A second Astoria sweatshirt

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Oddly, this sweatshirt looks a lot better lying down than standing up

I love the idea of this pattern, but I can’t quite get it working for me.

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That fold just above the bustline shows there’s too much fabric there – I should go back down a size and add the extra room just where it’s needed.

 

My first one was a bit tight across the chest and the arms, and this one (a large rather than a medium) is just a bit, well, meh. It’s not sweatshirty enough for slobbing around or smart enough for going out.

I used the leftover fabric from the first to try this second version and I had just enough to squeeze out the 3/4 length sleeved version.

Fit-wise, this one is much looser overall, but I’m now getting that tell-tale extra fabric just above the armpits (front and back) that reveals it’s too large at the upper bust.

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It’s a bit big in the back and it doesn’t really nip in at the waist.

Plus the 3/4 length sleeves have come out more like 5/8, even though I added the same amount of length to these as I added to the full-length ones before – and those were way too long. (Why? Do I have oddly long upper arms and weirdly short forearms?!)

I’ve learnt some useful things: I do need an FBA, even in a C-cup pattern line like Colette/Seamwork. I should go back to the size M and add the extra room at the bust and on the arms. And I think it would be less meh –and more me – in a sweater knit or a ponte knit – I’m thinking a marled grey or a berry colour?

What do you think?

Can you recommend a great tutorial for an FBA on knits, and what’s the best EU-based online shop for sweater knits?

 

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Improving my twin needle hems

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The twin needle threaded up and ready to go.

I don’t have a coverstitch machine (yet…), so my favourite way to hem knitted garments is with a twin needle on my regular sewing machine. I’ve been sewing lots of knits over the last year (children’s clothes 1, 2 and 3 as well as things for me 1, 2 and 3). And I’m not very happy with my twin needle hems so I thought I’d scout around the blogosphere for some tips, test them, and share the results with you all.

So here’s my control example: some sweatshirting fabric scraps sewn with a twin needle, using Gutermann sew-all thread on top and bottom, medium presser foot pressure and the ordinary tension settings.

As you can see, the two lines of stitching on the top are fine, but there’s not much zig and zag in the black bobbin thread meaning them hem won’t stretch much. Fine in a loose fitting sweatshirt, maybe, but not great for a tight-fitting T-shirt. And when you look at the hem in profile, it’s got that tunnelling effect where the fabric between the two lines of stitching almost looks as though it has piping inside it.

The first tip I found was to adjust the tension on the top thread. Cranking up the tension on the top should make the bobbin tension lower and create more zig and zag in the bobbin thread. Except it didn’t, so I haven’t taken any pictures of that. The only thing it did do was to stop the hem from curving – almost as if I’d adjusted a non-existent differential feed.

Woolly nylon in the bobbin thread

The second tip I found was to try woolly nylon thread in the bobbin, instead of sew-all. This stuff is weird! It’s fuzzy, stretchy and feels very, very synthetic – a bit like you’ve unravelled your tights, I suppose.

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With woolly nylon in the bobbin, the hem comes out like this:

I think there’s a bit more zigzagging going on in the bobbin thread – although it’s hard to see with the pale grey colour I bought (sorry!), but there’s still a definite tunnel effect when you look at the hem in profile. So far, no better.

Lowering the bobbin tension (while using woolly nylon)

Next up, I tried lowering the bobbin tension as suggested on Oliver and S. My sewing machine manual doesn’t even tell me how to do this, as Janome firmly believes you should only ever need to alter the top tension to get the right balance. (If you try this at home, please make sure you know how to undo it, too.) To save my sanity if I couldn’t undo it, I followed Rachel’s example in the Oliver and S post and bought a second bobbin casing to play with, loosening the screw to lower the tension.

The results looked like this:

Lots more zigzagging in the bobbin thread, which means the hem is much stretchier. But I’ve still got the tunnelling. Aaargh.

Have you solved this problem? What should I try next?

 

Art class Ottobre children’s t-shirt

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My little boy LIVES in T-shirts. He doesn’t have to wear a uniform for pre-school, so he puts on a t-shirt pretty much every day. Although he’s not quite four, he wears age 5-6 clothes so he’s grown out of some of the really fun prints and appliques you find for toddlers.

And although t-shirts can be found pretty cheaply on the high street, it’s really hard to find t-shirts for boys his size that feature something other than dinosaurs, sharks, superheroes, stereotyped messages, camouflage or vehicles. And in our house, we’re sick of all of those. For a pretentiously middle-class t-shirt that doesn’t feature any of these, the going rate seems to be £15 and up.

In my head, I think I should be the sort of mother who can easily whip up a batch of neatly made t-shirts with a custom fit in a selection of fun fabrics. It doesn’t seem to be that easy, but here’s my latest attempt.

The pattern

This time I tried a dropped-shoulder, long-sleeved t-shirt pattern from Ottobre Kids issue 2015/1  on the site. My little boy has narrow shoulders and I wanted to see how a dropped-shoulder style would look on him.

Fit

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I cut the pattern with no alterations to see how it would fit straight out of the envelope, and it turned out oddly long in the arms, so I think the shoulder was too wide still. It’s a little large on him, but the weirdest thing is that the neckline turned out a lot wider than you would usually get on a boys’ t-shirt. (Are Finnish children oddly broad in the shoulders with thick necks?) So I won’t use this pattern again for George.

Fabric

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How cute is this print for a pre-schooler? It’s by Rae Hoekstra, and it’s from Cloud 9 Fabrics’ 100% organic cotton jersey range. I’d say it’s a medium-weight jersey – almost interlock weight. And I think Rae has even used the other colourway to make an Astoria sweatshirt. It was £9.50 per half a metre, but I was hoping I would get something that would last a long while.

The downside of using 100% cotton, of course, is that without some spandex content, the fabric doesn’t have great recovery. I did know this, but I got distracted by the lovely print and forgot. It’s also printed just ever so slightly off-grain – aaargh! Not a lot, but when I thread-traced down the grainline it definitely shifted across the print by around 1cm over 1m. Disappointing, at £19/m.

Sewing it up

I cut the pieces so there would be a complete line of pencils along the hem, and along the sleeve hems, and then sewed it up on the overlocker. As with the last Ottobre T-shirt I made, I ran into trouble with the binding. I’d love to know what I’m doing wrong here, but the pieces didn’t seem wide enough to do the job properly, and when I stretched both fabrics to sew it on as per the instructions, the cotton jersey didn’t recover and I ended up with a sort of lettuce edge on the neckline and both cuffs…

The sleeves were too long anyway, so I cut the binding off and just did a simple folded hem instead. (Well. I say simple, but the cuffs were too narrow to go around the 12″ circumference free arm on my machine, so I had to negotiate sewing them from the inside while stabbing myself with all the pins…)

To get the neckline back into shape, I ripped out the binding and switched it to a band instead. Then I washed and steamed the shirt furiously with the iron to get it to shrink back again. It seems to have worked, at least for now.

George loves the print and he’s got it on today, so I hope it’ll be popular.

Have you made t-shirts for your children? What fabrics and patterns would you recommend? And where can I source fun t-shirt prints that have enough stretch and enough recovery?

 

 

Pester power Christmas pudding children’s pyjamas

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Since Christmas, when I made him some quick Christmas pudding-print PJ bottoms, my not-so-little boy has been asking for a matching top. I fancied having a go at a proper, traditional pyjama top with piping and a notched collar, so I went on a pattern hunt for the children’s equivalent of the Closet Case Carolyn, or Lisette for Butterick 6296.

The only one I found was this Burda PDF pattern, which was reduced (so possibly soon to be discontinued?) It’s labelled as for boys, but obviously it would work for girls if you swapped the buttons to the opposite side. The sizing covers roughly ages 3-8. These had exactly the look I was going for, and as it was a PDF I could get started straight away. Hurrah.

I was slightly worried when I opened the PDF file and discovered there were no diagrams at all in the instructions. Never mind, I thought gaily, it’ll be fine – I’ve sewed lots of Big 4 patterns and I can probably use the Carolyn sewalong to help with the tricky bits.

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I set to printing, cutting, sticking, tracing and re-tracing the pattern and adding seam allowances (yes, it’s one of those…). I used the same quilting cotton fabric as for the bottoms. Sadly, it’s not printed straight on the grain so I had some awkward choices about whether to go with the grain or the pattern in places and not everything matches up neatly. I made a batch of bright red piping to pick out one of the colours in the fabric and I love how cheerful it makes them.

When it came to sewing them up, these are the MOST minimalist instructions I’ve ever worked with.

Sample instruction:

“Set in sleeves.”

The pattern doesn’t tell you what to interface, or what diameter of piping to use, and it doesn’t even mention notching, clipping or staystitching – each of which is critical to getting the collar sewn on.

But where I really ran into trouble was where the piped, notched collar meets the lapel. On reflection, my piping cord was too thick. Then I carelessly missed off one of the pattern markings, leading to me cutting some of the piping too short and having to piece it. That made getting the collar lined up a bit of a nightmare and I’ve had to fudge it a bit. (And the Carolyn sewalong?  It’s not a full sewalong, and it uses a slightly different facing method so I wasn’t able to crib much from it.)

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Not perfect, but luckily my three-year old is far less of a perfectionist than me.

I made one deliberate change to the design – my three-year old hasn’t mastered buttons yet, so the closing is done with Velcro instead – you can see the stitching for it on the front edge if you look closely. But he can now take the pyjamas on and off himself, so that’s all good.

I made the size 116cm (roughly age 5-6 – he’s tall), and it’s turned out a little broad in the shoulders, so next time I might make them narrower, or I could equally go down a size and add a bit of extra length in a loose-fitting garment like this.

Overall, it’s ended up as a borderline wearable toile, but given the trouble I had with this pattern, I’ll settle for that and hope to make a better fist of it next time. After all, he’s only going to grow.

Have you wrestled with any patterns that aren’t big on instructions? And where do you go for help with the awkward bits?

Ouch!

It had to happen eventually, I suppose.

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Today was the day I sewed through my finger for the first time.

I was trying to attach some piping and the adjustable zip foot wasn’t quite in the right place, so I used my finger to drag it over a bit and…

I think I should probably buy a proper piping foot.

Have you suffered any sewing injuries over the years?

 

#sewtallandcreative2017 – my finished dress…

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It’s finished! Two months after a beautiful box of fabrics arrived in the post from MARGE, I’ve sewn a silk and crepe dress. A big thank you to Sallee at TallGuides for inviting me to get involved in this, it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learnt a whole sackful of new skills.

I, and the other fabulously tall sewists who took part, have enjoyed mixing and matching the different fabrics and puzzling over how best to incorporate two of them into a new dress for summer – or winter in Allison’s case perhaps, as she’s in Oz! Tiffany, Allison and Beth have produced fabulous dresses, and I confess to being just a bit in awe of each of them.

Details

I used view B from B6169, part of Liesl Gibson’s line for Butterick. I love pretty much everything Liesl does, and although this dress didn’t scream my name when it first came out, the pattern has everything I like in a relaxed summer dress.

The belt gives it shape – although you could leave this off for an easier life and use a RTW belt instead; it takes full advantage of any drape; and the gathered shape with no closures makes it fairly simple to construct. Princess seams make fitting easier (other than a swayback adjustment…) and the instructions are clear and straightforward for a Big 4 pattern. Plus it also includes a great-looking moto jacket that’s going on my list for the autumn.

I picked the rough side of the coral crepe and the pale pink spotted silk from the four fabrics we were all given. The colours are in my comfort zone, and I was fairly confident they’d combine well. Both were a little trickier to work with than I’d anticipated – the crepe creases like mad and doesn’t drape quite as much as I would like, and the spots on the silk drove me to distraction.

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I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out, and especially because I was trying so many of the techniques for the first time. Cutting out was awkward – I sandwiched everything between two layers of tissue and cut with shears, which worked pretty well.

To sew up, I used the walking foot throughout. The crepe went through the machine without any problems, and I used my overlocker (serger) to finish the seams. The silk was tougher to sew – I switched to fine cotton thread and went down to a size 60 needle. Even so, I still needed tissue under the fabric to stop it being dragged into the feed dogs, and each time I hit one of the spots my seam line wobbled a bit. I used French seams on the yokes to seam and finish in one go. Both fabrics were tricky to press though: the silk wouldn’t press cleanly over the spots and the crepe didn’t stay pressed for long. But I got there in the end.

Overall, I love the relaxed feel of this dress and I think it works dressed up or down. I opted for down for these pictures, but I reckon a pair of heels and some bling would glam it up enough for a summer wedding or you could toughen it up with boots and that moto jacket.

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Catch up on the other posts in this series:

  1. A tall order – the challenge launch
  2. Inspiration
  3. What it means to be a tall sewist
  4. Design process and choosing a pattern
  5. Construction process – and tips for working with slippery fabrics

Sewing with slippery fabrics – B6169

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As the final reveal for the #sewtallandcreative2017 design challenge approaches, I and the other three participants (Allison, Beth and Tiffany) have been working hard to complete our dresses. I am dying to see what they’ve made, and I’m not sure I can hold out until the end date of 20 May!

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No fancy pattern weights here!

In my sewing room, I’ve been getting to grips – quite literally – with silk and slippery crepe we received from MARGE/Tall Guides.

I started by using a polyester crepe de chine to sew up a toile. This dress is fairly forgiving on fit, but I still made some alterations:

  • I added 1″ to the length above the waist
  • And another 1/2″ to the length between waist and hip
  • I took in the vertical back seams a little around the waist area
  • I nipped 3cm of length out of the centre back seam to compensate for my swayback
  • I let out the side seams around 1/8″ from the hipline downwards

The swayback alteration isn’t the easiest thing to do in a dress with no centre back or waist seams, so thank you to Pattern Scissors Cloth for this excellent tutorial. Making the adjustment itself isn’t too bad, but getting the grainline and centre back straight again afterwards was messing with my head.

Cutting out was a challenge, even with the crepe. I don’t own a rotary cutter and mat, so I heeded the advice in this post from Grainline Studios and sandwiched the fabrics between two layers of tissue paper before cutting out. Genius – no slipping, no shifting and I saved about £100. No long-term damage to my shears, although I should probably sharpen them again soon.

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To sew up the crepe, I used a size 70 needle, and sew-all thread. I installed my walking foot and shortened my stitch length to 2.2. I finished the all-crepe seams on my overlocker.

For the silk, hmmm. The polka dots create a raised bump every inch or so, which causes the fabric to skip about under the needle, and pressing across them is a nightmare. A size 60 universal needle, some fine cotton thread and the walking foot were all deployed on a stitch length of 2. But for this fabric I also layered the fabric over tissue paper and stitched through that as well, tearing it away afterwards. Not bad, but there are still some wibbles in some of my seams…

I used a French seam finish where I could for this fabric as it’s sheer, but on the belt (which is stitched and then turned inside out) I had to try something else. I used the selvedge as much as I could so the edges wouldn’t need finishing, and on the rest I tried out a double zigzag seam, as recommended by Threads magazine.

I’ve just got the neckline and the hem left to do now, so hopefully I’ll be sharing pics of the finished article with you next weekend!

Other posts about #sewtallandcreative2017

  1. A tall order – the challenge launch
  2. Inspiration
  3. What it means to be a tall sewist
  4. Design process and choosing a pattern
  5. The finished dress…

Natural fibres v polyester

Stack of four folded fabrics: two polyester, two cotton
Top to bottom: polyester crepe de chine, polyester coating, cotton denim and striped cotton jersey

The #sewtallandcreative2017 challenge has taken me out of my comfort zone. Instead of my usual circuit of jersey, cotton, wool and wool coatings, I’m sewing with lightweight silk and crepe instead. To prepare, I’m making a toile in polyester crepe de chine… and discovering that this particlar fabric might be my nemesis.

If I’m honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a good sewing experience with woven polyester. I’ve made trousers in imitation cotton drill, half a pair of shorts in polyester crepe, two children’s coats in polyester coating and battled with some polycotton shirting to run up a toile.

The trousers feel scratchy, the shorts were too slippery, the coating wore out my hands and my shears , and the polycotton shirting came out looking a bit like a supermarket school uniform.

The lovely Gillian, over at Crafting a Rainbow, has written a very useful – and persuasive – post in praise of polyester knit fabric, so I thought I’d put the case against woven polyester fabrics.

Let’s get the main reasons we choose polyester out of the way first, shall we?

It’s cheap

It’s cheap for a reason: polyester is a polymer, meaning that the key raw ingredient is crude oil rather than a plant or animal fibre. Oil is undervalued because no one’s currently paying to clean up the damage that digging it up and using it does to the environment. Climate change, and the potential damage to sea life are two of the most disturbing side effects of our love affair with fossil fuels and man-made fibres. If these externalities were priced in, would polyester still be cheap?

It doesn’t crease

If you’re the sort of person who really, really loathes ironing (hello to my Mum and Dad if you’re reading this) then that’s fine. But if it won’t crease then it won’t press. You can’t mould it like wool, or crease it crisply like cotton or linen – and that’s going to cause problems when you’re turning up a hem, shaping a dart or pretty much any other task you’d expect to do when making a woven garment.

But it doesn’t breathe

I’m always amazed by wool. Wool is breathable, waterproof and warm. British sheep live outdoors on wet and windy hillsides, and yet they manage to stay warm and dry – and then their wool can be sheared and made into clothes for me. How is that even possible?

[Someone, somewhere is making a killing on wool, but it’s not the farmers. Wool fabric and yarn are anything up to £50 per kilo, but British farmers receive as little as 30p per kilo, meaning they may even make a loss on shearing their sheep.]

Polyester, on the other hand, can turn a short walk to the shops on a warm day into a clammy, sweaty mess. The static cling on skirts especially is horrendous. Plus it squeaks when I sew it. (Or is that just me?)

There are some great uses for polyester though…

Where polyester and other artificial fibres do win out is in outerwear and sportswear, especially when they’re blended with natural fibres like cotton or bamboo. I can’t imagine my workout gear without spandex, or my waterproof jacket without nylon.

After my experience this week with a polyester crepe de chine that clings so badly it won’t drape, I think I’ve sworn off polyester for a while.

How do you feel about polyester? Do you love all the quirky prints and the low prices, or would you rather sew with linen, cotton and wool?

 

 

#sewtallandcreative2017: design

For the next part of the MARGE/Tall Guides sewing challenge, each of us now has to decide what we’re going to make, and which fabrics we’re going to use.

Getting down to practicalities, I started by measuring the four fabrics. With between 2m and 3m of each, this ruled out some of the floaty maxi-dress options that had been running through my mind. Sigh.

Incorporating two different fabrics, getting a good fit, and working with drapey fabric was going to be enough of a challenge for me so I wanted a pattern with a simple silhouette to exploit the drape, without fiddly closures or lots of darts.

I also needed a pattern that could be easily lengthened above and below the waist without disrupting its style lines. So I’ve settled on View B from B6169, using the coral crepe and the spotted pale pink silk fabrics.

It’s a pull-on sleeveless dress with a tie belt and a high-low hem by Liesl Gibson for Butterick. The princess seams should make fitting easier and I can alter the skirt shape and hem if I change my mind. I can’t find many in-the-wild examples of this dress (overshadowed by the jacket, I suspect), so I’m intrigued to see how it’ll turn out. The examples I have found so far are:

Liesl Gibson’s own version in specially dyed silk

Helena’s dress with pom pom trim

Elise’s denim version

I’m planning to cut the main body of the dress in the coral crepe, using the spotted silk for the yoke pieces and the tie belt. I’d love to layer the two fabrics over each other, but there isn’t quite enough of either to make this work.

I’ll use french seams on the yoke pieces to give a neat finish and perhaps play around with different options for the neckline binding. But first, I’m going to make a toile to test the fit in some polyester crepe de chine. I’ll let you know how it goes.

You can see the dresses Allison, Beth and Tiffany are planning to make over on their blogs. I have a feeling they’re going to produce some real showstoppers…

Other posts about #sewtallandcreative2017

  1. A tall order – the challenge launch
  2. Inspiration
  3. What it means to be a tall sewist
  4. Construction process – and tips for working with slippery fabrics
  5. The finished dress…

Cosy Astoria sweatshirt

So the Astoria is possibly the second most popular sweatshirt pattern in the sewisphere, after the Linden. It’s definitely less sculptural than the Talvikki, but I really wanted a workhorse, fitted sweatshirt with a set-in sleeve, so this was the pattern for me.

The sample images for this Seamwork pattern are gorgeous in sweater knit, but I also really love Rachel’s scuba version. To make it up, I used some pale pink flecked sweatshirting I’ve been hoarding for almost a year. It’s soooo snuggly. I realised afterwards that I must have subconsciously copied Lauren’s version!

Fit and fiddle

My back waist measurement is 17.5″ so I added two inches to the length so that the hem band seam would fall at my natural waist. For me, this is more wearable than the original cropped length (I have a small child – I can’t go a whole day without bending over or reaching up). I also added 1cm to the sleeve length, but ended up cutting this off again.

Size wise, I was hovering between the M and the L, and ended up making the M but grading it out to an L from the armpits down to the waist. It’s ended up a little too tight at the bust and on the arms. This is the first pattern ever to decree I have fat arms, so I’m sulking a bit about that. The fit is good across the back, but I can’t really assess the fit at the armscye properly because my bust is dragging the whole thing forwards. My full bust point is usually on the high side, so perhaps I should have cut the L and then narrowed the shoulders and the neckline instead – but then potentially ended up with an oversized armhole? Or cut the M, but added an FBA, graded out to the waist and added width to the sleeve? I don’t know which would have been the best solution on this one.. . Any advice?

Construction

Seamwork says that this pattern sews up in under an hour. Perhaps. If you don’t count cutting and sticking together the pattern, cutting out, faffing with a twin needle or umming and ahhing over any fitting alterations. I’d say the whole thing actually took me three hours.

The instructions are clear and easy to follow with links to helpful posts on Colette’s blog if you need more help. The sleeves are set in flat, so it’s easy to do all the main seams on an overlocker/serger.

I had a few issues with my overlocker (more on that another time), so I couldn’t use it to attach the neckband or the hem band. In this fabric, I found the neckband was too long and stood up when I basted it in, so I unpicked it, trimmed it by 2cm (1cm on the folded pattern piece) and it was much better second time around.

I opted for the full-length sleeves, figuring I could always cut them off to 3/4 length if I changed my mind later. The sleeve circumference at the wrist is a tiny 17cm, and although it goes over my hand it wouldn’t go around the free arm on my sewing machine. This made hemming the sleeves with the twin needle a nightmare. In the end I turned the sleeve inside out and did it from the inside, as I’d normally set in a sleeve, but because the cuffs are so much smaller than an armhole this was close to impossible and the stitching isn’t very neat. How do people who make the size XS manage?!

That said, I love the fabric, and I figure the British weather isn’t often all that warm – even in summer – so I’ll get plenty of wear out of this. I love that it coordinates with my favourite wardrobe singleton, the green lace skirt in the picture.  And I’m hoping to get round to a second version with an improved fit.