Friday, 12 September 2014

Craftsy - Patternmaking Basics: The Bodice Sloper

Here's my latest make:


You're probably thinking that it looks like an Elisalex, and you'd be right.  But the difference with this one is that I drafted the bodice myself!
Back in July, when I was getting frustrated with trying (and failing) to fit the back of Butterick B5748, I again found myself wishing that I could draft my own patterns because I always have to make so many pattern alterations -
  • smaller size at the shoulders, grading to a larger size at the waist
  • full bust adjustment
  • shortening the bodice length
  • lowering the neckline at the front and back
  • sway back adjustment
  • sometimes having to take some width from the centre back

I'm exhausted just reading that list!  Actually doing the alterations is both time consuming and frustrating; which is why, once I have the fit right, I tend to sew the same pattern several times.  There are plenty of times that I've thought that it would be quicker and easier to draft the pattern myself, and I have enjoyed the bit of pattern hacking that I've already done.

I live in the crafting backwater that is Northern Ireland, where fabric shops and sewing classes are thin on the ground, so there was no way that I could find a local pattern drafting class, as they just don't exist.  I know this for a fact - I've looked out for drafting classes on several occasions.  Enter the wonder that is Craftsy*.

* Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with Craftsy, I just think it's brilliant, and bought this class with my own cold, hard cash!

These have been my constant companions lately!
Somewhere at the back of my brain, I remembered that there was a pattern drafting class on Craftsy.  I looked it up, and it's called Patternmaking Basics: The Bodice Sloper, and it happened to be on offer at £25.50 at the time, so I did the sensible thing and bought it.

What the class teaches -
  • How to take your measures.  It definitely helps to have someone to give you a hand with this.  Andrew was the lucky person who got to help me, and if he can do it, then any non-sewist can.  But, let me tell you, never has the length of a shoulder been so hotly debated!!
  • How to calculate the measurements to make a moulage, which is a skin tight fitting bodice.
  • How to draft the moulage, and make it up in fabric.
  • Fitting the moulage, and altering the draft.
  • Adding ease to turn it into a sloper. This is all for a woven fabric sloper, but it also shows how to make it into a knits fabric sloper.
This is my finish moulage
I'm not going to lie, there is a lot of work in this class.  I think it took me about a month from start to finish, but I really enjoyed it.  But, goodness me, this class is amazing.  The instructor, Suzy Furrer, is great and explains everything very clearly.  As Craftsy is an American website, all the calculations are in inches.  I'm ok with working in inches, but not calculating - all the 8s and 16s were a bit to much for my un-mathematical brain!  So I converted all my measurements to metric, and calculated with that.  It was easy to do, and there is a metric conversion chart in the class materials.

And these are my finished woven slopers.  The paper I used for these is from Ikea.  It's childrens' drawing paper called Mala, it's 3 metres long, and is £3 a roll.

The only area where I had problems was drafting the armsyces, but I was able so contact the instructor through Craftsy; and after quite a few messages and photos, I got them sorted out.  They still need a bit of tweaking, but I know I'll get there with it.

When I made up my first test bodice, I couldn't get over the fit.  It was amazing!  The front upper chest is perfect - no gaping!  The bust fits perfectly, and the waist darts fitted perfectly too!  And the back: oh, the back.  I honestly don't think that I've even had a bodice back that fitted so well.  As you can probably tell, I was absolutely delighted.


I couldn't wait to make my first garment, and decided to draft a princess seam bodice, as this is covered in the class.  I wanted to make something that I knew what it was supposed to look like when it was finished.  Also, I had been wanting to make a purple Elisalex for winter, as my first purple Elisalex has definately seen better days! 


I bought this purple gabardine in The Spinning Wheel in Belfast a few weeks ago, it was £10 a metre, and as it is 60" wide, I used just over one metre (yey for having short legs!).  I don't really love this gabardine though.  It puckered badly at the zip, as you can see in the photos, and it wrinkles like nobody's business.  The lining is some poly-something from the sale rail in Sew N Sew in Belfast - it is physically impossible for me to walk past that rail without stopping!  I love the ribbon I used on the hem, it was from Dunelm Mill.

But I don't really care about the gabardine because I'm so pleased with my first ever drafted bodice.  The one and only fitting issue is the area under the bust.  It's a bit roomy, but this would explain why I had to shorten the front pleats on the skirt.  I'm going to un-pick it a bit and fix it.


My head is now bursting with drafting ideas, and I have been stalking Craftsy to see if any of the other drafting classes are on sale (I don't want to pay full price if I don't have to!).  I'm currently working my way through Creative Darts and Seam Lines and Creative Necklines.  I have so much more to talk about with these classes, but this has turned into a very wordy post, so I'll leave it for another time.

Have a great crafting weekend!


Saturday, 30 August 2014

Russian Dolly Dress

After the surprising success of my first circle skirt dress, I made another one! This time I used my modifed Butterick B5603 bodice.

Oh, and new glasses!!  I would have loads of glasses if it weren't for my stupidly poor eye sight, and therefore stupidly expensive prescription.  Grrr... 


Yes, this fabric does have Russian dolls on it, so naturally it was calling my name from across the shop.   The shop in question is Sew N Sew in Belfast, the fabric is cotton poplin and was £5.99 per metre.  I bought 3 metres, but used about 2 because it's 60 inches wide.


I tried to match the fabric at the bodice seams, but didn't do a great job.  It's not too bad on the front, but rubbish on the back, I can live with it though.

I did another lapped zip on the back, and am delighted with it.  Again I used this tutorial from Lauren at Lladybird.  I also used my new narrow zipper foot which I mentioned ordering in this post.  It fits my Elna 520 perfectly and is a million times easier to use than the wide zipper foot. This was the first time I used this foot, and it was so easy that I did most of it while I was waiting for my hair dye to develop.

The skirt was cut with the dolls being horizontal at the centre front and back because it was the only way the pattern would fit onto the fabric.  I also added some pockets to the side seams. 

Again I used the By Hand London tutorial for heming a circle skirt, and it worked perfectly.

I love this dress.  It's a bit ridiculous, but the Russian dolls are so bright and cheery and make me smile, and it's that what it's all about!

Have a great week,


Monday, 25 August 2014

Blog Hop

You may have seen the Blog Hop on some of the blogs, and Louise from Thread Carefully very kindly nominated me to take part!  I love reading Louise's blog, she makes gorgeous dresses that I would love to pinch, but it wouldn't do me any good because she's so much taller than me!  

What's a blog hop?  Amy from Almond Rock describes it as a blogging conga line, which I love the sound of!   One blogger answers four questions, then nominates two bloggers to do the same.  I have nominated Claire from I Want To Be A Turtle, and Lara from Dreaming of Avonlea.  

So here are my answers:

Why do I write? 

I love reading other blogs, at tea break and lunchtime I'm the person in work with my phone stuck to my hand reading and commenting on blogs on Bloglovin'.  I thought that since I enjoyed reading other blogs, maybe somebody out there might be interested in reading mine.

I enjoy the process of documenting my makes, and tend to use my blog as a reference for myself on how I fixed a certain issue, or changes that I made on a pattern.

I also love the crafting blog community.  I know it's been said before, but everybody is just so friendly and helpful.  It really does restore my faith in the human race!   If I'm having a problem with a techique, I know I can just google it, and somebody out there will have had the same issue, and posted a solution.  It's lovely to meet so many people who share the same interests as me, and make some on-line friends.  I yet to meet any bloggers in person though.

What am I working on?

I try not to have too many projects on the go at once, because I just find that overwhelming.  I usually have one knitting and one sewing project that I'm working on.  My current knitting project is a baby cardigan for my friend who is pregnant.  My sewing project is the pyjama bottoms from Love At First Stitch, but I am also working on a pattern drafting class from Craftsy. 

How does it differ from others of its genre?

Honestly, I don't think my blog differs much from other crafting blogs.  I would love to be able to design a beautiful blog, but I just don't know enough about it to know where to start.  I know I could learn, but that would take up valuable crafting time!  In fact, I am constantly astonished that my blog actually works; I don't have a good track record with technology - I managed to break a photocopier and a sat nav cable in work last week.  Eep!

How does my writing process work?

It usually starts when I finish whatever make I've been working on.  I'll find myself composing paragraphs in my head but don't ever write them down, so I will start a post and jot down heading or a sentence about certain things I want to talk about.  I won't always write the whole post straight away, but I find it really helps to have those heading saved so I can remember what I want to say!

I generally tend to be a week or two behind on my blog, so a make can have been finished for a while before I blog about it.  It can be difficult to get the photos taken for a post due to our not so great British weather!  Although I can't complain this summer, the weather has been lovely.  

I will sometimes write two or three posts at a time, but it might not be the whole post in one go.  I try to devote a couple of hours to writing, because I find that's works better for me that short bursts of writing. 


I hope you enjoyed my stop on the blog hop, and thank you to Louise for nominating me.  Don't forget to check out Claire and Lara's posts next Monday.

Have a great week,


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Baby Charm Quilt

I have something a bit different to show you today, and it's some unselfish sewing too.  This is a baby quilt for my friend who is pregnant.

When I found out, my first reaction was, "I'm going to make all the things!".  Well, actually, that was my second reaction; my first was "congratulations!".  I'm also knitting a baby cardigan, and have another one planned.  I'm not the only person on crafting duty though, Friend's Mum is getting to make the curtains and bedding for the baby's bedroom.  I dodged a bullet there!  I hate making curtains, ever since I volunteered to make six pairs of curtains for my sister when she moved into her apartment.  Shudder.

I'd had this notion to try a bit more quilting after the success of my OXO mat, so suggested a quilt, and Friend said yes.  Being a very novice quilter, I knew it had to be something easy, and I finally settled on the Baby Charm Quilt Pattern from Craftsy.

As I say, I am a novice quilter, and this pattern was perfect for me.  The instructions were nothing short of fantastic.  Everything was explained clearly, and there were even diagrams for the tricky bits like the binding.  I only disregarded the instructions once, and that was on finishing the binding.  The instructions said to hand-stitch the binding down, but of course I couldn't be bothered with that!  So I machined it - aaand it looked like a dog's dinner.  So I unpicked it, and sewed it by hand.

I made this in just over a week when I was off on leave at the end of July, and I'm so glad that I had that block of time to make it, otherwise I think I would have felt like it would never be finished.  I'm guessing it took about 40 hours to make altogther, and I loved making it, but I think it will be my first and last quilt.  I have always been in awe of the amazing quilts that quilters make, but I'm even more in awe of their patience now.


The pattern says to use pre-cut Charm Packs for the squares, but I couldn't get those, so I bought fabric and cut it into squares with my rotary cutter.  The fabric and 100% cotton batting is all from a quilting shop in Belfast called The Quilters' Quest.  The baby's bedroom theme is jungle animals, so I was delighted when I spotted this print,


then about five seconds later I spotted this one,


and these two followed quickly after.


Once I had each square and it's cream corners put together, I had to decide on the layout.  I layed some squares out and took a photo on my photo, then tried another layout and took a photo.  I couldn't decide which looked nicer, so emailed them to my sister and Friend.  Both liked the second layout, so that's what I made.


I bought some extra of the red fabric for the border, and I was pretty sure the backing wouldn't be wide enough (which it wasn't), so I also bought enough to add this red strip across the back.


For the actual quilting, I went with the Stitch In The Ditch technique, and used cream thread to match the backing.  I used a red bobbin thread for the bit where the backing is red, and whilst it was a faff to sew, I think it was worth it.  The finished quilt is about 46" square.

I used my walking foot throughout, and it was magic!  This foot is just great, I'm so glad I bought it.

Friend absolutely loves it, and I'm pretty pleased with it myself!  I delighted with how well the squares lined up.  Should I ever decide to make another quilt though, I will re-read this post to remind me how long it took, and hopefully that will talk me out of it!

Have a great week!


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Anna and the circle skirt - the dress that nearly wasn't

Good grief, this dress was a rollercoaster!  But a rollercoaster in a good way - it's hard to know where to start to tell the story.



I'll start with the pattern.  I had originally intended to make Butterick B5748, but I just couldn't get the fit right on the back.  It was lumpy, and saggy and just weird, no matter what I did to it.

I really loved the circle skirt, and hadn't made one before, so decided to use the good old By Hand London Anna bodice and the Butterick pattern's circle skirt.  Anna and a circle skirt are a match made in heaven, I've seen so many lovely versions of them.

I stupidly managed to chop my own hand off in this photo!
The fabric is the last of my red fabric, and also the last piece of cotton I have from The Paragon in Donegall Pass in Belfast.  I starting laying the fabric out, and it was at that point that I realised that I didn't like it.  I thought it was a bit too twee, even for me.  I procrastinated about what to do, but decided to crack on with it and use it as a practise piece for the circle skirt, and also a lapped zip.  I was happy enough to use the fabric for this, as it cost less than £15 for the whole dress.


So off I went, merrily sewing away.  I decided not to bother finishing the seams as I wasn't going to wear it.  The dress came together without a hitch.  The lapped zip worked beautifully first time, I used this tutorial from Lauren of Lladybird.

Once the zip was finished, I tried it on to see what it looked like, and it was gorgeous!  I couldn't believe it, you could have knocked me down with a feather!  The fabric seamed to have transformed itself into loveliness.  Then I could have kicked myself for not finishing the seams, so I took the pinking shears to them.

I hadn't bothered putting pockets in the side seams when I thought it was just for practise, so I made some patch pockets using my own how-to.   


Hemming was a breeze.  I let it hang for a day or two, but the bias didn't drop so I didn't have to trim anything off.  Then I used this tutorial from By Hand London - I went with version #1.

So there you have it, the Shocked and Surprised dress.  I like it so much I might wear it to a family wedding later this month!  

I'd love to know if anybody else has had something like this happen.

Have a great week,


Thursday, 31 July 2014

Myrna Cardigan

I have finally got around to photographing my Myrna cardigan, and I'm a bit meh about it.  If I'm honest, I have been since I finished it a few weeks ago.

There are two things I don't really like about it, one is the fit.  It's fine at the shoulders and the tops of the sleeves, but too big at the underarms and middle back.  Also the body is a bit too long.

The other is the yarn.  I used three skeins of Rowan Pure Wool Worsted (the colour is Plum 122), and it's a bit itchy.  I sprayed it with water to block it, but maybe I'll wash it properly to see if it softens up a bit.


I love this pattern though.  It's really well written and easy to follow.  My favourite bit is the construction of the sleeve heads.  You pick up the stitches around the armhole, and work short rows to shape the top of the sleeve.  I love how it looks, and it was really easy to do.


I also love the buttons.  They are dyed shell buttons and I got them from Love Knitting, where I also got the yarn.


I added some short row shaping to the bust using the calculation in Little Red In The City.  I also stabilised the button bands using this tutorial from Lauren at Lladybird.

I don't hate it, but it's not a favourite.  Maybe I'll try it again another time in a softer yarn.  I'm thinking of Cascade 220, and would love to know if anybody has used this and what they thought of it.