The wonderfully alliterative Liberty Linden

So 2016 hasn't quite started with the productive, organised, positive focus I’d hoped.  Sickness, getting used to living in a new space, utter exhaustion and broken bones have taken all my focus and exacerbated my total creative apathy. I often find January a difficult month and that manifests itself in an inability to do anything other than getting my head down to get through the day and then vegetating on the sofa watching mindless crap in the evenings.  And repeat until February. 

I hate it, it’s such a waste of time and life, and I particularly hate it when my obsessive social media lurking demonstrates how the new year has energized seemingly everyone else, and the collective creative output appears phenomenal.

So thank goodness for the wonder of community sewing in the form of sewing club, which meant I had to actually sew something.  

Something simple and quickly gratifying was most definitely required; and fortunately thanks to some stellar advice from a lovely sewing InstaFriend I had a Mean Reds Sewing Project already cut out for just such an occasion. A Liberty Linden.  I have had this ready to sew pretty much since I got back from the UK in September where I had spent a happy afternoon in the good ship Liberty.  

I love the store; the furniture, jewellery and bag departments in particular, but I’m not really a big Liberty fabric fan.  The lawn is dreamily soft and the prints are so pretty; too pretty for me.  And to be honest when I lived in London I never bought Liberty as I, potentially controversially, thought it overpriced; if I’m going to pay those prices I’d rather have silk …

Yet there is something about being away from home and not being able to pop into Liberty after work that made me want to bring a piece of something quintessentially English back to Brooklyn with me.  Also the peacock colours of this particular sweatshirt stuff are too spectacular not to love, no matter how much of a Liberty cynic one is.  And the thickness and softness is lovely - if one overlooks the poly content.  Ouch, can you tell I’m grumpy?

It was expensive but given how much I have worn this since I made it - I think the cost per wear is going to be pretty favourable.

This is the third Linden I’ve made but the first that isn’t cobbled together from scraps.  The fabric is utterly perfect for it.  It doesn’t have a huge amount of stretch so I thought it was going to be a little small, but it fits great and I like the slightly snugger fit for a sweatshirt and where it falls on my hipline.  It looks less slobby. I think I cut a 10 and then added length to the sleeve and body.

Since I made this I had more crises of making confidence but then during the epic snowstorm that deposited 26 inches of snow on NYC last Saturday, I made from nowhere two pairs of leggings, another Inari and a pair of sweatpants for my daughter so she has something respectable to wear over her cast in the cold.  

The corner, it appears, has been turned.  Onward 2016.

See you soon x


Pride and buttonholes

So, I'm starting to think there is some kind of sewing karma.  I'm pretty sure that the Sewing Gods keep an eye out for any sewing chatter that could be a little braggy or just a smidge too proud and take exception. And then to make sure that karmic balance is restored they wreak sewing related havoc.

Either that or I was overtired, distracted, complacent and not really paying attention, as this shirt, which funnily I love, is a complete disaster.

Fresh off the triumphant completion of my Ginger Jeans, I dusted off the Grainline Archer Shirt pattern, which I've had for over a year, decided that it would be a breeze (despite the fact I've only sewn one collared shirt before and it was of middling success), shrugged my shoulders at the fact I didn't have quite enough fabric and blithely went to town with my shears.

Aside from having to piece the yoke facing, the button band and the undercollar due to said fabric shortage and marking these with bright pink chalk that still won't come off, the cutting and first steps went pretty well and I got really excited about how well this absolutely gorgeous fabric suits the pattern. It's an off-white cotton-linen mix (I think) with random flecks of colour throughout; again from my summer Fabric Store LA haul. It has enough heft and opacity to become a shirt but is beautifully soft and so comfortable to wear. I don't often get my fabric / pattern combining right but this is a goody and I was especially delighted with the sight of the back pleat - which is just so pretty!  It went downhill from there.

I was watching the Sewing Bee at the same time and in my head smugly telling off the contestants for making 'basic' mistakes that could be easily avoided.  Enter the Sewing Gods again. I had already attached the yoke facing to the outside of the shirt and had to unpick it. Then I looked up from the sleeves I had just inserted sans puckers and was in the middle of congratulating myself as to their beauty, when I realised I'd sewn them on inside out. Oh.

No bother, I thought; I won't unpick them as they're so pretty - and I wanted to flat fell the seams anyway - so I'll just do them from the outside.  Brilliant!  Yes! 


The Sewing Gods aren't so forgiving.  I was slap happy with my seam trimming and managed to cut through both bits of seam allowance so that in at least two places I couldn't turn the top of the flat fell over correctly and had to fix it by zigzagging the botched areas. Not so pretty after all.

Finally, I had two inserted sleeves with flat felled armhole seams and only about a quarter of those covered in 'decorative' zigzag.  Hooray, on to the collar.  No, not onto the collar as the result of trying to avoid unpicking the sleeves was that my sleeve plackets were now, you guessed it, inside out.  Total head slap moment.

Clearly unpicking the plackets was more fiddly and more liable to total disaster than unpicking a more robust armhole seam but I couldn't really start unpicking the held-together-by-whispers flat fell. Fortunately the plackets went back on without mishap.

The collar took a bit of head scratching but I didn't totally balls it up, but, and I found this with the Alder dress too - the collar pieces were too long for the neckline and I wasn't entirely sure what to do with the excess.  I staystitched the neckline so it wouldn't stretch out whilst I was working on it - should I have done this also for the collar pieces?

I would say this though:  I love Grainline Studio's patterns, and without realising it I have sewn two Moss Skirts, two Scout Tees, one Alder Dress and now one Archer and soon a couple of Linden Sweatshirts.  So it's safe to say I'm a fan. However, I found the instructions and illustrations for the Archer a little scant.  The sewalong saved me on a couple of occasions when I couldn't fathom the instructions.  However, this could all easily be due to a gin/tiredness/distracted combination.

Anyway, the collar was satisfactory - although I couldn't get decent points - the cuffs weren't great as I missed catching all the facing when topstitching them down so they look a bit messy inside, but OK from outside, and then the hem was neat, so phew - on the home stretch.  My machine makes really pretty buttonholes and I've never had any problems with them at all. 

Can't say that anymore. First buttonhole just got totally stuffed up and I had to unpick it.  Kapow from the Sewing Gods!  They clearly hadn't forgotten my trying to get around the unpicking task earlier.

And then on the very last buttonhole I was overzealous with the seam ripper and cut straight through the end of the stitching.  Oh for the love of all things shiny! So, more zigzagging. This is an abomination as it just happened to be where I had pieced the buttonstand/band thingy so that seam wants to fray also.  As well as being highlighted pink due to seemingly indelible chalk.  There is not enough fray block in the world to sort this mess out. 

BUT I did finish the shirt, I didn't waste this glorious fabric and it is a beautifully designed pattern.  It fits really well across the shoulders which is often tight for me on RTW shirts and I love it despite its (many many) flaws.  We'll just have to see how well it holds up to constant wear and washing.

The skirt is from Topshop - hence the awful lack of pattern matching across the front seam.

My alterations:

  • Graded up a size at the hips.

  • Added 3 inches to the sleeves to accommodate my monkey arms and HPI

  • Next time I might take some width out of the sleeves as they look quite voluminous in these photos.

Things I've learnt:

  • How to insert a sleeve placket - although I'd like to see if there are other methods that might feel more robust to me.

  • With fabric that is the same on both sides, check and check and check again that everything is the right way around.

  • I will be buying a buttonhole chisel type thing at the first opportunity.

  • Just be humble and not lazy and UNPICK THE DAMN THING!

  • Endless snowy winters are no good for lighting photographs. I'm so sick of being inside.

So, do you believe in sewing karma?

See you soon x


Sewing by numbers

People often kindly remark 'how creative' when I mention that I made what I'm wearing myself.  I feel a bit uncomfortable about this.  I consider myself a moderately creative person and there are some immensely creative people in the sewing world, but when I've simply found a pattern, put it with some fabric I like and followed some instructions, it feels more like the sewing equivalent of painting by numbers than a truly imaginative creative process. 

See what I've done with the pose here?

These trousers embody that sentiment.  Whilst I'll admit that having a vision of an item of clothing or an outfit and being able to make it from scratch does fall into the bracket of creative endeavours, these trousers, in fact this whole outfit, are pure ready-to-wear rip off.

Image from  The Daily Look   

Image from The Daily Look  

I'm not sure how I stumbled across this (duh, Pinterest), but I saw the above picture and completely fell in love with everything about the outfit: The loose silhouette, the colour palette, the baggy pants with statement florals, the mix of florals and stripes, the layering.  Everything (well except the slightly trashy shoes). 

So after not being able to get it out of my head for a few days I started summoning supplies to see if I could emulate it and this is what I came up with.

I really like these trousers; they are comfortable, the fabric is the right amount of floral without being twee or overpowering (I'm looking at you neon neoprene party dress) and I like the super high waist, the pleats and (mostly) how they fit.  I added an inch and half to the crotch depth and probably could have done with less. (Note for next time as I'd love to make a cropped pair in the summer.)  And added three inches to the length (of the version with cuffs - but didn't cuff them). Other than that no pattern alterations, although I did consider adding welt pockets to the back, but as I've never done them before and I had no excess fabric, I didn't want to risk a bodge job.  So welt pockets saved for another day. 

The tee was also made by me to replicate this look and gets worn all the time.  It's a lovely lightweight cotton knit using Grainline's Scout Tee - which I've adapted before (here) but never made straight out of the packet and I love it.  The neckline, fit across the shoulders and loose style are perfect and so comfortable for everyday wear.  I love the idea of layering it over a shirt, although it looks a bit odd without the jacket it has to be said.

Whilst I was hoping with the layering I could wear the trousers this winter, they are totally impractical for my day-to-day life: they need to be worn with heels, they're not very warm and I trip over them a lot.  Perfect for marching 15 blocks through the snow pushing a double stroller ...  

So; impractical, sewn by numbers and a total rip off of someone else's idea. Just like most of the stuff on the high street. Oh well, at least they're better made, I don't have sweatshops on my conscience and they fit me. 

Outfit details.  

Tee: grey stripe fine cotton knit from Mood using Grainline Studio's Scout Tee pattern.

Jacket: I was going to make one using Republique du Chiffon's Bernadette pattern, but I already have one white jacket in my closet, I don't really need another, so I ditched that idea.  This is from Zara, more than a few years ago.

Shirt: Pale denim also from Zara a few years back, (without being a total sycophant, I'd use Grainline's Archer if I was going to go all out and make the whole outfit).

Trousers: Pattern is Vogue 8836 and the fabric is a lovely drapey rayon challis from Harts Fabric. (I haven't sewn with rayon challis before and now I get why everyone raves about it.  But I'm confused as it's not something I've come across in the UK - is it known by another name?  Viscose??)

Shoes: Ridiculously high stack heels from Hobbs in the UK. 

See you soon x