Sunday, 16 July 2017

Simple Sew Keira Skirt

When I first spied Simple Sew's Keira Skirt pattern I knew I would end up with one of two things. This pattern could either make a lovely flouncy summery skirt, perhaps out of some layered chiffons or floaty crepe, or take on a more structural form using a fabric with more body. The pattern's main feature is its multiple pleats in front and back which create this gorgeous shape!

I left it to the luck of the fabric draw as to whether my skirt would be floaty or solid. I went for a browse round Abakhan Manchester and almost left empty handed (!), until I fell upon this black and gold cotton on the top floor. So, it may have said "CHRISTMAS GLITZ" along the selvedge, but the gold was making me think egypt not elves!! I bought a meter of this and a meter of lining fabric then set to work on constructing some pleats.

As a converted good girl (!!) I'm now a big fan of toiling up before getting stuck into my fancy fabric. The first pleat is an inverted box pleat at the centre front and centre back of the skirt. If you make sure you've cut your notches at the top of the skirt accurately then this is really easy. Just bring your two most central notches together to the center front and make sure your pleated fabric is at the back of the fold. Put some holding stitches across the top to hold it in place and mwah! An inverted box pleat!

There are a further two pleats either side of the front and back box pleat, making 10 pleats in total. This is where I found the pattern confusing!! I had a quick look at Pippa from Fabric Wrangler's version and Coolerama's tutorial when I realised the pattern they'd followed looked different to the picture of the Keira skirt on the Simple Sew website! The pleats in the instructions point out towards the hips, with the folded fabric inside and towards the centre front. The Keira skirt on the Simple Sew site clearly shows the pleats pointing towards the centre front and away from the hips. Go check it if you don't believe me! Well I tried both on my toile and definitely preferred the pleats pointing towards the centre front (the opposite to the instructions). It just seemed much more flattering for my little tum! I did the same on the back, and then just slightly altered how far down the centre box pleats came to. To give myself a bit more bum room, I stopped the back pleat 8cm from the top, and the front 12cm down. I found it made the other pleats hang much more comfortably and also stopped the skirt looking quite so much like shorts.

As usual, I made the skirt shorter, taking off about an inch and a half from the bottom (don'forget to do the lining too). Oh yeah, while we're on the lining- I didn't make one for my toile, but when I came to make one for my proper skirt it was too small?!?! Has anyone else found this?? Luckily there was room enough to open out the pleats in the lining and make them smaller and therefore the lining wider. Maybe I just cut the notches wrong (??!) but I'm usually pretty careful. No harm done and didn't need to recut anything, just a bit perplexing where I went wrong. Could it be because I folded my pleats the other way? Seems unlikely but can't see how else it happened!

The way I folded my pleats was also a bit of a pain at side seam/zipper area. I had to be careful not to catch the flappy bit of pleat in the seams otherwise they would hang funny. I spent quite a lot of time faffing about with this!! Despite all the pleats being so uniform it did take some messing around to get them all sat flat and equal on my body.

I took a little bit out of the top back where the skirt joins the waistband in a subtle curve, my new favourite alteration! This stops fabric from pooling in the small of my back.

I learnt a few tricks when it comes to lining a skirt (shows how often I bother to line things..!). The lining was sewn right sides together to the other length of the waistband, then flipped to the inside. Usually I would hand stitch to the zipper, but I discovered it was possible to sew it down from the inside to the other side of the zip tape then pull it out to the right side. This is a really nifty way of getting the top of the zip and the waistband to sit really neatly.

As a rule I am much more of a straight skirt kinda girl than a flare, so this skirt was always going to feel a bit abnormal to me. I love all the different shapes and folds and the gold in my fabric. There's something a bit futuristic about it (Hmm yeah, and to think I was going for egyptian). Sadly my fabric is super prone to creasing so I'm super paranoid to even sit down in it!! I gave those pleats a good old press and even treated them to a spray starching to get those lines really solid.

If I made another I think I would go down the floaty route to make more of a day skirt. I would also ensure I put more hefty interfacing into the waistband as this is lacking a little! The waistband is cut as all one piece which is folded over. I think it looks more professional to do a front and a back and then attach them along the top.

I hope you like my Keira Skirt! Backward pleats and the lot ;)


Locations: Jessops West, Sheffield City Center
Trafalgar Street, Sheffield City Centre
Currently listening to: Fujiyama Mama, Wanda Jackson

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Self-Drafted Mia Mini Skirt

If you follow me on Instagram, at the beginning of the year you'd have seen my little to-do list that I'd drawn up in place of making any resolutions. 99% sewing related, my stitching goals included- Draft two dresses, Make something spooky, Make something sexy, Design and draft a skirt with fitted waistband.

Its the beginning of June and I have just ticked off my final sewing goal!

My Mia skirt is quite simple in design, an A-line shape with centre front seam (!), and a zipper in the back. Instead of drafting from measurements like a pro would, I used the waistband pattern from my recent Shannon Shorts as a basis to draft from. I was really happy with the fit of these shorts so it seemed silly to draft a new waistband with the same fit.

The side seams of my first calico toile were straight out at an angle roughly based on that of another A-line skirt I own. The first try on was a good fit, but realised I could do with a little extra in my hips. I opened up the seams and put some rough little panels in to see what kind of curve was needed to accommodate my hips. I draw this curve onto my skirt, unpicked it then drew it onto my paper pattern pieces. Lovely hip curves!

My other big alteration was my very first hollow back adjustment. So pleased with how well it went! Basically it seems as though every item of clothing, whether ready to wear or made from a pattern sits perfectly at my front but ends up either miles up my back or all runkled in the small of my back. I could see my skirt was sitting a little high at the back, so basically I altered it so that the seam attaching the waistband curves downwards from my hips to centre back, then back up again. To determine how much needed taking out, I pinched the excess fabric at the back (between my bum and the waistline) and drew on a new seam line. It worked perfectly!!

Such a simple alteration made this skirt from something I might wear once or twice but not stand up in, to a total wardrobe staple! I quickly copied this adjustment onto my paper pattern and cut away the excess in the back.

** Side note, there's a really cool article on the By Hand London website for future ref on swayback adjustments**

I took out 1.5cm from either side of the centre back seam, but in my stretchier pleather fabric I took loads more out of the back (a further 1.5 on either side with a 1.5cm seam allowance).

I also cut a lining for the skirt, using the same pattern. I made the front piece a little bigger as I was worried the skirt would still be a little tight around the hips and didn't want that to take its toll on the thinner fabric. I tacked my lining to my skirt before attaching the waistband, making little tucks at the top with the extra fabric in the lining.

The lining was a nightmare to hem. Don't tell anyone, in the end I just ended up overlocking it and hoping it doesn't peek! Any tips on hemming a curved hem with a silky fabric. I absolutely despise hemming everything! I need some tips!!

Didn't insert the lining properly at the zip. I'd attached the two pieces together to the waistband, so when it came to inserting the zip, my pleather and my lining were acting as one, more like an underlining or backing. So inside there's a bit of poetic license going on in the zip area but you could never tell from the outside... and me mam couldn't tell from the inside! So can't be that bad eh?

My experience with pleather was much like my suede adventure, only slightly more predictable as pleather is much more consistent.
1- Always use a leather needle (I had no problems using the same one I used for my suede)
2- Pins will leave holes, so be careful where you're sticking them.
3- It's pretty stretchy so keep this in mind when drafting.
4- Stretchiness could potentially cause chaos when top stitching. The only top stitching I did was on my centre front seam. I could feel the foot dragging the fabric as it went along, so I would advise adding a layer of something you can tear away between the foot and the fabric, which is exactly what I did around the hem to stop it from stretching out on the way round.

So there you are! Hope you like my Mia Skirt! I'm so happy with the fit. I'm really getting my head around the frequent fitting problems that I come up against. I've got my eye on some of these crazy shiny leathers from Identity Store, Matlock, after all, you can never have to many mini skirts can you?



Location: Lilleshall Abbey, Shropshire
Currently listening to: Secondary Swan, Quilt

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Simple Sew Shannon Shorts

I seem to have a habit for making the wrong thing to suit the season. Just as Autumn was coming in last year I made my first pair of Simple Sew Shannon shorts (free with issue 31 of Love sewing magazine) which I loved but it soon got too chilly. My first make after Christmas was the Butterick 5895 tie waist shirt which I also loved but that tie waist and those tiny sleeves made me cold just thinking about it.
I'd put both to the back of my wardrobe until this week. The sun has been out and I remembered that these guys were worth a wear.

It's bank holiday weekend and I'm aching to make something to make the most of my time but I'm uninspired by the local fabric shops and my next Simple Sew blog pattern hasn't arrived in the post yet. What to do?!!! I turned to my stash in hope of answers where I remembered I had another couple of meters of this lovely paisley fabric from the Sew Up North Leeds meet up last November. With the sun beaming down this week and my tie waist shirt being my go-to for the past three days, I was inspired to make it into a matching set with another pair of Shannon Shorts!

My last pair were made of stretchy denim so I altered the pattern to shrink the waistband and take some excess out of the bum. This time my fabric had very little stretch, so I cut from the original pattern and decided I would make any necessary adjustments as I went along.

I love the construction of this pattern. The front of the shorts is split into three parts thanks to the design of the pockets. The waistband features shaping where it joins the top of the pocket to create a great fit.

The only change I made to the fit was to also taper the waistband at the side seams, taking in a couple of cm (1 off of front and 1 off of back) at the top of the band then tapering back out where it joins the shorts. I tacked in the zip to test fit before understitching the waistband with it in mind that I would probably have to make some adjustments. That said, I did not have to alter the centre back of the shorts at all like I did my last pair!

I used a medium weight interfacing on both the outer and inner waistband to add some extra sturdiness to it. I thought I was going to regret the decision as it became harder than expected to stitch the shorts to something so structured. Took a bit of patience but got there!! It was well worth it, the waistband is super sturdy (though not cardboardy!) and keeps its structure.

To hold the waistband down you 'stitch in the ditch' around the joining seam so the inside is held in place. I found it handy to start at the centre front and work outwards so that if the band twists at all you can even it out more evenly as you go.

Once I was happy with the fit, I put another line of stitching just inside of the crotch seam to add some reinforcement to the seat. Don't want to be splitting my bum seams!!

Hardest part was knowing what to do with those turn ups. Before turning up the shorts are laughably long! I was in two minds whether to just hack off the bottom and put a nice neat double turned hem on, or whether to turn up. Turn ups looked cool so they won.
Firstly I turned under a 1cm hem then stitched, then turned under again, this time by about 10cm. Here I put some little tacks in round the top of the turn under just to hold them in place. The final step it to turn back out about half of this width to the front of the shorts, making sure the width is the same right the way round (mine was about 1.5cm), then put some more holding stitches in. From top of waistband to bottom of the turn up is 33cm. Perfect shorts length!

Love teaming this up with my Butterick shirt! The pattern is pretty similar to the Butterick 5895 jeans that are part of the same pattern, so really are a match made in heaven.

Here's to some more lovely weather!!

Location: Sutton Maddock, Shropshire
Currently listening to: The Crystal World, Moon Duo

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Simple Sew Peter Pan Blouse

The Peter Pan Blouse by Simple Sew is quite 60s in design, with its cute collar and its loose fitting, baby-dollesque shape. It's the perfect sewing pattern for floaty summery fabrics. My choice was this lovely georgette from FC FABRIC STUDIO. Although it's a plain block colour I knew its see-through factor could add a bit of interest!

I've worked with floaty fabrics before so knew the terror I could be letting myself in for. Experience makes for knowledge though so this time I was better prepared.
Accurate cutting out is pretty essential. The blouse is literally made up of three main pieces-a front and two back halves which fasten up with buttons and a collar. With no pattern to match this session (thank lord), I cut everything on the fold. Once I'd matched up my selvedges on my lovely kitchen floor, I weighed this down with pattern weights (okay fine, sardine cans) then weighed down my pattern pieces instead of pinning so as not to disrupt my fabric.

Using rotary cutter stops the bottom layer of fabric from sliding around when you cut as it would do if you were cutting with shears, making for more accurate pieces. Yay.

I cut the collar from a scrap of fake suede I had in attempt to add a bit more excitement, but found the two different shades of black didn't sit well together at all. Instead I cut the collar from some remainder georgette and cut another pair to use inside as a facing to add a little more strength. Due to the sheer qualities of the fabric I didn't want to use an iron on interfacing in case you could see it from the right side.

I cut my three pairs of collar only to find they didn't match up in the slightest! Damn slippy and slidey fabric, so frustrating! Time to call out the big guns like I should have done from the start! My secret weapon was a can of spray starch. It was the first time I'd had a go and I can tell you it worked wonders! So for any other starch virgins, the drill is you spray your fabric, press it so it dries and then hey presto, your fabric is 1000000x more stable and so much easier to work with! When you're all stitched up, give your garment a wash and your fabric will return to its glorious drapey self.

So I tacked in my middle layer of collar then stitched the two collar pieces and turned right side out. They have to be spot on symmetrical otherwise it's painfully obvious when you attach the two pieces to your neckline! I won't lie to you, I had to make a few tweaks to them both to get them to match.

I gave my side seams and shoulder seams a quick blast with starch to help stabilise before stitching.

The collar insertion is then hidden with a strip of bias binding. I got enough fabric with it in mind that I would make my own, but the prospect seemed too much faff when I saw the pre-made rolls on the stall in the market. I still need to work on neat finishes at the end of my binding. Any tips anywhere?

The back opening is made by folding over about 2cm on either side to make way for buttons and button holes. The pattern says nothing about facing this but I strongly suggest it, especially if you are using a lightweight fabric. Again I cut an extra piece of my georgette and tacked this in for extra stability. You then fold the centre back under itself and stitch down on either side to create a nice neat placket, about 2cm wide.

I was so pleased I finally had a project worth buying these beautiful buttons for! I've been eyeing these lovelies up since I started sewing. Aren't they just gorgeous! The pattern features 6 buttons down the centre back, about 10cm apart.
Everyone hates doing button holes, but this time it ran quite smoothly! Stitching on the buttons to correlate always frustrates me a bit too! I found getting them in the exact position really tricky. With them being on the back it was hard to check out how I was getting on!

With all the buttons sewn on I found the back gaped between the top two. SO frustrating! With such a wide button placement though this was bound to happen. I would suggest using smaller buttons closer together. Instead I used a sneaky popper in between the top two buttons that seems to do the trick.

A quick hem to finish and we were all done!


Location: Weston Park, Sheffield
Currently listening to: Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation, Dunes