Monday, 6 July 2015

Pattern drafting class

I don't have any new makes to show today, so feel free to skip on if that's what you're here for - I won't be offended!  Today I want to talk about my pattern drafting class that I mentioned in my last two posts, because this has been all-consuming for me for the last three weeks!

First of all, I have to tell you how I came upon it.  You may remember that I had been doing the on-line pattern drafting classes on Craftsy (which are brilliant).  The fit on my bodice was great, but I was having a lot of trouble when I added sleeves.  The back would pull between my shoulder blades (cross back), and I was having a lot of trouble with the back shoulder darts.  Adding a collar turned it into a red hot mess.  I did a lot of work on the sleeves/collar issues over the bank holiday weekend at the start of May, and was pretty disappointed when it turned out to be a disaster.  Wearing sleeveless garments all year round is not an option in Northern Ireland, so in desperation I googled "pattern drafting Belfast".  All my sewing prayers were answered when I found The School Of Pattern Design And Sewing website.  I looked through the whole website, and had to check twice that it really was in Belfast in Northern Ireland!

Before I go any further, I just want to say that I paid for my class myself, and I didn't even mention my blog to my teacher as I was so busy soaking up all the pattern drafting knowledge!  The lady who runs it is called Pat, she teaches fashion design at Belfast Met College and is a complete superstar!  I had initially emailed her about one-to-one classes, and she suggested the pattern drafting class that isn't on the workshop list.  It was over three Mondays from 15th June, cost £280, and was completely brilliant.  I haven't looked forward to a Monday morning so much in my life!

The maximum number of people on the class would be four, but there was only me and another lady.  Pat provided our text books, which was "Metric Pattern Cutting For Women's Wear" by Winifred Aldrich, metal right-angle metric rulers and loads of dots and crosses pattern making paper.  

In the first class we did our measurements, which is were I realised where I was going wrong on my own because I had my shoulder measurement too short, which affected the cross back.  Then we drafted our blocks.  If you've done the Craftsy class, then you'll know that you need a lot of measurements; we didn't need so many for this method.  The book explains how to do the draft, but there would have been a lot of head scratching without Pat's help.  For example, she took one look at me and knew my bust was larger than average for my frame.  She was then able to add some height to the front shoulder on my draft to lengthen the bodice front.  That wasn't in the book, and because I like to ask all the questions, I wanted to know how I would have fixed it if the extra hadn't been added, and the answer was a full bust adjustment.  Also, both of our armsyces looked a bit different that in the book, but Pat said they were ok, and she was right!  Then we sewed our toiles, and both only had to pinch in a little bit from the bust to the armhole.


Here's my toile.  You can see the diagonal darts going up from the bust point to the armsyce.  This is the bit that got pinched out, and was only about a centimetre at the armsyce.  Below is the finished bodice block.  The front is on the left, and the back on the right.  Hopefully you can see the fish-eye darts in the middle, and on the front there is one large dart extending up to the neckline.  On the back there is a small shoulder dart.  To draft a bodice with a separate skirt, you cut along the waistline in the middle of the fish-eye darts, and just work on the top half.

In the second class we drafted and sewed our sleeves.  Mine ended up needing a bit of work, but we got it sorted out.  I still need to trace it onto some card though.

Then we did some dart manipulation.  


On the left is an underarm/horizontal bust dart, and on the right is an armhole dart.  These were made by firstly drawing a line where the new dart should be, and then cutting along one leg of the large dart going into the neckline.  The neckline dart gets closed up, revealing the new dart.  So in these examples, the waist dart would also be sewn.

Then we drafted some collars.  This was a revelation for me because I've only ever sewn a flat Peter Pan collar as I never knew how to alter a collar with a stand to fit me.  The weekend after that class I fell down a collar-drafting rabbit hole!  Here's what I made:


First of all is a convertable collar, and horizontal bust darts.  This is the collar we drafted in class.  Please excuse the scrappy facings and lack of removing tailor tacks in these photos!  I was so excited about my collars, that I didn't want to waste any precious collar sewing time! 

Then there is a shirt collar, with diagonal darts coming up from the side seam corner.  I was beside myself with how well this turned out, and I found a brilliantly easy explanation on how to sew it in my Granny's Simplicity Sewing Book.

After all this success, I was dreaming of all the lovely collared garments I could make, and remembered about the new Sew Over It Vintage Shirt dress pattern.  Thank goodness for the instant gratification of PDF patterns, because it was the work of a few moments to click on buy, and start printing!  Then I'm not really sure what came over me, but I decided it would be no problem to draft it from my block.  And it flipping well worked!!

I sewn one pleated dart as on the pattern, and one waist dart to see which I liked best.  The pattern instructions for sewing the collar were really easy to follow.  I'm going to add a toile of the skirt to see how it looks, and then I can't wait to sew it up properly.

Pat asked us to think of a garment that we would like to draft, so we could do it in our last class.  I wanted to do the Colette Hawthorn Dress, as that is what I'd had all the trouble with myself.  To be a bit different, I wanted to use princess seams on the bodice, so we ended up drafting princess seam blocks from our original blocks.

The front is on the left, the back on the right.
Then Pat showed me how to change the bottom half of my block to make a wider skirt.  It was really simple.  We cut a straight line from the bottom to the base of the dart, then divided between the side seam and dart in two, and cut up to the waist.  The dart got closed up, and then the three strips were be widen by however much I wanted, and the spaces filled in.  I hope that makes sense, because it was so easy, and is the basis of any skirt shape. 

The front is on the left, the back is on the right.
I finished drafting my pattern, spent last weekend making a toile, and here it is!  Not too shabby, even if I say so myself!  It fits perfectly, and I can move my arms (which is always helpful!).

I'm delighted with the collar though, as it is sitting perfectly.   Unlike the complete and utter dogs dinner of a collar that I had drafted myself.  It turns out I had been messing with the back darts when I shouldn't have!

What the beep?!

I'm thinking of lowering the curve on the princess seams, and also making the collar a bit smaller.  It serves me right for not measuring the collar on the pattern first!  I like the bigger collar though, and think it would look nice on a winter dress.  So if anybody wants me, I shall be surrounded in paper and sellotape in true Blue Peter style - and if you got to the end of this post, I congratulate you because I didn't realise that I had so much to say!!

Have a great week,


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Bronte and Agnes tops

My old, irrational, fear of knit fabrics has been well and truly banished as I have been sewing so many jersey tops lately, that my sewing room has turned into a one-person production line!  Oh knit fabric, how I love that you are so forgiving in fitting!
My first top was this stripey long-sleeve version of Jennifer Lauren Vintage Bronte Top.  I bought this pattern when it was on sale before Christmas, and the fabric is a jersey/viscose mix from Craftswoman Fabrics in Carrickfergus.

This was so easy to make!  The instructions were a breeze to follow, and I used the lightning bolt stitch on my machine as suggested.  I machine-stitched (instead of hand-stitching) the overlap down at the front of the shoulders by sewing on top of the neckband top-stitching.

I loved it so much that I decided I needed many more, so ordered some black double knit fabric - I think it was from The Village Haberdashery.  The double knit turned out to be thicker than I expected, but that meant I could make some for the winter!

The colour is quite grey in this photo, but it was very sunny when I took it.  I sewed some buttons onto the shoulder overlap, but didn't have enough for both tops.  Also, please take a moment to admire the lovely fence that my tops are hanging on!  I gave up a Saturday afternoon of sewing to help Andrew put that fence up.  Not to mention the ages that it took to cut down the climbing honeysuckle that was there before.  It had to go because the trellis it was on broke in a winter storm.  Then I got the fantastic job of sitting on top of the oil tank with a paint roller to paint the bit of fence behind it!  But I digress...

More fabric was ordered; this time some jersey/viscose mix from My Fabrics, and two short-sleeve versions were made.
I have two RTW tops similar to these that get worn a lot with my skirts, so it's great to be able to make some more myself.

I had planned to make another Bronte with some red and white stripey jersey/viscose that I also bought from My Fabrics, but then Tilly released the Agnes Top, so I made it instead.

I made the version with out the gathered front, and with the gathered sleeves.  I love these sleeves so much!  I hadn't sewn anything like this before, so it was a bit of trial and error to get the elastic right.  I used my walking foot when sewing all my tops, but changed back to the normal presser foot for the sleeve elastic so that I could get a grip of the top of the sleeve head.  I got there in the end though.
The one thing that I'm not happy with (I'm being really picky, and it was my own fault) is the topstitching on the neckband.  I couldn't get my twin needle to work properly, and a line of straight stitches just looked like puckering, so I used a zig zag stitch.  It looks fine, but it's too far away from the neckband because I forgot to trim the seam allowance!  

I'll know for next time though because I've already got some fabric to make more!  

Tomorrow is my last day at my pattern drafting class (sob!), and I spent all of yesterday and this morning drafting and sewing different types of collar.  I see a lot of collars in my future!

Have a great week!


Monday, 22 June 2015

Clemence Skirt

You know when you make something, and you love it so much that you can't stop wearing it?  And then you think, "I really must wear something else, or people will think I'm gross"?  Well, that's this skirt.


It's the Clemence skirt from Love At First Stitch. My fabric is some border print wax cotton that I bought on ebay last summer with the intention of making a gathered skirt.  Then I never got around to it because I sort of fell out of love with the fabric.  That was until a few weeks ago when I saw this skirt by Veronica Darling.   It was the metal zip and the contrast hem that did it!  I wanted to pinch Veronica's skirt straight away; and as we are the same height, it would most likely fit.  But as she is in Shanghai, and I am in Belfast, I thought it would be easier to make my own!  And there must be something in the air, because Lara from Dreaming Of Avonlea recently made this gorgeous pleated polka dot skirt with a metal zip too.


It was really easy to make - just three rectangles and a waistband, then a contrast hem.  The waistband and hem are some black cotton poplin that was in my stash.  The zip came from ebay, and I ended up buying three, because inspiration may strike me to make some more.

I used this tutorial to sew the zip, but ended up having to unpick it and move it over a bit, because I stupidly forgot to try the skirt on with the zip pinned in, and it was too big.  Anyway, here's what the first go at the zip looked like.

And here's the second.  I had to move it over by about 1/2", so the top of the zip ended up lower than the waistband.  Naturally I had cut off the excess at the top of the zip, so I sewed on some black bias tape to finish it.  The right side is better than the left, but I wasn't going to unpick it. 

When I was finishing the skirt, I thought that a decorative stitch might look nice on the hem.  I used a zag zag stitch (number 24 on my machine) as I thought it went well with the geometric shapes on the fabric.

I fully intend to wear this skirt all summer, and have already worn it to work and to sewing school.  Yep, that's right; real, live, sewing school!  I found a lady in Belfast who teaches pattern drafting (amongst other things), but I'll save all the details for another post.  Suffice to say, I bored some Belfast sewing chums stupid about it when we met up last week!

Have a great week!


Saturday, 6 June 2015

The "I can't believe this turned out well" Arielle skirt

Seriously, I made such a dog's dinner of this skirt (all  my own fault, of course), that I can not believe that it actually nice, and also wearable!  But let's talk about the good bits first.


My love of Tilly And The Buttons patterns continues with the Arielle Skirt. Mine is made from some red stretch cotton sateen from Minerva Crafts.  I may have to buy more of this because I think it would make a lovely shirt dress for the winter.

The lining is some fabric that was left over from my first Mathilde blouse, and the buttons came from Minerva Crafts about 3 years ago.  I bought them simply because I liked them, and I think they look great on my skirt.  Let's take a minute to appreciate them up close.


Look at those wee faces, aren't they brilliant?!  Sadly I couldn't find them on the website anymore.

The only mod I made was to shorten the longer length skirt by 3 inches.  The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that the buttons are the opposite side to the pattern envelope.  That would be the first mistake that I made!  I thought that my fabric didn't have an obvious right side, and carefully cut out the front pieces as the excellent instructions told me too.  I sewed the darts, and joined the three skirt pieces together, and then the difference between the right and wrong sides leapt out at me when the outside of the back looked different to the outside of the front.  Much unpicking and re-stitching ensued, and let's just call it a design feature...

Naturally I had already cut out my lining, so the front pieces were wrong too.  I re-cut the smaller piece from the larger piece, and had enough fabric left to re-cut the larger front piece again.  But guess what - I cut it with the wrong side up, so it was the same as the piece that I'd previously cut!  I just had to suck it up though because I didn't have any fabric left.  In my defence, both sides of this fabric do look pretty similar.  I took this photo to show you, but it's difficult to see the difference in it.

The bit that is wrong side up is on the right.  To me, the black dots look slightly lighter, but you'd really have to look at it in real life to see it properly.  And really, who's going to be looking at the inside of my skirt?!  I'm over it already!

The instructions for attaching the lining were great, but my lining fabric frayed terribly, so I thought I'd whizz the seam allowance round the overlocker once I had attached the lining to the facing.  That was the next disaster!  I'm not sure how easy this is to see in the photo, but I managed to catch some of the lining fabric in the stitching.  It's just to the right of the curve, there is a black dot that has a little bit out of it's side, and the edge of a black dot below it.  I could have unpicked it because I hadn't used the blade on the overlocker, but I was afraid of the lining fraying, so it's staying as it is. 

Then came the buttonholes.  I think my brain had given up completely by then!  I was getting a bit confused with the whole "right over left on ladies garments" thing, and started making the buttonholes on the narrower front piece.  I had made three when, thankfully, my mum in law called round.  This gave me a break, and when I went back to it, I realised that the narrow front piece would be on top, and that would look daft.  I didn't fancy unpicking all the buttonholes, and they are covered by the wide front piece, so they stayed too.


 So after all that, I was utterly amazed that it turned out so well! 

I've been sewing some jersey tops recently, and had planned to make Tilly's new Agnes top this weekend (I got it in the post yesterday), but Andrew very kindly gave me the cold that he's had all week, and after this skirt, I don't think it would be wise to start a pattern that I haven't made before just now!  So I'm going to make a gathered skirt instead - maybe on my new Featherweight which is now in full working order.

Have a great weekend,


Monday, 1 June 2015

Cut Out And Keep - Sewing Superstar!

Just a quick post to tell you that I am this week's Sewing Superstar at Cut Out And Keep, which is a fab website that features lots of great crafty ideas and tutorials - and not just sewing!  Every day this week there will be a different sewing (and one knitting) tutorial from me.  Click here for a nosey.

Thank you to Cat from Cut Out And Keep for asking me to take part, and putting up with my less than stellar technology skills when uploading my pages!

Have a great week,


Sunday, 24 May 2015

Anna-Lou the second, and Featherweight the second

This is my latest Tilly And The Buttons Lilou mash-up that I mentioned in my last post.  You'll be pleased to know that I think I've got Lilou out of my system for the time being, as I'm not planning any more - at the minute!  This one is my second mash-up of the Lilou skirt and By Hand London's Anna bodice - the first one is here.  
To be honest, I'm not really in love with this, but it's because of the fabric.  It's from the By Hand London Kickstarter to fund printing fabric, but the fabric is quite crispy.  I washed it when I got it; then, once the dress was finished, I soaked it in fabric softner and washed it again.  It helped a bit, so hopefully it will soften more after a few washes.

It's a lovely dress though, and went together without a hitch.  I cut it all out on a single layer, and am delighted with the print matching on the back.  And what's not to love about all the bright colours?!  I think I'll take it in a bit more at the waist though.

And talking of lovely things - want to see what I got on Friday?  Of course you do!

It's Singer Featherweight 221K.  Long term readers may remember my post about my other Featherweight.  That one belonged to my Dad's Mum; this one belonged to my Mum's Mum.  It turned up in my Great Aunt's house, and we didn't even know that she still had it until recently.  My Mum kept it to show it to me, and was then going to throw it out because the light is broken, and she thought that I wouldn't want it cluttering up my house.  How wrong was she!!!  

A bit of googling tells me that it is a 221K4, and it's from 1952.  The light is broken (I'd already unscrewed it when I took the photo above), and there are some exposed wires in the foot pedal; but I threw caution to the wind, plugged it in, and it worked (and didn't fuse the whole house)!  Andrew is going to re-wire it for me, so hopefully it will be working properly soon. Below is a little video of it in action that I posted on Instagram, you can see the light fitting hanging down at the front.  This caused quite a bit of excitement from my family!

A video posted by Lynne (@ozzyblackbeard) on

I am absolutely thrilled with it, and am very lucky to own two lovely Featherweights.  

Tomorrow is a bank holiday here in the UK, so I am off work.  Hurray!  I have sewing plans, but the spirit (and weather) have been moving me to tidy up the garden over the weekend, so I might do a bit more of that.

Have a great day whatever you're up to.


Thursday, 7 May 2015

Lilou Dress

Recently Sara asked me if I would like to take part in her first Dress Up Party blog tour.  Throughout May Sara will be featuring guest bloggers reviewing their favourite patterns, and there are loads of prizes to giveaway.  As I need absolutely no excuse to make a dress, naturally I said yes! 

So now that Spring is finally here, it's time to start thinking about summer dress sewing.  Naturally I have lots of dresses planned, but for my first one I thought I'd make my fourth version of Tilly And The Buttons Lilou dress.  The other three are here, here and here.  This one is closest to the original dress, as it seems that these days I can't leave a pattern as it is.


I knew I would have to draft the bodice from my block due to my multitude of weird fitting issues, and I really was going to make it as it is on the pattern; but I wanted to try out a boat neck bodice, so that's what I did.  I've taken the waist darts in a bit since these photos were taken, as the area under the bust was a bit too loose.

I wish I'd thought about the print placement on the bodice back!
I absolutely love how this dress turned out.  The fabric is by Michael Miller, and the print is called Atomic.   I love this.  I'm trying to be a bit more experimental with colours, and I think I got that right with turquoise and orange!  It's 44 inches (112cm) wide, which is too narrow for the skirt pattern - the pattern instructions recommend using 60 inch wide fabric.  So I just narrowed the pattern pieces; here's how I did it - it's the same as on my Dolly-thorn dress.

I folded each skirt piece in half longways.  The corners of the hem and waist wouldn't match properly to allow them to fold completely flat, so I matched the hem corners together.  Once it was folded flat, I cut along the fold line in the middle of the pattern.  I left a little hinge at the top, and overlapped the hem until the pattern piece fitted onto the width of the fabric, then I taped the join with some masking tape.  This means that I can open it out again to use as the original pattern piece again.


You can see in the above photo where the pieces are taped back together down the centre.  It throws the shape of the hem out a bit (you can see this more on the top pattern piece which is the skirt front), but it's easy to even up when hemming.  Obviously, this will make the skirt less flouncey than the original, but it's still lovely and full.


I also lined the bodice using some white cotton lawn; and in a fit of doing things properly, I actually followed the instructions in the book.  I'm glad that I did, because it's a while since I lined a bodice, and I am particularly pleased with how the bottom of the lining attached to the dress.


So that's Lilou number four!  I hope you aren't bored of seeing me make this, but I really do love that skirt.  I have one more planned; I really tried to talk myself out of it, but the fabric keeps telling me that that's what it wants to be!