Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pattern Review: Marilla Walker 'Evan Skirt' in Art Gallery Denim

I've had the notion of a longer A-line skirt in my mind for a while, and have been casting my eye around for patterns. I wanted something quite plain, multi-seasonal, comfy; I guess the skirt equivalent of a pair of jeans.

Well pattern-wise I certainly went with 'the vision' but perhaps not so much the fabric, ha! This Art Gallery Textured Denim in 'Canyon Sunset' (currently sold out but on re-order) is no shrinking violet. But it makes me happy!

I chose Marilla Walker's 'Evan' skirt (named after her young son, how cute) because it had just enough seaming/yoke/fly detail to break up the expanse of fabric, great front pockets and a nice just-A-line-enough shape. Also, because I love her style and have had great success with her Roberts Collection pattern.

Pattern description: "This classic a-line skirt is a 'jeans' style with back yoke, fly front fastening and front/back pockets. The waistband is curved for a flattering fit and sits just below the natural waist. There are two different length options with interchangeable details."

As with all her patterns it's download only, unless you're lucky enough to snap up the limited run, hand-packaged printed versions from Marilla's Etsy shop. There is a copy shop option, fortunately, and I had the AO file printed out at Aish, just down Glen Osmond Road.

I left off the back pockets and did not make the interesting optional pleated front pocket details, because I wanted more of a blank canvas.

I'm really pleased with the result! (Top is handstitched Alabama Chanin in Japanese cotton jersey and boots by Duckfeet.)

The Evan Skirt offers a great range of 10 different sizes, Waist 62-104cm/24.4 - 41" and Hip 86-128cm/34 - 50.4".
To begin with I measured where I thought I wanted the skirt to sit, lower on my torso than the skirt is designed for. After cutting the pattern at this size and sewing it up, I tried it on before attaching the waistband. I decided I wanted it to sit a bit higher (as per design, what a surprise!) and to achieve this fit, I ended up taking it in 2cm at each side seam (i.e. 8cm reduction total). This took the skirt down almost two full sizes. I think this was my own waist/hip measuring uncertainty than any sizing issue with the pattern. Fortunately the pockets are really generous and even with my shearing off the sides there is still plenty of room to put my hands in. It should be noted though that the pocket openings would normally extend a bit further towards the centre. And what awesome capacious pockets they are!

Fit: Although this is a much higher-waisted skirt than I have worn for years, I'm really pleased with the fit and comfort. The front pockets go right from the side seam across to the zip fly, so there's a good amount of structured fabric right across where it matters. Originally I made the full-length version, which on 5ft3 me was pretty much skimming the floor. I took a little length off and hemmed it, but still wasn't sold so after a quick Instagram poll...
 ... I cut more off. Ad it feels much more me! So ultimately I could have saved myself some fabric, and won't need as much (2m x 150cm full length requirement) if I make this again.

Construction: The skirt came together easily and the instructions are clear. I was really interested to try Marilla's zip fly instructions, since it seems there are lots of small variations in the way people do this (and some seem a lot easier to me than others!). The zip went in nicely and the only thing I found a little confusing was a step where you trim away a small part and leave it hanging, then tuck it back in later on. However I just did as I was told and it all worked well. Sometimes you just have to believe! I used a metal jeans zip which gives a satisfying RTW look.
Instead of the specified button, I spared myself the pain of trying to make a buttonhole through layers of denim and used a hammer-on snap, which works well and suits the denim.

I've already worn this skirt multiple times and I think it will see a lot more wear in summer too. It's a great wardrobe staple and I can imagine making at least one more. Probably in a plain denim, boring but I know I would wear it to bits!

You can purchase the Marilla Walker Evan Skirt pattern here.
Art Gallery Fabrics denims in store and online here (while stocks last).
Other suggested fabrics:
10oz Dark Denim
Hemp & Organic Cotton Lightweight Denim Indigo
12oz soft Bio Wash Denim, Mid Blue
Recycled Hemp & Organic Cotton Duck, Granite
or perhaps a fun or funky mid-weight print?

- Jane & Fiona xx

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Liberty Undies!

No matter how enthusiastic a sewist you may be, there's probably some project you've dismissed with an 'oh, I'd never sew that'. To tricky, too dull, too easy to buy ready-made? I'm pretty sure I've said it about underwear in the past. But Fiona and I are both beginning to pause and realise, 'never say never'!

Thanks to the ever-inspiring internet I happened upon a free bra pattern called the Maya Bra by Romanian blogger Ana at her blog AFI. Armed with a kit from Booby Traps (Sydney/online), and AFI instructions and more from Cloth Habit, I ventured in. And my first bra was quite a decent fit and quite comfortable! And a world of possibility opened in front of me (cue heavenly harps).....
AFI Maya Bra pattern in Liberty 'Lady Zadie', other components from Booby Traps online
*NB: photo above is not my first attempt!
One of the biggest revelations to me was that bras don't have to be made entirely of stretchy fabrics. In fact many require that at least some parts (cups and 'frame' at front) are non-stretch. And what fabric is very fine, very stable and very pretty? Liberty of London Tana Lawn!
AFI Maya Bra pattern in Liberty 'Heads & Tails', other components from Booby Traps online

 While I was exploring Liberty bra-making I also discovered a knickers pattern suitable for Liberty fabrics.
The Maker's Journal is Melbourne-based, and came to my attention via The Handmakers' Factory who ran a knicker-making workshop. I highly recommend the 'Tried and True' pattern for bias-cut wovens. I'm gradually sewing myself a drawer full! (Beautiful printed pattern from Etsy store here.)
The maker's Journal Tried and True knicker pattern in Liberty 'Heads & Tails'

Alterations: I found the sizing extremely accurate but I did add a bit extra to the back rise for personal preference. Tightening up the waist elastic (cutting it about 5cm shorter than according to pattern) also helps the knickers stay where I want them. The online instructions to attach the elastic are good but do not mention how to portion out the elastic along the length of each edge. If you'd rather not wing it, I suggest stretching your elastic right along each edge and pinning it at the halfway point, or quarters or other points of your choice, to help it be evenly distributed.

Liberty Tana Lawn is the perfect fabric for the Tried and True knickers and it's such a delightful little luxurious treat to yourself. If you choose a non-directional print, and arranging carefully, you can cut a pair of any size (8-14) out of just a fat quarter. (You may even have enough scraps left to embellish a matching bra.)

Selflessly, I have also tried the pattern in seersucker so I can recommend that to you all. From a 55cm cut of this 110cm wide Japanese cotton seersucker you can make 2 pairs!
Tried and True knickers in Japanese cotton seersucker

You'll also need a tiny amount of cotton jersey for the gusset and between 1.5 - 2m of scalloped lingerie elastic per pair, now available at The Drapery. I am pleased to report that the elastic we have in stock (in cream) is the most firm and 'springy' of the lingerie elastics I have tried yet.

The second bra pattern I tried was the Marlborough Bra by Orange Lingerie. There are many beautiful versions of this bra to be seen on the internet. Very inspiring! Norma, the woman behind Orange Lingerie, is very responsive to questions about her patterns and shares lots of good information on her blog.

Orange Lingerie Marlborough Bra with Liberty 'Fairy Land'
And the third (but unlikely to be last!) pattern I have made is the Chelsea Bra by Elise Patterns. A very pretty bra but I measured myself incorrectly and it turned out too big. I will size down and try again! (Briefly - when measuring, have arms by sides, exhale and hold tape firmly. The exhale bit is very important!)

Elise Patterns Chelsea Bra in Liberty 'Lodden' (personal stash)
I'm not going to waffle on too much about bra-making here because I realise it's not for everyone. But if you have any specific questions about the patterns I have used, sizing, notions or other aspects please comment below and I will be happy to answer!

A few of the other places I have found useful underwear sewing information:
Measure Twice Cut Once blog
Emerald Erin blog
Marilla Walker Instagram
Life of a Fairy Bra Mother blog 

How about you? Have you sewn underwear? Are you tempted? What's holding you back?

- Jane & Fiona xx

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Deer and Doe Melilot 'Popover' Version

I feel like I need to make excuses for this shirt because it's so, well, neutral and conservative. However, we all need a bit of that in our wardrobes and I really rather love this make.

This is my second version of the Deer and Doe Melilot shirt. I must love this pattern because it's quite something for me to sew two shirts with plackets and cuffs and all that palaver in a row!

The fabric is a beautifully soft, yarn-dyed brushed cotton with a teensy tiny check. There's a bit of this left in store and similar here. Buttons are shell, from my stash but we did just order some very similar for the shop!
Instead of the full button front I changed this Melilot to a partial placket, or 'popover' style. (I wasn't aware of the term popover until I saw the Grainline Archer 'popover' variation but I guess it's as good a description as any.)

To achieve this I folded away the button/buttonhole placket extension of the shirt front pattern piece until there was just half the button placket left (so, folded right along the line of the button placement marks). Then I cut the front on the fold of the fabric just like for the shirt back.

To make the front placket I made an enlarged version of the sleeve placket (sorry no exact measurements, I kind of just eyeballed it). The length of it finishes about in line with the bust darts. The only other adjustment I made was to shorten the back hem to the same length as the front.

I had some issues with where the bust darts sat on my first version and I've done a bit of analysis. Firstly I think this was affected by my wearing the shirt with a merino singlet underneath, which caught the double gauze and increased the way it was falling back over my shoulders. Secondly, I did a bit of investigation into 'forward shoulder adjustments', often recommended when the shoulder seam is sitting to the back of your natural shoulder line. The adjustment, as far as I can tell, just pivots the shoulder seam at the neck so it meets the sleeve at a more forward position (subtracting from the shirt front and adding to the back). I'm not convinced this is really any more than a cosmetic fix of where the seam sits, rather than addressing genuine fit (although I would be very happy to be convinced otherwise by someone more knowledgeable!). Additionally, I became a bit concerned that it was partly an issue of my poor posture and I've been making efforts to address that! The upshot of this whole thing is that I left the Melilot shoulders exactly as drafted. And I reckon for the most part it looks fine.

From the back, well I probably should learn how to make a sway back adjustment some time, le sigh. And my narrow sloping shoulders have the same effect in this as they do in the Deer and Doe Arum (which has a similar shoulder curve). Pffft, I care not. Carry on!
Thank you to my beautiful assistant!

This is already on high rotation in my wardrobe. I'm looking forward now to some warmer weather and making a short-sleeved Melilot or two.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Deer and Doe Melilot shirt in Nani Iro double gauze

The Melilot shirt, a drop-shouldered button-up, is one of the latest patterns from French designers Deer and Doe. We love both the style and the fit of their patterns - click on the tag 'Deer and Doe' to the right and you'll see posts about others we've made. (There should be an accent on the e of Melilot but I don't know how to type that, forgive me!)

I made a combination of Views A and B: long sleeves with cuffs, but omitting the concealed button placket and collar (and no pockets). This fabric needs to speak for itself! However in a plain fabric these details would help make the garment special.

This Melilot came about partly by accident... I cut the wrong length of this amazing Nani Iro double gauze 'Beautiful Life' for a customer. But it was the right length for a Melilot, so what's a girl to do?
Like all Deer and Doe patterns I've tried, this came together very nicely. Their patterns are drafted for a C to D-cup bust which suits me very well (no FBA, yay!) and I am pretty confident of their sizing. I graded from a size 42 to 44 in the hips, going by the finished garment measurements given. There's not a lot of ease in the hips and it's a longer line shirt so make sure you check those finished measurements.

After a quick Instagram poll (this indecisive Libran loves decision-by-social-media!) I did not attempt pattern-matching. I think with this large-scale print it was a good choice. I did consider pattern placement though, to ensure no awkward circles and create visual balance.

The inside of the Melilot has a very neat finish, with French seams throughout. (Fun fact: by perusing both the English and French instructions I discovered that the French call French seams 'des coutures anglaises' - English seams! How bizarre.)

I had a bit of a time with the buttonholes, but it was entirely user error, so let's just move on and not examine them closely, okay? Look at the pretty mother-of-pearl buttons.

After one attempt to attach the collar stand following the Deer and Doe instructions, I unpicked and redid it following the method described by Jen of Grainline here. (I used it on my Alder and was really pleased with the result.) It's certainly possible to get a good result with the Deer and Doe method, and the Grainline technique tied my brain in knots the first time, but for me, it gives a more reliable clean finish. (See below: first try, second try.)

Technically, the bust dart sits way too high on me (you may be able to just pick them out in the photo below) (now you're going to feel awkward staring at that region for too long) but with the cut-on sleeve, I wonder if that's intentional? It looks too high to really hit anyone's natural bust apex and it creates just the right shape, so I wouldn't alter it on any future versions. **EDIT: On further investigation, the shoulder seam falls right back on me, thus pulling the whole front upwards. I guess this is because of my narrow, sloping shoulders, and perhaps I need a Forward Shoulder Adjustment? **
 Apologies for the wrinkled end-of-day photos but it's an imperfect world, isn't it?

And this is to demonstrate the rather lovely shaping of the Melilot. The shaped waistline looks impossibly exaggerated when laid flat but in reality it's just perfect. I'm not generally a button-up-shirt person, partly because I think they feel a bit restrictive, but the shoulder and sleeve design on the Melilot is very comfortable, and doubly so in this soft double gauze!

The short-sleeve version (which is actually just a cuff on the dropped shoulder) looks like a real winner for summer too so we think you'll see more of the Melilot around these parts.

NEWS FLASH - Deer and Doe have just let us know they now allow their retailers to sell online too, so we are working on adding them to our site!

- Jane & Fiona xx

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Me Made May 2016: roundup and realisations.

 Me Made May (MMM) is an annual event organised by British sewing blogger Zoe, and now in its sixth year. It's a personal challenge for sewists to wear their handmades, and an opportunity to share the sewing goodness online. The idea is that it's an individual challenge, so people can choose their own goals that work for them.

This is the second year that we've taken part at The Drapery. Our own aims were:
- to wear at least one item of 'me made' clothing every day of May (usually more)
- to document our outfits on the days we work at The Drapery, via our Instagram account
- to demonstrate how our garments work on a day-to-day basis rather than just in the 'we just finished this' blog posts
- to inspire our customers with a variety of practical garments/outfits
- to learn about our individual wardrobes: what we reach for, what we need etc.

We've enjoyed following along with others' MMM posts on social media, in particular observing how garments work for others 'in real life'. Jane was even inspired to whip up the Blueprints for Sewing 'Geodesic' top after seeing a number of posts by the designer, wearing her own.

Here we thought we'd share our own reflections on MMM. We'd love to hear any thoughts you may have had from taking part or observing, yourself!
NB: It feels a little indulgent writing about this as if it's life-changing stuff. I guess what we really want to promote here is conscious consumption, the awesomeness of handmade clothing, and feeling good about yourself :) 

I tend to have a 'uniform'
Once I got over my cringe factor about being photographed in the same outfit again, I found that quite liberating. At the moment my 'uniform' revolves around either the Marilla Walker Roberts Collection overall-dress (two, blue denim and dark linen), or the Pauline Alice Rosari Skirt (one, in dark denim), both worn preferably with an Alabama Chanin hand-sewn jersey long-sleeved top. In fact I sewed my second Roberts dress during May once I realised how much I wanted to just live in my denim one. And I definitely need to expand on my current collection of two Alabama Chanin tops.
What do I like about a uniform? It's compact and non-wasteful. It makes getting dressed easy. I usually have an outfit or two in which I feel really comfortable and 'well-dressed'. Embracing that as my uniform means I can feel good every day instead of cobbling a different outfit together and spending the whole day feeling just a little awkward. One of the many wonderful things about sewing for yourself is that you can make the same pattern in a different fabric. So it's same-same, but different!

Prints are for summer, plains are for winter.
For me, I mean. This is by no means fashion advice! I do love a pretty, cool or quirky print. But in winter when I'm layering garments, I struggle to make these work. A whole summer dress or simple top worn with denim shorts/skirt can look awesome in a print. In winter I have too many other elements going on (leggings, boots, jacket, scarf etc.) and I find it hard to work prints in there. I have a couple of long-sleeved Deer and Doe Plantain tees made in printed interlocks, and these do not see anywhere near as much wear as my plain tops.

Need. More. Leggings.
I am limping along with a number of pairs that have really, really seen better days and are beyond further repair. They're just one of those boring things to make. But I could at least really use a nice new pair from our charcoal stretch merino.

Back away from the box-shape.
Although I don't mind a time consuming sew now and again, I fully admit to being a card-carrying fan of the quick-result make. Usually for me this means less fussing about with fitting, and so has resulted in a lot of boxy, shapeless clothing in my wardrobe. Seeing those daily MMM photos has made me realise that this is probably not the most flattering look coupled with my wide shoulders. So, on the agenda for me are some gently structured dresses (only gently, though - I like chocolate and I've had two babies!) I've got my eye on the Deer + Doe Belladone, and perhaps another Cardamom dress.

Sew some prints already.
After losing some weight a couple of years ago, I've been all about building up the solid basics in my handmade wardrobe. I'm the kind of person who mostly wears plains anyway, so this approach seemed to make sense. No sense sewing what you know you won't reach for, right? But seeing that daily photo made me utterly bored with myself. So, enough with the solid colours - time to chuck in a few patterns to mix with my usual black, navy and charcoal uniform.

Toasty layers, please.
Ahem, that about prints all said above, there are still a few basics I'm lacking - and the change of our weather in May has bought this into sharp focus. My cardigan inventory is looking sorry (and the Muse Jenna Cardigan pattern has been sitting on my desk being procrastinated around for months to replace a very sad and threadbare old black cardi). A light merino Grainline Lark would be handy for winter layering, too. So yeah, basically - more woolly warmth.

Thanks again for following along with our Me Made May challenge. We've loved playing along and celebrating handmade wardrobe with other sewists. We'll look forward to throwing out a few more self-conscious selfies onto the internet again next year.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Care of your Boiled Wool

We have some lovely 100% boiled wools at The Drapery for this first time this year. The care of these fabrics was a bit of a mystery to us as well as to you, so we've done some investigation.

Will my boiled wool shrink if I wash it at home?

More than likely, yes.

That surprised us, too. One would guess since the fabric is called 'boiled wool' and has a felted, non-fray texture, that it is pre-shrunk and would not shrink further. Not so - please be well aware! Here's what we found:

We tried three kinds of gentle washing:
- Front loading machine wash 'wool cycle', 30 degrees, with wool wash liquid, rinse, spin.
- Gentle hand wash, warm, with wool wash liquid, rinse, press dry in a towel.
- Front loading machine wash 'wool cycle' cold, with wool wash liquid, rinse, spin.

In both warm washes (machine and hand) the wool experienced 10 - 15% shrinkage in length. There was little to no shrinkage in width.
The cold wash showed slightly less shrinkage (5 -10%).

The shrinkage did not cause any noticable difference in texture or drape of the fabric.

Will the fabric shrink further if washed again?

You're probably wondering then, if you pre-wash before cutting and sewing, will your garment be safe from further shrinkage? Well, we tried this for you too.

On a second (warm machine) wash, our fabric seemed to shrink a teeny bit more, but was easily flattened back to previous one-wash length. So while we wouldn't recommend frequent washing, it seems a pre-wash can save you from large unexpected shrinkages later.

Overall, here are our suggestions for boiled wool care:

 - Boiled wool, like most wool fabrics, naturally repels a lot of dirt and odours. So if you think your garment needs cleaning, first see if you can brush away marks, air the garment outdoors or hang it for a while in a steamy bathroom. Gently sponging marks would also be a good step to try before resorting to washing or dry-cleaning.
- Occasional dry-cleaning should be fine (e.g. once a year).
- If you wish to be able to wash your garment at home, buy 20% more fabric than you need, to allow for shrinkage. Then pre-wash in the gentle, wool-friendly manner you intend to continue. Dry flat and steam iron on wool setting.
- Do not wash in a top loader, which will agitate the fabric too much.
- If you need to wash your garment, try a gentle cold-to-lukewarm bath (an actual bath would be good where it can spread out and not need moving about much) with a specific wool wash. Avoid agitation or wringing. Carefully rinse and roll and press in a towel to remove excess water. Lay garment flat and gently pull into shape, and leave flat to dry. Once dry, iron carefully on a wool setting with steam.

Please note of course this is intended as helpful advice rather than any guarantee of exactly how your own boiled wool will behave. We hope your wool gives you years of warm, natural, low-care pleasure!

- Jane & Fiona xx

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pattern review: Blueprints for Sewing - Geodesic top

We've had our eye on Boston, US-based pattern company Blueprints for Sewing for a little while now. We've admired the designer wearing her newest pattern the Geodesic top, on Instagram for 'Me Made May'. Then when our weather took a turn for the wintry, we were pushed over the edge into action!
The Geodesic is inspired by the architectural form of a Geodesic Dome, and you can find out more about it on the Blueprints for Sewing website here.
 The pattern is only available as a PDF at the moment, but may be in print by the end of the year. However it's not an arduous cut & paste affair, with only 20 pattern pages.

I made up Version 1 in our NZ French Terry in Oatmeal. (Please excuse the self-photography, done in the interests of producing a timely post!)
 On front and back the triangular pattern pieces come together in a neat central point, and if you are using a fabric with obvious grain or pattern, this adds to the pieced effect. It's a bit like quilting, actually!
The top is very fabric-efficient, with the mid-size ranges taking just 1.1m of a 160cm wide fabric. NB: my fabric had no apparent shrinkage and I just squeezed out all my pieces, following the clear layout in the instructions. If you suspect you may have shrinkage or would like a little extra 'just in case', I'd recommend you buy an extra 10 - 20cm.

I wavered over the size to cut... the pattern is designed for a B-cup (I'm a D) but it's meant to be a relaxed fit. So although there is a clever Full Bust Adjustment explained in the instructions, I thought I'd just go up a size and have a slightly oversized look, which I hoped would not swamp me because of its cropped length.
I'm really delighted with the result, but it has ended up a bit roomier than I expected. Mind you now I look at the sizing again I really did make a full size too big, sigh, I think I just live in fear of restrictive clothing!

If I made it again (and that's highly likely), I would go down at least one size (possibly two?) and make the full bust adjustment. I would like a narrower fit in the body and sleeves, but if I omitted the FBA it would definitely ride up at the front, as this larger one already does just a little.
One particular note on the fitting is that the hem band does not really pull the bottom of the garment in at all, unlike the neckband and sleeve bands which are stretched to fit. If I'd made a more fitted size this would probably not matter but in this oversized version, it makes the bottom a bit 'swingy' looking. In a perfect world I'd spend a bunch of time unpicking this hem band, shortening it and reatttaching it. In reality? Yeah nah, I'll just wear it and love it as is!

As with all knit garments, the choice of fabric will have a lot of impact on the final fit. My French Terry is quite stable lengthways, but has a reasonable amount of stretch across the width. As it's 100% cotton with no elastane, it has no immediate springy recovery. You can see the result of this in my finished garment measurements compared to those stated on the pattern: almost spot on for length (19.5"/20") and a bit larger for width (49"/45"). So when I make this again I'll certainly weigh the fabric factor against my sizing decision.
 My construction was done entirely on the overlocker. There are clear directions given for using a regular machine, which would work just as well.
Seam allowances are only 1/4 inch, which is not unusual for a knit pattern, but requires some care, especially with all the points coming together. I found this little corner, below, that had escaped stitching at one of the underarms. Rather than messing about further with the overlocker, I just used a zigzag on my regular machine, to take in a bit more of the seam at that point and ensure everything was secured.

The French Terry, by the way, is just delicious... even the name 'Oatmeal' makes me feel all snuggly.

PATTERN: Geodesic by Blueprints for Sewing
FABRIC: NZ 100% cotton French Terry in Oatmeal, 1.1m (I'd recommend a bit extra for shrinkage or cutting mishaps!)
SIZE: G/H, no alterations
COMMENTS: Highly recommended! An ingenious, fun-to-sew pattern for a super-comfy top with great visual interest. The instructions are top-notch, and even include valuable basic information on sewing with knits. I'd even recommend this to a beginner. It's important to follow the construction method carefully, including the pressing of seams, because this helps the joins come together accurately.
SPECIAL NOTES: Consider fit of hem band, and fabric requirements, as previously noted.

The Geodesic would be fabulous in any of our French Terries, or our Japanese Wool Blend Knits.

- Jane & Fiona xx