A Plantain journey of discovery

I made my first garment in a knit fabric and I survived!!

LESSON: DON’T BE SCARED OF KNITS.

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There seems to be a general consensus among sewers that knit fabrics are a bit scary and confusing at first: I lost count of how many blog posts about knits I read that started similar to this one.

I can’t speak for others, but for me the confusion about knits is probably because I couldn’t envisage how you would draft a pattern for a fabric that stretched. I couldn’t get my head round the relationship between the body, the pattern, and the fabric, if that makes sense. For woven fabric patterns I understand the process by which the pattern was designed, but for knits it confuses me. Do you use ‘normal patterns’ and adapt them? Are there special patterns for knits? Do I need an overlocker?! Argh!

Best way to find out the answers is to have a go, non?

Step in the amazing (free!) Deer and Doe Plantain pattern which seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that. I was sold when I saw Anna’s dress adaption tutorial and I quickly bought some white and grey cotton jersey from La Maison des Tissus and printed off the pattern.

Yesterday (Saturday) I spent the whole day on this project (I love sewing in long stretches when you get the chance), from cutting out the pdf pattern and sellotaping the pages together, to cutting out the pieces and carrying out the dress modifications, then cutting out the fabric pieces and finally sewing it all together, it was a day well spent. I did stop for lunch and tea breaks though.

So what did I learn?

-While I’m sure an overlocker is very useful for advancing with knits, for a relatively simple project I don’t think it is essential.
 – Use a special jersey needle!
 – Use a zig-zag stitch as your stitches must stretch with the fabric and with a straight stitch that won’t happen.
– Play around with the tension and stitch length to work out what works best. I was pleasantly surprised how easily the jersey guided through the machine.
 – Twin needles are awesome! I used a twin needle to finish the neckline and the hem. Looks so professional.  You just double thread your machine, set a straight stitch and off you go. You get two lines of stitching on the top and zig-zags on the bottom.

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Lots of advice out there online on sewing with knits. Lladybird is a good place to start.

All in all I’m pleased with how it came together relatively easily, despite some problems sewing on the elastic which involved a bit of unpicking.

This is what the inside looks like at the waist, should it look something like this? Wasn’t sure whether I could neaten up the finish by somehow containing the elastic and the open seam in someway. Any tips on this are most welcome. For a first attempt I think it is fine like this but would be good to have a more professional finish next time on the inside.

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I omitted the elbow pads as I didn’t think they were necessary I was too lazy to add them. It’s funny because if I saw this dress in a shop I’d probably walk past it as I’m a bit of a magpie; always attracted to the brightest and loudest garments. But it is great to have made something I will actually wear day-to-day, teamed with bright tights. I’ve worn it all day today and it is so comfortable!

I really like this version of the Plantain by Irbis. I’d love to make a similar sweatshirt one day.

So from now on I won’t be skipping past the jersey section when I’m out fabric hunting. Upon finishing this project in a flurry of excitement I even ordered Sew U Home Stretch.

This project was also my official Coco training project. Very very eager for Tilly’s pattern release ūüôā

A Hybrid dress

What do you get if you cross the Colette patterns Truffle dress bodice with modified Anna dress-style sleeves and a half circle skirt?

This dress…ta da!

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I knew that the Truffle dress bodice was a good fit and I loved the simplicity of the kimono-style Anna dress sleeves; both in terms of sewing and wearing.

I was also amazed and incredibly impressed when I saw the By Hand London circle skirt app so I thought a good way to try it out would be to make a simple skirt pattern for a dress that combined the two aforementioned bodices. The skirt is a half circle and it is the midi length.

You could make a similar dress by using any bodice that fits well and modifying the sleeves in the same way and then drafting a circle skirt to match.

There is no doubt a more accurate way of adapting an armhole into a short kimono-style capped sleeve but I just winged it and loosely traced the shape of the Anna bodice in this area.

Order of construction:

1. Sew bodice darts, sew shoulder seams (French seams), then sew sleeve/armhole seams.
2. Sew bodice side seams (French seams).
3. Sew bodice to skirt (French seams).
4. Sew in invisible zip at centre back.
5. Finish centre back seam.
6. Hem skirt РThis BHL post was very useful.
7. Apply bias binding to neckline. I realise I’m often a bit slapdash by the time I get to the bias binding stage so I tried to take my time with it by closely following this Grainline studio tutorial intently.

The fabric was leftover cotton lawn from when I tried out the Licorice dress.

Here is to more hybrid garment construction in the future!

Beignet blues

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The Beignet skirt from Colette patterns had been on my ‘to make’ list for a while, and I finally got round to cutting out and sewing over the Christmas holidays. And after a pause in proceedings the Beignet was finally finished off this week.

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I’d been inspired by Tilly’s love of the Beignet but sadly I have to say I’m not as enamoured with it as she was. But I think this is mainly down to the fabric I chose: some thick textured cotton I had left over from when I made the Truffle dress, also a Colette patterns number.

Also, I’m not sure this shape of skirt suits my body type, which is no bad thing, not all patterns and styles will suit everyone.

But it would be interesting to try it again with a different fabric and some further modifications to the length and the closure – a side zip instead of the centre front buttons, perhaps? I actually unpicked the pockets and stitched up the side seams fully as they really made the skirt stick out. A shame because pockets are always useful!

In terms of construction this has been one of my favourite ever projects. Getting my head around the shell lining and putting it in place was really fun and I had a real sense of achievement when it all came together.

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The buttons were also a bit of a marathon to complete. However, I made the hand sewing more pleasurable by watching the Sofia Coppola film ‘Lost in Translation’ at the same time. Which made for not a bad January evening at all.

And finally…
Last Saturday was the Belgian/Dutch sewing blogger meetup, and it was brilliant! So nice to meet people in real life and talk about sewing! Here is a roundup from Anneke and some photos from Caroline.
Bedankt to Lieke, Anneke, Hanne, and Ilse for organising! I really had a great day!
Will definitely be coming to Antwerp for a visit soon, although maybe I should dust off my Dutch textbook first…

Violet blouse and buttonhole blunders

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Here are some photos of my Colette patterns Violet blouse as promised. I finally added the buttons. I was initially going to use red buttons but then these green ones caught my eye and I decided to go with them instead.

The delay in the buttons being added was due to a slight mishap with the one-step buttonhole function on my Mum’s sewing machine, which I was using back home in Scotland over Christmas. I just couldn’t get it to work! After much initial panic that I’d broken my Mum’s machine I decided to wait till I got back to Belgium and use my own machine’s 4-step button function. It actually turns out that it was indeed a fault with my Mum’s machine (and not my clumsy nature) as she took it to be serviced to find out what the problem was.

The man in the shop said that a crucial piece of plastic had come loose inside and it would cost a ridiculous amount to replace. So my Mum will just have to do without her one-step buttonhole function and use her old machine instead for buttonholes. Interestingly, the sewing machine repair man said he saw this type of problem quite often and that he was always disappointed when he went ‘under the bonnet’ of seemingly ‘good quality’ machines to find lots of flimsy plastic inside! A reminder that it is useful to really know your machine, inside and out. This is something I definitely need to learn about! Incidentally, here is an interesting post from Madalynne on the subject.

But back to the blouse and the buttons. I actually inherited a rather large button collection that should keep me going for a while, a mix of both my Granny’s collections. So I shouldn’t run out of buttons anytime soon.

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I didn’t make any alterations to the pattern at all. I’ll definitely be making it up again. The fabric was cotton lawn left over from ages ago when I made the Colette Sorbetto top.

Now I just have the urge to add peter pan collars to everything!

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Book review: The Great British Sewing Bee

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The Great British Sewing Bee book was waiting for me under the Christmas tree this year. Santa Claus must have known that as soon as I heard about the programme’s existence I fervently downloaded it all so I could watch it here in Belgium, a land where accessing BBC iplayer ain’t possible.

It’s a great read and if you were a fan of the programme you’ll probably like the book. What I actually think makes it a good book is that it doesn’t really dwell on the programme itself too much, or the contestants: luckily the author, Tessa Evelegh, has put together a varied selection of patterns and projects that aim to inspire beginners and established stitchers alike; the book is not made up of filler recapping the series or profiling the contestants. Not to say that would not be interesting, but if you have seen the programme then you probably know all that already.

I’ve made up one pattern so far, the tunic top/dress pattern that is included with the book (the other patterns can be accessed online and downloaded). I made it up in some black corduroy that my Mum had stocked away for years unused. It’s a nice simple pattern to make and it is the first time I’ve actually got my head around how to do a facing that conceals both the neckline and armhole edges in a ‘clean’ way. Maybe this is obvious to others but it has taken me so long to work this out! I’ll maybe try to do a post on it one day with photos as I have no idea how to explain it in words! So from that respect the pattern was a great exercise as I really learnt a new skill. I hope to use the pattern again with a different type of fabric. It’s probably a good pattern to have for adapting as it is nice and simple. Next time I would definitely lower the armholes slightly as they are a wee bit tight, but maybe that’s more to do with the corduroy! It’s the first time I’ve made something in corduroy and it was great for keeping warm when blasted with extreme Scottish gales.

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Given the title of the series and the general tendency in the UK at the moment for everything from supermarket produce to advertising to hark back to this imagined idea of ‘Blighty in the olden days’ where everything was just ‘spiffing’ and we all sat around doing twee things draped in bunting and thinking of how we could best serve our Queen and country, I had feared that the programme would be a bit annoying but I was happily proved wrong! Not that I have anything against bunting. I’m just happy the producers didn’t make the programme too cringy as I don’t think that’s a way to inspire people to sew. I thought the programme was excellent as it really showed how much all the contestants got out of sewing and I was pleased that it stuck to telling the viewer about the competition and presenting the projects in as much detail as was possible for a TV show that has to appeal to a wide audience and not just sewing fanatics.

And the book continues in this vein. I don’t think any sewing book can be used in isolation and no book can ever be a complete compendium of a given subject so it is unfair to expect that. For example, if I was a complete beginner I would probably still be crying over that facing insertion. It was my previous knowledge as well as other books and blogs that helped me to my ‘Eureka’ moment, in combination with the GBSB book.

Most of all I like that the book has opened up my eyes slightly to the possibilities of sewing non-clothing items. While clothes are my immediate priority it would be nice to have a go at making cushions and curtains at some point!

Overall I think the book is a lovely way to inspire someone to get into sewing and a good reference for those already at it, although not an essential one.