

Funnily enough I’ve not made a dress that’s only lined at the skirt yet, so this was a small learning curve for me - there are things I could have done more neatly if it had been the plan from the start, but it looks fine really. The lawn lining is very lovely to wear, and gives the skirt a nice bit of additional volume without being too bulky.

I wore this out for a stroll round the neighbourhood on Saturday afternoon, after some photos in the park I played a spot of ping pong (which taught me that the sleeves do restrict my arm movements a little, so not the best sporting attire) and then had a beer in a local railway arch brewery where I got a couple of nice compliments, so, job’s a good’un!

I hope to have a couple more occasions to wear this before the weather turns too cold.. I actually still have a list of summer clothes I’m yet to make that I’m desperate to get done this year (and I’m depressed about some of the things that have had to be taken off due to time constraints). England’s seasons are all over the shop and I have a little holiday coming up, so I imagine I’ll get a couple more warm “windows” until I officially have to box up all my light cottons and short sleeves again.

Are you clutching onto summer or desperate to get going with the next season's sewing?

NorseOtter xx