Sometimes the pattern comes first, sometimes the fabric. A few months ago I bought an interesting remnant in the sale room at Misan Fabrics. It’s a highly textured blue knit on a black backing. The textured side has what I can only describe as ripply stripes. I didn’t have any immediate plans for it but it was too good to pass up: warm, stretchy, and a bit different.

Blue textured doubleknit

It came out of the stash recently when I was wanting another knit top. I thought about making it up as a plain long sleeved t-shirt shape, but I feared so many horizontal stripes might be overwhelming. In my scrapbook I found a picture of a dress made from a fabric with a similar textured stripe. It had a centre front seam with the stripes placed on the bias, making a chevron effect. That worked well: it showed off the texture but the fabric wasn’t the only thing that you’d notice about the design.

The knit top/dress out of Vogue 8866 came to mind as a suitable pattern to start with to reproduce the effect. It has a centre front seam and raglan sleeves. I’d already made it up once before in sparkly silver knit so I knew the fit was OK.

Vogue 8866 line art

I made the neckline a bit higher than the original pattern has it, and cut the front panels on the bias. I faced the neck with a plain black viscose jersey rather than self fabric. I also skipped all the top-stitching from the original pattern as I think it would have looked odd with the stripes.

I really should have cut the back yoke on the bias. That wobbly horizontal seam across the upper back is my sixth attempt to make the stripes look balanced. I promise the previous five goes were even worse. Fortunately the fabric doesn’t mind unpicking, and the seam isn’t really visible unless you look closely.

I made a slight effort to match the stripes across the vertical back seams. Everywhere else there was no need because of the bias panels and raglan seams.

I extended the neck to make an underlap on one side and added snaps for the closure. Vogue uses hooks and eyes but I don’t see how they would stay fastened once you started moving about – not unless you made the neck really tight anyway. Also snaps are easier to sew. I don’t like hand sewing, so the hem on this was done with my sewing machine’s blind hem function and the sleeve hems are machine stitched with a narrow zigzag. The only hand sewing is the snaps.

This isn’t such a good picture of the top but I like it because it shows the whole outfit. I sometimes wear ridiculous shoes for blog photos, but this is actually how I’ll wear this top in practice, with jeans and boots. Hope that keyhole at the back isn’t too drafty!

This dress fulfils two purposes: it should work for cycling and it uses up some stash fabric. I was getting bored of wearing jeans every other day, but I have very few dresses that are warm enough for winter and can be worn on a bike. This has long sleeves and a high neck so should keep the chill out.

The pattern is vintage, McCalls 3875 from 1973. I’ve had it a while – so long that I can’t remember where it came from although it was probably an Etsy shop. I love these 70s illustrated pattern envelopes. There’s something about the lovely clean lines and bright colours of the pictures that appeals to me; much more so than ones with photographs or more painterly illustrations.

McCalls 3875 envelope

This is a very simple style and extremely quick to sew. The only detail is that the bust shaping has been turned into gathers at the raglan sleeve seams. Not sure mine’s come out looking as gathered as the illustration.

Here’s a closer look. I was a bit dubious about the gathering originally – especially on the envelope’s maxi dress view where it’s paired with a ghastly floral print fabric – but now I have made the dress I very much like the effect. I think it needs a solid colour though, and probably a fairly neutral one. I’ve gone for navy blue because that’s what I had in stash of the right weight and hand. The fabric is a very drapey viscose doubleknit which was described as ‘crepe jersey’. It certainly has that matte, slightly textured, look of crepe on the right side. It came from Minerva Crafts.

I added side seam pockets to the dress. These have not been entirely successful. The jersey is not sufficiently stable to support them so they tend to gape. I took quite a few precautions: interfacing along the side seam lines, cutting the front pocket bag out of lining fabric to reduce bulk, and eventually adding clear elastic to the side seam, but they aren’t great. It doesn’t help that I put them in too low and had to rip them out again and reposition. The jersey hates being unpicked at the best of times and I’d already overlocked things, so this made a big mess and I lost a bit of seam allowance here and there which I think has contributed to the gaping.

The other alteration I did was to make a facing to finish the neck. The original pattern has an extra-wide allowance that you turn over and tack down, but I was worried it might be too floppy. My facing is interfaced with some light weight fusible. It turned out that this was a good thing; when I measured the pattern to check the length of the facing pieces I realised that the neckline is much wider than the pattern illustration shows. I took all the seams around the neck other than the CB seam in by 1cm (ie sewed them 0.5cm deeper) to get the neck to look the way it does.

The back view is intensely plain. I’m proud of my invisible zip though.

The hem is a bit limp; I probably should have interfaced it. And as always with 70s patterns I had to hack off quite a few inches to get the hem to the length I’d intended. The original pattern came to well below the knee. It didn’t look bad at that length but this is better.

I think I’d make this again if I could work out what to do about the pockets. It’s possible they’d work better if I’d placed them correctly first time, or at least not damaged the fabric when moving them. The style needs a drapey and stretchy fabric so I can’t see welt pockets or patch pockets working any better than side seam pockets. And not having pockets isn’t an option. If anyone has any bright ideas, do let me know. I like the dress despite the flaw though.

I actually remembered to take some construction photos of my last project, the teal kimono jacket. I made an effort to document how to line the patch pockets because I originally found the process confusing. Lining the pockets rather than simply pressing the edges under seems like a faff, but it is totally worth it when you put your hands into them because the lining feels so nice!

My pocket fabric piece is 7″ wide by 9″ long and my lining piece is 7″ wide by 6″ long. The interfacing is 7″ by 4″. Seam allowances are 5/8″ and the pockets end up square.

Pocket piece with interfacing

Pocket piece with interfacing ironed to wrong side

Pocket piece with lining attached

Pocket piece with lining attached

There’s a gap left in the stitching for turning the pocket later on. I always think I’ve made this too small, and yet manage to turn the pocket anyway.

Pocket and lining after pressing

Pocket and lining after pressing

Pocket and lining after pressing (wrong side)

Pocket and lining after pressing (wrong side)

Pocket folded in half and stitched around edges

Pocket folded in half and stitched around edges (lining side)

Pocket folded in half and stitched around edges

Pocket folded in half and stitched around edges (outside)

Pocket with edges trimmed (lining side)

Pocket with edges trimmed (lining side)

I could just use a smaller seam allowance rather than doing so much trimming!

Pocket with edges trimmed (outside)

Pocket with edges trimmed (outside)

Pocket after turning (lining side)

Pocket after turning (lining side)

Pocket after turning (outside)

Pocket after turning (outside)

Turned and pressed pocket (lining side)

Turned and pressed pocket (lining side)

Turned and pressed pocket (outside)

Turned and pressed pocket (outside)

And here are the pockets top-stitched on.

I’ve made this kimono jacket before. And practically lived in the original ever since; it can work both as a cardigan and a coat, has lots of pocket space, and is extremely warm.

This version was made for my sister. She wanted a teal colour, and I couldn’t get a boiled wool in that shade so it is made from a wool melton from Calico Laine. The surface is slightly smoother than boiled wool and you have to be a little more cautious when pressing it, but it works just as well for this style. And it was a dream to hem. I normally find hand hemming very tedious, but this fabric is so easy to hem neatly it was all over before I had time to get bored – and that hem is about 60 inches long.

I bound all the inside edges in a bottle green satin bias binding. It looks lovely with the teal, but you’ll have to take my word for it because I forgot to take any pictures of the finished insides, although I did take some construction pictures that I’ll post soon. It could be worse though – this is actually the third version of this jacket I’ve made and I forgot to photograph the second one at all. That one was for my mother and was a lovely sable brown boiled wool with brown satin bias. I’ll have to borrow it to photograph at some point!

I experimented with rounding off the inner corners of the sleeves in this version to try to get a nicer finish. I’m not sure it makes any difference on the outside but it makes binding the seam edges easier because you can just bind around the curve rather than having an awkward corner to deal with.

Here’s a side view. The back collar is very high, which I like because it keeps the neck warm. But you could easily reduce it by folding the collar over. Apparently that is is how proper Japanese kimono collars are supposed to be worn.

Back view. There’s meant to be quite a bit of ease in the jacket which ends up falling naturally into pleats at the back when you belt it.

You can keep things in the sleeves of this sort of jacket but I also put patch pockets on the front. I lined them with some navy blue poly taffeta lining. They were meant to be placed on the left front so the jacket wraps left over right like my original version does…but I got it wrong! Left over right is the ‘wrong’ way for western womens’ clothes but correct for a kimono. I find I don’t notice mine is the ‘wrong way’ much when wearing mine, and the pockets mean I automatically wrap it the Japanese way without having to think about it.

If anyone’s curious about how to make this then there isn’t really a pattern as such – it’s a series of rectangular panels which you work out the sizes for and chalk direct onto your fabric. There’s some more detail on my previous post. However I’ve refined the process a little since I made the first one, and I intend to get around to writing it up properly one day. Not least because I suspect this won’t be last one of these I make!

We’ve all got pieces of stash fabric that are too good to cut, haven’t we? One of mine is a wool-silk-elastane jersey. It’s a rib knit, so looks the same both sides, but it’s so lightweight you’d think it was a single knit at first glance. The colour is a dark greenish grey. It came from Goldhawk Road some years ago and has been lurking in the stash ever since, waiting for the perfect pattern.

Well right now I’m trying to sew from stash (at least when sewing things for myself), and I need new tops, and I am a great admirer of Rick Owens’ skinny fine-knit jersey t-shirts…so it seemed the time had come to use the special fabric.

I like my t-shirts extra long and quite close fitting. For a while I’ve been using a t-shirt pattern I evolved out of McCalls 2401, but recently I’ve been a little unhappy with the fit on it. So for this project I started with the close-fitting jersey block from Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear by Winifred Aldrich. (This was actually much lazier than it sounds, because I’d drafted the block months ago for another project so it was ready to use.) The basic block seemed a bit boring for the special fabric, so I flipped through my Burda collection looking for interesting details to add. I didn’t have a lot of extra fabric to play with which limited the choice. Eventually I came across 119-01-2013 which has a gathered sleeve that I thought would work well in the fine jersey.

Burda 119-01-2013 technical drawing

I traced Burda’s sleeve and laid it on top of Aldrich’s. Burda’s seemed considerably wider in the wrist but I was fairly confident that the Aldrich block was going to give me the sleeve width I wanted so I narrowed the Burda sleeve. Here’s what I ended up with.

Burda 119-01-13 sleeve pattern piece

What I completely failed to notice was that the wrist end of the sleeve ends up on the crossgrain of the fabric. My fabric is one-way stretch, so the finished t-shirt has no stretch around the wrist at all. That might have been OK if I hadn’t narrowed the sleeve so much, but as it is I can only just get my hands through them. Not good.

The final result is wearable but not particularly quick to get on and off.

I think the sleeve detail looks quite nice once it’s on. You can see it much better in the picture below.

I’ll definitely use this pattern again, but with two-way stretch fabric. I don’t think I did the grey jersey justice with it, but at least I made something out of it that I’ll wear.

Since I started cycling to work I’ve been wearing fewer dresses and more trousers. I made a couple of pairs of jeans earlier this year to fill in the trouser-shaped hole in my wardrobe. What I didn’t make were any new tops to go with them. My one jumper has been worn so much it has gone into holes.

So last time I was in London I got some fabric to make another version of the jumper. The original was just a basic boat neck t-shirt pattern made up in black wool jersey. It was originally based on McCalls 2401 but it’s evolved so there’s only the faintest resemblance nowawdays. I wanted a high neck for this one so I took Burda 122-04-2011 and traced its neckline onto my t-shirt pattern.

Burda 122-04-2011 technical drawing

The fabric is a wool-elastane doubleknit. It’s wonderfully thick and springy. I was worried at first that it might be a little too shiny because it had a very smooth face when I bought it, but a trip through the washing machine changed the texture to be slightly fuzzier. It came from Cloth House on Berwick Street. I started out a universal size 90 needle but got lots of skipped stitches which no amount of fiddling with tension cured. After switching to a stretch needle results were greatly improved as you can see below. The top line of stitching uses the stretch needle and the other two are the universal with differing tensions.

Doubleknit with stretch and universal needle stitching

So here are the final results. The neckline on this top is perfect. It’s high enough to keep me warm while cycling but it doesn’t annoy me. I’m less convinced by Burda’s combining the high neck with short sleeves. I once had a sleeveless top like that which worked well with a pencil shirt or slim trousers though.

It’s very hard to see the zip in the shoulder in these photos, but if you’ve spotted it in the closeup below: yes I put it on the wrong side. Having got it to go in pretty much perfectly there was no way I was going to unpick it when I realised. I pointed it out to a friend and she had to think for a moment about what side it ‘ought’ to go on in the first place, so I don’t think anyone’s going to notice. I can’t just turn the top around and have the zip on the left because the neck facings are very different, even though the front and back body pattern pieces are much the same. The back neck facing is longer and would bunch up awkwardly if put at the front.

The back is completely plain but it is nice and long. It’s not hemmed. I didn’t have quite enough fabric for the length I wanted and it doesn’t fray so I just cut the hem edge carefully with a rotary cutter and left it raw.

One more picture because I like this one, although it doesn’t show anything new. This frankenpattern is definitely a keeper.

The Spring Vogue Patterns release is out. It’s not made it to the UK at the time of writing but that’s never stopped me looking and making plans before.

Spring and Summer are normally my least favourite seasons for patterns. This collection would be no exception to the rule, were it not for the fact that Ralph Rucci is back with this design, 1381. I love this silhouette and the style has all the detail you expect; this time there’s quilting on the yokes, waist, and cuffs in addition to the regular cleverly hidden pockets and kimono/raglan sleeves.

Vogue 1381

The rest of the designer patterns have no must-sews for me. I was going to say that most of them are too dressy for my lifestyle, but if I really love a pattern then that doesn’t stop me. I’ve been struggling to describe what’s wrong with them and it’s basically that they lack excitement. Take this Donna Karan jacket and skirt, 1389. Lovely, but so very sensible and grown up. Where’s the drama?

Vogue 1389

Of course I’m being slightly unfair because there is one pattern with drama, but not in a good way. Much as I love the 80s, 1383 is too much. One for the inner teenager?

Vogue 1383

There are two Vintage Vogue releases. I’m guessing these are 40s or 50s styles, which are not eras I’m a fan of, so I’m never going to buy these for myself. But both have lovely details. Look at the pleats on 8973. Now if only Vogue would release some of their 70s archive!

Vogue 8973

Easy Options is disappointing this time round. Only one pattern, which is also the custom cup size pattern, and it’s for a style I feel I’ve seen many times before. The options are two skirt shapes and three sleeves.

Vogue 8972

Very Easy Vogue contributes eight patterns to the collection. I normally find something to like here. There’s a cute shirtdress, 8970, and a dramatic evening skirt, 8980. However the rest are almost all loungewear – good in its place but I can get that from every other issue of Burda. Is it just me or did there used to be a lot of Very Easy Vogue dress patterns? Where did those go?

Vogue 8970

As for the rest? The ‘regular Vogue’ patterns? Well they are few in number, but there are some good ones. 8979 is a very interesting tunic top. There are two patterns for men: 8988 is for a suit and 8987 for a waistcoat. And there’s a very practical messenger bag pattern, 8990.

Vogue 8979

I would say it’s the usual spring disappointment – but Ralph Rucci more than makes up for the rest so I’m happy with this one and can’t wait for the sale! What did you think?


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