Elephant Mimosa

I’m a sucker for an elephant print fabric… or an elephant pattern for that matter. So when I saw this fabric on an idle online fabric browsing session I couldn’t resist. I knew straight away I wanted to sew a Mimosa blouse with it but had a couple of hurdles of testing the pattern on a less precious fabric first and a washing machine breakdown delaying the pre-wash to get over.

SBCC Mimosa b

Anyway it gave me some time to make some tweaks to the SBCC Mimosa pattern since my first make of it and then to get distracted by sewing a swimming costume! And then Amy blogged her lovely Sassy Librarian Blouse (team elephant – the clue is in the tusk shape) in the same fabric and that re-focused me back to this project.

SBCC Mimosa Front

On to the changes… there were many. I took a little excess fabric out of the back pattern piece, went down a size at the waist and hips at the side seams of the front and back. I could easily take more out of the back pattern piece or maybe add some back darts to give it a bit more shape – maybe next time.

SBCC Mimosa Back

That mystery back neckline facing… you know, the one that’s in the sample photo but not in the actual pattern?! I drafted one. I just couldn’t deal with the front neckline having a facing and the back neckline being bias bound.

SBCC Mimosa a

I shook up the order of construction too. The original instructions have you insert half the sleeve, finish the back neckline with bias binding then complete the sleeve insertion. This leaves an ugly raw edge at the neckline. Using French seams for the sides and sleeves, I attached the neck facing last so that everything is neat and tidy on the inside.

SBCC Mimosa d

Simplcity 1609: Royal Blue Fit and Finish

Simplicity 1609 a

This royal blue gaberdine and matching lining were the founding members of my ‘stash’ and were purchased because royal blue is my favourite colour ever in the world. I think the fabric survived my year long stash diet because I couldn’t decide what to use it for. The gabardine is quite heavy and stiff. At one point I did consider sailor trousers but decided that the only bright colour you can/should make wide legged trousers in is red.

It seems odd that after hoarding the fabric for nearly three years, I had no hesitations about sewing up a new pattern (Simplicity 1609) without a toile first. Consequently, I have a lot to say about this make which can be broadly divided into ‘finish’ and ‘fit':


For a long time I’ve admired Marrie’s beautifully finished dresss. I particularly like how she has fashion fabric facings and lining at the same time  – here’s a fine example.

Simplicity 1609 e

I think, but I don’t know for sure (because I was too miserly to pay to download the ebook that Marrie kindly linked me to when I asked how to do such a neat finish) that I have figured out how to do it. But I didn’t stop there… no, I wanted it all! A fully machined, lined dress with the lining attached to the zip and arms holes without any hand sewing until I got to the hem. At which point I used a neat trick to get evenly spaced stitches and had that as my first instagram (gotta try to catch up with the times!).

Simplicity 1609 g

Wanting it all turned a seemingly easy pattern into somewhat of a logistical sewing challenge. Sewing a few seams here and there then pausing to consider my next move broke a complex puzzle down into easier to solve pieces. Slowly I built an order of construction that didn’t at any stage end up in an unsolvable pickle that can only be undone with an unpicker! So this dress has been a couple of months in the making while I ruminated over what part to attach to where and in what order.

Simplicity 1609 f

This isn’t an original idea, more an amalgamation of many online tutorials and believing that that puzzle was indeed solvable. The tricky bit was taking just the right amount of information from each tutorial and blending them together in a sensible order. Which went something like this (with links to useful resources):

  1. Cut facings out of fashion fabric turn raw edge under and top stitch to right side of lining (I also basted to the other parts of the facings to the lining inside the seam allowances for good measure).
  2. Sew all darts and shoulder seams on the dress fabric and lining.
  3. Attach zip to dress.
  4. Attach lining to zip and to dress at the neckline.
  5. Burrito roll and pull through to sew lining to dress at arm holes.
  6. Sew the side seams of the dress and lining as two very long seams (Sixth and seventh steps only from this tutorial).

Critically, I worked out early on that I shouldn’t get sucked into the method of pulling the dress through the shoulder seams. While it’s a nice enough technique, the zip would have to be inserted last which as far as I can fathom means hand sewing the lining to the zip.

Simplicity 1609 c

My final flourish was to go off piste for the bow too. I just didn’t like the dangilies and since I’d rejected all the other pattern instructions I was confident in this rebellion too.


Typically my bust is a size larger than my waist and my hips two sizes larger than my waist. With the French darts and looser fit at the hips I figured a size 12 all over would be a good enough starting point from the finished garment measurements.

Fitting Simplicity 1609 Alteration Bust Dart

As soon as I could try it on, I did. I could see that the darts weren’t pointing towards the apex of my bust. I marked the place the darts should be pointing towards with chalk to help me make the necessary alteration (explaining where and why darts should point there made for an interesting talking point at a dinner party with non-sewers on the dress’ first outing!). Understandably I had a lot of excess fabric below my bust because of the errant darts. First I unpicked the side seams a little, then unpicked the bust darts completely. I kept the dart leg position at the side seam the same but angled them towards my bust point ending about 2 cm from the chalk dot.

Fitting Simplicity 1609 Alteration French Dart and Side Seam

I like to try on garments between each fit tweak so that I can see what’s going on. Sometimes one change influences subsequent fitting steps more than you imagine it would. When I tried the dress on again, the excess fabric was still a problem but the next course of action was obvious; extending the French darts upwards to end somewhere on the magic circle of 2-3cm radius of the bust point.

For a final fit I took in the side seam about 1.5cm from the under arm, down past the bust line then started to blend back to the original seam allowance finishing about 5 cm above the waistline. Then pressed as best I could to remove the former dart creases.

Simplicity 1609 d

Another change was to chop a mighty 3 inches from the bottom and then turn up a whopping 1 3/4 inch hem. I felt safe to just chop off 3 1/2 inches from the pattern pieces in readiness for my next make – that’s a lot of fabric to be saved.

In addition to transferring the new bust dart, French dart and grading the side seams at bust level to what equates to a size 8, I also got rid of the centre front seam. Sure the original pattern piece has some really subtle shaping (plus 1/8 inch at the bust, minus 1/8 inch at the waist – I can afford to ditch both from a fit point of view) but the lure of fabric with fancy prints is so strong, I don’t want to be pattern matching a centre front seam.

Simplicity 1609 View B

I still need to fix some gaping at the back neckline. It doesn’t bother me too much for this make – probably with the neckline well trimmed and clipped to the seam, I’d make more of a mess unpicking to get access to attempt this alteration retrospectively. I haven’t decided how to make this alteration yet. Possibilities I am considering are:

  • Adding an extra neck/shoulder dart (the original has one and I quite like this detail).
  • The ‘fold and smoosh’ method on the paper pattern piece – fold a dart shape the same as the pinched gape then hand flatten the tissue paper to return it’s 2D qualities.
  • Try to absorb the gape at the centre back by trimming off some excess where the zip is inserted.
  • Try to absorb some gape into the shoulder seam by angling the back pattern piece shoulder.

Or perhaps there’s another option I haven’t thought of yet – leave  me a comment if you have an idea or can recommend/discourage me from one of the options listed above.

Final Thoughts

I think this dress fills gaps in both my wardrobe and sewing pattern stash. I really like the shape on me and can see plenty of scope in the neckline options and using different fabrics. Plus, after so much work on the fit and on working out a fully lined construction process, this pattern is well on the way to becoming a TnT.

Simplicity 1609 b

Knitting with the stabilisers off

A few days ago I noticed an erroneous lean in my knitting. I thought it was small and would be easily forgotten if I just carried on knitting.

But it wasn’t going away… if anything it was becoming more noticeable. By this point there was no way I was knitting backwards for rows and rows. No time like the present to learn a new technique.

Cable error

I dropped a few stiches, pulled out enough rows to get the error erased and followed carefully the instructions of Yarn Harlot to repair back to needle level.

Live stitches

Then I realised my leaning cable meant I had to drop more stitches, risk more live stitches and greater uncertainty of a lazy fix being possible (I mean it was always possible just uncertain whether I had the skills to make it possible).

More live stitches

It came good in the end though. I must have gotten too enthralled with fixing to take more mid-progress photos.

The end result isn’t too shabby.  The yarn looks a little worse for wear in this area but after blocking I’m hopeful it’ll be barely noticable to the untrained eye.

all fixed

Attempted any reckless knitting fixes recently?

Kwik Sew 3695: Classic Navy Swimsuit

I was missing sewing swimwear after a fun summer of bikinis so decided to make Kwik Sew 3695 again using leftover lycra in my stash. And while in holiday mode I allowed my photograph to be taken in a swimsuit! Kwik sew 3695 front

It was only when I tried it on to measure the elastic for the leg holes that I stared into the mirror and realised I had inadvertently made a school swimsuit. I saw myself as a 7-13 year old in an official school uniform navy swimsuit (with the curves I didn’t have back then). A very strange feeling. I remembered jostling my class mates at the pool side – no one wanted to be in the middle – the pool was rectangular with a semi circle at each end so being in the middle meant you had further to swim a ‘length’. Kwik Sew 3695

Anyway, school memories aside, navy is a classic swimsuit colour and much more wearable than my hawaiian print version of the same sewing pattern. This particular nylon lycra from UK Fabrics Online makes great swimwear – I have tested out the swimsuit for snorkelling during Easter holidays (hence the on-location blog photos)  and for a swim in a regular swimming pool. The fabric and my sewing stood up to sea salt, chlorine and washing machine cycles with no adverse effects. In terms of sportswear suitability, the fabric is already fully tested and approved as both a Pneuma tank and the inner layer of a Pneuma sportsbra). I didn’t have any doubts on the swimwear front because both exercise tops are still going strong and get worn at least once a week each.

Kwik Sew 3695 back

It was fun to power through a pattern I’d made before (albeit pre-overlocker days). I made no alterations to the pattern pieces since last time. As before, I measured the leg elastic on me before sewing but all other elastic was cut to the pattern’s suggested lengths. I get a good fit from this pattern, the low back lends itself to arched backs and the halter is fine on small chests. After two makes of the same pattern view I feel I need to either try a new-to-me pattern or at least the other view next time.  Any suggestions? Kwik Sew 3695 Navy

Mimosa Musings

Initially, I was offended by the pattern company naming themselves “Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick“. As a fairly open minded person, I try not to take myself too seriously but you are not winning me over as a customer with that kind of insult. Are all slim women bitches? Why not “Skinny Babe” or “Skinny Beauty”? You know, something with positive connotations like the Curvy Chicks get.

Despite the offensive brand name, Betsy’s heart is in the right place. Her driving force for SBCC is a pattern company catering for petite dressmakers (more on what it is to be petite according to SBCC here).

Willing to cast a bad first impression aside I bought and downloaded the Mimosa top as a PDF and set to work sticking the pages together. All went smoothly and I managed to squeeze everything out of a a meter of cotton lawn from my stash with some careful folding (it helped that I had bias binding already cut from this fabric).

SBCC Mimosa b

As far as sizing goes, on the Skinny Bitches Sizing Chart *eye rolls* (insult to injury, no?) I’m a Small bust and Medium hips so I went with those sizes for my first sew. I needn’t have bothered grading out for my hips and for my next make, I may also grade in at the waist to X-Small too.

SBCC Mimosa a

Sewing was easy but I wasn’t keen on the order of construction – front facing to front bodice, half a sleeve inserted, bias bound back neckline and shoulders, rest of sleeve. I’d rather have everything assembled (preferably with the sleeves inserted in one go so I can finish the edges properly) and then enclose all raw edges and seam allowances neatly at the neckline.

Mimosa front nackline facing

I realise that my preferred order of construction isn’t possible with the back neckline and shoulders being bias bound and the front neckline having a facing (although if you check out the sample Mimosa on SBCC it looks like it has a back neckline facing) so for my next make I’ll have to draft this facing myself. I guess I shouldn’t complain, the pattern is reasonably priced at £6.72.

Mimosa bias bound back neckline

I’m not used to working with a 1.2cm seam allowance and my machine only has sewing guides at 0.5cm intervals so I added some washi tape to the throat plate to follow and also act as a reminder for each seam! It worked well and all pattern pieces came together as they should. I can see now how the standard 1.5cm is quite wasteful on fabric.

Right… time to draft that back neck facing, I have the perfect fabric already waiting for some Mimosa action.

Stripe Maxi and Annual Kirstin Kimono

It’s about time to sew another Kirsten Kimmono Tee…

kirsten kimono tee

I’m back to red again this year having made bright red in 2013 and burn-out white in 2014, I opted for maroon this year. It’s the same Ditto Fabric jersey used for a Renfrew and for leggings so I got 3 garments from 3 meters and I really should learn to buy just 1 or 2 meters in future.

stabilised shoulders

There isn’t much to add to my previous comments about the pattern and I didn’t make further alterations. I did however, dabble with an alternative stabiliser for the shoulder seams. Lacking twill tape, organza ribbon and clear elastic (I have previously used all three to successfully stabilise shoulder seams – my preference being organza ribbon) I tested the possibility of fold-over-elastic (FOE). Have I just lost your sewing respect with that admission? Well, let me defend myself. It’s flexible like organza ribbon, has the same elastic return as clear elastic and is thinner than twill tape. I was careful to line it up against the cutting blade of my overlocker so that no FOE was cut, just jersey. Lengthwise, I cut it slightly too short so that folding over the sleeve edges to finish them was easy with just a single layer of FOE and it’s zebra print! Me… conservative me, matching facings me in a shock contrast notions scandal!

On to the other half of this outfit.

Stripe Maxi Skirt a

Do you recognise this fabric from my recent top ten tips post? I’m really into navy stripe fabric at the moment and ‘needed’ another maxi skirt! I used my self-drafted maxi skirt pattern (previously used here and here) and pinned matched stripes a lot!

IMG_1845 (425x640)

A bit of a jersey fabric overdose but a ‘quick to sew’ outfit of versatile wardrobe staples.

stripe maxi skirt kirsten kimono tee

Meeting the Local Knitterati

Earlier this week I took the opportunity, while I had a day off from work, to meet some knitters at my local library. The group meet fortnightly in the library meeting room and work on any project of their choosing but often on items for charity.

Largely my knitting and sewing are solitary endeavors and I treasure this me time but the social aspect and the opportunity to create with others is something I am recently interested in. I had no expectations and no preconceptions, just an open mind and a willingness to share a common interest.

yarn and needles next project

I was made to feel very welcome, enjoyed a natter and the time to knit socially. The topics of conversation were as varied as the range of knitting abilities so there really was something for everyone. One of the ladies was a knitting pro… in the 2 hour session she had almost made a dolls dress from scratch without a pattern, changing colour between three balls of yarn and barely looking down at her work. Even more noteworthy, she donates the dressed dolls to charity and often makes new born baby knitwear gift bags that she gives to be sold for charity too.

Other topics of conversation had me in stitches (pun intended) – the ladies were hilarious and we had so many giggles. They, informally, call themselves the Knackered Knitters but I made a point to remember all of their names (for their privacy I have kept them and the group anonymous here) and they were interested to get to know me too.

shawl progress

I also got some help with a mystery instruction coming up in the pattern I am currently working on. Although a member of the group herself, she was more than happy to help anyone who was stuck, needed yarn advice or some stitches fixed. She enjoys whipping out the needles and fixing live stitches much to the horror of the owner of the work and always offers to knit the next row to check there are no twisted stitches.

Three things that I have reflected on and want to act on following attending the knitting group:

1. I’d like to go back to this weekday knitting group when I have time off work but also I should find an evening group that I can attend regularly.

2. Knitting for charity could be really rewarding so I will be looking a good cause and see what I can do to contribute knit-wise.

3. I want to learn how to fix mistakes on live stitches. Live stitches sound reckless but seem to be much quicker than knitting backwards once you know what you are doing.

Have you tried something new recently? Gone social with your craft? Or had some ideas for new directions you want to take?