Blog

A Golden Velvet Moneta Dress

I started as new office job back in May (I’m a product manager in the music/tech space when I’m not designing sewing patterns or writing books!) and since this company is significantly bigger than all the previous offices I’ve worked for in the past, I’ve spent the last few months getting excited about the prospect of the first big office Christmas party of my life. And of course, with that comes What To Wear.

Three woven shell tops

A few months ago it occurred to me that I had a lot of 1 metre cuts of woven fabrics languishing in my stash and that I’d really like to have a good, basic shell top pattern in my arsenal to turn these into wearable woven tees or tanks to wear with jeans or skirts. So it was excellent timing when Colette Patterns re-released their free Sorbetto pattern, and I thought I’d give it a try.

A Trio of Paxson Tops

James has lost a lot of weight in the last six months, from a combination of cycle commuting, cutting back his drinking to three nights a week, and both of us eating low carb. He’s managed to shift his beer belly (“food baby!”) in a matter of months, but it also means that most of his clothes are too big for him. So with a December birthday and Christmas, I managed to sew him three different versions of the Seamwork Paxson top pattern to try and fill in his wardrobe a bit.

The grey wool/viscose Paxson

This first Paxson was made for his birthday using a charcoal grey wool/viscose jersey from Fabric Godmother. It’s not the cheapest jersey out there but it feels so warm and you can just tell from the feel alone that it’s a high quality fabric. It washes nicely and has great stretch and recovery, and I totally recommend it.

This first version fit him fairly well straight off the pattern – it’s nice and slim fitting through the waist and hips, and the sleeves were plenty long enough, too. The only issues were really around the neck area, so I made a mental note to adjust the pattern…

The claret wool/viscose Paxson

This next version is almost identical to the first – the fabric is the exact same wool/viscose jersey from Fabric Godmonther, only in the claret colourway. Why change when he was so happy with the first version, right?

Black Kimono Sweat and Floral Aires Leggings

It’s back to work for most of us today, but I hope you’ve had a relaxing and/or productive holiday break! We had a brilliantly low-key Christmas, followed by quite a few days just spent at home, some of them in the sewing cave (or in Fallout 4, in James’s case), some spent painting the boat in the unseasonably warm weather, and even a quick trip down to Poole thrown in for good measure!

I was able to sew up a few things over the holidays (never as much as I intend, but I’ve made great progress in this regard!), including a few pieces of activewear. Try not to look so surprised, eh??

Kimono Sweat top

I love wearing my green sweatshirt View A version of my Kimono Sweat sewing pattern so much that I just knew I had to make another to throw on over my sweaty workout gear or just throw on with jeans. I had some black cotton sweatshirting leftover from the hoodie I made my nephew for his Christmas present, originally bought from Josery (which is milled and manufactured in the UK!).

No modifications for the pattern here – I sewed this up in size Small and I resisted the urge to use a contrast thread colour for the neckline, hem, and sleeve topstitching, going with all black instead. I used my coverstitch machine from the wrong side of the garment to get a faux-flatlock sort of stitch on the right side, similar to my grey version, though it’s hard to see in the photos.

If you fancy sewing up your own, good news – you can buy the sewing pattern right over here!

Aires capris

I’m not shy when it comes to how much I enjoy Seamwork magazine and their patterns – I’ve written quite a few articles for them over the past year, and I’ve been a subscriber since day one. But up until now, I’ve been just as in the dark over what that month’s patterns will be until the 1st of the month. But for the new January 2016 “Body Issue”, when they got in touch asking if I’d like to write an article describing pattern and movement considerations for different exercises (which you can read here!), and I was also offered the chance to sew up the new Aires capris pattern a week early!

You may have noticed that mine are not capris, however – I personally don’t like to wear capri length anything (though I know many of you do!), so I lengthened mine to be full-length leggings. I used a gorgeous floral photo printed lycra from Funkifabrics as the main fabric, and some fluorescent yellow mesh from Tia Knight (that had been in my stash for sports bras) for the contrast leg panel as well as the pocket lining.

Aztec print Seamwork retro bikini

I have a really bad habit of trying to cram in a bunch of last-minute sewing just before I go away on holiday, when most normal people would be packing their suitcase or reading through guidebooks. But no, I decide to sew up a pair of trousers and a bikini in the week before I leave!

I’d sewn up a swimsuit once before, but I’m not even sure whether I actually wore it in the water at all, as I hardly ever go swimming, and I’d moved away from one-pieces and that one had zero bust support so it just flattened the girls. But discovering that Team GB had been allocated the posh beachfront hotel with the pool, sauna and jacuzzi for the World Transplant Games gave me renewed enthusiasm to cram in the retro bikini patterns included in the August Seamwork magazine (which you can buy separately if you’re not a subscriber).

The Reno halter bikini top has ties around the neck and the back, separate seamed cups, and is also fully lined. The August issue (free!) gives tips on selecting and sewing swimsuit fabrics and elastics, and also how to insert boning, underwires, or foam cups if you prefer. I opted for the latter, since I had some in my stash anyway, though my foam cups were a little bigger than the lining piece, and I had to trim some off.

A green merino Astoria sweater

I’ve been a subscriber of Seamwork magazine since issue one back in December, and can I just say that they are killing it with the digital format, pattern bundling, and freemium vs add-on price point? Seriously, this is the future of not just sewing magazines, but magazines. I’m proud to be both a subscriber and a contributor (look out for more of my writing in the June issue!), to be honest! When I saw the cropped “Astoria” sweater in the April 2015 issue, I just knew I was going to sew it! The nice thing about Seamwork (which is made by the Colette Patterns team) is that subscribers get both patterns on the 1st of the month, but if you’re dawdling and don’t notice a great pattern until someone like me sews it up a month or two later, you can still go back and buy the pdf pattern on its own (and they include Copy Shop versions, too).

All the Seamwork patterns are designed to be sewn in an hour, and, just like the Oslo cardigan I made back in January, this one came together in a single evening. Also, I appear to only make Seamwork patterns in wool jerseys, ha!

I couldn’t believe my luck when this pattern appeared, as I’d just bought some gorgeously soft green merino wool jersey at Mood in NYC mere days before! I’d only bought 2 yards (which I’d regretted once I got home!) for $18/yd, but happily there was enough there to cut the long-sleeved version of this plus still have enough leftover for a winter running buff.

I made size Large since my waist and hips corresponded best to that size, though my bust is a Medium on their chart. At first I made size Large with no alterations, but I wasn’t 100% sold on the fit. It took a whole day of me wearing it to decide that it’d be better with the sides taken in by 2cm (an inch) on each side. In hindsight, I could’ve gone with the Medium, I think.

So I cut off the hem band, took in the sides from the armpits down (taking off the same 2cm from each of the hem band seams, too!), and overlocked the hem band back on, this time with only the minimum seam allowance to avoid shortening the hem any more than necessary. And the fit is waaaaaaaay more to my liking now!

A black wool Oslo cardigan

Last Friday I talked about the new digital magazine, Seamwork and my article on activewear fabrics in the latest issue. Each issue comes with two quick-and-easy pdf patterns, which you can get on subsciption for $6 USD an issue (so they’re $3 each).

I’m a little behind, but on my last day of the Christmas holidays, I decided to sew up the Oslo Cardigan from the first (December) Seamwork magazine. Since this is from a former issue, I’m not sure whether you can actually purchase this pattern anymore (if you subscribe now, you’ll get the January patterns – a very nice bias cami and cuffed leggings).

My measurements fit pretty neatly into their size Medium but all the Seamwork patterns go up to 3XL, which is brilliant for plus-sized sewists! I was really happy with the fit on this cardigan – it’s nice and slim without being either baggy or tight, and the sleeves are the perfect length for me (a little over the wrist). The hem comes down just over my bum.

All the Seamwork patterns claim to be able to be sewn in 2 hours or less. After piecing together the pdf pattern (it also comes with a copy shop version) and cutting out my fabric, it only took 55min for me to sew together!

My Colette Clover jeans

A few months ago, I went and sewed up the Clover trouser pattern for the first time, in dark green sateen. Having fixed the zipper (my own mistake), I realised that I love the great fit of these trousers, but they’d be even better with traditional pockets and a front fly more like jeans… in fact, I’d actually just like some Clover jeans.

So that’s exactly what I did!

I first altered the pattern to create the front pockets (and I extended the pocket lining piece to the centre front to make a “gut slimming” panel), add a fly-front, and extend front waistband to match the fly underlap. I also added back pockets and belt loops off another jeans pattern. I didn’t bother to draft a back yoke as I actually prefer the look of jeans without them, and the back darts just disappear into the pockets anyway.

This stretch denim is ex-designer from Ditto Fabrics and it’s the exact same stuff I used in these designer jeans (I loved it so much I bought more). The pocket linings and waistband facings are fun Spoonflower cotton prints – Rainy Day Doodles for the pocket linings and fly underlap, and foxes for the inner waistband (the latter by my mate Galia!).

Sewing Christmas Gifts

I know this is sure to shock you (ha!), but I received a fair few sewing-related Christmas gifts this year…

The Colette Sewing Handbook – I’ve only cracked the surface of the content here, but I love it already. It’s so comprehensive and ends up being greats for beginners as well as old hats like me. And how chuffed was I to see FehrTrade.com in the Recommended Reading List??

I received a slew of novels and cookbooks from my WishList, amoungst those were the sewing-related novels Pleating for Mercy and The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard. I’m just hoping they’re better written than Laura’s Handmade Life, which I struggled to even finish earlier this year and is now on the charity shop pile (god knows why it has so many 5 star reviews on Amazon – it was so bad it was almost insulting)…

I also received a really cute ModCloth spool headphone keeper – it’s made of silicone to look like an oversized thread spool, but to keep your headphones tidy (my earbuds are tucked inside).

New Year's Progress Report

Back on the 17th I set some bold goals to finish by New Year’s:

I thought it was time for a little progress report, seeing as how I only have a few days to go…

  1. Paco’s Drape Collar Tunic – I sewed this up in an evening before Christmas. Though I had to get very creative in order to get long sleeves out of the 2m of sweater knit I bought… Note to self: Buy more yardage, or shorten the body length next time!
  2. Clover jeans – I just finished these! I’m totally loving the fit and the (IMHO) improved pockets, too.
  3. Holly’s maternity maxi-dress, Burda 08/2008 #125 – Having no place to cut the fabric of the enormous skirt pieces, I actually took it along to work yesterday and cut it out on the big (and empty) lunch table at lunchtime! The few guys left in the office already think I’m weird anyway. Shrug. In any case, this is now ready to sew!
  4. Ruby Slip – I wanted to cut the skirt pieces at the same time I cut out the maxi dress, but the low table height was killing my back by the time I finished with the maxi dress. I don’t think this will take long to sew together if I can ever find somewhere to cut the single-layer, bias layout… A good cutting area is my new productivity choke point.