Blog

Navy blue Pattern Magic "Jutting Edge" dress

I drafted a few patterns over the summer on the Morley College course based on the Pattern Magic: Stretch Fabrics book, this design included. To be perfectly honest, the photos in the book do absolutely nothing for me, so I flipped right past it when reading it on my own:

But the instructor, Moni, saw its potential, and thought that it might be nice in a softer jersey. She was totally right! The sample that was made on the course in similar, lightweight jersey had a chic cowl effect, but without a low neck like you normally get to achieve a cowl.

So I’d been meaning to make this all year, but finally unearthed my pattern pieces on Christmas Eve day, when I fancied sewing something quick that wasn’t workout gear for a change!

The pattern here is essentially just a long teeshirt dress, but with an added very wide (180 degrees!) dart that runs from shoulder to abdomen. It means that it’s a bit of a pain to draft, but extremely quick and easy to sew. On the course, I’d thought ahead and brought my own knit sloper so not only did I draft this to my body (at the time, anyway), but I also kept the armscye unchanged here so I could easily add sleeves!

A note on sizing…

Thank you all so, so much for your kind words and enthusiasm on my pattern announcement! It’s been literally months in the making and it was totally nerve-wracking to hit the Publish button.

Some of you commented on the XS size not being small enough, however, and I wanted to talk you through the background on this.

As we all know with multisize patterns, you can only have a limited number of sizes. Each size you add on must be graded (which is no mean feat!), then double-checked, adjusted, sewn up, and all the various trims must be calculated as well. For my first collection, five sizes seemed a reasonable number without biting off more than I could chew. I have huge respect for companies like Jalie that create their patterns in an epic amount of sizes, but that’s not something I’m qualified enough to do right now (nor am I particularly interested in designing for children)!

So I have to make choices. For me, I feel very strongly about supporting Plus sized ladies to exercise. I’ve had conversations with Plus sized fitness bloggers like Fattymustrun about the absolute lack of exercise gear for size 16+ in RTW – companies may say they offer it, but in reality, it’s almost impossible to actually buy, and when it does, you usually only get the choice of black (or worse, pink!). So when it came to choosing between offer one size smaller or one size larger, I made the choice to offer one size larger, so that larger women can have the opportunity to wear some fun exercise clothes, too.

You may think, “well, it’s no extra room on the pattern sheet to add another smaller size!” but it’s nowhere near that straightforward. Multisize patterns aren’t exactly like Russian nesting dolls – the way patterns are stacked to allow people to cut between sizes if they wish, there are multiple places where the smallest size line is actually outside the largest size!

Turquoise lingerie set – bra and Lacey Thong

I arrived home from Mexico and wasn’t particularly filled with sewing mojo, to be honest, but happily this was short-lived, because I saw that Pattern Review had announced a short, two week Lingerie Sewing Contest for the second half of October! This was just what I needed to kick me into action and remind me that I’d been meaning to alter the seaming on my bra cup pattern after I’d made the eyelash bra.

The cups on that one were fine, but I have some gorgeous turquoise lace in my stash from Danglez’ closing down sale (sniff!), and it was too narrow for my one-dart cup pattern. So before I could even start sewing, I had to do some pattern drafting manipulation first – introducing some seam lines to account for the narrow lace, split and rotate the dart around a bit, and voila! Now I’ve got a three part cup!

I was so happy with the fit of this bra that I made myself a matching pair of Lacey Thongs (my free downloadable pattern, if you’d forgotten!) to go with it.

Seriously though – I think this must be about the 8th or 9th bra I’ve sewn, but only about the second I’d wear out of the house. Sewing a bra is easy – getting the bra to fit properly, feel comfortable, and look flattering is beyond challenging. I think I understand other people’s frustrations with trouser fitting now, because this bra fitting journey has been character-building!

My real breakthrough came when I stopped using commercial patterns and just traced existing RTW bras instead. For me, they were a much, much closer starting point than the bizarre cup shapes provided in the KwikSew and Elan patterns I’d previously tried.

Blue neopreney leggings

You’ve already seen the sister skirt to these leggings planned for my upcoming Mexico trip in a few weeks. I wouldn’t normally make two things out of the same fabric in rapid succession, but I ended up buying the end bolt (3m instead of the 2m I’d wanted) and having two bottoms in the same colour is quite handy when packing, as obviously the same tops will coordinate with both!

These were a super quick but comfortable make using my standard leggings draft from the Kristina Shin book plus my own preferred elastic waistband technique. I reckon I probably had these sewn up in under an hour, and I’d cut out the fabric at the same time as the skirt.

As you recall, the fabric is a royal blue hefty jersey that really feels very much like a thin neoprene – this stuff couldn’t wrinkle if it wanted to! I bought the last of the roll at “A-One Fabrics” on Goldhawk Road, and I’ve still got a little bit left that I think might be fun to mix & match with something like denim or even leather!

The Swirl Sheath Dress

This dress has been an awfully long time in the making. The idea started back when I took the Pattern Magic 2 class at Morley College last winter, where we learned a technique called “Fundamentals: Create three-dimensional forms with design lines only” (it just rolls off the tongue, eh?).

Essentially what this means is you sew up a muslin, draw design lines all over it, cut along these lines, then introduce snips of ease until the pieces lie flat, and there’s your new pattern! I did all this (based on a sheath dress from the June 2012 Burda magazine, which doesn’t appear to be on the US BurdaStyle, sorry) last summer, but then the project stalled when I couldn’t find any heavyweight stretch satin anywhere in Europe, and had to import this gorgeous salmon stretch duchesse from Gorgeous Fabrics.

Then there were further delays as I didn’t have a wide enough cutting table to lay out the asymmetric and strangely-shaped pieces, until a few weeks ago when the Thrifty Stitcher invited me to pow-wow at her studio and suddenly my swirl sheath dress was back on track!

Because all the darts from the original pattern (bar one) are now incorporated into a bunch of curved seams, this means there’s a lot of easing going on, so if you don’t like easing princess seams, for example, you really won’t like sewing this. My easing motto is “pin the crap out of it”, and I’m proud to say that I didn’t have any tucks or unpicking in any of these seams. Though I did use 58 pins on just the lower semi-circular seam!

A Big Weekend for Sewing

I had an uncharacteristic free weekend – no races and not much planned, so I ended up getting lots of sewing bits done!

Sewing room clear-out

I’ve only got a small (temporary) sewing cave, and I’m a very tidy, organised person, but I’d let it get a little messy and it was feeling crowded, so after my two hour hill run on Saturday morning, I came back and had a bit of a clear out. I filled a full black bag with rubbish, but here’s what I pulled aside to swap at the Goldhawk Road meetup on Saturday!

Yes, you could be a good home to some pattern, pattern magazines, books, craft kits, or fabric that once lived on board! Now, if I can manage to be good and not fill up the space with things I pick up in the swap or fabric stores…

Skylight cover

Remember the last time I made a skylight cover (strangely, I see last time I was sewing jeans alongside it, too!)? I’d only ever made them for the back cabin, where the skylights are peaked, with windows that open like wings, but on the front deck, the skylights are flat and require grills that fit overtop for safety and security.

We had a joiner make a gorgeous new cover for the skylight over our bedroom, but it’s been shamefully covered in tarpaulins for the last few months while I procrastinated swearing my way through sewing another.

Even with a walking foot, the clear plastic is a total P-I-T-A to sew because it sticks to the machine bed, the foot, is stiff and rams into everything, and is generally just awful.

This time around, I got so sick of the stickiness that I grabbed a “newspaper” (tabloid left from our joiner) and ripped off pieces to go underneath and also under the presser foot.

This surprisingly worked rather well, and the newspaper just rips out easily afterwards. Worth remembering if a) you don’t mind newsprint on your fabrics, and b) like me, you never have tissue paper lying around

It’s not my best work, but it’s done and will allow more light into our new bedroom!

Jeans muslin

If you recall, I decided on a Burda pattern for my non-stretch denim so I sewed up a quick muslin of that on Saturday after my skylight triumph.

The triumph was short-lived.

Shocking Pink Trousers and a Cream Lace Tee

Summer in England is a rare thing, but we have had an overflowing bounty of gorgeous, sunny, and hot weather for the past three weeks and counting! So it’s natural that the heat would go to my brain and cause me to make some out-of-character sewing choices, right?

As I revealed last week, this manifested in the form of some super-bright pink trousers, and a teeshirt made from cream stretch lace:

The lace teeshirt was ridiculously quick to sew up – I’ve had the lace in my stash for several years now after buying it at Tissu Dreyfus on one of my Paris trips, and some of you may even remember it from when I used it on a long-sleeved KnipMode tee. I love that those photos were in the snow and now I’m using it again in a heatwave! I just used my knit sloper I’d drafted from the Kristina Shin book, only I levelled off the sleeve hem rather than the usual scoop.

The construction was identical to any other teeshirt, and the only real point of note here is in the neckline binding – I didn’t have any matching cream jersey, and I didn’t want to just fold it under and topstitch, so I had the great idea to use the selvedge as a band, and just overlocked it in place. It matches, it’s lightweight, and it’s guaranteed not to fray!

The trousers were much more interesting from a construction standpoint! I had a bunch of Mood fuchsia stretch cotton sateen leftover from my fuchsia party dress (which is still my go-to party dress btw – I’m getting lots of wear out of that!) and I knew I wanted some fun Spring/Summer trousers. In my original Spring/Summer 2013 ideas, I thought I’d reuse the Burda Jan 12 pattern I’d made in grey flannel, but then I really wanted to try a StyleArc trouser pattern, and I already had the Jasmine pattern to hand, and it’s for stretch wovens. Perfect!

Things I like about the Jasmine pattern:

Pattern Magic Stretch Fabrics course at Morley College

Some of you may remember that last year I took a course at Morley College on Pattern Magic 2 (my first actual sewing class, believe it or not!) and it was so interesting, useful, and inspiring that I just had to take the course on the third book, Pattern Magic Stretch Fabrics. I booked this something like 9 months in advance, I was that excited to take it!

The first two books are based on woven slopers, but since this third one is all for knits, I used my own knit sloper instead of the book’s – I’m rather proud of this bit of forward-thinking! I also got to show off my pattern drafting gadgets plus it was great to see so many familiar faces and meet new ones, too (hi Clover & Ingrid!!). For the second class though, Claire had taken the initiative to digitally grade up the book’s blocks to larger, more standard Western sizes! She says she’s going to share these on her site very soon, so keep an eye over there if you want a short-cut to a bigger knit block.

Over the course of two consecutive Saturdays, we drafted three designs from the book (chosen by our amazing tutor, Moni), and a fourth of our choice, plus a bit of time at the end to sew up a sample so we got to see the range in real life.

Here you can see me & Claire from the first Saturday! (I’m totally brown-nosing by wearing a design from the second Pattern Magic book!)

The first design we all drafted was “Crescent Moon“, essentially a giant donut that you wear. It’s so avant-garde that it doesn’t even use a knit sloper, just circles!

This did look a bit better once we got out a smaller, female mannequin, but it’s still not something I’m finding particularly wearable.

The second design we all drafted was “Sharp & Snappy“, which I dubbed “the stegosaurus”. The gist here is that you shift the side seams forward and add triangular points in the seam line.

Pattern drafting gadgets (plus discount code!)

I had the final instalment of my Pattern Magic course at Morley College over the weekend (more on that later this week!), and since the majority of the class is in pattern drafting, it became apparent to me that I’ve got three pattern drafting gadgets in my arsenal that aren’t widely known, but that I consider to be essential!

On the left is the Seam Allowance Guide, little magnets which snap onto the side of your scissors to help you cut an even distance away from your line. I usually use this when cutting my fabric when using patterns that don’t have seam allowances at all, my on my course it was very helpful when cutting out the final pattern when I didn’t want to draw the seam allowances in. I got mine for review a while back but you can buy yours here.

On the bottom – I don’t know the technical name for this, but I call it my “pizza wheel measurer”. It’s a little wheel marked in centimetres which allows you to measure curves really easily. I use it most often when matching up seam lengths between sleeve caps and armscyes, but there are a number of occasions in the Pattern Magic books where you need to ensure two curved seam lines are the same length.Claire posted instructions on how to buy these from Japan a while back.

On the right – The newest member of my pattern drafting team is the SA Curve ruler – a narrow ruler with one straight edge and one curved edge. It comes in two widths – 5/8” (1.5cm) or 3/8” (1cm) and the idea is that you place the ruler along your seam line and then just trace the other side of it, et voil√†! Your seam allowance is added on.

The Most Beautiful Bra in the World

…is one that finally fits after days and days of muslins and tweaks!

You see, this is the third muslin of my latest attempt to sew a Bra That Actually Fits and I think I’m finally happy with this one.

I started off by tracing a well-fitting RTW bra and I sewed up a muslin of it according to the fabulous instructions in Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction. From that, I could see that the bottom of the bra cup was too long for my underwires, and, as I suspected, the straight legged dart was too pointy and I needed some room in front of it, so I made the front leg curved.


Apologies that the orientations are opposite between the two!)

Then I ripped out the basting stitching of my muslin, sewed up new cups according to the second cup pattern, and reused all the other pieces from the muslin that were absolutely fine, namely the wings, bridge, straps (gingham ribbon here!), and underwire channels:

The cup shape of the second muslin seemed good (though it’s hard to be subjective in the mirror and selfies), but I had a bit of excess fabric along the top edge of the cup that needed pinching out. I didn’t want to create a dart at the top edge as I eventually want to make this bra from lace, so Norma suggested I take it out from the sides (bridge & underarm), making sure those lengths didn’t change as I did so.