Sunday, 14 August 2016

Completed: Pleated chiffon skirt

Time and time again, I promise myself that I will not make something to a stupid deadline. I don't enjoy it. Yet, on Friday night, there I was again...
But first the fabric. I bought this pleated poly chiffon on a complete whim from The Sweet Mercerie, in June. It was one of those see it on Instagram, must have it moments of weakness that we all succumb to. I'm definitely getting better, but some fabrics are just too good to miss out on. I have a longtime love of pleats, although I don't wear them often, plus this emerald green colour is just stunning. 
I thought I had 1.5m of this fabric. It turns out I have about 2.5m. I have no idea why I decided to buy so much, since my intention was always to make a simple skirt. I'm actually wondering if they just got my order wrong. I really can't imagine thinking I'd need 2.5m. Anyway. When it arrived it was in a box. I've never had fabric arrive in a box before. i had ordered some chambray too, but that was only a couple of metres (actually, just thinking about it - maybe I'd better check that. Perhaps they got my lengths and my fabrics mixed up?). When I opened it, I realised why. The chiffon came wrapped in paper. The paper was pleated so its clear that when the pleating process took place, it did so with the fabric between 2 layers of paper. Cool!
Actually, although I hate sewing to a deadline, I have a feeling that if I hadn't this fabric would have sat in the stash for a while. I predicted, correctly, that it would be a bit of a bitch to deal with, and I would probably have procrastinated on it, if I hadn't had a sudden "need" for a midi skirt to wear to my manager's engagement party on Saturday night!
The pattern is loosely based on the Cashmerette elasticated back skirt tutorial (you need to sign up to her newsletter to get the tutorial). It's a basic gathered rectangle, with a fixed waistband at the front and an elasticated waistband at the back. I don't have a huge amount of love for how an elasticated waist looks on me, but with the time constraints, I wasn't about to attempt a zip in chiffon. An elasticated back seemed like a good compromise.
I say loosely, because I followed her instructions right up to the point where I realised that the elastic length she had me cut, just wasn't going to work. It was too short to fit the width of the skirt piece. I have no idea why. I checked my measurements several times, so maybe my elastic wasn't stretchy enough? I cut a second length, guessing that an additional 2inches might be enough and that seemed to do the trick. It's actually a little loose on the waist, but it only just fits over my hips, so perhaps I'm right about the stretchiness of the elastic. I also didn't understand her instructions for attaching the elastic, but it's very likely that's because it was about 10.30 at night and I was shattered. 
The fabric itself was pretty difficult to deal with. It grows. I tried to cut it with the pleats closed (if you know what I mean), but then they would unfold and open as I sewed. I couldn't baste them closed on the machine as the foot opened them out. I probably should have handbasted them closed but I didn't have time for that. It was tricky to cut due to the shifting pleats, but it actually wasn't too bad to sew once you got it where you wanted it. It wasn't slippery at all, actually it was pretty grippy and stayed put. But I couldn't press it. Actually it pressed pretty well, but every press unpressed the pleats, so I only tried once. After that it was pins and finger pressing all the way. 
Apologies, the close ups are out of focus.

Due to time issues, I'm embarrassed to admit that all edges are still raw inside. I will go back and finish them off, but I thought they'd do for one night. The waistband is also a complete mess on the inside due to the aforementioned growing issues, but it works and it's all enclosed. 
The fabric is pretty sheer, so I lined it with cupro lining from John Lewis. It's more expensive than the chiffon but I hate the feeling of acetate lining, so for me it's worth it. I lined both the waistband and the skirt, although the skirt is only lined to above the knee. The lining isn't hemmed, simply finished with an overlock stitch, but I felt that decision was valid since Tilly did something similar recently.
The skirt is finished with a baby/rolled hem. I used Jennifer's tutorial, but I only did the first and second stage, i.e. the hem is only turned once. This was time driven but also an aesthetic decision. The hem was fluting quite a lot and I'm not actually a huge fan of a fluted hem, so I didn't want to exaggerate it too much. I'm really pleased with how neat I managed to get it, given I couldn't press it.
The pleats run horizontally i.e. from selvedge to selvedge, so I cut the skirt on the cross grain. The waistband is cut on the grain so the pleats run in a different direction. The fabric is 150cm wide, so I actually got this skirt from about 75cm off fabric. Not sure what I'm going to do with the other 175cm... although I am thinking if I made a top, then I could wear it as a sort of faux dress type thing.
The verdict? Well before hemming it, I felt a little meh about it. But then it was 11.30pm and I was exhausted. It wasn't quite as I'd envisioned and I felt the back waistband looked really puffy and stupid. On Saturday I had the kids by myself, but I bribed Small Boy with his DS and Sky Kids App, while Baby Boy napped and I got it hemmed. I also cut some length off at that point, which helped with how it looked and although I still don't really like fluted hems, I think it adds some interest in this case, and now I love it. 

I'm wearing it here with another Eucalypt tank in black rayon. This was another WIP that I finished last week. This time I added the CF seam for some interest, but you can't really see it anyway. I wore the 2 together on Saturday night, with heels and a sparkly necklace, but I couldn't be bothered to get back into my heels for photos today. I kind of like the skirt with trainers though, and it looks cool with a t-shirt. It's also insanely comfortable. With small kids, this is not hugely practical for general day wear, but for lunch or dinner with friends, and engagement parties, it's an absolute winner!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Completed: Summer PJs

I had a sneaky sewing day today. I was off, as I worked on Saturday, but it wasn't my rota'd weekend working, so I had already arranged and paid for childcare. So off they went (I didn't tell them I was off - I am such a bad Mummy!), and I had a lovely 6 hours of sewing all to myself. I spent the time finishing off some WIPs. This project was the first.

Pyjamas were on the list of things I was never going to make. Nothing against them, but I always just thought that when time, funds and resources were already limited, my priority was always going to be making actual clothes that people see. I did briefly consider the Carolyn PJ pattern in double gauze until I worked out how much money that was going to cost me!!! And then, somewhere along the way my brain suggested that PJs/sleepwear might be a good way to use up those fabrics in my stash that I like, but don’t see myself wearing. This fabric fell under that category. It's a cotton voile, called Moody Blues by Cloud 9, and I bought it from M is for Make a while ago.
But I thought I had more than I actually did. I thought I had 1.5m, which, I thought I could probably squeeze a tank and simple shorts from. However. Firstly, I actually had bought 1.25m which shrunk slightly during prewashing. Secondly it’s narrow at 110cm. Thirdly, it’s a directional print. I was resolved to just making the shorts and they buying/making a jersey tank to wear with it, but then I managed to find a bit more fabric online – at a considerably cheaper price than I initially paid, I may add – and bought another half metre. I got the tank and the shorts front from one length and the shorts back from the other length, with plenty leftover for bias binding.

The top is the Eucalypt tank from Megan Nielsen, a top that I had already made one and a half times at this point (I finished my second right after these PJs). It was much easier to make in cotton, I have to say. I made that first, and then wondered why I hadn’t just made this as a top and been done with it. It’s absolutely fine and wearable as a top on its own, and I might even do that, although I’m already imaging the scenario while out in public; “Mummy? Why are you wearing your pyjamas?” *extra loud voice*!!!

As I had some slight fitting issues in my first iteration, I cut this with 0.5cm added to centre front, and then sewed the recommended 5/8" SA. This seems to have done the trick.

The shorts are by Melly Sews and are a free, one size pattern.They are designed to be made in a knit, but have quite a bit of ease, so work OK in a woven. I had to buy the pompom trim (twice! Because Hobbycraft cut me the wrong length initially), but I like the detail it adds. The pattern was fine. I added a waistband, as these are designed to sit pretty low - on your hip bones. I wanted them just below my natural waist so made up the difference with the waistband. I actually used the pattern piece from the Sunny Day shorts as it's the right length for the elastic I had to hand. Obviously I widened it, though. I also added a couple of lines of stitching, just to hold the elastic in place. Although I like the look of it, I'm not sure I will rush to sew pompom trim again. I used my zipper foot to try to get as close as possible to the trim, but there were a few kamakaze poms that jumped under the needle. I ended up topstitching those at the front several times to get them to sit properly. Those around the legs still flip out, but I have given up caring. It's just pyjamas...

My legs look like dead sausages in the above photo, but I have included it so you can see the length better. You are welcome. And in case you are wondering, I am wearing underwear in these photos.

I dreamed these up during the hot spell a couple of weeks ago, but I have only just got them finished. Since the hot spell lasted about 2 days, I don’t really have a great need for such summery PJs, however I’m sure I’ll still wear them. I can't vouch for comfort as I haven't yet slept in them, but I think they will be grand. Needless to say, the hubby likes them! ;)

Friday, 5 August 2016

Review: Cora

I mentioned here that I’d been using the fabric catalogue app, Cora, recently. I have heard of similar things before, but have never felt the need to catalogue my fabric stash. It’s sizeable (and currently too big for the space I have available for it) but it’s not huge and generally I can remember what I have. That said, periodically I go through it, and find I have forgotten about something. I have also recently discovered that I have less of some fabrics that I thought, which has been frustrating. Around the time of discovering this, I read about Cora on Zoe’s blog and thought it was worth looking into. Given my current fabric buying restrictions, I thought it would also help in reducing my purchasing and better planning.

Before I discuss my thoughts, I will preface it by saying that I haven’t tried any other apps/systems/software out there that does similar. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever catalogued anything in my life before, so I don’t have much to compare Cora to, but I think it’s great!
The good thing about Cora is that you can try it for free. You can upload max 5 fabrics on the free version, which allows you to get a feel for whether you like it or not. If you do, it costs £4.99 for the upgrade. I very, very rarely pay for apps because I like to spend my money on fabric instead ;), so I have to really like it before I part with cash. The app lets you record a photo of the fabric, plus pretty much everything you’d need: knit/woven, weight, length, width, fabric type and composition, colour, where and when you bought it, how much you paid for it, as well as where you store it, and whether or not it is pre-washed (brilliant!), brand, designer and collection (phew!). There is also a notes section, which is nice for adding project ideas.  It’s clearly designed by, or with input from, a sewer. Most of it is free text, and you can fill in as many or as few sections as you wish.

The colour section is a drop down and the choice is pretty limited at present, although the Cora team have said they are working on improving this. There is also only one “main colour” section, which isn’t ideal for stripes or prints with more than one dominant colour. You can set your default  length and width unit (yards, inches, metres, cm etc), and it also has an acquisition length section – i.e. the amount you bought – as well as how much you have left.

As a cataloguing tool it works well. You can record all info about a fabric in one place and have it all to hand. What would elevate it to the next level would be a more detailed search function. Currently you can rank the fabric on a number of different criteria (e.g. date added, date acquired, type, total paid etc), there is a search function, and (actually I’ve only just realised this) you have the ability to filter (knits, min current length, all lightweight fabrics, fabrics with scraps etc). I think it would be ideal if you could select a couple of filters (e.g. all lightweight wovens where current length is at least 2m). This would really help with matching fabrics to patterns and I have suggested this to the Cora team. 

It obviously takes a long time to get the fabric catalogued, particularly if you are like me and have never recorded any of these details before. I ended up logging on to various stores websites to see if I could track down how much I paid, when I bought it and also if there was any fabric composition details. I found it enjoyable and quite satisfying though. So far I’ve recorded 25 pieces of fabric, or 33m (I buy short lengths!), which I reckon is just slightly more than half of my stash. I have yet to decide if I can be bothered to catalogue my scraps, although there is the ability to do so.
One other thing - you don't set up an account, so if you have more than one device, the info doesn't appear to sync. I have both an iPhone and iPad, and although I have the app on both, I can only see the info on the device I entered it on (my phone). 
All in all, this is a great little app. It’s currently only available on Apple, but they are testing an Android version (they were looking for testers, so get in touch with them if you are interested!), so fingers crossed that will released soon.

I should say, this is a completely unbiased and honest review. I bought and paid for the app and although I’ve chatted with the development team on IG, they have no idea I am blogging about it. I just thought you might like to know my thoughts. 

Have you tried it?

Monday, 1 August 2016

2016 Sewing Budget: July

There’s nothing like doing a monthly update, to make you realise how quickly the months are marching on! It’s August!
This month was pretty restrained. I’ve been going through my stash, and recording it with a new app (I’ll write more about this in another post). What made me decide to buy Cora in the first place, was that I had a plan for a specific length of fabric, and then realised that I had less than I thought, meaning my initial plan wouldn’t work. This has happened before, so I thought having somewhere I could record how much fabric, as well as some other info, would help me plan better. The purchase of Cora was also a “speculate to accumulate”, or rather “speculate to avoid accumulating” thing. Hopefully writing down what I already have, and having it accessible, will help reduce the amount I buy.

On the subject of the trigger fabric, if you will, I bought some more. My aim is to make short pyjamas. I have enough to make a top (I’m going to use the Eucalypt tank pattern), so I tracked the fabric down and bought a further 0.5m (for considerably less than I paid for the first lot) to allow me to make matching shorts. The pompom trim is also for the shorts.

I had no inclination to buy any patterns this month, as I have my next few makes planned out, but then True Bias released the Emersonpants pattern, which is basically the trouser shape I’ve been dreaming about all summer so far. I had had plans to hack another pattern, but I know that by the time I get round to it (and more crucially, get it right), summer will be over. With Kelli offering 20% off the pattern till the end of the month, I took advantage and bought it. I reckon I can probably make this entirely from stash, and have fabric already earmarked. 

In my last monthly post I promised (myself) that I would make 4 items from stash before buying any more fabric. I have made 2 items pairs of shorts (here and here), but one was from scraps and I'm not sure that counts. I am also working on a Eucalpyt in viscose and the above mentioned PJs. So 3 down (and we're allowing the above purchase on the grounds that it helped "free" the other length from the stash, remember?), probably Emersons next?
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