Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Simple Sew Kimono Dress

This month’s Simple Sew make is the Simple Sew Kimono Dress - a wrap style dress with a large tie at the waist, except that mine is not going to be a dress. When we were asked for fabric and pattern choices for this make we were in the midst of an extremely hot summer and I had been sweltering in my winter dressing gown in the mornings, so I decided that I would like a summer ‘robe’.


The fabric is a beautiful Lady McElroy cotton lawn very generously supplied by Doughty's Online. It sewed beautifully,  ironed really well and feels lovely on.

I cut a size 12, but kept the length of the size 20 - I like my dressing gown/robes to be quite long. This style has grown on sleeves which means that sleeve and the body are all one piece. I quite wanted longer sleeves but the front pieces are quite big due to the wrap and the sleeve, so a longer sleeve would have meant that the piece wouldn’t fit on the fabric.

I also wanted pockets so having sewn the shoulder seams together,  I pinned the side seams, tried it on and worked out where I wanted to add the in seam pockets.  My winter dressing gown had large patch pockets, but I felt that wasn’t the look I wanted for this. I used the pocket piece from the Lapwing trousers and placed it roughly where I wanted my hand to rest.

Having put in the pockets and sewn up the side seams the robe was looking pretty good. The instructions have you finish the edge of the front, then turn and stitch down.  I thought this would not give the finish that I wanted, particularly around the neckline  - and this is where this project started to take its time -  I decided to make some bias tape to finish the edge.  I have recently taken out of use a duvet set that was the exact pinky lilac colour of the flamingos. I used a tutorial by Colette for continuous bias binding. This technique is a bit fiddly but I find it much easier than joining lots of strips of fabric. I didn’t think to take pictures of what I did so have included the link.  Quite a small square of fabric makes a surprisingly long piece of bias tape! I machine stitched the bias on to the edge, then folded it over and hand stitched  all the way around the front. Having done that, I then hand stitched the sleeve hems and the hem of the garment.

I used some the bias tape to make a rouleau and used it to make a couple of ties for inside the robe to help keep it closed.

I added belt loops to stop the belt from falling off and I also made a hanging loop so that it can hang on the bathroom door

I am very pleased with it and a little bit disappointed that the weather has become much cooler, so I won’t be wearing this properly until next summer. It is a very easy sew and would be quite quick if you didn’t add bias tape and hand stitching to the mix!

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Very Special Wedding Sewing: Ties

At the beginning of the year we found out that one of our much loved cousins had just got engaged. There was much excitement and speculation about plans and clothes! The groom, Joe, got in contact and asked whether I would be prepared to either head up a working party or do it myself, to make him and his groomsmen ties for the wedding.  His initial idea was to have bow ties for all, but on discussion with his mates and brothers decided that they would all have normal ties and he would have the bow tie.

We had a fantastic day shopping for fabric - he had a swatch of the fabric for his suit and had expressed a liking for Liberty style fabrics. I knew Joe was colour blind, but hadn't appreciated which colours he can't 'see' - I spent a lot of time trying to explain what different colours were and which ones were which, which made for quite an entertaining time. I took him to Fabric Galore as I had heard they have a range of Liberty fabric, but we didn't find anything that he liked.  Our plan then was to go to Shaukat in Kensington, and if we didn't find anything there then we would aim for Liberty itself. Shaukat is a shop that sells exclusively Liberty fabric for less than Liberty, and it has masses of stock (much more than Liberty does) both of current fabrics and past.
We got to Shaukat and couldn't believe the range of fabric there. After feeling a little overwhelmed we found the perfect fabric:

After leaving Shaukat, we went to MacCulloch and Wallace, where I had already scouted out the tie canvas for the lining of the ties and we also bought the silk for the tips of the ties.
Having made a tie for my husband a couple of years ago, using an old tie of his as the pattern I was ready to go. 

I felt that I had a pretty good idea of what I was doing, but wanted to read a bit about tie making before I started.  There are a lot of tutorials on how to make a machine sewn tie, but not much information on sewing a 'proper' tie.  The most informative site that I found regard the making of ties was Thread Theory, the Canadian menswear pattern company. They have a very useful tutorial for making a silk tie, complete with links to various sources that they had found useful.

I tidied up the pattern that I had made from the old tie and had taken on board the request from one of Joe's brothers that the ties not be 'kipper' ties! I had shown him the pattern piece and I think he thought that would be the finished size! There was a lengthy discussion on the finished width of the larger end of the tie - 2 3/4 inches/just under 7cm was the final decision.
I had done quite a bit of prep to try and work out how much fabric I would need for 9 ties and 2 bow ties (the second bow tie was for the brides dog!). As you can see above, ties are cut on the bias to allow some stretch when they are being tied. I had hoped that there would be a magic formula on the internet but I couldn't find much that was helpful. I ended up cutting multiple tie pieces from paper, laying them out and measuring the amount of space they took up.  Unfortunately I did not make a note of the metreage I thought I would need, nor the amount that we actually bought.

Above are all the pieces for the ties - Each tie is made of three pieces, plus 2 lining pieces for the tips of the ties (the white triangular-ish bits) and the lining so that was 54 cut pieces of fabric for the ties and 6 cut pieces for the bow ties!

I batch sewed all the different tasks - so I sewed all the tie pieces together and pressed the seams, then sewed one side of the tips for all ties before sewing the other side of the tips. It sounds quite complex but the batch sewing really helped me keep organised with everything.

Having constructed all the ties and pressed all the tips, I then added the tie canvas - the strip of canvas is laid down the middle of the tie, then the edges are folded in. These edges can overlap slightly and this is the central seam down the back of a tie.  This seam is hand sewn carefully so that the stitches are not too tight. If the stitches are too tight then the tie can pucker and not stretch sufficiently when it is being tied.

Having completed all the ties I was super pleased with how they had turned out, but I wanted a little extra to make them even more special. I thought it would be nice to put some sort of label in and spent quite some considerable time trying to find somewhere that could do a small quantity of printed fabric labels. After extensive search of the internet I found a company called Bags of Love whose minimum order was 20 (still more than I needed but much better than 50, 75, 100, 250 that all the other places I had found) for about £20. You can chose the size of your label from a selection, add text, colour of text, images etc.  I chose to have the bride and grooms names and their wedding date in a colour that went with the tie.  They looked perfect and I was almost as pleased with the labels as I was with the ties!
I used a pattern for the bow tie that I had found on the internet - the one I ended up using was from Sew Like My Mum. This was one of very few patterns for tie-able bow ties, rather than a pre-tied nonadjustable bow tie.  Making the bow ties was pretty simple, the trickiest bit was turning the ties right side out and making sure that the corners were nice and crisp. A good press made what started off looking like a crumpled rag look pretty smart!

So after all that, here are some pictures of the ties in action:

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Fo: Coral sweatshirt

Straight after finishing the Prom top, I was straight into copying a rtw sweatshirt that middlest daughter had worn to shreds.  The area around the cuffs is see through and it was looking a tiny bit small:
I offered to try and copy it and for a change Middlest seemed quite keen - she is not usually interested in mum made clothing.  I had seen on the internet that Higgs & Higgs had a good selection of  'embossed' looking or raised surface patterned jerseys, so I had a look, sent my daughter a link and she chose this coral colour
I copied this top by pinning it out on paper and pretty much drawing around all the relevant parts. I trued everything up as inevitably the pattern pieces were a little wonky.  Just before I started making this the Tilly Stella Hoody pattern had come free with a sewing pattern, so I whipped that out and compared the pieces and they looked pretty good.
One of the things she liked about it was the large hood. The original had drawstrings, but I forgot about those when I was constructing it, so by the time I realised it was too late to add them!

This was a pretty quick and straightforward sew. The fabric got quite thick at the junctions of seams and I feared for my sew machine needle a couple of times.  I top stitched the seam allowances down around the hem band, cuffs, neck opening and the seam on the hood.  They wouldn't lie flat even with a bit of steam, so I thought this was the best thing to do.

The finished top was very gratefully received and worn quite a few times before the weather got too hot for such items of clothing! I shall look forward to it reappearing in her clothing choices in the not too distant future.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

FO: NewLook 6471 - aka emergency prom sewing

Eldest daughter was adamant that she did not want to wear a dress to her 6th form prom this year, and bought herself a floral suit from H&M.  We had some discussion at the time about the kind of top she would like to wear with it, with out really coming to a conclusion.

A month or so later I went to the Balenciaga exhibition with a crowd of sewists. After the exhibition we had a lovely lunch and then a small group of us went to Goldhawk Road. I was pretty tired and not really finding anything that I liked but in A One Fabrics I found what I thought would be the perfect fabric for a prom top.  It was super cheap - I think £2 a metre so I bought 2 metres thinking it didn't really matter if Eldest didn't like it at that price!

I washed it and added it to my stash, then we kind of forgot about it.  Suddenly it got to the end of April and we realised on the Monday that her prom was on the Friday of that week - we had a little bit of a panic then realised that it was completely doable in the time frame.  Eldest went through all my patterns for tops and came across New Look 6471 which had come free with a sewing magazine.

She didn't want the cuffs or a tie neck on the pattern, both of which were easy to change.  She had a rtw top that she had seen as a reference point, and it had shirring in places which she wanted.

I finished the raw edge of the sleeves, then did the shirring at the cuff. I think there are 5 or 6 rows. It was pretty straight forward to do - I put elastic thread in my bobbin and normal thread in the needle - as you sew the fabric ruches up.  I was pretty sure I had some black shirring elastic but couldn't find it and had to make do with white.  Of course as soon as I had completed the whole top I found the black elastic! 

My machine didn't like the fabric very much so I used tissue paper between the fabric and the feed dogs, which made it much easier to handle. You just tear it away when you have finished the seam.  I keep all the off cuts of tissue from commercial patterns for this purpose.

I did french seams throughout - the fabric was so sheer that any raw edges or overlocking would have been visible from the right side. Luckily the pattern was a raglan sleeve so I could french seam the sleeves easily too.
I initially put little buttons on the collar but they were too heavy so I swapped to a couple of lightweight plastic snaps instead.
The top was finished with a day to spare, it met all requirements of eldest and she received lots of compliments at her prom - win!

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Simple Sew Lapwing Trousers

This time I bring you the Lapwing Culottes. This post went live on the Simple Sew Website a little while ago, but life seems to have got in the way of posting on here for a while.
After some confusion mostly from me I think, I received my pattern and fabric for my culottes. The fabric is a lovely linen from Rainbow Fabrics.  I had thought that I might wear them as pyjama bottoms as I could do with a pair for summer, but the linen is a bit crisper than would be suitable for bed wear and will make a nice pair of trousers.

Again I managed to cut out quite economically and may have enough for a little top too.
These trousers have lovely capacious in-seam pockets.  I have sewn in-seam pockets many times but I have to say the instructions for these were not as straightforward as they could have been.

It took me a while to get my head round the instructions for some reason and I feel that they don’t sit quite as well as they could, but it is not annoying enough to do anything about.  In order for them to sit a bit better, ie keep the pocket facing towards the front of the trousers, and to add some strength at that point, I sewed a horizontal line above and below the pocket where they join the trouser leg.

Because linen has quite a loose weave, I was a bit concerned that the stitches might pull on the back crotch seam. I used a tip I picked up at Camp Workroom Social last autumn and used stretch stay tape along that seam. I placed it along the seam stitching line and sewed as normal.
I had decided to use elastic in the waist instead of a drawstring as the pattern shows. When I tried on the trousers, I decided that the crotch length was going to be a bit short for my liking if I followed the instructions. I decided to add a facing to create a channel for the elastic and to keep a bit of the crotch length.  
I trimmed the seam in side the channel very carefully with my new duck billed scissors - they were a recent birthday present and it was the first time I had used them properly.
Once I had got the waistband and elastic sorted, I tried them on to assess the leg length. As cut, they were comically long! They would have looked amazing with very high heels, but as I seldom wear such heels, I knew I would need to lop quite a bit off. 

I initially pinned them to be a floor skimming full length, but inspired by all the cropped trousers I have seen on the internet and in my girls wardrobes I thought I would try the cropped length.  

This is the finished length - having been very unsure about them whilst making them, I am now very pleased with them. They are lovely and cool in this extraordinarily hot weather we are currently having in the UK.