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.

Chilli Bettine Dress

Yet another Tilly and the Buttons piece… I made this Bettine dress! With chilli print fabric! Because spicy food is my favourite food!

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Making this dress felt a lot like cheating. It has extremely simple construction as it is targeted at absolute beginners. I think I’m in the “advanced beginner” camp by now, so this was a doddle to put together! I made the version without pockets (not a fan of how they look) and omitted the cuff tab, which meant I was left with very few pattern pieces and very few seams. And no darts! It was a very quick make, to the point that it seems like I barely did anything to the fabric for it to turn into a dress.

 

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I did a 1.5″ full bust adjustment on the front bodice piece because I am a C/D cup and Tilly’s patterns are drafted for a B cup. When you execute an FBA, you increase the length of the bodice piece. Typically, there is a horizontal dart on the bodice which then gets redrawn to consume that extra length of fabric, but this dress has no darts! Tilly recommends ease-stitching the extra length in which I found very straight forward.

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The fabric came from Malin Textile at Chinatown and I paid S$11 (£5.50) per metre for it, down from S$13 (£6.50). It frayed like crazy while I worked with it, which was irritating. But it came out so cute! It’s a fun dress. I like the kimono sleeves. They’re different.

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It’s not at all easy to pull over my head though. I have to do a very awkward wiggle dance to put it on. It’s probably because I cut a size 1 for the hips whereas I’m a size 2 plus FBA in the bust, and the skirt is a tulip shape so it narrows towards the hem. As there are no closures, the narrow hem needs to go over my head and past the bust when I put it on, and it takes a fair bit of encouragement to coax it to where it’s supposed to be.

 

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A much more graceful wiggle than the one I had to do while getting dressed.

I’m not sure what I could do to fix that next time, though. My first thought was to try it with an A-line skirt, but I think the skirt does need to hug the hips in order to balance out the bagginess on top. Maybe I will just try it in a jersey, once I’ve learned how to sew with knits. And I’ve already ordered a couple of knit patterns so that won’t be too far away!

Palm Print Megan

My palm print Megan dress is finished!

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The fabric is by Sevenberry and I’m in love with it. It’s light, but has some structure. It holds a crease when you want it to, but doesn’t crease through wear. It’s great!

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I really like this dress. I put most of it together very quickly without much thought, which was rewarding after how long my first Megan took me. But when I was about to put the sleeves on my husband commented that it actually looked really good without sleeves. So I thought I’d have a go at making bias tape and using it as a facing. It took me a whole day to figure it out, but I got there in the end – one new dress, two new skills. And he was right! The Megan is brilliant without sleeves.

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The one thing in this pattern that I’m still unsure about is the length of the dart tucks on the front of the bodice. One of my original fit adjustments was to lengthen the bodice, but I didn’t know what to do with the dart tucks so I left them as they were. I think I need to lengthen them by the same amount so that they lie flat.

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See how that dart tuck billows out just a touch at the bust? I think the bodice fit is pretty good apart from that. I can’t easily get that part of the bodice under the machine now it’s been fixed to the skirt, so I tried to hand sew it flat – turns out I still don’t have any patience for hand sewing. Might try slip stitching it later. I don’t think it’s a big deal though, I’ll just mark the dart longer on my pattern piece and bear it in mind next time.

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I’ve done quite a few Tilly patterns in a row now, and it’s time for me to branch out. I finished a Bettine dress yesterday and I’ll be posting about that soon, but I’ve ordered some Colette and Sewaholic patterns to get a bit more variety in my me-made wardrobe.

Speaking of which, I signed up to Me-Made May! I’ve pledged to wear at least two pieces that I’ve made myself each week in the month of May. Looking forward to it!

Anchor Mimi Blouse

Look, it’s my first blouse! I made the Mimi blouse from Love at First Stitch.
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I made no alterations to this one as I made it immediately after making my alteration-ridden Megan dress (the one with the six bodice muslins) and I just wanted to get my teeth stuck straight into the sewing. I think the finished piece fits me alright – but then it’s a loose fitting garment with no darts or anything, so there wasn’t much risk there.
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I bought the fabric at the People’s Park Food Centre in Chinatown, which is amazing by the way. Fabric stores as far as the eye can see – and cheap too!
This is a cotton, but beyond that I couldn’t tell you much about it. I thought it was a lawn when I bought it, but it isn’t especially drapey, so I suspect it’s more of a poplin. Anyone got any tips on how to identify different types of cotton?
Unfortunately the pattern calls for drapiness, so the finished blouse is a bit stiffer than I would like. It’s wearable, but I’m not really all that sure about the way it hangs at the back when it’s tucked in:
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That’s not as much of a problem when its untucked -but that’s not really my style. I tend towards an hourglass silhouette, so I’d typically tuck in a loose fitting blouse at the waist. We’ll have to see how often I reach for this one in my wardrobe.
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I did have a couple of other issues making it. I must have sewn the yoke interfacing on a little wonky, because the corner above the top button really wants to stick out, and no amount of pressing will subdue it. I had a go at restitching it without much success, so in the end I whacked a hidden hook-and-eye in there. Bit of a duct tape solution, but it did the trick…
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The other issue was really just foolishness on my part. Put the buttons on the wrong side, didn’t I? Totally didn’t think that through. At least I know I’ll never make that mistake again. It feels very weird buttoning up a blouse this way round!
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All in all, a successful make, but I’m not sure how much I will end up wearing it. I’ve just picked up some drapey rayon to make up another version and see if I can make this pattern work for me.
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I made a Megan dress!

Behold… I made a Megan dress!

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A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of Love At First Stitch by Tilly Walnes, from the Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City. (If you’re in Singapore, I really recommend the sewing book section there – there are a lot of books that have paper patterns included, including those from bloggers like Tilly, Collete Patterns and Gertie. I got a little over excited in the shop!)

I’d read the reviews for Love At First Stitch so I was pretty hyped for the book. And it totally lived up to expectation! It’s a gorgeous book, very beautifully put together – and Tilly has a lovely conversational way of writing which makes you feel like you’ve known her for years.

 

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Shamelessly copying one of Tilly’s poses from the book

 

But I’ve gotta say, I found the Megan dress a real challenge. Nothing to do with the pattern or instructions – but just getting the bodice to fit. The pattern is drafted for a B-cup, but I am a C/D, so I knew I was going to need a full bust adjustment. But I wasn’t expecting that I would end up making six muslins of the bodice…

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The five discarded bodice pieces that didn’t make the final muslin
And on the plus side, I am now an expert at sewing darts after having done about 30 of them as part of this muslin saga!

In the end, I made a 1.5″ full bust adjustment, lengthened the bodice by 1/5″, and took 2″ out of the back neckline. I also shortened the hem by 2″.

And now it’s all finished! The fabric is a cotton poplin I bought at Spotlight.

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I’m really proud of it. I’ve made it for work to force myself to wear the stuff I make on normal days rather than saving it for special occasions.
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There are a few errors in it, but I’m okay with that (I’m telling myself). I’m not too crazy about the dart tucks around the bodice as they don’t seem to lie properly, and the zip is a bit stiff. But it’s all cool, because I made a dress!
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Two Hollyburn Skirts

In my first month of sewing I’ve made two Hollyburn skirts. The sewalong at Lavender Lane helped enormously through the process.

I printed out the PDF pattern, and even just taping that together was a real learning curve for a newbie like me! Somehow I ended up with wonky grainline markings in the pattern – but I think I got away with it.

I made this green version first (my first ever garment!):

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I was pretty pleased with myself. Within a few days I had turned a length of fabric into a wearable item of clothing!

Just don’t look on the inside… The tension on the zig-zag seam finish is off so they’re all scrunched up. And the waistband interfacing is exposed in places! Some of the seams are wonky, too – I could not get that cheap polycotton to hold a pressed fold for more than a few minutes.

All in all though, this skirt is the end product of a serious learning experience. I had a lot of fun making it, even the frustrating bits along the way like redoing the zipper four times. (Now I understand why basting is always recommended.)

Then I made this version for my birthday, and all my feelings of pride about the green skirt were blown out of the water:

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I’m really happy with this one! I took all my learnings from the first version, and applied them fastidiously and painstakingly. And isn’t that fabric gorgeous? I picked it up at Spotlight.

I didn’t match up the print on the seams, but other than that I was possibly a bit too perfectionist. This afternoon I read in Love At First Stitch that if you mess up a couple of stitches, you don’t actually have to redo the whole seam. I’ll get through my future projects a lot faster with that bit of knowledge!

I wore the floral skirt out on my birthday – my husband treated me to dinner at Lime House, which was great fun. I loved the jerk chicken carpaccio (bold but delicate) and the macaroni pie (wholesome and comforting). I ate a huge amount – by the end of the night I was grateful for the ease in the skirt’s waistband!

I see myself making many more Hollyburn skirts – they are exactly my style, and so easy to wear.