Last days of winter

Hello again. So, it’s March but this week has been the coldest and snowiest I have ever experienced here in the UK (though today it started to warm up again). OK, for German standards this is not a lot of snow but over here it brought everything to a standstill. Which was fine with me, I enjoyed a couple of quiet days working from home, watching the snow fall. And while my sewing plans are already anticipating spring, I still have a backlog of garments I sewed up this winter and did not yet blog. Instead of writing individual posts I decided to throw them all together into a final winter outfit: a skirt (sewn up for Christmas), two turtlenecks, my winter coat (blogged here) and a self-knit hat.

Just a quick note about the hat (I know you are here for the sewing). This was my first knitting projects in ages (probably 5 years) but over the Christmas break I wanted to have a project that I could pick up easily, so I decided to brush up on my knitting skills. I used the free Pome Hat pattern from Ravelry which I adjusted to add a turn-up. It’s actually a really lovely pattern. While it took me a little while to familiarise myself with the English knitting abbreviations (not sure if I ever knitted in “English” before) the hat was knit up in a couple of days. I used this Landlust Merino wool which was nice to knit up (though I’m really not an expert on wool) and is not itchy at all to wear. I really love the style of the hat. Unfortunately it’s slightly too loose (I’m a very loose knitter) so it’s not as warm as I’d hoped. Still, it was a lovely project and I’m glad to know that I have not completely forgotten how to knit.

Let’s move on to the sewing. I have the feeling that this was the winter of the turtleneck. There are now so many indie patterns featuring this style that I feel like every last person in the sewing world has made one. I have always been a fan, it’s the perfect style for someone like me who is always cold and constantly wears a scarf. I have sewn some in the past (see here and here) but I decided I could really need some more in my wardrobe. The fabrics for these two I picked up at Sewbrum in Birmingham last autumn. The blush rib knit is from Barry’s Fabric (a clearance fabric, probably viscose) and the silver green one from Guthrie & Ghani (not available anymore but they have other lovely options).

For the pattern I decided to use the Papercut Rise Turtleneck. I have made the Fall version before, which has a really cool shape but the over-cut shoulders make it difficult to layer and I was looking for a more classic cut, so Rise it was. For the blush version I made a size S.  The final top is quite slouchy and the neck collapses with wear. However, is is super comfortable in this drapey rib knit and I have worn it a lot over the last few months. As expected at that price (£2/metre), the quality of the fabric is not the best and it is starting to look a little worn now. Still it’s one of the garments I reach for all the time.

For the green turtleneck I sized down by just using a larger seam allowance. It worked quite well, in particular the neck fits a lot better but I could probably size down even further. While I finished the hems with bands on the blush version, I decided to go the lazy route and leave the hems raw. On knits I am still struggling to get a nice hem, so a raw hem gives me a cleaner finish. As expected this fabric is a lot nicer quality and is holding up well so far. And the green is clearly more flattering on me than the blush which is very close to my skin tone. Still I love the other one more, I’m such a millennial!

Finally this skirt. I know what you are thinking. Did you strip a 70ies sofa to get that fabric? And I do have to agree it’s not my usual pattern and fabric choice. It’s a cotton stretch mole skin from this ebay shop here where I also got the fabric for my coat. It was super cheap and this pattern is basically a collection of all my favourite colours so it ended up in my cart. I knew it had to become a mini skirt (anything else would have been too much in that print). Realising that the new turtlenecks would go well with it, gave me the final push to actually sew it up. The shape of the pattern is loosely based on a BurdaStyle skirt (not sure anymore which one, I should file my patterns better!) and then I just played around with the darts to get the right fit. To give the fabric more body I underlined it with a sturdy polyester satin. I did not have a suitable invisible zip in my stash so I decided to use a normal one and hand-pick it for a cleaner look. The waist is finished with a gold bias binding. Originally i was planning to fold it to the inside but then Christmas was coming up and I felt it could use a little sparkle. So I left it and added a hook and eye above the zip. The hem is finished by hand.

This is quite a fun skirt to wear. The simple shape works well with the bold print and for a mini skirt it is long enough so that I can even wear it to work. I might have to make more of these, looking at my wardrobe there is clearly a lack of skirts.

So that’s it, a summary of my winter sewing. Now I really am ready for spring. I’m already dreaming up a flowy summer wardrobe in whites and blues, preferably in linen. Am I too optimistic if I start sewing now?

And here a picture with me and my new friend the snow man, looking a little sad with the rising temperatures.

Elsa dress

Another week, another blog post. I’m so excited to show you this dress!

I started this year super motivated and made a list of garments that I wanted to sew (if you watched my Instagram stories recently you might have seen them). This is already the third project to cross off my list. The dress here was one of these projects where once I had started it, I spent every free minute sewing. I worked on it during the week after work. With my husband out of town I came home, had a quick bite to eat and then went straight to my sewing machine for the rest of the evening.

This dress really started with the fabric. At the sewing course that I took last year (where I made this coat), a girl came to class with the most gorgeous burgundy tencel twill fabric. She was a complete beginner and I was amazed that she had found such a perfect fabric for her first project (her dress turned out gorgeous). Of course I immediately asked her where she got the fabric and it turned out that the Brora shop here in Oxford sells fabric cut-offs for a steal. I’ve been a couple of times since and one day they had the exact same fabric, selling it at £5 for 2 meters. It’s such a nice fabric! Medium weight with a great drape. I knew immediately that I wanted to make a shirt dress from it. I don’t own any indie shirt dress patterns but I have a lot of sewing magazines and in the end I decided to use the Elsa blouse from the Victor Maison magazine (6/2016) as a base for the dress.

I have made the pattern once before with some Atelier Brunette fabric (here a pic on Instagram). That initial version did highlight some issues: too tight across the shoulders and upper arms and a collar that was way too big and also not really sitting flat. However, the pattern has some really nice details (like the deep pleat in the back) and I knew that with some adjustments it would be a good base for a loose fitting shirt dress. To address the tightness I actually went up two sizes (to a 42 from a 38); I much prefer a slightly oversized shirt over something too fitted. To address the collar issue I decided to use the neck curve and the collar from the Style Arc Blaire Shirt. I’ve made it a couple of times before and really like how the collar sits.

To turn it into a dress I shortened the blouse to slightly below my waist and added skirt pieces roughly based on one of my existing dresses. The length of the skirt was really determined by the amount of fabric that I had available. To give the dress some shaping I added a drawstring at the waist. I created the channel by simply stitching down the overlocked seam allowance of the waist seams. A draw string of self fabric and two small button holes at the front to slot it through completed it. For some visual interest I also added two simple breast pockets which I drafted myself.

The construction generally was straight forward since I had made the pattern before. Also the fabric presses really well, which helped with the details. I had to unpick the bias bound sleeve placket a couple of times to get a neat finish (I somehow find tower plackets a lot easier). All seams except for the waist seam are finished with french seams and the yoke is constructed with the burrito method. In hindsight, the shoulder seams are probably slightly too bulky in a french seam but it is not too noticeable. The only issue with the construction really was how the sleeves are attached. The instructions tell you to attach the sleeve pieces flat and then join the side seams. Already with the last version I noticed the tightness in the shoulder and also that the sleeve pieces did not line up at the underarm. However, for some reason I didn’t really question it and thought the issues were just down to sizing. This time around I also just blindly followed the instructions to only afterwards realise that I had the same issues. So while the instructions tell you to install the sleeves on the flat, the sleeves seem to be drafted with ease through the head. So I’m not sure if there is a way to add ease by installing a sleeve flat (I only ever do that with set-in sleeves) or if the instructions just don’t match the drafting. In any case it’s really my fault for not thinking while sewing and making the exact same mistake twice. In this version there is enough width across the shoulders so I can just get away with it.

The buttons for this dress were a happy coincidence. I generally don’t have a button stash (apart from buttons rescued from my husbands worn-out shirts) and I just buy buttons for each individual project. I was expecting to do that here too and already started looking for buttons in the shops but couldn’t find anything that matched. Only when I started sewing I realised that I had bought some vintage buttons at a car boot sale last summer and by pure luck they matched perfectly. I love when that happens.

So all in all this was a very satisfying project; amazing fabric to work with and an end product that I am super excited about. I’m always looking for easy to wear dresses that work for the office and outside of work. Long sleeves are always a bonus since I’m always freezing at the office. So this fits the bill perfectly.

Once I have addressed the sleeve head issue, I think the Elsa blouse could be a staple work blouse pattern. I already have some white linen crepe lined up for a third version.

Landers and a cosy sweater

Hi everyone, it’s been a while. I’ve been struggling with the usual winter blogging issues: no daylight during the week and a lot of grey weekends which just didn’t give me a chance to get decent blog pictures. So today we finally managed to take a couple of pictures of a new outfit: an oversized sweatshirt and a pair of Lander pants.

Let’s start with the sweatshirt. When I was fabric shopping on Goldhawk road two weeks ago I came across this french terry at Misan West. I’m always on the look-out for cosy knits which are surprisingly hard to find. But this one was perfect, it’s super soft and the perfect ivory colour. It’s definitely on the lighter side, but thus perfect for summer and it works for layering in winter. My initial intention was to make a cardigan but then I realised that the fabric would be perfect for creating a copy of one of my favourite sweaters. It’s a white cotton cable knit sweater which I bought back in 2012 when I was studying in Copenhagen. It will have to be retired soon, but I adore the oversized shape which just always reminds me of the effortless Danish style. So I traced of the shape which is super simple. Basically it’s just a big rectangle for the body and smaller ones for the sleeves. It could probably be re-created by using the Grainline Studio Hemlock Tee.

The construction was quick and easy. I assembled the pieces with a stretch stitch on my sewing machine and finished the seams on my overlocker. The sleeve hems are just overlocked and then rolled up. The bodice hem and the neckline are finished with bands using the loopy side of the fabric, to mirror the rolled up sleeves. The neckline did need two tries to sit nicely. As the fabric is not very stretchy my first attempt of the neckline just didn’t lie flat. I decided to re-cut it with a slightly shorter length but twice as wide. Once attached I folded the neckband under and secured it with top-stitching around the neckline. This gives the neckline a nice structured look due to the 4 layers of fabric.

The final sweater has a lot of volume which I love but I do have to roll up the sleeves quite high to make sure I don’t dip them in food etc. So for a future iteration I might play around and slim them down a little. All in all this sweater is very close to its inspiration and will be really good replacement. Isn’t it great how sewing allows you to copy your favourite clothes? That way it is slightly easier to say goodbye to well-worn pieces.

Now let’s talk about these trousers, the True Bias Lander Pant. When this pattern came out it was love at first sight and judging by the reaction of the sewing community I wasn’t the only one. However, in real life our relationship turned out to be a little bit more complicated… But let’s start at the beginning. I picked up a 3 m remnant of this khaki green twill at a trousers fabric wholesaler in my hometown over Christmas. It’s not a colour I usually wear but I realised that it goes very well with my colour palette (especially my many blush pieces) and I thought it would be perfect to test the Lander pattern. The fabric is a medium weight with a little bit of stretch, which the pattern doesn’t call for but I thought it couldn’t hurt as I read a couple of reviews where people struggled to get the fit tight but comfortable. According to the size chart my waist was slightly smaller than an 8 and my hips slightly larger than a 12. I decided I could get away with a 12 in the hips due to the stretch in the fabric and that I could always adjust the fit in the waist through the side seams and the waistband.

The construction was really quick and straight forward thanks to the instructions being very thorough. The button closure really saves a lot of time compared to a full zip fly. And the exposed buttons are really a nice feature. I love the brass colour of my jeans buttons against the green. The only thing slightly odd was the construction of the front pockets. You are supposed to line them by attaching the lining right side to right side to the pocket pieces and then turn them inside out. Then the whole thing is being top stitched to the front. While this helps with neat corners and pocket edges, it requires a lot of precision for the lining not to show at the seams. I did read the instructions in advance and realised that ideally I would need a lining in the same colour of the fabric. As self lining would have been too bulky and I couldn’t find a lining fabric in my stash in the right colour, I went with a scrap of ivory silk in the end, making sure to be extra precise with the pockets.

Then came the fitting and this is where the struggles started. Kelli includes a 1″ seam allowance at the outer leg seam, which in theory should make fitting easy, but in my case the trousers turned out way too big. Not only through the waist and hips but also in the legs there was a massive amount of volume. In combination with the colour, they gave off a serious army trousers vibe that I didn’t like at all. To avoid any rash decisions I decided to wear them around the house for a couple of days to see if I just needed to get used to the volume. I also went through the #landerpant hashtag to see how it was fitting on other people. The trousers are definitely intended to be loose from the hips, but I realised that I was most drawn to versions that were closer fitting through the thighs than mine. I also realised that my fabric was potentially too thin, which led to fabric pooling below my bum which probably would not occur in a very structured denim or twill like the samples.

So there was no way around it, the trousers had to be taken in. I took out as much as I could from the side seams but was restricted by the back pockets, which I cut out in the medium size. I also slimmed down the legs through the thighs but let them flare out again at the hem. I used the original straight waistband but could have benefited from drafting a curved waistband as it’s gaping slightly at the back.

Then I had to decide on the length. I had cut the full boot length without adding any additional length. While I am an average 1.70 m I have disproportionately long legs, but since the pattern called for a very wide hem, I thought I would have some wiggle room. Once it came to hemming though it turned out that even with a narrow hem, the trousers would be slightly too short (the story of my youth). I still hemmed them to see if I could get used to it but it just didn’t look intentional. After letting them sit for another couple of days I decided to shorten the legs a good 6 cm by just folding up the hem twice and top-stitching it. Now they are probably closer to the ankle length view of the pattern. I’m still not 100% sold, but I have worn them out and they turned out to be great for a rainy day, no water creeping up your legs.

So what’s my final verdict? It’s definitely a great pattern but it took a lot of work to get them to a stage where I would actually wear them. Unfortunately it’s not love, yet. I will see how I feel about them in summer, with some lighter shoes and bare ankles. When I make them again (I’ll definitely make the shorts, no leg drama foreseen there) I will size down and use a thicker fabric. I’ll also use the smaller size back pockets and a curved waistband. Then I might get closer to my original vision for these trousers, the perfect retro, high-waisted trousers. Until then I’ll just live through all the cool people out there, that are rocking their Lander pants. Until next time.