Simple does it

Plantain + Anima

This me-made outfit sort of represents where both my clothing preferences and sewing style is at the moment. Plain, basic, classic, capsule style stuff. Might seem boring on the surface, but I’m getting a kick out of sewing simple stuff well and adding really useful staple pieces into my wardrobe.

Plantain + Anima

The tee is a Deer & Doe Plantain, with some small modifications. I raised the neckline to crew/jewel style, cuffed the sleeve, and made a baseball-style curved hem. The fabric’s a lovely heathery knit from Abakhan which is sort of brushed on the underside so it’s really soft and cosy. TBH I find myself wearing this until it starts to smell bad then pulling it out of the wash to wear again immediately.

Plantain + Anima

The pants are hacked Papercut Animas. This pattern for me is one of those super-adaptable TNTs – I’ve made four pairs in different fabrics and they all look totally different. This one’s in a dreamy viscose-mix suiting I got from Brighton’s Fabricland and the simple alteration was to straighten out the leg at the knee rather than the tapered fit as patterned.

Plantain + Anima
Plantain + Anima

I was actually hoping for an even more exaggerated flare/culotte style leg, so I might take this hack a step further and slash-and-spread the pattern from the hip for a future pair. Here’s some of the inspo I found while dreaming these up. (Click through to the post if you’re in a reader, to see the Pinterest pins below.)



Plantain + Anima

I love this outfit: I feel really cool and comfortable in it, had fun sewing it, and I know both garments will get worn to death. I’ve been buying up lots of plain fabrics in nice luxe natural fibres lately to take this principle further.

M-m-m-my sha-Yona

Yona coat

Oh hay! I’ve been struck down with a vile flu-type thing for over a week, but finally felt well enough to get out today and grab some photos. This is mah new Named Patterns Yona coat, a big tick off my winter plans list.

Yona coat

I’ve been wanting to make this up for a while to replace a similar old RTW coat, and when I saw the paper version of the pattern half price on sale I pounced. To be honest I was a bit trepidatious about using a Named pattern: I’m clearly not the tall willowy shape they draft for and I’ve heard rumours of patchy instructions and painful tracing processes. In the end, I dived into this coat sans toile, followed the instructions with no issues, and had the coat finished in a weekend. And I rather love it.

Yona coat
Yona coat

I was feeling impatient, so riskily cut a straight size 38 right into my good fabric. It’s too tight around the hips, as I suspected it would be and as indeed my old RTW one is, but I like how it looks both done up and loose so it’s not a problem. I’m happy with the fit around the raglan sleeves and back too: I like that the two-piece sleeves give my puny shoulders a bit of extra structure, even though there’s no real tailoring going on – just interfacing added strategically as directed.

Yona coat

I just made some small design alterations before cutting: adding two inches to the length to match my RTW inspiration, and shaving about half an inch of width off the lapels. It’s surprising how different it looks from Named’s sample just with a few small tweaks, as also evidenced by all the other lovely and varied Yonas in blogland: Ping, Sunni, Rachael, Julie, Lucinda, Morgan.

Yona coat

The construction was pretty fun and personally I found the instructions really good. I did just mess up the lapels first time round by not anchoring the collar ends onto the diagonal of the lapel – a symptom of rushing a bit and not double-checking the design sketch – but I fixed it with some crafty hand-stitching. You can see a pic of the incorrect ‘before’ here.

Yona coat
Yona coat

I especially like the jump hem method – it’s by far my best-looking yet, though it’s buckling just a touch as I think I forgot to add seam allowance to the lower edge of the lining, oops. I supplemented the instructions with a bit of extra machine bagging to cut down on the handsewing. You do have to add seam and hem allowances and trace off some overlapping pieces on Named’s paper patterns but I’m now prepared to forgive that, as long as you remember where to add them all.

Yona coat
Yona coat

The fabric is a very lovely darkest forest green wool melton from Miss Matatabi with a subtle diamond pattern. I cut the collar in a scrap of black ponte, inspired by Sunni’s three (!) versions of this pattern. Next time I’d do the collar stand and back facing in a softer fabric too as the wool is a bit scratchy at the neck.

Yona coat
I finished this a week or so ago and it’s gone right into rotation – it’s just right for the current weather and should see me through til spring. I suppose it’s not really a garment I need more than one of, which is a shame as it was so fun to make and I love the shape. Perhaps a shorter one in a lighter fabric for the warmer months might be on the cards.

Jeans in an evening

Pull-on Ginger jeans

True story. I made these jeans in an evening. In about three hours after work (and dinner) to be exact. How exactly does one make jeans in that time?

Pull-on Ginger jeans

Pull-on Ginger jeans

Well, you craftily cut some corners. You pick a tonal topstitching colour so a bit of wobbliness isn’t too visible. And you pick a great denim – this is the Cone Mills good stuff which is a dream to work with. You’ve made the pattern many times before, so no fitting guesswork.

Pull-on Ginger jeans

Oh and right, you completely eliminate the most time-consuming parts – the fly and waistband. This wasn’t a lazy decision by the way – I was on a mission to reproduce a pair of much-loved and worn-to-death RTW pull-on jeans. Ever since I saw Gillian’s converted Ginger jeans I knew I wanted to try them myself, and I used her elastic waistband tutorial to success. Since I used the high-waisted view the waistband is quite small: they take some vaguely hilarious dance moves to yank up over my hips, but once in place feel amazingly secure and comfortable.

Pull-on Ginger jeans

The front pockets aren’t functional either; the facings are just topstitched in place, saving even more time.

Pull-on Ginger jeans
Pull-on Ginger jeans

I still found time to insert ankle zips, another feature of some favourite RTW jeans that I wanted to copycat. I used Heather’s own tutorial, but next time I’ll sew in the zips before closing the inseam because it was a nightmare to pivot round the tops of the zips with such a tight tube.

Pull-on Ginger jeans

I even flat-felled all the seams I could *preens*.

Pull-on Ginger jeans

I’m looking forward to seeing how the famous Cone Mills stretch recovery holds up with repeated pulling over my hips. Because these are so comfortable I’m sure they’ll be getting worn a lot!

Winter sew-plans

Ahoy there! Man, I’ve got that typical January blues feeling and haven’t really been sewing at all since the new year. That’s not to say I haven’t been thinking a lot about it, though. Actually it’s been quite nice to sit back and plan some things I want to make that my wardrobe really needs. It was my birthday this week and I took myself to Brighton for the day, where I topped up my stash nicely in Ditto Fabrics. Nothing like buying beautiful fabrics to feel inspired again! I thought by committing some of my plans to the mockups below I might feel even more motivated to get going.

plans1

Top left: I really need more trousers that aren’t skinny jeans! I bought some lovely black viscose suiting from Fabricland in Brighton which I’m going to use to make some peg pants with an elastic waist, probably using the Papercut Anima.
Top right: I treated myself to this AMAZING silk poplin from Ditto – the only print I bought on the day in fact which is a new thing. I can’t resist a print that looks sort of abstract at first, then you realise it’s a bit weird. I’ll show it off in a simple day dress – The Avid Seamstress sent me their Day Dress pattern to test which sounds like a good match.
Bottom left: I want a wee button-down denim skirt as another alternative to skinny jeans. This is the Pauline Alice Rosari, but I’ll probably self-draft from my skirt block.
Botton right: I went into Topshop the other day to ‘shop’ for sewing ideas (another fun way to kick up some inspiration), and they had this amazing drapey T-shirt made out of Cupro with a tuck/knot in the front. I think I’ll be able to make a good copy with the Style Arc Molly and some waffley-textured black silk I also got in Ditto.

plans2

Top left: I’ve been hoarding this gorgeous darkest green diamond patterned coating from Miss Matatabi for a while, and I just bought the Named Yona coat pattern on sale. I want to lengthen it to knee length and probably add some snaps to fasten.
Top right: another Style Arc Ethel in a nice Indian printed rayon
Bottom left: I’ve been hoarding this Cloth House Fujiyama print for ages too – for such a bold pattern it’ll have to be a simple silhouette, so I’m thinking either another BHL Zeena or perhaps a boxy T-shirt.
Bottom right: more non-jean pants – I bought some lovely brushed cotton twill from Ditto in a dark sage grey-green. This pattern is the Madeleine cigarette trouser from Ralph Pink – I’m keen to try some of his patterns (did you see his new-look website with lots of new made-up samples? Very nice.)

I think it worked – definitely keen to get going on all of this soon now!

Better Pictures Project + a quick editing tutorial

Hallo! If you read Gillian’s blog, Crafting a Rainbow, you’ll have seen she asked me to contribute to her Better Pictures Project this month on the subject of taking better indoor photos, especially in winter. I was flattered when Gillian asked me to share some tips because I don’t see my photos as particularly great; in fact I often feel bad that I don’t get outside to shoot more often. I usually feel too self-conscious to shoot in public, plus it’s so much faster and easier to control conditions and get a variety of detail/angle shots indoors, which is what I like to see when I’m reading blogs myself. So it’s likely you’ll be stuck with my fireplace and sewing room wall some more this year, ha ha.

Edit blog photos

You can read the post over on Crafting a Rainbow for details of my photography setup, and I’m sharing a bit more detail here on my typical editing process, which I believe makes up a large proportion of getting a decent indoors shot. I’m using Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on my iMac – I’m afraid I can’t advise on other software solutions as I only use Photoshop!

Edit blog photos

Here’s a typical photo straight out of my camera. It’s not too bad, but my typical adjustments to make a shot like this a bit better are to correct the light levels and cropping.

Edit blog photos

Because I use a wide-angle lens and my light source – the window – is coming in from the side, I often get vignetting: darker corners compared to the centre of the image. To brighten them out I use the Dodge tool. Select a large, soft brush on the top toolbar, set the Exposure to 20-30%, and gently brush on the dark areas until they brighten up. I might also brush on other areas that have got a bit shadowy like my face or darker areas of the garment.

Edit blog photos

The bottom half of my images are usually dark and shadowy so you can’t see the details of the garment properly, so I even this up too. Enter Quick Mask mode by hitting the little ‘dotted circle inside a rectangle’ icon near the bottom of the left toolbar, or shortcut: hit the Q key. Now select the Brush tool and paint over the dark patch with a large, soft brush. The mask is painted in red – that’s just temporary so you can see it!

Edit blog photos

Then I press Q again which exits Quick Mask and turns the mask into a selection, outlined by a dotted line. The mask actually selects the inverse of what you painted, so hit cmd+shift+i to invert the selection.

Edit blog photos

Then I use the Curves tool (Image > Adjustments > Curves or cmd+M) to bump up the brightness of the selected area – it will just affect the bit that was masked, and because we used a soft-edged brush it will tone in with no obvious edges. I don’t really understand how Curves works, but by pulling up the middle of the line I find it creates a nice even brightness-punch without blowing out the colour or detail.

Edit blog photos

As I say in the post I wrote for Gillian, I try to reduce things poking into shot as it’s visually distracting. I haven’t shoved my coffee table out of the way enough so I’m going to clone it out. Again use the Quick Mask to brush over the thing you want to remove.

Edit blog photos

Invert it, right click on the selection, and hit ‘Fill’. Make sure ‘Content Aware’ is the contents type and hit OK. The selected area will be filled with a sampling of its surroundings so it disappears. PHOTOSHOP MAGIC. I may also use the Clone Stamp tool to brush out smaller distracting details.

Edit blog photos

Finally, I’ll straighten and crop the image using the Crop tool. Make sure ‘original ratio’ is selected so you have uniform image sizes and drag and rotate the handles to a nice composition. You’ll see gridlines come up dividing the image into thirds and it’s nice to try and have the image’s focal points sit on one of the gridlines for a pleasing composition (the rule of thirds).

Edit blog photos

Finally, I may apply a couple of filters – I find these help my images have a cohesive ‘look’ to them. I save these as Actions so they can be run instantly across every photo in the set. You can find lots of free filter actions online: try DeviantArt. You’ll probably want to tone down the result by setting a lower opacity on the Layer palette. When you’re happy, merge down all the layers and save.

Edit blog photos

Done! This process takes me under five minutes per image, and I think it’s worth the small amount of effort. I hope it was helpful, and let me know if you have any other questions or tips about indoor photography or photo editing. Are you participating in the Better Pictures Project? Are you a fan of indoor or outdoor shots on sewing blogs? Should I suck it up and get outdoors sometimes?

Waver

Waver jacket

I was itching to get back to my machine after Christmas, particularly to try out some of my new toys (sleeve board! Pressing ham – finally! New pinks and snips and a snazzy pink mini cutting mat!). I wanted a low stakes yet slightly meaty project, so made a wearable toile of the Papercut Waver jacket. In fact it’s a very fast sew as it only took me one day end to end, and it’s wound up being elevated from ‘wearable toile’ to ‘really rather like it, actually’. I like when that happens.

waver

I bought the Waver pattern with the aim of replacing a rather tatty old RTW khaki jacket I’ve had for ages but always seemed to be just right for heading out on semi-slobby, casual days when it’s neither overly warm or cold. Like the Waver it’s got a hood, roomy patch pockets and falls to high hip length, though I cut this one a bit longer: about halfway between the two views of the pattern.

Waver jacket

The pattern was really fun to sew, even with the tiresome chores of interfacing and cutting of linings that coat-making insists on. The pieces all slotted together really nicely: it was fun to make the gusseted hood, see how the neckline facing came together, and try a new method for bagging and finishing the hem. And like I said, it’s fast – I wasn’t rushing but still had it basically done in 5-6 hours over a single day. For a lined coat! There’s lots of handy shortcuts which make it a speedy sew like the simple patch pockets, the front facing being integrated into the main front pattern piece, and easy-set raglan sleeves.

Waver jacket
Waver jacket

I cut a straight size small and I don’t think I’d change much at all on the fit. Like other Papercut patterns it’s on the roomy side so sizing down would give a more fitted look, but with the raglan sleeves and elastic waist it’s supposed to be an easy fit.

Waver jacket

The only thing I struggled with in the construction is that tricky point where the lining, facing and hem meet at the front. You’re supposed to get a nice mitred point but mine was a bit out of whack so I had to do a bit of wiggling and poking to make a neat corner. Suspect a bit of practice and more accuracy will make this a simple and failsafe method for bagging out coats, though. The instructions have you handsew the sleeve hems but I bagged those too while the coat was still inside out. Despite the corner-fudging I think it’s still amongst the more professional-looking garments I’ve made, which is largely down to spending a bit on good quality notions.

Waver jacket

I used a pack of Prym anorak snaps instead of buttons and made a trip to Soho’s Maccullouch and Wallis for the elastic cord and toggles. Pro tips for hammering snaps: buy extras, practice on spare fabric first (you’ll always ruin the first few), and start at the bottom of the coat in case you, um, hammer one on inside out. Which I definitely did. Also I freestyled my positioning, but next time I’ll make sure one is horizontally aligned to the elastic casing as it gapes a bit there when fastened.

Waver jacket
Waver jacket

Amusingly, the notions cost more than the fabrics themselves. The outer is a viscose twill from Abakhan, which is quite lightweight with a tiny bit of crispness and sheen. Once I realised the coat would end up wardrobe-viable I decided to use some delicious Liberty tana lawn to line it. This print’s called Achilles (I have a much-loved knit dress in a different colourway) and I bought it at the same time as the outer fabric in a crazy online Liberty sale that Abakhan had on – it was £7.50 a metre or something. I like that the lining peeks out when the coat is undone or the cuffs are rolled.

waver hack

I’m so pleased with the fit and speed of the Waver that I want to make another one pretty soon, in the full-length view with no hood or elastic, and perhaps attempting to add a notched collar like these inspirations I’ve had pinned for a while. Shouldn’t be so tricky to hack a piece onto the neckline and I’ve got a lovely forest green textured coating in my stash I’ve been wanting to use.