Monday, October 24, 2016

Spring Tops (for teenagers): the Hippie Top by Vanessa Pouzet

Like many thirteen year olds, my eldest daughter has a burgeoning clothing habit. I've been dropping hints about how useful sewing can be for a clothes-lover - how liberating it is to be able to make exactly what you want to wear or to even replicate a favourite garment or style, but I wasn't sure it was getting through. So when she recently asked me if I could reproduce a ready to wear top she liked, I was all over it.

Audrey wanted a simple, lightweight off-the-shoulder top. A couple of Google searches later, enter the Hippie Top by French pattern maker Vanessa Pouzet. A summery top/dress which can be made with or without shoulder straps. The pattern is PDF only, but mercifully the version we were after only needed 3 main pieces so it was printed and sticky-taped together in no time.

I decided on the size 36 according to Audrey's measurements (she's 173cm tall, so the smallest adult sizes are usually good for her now). Even though this kind of style is fairly forgiving, I decided to make a quick muslin and found a slightly faulty piece of lightweight organic cotton voile we had in the back room of the shop. But - bingo! - she actually loves this. If you're after something similar, this Japanese yarn dyed shirting we currently have in stock is very a close match. This top suits any light fabric with good drape - a voile, light washed linen or double gauze would be perfect.

Did I mention that the directions are all in French? This didn't cause too many problems, as the very clear diagrams plus a little high-school French were mostly enough.  The only part that really stumped me was the point at which the beautifully named "Volant" (much more elegant than "Frill"!) is attached to the bodice. Even though I couldn't quite get my head around why the volant seam allowance needed trimming as in step 7 above, I ended up just following the diagram and it worked out fine. Lessons learned? Sometimes trying to understand the process gets you nowhere. Also, this online translation service was much more helpful than Google translate (which in some parts was downright hilarious - although I hear they've just upped their game).

All in all this came together painlessly, and it looks pretty darn close to the RTW inspiration.  Even though it's a quick & easy make it was an interesting one to sew, what with the absence of sleeves and the whole off-the-shoulder thing. Plus french seams make it nice on the inside as well. The newly minted teenager even wore it on her birthday last month, and has since hinted for another version. Plus yesterday she asked me if I could reproduce another coveted top... so, wins all around. Thumbs up for sewing!

- Fiona & Jane xx

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spring Tops Series - Cashmerette Springfield Top in Cotton + Steel

Jane here! Grab a cuppa, or scroll on down. Musings ahead.

Genetically, I was unlikely to ever be the willowy type. I'm 5ft3", decidedly pear-shaped and I've had an on-off relationship with a bit of extra plumpness most of my life. Last ten or so years, it's been more of an 'on' relationship. I'm mostly good with it.

During my twenties I maintained a size 8-10 figure with quite some effort. If I knew I was going out for dinner, I'd often starve myself the whole day beforehand. Eat literally nothing. Maybe a few cups of tea. I lived alone for some time and maintained a fridge and pantry that contained pretty much two minute noodles, cheese and beer. Sometimes I'd have half a packet of noodles for lunch and the other half for tea. And I was riding my bike to and from work or walking or doing yoga. So yeah, I looked in good shape. But looking in good shape was a priority for me then and I'd hardly say I had a healthy relationship with food, looking back.

Twenty years on and there are bound to be some changes, yeah? So much of it for the better. I'm not going to waste time wishing my body was different. Besides, my husband is a sensational cook. And I love to bake for our hungry boys. And we love to share a drink or two (or three).

Sewing most of my clothes has been a double-edged sword for body-positivity. On the one hand, I can create clothes that fit me well, regardless of my size and shape. On the other hand, this requires constant measuring, adjusting and technical scrutiny of oneself in the mirror and photographs. And then there's putting up photos online, and comparing oneself to other sewists who might make the same garment. It's not necessarily negative, it just involves a lot of thinking about one's own dimensions.

It's not all about the numbers, either. Sewing has taught me so much more about the differences in individual bodies. Short-waisted, long-waisted, broad or narrow shoulders, full or small bust... and on. Statistically there is an 'average' figure but pretty much no-one fits it!

Which is a bit of a long-winded way of saying that I'm so glad that there are different pattern companies that design for different body shapes. (This is becoming like one of those food blogger posts where you have to scroll past reams of childhood reminiscences all the while thinking "just give me the recipe already!" Where's the flippin' Spring Top??)

Cashmerette Patterns by US-based Jenny Rushmore are specifically designed for curvy women. All the common adjustments that Jenny herself used to have to make to other patterns, like full bust and sway back, are already built in, people! They range from US size 12 - 28 and have separate pattern pieces for cup sizes C-D, E-F and G-H. Halleluja! Being a sewing enthusiast and blogger, rather than professionally trained pattern designer, Jenny has the Cashmerette patterns professionally drafted. Smart move. I've only heard good things about the patterns so far and my experience backs this up.

I tried the Springfield Top, a simple sleeveless summer basic but with shape!
 And let me tell you, there is so much amazing shaping built into this thing. Both View A and B have a back yoke, and I chose View B which also has back princess seams for extra fitting.
Cashmerette patterns are drafted for a height of 5ft 6", and I'm 3" shorter. I made a muslin and found the bust darts were sitting about 1" too low on me. When I pinned up the shoulders, they sat well and I found the back also fitted better.

To adjust the pattern, I removed an inch from the front below the shoulder seam, and an inch from the middle of the back yoke, and then lowered the bottom of the arm holes an inch to add that space back in there. I also took out an inch at the waist 'lengthen/shorten' line which fixed that fabric pooling you see at centre back. In total a 2" length adjustment, nothing more. See those grey grid lines on the pattern peices? Not only did they make it much easier to stick the printed pdf together accurately, they also made for easy and accurate pattern adjustments!
Front bodice with shortened shoulder strap and re-drawn armhole line
Back yoke, shortened horizontally by 1" and side back panel with re-drawn armhole line
I was so pleased with the fit I decided to move right on to some fabulous Cotton + Steel 'From Porto With Love' fabric I'd put aside. Check it out. Technically just a quilting cotton but that metallic fish print turns it into something so special!

 Check out the way the back of this garment sits (slightly oddly) on the hanger, below. You can see how much clever pattern shaping is going on right there.
 And on?

The side splits and back panels give this simple top some lovely design detail as well as shaping and comfort. You can see by this side view that there's pretty much zero armhole gaping yet it's not at all restrictive.

I can imagine making up a few of these in different fabrics. I'd be particularly keen to make it in something a bit drapier next time; a linen or possibly a rayon.

I have a question for the collective sewing mind out there though. I love the way the back of the Springfield looks on me, but for my personal style, I think the front is kind of plain. The bias bound neck and armholes, the plain round neckline. What do you think I could do to 'dress it up' a bit next time? A stitched down neck facing? A small Peter Pan collar? Squaring off the neckline? I'm also thinking this would be great extended into a shift dress, but probably with the same wish for 'dressing up' the front. I'd love any suggestions!
PATTERN: Cashmerette Springfield Top, available only as pdf, here
FABRIC: Cotton + Steel gold fish print on 100% cotton
SIZE: 12 C/D
ALTERATIONS: took out 2" in length as detailed above
COMMENTS: I'm really impressed with how much thoughtful shaping is put into an essentially simple garment. Very nicely drafted, great instructions. I think I'll be reaching for this a lot!

PS we currently have printed copies of the Cashmerette Appleton Dress in store/online. Her other patterns are on our (long) wish list.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Spring Tops Series - Modal-Tencel-Spandex T-Shirts

Today we'd like to show you how beautifully our Modal-Tencel-Spandex striped knits make up into spring tops. With 60% Modal, 37% Tencel and 3% Spandex these knits are super-soft and drapey, but also hold their shape and have good recovery.
Modal and Tencel are both man-made fibres created from wood pulp cellulose, similar to rayon. They have decent environmental credentials since the chemicals used are contained and recycled or re-used and by-products are also put to use. Additionally, the wood can generally be more sustainably grown than cotton. It's hard to believe a fabric so soft can be made from timber!
First I made a simple t-shirt for my 15 year-old Charlie from the blue stripe. I've only ever sewn with cotton or cotton/spandex knits before, so I wasn't sure how I'd go handling something this drapey and soft. However it behaved really well, perhaps just needing a few more pins here and there to keep seams in line.
 To achieve the stripe right on the edge of the neckband, I cut carefully, pressed it right on the stripe and basted the raw edges of the neckband together before attaching as normal.
As you can see here, the fabric has a lovely softness and drape, but also holds it shape really well, thanks to its medium weight and touch of spandex. The pattern I used was an out-of-print Ottobre that I've enlarged, so I can't really direct anyone to that. However I believe the Thread Theory Strathcona Henley pattern would be an excellent men's t-shirt.
Charlie was so pleased with this t-shirt that he asked for another, from the red stripe! I was delighted to oblige.
Since he's such a teenage beanpole I was able to make each t-shirt from just one width of fabric, using just 90cm each. I pressed the hems carefully and topstitched them with a twin needle.

Stripe matching on these fabrics was a cinch: the stripes seem to be the perfect width to make it easy to line up when cutting and sewing. And the fabric is fluid enough that any minor cutting imperfections can be fudged over with a little extra stretch here and there!

The Modal-Tencel-Spandex Stripe Knit is available here in red or navy on white, and also here in navy with white stripe. Fiona recommends the latter made up in the free Grainline Hemlock tee pattern! Other pattern suggestions: Grainline Lark Tee and the Deer and Doe Ondee.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Spring Tops Series - Deer and Doe Ondee

Of course our Spring Top series has to include our beloved Deer and Doe patterns. The 
Ondée (pronounced more simply than we had imagined, as just 'on-dee') knit top pattern has interested us for a while.

Here are a few versions from the blog-world that have inspired us:
The clincher for me was this yellow skirt I recently made, which has a higher waist than most other 'bottoms' in my wardrobe. Thus I found myself lacking in suitably short tops to wear with it. Could I really carry off a 'cropped' t-shirt? Well with just a few pattern pieces and a small amount of stash fabric I could give it a fairly low-risk try!

Five Ondées later.....

I suspected from the start I'd want to lengthen the Ondée, but for the sake of proper pattern reviewing I made a size 42 with no adjustments first. No-one really needs to see a photo of me wearing that, but the waist was short and snug, while the fit across the bust and shoulders was pretty good. 

So I made some pattern alterations: I added about 6cm/2.5" to the length, and straightened out the side seam from about halfway down, as you can see below. I lengthened the waistband to be only fractionally narrower than the hem, for a looser effect.

 Version two. In a light cream marled Japanese cotton jersey, leftovers in the stash from another project. I had to do a bit of piecing for the waistband but made a useful garment from scraps!

Fit: pretty good. But there was more in the stash and I was keen to keep refining. I felt the front was riding up just a bit compared to the back, meaning perhaps I could use a minor Full Bust Adjustment. I tried this dartless method from Maria Denmark.

Version three! In a stashed cotton/lycra jersey (from Crafty Mamas). 

I have a bit more length at the front but I feel like the shoulders are a wee bit too wide, which is probably exacerbated by the extra room I have now across the bust. So I went back to the original pattern and pivoted the top of the armhole back to size 38 (two sizes down) and also adjusted the shoulder slope down to the 38 mark, hoping this will work for my narrow, sloping shoulders.

Version four! With all these adjustments on board, I was ready to dive into some precious Japanese cotton interlock (out of stock but on reorder). 

Alas, from a fitting point of view it was completely different in the soft, stretchy interlock. I still love it though! And perhaps the slouchier look is better for long sleeves. The pattern is actually called a 'Sweatshirt' and would be great made up in a French Terry or similar. The loose style of the long sleeve reflects this intention of the design.

Version five! In my final 'goal' fabric, this awesome organic cotton/spandex by Art Gallery

I'm pretty happy. I've ended up with a bunch of wearable tops and another go-to pattern for knits, and learnt more about fit and different knit fabrics along the way.

How many Ondées does a girl need before her spring wardrobe is complete? The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind....

PATTERN: Deer and Doe Ondée
SIZE: 38/42 mashup
ALTERATIONS: Added waist length and width and minor FBA as described above. NB this is not due to any shortcomings of the pattern, it was just me adjusting for personal taste and fit.
FABRIC: Cotton/lycra, cotton jersey & cotton interlock
CONSTRUCTION: All made on the overlocker but could easily be managed on a regular machine with a ballpoint needle and zigzag/stretch stitch. Arm and waist bands eliminate the need for hemming. I used a twin needle to sew down the neck, arm and waist bands on the 'Eyes' version but this is not necessary.
COMMENTS: The Ondée is classic Deer and Doe style, cute but not too fussy, and so lends itself to a lot of different fabrics and great wearability. The instructions are good and include some general information about sewing with knits. Ondée will suit many people in the cropped style, and if you prefer a bit of extra length and/or width this is a very simple adjustment. Any fabrics in the 'Knits' section or the French Terry & Fleece section of The Drapery online store (or here in person) would suit this pattern. Of course, bear in mind the different results you will get with variations in weight and drape. Together with the collar and long or short-sleeve variations, they make this a bit of a chameleon of a pattern, but in a good way!

- Jane & Fiona xx

Monday, October 10, 2016

Spring Tops: the Pattern Fantastique Aeolian Tee

Have you ever disregarded a pattern, thinking it's not for you, only to find it in your shopping cart some time later? For me, that's the Pattern Fantastique Aeolian Tee. A boxy tee-shirt or dress sewn with great success by many in the sewing blog world (most notably Anna, who has made many beautiful versions). I'd dismissed the Aeolian since its release because of its wide sleeves. While I loved them on others, I thought they would resemble wings when coupled with my broad shoulders. But when I saw the lovely Bombazine ladies rocking their Aeolians on Instagram again recently, I threw caution to the wind and was cutting & pasting that PDF print out before I could utter "never say never".

I'd been ogling this Nani Iro print, Pocho (the grey/copper colourway now sold out, but others available here), and wanted a simple top pattern for it, so I opted for the tee version of the Aeolian. Because I suspected I'd want to play down the volume of those sleeves, I hoped the drape of a double gauze would be a good match.

Because the woven Aeolian is a well documented make here on the internets already, I'll keep it brief. The pattern is drafted and written for knits but because of its simple construction it's easily adaptable to woven fabrics. To do this, I omitted the neck band in favour of bias tape, turned to the inside. I really liked the stitched down back facing, so I kept that in - with some light interfacing added plus finishing at the bottom edge. Of course this meant a couple of extra layers at the upper back neck, but nothing some careful clipping didn't help reduce. I used a seam allowance of 1cm throughout, and also stay-stitched the neckline early on to prevent it from stretching.

This is one quick and versatile make - it'd work well in any lightweight, drapey fabric like voile, lawn, rayon or washed linen (lots of the latter due in store very soon!) A perfect pattern to use for a favourite fabric you're wanting to get a lot of wear out of, and it would be particularly good for a larger scale print, too. The raglan sleeves, deep hems and back facing on the Aeolian means this top is something a little different from your standard woven tee. There is loads of room for customization, too. 

You might have noticed that my Aeolian has a rogue seam down the centre front. I managed to botch the sizing so I unpicked the front panel (usually cut on the fold) and replaced it with one that had been pieced down the centre, squeezed from my leftover fabric. This is a size small, with the front graded out from underarm to hip by about half an inch either side.
As it turns out, the size mishap worked out mostly fine in the end because the fit is exactly as I was hoping for. I still grit my teeth every time I look at those sliced dots down the front... but for an every day tee, I'm going to turn a blind eye. I'm calling it a "design feature" and am moving on!

I've only worn this once because we are still waiting for Spring, but so far my imagined self consciousness about the wide-arms-plus-broad-shoulders hasn't turned out to be such a big deal. Plus wearing double gauze is always rather lovely. Also, these were recently delivered, so the cogs are already turning toward another one... the Aeolian could end up being my double gauze go-to this year. Who knew?!

- Fiona & Jane xx

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Spring Tops Series - The Fairfield Buttonup by Thread Theory

We're beginning a series of posts about Spring Tops to inspire some warmer weather sewing.
And let's start with one for the blokes, shall we?
The Fairfield Buttonup by Thread Theory is a versatile and beautifully drafted men's shirt pattern, suitable for spring, winter and all year around. The classic design comes with many possible variations, including a darted or pleated back, short or long sleeves, sleeve button tabs, pocket and collar options and a regular or fuller-figured body.

There is also a full sewalong series of blog posts on the Thread Theory blog which makes this pattern accessible even to those who've never sewn a shirt before.
Thread Theory patterns have been on our wish-list at The Drapery for some time, but until we get through that list you can puchase them direct from their Canadian web shop as printed or pdf patterns.

Some of my husband Andy's favourite RTW shirts have a very similar fit to the Fairfield, with the fisheye darts at the back. My previous Thread Theory sewing experience, with the Jedediah Shorts, had been very successful. And the final piece of the puzzle was this awesome narwhal fabric which had Andy's approval. **I cut 2.9m (110cm wide) as per the pattern directions but with my ninja pattern tetris skills, used just 2.5m.**

I went into this project with high hopes and am delighted to say I was not disappointed.
The Fairfield pattern provides comprehensive measuring instructions that include both body measurements and comparisons you can make with a well-fitting existing shirt. According to measurements, Andy fit mostly into a size L but would probably need a larger collar size and a tad more breathing space around the belly.  I whipped up a muslin from an old quilt cover and these were the exact adjustments I needed to make. Hooray!
 The fit across the shoulders and back was amazingly good. The sewalong posts on the Thread Theory website were very helpful in making the necessary adjustments, and I also shortened the sleeves by 2cm. NB: when making a muslin of this shirt, be sure to note the differing seam allowances of front/back and when attaching the sleeves, which are specifically designed for no-trim flat felling.

Then it was onto the narwhals. The pattern came together beautifully. I bought the pattern as a pdf and had it printed at Aish, so I cut right into the paper rather than tracing. (If I want to make a different size I'll just get it reprinted.) 
With separate pattern pieces for left and right fronts there's no folding bits away or fear of accidentally cutting two of the same. All interfacing has its own pattern pieces which are slightly smaller than the fabric pieces, so there is no chance of overlap and things getting stuck to your ironing board when fusing! It makes for a lot of pattern pieces, but a thorough process and accurate result.

With a lined yoke and flat-felled shoulder and side seams, there are absolutely no exposed seams, making a lovely clean-finished garment. As mentioned above, the flat felled seams are created by offsetting one large and one narrow seam allowance, rather than trimming after the first pass of sewing. This took a little bit of getting used to when pinning the pieces together, but the result is excellent, so I'm sold. The instructions were top-notch and everything fitted together accurately. The one minor thing I found missing was a notch that's mentioned on the cuff to align with the sleeve seam (no big deal).

Often it's the smallest details that really make a garment, and for me the edgestitching plus topstitching at 1/4" on the cuffs (see that double line of stitching at the top there?) gave a wonderfully professional look that I haven't seen in a shirt pattern before.

I took some photos to demonstrate the fit, front and back.

Probably the best fitting shirt he owns! But there was something missing. It's a shirt with narwhals for goodness sake. Cue new photoshoot.
Phew, that sun is hot!
 I'm thrilled that I've finally found a pattern that fits Andy's very specific wish-list in a tailored shirt. Although it's nice and fitted, he says it allows plenty of room for movement across the shoulders, which is a particular bugbear. Let's demonstrate that.
Better go for a swim.

So there's just one thing wrong with this shirt. What's that you ask? Well, I think this means I'm going to be asked to make more....

Fairfield Buttonup by Thread Theory
Narwhal print by Dear Stella (just a small amount left in store) - it's technically a quilting cotton, but has a nice mid-shirting-weight feel. Used 2.5m (110cm wide).
Only as indicated by body measurements, pattern fits exactly as per sizing and description, although I would possibly consider that the collar sizing is on the small side compared to RTW shirts Andy owns.
High end finish and comprehensive instructions. Adaptable from quite casual to formal. Highly recommended to sewists from advanced beginner onwards.

- Jane & Fiona xx