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.

20121021-224912.jpg

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.

20121021-225354.jpg

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!

20121021-230209.jpg

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?