Category Archives: Finished items 2019

The Water Lily jacket

The idea for this project has been percolating in my head for a while, and finally a pattern came along that kickstarted me to make it come to life. Yes, turns out a pastel lilac spring jacket was exactly what my wardrobe needed and it’s really put a bit more colour and variety into my last few days of me-made May.

So weird confession first: this is one of the very first jackets I’ve both sewn and owned. Being a rare type who doesn’t feel the cold that much, I typically wear a coat for the proper winter months, switch out to a knitwear layer for the in-between-y months, and shrug off all outerwear and go t-shirt-sleeves as soon as it’s reliably above about fifteen degrees. But this spring I felt like challenging my layering-ambivalence and having a go at making a garment that could work on top of a tee, be a useful barrier to my sometimes overly-chilly office and feel a bit more put-together than my usual cardi or sweatshirt.

I swooped on the Lysimaque Patterns’ Nénuphar jacket as soon as I saw it in my Instagram feed. I was mostly taken in by the gorgeous patchworked and colour-blocked sample but also realised that it was just the right simple project to test out my jacket needs in a low-stakes sort of way. It’s a very simple but impactful and practical design. The body is basically square with tapered dropped-shoulder sleeves, a stand-less collar (I also have a weird aversion to collars) and lovely huge pockets with an overlapped little chest pocket just for fun. No plackets, cuffs, linings etc to deal with: this lack of fussy detailing and finishing techniques appealed to both my minimalist and lazy tendencies. Win-win.

I was fairly happy with the pattern itself. I did struggle a bit with alignment of the A4 PDF as there are no page borders or match points which I think led to some seams not matching perfectly. The instructions are supplemented with sketchy illustrations and are translated from French into English. I didn’t find some areas super clear, like hemming the lower edge to get a clean finish at the front and the standless collar attachment method, but mostly figured it out using prior art, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this if you need more hand-holding. (I have given this feedback to Lysimaque’s owner and she is very open to feedback and providing more guidance.)

I cut a size 40 and am quite happy with the fit. The upper back is a bit too broad but I think that’s to be expected in a boxy drop-shoulder style and I wouldn’t want to over-fit it as you’d probably lose some of the range of motion. The sleeves are a touch short and quite narrow at the hem but I like the wristbone length, and the proportion of the body length is spot on for me.

I used a Robert Kaufman Ventana Twill from my stash, bought originally for Lander pants but I actually find this twill too thin and unstructured for Landers. It’s perfect for this jacket though and quickly put paid to my fears of woven jackets feeling more uncomfortable and restrictive than my usual knitwear. 

I finished the jacket with my favourite flat metal buttons from Textile Garden, and did matching copper buttonholes: partly because I thought it’d look nice and partly because my spool of lilac thread ran out just as I was finishing the topstitched hem. I didn’t achieve the neatest finish at the collar-placket meeting point and I’m a bit worried the area feels quite weak and might fray over time. I sewed some bar tacks at the intersection point to try and reinforce it a bit. I chose to faux-flat-fell the other main seams ie overlocked them together then topstitched 5mm from the seam.

I wouldn’t have necessarily selected this lilac colour for a goes-with-everything jacket but weirdly I’m finding it really does pair nicely with large swathes of my wardrobe and I’ve certainly been reaching for it regularly since I finished it. I am unexpectedly keen on it buttoned up as well as loose and I like that it can be worn indoors as well as out as it feels quite shirt-like. I’m not sure I need another one right away but I’m definitely keeping an eye out for a nice forest green or black peached twill for a potential second go.

Trials of the Trend Trousers

I spent the Easter bank holiday weekend tackling a heck of a project – some Trend Patterns TPC 12 Utility Trousers. It wasn’t easy but we survived and having road-tested these pants in the following weeks I feel they were worth the effort. I’m especially enjoying wearing them twinning as a black crayon with my cat, who wanted to join me for these photos yesterday.

I’m typically loath to spend £20 on a pattern but I couldn’t get Shauni’s gorgeous version out of my head and as an almost permanent member of the trouser-wearing brigade these days (seriously, never wear dresses any more) I’m always looking for ones with interesting design details to add my my collection.

I guess with Trend – one of the more high-fashion-forward indies out there – you are paying for the drafting and design rather than lovely hand-holding guidance (or indeed an inclusive size range – my hip measurement skims the largest size on the chart). I’d already been forewarned by Charlie, who has also just made an excellent pair, that the instructions were on the skimpy side, and got an extra sense from spending an entire evening cutting the many pieces out on a single layer that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park kind of make. To that end I procrastinated on getting started – but when I did, while there were painful bits here and there, I did have finished trousers after two half-day sewing sessions.

Fit-wise things were quite straightforward. I cut a 14 based on my hip measurement and it was easy enough to bring in the waist at the centre back and side seams to fit my smaller measurement there. There’s a nice curvy waistband so no gaping and the length is great. The only thing I altered as I went was to lop two inches off the rise as I didn’t want that super-high/super-long-crotch look. I did this straight from the waistline but I’ll alter the pattern to take it off lower down (and maybe add back half an inch) for next time. I could possibly also size down generally but I do like how comfortable these are.

The rest of the pattern however…. there were certainly parts that were cool and interesting to sew – like the origami-folded vents and an unusual but smart and intuitive fly/waistband construction – I feel like some improvements would make all the difference to the overall usability and enjoyment of this pattern, such as:

– The order of some of the steps made things harder than they needed to be at times. For example, you are instructed to close the outseam before finishing the leg topstitching and vent construction. That makes it harder to manoeuvre under the machine to reach the vents as it’s a little leg-shaped tube. There’s no reason not to sew the side seams after the vents are in which would make access much easier.
– The pattern pieces aren’t numbered and many have really similar names, which makes it hard to know which one to pick up and use at each point. Or indeed to accidentally sew (+ trim + understitch) the ‘front facing’ onto the pants instead of the ‘front fly facing’ #askmehowiknow. Similarly, notches and marks which are referenced in the instructions like the vent stop point are not labelled on the pattern either.
– The instructions have photographs for some steps, but they’re on a cream garment with white stitching so you can’t really tell what’s going on. Sometimes what’s caught in the shot doesn’t really help either e.g. if the fly one was more zoomed out I might have seen I had the wrong piece but it was a fairly useless close-up of the bottom end.
– The written instructions are needlessly confusing and need a proofread. Why write ‘attach’ ‘mount’ ‘close’ etc when you just mean ‘sew’?
– Some finishing-off type steps are not covered so a bit of judicious gap-filling is needed. Like anchoring the end of the fly and the unsecured edges of the waistband facing.

The Fly of Pain

And here are a few extra tips which if you make the pattern you might want to consider too:
– It’s generally not necessary to pre-overlock the raw edges as instructed. I did it as I went which I much prefer; much less tedious.
– I would recommend pressing in creases for the hem and vents while they’re still flat as you will lose your notches after overlocking the raw edges.
– I would certainly toile or wearable-toile to get the fit and construction down before cutting into good fabric. I used a fairly cheap cotton-linen from Abakhan and it got a bit battered from unpicking in places, though I am glad these are definitely wearable.

For all my gripes about the instructions, I did mostly enjoy this project and I really like the finished pants! They feel cool yet comfy and super wearable – they’re gone into regular rotation since Easter even though the cotton-linen I used creases like a mf so needs constant ironing. I especially love those leg vents, which I’ve tried to show in motion above. I think a white denim pair would be pretty cool and I’m sure it will all go easier the second time around.

Creamy True Bias Yari jumpsuit for spring

I toiled the True Bias Yari Jumpsuit last year sometime and for whatever reason (…winter, I guess) had a massive delay before picking it up again. But then I saw Sarah’s winter-white version and this Asos cutie and got on the lookout for creamy fabric to make my own. Just in time for spring, hint hint weather.

I cut a straight size 12 for the toile to fit my hip measurement but the top half turned out way too baggy, so this time I cut an 8 graded to 10 at the hip. It’s actually still turned out quite loose through the leg so a straight 8 probably would have been fine. I could possibly benefit from a small FBA on top, which would be easy to add through the princess seams next time. I love how flat the crisply-faced neckline lies though and there’s no gaping even with only three buttons. (The buttons are vintage milk glass from my endless stash. )

I was going for a relaxed silhouette but tried the suit on partway through construction and decided it did need waist definition. Also the crotch and pockets were hanging very low like it was too long in the body. I didn’t fancy the side D-ring ties included in the pattern – they look a bit awkward and unflattering to me – so I sewed a drawstring channel to the inside waistline and made skinny ties to feed through. The slight blousing effect this resulted in also fixed the length issue!

Here’s the channel from the inside. Mmm, I love all these creamy stitch tones against each other.

The only other tweak I made was to level off the top of the pockets to straight rather than slanted, to match the Asos inspiration suit better. I like that the deep hem at the top of the pockets matches the width of the little cap sleeve cuffs. This pattern was lovely to sew overall and unusually for me I followed the given directions almost completely, adjustments aside.

I grabbed the fabric with exactly this project in mind on a recent trip to the wonderful Abakhan in Manchester, a pre-cut piece of slubby cotton-linen blend that reminds me of silk noil costing about £8 for around 2.5m – in Abakhan you pay by weight so I wasn’t sure of yardage at the time. With creative cutting I could just squeeze the Yari pieces on (3m is the recommended yardage).

I got some of this fabric in black too and I’m tempted to use it to make a Yari sister as I reckon this will get a lot of wear as soon as it warms up a little.

Philippa pants: fitting and adding a ‘tummy stay’

After a few sewing fails in a row (some Lander pants in a frankly hideous fabric choice, a vintage jumpsuit that looked 80s in the wrong way, some patchwork jeans that looked straight-up weird) I was so happy to finish these trousers and be 100% in love with them. They are Anna Allen Philippa pants in a stretch corduroy from Minerva, which I received as part of being in their blogger network. My main blog post about the pants will be going up over there later, but I thought I’d go into a bit more detail on the fitting and construction process over here.

I don’t often toile patterns but I did in this case as I wasn’t at all sure what size to cut and thought I may need some adjustments to cover the size difference between my waist and hips on such a close fitting design. The pattern comes with a complete separate booklet of useful fitting tips and I also sought some very helpful advice on Instagram.

The main consensus pointed to a full stomach adjustment, reducing the crotch depth, and giving more space in the thigh.

Thanks in particular to Evelyn @slowintention who sent me these diagrams showing how she did the full thigh and full stomach adjustments.

Toile 3 – which repurposed the aforementioned horrible-fabric Landers by the way. What was I thinking. Pinching out the crotch wrinkles with pins.

Over the course of three toiles I made the following adjustments:
– 1” full stomach adjustment (I added space both horizontally and vertically as you can see in the main slashed areas above)
– Graded up a size at the inner front thigh, tapering in again towards the knee
– Took 1” off the rise all around, and wedged a further 3/4” out of the crotch curve at the lengthen/shorten line
– Scooped out the back crotch a bit at the seat (low butt adjustment)
– Omitted the back darts completely (?!)
– Sewed the outer leg seams at a 3/4” seam allowance, mainly to compensate for the stretch in my fabric
– Shortened the leg length by 1″
– Converted the waistband from straight to curved (a tutorial is included in the pattern for this; I only needed it because I lowered the rise to where my body curves in). I sewed cotton tape into the top seam of the waistband to prevent stretching over time.

The fit is still not perfect! There are some diagonal drag lines on the back leg and there is excess fabric bunching around my knees – I was focusing on the waist/hip area and only toiled down to the mid thigh. The grainline seems a bit twisted too which I wonder is down to maintaining the straight side seams. But I don’t really mind! They’re crazy comfortable and I think they’re the kind of trouser that will need minor adjustment each time it’s sewn due to fabric variances.

I pretty much went my own way with the construction. I cut-on the fly facing pieces to the main front leg and used my preferred Sandra Betzina method to do a zip fly instead of the button fly as in the pattern. I’m proud of this fly front, it’s super flat and I interfaced the surrounding area inside to keep it sturdy. The cool matte black button came as a spare with a RTW pair of jeans!

I also decided to add a sort of tummy-tuck stay piece into the front for a bit of firmness in this area – similar to a pocket stay/holster but as these have no front pockets it’s just a layer of self fabric. I used the front pieces to draft them off and anchored into the fly and side seams as they were sewn. I stretched the pieces a little as I sewed them in and I think this really helps in smoothing out the front area.

Next time I sew this pattern I will try using a non-stretch fabric as recommended, but this pair is so comfortable and I’m pleased with the fit I ended up with.

Two frosting frocks

I’m a million miles late joining the fun #sewfrosting challenge started by Heather and Kelli before Christmas, but I finally got around to photographing two fancy dresses I’ve made in the last couple of months, both of which have been successfully party-tested already.

First up a jazzy dress I wore for my birthday party last weekend. I bought this amazing outer space embroidered tulle from Stonemountain & Daughter last year (it still seems to be in stock!). It cost me an absolute fortune in shipping and custom fees but luckily it was worth it. I only got 1.5yds so had to do some very careful cutting to get the midi length dress I wanted with decent pattern placement. I had basically zero scraps and the shoulders with no embroidery are eating riiiiight into the selvedge, heh.

I wanted a dead simple pattern and used this Stoff & Stil pattern that I threw in out of curiosity in a recent fabric order. They have an awesome range of patterns for cheap prices in very cool, wearable styles. They come single size, and unusually come pre-cut in whole (non-halved) pieces and made out of a lightweight fabric-like material. I imagine you could tissue-fit the flat pattern with pins very easily prior to cutting. I liked working with the pattern a lot, the grippy fabric pieces made cutting really easy and the nice big bellows envelope makes it easy to re-store the pieces.

I had to adjust the fit as the size that fitted my hips was way too big on the shoulders and chest, so I sliced down from mid-shoulder to hem and overlapped the pieces, tapering to less as I went down. Otherwise the fit is great and will likely become a TNT for simple tee dress shapes.

I thought carefully about seam and hem finishes in this very transparent tulle. I tested French seams but they looked pretty horrible, so in the end decided to overlock then press and topstitch down to one side. Similarly for the neckline and sleeve hems I overlocked the raw edge, finger-pressed it back twice and topstitched. The hem is still raw! I confess I was finishing the dress five minutes before I got out the door for my party but hey, sometimes fuss-free (non)finishes are the best and who’s looking that closely when you’re covered in sparkly planets and stars.

The transparency also necessitated an under-layer which I hadn’t really considered; in a pinch I wore an Inari knit dress I made a while ago. It’s not ideal as it’s looser fit and the ties add some bulk, so at some point I’ll make a simple close-fitted tee dress to wear underneath.

Here’s the dress looking cool under a blacklight in a bar, and doing some serious karaoke, my two preferred birthday activities.

I used the same pattern before Christmas to make a mini dress for my company’s Christmas party. It had a ‘red, green and/or sparkly’ dress theme so this excellent snake-y sequin fabric I bought a year or so ago (also from S&S but sold out now) was perfect. It is also quite sheer so I’m wearing a black Ogden cami slip I made a while ago underneath.

This was my very first time working with sequins, but luckily it was a gentle introduction! Crucially the sequins are pliable enough that they could be cut and sewn straight through, no need to remove them from the seam allowances. I finished the neckline with purchased black bias tape facing, which I handsewed down – stitching into the mesh means the sequins cover it and it looks invisible. The other hems are rather shamefully just overlocked and left plain. I tried the same bias finish on one of the sleeves but it made it flute out weirdly, and actually I like the weightless look and near-invisible finish of the black overlocking.

The great thing is this simple tee shape is so comfortable and forgettable to wear, but the fancy fabrics make them still feel special. That’s ideal frosting for me!