Thursday, 9 July 2020

Ellie & Mac Discoverer Tees

I've been on a bit of a mission recently to try to reduce the amount of fabric I have sitting around. That's been fairly successful in terms of using up the bigger cuts, but I've still got a fair amount of fabric left over from other projects that needs to be used. I struggle more with using up knit fabric than wovens, so when I came across the Ellie & Mac Discoverer Tee recently I thought it might be a good way to use up some of my jersey.

The Discoverer Tee is a basic t-shirt shape, but with the added interest of a colour block yoke and three sleeve options. I like the fact that the join between the yoke and main section is curved rather than just a straight line. You do need reasonably sized pieces of fabric for the main front and back sections, but the yoke and short sleeves that I used don't take up too much at all.

The first version I made was this one for my mum. Like many people, she had a bit of a wardrobe clearout during lockdown and gave me a couple of dresses that she was no longer wearing for me to refashion. Thankfully the skirt of one of them was just big enough for the main front and back bodice sections, and I had a piece of jersey left from another project that perfectly complemented the darker blue in the print.

The version for my mum turned out so nicely that obviously I decided that I needed one for myself so raided my stash and came up with two monochrome prints that I thought would work well together. The white with the arrows was left over from a Freya top that I made last year, and the black spotty is the remnants from a pair of pyjama trousers I made for my sister-in-law.

Sewing the tees was no problem at all. The instructions seemed good, although I have to say that I only really scanned through them because I'm fairly familiar with sewing a basic knit tee by now. I did deviate slightly from the construction order and added the neckband once I'd sewn the shoulders, instead of after adding the sleeves and sewing the side seems as instructed. I'm just more familiar with doing it that way so find it easier.

I was relieved that the t-shirts turned out well because when I was preparing to make the pattern there were a few things that made be a bit skeptical about it.

Firstly, the sizes are given in ranges rather than as one measurement. Nothing wrong with that at all, but the ranges vary quite a lot in size (e.g. the MED size is quite a small range of bust sizes 35.5-36.25", whereas others have anything up to a 3.5" range - the XXS for example is for bust sizes 29-32.5"), which seems a bit odd to me.

There's also just one piece for the main front and back pieces, and the sleeve is cut on the fold so is a symmetrical piece rather than having slightly more space in the back. I'm no pattern drafting expert by any means, but as far as I know (and having looked at a couple of my other t-shirt patterns) it is more usual for sleeves to allow for more room the back.

There are also no notches at all on the pattern pieces. I thought that was odd to start with, but then it seemed even odder because most of the steps in the instructions start by telling you to mark the centre of the pieces you're going to be joining with a pin, so to my mind it would be better to include notches at those points so you already had them marked.

Going back to the positives - the fit is pretty good for me. My measurements (bust 38", waist 32", hips 42") put me in the middle (at the bust) or just over (waist)/at the top of (hips) the LG size range so that's the size I made. The tee is nicely fitted across the shoulders but looser over the waist and hips so that worked out fine.

The pattern says to add half an inch to the length for every inch you are taller than 5'5", but I'm 5'9" and didn't lengthen the pattern at all and it's still a perfectly good length on me.

Thankfully in spite of my initial reservations about the pattern, the tees both sewed up nicely and turned out well. I'd definitely think about making more of these if I have the right fabric combinations. My mum has also said that she thinks that hers is one of the comfiest t-shirts that she's ever owned (I think she might like another of her own!), which is a fairly good review, don't you think?

Monday, 29 June 2020

Seamwork Dorian Shorts

When Seamwork recently released the Dorian shorts they really appealed to me because they looked relaxed yet presentable. I then realised that I had a piece of linen in my stash left over from an old project that was just the right size for the pattern so it seemed silly not to give Dorian a try!

The Dorian shorts have elastic in the side of the waistband to cinch in the waist but still be comfortable. The shorts close with a zipper fly and button, and also have nicely sized inset pockets that are an interesting design feature.

The skill level is rated as beginner intermediate which I would say is fair. You probably wouldn't want to take this on as your first project because there are quite a lot of pieces and a couple of steps that need a bit of concentration. At the same time, there's nothing particularly complicated about the pattern and the recommended fabrics - medium weight wovens such as twill, denim and linen - are all easy to work with.

The instructions are also really detailed (I'd probably go as far as to say the most detailed I've ever used). They're very clear and illustrated with great diagrams, so if there are any steps that you're not entirely familiar with then they should help you through. I personally had never sewn a zip fly using the method in this pattern, but didn't have any trouble with that step and the fly turned out nicely (even if I do say so myself!).

I also liked the fact that the instructions provide two methods for finishing the waistband/inserting the elastic (one where you attach the elastic and then sew down the inner waistband, and one where you secure the inner waistband and then thread through the elastic) because I think that's the kind of technique where personal preferences can vary quite a lot.

In terms of sizing, my measurements (waist 32", hip 42") exactly match the size 12 for this pattern and that's the size I cut. The only change I made was to lengthen the inseam by 3 inches. I haven't worn shorts for years so I wasn't sure what length I'd like, but I knew I'd want them a little longer than in the pattern. I opted for 3 inches because that was the most I could lengthen the pattern by and still be able to fit it all onto my fabric! I was fairly sure from my toile that 3 inches would be enough and I knew that I would be able to cut a bit off/use a deeper hem if they felt too long. As it turns out, the length feels just right for me. In case it helps for reference, I'm about 5'9".

As I mentioned earlier, the fabric I used is left over from an old project (specifically my Anise jacket - enjoy my old short hairstyle there!). It's a jade green linen that, according to my Anise blog post, I got from Calico Laine - although given that I got it over 6 years ago it's probably unlikely that they still have this exact fabric in stock. It's a good fabric for these shorts and will be nice to wear when it's hot. The colour goes well with quite a few of my summer tops so hopefully I'll get a fair bit of wear out of them this summer - weather permitting of course!

The top I'm wearing the shorts with here is the top hack of the Tilly and the Buttons Marigold that I made last year - blog post here.

I enjoyed sewing my Dorian shorts, and I think they turned out really nicely. They're a good shape on me and, most importantly, they're super comfy! I'll definitely be making at least one more pair because my mum likes my shorts so much that she requested her own for her upcoming birthday. I also quite fancy trying out the member bonus trouser version of the pattern so you might be seeing that at some point in the future. If you're looking for a comfy pair of shorts that are interesting to sew, I can definitely recommend giving Dorian a try!

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Make It Simple Juno Pyjamas

One of the benefits of being at home on lockdown is that it seems to be encouraging me to make use of things that I already have. A case in point - in this post I've got a set and a half of Juno pyjamas solely using fabric left over from other projects.

The Juno pyjamas are one of the projects included in Make It Simple, the new-ish book from Tilly Walnes of Tilly & the Buttons fame. The main version of the pattern in the book is for proper pyjamas with long sleeves and full-length legs, but there are pattern pieces included for short sleeves for the top, and instructions on how to adjust the trouser pattern to turn it into shorts.

I first decided to try to give the pattern a go just to make a pair of shorts, as I realised that the fabric I had left over from making my pink Bobby dress last year was exactly the right colour to match the pyjama top in this photo (which I bought ages ago in M&S for a bargain price because it had no bottoms to go with it). Luckily, there was also just enough of it to squeeze out a pair of Juno shorts.

The shorts were really simple to sew and are a nice fit, so I thought I'd have a hunt around in my jersey leftovers to see if there were any other potential Junos hiding there.

Instead of one single piece, I came up with three pieces (the leftovers from my original Bobby dress, a t-shirt I made last year and a recent plain white tshirt that I made) that I thought would all work together and so my hotchpotch Juno set was born! One of the beauties of the shortie version of this pattern is that it doesn't use a lot of fabric so if you're thinking of making it, it's definitely worth looking in your stash to see what options you might have.

The pyjamas are really quick to sew. The sewing time estimated in the book is 2 hours - I think that would be roughly right and I'm not a speedy sewer. The instructions are very clear, including the bit about the adjustments to make to the trousers to turn them into shorts.

I really liked the way the elastic is attached at the waist - instead of sewing a channel at the waist and then threading the elastic through (which is what other pyjama patterns that I've made have done), the elastic is sewn directly to the shorts and then folded over on itself and topstitched to enclose it. It seems quicker to do it that way, although I haven't actually timed it in comparison to the threading elastic method so I'm not sure whether it actually is or not.

In terms of sizing, I made a straight size 6 for these PJs. In Tilly's patterns my bust measurement puts me in a size 5 and my waist and hips put me between a 5 and a 6, but I prefer my pyjamas to be on the looser side rather than tight so going up to a straight 6 seemed to be the best option. My shorts are also quite a bit longer than the length suggested in the book (my inside leg is 11cm instead of 6cm) - again just because of personal preference.

I'm really pleased with my set-and-a-half of Juno pyjamas - they were quick and easy to sew, they used up fabric that might otherwise have gone to waste and they're super comfy to wear. That's the most important thing when it comes to pyjamas really, isn't it?!

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Jennifer Lauren Asteria Dress

Recently the urge to make myself a pretty dress had become a bit of an itch that I needed to scratch. Dresses are what originally kick-started my sewing journey and, however much I've enjoyed my recent experimental projects, there's nothing like a new favourite dress to put a smile on my face. So when Jennifer Lauren released the Asteria dress it was just begging for me to make it.

The Asteria dress pattern was always going to appeal to me - it has a hint of vintage style but will also easily fit into my daily life.

The Asteria is a short-sleeved dress with a lovely square neckline. It's semi-fitted from the bust down, shaped with ties at the natural waist. There's an optional collar, as well as the possibility to make a button down bodice, or one cut on the fold (as I did). The full skirt is shaped with box pleats and has generously-sized side seam pockets. The pattern also has separate bodice pieces for cup sizes A to D.

I think one of the nice things about the Asteria is that it has no fastenings so it's a fairly simple project to sew. Often the thing that new sewists fear is inserting zips or making buttonholes, and this pattern gives you the ability to make a fairly impressive looking dress whilst not having to tackle those processes that can initially seem a bit "scary" (although, there's really nothing to be afraid of about them!).

The fact that the Asteria has more ease than normal through the waist and is shaped with ties also means that it's more comfy than dresses of this style can sometimes be. I love wearing my other waisted dresses, but they can occasionally feel a bit tight on particularly hot days (or after a big meal!), but with the Asteria you could have a very similar look but just loosen off the waist ties a bit if you wanted to.

As with other Jennifer Lauren patterns I've made in the past, the instructions for the Asteria are very thorough and clear throughout. It includes extra little tips to make the process easier, such as advising you to press the sleeve hem up and then unfold it again before sewing the sleeve seam so you have lines there ready for when you get to the hemming. I tend to do this anyway (it's definitely easier to press a hem on a flat pattern piece than on a tube of fabric), but I haven't seen many patterns recommend this step.

In terms of sizing, I made a 14 and used the A cup bodice. My measurements are currently B 38", W 32", H 42" and my full bust/under bust difference puts me at the top of the A cup range. The 14 A cup is technically meant to be for a slightly smaller bust measurement than mine, but from the finished garment measurements I was pretty sure that would be the best option for me. I made a bodice toile to check and thankfully it looked pretty good! I just needed to lengthen the bodice by 1", and I also lengthened the skirt by 2" (I'm about 5'9").

The fabric that I used is a textured cotton from Seasalt a couple of years ago. It's a really gorgeous quality and I was lucky enough to find a five metre piece of it in one of their outlet shops for a particularly bargainous price (I can't remember exactly what it was now, but I think it was something around about £25). Obviously I didn't need five metres for this dress, so my mum is now looking forward to me making something for her with the leftovers!

All in all, I love my Asteria dress! It was a real joy to sew, and is a lovely dress to wear. It's possibly slightly overdress for mooching about my flat in lockdown, but it's nice to feel fancy every now and then isn't it?! It probably won't surprise you to know that I'm keeping my eye out for some bright and colourful fabric to make another version. Anyone got any suggestions to tempt me?!

Thursday, 23 April 2020

By Hand London Sarah Shirt

Apparently extra time at home during the current lockdown is making me more prone to sewing experimentation! I've always been intrigued and tempted by the look of the By Hand London Sarah shirt, but I was never quite sure if the swingy style would be quite "me". However, I realised when looking through my stash the other week that I had the perfect fabric match for this pattern so I decided that I might as well give it a try.

According to By Hand London's own description, "Sarah is a button-up swing shirt with plenty of ease that clings and skims in all the right places." It has options of long, billowy or short, cuffed sleeves, and rounded or pointed collars. It's definitely no ordinary shirt, and is very feminine and fun.

The version of the pattern that I used is the one that was included with Simply Sewing magazine a while ago. I assume that it's the same as the version directly from By Hand London, but I thought I'd mention it just in case there are any differences.

I enjoyed sewing the Sarah shirt. There were steps that I was familiar with from sewing other patterns, such as the lined yoke and bound cuffs, but also some slightly different features. The collar construction is quite interesting as there's no facing, so when the under collar is attached it simultaneously finishes the neckline.

The instructions are very thorough and mostly easy to follow. I had to read the instructions for the collar attachment steps a couple of times to make sure I was doing the right thing, but I made sense of them in the end. I don't think that step was helped by the fact that the Simply Sewing version of the pattern has photographs of the construction rather than diagrams (as far as I remember from sewing BHL patterns in the past, they usually use diagrams) and the fabric used in the photos didn't have a particularly obvious wrong side.

If I made the Sarah shirt again, I would make a slight change from the instructions and press under the neckline seam allowance of the under collar and the seam allowance on the inner side of the cuffs before attaching the collar/cuffs to the shirt. It's not a major change, but I think it would be considerably less fiddly to do it that way.

My measurements put me between a 14 and 16 at the bust, and in a 16 at the waist and hips. I decided to make a toile of a straight size 14 as I suspected that would be the best size for me as the main fitted area is the shoulders and my shoulders are proportionately smaller than the rest of me so I thought the smaller bust size would be best. Luckily I was right! The only alteration that I made to the pattern was to lengthen it by 2 inches (fairly standard for me - I'm 5'9"), and I'm pleased with the fit.

The fabric I used is probably the garment-sized piece that has been sitting in my stash the longest. I bought it a good few years ago from a shop that has long-since closed. It's a denim-look cotton and I ordered it with the intention of making a dress, but when it turned up it was far too lightweight and soft for what I was planning. It sat on my shelf and every now and then I'd pick it up thinking I'd found the perfect project for it, but then decide that it wasn't quite right and put it back. Thankfully I finally matched it with a pattern! Although I have a fairly sizeable chunk of it left so I might need another project too - I'm wondering about a pyjama top with some shorts made from a different fabric.

The buttons I used have also been in my button jar for a while. They're really fun because they have pictures of various sewing notions on them - and they're still available on Etsy. They're another thing that needed the right project, and again I think they're a good pairing for this fabric and pattern. I love that I have all different pictures running down the front of the shirt.

The instructions have you use poppers/press studs for fastening the cuffs, and I did that but added a decorative button too - partly to use more of the buttons and partly because I thought the cuffs looked a bit naked without buttons!

All in all, I'm happy with my Sarah shirt - it was fun to make and I'm very glad to have finally cut into this fabric. I'm not sure how many options other than these super-thick leggings (they're RTW from my pre-sewing days) I currently have in my wardrobe to show off the shirt in all its swingy glory, but it looks good under a pinafore or tucked into a skirt too so it will get worn one way or another. So a successful experiment really! Have you tried any new styles recently?