Sunday, 19 December 2010

Hunting and gathering top

It's been a really long time since I made anything for myself, I have done a fair bit of sewing recently, mostly bits and pieces for the kids. So when the Innocent voile arrived, it spurred me into action.

I chose 'dress c' from Les Couleurs Francaises, the idea being that I could make a top version of it and layer it with a longer sleeve top in the winter, or maybe thermals. You may remember Kelly made a gorgeous version of this dress in the sew along a few months back.

When I have made my top, I'm going to knock up a matching 
version for the first born, and together we'll go and trap some 
tiny woodland animals in a cute cage just like this. 

The sizes in this book range from 7 - 13 and from previous experience making the tie top, I know I am a size 9 (UK sizing, I am a 12 on top). I could have gone straight to the voile, but trying to be all grown up and sensible (and not wanting to ruin a perfectly good length of fabric) I decided to make a toile first.

You may find these previous posts helpful about sewing from Japanese craft books.

Tracing the pattern from the pattern sheet, I added a number of new steps learning from previous mistakes. I taped the paper I was tracing on to the pattern sheet using small bits of masking tape. If it moves around mid-trace, it's a nightmare to get it all lined up again, and this really helped.

When having a rummage through my supplies I found a number of other patterns I had traced off but hadn't really labeled them properly, so this time I wrote the book, dress, what the piece was and it's size on each shape that I traced off.

I am nearly at the end of my supply of paper that I use for tracing patterns, I'd love some suggestions from you on where to get new supplies. The paper I used was left over from my pattern cutting course and came on a huge roll I think from Morplan. I'm not sure I am ready for 275m of paper yet, given I only seem to make a garment every 6 months, it seems a little over the top. It would be great for the kids to draw on though.

It can be quite confusing tracing the pieces off or even finding them in the first place, so it's best to do this when you can concentrate (read: not on the kitchen table 10 minutes before the kids are due to have lunch and are swarming around you like hungry sharks). Draw around the shape on the original pattern sheet with your finger and make sure you have traced all the markings. It's really easy to miss them or presume they are for another piece. This pattern has a fair few. I made the top about 10cm shorter than the dress giving me scope to cut it even shorter when it was made up.

I made the toile out of an old sheet which is quite crisp and stiff, I think voile will be perfect for this top as it has such good drape and is lovely and light, the tie doesn't want to be too rigid or it might look like a pendulum.

The instructions for Japanese patterns are mostly pictorial, but using my trusty translations (which come with all Japanese craft books at M is for make), I picked out some key terms to help me out. Facing for example is 見返し.

Each step is numbered on the diagrams so that you do them in the right order. It can be a little confusing because, looking at the picture, number 3 is missing. But there is a picture of the finished garment on the first page where each step is labeled. Number 3 is there, but as it's simply sewing the shoulders together, it doesn't need a picture.

I've said this before, but one thing I really like about sewing from these books is that you do have to stop and think at each step rather than blindly follow instructions. You have to think about how the pieces fit together, how they are finished, what order you are do things in. I think I learn more sewing from Japanese books than ordinary patterns.

It's the first one of these patterns that I have done that has included sleeves and darts. It has cute gathered cap sleeves which were pretty easy to fit. I did have to get my course notes out when sewing the darts to figure out which way to press them. In the end I went for downwards, I think this was right, but I'm not totally convinced, let me know if I'm wrong.

I was paying so much attention to this that I made a rather basic mistake.

Is this picture;

(a) a fashion forward garment with darts on the outside as an expression about the female form, or
(b) a blunder by an idiot who didn't check which side they were sewing on?

You guessed it, (b) I sewed by darts on the outside, I am now very glad that I made the toile up first. What an idiot.

The rest of it went more smoothly, the collar took a bit of figuring out, and when I come to sew the final garment, I will need to take my time and make sure my pieces are cut out accurately and the seams all ironed well. I really pleased how it turned out, I've never sewn a collar before.

So trying it on for size - and it fits really well, apart from being far too long and the ties need shortening too.

Here is the shortened version, now I have to adjust the length of the pattern piece and hardest of all, choose a voile.

Other developments; my trusty sewing machine has developed what I am trying not to think of as a death rattle. So I have bought tools to give it a bit of a clean and oil up hoping that this will soothe it. I might even have to find the manual somewhere, let's hope this project doesn't stall while I try to figure out how to reassemble it.


  1. It looks promising! I ordered this book from your shop and made the same top for my daughter (here). It turned out beautiful, even if I´m no expert yet. I was so happy with it I got some linen to make one for me, so thanks for sharing your experience because it will be a great help. Sorry about your sewing machine...

  2. Kate it looks lovely, well done, and the fabrics you have got look beautiful. I have been so inspired by you I thought I'd have a go at something from Clothkits (am v. much a beginner) but looking at their site I got all flustered, and also it seemed astonishingly expensive - surely it wasn't so chi-chi in the 70's?

    Firstly tho I need, time, a sewing machine, a modicum of talent and patience. None of which I have right now.

    Will just keep reading your blog and being envious :)

  3. Thanks Becky, I agree, Clothkits are expensive, I made a skirt for me and the young un' from there when I started sewing again and I'm not sure I've got the wear out of them to warrant the cost. The prints they have a are lovely though.
    I could suggest some alternatives if you fancy, there are some AMAZING fabric shops in Oz. Happy birthday to Sam :)

  4. Love the fit of the dress/top, especially around the shoulders with the little puff cap sleeves. I have used A3 Layout pad, paper is has transparency to trace on but need to be taped together, storage is easier than a great big roll! Good art shops stock it.

  5. It's beautiful Kate, I think it will look amazing in a voile, can't wait to see it. x

  6. It's gorgeous, Kate. You wouldn't have made that mistake if you'd been sewing with the voile - I think fabrics with no right side or wrong side like this plain white are always prone to attracting mistakes like that. I buy three huge sheets of plain pattern paper from Hemline for about £2.39 & it seems to last a long time.

    Oh & I love your plan for caging small animals, it makes the books doubly good value when they inspire wholesome leisure pursuits as well as dressmaking. Wishing you much fun. X

  7. it looks great, & i love it as a top with the shorter ties, i might have to try that next time!

  8. Looking good! As far as tracing, if it's small enough pieces I'll use A3 sheets like Kerry but if it's for adult garments I use my Swedish Tracing paper. It can be hard to find in the UK (and a bit pricey) but I like that it is more like fabric than paper and therefore doesn't rip. You can also sew it into your toile athough I haven't tried that!

    As far as your darts, I'm pretty sure that pressing down is what patterns normally advise but I think Fit For Real People says pressing up can make one look more 'perky'. Don't quote me on that though!

  9. The top looks lovely, Kate; I can't wait to see it in the voile. I love your blog and how much I learn from it and comments posted here :) Maybe I'll pluck up the courage to try and make one myself in the new year, maybe! I like the ideas for pattern paper - probably an improvement on my roll of greaseproof paper, although it seems to do the job ok.

  10. Looking forward to seeing the final version - I actually like both lengths for tops. I managed to find a tube of really fine coloured sheets of tissue paper - A2 I think - in one of the art shops here. It ended up less expensive than regular pattern paper and I prefer working with lighter weight papers for tracing.

  11. What a lovely dress/ top this is going to be. I love loads of Japenese style clothes you can make from these books but they look way to complex without instructions LOL . I've bookmarked your fabric shop too !

  12. I do love that book and the dress/top you've chosen is going to be stunning I know. Call me unprofessional but I use greaseproof paper (bleached otherwise you can't see through) and it works perfectly. If I need a piece that's wider than the paper, I just get out the cellotape - oops!

    I haven't done any clothes sewing for such a long time, am looking forward to the New Year when I'll get started once again.

    Kate x

  13. Looks great! I use the pattern paper from Morplan. I know you have to buy a big roll but it'll last for years and I think if you are going spend all of that time tracing it out, doing a toile and making it up, it's best to do it on quality paper so that if you use it again and it can stand up to a bit of wear and tear. Also - tracing wheels are excellent for tracing patterns, you can get them from Morplan too. Happy Xmas!

  14. Thanks for the Morplan tip. I have both pattern ambitions and a young child who would enjoy drawing on it!

    As to Clothkits, I've bought a few skirts in the sale there before and they're really quick to knock up (though the instructions weren't absolutely perfect, at least not to my dressmaker of a Mum) and useful if you're not familiar with garment construction. However, once I'd made one skirt it was pretty obvious how to do it yourself and far cheaper. Also, you've got more scope for getting a better fit and something even more unusual. Good for a trial run though.