April 29, 2013

What I’m working on and some new tools

Filed under:Plans-Ideas- Designs,Stash — Aileen @ 08:00

A floral blouse for spring. Such a print literally makes me weak at the knees. Behold its tiny, delicate prettiness:

Finally cracking on with my tartan kilt. I got the whole thing assembled ok and tacked down all of the pleats. I started to topstitch the pleats when I realised that this is not going to work. The pleating is slightly curved and despite my tacking, was impossible to keep aligned exactly as I machined it. I let it sit for a while and then yesterday, decided to look up a youtube video to see if anybody else had the same problem. Whilst searching, I came across a very simple video of someone hand-stitching kilt pleats in place. It gave a totally clean finish so I decided to start again and do it this way. So far, so good. I can stitch two pleats in one quarter of NBA basketball so two games will see me to the end.

So, the new tools. I wouldn’t describe myself as a gadget person. I’m lucky that I often get very useful presents for Christmas and my birthday and consequently, rarely go on the hunt for those little things. However, recently, I have felt in want for some things to help me in my sewing.

On the top is a large clear ruler. I think it is 18″ x 3″ with marks throughout in both directions at 1/4″ intervals. There are also markings for 30, 45 and 60 degrees. I find it difficult to align pattern pieces absolutely along the grainline. I use a combination of a measuring tape and short ruler with varying degrees of frustration. This new ruler has a good weight which means I can move the piece very slightly underneath it.

The blue tin on the left is a tin of silk pins. Pins are funny things. I have two sets of pins – the long dressmaking pins I bought before starting the drafting class I took about five years ago, and the quilting pins that I use when sewing knitting together. When working with fine fabrics, I find that even my dressmaking pins leave holes. Sometimes they press out but sometimes they don’t. I suppose it doesn’t really matter but if I’m going to shell out for an awesome fabric, I’d like my finished garment to look as good as possible.

The weird pliers-like implement to the right of the silk pins is a pattern notcher. I noticed when making my spring pants that where I had cut my pattern notches, it significantly weakened the seam and caused a lot of fraying. I read up about this gadget and figured it would be worth it considering that I am sooo slow at cutting out notches and very bad about tidying up the million triangles that result. So far, so good.

Second from the right is a gauge. I think it’s more of a quilting tool but I am abysmal at marking hems. This gadget has a little red notch that you can move as a visual aid. It only cost me about £2 and was worth every penny. No more wonky hems! Then on the right is a little box of glass headed pins. I have a huge problem with my regular dressmaking pins – I have no nails because of the piano and it takes me ages to pick one up or take out of fabric. As my sewing has increased, so has my frustration. These pins were about £2.50 and I thought I would try them out. Verdict? I’ll never go back. The glass heads aren’t affected by iron heat and are easy to grasp. The body of the pin is just like my old pins so there is no compromise.

Nerdy, no?! The rulers and pins I got from an English shop called Cotton Patch. The notcher I found on Amazon.


April 27, 2013

Alma Blouse and April Outfit

Filed under:Blouses/Tops,Finished Objects,Pants and Shorts,Stash Down — Aileen @ 17:00

This outfit-a-month thing is working well for me. I made a blouse to go with the spring pants I showed a while ago. It’s been a heck of a week for me – I was hoping to have this finished a good while ago – but that’s how things go.

The weather has finally warmed up enough to make wearing the pants an option some days now. They have pros and cons: they’re amazingly comfortable and pliable (you can see that they already look a bit looser from having been worn a few times), but they wrinkle and tend to pick up fluff. As for the blouse, here are the details!

Pattern: Alma blouse by Sewaholic.

Fabric: Cotton poplin from Murphy Sheehy’s. I used about 2m because I wanted the full-length sleeves. The trim I got from Rubanesque. The total cost was somewhere in the region of €20-25. I didn’t have to use the trim but I think it’s nice and was happy to pay for something unique.

I made a few modifications. I (thankfully!) made a muslin first, cutting a size 2. The fit at the neckline and shoulders was great but too fitted throughout the body. It was only a bit – I could still squeeze in and out without needing a zip – so when I cut my actual fabric, I cut 2 for the neckline and collar, and 4 for everything else, including the armholes. This was a good adjustment.

Putting the trim was a pain. At first I wanted to use some piping because that’s what I had to hand and I thought it would be nice. It was but I didn’t really know what I was doing. In a desperate attempt to smooth out lumps, I trimmed my seam allowance too closely. Then in an attempt to salvage that, I topstitched the whole thing. It was a mess. Thankfully I had just enough fabric left over to cut another collar. Then, using this excellent tutorial on applying trim to a peter pan collar, I carefully got my new trim to behave itself. It wasn’t that hard.

As you can see, the collar lies pretty well. I have had all sorts of nightmares with peter pan collars. I think they are so pretty but my narrow shoulders don’t work well with something so curved.

The only other thing I think is worthy of mention is the cuffs. The instructions for the placket and cuffs is pretty limited. It’s fine if you’ve sewn them before, but if not, watch out! Look up a youtube video before progressing. It’s not particularly difficult but the diagrams are not at all clear. I discovered when I finished that I don’t even need to open the cuffs to get my hand through so if I make another long-sleeved version of this, I will probably leave off the cuffs altogether. Nice to have the option though.

I love to see how blouses with collars lie underneath a top layer such as a cardigan or pullover. Such photos are hard to come by so I thought I’d start the ball rolling maybe! Here is a very typical I’m-a-piano-teacher outfit.

So, two thumbs up for the Alma pattern! I’m looking forward to sewing up some other variations.


April 11, 2013

FO: Spring Pants

Filed under:Finished Objects,Pants and Shorts,Sewing — Aileen @ 21:37

I made these in the hopes that they would encourage Spring along. No joy yet, though if today is anything to go by, the April showers part is well underway.

Pattern: #122 from Burda 1/13. This is a reallllly basic slim-leg pants pattern, perfect for woven fabric, and one I’ve noticed that they repeat in different guises frequently. So if you missed that issue, chances are they’ll have it again soon – this month’s issue has a model very similar and also includes shorts and capri-length pants.

These pants actually started out as a different pair cut from a vintage pattern I bought online a while ago. They seemed similar but have pockets and so decided to give them a go. In my experience, the sizes I buy for vintage patterns have been exactly on the money, fit-wise, so I didn’t bother to make a muslin first. Yikes! Although the waist (I guess you could call it that) and the hip both fit ok, the crotch depth was a bit long. I noticed this when pinning but figured it would be ok, it didn’t seem too long. However, I did not take into account just how deep the waistband was. The two together meant that the pants came up to my boobs! Holy cow! Thankfully, it turning out so big meant that I definitely had enough to cut the Burda pattern out of the existing pant legs.

Fabric: About 2m of Tilda cotton from the inimitable Rubanesque. Did you know they’re hiring at the moment? Get your CV in!

I had already interfaced the waistband from the previous pants so I just used that instead; it fit perfectly.

I had to make a few tiny tweaks to the fit of the hips but otherwise, it came together easily. I went on a bit of a perfection-fest with the top-stitching. Usually in wool pants and skirts, I hand-stitch the waistband down on the inside. It does give a nice finish but my main motivation for doing it is more that I am afraid of my top-stitching not being very good. I have been following the Archer sew-a-long over at Grainline Studios. Her discussion of top-stitching made me realise that this is something that’s never going to go away and that the sooner I figure out a way that works for me, the better.

So! I tried out a few different feet to try out various visual guides. I became quite confuddled about sewing at 1/16″. It got to the point where I wasn’t actually sure what I was striving for. Before taking out my attempt for the fourth or fifth time, I decided to measure. Turns out what I had been attempting was more along the lines of 1/32″. Insane! Impossible to handle and barely distinguishable from any sort of distance. I went back to my usual presser foot and, using a combination of moving the needle position and the 1/8″ guide on the foot, achieved a reliable 1/16″. Hallelujah!

It’s nice to be able to learn something from a project I’ve already made before. I hemmed the pants to 27″ leg and they’re pretty much a perfect length. For my last pair, I was forced into making them shorter due to fabric constraints, so this was satisfying. The fabric is really soft and comfortable and I’m looking forward to wearing these alot over the next few months.


April 5, 2013

Old truths

Filed under:News! — Aileen @ 18:19

Whilst on holiday, I started reading a book that Alb was reading called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s about procrastination (particularly in creatives but it applies to everyone I think) and overcoming it. It is a little gimmicky and drawn out but the essence comes down to old truths. It didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know but it is nice to know that my kind of procrastination is nothing new. Unfortunately, the book dwells a lot on defining one’s enemy (usually yourself) and not a lot on overcoming that. Thankfully, I wasn’t really reading it for that reason; more out of curiosity. I have quite the larder of experience when it comes to tricking myself into doing something.

Anyway, it provoked me to consider why I was feeling a bit worn out and not like I was accomplishing anything. Inevitably such thoughts lead to making a long, long list of all the tiny things I have been putting off – little pebbles adding up to very large stones in my pockets. Since our return, I have been busy. Setting up roaming on my phone, organising the many facets of opening an Etsy shop, ordering little bits and pieces I kept remembering but not tracking down, cleaning, purging, sorting – the spring clean we all need at least twice a year.

My little reward today was flowers. I do love flowers. I’m too much of a sometimes gardener to grow my own and anyway, I like being able to choose my fancy at the florist.

Pictured also are pattern pieces for a pair of pants. There is a ridiculous story to go with these so I’ll save it when I have something material to show. The photo below shows the skirt I’ve been working on.

I cut it out before we went away but didn’t get around to it. It came together very quickly even with obsessive line-matching. Only the lining to hem and then it’s done. And I’ve been using up my leftovers from the cotton doilies. Somehow cotton doesn’t seem quite right in my hands with the temperature outside hovering below 5C. I’ve been working far more on my pink sweater since getting back and have already completed the body and started a sleeve. It fits great.


April 1, 2013

Easter Monday top and some other stuff

I hope everyone’s enjoying the long weekend! I’m sitting out in my shorts and flip flops with a coffee and my knitting, squeezing every last drop out of the sun! Next week I go back to cycling in 5°C weather.

Here’s what I’ve been working on this week. First up, some crochet doilies.


I find the whole Japanese zakka ideal very inspiring. When I saw the new Debbie Bliss book for home in This is Knit, I knew what I wanted to bring with me on holidays. I have a lot of crochet motif resources myself so I spent some time perusing and settled on this design from a Japanese magazine. Lisa and Eimear helped me pick out the colors.


The yarn is a Rico Essentials cotton and I used a 3mm hook. These turned out a really nice size so I can use them as coasters, tea pot mat, that kind of thing. They were really easy to pick up and I could complete one in less than an hour.

My main project has been this.


I didn’t like how the Pomegranate sweater was going. The lace chart, though beautiful, was to fiddly to follow without total concentration. I realised after putting it down to consider my progress that, really, all I wanted was a plain sweater in this colour. I immediately cast on for a top down raglan à la Barbara Walker. I’m at the waist now.

And the sewing FO for today is the Madeleine blouse from Deer and Doe.


I’ve had the pattern for ages and have been dying to try it out. It’s perfect for light fabrics – I used a cotton voile from Hickey’s. I made some modifications. For a start, I cut out at least 2 sizes smaller than the recommended size after checking out the finished measurements. This was a good idea!


There are a lot of gathers. I did the ones at the shoulders but did pleats instead at the cuffs. You might notice, too, that I didn’t do the collar like in the pattern. I thought it would be too fussy for what I wanted. I also didn’t have interfacing light enough for my material so I just left it. I used my bias tape maker to great effect and made enough binding for the neckline and the little bow. I didn’t have quite enough to tie the bow so I just sewed it in place by hand.

Paired here with my denim shorts from last summer, it’s a nice outfit for the weather today.

Home tomorrow! I’ll bring as much sun as I can…