Monday, 25 August 2014

A tale of two Renfrews and a girl afeared of knit fabrics

About this time last year, I made my second ever make from a knit fabric - Cake patterns Tiramisu dress. I don't consider this dress my most successful make, but I decided I had to get over this panic/nightmare/nervousness/uneasiness/stage fright about making things from knits. So not long after I decided I'd make a Renfrew. OK to lots of you, this isn't much, but I really had to get over my knit fabric hang ups and get going. It was the best thing I ever did and this pattern was the perfect antidote.

I got into a positive frame of mind, checked up the Sewaholic Renfrew sewalong and also checked out Dixie DIY's Never Fear Knits series. Now I don't have an overlocker - I'm saving for that one and having just had a promotion at work, it finally seems closer! Anyway, I checked out all I could about sewing knits on a standard machine. Kitting myself out with a new pack of knit needles, a twin needle and testing narrow zig-zag stitching to see how the seam would finish up.

I bought this purple merino from what was Global Fabrics (now The Fabric Store) in June 2012. Merino is beautiful fabric and I'd not really come across it in the UK. I was determined I needed some in my life!

I decided to make the scoop neck version with 3/4 sleeves. I'm a great one for pushing my sleeves up and so 3/4 sleeves seemed a perfect idea.

This purple merino was beautiful to sew with, I didn't need to worry about matching stripes and the pattern is fantastic. Tasia's instructions are easy to follow and are perfect for a nervous knit fabric sewer.

I knew enough about knits to be brave enough and actually make this a size smaller than recommended so that it would be fitted and not baggy, ie with negative ease. I think I cut somewhere between a 10 and 12, so that the finished measurements would be my actual bust size.

The pattern actually doesn't require you to use a double needle, since the sleeves and the bottom hem both have bands and make the finishing really simple and easy. I think I did actually use the double needle around the neck to ensure the neck band lie flat.

I stitched the seams using a narrow zig-zag stitch and finished them using a wider zig-zag. I also had to loosen my needle tension. I've used these settings for a lot of knit projects I've made since. For anyone who is interested and it helps, the stitch length is set at 3, the width at 0.5 and the tension around 3-4. I certainly recommend using a scrap to test with first.

I have to say, there's not really much else to say about this and so...

The details
Fabric:  Purple merino wool from The Fabric Store, June 2012.
Notions:   Interfacing for the shoulder seams and thread.
Pattern:  Sewaholic Renfrew, scoop neck with 3/4 sleeves
First worn:  I don't rightly remember, but sometime in August 2013!
Worn here with:  A RTW skirt from Zara (old from the UK), purple tights and black boots from Overland. Kat doing the honours with my big girls' camera in Newtown this last weekend when it was cold and drizzling!
Changes made:  None, unless you count cutting a size smaller in order for the top to have negative ease?
Another one?  Oh yes, this pattern is going to become a staple methinks... In actual fact I've already made another...

Yep, I made another Renfrew earlier this year. This cream merino is very fine and thin. I got this from the Fabric Warehouse pop-up shop in I think October 2013. I thought I'd make this one with short sleeves and try out my double needle at the same time. I lengthened the sleeves slightly and finished the sleeves using my double needle rather than use the band. It's worked out brilliantly, but the fabric is actually quite stretchy and it constantly needs washing to retain it's shape.

The details
Fabric:  Cream merino from the Fabric Warehouse pop-up shop October 2013..
Notions:   Interfacing for the shoulder seams and thread.
Pattern:  Sewaholic Renfrew, scoop neck with short sleeves
First worn:  I don't rightly remember, but sometime in February 2014
Worn here with:  A RTW skirt from Marks and Spencer (old from the UK), black tights and my black Everybody shoes (from Edinburgh). Thanks to Kat again for taking the photos just down from Mt Vic.
Changes made:  I removed the band from the sleeves and finished them using a twin needle.

And here's one of the photos which didn't quite make the grade from this last weekend...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Monochrome Kay Unger

Yep, I made another dress and this time it's from one of the big 4 - shock horror! It's a long time since I've made something from the big 4.

This pattern has been on my wishlist ever since I saw this geeky version by one of my fellow Wellington sewers. I had to have it, fitted bodice, pleated skirt? What more can a girl ask for? The impetus for making this was The Monthly Stitch monochrome month which was in July. Yeah, well the dress was actually finished, but it's winter here in NZ and photo sessions are not easy...


This is the Kay Unger Vogue 1353 pattern with a scoop back and scoop front. The front neckline is pleated, as is the skirt. The fitted bodice has princess seams with additional bust darts. The whole dress is lined as well.

Strangely enough, Vogue describes this pattern as easy. I have to say I disagree. There are a LOT of things which could trip a young player/beginner with this pattern. Let me start with the pleats... There are a lot. Around the front neckline and also around the skirt. The lining does not have the pleats of course, but somehow the lining and the main bodice need to be the same size. The back skirt pieces (because of the pleats) are actually a different size which can throw you off the scent a bit too.

The princess seams are actually set closer to the side seam and so there is also a small bust dart from the bust to the princess seam. Strangely the front bodice lining also has waist darts, the main shell doesn't.

The zip is also meant to be an invisible zipper, one side of which goes very close to one of the skirt pleats... (Oh, by the way, I didn't do an invisible zip. I toyed with an exposed zip, but it would have meant moving a pleat - too much hassle!)

Nope, sorry Vogue, I completely disagree with your easy rating.

I used the lining as a muslin for this dress. The pattern states the waist sits above the natural waist, but I'm not really a fan of that and I often find the waist length is too short anyway, so I added an extra inch to the bodice length. I also found the bust darts were too high - as usual...

Having checked the pattern I also decided the skirt would be a tad short, I added two inches to that.

Having made up the lining I could start on the main bodice with this beautiful quilting cotton I bought from MrsC's shop back in April/May time. The fabric was bought especially for this pattern. It's not something I do much anymore as I have a large stash, but sometimes a girl must do what a girl must do! The fabric was amazing to sew with, the pleats went in like a dream as I could hand press them to help me. I didn't stitch down the skirt pleats. I'm not really a fan of stitched pleats and felt it would fit be better left unstitched.

I did follow the instructions for the hem and used embroidery floss to hand sew saddle stitch around the bottom. I think I could do with practicing this a bit, it's not my best bit of hand sewing! This was quite time-consuming, since I also had to remove the basting stitches I'd sewn to show me where to sew the saddle stitch. 

The deets
Fabric:  A black and white flowered quilting cotton from Made on Marion in April 2014 (it didn't stay in stash for long!) The lining is a plain white cotton.
Notions:   Thread, interfacing for the neckline, dress zip and pale grey embroidery floss for the hem.
Pattern:   Vogue 1353 Kay Unger design
First worn:  For the LIANZA Children's Book Awards at the National Library of New Zealand on 4 August. To this event I wore it with opaque black tights, black shoes from Overland and a RTW cropped black cardigan from Next, UK (about 2006.)

Excuse the squint - it was sunny!

These photos are a mix from my deck and somewhere on Mt Vic here in Wellington taken by Kat last week.
Changes made:  I lengthened the bodice by an inch and also lengthened the skirt by a couple of inches. I shifted the bust darts down about half inch. I also put in a centred zip as opposed to the invisible zip.
Recommend? I actually think this is a really great pattern. It's a great fit and shape and I'm really happy with my make. I don't think it's "Easy" though, not for a beginner.

I've actually got loads and loads of photos and found it really hard to choose which to put up in the post! But I know how much you like the outtakes...

And in an effort to look like the Vogue website...

 Mm, OK, I'll not give up the day job ;-)

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Prima dress and tunic

Since I've no photos of anything new made, I thought I'd show you a couple of things I made long before this blog existed. These have actually stood the test if time and are still regularly worn.

This pattern from the UK Prima magazine is for a dress or tunic.

The shape at the time was something I was looking for and found this lovely (as in the colour) bottle green polyester satin fabric. The fabric would have come from John Lewis where I used to buy a lot of my fabric in the UK. 

I remember any issues with the make or pattern. I'd made two or three Prima patterns by then and was happy with their fit. It's not a difficult pattern to put together. There were just eight pattern pieces, front and back bodice, front and back skirt the sleeves and facings for the neck. Neither version has any closures, it is a pull on top. 

I would imagine I swore a bit with this green fabric because it would have been slippery. Looking at my construction, I finished the seams using a zig-zag stitch. The fabric certainly hasn't frayed so my choice was justified.


I used to wear this green top a lot but for some reason it's gone slightly out of favour in the last year or so. Possibly because I'm aware the bust darts are not perfect and it's not the best fit. 

The dress is a different kettle of fish. When I bought the fabric for this (also from John Lewis), I had never made anything using a knit fabric before. I guessed the fit would be loser but the pattern didn't recommend a different size for using a knit, even though it states that any fabric can be used.

So I bought this cheap-ish grey jersey and proceeded to cut the dress pattern to the same size as the green top I'd made previously, although obviously I lengthened the skirt! I didn't use a narrow zig-zag stitch as I now do when sewing knit fabrics. I didn't know about these things in those days! It's stitched using standard straight stitch, it's got non-stretchy fusible interfacing on the neck facings and I didn't put elastic around the bottom of the bodice sections, probably because the pattern doesn't mention this. This is something I would do now, I have to add. Consequently when I first finished this, it looked decidedly like it was made for someone about 8/9 months pregnant! So I unpicked the side seams and added the ties which it still has as you can see.

The details - the tunic
Fabric:  A green polyester satin from John Lewis, Welwyn Garden City, UK
Notions:   Thread and interfacing for the facings.
Pattern:   Prima magazine blouse/dress pattern from November 2007
First worn:  I think I can even remember this, it would have been to a Promises Auction for my old choir in the UK in 2008 (I think it was!) Worn here with an old RTW long black pencil skirt (Dorothy Perkins, UK) and some black shoes from Overland here in NZ
Changes made:  None at all. I cut a size 16 and didn't make any changes at all.
Recommend?  If you can get hold of it, it's actually a really easy, quick pattern to make up. I also find the fit of these Prima patterns is great for me and no changes are needed.

The details - the dress
Fabric:  Grey jersey from John Lewis, Welwyn Garden City, UK
Notions:   Thread and interfacing for the facings.
Pattern:   Prima magazine blouse/dress pattern from November 2007
First worn:  I imagine probably for work in 2008. It's worn here with some purple boots I got from Mischief here in NZ. And funnily enough, I'm wearing this dress as I type!
Changes made:  I cut a size 16 and added the tie on the back to add some more shape.