Sunday, 1 July 2018

Meeting up in London with some fellow 7 Steppers

Sunday 1st July

I'm on the train on the way to London to meet up with some of the 7 steppers (7 Steps to Style) I have got to know online - and Imogen Lamport, the founder, who is here from Australia. Her blog is Inside Out Style.
where you can get all the details of the different programs.

Last week, LNER took over the running of the trains on the previous Virgin East Coast line. I was a bit concerned that my booking made with Virgin might have gone wrong but I needn't have feared. I always do fear though! I booked first class advance for a bit of extra luxury - the only downside being that my train time is set rather than having an open ticket. That of course gave me another concern - getting to the train on time as David can't drive me. Again I needn't have worried - the taxi arrived in plenty of time and I was able to relax on the train for 20 minutes before it left. At weekends first class doesn't do the excellent weekday menu, sadly, but I am going for lunch so that's not an issue. Plenty of drinks available (no, I'm not referring to alcohol!). The train livery is still Virgin. Outside too though I think some have changed

I've been catching up on some posts and blogs as I haven't had time recently. That's calming my nerves. I'm both excited and nervous about the meetup! I'm looking forward to it. I think.

It's interesting that you can almost immediately tell who wants to talk and who doesn't. My first seat companions did but they got off at York - my new fellow traveller doesn't. I realise I'm glad about that. Generally, I like to find out about other people and am happy to talk - or to sit and write blog posts!

Down the carriage, I can hear some people playing bridge; I don't know how many of them there are. I’d like to join in. I won't of course.

I still haven't completed the personality style analysis as I'm humming and hawing over some of the questions. That and the fact that I have difficulty choosing from a menu (often regretting what I chose) and like to keep options open might suggest one direction but other aspects are firmly in a different direction. Now, however, I'm not sure how much of my need for decision making (yes!!) was to do with business need rather than my personal style. I find it fairly easy to be adaptable and have learned lots of ways of functioning over the years. Be interviewed on national radio? Sure! (Terrified inside and regretting acceptance). Give a talk? A lecture? Okay! (Help!!) Meet a group of people I've never met irl? No problem (only minor anxiety). Last year I accepted an invitation to a weekend sewing session in a small group and to stay overnight with the organiser - I didn't know any of them and only the organiser briefly online. That was fine, I enjoyed it and have made friends. My motto is ‘have car, will travel’ . Having said that I'm a ♋ cancerian (do any of you believe in that?) and a home lover (I'm always desperate to get home) and very soft centred, easily hurt but with a harder outer shell.

Our train is delayed as there is a broken down train ahead so that has caused delay. Fortunately I got an earlier train than necessary so this might work out well. We're near Newark.

We might be stopped for a while - they can't tell us yet how long. But I'll wait a while before putting on my makeup. Oh, we're moving!

What else will I say at the moment? I feel unprepared clothes-wise and style-wise for today's meetup. I've put on weight and have nothing that fits well. It's hot in London so I'm wearing a blue patterned summer dress. It's lined and a little less loose than I'd like! With being up at my mother's helping her move, I haven't had time to get my hair trimmed. Oh well! This is more the real me! Make up will help.

I've remembered to bring my colour swatches. We're shopping after lunch. I'm a RTW Faster so am not intending to buy anything but I would if I saw the ideal item! It would need to be at least a 9 out of 10. I'm sooo short of clothes and just haven't had time to make. I have fit issues and there is still no TNT on the horizon. Losing this extra weight is going to take a while - easy on, difficult to get off. I neeeed clothes!

We've just been told the delay cost us 30 minutes so that is pretty good timing to meet some of the others. There are still some FB messages going back and forth so I have been able to say that I will be at the meet point.

Last night we heard that one stepper coming from Austria had a problem due to her flight being cancelled. I hope she makes itIf everyone makes it, we will be 13 in number. Are you superstitious? I'm not, really.

I'll carry on with this post on the way home.

I'm on the train. On my way back home. I'm glad as I feel quite tired. I have a lovely seat. Just the right temperature and wi-fi.

There were 13 of us. Daniella made it from Austria. I met up with 4 others in King's Cross and we walked to the Granary Square Brasserie and bumped into Daniela on the way. Because it was such a hot and sunny day, they were going to seat us outside. However, we were in favour of sitting indoors with the air conditioning and plenty of cold drinks. One of our party, Alison, is in a wheelchair and needed suitable facilities

It was lovely to chat to people I ‘knew’ but had never met. I had never had my signature colours done because I felt my photos were of such poor quality. I took advantage of Imogen and had them done live; she also confirmed my colour and value contrast and body shape. I have quite a few signature colours - I'm very lucky. Not everyone has so many.

This is my swatch. They're not ask signature colours but there are quite a few!

A signature colour is one that enhances eyes, lips or skin. One of the pinks tones in with the lip gloss I wore today.

Because I have colour in my eyes and skin, I can wear two colours rather than the neutrals plus one colour I previously thought.

It was very interesting seeing the colour swatches of the others there and comparing and contrasting. Some shades overlap, of course.

There was a lot of talk of personality types. I'll work on mine next week. I have a better idea now. Imogen had previously said to contact her but I didn't have time and didn't want to take up more of her time today.

You won't be surprised to learn that by the time we had eaten and chatted and got the bill sorted (thanks Tracey) people were getting ready to return home or to their hotels. No shopping. Well it means I haven't broken my fast!!

Ruth and I had a bit of time to kill before our trains so we sat with a cold drink and poured over the latest issue of Burda and discussed sewing until it was time to leave for our trains.

It was a long and expensive day but worth it! I'm playing in a golf league match tomorrow (the last of the season) but I have time to settle, get to bed at a reasonable time and even have a long lie if the birds and sunshine allow! I will have to wear the golf trousers I showed on my last blog post but hopefully I'll manage to make a nice pair of trousers - I've set September as a target.

I've just moved coach as our air conditioning broke down. This coach is much cooler. I've decided to post this blog if I can - I've never done it entirely on my phone! I didn't ask permission of the others to post their photos.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Golf trousers, de-toileing plus tips from Kenneth D King and Sandra Betzina

I originally was going to do a post on the completion of my long-in-the-creation trousers. However, we all know that the fit is the issue, not the construction. I don't have any good photos but decided to post today (a while after I started the post) to get it away. Too many of the photos are just a bit too personal to post on my blog but I have them for future reference! I don't have construction photos for some reason. 

Briefly, I made up trousers in navy cotton, for golf,  using a heavy cotton fabric that I had bought to use for trouser toiles. The source was the trousers being fitted to me and of which I had made a satisfactory basic toile ie with no added zip etc. These had a fly zip with guard, front jeans-type pockets (but no back pocket as I don’t tend to use; in golf trousers, this is a pocket for the score card but I use my trolley card holder)) faced and lined with purple floral cotton. There is a one inch waistband with seven belt loops. I had no problems with construction.

Not in golf attire but I have worn them a few times to golf- no photo of that though

A few points:
I made front ‘jeans type’ pockets. For the pocket itself I used some floral quilting cotton that had been sewn into a top which became a wadder.  I had an idea how to do them but followed my class instruction leaflet. I found it easier to understand than Closet Case’s e-jeans book. However, one thing that struck me was that Closet Case recommends sewing the fabric the other way around to the class and I can see the reason why. With a plain fabric, I would use the class method but with a pattern like mine it probably is better to see the bright cotton when you’ve opened the fly zipper rather than it being deep inside the pocket as it is.

Inside trouser as opened up. Wrong side of fabric shows. You can just see the fly

I used a Sandra Betzina tip with the pockets and pressed them round a ham to simulate the body which will hopefully make them lie flatter. I do believe that this worked rather well.

This is trying to simulate the pocket around the ham.

I then followed a Sandra Betzina fly zipper insertion tutorial. I thought it was straightforward. I completed it in class with advice from my tutor, who didn’t like the method, feeling it was rather old fashioned. However, this method gives a larger overlap than the method she would have used and is perhaps better for my over-large tummy. I previously found with the other method that there wasn’t quite enough overlap.

I was going to put some elastic in the waistband but decided in the end I wouldn’t. However, I decided to stitch the waistband with a seam at the back to make future alteration easier. Hopefully alteration to make them smaller!

Despite being 'relatively' pleased with the toile, I do have a number of issues with these trousers which I will rectify and which don’t stop me wearing them for golf.

The trousers pull slightly at the front thigh. I felt I didn’t want to further increase the front crotch point as they are already fairly loose in that area (but these are for golf not fashion). My tutor suggested I use twill with a bit of stretch so I’ll have look the next time I’m anywhere suitable. I didn’t find anything in my brief trip fabric shopping in London (see last post)

After wearing them for golf I had some thoughts
  • The front waistline is quite a bit too high due to my sloping waist
  • The side waist seam is a bit high
  • Back fine
  • The pockets are not the best shape, despite copying a RTW golf trouser
  • The fork point is too far forward.
  • The trouser legs are too wide and flappy but not in a nice wide legged trouser way!
  • I found too that the waistband irritated my bare skin. The solution to this was to tuck my top into my trousers - but that was particularly unattractive! Fortunately, when I played a match it was cool enough to wear a jumper. (I won my match on the last putt but, sadly, my team lost and we were knocked out of the competition). The inside was overlocked but clearly I’ll need to make a softer finish. I think this is likely to be a tape binding

  • I do have to wear a belt as otherwise the waist slips at front to its natural position. I see that the side seams are too long in addition. Even with the belt, the trousers slip a bit and there is a deal of excess fabric pouffing out on the front, on the top of the in seam and above the fork. I can wear them (until I get another pair!) but don’t find them comfortable.
  • I will change the zip closure to the 'female' side
Crushed after golf. This fabric crushes easily and I'll avoid it for that reason. I used it here as this was designed to be a wearable toile. It's wearable - just!

Changes to pattern
The fork point was too far forward. After testing the point on my body, we agreed that I needed to add to front crotch and subtract same from back and appropriately taper the adjustment to the legs. I did this on the pattern. I hope that might alter the pull across the front of the thighs as it added more to the front thigh. My tutor also pinned out an adjustment in the hem width and I adjusted the pattern to reflect that too. Interestingly, all of the excess came from the inseam, which probably reflects my knee angle

After these changes, I assumed I’d need to make a further toile. After washing the trousers, following golf, I found that I couldn’t hang them up to dry in my usual way, that is by using a clip hanger on the hems. The trousers were very twisted and just didn’t lie properly.

In sewing group, I asked about this and we found that the front crotch and back crotch points were not at the same level, by some way - this despite the seam lengths being the same. The leg cut edges were different shapes, too. I therefore decided to look again at the pattern. That will be a future post! I have started but won’t have time to do much until after the end of the month.

I bought Kenneth D King’s fitting book and quite like the way he has done it. There is nothing about trousers, though. Anyway, I’m not reviewing the book but rather passing on a tip. Prof King re-uses his muslins. When marking the fabric, he uses Frixion pens so that the marks disappear when he irons the deconstructed muslins, then he can re-use apparently fresh fabric.

One night before the current heatwave, I was rather cold as the temperature has dropped and it was rather dreich outside with a horrible drizzle which made you feel cold just looking at it. I have been trying to organise my sewing den. I have given away lots of fabric, ex-toiles, but found a whole lot more. I wasn’t sure what they all were as although I have labelled my patterns fairly reasonably, I haven’t done the same with the toiles. I know some are more recent trousers, some historical trousers, and there is a jacket, a dress etc. I spent time dismantling the toiles, picking out the thread and then pressing the pieces (made me feel lovely and warm!). Some of the pieces of fabric are marked - sadly with permanent marker, or pencil - but in future I will try the Frixion pen method. I feel this is much more environmentally friendly - and cheaper to boot. Other note to self; I must clearly label toiles and versions

This is just some of the fabric from the dismantled toiles taken on that dreich evening

Thoughts on clutter
I have to confess, I didn’t dismantle some of my course toiles - am I being sentimental? Or is this just practical as I have a finished piece to consult? I’m thinking a lot about practicality and sentiment as my mother prepares to downsize radically into a sheltered flat. We too had been going to move - south, closer to our daughters, though my mother being north was an issue. As we planned to downsize, we were decluttering. What a lot of stuff! However, having had a house valuation which is less than we had hoped for and given that prices further south are rising and the difference between our prices and theirs is increasing, we have decided to postpone a move for a few years. The decluttering will continue, however!

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Patternmaking Made Easy by Connie Amaden Crawford; balancing patterns

I bought a new old book.
That's no surprise to those of you who know of my book addiction, of course.
What might surprise you is how inspired this book makes me feel, despite feeling pretty gruesome at present.

The book is Pattern Making Made Easy by Connie Amaden Crawford, the original edition from 2005. The book is now on the third edition but postage costs ($65) and import duties from the US were too high to consider that option, even though the book itself was no more expensive. In fact, I ordered the second edition as advertised and this one has arrived incorrectly but the company I bought it from disputes that. (Don't tell them but I think I will keep this one anyway - maybe one day I'll get to the States and buy the 3rd edition.)

I've wanted the book for a while but it has taken ages to find one at a reasonable price. It is in spiral format with a hard cover. Mine is second hand but in excellent condition and the postage was good, with no duties. I don't know what the newer editions have that this one doesn't.

What do I like about it?

First of all, it does appear to make pattern making easy. Reading, I feel 'yes, I can do this'

Secondly it uses my measurements and not much in the way of ‘standard’ measurements.

Thirdly, there is a section for pant pattern making for the full mature woman. Yes, that's me these days, though I'm on the lower end of her size charts

Fourthly she takes into account that we don't all have perfect bodies and isn't judgemental. I feel that some of the systems I've tried try to shoehorn into a perfect shape and at the same time make me feel bad about my body.

Fifthly, she goes through all the different blocks and what each block might be used for. She will show the modifying that can be made e.g. in bodice style and say what block you must start with. I hadn't realised there were so many different blocks! I can now understand why some of my enthusiastic pattern manipulations were less successful than I'd hoped! I needed to start with the right block and I didn't.

Although I went to pattern cutting classes, I realise now that they really just skimmed the surface. I don't have that solid foundation of knowledge which is so essential to good results. Results for me and my family - you know of course that is the limit of my ambitions.

One thing she said was that you cannot balance a bodice pattern if there are bust darts from the side seam.  Balancing is done without any such darts but they can be moved later using dart manipulation. This was another 'ah ha!’ moment for me as I have lots of problems with such darts on side seams - twisted, not meeting nicely even though they were trued.

I read the pant section in greater detail as I intend to try this.

Balancing patterns

I really like her sections on balancing the pattern (indeed it was a question I asked on PR on balancing which led me towards this book - thanks to Kayl's recommendation.) As a result of reading this section, I am convinced that my patterns have not been balanced, though they may have been trued, and this has led to some of my problems. When I asked about balancing patterns in class, I was directed towards truing - not the same thing at all, though clearly there is overlap.

When I true the seam of my trousers, there is a fair bit of manipulation, shifting around; in these pants, they are matched at knee and ankle, lie beautifully, and any length change is made above that to ensure the seams lie on top of each other. That is balanced; if the pattern is not balanced, the fabric will twist.

I feel so inspired that I want to start straight away! I hope results will be as good as I'm hoping! I intend to draft the full mature woman's pant and then convert into a sport culotte for the summer. I have some suitable fabric.

I'm not going to get much time for sewing over the rest of June, though,  so my test of the book method won't be around for a while yet. Never mind. I feel in my bones that this book will be one of my top recommendations.

I'm missing a number of my classes over the next few weeks but I can go to Dan's Sew Club on Monday and move forward with making a suitable size FBA on my shirt dress toile

Friday, 1 June 2018

End of May Update

I was going to write one post but realise that it’s far too long despite not really feeling I’d achieved much! So I will do a separate post for my finished trousers. That will also give me a chance to get some photos!!

Me Made May 18

I decided not to sign up for Me Made May as I just don't have the variety of self made garments and don't want to post photos showing the same things on multiple occasions. The idea is to make your own challenge - and it should be a challenge, not something easy. I decided to use the time to try to wear more of my hand made garments, decide which I liked and wanted to keep (many are too small, sadly, with weight gain), cull more clothes and identify wardrobe gaps to contribute to a sensible sewing plan, including hopefully finishing my trousers!

So that was ongoing throughout May - and in fact is still continuing, as is decluttering in general.

The main gaps I have found are, not surprisingly, around trousers, shorts etc. The trousers that currently fit are too heavy for the hot weather we’ve been having. I don’t have any shorts that fit - and that includes my golf wear.

So, June plan - make a pair of shorts or trousers or preferably both with a cooler fabric. I have already made a pair of trousers that I can wear to golf. I need to see if I must make a pair of crops or whether I can still fit into a pair.

Garment alterations

The first task I completed in May was to lengthen a pair of trousers. I had two pairs of trousers, same size and style, in different colours. Last year I shortened these trousers! This is something that's practically unheard of. They were much too long and I shortened and cut off the excess. 

Unfortunately, they've shrunk in the wash and maybe my extra weight is pulling them up too. 

Anyway I took down the hem of one pair, attached bias binding right side to right side and created a false hem by folding, understitching and pressing bias to wrong side and hand sewing the hem. I didn't get much extra length but it is what it is. I was only able to do one pair as the hem line on the other pair was abraded and would have been too obvious. The fabric of both trousers is very soft and isn't wearing at all well. These are the best fitting trousers I have.

Pulls still present. Faced hem just seen in background

A few weeks back, I wore these trousers to a nice walk along Whittle Dene Burn, with a bit of a climb. Plenty of birds and flowers but we didn't see any animals. I think our group is too noisy! We had a lovely lunch in the garden of a local pub. During this we were treated to some ukulele music by members of our party. On my return home, I saw my trousers were a bit muddy in one place. Although the weather was dry, sunny and warm, there were still some left over muddy patches. Anyway, as I was brushing off the mud, I realised that these trousers are actually pretty disreputable - there are so many pulls in the fabric, not all due to holly bushes and hawthorn on the walk.  I’ll try to pull the threads through to the back but if that doesn’t work, I’ll use as a template for another pair, which will be by then all the more urgent!! (I wore them again today on a walk without having fixed them; they are far too warm for this sunny weather)

I had two main garment construction tasks at the start of May

Self drafted top further modified

I continued making my modified self drafted top. After I sewed up the sides with extra shaping, I noticed that the stripes on one side didn't match across the seamline at all while the other side was okay-ish. I had to take the mismatched side out and resew.

I decided to use self fabric bias binding (partly because I forgot to take the reel of commercial bias binding I was considering!!) and cut out the required pieces. After thinking about construction and the fabric, I went with my tutor’s recommendation to construct like a knit neckline, that is folding the bias strip in two and attaching. This isn't the way I would have chosen but the fabric was a bit difficult to handle.  She also demonstrated how I should be doing my side splits. I made up a template to ensure the stitching visible on the right side is identical on each side.

I finished the bias binding around the neck and armholes and I wasn't at all happy with it. I didn't like the finish and the band didn't lie properly. I think this technique simply didn’t work for this neckband; the same finish as the first would be better. No photos of this.

I thought the unfinished side splits and hem were fine. When I tried it on, David said he didn’t like the bust darts and I agreed as they were rather pointy despite careful sewing and pressing. I was going to abandon.

Side splits, back longer than front.

However, Lyn felt this top could still be salvaged. She agreed the bias strips sewn in this way didn't work and should be removed (and helped me by removing the overlocker thread, which I always find so difficult despite knowing the theory.)  I decided to redo in the standard way and ease the neckline and armscyes a bit more. You might have realised that my bias strips were a little narrower by this time as I had trimmed the earlier seam. Never mind, I still manage to make it work, though now, in order to get a neckband wide enough, I decided on top stitching on the band to finish rather than using stitch in the ditch. It worked out okay. I had to redo a couple of areas where I missed the back seam edge.

I  asked Lyn to look at the darts. She didn't find them that bad but steamed them over a ham which improved then considerably.

So, I finished the top. I’m ‘meh’ about it. I can probably wear it but won’t reach for it first out of my tops. I really don’t feel this design is my TNT and probably won’t make any more. I don’t feel it fits well enough but can’t put my finger on the issues. I'll try to get some better photos - I'm just not feeling well today and am not up to modelling!

Self drafted trousers - I’ll put these in a separate post.

Many people can watch TV and knit. I'm not one of them. I have made more mistakes and had to rip back more rows. I'm not getting on very quickly as a result! Fortunately, my waistcoat is for cooler autumn days (well it was supposed to be for spring but that's gone now)

London Fabric shopping

I’ve just returned home after a few days in Cambridge, Essex and London. In London, my main fabric purchasing task was to get green sandwashed silk to make Helen another dress. I succeeded in this.

I also bought some lovely Hugo boss wool for trousers and some lovely silk for me. ‘When I was young, much younger than today’ (cue music - Help! by The Beatles which is playing in the background as I type), I had a beautiful grey patterned silk or silk effect shirtdress that I loved and thought flattered. It could have been silk as it was rather expensive. This was of course in the days before I sewed or had any knowledge whatsoever about fabrics. I saw a silk that slightly reminded me of this fabric so bought it. I plan eventually to make a shirtdress, though of a different style to the original, more suited to my current body shape.

Meantime, I also bought some lovely plum coloured crepe, thinking shirtdress (practice before using silk!) and some linen.

London Exhibitions
I visited two exhibitions

Design Museum - Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier

He was small but loved tall models. A few of his photos emphasise height differential
“Conceived and co-curated with Monsieur Alaïa before his death in November 2017, the exhibition charts his incredible journey from sculptor to couturier, his nonconformist nature and his infectious energy for fashion, friendship and the female body.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Alaïa personally constructed each garment by hand and refused to bowto the pressures of fashion week deadlines, instead working to his own schedule. His collaborative approach earned him an esteemed client list, including Greta Garbo, Grace Jones, Michelle Obama and Rihanna.
Rather than a retrospective, the show interlaces stories of his life and career alongside personally selected garments, ranging from the rare to the iconic and spanning the early 1980s to his most recent collection in 2017.” from Design Museum literature

I’ve seen a few posts about this exhibition, which is why I learned of it in fact, so I won’t say too much about it. I did take some photos but they didn’t come out very well. I enjoyed it. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of fashion and art.

The exhibition is on for a few months yet. October 2018, I think.

V&A - Fashioned from Nature

“The first UK exhibition to explore the complex relationship between fashion and nature from 1600 to the present day
This exhibition will present fashionable dress alongside natural history specimens, innovative new fabrics and dyeing processes, inviting visitors to think about the materials of fashion and the sources of their clothes.” From V&A literature

I haven’t seen any posts about this - though I haven’t been reading as much as usual so sorry if I missed yours. The exhibition is on until January next year and I really enjoyed it, though when you’re in London for a short time, there’s a tendency to try to cram too much in so I was tired with really painful legs (it’s an issue I struggle with) and perhaps didn’t get as much from it as I should have.

Again, I was able to take photos, again only with my mobile, and again they aren’t that great, sadly. David came with me to this exhibition and we found quite a lot to talk about afterwards. It is certainly thought provoking.

I’ll see if I have any photos worth posting.
Bark lace

June plans
I have started a toile of the shirtdress I plan to make. I need to make a FBA and haven’t got around to thinking about it yet.
My mother has decided to move back into sheltered accommodation so I’m rather busy with that, travelling back and forth and staying to help with paperwork in particular (my mother is registered blind) and don’t know how much sewing I’ll get done over the next month. Sadly, too, a friend from my university days died and I’ll be going to her funeral in the Leeds area next week. I clearly won’t manage to finish either shirtdress or wrap dress in time for the events they were planned for. Never mind.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

April Review and trouser/pants update

I decided that I’d like to put up a blog post at the end of each month - my sewing speed doesn’t merit more than that, usually. I have very little completed to show for the month. My time has been more limited than usual and motivation even more so!! My sew-jo is critically low! It has been a time of rethinking and evaluation. I’m posting today even though there a couple of days left in the month and I might achieve a bit more.

Trouser progress

Yes, there has been progress. Slow progress.

My original block was almost at the stage of making up in proper fabric when I put it aside last year. Almost, not quite, as there was an ongoing question around the crotch point. Add to that that I’ve put on rather a lot of weight, and it was important to re-toile. Rory fitted me and I made another toile with extra fabric at the hips for the extra weight. I’m somewhat lopsided and originally I was making 4 pieces, left front and back and right front and back.  However, for this last toile, I made symmetrical pieces to the larger measurement of the two sides and reckon that is fine. This is so much easier! Rory re-fitted this new toile which wasn’t a million miles away. I needed to remove a little of the front rise by tucking out in the pattern - I have a very sloped waist. The other change was that I needed a little more space at the bottom of the upright back crotch seam - this is the opposite of crotch scooping. I found it difficult to get my head around the different pattern changes which might be required but understand better now that I have seen the changes marked on the toile and carried over to the pattern.

I redrew the pattern to get a clean copy. I started to draw up a contour waistband as I really like them, but Rory asked me to do the first pair with a standard waistband

I was going to use wool - after all, I bought loads of wool fabrics for this purpose. However, I was sure more tweaks would be required - and we had two days of summer heatwave just at that point, so I thought wool might be too warm. The first cotton I prepared was really too thin

I finally decided to start with a thickish bottom weight navy cotton. I washed, dried and trued the fabric. It crushes rather a lot. I found a fade mark down the centre so will have to avoid that. I could have had 3 pieces side by side, but just cut back and front on the fold which wastes fabric but avoids the marked crease.

I made up the trousers in sewing bee as far as needing zip and waistband. I found them snug to say the least on my left high hip and the back waist height was still too short - I had allowed a 1’ waistline seam allowance but I needed it all and more at the back. Rory marked the waistline with only a ½ cm seam allowance at the back. There were no other major adjustments and I planned to finish the trousers over the next few days.

I inserted an invisible zipper in the left side seam, the snug side, and allowed just a touch extra for hip space. It seems that I perhaps didn’t really need that. I tried on the trousers and asked David to mark them for good waistband position. This is way easier said than done!! At the second attempt, I've fabric marked on the right side (I can’t really try on inside out as I’m asymmetrical.) as the original method d didn’t work - the pins kept falling out. This is okay as I’ve decided these are a further toile, perhaps wearable - I forgot to finish the seam allowances before I sewed up. I did it afterwards but to say that it isn't perfect is a master of understatement. In addition, the trousers are a bit short - they seemed okay until the trouser was hitched up to the right place. Also, I really don’t like the fabric - it has poor drape, shows every crease and is quite firm. It picks up dust and lint and looks filthy just a short time after being washed and pressed. It’s similar to a pair of golfing trousers I have which, likewise, never look smart.

I’ll try to finish today so I can show Rory on Wednesday to see if she agrees with what I’ve done.

I'll adjust the pattern to reflect what we decide. The next pair should be better and I’ll use a nicer fabric.

Rory feels I suit wide leg trousers best and I may alter this pattern in that direction. I do like wide legged trousers but have a hankering for a slimmer fit. A princess seamed pair is also on the cards as that will make fitting my ‘muscular’ front thigh much easier - as it is, I get a bit of pulling across the front. I suspect that a slight lengthening of the front crotch point, tapering down the inseam a few inches would help that but I’ll leave it for the moment.

MAGAM and wrap dresses

I didn't manage my garment for MAGAM's Alternative April - in April, anyway, as I haven’t started even to think much about it. I might still do it, late as is often the case. I like the idea. MAGAM is something that doesn't have rigid timeframes, just suggestion of a theme. Come to think of it, I didn’t manage March’s MAD make a dress. I did have a plan for that, but I’ve shelved it for the moment.  I might rectify that one by trying to make a wrap dress for #sewtogetherforsummer (#stfs), which is by midsummer day, 21st June, which is probably achievable even for me! A wrap dress has the advantage, I think, of being more flexible for disguising fluctuating weight - or perhaps I should say fitting better over a wider range of weights.

While I was doing my textile course, one of my pieces was a Vogue wrap dress - this was made in a polycotton fabric.  I looked back at the photos and David commented they looked frumpy. 

I know I could make this dress with much better technique now as I have improved a lot. I didn’t really like the dress because of the skirt - it was much shorter and much more flared than I anticipated. My tutor commented to be wary of a pattern without a photo of a model wearing it. There were only illustrations.

I gave the completed dress away to someone who appreciated it. I think it would be okay longer with this degree of flare. Or I could reduce the flare. Though I’m not too keen on the tucks at the shoulder either… Or I could start with a new pattern. I could even use a pattern for a stretch fabric. What do you think? #stfs has put up a lot of pattern suggestions and I have one or two of them already. I think I’d like a proper wrap rather than a mock wrap and one that includes both bodice and skirt. Slimmer fit skirt. Comments please!

Pattern Alteration

I liked the top I made for myself but felt it needed a few more tweaks, especially when I’m heavier. The previous fabric had a touch of give and was more forgiving than the quilting cotton I tried to use a couple of months ago.

My first top is still the most successful though my weight gain has made it a little uncomfortable at present.

I increased the width at the sides, 1” at the hem, tapering to zero at the armscyes. I made the back deliberately longer than the front and added a hemline split. I added seam allowances to neckline and armscyes. I adjusted dart position. I made a toile, which was pretty much okay, and further adjusted the dart.
I've pinned along new stitching line to show how much I had to take out.

I cut out and made up the front and back in class. I found that it was much too big around the waist area in particular - this is where the French darts start. I had quite a few problems with those darts! I’m not sure I’ll use them again. I’ll finish my top. Darts slightly remodelled. Sides taken in. What a difference a fabric makes even in a woven with no stretch! I need to rethink a TNT in a woven fabric

Raincoat - alteration

I bought a rather nice teal raincoat in a charity shop last year, while I was away at my bridge weekend. I thought it fitted nicely but the sleeves were too short. I hadn’t thought they were much too short, or I wouldn’t have bought it but now realise they were shorter than I thought! Last year, I took down the hem of the sleeves. While there was a lot of fabric, enough, just, to get a nice length, the lining was considerably shorter, of course. I discussed this with Dan at Sew Club. She suggested adding a facing to the sleeve and then stitching the existing lining to the new facing. She also suggested that I could stitch along the old hemline mark to disguise it - there is quite a bit of topstitching on the coat already.
Overall view of coat

Taken to show old hem mark. How obvious is it?

Sleeve turned back to show added facing and junction with original lining

So, eventually, last week, I got around to the alteration. I added a 7 cm interfaced facing piece in a teal-ish heavy-ish cotton from my stash. I understitched and pressed. Then, the process was like bagging a lining, which I have done before. The seam on one sleeve lining was opened up, the sleeve extruded through it and the lining sewn raw edge to raw edge, some anchor points made (so the lining doesn’t fall below the sleeve) then everything put back together and the seam resewn. The second sleeve was clearly how the original constructor got into the garment - but it was easier to do the cuff from the sleeve on the same side rather than trying to get to one sleeve from the other. Originally, I hand stitched the seam closed, but realising that the original seam entry point had been stitched by machine, I did that on both sides. Easier and neater - my hand stitching isn’t great

The coat looks quite nice but feels a little tight at the moment. I decided not to stitch the seam mark on the cuffs as I thought this might draw more attention to it. I’ve been advised to steam well. I’ve put it away for the moment. Even if I never wear the raincoat (though I probably will wear it) I feel I’ve learned quite a bit about this type of alteration which I need regularly as I have long arms and RTW garments are invariably too short.

Wet hair wraps

When I’ve washed my hair, I like to wrap it in a towel wrap. Over time I’ve ‘lost’ most of my wraps and decided I’d make some new ones from an old disintegrating towel - it’s a towel we love because it dries so well but it is rather disreputable! The body of the towel is absolutely fine but the edges and ends are something else!

I took my one remaining wrap and drew up a pattern from it.

However, my towel has no stretch and the wrap does, plus there is elastic in the band. I decided not to use the old towel, but bought some stretch towelling from Minerva, hoping I might get around to making a couple of head wraps.
I ended up thinking that my time is more valuable than this exercise and I bought 3 online (my local supplier didn’t have any in stock when I visited). It’s true, I could have made them more cheaply (and I don't know yet what quality these will be!) but I still have the time and the gorgeous towelling and I’m thinking I could make something rather nicer!  One day.

The towelling has quite a loose loopy texture


I've carried on doing a bit of knitting and I've enjoyed that. I had to rip back a large chunk as sadly I'd made an error and hopefully now I'm on the right track. It looks better, certainly. I feel the instructions didn’t tell me how to decrease around a cable area as I thought I had followed them. Now I’m knitting by the seat of my pants as I’m trying to copy the pattern photo. Hopefully it will be fine.


There have been two discards of diy garments or potential garments this month

First was a skirt that I was trying to let out again (after having taken it in last year!) but I felt that there was too much to do as the waistband would need replaced as with the much smaller seamline I couldn’t see how I could get the zip back in. I reckoned that the waistband was short by about half an inch on each side. I never did like the fabric; I think I gave it away so possibly couldn’t have replaced the waistband even if I had wanted to. The skirt has gone; it’s in 2 pieces, a fully finished back with kick pleats etc and a fully finished front - the two pieces just need joined together and a zip inserted. Okay provided whoever takes it is a bit slimmer than I am currently! One of my sewing friends was keen to take it - but not keen to sew it up.

Photo I posted in my 2017 fails post. The skirt is much worse now!

Second was a kaftan that I bought last year very cheaply for the fancy dress murder mystery weekend I attended but it was too tight and I didn’t use it. I asked advice and we decided that I could take out the stitching down the sides. The thread used, and therefore the needle used, was huge and there are some pretty big holes left in the fabric, but no tears. It seemed possible that washing and ironing etc might get rid of these. However, when trying the finished neckline on to see where I should put new seamlines, I then noticed that the design on the front is off centre. I can’t just sew up the side seams - I couldn’t live with this. Others agreed that it was unacceptable. I may use the fabric for something else or it may go the same way as the skirt (not lost forever; it’s been put into the sewing class cupboard!)

Other discards

We’ve been continuing our plan to get rid of a lot of ‘stuff’. David is working on contents of garage and of side loft area and we’ve had trips to the dump AKA Recycling Centre. I’m working on clothes and shoes. Already a lot has gone to the charity shop. However, we have scarcely scratched the surface as yet! I had originally planned to alter some clothes if possible but there were so many, and this seemed such a big task. It wasn’t a case of taking in which would have been easier. Lots of nice stuff has gone to the charity shop so hopefully someone will enjoy the items and the charity will benefit from the sale.

We’re way behind in our plan to downsize and move south but what we’re doing is a necessary part of the process.

I have way too much fabric but that's not being included in the culling process! I am planning to sew more of it. There will be some that gets donated.


I’ve been reading a lot more as I used to do. Some of my reading has been sewing books. I love buying old sewing books after I see them recommended. I bought a couple of Claire Schaeffer books about pockets.  They are pretty old fashioned and don’t have photographs but are full of marvellous tips. I’ve come across a technique that might improve the pocket with gusset (I now know that’s called a Bellows pocket) on Helen’s red silk dress - I’m going to be making one in green silk. I will need to modify the pocket ever so slightly, I think, but will have a look at the pattern pieces this coming month. Helen may not find any modification acceptable so unless it’s imperceptible in the finished pocket I may have to rethink! Anyway, I did manage the pocket by the original method. I was planning to buy the fabric for the dress on a trip to London over Easter but that got postponed. Hopefully we'll manage to get there next month.

I’m also reading Sandra Betzina’s Power Sewing book and think it’s great.

So what have I abandoned?

Another ‘Twin Set’

I hope/had hoped to get another Blackwood cardigan finished by the end of the month. I have the pattern. I have the fabric. It really doesn’t take long. I just need a bit of motivation! Maybe that trip to Cambridge and London will be the incentive required. This is a temporary abandonment only.


I have a skirt from a few years ago in colours I like in a fairly heavy cotton/linen. I didn’t ever feel comfortable in this skirt as it rode up a lot at the back due to my shape. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to lie nicely and be acceptable even when I tried to remodel it. It was also rather on the short side for me. I generally prefer skirts straighter and knee length. This was A line and above knee length. Another ‘what was I thinking of?’ moment.

Anyway, I thought of trying to make it into a top and enter it into the Pattern Review Recycling Contest.

I took the skirt apart - this took quite a while surprisingly. I should've realised before, but all the pieces are cut on the bias! I decided to make a waistcoat for myself with the main pieces in this fabric and the back in plain contrast cotton (the cotton I’m using for my trousers). Then I thought - why?

I’ve decided not to pursue this at the moment. I may later as I do like the colours in the fabric


I’m not much into making craft items but there are a couple of things I have wanted and need.

  1. The large bags I carry to class are not strong enough and rip. I’d like to make a strong canvas bag and maybe even have a couple of internal partitions or pockets. I’d also like to use some machine embroidery to decorate it.  In the meantime, I’ll be using supermarket heavy duty bags.
  2. I’d like a bag to hold my knitting, so I can carry it around. It needs to be long enough for the needles and fairly capacious. I’m sure somewhere I do have a knitting bag (though I seem to remember the needles always stuck out) but we haven’t come across it in our culling as yet. I’m sure I’ve also got more knitting needles. I don’t want to buy more until I’ve checked properly but I could really be doing with a second set of 5.5mm.
  3. Thread catcher/pincushion. This is on my someday list. However, my Thursday sewing class has set a pincushion as a voluntary project this term, so I may just do it! I have some patterns.
  4. If I had loads of time, there is a bag I’d really like to make. S in class is making it and it’s fabulous.

Only number 3 has any chance of being completed in the next few months!

I'm going off now to try on some tops from my wardrobe, to see which I'll keep and which will go. Wish me luck!

Meeting up in London with some fellow 7 Steppers

Sunday 1st July I'm on the train on the way to London to meet up with some of the 7 steppers (7 Steps to Style) I have got to know o...