Coco number seven: In blue

Ladystitcher Coco

This post is a bit shorter than usual – I’ve made this Tilly and the Buttons pattern so many times already that I’ll just keep to what’s different about this one!

I discovered a distinct lack of tops in my handmade wardrobe when participating in Me Made May earlier this year and have been trying to concentrate on sewing more of them. One of the first ones I made to rectify the top-skirt ratio imbalance was a red ponte Coco with a wide collar (I’ve found the pattern piece makes a collar that is very narrow for doubling over). I wore it a lot throughout spring and I’ve really wanted to make another one, so when I spotted some lovely turquoise ponte in The Cloth Shop (Dublin), I bought just enough to squeeze out a three-quarter sleeve Coco with collar.

Ladystitcher blue coco

I wanted this top to be slightly more fitted around the waist than the red ponte one had been, so I brought in the cutting line a bit instead of flaring it out so much. It’s a lovely cosy top and I managed to get one or two wears in before leaving for Shanghai. (Unfortunately in these photos I’m wearing a more-than-usually-padded bra so the fitting looks bit tighter around the bust than usual.)

I bought several McCalls, New Look and Simplicity patterns in online sales before leaving Ireland and now have a few new knit patterns to try out before revisiting Coco for an eighth time, but I don’t see myself going through winter without making one or two more!

Which patterns have become your go-to classics for wardrobe staples? I’m always on the lookout for well-loved patterns I haven’t tried yet!

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Making Mabel: Burgundy knit skirt using Colette Patterns

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I bought the Mabel pattern as part of the patterns-and-book package offered by Colette Patterns recently. I really like this style of short, fitted skirt, but didn’t have much luck with the few I’d tried on in shops – they always seemed too tight across my hips and too loose on the waist. The burgundy ponte is left over from my Coco #5 dress.

Despite the simplicity of the pattern and its instructions, I did manage to make a heap of silly mistakes. (This may be why sewing at 2am is a bad idea…) Somehow, I mixed the front and back pieces up and didn’t realise until it was all pretty much together, so I suspect the side seams sit a tad differently on my skirt than they might have otherwise. I also completely forgot to make the waistband lining until I was attaching the waistband, so that was jettisoned. Instead, I used a double needle on the top edge of the waistband to smooth it down. 

When I finished putting all the pieces together and tried it on the first time, I really wasn’t sure about this. But, funnily, once I sewed the shiny metallic buttons on, I loved it! I’m not sure why they made such a difference to me, but I much prefer it now.

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It’s a lot shorter and tighter than the skirts I usually wear, so I’m not sure how brave I’ll be about wearing it when warmer weather arrives and it’s time to discard tights. I think I have enough of this fabric left to make the pencil skirt version, though, which might be a good summer solution!

Skills learned: Working with a double needle

Recommend pattern?: Colette Patterns have a strong reputation for releasing well-drafted patterns with clear instructions and this definitely fits the bill. I’ll be making Mabel again soon in the longer version and would definitely recommend it as an easy pattern for sewing simple knit skirts.

I haven’t been able to get any good shots of Mabel while away from home this week, but I did take one shot of me wearing it with my Sorbetto top and leggings after doing a 5k charity walk with my family over the first weekend of Me-Made-May ’14:

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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?

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.

Crazy for Coco: Learning to sew with knits

Coco cat front

Tilly Walnes’s new pattern, Coco, came out just as I was wondering how best to tackle sewing with knit fabrics. I’ve sewn a wool skirt, but have stayed away from any kind of wool or cotton blend that involved a bit of stretch because I wasn’t really sure how to approach it. When I saw Coco’s release this week, I knew I’d found a good place to start.

At first look, the pattern appeared both approachable and simple (there are only three main pattern pieces to the top or dress: sleeve, front bodice and back bodice). Plus, the core versions outlined by Tilly are all lovely simple silhouettes and really wearable. Having used the pattern, I can now confirm that it is a simple one and a brilliant introduction to sewing knits.

I already had ball-point needles to hand, but had no knit fabrics in my stash, so I scoured the main fabric shops in Dublin city centre to see what my options were. The most suitable fabrics I found were in the lovely The Cloth Shop, but the only colour options were cream/beige, deep brown and steel grey. Nude and brown shades aren’t really my thing, so I took a chance on the grey, although I suspect it’s a tad heavier and stretchier than the pattern calls for. It is, though, fantastically soft to touch – if I could afford to go back and buy the rest of the roll, I would!

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Coco and casual-photo-bombing cat

Initially, I had my eye on making up the shorter version with cuffed sleeves and roll neck (it’s so fantastically 60s!), but, on consideration, thought that this fabric would be more suited to the dress. I’ve omitted the pockets though because they just didn’t look quite right on me, but I would love to have a go at putting a strongly contrasting colour like a golden yellow or neon pink against this grey. There’s not much chance of finding either of those colours in the shops here though so I think I’ll be ordering some fabric samples from the suggested stockists on Tilly’s site for my future Cocos.

I bought the pdf version of the pattern and the instructions are very simple, methodical and clear (Tilly is planning to post detailed instructions soon on her site to coincide with a forthcoming Coco sew-along). I did also use Sewaholic’s Renfrew tutorial for more detail on stabilising the shoulder seams and found that really helpful.

I’m really pleased with how easy it was to make this dress, and it’s lovely and cosy to wear. I don’t have a serger, so made it all on my regular Janome sewing machine. Once I’ve sourced some other lovely knits, I’ll get stuck into making a few of the top versions, with and without the funnel roll neck!

(Speaking of the roll neck, here’s how it looks standing up before it’s rolled down over the neck seamline:)

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Found! Jane Waller’s incredible vintage knitting pattern book

Vintage knitting and sewing are clearly enjoying a resurgence of interest, judging from the incredible range of craft blogs and new publications on the subject. But the range of books, patterns and guides out there can be really overwhelming – and modern interpretations of old patterns can leave a lot to be desired, especially when fit is concerned.

I’m working on knitting this 1940s men’s pullover/tunic from a collection of vintage patterns compiled by Jane Waller. I recently discovered that Jane’s hugely popular ‘A Stitch in Time’ book from the 1970s has become the go-to bible of vintage knitting lovers. In trying to track down a copy of the re-worked reprint which was published by Jane and Susan Crawford much more recently, I noticed that it’s going for crazy money on Amazon.com – people are clearly really into their vintage patterns… (Incidentally, it’s much cheaper on Amazon.co.uk)

The cover of the re-published 'Stitch in Time' collection.

The cover of the re-published ‘A Stitch in Time’ vintage knitting and crochet collection.

I did manage to get my hands on the reprint: I’m lucky enough to live near a copyright library here in Dublin, and they had it! Unfortunately, I couldn’t hold on to it for very long, but I had a good look through it and there are some really beautiful patterns in there with, happily, a range of sizes. I’ve copied a couple of patterns and hope to get stuck into them soon.

How gorgeous are these sweaters (and hat)?!

Sweater

Sweater

Sweater

20s hat