Stylemaker Fabrics + Carolyn Pajamas + M7907 = Ace

Earlier this year, Michelle from Stylemaker Fabrics contacted me asking if I would like to be part of a blog tour. The tour showcases Stylemaker’s new Spring fabric collection. Given the wonderful selection, how could I pass this offer up? There is such an array of colours, prints, types that I was pretty overwhelmed by choice. i decided on a gorgeous coral stretch denim, which I had high hopes of turning into a boiler suit, but there was serious demand for it so I was pipped to the post by others on the tour, dammit!

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So I had a bit of a rethink and was really taken with this leafy rayon crepe. It is such a lovely, fun print, the softest fabric imaginable and completely opaque. I knew straight away that I wanted to make a blouse rather than a dress, so I asked Michelle if she had any navy twill for some trousers that would go with this. It wasn’t in the Spring collection she had shown us, but she kindly sent me this gorgeous stuff. It is a pretty hefty twill in a lovely French navy and was an absolute dream to work with. It’s almost denim weight and holds the pleats and shape of these trousers really well.

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I’ve been wanting to make the Closet Case Patterns Carolyn Pyjamas top as a blouse for a while. I saw a girl wearing a tropical print blouse similar to this style with jeans last summer and it looked just ace, so this seemed the perfect fabric to try it out on.

I made some alterations which included squaring off the hem and straightening the side seams. I also lengthened the sleeves by a couple of inches.

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As with all Heather’s patterns the construction of this is really clever and I like the fact that she found a way to omit a back facing which can be so flappy and difficult to get to lie flat.

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I think perhaps because this is one of Closet Case’s earlier patterns the instructions were a little unclear at times but I got it in the end and am really pleased with the result.

One change I made to the order of construction was to make buttonholes and attach buttons prior to sewing the hem. Whilst this makes the finishing the hem at the facings a little fiddly, it ensures that the plackets line up at the hem, which I’ve had issues with in the past. The crepe was a little slippy and my stitching was a bit loose and wonky. That said it was pretty easy to work with - especially when I remembered that my machine has a fine fabrics foot pressure setting. *Eye roll*

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I really wanted some pleated tapered leg pants for the twill. I was on the hunt for something a little slimmer leg than what I ended up sewing, but was mooching around on the McCalls website and came across these. I was really intrigued by the seam just below the knee which creates the taper.

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I think they walk a fine line between fun and interesting, and clown pants. Finally I decided the shape wasn’t that different to Pattern Fantastique’s Terra Pants, which I have made before and love, so I could overcome my clown pants feelings - even though an instagram poll on the subject was pretty much straight 50 / 50.

I did consider straightening the leg a little but that would have been a little complicated as the bottom section is a semi-circular piece that only has one seam compared to the two seams of the upper leg. And I, lazily, couldn’t be bothered to figure it out. The pattern is M7907 View B.

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I have one major gripe with McCalls patterns. It is so frustrating when the patterns are sold in two different size brackets, as my top half fits the smaller size and my waist and hips in the larger. I’ve made the mistake of getting the larger size in the past which are just too big in the bust which is so much harder to alter. So it means I have to grade up the smaller version myself in the areas where needed, where normally I would just blend between sizes on the same pattern.

I understand that the larger sizes need a different block to the smaller sizes, but surely they could still be included in the same packet?

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As such I had to make a few fit changes, which is fine, it’s just grading can be a little daunting. I cut the largest size in this packet - the 14 - and added a quarter inch to each side seam at the waist and blending it to the 14 hip line therefore adding a total of 1 inch to the circumference. I didn’t add to the hips, which I normally do, because there is a lot of ease. I added 1 inch to the back rise and half an inch at the front, tapering to nothing at the centre front. I’ve finally found my perfect crotch adjustment! I also added an inch to the upper leg. I am thrilled with the fit and absolutely love how the fabric responds to the design.

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The only change I made to the construction was to add a facing to the inside of the pocket. They are inseam pockets which is OK, but I don’t like when you can see the lining fabric. So for the rear pocket section I added an inch or so wide facing to prevent this. I think it looks so much neater. (She says patting herself on the back!)

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I also had really good results with the fly. I have really struggled to find a fly zip tutorial that gives me the kind of finish I want, and I have tried many, and controversially this Big Four method was simple and gives a really nice finish.

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I love these fabrics and I love the garments. I’m not sure I’ll wear them together as much as separately as it feels a bit matchy-matchy and the blouse could tend a bit middle-aged (which I am, although I try very hard to pretend that I’m not). But the blouse with stonewash jeans and the pants with a skinny top or tee, would be some nice alternatives.

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And the major bonus to all of this is that I have enough of the crepe left to make an Ogden Cami, which will be so pretty.

I was so pleased to be asked to be involved and end up with two garments in such interesting and qulaity fabrices, that I’ll really enjoy wearing in the spring and early summer - before it gets so hot that sleeves and trousers are unthinkable.

There are lots of other gorgeous fabrics on the Stylemaker site, so go check them out.

Elizabeth from Pins and Pinot is next on the tour - see what she got up to tomorrow!

Thank you Michelle for the wonderful fabric!

See you soon x

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Learning to draft

Over the past 18 months I've been taking patternmaking courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan.

(BTW what is up with that name? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.)

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Other than wanting to learn more about drafting and how I can make exactly what I want from scratch, the reasons for doing this have been a little hazy. However, as the possibility of my Green Card arriving, and the associated ability to work gets more real, and as my little one starts Kindergarten in the fall, my desire to have gainful occupation outside of the home (and MONEY!) for the first time in five years is emerging rapidly from its slumber.

I have no intention of returning to my previous career in marketing. Just the thought of it gives me hives. And actually, after a hiatus of 5 years, I don't think the hives are just from my pure hatred of my previous profession. There is a hefty lack of self-confidence and major self-doubt wound up in there as well. Increasingly I find myself coming back to doing something that involves sewing and / or manipulating large sheets of tissue paper.

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I don't know, we'll see, but the by-product of this is that I am now able to design and draft patterns for myself for clothes I especially want but for which I can't find a pattern. My skills are still immature but the more I practice, the better I get and the more things click into place.

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I'm often in awe of people who don't need a pattern, who just use measurements and scissors and create incredible items of clothing, like Julia and Cotton and Curls and a friend on my pattern cutting course. I'm not that person; I need rules and a process. I need to refer to notes and be methodical, taking whatever process I am doing, one step at a time. I'm that person who likes filling out forms and follows instructions booklets to the letter.  

It's hard sometimes to marry that side of my brain with what is supposed to be a creative pursuit. But actually patternmaking manages to satisfy both of those Charlies. I am translating a vision and a creative design into a reality by using straight lines and (a little bit of) math(s) and width of a pencil line accuracy. I LOVE it. 

This dress is one of the results of that process.

I had seen a dress similar to this somewhere and could not get it out of my head. Knowing that I wanted to make it, I used the flexibility within the brief of my final project last semester to recreate it. I think the original was created in a viscose or something similar but this is made in a rich burgundy mid-weight cotton twill from Mood.

It's a pretty simple design really, the skirt is a mid calf length A-Line with side scoop pockets, a centre back invisible zip and side slits. For the top I traced my bodice block and drew a square neckline and inch wide straps that cut away to join the skirt waistband at the side seam.

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Similarly, I used the back bodice sloper to draw the shape of the back pieces. Knowing I wanted them to meet at centre back, be wider at the waist and to have a triangular but slightly curved shape to them. This I played around with for a while and when it came to making a muslin, I took out quite a lot of length on the inside seamline, so that straps stayed put, didn't bag out and created a subtle curve. This means that the seamline is kind of on the bias, so I was extra careful to reinforce it with staystitching. and in future I think even interfacing tape, so that it wouldn't stretch out. Having learnt a hard lesson on that from this dress.

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The bodice is fully lined and I used the hide-it-all-inside-the-straps-and-hope-to-hell-it-doesn't-get-stuck-in-there burrito method to give a completely clean finish.

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Overall I'm really pleased with how it turned out. The bodice darts need a little adjustment as there is extra fabric in there and they have a tendency to get pointy. I think if I was doing this again, I would take some volume out of the skirt, or alter the length, as the whole look tends a little towards "trainee nun's apron". But as I mentioned in an Instagram post the other day, if this is of the radical nun persuasion as Sasha sometimes refers to her incredible, chic style, then I'd be OK with that!

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So, if nothing else, FIT has given me the ability to make my wardrobe even more one of a kind and the chance to waste endless hours drawing shapes and cutting them out, which is unbelievably therapeutic.

Where do you find your therapy?

See you soon xx