"" the girl who makes things

Sunday, 22 April 2018

A Helmi shirt

You know when you finish a very involved project and you have that nice sense of satisfaction, like your creative energy has been sated. You look at your finished garment, take a couple of pictures for Instagram and then decide that's it for the time being. No more sewing..... and then twenty minutes later you find yourself diving into another sewing project? Well, that's how it went down for me.

I'd just finished my Helmi Tunic dress and I was so pleased with the result that I couldn't help starting on another. This time it's a shirt, which I actually had a huge wardrobe gap for.

The fabric is a light viscose twill from Feira dos Tecidos in Lisbon. It is incredibly drapey - perfect for this shirt pattern but an absolute nightmare to handle. I used a lot of spray starch, particularly around the collar, shoulder seams and hem. As a result this shirt took longer than I anticipated to finish.

I'm sure there are some fairly dodgy seams. The shoulder seams are definitely warped but luckily the print disguises the imperfections. I recycled buttons from an old Zara shirt and I think they blend in well too.

I cut a size 34 all over as my measurements for Named a pretty bang-on in my upper body. The only slight alteration I'd make is to widen the shoulders out slightly. I found this tutorial on Colette's website which explains how to adjust them. 

The one change I made to the pattern was to omit the invisible button band. I had no clear reason to do this, I just wanted to see what it was like.

As you can tell from my face, I bloody love this shirt. I think a lot of that is down to the fabric, which, for all the difficulties, is completely divine. Fortunately, I had about half a metre leftover so I made a simple gathered skirt with some elastic and I can even turn this shirt into a 'fake' shirtdress. Check out my Instagram account to see it!

Saturday, 14 April 2018

My thoughts on sewing and sustainability

I feel like I've been reading/hearing a lot about sustainable sewing recently. Articles/podcasts such as from Love to Sew, Wendy Ward, Megan Nielsen and Sewcialists are just a few that spring to mind. Ethics and environmental impact is something that's always on my mind and I strive to act responsibly, but I'm going to admit to you, there are many ways in which I fall short. It's not easy to do the hobby you love, keep creating new things and produce zero waste. I endeavor to mitigate my bad habits, but I don't think it's all negative. I'd like to share a little bit about how I think sewing has had a positive effect on my environmental/ethical consciousness:

1. I value the clothes I make
Creating is not just about the end product. It's about the process. I have a special bond with everything I make because I've taken so much time over it. This is why I love longer, more complicated projects. I very rarely throw away my handmades, I'm much more likely to store, repair them or gift them to someone. I can't say the same about shop bought clothes.

2. I can choose my materials
There are a lot of ethical questions around fabric production, I know, but when you take factory garment construction out the equation you can focus much more on fabric sourcing. This means buying better quality, natural fibers, organic and fair trade.

3. I'm more careful about what I choose to wear
I'm much less interested in fashion trends now. I'm interested in clothes that will suit my style and look special. Again, as sewing takes a long time there's no point in making something that won't be on trend next season, better to go for longevity.

4. I've learnt skills that enable me to mend and alter
Now that I've been sewing for a number of years, I have a much better idea about how clothes are constructed and how to repair them. This means that I've mended and adjusted a lot of shop bought clothes. For example, I once almost threw out a pair of jeans because they were too loose around the waist (a classic problem for me). I fixed it by inserting elastic into the back waistband, and now I wear them almost every week.

Of course constantly buying new fabric and making new clothes isn't that much better than buying from the shops all the time, but as I've said, there are a few ways in which it is preferable. After reading more about the subject I've changed my mindset slightly though. I'm choosing projects that take longer so that I'm not piling through quick makes. I'm also hanging on to my scraps and trying to be more imaginative about how I use them. Shauni on The Magnificient Thread has a good leftovers challenge. Finally, I'm either using second hand fabric from old bed sheets or buying expensive, quality fabric from now on.

And what do you think? Have you changed your sewing habits due to sustainability? I 'd love to know your thoughts. 

Sunday, 8 April 2018

A Helmi tunic dress

In March I turned 29. Seeing as I live abroad, most of my relatives prefer to send me money instead of gifts, on the stern proviso that I spend it on myself and not bills. I'm only too obliging. Around the same time as my birthday Named clothing had a promotion to celebrate International Women's Day with 15% off all patterns. It seemed like a good time to go back through their collections and pick out some birthday presents for myself.

I ordered two patterns: the Helmi tunic/shirt, which you can see below, and the Tuuli body/dress. In Portugal, the summers get really hot so investing in a good shirtdress is essential. I've already made the Alder shirtdress from Grainline Studios and I love the loose fit. That's why the Helmi pattern really appealed to me, plus it has an invisible button placket which I'd never sewn before. I'm all about adding to my skill set!

The fabric is a light viscose by Atelier Brunette, my new favourite fabric brand. They do a really cool range of fabrics mainly inspired by nature and this gorgeous greeney-blue fabric is the stuff of dreams. I ordered it from Minerva Crafts using a voucher I was given as a birthday present.

I cut a size 34 which seemed to match my measurements exactly. I took a massive risk and forwent the msulin stage (sorry proper sewists!), cutting straight into my Atelier Brunette fabric. What's life without risk, eh? Thankfully the tunic seems to fit although I were to make one teeny improvement I'd broaden the back slightly.

I took my time with this make, conscious that I didn't want to ruin the fabric. I did a fair amount hand sewing such as sewing the collar stand down. I actually quite like hand sewing if I'm sat in front of the TV and a good series.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with this make, I definitely feel the fabric and pattern are a good match and I've already got lots of compliments on it.

I absolutely love Named too, it's probably my favourite indie pattern company, and that's going against strong competition. What gives them the edge, for me at least, is that each collection has a strong design element. It's not just, 'here's another shift dress', it's like 'here's a shift dress with a really cool design detail'. They have an eye for aesthetics, and I like that.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

A Burda Style parka coat

Guys, this has to be, hands down, my greatest sewing achievement. Ever. From beginning to end this was a mammoth task, but I some how got there in the end. And just take a look!

Let me present to you my first Burda magazine make. Yes, that Burda magazine of the mind-f**k pattern puzzles. The one that gives you a migraine just looking at it. If that wasn't crazy enough, I made the whole coat without following any instructions.

So you're probably wondering why on earth I decided to do this to myself. I've got one word: challenge. I love a good old simple sew every now and then, but one of the reasons I actually sew, above all else, is the mental exercise. I've always liked the idea of taking on a Burda magazine pattern Plus, I really needed a coat with a hood to protect me against the rain we've been getting recently. Yep, even in Portugal the weather sucks.

The pattern comes from the Burda Style Magazine February edition. I chose the size 38 and, as you can see, fitting isn't really a problem with this coat but I'm pleased with how it fits around the shoulders at least.

I made the following changes to the pattern:
  • drafted a hood and body lining
  • drafted new pockets
  • omitted the zip flap

I spent a long time thinking about all the design details, in fact it took a week for me to decide whether to include a lining or not. In the end I found this African wax print in my stash and when I saw it next to the outer layer I decided I had to use it. The outer layer is made from cotton sateen. 

Not following instructions was a big challenge. I spent a lot of time trying to work out how to attach the hood and lining and found myself studying other people's coats at work, like a creep. I'd never attached metal snap buttons and grommets before so I found the Closet Case Kelly Anorak Sewalong really helpful for this. 

I made a lot of mistakes along the way and had to buy two new reels of thread because I'd unpicked so much. But, without wanting to sound too cliched, I learnt more from my mistakes than successes. By the end of this project I felt like I'd significantly expanded my skill set.

I've also lost my fear of Burda Magazine patterns which is good because they actually do some really nice designs. I think I could definitely take on another one. 

Finally, and most significantly, this project forced me to slow right down. It took weeks to plan, prep and make and I couldn't rush any part. In fact, I didn't want to rush any part. The longer it took the more time I wanted to spend perfecting every detail. If I didn't sew a straight line each time, I unpicked and started again. I think that the longer a project takes the more you're inclined to nurture it. Which is good in these times of fast fashion and consumerism.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

A Cleo Dress

It's not often that I use a pattern more than once. That I've now made two Cleo Dresses, however, is testament to the fact that it is really good.

I first got the Cleo pattern through the Minerva Crafts blogger network. I used to contribute a monthly post to their website but found it difficult to dedicate enough time to sewing what with work and other life commitments (once I get my life in order I may return to it!). Then I was offered the opportunity to write a one off pattern review for Sewing World magazine last year and thought, why not?

I'd seen a few Cleo dresses online and liked the clean, simple design so I asked for the pattern and made it up in a dark denim.

I wore the shit out of my denim number all winter. It works really well layered over thick tights and woolly jumpers. I got a fair few compliments on it too. Then, as we began to feel some hints of spring (I live in Lisbon so it's a damn sight warmer!), I started dreaming up a lighter Cleo.

I can't remember precisely what gave me the urge to make a pink corduroy version, but the idea obsessed me. I hunted all over Lisbon in search of the perfect fabric until finally I found it in Atelier 193 and, lucky for me, bought up the end of the roll.

There's only one thing that annoys me about my denim Cleo, which is that it tends ride up if I'm wearing tights. I decided to resolve the problem with my corduroy version by adding a lining. It was super simple to do. I just traced the outline of the front and back and then traced the outline of the facing and cut away the excess. Attaching the lining to the facing was tricky as I had to match and ease the curves. It was worth the extra effort though, the dress doesn't ride up at all.

There are so many things I love about this pattern. Namely all the little details such as the top-stitching and pockets. It's a good palette cleanser after doing a big project like jeans as it's really quick and easy. I probably won't make another Cleo dress in the near future as I want to enjoy the two I've got. It is definitely, however, going to stay on my shelf as a classic.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Ginger Jeans

In every sewist's life there comes a point when you really want to go beyond the basics and try something daring. I'd say making jeans was one of those points for me. All those pieces, all that top-stitching, metal zippers and studs - they look so complicated. But they're not really, although they do look impressive.

I'd had my eye on the Ginger Jeans pattern by Closet Case for a long time. In fact, so long that I bought the pattern over a year ago and let it sit on my desktop until this winter. Finally I printed it off and set to work on tracing the pieces.

Sorry about the tired face!

As I expected, I fell directly between three sizes, a 4 at the waist and 8 at the hips. I decided to go for the middle ground, a 6 with the knowledge that I'd probably have to do a bit of adjustment once made up. I was glad to see that the garment measurements were included, which usually tells you more about which size to go for. I already know that I have a long waist, but the measurements told me that I needed to increase the crotch length by about 10cm. I actually lengthened by 8cm, erring on the safe side. It was a good decision as the fabric is stretchy and the band perfectly reaches my waist.

I'm going to say that these jeans are a 'wearable toile'. It was my first time making them so my expectations were low and I didn't want to cut into expensive fabric before I'd had a dry run. Therefore, the fabric I bought was cheap - 5 euros a metre - and not the best quality. It's a little bit itchy and the dye isn't totally fixed so it leaves little blue marks everywhere. Now I know what I'm doing I want to buy some better quality denim and have another go.

Fabric problems aside, I'm super pleased with the outcome of this project. There are only a few things I'd change about the fit: I'd take in the waistband by another 1.5cm and make a swayback adjustment to reduce the wrinkling at the back. That said, these are still the best fitting jeans I've ever owned so definitely worth the labour.

I'd recommend this pattern to anyone who's interested in making jeans for the first time. The instructions are really detailed and if you need more information there's also a sew along on the Closet Case blog.

On a vaguely related topic I've recently read two interesting blog posts that got me thinking. One was from This Blog is Not For You about mindful sewing. Charlie points out something that I've noticed about the sewing community - how much content is moving away from blogs and on to Instagram. What does this say about how we view our hobby? Are we more concerned about consuming more and more content, faster and faster? I know I'm guilty of this. The other was from What Katie Sews about careful wardrobe planning. It's very tempting as a sewist to make quick projects, but how much do I actually wear them? Isn't this just falling into the same trap as fast fashion? Katie suggests choosing projects that take longer to plan, prepare and construct so that you make something worthy of your sewing time. I'm all in favour of that.

Anyway, to loop those two loose threads together, I think making my Ginger Jeans showed me how taking a bit more time over a more complicated project is not only enjoyable but also gives me something I'll wear again and again. Also, despite my current addiction to Instagram, I need to take a bit of time to sit down and write, hens this blog post. Maybe that'll be my mantra for this year: slow sewing, slow blogging. 

Friday, 26 January 2018

A bomber jacket

After a long break, between last summer and Christmas, I've suddenly got my sewing mojo back. I'm surprised at how many things I'm managing to tick off my sewing list. What's the reason for this sudden outburst of creative energy, I wonder? I have a theory. I'm doing a professional qualification alongside working full-time at the moment, and looming deadlines have sent me into procrastination overdrive. Somehow, having less time to sew means I'm actually giving myself more time to sew. Weird paradox.

This bomber jacket's been on my to-sew list for a while. In fact, ever since I saw the first episode of Portugal's version of the Great British Sewing Bee (Cosido a Mao) I've been obsessed with the idea of making one like the contestants made on the show. The network's website actually lets you download the pdf pattern for free, but for some reason when I tried, it wouldn't print. I was actually willing to pay for a similar pattern but after a quick Google search I found this version on Mood Fabric's website from a community member. Best of all, it was free!

Now, there was just one problem with this pdf pattern: it's not so easy to put together. There are no little joining tags and some of the lines don't match up neatly. Also, I managed to mix up the papers so they weren't in the right order. I ended up laying them all out on the living room floor and piecing them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Luckily, I quite like a challenge and I didn't mind giving my brain a work out, but maybe don't try it if you're a pdf novice. 

Once I had the pattern pieces I set about looking for the fabric. I had plain grey in mind, but then I found this fabric in Feira dos Tecidos and, BIG FLORAL PRINT you say?! Any other sensible fabric options went out the window. If you want to see how much I love big floral print fabrics, then just look at my Instagram account

I'd say this is a scuba-type polyester, fairly thick and stretchy. I hardly ever look at fabric labels now and mostly go on the feel and texture. It's served me well so far. I cut a size 10 which turned out to be fine. I could do with a little more space around the shoulders, but stretchy fabric is forgiving. 

The instructions are quite minimal so I used my instincts to sew the jacket together. It was easy and, as I decided not to include a lining, quick. I over-locked the seams and top-stitched the edges. The zipper is a little bit wavy, probably because I over stretched the fabric. Next time I might use some twill tape or interfacing to stabilize it. I hand stitched some white ribbon over the zipper tape to hide the white stitches which looked ugly against the grey tape. 

I've already had lots of lovely compliments from people when I wear this jacket, so it's definitely a winner. No doubt I'll think about making another, especially after all the effort it took to put the pattern together!

A big thanks to my very talented boyfriend for these photos. Check out his photography skills on his Instagram account, the pictures are truly amazing. In case you're wondering, these photos were taken down by the Tejo River in Lisbon.