We Can Sew It: Trousers for beginners

Who’s ready to tackle some trousers?

If you’re still ambivalent, check out these patterns for inspiration. They should all be suitable for beginner/intermediate sewers making their first pair of trews.

Sewaholic – Thurlow

sewaholic

Thurlow is a great pattern from Sewaholic which comes in two versions – you can either make a pair of cuffed shorts or full-length, slightly flared trousers. According to the pattern’s description, the centre back seam has extra-wide seam allowances, which should be handy if you have issues with trousers fitting properly at the waist.

A more challenging aspect (which takes it up to the intermediate zone in my opinion) is the front fly zipper. But if you’re ready for a challenge, then there’s no reason you can’t have a go.

Butterick – B5895

butterickgertie

You all know I’m a big Gertie fangirl, so I couldn’t not include these trousers from Butterick’s Patterns by Gertie range. Probably not an ideal length for the UK’s plummeting temperatures, but the cropped length on this pair is really cute. An extra bonus is no fly-zipper, hurrah! Instead, the zip’s at centre back of the trousers. There’s also a great cropped shirt with kimono sleeves included to boot.

Rochelle made a pair of these not so long ago and it’s definitely worth reading her review of the pattern – it seems there can be some sizing issues if her experience is anything to go by, so be sure to make a muslin.

Vogue 8604

V8604

I’ve wanted to make this pattern for absolutely ages, though I’m not entirely sure I could pull off such a huge flare! As you’ve probably guessed by now, a high-waisted trouser is well up my street. The front is shaped with a pair of pleats and, once again, there’s no need to make a fly zipper because the zip is at the back. These would be great as a pair of jeans, as

Colette Patterns – Clover

clover

And I’ve saved the best ’til last. Well, the best in my humble opinion. I’ve decided to go for Clover from Colette Patterns – I love the shape, I love that it comes in two lengths and, well, I’d already bought it before I wrote this post. Ha! So Clover it is. I’m hoping they won’t be too much of a nightmare to fit, but the pattern is classed as suitable for beginners and – you guessed it – there’s no fly to worry about here either.

Anyone making one of these patterns? Or are you planning to go for something else entirely?

And in case you’re interested – I made a little Pinterest board of these patterns made up by other sewing bloggers.

Sew Colette: A finished Peony

Peony looks like such an easy dress to sew, doesn’t it?

Pattern: Colette Patterns‘ Peony
Time taken: About a month, give or take
Fabric: Dyed cotton fabric plus some scraps for the facings
Details: Velvet ricrac

As other sewists taking part in this round of Sew Colette have found, Peony is not as easy as it seems. Despite making a muslin and sewing with extra-large seam allowances, I’ve ended up with a bodice which isn’t as comfortable as I’d like it yet has some unfortunate sagging around the neckline. So, while I can barely lift my arms (see below), the top part still looks as though it’s just a bit too big.

Hence I found myself nervously tugging at the bodice as I sweated profusely in the Scott Room at the Guardian’s offices – and it wasn’t just because I was up for an award. (I’d also been stuck on the Tube for half an hour AND had to run from work to catch my train… sweaty is probably an understatement)

But it’s funny how you can forget absolutely all of this when Charlie Stayt off of BBC Breakfast announces you as the Guardian’s Digital Student Journalist of the Year. It’s been a bit more than a week now, but I still can’t quite believe it happened!

I swear, the almighty roar my buddy Tom (pictured above) gave when the winner was announced is STILL ringing in my ear. Other souvniers include a lovely sign Tom acquired, which he managed to lug into the bar for the after party before he handed it to me to make its way back to Guildford. I got some funny looks on the last train home from those not snoozin’ from Thursday night debauchery.

All said, it’s hard to write off a dress with such obvious problems when it has that kind of memory AS WELL AS velvet ric rac attached to it. Sweatiness be damned!

On the sewing front, I really would like to get these terrible fitting issues sorted. Inspired by Sarah’s Peony, I was rather hoping to make a green lace version in time for Christmas. Does anyone have any suggestions what I could do to improve the fit?

Those of you who have entered the giveaway… the winners will be announced later this week! I still need to get one part of the package, so keep your eyes peeled for that…

Oh, and on a final note. THANK YOU for being lovely readers. I wouldn’t have won this award without you!

Sew Colette – Fabulous (dyed) fabric

While sorting out the fit on my Peony, I’ve also been learning a fair bit about dyeing fabric.

Do you ever buy fabric on a whim only later to decide it’s not really the right colour for you? Well, when I bought this lilac number, while lovely, I forgot pastels don’t tend to be a wardrobe favourite of mine. Not to worry, I thought, easily solved with a packet of fabric dye, right?

The only thing I’ve ever dyed was my Jiu-Jitsu belt when I got my light blue belt. As soon as you grade to light blue, you dye your white belt. It means there are some really interesting and varied colours on the mat, that’s for sure. So, I bought some Dylon dye in “burlesque red” and got to work.

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Lesson learnt when it comes to dyeing fabric : make sure you have enough dye for your desired effect. A packet of 50g Dylon hand dye wasn’t enough to get the deep purple/red colour I was after. I imagine it would have been just fine for the dip-dye effect I was originally considering.

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After going back to the drawing board, I gave the machine-dye in the same colour a go, albeit with some trepidation as I was pretty worried it would end up staining my washing machine. You can imagine the nerves as I snapped the above photo, thinking I might have a purple washing machine as well as aubergine-coloured fabric.

Fortunately, I can say for certain the dye didn’t stain the washing machine (phew) and the colour came out a treat!

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The first image is with flash and the second without. I’m pretty happy with the result – the colour is much closer to the second than the first. I think it works great as an autumnal colour and goes really well with the handmade earrings pictured, which I bought from Camden this weekend.

I’m looking forward to starting to put this project together now. Working with the muslin fabric was very frustrating as it was so thin, but hopefully this sturdier cotton will work out much better.

If, like me, you’ve been having some fitting issues, check out Sew Colette organiser Sarah’s blog over at Rhinestones and Telephones, where she’s listed some great tutorials to help make sewing your Peonies that much easier. This post in particular works well if you’ve been having some issues with fitting the bodice.

How are your Peonies coming along?

The Twitter Dress – finally!

Well, wasn’t this just a project that went on and on and on and on?

Pattern: Colette Patterns‘ Pastille (adapted)
Time taken: TOO BLOODY LONG
Fabric: Turquoise cotton fabric plus quilting cotton for bodice
Details: Wonky embroidered bird, lapped zipper, princess seams.

As I mentioned in my last post, setting myself a deadline really helped me get this project done eventually. It was a dress which started out with the best of intentions, inspired by a pair of earrings resembling the Twitter logo. The original dress used a vintage pattern I gave away earlier this year and I thought it would all be so easy because there were so few pattern pieces.

Except that didn’t quite work out and I was left wondering what on earth I should do with a dress which wouldn’t look out of place on the operating table. Enter Pastille, a pattern I’d originally pictured in this colour.

Because of the way the original bodice was cut, I had to make some adjustments to the front bodice, namely changing darts on the front to princess seams so I’d have separate pieces to work with. I also did a swayback adjustment because I knew my muslin of this pattern gaped a lot at the zipper.

Then it was a seemingly endless process of basting and unpicking as I tried to get the fit just right on the bodice. At first, the front stuck out at the armpits because I hadn’t taken enough out to accommodate the extra seams. I remedied this by taking half an inch off the shoulders and a little extra off the princess seams. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s the best fit I’ve managed in a garment yet.

Well, you all know how I feel about the embroidery, but I don’t think it was too shabby for a first attempt.

Unfortunately I didn’t have enough fabric to create the cool pleated effect on the skirt. I initially thought of adding a black band, but I thought it would a bit naff.

To finish, I added a lapped centre zipper because, while they’re certainly extra effort, I’m a big fan of how it keeps everything nicely hidden. Especially useful when you don’t actually have the right colour zipper to hand…

All that was left to add was a snippet of a ribbon I got free with Mollie Makes magazine a couple of months ago. I think it adds a nice touch, no?

This pattern, by the way, save for the back piece, is absolutely fantastic. I’ve honestly never made anything where all the darts lined up so perfectly and everything (save for the bits I had to change because of fabric limitations) went very smoothly. It’s a testament to how well-designed the Colette Patterns’ range is.

But, more than anything… I’M SO GLAD IT’S OVER. Finally, I can move on to something else! I’m planning to do a bit of experimentation with dye this weekend, but my next proper project will be part of the Peony sewalong.

In fact, I have another deadline for this one. Oh, and it’s a biggie.

In November, I’ll actually be in the Guardian’s offices for the Guardian Student Media Awards, because I only went and got nominated!!! (I’ve been keeping this under my hat for what feels like an eternity…) I can’t think of anything better than to show up in something I’ve made myself as part of a digital sewalong.

Who else is taking part? I’m properly excited!

Moving house and laptop repairs

Just when you’re getting into the swing of things, something inevitably comes along to stall progress! Betty, my beloved Macbook, is at the Apple doctors at the moment after months of attempting to work with a faulty trackpad. (a nightmare when editing images, let me tell you)

I’ve also moved out of my Cardiff place and back with my parents until I get full-time work. Hands up who hates packing? Yeah, me too…

I’ll get back on track as soon as Betty’s back in town. In the meantime, check out the following:

  • Sarai of Colette Patterns has touched on an issue I’ve been thinking about lately, sustainability in clothing. Do you make your clothes to last? I try to, but I’ve definitely had a few zips break on me lately…
  • Julia over at Thread Carefully made a fab dress for her friend to wear at her civil partnership. Check out the results and her progress here.
  • Zoe’s released her first-ever free pattern! It’s a vest top, a great basic if you need some extra layers in Winter or a cool top for Summer.

Me Made May ’12 – Olympic fever hits Wales!

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there’s a bit of a hoo-ha about this Olympics shindig.

Photo by Adam Care

Yesterday, the Olympic torch reached Wales. As excellent journalists well-acquainted with what will be dominating the headlines this Summer, some of the CJS boys and I popped to Cardiff city centre to watch someone peg it past with the flame.

The best bit was when we caught a glimpse of Welsh rugby captain Sam Warburton on the bus carrying the torch bearers. PHWOAR

It’s been absolutely gorgeous this whole week and there’s nothing like waiting in the heat for the briefest glimpse of an Olympic torch to make you realise how ill-suited your wardrobe is for Summer. I wore my favourite black jersey pencil skirt and a Me-made, refashioned purple shirt. Using the Sorbetto pattern, I turned a purple men’s shirt into a sleeveless blouse.

Unfortunately, I was cutting it from the same pattern as my leopard print Sorbetto, meaning it’s also a bit of a squeeze around the bust. Sizing issues are always a little bit frustrating, particularly when a garment is a bit too small.

Let me tell you, a tight blouse really isn’t the best outfit choice when it comes to a hot and sticky summer’s day. My future projects are definitely going to be more Summer-appropriate, that’s for sure.

I didn’t get a decent picture, but fellow Cardiff student Adam, who blogs about the Olympics here, took a few and he kindly said I could use them for today’s post.

Even the boys not standing on a bin are ridiculously taller than I am! This did not bode so well while standing on tip-toes trying to see the torch.

How’s the Olympic fever for the rest of you? Anyone in London for the Games?

Me Made May ’12 – The leopard print Sorbetto

I hope this won’t be the only time this month I’ll be blogging about a new me-made garment – although, technically, this modified Sorbetto was made quite a while ago.

Paired with my all-time favourite double-knit jersey skirt and a vest top for modesty, this little blouse made a great addition to my first-day-on-placement outfit. I modified the free Colette Patterns Sorbetto to make this out of a sheer, lightweight leopard print fabric on sale at John Lewis.

I drafted a Peter Pan collar using Gertie’s tutorial and used the Sorbetto sleeve pattern from Sew Weekly (you can download a PDF version from Sew, Incidentally). No need for bias tape on this one! I also took out the centre pleat.

You can’t really tell, but this top is a bit too tight around the bust because I didn’t add enough ease after removing the pleat. D’oh! I also forgot to put interfacing on the collar. Double d’oh!

I’m remaining in denial about any problems though, because we all know leopard print and I have a special relationship. It became pretty clear why the fabric was on sale as soon as I began cutting – it frays SO easily! I cracked out the French seams, but even that hasn’t stopped some of it. I’m honestly not sure how much wear I’ll get out of this before it falls apart.

Nevermind, you win some and you lose some, and it looks fine for now! Sorbetto’s a great little pattern by the way and one you haven’t seen for the last time on Seamless!

This top came about when I decided I just had to have a me-made outfit for a friend’s Mad Men-themed party. Paired with my purple pencil skirt and a spot of red lippie, I was loving life.

If I were any Mad Men character, I think I’d probably be Peggy. I’d love to pretend I’m as utterly fabulous as Joan, but I think Peggy and I certainly have ambition in common! That programme is SUCH great sewing inspiration, don’t you think? I can’t wait to get my hands on Gertie’s sewing book so I can crack out my own version of her Joan-inspired dress.

Any other Mad Men sewing fans out there?

Me Made May ’12 – Technical Difficulties…

This blogging every day lark is a lot harder than I thought it would be, especially without images to add to the post.

So, two things went a bit wrong yesterday. First off, I couldn’t access Seamless’s dashboard and then I couldn’t find the cable for my borrowed camera to upload yesterday’s picture! Not that I really should have bothered because here’s how it turned out:

Bit dark and you can’t even see what’s Me Made about the outfit! On the plus side, the lovely El (yesterday’s birthday girl!) made an appearance, and that’s enough for me. We also saw The Avengers – it was brilliant!

Anyway, here’s what I wore yesterday:

A lovely combination of my not-quite Meringue skirt and the old favourite of a leopard print cardigan, which even after multiple washes, still smells very much of Lush. It’s (sort of) black and white, so it inevitably ended up in my work wardrobe.

So hands up who here treats leopard print as a neutral? This won’t be the last you’ll see of my leopard print, that’s for sure. My favourite ever pair of shoes are a pair of monster leopard print heels with Christian Louboutin-style red soles. Honestly, I wear them with pretty much everything I shouldn’t.

Over the years, there’s been many a leopard print creation which has caught my eye. Here’s my top five from the sewing blogosphere:

  • 1. The moment I saw Suzy’s Rock Chick Clovers, I was in love. In my second year of university, I owned the most ridiculous pair of grey leopard print jeans, but these are far, far better than those Primark pantaloons. I wish I could pull them off like Suzy does!
  • 2. No favourite creation list is complete without my blogging fave, Zoe, who turned out another Colette patterns creation, the Macaron, complete with just enough leopard print to set my heart a-flutter. Want. Not to mention, she also made a leopard print coat. Jealous.
  • 3. Oona is another classy lady on the blogosphere. Last year, she turned out this fabulous leopard print dress with an exposed zipper. Check out the brilliant apron too!
  • 4. People keep telling me how ‘in’ detachable collars are. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Peter Pan collar, but I’ll sew what I like, not what’s in thankyouverymuch. That was, until I saw Iroiro’s detachable leopard print collar, made especially for a  Janelle Monáe concert no less, and fell head over heels in lust.
  • 5. Last, but not least, those of you familiar with Sew Weekly will undoubtedly have seen their ‘Make this Look’ feature. The minute I get my hands on some disposable income, you can bet I’ll be making the hell out of this look – if I’m still brave enough to pull that much leopard print off, that is!

Anyone else unashamed leopard print fans? Perhaps we should set up some sort of support group…

GUEST POST: Thread Carefully’s 10 Sewing Commandments

Part 2

Earlier this week, Tabatha and Julia of Thread Carefully shared Sewing Commandment one to five. Now, as promised, here are commandments six to ten. Enjoy!

Tabatha's rendition of New Look 6000

6. Thou shalt always mark your fabric

Sure, it’s tempting to skip over those markings – they can be a right pain in the backside. We all know, deep down if nothing else, that they are there to help us make something beautiful, and correctly lined up in all the right places. Even the smallest deviation may mean a misplaced buttonhole, a wonky seam or pockets that don’t match it. It’s always worth taking your time to do it properly: you’ll appreciate it in the end, trust us!

7. Thou shalt not sew whilst drinking

Over to Julia for this one…Thankfully, I learned this lesson for both of us, and possibly all of us.  Yes, I confess I once had a few glasses of vino tinto whilst sewing (I should point out that I don’t drink very often.  It’s for the best) and I may have tried to see what happens if I just removed the blades from my overlocker and I may then have then been unable to get it to work.  Our friend Carys’s husband even had a look at it for me to see if he could fix it.  I couldn’t have done something THAT bad, right?  Wrong.  Unfixable.  Hello new overlocker!  (At this point, I will refer you back to our very first commandment).

8. Thou shalt finish your garments nicely every time.

We both know that we haven’t always done this.  We both know that we should.  The reason?  Every time we don’t, we regret not doing it.  There’s something really nice about knowing that the inside of your outfit is finished properly and that you won’t be embarrassed if someone sees the inside seams.  It also means that the item you have slaved and probably sworn over isn’t going to let you down in a spectacular way if, say, you’re out and about and the seam bursts.  The beauty of it is that you don’t have to have an overlocker to do it – the zig-zag stitch on your machine or pinking shears are perfectly adequate.  In addition, there are loads of other ways to finish seams or edges.  Pick the one that matches you and you’re off!

Julia's tattoo print Vogue 2958 Dress

9. Thou shalt continue to learn new techniques.

Sarai over at Colette Patterns puts this very well in her book and it is something that we both not only agree with but try and do regularly. She said:

There’s only one trait I think every sewer should possess: curiosity. Learning to sew is an ongoing process; in fact, the learning never really stops. Each project has the potential to teach you something new. Even seamstresses who have been sewing for thirty years or more will tell you that they learn new things all the time.

10. Thou shalt enjoy creating your own garments.

If something is irritating you or making you angry – put it down and have a brew.  Remember, you are (probably) sewing because you enjoy it and you love to have something nice at the end of it that you are proud of.  Yes, you may get it done tomorrow instead of next week if you plough on through, but if you rush and cut corners you will regret it later on.  I, certainly, can attest to this.  Sure, I got wearable garments even whilst being majorly annoyed throughout the process but there are things that I know about the construction of that garment that I can’t forget when wearing it.

Take, for example, my Peony dress.  I was in such a hurry to finish I didn’t obey commandment 7 for the shoulder seams and attempted to do them at the end, chopping out a chunk of the shoulder.  Now, the dress is amazing to wear (I love that it has rows and rows of Elvi all over – yes, Elvi is the plural) but I am always aware of the patch job I had to do on the shoulder which isn’t noticeable to everyone else.  The thing is, I know it’s there and I’m conscious of it and every time I see it I think “If only I’d taken my time… “. Remember, sewing is a hobby, not a race.

Thanks again to Tabatha and Julia for the guest posts! If you want to check out their blog then head over to Thread Carefully pronto! You can also follow Tabatha and Julia on Twitter. Interested in guest blogging on Seamless? Get in touch. 

GUEST POST: Thread Carefully’s 10 Sewing Commandments

Part 1

With almost 100 people taking the pledge now, I thought it was about time I got some guest posts here on Seamless! Today, the lovely Tabatha and Julia of Thread Carefully have thoughtfully put together their 10 Sewing Commandments with plenty of helpful hints and tips for beginners and experts alike. Without further ado, here are Commandments one to five…

Tabatha's Chantilly dress

1. Thou shalt only buy sewing equipment from reputable retailers.

This doesn’t include second hand or thrifted machines necessarily – those usually can’t be bought from retailers – here we mean new equipment.  It really is worth your while doing a bit of research before buying – not only into the brand and model number of the machine you’re interested in, but also into the retailer themselves.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! A good retailer will be there even after you buy your machine to service it, fix it and even show you how to use it if you need them to! If you are in the UK The Sewing Directory can help you to find your nearest retailer. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, do a quick search online, but make sure you actually go to the shop.

2. Thou shalt not buy fabric simply because it is cheap.

How many times have I fallen for this (Tabatha’s good on this: she is way more restrained than I am) only to kick myself afterwards.  “Wow, that fabric that looks like it’s been stepped on is a bargain! I MUST HAVE IT. ”  No, just leave it.  It’s not worth it.  It’ll remain in your stash unused for you to feel guilty about forevermore.  By all means, if the fabric is cheap and you know you will definitely use it then there’s no reason not to buy it.  However, think carefully before snapping up a bargain piece of fabric, especially if you have no specific pattern in mind.

Julia's Tetris Macaron

3. Thou shalt not attempt to exactly replicate others’ creations.

This is one that’s close to both our hearts.  Like many people, the reason we started sewing was to have pieces that were unique to us.  We were both sick of constantly seeing other people in the same outfits or having people buy clothes because they liked how they looked on someone else.  Sometimes – dare we say it – we were even guilty of it ourselves.  When you start sewing you suddenly become appreciative of exactly what goes into making that piece.  You can deliberate over a pattern for hours, choosing the perfect style of fabric for it and the ideal trim.  At the end, you have something to be proud of.  It’s wonderful to admire other people’s creations and to garner inspiration from them, but if you love it so much you try to replicate it exactly, you are taking away the unique quality the other person has striven for. You should embrace the individuality that sewing permits, and create your own wonderful, inspired pieces, rather than copy  other people’s ideas.

4. Thou shalt always pre-wash or pre-shrink fabric.

I bet you, like us, have learned this the hard way.  Does much else need said on this, apart from that you will be devastated if your brand new, barely worn, [insert garment type here] shrinks the first time you wash it.  It has happened to us, and, although there may be a few commandments here we break from time to time, this is one we never, ever , EVER break.

Photo by Steven Depolo

5. Thou shalt always cut the correct size according to your measurements

Never guess what size you are based on your usual dress size (UK, US or otherwise).  Each pattern comes with measurements to help you identify your size , and that size will vary from company to company. Measure yourself each time and use that number.  It is only a number.  A number which no one need ever know, if you so wish.  The pattern may as well state sizes A, B, C, D, E for all the difference it makes.  An ill-fitting garment not only looks bad, but must surely feel bad.

Watch out later this week for the next five commandments, courtesy of Tabatha and Julia! In the meantime, check out their blog. If you’d like to write a guest blog for Seamless, get in touch!