"" the girl who makes things

Sunday, 18 March 2018

A Burda Style parka coat

Guys, this has to be, hands down, my greatest sewing achievement. Ever. From beginning to end this was a mammoth task, but I some how got there in the end. And just take a look!

Let me present to you my first Burda magazine make. Yes, that Burda magazine of the mind-f**k pattern puzzles. The one that gives you a migraine just looking at it. If that wasn't crazy enough, I made the whole coat without following any instructions.

So you're probably wondering why on earth I decided to do this to myself. I've got one word: challenge. I love a good old simple sew every now and then, but one of the reasons I actually sew, above all else, is the mental exercise. I've always liked the idea of taking on a Burda magazine pattern Plus, I really needed a coat with a hood to protect me against the rain we've been getting recently. Yep, even in Portugal the weather sucks.

The pattern comes from the Burda Style Magazine February edition. I chose the size 38 and, as you can see, fitting isn't really a problem with this coat but I'm pleased with how it fits around the shoulders at least.

I made the following changes to the pattern:
  • drafted a hood and body lining
  • drafted new pockets
  • omitted the zip flap

I spent a long time thinking about all the design details, in fact it took a week for me to decide whether to include a lining or not. In the end I found this African wax print in my stash and when I saw it next to the outer layer I decided I had to use it. The outer layer is made from cotton sateen. 

Not following instructions was a big challenge. I spent a lot of time trying to work out how to attach the hood and lining and found myself studying other people's coats at work, like a creep. I'd never attached metal snap buttons and grommets before so I found the Closet Case Kelly Anorak Sewalong really helpful for this. 

I made a lot of mistakes along the way and had to buy two new reels of thread because I'd unpicked so much. But, without wanting to sound too cliched, I learnt more from my mistakes than successes. By the end of this project I felt like I'd significantly expanded my skill set.

I've also lost my fear of Burda Magazine patterns which is good because they actually do some really nice designs. I think I could definitely take on another one. 

Finally, and most significantly, this project forced me to slow right down. It took weeks to plan, prep and make and I couldn't rush any part. In fact, I didn't want to rush any part. The longer it took the more time I wanted to spend perfecting every detail. If I didn't sew a straight line each time, I unpicked and started again. I think that the longer a project takes the more you're inclined to nurture it. Which is good in these times of fast fashion and consumerism.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

A Cleo Dress

It's not often that I use a pattern more than once. That I've now made two Cleo Dresses, however, is testament to the fact that it is really good.

I first got the Cleo pattern through the Minerva Crafts blogger network. I used to contribute a monthly post to their website but found it difficult to dedicate enough time to sewing what with work and other life commitments (once I get my life in order I may return to it!). Then I was offered the opportunity to write a one off pattern review for Sewing World magazine last year and thought, why not?

I'd seen a few Cleo dresses online and liked the clean, simple design so I asked for the pattern and made it up in a dark denim.

I wore the shit out of my denim number all winter. It works really well layered over thick tights and woolly jumpers. I got a fair few compliments on it too. Then, as we began to feel some hints of spring (I live in Lisbon so it's a damn sight warmer!), I started dreaming up a lighter Cleo.

I can't remember precisely what gave me the urge to make a pink corduroy version, but the idea obsessed me. I hunted all over Lisbon in search of the perfect fabric until finally I found it in Atelier 193 and, lucky for me, bought up the end of the roll.

There's only one thing that annoys me about my denim Cleo, which is that it tends ride up if I'm wearing tights. I decided to resolve the problem with my corduroy version by adding a lining. It was super simple to do. I just traced the outline of the front and back and then traced the outline of the facing and cut away the excess. Attaching the lining to the facing was tricky as I had to match and ease the curves. It was worth the extra effort though, the dress doesn't ride up at all.

There are so many things I love about this pattern. Namely all the little details such as the top-stitching and pockets. It's a good palette cleanser after doing a big project like jeans as it's really quick and easy. I probably won't make another Cleo dress in the near future as I want to enjoy the two I've got. It is definitely, however, going to stay on my shelf as a classic.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Ginger Jeans

In every sewist's life there comes a point when you really want to go beyond the basics and try something daring. I'd say making jeans was one of those points for me. All those pieces, all that top-stitching, metal zippers and studs - they look so complicated. But they're not really, although they do look impressive.

I'd had my eye on the Ginger Jeans pattern by Closet Case for a long time. In fact, so long that I bought the pattern over a year ago and let it sit on my desktop until this winter. Finally I printed it off and set to work on tracing the pieces.

Sorry about the tired face!

As I expected, I fell directly between three sizes, a 4 at the waist and 8 at the hips. I decided to go for the middle ground, a 6 with the knowledge that I'd probably have to do a bit of adjustment once made up. I was glad to see that the garment measurements were included, which usually tells you more about which size to go for. I already know that I have a long waist, but the measurements told me that I needed to increase the crotch length by about 10cm. I actually lengthened by 8cm, erring on the safe side. It was a good decision as the fabric is stretchy and the band perfectly reaches my waist.

I'm going to say that these jeans are a 'wearable toile'. It was my first time making them so my expectations were low and I didn't want to cut into expensive fabric before I'd had a dry run. Therefore, the fabric I bought was cheap - 5 euros a metre - and not the best quality. It's a little bit itchy and the dye isn't totally fixed so it leaves little blue marks everywhere. Now I know what I'm doing I want to buy some better quality denim and have another go.

Fabric problems aside, I'm super pleased with the outcome of this project. There are only a few things I'd change about the fit: I'd take in the waistband by another 1.5cm and make a swayback adjustment to reduce the wrinkling at the back. That said, these are still the best fitting jeans I've ever owned so definitely worth the labour.

I'd recommend this pattern to anyone who's interested in making jeans for the first time. The instructions are really detailed and if you need more information there's also a sew along on the Closet Case blog.

On a vaguely related topic I've recently read two interesting blog posts that got me thinking. One was from This Blog is Not For You about mindful sewing. Charlie points out something that I've noticed about the sewing community - how much content is moving away from blogs and on to Instagram. What does this say about how we view our hobby? Are we more concerned about consuming more and more content, faster and faster? I know I'm guilty of this. The other was from What Katie Sews about careful wardrobe planning. It's very tempting as a sewist to make quick projects, but how much do I actually wear them? Isn't this just falling into the same trap as fast fashion? Katie suggests choosing projects that take longer to plan, prepare and construct so that you make something worthy of your sewing time. I'm all in favour of that.

Anyway, to loop those two loose threads together, I think making my Ginger Jeans showed me how taking a bit more time over a more complicated project is not only enjoyable but also gives me something I'll wear again and again. Also, despite my current addiction to Instagram, I need to take a bit of time to sit down and write, hens this blog post. Maybe that'll be my mantra for this year: slow sewing, slow blogging. 

Friday, 26 January 2018

A bomber jacket

After a long break, between last summer and Christmas, I've suddenly got my sewing mojo back. I'm surprised at how many things I'm managing to tick off my sewing list. What's the reason for this sudden outburst of creative energy, I wonder? I have a theory. I'm doing a professional qualification alongside working full-time at the moment, and looming deadlines have sent me into procrastination overdrive. Somehow, having less time to sew means I'm actually giving myself more time to sew. Weird paradox.

This bomber jacket's been on my to-sew list for a while. In fact, ever since I saw the first episode of Portugal's version of the Great British Sewing Bee (Cosido a Mao) I've been obsessed with the idea of making one like the contestants made on the show. The network's website actually lets you download the pdf pattern for free, but for some reason when I tried, it wouldn't print. I was actually willing to pay for a similar pattern but after a quick Google search I found this version on Mood Fabric's website from a community member. Best of all, it was free!

Now, there was just one problem with this pdf pattern: it's not so easy to put together. There are no little joining tags and some of the lines don't match up neatly. Also, I managed to mix up the papers so they weren't in the right order. I ended up laying them all out on the living room floor and piecing them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Luckily, I quite like a challenge and I didn't mind giving my brain a work out, but maybe don't try it if you're a pdf novice. 

Once I had the pattern pieces I set about looking for the fabric. I had plain grey in mind, but then I found this fabric in Feira dos Tecidos and, BIG FLORAL PRINT you say?! Any other sensible fabric options went out the window. If you want to see how much I love big floral print fabrics, then just look at my Instagram account

I'd say this is a scuba-type polyester, fairly thick and stretchy. I hardly ever look at fabric labels now and mostly go on the feel and texture. It's served me well so far. I cut a size 10 which turned out to be fine. I could do with a little more space around the shoulders, but stretchy fabric is forgiving. 

The instructions are quite minimal so I used my instincts to sew the jacket together. It was easy and, as I decided not to include a lining, quick. I over-locked the seams and top-stitched the edges. The zipper is a little bit wavy, probably because I over stretched the fabric. Next time I might use some twill tape or interfacing to stabilize it. I hand stitched some white ribbon over the zipper tape to hide the white stitches which looked ugly against the grey tape. 

I've already had lots of lovely compliments from people when I wear this jacket, so it's definitely a winner. No doubt I'll think about making another, especially after all the effort it took to put the pattern together!

A big thanks to my very talented boyfriend for these photos. Check out his photography skills on his Instagram account, the pictures are truly amazing. In case you're wondering, these photos were taken down by the Tejo River in Lisbon.

Friday, 12 January 2018

And that's a wrap

I'd never worn, owned or made a wrap dress before, but for some reason I ended up making three last summer. The first was my Kielo wrap dress, then this Ultimate Wrap Dress by Sew Over It, which was so good I had to make another one in blue velvet.

The fabric is jersey cotton with blue and red apple print. It's fairly thick so no lining was needed.

I cut a size 8 with no adjustments as the fabric is very stretchy. The whole project came together without a hiccup. 

To stabilize the fabric I sewed twill tape to the edge of the facing where it meets the neckline and also the shoulder seams. I can't remember where I read this advice, but it really helps to prevent the jersey from over-stretching and gaping at the front. Sewaholic has some great advice on how to do this.

The only thing I'd change about this dress is that it's a little too short on me. I prefer my dresses to be longer nowadays so next time, I'll definitely lengthen it. Apart from that I love this pattern, it's incredibly elegant and lady-like. A great weekend sewing project.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Culottes of flowers

A while ago I made a resolution not to buy any more flower print fabric. And then I completely broke it. The trouble is, the way I feel about floral fabric is similar to the way I feel about beautifully displayed patisserie cakes. I know I don't need them, but I want one. Plain fabric just doesn't get my heart racing, even though it's far more versatile and I'd probably wear it more. It's the carrot sticks of the fabric world.
Feira dos tecidos in Rossio, Lisbon is one of my usual haunts for interesting patterns at low prices. The off-cuts of slightly spoiled fabrics are thrown into bargain buckets and sold for 2-6 Euros for a metre or two. I found this drapey viscose and fell in love. I had vague plans to turn it into a skirt or pair of trousers.
This summer the trouser shape de jour seemed to be culottes. I wasn't so sure about how this style would suit me so I did a bit of 'virtual shopping' (going into shops, trying on clothes, turning them inside out to see how they're made and then putting them back on the rail). I particularly liked the culottes with an elasticated waistband. So comfy! As I don't have ready access to paper patterns in Portugal I had to make do with a pattern I already had, Simplicity 1520 pyjama trousers. The trousers made a good base for what I had in mind, all I had to do was widen and shorten the legs.
I'm pleased with the outcome of these culottes but I haven't worn them as much as I wanted to. The simple truth is, the large flower design is too loud for my slightly minimal sartorial tastes. I'm quite a shy person and big, bold patterns make me feel too noticeable. And there's the paradox: sometimes I don't like wearing what I really want to sew.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

A botanical Kielo dress

Bom dia qeridos. You know you've been out of the UK for a long time when the rain makes a refreshing change from the intense heat. I've finally finished work for the summer and now I'm back in Yorkshire for a much needed break. Getting a bit more free time means that I've been able to take stock of some of my sewing projects. 

You know, the hardest thing about updating this blog is taking the photos. I'm not a natural model, in fact I'm intensely camera shy and I'd rather just stick the clothes on a mannequin, but that would hardly be authentic. So in a fit of productiveness I gathered up my recent items and snapped a few pictures. I'm afraid you'll just have to put with my goony face. First up is this Kielo wrap dress.

This was the first Named pattern I ever bought and it sat on my shelf for three years. It's one of those patterns that looks incredibly simple, but for some reason I kept botching it up. In my first attempt I drew out the pattern pieces but forgot to add the seam allowances (I think Named now include them). In my second attempt I had no idea how to handle stretchy fabric and cut out three decidedly wonky pieces. Everything went in the bin and I didn't touch the pattern until June this year when I took a deep breath and started again.

Thankfully, experience has taught me a lot about how to handle stretchy fabric (thanks to some online tutorials) so my third attempt was a resounding success.

I had a particular destination in mind for this dress, an August wedding in Wales. I found this gorgeously soft cotton jersey in Feira dos Tecidos in Lisbon. It's very thin so an underskirt is needed. What I really love about it is the botanical print which reminds me of those detailed drawings botanists used to make in the Victorian period. It's a floral design without being chintzy or twee.

The whole project didn't take much time, about half a day. The design is simple and consists of just four pattern pieces. The instructions were minimal so I had a few doubts about how to finish the armholes, but I believe that Named has updated most of it's patterns so this might have changed. It's possible to add sleeves too if you follow the company's instructions here.

The wrap effect is created by wrapping the two 'wings' of the dress around your body with a waist tie. I haven't seen any ready-to-wear dresses in the shops which are anything like this design so it really feels like a special piece. And isn't that the point of dressmaking? To make clothes which are unique? I wore it to the wedding and got lots of nice compliments, I just hope the summer lasts when I go back to Portugal so I can wear it a bit longer!