Sunday 23 June 2013

Denim Cambie Skirt

Its funny how inspiration hits you sometimes, I’m not 100% sure where this came from, it could be that I had such a great time making my recent Cambie dress and think it was a great success, it was probably seeing the great denim skirt that  Kathryn @ YesILikeThat  made and also wanting to try something new that made me produce this!


I decided I had to have would be quite partial to a great denim skirt, something that I could wear to death, boots and tights in winter, sneakers and ballet flats in summer.  So I ordered some 8oz Washed Denim Dark Blue and gold denim topstitching thread from Minerva Crafts (which btw, I love, they are my go-to fabric shop atm) and then started thinking.  You might have realised this by now dear reader I’m very much a procrastinator and like to ponder and think about things before I try them out (we were learning about different Learning Styles in college and discussing Kolbs Learning Model and I’m most defiantly a Reflective learner rather than a Active learner, the very thought of jumping in and trying something brand new without thinking and researching makes me break out into a cold sweat!).  So I looked in books, I emailed Kathryn, I drew pictures and made notes and thought about it for a while.  My original plan was to use the skirt block I made a couple of years ago from Cal Patch’s Design-It-Yourself Clothes book so I got that out and looked at the styles she described as I remembered she had a felled seamed skirt in there and realised I could use the skirt section from the Cambie Pattern as it had the basic shape I was looking for, it had pockets, even if they are straight slash pockets rather than the scoop-style pocket I was envisioning, I thought it would save a LOT of time.  

One change I did make was to use lining fabric for the pocket bag, this meant cutting the pocket piece to have a 2” facing which then attached to the lining and was invisible from the outside. I also made the pocket 2.5” larger by cutting through the fold line and extending by measuring my hand on paper. 


I used the pattern waistband except I cut it so that it was in three pieces and I could adjust the fit at the side seams (in the end I don’t think I did adjust it much).  I used some fabric that’s been in my stash for a long time left over from another project for the waistband lining and interfaced it. 



I sewed 2 lines of topstitching on the pocket edge to finish them off as well as giving them strength.


Instead of cutting the front of the skirt on the fold I cut two pieces so I could do a flat-felled seam using the gold topstitching thread and denim needle. 


I sewed the side seams and the pockets together using regular thread and then serged the edges to stop fraying. 


I attached the waistband and then thought some more about the centre back seam.  I wanted a flat felled seam look with a zip inserted into the seam, originally I wanted a lapped zip but despite searching the WHOLE internet I couldn’t find any examples.  Kathryn was kind enough to send me a photo of the back of her skirt which was really helpful.  I then experimented with some scraps of denim and the zip to see how I could put the zip in, top stitch it and make it look like a felled seam. 

WP_002349   WP_002356

In the end I sewed the seam with a regular seam using regular thread, basting the top zip section.  I then pressed the seam open, trimmed the seam allowance down and folded over to make a faux-felled seam this meant cutting into the seam allowance just below the zip.   I unpicked the basted section and adjusted the seam allowance to make a small lapped section.  I topstitched the right line of thread first running all the way from the waist down to the hem on the left hand skirt piece, then I attached the zip to the right hand side. 


Here you can see the zip pinned in place and the first line of the faux felled seam sewn.  The zip was sewn in place on the right using regular thread and then the second line of topstitching was sewn to sew the zip in place and complete the faux felled seam. 


I’m really quite pleased with the way it came out, I wouldn’t mind if the zip was lapped a little more but on the machine I was using that wasn’t  much leeway as I would have liked with the zipper foot I had.  My other machine has a better zipper foot so that might work better in future. 


Inside view of the zip where you can see how I trimmed the seam allowance to allow a faux felled seam and zip insertion!


Here the completed zip + faux-felled centre back seam.

Once the zip was done the rest was easy! I used my chalk hem marker to mark the hem, basted that line, pressed it up to double check and then did a simple hem topstitched about 3/8” from the hem edge. 


I stumbled upon this You tube video in my many hours of research on sewing hems and liked the tip mentioned at 4:08 about hemming over the felled seam and how to use something to support the foot over the contours.  I didn’t have a nice tool so I improvised and used my point turner to prop the foot up and as you can see above it worked pretty nicely. 


I hand-sewed the waistband down using a cross between blind hem stitch (I only took a couple of threads of the denim) and a ladder stitch (I sewed along the fold of the red lining fabric to pop out further along), I’m not sure what the technical name of the stitch is but it works and is invisible both sides!


I overlapped the waistband and sewed on a hook and catch thingy, I actually sewed this on 3 times as the first time it was the wrong way round and the second time there wasn’t enough tension between the two parts and it kept falling open!


Bad hand stitching but at least I matched the thread!



Inside views




bum shot!

I really enjoyed making this skirt, it was a real challenge and a personal design, I decided what I wanted and did it without worrying about going off-piste with the pattern, directions etc.  At the end of the day its just a denim skirt but I feel its a well-executed denim skirt, which went together really well, I only unpicked 1 line of top-stitching and that was because it was too narrow rather than wonky! Just as well really as there's not a lot left, tip #562 buy 2 reels of topstitching thread if you feel it might not go well, there's not a lot of thread on them!  The only other complication I had was that I kept changing thread and the stitch settings from regular to topstitch all the time depending on which seam I was sewing.  As I mentioned I have 2 machines so in future I would thread them both one with regular and one with top stitch and switch back and forth.  Did I say ‘In Future’?  Yes I’m already thinking I want a khaki twill safari kinda skirt next, maybe not with the Cambie pattern though, I might go back to my drafted less-A-Line-than–a-Cambie-A-Line pattern and adjust from there.  First of all I need to source some khaki twill, 10 points if anyone can suggest a good place to get some….

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Pinkish linenish cambie

So I was invited to a wedding and originally I had big plans to decide on my outfit.  All the best laid plans of mice and Louise go awry (paraphrasing Robert Burns!) meant that I since I started working, studying etc I haven’t had the time to go the whole hog.   As the wedding was on the weekend I had a deadline to work to and as usually it made me get my butt into gear. I really fancied making a Cambie using View A after making View B as a pattern tester for Tasia last year.  I loved the neckline but I found the gathered skirt too bulky around my waist, I’m finding clean lines are better at my waistline.  I wanted a linen but struggled to find something I really liked and then stumbled on Minerva Craft which is a great shop with just about everything you could possibly need in one place plus free delivery if you spend £20!  I ordered some Linen look cotton from them a while ago along with some lining material and then slowly set about making it.  I went back to the muslin I had made for the pattern test as well as the final dress and decided I needed to move the bust darts to a better position I also took the bust seams in a little to make the neckline a little tighter.  I knew I needed to shorten the gathered sleeves as well so I brought them in.  Then I went to the skirt, as I’d made View B previously I hadn’t done a muslin on the skirt and I didn’t have any calico or suitable fabric available to so I decided to tissue fit.  As usual I failed miserably at this stage, the same thing happens whenever I do this, the pattern seems too small for me so I spent ages adding onto the skirt to add some extra on the hips (even for Sewaholic hip friendly design I feel I need extra) which was a bit complicated because of the pocket feature.  Once I cut the skirt out and started basting together, what did I find?  Of course I’d added too much and I pretty much went back to the original sizing!  This is a common feature of my tissue fitting, so I’m stating here and now, I WILL NO LONGER RELY ON TISSUE FITTING, I WILL SEW A MUSLIN!!!!!!  Anyway after all that what did it end up like…


… a pretty damn fine dress!


heres how I wore it for the wedding







..might need a slight swayback adjustment here…




…how this dress makes me smile!

I love this dress, I did a hand picked zip at the back rather than an invisible zip as I felt when I did the pattern test I couldn’t get the zip installed properly and tbh I’ve become a bit of a convert, I feel like there is more control over the zip and I don’t mind an excuse to sit and watch TV while I sew the zip in! I’ve also become a convert to lining, previously I felt lining was a pain in the whatsit but I think previously I’ve used cotton lining rather than an silky lining and it makes all the difference, the dress feels more substantial, more professional, more confortable to wear.  I’m totally lining everything from now on….  I’ve already got plans for a couple more Cambies but before that I’ve got some other plans in the pipeline.  I’ve already got some pink jersey for another Renfrewish dress and I’ve ordered some denim ready to make a skirt.  My problem is finding time to cut the fabric, once its cut I can do it in bits and pieces but I find cutting the slowest, most tedious and probably most painstaking stage of sewing, if you don’t get that right it doesn’t matter how good a sewer you are! So I guess I need to set myself a deadline to get it done, only thing that works!

Sunday 10 March 2013

3 sewing machines and no iron*

After loving Andreas Renfrew dress…


…I decided I needed wanted to make one. So I bombarded Andrea with questions about how she made her and she was kind enough to give me great answers that actually made me change my mind.  Originally I was going to put a zip in the back and stabilize the waist with bias binding as I was a bit concerned about it stretching, she said she hadn’t stabilized the waist and made the point that I would need to stabilize the zip area with knit interfacing which I didn’t have.  I hadn’t thought about that so I decided to throw caution to the wind and go with the easier option and just sew it and see!  The fabric was stable thicker knit so I thought it would be ok,  it was from Ditto and on sale!


So what did I make?


…a great dress…



…with a great fit…


…front and back…


…with a half circle twirly skirt…


…and thread belt carriers…

What do you think? I love it!

For the record it was a Renfrew top which I took down quite a few sizes compared to the other Renfrews I’ve made, this was done in a completely unscientific way of making up the usual size and then hacking inches off the side seams of the top until it fitted!  I’ve now traced that final size onto the original pattern so I shouldn’t have the same problem next time (as I’m sure there will be a next time!). I decided on a circle skirt but wanted a half-circle, I looked at a few tutorials about making circle skirt and after getting husband to talk it through with me I kinda understood it (I got my GCSES maths but that was a lifetime and 2 children ago and it doesn’t make sense anymore!) so I cut the skirt and basted it on.  This was the point at which I realised the top needed taking in, Doh! I think the weight of the skirt made extra width look worse and it resembled a sack! So I took the skirt off (good job it was only machine basted and not knit stitched!) and did the aforementioned hack job.  Finally I had a fit I liked.   I topstitched the neckline using my lovely knit twin needle with one line of stitching either side of the seam line. 


and I didn’t use the original Renfrew sleeve bands, I added the length to the sleeve pattern and then turned the hem up and twin topstitched again.  I did this flat, before I sewed the sleeve to the bodice.


(Light is too bright, its not this blue!)

I also twin top stitched the hem after overlocking the edge and turning up just that small hem amount.  Making the thread belt carriers was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  I just ran some stitches off the overlocker and then threaded that through the side seams and back leaving enough width for the belt I was going to wear with it and tied the ends together inside.  All in all its a lovely comfortable dress and I can see myself making more if I find the right fabric.   This navy is a little plain and I wasn’t sure what accessories to wear with it as I’m usually a utilitarian-black-shoes kinds girl but I recently bought my-new-favourite-shoes lovely animal print ballet shoes from Clarks I thought they would add a little drama to the outfit without too much!  I don’t do too much drama!

So the title? Well I have 3 sewing machines, 2 regular sewing machines and an overlocker.  I’m not brave enough to just sew and trim the seams on the overlocker in one go so I sew on the regular machine first and then use the overlocker to trim and finish.  One sewing machine has a really good knit stitch (but a complete bugger to unpick) but the position and the way you put a needle in means you can’t use a twin needle as the needles end up one in front of each other rather than next to each other.  The other machine will allow me to put the twin needle in but no knit stitch so I I ended up using 3 machines to make one dress!  But I didn’t use the iron once (not something  to be proud of really but nice to experience once in a while) as the fabric was thick and easily manageable.  Since I’ve twin top stitched the hem that could do with a quick press as its a little bumpy but it didn’t stop me wearing it to a party last night!  It will also be perfect for school and that's why I can see more coming in my future even possibly for the Wedding I have later on in the year if I find suitable fabric.  At the moment, I’m fancying a Cambie in maybe a linen print (my favourite fabric) if I can find some great fabric. I’ve made the full skirted version but now I fancy the a-line version to have cleaner lines at my waist.  Will have to see what fabric I find and how long it takes me as I don’t have so much sewing time these days…


Thursday 21 February 2013

Sleepy Girl

Karen over at DidYouMakeThat was commenting on how sometimes she’s too tired to sew.  I so with her on this one, by the time the day is over, I've finished work, college homework and the kids are in bed, I'm about ready to crash and I've lost count of the number of times I've fallen asleep on the settee (does it count if I fall asleep under the quilt I made?!) and yet another sewing opportunity has passed me by.  ATM I've got half a Renfrew dress cut out, I need to make 2 costumes for me to wear to work and 2 for Miss C to wear (we're in the same year group in  school so have the same homework!) and a book week costume to come up with for Miss M as well as the Rag Doll we’ve been making Christmas! My good intentions to have a handmade wardrobe went out the window the other day when I went to M&S and spent a LOAD of money on a working wardrobe, boo hoo!  I just don’t have the time and I’m won’t make myself feel guilty over it. So I have to prioritise and sometimes and even on the settee under the quilt watching the penguins is more important!

Saturday 16 February 2013

Lazy lazy lazy

I’m a very lazy sewer and even worse blogger! 

  • I make things and forget to blog them
  • sometimes I just think about making things for ages before I get round to finishing them
  • sometimes I pause half way through making things to think some more! 

This post covers all these possibilities. 

I made yet another Renfrew top, this time with a  lovely knitted wool I bought from Ditto in Brighton a while ago

Pale Camel Knit


as soon as I saw it I thought “Renfrew!!!” and it was on sale, bargainilious but as usual I sat and thought about it for a while.

So this is what I made!


I’ve also been doing some functional sewing like taking up trousers for Miss C (tracksuits, Brownies Uniform, School Trousers) even the arms on her Brownies T-Shirt! 

And thinking, well I’ve been blog-stalking Andrea at Four Square Walls after I saw her beautiful dress she made from Renfrew pattern and I thought, “I want one!”  I bought some Navy heavy jersey from Ditto and I’ve cut out the bodice, and now I’m doing some more thinking.  I’m thinking I want to do short sleeves but instead of the sleeve band I’m thinking hem and sew with twin needle.  The skirt I was originally going to do a full circle skirt but I think that's going to be too full so now I’m thinking half circle but tbh the maths is putting me off! I’ve found tutorials and calculators to do the maths for me but I not motivated enough to try it!  So now I have half a dress cut out on my sewing table!  To make things worse I’ve just got a new job in school starting after half term as well as going to college, as well as having 2 kids so I’m not going to have much time for sewing.  I might have to employ Tilly’s 15 a day strategy to get anything done.  I could do with finishing this dress as it would be great for school especially with some cool coloured tights!

Monday 7 January 2013

Wedding Bells

I’ve been invited to a Wedding Reception on 1st June and I had an idea.  I’d like to make my whole outfit!  I was thinking a simple classic fit n flare kinda dress something which could be worn for work etc afterwards but that I could jazz it up with accessories, making my own belt, clutch bag, fascinator and if necessary some sort of shawl/bolero jacket/cover-up thingy!  What do you think?  Ideally I would like to draft the pattern myself but at the moment I thinking of something like a Colette Peony, Sewaholic Cambie or a Burda 101.













I was thinking I’d make the dress in a solid colour and then accessorize in a contrast fabric, or maybe a floral.  At the moment I’ve got lots of options going round in my head, I’ve got a few months to do it so there's plenty of time to get it right and I know I’m not the Bride and I’m not making anything amazing like the Brides dress like Zoe but I want this to be a good learning project especially as I want to develop my drafting skills and now I have a direction to work in.  So I’ll be dipping in and out of this from time to time over the next few months. So much so that I made myself a badge!!


So the plan is

  • draft my personal foundation pattern like I’ve been talking about foreva
  • Try out different options for design aspect, neckline, sleeves, skirt etc
  • Make a decision
  • Choose fabrics
  • Make Dress
  • Make Fascinator
  • Make bag
  • Enjoy the wedding!

So I’ll be asking your advice at various times over the next few months with this project!

Saturday 5 January 2013

Sarah Lund Renfrew

Ok, ok, so I might have been late to the party but now I’m here I’m going for it!  Renfrew No2…


Look at the camera Louise!


That's better!

I saw this fabric in the show about a month ago and straight away thought it looked perfect for a Renfrew.


Its a knit but it looks like a Fair Isle knitted pattern.  Very Scandinavian hence the Sarah Lund reference.  As I’m rubbish at knitting its the closest I’m ever going to get to one of these beauties!

I used at 14 on the top half including the sleeves and graded out to a 16 about the waist.  I think it looks much better than the Stripy Renfrew I first made which was 16 all over. 



I spent ages making sure the stripes matched up well, the side seams are great and I basted them first to check before sewing for good.  I only had to resew 1 seam which was even better.  The only thing I couldn’t work out was to match the stripe across my chest with the stripe on the sleeve.  I spent ages walking the seamlines together to try to work out where they intersected but it didn’t work out.  As least the two sleeves are the same so its not as bad as it could be but if anyone has any advice on how to get the shoulder stripes to match it will be great fully received!

I’m really pleased with this version, its lovely and cuddly and although I’m wearing casually with jeans and boots today I think it would look great for work paired with a black linen skirt and thick black tights, or even red/burgundy tights, what do you think?  My only problem is the school where I work is really hot, I always wear lots of layers there and end up stripping off through the day!

So that's 2 Renfrews, I’m not done yet though, I’ve got loads of the stripy fabric left  so I might try a round necked or v-necked version next time, maybe with short sleeves.  I know everyone has said it but it really is a great pattern, very versatile, quick, straightforward to sew and so adaptable.  I might even try a simpler version without stripes soon!