Outfit Along and Sewing Update

Hey… that’s not a sewing project!

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This wool is for the Outfit-Along which I’ve impulsively decided to take part in. If you’ve not heard of it, this event runs for the months of June and July, and to take part you have to knit one garment and sew one garment to make up a whole outfit. I’m going to be making the official OAL patterns – the Zinone knitted lace top and the Hollyburn skirt – but you don’t have to go with those as long as you make a whole outfit.

I haven’t knitted anything proper in about a year – the last serious knitting project I made was a baby blanket for my niece last June. I’ve been musing about picking up my knitting needles again as I don’t want to lose the skill, so when the OAL popped up on my blog feed the other day, the timing was perfect. Plus, I already mentioned that I have another Hollyburn skirt on my sewing plans. There was no way I couldn’t sign up!

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I’ve already made my gauge swatch, and it was bang on first time, which was nice. If you’re not a knitter, you might not know what a gauge swatch is. Basically, if two knitters knit the same square using the same wool and the same needles, the finished square may not come out the same size. This is because different knitters have different tension, meaning they may hold their wool more loosely or tightly as they sew – it’s really down to personal preference as to what feels good when you knit.

Therefore, before starting a new knitting project, you always have to make a gauge swatch – a test square – to calibrate your particular tension against what the knitting pattern expects. Otherwise you might end up with a top that’s 50% bigger than it’s supposed to be! If your sizing is a bit off then you change the size of your needles and try again. Lucky for me, my gauge swatch was just right. I’m going to chuck it in the washing machine and see if it can cope, because let’s face it, I’m too lazy for hand-washing.

Anyway – that’s enough about knitting – what about my sewing projects? Well –

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This week I finished a Bettine dress in this gorgeous teal filigree fabric from Chinatown. I absolutely adore it – except for the small fact that the hem of the skirt is far too narrow and I can barely put it on! Why didn’t I learn from my previous Bettine? Totally gutted. I’m not giving up on it though – I’m going to buy some more of the fabric to replace the skirt with a slightly differently shaped one. I’m also thinking of putting a side zip and waist band onto the old skirt so I can wear it on its own.

And this is what’s on my sewing table now:

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Hawthorn cutting chaos. I still haven’t found a way of cutting out fabric that I like. I used to pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and then cut around them, but I always ended up shaving a bit of the pattern piece off. So now I draw around the pieces and cut them after, but it’s extremely tedious and it’s hard to draw accurate lines with tailor’s chalk. What’s your favourite way to cut fabric?

Bear Renfrew T-shirt

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It’s the bear-bear Renfrew! My cosy new t-shirt with bears on!

This was so much fun to make! Especially after making my fern print Mimi which took forever and involved fabric that didn’t behave. This t-shirt was planned as my first foray into working with knits, but completely by accident (because I wasn’t pay attention), the fern Mimi took that crown. This t-shirt was an absolute breeze compared to that. The fabric is a fairly thick jersey – almost maybe sweatshirt material – and it did exactly what I told it to. Heavenly! And it took hardly any time at all to make, which I really appreciated as I had to go to work on the weekend I made it so I didn’t have many spare hours.

Apology up front: the pictures in this post have come out a bit desaturated, oops! It was a really bright day when I took these photos so the colour got a bit washed out and I’ve struggled to put it back in. The pic at the top is the truest to the colour – it’s a nice vivid blue with a hint of grey. We can pretend that the rest of the pictures are using a cool Instagram filter.

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The pattern is the Sewaholic Renfrew. I bought the paper pattern. I’ve decided I’m never going to buy a PDF pattern again (unless it’s the only option) because 1) it’s so nice to have the real, physical product and 2) I’d honestly rather wait a few weeks for a pattern to reach me than lose a precious evening to sellotape. Time is money, friend! (Goblin salesmen from WoW yeah? Anyone? Just me?)

There were a few steps in the construction that I was worried about  – the neck, arm and waist bands which are a bit shorter than the opening you sew them to, and the sleeves which are sewn flat – but it all went surprisingly smoothly. The trick to the bands is to put a pin in every quarter of the way around, matching seams – then with the band on top, gently stretch it to the right size as it goes through the machine. On my very first go I went pin-mad but it just got really fiddly. It was much easier with fewer pins.

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There are little bears mountain climbing all over me!

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I picked the size 4 and it fits nicely with absolutely no adjustments. Is that how knits work? Is it always this magical?! I bet I just got lucky this time.

The fit is just right across the bust and has enough ease around the waist for a proper big dinner. For future Renfrews I may go for a size 2 at the waist for a snugger fit, but for this particular tee I think the looseness adds a casual vibe that goes well with the casual fabric.

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So comfy and cosy. I want to make twenty more like it!

Slinky Knits are Hard: The Fern Mimi

I know, know – I said a couple of posts ago that my Tilly spree was over as I had ordered some new patterns. But I’d forgotten for how long it takes for post to get to me here in Singapore. And while I was waiting I wasn’t very well going to sew nothing, was I?

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After my first Mimi blouse came out stiffer than I’d hoped, I wanted to try it out in a fabric with good drape. So I picked up this cute rayon with a monochrome fern print. I love wearing rayon – it performs well in a humid climate like Singapore because it is breathable, and yet doesn’t crease with wear like other breathable fabrics such as linen or cotton. From a wardrobe perspective, rayon’s a real winner.

Well. This particular rayon was a real challenge! I’d heard people complaining before about how their fabric “shifts” and “moves” when they work with it, but I had no idea what that meant. And now I do. Holy moly this fabric has a life of its own! It’s slinky, it’s lightweight, and oh, it also turns out to be a knit rather than a woven. Just stand in the same room as it and that will be enough for it to stretch, forming waves that distort the grain, taunting you. But I bravely (recklessly) decided to plough on. Why did I do this to myself?
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Cutting it was a serious task. Even folding the fabric to pin the selvedges together before cutting it was a serious task. I decided to use my new rotary cutter as I’d read that scissors distort slinky fabrics like this as you cut them. Well, turns out rotary cutters do too. This was the least precise cutting I have done by a long way. Eventually I gave up on all hopes of the fabric laying straight as I cut it and just resorted to hope and crossed fingers. (Figuratively crossed fingers, of course. Crossing them while holding a rotary cutter would be a trip to A&E waiting to happen.)

Sewing took ages. This fabric enjoys being near the sewing needle, so totally unrelated bits of blouse kept getting caught up in my seams. I am a real pro with the seam ripper now.
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But somehow, against all odds, it worked out really well in the end. It’s so comfy to wear! For all that the slinky rayon kept slinking right off the table while I was working with it, it’s delightful against the skin, and has exactly the drape that this pattern deserves. And I think it looks great!
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I used Tilly’s pussy bow Mimi hack to transform the collar. There’s a bit where she asks you to sew and trim seam allowances up until the notch. Then the remaining seam allowances get sewn to the neckline of the blouse. I didn’t manage this quite right as there’s a couple of millimetres of the unfinished seam allowance exposed right at the corner which I’ll probably blanket stitch. If you try this hack, make sure to pay close attention to that corner.
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I used these cute little hexagonal buttons. Because I had trouble with the top closure not lying flat in my last Mimi and ended up adding a hidden hook and eye, I put two buttons up there this time – but that didn’t do the trick either. I just can’t get that top corner to lie flat. Luckily, this time the top corner is completely hidden by the bow so it doesn’t really matter.
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Here’s a view from the back – I think the gathers work really well in this fabric.
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You can see from the side that even though it’s got quite a bit of ease, it drapes in a lovely way. Ha, I just noticed while writing this that you can also see how completely off grain my cutting is too, given how the print is angled completely differently on the front and back pieces. Oh well!
I did not expect I’d be saying this, but the finished piece is certainly worth all the frustration I had working with the fabric. Once I’ve worked through the fabrics I bought in my last haul (yes, I’m still that naive that I think I’m going to empty my fabric stash) I’ll try to make another pattern in a slinky rayon like this. The comfort and breeziness of this blouse are through the roof, and I want to wear it every day, so it’ll be great to nail the slinky fabric skill and fill my wardrobe with me-made rayon tops.