Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A textured tee for brunch in NYC

Greetings from New York City everyone! I am in a constant state of excitement and having the best time. AGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH (this is basically my main vocal sound right now).

Past Clarey was an organised little bunny and saved a blog post for during her NYC trip - you know, just in case the constant overload of pics on Instagram and Twitter is NOT enough.

While planning what I wanted to make for my trip here, I was perusing the latest collections for S/S 14. One of my favourites, as always, is the collection from Whistles; metallics, pink feathery prints, pastels and structured t-shirts? SIGN ME UP! I have been on the lookout for fabrics that I can use to make similar pieces for the Spring.

On a recent #Spoolettes meet-up in my manor (South East London) I found some awesome white textured knit. This is from Sakhi fabrics in Lewisham and set me back a mere £6 p/m. The knit has a small textured diamond pattern and I knew it would be perfect for a structured t-shirt that I could wear with jeans or skinny trousers.


For the pattern I used Megan Nielsen's Briar but I cut the hem straight and also went up a size. I've used this pattern a couple of times before to make a short and long-sleeved top and was confident that a size-increase would give me the slightly oversized/structured look that I was after. The only change I made was to raise the neckline and lengthen the sleeves.

I really like the Briar as a basic t-shirt pattern. It sews up extremely quickly, the fit is great and it's easy to adapt into a different style of your choice. It's definitely my go-to t-shirt pattern.


I put this together quickly with my overlocker and cut the neckband as normal. I wondered if I would have to cut the neckband shorter as I had raised the neckline, but it seemed to fit nicely. In future, I might try a shorter neckband to see if I like it a little more taut.


To hem, I overlocked the raw edges on both the waist hem and the sleeves, turned up the hem allowance and then stitched using a slight zig zag stitch.

Here's a picture of the neckband close up so that you can see the texture of this knit. I have more of this left over so I think I might try and dye it a pastel pink colour. Stay tuned to see if that's a disaster or a success!


I wore this top with my normal skinny jeans and pink docs (underneath my new bomber jacket of course!) to brunch in New York on Saturday. I was fortunate enough to be invited to brunch at Devra's apartment on Saturday and I had such a wonderful time meeting new and familiar faces from the US sewing community. It was such a great day that it deserves its own blog post, so stay tuned for that when I return to England.

In the meantime, I hope you like my stab at a structured t-shirt. Have you sewn with any unusual knit fabric lately and what styles/outfits have you spotted in shops/magazines that you'd like to recreate with your sewing skills?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Moody Blue Jumpsuit

I'm so fed up of sewing and embroidering jumpsuits for Elvis (seriously, how many sequins and studs does this one Eagle really need dude?!) I decided to take a break and sew my own. He's sulking in the Jungle Room with a milkshake, but I gave him some karate films and promised to name my jumpsuit after one of his songs.

For ages I couldn't find a good jumpsuit pattern until Named came along and set all our hearts on fire with their cool and chic pattern collections.

I've had my eye on the Ailakki jumpsuit for some time but never got round to ordering it or even having  an occasion to wear it, but with NYC approaching, I thought well if there's ever a time to knock out a jumpsuit, it's for drinking cocktails in Manhattan right?!


The fabric is a navy/tealish blue cotton moleskin that I got from Goldhawk Road. This is from my favourite shop, Fabric House. I love Rashid and always have a chat with him when I pop in. He was the guy who sold me my wedding lace, so he'll always be a bit special to me and get my money. He let me have this moleskin for £7 p/metre.

Size wise, I used the 12/14 pattern and cut the smaller of the sizes. I made a muslin first from a medium-weight calico. The fit was near perfect first attempt apart from the zip, which was pulling a little taught lengthwise. After some deliberation I decided to try altering the shoulders first. I think most books, Threads etc, always suggest starting with shoulder alterations, and seen as I am quite 'blessed' in the broad shoulders area, this seemed like the solution to me. I ended up adding over an inch extra to the front shoulders, but it completely solved the problem. In doing so I just had to nip in the side seams about 3/8" on both front and back.


I reckon next time, I could go down to the 10 but I erred on the side of caution because of the thicker fabric. The result is quite a nice relaxed fit, which will be perfect as I start doing Elvis karate kicks after a jug of Margarita.

The pattern is labelled as 'advanced' but I definitely think this is easier. The instructions and illustrations are really good and make perfect sense. The only change I would make is the construction order of the pockets. The instructions suggest sewing up the trouser side seams first leaving a 'hole' to insert the pockets. The pockets in this garment are really cool. They have a little panel made from the main fabric, which connects to the back trouser leg. Therefore, when you stick your hand in your pants, people don't see the lining so much. Neat!


I made the pockets as instructed, but then added them to the trouser legs BEFORE sewing the side seam as normal - that is, stitch one to the front trouser side seam, one to the back side seam and then sew from the waist down to the start of the pocket, around the pocket, and then all the way down to the trouser hem. As I reach the start and end of the pockets, I decrease my stitch length to about 1 for strength.

The wrap front of the bodice with peep hole makes your scratch your head a little bit (especially when sewing shoulder seams) but the illustrations are great and as long as you follow them, you won't have any problems.

The pattern uses a 3/8" seam allowance all over including the zip. I finished my leg seams first on my overlocker, before sewing them up with the pockets. The bodice is fully lined and I used a basic maroon polyester, which would be lightweight against the moleskin. The trousers have front pleats, back darts whereas the bodice just has wide front darts. The zipper used is a standard dress zip as you don't need to conceal it - although I guess you could.


The waistband is faced with the moleskin and connects the front wrap pieces. Make sure you mark your notches on the waistband correctly as you'll need them to ensure you centre the trousers under the peep-hole in the bodice.


The only other change I made was to taper the legs in a bit. The ankle width was a bit too wide and flappy for my liking, so I just tapered the trouser side seams in by just under 3/8". The leg length was spot on for me and I am about 5'9.

So there you have it, my Moody Blue jumpsuit. I don't think Mr Szabo is a fan. His theory: "Girls love jumpsuits, but men don't find them very flattering." What do you think? Would you consider making this?

The money shot

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Switchblade sister: The Rigel Bomber

My eyes are the size of raisins, I am a palish grey in colour...guys I haven't seen daylight as I have been so busy sewing some goodness for my trip to NYC on Wednesday. Sorry Roisin, I forgot to tell you!

I had so many plans of things to make but after getting back from a work trip to Munich, time was limited. I had a chat with Elvis in the bathroom (I'm basically like Christian Slater in True Romance) and he said "honey, you got three priorities: make that rubberneckin' Rigel Bomber, that hot potato Ailakki Jumpsuit and me a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich". Never one to argue with my  boyfriend, that's what I've done.

Sew that bomber, baby

First up is the awesome Rigel Bomber by Papercut Patterns. It's my first pattern make from this company and I am in love. Bomber jackets are on trend right now, especially in a floral print a la Liberty, and after spying lots of fantastic versions doing the blog rounds, I knew I had to make this. But, for me, I had the most special fabric in mind for the job. 

My husband's Grandmother was a prolific seamstress and had an epic collection of fabric dating from the 1950s to recent years. Luckily, I got to inherit some of her treasure. For this project, I went for my vintage 'posh ladies' that I have been hoarding for ages. Finally, they found their destiny. 

Bad hair day means cool new hat day (thanks Rehanon
for the inspiration chick)

Isn't she cool? Here are the details of the make...

I cut an XS. I read reviews of other makes and checked the final measurements. I knew I wanted a more snug 'authentic' bomber jacket, so went with the smaller size. The fit is perfect zipped up or left loose. 

Some reviews mentioned that the sleeves came up on the short size. I added an extra inch to the length, which are pretty perfect, but next time I think I will add a little more. 

Did someone order the Bananarama tribute band?

Now, my next task was making this NYC appropriate. Checking the weather, it's safe to say that Manhattan is not enjoying the same Spring weather that we've got right now. It sounds pretty cold, so making this jacket as per instructions with no lining is not going to warm the smallest of cockles! Also, reviews have said this jacket is best with a lining anyway, unless you don't mind seeing messy innards (pocket flaps, guts of the welt pocket, seams etc). That shit would drive me crazy so I decided to line my jacket with some very pretty flannel I picked up in Toronto at Christmas. I was saving this for PJs, but sod it - this bomber wants me to take care of business. 



As you can see, I kept the original facing piece but attached this to the flannel lining. I decided to do this as, when wearing the jacket unzipped, seeing the facing looks just that bit nicer and professional than the contrasting lining. To do this, I matched the facing pattern piece to the front bodice and drew around it. I then cut this piece away. From there on, I measured the width and deducted it from the top of the other pieces (raglan sleeve, back). I added a 1/2" seam allowance to the new lining pieces in order to attach them to the facing. I then stitched the lining as normal and then stitched to the facing. Voila! The finished effect is a super snug bomber jacket, I loves it!


Can I also say, I have successfully done my first welt pocket. High five! This wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I practiced first with scraps of the shell fabric. This was a great move as I could see exactly where I went wrong. My second attempt on the real thing worked out great. My advice is to make sure your markings from the pattern piece are super accurate and baste/tack as you go. It's more time-consuming but worth it.

I bought the black ribbing for the waistband, neck and cuffs from Vends in the UK. It's a really good quality and sewed like a dream. The zip is my favourite feature. I found this on eBay and thought it had a cool art deco style look to it, which suited the fabric perfectly. 


I've never worked with an open-ended zip before, but it was surprisingly easy. I love that it comes apart so you can work on each side without getting in a twist. With this in mind, though, it's important to keep checking that you have attached both zip pieces accurately and that they match up. Check, check and then check again. 

Also, when attaching the neckband, really strive for accuracy and test how the zip will look before you stitch it. The meeting of the ends of the neckband when the zip is done up will notice if they're uneven. It's worth re-doing a few times to get a good finish.


I had a couple of issues with the bottom of the front bodice, which meets the ribbed hem, but that was entirely my fault for not thinking through properly how I would attach the lining. I know where I went wrong, so this will be something I'll do better next time. 


I am so pleased with this make and can't wait to rock it in New York. Above I'm teaming it with my favourite Whistles boyfriend jeans, baby pink 3-hole Docs and my new black hat from TopShop. I'm back in the 80s for this shoot, but it's nice here, John Cusack is Lloyd Dobler. 

As for Papercut Patterns, I am so impressed. The packaging, instructions and illustrations are all brilliant. I don't have a single complaint and will definitely consider making more from their range. And I'll be making another bomber, probably floral, for the warmer months. It beats a boring cardi!

<Playlist: Rubberneckin' - Elvis Presley>