While my own wardrobe may be 99% own-sewn, I’m only one woman and I like to concentrate my sewing for James into items he can’t regularly find in shops. Often this means loud and garish shirts in unusual prints (just wait til 4th of July…), but occasionally it’s for practical reasons. In this case, he has two Dakine shirts that are made from some sort of thin, technical woven that dries really quickly and resists wrinkling. So he got just a wee bit excited when he saw Fabric.com was stocking something that looked really similar. They called it “workwear fabric” (it’s no longer available) – a thin, 100% polyester woven that resists wrinkling and dries quickly – perfect for him to wear to cycle into work without looking like a sweaty mess all day.
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?
You may recall that back in September, I traveled down to Brighton to meet James at a conference, and we both hit up the fabulous Ditto Fabrics store over his lunch break. I’ve been surprisingly good at sewing up most of the fabrics from that trip in the past four months (only the coating & lining remain, and that’s earmarked & muslined already), having made a cowl neck top from the digitally printed lycra and of course, a shirt for James from the lime linen.
During that same visit, James spotted a wonderful 50/50 poly/cotton flannel which was black on one side, and a soft, brushed charcoal grey on the reverse. It also still bore the tags from its original, designer previous life!
After the success of the lime linen shirt, James requested that I make the same pattern again using this two-sided flannel – most of the shirt should be in black, but with the cuffs, collar, and placket using the grey side.
I wanted to sew this as a Christmas gift for him, so once the Surf to Summit Top pattern release was out of the way, I got to work, finishing most of it before my evil holiday cold hit, but finishing the sleeve cuffs on the 24th when I could barely sit up!
I’ve got quite a few different versions of my latest Surf to Summit Top pattern to show to you! It’s such a versatile pattern with so many different options, which meant that I had to sew samples of all the different features over the past few months. Today I want to focus on the cycling features of this pattern, for both the men and ladies.
Let’s look at the ladies’ version first, which is again modeled by my friend and multi-talented athlete, Emily, whom you met earlier this week. I made this version using some navy wicking nylon from UK Fabrics in the body, and some “triathlon” printed lycra from FunkiFabrics in the sleeves. The 1.25m I bought of the latter was enough to make leggings for myself and have enough over for the short sleeves here, and probably a sports bra, too! I finished off this top with some turquoise FOE bought on eBay around the hem and back pocket.
This top was one of the very last samples I made of the pattern, a few days before its release, and it uses the exact same version that you buy – it was sewn up to test that the final changes to the pattern were good. I’m pleased to say that the improvements I made to the half zip, facing, and zip underlay in particular are ones I’m particularly proud of – this came together really smoothly!
It’s finally here! After months of hard work, dozens of pattern revisions, ten sewn samples, three athlete-models, and meters upon meters of spandex, the Surf to Summit Top is on sale now!
Both the men’s and ladies’ versions feature princess seams, side panels (so no side seams!), your choice of long or short raglan sleeves, optional sleeve mitts for keeping your hands warm without fiddling for gloves, a tall integral collar to keep your neck covered, and your choice of two hem lengths. An optional half zip and back cycling-style pocket are also included.
This pattern truly does cover all seasons and a multitude of sports – everything from a rashguard for surfing, to a winter base layer for skiing! Plus you can make a traditional cycling jersey with it, and I absolutely love it for winter running.
Today is James’s birthday!!
I recently noticed his dop kit (toiletries bag) was getting a bit ratty, and I thought it might be nice to make him a replacement, and I stored the idea away in the back of my brain for a while. Then I saw that Spoonflower were having a BOGOF sale on all fat quarters, so I jumped at the chance to buy him some nicely coordinated Tour de France fabrics, since he loves Le Tour!
Since you could mix and match the base fabrics, I bought one fat quarter of “Vive Le Tour de France!” printed onto recycled eco-canvas for the exterior, and a fat quarter of “Les Montagnes” on quilting cotton for the lining. The colours are nice and manly, the prints coordinate perfectly, and it was a pairing I really hoped he’d like.
I then went in search of a good, free boxbag tutorial that wouldn’t use more than a fat quarter, was lined, and looked good, and I settled on my friend Stacy Sews’ free box bag tutorial, which also comes as a pdf if you’d rather view it on your tablet as you work (like me!)
James has a black linen shirt from Muji that he utterly loves. He’s worn it very nearly to death over almost ten years, though, with it rather faded and with a hole worn in in one place. So he asked me if I could copy it, as it’s a design that he’s never been able to find it shops again.
It’s an over-the-head design with a front button placket, stand collar, back yoke, and short sleeves with little button tabs on the sleeve hems. The only change I made from the original was to introduce a small pleat at the back yoke, as I just think men’s yoked shirts look weird when they don’t have them, plus it gives a bit of wearing ease back there.
I traced out his existing shirt with craft paper and my serrated tracing wheel, and made a quick muslin, which miraculously needed no fitting changes! Then it was onto the first real version, made up in a lime-green linen-blend mix from Ditto which he chose when we were in their Brighton shop earlier this year.
Plackets always tend to intimidate me as they seem like a bit of witchcraft – how can this weird shape turn into that in just a few steps?? So I put off sewing it, until I remembered that I’d scanned and digitised the placket template from David Page Coffin’s excellent “Shirtmaking” book. This is one of my clever-er ideas, as it means I just just adjust the width and length of the placket in Illustrator and print myself off a fresh template. Because obviously the dimensions for sleeve plackets for men’s shirts are of a different scale than the neck placket here!
Unfortunately, menswear really is the ugly stepchild of the fashion industry – there seem to be about two menswear books for every ten for women, plus there are hardly any commercial patterns out there for men (and if there are, 90% of the time it’ll be that same button-down shirt I’ve seen a million times, argh).
The Aldrich book seems to be the de-facto standard for menswear drafting as far as I can tell, but I tried her teeshirt draft for men and hated it so I’m loathe to buy it to test the rest, really. Perhaps it’s the standard just because there are so few to choose from and not because it’s particularly very good? So I asked for (and received!) this book instead for my birthday, as I’d love to draft more menswear for James and possibly for future patterns, too.
Now I haven’t actually tested the drafts in here yet (though I fully intend to), but I really like a lot of things about this book. Most obvious is that it’s a modern menswear book – instead of just covering the basic tailoring styles, it shows you how to draft things like hoodies, jeans, and parkas on top of the more standard jacket and button-down shirts. There are 20 different styles in all, with instructions on how to adapt the basic blocks to match the given style. So this is more like how the Japanese pattern books do things, only a bit easier to follow than the standard Pattern Magic “instructions”!
Sewing a coat is always a big accomplishment, but this coat in particular has been a long time in the making. I first told James I’d finally make him a coat like Benedict Cumberbatch wears in BBC’s “Sherlock” for his birthday back in early December. I drafted up a pattern using the details provided in this livejournal post, then made a muslin for him later that month. With only a few tweaks needed for fit and style (I made the lapels too big, for starters!), I then moved on to purchasing the wool coating, cotton flannel underlining, and black acetate lining.
But this is also where the first delay came in, as he wanted a black wool coating with faint blue and brown checks from Crescent Trading, who turned out to be closed over the full Christmas period, when I was hoping to get a lot of the work done. All of the above are detailed more
in this “progress report” post from January.
I then had more hurdles involving the hem bubbling (which meant I had to baste it in place, flip it back wrong-side out, handstitch, re-press, etc), waiting for some woman on Etsy to make more replica buttons (which we finally gave up on and just made our own with gold enamel paint), and getting the right upholstery thread to do all the buttonholes.
But it’s finished, it looks fantastic on James, and the proportions are really flattering on him, too! So the lengthy making process shall soon fade away in the light of the finished coat. He definitely prefers it open (as dos Sherlock himself), but it can be buttoned up in the coldest of days, too:
It’s a very warm coat, having underlined the body and sleeves in flannel, a trick I picked up in previous coats to stop the wind.
I can’t take the credit for these, as James was having fun with photoshoot ideas!
I mentioned briefly back in December that, for James’s birthday, I gave him the promise of a custom-made coat in the style of the one Benedict Cumberbatch wears in Sherlock. Or as it will henceforth be known, “the Sherlock coat”.
A few others online have made this coat (including a few FehrTrade readers, hello!!), but I found the most helpful resource to be this livejournal entry from a lady who sketched and measured a lot of the details after analysing screen grabs. This was a big help in taking James’s TNT short jacket pattern and adapting it to look more like the coat on screen!
I first made an approximation on his paper pattern and sewed up a muslin. From this the only real fitting problems were that the upper back was too tight, and the Centre Front needed to be shifted by about an inch, but it was otherwise fine. I guessed a bit wrong on the collar and lapel shape though, but it was fairly easy to just draw a nicer shape onto the muslin itself and transfer it to the pattern.
Once the muslin was settled, I then bought the wool coating (delayed a bit as Crescent Trading were closed over the holidays) – not the exact black and grey small houndstooth used in the original (simply because I couldn’t find any locally), but instead a black/grey/brown check which still had the same feel. I also bought the black acetate lining at the same time, but the black cotton flannel for underlining came from Minerva.
I then settled in for the mammoth task of cutting out all the pieces in wool, underlining, interfacing, and lining, then fusing the crap out of everything that needed interfacing. With two patch pockets (and flaps), plus two welt pockets, two back belt pieces, sleeve cuffs, and a collar, (not to mention facings!), there was a good day taken up just by fusing alone!