Friday, 13 February 2015

Completed: Charley Harper Print Bronte Top

Can I just start by saying how much I LOVE this fabric? It really makes the top! The print looks like a quilting cotton (which I love), but it's actually the softest most wonderful organic cotton interlock knit. It's a complete DREAM to sew with, and so comfortable to wear. The print is by Charley Harper, and I bought the last of the bolt at Spool of Thread last summer - it was a little pricey for cotton knit (around $20 a metre), but sooooo worth it.

I mean, polka dots and birds. Come on. 

This print makes my day every time I wear it. I didn't exactly have the greatest week - my foot was inexplicably sore and swollen to the point that I missed quite a few classes because it hurt to walk to them, and I was seriously struggling to finish some choreography for my dance group. It didn't help that I had my first midterm this semester on Thursday, and a couple of stressful labs this week. Wednesday was probably the low point - I barely slept because of my foot, I couldn't make it to any of my classes, I wasn't feeling very good about my impending midterm, and I hadn't finished a dance that I was supposed to teach later that evening. 

BUT, I wore this top, and it cheered me up. That's the power of great fabric.

I'm now taking a short, but well-deserved break. My midterm went well, I managed to finish all the assignments that I put off when I was studying for it, and I'm catching up on my missed classes. My foot is feeling much better, and despite whatever was wrong with it, I managed to finish teaching my dance, and I'm really, really happy with it! I'm really enjoying having the chance to do my own choreography - seeing it come together is so satisfying!

Speaking of my dance group, we are in the midst of fundraising to pay for the theatre that we're renting for our spring show! We have to pay a certain amount upfront, and then the rest we pay for with ticket sales. Since we're a new dance company at McGill this year, our funds are pretty limited! We've been busy with bake sales and plenty of other fundraisers, but we've also set up a crowdfunding site for anyone who wants to support us from afar. If you're interested in helping us out, every little bit counts, and I would appreciate it SO much! (You can also check out our YouTube channel for videos from our winter showcase if you want to see the kind of things that we do!)

Anyways, enough about dance and my stressful week - on to this shirt!

This is actually my third version of this pattern, the Bronte Top by Jennifer Lauren. I made two short-sleeved versions last summer and haven't blogged about them yet! (I'm terrible, I know.) I really love the pattern - it fit me quite well right out of the (digital) envelope, and it's so quick and easy to make. The yoke detail stops it from being a boring knit top, though! 

I cut a size 8, like my second version. According to the sizing charts, I'm a size 6, but I found it to be a little tight around the armholes. I don't like my knit tops super snug anyways, so I just sized up, and the fit is pretty near perfect! The only change I made to the fit of this one is that I graded out a little at the hips - I find that my first two tops ride up just slightly. I added on about 2" total at the bottom, and this gives it almost more of a bell shape when it's untucked, because the fabric is pretty sturdy. Although I'll wear it tucked in most of the time, I love the shape of it! I would probably not grade out quite as much if I made it in a drapier fabric, though.

While writing that, I realized that I completely forgot to get pictures of it untucked... you'll have to take my word for it!

I thought that long sleeves would be too overwhelming for this print, but I didn't want short sleeves, so I made 3/4 sleeves by folding up the pattern where two pieces of paper were taped together, and this ended up being the perfect length!

I hesitated about the contrasting binding, because I thought it might be too much, but I'm glad I went for it - I really love it! It was just some cream-coloured bamboo jersey that I had in my stash - the same stuff I use to line my Moneta dresses. It really highlights the style lines!

Since I've made this before, it came together really quickly. I won't go much into detail about the construction, since it's pretty much the same as my other knit tops and dresses - I sewed all the seams on my serger, and I hemmed using a twin needle and Stitch Witchery. Like with my previous two versions, I took a 1 1/2" hem, turned up once, rather than a 3/4" hem turned up twice. I just used a simple straight stitch for the topstitching, which is what I did on my other two, and I haven't had any problems with broken stitches. 

That's about it for this top! It's a pretty simple make, but the fabric is fantastic, so it's probably one of my favourite me-made tops ever. I got an email a while back from Spool of Thread saying that they have more Charlie Harper knits in stock - I might try to pick some up (if there are any left) when I'm home for reading week!

By the way, I also made the pants I'm wearing in these photos! They are another project I finished last summer, but haven't had a chance to blog about yet. They were my last project before leaving for Montreal, so I never managed to get photos of them until I visited home for Christmas. They should be up on the blog soon!

Thanks for reading!

Top: Me-made (Jennifer Lauren Bronte Top)
Pants: Me-made (soon to be blogged)
Belt: bought from a craft market

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Completed: Cowl Neck Renfrew Top

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to make Sewaholic’s Renfrew Top! I’ve seen countless versions of this top on various blogs, and I’ve been really happy with all the other Sewaholic patterns that I've tried! When I went to the Sewtionary launch party during the summer, there was 25% off all Sewaholic patterns if you were wearing something made from one. I wore my refashioned muumuu Pendrell blouse and my denim Hollyburn skirt, and picked up the Renfrew pattern!

The pattern calls for a medium-weight knit, so I chose this royal blue organic cotton and bamboo double knit that I bought at Dressew (of all places! It really wasn’t where I was expecting to find organic cotton). Compared to Montreal, it was a little pricey at $15 a metre, but I got this top out of under 1.5 metres, so I’m not complaining.

I chose view C, the cowl neck variation, with the long sleeves from view A. I cut a straight size 0, which usually fits me pretty well in Sewaholic patterns.

From cutting to hemming, I finished this top in an evening! The instructions were well-written but brief, as is usual for Sewaholic patterns. I didn’t follow the instructions too closely, since I’m pretty familiar with how to put together a knit top, although I did noticed that the instructions say to sew the cowl with the wrong sides together. The picture, however, shows it with the right sides together, which is the correct way. It’s not a new pattern so I was a little surprised to find a mistake in the instructions, but I might have just bought an older version that hadn’t been corrected yet.

I wasn’t sure if I had any ¼” twill tape to reinforce the shoulders, so instead I used ¼” clear elastic, which I bought lots of for Moneta dresses but don’t use anymore since I prefer the 3/8” stuff.

I sewed all the seams on my serger, and my regular machine seems to have recovered and did a nice job on the topstitching around the cowl. I used a straight stitch rather than the recommended zigzag, because I find that it actually had enough stretch when it’s topstitching a seam that’s already been serged – I used a straight stitch for all the topstitching on my Bronte tops and haven’t had any problems with broken stitches.

Since I tuck in most of my tops, I wanted a less bulky finish at the bottom, so I hemmed it instead of using the band. I didn’t add any length; I simply omitted the band and the length was perfect. I finished the edge with my serger, turned up 1”, pressed with Stich Witchery, and hemmed with a twin needle. Unfortunately, I didn’t use a walking foot so my hem is a little ripply, but since this will usually be tucked in, I’m not too concerned.

I originally hemmed the sleeves this way as well, but I found that they were just a touch too short, and a little too wide, so I cut off the hem and added the cuffs a couple days later. I like them better, I think!

The fit on this is pretty good, but not perfect. I need to take in the shoulder seams about ½”, maybe more, and if I make a version without the cowl, I’ll need to take in the neckline a little since it’s pretty wide. I’ve seen some people recommend making it a size down since the fit is roomy, but I was already making the smallest size and I didn’t really want to size it down. I think I’m reasonably happy with the fit, though! It’s really comfortable and still looks good tucked it – I actually prefer my shirts to be a little blousy at the waist, otherwise they ride up and get wrinkly.

If I wear it untucked, though, there's some pooling of fabric at the lower back. I might look into doing a swayback adjustment for next time.

I will definitely be making this again! I can see why it's such a popular pattern - it goes together so quickly, and I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of it. I just wish I had enough of the wool I bought it Montreal to make a wool cowl neck version, but the cowl takes up a fair bit of fabric, so I don’t think I do. I’m also planning a Renfrew-Moneta hack to make a cowl neck dress - I just love the cowl neck!

Top: Me-made (Sewaholic Renfrew)
Skirt: Not sure of the brand, refashioned from a dress to a skirt
Belt: Bought at a craft market
Tights: Smartwool
Boots: Steve Madden

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Completed: Muse Jenna Cardi

When I first saw the Jenna Cardi pattern from a new(ish) indie pattern company, Muse, I was very intrigued! I wear cardigans all the time, so they are definitely a gap in my homemade wardrobe. Most of mine are pretty nice wool cardigans that I’ve found at thrift stores, but I still like the idea of making my own. Knitting cardigans is another story completely… they’re fun, but they sure are a lot of work! (Spoiler alert: I actually just finished knitting my first cardigan! It still needs buttons, and then once I find a way to take some pictures, it will be up on the blog!)

Anyways, I really wanted to try out this pattern, and I figured that this lightweight acrylic sweater knit that I bought in Montreal would be a good fabric to try it with. (I’m not sure exactly what to call the fabric – it’s not really what I think of as a sweater knit but it’s definitely not a jersey, so I’m sticking with “lightweight sweater knit”). I usually stay away from synthetics whenever I can, but I loved the print on this one, and it was second piece of my $5 fabric bundle from the by-the-pound bin at Stretch-Tex. It also went really well with the fabric I used for this dress, so it made a lot of sense to make a cropped cardigan that I could wear with it!

I decided to go for variation B with the shoulder yoke detail, even though it wouldn’t be super visible with the print. This was intended as a wearable muslin, and I knew I would want the yoke if I made it in a solid colour, so I wanted to try it out. I made it waist length, and I originally cut out the full length sleeves (although as you can see, they became ¾” sleeves when I decided that the print was too overwhelming for long sleeves).

After taping together the PDF pattern (which went quite quickly, since it’s designed so that you only have to print out the pieces specific to the view you’re making), I sized it down one size. The second and third patterns from Muse are available in my size, but this one wasn’t! Sizing it down was really straightforward though, so I’m not complaining.

Muse patterns are designed for a height of 5’ 10” (!), so being only 5’ 2”, I figured I would need to shorten this quite a bit! I held up the pattern pieces and compared them with a cropped cardigan I already own, and decided to shorten it 1½” from the main bodice (I left the band as-is). There were no shorten/lengthen lines on the pattern (something that might be a good addition for future patterns, especially since they’re designed for someone tall), so I just cut it about ¾ of the way down the bodice, overlapped it, and smoothed out the edge.

This went together pretty quickly and easily until reaching the button band. I sewed all the seams on my serger, and lightened the pressure of the presser foot on my regular machine for the topstitching. When I got to the button band, I realized that I forgot to shorten that piece to make the shortened bodice pieces. This would have been an easy fix, although instead of doing the logical thing and also shortening it by 1 ½”, I just held it up to the edge and cut it where I thought it need to be cut, without taking into consideration that it doesn't stretch after interfacing it, whereas the rest of the cardigan does. My button band ended up just a little too short, so I had to take in the seam that attaches the bottom band to the bodice a little, and now it’s just a bit too short in the front and I find myself tugging it down. In retrospect, I probably should have just re-cut the button bands since I had enough fabric left over.

That wasn’t the worst part about the button band… while topstitching it, my machine had a bit of a temper tantrum and I ended up unpicking quite a bit. Let me tell you, unpicking black topstitching on a black sweater knit is NOT easy! This was probably the longest step in the whole construction because of it.

I used my Singer buttonhole attachment for buttonholes, which worked quite well… until the last one. And of course, I always start buttonholes at the bottom, thinking that they’ll get better as I go along. So, the one it messed up was the very top one! You need to go over the buttonhole twice with it, and the second time, it was completely crooked! I think the bulk where the binding and the button band seam overlap might have caused it to shift while it was doing the buttonhole. I was going to unpick it and redo it, but then I remembered what a nightmare unpicking the topstitching was. In the end, I just used a lot of fray check and used some hand stitches to fix it up, and I think it’ll stay in.

The buttons were vintage from my Grandma’s stash, and I really like them! They’re maybe a little flashier than my usual tastes, but I think they suit the fabric. You can't really see them that well in any of these photos, but they're black, shiny, and shaped a little like gemstones.

Buttonhole issues aside, I’m quite happy with this cardigan! There are a few things I would change in terms of the fit, but it’s very wearable and very cute. I think I shortened it a bit too much, and for my next version (which I’ve already just about finished), I only shortened it ½”, which I think is better. This one looks good with a dress but is a little too short to wear with a skirt or high-waisted jeans. The shoulder seams where also a little too wide in this version, so I took them in a touch. If I make it again with ¾ sleeves, I’ll lengthen them just a little. I’m not sure how they compare to the ¾ length pattern piece, but I just chopped off the long sleeves where I thought it would look good. I like how the length looks, but the seam hits right at the crook of my elbow which isn’t the most comfortable. 

I would also probably make the cuffs a bit snugger. If you look closely, they are actually slightly different sizes, because I when I originally cut it out, I thought I was making it with full sleeves, so I cut the cuff for that variation. But I made the mistake of only cutting out one! By the time I realized this and had to cut the second one, I had already shortened the sleeve, so I cut a cuff for the 3/4 length sleeve without thinking, and didn't realize it until after sewing it on, so that one's a little bigger. I actually prefer the full length sleeve though, and might take it in a little further for a snugger ift.

Overall, I’m seriously impressed with Muse Patterns! As I said, the PDF was easy to put together, and the instructions were very well-written. I love that the designs have little vintage details, but are still very wearable, and I LOVE that they’re designed for knits. I’ve already bought and made the Nathalie top as well, and I’m really happy with that one too. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Cardigan: Me-made (Muse Jenna Cardi)
Dress: Me-made (Colette Moneta Dress)
Tights: Hue
Boots: Steve Madden

Friday, 9 January 2015

Completed: Maroon Colette Moneta Dress

Finally, a finished project! I hope you’re not getting sick of seeing Moneta dresses, because I’m certainly not sick of making them! This is the first thing (besides underwear) that I sewed once reunited with my sewing machine in Vancouver. It felt very strange to be sewing again after such a long break, so I wanted to make something quick and easy that I’d made before. This is actually my fourth - I made a third one during the summer and never got around to blogging about it.

I made this dress out of the maroon cotton jersey that I bought from a by-the-pound bin at Stretch-Tex in Montreal. It’s lightweight but not sheer, and it has some spandex, so it’s perfect for the Moneta. I bought this and some printed sweater knit for only $5, so this dress cost about $2.50 to make!

I wasn’t sure I would have enough fabric for a collar or pockets since I only had 1.5 metres, but with a creative cutting layout, I managed to get both. I’m really glad, because the collar is my favourite part, and I do like to have pockets, even though knit pockets aren’t the most practical. I don’t use them much in my other knit dresses, but they’re nice to have when I just need to carry my phone or some lip balm around!

I shortened the bodice another ¼” from my last version, and I think the waist finally hits at the right spot! In total, I raised it 1½”I also raised the pockets 1”, same as with my last version, which puts them at a better spot for me.

This went together very quickly, since I sewed the entire thing except for the hems on my serger. This was my first time making the ¾ sleeve variation (although they’re really more like ½” sleeves), and I found that the sleeves were a little big, so I took the in ¾”. I really like the length, though! I find it very flattering to have them hit around the waist when the waist is defined like in this dress.

I also shortened this 1” when I hemmed it, because it’s more of a wintery colour and I’ll be wearing it with boots. A longer dress doesn’t look bad with these boots, but once I’m back in Montreal, I’ll be wearing winter boots, which I find look better with a slightly shorter skirt.

For the hems, I used my usual technique of serging the edge, pressing up the hem with Stitch Witchery, and using a twin ballpoint needle with a walking foot. The Stitch Witchery takes more time, but I find that it makes such a big difference!

The only part of constructing this dress that still gives me a bit of trouble is gathering the skirt. I find that I need to cut my elastic a little (usually 10 cm) shorter than the waistline, because it stretches as you sew it, as I discovered in my first version. The instructions have you use ¼” clear elastic, but I found that quite a bit of it got cut off when I attached the skirt. I tried 3/8” elastic, which worked better, but still got cut off in places, since the zigzag stitch that I attach it with pulls the edges in and makes it narrower. I tried using a straight stich in my last version, but it didn’t lie flat. This time, I used ½” elastic, but I had the same problem with the zigzag stitch pulling in the edges quite a bit, and it made a bit of a ridge. Next time, I might try the 3/8” elastic again, but attach it with my serger instead, and just not cut anything off – I think this might help the elastic lay flat.

Anyways, I really love this dress! It was enough to really get me back into sewing, and I made plenty more when I was home. I like it with a belt, but it looks good without as well. I'll probably wear it more often without, since it's easier to wear a sweater over. I’ve already worn it lots, and I think I might have a new favourite dress!

Dress: Me-made (Colette Moneta)
Belt: bought at a craft market
Tights: Hue
Boots: Steve Madden

Monday, 5 January 2015

Exploring Montreal's Fabric Stores

I didn't realize quite how limited Vancouver's fabric stores were until I went shopping in Montreal! Before heading back to Vancouver for winter break, I spent a couple days exploring Montreal's fabric stores to stock up.

I went first to Rue St. Hubert on my own, one of the main fabric shopping districts in Montreal. It was nothing like fabric shopping in Vancouver! There are so many stores along the road, and as someone who is used to Vancouver’s fabric stores, I found it pretty overwhelming!

I really wish I had taken some pictures, but I didn't think of it at the time. There are some on Heather's post about Montreal's fabric stores if you want to get an idea!

I didn’t really have anything in mind that I actually needed to buy, so I spent most of my time just wandering to get an idea of what the stores are like. I printed off Caro’s excellent guide and made some of my own notes throughout the day, so that I would know where I could go if I needed something more specific.

Probably the weirdest part for me is that in most of the stores, nothing was labelled with prices or fibre content. I wasn’t surprised about the lack of fibre content labels, but in Vancouver, everything is labelled with a price, so it was strange always having to ask for the prices.

Overall, it was very, very different from fabric shopping in Vancouver. Besides the fact that all the stores are together, and there are so many of them, and nothing is labelled, the stores just had a very different feel. 

Despite spending most of the day looking around, I only left with a couple metres of fabric. Both are cozy wool double knits that I splurged on, since it’s pretty hard to find wool knits in Vancouver. The bottom one looks almost black in this photo, but it's actually dark purple.

If I thought St. Hubert was different from Vancouver, I was sure in for a shock when I went to Chabanel! The day before heading back, I met up with Vicki from Another Sewing Scientist to explore some of the stores there, most of which are in industrial buildings, so it really helped to go with Vicki since she knew where she was going. I would have been very lost! I bought considerably more than I did on St. Hubert, yet only spent $15 – I was amazed!

We started off at Globe-Tex, which has a little bit of everything. They had tons of knits in solid colours, but I have a fairly large stash of those already so I didn’t buy any, although they probably would have been a quarter of the price I paid in Vancouver! I did buy three metres of floral rayon jersey (bottom right in the picture). I loved the print, and when they guy told me it was $3.50 a metre, I had to buy lots! Fabric for $3.50 a metre is pretty rare in Vancouver, and if you ever find any, it’s probably the nastiest most synthetic fabric in the store.

Next, we went to Stretch-Tex, where I dug through the by-the-pound bin and found the other two. The maroon one is cotton-spandex jersey, and the print I’m pretty sure is acrylic. I usually avoid synthetics, but I loved the colours and the print (it’s a mishmash of floral print and peacock feathers), and for the $5 I paid for both pieces, I couldn’t resist! I had about 2 metres of the maroon, and about a metre and a half with a chunk cut out of it of the other one.

I've already used three of the pieces that I bought, so I don't feel bad about buying all that when I already had quite a bit stashed from the summer! The others I'll save for when I'm back in the spring. Stay tuned for the posts about what I made!