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… 🙂

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Sew For Victory Outfit: Skirt and Blouse from Simplicity 3688

SFV Front

One of the first blogs I was drawn to when I started reading about sewing online was the brilliant Lucky Lucille. I loved the site’s focus on vintage clothing, the sneak peeks inside the finished garments, and seeing Rochelle’s sewing skills. I know it sounds obvious that if you can sew, it logically follows that you can sew whatever clothing you want, but Rochelle’s blog really helped me to realise the impact personal sewing can have on your style and the breadth of options it opens to you.

When I signed up to take part in Sew For Victory 2.0, I decided that two things would guide my project: 1. to actually sew an outfit for the challenge – something I’ve never done before; 2. to sew something for summer, as most of the clothes I’ve sewn so far have been suited to cooler weather.

SVF Fabric

I don’t have any authentic 1940s patterns, but I picked up Simplicity 3688 – a 40s reproduction – in a recent Simplicity sale and bought some lovely Irish linen for the skirt and a sweet flower-pattern Liberty lawn for the shirt. (I think I’m more drawn to patterned fabric after Sew Dolly Clackett!)

I left out the sleeve headings and the front bodice pleats on the shirt because, while I don’t want to completely eliminate the 40s design elements, I find looser clothing more comfortable and wasn’t sure how often I’d wear a blouse with strong shoulders.

The skirt is a snug fit though, because I got a bit overzealous with my French seams. Going overboard by a tiny fraction when making French seams isn’t much of an issue if you have just two side seams to work on, but the cumulative effect across several panels is another story! That said, I think this is the best-finished garment I’ve ever sewn and I’m really pleased with the result.

Here's a weird side-selfie showing the lapped zipper more closely

Here’s a weird side-selfie showing the lapped zipper more closely.

Both items were really easy to sew – the directions are quite clear and the design elements are simple enough that it doesn’t take too long to put it all together.

 All of the Sew For Victory projects are being compiled through the group Flickr page – take a look through all the lovely creations!

SFV Back

Vintage pattern pledge: My grandmother’s Style 3685 shirt dress pattern

Style 3685

Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who commented in response to my recent vintage pledge plea! After receiving lots of brilliant and very helpful advice, I agree that the best way forward with this dress is to take a bit of a break from it before trying again from a different angle.

In the meantime, I thought it would be good to work on a totally different vintage pledge project – one that I had been looking forward to for a while. This 1972 shirt dress pattern, Style 3685, is one of several beauties I found in my grandmother’s collection. She passed away while I was a child and although I can vividly remember her having a big, heavy sewing machine, I don’t remember her sewing. It was a lovely surprise when my father found a box filled with her old sewing patterns from the 50s through to 80s last summer. I put a few aside to make when I had built up better sewing skills.

Shirtdress Style

I picked up this lovely floral rayon at a Jo-Ann’s branch while visiting family in America over Christmas. (I really wish there was somewhere like it in Ireland – they had just about any sewing or knitting implement you could think of!) I don’t have many florals in my wardrobe and as this was at the ridiculously low price of less than $5 a yard, I thought I’d try something new.

It’s a very light fabric for spring, but I think it will be fine with tights layered under and a thick cardigan on top. (I’m also optimistically hoping that I will get a lot of wear out of it over the summer, sans woolens…)

I’ve left off the topmost button – the one that should close the collar. The space on the collar opening for putting in a button and buttonhole is pretty tight so I could really only put in a small, shirt button. However, I’m holding off to see how I like wearing it without a collar button before risking inserting a buttonhole there – I had some problems machine-stitching the buttonholes in along the dress front and finished half of them by hand.

Shirtdress sag

As you can see, the dress is a bit too big (I’d say almost a full size too big), but I wanted the option of a loose-fitting dress for hot weather AND something that I could layer vests and tights under in the colder months, so I’m pleased with the finished piece.

Skills learned: Generally making a shirt dress! I don’t know if it’s typical of shirt dresses or not, but the way the front facings were incorporated into the front panels and folded back in around the collar base makes the front section really smooth and helps it all sit tidily.

Recommend pattern?: Yes! Although some parts were a bit tricky, the instructions were very straightforward and I don’t think this is a difficult make. I’ve been shoring up shirt dress patterns for over a year now but had yet to take the plunge and found this a great introduction to them. I’d like to give it another go, in a heavier fabric, but I’d probably take in the side seams and shoulders for a tighter fit if there was less drape than with this rayon.

Are you taking part in A Stitching Odyssey’s vintage pattern pledge? Or have you worked with family-owned patterns?

Pattern Pledge Style

Sewing advice plea: Should I call time on this vintage pledge project?

Butterick 5747

The interesting waistband first drew me to this pattern – but there began my woes with Butterick 5747…

I’ve been working on one of my projects for A Stitching Odyssey’s Vintage Pattern Pledge recently (a 1960s pattern, Butterick 5747), but have hit a serious snag. I’ve made the bodice, skirt and waistband but the problem is joining them all together.

The first hitch was figuring out how to make the little tab things on each side. The instructions were quite confusing and called for the back parts of the waistband to be sewn to the front, then pushing the tab through the join from the wrong side to the right. This worked fine in the end (albeit a bit puckered, as you can see in the photos below), but meant that the seam allowance at the tabs for joining the waistband to bodice and skirt was used up and tucked inside the tabs.

Here, the tab is facing forward towards the dress centre, as per pattern cover – but see the puckering at the tab base? ARGH!

Terrible Tabs

So joining the skirt to the waistband was really fiddly at the tab joins: it took several attempts to make sure that there wasn’t a gap in the waistband-skirt connection. Joining the bodice, though, has been really frustrating. The front sides need to be gathered and squeezed in along the bodice’s V shape to fit into the acutely pointy part of the waistband – and it’s just not happening!

Here’s a couple of shots of the bodice and skirt parts:

Skirt front Bodice front

So, I’m loathe to abandon the bodice, but right now I mostly just want to stick a short zip into the back of the skirt section, hem it, and say it’s done. Dilemma! Do you think I should just cut my losses and finish this up as a skirt? Can I do something with the bodice? OR should I take a bit more of a break from it and re-approach the waistband and bodice with fresh eyes? Has this worked for you on troublesome sews?

Any and all advice is very welcome!!

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!

Vintage sewing: Wool houndstooth skirt (and matching cushions…)

Pattern

This skirt suit pattern was one of the first I ever bought, McCall’s 7501. It was one of three vintage patterns I bought online a few years ago when I planned to learn how to sew, but hadn’t actually started yet. If I had been dressmaking at the time, I’d probably have known a little bit more about pattern selection and about vintage patterns in general – especially in terms of instruction detail.

Once I started sewing, I found the instructions for this pattern really vague and I basically made up how to do go about it, so the ‘vent’ is a back split instead. Also, I didn’t realise just how much ease they allowed for in the pattern. Quite a lot, it turned out. As in, inches and inches! Which is not a bad thing in a very fitted skirt (who wants to be trapped in a below-the-knee skirt they can’t walk or sit in?), but it did result in wasted fabric as I hacked into the side seams to make a neater fit.

Vintage Skirt Pattern

If I was making this now, I’d go for an invisible zip at the back (and measure the pattern pieces before cutting any fabric!) but I am really fond of this skirt. The fabric, in hindsight, is really not dressmaking material at all. It’s a fairly heavyweight 100% wool in a red and cream houndstooth pattern, which means it weighs a tonne to wear but is the cosiest thing in winter and looks great with a smart shirt or a warm sweater.

I like the below-knee length and the darts in the back worked perfectly in shaping the skirt towards the waistband:

Skirt back detail

Skills learned: How to adjust a skirt for a better fit; making a skirt slit.

Recommend pattern?: Yes, but it’s really not a beginner pattern. Or at least, not for the complete beginner who decides to have a lash at making a simple skirt and seeing how it goes. Otherwise, it’s a lovely pattern to use. I would love to make the full suit, using the pleated skirt option once I have a bit more experience – the red one on the pattern cover is gorgeous.

Well after the fabric cutting/hacking, I had some oddly shaped bits and pieces of this lovely wool left over. I’ve recently been trying to make our living room more coordinated and more cosy, and thought that this fabric would make some lovely cushion covers. I didn’t really have enough for a full cover so I cheated. Twice.

Covers

The first is an envelope-style one, but I’ve only used the red wool on one side (there wasn’t enough for a full side panel, but I could manipulate it to make the envelope opening) and grey polycotton on the other side. I feel I should point out that the envelope ‘flap’ closed over better before my cat decided she would squeeze herself inside for a cosy nap.

The second cover is a side-tie one inspired by this how-to guide from the British Sewing Bee. I decided to use what I had left of the wool as a contrast stripe along one end of the cover and to use a grey polycotton for the rest. Only, it turned out that I didn’t have much left of that either, so instead of fully lining the cover, I just created a false lining effect by making a kind of fabric lip attached at one end to the cover. It’s just tucked over the exposed end of the cushion insert and remains concealed once the ties are closed:

Cover cheat detail

The cushion inset does fit inside the cover shell, I’ve just pulled it out here to better highlight the ‘lining’ flap which encloses it.

What kind of fabric ‘cheats’ have you used to get the effect or finish that you wanted? I’d love to hear more tips for using spare bits and pieces!

 

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?