Making Myrtle: Well worth the fiddly bits

Ladystitcher Myrtle

I’m trying to experiment a bit more with sewing different types of fabrics these days, so I was really intrigued to see that the newest release from Colette Patterns – the Myrtle dress – was designed with both knits and wovens in mind.

I actually bought some lovely patterned jersey in London recently to pair with this pattern, but thought I’d give it a first run with a woven. This lovely soft viscose comes from Murphy Sheehy in Dublin (I bought it several months ago but they might have a bit left on the roll). The fabric was so nice to work with – sewing without slipping, ironing easily, draping nicely.

The Myrtle pattern is quite simple, but I did find the shoulder section a bit fiddly. The front piece is self-lined and is basically one long piece folded over at the neckline to make the cowl. When sewing up the bodice seams, you do so with the back bodice piece sandwiched between the other bits.Ladystitcher Myrtle back

The pattern’s sewalong was really helpful, but I still wasn’t quite sure how the back part was supposed to look when lined up for sewing. In the end, I had a bit more back neckline peeping out above the shoulder seam, so I just turned it under and stitched it down afterwards.

Sewing the elastic casing was also a bit fiddly, but am sure I’ll get much quicker (and smoother!) at it with practice, so am planning a few more Myrtles already! I’d really like to make the knit version now, and it could be make for an interesting comparison with the way the woven one comes together.

I was a bit more generous with the length of elastic than the pattern suggests for the waist: the elastic I have is quite sturdy and although there’s great stretch in it, it doesn’t give too easily and I didn’t want to be constricted in an otherwise very comfortable dress.

Have you come across any other lovely knit-and-woven patterns I should check out? Or have you tried Myrtle in a knit fabric?

The McGyver shirt dress: Simplicity Lisette Traveler

Traveler Front

One of my favourite Instagram accounts is that of the American designer behind ‘Poppy von Frohlich‘, who makes beautiful woolen womenswear, ranging from flannel shirts to winter coats. Her pictures really inspired me to finally try my hand at plaid matching, and what better project to start on than a plaid shirt dress?

I’ve been looking out for the perfect shirt dress pattern for some time now – a  design that could be made up into a cosy flannel dress for cooler weather or with more luxurious fabric for a smarter version (like this lovely velvet YSL dress).

Judging from the line drawings on the Simplicity (2246) Lisette Traveler pattern, it looked like it would fit the bill perfectly. It also helps that the pattern has gotten great reviews across a wide range of sewing blogs so there’s a wonderful selection of sewn-up versions to preview online.

Traveler Back Lady Stitcher

Sorry for the wrinkled back view! The only sunny window for taking photos was a few hours after I had put the dress on!

I sourced the brushed cotton from a UK seller on eBay and used it to make the Traveler dress in Version A. This version is supposed to have two lower pockets as well, but I left them off and cut the upper pockets and the plackets on the bias to shake up the plaid pattern. Matching that plaid takes a lot of effort! Hats off to all those people who’ve made several plaid Archers! Despite all my efforts, I didn’t quite match it across the side seams, but I’m happy with how well the front panels, plackets and pockets worked out. I made matching buttons out of one of those ‘self-cover’ button sets.

I have quite narrow shoulders and I think this falls just a little too wide for my shape. It would certainly fit better if I buttoned it right up to the top, but I’m not really comfortable wearing this style like that so I’ll just get on with it being the way it is! I’ll definitely measure the shoulders on the pattern pieces before trying version C, which is the next one I’d like to make from this pattern.

So, the McGyver connection. Well, when I was a child, that show was basically our ‘family viewing’ time. I hadn’t seen it since I was really young and didn’t really remember much about, so when I came across the first episode of it by accident recently, I had to check it out! It turns out that while I didn’t retain any of the storylines or general information about the McGyver character, his wardrobe has had an unconscious influence on me after all these years:

His Shirt

Nice plaid matching, McG.

 

Man versus elastic: Moneta by Colette Patterns

Moneta Ladystitcher Front

A few months ago, Colette Patterns announced plans to jointly release new knit patterns alongside a book dedicated to sewing knit fabrics. They also offered an opportunity to sign up via email and receive a free preview chapter of the book shortly prior to the launch date, so I quickly signed up and waited to see what the book would hold.

That one chapter convinced me that the book, The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits, would be an invaluable resource when learning to sew a wider range of knit and jersey fabrics. I feel I’ve gotten off to a good start by sewing a whole bunch of Coco tops and dresses (pattern by Tilly and the Buttons), but have really wanted to get stuck into sewing a broader variety of knit fabrics. I don’t have an overlocker or serger though, so have been really reluctant to give them a try.

After Colette released the new knit patterns, I quickly made up the Mabel skirt in some leftover ponte, but had to wait a bit longer before tackling the Moneta dress as it was impossible to find plastic elastic in Irish sewing stores (between dropping in and looking online, I checked over a dozen shops but just couldn’t find the right elastic!). I had held off from ordering from overseas as the postage was higher than the price of the elastic (!) but I finally ordered it from Minerva and it was delivered really quickly.

Moneta Ladystitcher Back

This fabric is a red baby rib knit from MyFabrics.co.uk which I spotted on sale while waiting for the Colette package to be released, and took a bit of a gamble on it (it looks like it’s sold out by now). I also used some of that remnant light jersey polka dot fabric from my night Coco for the side seam pockets.

I’m not sure whether the red fabric is slightly too light for this project or if my stitch settings were off, but I had a really tough time sewing the plastic elastic in to the waist to shirr the skirt before joining it to the bodice. I felt like I needed at least one more hand to pull the elastic and fabric through behind the needle while keeping the elastic – but not the fabric – stretched in front of the needle. I tried different stitch combinations but the elastic was frequently pulled in to a tight tube shape as I tried to attach it.

Eventually I sent a plea for viable alternative methods out over Twitter, so I have some different techniques to try the next time around! I did persevere with this technique though and managed to get the elastic in as per the pattern instructions, but it looks like a sewing machine vomited on the inside of the waistline.

Apart from the shirring, the rest of the dress came together really quickly and without a hiccup so I will certainly be making more Monetas! I just have a lot of shirring practice to get in before now and then… 🙂

The one thing I really did fall in love with while making Moneta was my new twin needle. I had debuted one already on Mabel, but I felt that maybe the needles were slightly too close together (2.5mm) for a smooth finish so I bought a second one (4mm ‘twin stretch’). This rib knit is prone to fraying but by turning up raw edges by 1cm and stitching at 3/8″ (sorry for mixing the measurements but that’s how I really worked instead of converting everything to the same unit!), the zigzag formed behind the twin stitching perfectly caught and sealed the edges.

The 4mm double needle definitely gives a nice smooth finish to hems and necklines – this neckline turned out much smoother than using a zigzag on my Cocos pre-double needle.

Moneta Dress

Whatever way I’m holding the skirt on the right here, it looks like the side seams are puckered but they’re actually alright in real life! 🙂

Skills learned: ‘working’ with plastic elastic ;), using twin needle to finish raw edges

Recommend pattern?: Shirring issues aside, this was a really quick project and I’ll definitely be scouting out some nice knits to make more. I’ll explore alternative methods for attaching the skirt, or might be able to source some wider plastic elastic online in the hopes that it will be less likely to ‘tube’ than the width called for in the pattern. I have a heap of this red knit left over so I might try some of the collared varieties of Moneta, but make it into a top instead.

Me-Made-May ’14: The halfway point

I, Sue (ladystitcher.wordpress.com), sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I will endeavour to wear at least one item made by me each day for the duration of May 2014.

Here we are – it’s the middle of May and we’re already halfway through this year’s Me-Made-May project. I’ve really been enjoying taking part so far and have found it quite challenging to not just keep wearing my five favourite things over and over.

I’ve been sharing daily updates of my pledge progress on Instagram and have pulled those photos together for my first MMM round-up post.

First 5

Day 1: Moonrise Kingdom dress, seed stitch scarf | D2: Easter Mortmain and RTW jacket for a wedding | D3: Grey Coco | D4: Vintage Pledge shirt dress, RTW cardigan | D5: Colette Mabel skirt and Sorbetto top (plus charity race medal – it was a family day out!)

The most notable absences in my handmade wardrobe are tops, trousers and cardigans/sweaters. I don’t plan on chucking out my RTW wardrobe any time soon, so there’s no urgency in making cardigans but I would really like a wider variety of tops that aren’t T-shirts. I also really want to make trousers, too! I have two patterns to hand but haven’t found the right fabric yet.

Second 5

Day 6: Grey and gold Coco, seed scarf | D7: Remnant fabric skirt (not blogged), RTW shirt and vest | D8: Beignet skirt, Simplicity 1693 top, RTW top | D9: Grey Coco, basketweave scarf (not blogged) | D10: Grey and gold Coco, RTW sweater, seed scarf

Since the start of May, I’ve realised just how often I typically reach for jeans, a T-shirt and a sweater in the morning. Looking back over these photos, I’m really surprised to see that I only worse jeans once in the first half of the month. I’ve also realised just how much I was wearing my grey and colour-blocked Coco dresses pre-May; I’ve consciously been limiting their rotation for MMM’14 but have already worn each a couple of times.

My pledge focused on better incorporating my handmade clothing into what I was wearing rather than trying not to repeat any outfits. That said, I’ve been happily surprised at how many outfit combinations I’ve been able to put together from the garments I’ve made.

Third 5

Day 11: Coco #5 | D12: Gingham Japanaese pattern dress (not blogged), RTW cardigan | D13: Sleeveless Mathilde (not blogged), RTW jeans | D14: Sporty Coco, Beignet skirt | D15: Nettie top (not blogged), RTW skirt

The pace of my sewing has slowed down since the start of May. For the first ten days, I was visiting with family in different parts of Ireland and since I’ve come home, I’ve been focusing on finishing my Owls sweater. I fell a bit behind Kat and Sabrina’s knitalong during the sewing frenzy for Sew Dolly Clackett and Sew For Victory and I had a bit of a nightmare with the magic loop method. I’m getting back on track now that I’ve sourced the right sized double pointed needles and am aiming to finish the sweater before the end of MMM.

Of course, having some me-made trousers to put with it would be nice too… 🙂

Simple staple: The grey Truffle

Truffle Dress

The Colette Patterns sewing handbook has been, without doubt, my single most useful sewing resource to date. It’s not an exhaustive guide to sewing techniques and practices, but it is a brilliant beginner’s book and has plenty of photos to help you along the way (something I found sorely lacking in the first sewing books I bought when starting out).

One of the things which drew me to this book was the range of projects it included, especially the dresses. However, while I had some grand plans for these patterns, I didn’t actually get around to trying them!

Recently, I’ve been reviewing my old pins on Pinterest for sewing inspiration and came across this simple Kate Spade dress. I love the softness of that grey, and the simplicity of the silhouette coupled with the more dramatic neckline. It struck me that the Colette book’s Truffle dress would be a good match for this style if you left off the drape/wrap front part.

I have some lovely grey suiting fabric left over from the vintage pattern skirt I made a few months ago. One side is a darker, smoother finish (this is the side I turned out for the skirt) and the other side feels like brushed cotton and is a much softer shade. So I’ve used that side as the right side for this dress.

Truffle Back

This was a really simple make: I cut my size based on the finished garment measurements and find it a good fit. The upper back is a little bit loose so I’d probably take it in a smidgen there when putting in the zip next time around.

One thing this dress could use though is some pockets. I considered adding them but left them out in the end as I thought they’d show through this soft fabric on the outside and make it all lumpy.

I looked into different beading techniques for building a dramatic neckline akin to that Kate Spade dress, but this fabric is really soft and I don’t think it could actually support that kind of finish without sagging.

I’m considering coming back to this dress and adding some embroidery along the neckline or part of the skirt. Ingrid of We The Sewing posted this handy guide to adding embroidery embellishments on her blog recently and I’ve earmarked it for future use. I really want to start adding more finishing techniques to the simpler items I sew to give them a bit more edge or personality.

Truffle Front

Skills learned: I’ve made lined bodices before, but this is the first time I did the push-the-back-through-the-front technique and it does give a lovely smooth finish (if you’ve clipped your curves and graded your seams properly beforehand!).

Recommend pattern?: If you’re starting sewing and looking for a great guide, then I couldn’t recommend the Colette book enough. And if you have the book, then this pattern is great for learning how to line a bodice and insert an invisible zip in a lined bodice. It’s a simple pattern for a nice staple dress and, though probably not worth buying the whole book for alone, it is a brilliant addition to the book.

An Easter Mortmain for Dolly Clackett

Mortmain Dolly Clackett

I’ve never met Roisin from the Dolly Clackett blog, but I love reading her posts and seeing what incredible new creations she’s come up with. Her crazy-patterned-fabric dresses are always so cheerful and really celebrate the fun, joyful side of making your own clothing.

When I read of Sarah’s (from Rhinestones and Telephones) wedding present to Roisin of a dress-making competition inspired by her unique style, it struck me as such an incredible gesture of friendship and support that I really wanted to take part.

So, here’s to you, Roisin and Nic – huge congratulations and hope you both have an absolute blast together at your wedding and for many years to come! 🙂

SDC Dress

The box pleats are uniform (honestly) though the breeziness while we took these photos suggests otherwise…

If you’ve seen any of my previous blog entries, you might have noticed that I don’t really use heavily patterned fabric in my clothing. But I’m branching out for this dress, because it really couldn’t be a Dolly Clackett-inspired make otherwise! I bought this fabric (100% cotton) in Joann’s in the US at Christmas, at the same time I bought the rayon I used in my vintage pattern pledge shirt dress.When I heard of Sew Dolly Clackett, I knew it would be just right for the competition.

I’ve used a pattern I first came across through Roisin’s blog – the Mortmain dress by Gather. I had a few struggles in making this dress and they were all down to either (a) frustration at the insane noise and fumes generated during the renovations of the house next door and (b) the enormous affliction that is my invisible zipper foot (which has now been cast out of the sewing box, the aul divil).

SDC Back

The zip, as you can see in this photo, is a not-quite-invisible-zip. I bought the exposed zip recommended in the pattern but baulked just before putting it in as, although I like zips as a design feature, I wasn’t sure it would work right here.

My invisible zipper foot is basically a piece of plastic you jam on to your machine and it really, really doesn’t work for me. I’ve since jettisoned it in favour of the regular zipper foot – I’ve actually put in a few nice invisible zips since making this dress by using the normal foot and rolling the zip teeth carefully as I go. Lesson learned!

Huge thanks to the Gather girls for being so quick to respond to my tweet about the box pleats – I wasn’t sure how many I should be putting in and was somehow completely misreading my pattern markings. A quick tweet from them and I was back on track.

If you want to scope out all of the #SewDollyClackett entries, have a look through the competition’s Flickr group page.

Skills learned: Making box pleats

Recommend pattern?: Yes! I think it’s appropriately marked by Gather as being suitable for ‘ambitious beginners’ as it’s probably a bit too advanced for being a first dress project. I’m looking forward to making a few summer holiday dresses from this pattern, maybe with the box pleats sewn from the right side for a different effect – and maybe with some cute Dolly Clackett-esque pin-up fabric 🙂

 

Coco #5: Rough around the edges

Coco 5

I’ve had the idea for this colourblock Coco in my head for a while, but didn’t have enough knit fabric left after my last versions to cobble it together. Luckily, while searching for twin needles in Dublin last week, I came across this lovely burgundy ponte on sale in Hickey’s (I’m linking to them in case anyone wants their contact details – their website is devoid of stock info).

The grey fabric is the same used in one, two, three of my earlier Cocos and I had actually cut out these pockets for the first Coco dress I made, but was a bit worried that they made it too busy so put them aside for later.

Coco 5 back

I wanted to keep this dress a little bit raw-looking and not too polished, so instead of turning in the sides of the pockets for a smooth finish when sewing them on to the dress, I left the edges unfinished and just sewed them straight on (though they look quite camouflaged in these photos!). Having worked with this grey knit before (and having worn those versions a lot since making them!), I know it’s not prone to unraveling or curling. I left the armhole edges unfinished for the same reason.

Coco 5 pocket

Coco 5 shoulder

I love each one of the five Cocos I’ve made so far, both dresses and tops, but I think it’s time to step away from this pattern for a while and move on to new knit challenges! I’m really looking forward to trying out the new Colette Patterns releases next.

I already have a red rib knit on hand to trial-run the Moneta dress and I have enough of this burgundy ponte left to make a Mabel skirt – I just need to source those twin needles!

What new sewing challenges or patterns are you looking forward to trying?