Sewing Wardrobe Staples

This is an interesting one. Before I started sewing I was unsure whether I'd want to sew everything in a wardrobe, including super basic items like simple t-shirts for both Trev and myself. I've made a Renfrew, but I wouldn't class that as a simple wardrobe staple. It's a bit more involved and more than a basic t-shirt.

Despite being unsure whether I want to do it regularly, I wanted to have a go at doing one – we'd recently bought Kwik Sew 3878 for Trev, which is a great basic t-shirt pattern (the one in the middle):

We had even been prepared and bought Trev some nice basic knit fabric – some of what's in the below pile, including the grey is for him:

So on Sunday I decided to give it a go. I traced out a medium for him, although he's losing weight, his measurements aren't quite back to being an M around his waist, but it's a stretchy fabric and I thought zero/a little negative ease wouldn't hurt. Plus the plan for this tee was for it to a) be a test and b) if successful, to be worn as a simple PJ top or underneath shirts etc as a layering piece.

Cutting this fabric was an experience! I've only worked with knit fabric once before, on my Renfrew and it was a thick, stable, double knit. This was not fun. Stretched, slipped, slid… Not good. I managed to cut my back piece shorter than the front and also cut the neckband too short as a result.

I definitely see a rotary cutter in the very near future.

You use a zigzag to sew pretty much the entire shirt – medium length but narrow width for the seams and then a medium length and wide width for finishing edges. Generally I managed this, but there were a couple of occasions I forgot and sewed seams with a wide stitch.

Laid out on a table it doesn't look too bad. The shortness of the neckband can be seen here in how the body fabric puckers a little, but it looks fine when on a body or hanger. I was also able to tidy up the different lengths on front and back, although it was very hard to get right as it varied massively depending on how the fabric was positioned. I gave up in the end :)

On a hanger it looks waaaay better as it sits and falls properly. I don't think it looks bad at all!

And finally on its intended person. Not a bad really! Trev used the words “comfy” and “cosy” to describe it – so I think it will make a great PJ top for him. I forgot that this pattern only has a 1/4 inch seam allowance and I cut deeper than that when snipping my notches. This means there's a couple of teeny holes in some places and it did make sewing some of the seams tricky. It probably compromises the integrity of the garment so it's good that it won't be worn out of the house.

I think I've got enough fabric left within the 2m of fabric that we bought to potentially squeeze another short sleeved t-shirt out of it. I'll have to position the pattern pieces and see. I could try and do the v-neck of View B next time too.

While I'll definitely make another for Trev to use up the fabric, I'm still undecided on how many items like this I will make. It wasn't quick, as you have to sew the seam and then finish all of the seam allowances, but I guess getting an overlocker would help make the sewing process a lot quicker. The other awful bit was the cutting, but a mat and rotary cutter should help that too. So it's hard to know. Is it worth the effort for items you can pick up for a few pounds in the shops? With a cutter/mat and overlocker I could probably whip one of these up in about an hour, in which case I would say that it is worth it.

What are your thoughts?

With that, I'm off to browse overlockers :)


I'm quickly trying to post this in the brief period where it looks like our internet connection has returned. It's been down for 8 out of the last 9 days due to various issues with BT, so while it's up I need to get a move on!

I've already posted about working on the Sewaholic Gabriola skirt in the linen I bought from Fabworks. Last time around, all it needed was hemming and the addition of a hook/bar and it would be all done. I'm pleased to present the finished skirt!

The first finished pic I shared was on Instagram – from the side. This is a) because I love the side view and b) the front and back views are both a bit of a car crash.

So, some details.

Gabriola is designed as a flared, unlined maxi skirt (although you can add a lining if your fabric choice calls for it) that sits at your natural waist, with all of those flattering seam lines. Ideally it should be made in a light to medium weight fabric and you can use a plain fabric, or something with stripes, checks, prints – anything really.

I think it's classed as an Intermediate level pattern – as you end up cutting some of the pieces on the bias and there's some tricky seam lines to sew, it's not impossible for a beginner, but would be tricky. I certainly struggled with aspects of it.

I cut a size 14, which is the size with the best fit around the waist and hips at present – there's a LOT of ease added from the hips down – which is part of what makes the skirt so swooshy. For people who aren't so pear shaped on their bottom half I believe instructions are given on how to grade the hips down through the yoke, so you end up with a similar effect without all that extra fabric.

There's also a sewalong that has taken place on the Sewaholic blog – I was actually able to follow along big chunks of this one and it was really useful as a relative novice to have something to refer to. All the posts can be found here.

As a result of following the sewalong, the whole process took me around ten days. I could have finished it quicker, but it was nice to wait a few days and follow along with the blog.

There are some tricky construction aspects to this. Lots of seam lines and notches to line up, to make sure everything falls properly. I came across an issue with my size where a few bits didn't seem to be lining up properly – a few emails later I was told I could carry on without worrying, which was fab.

The front came together quite quickly:

I also got to have my first go at slipstitching.

Hand sewing isn't something that I was particularly keen on. A bit like finishing off and seaming knitted items, I guess it's a bit of an acquired taste. It's a real skill and takes a long time to do properly, but really adds to the garment. I had a go at slipstitching my waistband to the inside of the skirt – there's bits of it that look great – which typically are at the back of the skirt. The front, is a bit of a car smash in places.

You have to let the skirt hang for at least 24 hours before you attempt to hem it, as the bias cut pieces need time and the overall weight of the garment pull them out into their permanent length. Hemming this thing was a bit of a beast. Without a dress form it was a bit tricky and also took FOREVER. It's a lot of skirt to measure, cut and hem.

You could catchstitch the hem, making for an invisible finish, but I was pretty lazy and did a visible hem in the end. Not brilliant, as I could have topstitched closer to the hem edge, but it looks ok.

Finishing this garment has also made me consider an overlocker. You have to finish all of the seam allowances, in most cases separately before you press them open. For mine, I pinked them and then zigzagged them, but it's not very neat and tidy and leads to the inside of the skirt looking very messy. An overlocker would be cleaner, but it's another piece of equipment to buy, store, maintain, learn how to use, etc. I could also use it for other things though, so I may decide to do it. I also want to learn about different seam finishes, to give me some other options.

Without further ado, more pictures!

Hello! The first problem. At the join of the centre yoke panel to the skirt, there's some sort of crazy gathering thing that happened which wasn't there in my IG picture further up. This leads to the front panel of the skirt not falling at all like it should. That line of fabric right down the front, SHOULD NOT BE THERE. It leads to me feeling like the whole thing is one big massive #fail :(

On the plus side, it gave me a good chance to practice some very interesting poses – so that I could break the fall in th skirt and show you how it should look. Voila.

Or, I can hold out sides of the fabric – which both gets rid of the crazy gathers and shows you how much fabric has gone into the skirt.

Before we move on to the car smash which is the back, here are my beautiful side seams. I managed to make these trickier order myself then they needed to be, by some poor work in the previous steps, but I think they look fab

Left side:

Right side – which is my favourite for some reason.

So, the back. At least there are no crazy fabric gathers here. And if I wear a long top, the back doesn't look too bad. Bonus.

Here it is in all its glory. Want a close up? I'm sure you don't, but you're getting one anyway.

Wow. Messy! I actually put the zip in twice – this was way better than attempt one. What I don't understand is why the right side of the zip looks better than the left? Just not fair.

Lets not even talk about the horror that is my hook and bar. I may take the bar out and do it again – see if I can fix some of the weird bunching going on there.

But look at the waistband and all my beautiful slipstitching that you can't actually see because it's so beautiful and perfect and therefore invisible!

Now you can see it :( I did debate ripping out the whole waistband and doing it again but decided against it. With a top on, generally you can't see it and I just need to learn to live with issues like this. Or just get better and eliminate them in the first place. I like this plan better.

One thing that is a little odd that others have reported too is that the waistband sits a little way away from the body. It's drafted straight, not curved which could be why, but I don't yet know enough to try and do it differently. One for a future make.

So there we have it. A linen maxi skirt that will go with everything once the weather warms up and has actually had two outings already. One last weekend for a few hours and once at work during the week. It feels fabulous to wear and I love how it swooshes and swishes as you walk. You feel very glamorous in an odd kind of way.

I'd had some thoughts about what to do differently if I made another:

  • French seam as many seams as possible – this would need less finishing then and should look neater
  • Catchstitch the hem, depending on if I'm using a lighter fabric or not
  • Handpick the zip – I saw something who did this on their Gabriola and it's a nice idea on one where you really want to make an effort with hand sewn, couture techniques
  • Go the other way and use an invisible zip – I've not sewn one of these before so it would be nice to try. I'd need a dedicated sewing machine for to do this though
  • Use a long zip – this would eliminate the need for hook and eyes/buttons – you'd just run a longer zip that goes up through the waistband and finishes at the top
  • Curve/dart the waistband somehow – to solve this standing away problem
  • Make the waistband slightly longer – if I wasn't going to run a zip all the way up I might try this, so it gives you more overlap for the hook and bar. Part of why it looks so bad above is there's not a lot of room to play with

So there you have it. Another make, successfully worn out of the house! The problem with the internet having been down for over a week is that I've actually made a second Gabriola, but let's pretend I haven't yet, so when I post about it in a few days it will be a nice surprise :) I hope you're all having a lovely weekend!


Spring Sewing Plans

It's spring, right? Officially? We've had the equinox and the clocks finally went forward this morning. Plus it's April in two days! March has definitely dragged on. But, here we are with lots of grand sewing plans ahead for the next few months, particularly given that I've not made a total hash of my three completed items so far.

So first up was the arrival of some new patterns! Very unselfishly we ordered some for Trev too, as he'd like me to try a slightly more formal shirt for him, as well as some simple t-shirts and maybe some shorts for warmer weather. For myself, I went for two more Sewaholic patterns – the Minoru jacket and Gabriola skirt. As I type this, the Gabriola is almost finished and I'll be sure to share it in my next post.

I've also downloaded a couple of digital only patterns, that require you to print them out, then cut and stick together – so you can then trace off your finished pieces. I don't own a printer. No problem, I thought, I'll just go to the library in town and print out there. 40 pence a page! Given that I needed to print out 24 pages for one of my patterns, that'll get quite spendy quite fast. Digital patterns are cheaper, but I can see why some people aren't too keen on all the cutting and sticking.

Below you can see the Lady Skater dress that I've started to piece together. It's a knit fabric dress that is meant to be quite straightforward for relative beginners and after the relative success of my Renfrew, I thought it'd be good to try another project.

I've also bought and downloaded the Grainline Studios Archer Shirt pattern – I'll get that printed out at a later date and find some suitable fabric – I love the plaid that has been used on the pattern page.

Speaking of finding suitable fabric, we found a brilliant local place in Dewsbury called Fabworks the other week. I was gutted to find that it was only open during the week and on the first Saturday of every month. Typically, we discovered it on the second Saturday. I rang in the morning on the off chance someone might pick up and I was overjoyed to be told that they are in fact now open every Saturday!

It's brilliant inside – it has entire sections for every kind of fabric imaginable, for both dressmaking, costumes, upholstery, curtains, leather… All sorts. I took a picture of what it looks like when you go inside the door – this isn't even a quarter of everything they have available.

Trev enjoyed being in there as much as I did, merrily picking out some shirt fabrics. He settled on three in the end – all different types of check.

I went a bit mad in the knits section. What can I say, I love stripes! And a couple of the plain bits at the top here are meant for Trev's t-shirts, while the others will become comfy tops for me.

I bought lots of this lovely linen – at least I think it's linen, to make my Gabriola skirt with. It's come together fairly well so far – I have only to hem it now and attach some fastenings and it's all ready to share. It should be lovely to wear in warmer weather, should any roll around,

For my Minoru, it took me a while to select fabric. This being Yorkshire, I want the jacket to be able to cope with a bit of rain, so I had a look at some of the nylons. None really appealed to me, but in the “coat” section I came across a lovely navy gabardine cotton that I reckon I could spray with a waterproofing agent to make it vaguely showerproof. I've teamed it with a bright pink nylon and bright pink zips – I've since learned that apparently navy/pink is “in”. I'm never on trend intentionally, so am amused to see that I've managed it. Of course by the time I've made it, it may no longer be fashionable, so normal service will be resumed :)

The black and white print knit fabric in the middle here is what I'm thinking of using for my Lady Skater. I think I only bought 2.5m of it, but apparently that's the exact amount needed for the dress, so this could work out well.

The only other plan I have for spring is to maybe teach Trev to learn to sew! He was sat at the machine the other night, practising sewing straight lines on a piece of paper. He then got to graduate on to real fabric :)

He likes the idea of being able to sew some of his own basics, like shirts and t-shirts. Maybe even underwear too! I ran up a really quick pair of boxer shorts for him the other week, using the leftover fabric from his Negroni shirt and the pattern from the Sew Everything Workshop book. They're dead comfy apparently, so I see a few more pairs in his future :)

I do also have plenty of knitting and spinning plans in mind. We went to Hebden Bridge last week to get the bikes serviced and while doing so found the local yarn shop where I helped myself to some yarn:

It would have been rude not to! Now despite my use of the word “plans” just now when I mentioned knitting, I don't have any specific plans for this specific yarn. Yet. But I'm sure something will spring to mind :)

Sewaholic Renfrew

I have lots of upcoming sewing plans to share with you, but I'm pleased to share another FO!

I had planned to start work on a Sewaholic Gabriola skirt and was pressing my fabric on Saturday morning all ready for the postman to bring me the parcel containing thread and zips etc.

Except he then didn't turn up. Boo. That dented my mood slightly and I puzzled for a while over what I could then make before Sunday night with things I had ready. I settled on trying to make a Renfew top, another Sewaholic pattern.

I decided to use some knit fabric I bought from Top Stitch that I think is a double knit, as it shows knit stitches on both sides. It's certainly a stable knit – a nice thick fabric but also very comfortable and snuggly.

The Renfrew is drafted for a B cup and being several sizes larger than that, I knew I'd need to make a few changes to ensure a good fit. It seems that often people don't worry about things like a full bust adjustment in knit fabric as it's stretchy, but I know from my ready to wear tops that they could do with more room up top if I want them to still fit my waist and hips.

Unfortunately all of the FBA tutorials I looked at for knits (that don't include darts) use methods that end up adding extra room all down the front of the top – meaning the waist and hips are larger than what the pattern originally calls for. I didn't need this extra room so puzzled for a while over what to do.

I thought about cutting a size smaller and then using the FBA to add the extra room I'd need at the waist and hips but honestly this seemed like too much work for a first try. In the end, I went for what's called a Cheater FBA - this lets you add a bit more room around the bottom of the armhole, while then drafting back down to your regular waist size. I hoped it would work well in a knit.

So, what I did:

  • Cut a 12 at the shoulders, based on my high bust measurement of 37.5″
  • Went out to a 16 at the armholes on the front
  • Went out to a 14 at the armholes at the back
  • Graded back down to a 14 in the waist and hips
  • Followed the sleeve cap shaping of a size 12, but then continued out to a 14 and 16 on each side to make sure the sleeves fit in my larger armholes

Hopefully the earlier link will explain visually some of the changes I made. If not and it would help, I could take some pictures of the changes I made when I traced the pattern out.

So, what did I end up with?

I cut out View B, which gave me the V-neck, with the three quarter sleeves from View C. I think it looks ok!

It looks like the cheater FBA has given me enough room up top, although there's still a bit of pulling, which is to be expected with my chest being what it is. But it still fits my waist and hips well and shows off a bit of a figure!

At the back there is some bagginess going on at my back waist – does this show the need for a sway back adjustment? There's also a bit of gaping at the back neckline depending on how I stand – I could take this out with a dart if it wasn't a knit fabric… I'll have to think about how I fix it on the next top.

I have been converted to the way of the twin needle – it was really easy and gives a lovely professional finish. I did have a few places where the thread looped between stitches, despite dialling down the tension. Not too sure why this happened, but will see if I can fix it next time.

My V also went a bit wonky. My own fault for attempting probably the trickiest neckline on my first go! Ironically, the side you can't see looks straight, so that's a massive grrrr. It was tricky to make the neckline not bunch up and I had to unpick it and do it a second time to make it look better. Still not perfect, but for a first attempt I'm happy with it.

At least my sleeve insertion looks better and was a good deal easier too!

Where I did manage to screw up was attaching the waistband and cuffs. I could swear that the seam and waistband were aligned when I pinned it together! (I also had to unpick it once as I started sewing it to the wrong side of the garment.)

By the time I got to the second cuff it looked better. Third time lucky and all!

Speaking of sleeves I do wish they were a little longer. They're just a teeny bit too short, as when I try and pull the cuffs to where I think they should sit, I pull the armhole out of alignment and have to wriggle myself back into position. Next time I might lengthen the sleeve a touch.

So there we have it! I can recommend this pattern to anyone who hasn't used knits before – I used just a straight stitch (plus an overcast stitch to finish the edges, although I could have just pinked them) – even for the topstitching with the twin needle. Using a stable knit also made it feel a lot like using normal fabric. I can't believe it's only my third ever garment (not counting a pair of boxers I made for Trev the other day out of leftover Negroni fabric – then it'd be four!)

My next one will be from a stretchier fabric which will be more of a challenge. I'll have to read up whether I size down in stretchy fabric or what. I also want to look at investing in a mat and rotary cutter as that will make cutting out fabric, particularly knit fabric easier and quicker. I do worry about stretching it out of shape, so the less I have to handle it the better.

Hopefully soon I'll have a lovely new maxi skirt to share with you all!

Colette Negroni Shirt

I have decided that I love sewing. One of the main reasons is the speed. It feels ludicrously quick compared to how long it takes to knit something. Up now, a shirt I made for Trev!

When we went shopping in Brighouse a fortnight ago, the bottom left fabric was chosen by him, to make specifically a Colette Negroni shirt. It's marked as an intermediate level pattern, but given that the Thurlows were also an intermediate and came out ok, I figured I'd be ok with the difficulty level.

Ordered the pattern in the week and it arrived Saturday lunchtime, in the smart new Colette packaging. (I also love the Clover chalk pens – so much better than pencils or bits of chalk – genius!)

Tracing took most of the rest of Saturday and I ended up using the last of my Swedish tracing paper. This means I've been unable to work on another pattern since, but that's ok.

I decided to cut out a large for Trev – chest wise he is smack in between a medium and a large, but his current waist measurement puts him in large territory.

The pattern is very well written and comes together pretty quickly. By Sunday night, all that was needed were buttons and buttonholes!

Now the evenings are a bit lighter I was able to persuade Trev to model the shirt for me one night after getting home from work.

He's pretty happy with it. He does feel it's a little large, but I don't think we could scale him down to a medium at the moment. It's better for it to be a bit big than a bit small, as he definitely wouldn't wear the latter. He has mentioned that he might like for the overall length to be a couple of inches shorter, which can easily be accommodated next time. He also felt that the sleeves might be a bit too big, although in length they're comparable to some RTW shirts he has.

I made the decision to cut some of the pieces such as the back yoke and pockets on the diagonal, to add a bit more interest to the shirt. I LOVE how the back of the shirt has come out:

Looks so professional yet was actually so easy! As were the pockets, which aren't quite as professional. I could have done with being a bit more forceful with the point turner to make them more point-y. Despite that, I think I lined up the pattern pretty well so the point ends in a central place on the pocket flap itself. Just a shame it doesn't match the pocket.

The collar came out pretty well. This is my first time making a collar and this particular style is called a “camp collar”. It's not the same as the collars you normally see on shirts in shops, which sit on a “collar stand” which attaches to the body. The collar here is sewn directly to the main body of the garment so it does sit a little differently.

Hopefully you can see what I mean here, along with a bit more pocket detail:

The fit around his shoulders makes me wonder if I should have made a medium – if not all over, then have graded up to a large for his waist and hips. I feel like this shoulder seam should sit higher up on his shoulders, right?

I love that the pattern asked me to include these little “pleats” on the back. They don't do much other than add a teeny bit of shaping I guess, but I do think they definitely help the garment look a bit more polished.

This was my first time working flat-felled seams too which I love! They're brilliant for adding strength to the seams of a garment and also ensure all raw edges are enclosed – which makes for a very comfy inside of the garment. Here's the inside, looking at one of the side seams:

You also flat-fell the seams that join the sleeves to the body. Unfortunately I was a bit of a dope and forgot that you're meant to start at the centre top and then work your way round to the underarm – doing each half of the sleeve separately. This is probably why my sleeves don't look as neat as they possibly could, but they're not bad for a first attempt. This is inside the shirt:

Outside doesn't look too shabby at all:

Generally I quite like the insides of the shirt and even at the back yoke, where everything meets there are no raw edges. You assemble everything in a bit of a clever way, so that all of the shirt is inside the two yoke pieces – you then pull the sleeves and bits of shirt out through the sides of the yoke which you then do up.

The only disadvantage of this method is that it leaves you with little gaps where there are spots that you can't sew up properly. You can see these where I've stuck my finger in below. You can't easily see these gaps and so far knowing they are there doesn't really bother me.

So that's my first shirt! I'll definitely make more. I want to refine the fit of the Negroni on Trev and also try another shirt pattern that feature a proper collar stand, so that the finished shirts aren't all super casual.

Already I think I enjoy sewing for Trev more than for me as he's easier to fit – I'm not looking forward to tops as it's probably going to be an endless round of full-bust adjustments and muslins. Hopefully as I get more competent it will get a little easier.

What have you all been up to this weekend?