New Look 6483 – take 2

I came across this really nifty fabric in my local fabric shop, but the original top I had in mind just didn’t look right on me. So I decided it was time I tackled New Look 6483 again – you may remember the original version I made back in June.

This particular fabric was a little thin and I really didn’t want to risk it being see-through, so I made a lining from a plain white polycotton. I simply tacked the plain polycotton to the wrong side of the owl fabric then treated it as one piece of fabric.

Dragon's Flame Designs - New Look 6483

When it came to the hem, I wanted the polycotton lining to be hemmed as one, rather than having a separate lining hem. I folded up the hem on the owl fabric and the polycotton lining, then caught the lining hem on the inside as I was sewing.

Dragon's Flame Designs - New Look 6483

I’m pleasantly surprised how well this top came out – I don’t normally wear sleeveless tops, but the armholes look almost perfect with no alterations needed. I kept the neckline as the pattern stated, which gave a nicer curve than I achieved last time. Admittedly adding a lining made the hemming a lot more challenging, but I don’t think it would’ve been wearable without a lining, given the thin nature of the fabric.

BIG Vintage Sew-along blouse

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It’s taken a long time, but I have finally finished my BIG Vintage Sew-along vintage-inspired blouse!

As you may remember, I picked a vintage inspired shirt: Butterick 6217, but I hadn’t actually got as far as sorting out the buttons.

Well, after a lot of arguments with the sewing machine because it just didn’t want to sew the one-step buttonhole correctly, I finally have a wearable blouse!

 

Dragon's Flame Designs - Vintage-Inspired Blouse

I love the style of the sleeves – I might have to ‘borrow’ that pattern piece for other tops! I bought 8 buttons instead of 7, as I felt the buttons would look more balanced if there one was in the centre of each stripe, rather than where the pattern says they’re supposed to be.

The shop didn’t have 8 that matched exactly, so I chose 4 in a slightly lighter shade for the dark stripes, and 4 in a darker shade of red for the white stripes – looking at the photo, you wouldn’t know they weren’t identical buttons!

I definitely need to practise buttonholes, or at least use some stabilising behind the fabric when I stitch them…. half way through most of the holes, the sewing machine suddenly stopped moving the fabric and decided to zigzag a lump of stitches which was a nightmare to unpick!

Overall though, I love the style of the blouse, and I’m pretty happy with how the stripes line up on the front too. Maybe I need to use a slightly ‘nicer’ fabric next time though – polycotton or a pure cotton might be a little more co-operative.

Adventures in hemming jersey

My first attempts at hemming jersey were complete failures – none of the hems stretched with the fabric, which resulted in several scrapped items.  Ideally I’m looking for a hem that looks “right” for a sweatshirt or t-shirt – either something that looks like a regular straight stitch, or a twin needle effect. Sewing two lines of stitches just left me with a seam that had no stretch at all, so I’ve given up on the twin needle look for the moment.

After asking some advice in an online sewing group, I dug out my sewing machine’s instruction book and set about making some scrap hems to see which one came out best. Three stitches were recommended:

  • regular narrow zigzag
  • lightning bolt stitch
  • triple stretch straight stitch.

Narrow zigzags haven’t stretched as much as I need and a wider zigzag has given a lot of tunnelling where the fabric catches up, so I didn’t try that out this time. I don’t actually have a lightning bolt stitch on my machine, and I’m pretty sure the triple stretch straight stitch is what my machine calls the Straight Stretch Stitch.

Setting my machine up with the even-feed (walking) foot and a ballpoint needle, I changed the tension to match the instruction book’s details, and lowered the pressure on the foot to the ‘applique’ setting.

First up was the Straight Stretch Stitch which to give credit to my machine’s instruction book, is used for reinforcing a hem (such as the crotch of a pair of trousers) as well as in bag making as the stitch will not unravel. It doesn’t mention using this for stretchy fabric at all.

Dragons Flame Designs - Hemming Jersey

I could probably adjust the stitch length to get it to look slightly neater – parts of it line up right, but others looked quite messy. However, it didn’t actually stretch all that much – the jersey could stretch twice as much as the stitches allowed.

So that clearly wasn’t going to work for a sweatshirt that needed to stretch enough to allow me to get it on. Maybe the Stretch Zigzag Stitch which the instructions say can be used whenever you would use a regular zigzag, but for knit fabric would be better.

Dragons Flame Designs - Hemming Jersey

Again, the stitch length could do with adjusting to get the triple stitches to line up correctly. However, it does stretch perfectly, and while it would be ok for a seam, it doesn’t look neat enough for a hem stitch that will show on the right side.

Flicking a page or two back, I came across the Knit Stitch which is said to finish off the ends and seam at the same time.

Dragons Flame Designs - Hemming Jersey

This one also has a perfect amount of stretch, and doesn’t look too terrible even though it’s not quite the look I was aiming for. It did however make for a brilliant pair of fingerless mitts! I hemmed the top and bottom with the knit stitch, then stitched the side seam with the straight stretch stitch, remembering to leave a thumb hole!

Dragons Flame Designs - Hemming Jersey

I’m not as fussed about the look of the stitch for these – as long as the fabric stretches sufficiently so I can wear them comfortably, I’d rather people were looking at the unusual stitches on my gloves than staring at the eczema on my hands! Overall, these are the most successful mitts I’ve sewn so far, and the knit stitch hem is perfect – stretchy without leaving a bulk of stitches on the inside that might irritate my skin.

I decided to use the same stitch to hem the fleece hoodie I started making last winter – I was determined to finish it before this winter, so I can actually get some wear from it!

Dragons Flame Designs - Hemming Jersey

These stitches don’t show up as clearly, as the thread is an almost exact match for the fleece. However, if I was making a sweatshirt or t-shirt in a patterned fabric, I think I still would want a stitch that looks a little more ‘normal’. Maybe I need to get a few more jersey scraps and test out a couple more stitches!

Spooky Spiders

I was lucky enough to be one of the pattern testers for the Sweet Briar Sisters Spooky Spiders pattern, and thought it was about time I shared my spider creations with you.

I started with the Baby Spider, which is about 4 inches tall. Not only because I was short on stuffing, but I wasn’t too sure how much polycotton I had left in this colour, and didn’t want to run out before I finished sewing all those legs!

Dragons Flame Designs - Spooky Spiders

Meet Nigel the spider – Mum decided that he looked like he was wearing a suit, with the business-wear-colour polycotton I’d used, and thought he needed a traditional sounding name.

Apart from getting two legs facing the wrong way (he has a slightly knock-kneed look on one side), he came out really well. I deviated from the pattern and used a stiff cotton instead of felt for his eyes, adding some interfacing to the back of the polycotton so the zigzag stitch didn’t catch up too much.

Dragons Flame Designs - Spooky Spiders

Rummaging in my “I started making this but abandoned it” bag, I found a dress I’d started making from this orange leaf patterned polycotton. Realising that the dress wouldn’t suit or fit me, I decided to unpick it and turn it into a Mama Spider!

Dragons Flame Designs - Spooky Spiders

Turning the legs on Norma the Spider was so much easier than with Nigel! This time I had some white wool felt, so the eyes are stitched properly – I added another layer of fabric behind the eyes and mouth again to assist with the zigzag stitches.

Nigel’s mouth was hand sewn, but Norma’s was just zigzagged on the machine, which leads to a clearer line. I do need to hand sew some detail on her eyes, but so far the outer line is machine stitched, with a little pencil mark in the centre so I know where to sew!

Dragons Flame Designs - Spooky Spiders

 

Simplicity Sewing Challenge – Best Blogger Feature

This year I thought I would challenge myself by making a skirt. An ideal make for the “best blogger feature” in the Simplicity Sewing Challenge. We were able to pick any of the challenge patterns for this category. I chose the New Look 6346 skirt pattern – I never seem to have the right style of skirt when we have warm summer weather! I also need more practise at making skirts that actually fit me!

Originally I was going to pick version A (the longer button-up skirt), given the cooler summers we often get I thought this would be a good choice! After looking at the options in detail, I went with version C – the shorter zipped version instead. I think that style will be more user-friendly when it comes to wearing it, and should be just the right length for me, especially as I am just five foot tall!

The whole idea of the sewing challenge is to make “your take on a Simplicity make” but how on earth can you make a skirt different enough? I didn’t think that simply adding pockets or a decorative trim would be radical enough, and I’m not really into “girly” trims anyway, so I thought I’d be totally different and make the skirt into a dress!

Armed with my self-drafted bodice pattern, I worked out that I’d need a size 12 for the skirt, but just in case I needed to make a larger size at a later date, I didn’t want to cut into the paper pattern. Then came the next challenge – how to trace off the pattern accurately. I’ve seen freezer paper mentioned on a lot of blogs, but I’ve never seen it on sale over here; greaseproof paper is nicely transparent, but only comes on narrow rolls and no matter how hard I try it will not stick to itself! And believe me I have tried!! Instead I bought a pack of Burda dressmakers’ carbon paper from a local fabric shop plus a roll of brown paper from Poundland on a whim to see if that would work.

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

It definitely works well – the yellow and white show up brilliantly on the brown paper, and it can be stuck together with ordinary sellotape to make a wider sheet if needed.

My bodice pattern finishes at the waistline and the New Look 6346 skirt waistband sits just above the waist, so I was able to line them up perfectly. Because of the darts in the bodice, I chose to cut the pieces separately, so I had the bodice and neck / arm facing, waistband and skirt for the front and back. Keeping the waistband in the dress, meant I was able to retain the shape of the New Look 6346 skirt, while still making it into a completely fresh look.

The dress had the potential to turn into a ‘mongrel’ where I was trying to join two different patterns together, so before I cut into my posh fabric, I made up a wearable muslin version first. I find this really helpful to have a “rough” version to experiment with. Who knows it may even turn out wearable! The bodice needed a little fiddling to get the waistline to match the skirt – rather than making the darts larger, I folded over a little more fabric at the base of the darts to make the measurements match without cutting out too much breathing space.

Dragons Flame Designs - Dress Muslin

My Simplicity Sewing Challenge skirt dress muslin – fabric is half a duvet cover

Despite the excess fabric at the front, the fit was a lot better than I’d anticipated. However, in sewing the zip into the back, I managed to get the seams misaligned. Argh! Decision time. Do I want to unpick a lot of tiny stitches and risk making a hole in either the fabric or the zipper tape? I decided to be reckless and break out my posh fabric to start the final version. I am always anxious when cutting into my posh fabric.  Making that first cut is a challenge in itself!

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

Sewing the seams, trying to make them as neat as possible

This particular polycotton is quite ‘fray-happy’ so I’ve taken care to finish all my raw edges as I go – the faux overlock stitch on my machine is proving really handy for this. I find that using a zigzag stitch with the regular foot makes the fabric catch up a little, leaving a ridge instead of a nice flat edge.

The facings were a challenge, as I had drafted one facing to cover both the neck and armhole, but had no idea how to stitch it without any of the stitches showing on the right side! In the end, I stitched the neck as normal, and top stitched the armhole facing into position. It’s not visible unless you really look closely, and it certainly shouldn’t come undone in a hurry!

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

A finished dress from New Look 6346 and a self-drafted bodice pattern. I am really pleased with the way the bodice and the skirt come together in the design of the fabric. The finished garment fits really well, and I think the fabric works wonderfully – it reminds me of a painting by numbers pattern. Thanks for the challenge Simplicity – now I have a whole new look!!

 

PJ Shorts

I’d considered trying to sew some PJ shorts before, but I haven’t ever tackled shorts before now, and was a little wary of just how challenging they would be! Using the free pattern from Melly Sews, I figured out I should be able to just make the shorts without any adjustments, so I bought a metre of polycotton and set about tracing off the pattern.

The pattern is designed to have the side seams nearer the front, which leads to a much nicer shape. I think when I make another pair, I’ll try adding in some inseam pockets though.

Dragons Flame Designs - PJ Shorts

To ensure the inner leg seams are as sturdy as possible, I decided to do french seams on those – it lead to a slightly bulky seam, but they shouldn’t split in a hurry, which is what you need for shorts!

 

Simplicity Sewing Challenge – Best Dressmaker

Back in May, I signed up for the Simplicity Sewing Challenge – the two sewing patterns arrived in early July, and once I finished my skirt dress, I set to work on my second pattern – Simplicity 1458 for the “best dressmaker” category.

It’s the first time I’ve even looked at princess seams, let alone an “amazing fit” pattern, so this dress was going to be a nice challenge! I started off by making a muslin but unfortunately my choice of fabric wasn’t that helpful – I’d picked a cheap polyester duvet cover, but the polyester meant the fabric slipped all over the place.

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

So I scrapped plan A, and moved on to plan B: start again, and trace off the pattern pieces onto my new favourite sewing tool – brown paper! Ok, that probably sounds really weird, but I can’t get cheap freezer paper over here, and tracing paper is stupidly expensive. I have tried using greaseproof paper, but that doesn’t stick together at all, so I can’t make it wide enough for some of these pattern pieces.

Using some dressmakers carbon paper, a blunt pencil and the brown paper, means I can trace the pattern off, without risking cutting the original – really useful when you aren’t 100% certain of the size you’ll need, and don’t want to cut into the original.

I wanted the middle panel on the front and back of the dress to have a contrasting pattern to the sides and what better way to achieve that, than using a duvet cover? A double cover gave me plenty of fabric to play with, and I should have enough left over for a second dress too!

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

Tracing the pattern markings onto the fabric

The only trouble is, cutting out all the brown paper pattern pieces and trimming the seams to separate the duvet cover pieces does tend to mean there’s a large pile of rubbish lurking under the table….

but that aside, I can finally get sewing these pieces together.

Generally speaking, I do not get on with sewing curves, particularly with opposing curves, as the concept of “easing” in fabric just sounds like a foreign language to me. But I wanted to make the seams as neat as I possibly could, so I made sure to machine tack all the seams and try the dress on several times before doing the final seam stitches.

The instructions are really informative, with instructions on how to let out or bring in the seams to suit your overall fit. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much I needed to do to get the fit just right for me – I just had to let out the side seams and also adjust a couple of the curved princess seams.

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

I did my usual trick of using a regular zip rather than a concealed one, so I stitched the base of the centre back seam, and put the zip in before doing anything else. It’s so much easier to put in flat! I decided I wanted to add in the sleeves from view A, even though I would normally avoid them like the plague, but cheated slightly and stitched them in flat before I stitched the side seams. That meant the sleeves were easier to put in, and there was a lot less chance of the seams puckering.

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

I’m pretty sure my V notch in the sleeve is wider than on the pattern, but I think it makes a nicer shape. I was very good and followed the pattern for the hem, stitching it by hand rather than cheating and using the machine.

Not content with adding sleeves from view A, I also decided to add in the collar from view C. This had to be unpicked a couple of times, as I’d managed to sew it in slightly wonky, but overall it gives the neckline a really good look.

Dragons Flame Designs - Simplicity Sewing Challenge

So there you have it – a finished Amazing Fit dress, that actually does have an amazing fit!

 

 

Bodice Sloper to Dress Bodice

This is my first attempt at using my bodice sloper to make a dress bodice, and it hasn’t come out too badly! At the moment, the zip is tacked into place; there’s a bit of a catch at the base of the zip that I need to work on, but once that’s done, I can stitch the zip in place properly.

Dragons Flame Designs - Dress Muslin

Those finishing stitches on the zip should also give a slight overlap of fabric, so the zip itself isn’t visible. One day I’ll invest in a concealed zip foot and learn how to do those, but for now, I’m sticking with a centre zip.

On to the not-quite-so-good parts…. I have no idea what happened with the darts – they’re not the same length, and are finishing way too high!

Dragons Flame Designs - Dress Muslin

The armholes are perfect (which I’m amazed about, considering I don’t have a French Curve ruler and ended up drawing the curves in freehand)! But you can clearly see there’s some excess fabric at the front of the bodice, and also a bit of a gap at the back on the neckline.

Dragons Flame Designs - Dress Muslin

I think maybe the back gaping wasn’t helped by changing the neckline on the front. I have a feeling that altered the shoulder width, so my darts in the back shoulders are a bit too wide. Hopefully the back gaping can be helped with a hook and eye at the top of the zip, but the front might need another dart coming from the armhole.

 

Floor Cushion

I’ve been needing a floor cushion for a while, but didn’t really want to spend out on a premade one. So spotting a 22″ polyester cushion pad at Shaws Direct for just £1.25, I bought a metre of purple polycotton to go with it, and set about making my own!

Dragons Flame Designs - Floor Cushion

It’s a simple design – plain on the top, with an envelope style closure at the back (like a pillowcase). That means there’s no lumpy zips or buttons when you sit on the cushion.

Dragons Flame Designs - Floor Cushion

I did have to piece the back, as I was originally aiming on using an 18″ cushion, but they only had 16″ or 22″ in stock. However, as it’s on the underneath of the cover, you wouldn’t know it was pieced from the top.

All the seams were stitched as French Seams (including the piecing) to hopefully ensure it’ll stand up to a lot of use, and also that no stray raw edges have any chance of fraying in the wash.

So, for £4.24 (I already had some matching thread left over from making my sun hat), I have a practical floor cushion that is the perfect colour to match the purple and silver theme of the room. Much better (and more comfortable to sit on) than some of the ones I’d spotted as premade cushions!

Shock horror – it actually fits!

I had fully expected this floppy sun hat to also be a flop, but much to my utter amazement, it actually came out better than that!

purple-hat1

It’s a pattern previously recommended by Love Sewing magazine, but the link they have to it no longer works 🙁

Luckily for me, my head measurements are identical to the person who wrote the pattern, so there’s no maths involved. I bought a metre of purple polycotton and some heavy iron-on interfacing (the previous hat pattern used sew-in interfacing which I found was too easy to rip as I turned the brim out). So far so good; the hat only cost me about £5 in supplies, but now comes the hard part – the sewing!

The lining is sewn more like an interlining for this hat – the seams are visible on the inside. That was great practise for faux overlocking, as the standard zigzag foot results in a tunnelling effect when I use it on the fabric edges.

Attaching the brim was an interesting process, as I had to add in a few pleats to make it fit…. but that was actually part of the pattern, so I didn’t feel I had made a mistake there.

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I chose to add a bias binding trim over the faux overlocked seam edges where the main hat piece meets the brim – it’s not something you should be able to see, but it should stop the seams irritating my forehead!

purple-hat-front

Overall, I think I’m actually quite pleased with this hat – I could do with adding another layer of interfacing on the brim if I make another, as the brim is a little too floppy for my liking. However, it fits (yay!!), so I’m happy with this one 🙂

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