Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Oh So Flattering

Our second beetroot harvest

The last couple of weeks have been a bit crazy. I've also had some time to reflect on a few things and I've made some items that I'm not completely happy with, in light of this my sewjo has upped and gone. I'd like to share a few of my reflections and where I am at the moment.



A few days ago I shared one of my makes in a facebook sewing group. It was my peppermint wide-leg pants, I wrote about them here. I didn't ask for any comments, I just shared that I'd made them. Someone from the group decided to tell me that they did not think they were flattering on me and made reference to me asking for honest comments. Now this annoyed the heck out of me - I hadn't asked for comments and certianly not about how something looked on my body.

Now don't get me wrong - I'm all for complimenting something that's been done well. It's perfectly OK to give feedback on how well something has been done (as long as that advice has been asked for). Or even for fitting - again if asked for. However it's not OK to make a judgment about how flattering something is on someone. To do this is to make a judgment about how someone's body conforms to your ideas of how we should look - and that's not OK.

Now we all like compliments, when given honestly and by people we trust. I love it when someone comments on how well I've made something, or the style lines I've used. I'm happy to recieve constructive comments on how to do something better or improve fit, but I will not let someone tell me how I should look, because that is non of their business. I refuse to allow other people's negative options to rent free space in my head.

However, the whole affair has helped me - I now care even less what people think about my body and I will dress it how I like - I suggest you do the same. I will also be very careful about how I comment on the images others share and check my own bias at the door! I wonder what your thoughts are on 'flattering comments".


I've done a bit of sewing this week. I'm back at school and we are required to wear masks in all communal areas, so I've made some more - this is soul destroying sewing and I hate it. However I have 5 new masks. I used the Dhurata Davies pattern in a small. I like how this pattern comes in different sizes so I can cater for the whole family. It's still tedious sewing though.

I also drafted a skirt, started sewing it and have decided that I don't like it - so it's in the refashion pile. I have also made a couple more bras. I made another Watson bra. 

It's a lace lined with jersey and powermesh for the band. I also tried adding an internal sling, but it was a waste of time - didn't make any difference and I won't include one again - I don't think I really need it. I have realised I need to make a slight alteration to the side seams on the Watson Bra as they slope forwards quite a bit, mainly due to my wide rib cage.

Initially I thought this bra was a wadder. I also used a much wider and stronger elastic for the bottom band than normal and really struggled to fasten it the first time I put it on. However, before wearing it on Friday I gave the elastic a little stretch and fastened it ok - It's very snug, but actually quite comfy. The cradle actually fits as well as an underwire bra would - which is a pleasant surprise.

The second bra was not quite so successful. I made Simplicity 8436. It's the second time I've made this bra. This time I opted to use a size 36 wire (style 9 from Sewing chest) instead of a 34 wire (can't remember the style). This new wire is a much better fit for me and that part I'm really happy about and I think my construction is ok. 

I made a couple of errors, which mean this bra is not quite a winner. Firstly I didn't get the tension right on the elastics, which have led to a slightly odd fit. Secondly I didn't check the width of the strap elastic in the kit I bought - it was 12mm wide and I only had 10mm rings and sliders, so the straps are fixed. Finally the kit came with a single hook and eye fastening and it's too narrow for this design.

I really need something a bit wider. Therefore the band wrinkles a bit. I love the style, but I'm really not convinced that this is drafted particularly well. I've yet to wear this. I'll give it a try, but I'm not holding out much hope for a comfortable day! EDIT: I wore this, and was surprised to find it was very comfy - no issues at all during the day with underwires or straps - super comfy, just need to work on that elastic tension. The Bra fabrics are from The Sewing Machine Guy and Elastics and findings from Sewing Chest.

When I finished both of these bras I was completely fed up, on reflection neither is a failure and after some time to think I'm happier about them.


As work picks up and my working days are much longer I often find I need to create some space. I love the autumn weather, but am desparately hanging on to the days when there is warm sun. I completely enjoyed the walk when I got home from work on Monday.

The sun was warm and the route peaceful. I stuck in my headphones and walked and listened to a podcast (Rob Bell's The RobCast - if you want to look it up - this episode is fantastic - give it a listen). I took time to breathe and smell the air - it has a certain summery/ autumn smell as the warm sand and grass start to cool at the end of the day. It was an hour of bliss in my otherwise hectic day. I need to do this regularly.


The autumn term is busy and tiring and I can get quite despondant and anxious at times, often when I feel there is not enough time in the day or issues arise that I have no control over. I'm trying to be intentional about taking time and resting, getting out and walking is important for this and I need to make sure that I do that when I can. 

Over the coming weeks I probably wont sew quite as much as I have been doing. I have a couple of house related projects to complete. I've just oiled the benches in the kitchen (they're solid wood) and we've bought some paint and new handles for the cupboard doors and drawers, so I'll be working on them over the next few weeks. I'm trying to stay chilled and it might mean that I don't post here quite as much as I have been doing over the last few months. You might also see something other than sewing over the coming weeks. I hope you are all keeping well. Take time to invest in you and keep calm and carry on - see you soon.

Friday, 4 September 2020

Peppermint Wrap top - Free Pattern Review

As soon as this pattern was released it went on my to make list. Downloaded straight away, but I've only just got around to making it up. I never look forward to taping together PDF patterns but this one wasn't too onerous. It's a free pattern as part of Peppermint Magazine's Sewing school - you can find the pattern here.

I love that this design has quite a high wrap. I have made a few wrap patterns that have needed some serious adapting to stop them gaping, I've used some additional techniques on this version to help secure a close fitting neckline. There's quite a bit of ease on the pattern and I fall between sizes so I went with the smaller one, which was a size C.

The fabric was given to me by Minerva crafts in an exchange for a review and you'll be able to read  it on their blog soon. It's a cotton stretch sateen - printed on one side, not too light, not too heavy. I initially planned to make a jumpsuit, but wanted a greater range of options, so I decided to make two separates that can give a faux Jumpsuit look, pairing this with the peppermint wide leg pants in the same fabric, that I wrote about here.

One of the things I really loved about the instructions, was the construction of the neckline edge and back facing. The front neckline is double folded to create a baby hem, and the clever application of the back facing ensures a smooth neckline and that the shoulder seams are neatly hidden away. I'll use this technique again.
As my fabric had quite a bit of stretch I did not want the front neckline to stretch out of shape or gape so I reinforced it. I sewed a strip of the stable selvedge edge onto the neckline edge before turning and hemming it. 

This does add a little bit of bulk but it's a great way to stabilise edges if you don't have any stay tape/ twill tape to hand. I've also done something similar with thin strips of interfacing or very narrow ribbon. It really does prevent fabric cut on the bias from stretching out.
The pattern instructions have you construct the top using french seams, which give a beautiful finish on fine fabrics. This fabric had a bit too much body for this type of seam allowance, so I just used my overlocker. 

The fabric is printed, which means that one side is plain - and white - it means that if you can see the reverse side, it's not such a great look. I had considered that I'd be able to see the reverse of the fabic on the ties and should I cut two extra and create a facing? I didn't, I went with the instructions, cut a single layer, hemmed the ties, tied the top and EUGH! it looked awful. I cut the ties off, Recut the tie pieces (x4) and assembled them inside out, attached to the bocice front, before turning and securing the opening with top stitching - it looks much better.
Initially I planned to wear these two pieces together, but found it a bit overwhelming and decided that they look much better as separates. 
I  thought  the top might be a little too short, but it's ok, I would consider adding just a little bit of length next time. It's great with a high waisted skirt/ trousers, but not so good with a lower cut waistline.
The coverage of this top is great. It doesnt gape, stays put, is comfy and I like it more than I expected to. win-win.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Peppermint Wide legged Trousers - Free Pattern Review

I really did want to create a sew-a-long for these as a few of my friends have started sewing and I know they like a bit of advice as they go, but my phone completely died and I ended up just getting on with it and the instructions are pretty good anyway.
So this is the Peppermint Magazine sewing school pattern in collaboration with In The Folds. You can download this pattern here.

The pattern comes in a wide range of sizes and what is great is that the PDF has layers so that you can select just the sizes that you need, which makes cutting out so much easier. The instructions are thorough and clear with good quality images.
This pattern is designed for a stable woven fabric without stretch. True to form, I decided to use a stretch fabric. I had recieved this beautiful stretch cotton sateen from Minerva - in exchange for a review, which you will be able to read on their blog soon. I didn't make any alterations to the pattern to accomodate this, but made sure I interfaced all the areas which would potentially stretch out and stay stitched all the waistline edges to prevent stretching.
The pattern calls for 2m of fabric for this garment. I had about 1.7m, but with some creative pattern placement and on a single layer of fabric I managed to squeeze in all the pattern pieces, I did shorten the legs by 2 cm though!
Based on my measurements I cut a size D and graded to a C at the waist. This fit really well and I only pinched out a little extra on the back darts, again, mainly because this is a stretch fabric - If it had been a stable fabric I don't think I'd have needed to do this.
This pattern is superbly drafted, everything matches perfectly, but I did have a couple of issues. First up - the fly shield pattern piece indicates that you only need to cut one, but you actually need two. In addition I prefer to sew a zipper fly where the fly extensions are part of the main front pattern - like the ginger Jeans from Closet Core Patterns. It's an easy alteration to make to a pattern - unless you're playing pattern tetris. I had no way to do this as I was struggling to fit my pattern pieces on the fabric.

Most of the instructions are superb, but the fly construction section is awful! It's so fiddly - so my advice to you would be to add the fly extension and follow the tutorial from Closet Core patterns which you can find here.
I have had these on my to make list for a long, long, long time and I'm so glad I've finally made them. I think there will be more of these now I've finally printed and assembled the pattern and made my first version. I can see a pair in corduroy or a heavier weight wool/blend for the winter.
I made these to wear with my peppermint wrap top in the same fabric as a faux jumpsuit, which I'll post details of soon, but love that I can wear both pieces separately.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Puzzling Pattern



I've followed the Studio Faro Well Suited Blog for a while and love the pattern puzzles. It's a great way to get you thinking and create something a little different to most patterns that you see out there.

A few years ago I made the a dress inspired by the Vivienne Drape dress - it's been one of my favourite dresses to wear to work. It was easy to draft and to construct.

Anyway, last week I decided I wanted a bit of a challenge and decided to have a go at the layered shirt. Anita gives some instructions for turning a block into the design for the shirt. Rather than starting with a block I used the Saraste shirt from Breaking the pattern as it already had the collar drafted and had the yoke and back sections at a good starting point - It also fits me well.

I marked the seam allowances on the front pieces, so I could omit them for drafting and lined up the princess seams from the bust point to the shoulder, this created the flare needed at the hem. I then traced this and mirrored it on the CF line to create a full front bodice piece. 


I drew the design lines for the folds on, then traced the front again to incorporate the folds of the design. I trued the bottom edge to give a nice curve.


I moved the shoulder seam forward by 1.5cm. I was thinking of doing this anyway with the Saraste shirt and after doing it on this pattern I think I will. It makes a much better line.

The back consists of the yoke and shirt back with an overlay that has a pleat to create a bit more fullness, the overlay extends onto the front to create the RHS (as you look at it) front overlay. I created a hidden placket and the drafting was done. In keeping with the Saraste pattern I kept all seams at 1cm.

Then I had to start thinking about the construction. I realised I needed to sew the placket before creating the folds on the front, but that I'd also need to have part of the shirt constructed which meant the hems were the first thing to be done. I did baby hems as the fabric was quite fine and also used french seams. I sewed the side seams together on the same side as the overlay that goes from front to back (RHS from the viewers perspective). I made a mistake here and forgot to include the top bodice front. I ended up hemming the seam line and top stitching it down - most of it is hidden anyway.

Next, I constructed the placket. With all the bodice front layers pinned in place, I marked the placket on the top layer and stitched along the edges of the placket. Then I stitched the plackets pieces in place before flipping them to the inside and finishing the edges with overlock stitch. It's not the neatest and It is the first time I've ever done this type of placket, so I'm not worried about it. There are a few wrinkles, but they are hidden by the drape, so it's fine.

The top overlay was then folded into place and basted along the neckline. I also secured it to a lower layer at the end of the placket.

I sewed the yoke in place, using the burrito method and it came out super well. It is top stitched to keep it neat. Then I added the collar, which I did with my ususal collar application and again top stitched it.

The buttonholes were sewn on my new Pfaff. I like the control that the 4 step buttonhole gives. The ones I've made on this machine have all been better than the one-step ones I did on the Janome I used to have. 

To finish off,  I used a bias facing on the armholes, which I hand stitched to the inside, so that the stitches don't show on the top layer. I picked up some buttons from my local shop, but they feel a bit thin. I think I might replace them at some point.

The fabric is a cotton lawn, It's very cool and smooth to wear, but creases like mad. I often use this fabric to line summer dresses and the leftovers get used for lining bra cradles.  I had enough left to create this shirt. I thought this would use way more fabric than it did.  I think It would look stunning in layers of different colours or in a super sheer fabric and ideally something that doesn't crease quite as much, although it would look fab in linen.

I really quite like a challenge that involves a bit of drafting and this one turned out really well. not too tricky, but enough to get the brain cells working.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

How to make a denim skirt - Burdastyle #110 02/2014

I've been giving my Pfaff Select 3.2 a workout. I wanted to see how it performed on different fabrics. I made some underwear and it performed beautifully. The IDT really helped with feeding the fine fabric through the machine and the stitches were fab. I wanted to see how well it performed on something much thicker and decided to try out this denim skirt from Burdastyle 02/2014. This would give me opportunity to try a buttonhole in top stitching thread and sew through several layers of denim. I set up two machines, my new Pfaff for the construction seams and my Bernina for the topstitching - It's much easier not to have to keep changing threads when sewing up denim. The buttonhole and button loops were sewn on the Pfaff.

The Pfaff created nice even top stitching and managed the thick fabric very well, what it didn't like was sewing over multiple layers of top stitching. It would happily do forward and reverse in the same area - but a third time with topstitching - No. I think it was the density of the thread, not the thickness of the fabric. It also coped very well with the buttonhole. I'd never been able to do a buttonhole with topstitching thread on the Janome and it coped very well with it. As always, the test version worked better than the actual buttonhole, but it's still pretty good - especially for my first one on this machine. So yes, my new machine can cope with what I'm going to throw at it.

Now then - on to the skirt. This is pattern 110 from Burdastyle Magazine 02/2014. There are actually 3 versions of this skirt in different lengths. I went with the 55cm length, but in future will go for the Longer 60cm length as it suits me better. The shortest length is the one that is labelled as the denim skirt in this issue, but as ususal with Burdastyle Magazines, there are multiple views in different fabrics to create different looks. I cut a straight size 38, but ended up taking it in a bit on the waist. I used this denim from Minerva Crafts. I had it left over from making my Ginger Jeans last year. It has a bit of stretch to it. If I was using a non stretch fabric I might have graded out to a 40 at the hip. I haven't got photos for every step, but I hope it's clear enough to follow.

Once you have cut out all the pieces the first thing to do is prepare the pockets. I started with the back pockets. (If you want to add a fancy design on your pockets, do this before going any further. I just used a ruler to draw some lines and top stitched them). Stabilise the top edge with a strip of interfacing - this will prevent the top of the pocket stretching out over time. Fold over the top edge by 0.5cm and press, fold again by 1cm and press again. this will enclose the raw edge - No need to serge/ overlock it. Turn to the right side and sew two rows of top stitching. One should be over the double folded fabric to secure it, sew a second line a few mm away from the first. I use the edge of my presser foot as a guide for where to sew this second line, but use whatever guide works for you.

Once you have top stitched the top edge of the pocket, fold the sides and bottom seam allowances to the wrong side and give it a good press then set these aside for later. I forgot to take a photo of this, but you can see how they should look once finished here.

Next up are the front yoke pockets. I sewed the pocket bags out of some remnants of cotton fabric to reduce bulk. You could use denim here if you wish, but this might be a lot for a regular machine to get through. Take the tiny coin pocket and press and top stitch the top seam allowances as you did with the back pockets. Then turn and press the allowances on the straight side. Pin the coin pocket to the denim pocket overlay and using your top stitch thread sew the pocket onto the overlay. I sew as close as I can to the edge and then about 5mm away - back stitching at the top to make the pocket secure. Then overlock/ serge (or finish by your prefered method) the bottom edge of the overlay. repeat this step for the other pocket.

Place the overlay onto the pocket/ yoke lining up the side and top edges. Stitch in place along the bottom of the denim overlay. I also find it useful to baste the top and sides, to prevent it moving during construction.

Finish the bottom edge of the pocket with an onverlocker, do the same for the pocket facing pieces.

Now take the front pieces of the skirt and the pocket facing pieces, stitch them, right sides together, along the pocket opening edge. Trim the facing and clip the curve, making sure not to clip through the stitches. Turn and press the seam towards the facing. Understitch (close to the edge, on the pocket facing piece and through all seam layers.

I also added two rows of top stitching to the edge of the pocket.

Lay the skirt front pieces ontop of the pocket/ yoke pieces and match the notches. Sew the inside of the pocket pieces together along the bottom edge of the pocket facing piece. Then baste the sides and top of the pocket bags in place. From the right side your skirt pieces should now look complete.

Next up is the centre front seam and the fly front. I recommend interfacing the fly extensions on your pattern piece - it helps prevent the zip from becoming wobbly. Pin the centre front together. use a long stitch to sew the upper part of the seam until you get to the notch. At the notch, back stitch and shorten the stitch to a regular length stitch. Press the seams open. I always use the Closet Core Patterns construction method for installing a zip fly, particularly the one for Ginger Jeans. I strongly recommend that you use this method, which you can find here.


Once the front is assembled, it's time to work on the back. First sew the back yoke to the top of the skirt piece, right sides together. Then finish you seam allowances together and press up towards the yoke. Secure the seam allowances with two rows of top stitching. Repeat for the other side.

Sew the centre back seam, right sides together and matching the yoke pieces. Finish the seam allowances and press to one side. from the right side sew two rows to top stitching to secure the seam allowances.

Before I go any further I baste the back pockets in place, you could just pin them, but I find that they shift while sewing. Just use a long stitch length and sew the pockets down.

Keeping the long stitch length baste the front and back pieces together along the side seams. This allows you to check the fit before commiting to top stitching etc. Try on the skirt and make any adjustments - I ended up taking a bit in from the hip to the waist at each side seam (you could also do this with the back seam if you wish - particularly useful if you have a swayback).

Once you are happy with the fit, stitch the seams securely, overlock the edges and press towards the back. 

I top stitched from the top of the side seam to just below the pocket opening to reinforce this area - just one row of stitching.

Stitch around the back pockets with top stitching, make sure you back stitch at the beginning and end to secure the pockets.

Now it's time to work on the waistband. I prefer a curved waistband, but as this skirt sits at the natural waist it's ok for it to be straight. The pattern calls for a 1inch/ 2.5cm waistband. I think it would be better if it were a little wider. First interface the waistband. This will help stop it stretching out. If you have a thick denim, you might not need this.

Fold the waistband in half lengthways and press. On one long edge turn the seam allowances to the wrong side and press. On the other long edge sew a row of stitching along the seam line - this helps line up the edges and get an even finish. 

Stitch the unfolded edge of the waistband to the top of the skirt, right sides together, press the seam allowances up. 

Fold the waistband back on itself, so that it is right sides together and the seam allowance is folded to the wrong side of the fabric. Pin the ends of the waistband and sew straight down. Once you have done this, trim the edge and turn the waistband the right way around and press.

Carefully pin the waistband so that the folded edge is level with the front edge and top stitch all the way around, making sure that you catch the inside of the waistband in the stitching.

We're almost done. Belt loops next. Overlock one long edge of the belt loop strip. press the strip into thirds lengthways. fold the unfinished edge in first and press, then fold the overlocked edge over the top and press, then sew two rows of top stitching, a few mm in from each edge. Cut 5 belt loops I made mine 7cm long. fold over  1 cm at each end and press. I also use a hammer to really flatten the loops - it helps with sewing them on.


Using the topstitching thread, sew the belt loops on, securing at the top and bottom with a couple of layers of top stitching or a bar tack. I place my loops at the centre back, just in front of the front edge of the pocket and then half way between them, near to the side seams. I find that it can be a bit tricky to sew at the side seams as there are many layers of fabric for the needle to get through.

Sew a button hole on the waistband above the fly front. If you are using a buttonhole function on your machine, test it out on some scrao fabric - make sure it's the same thickness as the waistband.  You can make a buttonhole by hand or alternatively use a popper. Install the button or popper following instructions.


Finally let's hem this thing. Turn a 1cm hem and press, turn again by 3cm and press again. Secure the hem with pins and top stitch from the right side. I use a marker in the bed of my sewing machine to ensure I sew the first line of stitching in the right place to go through all layers. I then sew a second row a few mm away from the first. A quick press and it's all done.


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