Sporty Coco: A second run at sewing knits

Sporty Coco Back

I absolutely loved working with the Coco pattern by Tilly and the Buttons when making the roll-neck dress version recently and I couldn’t wait to try making a top with it. I found it quite difficult to find suitable knit fabrics in Dublin, but last week I came across a lovely bright red double knit in The Cloth Shop, where I bought the grey knit for my Coco dress. It’s considerably lighter in weight than the grey fabric, but has only 2% stretch.

I had a good bit of the grey knit left over from Coco #1 and thought it would work as a more stable and contrasting fabric alongside this bright red knit in a colourblocked Coco. So, I used the heavier material as a yoke and shoulders and used the lighter stuff to finish the front, back and sleeve lengths.

There was a lot of guesswork involved in figuring out how long I wanted the yoke, or how much of the grey I wanted in the sleeves, so cutting the fabric involved a lot of procrastination! (Happily, Tilly has since posted a handy tutorial online for making a contrast yoke Coco.) I was worried about where the seamline would sit on the bust and how that might affect the way it sits. I was also uncertain about how to match up the grey part of the sleeves with the front and back, but think I’ve figured that out now (learning by doing!).

Sporty Coco Front

It’s the most sporty item I’ve ever sewn (and I think it went a bit Star Trek with the colours I chose…) but I like the fit and it’s so soft and comfortable to wear! I’ll wear it a couple of times to check the fit, but I might just take in the upper sleeves slightly as they’re a tad loose. Interestingly, I didn’t have any sleeve issues with my grey Coco dress, though I have read other bloggers finding them too loose (might be something to do with the weight of the grey fabric?). I had planned to put some cute contrast heart pockets on, but thought better of it after handling the fabric a bit more – I think the red would sag under pockets.

Planning Cocos

I had been putting off sewing knits and jerseys because I don’t have a serger, but I think this pattern has given me the confidence to try my hand at other jersey fabrics and patterns, like this cute dress by Salme (who are having something of a sale at the moment) or the much-blogged Renfrew by Sewaholic.

And speaking of sewing knits, have you seen that Colette Patterns is bringing out a book dedicated to the topic AND new patterns for knits? If you subscribe to their book/pattern announcement list here by 8 April, they’ll send you a free chapter of the book before its release.

Skills learned: Working with knits; mixing fabrics.

Recommend pattern?: Definitely! It’s a very satisfying simple pattern and having made both the dress and the top options, I can officially say I’m hooked on (a) this pattern and (b) sewing with this kind of fabric.

Frankenskirt ‘n’ Sorbetto: Old patterns and modern pdfs

Frankenskirt Exhibit A

Shortly before Christmas, I realised just how limited my ‘work wardrobe’ has become of late. Most of the jobs I’ve worked over the past five years have not required anything other than smart casual clothing. So, in the spirit of smartening up the casual a bit, I decided to make a grey skirt that could be easily matched with the tops, shirts and cardigans I already own.

The main body of this just-below-the-kneee skirt comes from Simplicity 5914, one of my mother’s patterns (I’m not sure she ever made it herself, mind). The copyright is marked 2002. The waistband comes from one of the patterns I ferreted out of my grandmother’s collection, Style 4914 from the early 70s. I find wide waistbands so much more comfortable to wear than the narrow kind, especially when it comes to eating and sitting down – crucial factors in my pattern selection process!

Vintage Skirts

The skirt design is pretty straightforward: six panels sewn together, stitched to a waistband at the top and hemmed at the bottom. I put a lapped zip in the back for a bit of variety among my skirts, though I’ve just noticed that the photo below makes it look like there’s a gap at the back. Not the case: I’ve just somehow neglected to properly zip up the zipper *cringe*. (So much for my only New Year’s Resolution of taking better photos…)

The fabric is grey suiting from MyFabrics.co.uk which was reduced to clear. To be honest, I’m not sure which side of it is the ‘right’ side: one side is a darker grey and smooth to touch, the other is a lighter colour and feels like a thin brushed cotton. I can’t imagine a suit made out of the brushed side, but I think I might have a go at making the Colette Truffle dress (minus the front flappy part) with it.

And speaking of Colette Patterns, the top in these photos was made with their free pdf download, ‘Sorbetto’. It’s a really quick pattern to use, but I did decide to make matching bias binding which always takes a bit of time. The fabric is some kind of mysterious poly-something-blend from Murphy Sheehy in Dublin and was really nice to sew – it wasn’t slippy and didn’t fray to nothingness along the edges. One change I will make for future Sorbettos is the length – it barely comes to my waist once hemmed (and even then, with a small hem) which is fine for tucking in to skirts but a tad too short for me to wear un-tucked.

Skills learned: Working with a busy-print fabric for the Sorbetto; incorporating different design elements of different patterns for the skirt.

Recommend pattern(s)?: Yep, if it’s still out there, the Simplicity 5914 is a great basic skirt pattern which could be easily adjusted for different lengths or materials. I definitely recommend Sorbetto as a good basic top pattern. If you haven’t given pleats a go yet, this front panel is a great intro to them, or you could just edit the pattern to leave it out for a nice and simple sleeveless top. (You could probably also adapt the pattern fairly easily to make more pleats, come to think of it.)

A Pattern Pledge Note:

Yesterday, Marie at A Stitching Odyssey outlined her plan to focus on working with the vintage patterns already among her (amazing) collection and I’ve decided to join in, pledging to make at least three pieces from my (much smaller) assortment. For a while now I’ve been planning and re-planning projects involving these family patterns, but for some reason I feel more daunted by those than the vintage ones I picked up elsewhere. (Maybe I don’t want to ‘waste’ them…?) I’m visiting friends over the next week, but when I get back I’m going to start working on actual, tangible projects to meet my three-pattern pledge. Here goes!

Finally finished: my first Beignet skirt

Beignet front other

I finished a few sewing projects recently but have had difficulty finding the time (and the lighting!) to photograph them for blogging – until now! So here’s my first Beignet. I guess this is what is referred to as a ‘wearable muslin’ – I used a navy polycotton to try out the pattern first time around and check the fit. I’m not sure it’s the ideal fabric for this project as it wrinkles like mad, but I’m actually really happy with it and can see myself getting a lot of wear out of it (especially like this, with a collared shirt and sweater).

I had a bit of a panic attack about three-quarters of the way through making this (basically when it was too late to go back and make any adjustments without an awful lot of hassle) because I somehow suddenly thought I had cut out the wrong size. Turns out that it’s actually a perfect fit. This is the ‘2’ and I like that it’s not skin-tight, so I have room to a) sit down and b) eat.

IMG_1902

The process

I still consider myself a beginner sewer and I was a bit daunted that this pattern is graded ‘intermediate’ by the designers, but the instructions were brilliantly comprehensive. It’s the most technical project I’ve taken on so far and I learned a lot of new techniques and skills while doing it, including making pockets, buttonholes and belt loops. The lining was definitely much more complicated than anything I’ve done before, but even in saying that, the directions guided me through the whole process.

I lined it with some grey anti-static lining and found these lovely buttons at The Cloth Shop. At Eur0.50 each, I think they add up to being more expensive than the rest of the skirt put together, but they really finish it nicely and I like that they’re each a little bit different to each other.

Overall, I’m really, really pleased with this one and will definitely make it again (preferably in a more skirt-appropriate fabric!).

Beignet buttons

Digital versus printed patterns: which is your favourite format?

Tilly's Mathilde print-at-home pattern.

Tilly’s Mathilde print-at-home pattern.

As the dress project I’m working on is on hold at the moment (eh, I did finally buy a zip but I’ve gotten distracted from it all!), I’ve been turning my attention to sewing separates and am currently working on both the Beignet skirt (by Colette) and the Mathilde blouse (by Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons). I’m working with the ready-printed copy of the Beignet, but the Mathilde is the first print-at-home pattern I’ve used.

Working with these two patterns has started me wondering about which format is more practical: digital or print?

The Beignet pattern directions come as a booklet, which is great for propping up in front of the sewing machine and makes a welcome change from those huge and unwieldy paper guides I’m used to. But having the Mathilde directions online (Tilly has a great step-by-step guide on her site), has allowed me to read over the next steps on my iphone whenever I have a few spare moments so I feel better prepared when I sit down to sew.

Then last night I came across the ebooks for the incredible vintage knitting collections by Jane Waller and Susan Crawford, on Susan’s website (vol 1 here and vol 2 here. And, yes, both are going on my Christmas list). Brilliantly, Susan provides a photo gallery of all of the projects featured in the ‘Stitch in Time’ books. (It’s so frustrating when you want to order a book online, but don’t really know what’s in it!)

I’m not sure it would make much difference to me to be able to work from a digital copy while knitting: I tend to write out my own pattern version anyway as I go along, to make sure that if I end up knitting it again, I have all my amendments easily to hand (and without completely defacing the original with numerous revisions). However, it could be quite useful to be able to reference a range of knitting patterns while out and about. Also, importantly, Susan notes that anyone who buys the ‘Stitch in Time’ ebooks now will automatically get the updated version when it’s ready to go.

In the case of sewing, I can see pros and cons to digital patterns. On the one hand, fumbling around with dozens of printed pattern pages can be tricky (and I personally only have limited access to a printer), but on the other hand, downloading the pattern means instant access instead of waiting for delivery – wahey! Price is also clearly a factor – digital copies are much cheaper for designers to produce and so tend to be a bit cheaper than the printed version, even before adding postage costs.

Do you have a preference for the format of your knitting or sewing patterns? How has your experience been so far of pdfs and digital copies?