Thursday, 18 August 2016

Completed UFO#4: possibly the last sewing blogger to make the Sewaholic Pendrell?

Some long time readers may be a little surprised at seeing me sew an indie pattern given I've barely disguised my disdain for the majority of indie patterns in the past. But this project was a long term UFO, and I didn't even buy this pattern in the first place so I can reassure you that I am not about to become an indie pattern fan girl anytime soon.

Back in 2013, a lovely reader (who in one of those isn't it a small world kind of coincidences lives close to where I grew up) sent me two Sewaholic patterns that she no longer wanted (hi Reona! thanks again!). I had plans to make the Cordova jacket immediately, but couldn't find a separating zip in a colour to match my chosen fabric and then I used that fabric for something else so as result I still haven't made that pattern.

But I thought I could make the Pendrell top pretty quickly - it's a simple enough pattern and a bajillion other sewers have made it and praised it highly. But I did not like it at all - I found the pattern as I originally made it quite frumpy, shapeless and frankly rather ridiculous with those sleeve caps:

Admittedly, a bright yellow colour probably didn't help but this fabric is lovely - a lightweight wool that drapes wonderfully and for some reason I'm really drawn to yellow. This fabric actually came from a maternity top I made back in 2008 that I couldn't bear to get rid of so I decided to refashion it into this top (hence the uneven hem in the photo above).

I really should have known better about those sleeves before I started making this pattern - I have narrow shoulders and prefer a neat and close fitting garment, anything too wide or fussy around the shoulders makes me feel like I'm wearing something too big. So I did what I normally do: unpicked half the seams, got annoyed and stuffed it into my UFO box to marinate until the time was right.

So the first fix was to those ridiculous puffy sleeves. I thought the top looked too plain without a sleeve, so I cut the original sleeves in half horizontally, keeping just two pleats. This way I kept a pleated cap sleeve but without the excess volume.

The second fix was to get a closer fit. I know everyone else seems to like their versions, but I seriously do not understand why a pattern would be designed with princess seams front and back but instead of using those seams to achieve a close fit it instead needs to be loose because there is no opening in it. It may as well as been a single piece for the front and back with a few bust darts instead. Rant over - I know I prefer a closer fit than some other people do.

So I cut the top open along the centre back and inserted an invisible zip. I had a perfectly colour matched zip in my stash but it was a bit too short, so I left a sort of keyhole opening at the neckline above the zipper to make it work. I think it looks deliberate and I quite like it actually:

yellow Sewaholic Pendrell top

And now that I had an opening in the back, I then took in each of the side seams and princess seams gradually until I got the closer fit that I was after. I didn't make it too tight though because this fabric has no stretch and obviously I still needed to move in it.

yellow Sewaholic Pendrell top

So after all that work am I happy with it? Mostly, but it's not my favourite. I'm not a fan of using bias bindings at the neckline, I think a facing is a neater finish. I also have lots of other closely fitting shell tops that I wear repeatedly but I do like the yellow with black and white and grey outfits so it will definitely get worn. And that's another UFO out of the box and into my wardrobe!

yellow Sewaholic Pendrell top

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Resurfacing...... and winning

Finally all the mundane but necessary things going on in my life are easing up and I hope to get back to my normal easy going, non stressful and placid life! To celebrate, I bought myself three pieces of totally unnecessary but pretty fabric when I was at the fabric store a few weeks ago buying more gold sequin fabric for the school sewing project I've been working on. But not only have I already sewn one of those three pieces into a finished garment already, check out my little blackboard that hangs above my sewing machines keeping track of my sewing statistics:

Can you see how much fabric I've used this year compared to how much I've bought? That's what I call winning! Of course it doesn't make a dent in the extensive fabric stash I already have, but I'm slowly edging ahead in my twisted fabric stash mathematics. And those statistics do not include the 39 metres of gold sequin fabric I've spent the last few weeks making into 28 jackets.

After putting in many many hours I have now finished sewing all those jackets for my daughter's school dance group. Sewing this project was a major pain in the neck and far from enjoyable - the tips of my scissors would always catch the fabric, the sequins would stick to each other and the needle kept getting sticky so the thread stuck because the sequins are actually foil dot stickers. Pressing the fabric was nearly impossible, and there are no facings or linings - the edges are simply turned under and topstitched, but since they are costumes that will be seen from afar and worn two or three times I figured it was good enough and it was the only way to get through it quick enough:

gold sequin top coat with tails pattern pieces

I used Burda patterns as the basis for the jackets, and then altered the pattern to have the pointed cropped front, the long tails at the back and the shawl collar. I think they turned out ok:

gold sequin top coat with tails jacket

This jacket looks a little large on Anna because the jackets are made for the older kids in her school - I have no idea how well they fit the kids I sewed them for though, and frankly I don't care anymore!

And now let us never speak of gold sequin fabric ever again.....

Friday, 15 July 2016

Completed UFOs 2 & 3: failure to fit

Firstly, I want to apologise for not replying to the comments on the last two posts - I know people like getting a response but life has just been so busy lately and I can no longer access blogger through my work computer (I used to work on my blog during my lunchtime) and I rarely seem to have a spare 30 minutes in the evening before collapsing into bed at 11pm most nights. But I do appreciate each and every comment, so thank you for to those that comment and to all that read my posts.

But I have been doing a little bit of sewing each night, and I've been making slow but steady progress tackling my mountain of UFOs. Actually I'm getting a huge amount of satisfaction of finishing things off and ticking them off my list. I quite like problem solving, which is what my UFO challenge is all about - finding the reason why I didn't finish a project and figuring out a way to finish it.

When it comes to sewing problems, fitting pants properly is top of my list. That's the cause of these two UFOs, and while I haven't managed to fix the fitting problems they are finished and that's good enough (for now). There are a few other pants UFOs in the pile too, but that's a story for another day.

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

I have one pair of sewn pants that fit me ok, ironically made many many years ago when the only fitting I used to be concerned about was whether I could button up the waistband! So I figured that if I used the same pattern it should all work out fine and in a fit of productivity I cut out two pairs at the same time. As it turned out, they didn't fit very well at all and so they sat in my UFO box for the past few years.

I used New Look 6736, long OOP, which I bought in the early 1990s and despite being rather dated it's an ok pattern with four variations:

I made view D - flat front pants that are longer than capri length on me. One pair I've made in a black and white print cotton sateen and the other is in a grey wool with a subtle pinstripe. Neither look that great, but I was a bit relieved that pants I started making 4 years ago still fit:

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

In 2014 at the Australian Sewing Guild annual convention I attended a pants fitting workshop which I also failed dismally at - I was trying to make fitted pants from a trouser pattern, using cotton drill instead of draping fabrics so despite the best efforts of the instructor it was never going to work out. But I did learn quite a bit about my body shape and the fitting changes I need to do. First thing is I have a hyper extended calf, which in the photos below you can clearly see how the drag lines point to my calf and the side seam has shifted to the back:

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

This can only be fixed before cutting out because the pattern needs extra width added to the calf by slashing up the centre of the back leg piece to the knee and spreading the pattern. So it remains a problem in these pairs of pants, but I know better for future iterations.  

I also have full inner thighs, which means I have to add extra width to the inner leg seams - this also needs to be done before cutting out the fabric so for these versions I just sewed them with a very scant seam allowance but I really need to add about 1.5cm. After much discussion with the ladies at a recent ASG sewing day I think this may be the main cause for the terrible drag lines on the back view:
New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

Other fitting changes I have under control are scooping out the crotch curve to an elongated "j" shape to account for my not perky bottom, adding extra rise and removing a small wedge at the centre back seam to account for my sway back, and making sure I measure myself around my widest part (ie my saddle bag thighs) when choosing the pattern size.

So while it wasn't possible to fix these fitting problems for these two pairs of pants, they are at least finished and out of my UFO pile. They are good enough for casual wear, and I'm coming around to accepting that I'll never make a perfectly fitting pair of pants. I am doing another pants fitting workshop in a few weeks with Anita from Studio Faro through my ASG neighbourhood group, so hopefully that will also help me along this torturous journey. But for now, these pants and my new chunky wool jumper are getting me through the very cold weather we're having right now:

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

But I'm starting to think that my obsession with making pants that fit perfectly (ie fall smoothly at the back and front) is a little misplaced - I see so many ill fitting pants worn by people every day so clearly hardly anyone else cares. And then I saw these pants for sale on an Australian retail site:

These pants, on a slim and no doubt tall model, look no better than the ones I've made so while I do want to strive for much better than RTW with my sewn items I'm going to give myself a pass mark on these two pants.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Burda of the Month: 06/2016 #104 the sheath dress in boring grey

I finished my June Burda of the month project last week, but I've left it hanging in my sewing room while I contemplate it. I don't particularly love it, but I'm not sure what I can do to improve it. It probably doesn't help that I have a horrible cold at the moment and everything feels blah, so I think I'll leave it for a little while longer before deciding whether to keep it or donate it.

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

I made 6/2016 #104, which is an A-line dress with interesting seam lines:

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey
A few lovely versions of this pattern have popped up around the blogosphere - Sew Crafty Chemist made this great belted version, and SunnyGal Studio made this lovely blue button front version. Both of these versions turned out great, without the niggling problems I seem to be having.

So what's wrong with mine? Well firstly the colour (or lack thereof) is an issue - I seem to be falling out of love with grey! There was a time a few years ago when grey was my favourite shade of fabric, but this is so dull that I found it boring to sew with. The fabric is a suiting weight poly-cotton bought on sale from Spotlight quite a few years ago, and it has a nice pattern and drape but it just seems so blah.

The next problem is the fitting - you can see from the back view that there are quite a few wrinkles back there. To be fair I didn't make a muslin, but I can usually fit Burda dresses that have waist seams without needing to alter.

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

There are quite a few wrinkles and bagginess on the front panels as well, especially around my stomach which looks far from pleasing. It's not as bad in real life as it is in these photos, but it's still not good.

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

I had originally thought about using piping at all those seams, but I wasn't sure how it would work out at that triangular point at the front. Instead I decided to topstitch with an embroidery thread in triple stitch to make it stand out. My top-stitching is a bit wonky, but I'm finding it impossible to muster up the enthusiasm to unpick it and do it again. I did sew that point carefully to avoid any puckers or bulges, but the puffiness comes from the fabric on either side of those seams.

I topstitched the side panels from front to back to make a v-point on the side seams which I really like the look of, but it seems out of balance because the lower seam doesn't do the same. I have a real thing for symmetry!

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

 I guess I can always wear this with a colourful scarf to bring some life into it:

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

or over the top of something like this black wool roll-neck sweater which is weather appropriate but reminds me a little too much of my daughter's school uniform:

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

Or I just chalk it up to one of those projects that didn't quite turn out as well as expected and move on to the next project!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

A bevy of Burda tops

Every winter I never seem to have enough long sleeved tops to wear in the cold weather, and I wonder what I could have possibly worn the previous winter. Funnily enough when summer rolls around I also seem to lack short sleeved tops in my wardrobe and again wonder what goes on in my wardrobe in the intervening season!

Anyway, winter has finally rolled in to Sydney and I decided to make a number of quick and easy knit tops at my sewing weekend away at the end of May to fill the hole in my wardrobe. All Burda of course, since that's what I seem to naturally reach for these days.

First up I made a simple round neck top with an interesting shoulder insert which I have been planning to make for many years after seeing lots of other versions pop up around the blogosphere:

This is Burda 9/2012 #123, which is still available for download despite being several years old:

I used some metallic gold linen that was left over from another project for the shoulder inserts. It is hard to capture the shine of this fabric, but it really makes this top a bit more dressy than your standard round neck tshirt.

I changed the pattern slightly by leaving out the facing and keyhole opening at the back of the neckline, and instead just sewed on a narrow neckband instead. My black cotton jersey from the Remnant Warehouse is stretchy enough that I can get the top over my head despite the non stretchy linen at the shoulder and no opening at the back. The shoulder insert is only on the front of the top anyway, so it was fine:

Next up I made a Burda 02/2013 #127, a raglan tee with gathers at the shoulder that I've made twice before (although one of those is a UFO that will soon be finished):

I've made my version in a thin pink marle textured knit that has been in the stash for a long time. I'll definitely be wearing my version with a bra though, because I don't have the kind of confidence that the Burda model is displaying in the photo above!

The sleeves and body of this top are very long which I knew from my previous versions and yet I forgot about when I cut this pattern out. The body length is fine because it can be tucked in, but those sleeves are somewhat annoying (not annoying enough to fix though).

I also found that the gathers on the front shoulder aren't as gathered as much as the ones on the back - I did gather them between the pattern markings, but if I make this top again I would not spread the gathers out as far along the front as I have on this version:

Finally I made a super simple stripe tshirt from Burda 2/2011 #106:

I bought some lovely jersey fabric from Tessuti in 2014 when they held their Jaywalk competition - I couldn't think of anything imaginative enough to make from it at the time but this is a good use. The fabric is very soft with great recovery and wears very well.

I did change the pattern slightly by sewing a cuff with vertical stripes for a bit of interest but otherwise this is a straight size 34 pattern. Gotta love working with knit fabrics - so much less fitting required than all the woven jackets and dresses I usually work with.

And check out that pattern matching - side seams and shoulder seams! If only there were awards for such achievements, but I guess I'll have to make do with my own satisfaction.

I've got two other long sleeved tops and one UFO recently finished (but not yet photographed) which should see me through this winter - but I'm sure that in a year's time I'll be once again lamenting the lack of warm tops in my wardrobe!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Burda of the month: 5/2016 #101 The Origami Top

First of all, thank you to everyone for so many lovely and encouraging comments to my last post. The intent of the post was more to explain my absence and sporadic posing of late, but I am very grateful for all of you that took the time to comment - it's nice to know that so many of you are interested in what I have to say still after all these years!

Life is still going to be a little bit crazy for me for at least the next two months - I have a major work project that needs to be delivered in mid July, my daughter's school fete is later this month which I'm part of the organising committee, and I'll be sewing 28 jackets for the dance troupe at my daughter's school if they audition successfully for the School Spectacular which is in September. Add to that all the usual commitments involved in being a wife, mother and friend - no wonder I feel like I'm busy every moment of the day!

Luckily sewing is not a chore for me, it's (mostly) a relaxing outlet, so I'm certainly still making projects. I was a few days late in finishing last month's Burda project, but it is done at last. And I'm continuing my love affair with colour - this fabric is a very pretty pale coral colour which received many compliments from my fellow sewers at my recent ASG sewing retreat when I started sewing it.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top

I decided to make 5/2016 #101, a simple looking top with interesting pleats at the neckline:

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top

Unusually for my Burda of the month challenge, I purchased this fabric specially for this project - mostly I've always used stash fabric. The pattern requiring lightweight softly draping blouse fabrics, and surprisingly I didn't really have anything I wanted to use in my stash. Luckily I was at The Remnant Warehouse a few weeks ago buying gold sequin fabric for those 28 jacketsmy daughter's school dance troupe, when I spied this wonderfully soft polyester with a slight amount of stretch for some bargain price.

While the fabric itself is lovely, I'm not sure it's the best choice because those pleats at the front just seem to drape rather than keep the pleat lines like the magazine photo. Plus it's a bit sheer so my bra and the facings show through. I think a lightweight cotton like a cotton voile or thin poplin may have been a better choice. That's also the reason why I chose to leave off the turned up cuff on the sleeve hems, because in this fabric it just drooped and I didn't really want to topstitch the cuff.

Overall the fit was a little bit funny - it was very roomy under my arms and through the back, but there didn't seem to be enough room across the front when I pressed the pleats along the marked lines. Since I'm an A cup it seemed unusual for it not to fit across the bust - if you're better endowed than I and are thinking of making this top it is something to keep in mind. I ended up ironing the fabric flat to take out the pressed lines and have just left it draping where it falls.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top

Wearing this top tucked in looks nothing like the Burda magazine photograph - they must have a large amount of fabric pinned in the back to get the front sitting that smoothly. I tucked the top in and arranged it properly just to take this photo, but already it puffed out and sat awkwardly, and is especially billowy at the back:

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top

Making this wasn't as easy as it looks though - working out the order of those pleats and the difference between the pleat lines and placement lines took a number of attempts and a whole lot of attention! Burda as usual gives very sparse instructions, so in case anyone else (or my future self) is planning to make this top, here are the steps for getting that neckline right:

First, you do need to mark all those lines on your fabric, because my lazy way of using pins will not work - you need to know the difference between the lines the fabric is folded and the lines that mark the centre front placement lines.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top

So the first step is to make an inverted pleat at the centre front, by bringing the lines on either side of the centre front to meet in the middle (ie 'first' and 'second' in the photo above). Press these folded lines for about 5cm down from the top.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top

The second step is then to fold along the left side pleat line (the purple line marked 'third' in the first photo), and then bring this to the centre front so that it lays diagonally over - the vertical orange line should line up with the centre front. Press that folded fabric down. Then do the same with the right side pleat line - you can see in the photo below how it sits diagonally, but the curve of the neckline lines up properly when it's all folded in place. Give it a final press and baste a few stitches across the top to hold it all in place.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top

Hopefully that makes sense and is helpful! It's quite difficult to describe and it took me a few tries to get this right. Also I don't think it matters if you do left over right or vice versa. Apart from the neckline it is a pretty straightforward project. I wasn't sure if this project was going to work out, so I just overlocked all the seams instead of using French seams which would have suited this fine fabric better but would have been a little bit more effort. I also just machine stitched the sleeve hem and bodice hem instead of doing a rolled hem or narrow hem which also would have looked better.

It is quite bulky at the centre front though, with all those layers from the pleats plus the facing. Again, I didn't want to topstitch since I couldn't find an exactly matching thread colour. I hand stitched the front facing to the bottom layer of the pleats at the centre front where it wouldn't be visible from the outside and I also stitched it down at the shoulders. I've left the back facing free though - fingers crossed it doesn't flip out when I'm wearing it.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top

This is not my usual silhouette, and I'm not sure I'm going to call this one a success yet - I'll try it with a few different outfits before I declare it a success or not. If I do make this again, I think I'll use the front of this pattern, but use the back and sleeves of Burda 8/2015 #120 (this top with drape front) because that pattern has a neater fitting shape to it. I would also use a slightly crisper fabric to make those pleats stand out more.

I think this may be my first Burda this year that I'm no so happy with, so I guess 1 from 5 is a pretty good rate so far!