Thursday, 19 April 2018

Sewing and Pattern Hacking with Vintage cloth

I have a hazy memory of being six years old, standing in a neighbours sitting room and loving the chintzy big florals covering all of the chairs and the curtains. How different it was to our modern 1970's home with it's green and browns. I didn't know it then, but I'm sure looking back that this was the exact moment my love of floral vintage cloth was born.

I get utterly giddy at the thought of a vintage market where who knows what hidden cloth treasures I might find. To be honest I love a rootle about looking for anything that catches my eye, but finding the cloth that makes me go ooohhh is my first thought. 

As I make a lot of my frocks and tops from vintage cloth I thought you might be interested to hear my thoughts on using it in dressmaking as it's very different to buying the exact amount you need in modern cloth. 

I've also got my latest frock to show you that I made from the most delicious green and red vintage cotton from a strip off the edge of a French bedspread.

When I find a piece of vintage cloth that I utterly love I weigh up what I can make from it. Each piece I buy is most often a one off and pre-cut, it might have had a life as something else such as curtains or a bedspread, if so that's great because that means a lot of cloth. Very occasionally the dealer has found a bolt of cloth and then it's like being utterly spoilt because I can buy exact amount I need. All the same you'll generally find you need more cloth you do with wider modern cloth though as vintage  is narrower. Finding the cloth type and print that makes you go giddy is one thing, but then you have to cast aside what you might want to make from it and consider what you can make from the amount you have.  

I was lucky enough with this fabulous cloth to find two pieces almost two years apart. I bought the first piece online from Tanya who sells as Pommedejour.  The first piece was incredibly narrow and I only had a very small amount. All the same I loved it so much and was determined I'd be able squeeze a top out of it which I made a couple of summers ago now.
I had a good think and did a bit of problem solving before I cut anything. I decided I could just about get a Sleeveless Simplicity 1467 Top from it if I did a bit of careful pattern matching at the front. The fabric was too narrow to cut the front on the fold, but by cutting two pieces and adding in a seam allowance, plus pattern matching, I managed to make a front piece.. With not much cloth left I decided to make the neck band from the main cloth and then chose a modern green cotton to make the back of the top. After checking this would work out before I cut into the cloth, because I seriously didn't want that bloody hell moment when there's not enough to make the top, but it was already hacked up and no good for much other than patchwork, I got cutting.

I was totally thrilled with the end result, this top has been a great one to wear with shorts in the summer.

All the same I kept thinking how much I wished it had been a bigger piece as I'd have loved a frock made in this fabric.

Fast forward to the Festival of Fabric in October 2017 and can you believe it, I found enough of the same cloth to make a frock. This one actually, which I made this week. Yup, I sat on the cloth for months, well other cloth sat on it in the cupboard if we're going to be precise here. I couldn't decide what shape frock I wanted to make it up into so I left it there while I ruminated.

Last Summer I fell head over heels in love with the Rita Blouse from Gretchen Hirst's Charm Patterns. So much so, that I've made five already.  I've talked about making these tops before and then the pattern hack I did to turn the blouse into a wiggle dress in a previous post so I know you've seen them before. Well, I finally decided this cloth would look great as a girly fuller skirted summer frock with a Rita bodice. I love to pattern hack frocks as much as I love vintage cloth to be honest. I know what shape I want so I much prefer to mix up patterns to create the style I dream of.
That said, I was back to the issue of narrower cloth and having to make a shape that worked with the amount of cloth I had.  I wanted a fuller skirt, but as there wasn't enough width or length to cut on the bias, I chose to make a gathered skirt from the Emery Dress pattern by Christine Haynes. 

I've made three Emery's for my Millie now. Two with collars and sleeves and this most recent sleeveless version. It has pockets too, which is always a big plus for us collectors of feather, shells and stones.

If there was a bit more width I could have made a box pleated skirt. It's about working with what you have and getting the best match. I really enjoy this part though, starting off with a plan and then having to adapt and come up with solutions depending on what I can get from the cloth. 

Before I cut the pattern out, I checked that I could get all the pieces from the amount I had. 

With a bit of careful folding and adjusting I knew I could fit all of the pieces on the cloth except all of the sleeves. Well the sleeves mainly fitted, but the pattern hung over the side of the cloth on both sides. Problem solved by cutting them shorter where they landed on the cloth and then sewing strips in to to each underarm side to lengthen them. No one's going to see these unless I take to walking about doing a permanent Mexican Wave, but they don't look dreadful either so all good and problem solved. 

As with most vintage cloth there wasn't enough to have the luxury of pattern matching, I find I'm just grateful if I can get a garment from it. Sometimes of course you might score well and can make the most perfectly pattern matched frock of your dreams, but it really doesn't matter so much to me.

Now having run out of cloth I had to make the pockets from a contrasting cloth. By using the vintage cloth you do have to make the main pieces of a garment, you can then make a feature of other areas that in the main are hidden by using a contrasting cloth. I tend to use polk dot cotton every time as I think this works perfectly with florals. Facings, pockets, sleeves or even contrasting the bodice and skirt in another cloth really makes the garment even more individual and gives it a lovely finishing touch.

The Emery Dress has a back zip, but the Rita Blouse has a side zip. I personally prefer using a side zip because I don't have to make any sway back alterations which I have to do with a back zip. Side zip option chosen I then had to think around the pocket feature. I machine stitched the zip in a bit of the way down top and bottom joining all layers to the zip and then handstitched the pocket layer to the zip so it was still a working pocket. These are my basting stitches just in case you're wondering.

Now with all issues sorted, or so I thought, I tried the dress on with the basted zip. The bodice had fitted perfectly on it's own but attached to the skirt it was now four inches too wide at the waist and looked saggy and baggy. Some serious seam ripping then occurred so I could make the alterations. Some time later, which was early the next morning, I finished my Rita/Emery pattern hack frock and was absolutely thrilled with my new ready for the summer frock.

Totally thrilled to be honest. 

All the same I'm already cutting out my next project because my fingers always itch to sew.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Arielle meets Astoria

At the beginning of March it snowed so hard that the world slowed down for a few days. We cosied up at home and ate lots of homemade soup and stews. With outside plans cancelled I suddenly had extra sewing hours which had me whooping with joy. For a while I'd had a picture in my head of a colourful barkcloth mini skirt and I kept kicking myself for not having saved a piece of my favourite floral mustard cloth. Ah well, move on Lisa, there's always more cloth. As I'd already made three Tilly and the Buttons Arielle Skirts in a knee length, I knew I loved this pattern and it's shape suited my style so this was the one I chose. I had a good search in my stash cupboard for a bright barkcloth and as the mini version can just about be squeezed out of a metre of cloth I had a few choose from.  

I also decided to line this skirt as barkcloth can go a bit saggy stretched tightly across a bum. 
Another search in the cupboard and I found this cotton that I'd won as part of a bundle from Higgs and Higgs in the Cosie Cardi Challenge on Instagram hosted by The Stitch Sisters.

Cloth picked I got on with the stitchery business.  Arielle is a quick and enjoyable skirt to make and I loved every minute of sewing it. I made another mini Arielle a week later which shows how much I love it.

Skirt all finished I found just enough cream vintage buttons in my tin to to give it the final touch and make sure it didn't fall off too. I wore it the next day for a pre-Mother's day outing with my girls and felt good wearing it. 

Paired with an Alice Temperley jumper that I'd altered at the back as I didn't like the loose back flap and Rosey's cast off shoes I was super pleased with the bright pop of colour my new skirt gave this outfit. 


A week later I was picking cloth to make secret outfits for Millie's upcoming 16th at the end of March. I chose a starry baby cord to make a Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dress and then just after she spotted a cord online that she really liked and hinted that would make a great Cleo. Hmmm, my cogs started whirring as I thought this starry cord goes brilliantly with the blue sweatshirt I'd also bought to make an Astoria jumper. Another mini Arielle was planned and to line this one I chose a quilting cotton that had been sitting for years feeling unloved in my stash cupboard. 

It had been waiting for this moment to shine it seems as the colours work perfectly together. I even found the just right buttons in my bottomless button tin.

I thought the name of this cloth was lovely too, so I cut a piece from the selvedge to sew into the waistband. 

This skirt is as lovely to wear as the barkcloth Arielle, but for some reason the lining sticks to my legs making the skirt puff out on my bum. Solution, I have to wear a slip underneath to stop stickage and looking all pouffy and odd.

Now before I show you the skirt in all its glory I'm going to tell you about a great pattern that I've wanted to make for a while now. I added this pattern to my Makenine2018 list on instagram and I'm slowly ticking each of my wish list makes off it. 

The Astoria Jumper by Seamworks appealed to me as I love how it sits at the waist, making it perfect for high waisted skirts like Arielle and for wearing over frocks too. I bought this as a pdf which I do with all the Indie patterns I use. I think it's the impatient one in me as once I decide I'm going to make something, I want to get on with it then and there, not wait for the postie to bring it to me.

As with all knits, this was a lovely quick project and satisfied my pure pleasure working with this type of cloth. 

As I'd hoped, it also went really well with my Arielle mini.


Expression courtesy of me giving the photographer a look because I was standing there like a wooden lemon apparently. 

Now the front might be plain, but on the back I couldn't resist blinging it up. 
I'd made silver jersey appliques for everyone else's makes, but not for me and I just love silver I do.

I drew up a large heart on bondaweb and then stitched it to the back of the jumper before sewing all the pieces together. 

I'm very happy indeed with how that looks and it still leaves me with a plain front to pin colourful brooches on. 

That's all for now as my sewing machine is calling me. It's been ignored all week while I work on other projects and that really won't do will it.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Ginger Jeans Hot of the Press.

I've been wanting to make Closet Case Patterns high waisted Ginger jeans for a very long time now, but I've constantly got distracted by something else to sew. Then a few weeks ago I finally bought the PDF pattern and started my search for the right denim. After a chat with Tim the owner of Anglian Fashion Fabrics the right denim was found. I went in one day and he had found it, the exact shade I wanted with 5% stretch. 

Last week I put the pattern together, which is a bit like doing an enjoyable jigsaw with cellotape. 
From then on, every time I had sewing time I was like a woman obsessed working on my jeans. I made sure I read the instructions carefully and checked the really useful Ginger Jeans Sewalong online for advice with fit issues and photos to explain bits that just didn't make sense at first.  I also experimented with topstitching and sewing bar tacks so I knew I had the tension and stitch length just so for my machine. I had a choice of red, white or gold topstitch thread and in the end I chose the red, but to be honest the gold is my favourite colour for jeans. The other thing about topstitch thread is that it's really thick compared to your usual thread. You only use it on the top and keep your usual thread in the bobbin case. Make sure you buy topstitch needles that have a bigger eye, otherwise you'll be spending a happy hour cursing trying to thread your denim needle! You might also wish you had two machines as there is a constant switching between topstitch thread and needle to your standard one.

Now this is a really important bit to read if you're making the same alterations as me, just in case you make the same mistake I did. Before I cut my cloth I measured the pattern to make the alterations I knew I'd need as I'm long in the body as well as being tall. The pattern is for a 32" leg and I need a 34" so I lengthened the pattern here. The front rise also needed to be lengthened by 2" and the back by 4". All good so far, until I hit an issue much later in the construction, which is really important to mention now if you find yourself making the same pattern alterations.  Lengthening the rise at the front was absolutely fine, however, my calculations for the back rise hadn't taken into account the yoke that was to be sewn to the back later on. Once I had constructed the front and back of the jeans and then sewn the back and front legs together at the inside seam I tried them on and was really pleased with how perfectly they fitted. I pinned the waist so it wouldn't move and then using a mirror fiddled about until I got my back pockets placed correctly just low enough on my bum. Still feeling really pleased with myself at this point, I took my time measuring both pockets so they were mirroring one another before I topstitched them. Job done, this is where I hit an issue and realised the mistake I'd made back when I made my first alterations to the pattern.  When I pinned the side seams together I found the back was a good few inches longer than the front. Then I thought of course I'd forgotten about the extra length given by the back yoke in my calculations. At this stage the only thing I could do was to unpick the entire yoke, topstitching and all and move it down to where it needed to sit before sewing it together again. I knew that the pockets would now be too high, but I just couldn't face unpicking all that spot on stitchery I had done. I'd done a lot of unpicking of stitches by now. All of this worked perfectly thank goodness and didn't affect the fit of the jeans at all. As I said the only part that I'm not happy with here is the height of the back pockets.

After all that reading I think you might like to see what the finished jeans look like before I waffle on about other things that might help anyone else making their own Ginger Jeans. As you can see they're a pretty good fit, but me being highly fussy and a perfectionist they're not as spot on as I'd like, so I will be wearing them, but I'm thinking of them as more of a Toile than my favourite pair of jeans. More will and need to be made. 

Where I've made subtle changes to the pattern is to sew the pocket bags wrong and right sides together. This is so I can see the floral fabric on the inside of my jeans and the inside of the front of my pocket.

I'm not happy with the tension of my topstitch thread on the underside, but that's something I need to work on, However, I felt the raw edge by the zip looked ugly so I chose to bias bind it.

I was really pleased with the construction of the fly and how neatly it all works together. Oh yes, if you're making alterations to your front rise like me, don't forget to lengthen your Fly Facings and Fly Guard too. Just saying in case you forget like me and then have to cut another set out. 

Now, I sewed the fly to the right as the pattern states and that's fine, but it just feels odd having it facing the boy way. After a lifetime of unzipping my jeans to the left it just doesn't feel right, so with my next pair I'll sew the fly to the left. 

Here are the pesky pockets that I can only blame on my lack of concentration when making alterations and laziness in not unpicking them. They need to hug the curve of that big old bum more.

The front I'm really happy with, except that fly position.
Now anything else I can tell you about making these? 

Well I chose to face the waistband in the same floral I'd used for the pockets so I ironed medium weight interfacing to the denim to give it more strength.

Finally, my next pair will have slightly longer legs as after wearing them for a day they rose above the top of my boots and needed pulling down all the time. 

So, my opinion is that this is an absolutely great pattern with the wonderful fit that it promises. Any issues I hit were to do with my personal preferences and the alterations I had to make as at 6ft with a long body I'm not standard issue. No one is to be honest, so make sure you really pay attention when you're making those alterations. 

I would also add that you shouldn't be afraid of making jeans. There is so much advice on the Sewalong if you need more help and it's just a matter of really taking your time and understanding each stage before you do it. If you hit issues there's always your handy seam ripper sitting there to help you out. Good luck.

Me Made May 2018

This month I'm taking part in Me Made May, hosted by Zoe of .  Oh and if you head on over to her blog y...