Sew Bossy: McCalls 6960

SEW+BOSSY+BADGE

I’ve been bossed! I’m sure you’ve heard of the Sew Bossy initiative started by Heather, but if not, the idea is you team up with another sewing blogger and swap a secret package in the post containing everything they need to make a garment. They HAVE to make the project just as you ask, then both projects are blogged! I was really excited to be challenged to a Sew Bossy swap by Emily of Seymour, after she saw my comment on Morgan and Sally‘s swap saying how fun it looked. I love Emily’s laid-back, crisp and minimal style so it seemed like a good match. I had fun picking out her kit and nervously sent it off, hoping she’d like it, while awaiting my own from over the pond.

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

I didn’t have long to wait, and the package was definitely a surprise! Firstly there were some lovely local Washington coffee beans – I’m a big home coffee drinker so that was an awesome gift. The pattern Emily chose for me is McCalls 6960, a summery cami with a swingy shape and some very cool strap options. I was really pleased with this as I rarely buy top patterns in favour of dresses, but definitely need more of them in my wardrobe and am on a summer top kick at the moment. The fabric is a breezy rayon challis in a colour and print very out of my usual comfort zone – I don’t typically do stripes, brights or white, eek! But it felt delicious, and she also thoughtfully included some cotton voile to use as lining/underlining, plus matching interfacing and thread. Challenge accepted!

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

Here’s my bossed make! I went for view C of the pattern which has a very cool T-shaped chunky back strap. I considered the the stripe placement across the body as I cut the fabric, placing the wider strips of colour across the top and bottom, with narrower stripes in the midsection.

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

You’ll notice a bit of enforced pattern deviation. My first baste-together showed it was way too big all over (even though I sized down to account for oversizedness) with some pretty epic gaping around the neckline. I pleated out about 2″ of excess fabric at the front, topstitching it all the way down to form a faux button band. I actually think this detail really makes the top now, especially as I picked out some jaunty little anchor buttons from my stash to tie into the nautical stripes. I love a happy accidental ‘design decision’.

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

I like the flash of shoulder blade in the back and it was surprisingly easy to fit – no adjustments needed, even for my weird shoulders and back. I thought the stripes might look odd across the curved top strap so cut it out of one of the wide solid red stripes in the fabric.

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

I gave myself some extra fun by following my own bad advice and completely discarding the pattern instructions. I’m always turned off when a pattern has lots of stop-and-starting of seams, ie for the back straps there was lots of ‘stitch to the marked dot, turn right sides out, press in the seam allowance and finish the seam from the outside’. Way too fiddly, so I attempted to bag out as much of it as possible. I came unstuck a bit at one point when I sewed a giant Möbius strip which wouldn’t turn right sides out again, but unpicking one shoulder seam and handsewing it shut again sorted it out. I ended up with a nice clean finish on the inside so it was worth a bit of extra brainpower. The cotton voile is a dreamy lining fabric, pressed beautifully and feels really good to wear.

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

As I was making this I had guilty thoughts about overdyeing the finished garment black or navy to make it more wearable for me, but actually the cheery colours and stripes are growing on me, especially for summer and holidays. What do you guys think? – I feel like you sometimes know my taste better than I do! Either way I’m really glad to have done Sew Bossy and been pushed to try things I wouldn’t normally pick for myself, and I’ll certainly be using the pattern again. Thanks for being a great swap partner, Emily! Be sure to head over to her blog to see what I bossed her into making – it’s gorgeous, if I say so myself :)

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Yikes, three blue printed makes in quick succession? At least this is a different kind of garment! You might have noticed a distinct lack of skirts from me until now. I’m not really sure why that is, as I wear skirts pretty often and have a few RTW ones in regular rotation. I suppose maybe it’s because I don’t see many skirt patterns that particularly inspire me, and I’m quite particular about waistband level and flare amount on my skirts. It’s something I’m keen to put right now though, and this awesome little pattern is a good kick-start to some skirty sewing.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

This is the Liesl & Co Everyday Skirt. I was tempted to go the self-draft route for my dream skirt, but this pattern is basically it: flat side panels for hip-skimming effect, pockets tucked into in a front-shifted seam and a flat-fronted waist with just the back elasticated. There are some very cute versions of it in the blogosphere which sealed the deal: Kelly, youandmie, Fa Sew La. The PDF pattern is really good – unusually, you cut the pieces out first, before sticking together. This saves both paper and tape – the printout is only 20 pages. Top marks for that, Liesl!

Ikat Everyday Skirt

I didn’t bother with a toile as it’s elasticated at the waist, and cut straight into my lovely Michael Miller ikat print, which I bought a while ago on Fabric.com. It’s a quilting cotton, but good quality and with a little stretch/give which makes it very comfy to wear.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Making the skirt up was really fun and the instructions are great. It’s got a particularly good way to add the faced front waistband – you sew it to the wrong side of the skirt first, then fold it over to the right side with the seam allowance tucked under and topstitch. This is the opposite way to how waistbands usually go on, but it makes way more sense, giving a cleaner and more accurate finish since you don’t need to stitch ‘blind’ from the RS to catch the loose folded edge underneath. I’ll be adding it to my list of go-to techniques.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

I got a little bit confused about how to finish the last side seam with the elastic enclosed, but just ended up catching it in the side seam which seems fine. The pattern recommends sewing two channels and using thinner elastic, but I just went for one piece of wide elastic (as I recently bought a whole reel in bulk), topstitched down the middle so it doesn’t twist.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Even though I sized down to a small, the skirt ended up a bit too big so I had to pull the elastic quite tightly at the back. This gives me a bit of bunching at the back and also pulls the side seams backward, but it’s not toooo noticeable because I matched up the pattern pretty well. Next time I’ll reduce the width of both the front and back pieces by an inch or so. I also probably cut it a shade too short since I like it near my natural waist, oops.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

GRATUITOUS POCKET CLOSE UP. It’s a good pocket, perfect size and position.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Tidy guts, all allowances overlocked, except I just missed catching all the pocket tops in the waistband. I’m really happy with this pattern: I need more skirts in both prints and solids so once I’ve tweaked the fit I think this’ll be a TNT for me. I can imagine it’d be great in loads of fabrics, from chambray to floppy viscose – even a ponte knit perhaps – and will transition well into cooler weather with tights. Truly an everyday skirt!

Minerva network: Tessuti Pia dress

Quick thanks first for all the lovely comments on my Anna! I’m so proud of it and reading your encouraging comments only make me want to continue doing better and better with my sewing :)

Tessuti Pia dress

Here’s my Minerva make for this month. It’s a (slightly modified) Tessuti Pia sundress, using this luscious batik print cotton lawn. I actually made this quite a while ago and even wore it to the Minerva meetup day back in June! It’s a bit different in style to what I usually go for (I mean apart from all my obvious usual hallmarks: abstract print, blue/black colours, pockets…) but I’ve been wearing it a lot in this sunny London weather.

Tessuti Pia dress

It’s the first Tessuti pattern I’ve made and I’m afraid it gave me a bit of grief, mostly down to the PDF itself. It is SIXTY NINE pages long (!) so very intensive on paper and ink. I literally had to print it out in chunks over a few days to make it seem less daunting, then felt like apologising to some trees. The main reason is that the pieces aren’t nested, ie the XS/S are laid out separately to M/L/XL, which would be fine if that was noted somewhere so you could selectively print only the size you wanted, but all but impossible to deduce before printing them all out. I ended up recycling at least twenty unused sheets which is pretty unacceptable. There are also a bunch of pieces which have to be cut out of something called Vilene Shield (used to temporarily stabilise the arm and neck edges for finishing, I think). I’ve never heard of it so didn’t use any of those pieces either.

Tessuti Pia dress

Luckily after the nightmare of printing and assembly the dress was simple to put together. The instructions are good and each step is clearly photographed. I especially liked how the instructions show where and how to finish raw edges with an overlocker as you go – so often that is missed out. The front pockets are constructed so the inner pocket is smaller than the outer, causing them to droop open in quite a pleasing way. I think this would be even more effective in a slightly drapier fabric than this crisp lawn.

Tessuti Pia dress

As I mentioned, I didn’t use the Vilene method to finish the neckline and armsyces but instead drafted a simple all-in-one facing which was burrito’d and topstitched. Another example of deviating from instructions and swapping out finishes and techniques to suit my own preferences.

Tessuti Pia dress

I cut the smallest size because it’s designed oversized, and made quite a lot of fitting adjustments directly to the paper pattern. I took about 4″ off the bodice length and at least 10″ off the skirt because looking at other versions of this dress I figured a higher waistline and shorter length would be better on me. Halfway through making it I was still convinced it would look awful on me, but actually I really like it – it’s different to my usual silhouette but very easy to wear and nice and breezy for hot days.

Tessuti Pia dress

Once constructed I felt it was still a bit too straight-up-and-down, so added a little smocking detail into the front and back to add a touch more waist shaping. Really pleased with how this worked out: it’s just small pieces of thin elastic stretched and sewn onto the inside. This lawn was really scrummy to work with and feels great to wear – perfect for a loose summer sundress. I think it’s got a nicer handle than Liberty lawn, which I find can be a bit clingy and crease-prone, especially unlined. This one resists wrinkles much better but still has the characteristic fine weave which makes it delightful to sew and to wear. You can find the fabric here, and the Tessuti Pia pattern here.

Celebration Anna

Anna dress

This dress is a double celebratory one for me. Firstly, I think it shows how much I’ve progressed in my sewing, even since March when I made my last Anna (which I cringe when I look at now!). Secondly, I got round to re-making the Anna in order to wear to By Hand London’s Kickstarter celebration party on Friday!

Anna dress

This time round my Anna fits like a glove, and a few little tweaks here and there have got it just to my liking. I used Ginger’s tutorial to take out some back-neck excess (quite a lot in my case) and lowered the front neckline a little.

Anna dress

I moved the zip to the underarm side seam – I’ve grown to dislike centre-back zips a lot, both from an aesthetic and practical point of view. The zip is even hand-picked! I’m a changed sewist, man.

Anna dress

The bodice is lined in my beloved stretch mesh instead of using facings. I burrito’ed the lining to attach it to the sleeve edges with all raw edges enclosed, but found that I needed to both understitch and edgestitch the neckline and sleeves to keep it tucked inside. Like with my Centaurée, I didn’t make a duplicate bodice for the lining but traced the constructed bodice, leaving the bust pleats off. I like this technique with a stretch lining as it lies very smoothly with no additional bulk from two sets of pleats.

Anna dress

I swapped out the gored skirt for one of my all-time favourites, Simplicity 1610 – same as my kitty dress (which has recently undergone surgery to make it fit better). I maintain that it has the quickest and cutest yoked pockets ever. I had a feeling it would be a successful match for the Anna bodice and love how it turned out.

Anna dress

The pocket edges match up nearly exactly with the first set of bodice pleats, and I pleated the centre of the skirt by eye to match the other line of pleats. Looking at this makes me happy.

Anna dress

The back is just gathered between the darts and the skirt hem is a deep machine blind. Look at the perfectly fitting back! Don’t think I’ve ever had a non-stretch bodice fit so well.

Anna dress

The fabric is part of my Quito haul. I wish I’d bought more of this one as it’s totally dreamy: it’s a fairly heavy poly crepe so hangs really beautifully, sews easily and doesn’t require lining. The subdued but fun (Pacman, anyone?) print and colours make it suitable for day and evening occasions: a real wardrobe workhorse but still a bit special. It reminds me of something that my ultimate brand crush Sessun might make. Luckily I think I have enough fabric left for a little cami or something as well.

BHL Party
BHL Party
BHL Party

As I said, I wore this frock on Friday to the By Hand girls’ party to celebrate reaching their Kickstarter goal to fund their foray into fabric printing. Naturally there was a bunch of beautiful By Hand dresses on show, including no less than ten Annas. It was an amazing night, which culminated in a circle-dance lovefest to ‘Let’s Get It On’ before a sprint down the road to catch the last train home. Congrats, girls!

Lazy sewist tips: what’s worth the effort – and what isn’t

lazy sewing tips

Reading Janene’s brilliant 40 top tips for sewists today reminded me of a post I’ve been meaning to do for a while, albeit with a slightly different angle. You see, I’m a lazy sewist – or more accurately, a time-short sewist. While getting great results is definitely important to me and I love the actual sewing process a lot, I do like to cut corners and miss out as many of the boring steps as possible. Sewing time is precious and I don’t want to waste it completing steps that aren’t necessary.

Over the course of the last few months I’ve been realising which steps and techniques really are worth spending time on to get a good finish, and which you can quietly skip and not really notice the difference. Plus some of the ‘worth it’ things actually save you time in the long run! Here’s what I came up with – see if you agree…

Worth it

Deer & Doe Centaurée

Lining

I used to think, why on earth would anyone spend their time making a whole other garment just to sit inside the real one? But I’ve definitely seen the error of my ways on this one. Lining a garment means you can enclose all your raw seams so you don’t need to worry about finishing seam allowances too neatly. You can also cleanly finish necklines and sleeves with a simple understitch or topstitch, saving the need to hem or bind edges. I try to burrito dresses and tops wherever possible – it’s incredibly fast and makes a lovely clean finish inside. I also love to line wovens in stretch mesh as you can usually skip darts and pleats and get a nice snug lining in fewer pieces.

Understitching

I always used to skip this, thinking it was a waste of time. But nope, understitching your lining or facings is completely worth it as it really does help them stay tucked inside the garment and often saves the need for extra topstitching.

Changing needles

DO change you needle regularly, and match the right one for your project (jeans, ballpoint, fine etc). I can now immediately tell if my needle is old or not right for the fabric. For the record, I like Schmetz needles the best as they have colour-coded bands so I know what I have in the machine at any time.

Hand-sewing

I love a bit of hand-sewing, not least because it’s secretly lazy: one of the few tasks you can do in an armchair in front of the TV. I’ve started hand-picking all my zips and do a fair bit of invisible slip-stitching for facings and inner waistbands.

Pressing

Yeah, it’s really tedious but massively helps make garments look more polished. I sew the most amount of seams I can without intersecting them and press all at once. Also, tiresome as it is, pressing fabric before cutting and the pieces again after cutting helps with accuracy.

Not worth it

Pinning

I hardly ever pin anything. I guess that’s just down to preference and practice, but I find I get on fine working by hand and eye to match pieces together. At the most I’ll pin at the quarter and centre points when setting something in in the round. For knits I use Wonder Clips and for hems and bindings I secure with Aqua Glue. For cutting out I use weights (I like these grippy ones) and a rotary cutter and mat for maximum speed/accuracy.

Polka dot skinny jeans

Interfacing

Over the course of making lot of pairs of trousers and shorts, I’ve found that the correlation between interfaced waistbands and well-fitting, non-bagging waistbands is close to zero. It also makes it much harder to sew the inner and outer bands together accurately with one of them stiffly interfaced. My preferred method now is to cut the inner band (or interline) with a rigid fabric like twill and skip the interfacing completely – my favourite handmade jeans use this and they are performing best in terms of keeping their shape and not creasing. I still begrudgingly use interfacing where it really is needed like for facings, but don’t really like facings anyway so try to avoid them.

Backtacking

I rarely backtack at the start of a line of stitching, here’s why: nearly every raw edge will be covered by another seam or hem later on, so it really isn’t worth it for secure-ing reasons. Plus on delicate or loose-weave fabrics (and knits) it can leave an ugly bump or chew up the edge of the fabric: a plain stitch is much easier to press open and stitch over. I find that on the stitch length I use (about 2.5mm) unravelling while I work is never a problem. I also don’t backtack at the start of sewing a hem or seam in the round as then you’d have six layers of stitching over the stop-and-start point.

Following instructions

It’s incredibly rare that I follow a pattern’s instructions these days, unless it’s particularly complex or new to me. Instead I have a stock list now of ways I prefer to make things which can usually be adapted to most patterns – pants construction order, zip insertion, attaching linings and so on. Find ones that work for you and see if you can re-use them on new projects.

Do you agree with me on any points? Or have I massively revealed myself as a corner-cutting sewing fraud?! Any other time-saving tips to add?

Jimmy shorts times two

Jimmy shorts

I’ve got to say, I’m an eternal optimist about the British summer. It gets to about May and I tuck away my winter coat and sweaters and start thinking about little dresses and shorts. This often backfires obviously, but I feel really comfy in these kinds of clothes, and if nothing else our flat is like a little greenhouse whenever there’s sun outside so these shorts are great for working at home. (I don’t, however, advocate indoor sunglasses: I just couldn’t be bothered to put make-up on for photos! Yes, I am also living in this cami, which was a half-hour make.)

Jimmy shorts

These are the Jimmy Shorts, a free pattern from new to me blogger/designer Fine Motor Skills (if the download link doesn’t work, they are also on Burdastyle here). I found the pattern thanks to Sarah and her excellent round-up of of free patterns. I’m kind of blown away that this pattern is free: it appears to be professionally graded and the instructions are thorough and illustrated. These are my dream shorts in terms of details and fit: mid-waisted, fly front, blousy/flared, pleats, pockets… and for an extra pro finish they are fully lined (though I left it off both of these, ha).

Jimmy shorts

The diamond pair was my wearable toile. I’m sure you recognise the fabric from my Centaurée; I guess this fabric is blessed or something because both toiles I’ve made from it have turned into (pretty fabulous) wearable garments. Sadly it’s all gone now, but I definitely got my money’s worth from it.

Jimmy shorts

They fitted amazingly well straight off the pattern. Not even any back gaping to deal with, due to a nicely curved waistband piece. I cut a smaller size than the size chart would suggest after measuring the waistband and hips on the pattern pieces – I guess they run large, so be aware of that if you make them. The only changes I did make were to lengthen the hem by about an inch and convert the front pleats to release tucks. I’ve been enjoying playing with pleats and tucks recently, pressing them to different sides and so on to find which I like best on me. It can make a real difference to the fit and flatter-factor of pants so it’s worth trying a few out.

Jimmy shorts
Jimmy shorts

My second pair are made from a polycotton twill I got in Ecuador. I bought it with shorts in mind because I wanted to use the embroidered selvedge as a hem, but unfortunately it was quite a small piece and there wasn’t enough embroidered edge to make it all the way around. So the back uses a plain selvedge, which amazingly was already hemmed with a neat narrow hem. Man, I wish more fabric came with pre-hemmed edges! Not always practical obviously, but worked great in this case.

Jimmy shorts

I used some of the remaining embroidery for a couple of belt loops, and for the fly facing and shield for a bit of fun. The instructions have a new-to-me method for the fly front which is really smart and intuitive, and produces a super tidy result – worth downloading the pattern just to take a look if you’re interested. There’s a second button inside the band as well for a nice secure fit. Ignore the rather twisty waistband and poor topstitching, ahem.

Jimmy shorts

The side seam pocket insertion is also done a bit differently to what I’m used to but again worked great. You sew both pieces to the front and secure then along the waist so they sit really flat. I love finding new little techniques like this.

Jimmy shorts
Jimmy shorts

These are a really quick sew, even with the fly front – a two-session leisurely weekend project for me. I can imagine them in loads of fabrics – a silkier pair with lining would be really sweet. I’m also kind of intrigued to lengthen the legs to knee or full-length to see if they work as pants, since I like the fit around the top so much. I reckon these are on their way to becoming a TNT for me, while the British summer lasts…