Last week we flew over to the States for a week – not in Pennsylvania where I grew up (no offence, but I’m kinda sick of visiting there!), but to Baltimore, with a day in DC at the end. We got a lot of strange looks from British friends when we said where we were going – “Baltimore? Really? Why??”, and we’ve been mounting our own Baltimore Tourism crusade since we got back, because it was fantastic!
The reason we were over was because James was speaking at a prestigious tech conference, but I took the opportunity to meet up with loads of friends and family, including the chance to finally meet some fellow sewing bloggers!
I’ve been speaking to Cidell & Trena for at least five years now I reckon, and even weirder is that I already knew their voices from their earlier sewing podcasts (please bring them back!), and there was zero awkwardness when we met up for dinner! It really was like we’d known each other for years, which I suppose we have!
(Note: Jack’s Bistro did not pay us for their product placement!)
Cidell puts me to shame – she posted about our meeting like the same day!! I was also very excited to get more of the Under Armour Cold Gear fabric she’d previously sent, because during the last few months I’d been doing laundry twice a week in order to wear my Cold Gear leggings on both my Tuesday night runs and my Saturday long runs because they’re seriously the warmest leggings I own. Next winter I’ll be much better prepared now!
But they weren’t the only sewists I met – I’d also planned a run with Kathy in Patterson Park near my cousin’s house in Baltimore, which she’s already posted about here!
We both wore running gear we made ourselves – she’s wearing McCalls 6435 adapted for running as her top and the Jalie sports skirt lengthened into leggings, and I’m wearing my disco top and my new self-drafted leggings with that fishnet insertion from Tissu in the front thighs and back calves, which you can see a bit better here:
What. A. Year! I’m not even going to attempt to sugar-coat things, and any attempt to try and put things into perspective just sounds like a cliché after all this. But for a year where I was essentially under house arrest since March, it’s surprisingly not all bad. Above all else, I’m grateful to have spent the time with my husband and that we both were able to continue our office jobs from home at full pay and remarkable support. My sewing was both a welcome distraction and a balm in this year of chaos and uncertainty.
I’m going to try to use my usual year-end format again, though this was clearly a year that broke all attempts to contain it so let’s do what we can (clearly a motto for the year!)…
Happy new year! I always like to take the opportunity on the start of a bright new year to look back on the year that was – what I made and loved, what I made and swore at, and other big life milestones that will make 2019 stand out in my mind. And because I love stats, I also like to take a step back and get an overview of what I’ve been making to get an eye for any trends that may have escaped me at the time…
Woohoo! It’s a fresh new year! Each year I like to take the first of January to look back on what I’ve sewn in the previous year. So while this post is a celebration of the new year, it’s also a look back at what I’ve been up to in the last twelve months, which I always find to be a helpful exercise!
I am both back from our trip to the States and feeling back on form now, so I’ve started to tackle documenting the absolute mountain of finished makes from the last four months. I have some garments from early January, some made more recently and well, I’m just going to share them with you in no particular order! The photos are a bit more slapdash than usual, but I know that if I waited to do proper photoshoots of all of these then it’d be another 6 months before you’d get to see them!
So I’m going to start with a garment that was the longest in the planning, and also quite possibly my favourite of the early 2016 makes. It all started back in summer 2014, when I bought some fabulous navy wool coating & vintage silk twill from Ditto when I was down in Brighton. I knew I wanted to use them together for a transitional, short coat, but then I had quite a journey in finding the right pattern!
The psychedelic 1960s vintage silk twill lining that was originally made for neckties!
Over the course of 18 months, I ended up making five different muslins before I was happy enough to cut into the wool and silk:
- StyleArc Audrey (the silhouette and proportions were just so bad on me. So bad.)
- Burda Jan 2015 jacket in size 42 (way too small for non-stretch outerwear, oddly, though Burda’s fit is usually very standard)
- Burda Jan 2015 jacket in size 44 (traced ALL the pieces again and it still fit very weirdly)
- Patrones 342 No23 dolman sleeve coat (ridiculously tiny sleeves and zero arm mobility even with the underarm gusset)
And then finally I muslined Named’s Harriet lumberjacket pattern, bought during a flash sale during their advent calendar promotion. And I was like Goldilocks, it was juuuuuuust riiiiiight.
The version of my patterns I want to share with you today is special because Kathy is the only one of my pattern testers whom I’ve met in real life! Not only did we meet when I was over in Baltimore last year, but we actually went for a run together in activewear we’d sewn ourselves, too!
Kathy’s no stranger to sewing activewear (and she’s got almost as big a lycra stash as I do!), and I love that she chose to make the T-back version for herself, because I really think it’s the most versatile version! She’s used some black athletic mesh for the vertical portion, but you can pretty much use any fancy trim you have on hand – lace, sequins, fishnet, or just contrast fabric like she’s done.
This wasn’t enough though, as she’s gone and selflessly made a polka dot version for her niece, too! I totally freaking adore the polka dot fabric, and I love that she’s paired it with black mesh for the Y back, and then finished the edges tee-shirt style for a bit of contrast.
Read more about her versions on her site, Kathy Sews!
One practical aspect of being a sewing runner (or a running sewist) is that I can take all those oversized race tee shirts that seem to accumulate and refashion the nice technical fabric into something more suitable. Oftentimes I just trim down the front and back based on my knit sloper (like I did with my Paris race tee), but this time around I thought I’d change things up and use a Burda pattern instead of my usual sloper, since one presented itself nicely in the form of the “scuba set” in the June 2013 Burda magazine (or you can purchase as a pdf here).
I started by pulling out a pile of race tees I wasn’t 100% happy with (though in reality I only did two of these four)…
This particular shirt was always destined to be refashioned – I visited tons of running shops when I was in Baltimore in April, but my favourite was a small, very friendly shop run by a very enthusiastic runner, Boston Street Running (Baltimorians, it’s down by the big Safeway in Canton). I ended up chatting to him for ages about nutrition, races, running fashion, and he despaired that he only had one of their shirts left, and it was XXL with a printing mistake, as he really wanted to give me one!
I assured him I’d refashion it down, and send him photos of me wearing it in front of Tower Bridge…
One thing I really like about this pattern is that there are no side seams – it uses side panels instead!
I’ve got so many finished garments to show you this week, and I thought I’d start with one that I actually made back in February (while I was in a drug-addled shingles haze of pain). This top was a gift for my niece, from the Young Image SS2013 magazine.
I loved it as soon as I got this issue, and I went and traced and sewed it right away! The front has got a subtly curved yoke seam, but the back is where all the action is – a double layer with a tied yoke! It’s kinda hard to tell in the magazine photos though, because they don’t show the back at all, even though it’s the standout feature of this pattern!
I made size 164 and lengthened it as everyone says she’s so tall and thin, but those were the only changes. The only thing I’d change in future is to remove a ton of ease from the sleeve cap – there’s way too much in there, arrgh! Jersey tops really don’t need any ease at all, let alone several inches!
So even though I made this back in February, I had to hold onto it until I visited her in Baltimore in April. The shirt was a big hit, but I didn’t want to impose a photoshoot on the kids there and then, so my dad took these back in Virginia, and they only just came through a week or two ago. Thanks Dad!
How great are Style Arc patterns?? One thing I love about them is that each month there’s a free pattern that comes with every order. In February, it was the Ivy tee. With its angled side seams, dropped shoulder, slightly forward shoulder seam, and banded sleeves, it’s so great for colourblocking that I just couldn’t resist! The good news is, like all of their freebies, it’s available to buy after the month is done, so you can go and get your own now, too.
I ordered a size 14 as per usual (I’m a Burda 42, for comparison), since StyleArc patterns are single-sized. This is my 3rd Style Arc pattern and I can totally understand how they’ve gained so many fans so quickly! Each one has come together beautifully, and is as comfortable and enjoyable to wear as it was to sew.
I did have a bit of trauma in the making of this, however. I did something I haven’t done in 9 years of sewing – I lost a pattern piece!! I checked everywhere, but I think the sleeve piece must’ve accidentally gone into the recycling when I threw out the paper scraps. This pattern has a dropped shoulder, otherwise I would’ve just used the knit sleeve off my Marita dress or Marie jacket patterns, so in desperation I emailed Chloe at StyleArc asking if she could possibly send me just the sleeve piece by pdf… and she did, so quickly, saying she knew I’d probably want to work on it at the weekend! How great is that?? Anyway, her scan plus some added measurements worked like a charm, and I have a completed Ivy tee!
I used two of Tissu’s viscose lycra jerseys here (again!!) – the Mustard colourway leftover from my Drape Drape tee, and 1m of Marl Charcoal I bought specifically to coordinate with the mustard.
Remember the lavender “chic sweatshirt” I made my mom a few months ago? Well, she wears it so much that she asked if I’d make her a lighter weight version for Spring and Fall. Since I’d already done the pattern tracing and grading, I figured sewing up another would be a fairly quick job.
As you recall, the pattern is from the fabulous the September 2012 Burda magazine (or you can purchase the download pattern here) but the pattern only goes up to 44, and she decided she needed a size 46, so I had to grade it up for the lavender version. This time around I just needed to cut out the fabric and sew a few seams!
Since my mom saw a flyer that one of the fabric stores near her had pointe jerseys on sale, she opted to select this blue colourway in person, pre-wash it, and post it over to me. Then I made it a few weeks ago while I was ill (hey, it was a quick make!) and brought it along to Baltimore with me in my suitcase!
I really like this vibrant blue on her – I think the colour is a really smart choice as it’ll work equally well in Spring and Fall, too.