Sunday 29 March 2015

My Pattern Picks!

Remember my silk kimono? That was my first encounter with Love Sewing magazine. I was really impressed with how current and informative this magazine is, and you can probably imagine my excitement when the editor Helen asked me to write a feature on My Pattern Picks! 

This has just been published in the latest issue, issue 12, which has been on sale since 26th March. I'm sure regular readers of this blog will not be surprised by the patterns that I chose below, as I have never shied away from recommending them :)  

Here are the links to my versions of these 5 wonderful patterns:

McCalls 2401 (need I say more?) 
version 1 (blurry)  version 2 (spotty) version 3 (stretchy floral) version 4 (neon lace)

Simplicity 2311 
My wool coat

Simplicity 1368
My 30-minute maxi

Vogue 1137
My unlined version

Sewaholic Alma
View B
View A

Another piece of good news is that I am now a White Tree Fabrics blogger! Watch this space for my makes ;) 

Thank you for allowing me for some self-indulgence! 

Lottie Blouse Sew-along Week 4 - Neckline binding and sleeves

Are you ready for some more steps? I've had a pretty hectic week, so have only managed to get a moment at the sewing table this afternoon - thankfully I managed to squeeze in a few photos when the sun was still up, but you will see that the pictures got darker and darker later on...

Right, today we are going to bind the neckline and also set the sleeves. Let's begin!

The neckline is bound with self-fabric bias binding. You will have cut out a strip of fabric on the bias based on the pattern, and it should be more than enough for the neckline. I made mine using this gadget, but if you don't have one, you can still fold it manually following this tutorial. Do make sure you have the correct way up when it begins the fold. 
Next, we are going to pin the right side of the bias tape (with one side unfolded/opened up) to the wrong side of the neckline, matching raw edges. You will see that I'm starting from half way up the neckline, and there's a long tail end on the other side where I will not be sewing. This is because we will be sewing a neck tie next week, so only the bottom part of the neckline will be left exposed. 

Sew in the fold line, or "stitch in the ditch" if you fancied a rhyme. Go extra slowly round the curves. Clip off the tail end. 

Turn the blouse right side out, and fold the bias over the edge on the right side, overlapping ever so slightly the first line of stitching. Pin and sew close to the edge of the bias, and you should end up with something similar to the first photo in this post.  

Make yourself a cup of tea and have a little break, before we start on the sleeves :)  OK, now, set your stitch length as high as possible, and sew a straight line between notches, without backstitching on both ends, and also leaving long tails.

Pin the underarm seams with wrong side together, and sew with a 0.5cm seam. As with last week, we are going to use French Seams here. Trim the seam down, flip over and pin again with the right sides together, enclosing the seams. Sew again with a 0.5cm seam. 

Do the same for the other sleeve. 

Next, let's set the sleeves. For this I'm trying out using French seams also following this tutorial. Because of this, I'm attaching the sleeve to the armhole with wrong sides together, and easing the gathers between notches by pulling the bobbin thread to fit the curvature of the armhole. Pin all around, leaving the side and shoulder seam allowances towards the back. 

Sew a 0.5cm seam, going slowly to avoid puckers. Trim close to the edge - this step is more important than the French seams we have done so far, as this is a curvy seam, and the less bulk, the better. 

Turn the sleeve wrong side out, pinning the seam together with right sides together. 

Sew a 0.5cm seam again. 

Do the same for the other sleeve, and you are done for this week! 

This is what mine looks like with the right side out. 

 I like how my seams are lining up under the arms! 

And on the inside:

We are almost there and should have it all ready before Spring arrives properly :D Have a lovely week ahead my dear readers! 

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 :) 
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