Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Throw Cushion Covers

We are selling our flat and I needed some cushions for the sofa. This was the only feedback the estate agent gave: "It's too neutral, can you go to Habitat and buy some throw pillows?"

It turns out that throw pillows at Habitat are really expensive. And I didn't particularly like what they had at the time. But I had charity shops on my side, in the countryside they tend to stock throw cushions. I chose two based on their size and the colour of their zips. I should have been a bit more choosy about the cushion pad too, one of them is not great. I got two cushions for £3. (I got three more for £8, but I didn't upcycle them.)

I knew I had some solid pink quilting cotton that I'd bought but never got around to using, and decided that this would match pink flowers, giving the room a bit of a lift. Being a plain, and a quilting cotton, I also knew that I would need to add piping to get it looking smart.

I used 4mm piping cord and 1 inch bias binding. I should have made 1.5 inch binding as this would have given me a bigger seam allowance. Some of the corners are not wash proof. I made the whole thing with my zip foot: measured existing cushion covers; unpicked zip; added binding to front, attached zip to front, attached zip to back, attached back to front. I didn't finish the seam allowances. If I wash them, I'll have to do this beforehand.

I know why I would never go on Sewing Bee, the first cushion took me about 3 hours. The second one was quicker, and I was truly grateful that I didn't have a third one in the pipeline.

But they look nice on the sofa, and I am sure they will be the difference between selling the flat or not! Afterwards, they are going to look very nice on the garden chairs.

  Cushions: Charity shop furniture warehouse, £3
  Fabric: Knitting & Stitching Show 2015, £7.90
  Piping Cord: not sure
Total: £10.90 for two

Monday, 1 October 2018

Another Tote Bag

A quick post to share another tote bag that I put together as a welcome gift for my Mum. The previous London Bag has got great use and is now very shabby, so a replacement was in order.

I wanted to use this tan/brown twill from my stash. I had it earmarked for a skirt, but the colour is not good. I'm not really sure why I bought it actually, probably carried away by new making in 2013/14.

I really loved Erin's applique on her plain sweatshirt and I used that idea to jazz up Mum's bag. I almost bought the same pink blossom, but went for the gold in the end. It arrived fast from eBay and the quality was great: no dud stitches or mistakes in the design.

I cut out a rectangle for the bag, 88cm by 35cm. The overall dimensions are good, but I went too high with the applique and didn't leave quite enough space at the top for a good facing. 90cm would have been a better height. Straps are 7cm wide by 35cm long.

I sewed on the applique before I made up the bag. I used couching to attach the stems, then machine sewed the leaves on, then ironed it on, then went over the flowers by hand. It took many evenings, but I found it so relaxing! There is something so meditative about sitting and making hundreds of tiny stitches in a piece of cloth. I listened to podcasts and sewed away. I wasn't under huge time pressure, and the work feels productive too. You can see the work growing, but slowly.

I do worry about the durability of the applique on something as hard wearing as a bag. I didn't stitch the flowers on to the edges of the petals, these will probably curl with use, but hopefully won't look too awful. Machine sewing them down didn't really work, the threads got tangled and they didn't look nice. It will work well enough for the bag, it's pretty at the moment, and I can start thinking about the next one in two year's time!

  Fabric: twill cotton, eBay, £2.87
  Decoration: applique, eBay, £3.98 
  Thread: stash, £0.00
Total: £6.85

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Victorian Corset

As I embark on a new sewing adventure, I have made a Victorian Corset to fit under a Victorian Bustle Dress. Yes, I have decided to create something completely frivolous that I may never wear out in public. But it is a lot of fun to plan. 

A proper Victorian outfit needs the proper foundations. It is probably a good thing that the most daunting garment needs to be tackled first, kind of like eating your vegetables. Such a challenging construction almost put me off the whole endeavour, but it has been far less challenging than I expected, and I am pretty pleased with myself for how well it turned out.

I bought Truly Victorian's TV110 Corset as an e-pattern and made the first toile from a cotton business shirt. I cut a size D with a B cup. I shortened the waist by an inch, at the waistline. I made this without bones and I laced the back with knitting yarn by punching holes in the back with a knitting needle - because I didn't even have an awl yet. I sewed the front shut - no busk. Based on this try on, I decided to size down the cup and size up the waist area. I was pleased enough with this to go ahead and order the proper supplies from Sew Curvy.

For the real version, I cut a size D and graded out at the waist to a size E. I did the cup size A. 

While I was putting it together, I lost my nerve and started reducing the size of the seam allowances. It was coming up so small! When I put the first three pieces together and held them up to myself, what was meant to be the side seam was about 1/8 of the way around my body. I kept going, deciding that it was better to finish it as a toile and decide what should be done differently afterwards. I was determined not to abandon it half way through. I didn't actually have a proper idea of what I should change anyway. 

So I sewed it up and closed off the back edges. Then I sewed the boning channels and inserted the bones. Sewing the boning channels was actually really fun. I decided to put them beside the seam where the seam allowance was not. The pattern calls for topstitching the seam allowance down and adding the boning channel beside that. My machine was struggling with four layers of coutil, so I didn't want to finish it off by making it sew through six layers. Putting the boning on the other side gives it less bulk and the seam allowances balance out the boning plus give a modicum of strength opposite each bone. 

Making a two layer corset seems like a bit of a faff at the time, but I can fully appreciate how much easier it is than adding boning channels. Especially if you have to make your channels out of self fabric. All I had to do was run a seam beside the existing one and push the bone in. So easy.

I decided to add the laces without grommets to check the fit first. I put one straight bone in the back, but didn't place it very well. I could see an issue with my sway back in the fit of the lacing over the back waist area. It was very puckered, even with the bone. I wasn't exactly sure how to fix a sway back in a corset, but it definitely needed less fabric in this area. I pinched out a wedge but then straightened up the back edges from top to bottom. It added quite a bit of fabric back into the waist circumference.

I was truly surprised, when I tried it on, at how well it fitted. I was delighted because where I thought I was going to have to re-make the entire thing, with new coutil and a shorter busk, I now only had to re-do the back piece and buy one pair of shorter spiral bones.

I had also realised that the bottom edge was too low, and would dig into the top of my legs when I sat down. This was pretty disappointing, since I had bought pre-cut bones, based on the measurements from my first toile.

But I ordered more supplies and put the too-long bones to good use. I re-positioned them on the centre line of the corset pieces. Each piece is boned twice, once at the side seam and once in the centre. There are also flat steel bones at either side of the busk and on both sides of the eyelets. 18 spiral steels, 6 flat steels, the busk and 12 eyelets. The whole thing is very heavy but I love the armoured plate effect that the three bones in the first panel give where they meet at the bottom.

The fit seems to be pretty good. I have a about 1 to 1.5 inches of lacing gap, but the back is even throughout the laces. The fit in the front of the bust seems pretty good. It is not particularly supportive, and there is not a proper amount of "spillage" at the top. Unfortunately, all the spillage is at the back, not the front. I think that is more a problem of my body than the fault of the corset. I am not sure what to do about the back fat spillage though. The tight areas have to press the flesh somewhere but this will show with a fitted bodice over the top. I'll probably have to make a corset cover but I think it might not be enough.  Not very pretty, but look at that that straight lacing gap!

The waist fits really well. I think I shortened it by the right amount and the fit is snug but not uncomfortable. There is no pressing on my hips, which is what my short waist usually leads to. I love how the corset makes me look the right shape and flattens my tummy! I got a 3 inch reduction. Now, how to wear this in real life...

The fit at the bottom of the hip is not quite as perfect but I am not going to fuss with it. I am so pleased with the overall general fit and it has come out a lot better than I expected, especially with my usual short waist issues.

I flossed the bottom of the bones before adding the edge tapes. These were done with linen thread because I had it with no real use for it and I really like the pale taupe colour against the white. All the stitches are different, I couldn't get it perfectly even. One of them is done backwards (as is one of the eyelets), but who's looking? The edges are trimmed with cotton twill fabric, also from the stash. I only broke one needle in the process of adding it - although there were some close calls. I didn't do a great job of matching the points at the bottom front. These parts of the tape were very thick and I was having an epic battle with my sewing machine just to get them folded under. They will be under the skirts and the whole thing will be under the dress, so it is only for Instagram that I even need to think about it.

I added the lace by hand at the end. Partly because it is very narrow and I would have struggled to catch it into the edges, but mostly because I forgot until I was halfway through. It is polyester, but I had plenty of it, harvested from the nightgown.

I'm actually pretty surprised that it has turned out as nice as it has. It's a lovely pattern to start with and it looks fab all made up. The coutil got a bit dirty in my iron, and with all the handling, but if you squint, you can pretend that it is due to age. As a very first corset, from an amateur maker, I'd say it's pretty amazing.

Now on to the petticoats!

 Fabric: Sew Curvy; £10.50
 Pattern: Truly Victorian; £7.87
 Notions: busk, flat steels, spiral steels, eyelets, lacing cord, teflon tape, thread, shipping; £39.96
 Tools: eyelet setter, awl, machine needle; £3.24
Total: £61.57

Thursday, 30 August 2018

The dress that wasn't

Sometimes a fabric that speaks loudly about what it wants to be doesn't work out at all. The dress-that -became-a-shirt was wanting to be a long sleeve shirt dress from the second I saw this rayon in Spotlight earlier this year.

I wanted to make more dark background florals, figuring they would be easier to wear. I loved the muted pinks, greens and blues in the foliage and then I spotted that there are two tiny birds hiding in there and I feel in love with it all over again! It is identical fabric to my Alex Birds Shirt, which seems to be a polycotton blend. Despite this, the fabric drapes nicely and is cool to wear.

I decided that a summer dress with long sleeves would be just the thing, our English summers typically being mild but not hot.

I really admired Sewaholic's Nicola Dress with it's soft drape and feminine lines, and decided that I could get pretty close with Simplicity 2447. I really like wearing my sleeveless version and wanted to try adding the sleeves for the look I wanted.

I cut View A in a size 8, without the bib, and lengthened it by 6 inches. I tapered the skirt sides out and removed the scooped hem. This is almost exactly what I did with the linen version, but I changed the construction order a bit. I added a double yoke and used the "burrito method" for attaching the yoke. (I forgot to put the right side facing outward for the lining, so I only got pretty seams, not a pretty facing.) I tried an inward double box pleat, but there wasn't enough fabric in the pleat to make it truly noticeable. I attached the sleeves so that I could flat fell them. Then I sewed up the sides and sleeves with flat felled seams too. I regretted not adding side seam pockets, but this was serendipitous because I would have had to remove them for the shirt.

One element of the construction that I didn't pay attention to, but has affected the finished garment are the two different weights of interfacing that I used. I chose lightweight for the collar but I had some ready cut strips of "waistband interfacing" that I used for the long lengths of button bands. This was much heavier, almost equivalent to my heavyweight interfacing and because the button bands meet the collar stand, it is noticeable. I was sorry that I did this, the collar could have handled a heavier weight. It does, however, seem to lie evenly, something which my other two versions have not done.

I lost a bit of motivation to finish this. I cut it out in June, went away in July, sewed the button bands to the side seams, unpicked them, added the sleeves, decided it looked like a kimono, started another project, and finally made myself finish it - one step at a time, and a sprint to the finish.

Then I tried it on.

It was OK, but not great. Far too frumpy and Granny-like. I tucked it into my jeans and liked it three times more. So the next day, I cut off 34cm and created a faced hem on my new shirt. 
I really like the feel of the fabric, and I love the way it drapes into the cuffs. I didn't make cuff fastenings, I just measured a distance as small as possible that I could still get my hand into. I pleated two knife pleats to fit the sleeve into each cuff. 

 Fabric: Spotlight, £20.00
 Pattern: Minerva Crafts, used previously, £0.00
   Black thread, £1.90
   Interfacing: scraps, £0.00
   Buttons: old shirt, £0.00
Total: £21.90

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Sorbet Stripe T-shirt Skirt

Why do I not have a whole wardrobe of skirts made with t-shirt material? It is sooo comfortable! Oh yes, because it is a bit sheer, and a bit lumpy. Oh well, I don't care! So comfortable! And swishy!

I had an idea that I might like to make a skirt out of some blush pink bamboo that I have been hoarding, so I thought I would try out the idea with the remains of my Sorbet Stripe Maxi Dress. I had about 85cm left over, in the full 150cm width.

To make a pattern, I measured my high hip, the area between my actual hip and my waist, and divided that number by 6. I also measured the remaining fabric width and divided that number by 6. Then I cut out 6 pattern pieces from newspaper with those measurements at the top and bottom of each wedge. Because I could turn the pieces upside down against one another, I could increase the bottom edge of each piece by another 4cm.

I squared off the top edge of each wedge to allow for a waistband and then I started cutting out. I added 1 1/2 eighths to each edge for a seam allowance. I sewed the pieces together as I went along, and after 5 pieces I found that I could join them into the skirt. I was a bit confused, surely my maths could not have been as bad as all that? I think the weight of the pieces was making them stretch out to take up the space that the final panel would have taken. (I still need to measure this to check). I didn't want a gathered waist so I went ahead and joined the 5 panels.

I used the elastic from an old pair of boxer shorts and overlocked this to the edge of the fabric, then I zig zagged it down to form a waistband. I didn't have quite enough clearance on my waistband allowance so there are a few puckers in the stitching.

Hemming also done by hand. I have no luck with fine knits on my machine so I always hand finish the hems.

Will I make this pattern for my blush bamboo? I'm not sure. It's a fun skirt to wear, moves nicely and is very comfortable. Blush pink doesn't suit me, so wearing it away from my face is a good idea, but the lumps and bumps show, especially in a plain colour. I might continue to hoard it for a little while longer. At least until it goes out of fashion.

 Fabric: leftover from Maxi Dress, £0
 Pattern: self drafted, £0 
   Overlocker thread: started new spool: £1.89
Total: £1.89

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Sorbet Stripe Maxi Dress

I snapped up this striped knit from Fabricana in July. I remember admiring it a 2-3 years ago, so I was  delighted when I saw it on the markdown table for 30% off. At just over £5 per meter, I got 2m.

I had my wish list to make a cardigan with this pink stripe, but when I got it home, I decided that a maxi dress would be just the thing. It must be all that hot weather we were having, Londoners wearing their holiday wardrobes. It's not always pretty, but it's fun!

Being the wrong side of 40 (or 30 for that matter), I didn't want my maxi dress to be figure hugging. I used an existing dress I have for the width, and the Karen Drape Dress for the shoulders and high bust. I laid out the Karen Dress pattern flat, and laid my maxi dress over the top. I didn't worry too much about exact cutting, or seam allowances because my overlocker seams are pretty small.

I kept the neckline of the Karen Dress, it could have gone lower by a stripe or two, but this creates height and I didn't want to fiddle about with drafting a new curve. I finished the neckline and armholes with bands of self fabric.

My RTW maxi dress has side splits to above the knee, which I really like, and is also not floor length, so I copied these features in my dress. I hand stitched the edges of the splits and the hem, giving them a tiny hem in whip stitch. I didn't need to bother with a stretch stitch because the hem does not need to stretch.

I'm really happy with the fit. It honestly seems to skim and not hug, which is exactly what I wanted. The fabric is a little on the sheer side but, whatever, I'm on holiday. Unfortunately, the weight of the dress has pulled the hem down in the first washing. I'll have to figure out a fix for this. Maybe some clear elastic through the armholes.

 Fabric: 2m, Fabricana, £10.20 
 Pattern: Maria Denmark, used previously, £0 
   Thread, started one new spool: £1.89
Total: £12.09

Friday, 27 July 2018

Rayon Birds Sorbetto

I made this Sorbetto out of the remnants of a current WIP. The weather is hot, so I decided to finish this first and get myself a new summer top.

The fabric is a rayon that I got in Australia. I am trying to buy florals on a black background as they are more wearable as dresses than my usual choices. In a top this is more unusual.

For the Sorbetto pattern, I traced out the full size pattern pieces so that I can lay them flat and get the most out of the fabric. I left out the centre pleat as this is meant to be a scrap buster, and the pleat is very distinctive, and completely lost on a print. I think I need to raise the shoulders by half an inch, and I also need to add a centimetre to the hips.

With a small amount of fabric to work with, I had to cut the back piece upside down, and the length is as much as I could manage. The birdies are very secretive, so I don't think anyone will notice the odd one upside down, and I tried to compensate for the length by doing a faced hem, which gained me an extra cm. I actually think this is the perfect length for me.

I did french seams, but then I unpicked the bottom to create a side split so I had to cut the seam allowance. This isn't very tidy, but it will do. I had to hem around the split and create a bar tack over the cut edges. Without a short waist adjustment, I need the extra space at the top of the hip.

I hand stitched the neckline facing down. I was on holiday, so I took it with me as a hand sewing project. I stared on attaching the hem facing by hand, but didn't bother to finish it, and completed it by machine back at home.

I still don't utterly love this pattern. It is too boxy to be truly flattering on my, but in a drapey fabric, it works out very nicely, and as a free pattern, it's pretty amazing.



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