Petite Anna from By Hand of London

Anna-at-Greenway I’m sitting here with my leg on a chair and a bag of frozen peas draped around my ankle. 17 days after spraining my ankle whilst out running it’s still swollen and sometimes painful. My physio tells me that it’s heading in the right direction pretty much as she’d expect it to but chances are it’ll still be another 3 – 4 weeks before I can run.

Oh well….. there’s always sewing 🙂 And there has been plenty going on recently, but first I need to get my summer makes out of the way!

I’d forgotten how hectic the summer months get. I had thought that I’d get some sewing done over the school holidays but this year, for some reason, my girls decided that they were going to fall out, scream ‘I hate you’ (generally at each other, occasionally at me!) and go into complete meltdown on a regular basis.

I did however manage to make a dress for ME!!! That was before I realised that the start of term was looming and I needed to get myself together so that the girls both had things to wear – more on that soon.

Last year, I had wanted to make Colette’s Hawthorn but ummm’ed and ahhh’ed over it, mostly because I knew that I was going to have to do an SBA (small bust adjustment) and well, couldn’t quite bring myself to it, plus the fabric that I’d chosen to make it in is a striped seersucker and, well, I couldn’t face the pattern matching either!! Does anyone else get like this?

Anyway, fast forward to this year and I was still procrastinating. For some reason (probably a bit too much reading of Lynne’s blog Ozzy Blackbeard!!), I changed tack completely and downloaded By Hand of London’s Anna dress. Now I know you don’t need to read many sewing blogs to see them cropping up with regularity but the style really appealed to me.

I started off sewing it as is – no alterations. I was pretty confident it wouldn’t fit but I was willing to give it a go! It was obvious I needed a SBA and a few other changes too. Four muslins later, I’d done a 1″ SBA, a small back adjustment and a similar change to the front as well as raising the neckline. I only did a muslin of the bodice, mostly because by this stage I’d had enough!! Despite being 5′ 1″, I didn’t find that I need to shorten the bodice or the length ( I used the PDF  pattern) but I guess that most of the other changes I made are in line with changing something to fit a petite frame.

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SBA’s, I find aren’t discussed with as much regularity as their larger sister the full bust adjustment (FBA). When looking for instructions on how to do an SBA, I’ve often found that you’ll simply see ‘just do the opposite of a FBA’. For those who have been puzzling over the exact same statement, I’ll explain. In a FBA adjustment you draw your adjustment lines on the pattern, cut and move the pattern pieces apart. If you’re doing a SBA, you draw the exact same adjustment lines, cut and this time move the pattern pieces together so that they overlap. How much you overlap them by will depend on  how much you need to reduce the cup size by. A muslin can help determine this by pinching out the excess fabric and measuring it. I did see a reference chart on Pinterest recently but I’m not sure it’s incorporates the full picture.

Fit wise, I’d still like to see a few changes – the shoulders are too wide for me and the neckline doesn’t always sit very well most probably because the shoulders are too wide. Because I hadn’t muslined the skirt and my alterations had meant that the pleats on my bodice had moved, the paneled skirt didn’t line up with the pleats as I imagine it is meant to. I’m sure most people wouldn’t spot that, but the perfectionist in me wants to line them all up.

I had chosen the v neckline on purpose, as normally I’d have gone for the slash neck but I was sewing it to go with a Myrna cardigan as part of Lauren and Andi’s OAL (Outfit Along)

The least said about that the better …. but maybe I’ll share with you one day as there are always lessons to be learned.

The fabric is a cotton lawn from Stone Fabrics and I lined it with an off-white lightweight cotton poplin on their recommendation. And they were spot on, if I had lined it with a darker colour it would have shown through on the lighter coloured flowers.

I really love this dress – despite its minor imperfections – and it has been a bit of a wardrobe staple throughout the summer. I had completely forgotten how easy dresses are to wear and the lack of wardrobe dilemmas involved!

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Well that could be summer all wrapped up. I’m looking forwards to getting some autumn and winter sewing underway, finishing off my first White Tree Fabrics make and getting on with some winter knitting.

How about you? Are you mourning the passing of summer or looking forwards to those cosy knits and snuggly coats?

Bigger Booty shorts ?? My Dualthon’s & the Spring Race Challenge

At the start of April, I was due to run my first half marathon. I’d sorted out an injury, put in the training and whilst feeling rather apprehensive was ready to go. Enter taper week (for races, you tend to have a period of ‘rest’ that lets your body recover and feel refreshed and injury free ready for the big day). I came down with some bug that just left me wiped. I was exhausted and had a horrible rash. A trip to the GP had me leaving with a prescription and some pretty strong words that running was not advisable.

It was a tough decision to make (and I have to say a few tears were shed). I tried a short run the day before the race but it was clear that I was really going to struggle with the distance even at a conservative plod. Suffice to say, I went out and supported my fellow group members who did make it.

Once I recovered, I needed something new to look forwards to. The weather was hotting up and and I thought ‘I need shorts!!’.

I’ve always loved the idea of Melissa from Fehr Trade’s booty shorts.

Look at that concentration?! Market Drayton 10k

Look at that concentration?! I’m no. 426 – Market Drayton 10k

This time, I knew what alterations to make before I started. I used the smallest size and added a smidge to the waist and took an inch or so out of the hips. I didn’t take anything out of the length as I really didn’t think this would be necessary.

They were super speedy to cut out and sew. Even with my inadvertent basting of the pockets the wrong way up (apparently they’re good for tennis ball storage!!), I had them done in very little time.

The fit was great from the first try on (although with hindsight they could probably have done with being slightly snugger through the legs) and I was really pleased with them.

Next step – the test run. I was a bit worried as I often have problems on my crotch seams, with them coming unravelled, so I had sewn my shorts in both directions for extra security. But last thing I wanted was for any incidents on route, so I found the biggest pair of pants I could and off I went!!

I’m pleased to say there were no incidents. I tried them again, in company, later the same week. My friend very kindly pointed out they they were riding up a bit when I was running and revealing , well,  a little cheek!

After a bit of analysis, I decided that they needed to be a bit longer and some griper elastic might not be a bad idea. I used the narrow version from Kleins (think holds up or strapless bras and you’ll picture the silicone beading along the elastic). I sewed it to the right side of each leg (having measured it around my leg first – I think it needs to be a little shorter than your actual leg circumference, I just used the overlap to sew it together). I then stretched and sewed on both the top and bottom edges with a very short, narrow zigzag and then hemmed again (this time much narrower). When I’m not wearing them, I do now have wavy legs from the elastic, but once they’re on, they’re just fine and I don’t notice it’s there.

Do they work, I hear you ask? Yes and no. I think my shorts need to be longer still because they only just provide sufficient coverage. Despite narrow hips I clearly have a big bum!! The elastic works reasonably well, but I think the wider elastic would work better for me.

But you know what, despite their imperfections, I still wear them – they are really comfy to run in and as for the pockets…. they are FABULOUS. So many of the runners in my group are jealous of them.

I do plan to make more pairs of these (another bonus is that I’m sure I can get at least 3 pairs from one metre of fabric – now that’s what I call value!!) but I’m going to make them a little longer and and narrower on the leg and try without the gripper elastic.

Well on my way to fixing those 'funky arms'! - 10k Chase Challenge

Well on my way to fixing those ‘funky arms’! – 10k Chase Challenge

My shorts have now served me well in not one, but two races. My inhaler sits perfectly in the pockets and I don’t even notice it’s there. Although given the length of my t-shirt you can hardly see my shorts!

So here it is: my first entry to Fehr Trade’s Spring Race Challenge! Want to enter? You still have the whole of June to get sewing and sweating.

 

 

 

Spring Race Challenge anyone?

I’m taking part in…

Spring Race Challenge

Well it would be hard not to wouldn’t it? And there is still almost a month left to get sewing and racing!

No races you can think of entering? Why not try Parkrun? These are free 5km events that are held every week around the country and most probably in your local park. If you have kids you can take them with you. Some have shorter runs for children, but otherwise, so long as they’re over 4 years old they can run with you, they get their own time and after 10 runs will get a t-shirt! Check out their website for details as to how to register and “Don’t forget your barcode!”

My first entry will be coming soon. And I may manage to fit another one in before the deadline on 7th July!!

We sweat and we sew!!

Betty Draper goes on vacation – Mad Men Challenge 3 …. ish

I’m new to Mad Men.

After seeing all the posts for last years Mad Men Challenge and following Amy from the Little Tailoress’s beautiful creations, I knew I had to witness the show for myself. Many months later the first disc eventually turned up from a well-known DVD & instant viewing subscription service.

I love it!! The same can’t be said for my husband. OK, so the story is quite pedestrian. Despite my husband making me sit through some seriously dull films, he doesn’t seem to have the staying power for the world of ad men and 1950’s America. He claims that he doesn’t see the point!!

When I saw Julia announce this years Mad Men challenge I started scouting around for inspiration. (At this point, I need to mention that I have somewhat loosely interpreted the challenge – largely due to my own inability to read the small print – in that it was to make a dress!! I …. ahem haven’t)

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The 1950’s housewife that is Betty Draper seems to spend a fair amount of time in flouncy tea dresses. Whilst this may have worked in a bygone age, I don’t find it a particularly practical style for my way of life, gorgeous though they are.

Instead I took my ideas from Betty’s ‘vacation’ outfit, of a fitted, bateau neck top and Bermuda shorts. This is from Season 1, Episode 10 where Betty’s father Gene and his new lady friend Gloria arrive so the whole family (except Don) can go vacation on the Jersey Shore. I love the simplicity of the outfit and thought that it would really work in my wardrobe.

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Season 1, Episode 10 – Image credit TomandLorenzo.com

It took me a while to find the right patterns. I scoured the vintage pattern stores by couldn’t find quite the right thing and then stumbled across Colette Patterns and the Sencha top. It had the key elements I was looking for: a woven top, back button fastening and fitted at the waist.

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I decided that Bermuda shorts weren’t going to quite work in my wardrobe (or with my legs!) so instead I looked for some cropped trousers. As luck, I already had a Burda magazine with a 1950’s inspired vintage section which had some pleat fronted cropped trousers.

Next was where the fun really started!

I made muslins for both. I took 2 1/2 inches out of the Sencha top without really thinking much about it and realised once I had it sewn together that clearly my flat pattern alteration method had needed a little more thought.

Ooppps!

If you only want to take inches out at the bust and leave the waist and hips the same, then clearly taking a whopping inch out of both centre and front and back isn’t going to work as you’ve just taken the same amount off your waist AND hips!

Note to self: think it through first.

I managed to get a workable muslin and altered my flat pattern, flaring out to the waist and hips. I also altered the neckline to give it more of a bateau shape.

After a fair amount of deliberation, I decided to use a purple crossweave cotton that I had in my stash.

You’ll notice that Betty’s top has some kind of design across the front. Despite enlarging and a good deal of squinting I was very undecided as to whether they were seahorses or dragons!! Any guesses anyone?

Ultimately I went for a Spring oriental theme and chose a cherry blossom design from Aimee Ray’s Doodle Stitching opting for a ‘corsage’ approach rather than a repeating pattern across the front – it was a tough call though!! From previous experience, I knew that with this kind of hand embellishment you only get one change at placement so I pinned the sized design onto the top to decide exactly where I wanted it. I then used dressmakers carbon paper to transfer the design before stitching.

 

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Aimee Ray’s Doodle Stitching Cherry Blossom design – hand embroidery

 

The alterations still need a few tweeks. The neck refuses to sit flat and I feel that the back needs a touch more room. Overall though I’m more than happy with it!

I altered the trousers too. Again I made a muslin with the pleat front – hated them so switched them to darts and thought I had taken out the extra fullness and had the front and backs pretty much sorted. I knew I should have done another muslin!!

My changes were way out. I ended up with a very baggy crotch. Fetching, I know!! I owe a huge thank you to Melissa from Fehr Trade for her picture from her fitting book and I managed to eek out enough in the seam allowance to get a passable front. In the end, I did what I should have done to start with; took a whole range of measurements, added in a small amount of ease and then adjusted my finished trousers to match. Again, next time around, I think I’ll have a pretty rocking pair of pants!!

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I have learnt a vast amount about fitting from these two garments and it is abundently clear that a good book would  help a lot. I have Vogue Sewing but something more specialised would help to fill the gaps. What are your favourite fitting resources?

Right – Betty Draper, vacation time it is!!!

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PB Jam capris – a complete runners outfit (Part 1)

My grey supplex leggings are super comfy and go with EVERYTHING but I really fancied something a little more exciting and well when you’re running more than a couple of times a week through mud (blame the weather and my obsession with trail running!) then having more than two pairs of running tights is quite frankly a bonus.

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If you’re into sewing ‘activewear’ then I’m sure you’ll already have seen Melissa from Fehrtrade‘s new line of activewear patterns. When they first came out, I was really taken by them but hesitated as the smallest size was a few inches outside own measurements but then Melissa really listened to what her readers were saying and added a new XXS size. It was close enough for me to put my hand in my pocket and buy the digital PB Jam leggings pattern.

I have to say that it’s a great pattern. Like many Indie designers there is a lot of attention to detail and the instructions are clear and well thought out. Melissa does label this as an intermediate pattern and I’d agree. I’m not vastly experienced at sewing with knit fabrics (2 tees and 3 pairs of leggings is my total experience!) and me and my overlocker have a bit of a love/hate relationship going on but nevertheless, I got there in the end.

Now first off I made a few flat pattern alterations. I’m short (5′ 1′ to be precise) so as there is a back knee ‘patch’ I needed to try and get it hitting in the right place. Helpfully Melissa’s pattern marks the hip and knee line. Essentially, I taped all the leg and swoosh pieces together, overlapping the seam allowances, then took out my tape measure and decided how long the legs needed to be. I then divided the amount to be taken out into two and took a portion out above the knee (to get it into the right place) and a portion out below the knee. Melissa had already told me that there was no shaping in the swooshes, which was handy as I had to slightly re-draw the front swoosh as my slash line went partially through it.

In the end, I decided that I wouldn’t use the back knee patch and fortunately because of my short legs still managed to cut my pieces out of one piece of main fabric.

NOTE: if you need the full leg length and decide go without the back knee patch you will need more fabric.

I was a little unsure of the fit as the hip measurement was slightly larger than my own and the waist measurement a little smaller. But I decided to sew up and fit as I went along. Knits are pretty forgiving in the fit department.

Now, here’s where we come to the bit where my overlocker and I don’t get along! Sewing in a straight line is fine but curves are another matter and I have no seam allowance gauge so it’s all a bit of guesswork!! Thanks to Winnie at Scruffy Badger Time and her timely blog post I found a much more efficient way to rip out overlocked seams that didn’t require the entire lounge to be vacuumed each time. It was also super quick. I confess it took me a few attempts until I was happy with my swooshes.

I then used the basting stitch on my sewing machine to sew the in and out leg seams before trying on to check the fit.

I took a bit out of the side seams and the centre seams – probably about an inch overall – and I slightly altered the crotch curve. I also found for some reason that I needed to take a chunk out at the centre back, my bum is clearly not that large!!

Once I was happy with my basted fit, I marked the seam line with a trusty felt tip pen (washable of course 🙂 ), unpicked my stitching and sewed my seams with the overlocker. Before sewing however, I had to realign my front and back swooshes. I could get them spot on with pins but as soon as they went through the sewing machine or overlocker they moved.

I doubt this was helped by the navy and red fabrics being different thicknesses. The red was much lighter and stretchier and moved around a lot. Despite basting my swooshes together, I struggled to get the overlocked seams to match up perfectly and they were stretching about under the presser foot (maybe I should have adjusted the pressure of the foot?). I unpicked a number of times and well one of them is pretty much spot on, the other side less so – oh well!

I was really impressed with the fit once I had them all together.

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The waistband went on fine and then I just had to hem them. It was such a gloriously sunny day when I was making them that I couldn’t help but turn them into capris. I actually think given my height it helps to balance out the swooshes for my shape. I just marked how long I wanted them, added on 3cm hem allowance and stitched them using a twin needle on my sewing machine.

I always overlock the edges first and make sure that I remember to stretch as I go – otherwise you tend to find that you go to put your foot through and it’s a bit of squeeze and you end up with broken stitches.

Since sewing the hem and waistband with a twin needle on my sewing machine, I’ve since found some alternative settings on my sewing machine that work better and give me more even stitching and no skipped stitches. The only other change I would make, would be to give myself a little more room in the waist 😉

My capris had a long test run out the other Sunday and have since been through the wash and in the dryer. They’re brilliant and I’m amazed each time I put them on that *I* made them.

Of course I had to make a top to go with them – this is Maria Denmark’s Birgitte Basic T. I’ll save the details for next time.

For this time of year, I find this outfit a great compromise. I don’t find it quite warm enough for a short sleeved tee and yet I get a bit warm in leggings and  long sleeves.

If you fancy sewing capris without pattern alterations then you won’t have to wait long! Melissa will be launching her third pattern next week – the Dualthon!

I think I’m ready for the ‘Booty Shorts’. How about you? I think they’re going to be just perfect for racing in and for taking on the Spring Race Challenge. Now just to find a race?!

It’s all about running – Kwik Sew 3455 leggings

I’m new to running.

I started running over the summer when I found that I needed a sanity break whilst I wasn’t walking my 20 -30 miles on the school run.

Once school started again, I kept going.

To start with I just ran in what I had in my drawer but as the months went by I realised that I probably needed a few more clothes, if only to cut down on the times the washing machine was on!

First off I hit the shops. It was depressing. Nothing fitted particularly well. Too big, too long……

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So naturally I turned to my sewing machine. I found Kwik Sew 3455 – looked simple enough and ordered some grey (yawn ….. boring) supplex from Tissu.

I sewed up a size small  straight off the pattern based on my measurements. It’s a one piece pattern (aside from the gusset – yep, you heard me right, they are gussetted leggings) and a doddle to sew.

But they were HUGE and very baggy. Not a good look! I must have lopped some 6 inches out of the thighs and a couple out of the hips and waist. They could probably do with a bit more out at the hip/ waist area if I’m honest.

They have been out loads of times, through the mud, raced in them and been in and out of the washer and dryer. They’re fabulous, super soft, bobble free and haven’t shrunk a bit.

I also ran up a belt using this tutorial. It’s great for popping my phone and keys in and there’s even enough space to cram my gloves in. It was quick and straightforward to sew and the foldover elastic (purchased from here) went on a treat – much easier than I’d thought. It works so well,  I often forget I have it on!!

running-belt

There’s a lot in there!! Gloves, phone and keys

Next up I’m going for something a little more exciting – Fehrtrade’s PB Jam Leggings. They’ve been on a test run (one 11 miler and a hill training session) and now all I’m waiting for is a photographer to be around when it’s still daylight – roll on British Summer Time!!

Let’s Pyjama Party!!

Pyjamas & so to bedIf you knew how much I love sleeping (I really don’t get as much as I’d like  – that’s children for you), you’d know that when I saw Karen’s invitation to the Pyjama Party I wasn’t going to say no.

We read far too much Winnie the Pooh in our house and I couldn’t resist the ‘bump, bump, bump’ up the stairs moment, although clearly I’m taller than Christopher Robin and there has been a bit of change of direction.

“Here is Edward Bear (later named Winnie-The-Pooh), coming downstairs now, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping a moment and think of it. And then, he feels that perhaps there isn’t. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you.” From Winnie-The-Pooh, by A.A. Milne.

So here are the details.

I really love Tasia’s Tofino Lounge pants but budgets being what they are, I knew I had to make do with what I had. I dug out my copy of Amy Butler’s In Stitches which I’ve had for some time and have coveted quite a few of the patterns but haven’t made anything yet and checked out the ‘Wide-legged lounge pants’. Now I knew I didn’t want full length bottoms. I have loads of those already but for summer I needed another pair of shorts.

I added about 10 cms to the bottom of the templates (rather than the whole leg length) and decided to just make them ‘as is’ in size ‘S’. I used french seams throughout as there is nothing I hate more than itchy seams in sleepwear.

The material, a batik print cotton lawn was from my stash and is something my neighbour gave me when she has a clear out a couple of years ago (her husband had brought it back from a trip to India, I think). I have spent quite some time trying to decide what to make with it. It’s only 100cm wide and I had about 2.5 metres and then there is the pattern that would require matching… so I guess you can see why, beautiful as it is, it has lain unused for some time.

I matched the pattern at the hem by cutting from each end of my length of fabric. It wasn’t until I sewed everything together that I realised that the pattern wasn’t exactly the same at either end, so it doesn’t match up further up. Oh well, at least they’re only pyjamas!!

Rather than making a sash/belt I bought some velvet ribbon.

They look huge on the hanger. When I showed my husband he asked me if they’d go small enough! ( and yes he was being serious!) There is a touch more ease in them than necessary but I decided to leave them as they are. No one wants tight fitting PJ bottoms – do they?

Shorty pyjamas in detail

And the top – well I’m sure you can guess that pattern…

…that’s right, it’s none other than Megan Nielsen’s Briar.

I love this pattern. It is wonderful for someone like me who was rather apprehensive of knits and getting along with her overlocker.

I had traced the pattern and made some alterations way back when Megan did the Briar sewalong but just didn’t have the spare time to do anything with it. This was my first time sewing knits and Megan’s pattern.  I redrew the neckline about 2.5 cms higher and changed the length to come to just below my waist (much as I loved cropped tops back in the 80s nothing will convince me post children to bare my midriff – ever).

I decided not to adjust the width and see how it sewed up. In the end, I probably took it in by about 2 inches. I actually think I need to adjust it further and take some out of the centre front and back as I think it comes up a bit too wide at the neckline and on the shoulders.

I opted for the neckbinding option, personally I’d like it to be narrower so I shall try the other neck option next time. I’d also bind the armholes as I think it would look more balanced.

A word on the grain. Getting my fabric straight was a nightmare. In the end I gave up and just cut the pattern pieces out. I dread to think how it’s going to wash!! I used a lightweight jersey from Tissu which is lovely and soft and my overlocker and sewing machine had no complaints whatsoever. Unfortunately the selvedge edges curled, curled and then…. just for good measure curled some more, probably a whole 3-4 cms on each side. Next time, I shall be getting the clothes pegs out and pegging it to my table. Unless of course someone has any other suggestions?

I am looking forwards to wearing these tonight and can’t thank Karen enough for hosting the pyjama party.

I shall be spending the day browsing all the other pyjamas 🙂