Thursday, 19 March 2015

Lottie blouse sew-along - week 3: darts and bodice assembly

I have some exciting news, as we are beginning the sewing today!

Before we start, I've set up a Flickr group, so do share your fabric choice, in-progress photos and of course the finished garments here

And just one more thing before we begin sewing (I know, I know, but this is very important) - we need to transfer our pattern markings to the fabric pieces. 

I recently started using tailor's tacks, and tend to rely on them a lot more than using pins when it comes to delicate/slippery/mobile fabrics. Want to decide for yourself? Taisia has a wonderful post here

OK, let's sew! :D 

First, pin each dart with right sides together. 

Here I am using glass-headed pins, as the crepe fabric that I'm using isn't hugely delicate (but it sure moves quite a bit), and the main benefit of these pins is that their heads are made of glass, so are iron-proof. 

If you are using more delicate fabric, though, I would highly recommend using fine pins like these, as they will minimise any potential damage to the fabric. They should come with a health warning, though, as pro-longed use would give you finger-aches! 

Sew it as pinned. Backstitch at the start, but do not backstitch at the bust point. If you are working with a delicate and fluid fabric, you might want to check out some tips here for a smooth, pucker-free finish. 

Instead, leave a decent length of thread trail, and tie a double knot by hand.  

Press darts towards the bottom. 

Next, pin bodice front to bodice back with wrong sides together, i.e. like how it would look finished except for the seams, because we are going to use French seams! I have pinned the side seams as well as the shoulder seams as 1) I find it quicker to pin as much as I can, and then sew the seams all in one go, and 2) we are going to set in the sleeves, as opposed to attaching them flat (distinction explained here)

Sew a narrow 0.5cm seam. This is because the built-in seam allowance for this pattern is only 1cm, rather than the usual 1.5cm, which is then halved to allow for the French seams. 

Please excuse the orangy-looking photos. It is hard to get decent photos on a winter weekday evening. Thankfully I found a super clear tutorial here on French seams for you. 

After sewing all four seams (2 sides and 2 shoulders) with a narrow seam allowance, we are going to trim them to make them ever more narrow! This is so that when we sew again with a 0.5cm seam allowance on the other side, the seams won't be poking out. 

Press seams open. 

Next, we are going to turn the blouse inside out. Pin these 4 seams again, but this time with the right sides together, i.e. enclosing the seam allowances.  

Sew all four seams as pinned. 

That'll be all for this week! We almost have a wearable blouse ;) Stay tuned and you'll have your own Lottie blouse very soon! 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Lottie blouse sew-along week 2 - Preparation time!

As promised (and sorry for leaving it last minute - I've been struggling with a cold in the last few days), this week we will talk about all the prep. This includes printing, taping and altering the PDF pattern, and cutting your fabric. A lot to do, so let's begin!

I want to start by saying that a lot of the prep work is self-explanatory, and you probably don't need me to repeat what the instructions say. With that in mind, I wanted to dedicate this post on tips that you might find useful during the preparation process.


With the pages all printed (I assumed that you are ok with the printing), we need to tape them up. Are you a keen DIYer who happens to have stashes of masking tape everywhere?  Karen did a post a while ago on the magic of masking tape in sewing, so I wanted to link that here in case you missed it. Although she focuses on repairing pattern pieces, it would work just as well for taping these pages together.

Pattern alterations

Now I have some good news and bad news...

Good news first. As the pattern is fairly loose fitting with only one side dart, we could get away without very precise pattern alterations. Yay! Feel free to shorten or lengthen, then you are done!

But if you must do a bust adjustment - then here is a really useful tutorial for a full bust adjustment (FBA). If you need a small bust adjustment (SBA, and this may not be needed due to the fit -- I didn't need one with this pattern, and I almost always do an SBA), then replace "spread" with "overlap" in the same tutorial ;)

Now the bad news. If you need to grade the pattern up or down, or blend in different sizes, this pattern is pretty confusing! The method I tend to use is this one, and I graded the pattern down to a size 6 based on my measurements. The issue was, when I try to find a straight line connecting up the same "pressure points" from different sizes (eg, pointy bit of the dart, or the shoulder "corner"), such straight line simply didn't exist.

To my amateur eyes, this seemed to be a grading issue in the pattern. There are lines criss-crossing in and out when I am least expecting them to, and I just couldn't make sense of a lot of it. Here's a good example of what I mean.

I would expect the dart points from each size to form a neat and orderly straight line, but they are all over the place. You can see my attempt to make a straight line out of those, leaving out the outliers. In fact, this gave me so much trouble that I back ordered the hard copy of the magazine, thinking that it could be a printing issue, but they are exactly the same. My advice? Don't waste too much time trying to make sense of it all, just go ahead and tweak it based on where you think needs to be bigger/smaller. I've done that with grading down to a 6, and have made up a tester version and it didn't give me any problems in the construction or end result. 

I also tweaked the sleeves slightly. I noticed that for the smaller sizes, the tapering was less profound, and as the design was a bit too wide for my liking, I took out just over 1cm from each side at the bottom (i.e. elbow) of the sleeve patter. This is a matter of personal choice of course, so please don't feel like you have to do the same. 


We are ready to get cutting. The first issue that has been raised by a few bloggers is that the neck tie would not fit the way the instructions suggest, as the tie is over 30 inches long (to be cut on fold), and the fabric width called for is 60 inches. 

As I am working with a vintage crepe from 1920s (!), with a width of 72cm, I had to get creative with the cutting layout. With the tie, I cut it in 2 separate pieces as opposed to on fold, and added a 1cm seam allowance (consistent with the pattern) so I can sew it together at the centre back. 

There are alternative places where you could "break" the neck tie pattern piece in addition to the centre back (i.e. fold line), as long as you remember to add the seam allowances on both sides. In fact, the PDF printed pattern for this piece comes in 2 pieces anyway, so an easy thing to do would be to cut the A piece on fold (adding 1cm on the A/narrow side) , and cut 2 of the B piece with 1cm added to the B/straight side. We can then attach the 3 cut pieces together. 

Next tip for those who are working with a thin/slippery/mobile/badly-behaving fabrics. Make sure you try out this tissue trick as shared by Gertie. Need I say more? 

Finally, if you don't already use a rotary cutter, I strongly recommend that you get one. It is not absolutely necessary, but it sure transformed my cutting out - I no longer dread it! 

That's all from me this week - get prepping now as we are beginning to sew next week! Yay! 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Lottie blouse sew-along week 1 - Let's talk about fabric!

Are you ready to get started? I know I am! And if you are still sitting on the edge, let me just tell you one thing - this pattern does not require any closure! You can refer back to the schedule and grab a badge here

Right, let's begin. Today we will be talking about fabric choice for the Lottie blouse! 

Firstly, we need to know the sizing, and how much fabric to buy/use from the stash. Here's the helpful chart from Love Sewing magazine:

The chart calls for fabric that is 60' wide, which allows us to cut the neck tie (pattern piece 1) in one piece with the fabric folded selvage to selvage. Whilst this would certainly make things nice and easy, it could be restrictive in terms of fabric options. The good news is that we would be able to work around this if you have set your eyes on narrower fabrics, eg 45' width ;) However, if you do go for the narrower options, you will need to make sure to buy a bigger length than the chart suggests - the narrower your fabric width, the more length you will need. 

Now the actual sizing. Are you familiar with your own measurements? If not, it is very much worth spending a few minutes to get them taken and noted down accurately, as they will be super useful for all sorts of dressmaking projects. Here are a couple of links to guides on how to take your measurements, and choosing the right size:

Once you've got your measurements ready, use the high bust number to select the size for this pattern. This is due to the relaxed fit of the blouse (and hence no closures!), which means that the most critical fitting point is around the shoulders, as opposed to the waist. 

OK, so now you should know what size you will be choosing, and how much fabric you need. Naturally you will be asking, what fabric would be suitable for this cute little blouse?

Based on the shape and design of this pattern, I would recommend the following fabrics:

  • Viscose/rayon - for its drapiness and comfort
  • Lightweight cotton such as a tana lawn - perfect for a beginner as cotton is super well-behaved
  • Sheer fabrics - cotton voile, chiffon, georgette 
  • Lightweight polyester satin/crepe  
  • Lightweight silks such as crepe de chine, charmeuse 

Quite a large selection to choose from ;) 

If the above isn't enough to get you going, I've found a few lovely Lottie blouses on the blogsphere to inspire you: 
An elegant cotton make from Lazy Daisy Jones

 A classy version from Audrey Wardrobe Envy in polyester georgette

 A polka dot viscose Lottie from Looks Like I Made It

And a red viscose version from This Blog Is Not for You 

Still not convinced and need more inspiration? The Lottie Blouse is pretty similar to the Pussy Bow Blouse from Sew Over It, so you will no doubt find numerous beautiful pussy bow blouses to be inspired by ;) 

What fabric will you be using for your very own Lottie? I have 3 potential fabrics in the running - a vintage (from 1920s!) red polyester crepe, a monochrome cotton voile, or a coral viscose. Decisions decisions! 

And a final word of advice - once you're happy with your fabric choice, do make sure you pre-wash/pre-shrink it. If you could see the colour of the colour catchers after pre-washing my red poly crepe, you wouldn't be skipping this step! 

The rule of thumb I try to stick with is to pre-treat the fabric the same way I plan to wash the garment, i.e. if I'm going to machine wash the finished blouse, followed by a medium tumble dry, then that's what I'll do with the fabric; same goes for dry cleaning. Want more information? Here's the quick link to a useful summary by Coletterie

That's it from me for week one! I hope you have found this useful, and do leave a comment if you have any questions :) 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Lottie blouse sew-along schedule!

Right, it’s time! I’ve kept you waiting long enough! Here’s the proposed schedule for the Lottie blouse sew-along. If you haven't grabbed yourself the free pdf pattern yet, where have you been? ;)
I hope this gives you an idea of the time frame of the sew-along, and a chance to prepare for it.

Don’t worry if you can’t follow the whole process through, as all the steps will be kept on the blog so you can always refer back to it. 

Grab your button now for the sew-along:

Queen of Darts

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Introduce the FREE pattern for reversible camera lens cases!

I have something completely new for you today. I have pulled together a little PDF pattern for you all! I was planning on sharing this as my giveaway for the Sew Grateful Week, but having not seen much movement on that this year, I have decided that now is as good as ever, so here it is! 

It's a bit of a mouthfull, but it's a simple little pattern to make padded cases for your precious camera lenses. 

As someone who loves travelling, as well as sharing what I’ve made, I’ve really jumped onto the photography wagon pretty late. After years of relying on point and shoot cameras, and sometimes phones, I’ve lost count of the number of times I wished I could have better captured the moment. Finally, a few months ago, I took the plunge and got myself a Sony Alpha A6000, a compact system camera. What can I say? It has been everything that I could’ve possibly wished for.

But I soon found myself with a small (first world) problem – to make the most of the interchangeable lens camera, I purchased a couple of spare lenses. Despite the high cost (boy are these pieces of glass expensive!), I was surprised that none of them had come with even a pouch. So I spent the first few weeks wrapping them carefully in bubblewrap before putting them in my padded camera bag… You can’t be too careful with glass!

Then it occurred to me that I am able to solve this problem -- I can sew a few padded cases  for the lenses myself. What’s more, this would be a great way of using up scrap fabrics! After doing some basic maths, I realised that it would be easier to accurately draw shapes to specifications on the computer; and then I thought, why not share it with my readers even though the pattern is simple? I’ve been thinking about digitising some of my self-drafted patterns anyway and sharing them here for free, so this simple pattern could be a test run. I also know that a lot of sewing bloggers are keen photographers – and I can guess that just by looking at the wonderful photos on your blogs!

I suppose what I’m really trying to say is that...

1) This is my first attempt at digitising patterns and writing up instructions, so please do bear with me and send me any comments/feedback; 

2) I realise that this is fairly easy, and you can probably work it all out by yourself, but I hope I can save you some time by setting it all out! I’ve pitched the instructions at the beginners level, and have tried to explain each step thoroughly and with the aid of photos (if I drew, you’d be waiting for my pdf patterns for decades).

Now the pattern itself. I’ve done a bit of research into the sizes of lenses, so have made 3 sizes for this pattern based on various diameters. Choose the pattern based on diameters, as the length/height of the case is easily adjustable. The below is an indication only; please do measure your actual lens before choosing the pattern size and cutting out the fabric. 

Pattern size
For lens diameter
Is designed to fit
Tested real life example
Many of the smaller Micro 4/3 lenses. Examples of Micro 4/3 cameras include Canon EOS M, Olympus pen series, Panasonic Lumix G series
This size has not yet been tested as I don’t have a lens which fit into this category. Be assured though the maths works!
Larger Micro 4/3 lenses, many APS-C lenses (if storing without the hood). Examples of APS-C cameras include Sony Nex and Alpha a?000 series with E-mount lenses, Samsung NX series with NX-mount lenses
Sony E-mount kit 16-50 lens for my Alpha a6000
APS-C lenses (with hood) and full-size DSLR lenses.
Sony E-mount zoom 50-210 lens; Carl Zeiss 32mm f1.8 lens for Sony E-mount

What you'll need:

  • One fat quarter for outside fabric - quilting or other medium-weight cotton would be perfect
  • One fat quarter for “lining” (this is notional of course as the whole thing is reversible!) - quilting fabric would work again of course, and you can go crazy with your mix and match. Alternatively you can use brushed cotton/flannel here for added softness. 
  • One fat quarter worth of wadding/batting for added protection
  • 40cm of ribbon (up to 2cm wide)/double folded bias binding for the drawstring

Benefits of these cases:

  1. Great protection – it’s padded from top to bottom, so you can chuck your lenses into your handbag rather than having to carry around a camera bag. More glamorous and safer (not shouting out “I have a fancy camera” when you’re travelling is always helps in my book). The pattern also “bags in” all the seams so they would be poking out on the inside leaving fluff at your treasured lenses.
  2. Perfect use of scrap fabric – this pattern is designed to be reversible, which not only is fabulous, but allows you to mix and match your scrap fabrics, too! You can have so much fun with it!
  3. They would make great gifts – something that’s handmade and also made to measure? What a lovely gesture! The recipient doesn’t need to know that it’s simple to make!
  4. Quick to make – No need to finish seams, no closures/buttonholes to make other than inserting a drawstring! Very simple, quick and effective.
  5. It’s a free pattern – what are you waiting for?

Click on the links below to download! 

Any suggestions/comments/feedback (good or bad) please do get in touch, as it could help me decide whether to go ahead and digitise some of my dressmaking patterns. 

I can’t wait to see what you make ;) 
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