Category Archives: Tops

Autumn capsule: Style Arc Ethel

bloglovin

Firstly, please forgive me a little YAY – I won the Bloglovin’ 2015 award for Best Sewing Blog. I’m honestly amazed: against all the incredible blogs out there, never mind the other nominees, it’s a big surprise to be noticed and recognised like this. Thank you so much if you voted for me, and thanks even if you just visit and enjoy reading. Being able to share my garments and process makes sewing all the more enjoyable for me, so it’s great to have a little extra encouragement to keep on doing it.

Style Arc Ethel

So, it didn’t take long to get cracking on my autumn sew plans – I made this top on the Sunday right after I posted about my plans. A nice easy one to kick off and looking satisfyingly similar to my sketch, this is the Style Arc Ethel top in cream cotton ikat from Offset Warehouse. (I’m told this fabric is now only in stock in Fabrications, so sorry if you wanted to find it online – they have lots of other lovely organic cotton ikats, though.)

Style Arc Ethel

I trend to trust Style Arc’s drafting and fit on myself to cut their patterns straight into my good fabric, and this was pretty good out of the packet. It’s boxy and loose fitting (about 10″ ease in the chest in the size 10) but I think the design lines make it pretty flattering. I scooped out the neckline a bit as the stripes seemed a bit overwhelming on the higher neck – as you can maybe see, that caused a tiny bit of gapeage so I’ll correct that on the flat pattern for next time. Also there’s an annoyingly uneven stripe right at the neckline which makes the neckline look slightly wonky – I swear it isn’t, ha ha.

Style Arc Ethel

Due to my quite thick fabric, instead of using the included topstitched facings around the neck, arm and hem I just did a bias facing for the neck and plain hems. But in a lighter fabric I’d definitely like to try that detail next time.

Style Arc Ethel

I cut the side panels slightly off-grain so they’d follow the diagonal front seams, and I like the resulting chevron effect at the sides and shoulders. It does appear to tip up just a bit at the front, I am not too sure how to correct that.

Style Arc Ethel

Handily for autumn, I love how this looks with a cardigan, the diagonal seams poking out at the top. As planned, the cotton is breathable yet cosy, and it just needs a shake when it comes out the machine to get the wrinkles out. Which is good, as I can see it getting worn and washed an awful lot. Up next from the plans, I finally picked a jacket pattern for my grey crosswoven cotton, so watch this space…

Ad Astra per Aster

P7220271

I seem to be incapable of sewing up a pattern as written these days. I often find myself removing design elements, merging pieces, using the same techniques and finishes over again. It’s a win-win really because these less complex garments are quicker to sew, and simple silhouettes are inevitably the ones I reach for to wear the most regularly as well. 

That’s my way of explaining that this is a sort-of-not really take on Colette Patterns’ Aster blouse. I was a bit surprised that this pattern didn’t really take off in blogland that much – I’ve only seen Marilla and Jaime‘s out there. Personally I love it and I’m glad that Colette seems to be moving away from a slightly cutesy/fussy vintage aesthetic into more basic wearable pieces.

Aster

As patterned this blouse has cuffed sleeves and a yoked back with gathers. I merged the back and yoke pieces into one, removing the gathers, and added cut-on cap sleeves in a similar fashion to my Alder hack here. Finally, I ditched the little straight edge at the top of the button placket because I couldn’t get it looking sharp and not like a mistake. Basically took the pattern from having 5 or 6 separate pieces to just two, ha ha.

Aster

This is only the second Colette pattern I’ve made – the Peony was one of my very early projects and was a full-on disaster, so I did approach this with trepidation. But happily my fit issues with Aster were all minor. I just had to raise the bust dart apex about an inch and pinch a small dart out of the neckline – that’s all. Despite my design changes I think some of the Aster’s detailing is retained like the pretty curved hem, shaped side seams and elegant neckline. I do need to do a little more work around the neckline, I think – perhaps a forward shoulder adjustment and to make the v-neck’s edges slightly more concave as they appear to bow outwards.

Aster

The fabric for this make was kindly supplied by Alice Caroline. I’m sure they’re on your radar already if you’re a Liberty lover like me. As well as selling a large range of Liberty prints by the yard, they specialise in pairing designs and colours together to form special bundles and kits to use for patchwork and quilting. Check out their site or Etsy store to browse the range. This top is made from Kevin tana lawn which I’ve mad my eye on for ages – I love the dusty colours, and like my super happy manga Holly, it’s one of those prints where you only see the lovely constellation details from up close. Thanks, Alice Caroline, for enabling a lovely staple summer top. Anyone else got plans to sew an Aster?

Kaleido-Datura, and tips on machine-sewing buttons

Datura

In anticipation of springlike weather, I scooped up the Deer & Doe Datura pattern from Ray Stitch recently. It had been on my to-buy list for a while but seemed an extravagant price for a tank – but I was swayed by how well D&D patterns fit me and the snazzy triangle cutout neckline.

Datura

I used 1m of this lovely Liberty lawn from Shaukat, a digital collage print called Matt Maddison: the kaleidoscope triangle pattern seemed just too perfect a pairing with the Datura’s neckline. I toyed with the idea of blocking the yoke in black but decided to just insert a bit of flat piping into the seam instead.

Datura

The Datura is labelled as advanced and there are indeed a few techniques in there to make things satisfyingly challenging. The language and diagrams in the instruction book weren’t always super clear either – I got a bit confused when attaching the shoulders, but luckily found this sewalong tutorial which cleared things up. Attaching the bias along the neckline with the correct gaps between the triangles took a bit of trial and error too. Size-wise I cut a 38 at the top blended to 42 at the hip, and cut the hem length of the largest size.

Datura

I’m really happy with the fit and wouldn’t change anything, but something is still making me feel a bit unsure about the finished garment. I think it’s perhaps a bit too fussy in design for my day to day wear, and I also don’t find the shape very flattering on me – it seems to enhance pear proportions. We’ll see if it grows on me or languishes unworn once spring comes along.

Sew on buttons by machine

But how about a buttony bonus? I thought I would share how I sew on buttons by machine, in case anyone is doing this tedious chore by hand and wondering how I can sew so many without going crazy. You’ll need a button foot (I have this cheap generic one for my Janome) and some clear sticky tape. If you don’t have a button foot, you can remove the presser foot entirely and just use the ‘stump’ to hold the button in place, though it’s trickier.

Attaching buttons

1. Mark your button positions per the buttonholes.

Attaching buttons

2. Place the buttons and tape them down. You can tape each separately or use one long bit of tape.

Attaching buttons

3. Measure the distance between the holes of your button. Mine’s about 3mm here. (For four hole buttons you can either measure and sew the holes in pairs parallel to each other, or diagonally across from each other. Or a jaunty arrow!)

Attaching buttons

4. Set up your machine: go for a zig-zag stitch with the width set to the distance you measured between the holes and the length at the shortest your machine will go (mine’s 0.2mm). And best to set your machine’s speed to the slowest it will go, to negate needle-slamming-into-button situations (heed the voice of experience).

Attaching buttons

5. Fit the button foot to your machine. As you can see, it’s like a little clamp with a gap in the middle, which holds the button nicely in place for you.

Attaching buttons

6. Slide the button under, aligning centrally under the foot and making sure the holes are horizontally parallel. At this point I usually lower the needle manually to check it’s going to hit the left-hand hole in the right place, then go ahead and run the machine on slow speed. I go for about 5 or 6 passes of the zigzag between the holes. For 4-hole buttons you’ll then need to re-align to the second pair of holes. My machine has an auto locking stitch which anchors my stitches at the start and end, but if yours doesn’t you will probably want to leave a tail and secure by hand.

Attaching buttons

8. Pull off the tape and cut your thread tails (if you need to secure your ends, thread the tails onto a needle, bring to the wrong side and knot to secure.). Voila, fast and secure buttons – I’ve never had one fall off yet. Hope it was helpful!

Style Arc Fern

Thanks for your comments on the last post, really interesting to read about how everyone else got into sewing!

Style Arc Fern

So, I’m proud of myself here: I made a top when I had ample fabric to make a dress instead. I’ve mentioned before that I have a weird tendency to feel like I need to make a dress when I have enough fabric to do so, so it’s a real internal struggle to ever make ‘just a top’ from a 2m length of fabric. SILLY. Anyway.

Style Arc Fern

This is a Style Arc Fern top, which came to me because Amy got it as her order freebie and kindly sent it on to me. It’s a rather cool kimono-sleeved top with a double-layered front which end in mitred corners. A bit of an update on the Elizabeth that I’ve sewn a couple of times already. The fabric’s a cheap polyester crepe from eBay, which is why I didn’t mind sacrificing it to a top instead of making a frock.

It’s been said before about Style Arc: the styles and drafting are amazing; the instructions are diametrically terrible. Now I don’t mind minimal instructions but Style Arc ones seem to be written purely to fox you, with terminology frequently mixed up or flat-out wrong (‘stay stitch’ is used interchangeably with understitch and baste in this case) and pointers to refer to diagrams that really don’t make things any clearer.

Style Arc Fern

This top has a few interesting details which meant I was puzzling over the construction quite a bit. There’s the mitred seam at the centre fronts, which took a few minutes of head-scratching to figure out but turned out to be quite a neat method to get a sharp corner.

Style Arc Fern

The front neckline is finished by sewing the overlapping fronts RS to WS and flipping over, while the back neck is finished with a facing. To get a clean finish at the neck edge you sew the outer front layer’s shoulder to the back shoulder RS together, then continue to sew the inner front shoulder to the back facing. Makes sense NOW but very much didn’t at the time. Also if your fabric looks similar on the back like mine does, mark which is the front or you might sew the shoulder inside out first try. Ahem.

Style Arc Fern

There’s supposed to be a little keyhole split at the top of the back neck: I had a valiant stab at it but had to give up and sew it shut as I simply couldn’t get it looking right by following the directions. After that I gave up with the instructions entirely and made the rest up as best I could.

Style Arc Fern

Can’t argue with the fit though, which is perfect right off the pattern. The shoulders of SA patterns seem to fit particularly nicely on me and the length, darts, neckline etc are all just so. It’s a really useful, wearable top, great for work with skinny jeans. I suppose I’ll just have to muddle through and make another one some time!

White Tree / GBSB lacy tee

Lace tee

Just a quick one today to show this tee I made as part of a White Tree Fabrics blogger challenge. They invited their blogger network to pick a lace fabric to celebrate this week’s lace-themed episode of the Great British Sewing Bee – I still haven’t seen the episode so no spoilers please, but I hear someone on the show used this very same fabric for their dress! I went for a Burnt Orange corded lace because the colour is so beautiful and, being quite inexperienced in sewing lace, I thought a more rigid lace would be easier to deal with. It’s not quite as neon as it came out in these photos by the way!

Lace tee

To show off the lace I picked a simple T-shirt pattern – the Salme pleated t-shirt. I did plan to add the pleats initially, but decided against it in the end as I wanted the lace pattern to be the star of the show. I made sure to line up the bodice and sleeve hems against the selvedge to be able to use the scallops for the edges.

Lace tee

I cut the seam allowances down to about 5mm and finished the raw edges together with a small zig zag (the fabric barely frays at all anyway). The neckline is simply turned and hemmed and there was no hemming required on the cuffs and bottom hem, making this a very speedy sew.

Lace tee

Pop over to the White Tree blog to read a bit more and see the other bloggers’ lacy makes. Tomorrow I’ve got a review of the new GBSB book coming too!

Overlockfest

overlockfest

Here’s the fruits of one sewist who’s VERY happy to have her working overlocker back. Going Konmari on my wardrobe left me with a very clear idea of what I needed to make immediately to fill some gaps, and luckily I had all the fabrics I needed to fulfil a lot of my needs. Not the most exciting garments to share, but definitely what I wear 90% of the time both for work and weekends. In fact these photos were taken each morning this week as I started wearing my new garments right away.

First up two of Grainline Studio’s free Hemlock, made in wintry sweater knits. The lurvely lofty rust-melange knit is from Tissu Fabrics and the navy slinky knit was a freebie from a studio sale in Shoreditch. Two new sweaters for £6.99 total, score!

Hemlock

The rust one is a very loose/lacy knit so I was worried about it unravelling at the seams. I sewed it all with a zigzag on my normal machine then trimmed and finished the edges with the overlocker afterwards, which seemed more secure than using just the overlocker for construction. The hems are folded up once then stitched right over the raw edge with a zig zag. There’s clear elastic in the shoulder seams to reinforce them too, so I hope all those things will make it last a while.

Hemlock

The navy one was much easier to deal with, just overlocked all over and I added cuff bands to make the sleeves full length (though still nearly always wear them rolled up). One thing about the Hemlock is I can’t seem to get the fit at the top quite right- it tends to slip off my shoulders and pull backwards a little. I tried reducing the width of the front and back neckline/shoulder on the rust one but it didn’t really seem to help. I’m thinking next time I’ll bring the shoulder forward slightly and also try adding a curve along the shoulder seam to try and anchor it in place. No worry though, I’m still going to wear the hell out of both of these.

Plantain

This is a Deer & Doe Plantain (another freebie!) made from some lush tissue-weight knit from Cloth House. I didn’t notice the sparkle running through it until I got it home – it’s subtle in real life. The fit is right off the pattern, except I raised the neckline a bit and cut a mid-upper-arm length sleeve edged with a wide band. The perfect tee pattern in my books.

Zippy top

Ah, my other go-to tee, the Zippy top, for when I can’t even be bothered to set in a sleeve. I especially like it with an added slouchy pocket in a drapey knit, like this lovely rust-coloured crepe jersey I got from Goldhawk Road. Obsessed with this colour right now, though I need to wear a different coat to avoid being orange all over, ha.

Up next, replenishing the lower half side of my wardrobe, which basically means more Gingers. If I can tear myself away from the overlocker for a bit…