Category Archives: Planning

#2017makenine

I’ve been a bit out of it with sewing lately, but I really want to kick it up again in 2017. The first thing to do is take my machines to get serviced and repaired as soon as possible. My normal machine has two really annoying issues – the thread-cutter blade broke off and the foot won’t stay raised on its own – which I need to get fixed as they drive me nuts whenever I start a project. I’ve also started a fresh Instgram account just for sewing to give me another boost – it’s, predictably, at @whatkatiesews. And I’ve been buying a few pretty fabrics in the sales to kickstart some ideas – my stash is pretty low!

2017 Make Nine

Of course another fun motivator is to make plans. With a few more months’ of sad winter ahead, I tried to pick nine projects which would be wearable in the cold weather and beyond into spring and summer. Here’s my inspo-board:

1. I never blogged it, but I made a black button-down mini skirt at the start of the year, self-drafted using my skirt block: here’s an Instagram pic. It was an unassuming little wardrobe hit which always garnered compliments, because it makes my waist look tiny! So I’d like another one, either in dark denim or full-on 90s-revival velvet like this one.
2. A black midi kimono dress. I’ve had the Sew House Seven Tea House dress cut and ready to make for ages, but it takes 3m of fabric and I always buy in 2m lots so I’m waiting for the right stuff to come along and buy the correct quantity.
3. More waist-wrappy dresses – I love them! Either a Style Arc Serena, Vogue 1395, Style Arc Celine, or Named Kielo.
4. Bibbed wide-leg culotte-overalls. I’ll probably self-draft from the True Bias Emersons, which I also made this year and never blogged, but were a total hit on my recent holiday.
5. Swingy printed dresses. Just a year-round wardrobe essential! i’ll probably use my Roberts hack pattern.
6. A jersey midi column skirt, perhaps in a pre-pleated type of fabric if I can find some and figure out how to sew it!
7. Mmmm, sack dresses. Vogue 1482 or 1496 will do the trick here.
8. Cropped straight-leg pants, maybe in stretch needlecord, to be worn with tees tucked in or sweaters.
9. T-shirts! Another thing that never gets blogged but regularly sewn. I like this ringer-type twist and the longer-than-short sleeves.

Capsule sewing

My nine projects were picked based on this idea of a trans-seasonal capsule wardrobe, which can be mixed and matched to make it easy to get dressed and ensure high rotation across garments that all work together. Here’s how I see it all fitting together:


The obvious great thing about dresses (and their legged cousin, the jumpsuit) is you can throw one on and be instantly dressed. I wear dresses more than 50% of the time, and they are also funsies to sew, so it’s a win win. Plus you can use all the fun prints since they don’t need to match anything! In addition to the ones in my #makenine list, I also want another Helmi and probably some more Sudleys too.


I hope this trend for wide, slightly cropped pants doesn’t go away – I really like them, though I haven’t quite cracked the chilly-ankles issue now it’s getting close to freezing. I think they’re best with a slimmer top to balance them out, like a ribbed tee or turtleneck.

A variation on the above that I can throw tights under and a cardi on top of for winter. It gives me a chance to rock my main RTW indulgence too, silly slogan t-shirts and band shirts, a habit I can’t quite kick.

It worked, I’m excited to get sewing now! Happy Christmas and new year, everyone.

p.s. all image sources on Pinterest

Minimalafore + winter mood

awmood

Urgh! I’m really struggling with sewing motivation at the moment. It’s not for lack of inspiration: I’ve been pinning and sketching like crazy and have a list as long as my arm for things to make: a tie-waisted sweatshirt dress, another Helmi shirtdress, a minimal jumpsuit for layering, a party dress, a midi skirt, some wide-leg cord or velvet trousers…

b174d670-ce62-4f7a-a7da-3fd27fb566af

I’ve even got the fabrics in my stash for most of these makes, but something always seems to block me from making a decision and getting something started.

pinafore2

I made this at the weekend just to console myself that I could still sew, and it turned out okay but I still feel pretty ‘meh’ about it.

pinafore3

It’s a moderate hack of the Marilla Walker Roberts pinafore dress. I used the base pattern but merged the front into one piece, cut away a little extra around the top sides, curved in the A-line shape into more of a cocoon/egg shape towards the hem, and sewed the straps straight onto the bodice with no fastenings for a more minimal look.

pinafore5

I also cut both the front and back with a centre seam (adding seam allowance) which let me leave a centre-front split. The fabric is a washed-black Cone Mills stretch denim. It went a bit crinkly and tie-dyed in the wash, but I’m sort of OK with it.

Anyone else in the top hemisphere feeling the seasonal downturn and struggling to find sew-motivation? I’m looking at the the Aussie bloggers wishing we were heading back into summer! Though I am off to Mexico for some sun in a few weeks, so I’m going to focus on that for now.

Swatching for spring

With the spring equinox this weekend marking the official end of winter, I feel like the slight fug that’s surrounded my sewing motivation (and perhaps brain generally) might be lifting. What’s more fun than finally feeling able to plan for lighter fabrics, camisoles, dresses sans tights, midi skirt and moar jumpsuits? To that end I ordered a bunch of fabric samples to kickstart some ideas forming.

colours

First, I revisited this little colour palette graphic that I made myself a while ago so I didn’t go crazy and order a bunch of things that wouldn’t fit cohesively together. This winter I definitely tended towards black as a default more often than not, and I’d like to reintroduce a bit more colour back into my clothes. I want to hunt out some pinks and greens, and I’m tending towards solids over prints these days. Plus I just always throw in some good neutral denims and trouserings as good ones are so far and far between! Assuming others are as interested in fawning over fabrics as me, here’s the swatches I ordered and what I thought of them.

swatching

From Ditto fabrics: Indigo stretch denim, Washed Mid Blue Stretch Denim, Ivory linen jersey, Tropical Leaves Silk Noile.

Both of these denims are lovely and appear to have great recovery (they’d be perfect for skinny Ginger jeans), but the colour of both is not quite right for what I’m after. The silk noile is absolutely luscious and I don’t think I can resist it for a simple pullover tee. The linen jersey (my sample was actually Stone not ivory, but it seems to be sold out) is a delicate, loose knitted and slubby with a slight sheen – lovely, but not for me. I’d definitely spill stuff down it or snag it within five minutes.

swatching

Croft Mill: Life’s a Peach, Premium Viscose Jersey – Forest, Premium Viscose Jersey – Silver Marl, Peach Fleck

I’ll be getting the peach and forest green jerseys for t-shirts, they feel very nice quality. The peach fleck is a little too thin and shiny, and while I love the grey I do have a LOT of grey t-shirts already…

swatching

Croft Mill: Give a Little – Navy, For The One and Only Kate Moss, Beste – Tan, Beste – Khaki

I find it really hard to test trouserings from a little swatch. The tan and khaki gabardines are beautiful colours, light-med weight, no stretch, but get pretty creased when I crumpled them. The navy gabardine has elastane in for stretch and seems to drape better. The ex-Topshop ‘Kate Moss’ crepe feels gorgeous and doesn’t crease at all – could be a winner for some culottes or a jumpsuit.

swatching

Finally, Merchant and Mills sent along these swatch cards because I’m going to review a forthcoming pattern for them. But clearly I’m going to be ordering more for myself too. Some tottorri seersucker and tomari twill will be top of the list.

Anyone else (in the northern hemisphere) starting to look forward to spring sewing?

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!

Slow fashion October

I’m not really one to jump into all these themed sewalong events that seem to regularly crop up in our online sewing community. No offence at all meant to those who do, I love to watch most of them, but just tend to be a bit more wilful/indecisive and find it hard to stick to a theme! But one that did immediately appeal to me is Slow Fashion October, spearheaded by Fringe Association. It’s ostensibly the knitting community’s riposte to Me-made May, but it’s an equal-hobby opportunities event with sewists getting on board too. In fact the remit is even wider than creating a handmade wardrobe, but designed to celebrate sustainable fashion in all its forms: secondhand, upcycled, mended, handed down, and so on.

I probably don’t need to explain why a month of slow fashion appeals to me. My main reason for sewing is to reduce my negative footprint on the garment industry and to build a small and perfectly formed everyday-wearable handmade wardrobe. To make that happen it’s increasingly important to me to take the time to make sure that what I sew is what I really need, as well as every garment being well made and designed for longevity. Lofty ambitions that I definitely have not achieved yet, but a whole month dedicated to more mindful sewing is a great thing to sign up for.

So for October I’ve set myself one main project: the dream autumn coat. Now, I’ve made a coat the last three winters and to be perfectly honest, the first two are no longer in service. One’s found a new home with a friend and one’s about to be donated, but I think last year’s will make a return appearance once it gets really cold. Lessons taken from all, I’ve spent a lot of time (and Pins) analysing what I really, really want in a coat, and came up with the following key features:

• Low-key and minimal styling/colour, so it goes with everything
• About low hip in length so it can be layered with my preferred longer-line cardigan underneath
• A sort of shrunken – but not fitted – shape. I realised I really hate looseness in coats and always size down in RTW ones.
• Not too warm! Weird one, but as I walk and cycle a lot and don’t really feel the cold that much, I don’t need much more than a slightly snuggly layer to keep wind chill out.
• Fun to sew and a bit ‘special’ – if it’s going to be slow, I need some return on investment.

What does that look like? Something like this, I think:

Coat plans

I’ve bought the Republique Du Chiffon Bernadette pattern (available in print in English now, yippee), some super dreamy Nani Iro double gauze, and I think I’ll use some brushed cotton already in my stash for the reverse side. The pattern needs lengthening and toile-ing but is actually a really straightforward sew – which leaves some brain-space to make more interesting and intricate decisions for the fabric and finishing details.

My original plan (and the original impetus for my fabric choice) was to buy some pre-quilted Nani Iro double gauze, but it’s frustratingly hard to get hold of outside Japan. I made an Etsy order, but the factory went out of stock so it got cancelled. Right now I am doing some little swatch experiments to try and manually recreate the effect without adding too much bulk or warmth.

quilted swatches

This left-hand swatch uses a bamboo-cotton quilt batting in between my gauze and flannel layers. As you can imagine, it feels like an absolute cloud-kitten-lovefest dream… but I’m slightly worried it’ll get too warm in there and well, just look and feel like I’m wearing a sleeved quilt. I went for a meander in Soho yesterday and found this thinner and less dense fusible batting, sewn up on the right. I think this may be the one I go with, because fusing the batting to the double gauze gives it a little extra structure and strength too.

I’m also pre-puzzling out construction details in my head. I’ll likely rough-cut the pieces needed (only 3 in Bernadette’s case) then fuse and quilt them before cutting the pattern, in case of shrinkage from the quilting. Then I’ll need to bind the raw edges instead of bagging it, and I might as well go the whole slow-fashion hog and hand-sew the binding. Which made me wonder if I could make it 100% reversible for maximum satisfaction and versatility. YES!… which then made me question what sort of seam finish can take the bulk of quilting yet look acceptable from either side. Trim out the fusing from the seam allowance and flat-fell perhaps? And what about those all-important pockets?

In conclusion so far: this slow sewing thing is sort of brain-tiring, but a lot of fun. It remains to be seen if I’ll actually finish my jacket before the end of the month, but I suppose now more than ever it’s really not a race. Anyone else sedately sewing along with #slowfashionOctober?

Planning an eco autumn capsule wardrobe

capsule wardrobe

Finally, I’m feeling a bit of sewspiration again. It only took a bit of buying new patterns and splurging on lovely fabrics, ha ha. The end of summer is not a good time of year for me, to be honest – watching the darkness draw in ever-earlier and seeing the temperature plummet does not fill me with the joys of autumn. Buuut, I suppose it’s a good excuse to recalibrate the wardrobe and do some nice project planning.

offset warehouse

It was a trip to Fabrications to check out their brand new range of organic and ethical fabrics, care of Offset Warehouse, that really sparked some ideas. Fabrications is a sweet little craft store fairly local to me in Hackney which has always focused on textiles and fibre arts, but never stocked fabric before. They’ve now teamed up with online eco textile company Offset Warehouse to offer a hefty range of their gorgeous cloths in store for the first time.

offset warehouse

I popped along to the collection’s launch party last week and couldn’t resist a bit of investment. The good thing is that selecting these beautiful fabrics gave me quite a clear purpose of what garments they should become, and I realised they could form the basis of a really nice capsule wardrobe for the coming months and beyond. I’m increasingly interested in trying to make sure my output is more cross-seasonal, because I find it sad to have to tuck away hand-mades for half the year when they no longer fit the weather. My theory is that by going for natural fibres and a neutral colour palette it’ll be easy to make garments that can mix and layer up for the cold and be worn on their own in the summer. So here’s a look at what I bought and some ideas for what form my capsule wardrobe might take.

capsule-top

I wear my loose woven tops loads so I know this shape will be a wardrobe winner, and this cream striped ikat I bought could be paired with black, blue or grey on the lower half. I may try the Style Arc Ethel I just bought so I can play with the stripe direction across the panels.

capsule-dress

I do love my dresses – I’ve made quite a few super basic knee and midi length semi-fitted smock type ones (generally unblogged as boring!) and they’re in constant rotation. Throw one on and you’re dressed, and they’re great for cycling. I picked out a sage-y green striped cotton to make another; I can’t find it on the site but this is the same in a different colourway. Reading the product description of this fabric makes me feel so darn good about my choice: “The fabric is entirely handmade and hand dyed, using techniques that are thousands of years old…It also has virtually no carbon footprint, as the entire process is done by hand and uses no electricity – including the spinning and dyeing”. Considering that, isn’t it quite the bargain?

capsule-coat

One thing I am lacking at the moment in an in-between-y sort of coat; one that keeps out autumn chill but isn’t heavy or restrictive (I don’t really feel the cold til it gets really cold). I chose this black and white slubby cross-weave cotton which should stay nice and breathable. Actually I got chatting to pattern cutter and occasional Offset blogger Franki Campbell at the party after I complimented the gorgeous self-drafted coat she was wearing, and realised I totally just wanted to copy it: it was a minimal semifitted hip length style with no side seams and a dreamy centre front bust dart detail. Failing that, I love some of Burda’s cocoon type shapes.

capsule-trousers

One final piece of the wardrobe that I managed to resist buying fabric for on the night is trousers. I’m thinking high-ish waist so they can be worn with tops tucked or loose, pegged legs and lil’ cuffs – perhaps Burda 7017 again or the Papercut Guise, which i’m toiling now. Fabric-wise I was thinking of going for a slightly textured navy blue ikat such as this or this.

Well, that will keep me busy for a bit! I’ve enjoyed seeing other autumn planning posts up on other people’s blog (and jealously glowering at southern hemisphere folk planning their spring wardrobes) – what are your A/W sew plans?