Completed: LMV Indigo sweater – not just for teenagers

I suppose I was 12.... 18 years ago.

I suppose I was 12…. 18 years ago.

Meet my new favourite sweater. The Indigo sweater from the July/August 2015 issue of La Maison Victor, a Flemish sewing magazine. I didn’t know this magazine existed until my co-workers gave me this issue for my birthday. When I saw the shapes of the pattern pieces for this sweater I was sold.

Indigo Sweater pattern pieces.

Indigo sweater pattern pieces.

It is a guest-pattern by Valerie Boone, author of Remi & Cosette for teens, a book with sewing patterns for teenagers. The Indigo sweater pattern is also featured in this book. Since it was designed for teenagers the size range is, unfortunately, rather limited. I made the largest size, 36, which corresponds to a 88 cm bust. This sweater has no side seams, the only shaping comes from the princess seams on the front. The front and back pieces are sewn together in one continuous seam, which even includes the pockets. The sleeve seam is not on the bottom of the sleeve but is sewn continuously with the shoulder seam. I think the whole construction is quite ingenious.

Indigo sweater backI made a muslin and one of the first things I did was to sew the pockets closed. I really like them in theory, but on a person with hips I thought they added too much emphasis on said hips. I moved the shoulder seam forward by 1.5 cm and also shifted this seam on the sleeve since shoulder and sleeve are sewn together. The sweater length was reduced by 2 cm at the waist.

Adjusted pattern. Pockets removed. Shoulder seam moved 1.5 cm forward. Reduced length 2 cm.

Adjusted pattern. Pockets removed. Shoulder and sleeve seam moved 1.5 cm forward. Reduced length 2 cm.

The fashion fabric is a mystery knit that came from the stash of a friend’s mother. She decided that she wasn’t going to sew anymore and wanted to get rid of the fabric she still had, lucky me. I thought it might not be opaque enough on its own and feel scratchy against my skin so I decided to underline it with black laguna jersey. To do this, I cut all pattern pieces twice, layered underlining and fashion fabric on top of each other, pinned so that nothing would shift and then stitched with a wide zigzag stitch around all edges. This basically turns the two layers into one which is much easier during construction later on.

underliningThe seams were stitched with a narrow zig zag stitch using my walking foot. Instead of pressing the seam allowances to one side as instructed, I pressed them open because I found the 4 layers of fabric too bulky otherwise. The neckline and sleeves are finished with black ribbing. The bottom hem should also have been finished with ribbing, but I did an invisible hand sewn hem instead. When I was testing fit during construction I already liked it a lot without the ribbing and I realized that I don’t really like the ribbing on the hoodies that I occasionally wear so decided to skip it. One of my co-workers gave me some tags to use for my handmade items and I sewed one to the interlining of the back.

150826_tagThe downside of the fabric I used is that it completely hides the interesting seam lines, unless I wear it inside out…

Indigo sweater insidesNow all I have to do is wait for cooler weather so I can actually start wearing this sweater…

150826_Indigosweaterside

All outside pictures were taken by my brother who I should probably turn into my official blog photographer because he only took a couple and nearly all of them turned out great.

F2F: July blocks

This month was Annett’s turn and she chose orange, turquoise and green with a white background. I struggled a bit this time. I tried several ideas but didn’t like how they turned out while it took quite a bit of time to make them. These experiments, unfortunately, also ate up most of my white fabric so I had to throw in some off-white instead because I had no time left to get more. It made me realise that I don’t work with white very often; I only had 1 fat quarter in my stash. This has been remedied now as the next two months also require white.

failed experiments

Some of the things I made and ended up not using. Perhaps they’ll make another appearance later in the year in someone else’s block?

Anyway, eventually I managed to produce 3 blocks that I like and they were sent off only a couple of days late.

The first is a wonky log cabin, the simplicity of this shape and the asymmetry really attracts me.

July1

At least I managed to use two of the diamond strips in the second block that I made. I really love these strips (and the point matching on these turned out pretty awesome if I may say so myself), but when too many of them were put together it just didn’t work for me.

July2

The last block was started by playing with the left-overs from the other two blocks and turning them into narrow strips bordered by white. I quite like the abstract art feeling of this block. The orange border was a happy accident, it was originally not planned but I didn’t have enough white fabric left to make the block 12.5” x 12.5”. I think the block would have had less visual impact without the additional orange.

July3

The blocks made by the other participants can be found on the F2F page.

Completed: BHL Anna dress

Anna dress frontThere seem to be a lot of weddings in my life right now and when you don’t want to buy any new clothes this means some sewing is in order. For the summer weddings this year I chose the Anna dress from By Hand London. I made size 8/12 at the bust grading to size 10/14 at the waist. For the front bodice piece this gave me a bit of a headache because of the way the different sizes are printed for this pattern piece. Getting it right meant I had to move the pattern piece a couple of times while I was tracing it.

150817_dressdetail1The fabric is a Robert Kaufmann cotton chambray; I like how soft it feels against the skin. The dress is unlined and all hems are hand stitched because I prefer how this looks over a topstitched hem. A hand stitched hem is also suppler than one that is topstitched. The seams on the inside are finished with a 3-thread overlock stitch. The dress closes with an invisible zipper and hook and eye in the center back seam.

Anna dress insidesI am pretty happy with the fit at the front, although there does appear to bit of gaping at the front neckline. The shoulder seams were moved forward, a modification I make on nearly every garment.

Anna dress sideThe fit at the back is not so great. The back neckline was way too large (I think it is on everyone who makes this dress) and I used this method to remove the excess. The back waist seam was raised. I also felt the skirt was too wide at the back and it fell in some weird folds. I simply removed it by taking the skirt in at the three seams at the back but I don’t think this was entirely successful. This dress was sewn in the hottest week we’ve had this year at the end of June, start of July and I fear this made me somewhat less meticulous than I otherwise would have been. At some point I was ready to use the half-completed dress to mop up the sweat on my forehead…

150817_dressbackIt’s been years since I wore a dress with a center back zipper and I now realise that I hate them. I am not a contortionist and I really prefer to be able to dress and undress myself without pulling a muscle. From now on I’ll avoid center back zippers like the plague or move the zipper to the side seam if that is possible.

Hand stitched narrow hem. I love how it is nearly invisible.

Hand stitched narrow hem. I love how it is nearly invisible.

I thought the dress was a bit plain when I first put it on and I think I actually prefer wearing it with a belt.

Anna dress with beltI’ve already worn this dress to two weddings this summer and have another one coming up soon. Since all three have a completely different set of guests I don’t mind wearing the same dress again.

From now on I expect to be able to post more regularly because I turned in my thesis last week. There will be more time for sewing and I’ve already completed two more garments! One I really love and one utter failure. Pictures have already been taken and both will hopefully be featured soon.

Anna dress

Let’s see what happens when I stand on this random piece of concrete…

F2F: June blocks

Earlier this year, I joined the Foot2Freestyle block swap organized by Kate and Sue. 12 quilters have picked one or more colours and each month we’re making three 12.5’’ blocks in the colours chosen by that month’s quilter. Each person ends up with 36 blocks that she can then turn into a quilt or something else. Apart from the colours, the design of the blocks is completely free. I thought it would be fun to join since I enjoy doing patchwork but don’t really do it all that often.

In June we sent out our first blocks to Esther who had chosen mustard, jadeite and coral with a white or cream background. This is a colour scheme that does not come natural to me and I found it difficult to judge whether the fabrics that I put together really worked. In the end I decided to add a dark blue fabric to all the blocks to make it work for me. To give some cohesion to my blocks I repeated a couple fabrics in all three blocks and some in two blocks since a colour is less likely to look out of place when it is repeated.
The first block that I finished is the Garfunkel foundation paper piecing block from 627Handworks. My love for asymmetry already seeps through in this block as I couldn’t resist making one of the hexagons a different colour. I feel this adds some interest.

Garfunkel block

Garfunkel block

create your own free-form quilts

This is one of my favourite quilting books.

The second block that I made was actually the first one that I started. I intended to make the Marley foundation paper piecing block from 627Handworks but after I had sewn the first quarter I realized the printer had not printed the pieces correctly and I would not end up with a nice 12.5’’ square block. I quite liked what I had made so far though, so I put it aside for a bit and made the Garfunkel block instead. Looking through Esther’s blog I decided that she could probably deal with some non-traditional improvisational piecing and I started to use the “what if” method. This is something I picked up from Rayna Gillman’s book “create your own free-form quilts”. I find this a very inspirational book and it contains pictures of some really amazing quilts. Basically, as you are making a quilt you should continually ask yourself the question “What if I did ….?”.

In this case I started with the Marley block piece I already had (the triangles) and wondered what it would look like if I pieced a strip using the same fabrics. After piecing I tried it in different positions and decided it looked best on the right side with some white negative space in between the triangles and the strip. I decided to add white fabric all around the triangles, but the block still needed something in the upper left corner. I looked through my fabrics and after auditioning several options I picked the one that’s in the block and also decided it would look best with some white fabric separating it from the pieced strip on the right and the top of the block. I just love that little fox that’s almost in the centre of this fabric! This is my favourite out of the three blocks I made this month.

Marley block with improvisational piecing.

Marley block with improvisational piecing. I think this blocks represents my style best.

To make sure the second block wasn’t the only improvisationally pieced one that Esther received I continued the “What if?” strategy for my third block. I started out by piecing some small pieces of cat fabric left over from the Garfunkel block into a strip. Then I thought “What if I add an orange border?”. Followed by “What if I make another strip set using different fabrics and add a border to that strip set as well?”. After trying several different positions for the two pieces I decided they looked best floating apart in the background with one higher than the other.

Completely improvisationally pieced.

Completely improvisationally pieced.

If you are curious to see what the other ladies have made so far, you can have a look here, where the blocks for each month are shown.

Fabrics for these blocks came from Cotton+Steel Tokyo Train ride by Sarah Watts and Mochi by Rashida Coleman-Hale, Moda Sunny side by Kate Spain, RJR fabrics Basically Patrick by Patrick Lose and Kona cotton.

Oh, and I have finished garment to show you too! I just need to take some pictures and write a post.

Sewing baby burp cloths with my sister

completed burp cloths

Set of three burp cloths sewn by my sister.

When people know you can sew it is inevitable that you will at some point get the question “could you make me *insert random item here*?”. At the start of your sewing career this question might still induce excitement. Yes! With my newly acquired skills I can make a set of 8 matching pillows for your new couch! And I don’t care that it will take me all weekend because I’m still really slow at this whole sewing thing!

towel side

towel side

After you’ve been sewing for a while it becomes a bit difficult though to get enthusiastic about hemming yet another pair of trousers for someone else when you have a list of about a hundred items that you really want to make for yourself. However, these question askers are your friends and family and you don’t really want to disappoint them by immediately saying no. They are asking you for some help after all!

My solution to this problem is that I now offer to show them how they can make (or fix) the item themselves. If they’re really motivated they’ll take me up on my offer and we’ll spend an afternoon or day making it. Yes, it will probably take about 3 times longer to complete the item, but I’m spending time with someone I enjoy spending time with and I can show them my hobby. While they might not fall in love with sewing at least I think they’ll appreciate more what it takes to create something. If they don’t take me up on my offer it apparently wasn’t that important to have it made anyway so I’m glad I didn’t waste my time.

My sister didn't want to pose so I had to...

My sister didn’t want to pose so I had to…

A couple of months ago my sister asked me if I could make her a cute baby item to give to one of her expecting co-workers. Hmmm, I don’t even know this co-worker so why would I make a gift? I offered to help her make something. Some grumbling ensued but she agreed to come, although no date was fixed yet. I wondered whether she really would.

Tracing

Carefully tracing around the pattern.

But she did and I looked around for a simple project for a first time sewer. I found it in the free “The perfect baby burp cloths” pattern from So Sew Easy. What I like about this pattern is that it is shaped so it fits better around your neck and shouldn’t slip down as easily as a rectangular burp cloth. I’m sure we’ve all seen parents carefully position a cloth that slips down as soon as they lift their baby, leaving their clothes dangerously unprotected, so this simple adaptation seems like a good idea. I also found patterns that have this type of shaping on both sides but those reminded me of oversized sanitary napkins…

Sewing two layers together.

Sewing two layers together.

For one side we used a white towel and for the other side some ten squares from the Urban Zoologie collection by Robert Kaufmann. Towel and fabrics were prewashed to prevent uneven shrinkage later on. For each burp cloth two ten squares were pieced together. We reasoned that a right handed person is most likely to burp a baby on their left shoulder and made sure to position the owl and bird fabrics so that some of the animals would feature in the upright orientation in the centre on the front. We ended up with three rather adorable burp cloths made by my sister. I only showed her how to do each step. I think she did really well and she preferred sewing curves to sewing straight. Will she sew more often from now on? Probably not, but that was not the point.

Lacking a real baby we made use of an imaginary one...

Lacking a real baby we made use of an imaginary one…

A piece of beeswax

For the latest project I am working on it was strongly advised to run the thread through beeswax for some of the hand sewing parts. I did not have beeswax and needed it now, so online shopping wasn’t an option. The two stores in Leiden that sell sewing related stuff do not stock it, but one of the shop owners directed me to a drugstore. I would never have thought of going there, but lo and behold, they sold beeswax. Although not really in the shape I was looking for:

150326_beeswaxpellets

However, this was probably the closest thing to a solid piece of beeswax I would be able to find on short notice so I bought some. After all, beeswax is used to make candles, so it melts easily and can be moulded into a different shape.

For the next bit of this post I should probably add the disclaimer that you should not try this at home.

Melting beeswax seemed like a great idea, but how do you do that? At first I thought of melting it au bain marie but I didn’t want to use any of my kitchen bowls because I want to be able to continue using those for food preparation purposes. A Google search on “melting beeswax in the mircrowave” quickly cured me of that idea.

In the end I put the beeswax in a jam jar and started holding it over boiling water with a serving thong. This did not work all that well because the thong did not have a very good grip on the jar. To be honest, this part probably was slightly dangerous. Instead I placed the jar in hot but not boiling water and moved it around a bit with the thong. The beeswax melted quickly and as soon as it was ready I put on oven mitts to protect my hands and poured it in a mould I had prepared before.

150326_meltingwax

For the mould I used a waxine light cup that I lined with baking paper. Some of the beeswax ran below the paper but I could quite easily coax the piece of wax out after it had cooled so perhaps the paper wasn’t even necessary.

150326_cooling beeswax

Does my self-poured piece of beeswax work? You bet it does! And I probably have enough pellets left to make at least 4 more pieces…

150326_pieceofbeeswax

Crafting plans for 2015

With 2015 already in its third month (I can’t quite believe that, where did January and February go?) it’s about time I start thinking about my sewing plans for this year. We’ve moved into our new home and life is slowly starting to get back to normal. I’ve even been sewing again! My new sewing room is great to work in. It’s huge with good natural light during the daytime and a lot of storage space. The latter I have to admit is currently still quite disorganised which can make it difficult to find what I need.

This year I am going to continue to make my own clothes, but I’m not going to stress about it. Not that I did that last year anyway.

In 2015 I’d like to challenge myself a bit more in the sewing department, try more new techniques, different fabrics and more complicated patterns than I did during 2014. This year also comes with more special occasions requiring special clothes, which could make things interesting.

Garment sewing

Complicated projects

• Cocktail dress to wear to a winter wedding. (Coming soon!)
• Complete those jeans! I really need a new pair… or two… or even three…
• Summer coat
• Party dress to wear to a summer wedding
• Dress to wear to my very own thesis defense
• Winter coat
• Classic tailored shirt for my boyfriend. Promised long ago, gorgeous fabric was bought long ago, it’s about time I get started…

Now that I’ve written these down it seems like this might be a bit too much for a single year, we’ll see how far I get. Especially since I am not particularly good at deadline sewing…

Easy in between projects

• Pyjama pants
• Cardigans
• T-shirts
• Casual skirts
• Knit dresses
• Alabama Chanin style top

Crochet

I’ve not done a lot of crochet after finishing my scarf (that I am still wearing!). It turns out that granny squares aren’t really my kind of project. A real garment is what I’m now after. I still need some help with crochet as this is a skill that doesn’t come natural to me so I bought the “my first crochet cardigan” class from Craftsy, I also got the yarn kit that came with the class so that I don’t have to worry about getting the correct yarn for this project. I’ve already made a gauge swatch with the recommend hook size which turned out pretty but way too small. Apparently I crochet tight. I have ordered more crochet hooks in other sizes and will continue my crochet garment quest when those arrive (I’m hoping soon!).

Quilting

• Finish that quilt that should have been finished way too long ago
• Couch quilt to snuggle under
• Pillows that match our, not yet ordered, new couch
• Try some art quilting to decorate the still empty walls of our new house (My boyfriend is going to freak out when he reads this…)

Did you make a plan this year for the things that you would like to make?