Friday, October 23, 2015

MBM - Style Arc Kate, with long sleeves this time

A quick post for a quick sew: the Style Arc Kate dress, made before here.
At the time I made the first version of Kate, I was pretty sure I’d be making at least another one. It’s taken this long mainly because I hadn’t seen the right fabric in 18 months. However the moment I clapped eyes on this fuchsia stretch poly crepe in Spotlight, I knew I had found it.
A couple of small variations on the first version:  I sewed long sleeves on this one, but without the tucks above the wrist the pattern is designed with. The thought of making nice even tucks in a slinky knit was enough to make my eyes cross. And tucks on that part of the sleeve don’t make a lot of sense to me anyway.
I also used the Vilene tearaway specified to sew and stabilise the neckline and wrap edge of the dress this time. It was only $2 a metre from the Tessuti website, and well worth seeking out.
Other than that, there were no fit changes on this dress at all, not even length, which is unheard of for me.
From my experience with the first version, I can categorically say this is a well drafted wrap dress. No neck gape here, and the wrap stays wrapped. It’s also a very fast make – nothing not to like about Style Arc Kate.
This is the fourth Style Arc pattern I’ve blogged in a row, and I have a few more high up in the sewing queue coming up. This hasn’t been a conscious thing, but now I see the pattern, I can put the fact I’m sewing so much Style Arc lately down to a few things. First up, serendipitously, Size 12 Style Arc fits my measurements exactly, which must help the experience somewhat. Still, we all know no two Size 12s are the same, as proportions differ so much. Here, I seem to have lucked in too, because I have been able to make Style Arc patterns with only minor tweaking to make them fit.
But I think an even bigger factor is that I can trust the draft on these patterns implicitly. They go together so well. And excessive wearing ease has never been an issue. It’s not always possible to say that of other pattern companies, and I am looking at both Big 4 and independents here.
Sure, the instructions are brief to the point of terseness (although I think they have become a LITTLE more comprehensive lately, but I could be imagining that). That doesn’t bother me too much, as I reckon it’s nothing that a little experience, research and a bit of common nous can’t overcome. And it’s my contention that people who sew by definition have nous, or they wouldn’t be sewing in the first place!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

MBM - Style Arc Tessa pants and a Planfrew/Rentain

A pattern for a pair of elastic waist pants wouldn’t interest me much ordinarily, as it is a pretty simple draft to make your own pattern if you have a pant block, which I do. The blurb for Style Arc’s Tessa pant piqued my interest though with this pitch: "The pants have an elastic waist with little fullness to allow them to sit flat when on the body"
I’ve made a few self drafted elastic waist pants, and the puffiness around the waist is a bit of a thing, so I decided to see if the Tessa draft was an improvement.
I made two fit changes to the pattern. The main one is to add about 5cm to the back crotch hook.
This alteration is a standard one on pants for me. It is the key to getting a comfortable fit around the back, but the downside is that the inside back leg is always substantially longer than the inner front leg, and so requires careful easing. This can sometimes be a bit fraught, depending on the fabric I'm sewing with.
However, I was flipping through some old Australian Stitches magazines at Mum’s recently, and came across this tip for employing  “ease plus”. Some of you I am sure are familiar with it, but I describe it here, because I haven’t come across this technique anywhere else in my sewing reading, and it might be new to you too.
 Employing “ease plus” is simply a matter of placing the longer fabric piece (ie the piece to be eased) against the feeddogs. You sew your seam as normal, the difference being you place your left index finger against the back of the sewing foot, so that as you sew, the fabric pleats up under your finger. Do this for a short distance, then release the sewn fabric, and repeat all the way along till the end.
Well, what can I say? Employing this technique was a bit of a revelation. Both inner leg seams went together evenly without puckers, first go! Yoo hoo! Sewing with linen probably helped too.
Another fit alteration was to add 5cm to the length, which is my normal length alteration. I only used 3cm of it though, and probably could have used less. I'm 175cm (5'9").
OK so the Tessa is a pretty straight forward pattern to sew. I complicated it by starting to sew 1.5cm seam allowances until I remembered Style Arc customary 1cm seam allowance, so I had to do some ripping. Apart from that, plain sailing sewing.
So does it live up to the Style Arc promise?
Well here is lovely shot with my top tucked in so you can see the waistline. It isn’t entirely flat, but it is an improvement on my self drafted pattern. I’m wondering if the quality of the elastic has something to do with it? I had to stretch this elastic a lot to get the elastic effect, as it were. Would a beefier elastic, one that didn’t have to be stretched so much make a difference? And if so, where can I buy it, because Spotlight elastic doesn’t seem to cut it.
I’m fairly happy with these pants, but in the next iteration, I think I’ll take length out of the front crotch seam, and add it to the back. These pants have side seam pockets which are handy, but next time I think I will make them bigger.
I wore these pants to work yesterday as the temperature hit 39C (39C in October, I tell you!) and felt comfortable all day. This is definitely destined to be a workhorse garment this summer.

I’m wearing these with another recent make: I started out with the Plantain pattern. This pattern had passed me by in 2014 because I was pretty much manacled to the Renfrew. Love that pattern. Anyway, I thought a slightly different silhouette would suit this very soft knit better, so I thought to try out the Plantain. As I was contemplating the Plantain scoop neck, I realised it would just be easier to use the Renfrew scoop, which is the perfect depth for me. Why reinvent the wheel? While I was there copying the Renfrew neckline, I went the whole hog and copied the shoulder line and sleeves. The Plantain draft kicks in just above the waist. And so I have a Rentain. Or is it a Planfrew?  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

MBM - Style Arc Cosy Cardi

One of the most worn items of clothing in my wardrobe is a RTW  light wool cardi, that after seven years of constant  wear even I had to admit, was looking pretty sad. I have been in denial about this for a while, because I love that cardigan. There’s nothing special about it stylewise- just a V-neck cardi that hit me below the hip, but always seemed to be in the equation on cool-ish days.
So I had to replace it, but unlike seven years ago, I now have the skills to make one. I used some merino knit I bought at the Fabric Store a month or two ago.  For the pattern, I chose Style Arc’s Cosy Cardi which is a near-identical pattern to my RTW version.   The only difference is that the RTW cardi has a button band, whereas the Style Arc has a facing that is topstitched down.
I compared the measurements of the pattern to my RTW cardi. They were almost identical, except for the pattern being longer in body and sleeve, which was fine by my calculation. So I decided to cut this pattern with not one alteration. None. How many times have I been able to say that? I reckon I could count them on one hand.
This is quite an easy sew, but getting that facing topstitched down nicely turned out to be a bit of a challenge. On my first attempt, I started at the bottom of the left side, continuing around the back, and down the front right side. The left side was nice and flat, the right was horribly twisted. Yuk. So I unpicked the topstitching to the shoulder seam and tried again, this time carefully pinning. Marginally better, but still not great. I was starting to wonder whether I’d cut the right facing off grain, which would have meant next stop: Waddersville.  Trying not to pay any attention to this scenario, I unpicked the second time. (An indication of how bad the twist was, because I will do anything to avoid unpicking stitches in knits)  For the third attempt I hand basted twice, on either side of the topstitching line, and THIS time, it worked to my satisfaction.  I also sewed upward from the hem on the right side, and I think this helped.
The pattern specifies snaps, which I went with even though I am not a big fan of snaps. See that top snap? Yeah, it came apart when I took the cardi off. Is it user error, or are Birch snaps just generally rubbish? Probably a bit of both. So those snaps will be purely decorative from now on, and if I make this again, I’ll be using buttons and buttonholes.
Apart from the snap thing, I’m really happy with how this has turned out. It’s not my RTW cardi – I think it’s better. The knit is better quality, the sleeve and body length are just what I wanted. So all in all, after wrangling that facing, a successful make.

Swallow update:
Four swallows have been born in the nest-above-the-front door. This week, the swallows have been kicked out of the nest, have put their L-plates on, and have been learning to fly. It’s been so amusing to watch them figure out how to land. A couple of times, I’ve heard thuds against the windows, as the swallows have misjudged a landing. Here’s one taking a breather from kamikaze flying on a ledge just outside the back door.  Photo quality not there, I know, but trust me they are extremely cute..

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in an Attenborough documentary...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

MBM - another Sewaholic Granville in Liberty

After making two previous Granvilles here and here, I felt confident enough to make yet another Granville with  some Liberty cotton I’d bought at the last Tessuti online sale in late June.
Unfortunately, that purchase wasn’t quite what I’d hoped, as sometimes happens with online shopping. The colour of the fabric on the monitor looked orangey. When it arrived, it was more pink – not a colour that I wear a lot of. Disappointing, as even at sale prices, Liberty isn’t cheap.  (That order was ill-starred, as I also ordered a length of linen in a colour described as “Denim”. The colour on the monitor looked mid-blue. The colour denim Tessuti was thinking about when they named this linen was a sky-blue . Sigh.)
Anyway, the pinkish Liberty grew on me, so I proceeded with the Granville.
I’d love to say that on the third try, this Granville came together quickly and easily. It did not. The light and airy Liberty cotton was more difficult to deal with that either the cotton or linen I had used before. It didn’t take kindly to being fashioned into the precision details of a shirt, but with the constant use of the seam ripper I came up with an acceptable shirt in the end.
Ok, enough of the long-sleeved Granvilles! There is at least one sleeveless version in the offing for summer, then I will be putting that pattern to bed. It’s such a classic pattern, though, I’m sure I will return to it at some stage.
The stash sees the light of day
In other sewing news, I rearranged my stash! Exciting stuff! I don’t have a big stash, really. It fits in four large bins, and lives in a cedar wardrobe that belonged to my in-laws. To date, I’ve “filed” my fabric by colour. After dragging everything out, charity shopping some shockers, I’ve rearranged to fabric into the four bins as follows: Lights, Darks, Special Occasion/Miscellaneous and Ready Use, in which I’ve put all the fabrics I have plans for summer sewing. I’ve also put all the patterns I intend to use in with the fabric. I’m hoping this system will circumvent my tendency to procrastinate – the thought of locating a particular fabric and pattern is often a good enough reason f or me  to go and find something else to do.
The other exciting thing about sorting the stash was that I found a pashmina scarf I thought I’d lost – it was in a paper bag with a fabric I’d bought just on a year ago. I’d searched for it this winter, and had come to the conclusion it was a goner. But there it was, in time for summer. No matter, I’m just glad to have it back.
Nest, with swallow tail poking out for good measure
Back on the ranch..spring has definitely sprung, and the swallows have returned. We have a swallow nest in the gable above our front door which I am a bit superstitious about after my mother told me that nesting swallows are the sign of a happy home (according to legend in her part of Italy at least). The swallows built this nest about five years ago, and it has stayed there ever since, even though the blighters do make a mess of the front step. I’ve read that the local swallows spend winter in the Northern Territory, then return to their nests in Southern climes in spring. And they pair up for life.  This pair have spent the last week or so doing renovations, and it looks like Mum is now sitting on eggs.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

MBM - Style Arc Misty Pull-on Jean

To tell you truth,  the idea of Style Arc's Misty Pull-On Jean didn't excite me at first. I read "Pull-on jean"and thought "jeggings", then wondered if someone at my time of life was doing themselves a huge favour by wearing them.  
Then again, as someone whose waist measurement is capable of expanding and contracting alarmingly  as I watch, the elasticised waist has it’s attractions.  Then Style Arc offered the pattern bundled with the appropriate yardage of stretch bengaline and elastic for only $30. I figured if I hated them, I would have invested time but  not too much money…
First off I was impressed by the feel of the bengaline. I’d read good things about Style Arc bengaline, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve only sewn Spotlight bengaline before, and this one had a much nicer hand. And the petrol colour I had chosen was pretty close to what I expected.

Worn with Grainline Scout Woven Tee, blogged here and Simplicity 2603, made pre-blog

The yardage provided was bang on what was needed for this pattern, so there was not much room for extra  wide seam allowance insurance, or to accommodate stuffups, so I had to be on my toes. Of course, I made a mistake during cutting. I added 3cm to the length of the pants,  but when I came to cut out one leg.. I started to cut one at the provided length. Fortunately  I realised before I finished, so I only snipped into the leg about an inch, an inch I had to doctor with a bit of interfacing and some discreet  zig zag stitches.
Apart from adding length, the only thing I changed was adding about an inch to the back crotch hook, which is an adjustment I automatically make to pants to accommodate my rounded backside.
Putting these pants together was largely stress free. The only tiresome thing was changing between a universal needle to stitch and a twin needle for the topstitching. Even with this to and fro, the pants didn’t take all that long to put together.
The elastic on the pants is doubled up, and sewn on as is, which is a construction technique I haven’t used before. It certainly precludes tucking in, which is not something I do anyway. It is easy to achieve, but I’m not sure I’d do it again – I think I’d make a casing if I make these pants again.
The other thing I’d do is add a bit to the back curve. It sits a bit low for my liking.

Having started out a bit not entirely sold by the idea of a pull on jean, I have to say the construction was stress free, but I’m a bit unsure of the result. On one hand, my teenage daughter and husband have given the pants the thumbs up. They are also super-comfortable, as promised.  While I think this has potential to be a handy garment, until I get my head around how to style them, and maybe make some tops to go with them,  I think I’ll hold my final judgement.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fabric stashing

For someone who thinks that one of the best bits of the whole sewing caper is hanging about in fabric stores, it is very sad that in the last 18 months or so I have barely been in one. That is apart from the odd purchase from Spotlight, which to my mind doesn't count. Which tells you a bit about the ambivalent attitude I have to that store.
Anyway, it has come to pass that in the last two weeks I have been to Sydney twice, and have managed fabric store visits on both occasions. And here is the best bit - these forays into fabric stores have been sans offspring. Amazing.
Before I went shopping I made a mental list of what I really needed:

  • Bottom weight fabrics - I'd just about come to the bottom of the stash here.
  • Knits, as always 
  • Denim - I really want to make both jeans and a denim jacket, so this was a priority.

In addition, I gave myself a stern talking to and told myself to stay away from:

  • Big floral prints
  • Cotton sateen
  • Silks
  • Anything obviously destined for formal wear

In short, I needed fabrics to make clothes that I wear every day.
Here is what I came out with:
 I've been wanting to make some activewear for a while, and finally got to visit Metro Textiles last week. I bought 2.5 metres each of cornflower blue and charcoal grey supplex, which should make a couple of pairs of tights and some coordinating tops for yoga and gym.

On the way to Tempe, I stopped off at Pitt Trading in Ramsgate. I normally have some success here, but not much caught my eye as being what I need for everyday wear. There were a lot of very nice fabrics for special things, and quite a lot of scuba knit. Not for me. I came away with two soft knits (possibly rayon? One thing about Pitt Trading is that not all it's fabrics are labelled) and a one metre remnant of shibori print stretch denim. I'll think of something to do with it.

On Friday I took the train into the city. I struck gold almost immediately I entered Tessuti with the stretch denim. There was 5 metres on the roll. I took all of it. Below is a medium weight linen in Charcoal grey to make some summer pants. Both are a lot darker than shown here.
 Still at Tessuti, a soft cotton twill for a summer shell top. Chocolate Ponti to make another pair of Anita Ponti pants. And lastly,  I had been looking at the zig zag print print on the roll, then turned around to find a two metre remnant on the remnant table for quite a lot less. Sold.

 At the Fabric Store I bought 2 metres each of merino knit. The white will probably end up as a long sleeved Renfrew. The mustard merino I am thinking may end up as a Sophie Cardigan by Muse patterns. For purple merino sweatshirting I am considering Paprika Patterns Jasper sweatshirt. Or maybe a zip-front Sophie. Lastly, the mustard corduroy is definitely pants material.

I am really happy with my haul. I have plugged some holes in the stash. Some were on sale, some not, but no buyers remorse here at all.

Meanwhile back at the sewing machine... I have made a dress recently, but it's been too cold to model it for the blog. Hopefully soon.

On the other hand, I have sewn my first true wadder in a long time with a Grainline Studio Morris Blazer. Ugh. I knew it would be boxy, but a less flattering garment would be hard to imagine. Despite careful measuring, I've made it far too big, with the shoulder sleeve seam hanging off the end of my shoulder, not helped by the heavy ponti I used. And the ponti did not want to be eased smoothly into the armhole and was impervious to all the tricks I normally use to set in sleeves. I attempted one sleeve three times with less than average results, but trying the garment on was enough to tell me that this is a project not worth persevering with. Which is a shame, because I had high hopes for this pattern. I might try it again at least two sizes smaller, with a lighter weight stretch woven and see what happens.

Lastly, back on the ranch, today the first of this year's lambs was born. A female who seems healthy, so far, touch wood. It is always a bit of a tense time when the lambs come. So many things can go wrong with feeding - sometimes the mums reject the lamb, some the mums are just clueless about staying still to feed, sometimes the lambs are a bit fragile. Or the mums get mastitis. Then there are the foxes to worry about. We have another two pregnant ewes, so we will go through nervous times with them too.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

MBM - Sewaholic Granville, Version 2

After my first go at the Sewaholic Granville shirt, I thought it would be a good idea to consolidate some of the shirtmaking techniques I had picked up by making another fairly quickly. I’ve also enjoyed wearing the first Granville, so I had to have another one, soon. And so, here it is..
I was pretty happy with the fit of the first one, so made no fit changes. The only issue I wanted to address was the slight constriction I felt around my bent elbow. This is after adding 4cm in width between bicep and elbow, which seemed to give me plenty of ease. Maybe my elbows are unusually broad. Maybe my arms do weird things when I bend my elbow? Whatever. I cut the sleeve on the bias to facilitate a bit more “give” in the elbow area. It’s a trick I picked up on a Pattern Review course quite a while ago, and it works a treat. You have to be a bit careful handling the pieces as you do with any bias cut piece. And I can see in the picture below  that there is a slight "step" between the bias cut sleeve and the interfaced cuff, but nothing that bothers me overly much:

The sewing of the shirt went well, due in some part to the fabric. This is a fabric I estimate I would have bought in the late 80s, back in the day when Mum was sewing for me regularly, and my sewing skills amounted to sewing on buttons, and handsewing hems (Mum always made me do at least these two jobs on whatever she made). At that time, I was in my first “proper” job out of university, working in the Sydney CBD and would often head over to Flynn’s Fabrics in the Mid City Centre (sadly, both have evaporated into the either)  to purchase fabrics for Mum to sew up. Yes, I was a lucky girl, because as I have said before on the blog, Mum is a super-duper dressmaker. It probably also helped I was the only daughter in her family of five kids.
Anyway, I may not have known much about sewing , but kudos to me for choosing this fabric, which seems to be an especially fine handkerchief linen. There could be some silk there too, I don’t know. Mum never did get around to making this fabric up though, and it has been in her stash ever since. I‘d forgotten about it until she asked me whether I wanted it back not long ago. Did I ever! It just happened to be the sort of fabric I always have my eye out for, and in winter white which likewise is always on my list.

With this second Granville, I have to say I can feel myself becoming addicted to shirtmaking. This is a surprising development for me, being as I enjoy a quick sew as much as anyone. But there is something especially rewarding in executing each part of the shirt jigsaw as well as you can. It doesn’t  bother me that it takes about two weeks of sewing in one hour bursts to complete a shirt. I actually think that shirtmaking is suited to the time I have available for sewing at the moment. I can sew in a placket, or sew up a couple of flat fell seams, and feel like I’ve achieved something. Suffice to say, I have a few Granvilles in the mental sewing queue now.

Anyone else have recollections of Flynn's Fabrics? I  bought my wedding dress fabric there too, and I recollect it always had really nice fabrics. Sigh.