I had been keen to make a smart jacket to wear on cooler summer days for a while, but hadn’t thought that my skills were quite ready for that challenge. Then I realised that I’d probably never do it, unless I just jumped in and had a go – that’s pretty much what happened with my first blouse. I had already been browsing some jackets and coats in shops online and started to create a Summer Jacket Pinterest board to track the items I was drawn to. I quickly refined my vision to a tweed jacket and found I had a suitable pattern in my collection that I hadn’t used yet (Burda Misses Jacket and Skirt 7135). I’d picked it up on sale with the intention that one day I’d feel brave enough to attempt a suit for work. The shorter jacket (view A) with welt pockets looked very similar to those on my Pinterest board, so I didn’t even have to pick up a new pattern.
My main fabric choice was a pink, black and cream tweed check, and I lined it with a silver paisley weave jacquard, both from Minerva Crafts, then added some metal filigree buttons in antique silver, which I knew were the buttons I wanted from the moment I saw them. These all complemented each other perfectly for this project, although many times during the sewing I wished I’d chosen a different outer fabric. The tweed was quite a loose weave, and made the finer details (like the welt pockets and sleeve vents) very fiddly, as it frayed so easily. I’m really pleased with the end result though, and it was definitely worth any pain.
I made a very basic toile with only one sleeve – mainly to check the jacket and sleeve length. The jacket length was great, but I took an inch and a half out of the sleeve. I’ve always had trouble with sleeve length in RTW (ready to wear) clothes, so it was a great treat to make them to fit my shorter arm length.
There were quite a few elements in this jacket that were new to me, but I took each one slowly and was blown away with how well it all went.
I really love this jacket, but I’m not sure if I’ll dare wear it out and about for fear of damaging it. This was my biggest challenge and my biggest success to date. It’s too hot to wear it here right now, so I have some time to get over my fear, and just enjoy it.
Do you ever feel worried about wearing your hand made clothes in case of damage? How do you get past it?
About 18 months ago I started on the first knitting project I’d attempted since my school days, when I started knitting myself a scarf that quickly turned into a scarf for my dolls as I got bored with its slow progress. In December 2014, after adding some knitting blogs to my Feedly app, I decided that I like the idea of having a project that I could do in the evenings while listening to the radio and podcasts with my boyfriend, rather than being hidden away in my sewing cave. One of my favourite fabric stalls at Leeds Market (B&M Fabrics) had recently opened up a shop on the outside of the Kirkgate Market building, and expanded to sell knitting supplies. I picked what I thought would be a good beginners’ pattern (James C Brett – JB218) and some lovely soft jade green chunky wool (with Merino) and set about relearning how to knit.
I couldn’t remember anything from my youthful attempts at knitting, so I had to start from the beginning, teaching myself how to hold the needles, cast on, knit, purl and what the abbreviations in the pattern meant. Using some basic instructions that my mum had collected in the 1980s as a weekly subscription, and searching the internet whenever I got stuck, I managed to get myself started with the front body piece. It was slow going and I had to restart several times before I had successfully cast on and worked even a few rows. Just as I thought I was getting the hang of it I lost concentration and then something odd happened to my stitches.
I had no idea what I’d done, but I didn’t think it looked right, although I really didn’t know how it should look. I quickly realised that trying to listen to a podcast at the same time wasn’t helping. Then I dropped a stich – well I thought I’d dropped a stitch, but I couldn’t be sure. I increased my stitches by one in the next row just in case. It wasn’t looking very even so decided to make this my back piece – I was happy with it being a bit rough as it was my first attempt at a jumper.
Eventually, my first piece was complete, except for the curved bottom and the neck trim, which are both added at a later stage. Despite my hiccups along the way I was satisfied with my progress and looking forward to the front. Everything went very smoothly with this next piece and I soon had the front complete. Then I compared the two pieces. My front was so much neater and more regular than the back, and it had been completed so much more quickly. I had plenty of wool and so I decided to make a second back. This came along nice and quickly, and I thought I’d easily have the jumper completed within a month.
Next came the sleeves and tackling two by two rib. I had to cast this on at least eight times, as my first few attempts looked a complete mess, then I kept getting distracted and losing my place in the pattern. At some point in the first cuff I lost interest and the project was put to one side for several months.
Eventually, I came back to it and persevered until I had a nice looking ribbed cuff. I popped this off onto a spare needle, and then completed the other cuff the same day while I could still remember what I was doing. The rest of both sleeves came together nicely and I was really starting to enjoy the meditative effect of knitting. Then came the trim. I thought I’d picked a nice easy pattern, but this was where I became aware that it wasn’t. At the bottom of the jumper you had to pick up stiches so you could knit a two by two rib curved bottom onto the jumper. I started haphazardly picking up stitches, and before I was halfway along the curve I had more than the number of stitches advised, so I let it unravel and tried again. After several attempts I wasn’t getting anywhere. The bottom of the jumper was all stretched out of shape and any trim I’d managed to get on the bottom looked terrible. I was losing my patience, and so again I put it away – this time for over a year.
It was now July 2016 – over 18 months since I first started this jumper, and it hadn’t turned out how I had hoped. My previous work contract had finished on 30 June and I had been using my summer break to catch up on other projects and complete some UFOs (Unfinished Objects). This seemed like the perfect time to deal with this jumper once and for all. I decided I was going to complete it, and in the worst case it would be a ‘house jumper’ – the wool is lovely and soft, so it would be great to wear, even if it looked a mess. I had a quick practice on the first back piece to try to get the trim even – this time marking out lengths of six stitches so I could space them more evenly, then I leapt into the real back piece. I managed to get most of the stitches that I needed picked up, but I lost track of the two by two rib somewhere along the rows and ended up with a strange shifted pattern. I completed the trim and then moved onto the front.
This came more easily and I managed to keep track of the rib to get the right effect. I joined one of the shoulders and created the same two by two rib around the neck, then hand-stitched all the bits together. The stitching was simple enough, and before I realised it I had my completed jumper. It was better than I could have hoped. I had some small holes at the neckline, but they would be fixed with a quick stitch or two, and the back trim was odd, but not too noticeable. The pattern is ‘super chunky’, but the wool is just ‘chunky’, which may explain the problems I had picking up stitches for the trim and the holes at the neck line, and the whole jumper is quite loosely knit. But that’s ok – I’ll use it as a winter layering jumper. I’ll happily wear it out in public, and will proudly tell people it’s my first handmade jumper. It’s just a shame we’re in the middle of a heatwave here in England.
Do you ever make clothes that are not fit for your current season, or do you try to make sure that they can be worn immediately?
Oh, and I made Tiffin. Mmmmmm!
I’d had the Appleton Dress in mind for a while. I don’t generally wear dresses and skirts, but the promise of secret pyjamas had been calling to me. When I joined in with the sewing dares (#sewingdares) on the ‘Crafting a Rainbow’ blog, and Gillian suggested a Cashmerette pattern it felt like a sign.
I’d had plans for a sewing date with my friend Catherine, who has just started sewing, and so we decided to both make an Appleton Dress. Due to lack of space, and general chatter and tea drinking time, we only got as far as cutting out our pieces, so no actual sewing was done on this sewing date. It was still great fun and to be repeated when we can synchronise diaries again.
The pieces sat for a while until the end of my last contract on 30th June, but then I attacked it with vigour. I decided to use a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine rather than the overlocker, in case I needed to take it out as I thought I was pushing the sizing over the hips a bit. As it turns out the caution wasn’t needed. I’m really happy with how it turned out and have plans to make more, once I’ve tackled some of the things from my Me-Made-Made review list.
I think this may be the very dress I need to get my legs out this summer, and with a modesty vest it may even be wearable for work when I get my next contract – which I’m hoping to put off until September to allow for plenty of sewing time.
Have you done a Sewing Dare? How did it work out for you?
When I came across this fabric on the Minerva Crafts website I couldn’t resist it for some PJ bottoms for Jez – he loves pirates. I set out make him a set of PJs using the ‘Margot Pyjamas’ pattern from the ‘Love at First Stitch’ book for the bottoms and the Simplicity 2116 T-shirt I’d used for his stripy t-shirts. In the end, I just bought a plain black t-shirt, as I didn’t have much time and he was keen to start wearing them.
As this is the fourth time I’ve made the PJ bottoms, there isn’t much to say about them, other than it works perfectly for men too. I am generally a selfish sewer (sewist?), but Jez’s joyful reaction when I make things for him means I love sewing for him as much as for myself, maybe even more.
How often do you sew for your significant other?
My Me-Made-May ‘16 didn’t go very well at all – at least the pledge portion didn’t. I wore an average of two items each week (rather than my pledge four), and these were my ginger jeans, my red spotty blouse, my mint green wallpaper blouse or PJs. This did suggest that the items I’m making are not ones that get much chance to be worn.
When I wasn’t wearing me-made, I was wearing black trouser suits and tops (that are not blouses) for work, or leggings, t-shirts / vest tops and cardigans when not at work. So I think I need to concentrate on these items instead.
I have plans to make PJs for Jez next, but after that I’ll be working through the following:
This may make Me-Made-May ’17 (tongue twister!) more successful and see me getting everyday wear out of my me-made clothes.
What have you learned from Me-Made-May ’16?
Since realising that I didn’t have much me-made clothing I could wear on a regular basis, I had been feeling inspired to complete a UFO (unfinished object) that’s been hanging around for a while. This would also give me another blouse to wear during May at work.
There isn’t too much to say about this project, as it’s the fourth time I’ve made this pattern. I’m really pleased with the fabric choice on this one though. It’s not a colour I’d usually choose, and although I thought the fabric pattern looked a little like flock wallpaper, I think it looks really striking made up as blouse.
I feel like I’m getting better at imagining fabric and patterns together, and my awareness of clothes around me is growing. In the same way that playing music has improved my ear for listening to music, I think sewing is developing an interest in fashion that I haven’t had before. I love flicking through blogs to see what other people are making, and browsing the web for inspiration for my future makes.
Once I figure it out, I’ll add a favourite blogs page to my site, so you can enjoy them too.
It has been a little while since I last posted, although I have been doing some sewing, I haven’t had too much time and energy due to the demands of my day job. In the last few weeks I’ve been noticing mentions of Me-Made-May ’16 appearing on various blogs and, although I have several items to blog about I decided that this blog should be a look back at last year’s Me-Made-May blog post.
That post was made at the end of May and rued my lack of participation in 2015. I had just got back to blogging, a year after my return to sewing in May 2014. I didn’t have many items of clothing that I wore regularly at the time, and I planned to spend the next year creating an almost completely me-made wardrobe. The best laid plans…
The items that I thought I needed to successfully complete this feat were:
As you can tell, I am not in a position to make the pledge I was aiming for:
“…a challenge of wearing 100% me-mades during May 2016 (excluding underwear).”
Instead, my Me-Made-May ’16 pledge for this year, which should accommodate my lack of work and casual wear:
“I, Jan of Vivid Kitty’s Fascinating World of Sewing and Stuff, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’16. I endeavour to wear a me-made item 4 days a week for the duration of May 2016.”
I am also going to review what sewing would most help me to build a wearable wardrobe. Maybe next year I can go 100% me-made…
…or maybe a year is much shorter than I think.
Due to being busy at work and too tired to do much once I got home, I’ve had a dry spell of sewing. I’ve had some homemade patchwork cushions hanging around in my sewing cave that I made years ago, and the cats had been using to sleep on when they watch me working from home. They were made from all kinds of fabric reclaimed from old clothes, including jersey fabric that I hadn’t stabilised. I loved them, but they were misshapen and covered in cat hair, so one day I just decided to get rid of the covers and keep the cushions to reuse them.
The cushions hung around nude for a while, before I decided to deal with them and do some stash busting at the same time. I had some pink gingham fabric that had been around almost as long as the cushions and I thought it would make a good inner cover to refresh the now floppy, sad-looking, naked cushions. I had every intention of making newer, more interesting cushion covers that could be removed and washed, but I liked the look of these cushions so much when they were finished that I decided to call them finished. It made a nice quick make and I hoped it would be the beginning of more sewing.
It felt good to start and finish a project in one day.
My last post gave you an insight into my next project. I’ve been really keen to have a go at Ginger Jeans, since I’ve seen them popping up in many of the blogs I read regularly. My curvy figure struggles with most RTW (ready to wear) trousers – too tight on the hips and thighs, and gapping at the back waist – so I’ve been hoping this is the answer to uncomfortable jeans.
I started by making a toile from my ‘cream cord with olive green flowers / leaves and bright yellow squiggles’ fabric. The intention was for these to be a wearable toile, but I shouldn’t have needed hindsight to tell me that they are not my usual style. Anyway, as cheap as the fabric was (special offer from Minerva Fabrics), wearable or not wasn’t really an issue.
I found the whole process of making the Ginger Jeans, from download of the pattern,
through the crazy toile, to the final making in blue denim with gold top-stitching as real pleasure. As the instructions note, I am now a Sewing Ninja – I made jeans! They fit really nicely, Jez even says they look like the best fitting jeans he’s seen me in. I’m especially proud of my top stitching.
I did wear the cord version out once to test how they fit in action (on a Boxing Day trip to Whitby), and due to the pattern and the comfort I felt like I was wearing pyjamas. The only problem with the fabric was that the ridged fabric rubbing between the thighs made the walking harder work. My proper denim pair are usually being worn or in the wash, and I think the pattern will make the
perfect secret jeans for work, if I use some stretch suiting fabric. If I can find a jacket pattern that will work, I’ll use the same fabric and make myself a suit(!), then I would truly be a seasoned Sewing Ninja.
Have you made Ginger Jeans?