Author: Lisa

My Week in Sewing, 20th May 2022

My Week in Sewing, 20th May 2022

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote – and my news is that I’m back on the sewing train!

I have an event to attend this weekend and I fancied making a nice dress for it, as my wardrobe is lacking in the “nice day dress” department. I have a couple of workhorse dresses that I always turn to, but I want more choices.

I’ve got a bit of post-viral fatigue going on, so I chose a familiar project to keep the effort level relatively low. I’ve made the Lyra dress by Tilly and the Buttons a couple of times before, and I had plenty of appropriate fabric in my stash. (Full disclosure – I was actually a pattern tester so I got my copy of the pattern for free.)

Proper photos coming soon. I just finished sewing the buttons on this afternoon and my hair is categorically not camera friendly today.

What didn’t click for me until I’d started cutting out the fabric was that I’m actually using the same fabric as is used in Tilly and the Buttons’ marketing for the pattern! Whoops. I usually try to steer clear of copying other people’s makes, but I don’t really mind with this one. I mean, the fabric really really does work for this dress. (Plus, I made the midi-length, so mine’s different anyway!)

While I was assembling the bodice, I tried it on and I got really excited about the idea of a sleeveless cropped shirt in this fabric – doesn’t it look great with these pink shorts?

I have a little leftover fabric, so I’m going to see if I have enough to make this happen. I’m thinking of using the Helen’s Closet Gilbert shirt pattern.

One thing I’m not super happy about is the collar stand. I find collar stands really fiddly to sew evenly, so I unpick and re-press and re-stitch until it works. This, obviously, takes ages. In the name of “perfect is the enemy of done”, I’ve allowed myself to have some sloppy stitching on this dress (where it’s not visible), but I’ve vowed to invest some effort into learning a good technique. So I’ve picked my copy of Shirtmaking off the shelf.

I first read this years ago, before I’d ever tried to make a proper shirt. But I think the information will be more meaningful to me now that I have a few stand collars under my belt (as it were). Looking forward to learning some more precise techniques.

On the knitting front, I now have two projects on the go. Here’s the Birthday Sweater (by Ankestrick) – so very close to done!

Annoyingly I ran out of the dark pink just before the end of the first sleeve – but I think the light pink cuff situation is effective.

I’ve cast on my Marzipan Pullover (by Sari Nordlund) for knit club, too – in Drops Nepal:

The cables have only just started – but I’m already enjoying them! It’s been literally 9 years since I last knitted a complex cable pattern – I made a whopping great big Umaro blanket as a gift for family:

Cables are super satisfying. A bit slow, but they look like magic.

Last but very much not least, a selection of cat photos from the last week. Today I am featuring cats asleep on the sofa in ridiculous positions.

Thanks for reading. See you next week!

My Week in Sewing, 6th May 2022

My Week in Sewing, 6th May 2022

I mentioned last week that I was planning to take a couple weeks off sewing, because life is super busy right now. Well. I didn’t expect to get ill and be forced to do absolutely nothing all week! At least I’ve watched Heartstopper 3 times through and read through half of Alice Oseman’s body of work. (I may have gone on one of my obsessive deep dives on the Heartstopper/Solitaire universe. It may also not be over.)

Although sewing’s been on pause, I have started to pick up the pace on my knitting over the last couple of days. But I’m definitely not going to finish this Ankestrick Birthday jumper before my knit club starts a new project at the weekend:

I don’t think I’ve ever managed to post about this jumper without also mentioning how slow it is to knit! It’s taking forever due to it being 4-ply (skinny yarn) and half-brioche stitch (2 rows required for every 1 row visible). My upcoming project, the Marzipan Pullover by Sari Nordlund, is going to be a very different experience since it’s on a thicker yarn (worsted weight). And although it does have cables to slow things down, they’re only on the yoke. The rest of the body and sleeves are on blessed rib stitch. I am excited for the feeling of knitting on turbo mode.

Ready for Marzipan madness. This will be my first time knitting with Drops yarn. I’ve heard such good things about it, and it’s so cheap I had to do a double take.

For cat photo time today, I am blessing you with a Rocket montage:

You’re welcome.

And of course, some Moon and Philip content:

Thanks for reading – see you next week!

My Week in Sewing, 29th April 2022

My Week in Sewing, 29th April 2022

This week I finished sewing the Amelia skirt by the Pattern Stash! (NB. This pattern & the kit were sent to me in exchange for a post on Instagram.)

I was daunted by the corduroy as I’ve never worked with it before, but I found it surprisingly easy to sew with. Of course, now I’m daydreaming of sewing corduroy jackets and trousers. But I suspect I should probably focus on warm weather clothes, on the off chance we get a sunny spell here in the next few months. This is a short skirt though, so it should be versatile enough for the warmer season.

I actually found the lining quite hard to work with. It was probably because I focused so much on getting the corduroy right that I was blasé about the slippery viscose-acetate lining. I found it shifted and moved around a lot, and generally took on a different form every time I looked at it. I clearly need to invest a bit more time and care when working with such delicate fabrics in future. Still, it came out nicely enough:

Sewing to a deadline is never my favourite, as I’m very slow and methodical when it comes to sewing. The instructions for this skirt said it would take around 5 hours, but I must have spent at least 10, and that’s not even counting the toiles!

I’m taking a week or two off sewing now as life and work are super busy, but don’t be fooled – I’m still daydreaming and planning. I think I want to do an instant gratification tee out of fabric in my stash next, as I’m not very happy with my summer wardrobe. I like wearing tees but I generally have boring ones, so I’m ready to add a little more spice. (Read: block colours in my classic palette of pink and teal.)

In knitting news…

I had to frog the sleeve and start over! 😦 I misread the instructions and decreased way too early and too often. I don’t feel like I’ve lost much though, as this realisation coincided with my double-pointed needles arriving in the post – and I can knit a lot faster with those. So I’m not really that disheartened.

Last but not least! Cat pics!

Thanks for reading! See you next week.

My Week in Sewing, 22nd April 2022

My Week in Sewing, 22nd April 2022

I’m back after a week off! I skipped last Friday’s weekly sewing review as I was busy swanning around Vienna. We went to 5 art galleries plus another art exhibition in London and my brain was absolutely saturated by the time I got home. I probably could have done with more of a zone-out type of holiday, but I had a great time all the same – I just want another holiday immediately, please and thank you.

I got to wear my newly made Agatha dress to the opera and a fancy restaurant, all of which was fantastic. I love wearing me-mades in formal settings. It feels devious somehow.

I came across a huge fabric shop – but it was outside of opening hours, much to the relief of my wallet. I enjoyed this window display though. Are those enormous hams? What is that gigantic cheese shaped thing?

Since I’ve been back at home, I’ve been working on my Pattern Stash Amelia skirt (NB. project materials given to me in exchange for a social media post, but this is not that post). I was previously making a wearable toile, but as soon as I got the information I needed out of the toile, I parked it in favour of the real thing as I’m approaching the agreed deadline. I’ll return to the toile afterwards as it’s so close to done, and I really like the contrasting colours.

Wearable toile. Waistband not finished – but parked for now.

So I’m on the final project now. I’m going entirely out of my comfort zone with this fabric choice. Corduroy! Fiery orangey red! I had never worked with corduroy and this colour is not like anything in my traditional colour palette so this was brave/reckless. It may or may not have something to do with the fact that I made my fabric choice the morning after a big boozy work party. I may or may not have been thinking straight.

But. It’s working out well. I’m glad I didn’t play it safe, as I’ve already learned loads.

This colour is hard to photograph. Especially when you’re a bit lax with your lighting.

Honestly, I was daunted by the corduroy. I’ve read so many “how to sew with corduroy” blog posts over the years that I had the impression that it was a difficult fabric to work with. Well, spoiler: it’s not. I’ll write a bit more about that in a future post.

The pattern has come together quite straight forwardly. It has a few slipstitching steps that I’m going to do on the machine instead because sod slipstitching. I haven’t quite got my head round how the lining attaches to the vents yet, but it’s nearly done!

Top tip: Distract your cats before you attempt to take photos of your sewing project

My knitting project continues to take several millennia to complete. I’m on the first sleeve now, and I really thought the sleeves would fly by – but this damn half brioche stitch is so slow! I’ve ordered some double pointed needles as the magic loop method is getting on my nerves, and any possible speed improvement will be valuable at this point.

I’m keen to get it done because knit club are starting on a new project soon and I don’t want to have two knitting projects on the go at the same time.

I shall leave you with some pics of cats – despite already having shared one. I’m absolutely spoiling you.

Thanks for reading. See you next week!

My Week in Sewing, 8th April 2022

I’ve been working on a skirt this week – the Amelia Skirt from The Pattern Stash. For full disclosure, I was sent this pattern (and a kit including fabric) for free in exchange for an Instagram post about the skirt. This post is not part of that exchange – I just wanted to share a little about the making process.

This is my second toile of the skirt. On my first toile I did a straight size 10 – I should have known that was a silly idea! My hips are less curved than most patterns are designed for, so I always have to do some heavy modifications to make the hip curve straighter. I took in the side seams and increased the intake of the back darts, but I quickly realised that my changes were distorting the lines of the pattern – the panels weren’t nicely distributed anymore. So I decided to trace off the size 8 at the hip, and grade to a 10 at the waist. I also picked some leftover linen to make this a wearable toile. You may recognise this fabric from my April dress!

The fit is far better now. I’m also very pleased with my invisible zip insertion. It used to take me a minimum of 30 minutes to get a zip in nicely, with multiple rounds of unpicking – but I’ve got the technique now, and I typically get it right on the first try. I freehand the first side and then pin the second side very lightly. My problem before was over-pinning – so my big tip is to let the zip lay where it wants to lay!

There is an invisible zip in this side seam. Truly invisible! Patting myself on the back.

I’m looking forward to completing this toile and getting started on the real deal. I’ve picked a bright fiery red corduroy, which is a bit outside my comfort zone in terms of both fabric and colour. But it’s good to push ourselves. I do have bits of bright fiery red corduroy all over my house now though.

Before I close, here are some cat pics from the week:

Thanks for reading. See you next week! 🙂

Fibre Mood Agatha Dress – Pattern Review

Fibre Mood Agatha Dress – Pattern Review

This is probably the prettiest thing I’ve ever made.

Behold, my Fibre Mood Agatha. I can’t get over how beautiful it is.

There’s a lot I love about the design of the dress. The curved waistband which rises to meet the V of the plunge neckline. The fact that the waistband is doubled, such that it provides a nice bit of structure around the waist to support the weight of the skirt. The floaty, breezy quality of the sleeves due to their being semicircles – and the way the hem of the sleeve lines up with the waistband. And that plunging neckline! I worried it might be too revealing for me, but I think it’s perfectly tasteful and just a bit flirty.

The fabric is some sort of synthetic jersey – I thought it was rayon at first, but it has a springy sponginess to it that reminds me of a scuba or swimsuiting, so perhaps it’s poly. It’s very soft and slinky, and has a good weight to it that gives it a superb drape. I bought it from Gillies in York with the intention of making some pyjamas out of it. Can you imagine if I’d wasted this gorgeous fabric on pyjamas!

It does have a directional print, and this pattern technically shouldn’t be made with a directional print, because some of the skirt is on the bias and the back of the sleeves are upside down. But I don’t really care – I think the print is abstract enough that you would need to look closely to recognise that they are palm trees. I’m OK with it.

I found the fabric a little bit tricky to work with, as it was both slippery and weighty so it had a tendency to slide around. But I feel like my skills at grappling with fabrics like this have come a long way, so I although I had to put a bit more effort in (i.e. more pins), I never got frustrated with it or felt out of control. Just takes practice, like everything else.

I must say I’m not crazy about Fibre Mood’s pattern instructions. They leave you to fend for yourself a bit, so I wouldn’t call them beginner-friendly. For instance, the edge of the front bodice needs to be interfaced, but there is no pattern piece for that interfacing, nor is there an explicit instruction to apply it. There’s just a note next to one of the diagrams stating factually that the highlighted yellow section is interfaced.

I also got a little confused when attaching the sleeves, as mine didn’t match up to the bodice in the same way the diagram suggested – it wanted a 1cm seam allowance left on either side of the sleeve, but my sleeve consumed the full space, i.e. it was 1cm too long on each side. After a while, I realised that this was because the instructions gave two options for finishing the sleeve hem – either a rolled hem, or a 1cm standard hem – and my choice of rolled hem meant that only 0.2cm of the 1cm hem allowance was actually used. I wonder if they intended for that 1cm hem allowance to be trimmed when doing the rolled hem – but if so, it was not made clear at all. Never mind. I just sort of fudged it a bit under the arm, but I did it the same on both sides so who cares.

One final gripe about the pattern is that the skirt piece is printed in full. Yet it’s symmetrical! What a huge waste of paper and printing/taping time. I actually folded the pattern piece in half and cut my skirts on the fold anyway.

For what it’s worth, I managed to cut size 36 out of 2.5m of fabric, despite the pattern saying it needed 3m.

But. Please put all that aside. It’s all worth it. My complaints about the pattern are insignificant in comparison to how much I adore the final dress. I did enjoy sewing it, and even with the sleeve confusion it didn’t take all that long to put it together. It’s quite a straightforward sew – and creates a garment with a really stunning effect.

I feel ~fancy~!

The Hotel Sewing Kit

The Hotel Sewing Kit

In lieu of this week’s “My Week In Sewing”, since I’ve been poorly and haven’t done very much of anything at all, I’m sharing some creative writing on the topic of sewing. I wrote this a couple of months ago in a 5-minute writing challenge on the topic of “an object related to my hobby”. PS. I’m just dabbling in creative writing, be kind 🙂

I often collect miniature mending kits from hotels and stash them in my handbags, because the time you need a mending kit is not when you are in a hotel room with your luggage – and therefore hopefully also with a spare change of clothes – but rather when you’re out and about, at a nice dinner, or in the office, with only the clothes on your back, and a significantly higher need to look presentable.

Once, I repaired a seam at the centre back of a grey pencil skirt while sitting, by necessity in my knickers, on a (closed) toilet in a cubicle in the loos on the fifth floor of an office block in central Leeds. Turns out you want a little more kit than just these tools to fix a broken zip, but you can do a temporary salvage, in a pinch. 

The zip had come away from the fabric just three quarters of an inch, and I suppose I might have been able to get along without repairing it, but I’m not really that sort of person. So I found myself perched in my pants on the cold toilet lid, making the burst seam worse before I could make it better, and not entirely convinced I could make it better in the ten minutes before my next meeting anyway. What would happen if I only made it worse, without making it better? Well, there was that flimsy gold safety pin – though I didn’t have a huge amount of faith in its ability to support the strain on the seam that holds my bum in. So I had to get it right.

I discovered it’s hard to thread a needle while sat in your knickers in a cramped space under fluorescent lighting and time pressure. 

And that my insistence to favour the sewing machine over any hand-sewing at all had robbed me of an opportunity to develop a useful life skill.

It also turns out there’s far less thread in these kits than you think.

What do you do when once you have miraculously managed to slip-stitch that seam back into place? Rip the thread with your bare hands like an animal? Yes, yes that’s exactly what you do. And then you sit there staring at it for a full minute, cursing the amateur nature of your handiwork and lamenting the fact that this toilet stall does not feature a steam iron so you could at the very least press out the crumples impressed into the skirt by your frantic hands. But now you’ve only got ninety seconds left before your meeting, and you’re still in your pants, so you hoick the skirt on – and thank god that the zip doesn’t immediately burst open – do a quick sanity check in the mirror, not that you have any time to correct any mistakes now. Then you step back out into the office, and say not a single damn word about any of it. 

My Week in Sewing, 25th March 2022

My Week in Sewing, 25th March 2022

Each Friday I write about what I’ve done in sewing land over the past week – plus any knitting or other crafts I’ve managed to slot in. Plus cats. There will always be cats.

I made my Agatha dress this week! Here’s a teaser pic ahead of the full post I’m writing about the making of this dress.

My latest make

In short, I adore it. It’s not my typical style as I tend to lean more cutesy, but I’m looking to add more elegant pieces to my wardrobe and this dress nails that brief. Can’t wait to share more about it soon.

The next thing I want to share is not actually a make from this week, but a new pattern release: the Tilly and the Buttons Erin dungarees. You might have seen this pattern all over Instagram this week. I was a tester for this pattern a few months ago, and I’d never worn dungarees as an adult before so I had no idea what to expect!

There have been some changes to the pattern since the test version, so I’m not going to write a proper review until I’ve made a pair in the final version of the pattern. But I am showing off my tester version now that I can.

I made a couple of mistakes on these that mean I’m probably not going to wear them outdoors, but they’re good for around the house. I could have done with sizing down around the hip – I hadn’t checked the hip measurement so it’s a bit baggy around the bum. I also picked a denim that I think is actually too structured for the pattern, so I’m not crazy about the way it hangs. At least I know exactly what changes I want to make next time.

My final bit of sewing news is that I got a bit carried away with my Thea wearable toile last week. I put the sleeves and the collar on and did the fancy topstitching and everything. Then, when I was trying it on to figure out where to put the buttons, I realised I’d forgotten to use it as an actual toile – and it still doesn’t fit! Argh. So, it’s just a fancy unwearable wearable toile. Here’s a photo of it for posterity.

I am going to size up for my proper Thea, as I think I read the numbers wrong on the measurements. Back to the drawing board. Or at least, the tracing table.

What’s next in sewing land for me? Not sure just now – might do an instant gratification project before I approach the Thea again. Perhaps those Erin dungarees. I also have some exciting project plans that I can’t reveal just yet!

Here’s my customary weekly knitting progress shot. I feel like I’ve been close to the end of this ball of yarn for weeks. Surely it’s going to run out soon? I’m going to decide on a whim which colour I switch to next. It will probably be dark pink.

And the cats, as promised.

Thanks for reading, see you next week!

My Week in Sewing, 18th March 2022

My Week in Sewing, 18th March 2022

Each Friday I write about what I’ve done in sewing land over the past week – plus any knitting or other crafts I’ve managed to slot in. Plus cats. There will always be cats.

I’ve been following my heart this week. By which I mean I’ve changed my mind a LOT and flip-flopped between 4(!) different sewing projects. Remember last week I was saying I only work on one project at once? Ha.

My goal at the start of the week was to finish with the fitting the bodice of my Etta dress, and then I could switch onto another project. I’ve been working on this fitting project for weeks and frankly I’m bored out of my mind with it – and frustrated too. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for ages, as I was hoping to turn it into a bodice block for drafting my own tops and dresses. But it’s very challenging for me.

I’ve got scoliosis, which means if you look at my back from behind it looks like a reverse “S” shape, rather than a typical spine which looks like an “I”. Fortunately it causes me no physical discomfort at all, despite what I used to tell my PE teachers to get out of netball lessons. It does have a cosmetic impact though, which generally doesn’t bother me. I never wanted to be a ballerina anyway. But if I want a well-fitting bodice, I have to be a bit clever about it, because if it fits nicely on the right it doesn’t fit nicely on the left.

The pooling isn’t a posture thing – my left upper back is flatter than my right upper back, so it needs less fabric. My shoulders slope differently too, and my ribcage is rounder on the right

Turns out I’m not clever enough yet to figure this out. Perhaps a V back bodice with a neckline dart was a bad place to start. After about 6,000,000 toiles with a mirrored back bodice, I finally had one attempt at modifying the left independently of the right and immediately lost all motivation when I realised that taking a wedge out of one side was going to have implications on the angle of the neckline and the overall pattern placement of the Ankara fabric I wanted to make this dress out of. Utter disillusionment. After 4 weeks of faffing with this pattern, I’ve said sod it. I’ll try again when I have more fitting and drafting skills.

So, in comes project number 2 for a bit of ~excitement~. It’s this combo again:

Because I don’t learn, I made a toile again. This time it went really well, actually. Too well. Look how nice these old bedsheets actually are.

Liberty Thea toile #1. Needs an FBA, reduce length of bodice, and increase length of sleeve – but really not bad otherwise

There are a few modifications I needed to make after the first toile, but I liked the fabric so much I actually decided to make the second toile a wearable toile. That is, make it up like a real top. Which essentially makes it project number 3.

Here I go again.

Because the fabric is a little bit formal-shirt looking, I’ve decided to spice it up with a little contrast top stitching. I’m thinking a bit of pink and teal (classic) and maybe use some of the weird stitch patterns on my machine to create a design element out of it.

But I mentioned 4 sewing projects, didn’t I? I was falling asleep on Wednesday night when I remembered my work Christmas party is next week. Yes I know it’s March, but it was also Omicron in December, so we’re doing it now. Am I actually mental, deciding at the last minute to make myself a dress? Probably yes. Especially when it’s a dress of a style I’ve never even tried on before, so I don’t know if I’ll like it on me. But apparently I am hyper-motivated to sew this week, so I crack on.

The knitting project seems to be taking forever. I’m not sure if these weekly photos are helping or hindering. They’re encouraging me to push at it so I can see progress, but then I take the photo and I can hardly see any progress. It is feeling super squishy though!

Half brioche stitch is still slow

And to close off, as ever, some cat photos from the week:

Thanks for reading, see you next week!

My Week in Sewing, 11th March 2022

My Week in Sewing, 11th March 2022

Each Friday I write about what I’ve done in sewing land over the past week – plus any knitting or other crafts I’ve managed to slot in. Plus cats. There will always be cats.

Loads to talk about this week, even though I haven’t actually switched on my sewing machine.

The dress hack I was working on last week hasn’t really excited me, so I’ve just let it sit for now until the urge to pick it up returns. I always try to keep a “one project at a time per craft” rule (a WIP limit of one, for all y’all in software engineering out there 👀). I’m moderately strict about it because every time I’ve broken that rule, I essentially end up parking the first project for months, and then I end up feeling guilty about letting it languish, and it’s a whole mental burden, and another pile of mess in my house, and so on.

Anyway, with all that in mind, I printed and taped the PDF pattern for the Fibre Mood Agatha dress this week. ha! I couldn’t stop thinking about making it in this vibrant rayon jersey I picked up in town a couple weeks ago:

I am feeling a little unfinished-project guilt about the Etta dress so I’m not 100% sure if I’ll cut into this fabric yet. That said, I do think it’s important to work on the project that you’re drawn to. This is a hobby after all. No one’s holding me accountable other than me.

I’ve also been daydreaming about shirts and shirt dresses a lot. I love shirts! I love collars and sleeve plackets and button bands and yokes and pleats. I have this one fancy shirt from Anthropologie that I wear loads because it’s so pretty:

Anthropologie shirt (photo from last year). Yes I am aware my hair is blocking much of the shirt detail. But you get the idea.

I want more shirts like this in my life – not so much the patchwork thing, but the bright prints and slight blousiness. A bit of a statement piece but not too loud. So I’ve been mashing up patterns and fabrics from my collection in my mind:

I LOVE all of these fabrics. But the problem is they’re all so super special and delicious and beautiful that I’m terrified of cutting into them. They are the fanciest nicest most expensive fabrics in my stash and I know I need to just use them as I’ll enjoy them more as garments that I can actually wear, but I’m still intimidated about starting. Also pretty much all of them are going to require some level of pattern matching (because it would be a shame not to really show off those lovely prints) which only adds to the fear level.

I get pretty excited imagining the combinations with these shirt patterns though:

The combo I’m most likely to start with is the Liberty Thea in the Liberty Glastonbury fabric. I’m thinking the collar and necktie from view D, and the sleeves from view C. Assuming I have enough fabric.

In knitting news, my Birthday Sweater continues at a nice pace. I’m just about at the point where I have to switch from my medium sized project bag to a full size tote bag.

I have loads more of the pink, so I’m thinking of doing one sleeve in pink and the other in a different colour.

My pattern weight collection has expanded considerably this week too. I use antique brass bell weights of 1lb or under, and my rule is that I can only buy them if I see them in person. I spotted four 1lb weights in the window of a local antique shop, and simply had to snap them up!

Antique weights as pattern weights

And as ever, some cat pics from the week!

Thanks for reading, see you next week! 🙂