Completed: A birthday backpack

200128_backpack1My daughter turned 3 years old and I wanted to give her a backpack designed and made by me. It was ages ago since I made a proper bag and I loved (almost) every minute of making it.

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I designed a simple bag with a main compartment with an O-type zipper (this was really hard to find so I am happy I found one in a somewhat matching colour) and two outside pockets. One that closes with a zipper and one that is a bit more open that closes with a flap with a snap. I really had to restrain myself from adding more pockets and fancy features. The bag is not very large since the intended recipient is still less than 1 meter tall so there is not really a lot of room to add extra stuff. A 3 year old also doesn’t need all those bells and whistles and they would have added extra weight which is not ideal when you want your child to carry her own bag.

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Years ago I read a blog post in which cork fabric was used to make a bag and I have ever since wanted to try that stuff. It sounded like a strong and durable material which is great for anything made for a toddler. It is also available with silver stuff in it which is great when your toddler likes anything with glitter.

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Not too shabby pattern matching on the top. I love the O-type zipper with 2 zipper pulls.

I paired it with a green Art Gallery fabric with yellow and white flowers, yellow quilting fabric for some accents, a yellow zipper, green and yellow webbing for the straps and some adjustable sliders. The print fabric was also used for the lining. On the outside the print fabric was interfaced with fusible Decovil 1 light which gives it a bit of a leathery stiffness. The front and back cork fabric were interfaced with fusible vlieseline/vilene S320, but that may not have been absolutely necessary because the fabric itself is already quite firm. Anyway, I hoped the bag would stand up by itself and it does.

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back before assembly

I sewed the outer and inner pattern pieces at the same time and finished the seam allowances on the inside with bias binding. On the front and back this turned out to be much easier than I expected. On the bottom this was quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever sewn. I was super glad that I now have a Janome Horizon MC9400 because I am not sure the 3160 would have been able to handle all the bulk in the corners. In the end I managed to get it done with a lot of patience and I am happy this binding is located in a place that nobody will ever take a closer look at. If I ever make another backpack I think I’ll have to create a different type of bottom to make the assembly a bit easier.

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Attaching the binding to the front piece and attaching the bottom to the main bag. I am not sure why I ever thought 10 wonder clips would be sufficient for this project…

My daughter loves her new backpack and I hope she will be able to use it for years to come.

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And now I really want to make another bag for myself…

Sewing jeans: Muslin 3

Before I show you what muslin 3 looks like I first want to show how I adapted muslin 2 into muslin 2.1 to determine how to change the pattern.

I started with a very simple alteration. Muslin 2 showed a lot of fabric being pulled into the crotch indicating the crotch length was not long enough. The trousers were also very tight across my thighs indicating I needed some more room there. I solved both issues by doing what “The Perfect Fit” one of the fitting books I own, calls a full thigh adjustment. The pattern is extended both at the side- and inseam which lengthens the crotch seam and increases thigh circumference. The red lines in the schematic below indicate how I re-sewed the seams in muslin 2 and changed the pattern for muslin 3. I also removed the gaping I had at the yoke.

full thigh adjustment

These 2 changes already made a huge difference to the fit as you can see below.

Muslin 2.1 front

Notice how the straight of grain lines have become much straighter and more horizontal.

 

Muslin 2.1 back

Wrinkles at the knee have disappeared. Straight of grain lines are straighter and more horizontal. Yoke lies nicely against my back. It no longer looks like I am about to burst out of these.

Muslin 2.1 Side

Wrinkles at the knee have mostly disappeared. Side seam has become straighter. There appears to be less strain on the fabic on my butt.

After I changed this I noticed I could remove some of the wrinkles I still had at the front by pinning out 2 darts. I made this alteration in the pattern by slicing the pattern open and overlapping the edges to simulate the dart I had pinned out. This does not change the side seam.

pinned darts front

At the back I thought I probably still needed to add some more length to the crotch seam so I sliced the muslin open horizontally and inserted some fabric. This did seem to improve the fit at the back and the muslin became more comfortable to wear so I made this alteration in the pattern as well. This is done by slicing the pattern open and creating a hinge point at the side seam. You can then add a wedge to the pattern by sliding the center back upwards. The side seam does not change.

adjustment to back

After I had made all these changes I decided it was time to make muslin 3 to check whether the changes I made on the pattern were correct. Unfortunately I ran out of muslin fabric (why did I ever think 3 meters would be enough???) and had to use something a bit lighter weight than ideal but I didn’t want to wait until I had the opportunity to get some new fabric. The fit is still not perfect but I think you’ll agree this is definitely an improvement over where I started with muslin 2!

Muslin 3 front

Still not 100% happy with the crotch, but overall I don’t think this looks too bad. Side seam at the thigh is perhaps still a bit too much to the front.

 

I still need to add more lenght to the back crotch lenght because fabric is still being pulled in. My alterations at center back caused the center back seam to be a bit strangely shaped so I'll need to reshape it.

I still need to add more lenght to the back crotch seam because fabric is still being pulled in. My alterations at center back caused the center back seam to be a bit strangely shaped and it sticks out so I’ll need to reshape it.

Muslin 3 side

Side seam still not completely straight. Center back seam sticks out.

How many muslins do you think I’ll end up making before I dare cut into my denim?

Sewing jeans: Muslin 2

If you are now wondering whether you missed a post about muslin 1. You didn’t. I had originally planned to blog the whole fitting process but muslin 1 was unfortunately not suitable for public display due to indecent exposure of underwear.

I am attempting to sew myself a pair of well-fitting jeans. I’ve wanted to do so for years because I am never completely happy with the fit of RTW jeans, yet jeans are what I wear most days. In summer I am a jeans and t-shirt girl, the rest of the year I’m a jeans, t-shirt and cardigan girl. With my RTW fast the need to finally make these self-made jeans happen is getting more urgent. Sewbusylizzy organised a Jeans in June and July challenge and this was the final push I needed to get started. Not sure whether I’ll actually manage to finish an actual pair in July since August is already looming on the horizon and I have to work all remaining July days except for today but if I finish the muslin process in July I’m happy (and if not, I’m probably still happy).

I already had a pair of jeans stashed away that I had started copying using the method from Kenneth D. Kings Craftsy class. I started that project ages ago but got distracted and was also a bit scared to continue because my first ever attempt at trousers years ago failed horribly and caused a bit of a trauma.

Tracing pattern onto silk organza

copying jeans

The original jeans were copied by thread tracing the seams and straight of grain lines and then transferring these markings to silk organza. If you want to get a better idea of how this method works have a look at this post by Cindy from cationdesigns, she posted about this process in more detail earlier this week. The pattern was then transferred from silk organza onto Swedish tracing paper (my favourite type of tracing paper ever). The pattern was trued (which means making sure that all seams have the correct shape and that seams that are supposed to match up, do in fact match up) and I made a muslin. I made my muslin using regular muslin fabric without stretch, because this is what Angela Wolff recommends even if your fashion fabric contains lycra. I’m really hoping this will work out ok when I do sew my final pair in denim that contains some lycra and is, therefore, somewhat stretchy…

Anyway, as you may have guessed after reading the first paragraph of this post, they did not fit. In fact, they were super tight and couldn’t close (to be honest the original jeans are also a bit on the tight side). I made 3 changes to the pattern. 1. An adjustment for full inner thighs. 2. More room at center back. 3. More room at side seam of back. I probably could have tried to change more but worried that it would get so messy that transferring my changes to the pattern would become a nightmare.

After making these changes to the pattern I made muslin 2 from the same muslin fabric hoping I would now have something approaching wearable. Note that this muslin does not yet have a waistband. I’ve used waxed tracing paper to indicate the straight of grain lines. I’ve also added some horizontal lines that help to diagnose fit issues. These are definitely not the most flattering pictures I have ever posted of myself but I think I am now at a point that it seems likely I can get to a fitting pair at some point. Remember, it’s always the garment that is causing the horrible fit, your body is just fine! After all, I can change the garment to adjust for my shape but I can hardly adjust my shape to fit the garment. Well, I suppose I could get a surgeon to shave some flesh of my thighs but that doesn’t really seem like a workable approach to use for each new garment I want to make…

Muslin front

Do you notice how the fabric is pulled into the crotch causing distortions?

Muslin back

Again fabric is pulled into the crotch. It’s also pulled towards the sides. I will also need to change the placement of the back pockets at the end of the process to make sure they end up more centered.

muslin sides

Eventually the side seam should end up perpendicular to the floor. Right now there is too much strain because fabric is being pulled to areas where there isn’t enough fabric causing a wave-like shape

Obviously they are still too tight but at least I can close them now. I believe most of the issues are caused by a too short crotch length that is causing the fabric to be pulled into the crotch both at the front and back. I think I will also need to add some more room in the thigh area as they are still very tight. My previous adjustments at center back now causes some gaping at the yoke (something I nearly always get in RTW jeans) so I’ll fix that too.

Do you have any other suggestions for adjustments that I could make to get a better fit?

Completed: Lady Skater dress with drape neckline

140411_front viewThis dress nearly defeated me but I am glad I persevered. I thought it would be fun to change the scoop neckline on the Lady Skater dress to a drape neckline to create a different look . I worry that if I make the same pattern over and over with the only change being the fabric that is used they’ll be too much alike. Changing details like necklines and sleeve lengths seems a good solution to this problem and they’re also fun as it often involves some pattern drafting.

140411_drape neckline2So, creating a drape neckline, “how hard can it be”? I had made drape necklines before on t-shirts for one of my sisters. A smarter person than me would have studied that pattern extensively before she started drafting, and more importantly, cutting the fabric. Let’s just say my first version wasn’t even remotely drapey and looked more like a boat neck trying to strangle me.

Luckily I had enough fabric left to cut a new front bodice. This one worked much better! I think I could have added even more drape but was worried at first that it might be too revealing. I shouldn’t have cut it out of fabric immediately though because I didn’t really consider the effect that my changes to the pattern had on the shape of the waistline. My waistline looked like this after cutting it from fabric (and that was the last piece of fabric large enough to accommodate the front bodice):

This is what happens when you forget to true up your waistline...

This is what happens when you forget to true up your pattern…

Whoops, not sure how that is going to look when the skirt is attached… I wasn’t certain how to fix this, so decided to leave this problem for after I completed sewing the bodice. I needn’t have worried though because this fabric has more lengthwise stretch than the fabric I used previously and as a result the waistline ended up far too low for my taste. I chopped an inch off the front and back bodice and in the process got rid of the sweetheart waistline detail.

Before reattaching the skirt I also took in the side seams. The before pictures below are how the dress was when I posted last time. I didn’t really like the dress then and wasn’t sure how to fix it.

140411_beforeafter

I thought something was missing, but I was wrong, there was still too much of something. Fabric, to be precise. I took the dress in at the back waist and removed even more at both side seams from just below the bust to the skirt hem and am now much happier with how it looks. It was a subtle change but I think it makes enough of a difference, especially from the front.

140411_side viewI can imagine some of you might be interested in how I converted the scoop neck to a drape neck. In the picture below I highlighted the orginal front bodice pattern piece in green. Starting at the centre front waistline you draw a straigth line (1) that flares out towards the neckline and extends beyond the original pattern piece (this will be the new center front).  More flare means more drape. Then you fold the pattern perpendicular to line 1 so that the corner of the shoulderseam ends up on the foldline. Then trace the shoulderseam  and the armhole onto the piece that is folded over, this is how you create the facing for the drape. Unfold the pattern and draw a second line (2) perpendicular to line line 1 so that the traced part of the armhole measures around 7.5 cm (I think it will still work if it is a little less or a little bit more).  I also added a notch in the armhole where the facing ends up when it is folded over. If you don’t want to end up with a strange looking waistline you also true up the pattern there.

front bodice pattern with drape neckline

I am apparently able to draft patterns in the future…

I finished my back bodice with a neckband, there are other options, but the important thing to keep in mind is that the length of the finished back bodice shoulder seam should be the same as the front bodice shoulder seam, so depending on your choice of finish you may have to make some changes to the back bodice as well. I reinforced the shoulder seam on the back bodice with some stay tape (not visible in the pictures). The shoulder seam is sewn by laying down the front and back bodice pieces right sides together with the shoulder seams matching. The facing of the front bodice is then folded over the back bodice so that the shoulder seam on the facing matches up as well (see picture below). I highly recommend basting this seam first to check how it looks from the right side. It can be tricky to get the back and front neckline to match up exactly, in the picture on the right you can see that I didn’t manage to do so completely, but trust me, it can be a lot worse. I basted the facing to the armhole before continuing to prevent shifting during the attachment of the armhole.

140411_shoulderseam

For now I am done playing with the Lady Skater pattern. My next make will be something I have never made before but that will be used on a daily basis. Can you guess what it will be?

Back view

UFO Busting: Self-drafted A-line skirt

I proudly present what may very well be the best fitting skirt I have ever had. I made the pattern following (most of the) instructions from Craftsy’s “Design and sew an a-line skirt” class. The fit of this skirt is so much better than any RTW skirt I have been able to find. The main reason I hardly ever used to wear a skirt is that I simply didn’t have any good fitting ones. Usually, when I tried on a RTW skirt it was either way too large at the waist or way too tight at the hip. Now I want to make lots more!

Denim A-line skirt

This quite simple skirt turned into an UFO because I probably used inaccurate measurements when I drafted my first pattern months ago. My muslin looked hideous. I decided to toss it and start from scratch. This time, I marked the exact location of my waist, hip and desired hem line on my body so that I would be sure to measure in the right location and also have accurate waist-hip and waist-hemline measurements.

I still had to tweak the side seam between waist and hip quite a bit in my muslin because the difference between those two measurements is quite large due to my pear shape. Perhaps I could get it to fit even better in that region in a next version but for now I’m very pleased with how it looks.

A-line skirt with inset pocketInstead of making a very basic skirt I wanted something a bit more special, so I added a facing, cut up the front and back to do some colour blocking and added inset pockets. How to draft this type of pocket isn’t included in the class but I very much prefer this pocket over the options provided in the class. For example, I detest inseam pockets. Seriously, they always gape and then stand out a little bit from your body and since they’re usually located in the hip region of a skirt or dress they draw extra attention to your hips. I think it is safe to assume that over 90% of Western women does not want to draw extra attention to her hips. So, my advice is to avoid inseam pockets like the plague. It’s not difficult to add inset pockets to an existing pattern, although with hindsight I should probably have made mine a little deeper.

Facing

For the skirt fabric I used pieces of cut up old jeans. I have collected a selection of old worn jeans that I occasionally cut up into pieces and use to make stuff. When I pulled out my stash I discovered I had 14(!) pairs that I hadn’t yet cut into, which, even to me, seems like a somewhat ridiculous amount. Most worn jeans still have areas where the fabric is in very good condition, most often the back of the lower part of the leg. You want to avoid using parts that are clearly worn and the knees. Most denim nowadays contains some spandex and the knees in old jeans have usually become stretched out and baggy. For this skirt I used fabric from 5 different pairs and I really like how they work together. For the facing and pocket lining I used a floral cotton. The facing is interfaced with medium weight woven interfacing.

denim A-line skirtSome of you may have been wondering when I was ever going to post a project for which I used my new overlocker and coverstitch machine. Right now! I finished the seam allowances with a 3-thread overlock stitch and I think the inside now looks very nice and it was so much faster than what I used to do before. The hem was finished with a 2 needle coverstitch and I also really like how that turned out.

Left: details of 3-thread overlock stitch. Right: 2-needle coverstitch on hem.

Left: details of 3-thread overlock stitch. Right: 2-needle coverstitch on hem.

Largest revelations during the skirt drafting stage:

  • I do not need darts in the skirt front (which is actually a very good thing because it reduces the number of darts to sew by a whopping 50%!). Instead I lowered the top of the skirt a little bit at the centre front to ensure that the top of the whole skirt would be parallel to the floor.
  • Pinning a back dart on yourself while simultaneously trying to look in a mirror to see what you are doing puts you at serious risk of a strain injury.
  • My back darts needed to be quite a bit longer than I originally thought they should be.

140201_A-lineskirt4I did find this Craftsy class useful but I thought the teacher was a bit too happy. If you want to learn how to draft a simple skirt it is a good option though and if you start out with the right measurements you’ll most likely end up with a very nice fitting skirt. However, would I buy a skirt drafting class today I would most likely get the “Pattern making basics: The skirt sloper” class as that one seems to be much more versatile. I might still get it, I really want to learn more about pattern drafting, I thoroughly enjoy the process and dress making is even more fun when your finished garments actually fit well.

Completed: Self-drafted sweater

sweaterIn the year I’m supposed to be sewing as many items as possible to create a solid wardrobe for myself, my first finish is a sweater for my boyfriend.

The inspiration for this sweater was one of his favourite sweaters that I wish he would discard because it has holes in both armpits that I have decided are beyond fixing. To (sort of) copy this sweater I thread traced the seams, pinned Swedish tracing paper to the sweater and used a marker to trace the seams onto the paper. Then I turned these slightly wonky traced pieces into pattern pieces that looked normal and made sure that every seam would match perfectly. I also lenghtened the sleeves because I thought the sleeves on the original sweater were too short and added some extra room in the armpit area to ensure that this sweater wouldn’t tear as well.  I wasn’t entirely sure I would get the fit right in one go so I first cut the pattern pieces from fabric with extra-large seam allowances, did some fitting, adjusted the pattern, recut the pieces with normal sized seam allowances and sewed it up. All in all it didn’t take very long to make.

front and back fabricThe front, back and sleeves are made from a viscose & acryl blend that I think is very suitable for a men’s sweater. The wrong side of the fabric is black and the front blue. The neckband, hem band and cuffs are made from a viscose & lycra blend jersey that I had left over from another project.

He requested that the neckline would be high so that any t-shirt worn underneath doesn’t show. No problem, I can do that. The fabric, however, doesn’t have a lot of stretch and it is a bit of a struggle to put it on and take it off. Had I noticed this during the fitting I would have made it a bit wider, but for now I just hope it won’t tear.

Overall I’m very pleased with the result. If he enjoys wearing it I’ll probably make more with a wider neckline.