Taking on Claudia

This is the face of someone who had a whale of a time getting the fit right on this dress but is in love it now it’s done. It’s a Tessuti Patterns Claudia dress in a dreamy printed rayon from Blackbird Fabrics.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen I went through a heck of a process to fit this pattern – which I found a little surprising as during my research/browsing of the pattern it looks so lovely and effortless on everyone, and no one especially mentioned fit issues. Luckily I toiled first as I knew I wanted to get this difficult-to-fit style right before cutting into my eventual fabric.

I cut a Small originally according to my exact current measurements, but this first toile was way too baggy all over. You can check out the entire fitting process I went through on my saved Instagram story, but to summarise, my eventual adjustments totalled: graded to smaller than the XXS size at the underarm (?!); cut as XS through the rest of the bodice grading back out to a Small below the waist; pivoted some gaping out of the neckline and armsyce into the dart; moved the dart point significantly inwards and upwards; reduced the strap length by about a third.

In short: I recommend that you toile this pattern and size down!

I tackled the adjustments over several sessions + three toiles and while it all sounds quite crazy I rather enjoyed the process, especially as the resulting fit through the upper chest and armsyce is really pretty perfect (however much it’s exposing my awkward armpit tan line).

Luckily the fitting of the bottom half was issue-free, I love the skimming fit and especially enjoy the clean-finished mitres of the bottom hem and side splits. The length is as patterned which comes to mid calf on me. I omitted the Useless Inseam Pockets which saved some additional stress: on a future one I might consider a more practical patch pocket or even a matching belt bag.

I constructed the top half my own way ie in the flat as much as possible, and redrafted the facings off my altered bodice pieces. I’ve got to say, I am not a fan in general of the usability of Tessuti’s patterns; I find the strange Vilene-shield-based instructions and extraneous pattern pieces hard to justify when so few people will be familiar with or able to get hold of it, and I find the print at home PDFs very wasteful – I printed 48 sheets and the pattern pieces themselves are quite small so this seemed excessive and down to an inefficient layout.

But anyway, I do loooove this dress. I wore it all evening after I finished it, and it was a match made in heaven for this fabric with its floaty Matisse-cutouts vibes. Nb. the pattern explicitly recommends structured over lightweight fabrics, but it seems totally fine in this very fluid voile.

I am already planning a second one in a solid dusky purple linen as this one is so glorious to wear in our lovely warm spring weather – even if it’s still mainly around the house for now – and I expect they will layer well with a T-shirt for slightly cooler weather too.

A pair of Adriennes

Lockdown-pyjama-wear, but attempt to make it a little bit fun and chic? Enter Adrienne.

The Adrienne by Friday Pattern Co is one of those superstar patterns that snaked its way around Instagram and provided lots of inspiration that led to me deciding to make it. It’s a bit out of my usual style zone as I don’t tend to go for statement-y details like those sleeves, but as it’s basically a souped-up tee I thought I’d be on fairly safe ground.

My first one is made in a lovely melange rib knit from Lamazi Fabrics. I made a Medium with no alterations and found that I just needed to tighten up the elastic by half an inch to sit right on my puny shoulders (I used bra strap elastic I had kicking around). As you can see it still slips down a little bit, so I altered the pattern afterwards to remove two inches of ease from the sleeves (there is an alterations line marked to do this). I was surprised by what a fast project it was: cutting was easy as the fronts and backs are the same and the sewing is really quick. I’ve been wearing this version a lot as it’s so comfortable and immediately made plans for a second one.

For my second one I was inspired by this Zara top and bought the fabrics to recreate it from Minerva – the body is bandage rib knit and the sleeves a simple lighter-weight rib.

I like how the reduced-width sleeves sit a lot; they’re still interesting but sit on my shoulders better and almost give a raglan tee effect, especially in my contrast colourway.

This version feels tighter on the body, both as the bandage knit is firmer and thicker, and I accidentally sewed the body together with one piece wrong side out first and cut off the serging and re-sewed rather than unpicking it.

I’m wearing these with my old Style Arc Joni joggers which are basically my indoor (and sometime outdoor) staples. I wore the colour-blocked one under my Robert dungarees last week which looked great, and I need to try them out with some of my other bottoms to figure out how to wear them in a slightly less pyjama context.

Nenuphar 4, and facing tutorial

I snuck in a Merchant & Mills order just before they shut up shop for a bit: the same cord that I used to make my Philippa pants in a different colour, purchased with exactly this jacket in mind.

It’s my fourth version of the Lysimaque Nenuphar jacket pattern, although the last one pictured above has been sadly misplaced so I’m down to the lilac spring version and the winter coat version (which has seen heavy daily wear all winter). Now the weather’s starting to warm up a bit I fancied a lighter but still cosy version.

I didn’t really make any alterations from the base pattern here other than using a facing to finish the neckline instead of the fiddly pattern method – I’ve included a tutorial below on how to draft and attach this.

This squishy jumbo cord worked really nicely with the pattern and makes the resulting jacket very comfortable. It even works as an indoor sort of overshirt which is convenient given current conditions. I didn’t interface the collar or facings as the cord is quite thick and stable already and I wanted that softer look.

My Pfaff machine handled the bulk and topstitching really nicely. I engaged the walking foot feature for most of the sewing.

Here’s how the facing looks inside and here’s a tutorial!

  1. Draft off the facing pieces from the front and back pattern pieces as shown. On the back, follow the curve of the neckline at a depth of 2-3″. On the front the curve is sort of arbitrary, just make it as smooth as you can, and down the front I’ve used a width of 2″. The yellow line length should be the same for both pieces as this is the seam, mine was about 2 inches.
  2. Cut these out and interface if desired.
  3. Sew the ‘shoulder’ seam of the facings, right sides together, and press seams open. Assemble the jacket’s shoulder seams too.
  4. Prepare the collar pieces together as normal and then baste it in place along the right side of the jacket neckline.
  5. Place the facing unit right-side-down on top of this, sandwiching the collar in the middle. Sew all around the perimeter at a 1cm seam allowance.
  6. Turn the facing to the underside of the jacket, clip curves/corners, and press well into place. Finish the inner raw edge either by overlocking or turning a small hem to the inside. Topstitch along the loose edge to attach it to the jacket shell all around.

Looking forward to wearing this outside again soon!

New machine: my Pfaff Ambition 630

I was lucky enough to get a new sewing machine for my birthday back in January and having used it for three months I thought I’d write up some thoughts in case others are in the market for a new machine. I decided to upgrade from my prior machine – the Janome DC3050, which I’d had since about 2009 – because it had a few annoying issues that couldn’t be fixed by my servicer and I wanted a few more advanced features. (My mum has taken it on extended loan for now!)

I didn’t do a huge amount of research but I think was instead gradually influenced by hearing bits and bobs about Pfaffs such as Manju’s review of the same machine and the fact that the New Craft House uses it for all their workshops. (I also bought my machine from NCH as they deal in Pfaff machines too.) The model’s called the Quilt Ambition 630, and not gonna lie, I was partially influenced to pick this over the 610 or 620 because of the lovely dark grey colourscheme alone.

Overall, my impressions of the machine now it’s been in use for a couple of months are really positive. I find that thanks to some of the enhanced features I can get an accurate and polished result without much effort and the overall operation of the machine is smooth and delightful.

Some of the features I particularly like are:

The feet it came with are useful and they and the throat plate has really clear markings on. I can edgestitch very accurately now! The working surface is large and the illumination is great; I can sew easily after dark now. Makes my old machine feel very cramped and dim by comparison.

The built-in ‘walking foot’ aka IDT system is fantastic. It’s a little arm that pulls down and clips onto the back of the presser foot to help the foot ‘walk’ over the fabric rather than drag it. Like a regular walking foot, but no need to bust a screwdriver out to attach it and much quieter to operate.

Winding a bobbin and threading up is really fast and has useful features like a thread cutter by the bobbin winder, a drop-in bobbin case, and a needle threader (which is actually easy to use!). And there are loads of stitches to explore which are handily set out on the lid and picked via the easy to navigate LED screen. I’ve used the built-in alphabet and buttonholes already and the mock-overlock is excellent and useful for finishing seams when I don’t feel like changing overlocker threads.

A few things that are less good or will take a bit more getting used to:
– I find the physical function buttons quite fiddly to use. The dark-grey-on-dark-grey is hard to see in my periphery while sewing; in particular the frequently-used reverse button is tucked away on a slant near the sewing area and as I sew standing up it’s hard to see/reach it while sewing in-flight. The start-stop button is nearby too and I’m scared I’ll hit that by accident one day and sew through my finger or something.
– The automatic tie-off feature is great but there’s no automated way to start a new line of stitching with a lock stitch or backstitch. My old machine had this feature and I really miss it!
– Weird one but all they grey areas are a rubberised finish and it smelled really bad when I first got the machine! It left a real plastic-y smell on my fingers too after handling it. It seems to be wearing off thankfully.

Finally, here’s a few stitch samples from recent projects:

Buttonhole and edgestitched pocket/hem on a chunky corduroy jacket I’ve just finished. I left the IDT system engaged for most of this project as it helps the foot glide over the bumpy, bulky surface.

Topstitched binding and hem using a zigzag stitch on a fine merino knit. Again, the IDT prevents the foot from dragging the fabric and causing it to stretch out.

So overall I love my new machine: I think it’s levelled-up my sewing a bit and made it much more enticing to get out of a sewing slump and start some new projects. I’d definitely recommend a Pfaff if you’re in the market!

Isolation-fit: Strathcona & Philippa

I’ve made this entire outfit over the last week: I guess self-isolation was the kick needed to get back into sewing and even my extremely-long-neglected knitting habit. Desperate times…!

The trousers are a second pair of Anna Allen Philippa Pants – first pair here, which I wear an awful lot, so decided to recreate in a different colour of similar fabric – in this case, beautiful Coffee Bean Jumbo Cord from Merchant & Mills.

This fabric has a lot less stretch than my first pair, but I have lost some weight over the last few months, so I cut the same size as before with all my prior adjustments. I had to take in the side seams a little more once constructed to get the close fit I was after. I’m getting similar wrinkles all over the back leg to last time which may mean that a low butt or full back thigh adjustment is needed next time.

Like last time I added a stay into the front and swapped the button fly for a simple zip. I followed Charlie’s recent tutorial for getting a sharp corner on the waistband: I’ve done this so many times now but it’s always good to sense-check your approach with how someone else gets good results, and I like the simple steps she recommends a lot.

The sweater is the famous and much-loved Strathcona by Good Night Day. Fun fact, I used to be an extremely prolific knitter in my early 20s but it really fell by the wayside once I got into sewing – I just don’t have the patience to see a long project through and I’ve eagerly started many sweaters in the interim years only to abandon them partway. However the Strathcona is both super-chunky and very small (thanks to the shrunken fit and 3/4 sleeves) and literally worked up so fast that I didn’t have time to run out of steam once. I had it finished over a week of very casual knitting sessions and it really just worked up in front of my eyes.

I feel like while I still have the basic muscle memory for knitting and can follow instructions with ease, I have lost a lot of finesse with getting good tension and techniques, so the sweater isn’t that amazingly well made. In particular I’m annoyed that the M1 technique I used (the pattern doesn’t give a specific technique) has left uneven lacy holes down the raglan armsyces which I’d prefer would look solid – I’m wearing a black tee underneath here as it looks pretty weird otherwise. I did a pick-up-and-knit-tbl but I think kfb would have been better.

I made the smaller size of the pattern and I like the fit being a bit snugger than how it looks in the pattern photos and on other people. I tried it on regularly (the joys of top-down knitting) to check the body and sleeve length and ended both with a deeper layer of ribbing than in the pattern (12 rows instead of 4). The yarn is Debbie Bliss Roma, a chunky wool/alpaca blend which I bought from LoveCrafts – I only used 4 balls!

The pants are the first project I’ve completely sewn on my new machine by the way – I was lucky enough to get a Pfaff Ambition 630 for my birthday back in January. It coped more than admirably and I will be writing up some more detailed thoughts on the machine soon if you’re interested. Here’s to more isolation-sewing, and maybe even knitting…

Oh, Vienna

I made this dress as a bit of an impulsive palate-cleanser, for my birthday drinks last week and using some fabric I’d only bought the night previous!

The pattern is the Fibre Mood Vienna dress which was kindly sent to me by them as part of their pattern-preview blogger network. (It was back in September so it’s hardly a preview any more though, ha ha.) I was drawn to the chuck-on easiness of the style and am feeling like after a long period of very trouser-centric dressing I might want to try bringing some more dresses back into wardrobe rotation.

I picked my size according to the measurements chart and the fit turned out well. The shoulder draft of the bodice is particularly nice and the skirt is slim but with ample hip space. The only tweaks I made were to take about 3 inches of length off the skirt and to swap the overlaps so both the bodice and skirt have the left side as the overlap rather than right/left offset, I don’t know why but it just looked better to me this way (although it works really well as designed in the striped sample).

The digital pattern overall is a nice package – you download the PDF and the instructions separately from the Fibremood site and they are clear and comprehensive in measurements, fabric requirements etc. I struggled a bit assembling the PDF pattern as the pieces aren’t super well-marked, and bear in mind you do need to add your own seam allowances – this is a bonus for me but I know some don’t like it. I did not really follow the instructions and deviated slightly in both the sequence of sewing and some techniques – I did the bias facing differently and also made a channel for the waistline elastic instead of sewing it directly onto the seam allowance.

This fabric though, right?! I got it from the New Craft House who have just expanded their workshop space due to getting a massive new shipment of amazing fabrics, all of which are deadstock (unused leftovers from the fashion industry). This is an ex-designer viscose with this incredible Roman busts print and I’m afraid to say I got the very last of the roll, however keep your eye on NCH’s site and Instagram as they have a ton more amazing prints from the same designer that they will either be putting online or selling IRL. This slightly beefy but still drapey viscose was a great match for this pattern, however I could have been a bit more careful to avoid the slightly rippled hems along the fronts – I was rushing a bit.

I made a tie belt last minute to hide the elastic waist but I think it looks okay either with or without it. This dress definitely has spring/summer vibes to me: although I did persevere and wear it with tights and boots I can’t wait to wear it bare-legged when the weather warms up.

Thanks to Fibremood for the Vienna pattern and New Craft House for a discount on the fabric!