What’s on my sewing table?

Although I’ve been quiet on the blog this month, there’s plenty of sewing going on. Some successful, some less so. Here’s what I’m up to this week:

Bridesmaid Betty

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I’ve just, just finished handstitching the enormous hem on this, and it’s all ready to photograph. I just have to decide whether to take my own pictures for the blog, or see if I might be allowed to use the professional ones from the wedding.

A short-sleeved Fairfield shirt

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This was originally intended as secret squirrel surprise sewing for Mr Wardrobe’s birthday last week. It’s almost finished: there’s just a bit of finishing on the collar to do, plus the hem, buttons and buttonholes. But there’s one small problem. When he tried it on, we both remembered why he doesn’t own any short-sleeved shirts – they actually don’t suit him. His arms look weirdly stick-like and this shirt really brings out the geek in him. So now I need to either abandon it, or find another Mr-Wardrobe-shaped owner for it. I might see if my Dad would like to try it on…

Returning to the scene of a previous blunder

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Now that 1990s patterns are pretty much vintage in the sewisphere, I dragged out the first pattern I ever attempted (with disastrous consequences, all the way back in 1992) and it’s starting to look quite appealing again now. Since I currently own exactly zero pairs of shorts, I thought this might be fun to try again. Only this time I’ll be making view C in a lightweight tawny linen, rather than View B in a rose-print rayon challis type. (SO not a good fabric choice for a first project – if only my teenage self had listenened to her Mum.)

Stepping up my skirt game

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Having worn out my favourite RTW denim skirt this year, my wardrobe definitely needs skirts. So I’m planning a few as we move into autumn. First up, this gorgeous red heavy wool crepe is going to become view D from New Look 6346 – a straightforward flared skirt pattern with a contoured waistband and invisible zip. I was eyeing the Sewaholic Hollyburn pattern orignally, but I already had this one, plus it’s more economical on fabric so that swung it for me.

Knitting plans

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It’s time for a new knitting project, so I’ve spent some time on Ravelry this week, trying to work out how best to use some yarn oddments I have stashed away. I have four different balls of double knit (one cotton, one alpaca, two merino/cashmere blend) lurking in my stash and absolutely no idea what to do with any of them.

So that’s the next few weeks taken care of, then. Do you keep several projects on the go at once, or do you limit yourself to just one UFO at a time?

 

 

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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!

 

Fairfield shirt – the fitting

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After my first version turned out to be too small, I’ve made a second toile of Mr Wardrobe’s Thread Theory Fairfield shirt. He’s asked to go incognito in these pictures, so you won’t get to see his lovely mug. Sorry.

The top picture shows the shirt in a size large, straight out of the envelope. I didn’t bother to finish the second cuff, or the hem, so it looks fairly rough and ready, but it’s good enough to assess the fit.

In this post, I’m going to show you the alterations I plan to make to the final version to get a better fit. If you’re fitting a man’s shirt anytime soon, I highly recommend the Fairfield sewalong. Morgan has created two posts showing all kinds of fitting issues and how to resolve them.

The design has relatively little ease, so I’m happy enough with the width across the chest, and also with the overall length of the shirt.

The first thing that needs addressing is the length of the shoulder seam. In this next picture you can see where I’ve marked Mr Wardrobe’s actual shoulder point in pencil on the toile.

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The shoulder seam falls 1-1.25″ lower than his shoulder point so I’m going to shorten this seam for the final version. Here it is pinned up to the correct length:

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With the shoulder seam pinned up, the cuff falls at exactly the right point on the wrist, so I don’t need to alter the sleeve length. (As an aside, Mr Wardrobe has thought for many years that he had freakishly short arms, but it turns out they’re actually a normal length – he just has narrow shoulders.)

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The size L collar was too small, so I’d already swapped the collar and collar stand pattern pieces for the size XL, and this fits fine.

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I didn’t interface the collar pieces for the toile, so it looks a bit crumpled in this picture.

Turning to the back of the shirt, you can see there’s a problem with the lower back area. I think it needs more width at the hip area if it’s going to be worn untucked. This should reduce the bunching at the waist, and I can do a try-on fitting for the darts to make sure they’re just right.

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With the shoulders pinned up, you can see how it might look in the final version.

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We ummm-ed and ahhh-ed over a few more alterations, like a potential rounded back adjustment. I think we’ve decided against them, at least for the first one.

But can you help me with the diagonal wrinkles in the final picture? Is that just a result of the way I’ve pinned the shoulders or is there something else going on there?

What’s on my sewing table?

This hasn’t been a productive month so far. I’d been putting off a blog post until I’d finished something, but that hasn’t happened, so here’s a peek into what’s happening in my sewing space at the moment.

Nearly finished: a second toile for the Thread Theory Fairfield shirt.

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This is turning into a bit of a labour of love. In fact, I’m not sure if shirtmaking and I are going to become the fast friends I thought we might. The tiny seam allowances and fiddly pressing needed to achieve neat flat-felled seams are driving me up the wall, and I’ve just discovered that the collar is too small. Again. (I’m still scratching my head to try to work out how this has happened. I could swear I took all the measurements and followed the size chart correctly.) And of course, this is only a toile – there’s then the actual shirt to do.

Cut out and ready to sew: Ottobre bicycle print pyjama top

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I made the bottoms last month, and they’ve turned out well, so my son has requested the matching top too. This looks like a fairly quick make, so I’m looking forward to starting this one. Because it’s a knit fabric, hopefully there won’t be much fitting to do.

Next in the queue: Tilly and the Buttons Fifi set

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This looks like a lot of fun. Finally something that will fit on my cutting table in one go, and made from Liberty print cotton, too. Although I’ll need to learn french seams and work out how to fit the top, so it probably won’t be an express make.

Knitting: Big Alps Beanie and Flax jumper

I’ve also got two knitting projects on the go at the moment. The Flax jumper I started back in May (!) only has the sleeves to go. I’ve got the sleeve stitches onto double pointed needles (my first go at this), now I just need to pluck up the courage to dive in and knit them.

And because I wanted something I could knit up quickly – OK, and also because the kit was in the sale – I’m making the Big Alps Beanie hat from Stitch & Story. 12mm needles make this very quick, and I’m also learning how to do a basic cable knit.

What have you got on the go at the moment? Do you usually work on more than one project at a time, or do you always finish one before you start the next?

Fairfield shirt toile – number 1

Two blue striped and checked shirts laid one on top of the other to compare size

After the epic woman v fabric battle that has been constructing two pairs of blackout curtains (30m of fabric, small cutting table), it was time to get back to making something a bit more manageable.

I haven’t done much unselfish sewing recently (unless you count the curtains) and I wanted to try making my first shirt. So I decided to combine the two and make a Thread Theory Fairfield shirt for Mr Wardrobe.

The Fairfield sewalong has really clear instructions for taking measurements so we measured him up and I began making a toile (muslin) from an old striped cotton bedsheet.

This pattern uses lots of enclosed flat-felled seams to give a neat finish on the inside of the garment and these were new to me, so I spent some time working out how to do them accurately. As suggested in the sewalong, I didn’t bother with interfacing, buttonholes, the second collar stand or the second yoke piece for a toile, and I didn’t even attach the second cuff.

I’d been feeling fairly confident about taking on a shirt until I watched the final of The Great British Sewing Bee – where the contestants made a man’s dress shirt for their final pattern challenge. Luckily this one doesn’t include six rows of pintucks, although the tower placket isn’t the easiest thing to get your head around if you’ve never sewn one before. The sewalong is really clear, so I’d recommend this pattern to any non-beginner sewist wanting to attempt their first shirt.

I sewed up a size M, which matched Mr Wardrobe’s measurements, but when he tried the toile on, it wouldn’t meet across his chest! In fact, it came up a whole size too small. So I initially suspected I’d made a mistake with the measurements.

Having compared it with one of his favourite RTW shirts, I think I’ve worked out why it was too small.

As you can see here, the toile is probably around 1/2″ narrower at the underarm seams, typically the widest point of a man’s shirt – and the place you would take a chest measurement to determine the pattern size.

Mr Wardrobe’s widest point (in blue marker pen) is 1/2″ higher up this, in a spot where it’s almost impossible to measure the circumference. And when you look at the shoulder seams, they’re significantly narrower on the toile than on his favourite RTW shirt, making the whole upper chest area roughly a size smaller.

So I’m going to need to make a second toile, in a size L. Judging by the first one, I think there are going to be some other adjustments to make at that point (shortening the shoulder seam, shortening the sleeves, narrowing the waist and potentially a forward shoulder adjustment as well), but I’ll have to wait and see about those.

Having fallen in love with the fabric Morgan used for one of the promotional images (the casual version in these pictures), I’ve been hunting for something similar for sale in the UK. Draper’s Daughter probably has the loveliest selection of linen and chambray shirtings I’ve seen online so far, but if you can recommend some other options, I’d love to take a look.

And I hope to have a better-fitting version to show you – on the model this time – later in the summer!