And so to bed

I’m sure I’m not the only person to think that pyjamas are the right kind of things to be sewing during a lockdown. It’s hard to get very excited about beautiful dresses, trousers or shirts for work, when no one else is there. If a tree falls in a forest, and no one hears it fall – did it happen? If I wear heels to work, and no one sees any part of me below the shoulder – did I wear them?

So the first element is that pyjamas are an obvious choice right now.

Lisa wearing some snazzy PJ's for the cover of the Luna Pyjamas Sewing Pattern

Second element – the release of the Sew Over It Luna Pyjama pattern. OK, the pattern was released at the end of November, so it’s taken me a little while to get to it – but it equally seemed hard to justify another pattern for PJ trousers – my go to would usually be the TATB Love at First Stitch – Margot trousers which are a good fit for me, and should I really buy a whole new pattern for the lines of the top?

I resisted.

Then Liz (@thebakerwhosews) put up an instagram photo of her Luna pyjamas, just before I had a day off work for sewing – so it really wasn’t my fault at all.

Third element was that I already had the perfect fabric for this – just as well, as I had no opportunity to shop clearly – we’re in lockdown. I got the pattern, I printed the PDF version, I guillotined the edges and I got busy with the pritt stick. I was all set for a good sewing day.

When I said just now that I had the ‘perfect fabric’ for this project – what I meant of course was that about three years ago I had bought several metres of this flowery navy printed jersey, with the intention of it becoming pyjamas. The alarm bells might have gone off in my head had I thought that, despite having the fabric all that time – and despite pyjamas being an easy and lovely thing to make – I’d left it at the back of the stash pile. Why was that?

Another alarm bell might have sounded – really should have sounded – had I actually read the pattern properly. The Luna pyjamas are designed for a woven fabric, not a jersey. What was I going to do when I realised? Not make the pyjamas? Order some suitable woven fabric and make something else this time? Have we even met?

Clearly not. I had a project in my mind, determination in my soul and sense never had much to do with it anyway.

The alarm bell that did sound, loud and clear, was the one that screamed “this fabric is an absolute bastard to sew”. Unfortunately, that bell rang out when I had everything cut out and I’d started sewing – and pretty much everyone would agree that by that time, it was a bit late.

So the pattern – the Luna pyjama pattern is a straightforward and relatively easy sew. I can see that it would be anyway. It takes quite a lot of fabric all told (about 3.5-4m depending on size), but the instructions are clear, the sizing true, and the pieces fitted together beautifully. It calls for bias seam tape interfacing, a thing I neither owned nor had heard of – but seemed to be designed to stop the bias edge of the wrap top from stretching out. I got creative with some standard seam tape – not the most elegant solution, but it pretty much does the job and it’s all hidden from view.

Working with a stretch fabric, I clearly put a fresh stretch needle in my machine, and worked through the very last of my navy thread. However, my sewing machine just didn’t like sewing this fabric. It seemed to be both slippery and sticky at the same time – the kind of quality of a slip/petticoat, that sticks to your tights whilst allowing your dress to slide unimpeded. My machine kept missing stitches, and breaking the needle thread. Whether it was the fabric or the desperate remnants of thread I was working with by the end (those multi packs of thin threads that you get in the Aldi special offer), it was not a winning combination.

I always think that I have tons of navy and black thread, and then I’m always surprised when that’s not true. Either that or I make a mental note that I need more navy thread, and then on separate outings buy three different reels. All at 500m+. You’re right – the problem is me.

By the end of sewing day one, I’d pretty much finished the top. I put it on Rosie, and then I scowled at it and gave it a time out. I liked the look of it, but the process meant that we were not friends.

It took me nearly a fortnight to take a few hours to sew up the trousers to match. Such was the cooling off period required, and it’s fair to say that I am still cross with the fabric.

I’ve been wearing them all evening though, and I do really like the pattern. I can see that in the right (woven with a lovely drape) fabric, they would work beautifully. I ‘may’ have ordered some more appropriate fabric for a second set today. And some of that bias tape interfacing stuff. I’ll keep you posted.

So the pyjamas are complete, and it’s time for bed. In this time of real challenge in the world, it’s good to have some simple things that add a little to your day – and I think this pattern might be one of those things.

Support for sewing from Mary, Bert and Tilly x

Statement sleeves

My sewing output in 2020 really reflects my mood. I think this year has taken so much of me (of all of us), that there hasn’t been much left over for sewing. I’ve started things but not finished many of them.

This Christmas has been no different – such a strange end to the year, going against all instincts and keeping loved ones at (many) arm’s length. However, I’ve had a little time to sew, and after a stern chat with myself, I decided to finish a top that was in my WIP pile.

The fabric was from an order back at the start of the first lockdown – a loopback jersey fabric (shade = berry) from Guthrie and Ghani. It’s simply the softest jersey I’ve worked with – about the weight of a ponte, but somehow softer, and with a lovely drape. The colour is a brighter red shade than I’d thought looking at it online, but actually I like it a lot. I’m excited to think that I have some of the same fabric in a navy shade that’s still waiting for me.

The pattern is the Maven Patterns Somerset top. I’d seen several makers posting their Somersets on Facebook and Instagram, and fell in love with the bishop sleeves and the slash neckline. I finally gave in and ordered it in October. It was just before the second national lockdown – but in our family we were locked down for the last two weeks of October as my eldest daughter got Covid. Stuck at home with no printer, I ordered the pattern via the Foldline service – where they will send you the PDF version as well as printing it out on lovely big A0 sheets. It’s not the cheapest way to buy a pattern for sure, but the luxury of having the pattern printed without having to glue together dozens of sheets is wonderful. It’s also great to have the PDF version – in case I want to print again in future, but also because the instructions are only virtual – not wasting paper, or indeed space in my overflowing sewing area. The printed pattern arrived really quickly, along with one of their lovely envelopes to keep the cut pieces in (query – any one know if I can order more of those? My PDF patterns are hard to organise in a way that doesn’t look messy, and that could be the answer…).

So I cut out the pieces. Only four of them.

And then I somehow got stuck. Really? Why? It’s a really simple, straightforward pattern. A lovely sew – what on earth was I waiting for?

Christmas, as it turned out.

So on the Monday after Christmas, I spent the afternoon pottering around, gradually assembling this top. It really is an easy sew, so again what on earth was taking me so long? Well I needed to put red thread in my overlocker – and I only had two cones. Obviously threading my overlocker is always a stress as it hates me, so we had some fun with that. Then the neckline, the first step, is simply to turn it down, press in place and topstitch. I was pleased with my topstitching, but realised too late that I had managed to not catch the hem in a couple of places. No problem I thought, I’ll add a second line of stitches and make it look like I’d used a twin needle (which I hadn’t chosen to do in the first place). That second line really couldn’t have been more cack-handed. The nice topstitching now looked like a hot mess. So I spent quite a lot of time with my stitch-ripper, trying to carefully remove the second line without damaging the fabric or stretching it out.

By the time I’d unpicked the lot, I decided to carefully/invisibly hand-stitch the hem gaps closed and stick with the first line. That took no time at all, and I reflected that the second line of stitching plus all the stitch ripping had probably added a good hour to the make.

I then had a bit of an issue with the shirring elastic needed to gather the bishop sleeves – I think it was just too thick for my machine, or maybe I’d not got the tension right and it kept creating additional loops rather than gathering right. I tried several times on a scrap, and then gave up and simply used a double line of thread to gather the sleeve ends. It worked fine, but probably didn’t make them quite as full as they would have been with the shirring.

Other than those moments, the top was an easy make and lovely to sew. The instructions by Maven Patterns really couldn’t be clearer, and they take you through every step of the process in a lot of detail. The fit (I made a size 12) is spot on – and it makes a really wearable top.

I love the sleeves – they feel elegant but the long cuff keeps them well out of your soup (or whatever else you’re trying to consume/work on). I think I’ll make more Somersets – I really hope I do anyway. I always say this and then get distracted by the next shiny thing – but this is the kind of basic pattern that is quick and easy to whip together. And I could definitely use one in navy…

Time trial: Tabitha Drawstring Dress

I’ve wittered on before about being a slow sewist – but in fairness that’s been an assumption on my part until now. I generally sew alone (sewing weekends notwithstanding), so my points of reference tend to be contestants on the Sewing Bee, Next in Fashion, Project Runway etc. So in reality, I had no proof that I was slower than your average dressmaker. Until now.

I was always going to buy Tilly’s new book ‘Make It Simple‘ – I’ve got her other two books, lots of her standalone patterns and I really like her style. Not everything works for me, but her size 4 measurements rarely need much adjustment for my frame, and I end up with garments that I feel fit really well. The premise of the new book being “easy, speedy sewing projects to stitch up in an afternoon” sounded too good to be true.

Back from a lovely holiday in Bruges, I curled up last weekend with the book and picked the Drawstring Dress (based on the Tabitha t-shirt pattern) as my first project. I had some lovely bluey/lilacy t-shirt fabric (no idea of its provenance) that needed a purpose, and everything else was in my stash. I had a lovely Sunday project ahead of me.

So, I decided to do a time trial. Tilly’s optimistic predictions were:

  • Cutting time (including drafting the skirt): 45 minutes
  • Sewing time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Let’s see how we got on …

9:50   Assemble tools, make coffee (an essential part of all sewing) and clear down breakfasty remains adhering to all kitchen surfaces.

img_235010:01 Start tracing pattern pieces in size 4.

10:55 Tracing complete and paper pattern pieces cut out. Skirt piece drafted (some head scratching as ‘place on fold’ instruction in diagram appears to be on wrong side).

10:55 Break to sort laundry and dishwasher. Make second pot of coffee.

11:10 Iron fabric and try to get the piece folded on grain.

11:20 Start cutting out pattern pieces in the fabric.

11:57 All cut out; break for more coffee and crumpet.

img_235112:04 Find eyelet kit and a scrap piece of fabric to test it on – not inserted an eyelet before.

12:08 Finally manage to open the pack (staring at you Hemline packaging).

12:26 Eyelets fitted. Kitchen island slightly dented. Feel I have a (slightly wonky) new superpower involving a crazed woman with a hammer. Another laundry break.

12:32 Cut drawstring from a dark navy piece of ponte di roma jersey that will contrast well with the lilac jersey.

12:40 Break for family stuff – homework, snacks and conversations.

1:05 Stabilize shoulders and stitch together. Take a gamble on neckband – I haven’t got any ribbing in a suitable colour, and I have no patience to wait until I can source some. I cut the piece in the main fabric, on the basis that it’s pretty stretchy.

1:35 Neckband attached – ok, not perfect but quite near – certainly not redoing it. Now for the sleeves.

img_23581:56 Sleeves in: time for lunch.

2:33 Lunch done – onto sewing the side seams.

2:48 Side seams sewn and quick try on confirms it’s all ok and the neckband gamble paid off. Now for the skirt side seams.

3:02 Break for words of encouragement, frustration and weeping (aka helping my youngest with her homework).

3:09 Fractions sorted. Back to attaching the bodice to the skirt.

img_23593:27 Bodice attached but with too wide a seam allowance – so the eyelets are now in the wrong place. Seam rip (bonus of using beautiful new seam ripper, gift from a lovely sewing friend from work) …

3:42 Easily distracted and bored while seam ripping – bit of time out to book tickets for next weekend’s Stitch Festival.

3:56 Back to seam ripping.

4:05 All ripped. Joining bodice to skirt #2 …

4:30 Bodice and skirt joined. Casing for drawstring sewn.

img_23604:35 Drawstring fail. Fabric not thin enough to roll into a tube so now sewing it together and turning it through – dullsville.

5:46 This long to turn through one drawstring! Albeit while helping youngest daughter to focus on her English homework but that didn’t slow me down – it’s just a slow and tedious job.

5:59 Drawstring inserted and eyelets promptly fell out. Think this fabric is just too stretchy? Either way the drawstring seems to be working still. But now I’ve tried it on, and sadly I’m not feeling it. Looks a bit sackish. Maybe I need a bit of distance from it. Now I’m in a bad mood with the whole enterprise.

6:43 Finally hemmed (obviously with the bobbin running out 20 cm before the end, because it’s turning into that kind of project) and on the dress form. Definitely a sack.

So start to finish for me was just under 8 hours. Slow sewing indeed. However let’s do the sums properly – excluding all moments of error, distraction, refreshments, laundry and tracing the initial pattern pieces (as I wouldn’t need to do that again). My back-of-an-envelope calculations put my final tally at about 4.5 hours – assuming that next time around I wouldn’t re-trace my fabric, I’d join the bodice accurately, and I’d manage to use fabric for the drawstring that would actually form a tube.

img_2431Sooo – rather higher than the 3 hours and 5 minutes estimate from Tilly – but as we can see, when bearing in mind the reality of my life, expertise and general approach to sewing I should sensibly double all future estimates! And you know, that’s really fine – sewing isn’t something I do in batch (as a rule – the six pairs of PJ trousers I recently made for a girls’ trip away with my old university friends was a definite exception) or to a schedule. I sew because I love sewing. My output may not be great, but I enjoy every (OK, almost all of the) minute(s).

In terms of this pattern – well I’m still not sure. When I put it on later for these photos, I didn’t feel half as negative about it as I did at the end of its construction. I think mostly I needed to reposition it in my mind – not a dress for work, it turns out, but one that I could wear to kick about in at home, at the weekend or in the holidays. It’s a nice relaxed outfit – and in a different fabric might feel a bit dressier.

Will I make it again? I’m not sure right now – at a guess, no, because there are So Many Other Patterns (new patented acronym #SMOP: you’re welcome). But when we have slightly sunnier weather and I’m likely to leave the house without wearing all of my warmest clothes, let’s see how wearable this one is.

I do know, at any rate, that if I do it’ll take me about four and a half hours….

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Psst – sewing – pass it on

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I’ve been sewing for the last six years now and I’ve been reflecting recently on how my interests have influenced my children.

If you asked them, the two hobbies that my children would identify as mine would be sewing and running. In fairness, I love one of those and do the other in a failing attempt to keep healthy – but still they are the things I choose to do regularly in my spare time.

I’ve tried to get my girls running, but with minimal success. The least that’s said about Ellie’s nine consecutive Park Run fundraiser the better. They’ve all had a go, but any time I try to encourage them now to come for a jog around Bushy Park, they say “mum lies” and head straight for the bacon sarnies. (“Mum lies”, in case you’re wondering, relates to the only way I could get Ellie round the Bushy Park Run route, by telling her that the finish was right round the next corner. Repeatedly.)

Sewing however has been welcomed in a much more positive way.

IMG_7340 copyEllie might not be a runner, but after achieving an A in her GCSE Textiles exam (and making a fabulous 1950s red satin prom dress), she’s taking her Fashion A level next summer and is applying to university to study Costume Design. I’m so jealous – she’s been very clear that I can’t just sneak in at the back of her classes and join in – but I can’t wait to see what she creates.

Last summer Alice, my middle daughter, stitched a patchwork blanket because she was bored during the long holidays. The delicate hand-stitching is fragile but very neat, and she amazed me with her commitment and creativity. She has bursts of sewing (when she’s not immersed in GCSE exam revision, which is her world right now) and other creative projects, and is passionate about photography.

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My youngest daughter, Tilly has also been interested in sewing, but in a slightly less self-sufficient way than her older sisters. To date that interest has mostly been expressed by asking for my help to make her doll some clothes (usually when I’m at a key point in a complicated project of my own) or creating cushions for favoured members of the family. That has just all moved up a gear.

Tilly is ten, so my sewing life started when she was four. I’ve made quite a few items of clothing for her over the years – and thinking about it, a lot of them have been pyjamas. She has relentlessly outgrown all the ‘jams I’ve made her so far though – even the ones with ridiculously big turn ups have now been turned down to the scant minimum hem and yet are flapping mid-calf. She’s going to be tall, this one.

So new pyjamas have been promised for some time, but this time we sewed them together. No, that’s not right either – for the pyjama trousers, she sewed and I helped.

img_1791The pattern for the trousers is the Simplicity 1722; one I’ve used for Tilly and others on countless occasions before. It is made with one pattern piece, and really couldn’t be simpler. One overlocked seam on each leg; the front-to-back crotch seam; elastic in a channel at the waist and hems on each leg. It was the perfect first project for someone who wanted to make something real that she could properly wear.

img_1759The fabric is a Spoonflower jersey that came to me at the Sewing Weekender, when I took the New Craft House knicker workshop. Spoonflower sponsored the workshop (thank you!) and gave participants a 1.5m piece of their jersey that we could choose from a range of prints. I knew Tilly would love this one (Whale’s Song by Katherine Quinn) and it was just wide enough to fit the age ten leg size on the cross grain. (You really couldn’t have gone on grain and had the whales swimming up and down the leg – that would have been very odd). The colours in the print are lovely and I don’t think it’s really faded in the wash – but even if it did, I think this print wouldn’t be hurt by a little fading. My previous orders from Spoonflower faded quite a lot and it put me off a bit – but whether it’s a better colour process they’re using now, or the jersey fabric, or the print itself – this time it’s all good.

img_1761.jpgWe only had one seamripper moment with the trousers. When sewing the channel for the waist elastic, the machine ate some of the surrounding leg fabric on the first pass, but that was quickly sorted. By bedtime she had a new pair of PJ bottoms to leap around in and was feeling very proud.

I was feeling pretty proud too. It was such a nice experience to be teaching my daughter, who was at the right point to want to learn. I wasn’t distracted by another project that this was interrupting and it was a pleasure to be able to help her achieve something she really wanted to do and to make something she’ll get lots of use from. She was more than confident using both my sewing machine and the overlocker – and if the seams of one of the legs are a bit wigglier than is traditional – well who on earth is going to notice that? In sewing, in my experience, it’s all about having a go and learning by doing. She’s starting about 30 years earlier than I did, and I hope she ends up enjoying this hobby as much as I do.

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The following weekend I managed to scale down the hoodie pattern from the Tilly and the Buttons Stretch book to fit a 10 year old frame. Using the smallest pattern size, it was a reasonably easy job to take out a couple of inches of length in the body and the arms. The pale green ponte fabric was one I had in my stash, and works perfectly to co-ordinate with the main pattern.

I managed to piece together enough of the whale fabric to line the hood, which she loves – and fortunately no one looks too closely at the inside of a hood, so the fact that some of them are upside down by necessity is not very obvious. The hoodie was a bit more complicated, so I was allowed to lead on the sewing this time. She did sew some of the seams, but was happy to let me back to my overlocker.

I’m proud of all my girls. If they had to choose one of my hobbies to join me in, I’m sure I should wish it was running for their cardiovascular health – but for the enjoyment of a creative shared experience, I’m really glad that they’ve all spent some time listening to the siren song of the fabric, and joined me in my happy place.

Slow (very slow), unselfish sewing

Maya wrap dress

The last couple of things I’ve made have not been for me. This is pretty unusual. I’m quite a selfish sewist, and realise that I’m mostly motivated by making something that I will be able to wear. Unfortunately for my patient family, this doesn’t stop me offering to make them things, and then procrastinating my way to completion.

My sister’s birthday was at the end of May. We discussed what she wanted whilst on holiday over Easter, then I ordered the fabric and pattern early in May. She was after a wrap dress, so we looked at lots of different pattern options together, deciding eventually on the new #SewOverIt #Meredith design. She sent me through her measurements on 18th May and I got started.

It was over two months later that I finally finished it. This is not because it is a complicated or multi-multi-step pattern. It was simply because I failed to get a move on.

Anyway, the pattern. It’s a really nicely designed dress with flattering shaping and a straightforward construction.GrD3p7gRTQmp7SZ3YRXuuA

It’s almost unfair to review the early stages of the process as I did them so long ago that I can barely remember them. However there aren’t too many pieces, and cutting out was quite straightforwards. I’d chosen a quite stretchy jersey for this make, and I think this may have contributed to a feeling that I wasn’t being very accurate in putting it together. It was the Lady McElroy black cobra corsage jersey, with 100% crossways stretch and 50% lengthways stretch – which personally I think was too much. The pattern recommendations are just for ‘light to medium weight knit fabrics with lots of drape’, but I think something with slightly more heft would have been a little better.

My other comment on the fabric would be that it faded quite a lot in its first wash and tumble dry – so the clear instructions on the Fabric Godmother website to line dry rather than tumble dry should not have been ignored. I’m afraid I almost always tumble dry my fabrics (whatever the instructions) because they’re very likely to be accidentally thrown in with the rest of the family wash when the garment is made – so if they’re going to shrink, I prefer that to have happened up front. Hopefully my sister has the same kind of pragmatic attitude – and doesn’t mind a slightly greyer ‘black’ than the one it started out as. ynR4xWBORHGRceCIibY0kQ

The main construction of the dress came together quickly, so the dress shell lived on my dress-form for most of the two month making period. Another short sewing session focused on the construction of the neckband and waist-ties. Finally I stitched the neckband onto the dress and attached the sleeves.

What I haven’t done (still) is to hem the thing. And this is what I agonised about at the end of the process. On my dress-form, the hemline was reasonably straight. When I put it on, it was wonky as all hell. I know we’re all different measurements but my sister and I are quite similar so I wouldn’t have expected that amount of difference. The length of the top half of the dress (above the waist ties) seemed too long on me, but obviously this would be different on her. What I couldn’t tell, is how the dress would hang – and as she frustratingly lives in another country, it wasn’t a simple matter to just get her to try it on and pin it! Fortunately (and as shown above) the non-hem was just right on her – so the next time we’re in the same country at the same time, I’ll do the final piece of the puzzle. She looks lovely in it, although in Spain at present it’s far too hot for her to wear anything with sleeves!

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The other project I worked on in the summer was a gift for a teenage girl (my middle-daughter’s best friend) going into hospital for an operation. My daughter and I wanted to make her something she could wear there, so adapted the #Grainline #Lakeside17001_Lakeside08-1000x1426 pyjama top. I’ve made this pattern a few times and liked the way that the tulip style of the top at the back might allow for access from the doctors and nurses while she was there, but in a relatively stylish way. Picture1

For anyone ever in the same situation – trying to adapt this top to fasten around the body rather than slide over the head – I’ve tried to draw out the solution we came up with. Forgive the abysmal drawing techniques – what I hope makes sense is that the spaghetti strap is made by a loop that slips over each shoulder, being held in place with a bow tied from the front.

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As you’ll see from the photos (modelled by my eldest daughter), it doesn’t sit quite right – and if I were making this again I’d extend the length of the tulip sections so there was more of an overlap – stopping the spaghetti straps from pulling from the middle.

We combined the top with some soft jersey pyjama bottoms (the TATB Margot pattern from Love at First Stitch – possibly my most-used pattern to date) in plain black, with a cuff of the same flamingo fabric. kqSGp6abTCa45v2W%Lw

With a specific deadline, it wasn’t hard to get this one completed – and it didn’t hurt that my lovely family gave me a dedicated sewing day as a birthday present that I could devote to it. We managed to deliver the pyjamas with all our best wishes in time.

It felt good to do some unselfish sewing, and it was interesting reflecting on and analysing my own procrastination. I love the process of sewing, and really enjoyed making all the items above – but the motivation to get everything out and start was the thing I felt was missing. In theory I have a sewing table with everything set up – but in reality, my sewing table becomes a dumping ground for all the detritus of our kitchen, so sewing-in-practice means setting up at the kitchen table. Maybe it’s that (5-10 minute) step that is the barrier? Or maybe I’m just selfish!

Either way, I’m looking forward to a straightforward selfish planning session as I decide on what to sew at the forthcoming #sewingweekender – so looking forward to my second experience of creativity with a crowd of likeminded sewing buddies!

Pattern testing – the Mahina cardigan from Scroop Patterns

So, a new thing for me this time: pattern testing. I was lucky enough to be chosen by Leimomi of Scroop Patterns to be one of the testers for her new Mahina cardigan pattern which has launched today. It was a really interesting concept, and I am really pleased with the finished piece. I made view B – a very simple make, with only three pattern pieces (and that includes two sleeves). Mahina_Front_Page

The interesting thing about this pattern is the way that you tailor it to your measurements. The base pieces for each of the cardigan shapes doesn’t alter, but the positioning of darts and the size and positioning of the arm holes is the thing that tailors the pattern to your specific measurements.

I printed the pattern at home, and spent an hour or so one evening piecing it all together with a glass of wine on hand. There weren’t too many sheets involved, so it was reasonably therapeutic. You do need to be awake/concentrating enough to make sure the darts and armhole piece is lined up correctly. I *may* have needed to unstick and restick that piece on my pattern, and that *may* have been related to the wine.

EDT3aARWQUS28VgWoQLbJwCutting out was a quick and simple process, given the small number of pieces involved. I had a nice 2m quantity of blue ponte di roma jersey that I’d been saving for a cardigan, with about 40% stretch on the crossgrain. It had a good drape and enough weight to work with without being too think – a chunkier jersey may not have had the lovely draping that this pattern gives you. The instructions indicated that I’d need 2m for my size, but in fact, I only needed 1.55m – even including cutting out plenty of binding strips though I didn’t ultimately use them. One thing I noticed (and appreciated) was that I was able to cut the pattern and binding strips very economically – so there was little wastage in the scraps leftover. I’m trying to be mindful of reducing waste in relation to sewing, so was really pleased about this.

My measurements indicated a 34cm shoulder and 28cm bicep measurement. I’d printed the pattern instructions out, and there was a space given to write these measurements in. I did so obediently (I was pattern testing after all) but may have skipped it normally – but in practice kept having to refer back to this page. You would think with only two measurements to deal with, I’d be able to retain them in my brain: but you would be wrong.

eORjJmeFQcSaTW2BAbmD1QThe Mahina pattern gives a whole range of options for finishing the edge of the cardigan, including a raw edge and different kinds of bound edges – in self fabric, bias binding or lace. I’d decided to bind the edges in the same fabric, but once I’d assembled the garment actually thought that the bound edge would result in a finish that was too thick and heavy – and that the lovely drape I had achieved would be lost. I decided to leave it as a raw edge, but to keep those binding strips so I could change my mind later potentially.

There’s not much to say about construction – it really couldn’t be a lot simpler, and though the approach is a bit different, so you need to get your head around it first (without wine …), once you have it’s a really quick garment to assemble. All the notches matched perfectly, and I didn’t make any alternations to the test pattern (though I think Leimomi made a few minor alterations based on feedback from others).

msvlosq5s9uinug3x3gr3a-1.jpgIf I was (let’s be real: ‘when I am’) making the pattern in the future, the only major change I would make would be in the shoulder measurement, which I think I got a bit wrong. The open drape of the cardigan hangs from that shoulder measurement point, so if you measure to the very end point of your shoulders, then the cardigan will hang from there down the side of your body (if that makes sense). In future makes I’ll shorten that measurement, as I prefer a cardigan that is narrower – sharing a far-from-flattering photo here to demonstrate what I mean. In fairness, I think the narrower measurement is actually what’s intended (the instructions say to measure from the highest point on the rounded shoulder rise, which is actually a bit further in than the point I’d used).

fullsizeoutput_3366For this garment, I may pinch a little more into the darts to bring the shoulder line in but it’s still definitely wearable as is. I experimented with pinning it across, which I liked a lot (though I may need to trade up to a real brooch rather than my youngest daughter’s Brownie pin). I love the ‘waterfall’ drape and the way it hangs at the back, and the raw edge doesn’t feel ‘raw’ at all in wearing it.

My overall view is that I really like this pattern – a quick, simple and practical item, and a great basic to have in my collection. Start to finish time for sewing was about 2.5 hours – and that’s as one of the world’s slowest sewists, and involved fielding requests from three children, taking phone calls, eating snacks (obviously), making and drinking coffee (also obviously) and sorting lunch for the family. Actual sewing time, particularly for a second/subsequent makes, would be a lot less. The instructions were carefully thought through, and flowed really nicely. They also refer to where you might find other bits of information if you’re looking for them, which helps to navigate your way around, given the range of options included in the one pattern.

Thank you for the chance to test this pattern, and for my new Mahina cardigan!

Comfort sewing

Comfort is everything. I sew things I want to wear, and for me that means clothes that fit without constriction, that flatter a body that is likely to eat a hearty lunch, and that move easily between an office job and a home with assorted children, cats and commitments.

That might explain why I chose to spend new year’s day sewing my fourth Sew Over It Heather dress. Fourth. Yes, I can’t believe it either.

This was an impulse sew, and all the better for it. I’d not found the time (really, let’s face it, the motivation) over the Christmas break to get started with a project, but enjoying a quiet soothing day before returning to work on 2nd January, it was a perfect quick sew.

I’ve not been sewing long enough to have many patterns that I’ve made repeatedly – unless we count the TATB Margot pyjama trousers from her first book and actually her Coco top which is a perfect fit for me. Otherwise, though I tend to think I’ll get great value from a pattern by making 12 of them, I usually then get distracted by the next shiny thing. There are so many lovely patterns!

img_6993This impulse sew derived from me searching through my disorganised and overflowing stash for a couple of metres of navy ponte that I knew was in there. I was mulling a cardigan or a dress with it and wanted to see how much I had and what it would tell me it wanted to be (or something like that). I didn’t find the navy, but I found a 2 metre piece of a black and white lace patterned ponte that I’d entirely forgotten I even owned.

My disorganisation is a high price to pay for these moments of serendipity, but as I’m stuck with the former, it’s only right that the latter should bring me such joy.

From initial cutting out to snipping threads from the finished dress was about half a day I guess. A longish half-day because I’m not speedy. I’d adjusted the pattern slightly over the last three makes, mainly adding about 4cm in length (I’m 5’2, so this is an adjustment I almost never have to do – guess my mid-forties self enjoys a slightly longer dress length than the SOI standard).

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I didn’t have quite enough fabric to cut the neckband on the grain, so used the cross grain – and it’s really the only part of the make that annoys me. It doesn’t quite sit right, and if I had more patience I’d unpick it and do it over. Maybe I will.

<everybody laughs>

Or maybe not. Let’s see if it annoys me still after its first outing – and whether anyone else on the planet would even notice. Except sewists. They would notice of course, but they’d be far too charming to mention it, and insist that it was lying completely flat.

The Heather pattern is a gentle cocoon shape with deep diagonal pockets on the front. Somehow I find it flattering, though logic tells me it shouldn’t be. Something about the intentional apple shape both gives the illusion of the waist bulk being a dress feature (rather than a post-Christmas feature) while at the same time allowing easy movement, capacity for lunch and pockets full of my daily essentials (phone, tissues, glasses etc). If it’s not as flattering as I think it is, please don’t burst that bubble. Sometimes I think that nature designs the failure of our eyesight at just the right rate, and I just hope that my husband is as poorly sighted as I am now.

The verdict for me is a happy one. There’s nothing as soothing in having to return to work on 2nd January as having a new, comfy frock to wear. I spent the last day of my holidays, in my PJs, doing the hobby I love. An excellent start to 2019 – plenty more days like this one please.

A blue-green pencil

With three or four things identified and planned for my next sewing projects, I followed my standard disinclination to work on any of those today and decided to find something new. It’s not that they aren’t lovely projects with great fabrics that I really want to make. I just didn’t want to make them today.

green blue skirtIn my overflowing stash I found a lovely piece of turquoise-blue jersey that I’d used a small amount of for the contrast colour on a hoodie for a newborn. With most of the metre left to play with, I decided to pair it with New Look K6217, view C – a basic pencil skirt.

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I’m not a fast sewist, and I like it that way. For me, the meditative benefits of sewing include preparing the place I’ll be working in, making a large cup of coffee, choosing some good music and taking my time with the instructions. Unless I’m sewing for an event that I’ve (inevitably) left things right to the last minute for – such as a dress that I completed in one very long evening for a wedding the next day – I much prefer to take my time and enjoy the journey.

That said, there was a great deal of satisfaction today in a pattern with two pieces, couple of darts, cut out, sewn up and even hand-sewn at the hem within a couple of hours hours. Yes, it’s no sewing bee challenge of an achievement, but I certainly wasn’t racing.

The pattern is designed for a woven fabric, so in swapping in a nice, stable jersey I was able to skip the zip and attach the waistline to a wide elastic rather than the twill tape specified in the pattern. That didn’t work quite the way it was going to in my imagination (where the elastic would have turned completely to the inside), but I found I quite liked the finish, so left it there.IMG_2842

The whole project (not sure it can really justify the term ‘project’ but let’s work with it) was a satisfying, simple sew. The skirt is comfortable, fits me well and in a colour I’ll get a lot of wear out of. Sometimes, that’s all a Saturday demands.