Friday, 8 September 2017

Repairs and refashions

A few quick things today, my blog reader has been suspiciously quiet this week so maybe I'm missing out on "the big sewing blogger vacation" or something. Maybe this'll fill in some gaps if it has been quiet for you too.

I'm not the biggest fan of refashioning, and while I'm in favour of repairing things it's a struggle my laziness in doing so.

Anyway, I recently repaired some M&S socks whose toe seam hadn't quite been closed during manufacturing. This is the first time I sewed a blanket stitch without looking it up beforehand. Tiny victories! I also repaired a jumper B got for Christmas where somehow the side seam had completely come apart. There was a hole from his hip to his bicep! Quick job, but sometimes you just need a kick to actually do it.

I also finally bit the bullet and changed the lining in B's Newcastle cardigan. So now it's probably called Newcastle Revisited Revisited. While the original fuzzy lining was a spectacular novelty, apparently it was uncomfortable and prickly (so it hasn't been worn at all). I also removed the hem band on the Newcastle as B wanted it to be more like the original. Hopefully it'll see some use now.



In a good stashbusting move, I finally used up some voile I got from a trip to Istanbul in 2011. I made a Shape Shape Twist & Drape top again but somehow I've made it the wrong way around. How many times have I made this top? 5? Do I really have an excuse to have done it so wrong? I think...topologically...it's a Mobius Strip...so I'm quite astounded that it seems to be both inside out and upside-down. It's probably going straight in the recycling pile.



Still in my repairs pile is an old pair of PJs I'm not prepared to lose. I just need to patch them up.

Still in my refashion pile is the Drape Drape dress (approx 11 months and counting), an RTW dress from 2010 (sat in the pile since...maybe 2012) and a Primark shirt for copying whose fit has always been awful, but whose cuffs are amazing (but please don't ask me to date this one!). Plus a secret new addition...

Watch this space...

K

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Nobody Likes Conspicuous Overachievement

My love of jackets is no secret. It has taken a long time for me to be able to sew them and be pleased with the results. And they still take a lot of time compared to other projects. Still, one of the things I want to get out of The Year of Doing Things Properly is a bunch of jackets.

Yes, mainly for me.
What do you mean other people might want jackets?

This one took me about 6 weeks to complete and for some reason I kept a log of what I was planning to do each day, and if I got it done. I also tried to keep a few notes on construction and some observations. Writing it down helped me to keep peace of mind when it felt like I hadn't made enough progress. With hindsight, it's also a useful record of that familiar descent into a project spiraling out of control.


Burda 6875 jacket and coat pattern front

Burda 6875 coat and jacket pattern - back

Why?

It all started on Pinterest with a Desigual jacket. Or maybe it was on the streets with trendy tapestry coats. Or maybe it was Emma One Sock's Black Friday sale. In any case, I had an idea and I needed to make something "proper".

The theory behind this coat was that I wanted it to look super fancy. I wanted to feel super fancy in something I'd made - but, crucially, it needed to be functional as well as beautiful. Each time I go to a fancy event, and have a fancy me-made dress, I feel like it is let down by my ubiquitous red backpack and black North Face 3-in-1. Or I freeze in a daft cardi. So I needed something:
  • Super fancy and able to coordinate with fancy outfits
  • With good pockets so I won't need to carry a bag
  • Takes the place of a coat/jacket in situations where I wouldn't be wearing as much as usual

I had this idea for a long time and didn't start with an actual deadline in mind. But, as is the normal way, one showed up part-way through the make. Some dear friends invited us to their wedding. It could be ready in time, couldn't it? Its worth a try to get it ready in time, isn't it?

The Pattern

The pattern is Burda 6875, bought about a year ago as a result of this PatternReview thread. I was on a slim collar jacket kick at the time. I appreciated the notched collar and other details. During construction I realised there were some details I didn't like:
  • The way the vents were finished (lots of hand stitching and maybe a raw edge)
  • The construction of the front piece seemed a little counter-intuitive and less robust than it could be.
So they were addressed as the project went along.

Test version of Burda 6875 jacket sewing pattern
Muslin for Burda 6875. Shows the difference between the pocket styles. I'm glad I tested it.
Finished Burda 6875
And the finished deal, with pocket flaps


I normally fit a Burda size 34 or 36 pretty readily, so was prepared to make some minor adjustments. I made the size 34 muslin with no prior adjustments and (unsurprisingly) decided that shoulder slope and the back length would need modifications. As per my Kaisla blazer. I hope it helped.

With hindsight, though this was the right size, I should have gone one larger to account for fabric bulk and interlining.

Burda 6875 muslin - unaltered
Straight from the packet

Burda 6875 muslin - altered
Pinned alterations

final fitting of Burda 6075 (back)
Final jacket fit - I'm not sure why the jacket is swerving to the side. Bit worried now.
I also drafted some extra pockets and resized the ones already on the pattern based on some "market research" of jackets we had at home. The great thing about having a man about the house is that you can borrow his jackets and work out where the patriarchy is hiding all their pockets. So, I can now happily confirm that I can carry the following items without needing a bag: keys, phone, cash, tissues, Leatherman, greetings cards, order of service, 2x slices of cake and 3x bags of Party Rings. Yay!

With hindsight though, this may have been overzealous - Filling the pockets makes me wider, like Marge Simpson at the candy convention. The capacity of my pockets is now much larger than I am prepared to become. I also have to pat myself down every so often to find out where I have put my stuff.

I should have seen this coming. Any regrets? Of course not.




B commented that the pocket flaps might be overkill. These are perfectly nice double welts without adding in a fancy pocket flap. Any thoughts?




One big problem I had with the pattern is that it has a piece - the Lower Side Front piece - which is a real pain. No obvious notches or markings to show which way it should be sewn, and reasonable arguments for the grainline to point in 2 different directions. Maybe it would have never been an issue if I spent more time with Big 4 patterns, but let this be a cautionary note to anyone working on v6875.

I think this is incorrect:
Incorrect orientation of Burda 6875 side front pattern piece


I think this is correct:
Correct orientation of Burda 6875 side front pattern piece

I know it looks obvious when you know the answer, but trust me when I say it gets confusing, especially if your fabrics don't have an obvious right side/wrong side or a print to give you a clue.

The Fabric

I specifically bought the outer fabric, but tried to get the rest of the materials from my stash. In the end a lot of choices were made because there was only one thing that worked with everything else. You can kind of tell, given the history of some of the bits in this section!



Outer
From EmmaOneSock's Black Friday Sale, but somehow from an English mill. Mix of polyester, silk and cotton. The fabric is a jacquard/brocade with grey/white flowers woven into a variegated background. I suspect it might be factory seconds as the flower detail is a bit mangled in sections, like they hadn't perfected the weaving pattern. But that's one of the things that makes it interesting. I used up the last of my Guterman 4888 thread on this fabric and REALLY need to find more!

This has a lot of bounce and a lot of texture. It's beautiful but it didn't behave. It frays and shrinks and expands. It doesn't take an iron well - I learned my lesson after accidentally burning it, but I also had to leave every pressed seam to cool under a piece of wood. In my notes it says that the fabric hates: irons, pins, needles, scissors, fusible interfacing and being handled.

Melted bit


Improvised clappers

Lining
Pure red silk. I wasn't being deliberately decadent, but that was the best candidate out of the cupboard. Originally from March 2016 and the Scrap Lace Dress. And there was enough left for the body lining in the jacket. Ooooh, it is luxurious against the skin.





Sleeve Lining
I got this last year in Tokyo in one of the very cheap bundles. Not sure of the content, but it was good and slippery (which is what you want in a sleeve lining).

Interfacing
General purpose fusible interfacing (woven) from MacCulloch & Wallis. I have a stock of this stuff as it's my preferred fusible interfacing. The outer fabric HATED this and kept coming away, but it has held relatively well. I probably shouldn't have forced fusing on the fabric, oh well. The shoulder pads also came from MacCulloch & Wallis, though they are quite tall - I wonder if it would have been better to get a different size/height. That being said, they are good quality so should last for a long time.


A look at a jacket front and one of the pockets

Interlining 1
The main body is interlined with some brushed viscose I got from EmmaOneSock. I got the fabric at the same time as the outer fabric, but it was reserved for a pair of trousers (yet to be blogged). It was the best candidate for interlining so I just managed to squeeze it out of the yardage, without jeopardizing the trousers (too much). It is incredibly soft and quite cosy.

With hindsight (or with more time), I should have trimmed the interlining or accounted for the bulk at the back pleat. It causes a little bobble now at the nape of my neck, which I did try to cut out, but it should have been either pleated out or stitched down, or underneath a shoulder stay. Oh well.





Interlining 2
I interlined the upper sleeve for warmth using some very old cotton flannel from my scraps. The vendor was probably fabric.com. I think I got this when making Christmas gifts in 2012 and I used the darker blue one for PJs for P. Lord knows what happened to the lighter stuff. I read on Fashion Incubator that it's common to line the upper sleeve and not the lower one, though I've never taken a coat apart to find out. So only the upper sleeve is interlined. I also improvised a sleeve head roll from some scrap batting. I should get some proper ones for my next coat.

Accents
The cuff buttons are from La Mercerie du Bain aux Plantes, Strasbourg. The centre-front buttons are from MacCulloch & Wallis, spares from Newcastle v2. The cherry lining is Liberty or faux-Liberty from Classic Textiles in Goldhawk Road.

Cuff buttons


The Construction

This topped out at roughly 120 pieces.

You know I mentioned earlier that jackets take a long time? That's why.

Leggings are 2 pieces, a t-shirt is typically 5 pieces, and a button-down shirt could be about 20 pieces. But things start to add up really quickly. And when they're large pieces that need proper handling then the time and attention needed just continues to rise.

Looking back at my notes, I'm never convinced that it'll get done. Extra steps unpack themselves from "Oh, I'll just..." to "that means X, then Y, then Z and I'll have to trim and press everything before doing the second side".

This came at a time when I was super-busy at work and studying for some project management qualifications. Something like that always seems to happen. Things ramp up at work and in response I over-commit my spare time - a tiny act of defiance that leaves crazy achievements in its wake. It's oddly satisfying sometimes, scratching a creative itch that can't be touched when you're making stuff at leisure. On the other hand, I was not able to think about the project by the end. I could not hold several steps in my head, and I couldn't work out smart ways of sewing pieces together. This is where the notes came in handy because there I could write something down without having to remember it, and there wasn't so much thinking when I needed to be doing.

But it got done. Somehow. I was a nervous wreck but it got done. I was egged on by B and some friends, none of whom have expressed any remorse at having done so. That's what happens when you have friends who also make things. Cruel friends who also make things.

The sleeves and cuffs were the main source of last minute panics. Never neglect your sleeves. I couldn't handle the cognitive load of machine sewing the sleeve lining to the cuffs (This image from the tutorial on bagging a jacket lining by Grainline Studios is a good illustration of why it is so complicated) so I clumsily took a hand needle to the task. I've done it by machine before, I really like that method, but it wasn't happening that evening.

With time running out, I folded the sleeve vents over and stitched them down to the lining. Not as good as it could be, but it was done. But this is The Year of Doing Things Properly, and my brain decided that wasn't good enough. They weren't right. B advised a I sleep on the problem (sure that I'd forget about it soon enough) but I spent a full day raving that the cuffs weren't right to anyone who would listen. I had less time than sense but they had to change. Every jacket I saw in London that day had mitred sleeve vents, and somehow it became a big deal. My coat had to have mitred sleeve vents as well.

If you're wondering what a mitred vent is, this image from esewingworksop has a good illustration. You can see them fairly frequently on jacket sleeves, jacket hems and on straight or pencil skirts

Anyway, I took apart the sleeves and launched into the corner seams, trimming as needed, when suddenly:
"B, It's gone wrong"
"mmm" *doesn't look up from the laptop*
"No really B...this is catastrophically wrong"
"oh no" *attention still fixed on the laptop*

Fabric where there shouldn't be, and no fabric where there should be. I sliced the cuff the wrong way.  At this point either it got fixed, or I had to replace the whole sleeve. One of those options meant the jacket wouldn't make it to the wedding. At this point B is still unfazed - he's heard me whine about projects too many times before.

So I guess I fixed it.

But you won't see a photo here - you'll have to see the jacket and find the scar in real life.

The moral: respect your sleeves.

I do love this coat, but it is more fancy and more fragile than I had anticipated. The original plan was for it to be machine washable, but given the behaviour of the outer fabric, I don't trust it at all. So it has spent a lot of time under a dust cover recently. Plus I'm afraid writing about it may have taken longer than it took to make the coat!

K

Friday, 4 August 2017

The Quilt Police

I have a firm belief that somewhere there exists a group of anonymous people known as The Quilt Police who mandate and enforce The Laws of Quilting via YouTube, blog and Pinterest propaganda. And the occasional trade show.

So whenever I stroll into this guarded log cabin city - with a backpack full of scraps and a heart yearning for an answer - I'm often on my guard. I'm anxious not to soil the society that quilters have established, but the idea is often to study a world outside of my own shell before returning to my own lands, hopefully a little wiser, to create something meaningful (on my terms).

In the eyes of a quilter, I probably offend and subvert what is considered to be sacred. But I'm not trying to please quilters, I'm trying to please the quilt recipients!

My first attempt at a quilt was back in 2012 with the Scrabble quilt (was it ever documented here?)


And I have been collecting scraps for a very long time to make another one. I had over 400 squares, which makes quite a tall pile when they're stacked:

Compared with a standard prosecco bottle:


The same pile compared with a 4pt bottle of milk:


Bur I was never going to use the squares as originally planned. So they have been raided to make 2 new quilts!

Summer 2017: #1 Kaleidoscope Quilt

We went to a wedding in April and the lady who owned Darn It & Stitch had made this quilt for the couple:



I became obsessed with it, and knew it would be a perfect baby gift for some friends and their bump.

Many thanks to Mammafairy who was able to identify the block from the photo and who found a good template on Quilter's Cache.

Quilt top with only straight line triangles, which look like curves

Can you tell that the couple dance for Gog Magog Molly?

I raided my scraps for the quilt top, but bought a fleece back from Spoonflower with appropriately geeky maths print (Count On It! by sammyk). Oh, and there's some double bias binding around the edge, mirroring the blue and green pieces in the middle. Oh, and I mitred all the corners in the blue border.

I made this using paper piecing method, but made test squares using the freezer paper method too. I didn't like the latter at the test stage, and the paper piecing method meant I could build each square at the same time. I think that really helped the design come together well. But paper piecing does generate a lot of waste!

Trying to understand paper piecing works

Results from freezer paper

Blocks in progress!

Torn paper after finishing all the blocks

There was also enough fabric spare to make a nifty drawstring bag.


I stocked up on variegated quilt thread from Jaycotts but didn't seem to need anywhere near as much as I'd expected. Hopefully this means I'll have plenty for quilt #2.


Summer 2017: #2 Blue & White Disappearing Nine Patch

Currently in many small bits in my work area. I'm aiming for a blue/white colourway. The project got relegated down my list, but hopefully it'll get sewn up soon.

Layout for my Disappearing Nine Patch quilt


K x

Friday, 30 June 2017

Summer is here!

Or as other nations call it "a short heatwave".

Yes, we are a nation of people who are desperately short of beautiful, hot, sunny days. I shouldn't moan about living in a temperate climate - especially since our buildings, transport system, retail outlets and citizens seem to all go a bit funny if anything is out of the norm. But one thing the summer (by which I mean months of May-October) does give us is longer daylight hours and slightly warmer temperatures.

And you know what that means?

I get my sewing space back!

*cough*
It's a shared workspace, not just a sewing space

But you know how things work round here...

Anyway. We have this little conservatory. It's essentially a roof, a carpet and a patio door between two exterior walls. It gets amazing natural light and was earmarked for makery as soon as we saw it. But we moved in late last summer and we never quite got round to sorting out a permanent set up before the winter kicked in. Yes, we managed to revamp my sewing cabinet and then I got distracted by the bookcase armchair, and that was about it.

Refinished sewing cabinet, bonus points if you can identify the pattern on top


The winter made this room dark and cold, so we shut the door and mainly used it for storage and ironing.

I've done a few projects in here as it has gotten brighter but it has been a bit inconvenient. So last week I finally repurposed the loft bed into some sort of workstation.

Before:


Attempting to have both a sewing station and a pressing station in use at the same time...

After:



The idea is to provide hanging storage, small amount of shelf space, to use up most of our scrap wood, and to have somewhere to nest my table.

Loading it up will be an ongoing process - I've been too busy to put much up (only my scissors have a dedicated space!) but I love it already. I loved having my workstation under the loft bed in my old place - it may have been a bit dark but it was cosy and easy to work in! I really like how we've been able to bring a flavour of that into this place as well.

Expect to see this thing in some pictures in the near future!

K x

P.S. Apologies for the silence on my sewng project at the moment. They have been happening, but I don't have the right photos yet. Bear with me.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

DIY Bookcase Armchair

Late last year B said he had a particular request for a birthday gift. Being optimistic and foolish, I enthusiastically agreed without hearing what the request was. And hence, the bookcase armchair was conceived.

You must bear in mind that at this point I had never made a wood project. We had recently become addicted to Matthias Wandel videos and he made everything look so damn easy. So we got ambitious. And then B decided he wanted an armchair with bookcases in it.

And I went "I'm going to end up making this, aren't I?"


The Design

We looked at several Instructables and Pinterest designs to get an idea of proportions and construction. Ultimately some of them were far too complicated for me, and some would be far too big for the room.

A chair with book storage in the arms and big cushions
Add caption

Requirements

  • Bookcase armchair
  • Doesn't fall apart (i.e. functional)
  • De-constructable into smaller parts (we live in rented housing so need to plan to move again)
  • Fits the room (very little room)
  • Fits standard fiction paperback books
  • Rests a cup of tea on the arm
  • Provides extra storage space
  • Tidiness of joins/seams/edges/finish

The sides are made up of 2x standard bookcases with 4 shelves each. I had a sample book (Ian M. Banks, The Player of Games, 197mm*126mm*19mm) to help with measurements. The sides are approx 98cm H x 84cm W x 15 D. The seat is slightly raked, which sits on runners. The shelves are held with dowels and screws.

Most of the design was invented on my commute and it went through several iterations before we decided on the simplest form. For a long time I was trying to create a design that would also house a Black & Decker workmate (which was a surprise extra gift), which means the design went through ideas to change the dimensions and also add moving parts. Eventually B put his foot down and demanded asked for the simplest (and therefore safest) design, without understanding why I was so keen to change it. Thus, it became B's problem to house the Workmate he didn't know he was getting.

When it came to upholstery, I knew we needed cushions and some soft covering for comfort, B asked that the arms be suitable for resting a cup of tea on (do you see why I like him?), but still comfy. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to work out a design that would allow the sides to be a) tidy with no visible staples and b) removable or temporary. One of the things we learn as sewists is how to make things inside out. We invert something through a tiny hole in a seam and suddenly it is transformed. I spent a lot of brain space trying to figure out how to do this for the armchair, but wood and upholstery is a bit different from fabric. In the end, we stuck with simplicity.

Testing the Cup of Tea requirement


The tops of the arms are now glued down, so we'll have to work out how to remove the padding if we need to do so in the future.



The Materials

The foam came from the foam guy at  Shepherd's Bush Market, the fabric also came from an upholstery stall in the market. I never realised until trying to make this chair that Goldhawk Road is great for garment and craft fabrics, but very lmited when it comes to upholstery fabrics. Shepherd's Bush Market next door is much better served for those types of materials.

The wood and other components came from out local Wickes. All in all, I spent about £200 on the chair. Yes, it's more expensive than some real armchairs, but it's way cheaper than this Etsy one!

The Construction

Building this was super hard. Largely because I didn't know what I was doing. I marked my dowel holes diligently but the wood was a bit twisty, so they didn't align or fit together very easily. Although I learned to drill pretty good holes and screw stuff in straight by the end of the project, I still struggled to set/limit the depth of a drilled hole and kept going all the way through the wood on several occasions.

I enjoyed using the circular saw to cut out, which is very similar to using a sewing machine...you just follow the foot and keep things moving steadily.

"Repurposing" other tools



Cutting the upholstery foam to size worked well with a sharp kitchen knife. A serrated blade caused a lot of mess, but we had good results from a straight blade.

It took about 6 weeks to make, so why am I struggling to find anything to say about the construction? One of the big challenges was racing home after work to do any "outside" work before the daylight faded - this was the autumn don't forget - which put a bit of a manic time pressure on everything.

Cutting giant plywood in the dark
Sure, there are improvements we'd like to make. They'll come with time. For now, any visitors who see the chair are pretty impressed with it. In fact, it apparently "shamed" some friends into getting started on a DIY project they'd been putting off. Yikes!

I don't know when another wood project will happen. Or what it might be. It's easy to ignore everything until a "glory project" shows up again. But there's only one way to get better, and for things to become less difficult, and that's to just get on with it and create something.

Plus I'm busy reasoning with myself to stop myself buying a laser cutter...

We've also jumped in at the deep end of gardening with SO MANY PLANTS to look after now...

Maybe I should stick with one hobby...

K x

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The least transformative refashion ever

I made this shirt in the summer of 2016, around the same time as the tiny radish as a quick "saving from the recycling pile" project.

B was about to throw it out as it didn't fit, but I wasn't prepared to let this particular fabric go out the door. And I wanted a new shirt. And the placket was nicely interfaced. So y'know.

Ideally this would have become an investigation into what fundamentally makes a man's shirt different from a woman's one. But I didn't have the brain space to give it enough attention. At the time I needed a project I could do at a table in the London Hackspace.

As the title suggestes, I didn't want to transform the shirt into something new - only change it to something I could wear where the immediate impression wasn't that I'd thrown on a man's shirt. It's not a man's shirt. It's my shirt.

The undignified before

It's not simply a question of adding some darts at the waist because it was too big all over. Menswear and womenswear are different shapes all over, not just at the waist.

The placket stayed unchanged, there were no darts added. I kept the hem length unchanged as I wear some low-rise trousers on a regular basis in the office. Womens tailored shirts always come untucked. In the end my only disappointment was being unable to cut a sufficiently curved mandarin/grandpa collar from scraps. I had to go for a straight-ish one and I often wear it flat for a square-ish vibe. Otherwise I think it looks a bit odd, because it stands so far away from my neck. Oh well.

Comparing the collar to an existing shirt

Comparing shirt collars with an existing one
So most of my attention went on shoulders. It turns out men's sirts have a lot more space in that area! I pleated out some length across the shoulder blades, brought the underarm in a bit, trimmed the shoulder seams for a better slope to my shoulders and also trimmed the sleeve head to match. There wasn't much easing in the sleeve head as it's relatively wide and mobility was quite good (in contrast to a tall and narrow armscye which requires a tall sleeve head and a lot of easing to ensure mobility). The sleeve length was also spot on.

Reworking the armscye
 As always with my slim frame, I have to toe a sharp line between proportionately loose fit and downright baggy (think skeleton in a sack). I'm still npot sre if I fell on the right side of that line in this case - but hey, it's done now!

It has been worn a lot in the last 9 months, and I've accidentally dyed it a bit yellow in the laundry. Hopefully it's not too noticeable. 

What do you think...does the shirt look unassuming or does it stick out like a sore DIY thumb?

Front

Back

Yoke modification


K

P.S. You may have noticed some changes to the photos on this blog. I'm trying to get nicer pictures of these projects, but am often frustrated because I am not a competent photographer. And because daylight is a rare commodity. Any tips or reassurances would be much appreciated.