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).

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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

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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?

Spring Sewing and Stabilising Shoulders

Nothing cheers me up after the dark and dreary winter months than sewing with all the colours of spring. Coral was my first cheery colour but I was a bit premature sewing in Feburary! At least I’m blogging at a seasonally appropriate time.

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Originally purchased for a Renfrew, I realised on delivery that this fabric wasn’t right for the pattern – just too fine and drapey. If only I had a local dressmaking fabric shop, I could avoid these dud online purchases. Instead I traced off a dolman sleeve RTW top that is a regularly worn favourite. As a first make from a rub-off pattern it’s not too bad but still room for improvement. A direction of stretch line on the sleeve pattern piece wouldn’t go amiss – I accidentally cut  in the wrong way on this one-way stretch fabric so the sleeves are a bit tight around the biceps and it’s not due to press ups!

I free-styled again with the colours of my looper threads – anything pink and orange went over those seam allowances. When I inherited four boxes of sewing paraphernalia, a vast majority of that was  thread and I’m feeling swamped by it.  Using regular thread in loopers is such a good way to use up thread reels and dispels the myth that you have to use overlocker thread in an overlocker. As long at the left needle thread is a good match to the fabric it won’t show on the outside. I wouldn’t necessarily go for contrasting thread but a few tones either way or a mix of the fabric colours looks good.

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I tried a bound neckline for this top using the instructions from Megan Neilsen’s Briar pattern. Previously I had iffy results with this and defaulted to my usual way but a bound stretch neckline is better for floppy knit fabric. Or a boat neckline – both feature in this top. It didn’t come out too badly this time but it’s still not that easy for me to get even a passable result. It looks fine till I top stitch and I can’t seem to get the stitch positioning in a place that looks right.

Lets talk stabilising shoulders: White organza ribbon is my favourite – it is sheer enough to go with all colours of fabric. I don’t have much left, probably not enough for two shoulders but I have added it to my sewing shopping list… to buy in bulk, well it is my favourite method.

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I also managed to speed up the process of stabilising the shoulders. I put the organza ribbon under the presser foot first for a few stitches, then put the pinned shoulders under the ribbon – stabilising and seaming in one. I also chain stitched, so that both shoulder seams were stabilised without cutting the overlock threads between them. When I chained off after the second shoulder, I pulled the ribbon across to the right to cut it. Stabilising shoulder seams 2 Stabilising shoulder seams 3

What do you think? Lazy or efficient?

Top 10 Tips for Sewing With Stripes

In my last post I mentioned the great pleasure I get from sewing stripe fabric. So what better time to write another ‘top ten tips’ post on exactly that.

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1. Front & Back Pattern Placement

The aim is to get the stripes to match up. Use pattern features such as notches, waistline and centre markings to guide your pattern placement. Since these features are on both front and back pattern pieces it’s a surefire way to get a satisfying match around a garment. I also like to mark the stripes on my pattern piece (one long stripe and then a few short guide ones at the edges) if I am cutting two out, at least they will match.

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2. Don’t forget shoulders

Often we focus so much on the side seams, we forget other areas where stripes meet at a seamline. Unlike sides seams where stripe matching is done by sliding the pattern pieces perpendicular to stripes to get a match, slide parallel to the stripe direction to match shoulder seams (again use a notch to get an exact match).

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3. Cut on a single layer of fabric

Cutting on a single layer of fabric allows more control over the stripe placement and avoids faffing about with folded fabric trying to get the stripes perfectly matched up. You can either make new pattern pieces from the ‘cut on fold’ ones or just chalk around the pattern piece before flipping to make a mirror image. The latter is my preferred option but remember to cut just inside the chalk to keep the sizing accurate.

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4. Keep it straight

Use a quilters rule over the pattern pieces and fabric. Place the rule lines over the marked grainline on the pattern and check that the stripes are perpendicular for horizontal stripes and parallel for vertical stripes. This is particularly useful when flipping a ‘cut on fold’ pattern piece.

5. Pin as much as you need

I pin about every inch for striped fabric, even more if its a slippery sort. Handily horizontal stripes make it easy to space pins out evenly.

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The narrower the stripes, the more matching up you’ll have to do but it’ll be worth it in the end.

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6. Pin to check alignment

Pin on a stripe barrier on one side then flip over to the other side to check that your stripes are aligned (the pin should hit the stripe border that side too).

Sewing with Stripe Tips a Stabilising shoulder seams b

7. Directional sewing

Sew the area that will be seen the most first. When sleeves are sewn in flat, the side and sleeve seams can be sewn in one go. On a top, the side seam will be seen more than the sleeve seam so sew the sides first so that if the fabric shifts and the stripes become mismatched it’ll be in a less obvious place.

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On a long side seam, check every 5-10 inches that you are happy with the stripe matching. It’s quicker to unpick a short stretch of stitches than all of it. Basting first is also a good idea especially if you are trimming as you go with a serger/overlocker blade.

8. Have fun with the neckline

All this precise stripe match you would be forgiven for thinking stripes are boring. The neckline is a great place to have fun. Turn the stripes the opposite way to the rest of the garment or  use them to give a neat border and frame the face and neckline.

9. Thread colour

There are no rules but do ask yourself the following questions: Is there a main stripe colour (usually a wider area)? Will darker thread show through on lighter areas if the fabric is thin?  Which colour stripe will hem stitches appear on? If you are still not sure what colour thread to use, sew up some samples on scrap fabric first to see what looks best.

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10. Press just beyond a stripe border

While it’s nice to use stripes as a guide for hemming and bindings it is tempting to press exactly on the border of a stripe. This is risky and likely to show glimpses of the other colour from the outside. Instead, press the hem just beyond the colour change border so that from the wrong side there is a hint of the final stripe colour. This will ensure that contrasting colour doesn’t peak out after sewing.

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Do you have any tips for sewing with stripes? Or are you currently sewing something stripey?

Stripe Renfrew

Stripe jersey and Sewaholic’s Renfrew pattern were meant to be together. Don’t believe me? See here, here, here, here and here. If you still don’t believe me… enter ‘stripe Renfrew’ into a search engine of your choice.

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Despite the hints of spring it’s still cold outside… I took a bit of persuading to remove my gloves, coat and scarf at the weekend to get these photographs.

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I made some more changes to the pattern pieces since my first Renfrew which was ok but had room for improvement. I have blended sizes between almost every pattern piece to create a custom fit and form fitting silhouette. My final pattern pieces are: bust 6, waist 4, hips 8, shoulders 6 and wrists 2. But…

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Unfortunately I’m still a sway back adjustment away from a perfect fit.

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The fabric? It’s a lovely, soft  t-shirt knit jersey from one of my favourite ebay fabric shops brunswickmill2013. I also snapped up the reverse navy and white stripe combo before both options went out of stock.

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Stripe matching. Would you be surprised if I said I find stripe matching fun and immensely satisfying? I just love all the pattern placement and pedantic pinning only to open the fabric and see continuous stripes right across the new seam. What’s your sewing pleasure of the moment?

Sewing for Mum

Happy Mothers’ Day to all celebrating today.

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Although this make is not for Mother’s Day, it seems right to publish a Mum-themed blog post today. Mum ordered the pattern after seeing it in Prima Magasine (July 2013 issue). The toile and fabric were a Christmas present with a promise to make any necessary alterations and sew it up on the fabric.

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The toile sizing was a good guess, if I’d had measurements I’d have sewn that size for the toile anyway. When she tried it on, the sleeves were right off my Mum’s shoulders so I measured the excess fabric and made a note to narrow the shoulder. The other alteration, and I knew it’d have to be done, was a full bust adjustment. Mum and I are completely different shapes – I’m a pear, she’s an inverted triangle. Hence it doesn’t look so great on my dress form. Still, it was interesting to make pattern alterations that I don’t normally need just to learn new things.

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Here is the front bodice piece after narrowing the shoulder. I remembered to lengthen the sleeves as Mum specifically mentioned that she liked where they finished on her arm and removing fabric from the shoulder would have raised this up.

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The full bust adjustment was interesting. I realised after following the slash and widen/lower technique that all I really needed to do was widen the under bust gathering area like you would widen a dart. See, I knew I’d learn something new about pattern piece manipulation in the process.

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The ties caused me to waste two hours trying to turn them. I searched and tried to make rouleux straps using all the techniques I read about online but couldn’t get them turned right side out. Not even using the turning tool that I inherited last year. In the end I double folded and stitched on the right side.

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What I really enjoyed was sewing with cotton. It sews without puckering,  presses how it’s told to, barely fays and has distinct right and wrong sides. It is dependable… just like Mum.