Children’s pyjama bottoms – with added Christmas puddings

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This is the only Christmas make I attempted this year, because I couldn’t face that awful situation when you’re rushing out to buy things on 23 December in lieu of the planned handmade presents that you haven’t finished in time. Even so, it still wasn’t finished quite in time for Christmas!

Back in the autumn, just before I began my stash diet, I spotted some reduced Christmas pudding fabric in Doughty’s in Hereford. At only £5/m I couldn’t resist enough to make a quick pair of pyjama bottoms for my 3-year old son. It’s quilting cotton, rather cotton flannel, but I thought it would be fun anyway.

The pattern is my trusty pyjama pants pattern Simplicity 2290 (other versions here and here), which includes children’s sizes from age 4-5 upwards. My 3-and-a-half-year old is a giant among his classmates at 110cm, so I traced the smallest size for him. Because they’re loose fitting trousers with an elasticated waist, there’s not a lot of fitting to do – just shortening the elastic to size and turning up the hem.

They’re a little on the large side at the moment, but I think they’ll be perfect for next Christmas. Although obviously, the proof will be in the pudding (groan…)

 

Sewing Christmas presents haul!

p1150503I was lucky enough to receive one or two sewing-related presents, so I thought I’d share a few pictures. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours?

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My in-laws gave me a whole selection of sewing tools and goodies. The double tracing wheel is going to make tracing Burda and Ottobre patterns a whole lot easier – I can use it to add the seam allowances straightaway. The London-themed pattern weights have already been pressed into service.

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My sister got me these scary-looking applique scissors, which I’m hoping will be just the thing for grading seam allowances. (Although presumably they’re also useful for applique? I just need to ponder that for a bit.

My parents got my the knitting roll (shown in the first picture) to store my rapidly expanding and very unwieldy collection of  knitting needles.

Did Father Christmas bring you anything for your stash?

The final Fairfield button-up shirt

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Seeing as it’s Christmas, my last post before the holidays is a spot of unselfish sewing. Many, many months ago I snapped up the Fairfield button-up shirt pattern from Thread Theory, thinking it would make a good birthday gift for Mr Wardrobe. His birthday was in August, but I didn’t actually finish the shirt until Christmas Eve…

There were several reasons for this. Number one was that I didn’t notice when I measured him up that his chest is wider around the shoulder area than under the arms. So my first toile (muslin) turned out too small and I had to start again. Then I got sidetracked by blackout curtains,  my jumpsuit and all kinds of pyjamas. But we got there in the end.

(Mr Wardrobe prefers to keep a low profile on this blog, so you won’t be seeing his rather attractive face in these pictures.)

He chose the slimmer fit version of the pattern and the option with back darts to give more shape. There were a few alterations to get a better-than-RTW fit. Working from size L, I added 1″ extra width at the hip so it could be worn untucked; subtracted 1″ from the shoulder length on each side; and I used the XL sized collar pieces to create more room at the neck. You can see there are still a few diagonal drag lines from the shoulder to the neck at the front – I’m not quite sure what’s causing these but if I ever make another version I’ll try to fix this. And I’d also take a teensy bit off the length as it’s rarely going to be tucked in.

It’s not a quick or straightforward sew, especially when you know the recipient is a perfectionist. The 3/8″ flat-felled seams require lots of finnicky pressing and there’s an awkwardly large amount to ease in at the sleeve cap. The sleeve placket and the point where the corners of the collar stand join the collar both need a steady hand and some very precise stitching to get a neat finish. But if detail and finishing is your thing, then you’ll enjoy getting stuck into this pattern. Thread Theory also offer lots of (free) variations with different collar shapes, cuffs and pocket styles to suit even the pickiest man in your family, and there’s a detailed sewalong which comes in handy if (like me) you’re attempting a shirt for the first time.

I love the ever-so-slight sheen on this fabric – a deep grey/blue chambray I bought from Eme in Ilkley. It pressed beautifully and was exactly the right weight for this project. Just one word of warning though – it did show everything I unpicked! Mr Wardrobe wanted a fairly casual shirt, so I followed the pattern instructions for interfacing all the cuff, collar and placket pieces, but opted for a very lightweight fusible to stop the shirt being too stiff and starchy.

Overall, I’m really happy with the way this has turned out. But, the proof is in the Christmas pudding, so we’ll see how many times it gets worn!

 

Top 3 misses of 2016

Not everything I made this year was such a roaring success as the top 3. These three projects were top of the flops this year.

The beige scoop-neck T-shirt that I thought might become a handy wardrobe staple turned out to be best worn under a crew neck jumper.

The multi-coloured cardigan I painstakingly knitted for my son wasn’t finished until winter was almost over and the loose weave meant it didn’t look great over his brightly coloured T-shirts. Plus there was something very odd about the sleeves.

The one I’m most disappointed about is this white scoop-neck T-shirt. I spent ages getting the fit spot on, but in the end I haven’t worn it much because of the poor-quality fabric. I chose a relatively thick T-shirt jersey made from 100% cotton, thinking it wouldn’t show my underwear and would hold its shape nicely. But I didn’t check the stretch recovery… actually it doesn’t spring back into shape well and each time I wash it it curls up at the edges and has to be ironed. Not what I’m looking for from a T-shirt!

Those are the misses – all knits, in one form or another, and all doomed by poor fabric and yarn choices. That should give me some pointers for next year.

You can find the hits in last week’s post.

Top 3 hits of 2016

If you read the lovely Gillian’s blog, Crafting a Rainbow, you might have seen her Top 5 Best Projects of 2016. It’s a simple idea she’s encouraging other people to try. I don’t sew nearly as many garments as Gillian (She makes over 50 things a year! How is this possible?), so I’m going to share my top 3 instead.

  1. Self-drafted Breton striped T-shirtP1120280

I’ve worn this to death since I finished it in the summer. The boatneck shape with 3/4 length sleeves is one of my favourite shapes, and the jersey I thought would be too lightweight when I bought it has actually stretched and hung really well. I should clearly make more of these.

2. Cotton candy pyjama bottomsP1110671

This is another simple make that’s been in heavy rotation this year. The brushed cotton fabric is soft but not too warm. It was worth spending ages wrestling with it during the cutting out, after all.

3. Sea-green Sallie jumpsuitP1120960

I didn’t expect this to be in my top 3 when I finished it. My husband hates it, for one thing. (Clearly jumpsuits fall into the man repeller category unless they’re the black leather Michelle Pfeiffer version.) But it definitely qualifies as secret pyjamas, and yet I think it can be dressed up for summer evenings. The deep teal colour is really gorgeous and so much more interesting than black. Now I just need more occasions to wear it – maybe a holiday to a Greek Island, or a disco themed BBQ party? It’s not something I need two of in my wardrobe, but let’s hope 2017 brings more opportunities to wear it.

What have I learnt this year? That I live in knit tops day-to-day, and that I should make more of them in decent quality lightweight jersey. That you can never have too many pairs of pyjamas in your life. And that repeating the same pattern over and over is a pretty good way to build a wardrobe that fits..

What are your top 5 makes of 2016? (Or even your top 3?!)

Top five pyjama patterns for Christmas

Pyjamas. Pretty much my favourite item of clothing throughout the winter months. So whether you’d like to make a pair to see you through to spring, or some for a (very lucky) friend or family member, here’s my shortlist of pyjama patterns to try.

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In order of difficulty:

  1. Simplicity 2290 (pictured above). Possibly the easiest pattern in the sewisphere, Simplicity 2290 doesn’t technically bill itself as pyjamas, more as ‘lounge pants’. But in a soft cotton flannel they’re cosy, comfy and pretty much perfect for lounging or sleeping. The pattern is suitable for wovens or knits, although it doesn’t include a top so you’ll need to supply your own T-shirt. Sizes include children’s (roughly age 5+) up to adults with 49″ hips.
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I’ve made Simplicity 2290 three times so far and they’re all still in rotation.

2. Oliver + S children’s knit pyjamas.

This is more of a hack than an off-the-shelf pattern but I actually prefer the look of these to Oliver + S’s official pyjama patterns. The link takes you to a post on the Oliver + S blog, which shows you how to addd cuffs to children’s knit patterns. So if you start off with the Oliver + S School Bus T-shirt and Playtime leggings, you can then add cuffs to create perfect pyjamas for the small people in your life. Oliver + S Patterns are beautifully drafted with clear instructions, so as long as you’ve sewn with knits before then you shouldn’t have any problems running these up in time for 25 December. Sizes 6m-4 years and 5-12 years. Alternatively, you could use the tutorial to hack any long-sleeved T-shirt and leggings patterns you have (for children or adults), adding cuffs to create super-dooper pyjamas.

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Ottobre magazine is a good source of children’s knit pyjama patterns – like these

3. Tilly and the Buttons Fifi pyjamas.

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I tried this pattern earlier this year, and although it’s not a straightforward sew, I think it definitely falls into the intermediate category because the instructions are so clear and well explained. Designed with summer lounging in mind, this camisole and shorts set works well in cotton lawn or voile, but you could also try silk for added ooh-la-la. Sized for up to 47″ hips.

4. and 5. Lisette for Butterick B6296 and Closet Case Files Carolyn Pyjamas

Try as I might, I really couldn’t separate these two. They’re so similar in my mind – traditional button-up pyjamas with collar, pockets, elasticated waistband and piping with options for shorts and short-sleeves.

You can copy Liesl Gibson’s own version of B6296 in Liberty lawn, and I love Allie J’s double gauze version of Carolyn in which she replaces the piping with ric rac.

Neither of these patterns is a quick make, what with all that piping to do. And they’re both pretty fabric hungry at around 4m of fabric for the long-sleeved, long-legged option so you’ll be investing some serious time and money in your perfect pyjamas. But they will probably remain your perfect pyjamas for years to come.

Have you sewn any or all of these patterns? And are you making pyjamas for anyone for Christmas?

Red rush

The weather’s turned frosty here in the Midlands this week…

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Mr Wardrobe took this shot looking towards the Malvern Hills

…which means it must be time to psych myself up for Christmas.

I loved Christmas as a child. My birthday’s in early December, so Christmas kicked off straight after that, and it was a huge festival of family, friends, presents and parties topped off with a side order of chocolates, decorations and cracking TV.

As a carefree twenty-something, Christmas was always action-packed up until 24 December, and then I retreated home to my parents’ house for R&R. Even after three days of falling asleep on the sofa, there was always plenty of quality time for my hobbies (including sewing) before gearing up again for New Year’s Eve.

Since starting a family of my own, I’ll be honest: I don’t look forward to it quite as much. These days, December begins not with a birthday party so much as the purchase of a new anti-wrinkle cream. Then there’s a flurry of organising to be done: presents, cards, food, decorations, travel arrangements and social stuff – although sadly there aren’t usually any occasions that demand a fabulous dress. When Christmas finally arrives, I no longer get lie-ins or long afternoons to knit in front of The Wizard of Oz. And when NYE comes round, you’ll probably find me sloping off to bed at about 10:30, muttering that I’m ‘too old to stay up till midnight’.

So this year I need an injection of joy in my Christmas season. And that means red. I pulled these fabrics from my stash this afternoon and I’m trying to decide how I could combine them into a cheery Christmassy make that’ll get worn well into the New Year.

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Sorry, the elephants were meant to be in focus.

The solid is a wool crepe, probably just enough for a flared skirt. The two patterned fabrics are both quilting cottons, so they might be handy for facings or pocket linings. I’m thinking perhaps a Hollyburn skirt? If it gets made in time for Christmas Day that’ll be a small miracle, given the size of my queue. But if not, it should bring me some joy in the dark days of January and February, and it’ll probably get worn next Christmas instead. Bring it on!

Are you full of the joys of advent, or are you also feeling a teensy bit Bah Humbug this year?

And what will you sew between now and Christmas, especially if you’re not making a party dress?

 

How to choose fabric for your first handmade garment

[This post is part of a series on learning to sew, Starting to Sew.]

Some of things I’ve made with cotton – definitely the most straightforward fabric to sew with.

I love this bit. I really do. There’s such a world of possibilities out there and it’s the moment when you get to steer your project away from frumpy pattern envelope photos (yes, Simplicity, I’m looking at you) and towards the fabrics and colours you love.

If you’ve never sewn a garment before (no, cushions don’t count), then there’s only one fibre you should use for your first project: cotton.

Why 100% cotton?

Cotton is strong, stable, washable and comes in a huge range of prints and colours. It has a clear lengthwise grain, it presses easily and it’s not stretchy. And it’s not usually particularly expensive. All these factors make it one of the simplest fabrics to cut and sew garments with: you won’t need any special equipment for cotton – unlike silk or wool.

Cotton can also be blended with other fibres like polyester, to create fabrics that don’t crease and are easier to wash and dry. Although these are definitely useful benefits, and polycotton is often very cheap, it does mean it’ll be harder to press your fabric. That means you’ll struggle to get neat seam finishes, casings and hems. So unless you really, really loathe ironing, I’d suggest you start on something that’s 100% cotton, and move on to a polycotton for version two if you want to.

Which type of cotton?

Cotton fibres can be woven (or knitted) into a multitude of different fabrics, so you’ll need to choose one that’s easy to work with and suitable for the garment you’re making. If you’re not sure what to make as your first garment, you might like to read this post first. The first thing you should do is check out the fabrics recommended by the pattern designer – they’ll be listed on the back of the envelope, or early on in the instructions if you’re using a pdf pattern. Very thin and very thick fabrics present their own challenges, so you’ll probably want to avoid these to begin with. Similarly, you should avoid anything with a nap (a one-way weave) like corduroy.

If you’ve chosen to make a skirt, you’ll probably want use either cotton lawn, cotton poplin, cotton chambray or cotton twill (including mid-lightweight denim). If you’re making pyjama bottoms, you might opt for cotton flannel for winter, or cotton lawn for summer.

What about quilting cotton?

Quilting cotton is just that – cotton designed for quilting. So although it comes in thousands of colours and prints, and it’s more widely available than other fabrics, it’s not always suitable for garments. (I once made some PJ shorts in a quilting cotton and they’re really uncomfortable next to the skin.) If you’re making a flared skirt, it might be suitable, but it wouldn’t have enough drape for a blouse, for example. For more info on sewing garments with quilting cotton, read this post from Tilly and the Buttons.

So much choice!

If you can, try to choose your fabric at a shop rather than online. Staff in fabric shops are usually really knowledgable and can direct you to the right materials faster than you find them yourself. Take your pattern with you and ask for advice. Or get them to help you unroll the fabric from the bolt so you can hold it up against your face in the mirror/drape it round you. This will help you decide whether it suits you, and see how it’ll behave as a garment.

If you do buy online, you can always contact the seller with questions. Read the description of the fabric carefully, and if you’re spending what seems like a lot of money, then always ask for/buy a fabric sample first. Cut lengths of fabric can’t be returned unless they’re faulty.

Pick out something you love and buy 0.5m more than the pattern says you need so you can play around with it and practise your stitches.

Prints v solids

There are two schools of thought on this:

  1. You should stick with solids because then you don’t have to worry about matching the pattern up at the seamlines, or pattern placement (making sure you don’t end up with circles around your nipples, for example)
  2. You should choose a print because it’ll distract the eye from any wonky stitching or fitting issues.

So I’m not going to tell you what to do here. Go with your favourite.

Before you cut

The fabric shop should tell you the washing instructions for your material. Even if they don’t, always plonk your cotton fabric in the washing machine (on its own, in case the colour runs) and give it at least one wash and dry before you cut into it – using the same programme as you plan to use for the finished garment.

Staystitching: why, when and how

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When you’re working with woven fabrics (as opposed to stretchy fabrics like jersey) you’ll sometimes find cut curved edges are prone to stretching out if you handle them a lot.

Sometimes that’s OK – if those edges will later be gathered up, like a sleeve cap; or if those edges will need to be stretched to attach them to something larger. But for some pattern pieces, such as a neckline, you don’t want any stretching. Staystitching is a simple way to prevent this so that you don’t end up with a gaping neckline.

And if you’re making something that’s cut on the bias, like the Fifi pyjamas I made recently, you might want to staystitch bias cut edges to prevent them stretching as you sew the seams. Check your pattern instructions so you know which edges might need staystitching – Tilly and the Buttons has a great guide to sewing on the bias for Fifi.

I’ve just cut out the pieces for a man’s shirt in cotton chambray, and the shirt fronts and back yoke pieces that form the neckline all have curved edges where they’ll be attached to the collar. There are lots of things to do on these pieces (sew the yoke seam, put on a pocket, attach the sleeves and sew the side seams) before I finally join them to the collar, so I’m going to staystitch these pieces to stop them stretching out while I do those steps. On this pattern, you stretch the collar to fit, so I’m only going to staystitch the shirt fronts and back yokes, and not the collar.

So how and when do we staystitch?

The pattern I’m using (the Thread Theory Fairfield Shirt) doesn’t mention staystitching until it’s time to apply the collar, but having had problems with a stretched neckline on the initial toile, I know I should do this step earlier. My current sewing manual of choice says:

Curved areas that require extra handling should be staystitched. This acts as a guideline for clipping and joining a curved edge to the other edges, as well as prevents stretching. Staystitch in the direction of the grain 1/8″ (3mm) away from the seamline in the seam allowance, using the regular machine-stitch length suited to your fabric.

Vogue Sewing revised and updated (2006 edition)

And the instructions for staystitching the collar of the New Look 6000 dress, which has a 5/8″ (1.5cm) seam allowance, recommend:

Stitch 1/2″ (1.3cm) from cut edge, in direction of arrows.

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So I’ve already cut out the pieces, transferred the pattern markings and applied my interfacing. This is the best point at which to do the staystitching – before I handle the pieces any further and they begin to stretch.

I’m going to use a 2.6mm straight stitch and stitch just within the 1/4″ seam allowance. It doesn’t matter whether you staystitch from the right side or the wrong side. I’m stitching from the shoulder towards the centre back and then from both shoulders towards the centre back, meeting in the middle.

Guide the fabric very, very gently through the machine so that you don’t accidentally stretch it as you go. To stop the very corner of the fabric from getting trapped in the feed dogs, you might prefer to start 1cm or so from the edge and then come back and staystitch that initial centimetre from the other side if needed.

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And that’s it. We’re done. Begone, gaping necklines and ill-fitting collars.

Wardrobe singletons: pleated lace skirt

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Can you help me find a partner for this skirt?

What are wardrobe singletons? It’s the name I give to the clothes lurking at the back of my wardrobe that don’t pair with anything else. I love them, but I never wear them. I have a handful of RTW and me-made garments like this and I’d like to sew something to wear them with. The question is, what?

This RTW green pleated lace skirt from REISS is the one I most want to sew a partner for. It’s been in my wardrobe for nearly four years and I think it’s only been worn twice. I paid more than I’d wanted to for a skirt at the time so it really bugs me every time I see it hanging there, all alone. It’s a pale ferny green colour (honestly) and has a great knee-length swish about it.

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So, what would you recommend I sew to go with it? I’ve been browsing Pinterest and generated a few styling ideas:

As you can see, I’ve collected a lot of knitwear ideas, but would it also work with a simple T-shirt, a cap-sleeved blouse or just the right jacket?

So far, I’m considering:

  • The Seamwork Elmira cardigan for a dressier look
  • Or Seamwork’s Astoria sweatshirt for a more relaxed feel
  • A Sewaholic scoop-neck Renfrew t-shirt in grey marl

All pattern, fabric and styling suggestions welcome – let’s get this skirt a date in 2017!

Does your wardrobe have any singletons lurking at the back? I’d love to know what things you struggle to match with anything else or how you’ve successfully paired off trickier pieces.