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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Brown cotton/linen mix trousers

Another pair for the super hot weather finished during the rain. They use New Look 6216 again.
I love how easy the pockets are on this pattern (they are made from one piece folded over and are very easy to construct).
I do have some of this fabric left over, but don't currently plan a jacket. The idea is to wear them in hot weather for work, and I'm not wearing much in the way of a third piece. If I do need one I have got a few options from my earlier brown collection! (6 cardigans on the right below).

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Charcoal Pinstripe Linen Trousers

A few days ago I finished sewing the charcoal grey pinstripe linen trousers.
This is using New Look 6216 again as it is working so well for me at the moment.

My SWAKOP is finally beginning to form. I decided that if I kept charcoal grey as the key theme I could have
Charcoal grey with teal pinstripes - trousers and cardigan jacket
some sort of teal top to make up that pod

Then Charcoal grey pinstripe linen trousers with a soft waistcoat from the scraps
some sort of coloured top to make up that pod

Then the Charcoal grey checked trousers with a charcoal grey cardigan and probably a white top for the final pod.

And then some sort of dark grey coat to go over the top

As a detour I am currently sewing some brown trousers but plan to do the waistcoat and cardigan next before working on the various tops.
The downside of all the charcoal grey is it all looks a bit similar in hanger photos.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Some progress to report

Since Sunday I have added elastic into the back of the contour waistband of some purchase suit trousers which I then wore to work. They were fine so I see that as a success. It was however too hot to wear the matching jacket, which is sort of the point of a suit.

I have also cut out and partially constructed some trousers from charcoal grey linen with pinstripes. They need hems and a waistband casing which I hope to do tomorrow evening.

Pace is slow in the heat but I decided slow progress with an encouraging result is better than no progress at all, so I've been doing 20-60 min chunks when I get chance.

I found some charcoal grey knit that co-ordinates well and could be a cardigan, and I'm eyeing up the smallish scraps left over from the trousers and wondering what I could do with them. Too small for a skirt or shorts, options include a waistcoat(vest), top or front for a mixed media jacket. I think I'll probably iron the scraps and contemplate my options, maybe even make the plain charcoal cardigan first and see what the scraps from both want to be....

I still have SWAKOP in my mind long the lines of

(trousers + top + jacket/cardigan) x 3 + coat as my formula

I have finished the new linen trousers, but now it is dark so no photo.

It was 31 degrees C when I got home from work at 6pm! Its still 26.5 degrees C in the bedroom, but I still have to try to sleep as I have work tomorrow. I may have to to try and sleep with the fan on despite it being old and making a noise like a small aircraft taking off.
Thunderstorms are due for the region but seem to be going around my town unfortunately.

It is even hotter down south so can't imagine how unpleasant it must be for people in London etc.

Must buy new fan in the winter for next summer (fans are out of stock everywhere so no chance to buy a new one now).

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Alterations and repairs

Generally I would prefer to sew things from scratch, but one of the plus sides of being able to sew is that I can do some alterations and repairs. As I don't enjoy them I keep them to a VERY short list and then have to force myself to do them.

My maternal grandmother was an accomplished home dressmaker. Sadly she passed before I was born though my mum and aunties say we would have got on well. I had a wonderful evening a few years ago with her eldest daughter (my aunt who made the window quilt) going through old black and white photos as Auntie Joy remembered the colours of each outfit and could describe them to me which was wonderful. My grandmother was not one to wear elegant nuetrals she loved print and colour.

All 3 of her daughters sew though each in their own way. My mum sewed a lot for herself and my brother and me when we were children, but now is more into knitting with the occasional refashioning project or school costume for my brother's kids.
Auntie Joy is an artist, painting watercolours and making quilts.
The 3rd sister, my Auntie Audrey, sews clothing, lots of bags and cushions and also does mending for people in the village. She enjoys the challenge of finding a solution for the wearer and finds great satisfaction in the end result fitting better than the starting point.

So I need to channel the thrill of a good solution well implemented and get over my boredom when faced with the unpicker.

I have a few alterations backed up now so will just have to deal with the fact I need to keep changing thread!

- shorten DBFs old trousers into shorts
- mend slight rip in paisley shirt
- add mesh sections into too tight shirt sleeves (as per Medium alterations)
- add elastic into trousers waistbands - red and brown trousers

I thrift shop less these days as I have got limited time and am very fussy these days. However when I did go a lot I often found items which had been donated purely because a section of hem was down, a button loose or some other minor repair was needed. Being able to do those repairs is a useful skill.

I'll keep you posted on my progress on the alterations!

Have you got any alterations to do? Do you enjoy them or find you put them off? Sometimes I interleave them with other projects to reduce the boredom factor.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Variable waist size

So here's another issue that seems more common for me now I'm older/overweight. Maybe its the weight that's driving it. And that is having trousers which fit at the waist when I sit, and then fall down when I stand. The ONLY options I can think of involve elastic, either in a belt or stitched into the back of the waistband.

In today's RTW trousers I was holding the trousers up surreptiously with a hand in the pocket so I could walk about, not a good look I have to say.
I also seem to bloat a bit at certain times of the month, and during the day (ie skinner in am, fatter in pm).

I have some RTW trousers I bought in 6 colours which I wear a lot for work. They have a partially elasticated waist and the older ones also have belt loops and a skinny belt.

As a fix I am planning on adding elastic within the back of the contour waist on at least 2 pairs of trousers.

Hopefully I can do it in a not too obvious way but still have comfort and not have to hold my trousers up. When I was younger I would alter the trousers in the centre back waist to fit neatly, these days I need a bit of give.

What I tend to do is....

Where trousers have a contour waist (many of mine do), open up a little of the stitching on the inside of the waist facing near the side seams.
Insert a length of elastic running from the left side seam to the right side seam through the back waist.
Stitch in the ditch at the side seams from the right side to secure the elastic.
Restitch the facing from the right side.

Particularly at the back I do still have a significant waist, so this snugs things in there (avoiding back gapeosis) whilst still allowing me some give when I need it.

Hurrah for (partial) elastic waists!

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Full Upper Arms Solutions - Sewing Fabrics, Styles and Alterations


As with purchased clothing, stretch can be your friend when sewing for yourself. All kinds of jersey and knitted fabrics plus wovens with some stretch can be good, especially when small alterations are made to the pattern before cutting out.


Again as with RTW some pattern styles are more sympathetic to larger arms from the start. Kimono styles, flared or bell sleeves etc. However do be careful to measure the pattern piece in the same place as where you arm is wider to make sure it fits well. I remember making a tunic with bell sleeves which was loose on the lower arm but far too small on the upper arm. Hopefully I'd know better now having learned the hard way.
I am going to dig out some of my 1990s patterns which had more wearing ease and might well have looser more comfortable sleeves.

I'm going to start with the cheats and fudges before getting into the proper alterations. I have got away with many of these over the years when I did not know how to do the other alterations. The plus with lots of these is that they are easy and don't involve hacking the paper tissue about too much.

Cheat 1
Use a bigger sleeve. If you are making the size 16 in a multisize pattern, add the size 18 sleeve. On a knit garment you can usually ease the slightly larger sleeve in without it being a problem. On a woven garment, cut the armhole to the larger size to insert the sleeve.

Cheat 2
Use smaller seam allowances at the part where your arm is fatter, tapering to the normal seam allowance in the lower arm, and right near the armhole.

Cheat 3
Use a pattern where the sleeve has gathers, darts or pleats in the sleeve head. Use a larger sleeve and have larger gathers at the top of the sleeve (only good if you like that look).

Cheat 4
When cutting out (or you can alter the tissue slightly) starting at the armhole cut a very slight curve away from the pattern tissue tapering back in again before the wrist.
(I often combine 1, 2 and 4 to get the equivalent of 2 or 3 sizes larger at the bicep) .

Cheat 5
Use a 2 piece sleeve and taper out slightly on both seams. This adds in more places so is great if you need a lot of extra adding.
IMHO a shaped 2 piece sleeve with extra added looks the best and hangs nicely as you can more appropriately reflect the arm shape. It is sort of like princess seams for arms.
You can also create a 3 piece sleeve which gives even more seams those these are harder to find.

'Proper' alterations.
The most popular method is something called 'slash and spread'. This really needs a picture so rather than steal one from another site I will add a few links in.
It basically involves drawing two lines - one horizontally across the sleeve and one vertically down the sleeve - cutting them open and gently pulling the sides apart to make extra room within the sleeve. You then need to smooth off the curve at the top and fill in the hole with tissue.
I tried just cutting the lines and spreading out each time I used the sleeve pattern, but eventually it ripped at the seam allowances and fell apart, so don't be lazy like me, add that tissue!

CurvySewing Collective
Emma Seabrooke

I have two frustrations with this method.
1. If you fully redraw the sleeve cap afterwards you make the sleeve cap longer, needing a larger armhole, so you are in essence just putting the larger sleeve in anyway.
2. None of these variations change the outer curve of the sleeve, which matters to me as the extra is on the underside of the arm in my case (your arm shape may vary).

For all of the above I have assumed some sort of set in sleeve but you can do something similar with a raglan sleeve and just cut the sleeve wider if it is a cut on sleeve.

These alterations will just make a sleeve big enough for to get a larger arm into the garment. There are lots more fitting adjustments for forward shoulders, rounded or square shoulders etc as well as options for shaping the sleeve itself to hang better from the shoulder. However I still think these simple things are worth trying and hope they may help.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Full Upper Arms Solutions - RTW Fabrics, Styles and Alterations

For my size I have upper arms which are larger than that size. I'm overweight at the moment so it seems quite pronounced, but its actually genetics and even when I am slimmer I still have arms that are fatter than the rest of my size.

I'm late 40s now so have got used to sewing for my body at different weights. I know that I need to be careful of upper arm, thigh and derriere as I am always larger in those places.

So I thought I would think aloud a little about solutions I have found and tried which may help others.

Full Upper Arms Solutions

- fabrics, styles, alterations
RTW (ready to wear, ie bought clothes)
- fabrics, styles, alterations

I'll start today with RTW, as I do buy things as well as sew them.

Stretch fabrics are your friend. You are more likely to find a comfortable fit in knit top, ponte jacket, cardigan or other garment where the fabric has some give. However you do need to try the item on and bend your arms to simulate driving or typing and see if this is comfortable. Don't buy (or return if bought online) anything which is too tight. It won't be comfortable and you are unlikely to wear it.
(unlined stretch blazer from M&S outlet)

Some styles have more design ease and will therefore be more comfortable for larger arms. For example Kimono sleeves on a jacket or blouse, looser frill sleeves on a top etc. Sleeveless tops can also be good if you don't mind you arms showing when you remove the layering piece.
(Kimono sleeve jacket from M&S outlet)

Where a blouse has loose sleeves gathered into a tight cuff on the bicep or further down the arm, you can remove the cuff and have a simple hem. This can work quite well but does make the sleeve shorter. I did this on a crinkle shirt which worked well.
Where a stretch jacket has a non stretch lining, you can remove the lining from the sleeve to make use of the stretch. I did this on a ponte jacket which worked fine.

Where a shirt has short sleeves which narrow at the hem and are therefore too tight, unpick the seam and add a triangle of other fabric, stretch lace, elastic etc in the gap. For example on hiking shirts you could add a triangle of sports mesh fabric to the under arms, on something dressier maybe a stretch lace or knit etc. I have some where I plan to do this, unfortunately it involves unpicking a lot of tiny stitches.
Size up and take in the body. Here buy a blouse or shirt in a larger size but then add princess seams which run up the front across the shoulders and down the back to allow you to take the body in to fit. The sleeves remain the larger size.

Where the sleeve is in a woven fabric or is very much too small I would generally avoid buying it in the first place, but if I already have it one option is to remove the sleeve entirely, use a two piece sleeve pattern altered to fit your arm and cut the upper sleeve only out of the existing sleeve, and then cut a new lower sleeve from a suitable different fabric, sew the new sleeve together and then set it back into the armhole. If you've used a ponte or similar for the lower sleeve it can look quite sleek but be really comfortable. If you decide to line your new sleeve as well then make sure the lining has enough ease or is from a stretch lining fabric not a woven one. It can be good to use the second fabric elsewhere in the garment or outfit, so for side body panels in a jacket, or for a co-ordinating skirt for example. This will make it look more deliberate.
If you like the look you can remove the old sleeve and make an entirely new contrasting sleeve. I've seen some great ones in RTW which use a stretch faux leather which looks great.

Another time I will talk about my easier and harder pattern alterations when sewing from scratch.

Hope this helps. Please free to share any alterations you have done to make sleeves larger.

Monday, 16 July 2018

My latest pieces - not a PAC or collection

As you might have noticed I like to sew things i collections and will join in with any SWAP, 6PAC or other wardrobing approach going.
However the last few weeks have not gone to this plan for some reason.

The trousers and cardigan jacket go together. (Dark grey with teal pinstripes). The start of SWAKOP at The Sewing Place.
But neither top work with them.
Blued teal with brown, which is a rework piece and a continuation of SWAP at SG.
and coloured stripes on ivory which used ivory thread and felt relaxed and summery.
Or with the other pair of trousers (grey and blue checks) because the fabric was the perfect size for the trousers pattern.
All the new pieces do go with other garments in my wardrobe, except maybe these blue and grey checked trousers, which are also winter weight!

Oh dear. Don't do this!!!

I'm not quite sure what sewing muse wants to sew next, I fancied more tops but they don't go with anything above.....

Linen mix stripe tee

I prewashed this fabric so should not get any shrinking problems.
I lengthened it about 2 inches and used the blue stripe for the neckband as I want to wear this with blue denim. Happily the blue is also the last stripe at the wrist of the sleeve, so that will hopefully work OK.
I was told by the vedor that the fabric is a linen mix knit though I've not tried to verify that. It has a dry hand and the base is an ecru colour with brown marl bits, with coloured stripes in blue, red, pink and yellow. I like the way the base softens down the knitted coloured stripes.

I cut everything out single layer to get good stripe matching and I think that has worked out quite well, though it is a bit fiddly to do.

 I used my drop shouldered tee pattern traced from RTW.

I have enough fabric left for a top with cap sleeves, and I'd try and have the red stripe at the neckline for that one I think to work with my red linen trousers!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Shrunken top rework

In early June I made this top.
(original top, looks lovely doesn't it, but a problem is lurking)
I wore it once and washed it.
It shrank. A lot. It was now only waist length and completely unwearable. I had clearly not prewashed the fabric, and had NOT (on this occasion) got away with it.
Here it is comapared to the original pattern piece.
(eek look how much it shrank)
I hung it on a hanger in the sewing room for 'fixing' and put the spare yardage through the wash to shrink that as well. It sat there for a while but was bugging me!
(Front with seam above bust)
The spare yardage was limited so I could not cut the whole top again. So I did the following:-
Cut a new lower front and lower back from the yardage, cut the top off under the arms, curved up at the front and flat at the back and sewed these in place. (I didn't want a seam at the tummy as I didn't want emphasis there, hence why I cut off so high up).
Cut a new pair of sleeves, one from the old lower front and the other front the scraps of remaining fabric. Cut new armholes (so they are less dropped now) and inserted the new sleeves.
Sewed it all back up.
(Back with yoke effect and lengthened back panel, slightly gathered)

I have some small scraps left but nothing large enough for a garment piece. I have some other fabrics prewashing now so this doesn't happen again!!!

Hopefully my reworked top looks deliberate rather than I just added stuff on when it shrank. It was as much work as making the top in the first place, but at least I got to salvage the lovely fabric.


I bought the fabric for this top last year from the Monday Market Man. He has a stall of lovely fabrics at very reasonable prices on the open air market on a Monday.
I'm not sure if he's still there as I've not been able to get out to see him for a long time. I'm also trying to sew from stash as much as I can.
He mostly doesn't label his fabrics but from feel this one had plenty of something soft and natural - cotton/viscose. It did have a very elasticated selvedge which made cutting out a challenge so maybe this should've been a clue? Anyway I am prewashing as much as possible now!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

What to sew next?

I really enjoyed the first 7 lace curtains and then pushed myself to sew the last 3 to finish all the upstairs. Complete is good but lost the joy a little.

So now I am free to sew whatever strikes my fancy and I'm not sure where to look. Lots of options but nothing really grabbing me.

I could sew some more pieces for SWAKOP at The Sewing Place, as so far I have made trousers and a cardigan jacket. I fancy some teal based tops, some teal trousers.

Or I could challenge myself a little and do something for The Sewing Place's Upcycle contest. I have a few things stashed away for this. Perhaps if I get them out the cupboard something will inspire me.

Stitchers Guild has the summer 6PAC. I could do something with that set of guidelines

or I could try the MAGAM challenges. I'm late for June but could still use it as inspiration and sew up some of the fabric I bought in Madeira.

 Or move on and do the July and August challenges.

The animal print top shrank excessively in the first wash (so I'd obviously NOT prewashed the fabric). It is now a comedy top and unwearable. I then washed the reamining fabric which also shrank. I could see how I could make a new top from the scraps and the garment.
This would perhaps not be that exciting, but it would fix an annoying thing that's gnawing away a little.

I have a few RTW alterations to make so my trousers don't fall down, in particular some suit trousers of a suit it would be nice to wear. Also a bit annoying, also very useful to get done.

I have my eye on some StyleArc patterns, so I could bite the bullet and get those and sew something inspired by the new patterns. Here were the ones that appealed to me.
I also have a woven shirt that needs mending.

Some more cool summer tops would be nice to have for the next 6 weeks or so, and maybe some new summer PJs.

How to decide what to do next?

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Lace curtains - ivory leaf design

On 19th June I went to Economy fabrics my local roll end shop and bought various things including the rest of the roll of an ivory lace with a leaf design. With the 6 metres of other fabric and the 11 metres on the roll it was not helping my stash busting.
Here's a close up of the fabric showing the leaf design. I absolutely love things with a leaf, paisley or similar shape (much more than a floral).
Here are the curtains in the large front bedroom window. The dark curtains are purchased black out curtains in 'neutral' from Dunelm Mill.
The lace curtains are on a net rod I bought from the Range. These are great for light curtains as they adjust and just push into place without needing any fixings.
I liked these curtains so much I carried on and made them for the study, sewing room, landing and bathroom, using 1,2 or 3 widths depending on the width of the window. The lace has a scalloped edge which is very pretty as it follows the shape of the leaves.

All in all a great project for a couple of evenings, upstairs I have privacy (I live on an estate and the houses all overlook each other sadly) as well as light and lots of my favourite motif. Its like I have my own airy forest!

I only had a short length left, so have popped that away in the cupboard for another use.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Dyeing boots from light khaki brown to navy blue

I had some knee high boots, I had altered to have laces up the back.

However I still didn't wear them. I decided I would prefer them if they were navy blue (which I've not been able to find) so proceeded to dye them.

I used Dylon Leather Dye in Navy blue - I'd used half a bottle refinishing some worn navy brogues. So I started the boots with the other half a bottle. In the end I bought another 2 bottles to get several coats on the boots and a good rich coverage of colour.
Although the dye comes with its own small brush I don't like to use it. Instead I pour the dye out into a small plastic pot and apply it with an artists paintbrush.
This leather was quite matte and porous so I painted the dye (which has the consistency of calligraphy ink) on without use stripper first.
Once they had dried I liberally applied Timpson Navy Shoe polish and buffed with a shoe brush.
I am very pleased with my new navy boots and hope to enjoy wearing them this winter.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Summer Sewing

Its really hot at the moment for a large proportion of the UK. Of course by hot, I mean hot by our standards, so not very for other people. However our homes and meeting places are set up for more moderate temps. My local water company is sending me texts asking me to use less water, and I've started wondering about getting a way to recycle water from the shower for the garden.

Normally the summer is about 2 weeks in my area, so not a lot of summer clothes are required. I have more causal hot weather clothes and take them away on holiday to warmer climes. I am quite short of summer tops which a suitable for work, and want to run full loads in the washing machine so can't keep washing the few I have.

Of course you can see that this is leading to a sewing challenge. I think I need to have a look in the fabric resources and see what I have that would make a simple cool top for work. One favourite shirt made a rather nasty ripping noise yesterday so I suspect that one is gone now.

Off to peruse the fabric cupboard.

I may try to fit this into an existing sew along.

Artisan Square have a  SUMMER 2018 6PAC (6-PIECE SEW ALONG) : 1 May 2018 to 31 July 2018

And they also have a NEW follow on from SWAP for a Summer Sew-A-Long: Weekend Travel Wardrobe
Ready for a vacation, SG style? Come join us for a travel themed Sew-A-Long. Open for all registered members; subscribed or not. 

Meanwhile The Sewing Place has SWAKOP
Sewing With A Kind Of Plan - SWAKOP our first wardrobing competition

As I gained weight whilst I have had the Vertigo problems I am probably needing to dress more like a H shape.
So the simplest solution might be to make some darker tops out of thinner fabrics to make columns with my existing trousers, and then add a necklace for interest, with an open fronted jacket for the office air con (a bit variable).