Thursday, 30 May 2013

Handmade Gifts

One of my commitments for 2013 was to use some of my handmade items as gifts this year.  I suffer from an odd idea that handmade presents are somehow second best.  Last Christmas I gave my mother a jacket that I had made for her.  Her delight, combined with my sister’s envy convinced me that it was actually Ok to sew presents for people.  Far from regarding them as second best, people often feel especially pleased that I have spent the time making something for them, rather than popped out at lunch time and grabbed something from the mall. I often think it would be nice to offer friends and family something that I have made myself, but then don’t get my s**t together in time to actually have a present in time. 

This year I’m going to start a “Gift Stash”.  I will make stuff that can be given as presents without specific recipients in mind.  Hopefully when an occasion arrives I will be able to reach into the stash and pull out a handmade present.

My first offerings for the Gift Stash are kitchen items – oven mitts and gloves with matching T-Towels.  I didn’t actually make the T-towels, but I got a set of machine embroidery files from Urban Threads and stitched one of the designs on a pair of cheap T towels. The rest of the items were made from Calico and Thinsulate tm, a wading specifically sold for its insulating properties.  I designed them myself, and fully lined the glove and the main portion of the mitts with calico that was quilted with the Thinsulate tm, so the areas that are between the user and hot pans are all double layers of insulation.  I used the embroidery as the quilting.  The layers are too thick to fix into the machine hoops, so I used bulldog clips to hold the fabric and wadding on to the lower hoop.

For the gloves, I made four pieces for each glove, sewing them into two gloves, then putting one inside the other as a lining, and stitching them together at the wrist before finishing off the edge with black bias binding (made with the bias binding maker) made from black calico.

The mitts are two long oval shapes quilted with the Thinsulate tm, then two extra pieces for the ends.  I didn’t use Thinsulate tm to quilt these pieces as I don’t envisage these pieces being used to protect the user.  I then bound all the pieces together with more black calico bias binding.

I’m actually very pleased with this collection, and love the designs.  I will be quite proud to give these away.  Am I alone in feeling a bit iffy about giving home made presents?

FO - The Jacket with no dragons in sight

I’ve been a bit slack on this jacket.  It only occurred to me last night, when I read the Curious Kiwi’s post last night, that May was almost over and I hadn’t got around to finishing my Burda jacket. 

So last night I sat down with three episodes of Desperate Housewives and a needle and thread to sew down the underside of the black edging to the lining of the jacket.  Now, I know some people hate hand finishing garments.  Personally find it relaxing to curl up in front of the TV with a programme that doesn’t require concentration and a sewing project on my knee.  Last night that’s exactly what I did.  It took me two and half hours of mindless TV and the jacket is finished.

The style of this jacket is a bit boxy for me, and I do wonder whether a heavier interfacing would have given it a little more structure.  Having said that, it’s quite nice as a sort of cardigan-style jacket, which does “lift” a plain black outfit. 

My original intention (Project17) was make a skirt in the same fabric; the jury’s still out on that idea.   It might be a bit much, or a bit matronly.  I’ll sit on that idea for a while.
Overall I'm pleased with this.  I didn't use the Burda instructions at all.  Just using a little common sense and the numbers on the pattern pieces it was a simple sew, and I'd recommend it as a first jacket for anyone interested in trying jackets for the first time.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Nearly a jacket

After extensive deliberation I decided not to use the pink and grey patterned lining.  I just wasn’t confident enough that it would work. Anyway, I went with a plain black lining – boring, maybe, but at least I know it won’t clash.  Putting together the lining is exactly the same as the main jacket pieces (remembering to change the needle). In order to get the ease pleat in the back I simply cut the back piece 2 inches from the fold, instead of actually on the fold.  I then put a row of basting down the edge of the pattern piece.  Cutting out and assembling the lining took about an hour and a half.

I added shoulder pads and filled out the sleeve head next.  The pattern calls for lightweight shoulder pads.  Some time ago I bought a large bag of shoulder pads for two dollars, so I use them whenever shoulder pads are required, regardless of the size.  They are fairly basic pads, consisting of two layers, so if I need larger pads I add an additional layer from another pair.  In this case I cut the two parts into one part to make a lightweight pad. 
I then used the discarded piece as the batting required to pad out the sleeve head.  I than had stitched the shoulder pad and the batting to the seam allowance and stitched in the shoulder seam to secure the shoulder pads.   
As this jacket has quite a narrow shoulder seam I also had to trim the shoulder pads at the neck edge.

This all took about half an hour.

Before putting the two together I interfaced one set of the edging pieces and stitched together the two complete sets of edging, then joined the two sets together.  This was fiddly and took another 45 minutes.

At this point I deviated from the Burda Instructions.  They suggest putting the edging on the fashion fabric, edge-stitching the reverse side down, then adding the lining.  I couldn’t see how that was going to work out, unless I hand stitched the lining in place.  If I was going to hand stitch anything I decided I’d rather it was the band.  I pinned the lining and the jacket together then added the edge band, stitching through all three layers.  This was quite quick – 30 minutes.

At last the jacket was starting to look like the one in the magazine!
I then left the project for the night, which was just as well.  When I came to photograph it this morning I noticed an odd kink in the front of the jacket – right where it will be really obvious. 
This will have to be unpicked and re-done this evening before I can sit down in front of the TV and stitch down the edging on the inside of the jacket.

So far I've spent about 7 1/4 hours on this project.  This has been made up of 4 sewing sessions (mostly evenings) of between one and a quarter and two and a half hours.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Slaying the dragons in jackets

Ok, so I cut out the jacket, now I have to put it together. Remember I said it was just like a blouse?  Well it is…mostly.

Using the numbers on the pattern pieces, I first find the two number ones.  They’re on pieces one and two, the two front pieces.  I match up the two ones and the first seam is joining these pieces together –front and side pieces.  

Next I find the two number twos.  They are on the side pieces and the back piece.  Same thing - match up the twos and sew the seam.  

At some point I need to add pockets.  Burda uses single welts, I used double welts – I just like the look of double welts better.  This is a good time to do them, while the jacket is still a more or less flat piece.  I’m not going to go into detail on the pockets; there are numerous excellent tutorials on line so I’m not going to re-invent the wheel.

Once the pockets are done I go back to sewing by numbers.  The number threes join the shoulder seam.

Here there is a slight confusion here, because there are no number fours. 

At this point there is a slight variation from a standard blouse.  This jacket has a two part sleeve.  It’s quite common on jackets and gives a sort of kink in the sleeve similar to a natural bend in the arm.   

This doesn’t actually present any major challenge.  It’s just an extra seam.  Going back to sewing by numbers I match up the number fives and sew the seam.   

Now the sleeve is in one piece.  Matching up the sixes and sewing the seam creates a conventional looking sleeve.  I usually press it at this point, using a very firm sleeve shaped cushion.

The next number to match is seven, which brings together the sleeves and the body.  The upper sleeve piece also marks the point that the sleeve joins the shoulder seam.  As a third guide point, the diagram of the rear of the jacket shows seam number five matches up with seam number two. With three anchor points fitting the sleeves is quite simple.  Suddenly the project looks like a garment

Assembling the garment and doing the pockets took about two hours, and I’m very slow at making the pockets (probably half the sewing session was spent on the pockets)
I left the project for the rest of the weekend and went out diving instead as I’m still undecided about the lining and the weather was clear for the first weekend in ages.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Here be dragons

I was chatting to a friend overseas the other day, and I mentioned the Burda sew-a-long.  She used to sew before babies came along, and kept coming, but finds the demands of six children a bit tricky to juggle in sewing time.  I mentioned that one of the projects that I was considering was a jacket from Feb 2013.  She was horrified at the idea of sewing a jacket from Burda – “aren’t they really difficult?”  

I’m far from an expert, entirely self taught and have just as many failures as successes.  My first ever jacket was from a Burda magazine, and I guess that no one told me it would be difficult so I just did it.  Since the instructions were in German I just sort of guessed at the method.  It’s not a perfect jacket, but I still wear it.

I went and had a look round the sew-a-long pinterest board – blouses, skirts, dresses, and even a cape, but no jackets.  I get that the northern hemisphere sewers are losing enthusiasm for jackets at the moment, but there are plenty of sewers in NZ and Australia, but no jackets.
I know that there is a bit of a myth that jackets are hard, and a bit of a myth that Burda magazine patterns are hard.   

Let’s get this one BUSTED right now – Jackets are like blouses in a heavier fabric.  Lined jackets are like two blouses sewn together.  I appreciate that notched collars can add a little panic into the mix, but the jacket I have chosen doesn’t have a collar.

So without further ado, I’m going to sew a jacket from February 2013 Burda and document the process, including the actual time investment.  Look through it – there’s nothing here especially challenging.  You could do it.  The big bonus with jackets is that they are often really expensive in RTW, so the potential for saving money is greater than blouses.

First I traced the pattern.  I’ve already documented how I do that here, so I won’t repeat myself.  The jacket I have chosen is the cover jacket from February Burda, and has five pieces, which took just under an hour to trace off.   I’m using a pink and black houndstooth with a plain black for the edges.

The pattern for the edges is part of the main pattern pieces, so the first thing I had to do was remove the edges…

…and glue them together to form the pattern pieces for the black edging.

Since they don’t have seam allowances I used a small ruler and very sharp chalk pencils to draw the cutting lines on the black fabric.

Whatever the instructions say (if I read them) I prefer my jacket bodies interfaced.  This is especially valuable with a fabric like this one that has quite a loose weave, so a light-weight interfacing gives the jacket body and improves its wear.  I marked the cutting lines on the interfacing, and then fused the interfacing to the fabric before cutting out the fabric.  I find that this keeps the fabric stable while cutting, and makes it easier to match up patterns and checks because you can usually see through the interfacing.  I did the fusing and cutting out on the floor so that there was no risk of the weight of the fabric distorting it while I was fusing.

The fusing and cutting out process took about two and a half hours, including stopping to take photos.  

I’m going to line this jacket.  My original plan was to use plain black lining, until I came across this fabric in the stash (no idea where it came from)...

... and am considering using this instead.  I’d really like some honest feedback on this.  If the patterned lining is too busy, someone please tell me.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Project 6

I’ve been silent on this for a while, but I have actually completed all 20 blocks in the Craftsy Block of the Month course.  It ended up being a project that I could pick up and do in small bites, rather than having to clear a substantial block of time to be worth tackling. 

Bit by bit I made twenty blocks.  Some were so simple that I could have done them with a picture; others took two or three goes to get right. 

Once I’d finished the twenty blocks laid them all out into what seemed to be a pleasing way, and decided that the quilt was going to be smaller than I wanted, so I decided to do an extra five blocks, which would give me a quilt that was five feet square, before I added sashing.  With sashing I’m hoping that it will be close to two metres square – a substantial bed quilt.

I did one of the 2013 blocks, but most of them are not the standard 12 ½ inches square, so don’t add easily onto Amy’s blocks.  I invented a few more, using the techniques that I had learnt over the course, and finally have my 25 blocks!
Next step is to sash them together.  I’m going to use a plain black to join them so that each block looks “framed”.  The next exciting bit is going to be the quilting.  I’ve done a little experimentation with using the embroidery machine to quilt, and while it works on smaller pieces of quilting (Project 45 has been started with smaller quilting samples.) I can’t see how I will be able to manage a large piece round the machine.  I’ve also seen some very impressive quilts just using Amy’s ditch stitching technique.  There’s still plenty of learning to do with this project.

Once I’ve done all this I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my quilt.  It’s not going to fit into my bedroom (wrong colours) and I can’t really see anywhere in my home it will fit.   It seems a shame to put all this work into a project that then sits in the bottom of a cupboard.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Vogue 8881 - Not project 9

This wasn’t actually one of my 52 projects, but when I came to do project 9 I realised that I didn’t have enough of the grey and black stripe for a whole T shirt, the using the small amount that I had needed to be re-branded anyway.

I also had a small amount of a fine black knit with grey screen printing on it, which actually went quite well with the stripe.  This was part of my $1 stash, which also had heaps of black T shirting in it.

Having been bullied into buying two vogue patterns by a couple of especially pushy pieces of fabric I figured I might as well pick up anything else that caught my fancy since the postage is the major expense of ordering patterns on line here in New Zealand.  Vogue 8881 seemed to have been designed for the few odd pieces I had in black and grey.  Of course, when the patterns arrived I had to jump in and get started on one of them as soon as posible.
Matching the two bias cut striped side pieces was a challenge.  After a couple of failed attempts at pinning I resorted to hand tacking the two pieces together from the right side, then sewing the seam on the machine.  It was time consuming, but I’m actually really pleased with how the side seem looks. 

I was a little nervous about the neckline, which is just hemmed.  I’m used to adding ribbing to necklines to keep them sitting against the chest, but the instructions were to hem the neck edge.  While it isn’t as firm as ribbing would have been, it’s quite wearable and I think the finish does look better as a hem.  I overlocked the edges and only turned the hem once, as twice added a lot of bulk.  I also overlocked the bottom edges to keep the flowing thing going.  I think a hem there might have been a bit stiff.

Other than that the pattern went together really well.  I sewed a medium size, although I’m probably a large.  I think that the large might have started to resemble a tent, but the medium sleeves are a little snug.

All in all, I’m very pleased with this top.  It was a genuinely quick make (started it at lunch time and wore it out that evening) which is always satisfying.


Fools Rush in... Project 21

I’m never as confident sewing with lycra as other fabrics.  It seems to slip while I’m cutting it. Slip while I’m sewing it and eject all pins which I may use to try and suppress this tendency.  Having said that, it’s easy to wash, dries quickly and never needs ironing!  I know I shouldn’t be attracted to fabrics according to how much work they will require once they make it into my wardrobe, but I really, really, really hate ironing. 

Anyway, this stuff was bundled up with a yellow version of the print for $8 on trade-me (a NZ version of Ebay), so I figured I could have a play with it.

I started with the idea of a circular skirt with a wrap top on the top of it.  I remembered the formulae involving Pi from school and used my waist as the circumference of the skirt at the waist, less 20% for negative ease, then calculated the radius. 
For the top I used an old Butterick pattern, cutting it off at what I guessed was the waist.

I don’t know what I did wrong with my waist calculations but I couldn’t even stretch it on,  so I added a strip of plain black down the centre front.   

When I then attached it to the body from the Butterick Pattern I discovered that my estimate of the waist was way too high.  The resulting garment sort of looked like a baby doll night dress – too short for everyday wear and it made me look pregnant. 

Since I already had a black strip down the centre front, I unpicked the bodice from the skirt and added more black at the waist line.

This time it did fit slightly better, but I’d obviously made the waist piece too wide, and now the skirt flared out from the hip, which was sooooo not a flattering look on me. 

By this time “playing" had ceased to be fun, so a wrinkled up the waist piece to make it look shorter and have the skirt flare out from where I used to have a waist.

I’m far from happy with this, partly because it actually doesn’t look that bad, and it does have a lovely flare.  

 If it looks “not too bad” with such a **** up of a sewing session, just think how good it would’ve looked if I’d actually taken my time and done it properly?
Am I the only person who rushes into a project then realised how much nicer it would have been if I’d taken a little more care?

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Burda sewing

Reading other people’s posts about Burda I seem to have come to sewing the opposite way round to most.  My first sewing experiences were from the Burda Magazines from the eighties.  In those days all I was able to get was the German Language versions, which taught me to manage largely without instructions.  Later on, when the English Language versions became available I realised that the instructions were only slightly more comprehensible in English.  Unfortunately I don’t still have those early makes, largely because I was twenty odd then, and am not now.   I did try the big four pattern companies, but somehow garments always came out HUGE, so I stuck with Burda.  When I started my family I again tried a couple of “normal” patterns.  Again, the resulting garments were huge.  (Of course this is less of an issue with young children’s clothes as they will fit eventually) When I came to get married Mum was determined to sew my dress, but I sewed the bridesmaids’ dresses and waist coats for the men.  It was the first time I’d embarked on a sewing project with anyone else.  So did I learn anything from sewing with my Mum?  Absolutely – I learned that “other” patterns already have the seam allowance on them!  This explained, or course, why the sizing was always wrong.  I was adding seam allowances because I always had.  It never occurred to me that a pattern would include a seam allowance.

Despite solving the major fit issues I still continued to sew largely from Burda magazines.  In recent years I have had brief flings with the big four, and more recently, learning to draft my own patterns. Despite this, some of my favourite makes are still Burda.

This jacket from 2007 has been re-invented in red and black and black and white

Although the curious kiwi was not delighted with this trench

I was

This wrap dress dates back to January 1999

...and I currently have four versions in circulation

Not that Burda is without its share of disasters. 
These pants never truly worked...

...but I still get every issue, I have sewed something from over half of the issues I have, and now my daughter is discovering them too.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Does Fabric Talk to You?

OK, I suspect that someone is going to call the little white men in little white coats, but fabric talks to me! 

I don’t typically buy fabric for specific projects.  I enjoy looking at fabric in shops and I do imagine what I could do with it, but I’m just as inclined to fall in love with a fabric and buy it, knowing that, when the right project approaches, the fabric will tell me.  Sometimes it’s easy, the fabric speaks to me in the shop.  This has the added advantage that if I know what I’m going to do with it, I can buy the right quantity.

The black and grey furnishing fabric fell into that category. 
From the moment I saw it in the remnant pile I knew that it would make a beautiful tailored jacket.  I heard it calling out to be something with structure, letting the subtle pattern soften the look.  I questioned the fabric – “You’re a large pattern” I said, “...and you’re only a metre and a half.  What if I couldn’t match the pattern?  Immediately a second piece slipped out of the pile.  “See, you can have plenty of fabric for pattern matching, and you know you need a black jacket, and let’s face it you’re getting a bit long in the tooth for plain black.  Let our silvery grey tones add a little you to a corporate look.”  I didn’t stand a chance!
Although it's not quite a jacket yet, it made it to the 52 projects, and I have made a start:
and even got as far as starting the pockets...

Other fabrics shout so loud that I don’t immediately understand what they are saying.  This aqua and beige print (part of my $1 haul) offered too many possibilities. 
A jump suit, a dress, a skirt; they would all have worked.  Fortunately I was browsing the Vogue Patterns web site the other day (while they were having a sale) and the fabric was peering over my shoulder when I clicked on V1353 and I felt the fabric (conveniently located in the same room) shiver in anticipation “That’s me, you know that I’d look amazing in that dress” I didn’t dare to disagree

Sometimes I sense that fabrics have something to say to me, but I’m just not getting it.  This black and gold print (one way stretch) was also in the $1 haul. 

Sitting on the shelves with the rest of the fabric it didn’t have a voice.  I separated it and hung it up in my studio where I could see it.  After a couple of weeks of silence I have resorted to draping it over my dress form. 
Still, it’s just not talking to me.  Maybe this one just doesn’t have anything to say to me.  I’m wary of discarding fabrics too quickly, as I’ve made a couple of mistakes recently...
...this ivory crepe stuff came with lining and 1.5 metres of matching lycra, but I disregarded it.  The blonde-on-blond look best suits blondes.  I just couldn’t envisage this material becoming anything that I would wear.  I even took it along to the Auckland Sewing Bloggers meet up, but while other fabrics were happily adopted, this collection was still left at the end.  Still stoically silent, it was neatly folded in my studio when I clicked on V8845

See”, she said (in a rather condescending tone) “I was never destined for cheap, quick and easy to do projects.  I am a fabric with class, and you will have to invest time and energy to doing me justice.  You know that I’d shine in that jacket and a skirt, if you have what it takes” I realised she was right.  Here she was, having wheedled her way into my stash without my consent, presenting me with the perfect challenge.  She will show every mistake that I make with this jacket; I will never be able to eat spaghetti in her, but if I can pull it off...

At no point did I even consider that the fabric and the jacket are not one of my 52 projects.  I just clicked on “Shopping Bag” and got my credit card out.
Does fabric talk to anyone else, or is this a special talent of mine?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Tracing a Burda Pattern

Since today is the first of May and therefore the first day of the Burda Sew-a-long, I thought I'd document how I trace off a Burda Pattern. It's not necessarily the best way, and definitely not the only way, but it's the method I've been using for years.


First, a word about the resources that I use:
Tissue paper - I use the stuff that they sell for gift wrapping. At a couple of dollars a packet it has the advantage of being cheap and very readily available. The down side of tissue paper is that it is very fragile and comes in a standard size - meaning that pieces have to be stuck together.
Paper Glue - I NEVER use sellotape to stick together pieces. The easiest type of glue to use is the stuff that comes in a tube.
Iron - yes, I'm going to iron tissue paper. Make sure that the iron is set to dry and that there is no water in it. If you try ironing tissue paper it disintegrates before your eyes. Also, when you start ironing your tissue paper you will see why I never use sellotape!
A soft pencil.
A felt tip pen - (in these photos I’m using blue, but that’s not a colour I recommend – it’s rather to close to the colour that the sheets are printed in.
Paper Scissors – I keep a pair especially for paper so I am not ever tempted to cut paper with my fabric scissors
Ruler (and possibly a French curve)
My Burda magazine with the pattern sheets carefully removed.
Find your pattern pieces
At the beginning of the instructions there will be pictures of the pieces that you need, and it will tell you which pattern sheet they are on, what colour they are and the piece numbers. 
For the pattern I’m doing I will need pattern sheet B

So I look for the numbers 24 to 27 in red round the outside of the sheet, then follow a line into the sheet until I find the same number, which will be the outline of the piece that I am looking for.  I then outline the piece that I want to trace with the felt tip pen to make it easier to trace off.

I am using a magazine from June 1991.  In the mid 1990’s the pattern sheets were redesigned to make this part of the process a lot easier. Don'f be put off that it looks hard to identify your pieces.  The newer magazines are A LOT easier, but the process is the same

Preparing the tissue paper.

At this point I will be able to see whether a single piece of tissue paper will be large enough. If I need to stick two pieces together I take both pieces and the glue to the ironing board.  I iron the tissue flat, then glue pieces together as required.  I then run the iron over the join to dry the glue quickly.

Tracing the pattern

I use a soft pencil so that I don’t damage the tissue, and carefully trace the lines that I have outlined.  I always include the numbers.  If I can’t see them while I am tracing I refer to the sketch in the instructions – these numbers are a great help if you want/need to operate without the instructions.  I do use a ruler for straight lines and French curve for curves, but this isn’t compulsory.  Mark grain lines, fold lines and other markings and cut out your pattern pieces.


I mark the pattern pieces with my own simple code – this one is 5/1991/119-42.  5/1991 is the date of the magazine, 119 the pattern number and 42 the size.  I also write the piece number and description on each piece, and refer to the instructions for any cutting instructions (e.g. cut 2, cut one on fold, etc.) .  If I have a problem when I’m fitting it I know where the pieces came from.


I frequently trace a pattern off and don’t sew it straight away.  I am a little picky about storing patterns, ‘cos let’s face it, if you’ve got a great pattern, you may want to use it again. 

I store my patterns in A5 envelopes with a photo from the magazine glued to the front.

It then goes into the covered photocopy paper box which is the perfect size for filing all my Burda drafted patterns