Friday 6 September 2019

Navy Cambria Duster

I made a jacket! I've never previously tried making a proper coat, not particularly because I was intimidated by the skill involved (though I would find that hard) but because I don't tend to have the attention span for large complex projects. I am becoming more ruthless (and honest with myself) and I know that if I can't, If I can finish a project in a day, maybe with some follow up time, say a weekend, I’m not going to make it, because I won't finish it.

Thankfully, this is actually an extremely easy pattern and very quick! It's the Cambria Duster by the Friday Pattern Company. I was considering making a duster, and I looked on The Foldline (an online sewing pattern database) and just loved this one right away! It has side ties that can either be worn loose (see above), tied at the front (see below), or tied behind (see further below) for three different looks. It has a large front collar/lapel/facing thing that makes it very elegaant and flexible. 

I made my life difficult by forgetting a few steps and I did a lot of hand sewing but even then I could have sewed the whole thing in a few hours had a chosen to.


The main issue I had was fabric availability. When at home at the bank holiday recently, I was rummaging through my mum's extensive fabric stash (other people do this too right?) and spotted this perfect navy fabric. I think it's some kind of thin twill - it's got a woven in texture and was probably made for thin curtaining. (I think Mum was using it for a sturdy bag lining). Not sure about composition- it's cool and soft and holds a crease ok when ironed but is not too creasy in general. It was also very easy to work with, despite being in theory quite slippery, so overall an excellent lucky choice!

Cutting out

So far, so good. The snag came when I bought the Cambria and realised it asked for almost 5m of fabric at my width. I did not have that much. I had maybe 2.75m?

That's never stopped me though (I never seem to buy enough fabric-plus proper cutting layouts always leave so many weird shaped pieces!). I was reflecting on Instagram the other day that while I hate cutting out fabric, I really get a kick out of pattern Tetris (ie fitting it all onto an impossibly small/odd shaped piece)! On this occasion it was really quite tricky and took several hours of reconfiguration to work out (told you I enjoyed it!), possibly a similar amount of time to the actual sewing! 

(Not the final layout!) 

The only reason it was possible is that the Cambria is made in panels. Apart from the front lapel pieces (which are big bits you need 4 of, the primary reason you need so much fabric), it's all cut into two at a waist seam. Those front lapels/facings also attach to a princess seam down the front, which allows you to sew the inner bit in neatly (as it may be seen). I realised however that all these seams are actually pretty straight, so I just overlapped all those pieces a d cut them as one, saving loads of seam allowance. I also shortened the coat by a few inches. To get it all to fit I did need to cut the font facing bit (that makes the lapels) upside down, but the pattern isn't really directional so that was fine.

Sacrifices did have to be made - I couldn't fit the patch pockets, or the ties. I found some similar colour fabric and made a side seam pocket instead. For the ties, I pieced them together from the scraps. These were all pretty small and so each tie has 5+ different scraps - they probably took longer than most of the coat! At the end, I didn't have any scraps bigger than my hand, and most much smaller so I'm calling this as an almost zero waste project!


As I mentioned, the sewing was very quick. This is a very well designed straightforward pattern. I had also saved myself a lot of time by my cutting - about half the steps are sewing together the panels that just cut as one (I'm actually not really sure why they aren't like that anyway). The only tricky bit is a neck seam where you sew the whole lapel/collar bit on. I could not get that to look right at all, however it's not visible at all as the collar covers it completely so who cares! The inside of this area I just handstitched so that looks fine.
The awkward seam (I had to move the collar to show it)

As I had not cut that front princess seam, I had to handsew down the fill length of the inner facing but this was very easy and I found it quite satisfying. I then did the same for the hem and sleeves. It wasn't clear if I was meant to top/edge stitch round the collar but I did to make the edge sharper.

(No show inside facing seam)

Overall I love it! It looks very slick for something that was so easy, and I can imagine it getting a good amount of wear.

Thoughts on fit

I forget what size I made, but it was the size my measurements recommended. I didn't make any fit adjustments, except to lengthen the sleeves slightly (the pattern ones didn't look quite full length to me). 

I would say (and this seems to be similar to what other people gave found) that this coat is not roomy through the back and shoulders. Given a magic wand I would give myself another inch across the back for sitting/reaching. The sleeves are also snugger than I might have expected for a jacket, particularly through the shoulder/arm scye - I wouldn't be able to wear this easily over a medium/thick jumper. Luckily I don't really own any, so not a huge issue for me, but if you want more space then add more ease.

Overall I am very pleased!

Tuesday 30 April 2019

Adjusted Crystal Cove Cami

So, my most favourite recent make, even more than my Bonn shirts, is my new vest top. I keep seeing beautiful ogden camis, and I love the aesthetic, but I really was never going near an fba on a dartless bodice. So... that was the situation for a year or so, then one day, after making some nice shirts, I was cruising the itch to stitch website and saw the Crystal Cove Cami. It looked great, skinny straps, breezy vibe and CUP SIZES! YEAH!

 I did make some adjustments. The cami actually has a nice overlapping back detail which could be very cool on summer, but I wanted a solid back so I just reflected the piece around centre back. I also wanted to replicate the ogden's low front and back, so I lowered the front by about an inch and the back by about 1.5 for a fabulous low back. I also didnt use bias straps, as I didnt have enough material so I just cut longer straight ones. I also reduced the depth of the facing as one of pet hates is facings that pinch round the bust.

 I used the last remnant of the gorgeous viscose I used for my Peacock dress, and it fit so nicely! I LOVE THIS TOP! I was concerned that it might not work, and I did have to take little darts out under the arms, but otherwise it is perfect! The low back just skims the top of my bra, and I feel very glamorous! My bra straps are completely visible, but personally I quite like that look. 

Saturday 27 April 2019

Bonn shirts

I mainly learned to sew in order to make shirts. Due to the boobs I couldn't buy shirts that fit across the front without being massive in the shoulders. Even the ones from bravissimo didn't work I'm too tall so the extra boob space was at the wrong place.

Cue 5 or so years later and I've made one shirt. Which doesn't fit any more.

Until now! I decided (probably on a whim, that's how most of my sewing gets done!) that I wanted a loose blousy shirt to tuck into things. I scoured the Internet for a suitable pattern - a key criteria was built in cup sizes - I know myself and I just can't be bothered with fbas! I also didnt need many traditional shirt details, as I wanted a simpler style. I decided on the Bonn shirt from Itch to stitch, which has a simple collar and sleeves. It's reasonably slimline but a tester had made a softer blousey one so I was sold!

I used this black and white viscose (probably from my eBay viscose buying spree) which is perfect as it's not too soft and creasy.

I made the size up through the waist and bust, to keep it blousey. I went for the three quarter sleeves to keep it useful for varying temperatures. 

I hate buttonholes, and it easily goes over my head so I just sewed short lines where the buttons would go instead. I left off the top fastening as it felt higher than I wanted, and also some of the lower ones so that I can tie up the bottom if I want to.

I love this shirt - I've worn it several times a week since making it. It's a work staple but also makes me feel slightly more fashionable than usual!

I therefore immediately made another - this time with a pink flowery viscose that I had considered for my sister's asaka robe but on reflection I thought might be too bright for her tastes. I got it from Samuel Taylor in Leeds and as I needed a lot for the robe (there are some huge sleeves involved!) I had masses left over. I therefore made a matching skirt that I can wear with the top so it looks like a dress. Overall I am extremely pleased with the various pieces!

Monday 18 June 2018

Grecian turquoise - the ultimate secret pyjamas!

How many sewing blogger stories start "So I had this wedding to go to..."!

So I had this wedding to go to, that of my lovely friend Leanda (Hi Leanda - great wedding!) and the only wedding clothes that fit me all had mending issues. (My firework dress has a torn vent and the red flowery one's button band basically just needs entirely replacing!) Obviously the sensible solution was not to mend them, but to make something new and exciting!  However, the short attention span that makes me uninterested in fiddly mending jobs also meant it was going to have to be something fairly straightforward to make.

I am partway through a shirtdress right now, and have spent about 5 hours cutting it all out, so I wasn't in the mood for a pattern. I therefore drafted it all on Agnetha (my dressform).
Given the tight time fame and lack of pattern, jersey was clearly indicated. I looked through the stash and found this delicious fine turquoise jersey that I had been hoarding for a few years. I'm not good with fabric types but it's very cool to wear, so I think it must have some natural fibres in. It's very soft but not hugely stretchy, like a silky t-shirting. The colour is just gorgeous - that greenish turquoise that you don't see very often. The Internet tells me this colour is based on one of the variations of a pigment called paris green, which was a popular colour with painters and fashion in the 1800s, but which was also highly toxic so eventually banned.

People are sometimes confused by the term draping (ie drafting a pattern directly on a body or dressform) as often it's not so much draping fabric, as painstakingly adjusting small details, more like a puzzle. On this occasion however, draping is a very accurate word! I hadn't decided what sort of dress i wanted, but after basically throwing the fabric over one shoulder of the dressform, it just looked so great as a long simple dress that it just had to become that!

It's an extremely simple construction. I had about two metres and I cut it in half crossways, then cut off a long thin strip, then cut one of the halves in half again.

The bigger piece was gathered and pleated onto wide elastic for the skirt. To produce a flatter section at the centre front I added a piece of interfaced fabric to the elastic loop so that bit wouldn't  gather. I didn't want it to be all gathers as that tends sit oddly on me, but I had to gather a bit due to the lack of stretch in the fabric. The main pleating is on the back, where they produce a diagonal effect which I like. I then used the thin strip to cover the waistband elastic.

The top is made from a piece of fabric over each shoulder, crossing at the front and back. I created the shoulder shaping by sewing some thin elastic on the inside to gather the material at that point. It's also sewn up the sides under the arms.

Full disclosure - this isn't actually a dress. The top is tucked in and then pinned with safety pins on the inside at front and back. This was easier,  but also means that I can wear the skirt separately if I want to in future.

Being jersey, I didn't finish any hems or seams, so this was extremely quick to make!
Overall I love this dress - it feels really dramatic yet super comfortable - the ultimate secret pyjamas!

Saturday 3 March 2018

Blue and red Appleton

In the classic blogger manner, I sewed up a pattern, loved it, wore it all the time,  made another, and am now blogging the second one without having done the first!

So, aaages ago, probably a year and a half ago? I made myself a black velvet Appleton dress by Cashmerette. I love fitted stretchy dress, and a wrap, and it is therefore perhaps not that surprising that I have worn it repeatedly since I made it.

I have not yet got round to photographing it, partly as I am lazy and partly as it is hard to photograph due to being black.

I have been stockpiling fabrics ever since to make another one (or twelve!). I've been in a bit of a sewing slump though so I have only now got round to starting them.

This is a soft jersey I got from Leeds market a few months ago - I loved the colours so much it jumped the queue!
The colours are so vivid and it doesn't start looking white until you stretch it quite significantly, which is always important in a jersey fabric.

As everyone else has already said- the Appleton is a great pattern, and is super quick to make. This probably took me about two hours,  a decent proprioception of which was ironing my scrunched up pattern pieces. The construction is very straightforward, and makes it a lovely easy sew.

As it's a wrap dress, and Jenny has already done your fba for you, fitting is also pretty minimal. I only made two alterations. As I had with my back dress,  I added 2.5 inches onto the bodice length  (I'm 5'9" but most of my height is in my torso). I also slightly lowered the back neckline by about 1cm - on my black dress the neck rides up a bit.

So - I love this dress - sadly though I haven't got to wear it for reals yet as the UK's been having a drastic snowstorm this week so it's been too cold. 

Tuesday 27 February 2018

Whistlestop wardrobe for India

In November I was asked to go to India for work. Upside - yay! free travel! Downside - only bring in india for 2 days, most of which involved filming 10+ hours a day in rather warm conditions.

Now I have warm weather clothing, but it's all fairly skimpy, or gets too hot in northern uk. Smart-casual work attire in a hot, conservative country wasn't really covered. After some research, I decided on three pieces, a loose tunic, loose trousers and a long skirt, all made in viscose for coolness.
Now an additional difficulty was that the notice of the jaunt wasn't super massive,  so I didn't have a lot of time. Still, I managed two out of three- which I don't think is that bad!

So.. the failure was the tunic,  and it was definitely a failure. I made it as a colour block of white and a pale cloud pattern. I now have significant respect for all the sewists that make tunics, as mine turned out horrible. It took about 2/3rds of the overall sewing time I had available and remains the only thing I've ever made that went straight into the bin (normally things live for a few months/years in a random pile on the floor!). So. .. there are no pictures - you'll just have to imagine me wearing something that looked like a mangled pillow case.

So, slightly panicked, I started on the other items.

Luckily, they went much easier, albeit with some corners cut to save time!

The main event from my perspective was the loose trousers. I have never attempted trousers before, even pjamas. So they were a little daunting- but fortunately, the bagginess hides many fitting sins!
I used the Moji trousers pattern from Colette's Seamwork. It's a fairly simple pattern with an elasticated waist. It's fairly fitted, so I went up a few sizes to loosen them up, as well as dropping the crotch by the simple measure of adding about 3 inches to the top.

I used a very wriggly black viscose from the stash, which proved slightly trying- there is a hole in one side seam where it all slipped. I also did the hems with hem tape, which seemed a good idea at the time  (I had to rinse them in the hotel when of course it dissolved!)
Other than that though they worked very well, though I'm not sure how much I'll wear them in the uk- perhaps if I took the crotch back up?

My other triumph is the long skirt. As you may have gathered from the need for slapdash hem tape, I was running low on time. Luckily this skirt took about 10 minutes!

I used some lovely border print viscose I bought ages ago from the Asian Bazaar at Leeds Market. I obviously wanted the border, so I just chopped about 5 inches off the opposite edge, sewed up the side seam and then zigzagged it onto some elastic.

I wore this skirt more than anything else on the trip, it is so cool and comfortable,  and felt more elegant than my other options! 

Overall, it all worked out very well, though my lack of tunic did mean a last minute dash to tk maxx for a long shirt that bore a striking resemblance to the Kalle shirt dress!

(Here I am, wearing my welcome flower garland!)