Monday 29 March 2010

Easter bunnies

The Martha Stewart website is a great resource for free patterns and general craft stuff. I found this pattern to make a bunny and have been meaning to make some for the kids for ages, what better time than Easter?

It was quite quick to make, and a great way to use up some left over fabric from the dress I made. Naturally, I managed to fill even the simplest of sewing projects with all sorts of mistakes, note the arms are not stuffed and the ears are rather, erm, wonky. It gives the rabbit character. The instructions suggested adding the features last, I added mine before I stuffed it, but it would have been much easier to do before I'd even started sewing it together. I'm going to be making another one, so will know better next time.

Another project that caught my eye were these gorgeous pettiskirts, but they look a bit more daunting. I can absolutely imagine being 5 years old and swishing round in one for hours, so I must make one when I can summon up the courage!

Friday 26 March 2010

Sewing from Japanese books - part 4

Read part 1, part 2, and part 3 here.

I have finally finished the top I have been making from 'Sweet Style for Kids'. I'm really happy with the way it's turned out. The fabric is really pretty, quite soft, perfect for a summer dress.

The pattern turned out well too, it fits nicely, just the right amount of flare. It's intended to be worn as a tunic over jeans or leggings, and it will make a great summer dress if a few inches longer. I think this could be a staple of her summer wardrobe, maybe one in each colour as they don't take long to make.

The only bit I am disappointed with it my bias binding on the neck and arms, I hurried it and so it didn't turn out as well as it could. Also putting a french seam up the back made it difficult to sew the edges on the opening at the back. I'll zig-zag the seams next time when I get an overlocking machine foot. Also I might try different finishes on the arms and neck, maybe using a contrast colour to bind them on both sides.

Friday 19 March 2010

Sewing from Japanese books - part 3

 Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

The next step after cutting out the pattern is the fun bit - sewing it all together! In this pattern, each step is numbered. You can see here, step 1 is finishing the raw edges by zig-zagging them, sewing up the back centre seam but stopping short of the top for the opening, the measurement for this is given in an earlier diagram. The second picture shows the same seam pressed open.

In step 2, the side and shoulder seams and then sewn together and pressed open.

Step 4 and 5 explain how to attach the facing to the neck, first by joining the front and back facings together, then sewing it onto the neck hole, including fixing a loop for the fastening. It shows notches clipped out of the curve within the seam allowance. In the last diagram on the right, the facing is stitched 2mm from the seam allowance to stop it from rolling over. Next (shown in the picture below) the edges of the opening are stitched 0.5 mm from the seam.

Step 6 explains how to bias bind the armholes, I found this quite confusing the first time I did it, but after bit of googling, it became clearer!

Step 7 is sewing the hem, 8 is making the casing for the belt  and 9 is sewing it on. The measurements of where to place the belt are shown in the original diagrams. Step 10 is fixing on the button for the opening.

All finished! It is a simple garment to make, and no doubt making other things especially for adults might be a bit more complicated. But most of the instructions are shown in the form of a picture and infact they are extremely detailed, showing steps they maybe don't need to.

The finished draft top is shown at the beginning of the post. The fit is good, though I might take in a bit of slack under the arms. I didn't bother with any of the finishing with this version as I just wanted to check the fit. I re-drafted the pattern with about 1cm less at the side under the arm, and flared it out to the same point at the hem.

Yesterday I actually remembered to pre-wash the fabric I will be using, so won't be frantically ironing it dry so that I can sew it, which is what I usually end up doing!

The pattern shows how much fabric to use in this diagram, suggesting 115cm - 125cm. However, I have decided to bias bind the neck rather than use a facing, so this cuts down the fabric considerably and by measuring the pattern pieces, I worked out that I only needed 75cm.

I will try and sew it up this weekend and post the final top.

Thursday 11 March 2010

Sewing from Japanese books - part 2

Following on from my last post, the next step is to trace and cut out the pattern on a new sheet of paper. It's really important to remember that the patterns in Japanese craft books do not include the seam allowance. The instructions show the suggested seam allowance which I always use, but if you want to do a different seam and so need a bigger or smaller allowance, you have the option to change it.

It's worth checking the instructions before doing this so that you leave enough space around the shape to add the seam allowance and make the adjustments to the pattern.

It is also really helpful to mark on the following things:
  • The centre back and front line
  • The grainline
  • The front and back
  • Which pattern you are cutting out (this may sound obvious, but I have gone back to books and found several patterns that I have cut out and not been sure which one they are!)
You can work out these from the translation sheet that I send out with all books, but 前 is front and 後 is back. Grainline is 布目線.

My pattern has a facing (見返し shown in purple) included in the main bodice, so I traced that off separately too. I have pattern cutting paper that is thin enough to see through to trace directly from the pattern sheet, but it this wasn't possible, I could use a tracing wheel to transfer the marks.

Looking at the book, I am doing size 120cm and measurements for this are shown in green. I have circled the adjustments with the bigger red circle. I need to extend the basic pattern shape down 21cm and flare it out so that the bottom is 24.1cm wide. This is why it's important to leave enough space on your paper so that you don't have to tape on another piece on the bottom.

Once this was done, I added on the seam allowance, this is usually 1.5cm or 0.5cm where bias binding is used on the neck or armholes. This is quicker to do than you would expect and I use my pattern master to help draw neat curves.

Some pieces of the pattern are drawn free-hand, these are usually bits that are rectangular, and simple enough not to be included on the pattern sheet.

There is on this diagram a diagonal strip on the top left corner, this is for the bias binding, I usually ignore this and buy mine as it's easier!

Here is my finished pattern, not following my own advice, I didn't leave enough space on the centre back so had to tape on an extra sheet of paper for the seam allowance. This is a simple pattern, sewing adult clothes can be more complicated from these books with more pattern pieces that oftern overlap on the sheet, however the process is the same.

Next time, I'll cover cutting the pattern out and sewing it together!

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Sewing from Japanese books - part 1

I've been meaning to write a post on sewing from Japanese craft books for a while now. They can, on first inspection be a bit daunting, (they're in Japanese you know). And Japanese isn't like French, or German that you can remember a few words from school, or figure out after a bit of googling.

The books are beautiful, quite aspirational I think, picture beautiful people hanging around beautiful places in clothes you could, and want to, make. When I first bought one of these books I opened and closed it in frustration many times as I couldn't figure out what on earth was going on.

They are quite like pattern cutting in a way, you have your basic shape, a top or skirt or trousers and by making a few thoughtful variations you can create simple, stylish garments. The instructions are clear, mostly pictorial, and actually quite easy to follow with the help of translations for some of the key terms. All books from 'M is for make' come with a set of translations.

The book I am using is 'Sweet Style for Kids' (shown at the top) I chose this as the clothes are pretty and simple and I can imagine adding some pretty details to them, Boden style, here is the top I want to make.

Where to start? When I made myself some clothes from Autumn / Winter wear for women, I wrongly presumed I would be a size 'large' but as a UK 12, I was actually a medium in that book. Had I taken the time to read the measurements chart, I could have saved myself some sewing time. Here is the size chart from this book;


Because I know what kind of words these are going to be, they were fairly easy to translate (I have put the english translations in above). The other measurements? well I have no idea what they are, but with the bust, waist and hip known, I could pick out the size I needed, 120cm for a 5 1/2 year old. However, because I haven't made anything from this book before and I'm unsure of how it will fit, I am going to run up draft version of this top before making it in the proper fabric.

First of all I want to find the right pattern on the full scaled pattern sheet which is included inside the book. This can be quite confusing, as not all the patterns are included on the sheet. This is because they give you the basic bodice pattern and show you how to adapt it - pattern cutting made easy! Looking at the instructions where I have circled the text in red it shows the number 4 in the same colour as the pictures of the garment.

Looking at the pattern sheet, I can clearly see these pieces have a 4 on, and it makes sense, they look like the top I want to make.

Next time, I'll write about drafting the pattern from the instructions. Let me know if you need any more info or detail and I'll see what I can do!

Monday 8 March 2010

V and A Pattern - The Fifties

I was given this lovely book from the V & A on pattern in the 1950's for my birthday. The reason being that one of my New Year's resolutions (and maybe my only one, I like to be realistic) was to have a go at designing some fabric and get it printed up on Spoonflower.

So far, I haven't made much progress with that goal, but I was flicking few the book again today and thought I'd share some of the gorgeous patterns with you.

Marian Mahler / David Whitehead

Mary Oliver

 Robert Stewart

Robert Nicholson

 Lucienne Day

Jacqueline Groag

Saturday 6 March 2010

Go teen Boden

I suspect I will not be the only thirty-something buying from the new teen Boden range 'Johnnie B'. Infact looking at the reviews on the website, it looks like it is almost entirely bought by the 25 - 44 age range. I do like Boden, I like that they have figured out the mail order clothing concept and made it their own, brilliant customer service, speedy delivery, easy returns, it's something to aspire to. But when I look at their woman's catalogue I always nearly buy something but rarely do unless it's a plain top or trousers.

Along comes 'Johnnie B' for Boden teens. I have to be honest, the name makes me wince a little. But I like the tops, they are pretty and relaxed and have beautiful details. They make me think of sunny days in the park and at the beach, and not dragging myself out on the school run in a hurry with 5 different layers on because it's so, so cold.

So I bought a couple of tops, I bought 'large' as the sizes looked roughly like a size 12, and I'm really pleased with them. The reason I thought I'd write about them is because of the beautiful details.

This top has a lovely flower pattern on the front, which is made from ribbon, twisted round to make the pattern and stitched into place. It's an idea I'd like to use on something I make, it's probably not as easy as it looks, maybe something to do on a smaller scale.

I also really like the little gathering and pin-tucks on the front, they remind me of the details in the Japanese craft books.

I also bought some silver flip slops which are nice, a pair of jeans which were way too small, even in the biggest size, apparently I can't wear a teenager's jeans. The dresses are pretty too, but not for me and the skirts are oh-so-short, definitely not for the 35 - 44 age band.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

The reveal...

Finally after a long, long weekend of sewing, I finished my dress late on Monday night and handed it in at the end of my pattern cutting course last night. It's not the best photo, and my attempts to photograph my tired and grumpy self in it were hopeless. I will try and post another when I get it back from being assessed, with me in it.

Am I pleased with the dress? yes and no. I am really pleased with the way it is made, the neckline which was tricky, but the rest was fairly straightforward, it just all took a lot longer than I expected. However, I did take my time, and as a result I enjoyed it more than usual. The blind-stitched hem that I did by hand is a particular joy to me. It looks like one on a dress I bought from Jigsaw a few years back for a wedding, and that makes me feel quite proud.

I loved sewing with the voile, it's such a beautiful fabric to wear. I will definitely make something else from it, especially now I know how to work with it, the French seams and smaller needle turned out well. As did stay stitching the curves to stop any stretch.

I can see problems with the fit, the top and neckline look as I'd hoped, but the idea of having the dress gathering at the waist didn't really work out. There isn't enough gather for it to look pleated and the extra volume I created means that the fit wasn't as snug as I'd hoped from the bust down. I wonder if it was even possible, and maybe I should have created a separate top and skirt. But it is complete, my first garment, designed and made by me. My first evening course completed.

I would definitely recommend an evening course in pattern cutting or anything else for that matter. I really enjoyed the weekly escape to do my own thing, just for me, learning a new skill and meeting new people. Ordinarily being placed in the middle of a group of complete strangers most of whom were 10 years my junior wouldn't be my idea of fun, but guess what - it was! I was quite sad to leave the sewing room last night for the last time.

What next? it will be nice to free up some of my precious spare time, sew at my own pace, start a few new sewing projects that I can finish in less time. I'm collecting pictures of (mostly) dresses as inspiration for when I do decide to have a go at another pattern. As I am no clothes designer, I need an idea to work from, designing a dress from scratch was definitely the hardest part of the course for me.

Is any one else thinking of doing a course? do let me know. I am lucky in Brighton, there are so many to choose from, screen printing is in the back of my mind, maybe in the Autumn...