Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Piped Floral Shirt Dress

Hello! I've made another shirt dress, but this one is next-level, thanks to the piping. I made this and took the photos a few months ago, hence the bare legs!

It's probably one of the best things I've made, I think! I really love the fabric and I'm really pleased with how the piping complements it. I even mocked it up on the computer to decide what style to make and what colour to make the piping... nerd! Haha :)
It looks kinda black but it's dark navy which matches the background check on the fabric.

I found the piping challenging, so here are some tips from me!

-I decided to make the collar pattern piece 6mm smaller all the way around the outside edge to compensate for the addition of the piping

-You don't have an undercollar for piped collars, as you want the piping to sit on the edge, so there is no need to roll the seam to the underside! I cut 2 collars the exact same size.

-When making the piping, I found I could use the groove in the bottom of my invisible zip foot to hold the cord in place while I wrapped it in my bias strip! This worked because I used a very narrow cord.

-I stingily bought minimal piping cord, then realised I forgot to allow for both sides of the front! I had just enough, but i had to taper the piping to nothing halfway through the underlap. You don't see it because it's underneath, but it looks a bit funny. Next time I'd have it go all the way to the waistline, for neatness's sake! And maybe also have the piping with no cord in it at the point where it's hidden, so it doesn't add unnecessary bulk...hmm, ideas, ideas.

-I didn't pipe the underlap of the skirt, and still wouldn't, as it is is completely hidden.

As for the sewing of the piping, that was the trickiest bit. Mainly the corners of the collar point!

-You have to clip into the tape part of the piping (the bit that will be enclosed in the seam) to get it to go around the corner.

-I found a snippet of "Cool Couture: Construction Secrets for Runway Style" by Kenneth King on Google Books, which had piping instructions.
This mentioned squashing the piping up at the corner, easing in extra length when you sew it on initially. This way, it sits nicely when it's turned out and goes from an inner curve (shorter) to an outer curve (longer). I did my best to do this, but I won't say my piping looked perfect. Passable though. lol.

Facing with overlocked edge

I actually turned the collar upside down so the interfaced side was underneath after I'd done the piping, because I thought my piping corners looked best on that side. But then I realised that side of the collar looked a bit wrinkled in one spot, unlike the interfaced side of the collar! BOO! So it was really a trade-off. Grumble. The print helps disguise that slight wrinklyness. Well, lesson learned.

The skirt is a three-quarter circle with the addition of a seamed centre front facing for the buttonwrap (the seam being necessary of course to contain the piping!). Same facing deal goes for the bodice. The bodice pattern is the same frankenpattern shirt dress I've used twice before, with the aforementioned collar and facing tweaks.

There are pockets (yay!) and belt loops (yay!). I think that's about it!
More piping please. I need to get more into details that take garments up a notch. They're so worth it.

What excellent sewing details make your heart skip a beat?

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Floral Rayon Summer Dress

This dress is based off the Derby Dress by Christine Haynes. I saw Trees' adorable squirrel print version of it, and fell in love! I decided to make my own pattern based off this as inspiration.

Neckline ruffle!

Neckline ruffle I say!

Warning: this post is technical and very sewing-nerdy!!

My first step in this direction was making a singlet in a similar style, just to test the waters. For the straps, I actually used bra findings to make adjustable straps like you find on RTW singlets. It's not really necessary when you can custom fit the straps to your length while sewing, but it was interesting! I also like that it has your back (no pun intended) if the straps stretch or shrink over the lifetime of the garment! I didn't use them on the dress though, mainly because I couldn't find any in the local shops that were suitable, weirdly.
I.. don't have any pics of the singlet (yet) though, sorry!

The straps on this dress are just  top stitched down at the back.

A lot of the stuff I do with my bodice block is making stuff up by eye. This was really no different, and I guessed what I wanted to do when making my pattern by using my existing knowledge of my bodice block, looking at my inspiration picture, and thinking through what I would like to change. I also tweaked a few things while sewing, based on my judgment, like the ruffle (slightly reshaping the edges, and leaving a bit more space free on the edge of the armholes).
I decided to stick with a waist seam rather than the Derby dress's waistless style. I love my waist seams.

I could have made it straight across at the back, but then it wouldn't cover the base of my bra straps (you know, the triangular peak that forms before the straps). And I think this also looks nicer! I actually put my bra on my dress form, put my back pattern piece on top, and then marked where the outline of the base of the strap was, so I could get the shape just right on my pattern.

I really like the mint colour combo with this cardigan and hat! It would work equally well with pink.

Just for the record, I have no qualms about using the Derby dress as inspiration, as I am not making any profit off doing so, and I also tweaked the idea significantly to my own liking. Big thanks to Christine Haynes for being an inspiration though!!

I did the straps differently to the Derby dress too. I thought long and hard about the order of everything I wanted! Back neckline and front neckine first, then the big long armhole piece starting at the back, that runs off into a strap, then gets attached to the back again! The binding was not easy to sew, but I got there. Phew...

I had to recut the skirt once: I initially made it a gathered rectangle with a gather ratio of 1.5, but that looked really dumb; it wasn't enough fullness and the ruffle looked really bad at the bottom, sort of pulling it in and making a tulip shape, which made my hips look puffy. It was weird and unflattering.
Lucky I had enough fabric to recut it! I had hoped to get a top out of the remnants but that idea was scuppered! I think it was a blessing in disguise though, as I feel like this fabric is poor quality.

The fabric was really hard to work with, soft and mushy. It didn't feel tight and smooth like previous rayons I've worked with. In fact, when trying to attach gathered pieces to other pieces, the stitches wouldn't even hold the gathers permanently, they'd still slide around! I ended up stabilising all those seams with either fusible tape or rayon seam binding before re-sewing the gathered bits back on, anything to give enough stability to the fabric. Lots of extra work. I've never encountered this before either! It also stretched out like craaazy on the bias instantly after cutting. I carefully stabilised the neckline and armholes back to shape (based on the measurement of the flat pattern) with seam binding/fusible tape (can't remember which; they both do the same thing). I had to carefully stitch the tape on (tape on top) while eaaaaaasing all that stretch back into the correct length underneath.

I feel the fabric will age quickly and badly - the print didn't look like a high quality job (I'm no textiles expert but I have a sense about this based on previous experience), the kind of black that isn't going to age well. We'll see.

Anyway back to the skirt: I recut the skirt with more gather as well as flare (same skirt as I used for this dress, but shorter obviously!). I'm so much happier! The ruffle at the base is still just a rectangle. Ugh though, due to my frustration at all the different troubleshooting I had done so far, I was getting impatient. I didn't bother levelling the hem before attaching the ruffle.
UGH, the bias drooped SO MUCH at the sides. Totally my fault, but I couldn't be bothered to fix it.

This pic shows the dreaded bias droop the most. Argh my eyes!!!
It dropped more on one side than the other as well. Blah

Okay, since this is fitted at the waist, I put an invisible zip in the side seam so I could get it on. But it couldn't go right to the top of the garment, as there are bound edges! So I started it a few centimetres below the underarm (sewing the seam up first). I'm very pleased as it looks neat! I have put in relatively few invisible zips so I still breathe a sigh of relief when they go in nicely.
I did want to try putting pockets in too, but I had reached my limit of patience with this fabric and garment.

Sneaky zip!

Open zip at side.

PHEW, I'm tuckered out from all this technical writing about a garment that looks so carefree! Appearances are deceiving.... Back to the style, I really like it, and I'm really proud of the result of my hard work.

I'd like to make another in future and I'm sure it'll be so much easier!! Maybe a solid would show the neckline ruffle off better.... what kind of fabric would you make this in??
Even better, link me a fabric in the comments, that would make my day :D

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Knitting Machine Hijinks

Guess what? I am now the proud owner of a knitting machine! I know, you're so jealous. And you should be, because they are amazing. Haha!
These intriguing machines had their heyday in the 60s, 70s and 80s, but almost no-one uses them anymore! Due to their decline in popularity, many machines have gone to the rubbish dumps, as few people see their worth (which is so sad to me). Luckily, at least a few people recognise their value. I got mine given to me for free from someone who was getting rid of their old Dad's collection. One man's trash....

I haven't had the chance to learn all about it yet, so I'm slowly teaching myself. Here are some photos of knitting machines, as I haven't photographed my own:

This is the same model I own, the Singer Memomatic 321:

Photo credit: 
And hopefully this gives you a good idea of what they look like, even though this is a different model! This one has two beds of needles (mine has this too). The vertical bed is a ribber bed, and helps you make more stitch combinations!

Image credit:
I'm not going to go into detail about all things Knitting Machine, but suffice it to say I'm excited to learn all about it, and make some cool things!

Here is the first (and only) thing I've made so far: A baby cardigan for a friend.

Because knitting machines aren't so popular, I found it hard to find patterns, so I adapted a free pattern for hand knitting that I found on Ravelry.
I added the stripes by myself, and also chose to use picot hems instead of ribbing.

Overall really basic in shape, and no button holes either. But it was a huge challenge for me, and I made plenty of mistakes (or rather, learning opportunities) on the way.
Picking up stitches and knitting the neck band was one of the hardest things, and I figured it out on my own, which took a lot of research and some time-consuming mis-steps. The final result is okay, but still could be better. Next time.

I highly recommend this Craftsy class on Machine Knitting, from which I learned a lot! Another primary source of help was getting in touch with my local Machine Knitters Society. An immensely helpful member helped me get my machine totally up and running, fixed some broken parts, and really got me started! I'm so grateful there are other passionate people out there!
As an indication of just how popular machine knitting is these days, he told me that at 70 years old, he was the youngest member of the society. Yeah. Well, I'm bringing it back, I tells ya!
I've already started infecting other people with my machine knitting enthusiasm. I can't wait to do more.

As you can see, this was knit in pieces and seamed up.

Here is a bundle of swatches I made when playing around getting to grips with the myriad of switches and buttons that make the machine go. (from my Instagram account)

A photo posted by Jo (@makingitwell) on

Automatic fair isle with a punch card you guys. SO FAST!!! I can't wait to play more. Too bad I don't have much time, what with school right now, but still!

What do you think guys? Are you as intrigued by machine knitting as me?? Would you get one?
I'll leave you with this thought: Apparently, experienced machine knitters can turn out an entire garment in one night. C'mon, that's pretty damn exciting ;)

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Sheer Combo! Vintage top and Skirt

Sheer fabrics, aren't they cruel? So beautiful, yet so much extra work.
I'm so glad I finally made these projects though! The top is a vintage pattern, and the skirt is a simple gathered rectangle that I'm fairly sure I will wear ALL THE TIME as it goes with so much I already own!!

I got this pattern at an op shop... I think! I have been given a few vintage patterns here and there but I'm pretty sure I sniffed this one out myself. Oh and making this means I can be part of #VintagePledge 2016!
Butterick 3834. So cute!!
I altered the fit minimally, as it is not a close-fitting garment. I widened the hips, shortened the waist, and did a sway back adjustment (it has a centre back seam which facilitated that nicely!). All standard Jo adjustments. I did a toile/muslin to check it, and decided it looked fine! Then of course, I left it for months before I made the actual garment. Oops!
Next time I would take in the underarms a bit as well.

Actually this polyester chiffon was a work in progress (a dress) which I decided I hated and so re-cut it into this top. Much better. I never would have worn that dress....I'm not a fan of pale, sheer, floaty skirts, I keep that on my top half normally. Dark, sheer, floaty skirts? That's a different story. Fashion: it's complicated, okay??

I wasn't very attached to this fabric (polyester chiffon) so I considered it a wearable toile. As such I was a bit experimental with the finishes, and I'm not entirely happy with them, as it was partly laziness to blame. I'm going to make a fancy proper version sometime and I feel much better equipped to finish it much more nicely!
At least I wasn't too lazy to french seam it throughout...

The original pattern has facings for the neckline, and also the sleeves/armholes which are finished at the same time with single-piece facing.
I opted to skip the facings because of the sheerness. I used a bias strip narrow facing at the neckline (which could be done better at the V-neck, as I didn't mitre it or anything, just hoped for the best. LAZY).
For the sleeves I decided to hem the sleeves, then sew the raglan-seam as a french seam, and then do a rolled hem on the underarm. To do so, I had to clip into the seam where the french seam ends and the underarm begins; this is less than ideal because

a) I hate clipping (unless it's totally necessary), and this way left some raw edges on the inside of the garment. I put a drop of Fray Stoppa (Fray Check to Americans, I think?) on them but I consider that a sloppy finish.

b) Roll hemming a curve such as an underam is also sloppy to me, it really wants a facing as it is curved. Hemming tight-ish curves will never give a great result.

Anyway, I think I'll do a bias facing on them next time (it works in my head), I just have to be not-lazy and figure out how to mitre it, I think. This is all because of that interesting square-ish juncture betweeen the raglan sleeve and the underarm.

The original pattern allows for a centre-back zip, but I can pull it on so I didn't bother. Next time I'll try to remember to eliminate the redundant CB seam on the back yoke....

Alright, enough construction chatter!! Let's talk about the style.
I REALLY love the gathered raglan cap sleeve dealies. SO CUTE!! However, I am not convinced on the boob gathers at CF; I'm not 100% sure they look intentional, and I hope they don't look like awkward puckers. Perhaps they would be more successful as pleats, but I do like how the gathered bust matches the gathers on the raglan sleeves! Hmmmmmm.

Also, how cute would this look with the additional of a pussy bow? Then again, I think most things look better with bows. Or what about a centre front button placket....?

I wore this with a nude camisole underneath. Oh, and a skirt I also made!
The finish of this was also a new technique to me. This blog post is getting a bit long so I won't go into too much detail as I'm sure it'll be clear as mud anyway, but I would like to post about it in the future. I love sheer skirts but I never knew how to deal with the lining/invisible zip situation. As always, there's more than one way to skin a cat (Don't skin cats though, they're way too cute).

I also tried out sewing my own thread belt loops, however they need tweaking as I made them too loose... The waistband is also too big for my waist due to my constant waist measurement over-compensation.

You can see the belt slips out of the loops easily at the back due to them being too loose!

Also, I still need practice to make my belt loops look better too!
I used a method I learned ages ago (when I first started! I think I learned it from a book) where you blanket stitch over thread, but then I saw this tutorial pop up in my feed from Grainline studio and it looks way easier! I will try out their finger-crocheted thread chains next time!

The inside of the waistband is overlocked rather than folded under.

Side invisible zip and belt loops

Both hems are just doubled rolled. Nice and easy on the cross grain!

This is a relatively less-full skirt than my usual, due to not having loads of fabric width; the ratio is about 1.7 times as big as my waist. I prefer more like 2x or higher though.

The outer fabric is a ramie/cotton blend (ramie was new to me, it's similar to linen apparently, as it is a plant fiber). It's very textured. I love it! It's lined with a soft, light cotton, gathered to the same ratio.
Pretty simple in appearance, but I'm sure I will wear it a lot!

All in all, this was an experimental pair of garments and I'm looking forward to more iterations of similar styles!

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Completed: Roses Dress

Happy Summer! I'm so enjoying making summery clothes and not being bundled in 100 layers.

Isn't the print the cutest? It's a cotton I got at Fabricabrac.
I didn't fuss too much about this make, as the fabric gives it a casual feel.

If I had been fancy I would have lined the skirt, but I wasn't feeling like putting the effort in, given how casual this dress is. I probably should have, as I can't wear dark undies under it now. lol :P

I made the pattern from my bodice block (big surprise) and I added a button warp extension, as well as a turnback facing, so the edge of the bodice is on the fold. I made a lining pattern to seam onto the shell fabric at the edge of the turnback facing. Clear as mud?

So when I sewed it the vertical seams, the lining and bodice formed a tube! Then I turned back along the fold line and sewed the neckline and the rest of it.
Have you read about people trimming off a few mm from the lining edges to help it roll to the inside of the bodice? My lazy way to do that is to misalign the shell and lining as I sew to achieve the equivalent of trimming. Haha!
I've probably said this before, but I only use 6mm seam allowances on the neckline and armholes. It's so much easier and eliminates bulk and trimming.

I really like the bright buttons, I feel like they work well with the cute, bright print. I don't normally wear warm, orangey colours, but for this scattered print I feel it works fine :)

Pockets! And hem

This time, I experimented with turning my bodice darts into a princess seam. I feel I didn't get the shaping perfect, as I just free-handed it on the pattern, but I have altered the curve for next time so it's a bit more smooth as it comes out from the armscye. As it is, it looks a little bit too rounded for my taste. Hidden in the print, no-one will notice I'm sure!

I went with a gathered rectangle for the skirt. It's gathered at a ratio of 2:1 which I find to be a nice amount of fullness.

Also, pockets are the best.

I am really enjoying wearing my dresses and skirts with skinny belts right now, I feel it adds a finished look to the outfit, and I can have it tighter or looser depending on how I feel!

Maybe you guys are getting a little tired of seeing my bodice block in all the iterations I've been making with it lately. I'm not! I love a fitted bodice. I feel like I exist in a weird little non-commercial-pattern space right now. In many ways, I feel that makes my blog less popular, but I'm really happy cos I'm doing my own thing.
Maybe we need a blog event for people who like to draft their own patterns, so we can all celebrate together! I know I'd like to find more blogs where people do their own thing, not just use commercial patterns and review them.
What's your stance on patternmaking, and do you have any blogs to recommend me? :)