Sunday, July 12, 2020

Weekend Review: Sewing With Knitted Fabrics

A Beginner's Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics / Wendy Ward
London: CICO, c2018
128 p.
I picked up this one recently -- I've read her other books and found them quite well done, so was very interested to see what this one would be like. 

I bought it for the patterns, but have found that they are almost just a bonus element to this book -- the meat of it, for me, is the extensive information about sewing with knits. The first 37 pages cover techniques of all kinds -- from identifying fabrics and the right/wrong sides, to choosing the right knit for a project, to construction advice (seams, needles, stitches, all with charts to help out). She goes over pattern prep and fabric prep, from washing to cutting, to gathering and pressing. There are detailed instructions about elastic insertion and more unusual design details she uses, like shirring in a block. 
photo Wendy Ward

Then come all the patterns. There are 6 designs -- t-shirt, trousers, tank, lounge pant, cardigan and skirt -- and then multiple variations of each one, which I guess brings it up to the 20 patterns noted on the cover. They are quite basic patterns, not a lot of extra fuss about them. There is a nice detail of shirring on the tee that elevates it a little, though. If you are into casual knit clothing this will be a great choice for you. I'm not much for tees or lounge pants so would probably make the cardigan -- a nice shape to it and many lengths to choose from -- or the dress from the combo of tee and skirt. The Longshaw Skirt is the most unusual design, with side drapes that form pockets. I'm not sure this short pear shaped person could carry it off, but it's a cool look. 

photo Wendy Ward
The pattern sheets are all in the back with each pattern in a different colour to be traced off. The size range is from a 31.5" bust/34.75" hip to a 47.75" bust/51" hip. Each project includes a chart with actual size and finished garment size, and a cutting plan so you know what to cut for the variation you've chosen. There is a lot of helpful information within each project plan as well, so this truly is a beginner's guide. It would be a great resource for someone just starting out working with knits -- I learned a lot, even having sewn with knits for a while (although they are never my favourite fabric). Definitely worth picking up, especially if the casual aesthetic is your preference. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Bits of a Butterick 6670 Wardrobe

I picked up another Lifestyle Wardrobe pattern last year, Butterick 6670. I like all of the pieces, though admittedly it was the dress/duster that first caught my eye.
I recently made the skirt from a black linen in my stash, and now I've made the peplum top, but added the sleeves from the dress as I prefer sleeves to sleeveless most times. The dress and top had the same armscye so I didn't have to do any adjustments at all.

After quite a bit of judicious juggling of pattern pieces, I found that I could fit both top and skirt onto my piece of stashed linen. Another advantage of being short! I did end up having to cut the sleeve on the bias, but that's probably for the best anyhow as it allows for a bit more give in the sleeve when wearing, for comfort.

I really like this top! It is a little more detailed than many of the items I've been working on lately -- not really difficult but more pieces and more fitted too. I shortened the bodice by 1/2" at the lower edge and that seems to have been just right. The pieces are logical and quick to sew together, and using this very nice linen was a treat. It sewed and pressed like a dream.

The front has an underlay that is buttoned up underneath and then the top piece is buttoned visibly. I had to make sure I was overlaying in the right direction before making my buttonholes, as I'd decided to use covered buttons for the outer layer and smaller flat black buttons for the interior. The covered buttons were a set of plastic ones I picked up while thrifting and worked alright, though I still prefer the metal ones that I usually use. In any case, I do really like the look of them with this top.

I can wear this with its matching skirt or with any other I own -- it wouldn't really work with a skirt that sits below the waist since you'd see a flash of skin any time you lifted an arm. Good thing I don't make skirts that sit below the waist! It also looks great fully buttoned or with the top two buttons left undone and a fold in the top; it looks more like a jacket that way. Because of the secure buttoned interior you don't have to worry about any shifting.

I enjoyed making this and think it will be a great basic with a little extra flair. The fit is nice and the construction was indeed quite easy as the pattern is rated. A rank beginner might need a touch of help with the facing/buttonhole situation but otherwise this is a really nice pattern. Both pieces were straightforward and easy to sew, and give a nice result.

I might be using this pattern again!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

July Sewing Plans!

Photo by H├ęctor J. Rivas on Unsplash
It's July already! Staying home all the time really makes the days meld into one another. At least the weather is telling me it's July -- hot and sticky -- looking forward to some relief. At least my sewing nook in the basement is nice and cool and it's where I'm spending a lot of time.

Here are my plans for July, and I'd better get them sewn up as I will be going back to work at the beginning of August! Thank goodness for that.

The first project I want to tackle is this pair of shorts (Butterick 3777, a 1986 pattern) for my husband. I'll be making the longer short from this bottom weight cotton poly I found at the thrift store about the same time as I found this pattern, at least a year ago. They are elastic waist, mock fly and cut on pockets so not too difficult but some things I've never made before -- ie: a fly -- plus fitting for a totally different shape! I'm looking forward to the challenge.

And the #CaftansandCocktails2020 Instagram challenge has inspired me to look at some of the kaftan-ish patterns I own. There is this nicely shaped Sew News kaftan, all done via measurement, and I have a pretty rayon to try it out with. Nice and light for summer.

After making my grey Cielo top last month, I've been wanting to make the dress version. I have a black silk noil from a fancy garage sale a couple of years ago, and it's just the right amount for a basic black Cielo dress. I think I'll get a ton of wear out of this. 

And what is a month without an 80s pattern for myself? I love this Butterick 4734 shirtdress from 1987. And I have a thrifted sheet in an 80s inspired print that I am going to make into View E, the white one in the centre. While it's styled with a purchased belt, I am also planning to make a matching belt for it. 

And one of my goals for the rest of the summer is to make my way through my mending piles and my stack of UFOs. I've got a start on them, but found this pattern in my UFO pile, so have moved it to the sewing table instead. I think it will be good for these steamy summer days, in this gingham floral rayon.

I'm also hoping to get to some little mending jobs, and to finish making up a few more masks for me to use as I return to work. Hopefully that will all be reasonable in the time I have! 

How about you? Are you sewing more or less these days? Do you have big plans or are you sewing as you feel like it? I hope you enjoy your summer either way. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Weekend Review: Easy Guide to Sewing Tops & T-Shirts

Easy Guide to Sewing Tops & T-Shirts / Marcy Tilton
Newton, CN: Taunton Press, c1998.
123 p.
I picked up this book at a library booksale store, for only $2. It was a great buy for that price, as there is so much useful information in it, even if it is 20 years old.

It is exactly what it says it is: focused on tops and tees, and since the author is Marcy Tilton, many of them are the more oversized styles that she is best known for. There are six chapters: on choosing the right style, pattern and fabric, and then on fit, construction and surface design. 

The information flows logically, and I like the way that this whole series is laid out. Lots of clear photographs and illustrations, and lots of good solid information with not much filler. I also like the little tips highlighted in their own boxes -- ie: the best way to get a bias facing to lay flat is to press it into the curve of the neckline before attaching it. I use this technique regularly, and yes, it does make a big difference! 

There is a lot of useful detail included, like what she calls "staystitch plus", essentially holding the fabric at the back of the foot to aid in gathering. Or a cheater FBA. Or interesting finishing details like using a strip of knit at the neckline seam which has been stretched so that it curls and looks like double piping when it's sewn down. There is even a section on dyeing, stamping, or using one pattern to make a faux twinset.

I think my favourite section was about Pattern Refinements, in which she goes over tiny adjustments you can make to a basic pattern to get a great fit -- from shaping the sides to making small changes to the armscye or shoulder, or curving a sleeve hem to get a more graceful fall, there are lots of very useful ideas that you can use immediately. I love seeing these small tips from someone who knows sewing so well, and has used many refinements that are all new to me. 

Lots to learn in this book and I'm sure that my projects will benefit right away. If you can find this book or any in this series in your own local thrift stores, or even online, they are well made. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Mending and Making Do

This week I finally got to some of the mending and upcycling projects in my endless queue. I started with a dress that I was given in a bundle of fabrics that were passed on to me. This dress was an 80s print rayon (which I love!) and it was half made. The bodice was very close fitting, double breasted, and with long sleeves. It was very out of fashion, too small, and generally unsaveable. 

But the skirt was very full and pleated, already hemmed and with pockets. I had to save that. After pondering a bit, I unpicked the pleats which thankfully were so loosely sewn that the rayon didn't run as I removed the old thread. Then I went the easiest route ever: I picked up some wide elastic for a quick waistband, gathered the skirt and stitched it to the elastic for an instant pull-on skirt. It's comfortable, quick and now I can wear this fabulous print. One more project off the "fix it rack"!

While I was on a roll I continued on with some very minor mending projects that I've been putting off, who knows why. First, I changed the buttons on an 80s dress ("Sears Fashion") that I picked up at the thrift store last summer (!!) It fits perfectly and is so cute -- I just had to change the awful buttons that close it up the back. I was going to use black but found some charcoal ones in my stash that work even better. 10 minute job.

Old plastic mauve buttons
New charcoal buttons!

Then I added another buttonhole and one more matching button to the neckline of the Sorrell Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade, which I made almost a year ago, and have been meaning to add an extra button to ever since.

And finally a super quick fix to the grey Butterick skirt that I just made -- the waistband button slides around a bit as the buttonholes are a bit larger than optimal. So on that one buttonhole I just closed up one end by about 1/8th of an inch just by hand stitching a bar over the buttonhole stitching. Easy enough.

I don't know why I put off little fixes for so long but I'm glad I got a few down this week. My mending rack is still pretty full, though, so I am hoping to get a few more things back into the regular wardrobe this summer by tackling a few of them each week.

Do you find mending your own makes difficult or dull? Do you often bother? Or do you actually like mending?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

BurdaStyle Red Rayon Woven Tee for July

I received the July 2020 issue of my Burdastyle magazine subscription last week, and while a few of the patterns caught my eye, it was this woven tee (#125) that gave me instant heart eyes. Something about the shape and sleeve detail just made me want to make it now. So I did!

I think this is the fastest I have ever made a Burda pattern from receiving the issue to wearing the item. It helps that it was an easy pattern, and that PatternReview is having a T-Shirt contest that spurred me to get going (woven tees are allowed).

I had this piece of extremely drapy rayon challis in my stash; it's so old I don't even remember when or where I bought it. But it was just enough for this top. Because this is a plus size pattern, it starts at 44. I'm a Burda 42 in my shoulder/bust but a 44 in my hip, so I trace the 44 but then just cut the shoulder and armscye without a seam allowance, and add a 1/2" seam allowance from underarm to hip. That usually adjusts the size for me. I could get fancy and do some proper grading, but this trick works for me with Burda magazine patterns, anyhow.

When I cut it, it was nearly tunic length, which I thought I'd like, but I didn't. It was too much, too overwhelming. So I trimmed it to low hip, which meant I gave up the side slits in the pattern but because it was roomy enough it didn't matter (I didn't feel like unpicking this shifty rayon to create new side slits; I was afraid the fabric couldn't take it.)

I really, really like it! The sleeves have a tab, and the day I was making this, my friend who passes on her mother's stash to me dropped by a box of buttons and trim along with a bit of fabric -- and wouldn't you know, the absolute perfect buttons for this blouse were in there. Gold toned, very lightweight and just the right size. Sewing serendipity!

I didn't alter it in any other way, but as with many Burda patterns, this is just a tiny bit wide in the neck, so if I make it again I am going to pinch out an inch from the front width. Otherwise, it was a surprisingly quick sew, even with this fabric, and I love the drapy goodness of it. It is very light and cool, and I really love a good red top. Just in time for Canada Day!

There are a bunch of great patterns in the last few issues of Burda that I want to make. I spent a day last week tracing off a whole whack of them, so hopefully some of them will make it to the blog soon. I hope that despite everything that is going on right now, you are able to find some joy in your sewing. I know it has been my saving grace over the last few months!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Weekend Review: Walking with the Muses

Walking with the Muses / Pat Cleveland
NY: Atria, c2016.
336 p.

This memoir of a model who was most famous in the 70s and into the 80s is a dishy story of high fashion, the underbelly of celebrity and the social lives of the charmed. But it is also a sincere story of how a young girl from New York City became a ground breaking model who walked in all of the biggest shows.

Pat Cleveland was born to a single mother in 1950, and her life was shaped by her mother's artistic talents and their Harlem surroundings. Things changed when her aunt moved out and an increasingly controlling stepfather moved in. Cleveland is open about her experiences but doesn't dwell on the dark sides. She states them and moves on. This happens a few times in the book, when really awful things occur, and it does give an impression of a person who isn't able to help others in extremity. That was the only reservation I had about this book; but a reader can't see the full story, and thus can't judge. 

Otherwise, the book follows Cleveland's trajectory from teenage model travelling with the Ebony Fashion Fair, to supermodel and the toast of Paris. There are names dropped all over the place, but not just to impress; they are all people that she met, worked with, socialized with, or crushed on herself. She was firmly embedded in the world of fashion, where everyone who was someone congregated. And not only fashion people; actors, musicians, artists like Warhol, they were all there. 

Some of her stories about Paris with Lagerfeld and his circle are hilarious; some of them are poignant, some quite shocking. And early stories about travelling the US with the Fashion Fair are sadly predictable. But she's always telling stories; this is like a collection of anecdotes from her past that all feature well known figures, with her own wry eye on it all.

She draws comparisons between her experience starting out in the US, as a biracial model who was struggling to break into the big leagues, and her rapid success in Europe where her free and jazzy style of walking a runway made her into a noted personality. 

Alongside all the secrets of the fashion world and its personalities -- many of which are detailed here -- there is always also the young Pat, looking for meaning in the world. Money, drugs, bad boyfriends -- they are not what she is looking for, and when she does settle down with her true love it's a charmed conclusion. She reflects the joys of her fashion world as well as the sordid details, and I think that is what really lifts this book up. 

The love and respect she has for the women who held her up in the beginning comes through, and stamps the story with her own perspective. If you like reading about the fashion world, and wonder what it was like to start out as a biracial, teen model in the 60s, you can't go wrong with this book. Her enormous success doesn't seem to have altered her essential sweetness, and from recent interviews with her on podcasts like Dressed: a Fashion Podcast, she seems to be the same person even now. 

It's a fascinating look at the interior world of a very successful model and thus at all the stars of the fashion world of the 70s and early 80s. A must read for fashionistas.