Liberty Queue for the Zoo Archer

This shirt has been a long time in the making. The Grainline Archer button up shirt is one of my favourite TNT patterns, if not the favourite. I have made a couple in really sensible blue chambrays that I wear so much I fear I will wear them out soon.

But I started to itch to make one in a whimsical pattern. There is something about smart clothes in unpredictable prints that I find irresistible. I usually just admire it on others, not feeling brave enough to rock flamingos or cats on office wear myself. So I started thinking that maybe instead of full out flamingos, I could try a floral Liberty fabric as a light venture into whimsical prints. A soft-start, if you will. But when I was in Liberty, stroking the rolls of floral Tana Lawn, my eyes kept landing on this fabric covered in camels, giraffes and elephants with briefcases - Queue for the Zoo. I tried to turn my attention back to the florals, but it was hopeless, I had to have this fabric.

Unfortunately, I bought it just before moving house, so it didn't get made up straight away. After settling into the new house I had no time to sew anything but superquick projects, so my whimsical Archer had to wait. Until the Easter bank holiday weekend just gone. Almost a year after I bought the fabric.

In a way it was lucky, I guess, because by this point I had bought my new machine, which helped me achieve a really neat result.

In terms of construction...I've made a couple of Archers and Alders in the past and could by now probably sew one in my sleep. It helps that it is an exceptionally well designed pattern. I remember the first time I made it, and how nervous I was about how difficult it would be. And then being surprised by how straight-forward it was. For that reason I keep recommending this pattern to friends who are getting into sewing. The instructions hold your hand throughout the process and once you have one of these under your belt you feel like a sewing bad-ass.

I don't have any photos of this, but I did flat-felled sleeves on the side and sleeve seams. It's my favourite and I learned a really easy way to do it from the Colette Negroni pattern, which doesn't involved any special foot. Because I like wearing my sleeves rolled up, the seams are on display, and a flat-felled sleeve looks great inside and out.

Those of you with good eye sight will notice that my button plackets are the wrong way around. That was intentional. I didn't fancy trying to match this messy pattern, and doing it this way around looked a bit neater.

One thing I didn't do intentionally, and wish I had thought about - the collar. It's upside down. Well, the little animals on it are anyway. When it is flipped down. So I guess I could just walk around with my collar popped.

Or not.

I normally like a tower placket on a button up shirt and always change this from the placket in the pattern, but on this busy fabric I just couldn't be bothered. Plus, I always wear my sleeves rolled up. Well, except when I'm posing for the self-timer, see below.

I considered doing the back yoke in two parts, on the bias, to create something of a visual effect. But once again I decided I couldn't be bothered. The thing is, this fabric is so busy, and so lovely, that it will demand all attention, and constructional details become just a side note.

The shirt is not as puffy at the back as it looks. It's just my terrible posture. The pelvis-out-shoulder-blades-back pose, just waiting for it to make it big on Insta.

So in conclusion - yeah, I love it! To be honest, there is a selection bias in that I only post things I like on the blog, because of the work involved in taking the photos and editing them and writing about the project, etc, but I really, really love this one. Those giraffes in trainers, parrots in top hats and elephants with briefcases put a smile on my face every time.

It will be an only child though, because this is all the whimsical my wardrobe can take. But it will be loved.

The year of the sleeve! (Part II)

I can't remember how this blouse came about really. Normally I think about and plan a project for a little while before sewing it, but that wasn't really the case with this blouse, it just happened.

I think that after my Dove blouse I wasn't ready to call it a day with the sleeve trend, so I decided to make another top with a sleeve detail. I was making an order at Minerva Crafts for a bunch of other fabrics and into my order slipped a mere metre of this sunshine yellow viscose challis. This is so not my colour, but I couldn't resist. And I have no regrets.

I wanted a quick and dirty make, and decided I'd sew the Grainline Scout tee and improvise when I got to the sleeves.

I cut out the pattern pieces and lengthened the sleeve piece by 15 cm or so. Possibly a bit more, not sure, I eyeballed it. I didn't enjoy cutting this fabric at all. Viscose doesn't stay in place while it's being cut, and I had all those daisy chains to line up both length and width-wise. I don't have any fool-proof way for doing this other than going slow and checking and double checking that the pattern is lined up.

The sewing was a whole different story. This is where my new sewing machine really showed off! Viscose challis frays like nobody's business, so I've always found finishing seams a pain when sewing with viscose. But my new machine has a double overedge stitch which looks a lot like an overlocker stitch, and it completely eliminates fraying. It's a very slow stitch to sew, but so, so worth it. I ended up finishing all seams this way.

Also, my old machine didn't do a wide range of stitch lengths, so sewing long basting stitches along the sleeve curvature to gather sleeves in order to ease them in was never quite as successful as I wished. This machine though, no problem! Has great long stitches, making easing in sleeves easy peasy.

I've sewn a couple of Scout tees already, so the pattern was not new to me. It is a delightful little pattern, so easy and adaptable. The finished look will really depend on the chosen fabric, from structured and modern in a stiffer fabric, to floaty and relaxed in a lightweight fabric. Also, it's super-hackable. I've made four Scouts in total (incl this one) and three of them were hacks. Two of them I made in two separate fabrics, by splitting the front and back bodice parts in two and creating something like a yoke. And this one...just lengthened the sleeves and added on frilly bits at the end.

Speaking of the frilly sleeves, I made them by cutting out two rectangles that measured lengthwise double the length of the sleeve hem. The width of my rectangles was determined by how much fabric I had left as I only bought one metre (and trust me, it was a squeeze). I basted one of the long edges of each rectangle, and gathered it until it was the same length as the sleeve edge. Pinned, sewed to the sleeve pieces before I attached them to the body of the blouse, and carried on sewing it as per the pattern instructions.

Because my fabric is so thin and fine, I did rolled hems (by machine) on all hems. There's loads of tutorials online for this, but I like this one by Threads Magazine.

I have to say that I'm loving this blouse a lot more than I expected. Don't you love when that happens? When something turns out better than you thought it would? I'm loving it! Can't wait for some warm weather to start wearing it!

The year of the sleeve! (part I)

Sooo, I have to admit that I hate following trends. I have this whole snobbish thing about how it's easy to sheepishly follow trends, but it takes integrity to stay true to one's own style. But every couple of seasons I fall for a trend and have to face my own hypocrisy. And boy have I fallen this season! It's all about sleeves, and I looove it!

Since big and frilly sleeves started popping up on the runways, and later the high street shops, I've been thinking about making my own top with dramatic sleeves. So I looked around the Internets for suitable patterns, and my eyes landed upon the Megan Nielsen Dove blouse. Bingo!

(Two things to come clean about here: 1) See that bit of fabric in the V neck? The facing flipped up as I rushed to get into a pose before the self timer went off. 2) I may have gone a bit crazy with the contrast while editing these photos.)

However, to reduce the cognitive dissonance of "I hate following trends, but look at me following a trend!" I had to at least stick to my standard monochrome tones.

So I made it up in a subtle ivory Prestige crepe from Fabric Godmother. As soon as I saw the pattern I knew I'd be making the full bell sleeves, so I wanted a heavy drapey fabric for this blouse. Something that would have beautiful movement. And this fabric is just the ticket. It is so thick and heavy (for a crepe). The quality is superb and feels very luxurious. As a colleague commented when I wore the blouse to work: "It looks expensive."

This fabric gets 5 stars out of 5 from me!

So let's talk about the pattern. Consistent with my previous experience of MN patterns, this one is well-designed and comes with good instructions. It's quite a loose fitting shape, so there weren't any fitting issues at all. I cut a straight size S and it fits beautifully.

The design is simple and elegant, but as usual with MN patterns, has a modern twist that adds that little something extra. Aside from the obvious, the sleeves, I am a big fan of the V neck finished with a facing. It creates such a clean look that I absolutely love.

You can see that I went for version 3 with the full bell sleeves, and the only modification I made was to the hem. This was not part of the original plan. I loved the look of the long, curved hem, but when I tried it on like that the overall look in this white-ish fabric was a bit...religious-sect-member-uniform. So I made a very impulsive decision to chop a big chunk off the bottom of the blouse and ended up with this boxy, slightly cropped shape. Which I really love! It puts the sleeves in focus and makes the overall look quite clean and simple.

So in summary - I absolutely love my Dove blouse. I feel super glamorous in it! And I can't tell you how many compliments I've received about it. The only issue: I'm bound to dip my sleeves in my food at some point.

Spring has sprung

And with it my spring wardrobe. I'll get there. Indulge me a bit first.

The arrival of spring really is the sweetest time of the year. I love the long nights of summer, the crisp chilliness of autumn, the cosiness of winter, but nothing compares to those first warming rays of sunshine after a long winter. The first snowdrops. Followed by the first daffodils. The apple and cherry blossoms. The first tender leaves on trees. Birdsong. It's like a happiness pill.

While I've never had a diagnosis I am absolutely convinced I have SAD. I become a different person with the arrival of spring. A better me. Me 2.0.

This particular year I've struggled with winter a bit more than normal. So as soon as spring arrived I embraced it. I found myself a new hobby that means I have a good reason to be outside soaking up the sunshine every free minute - gardening. I've turned the conservatory into a temporary greenhouse while preparing the soil in the garden for my tender seedlings. I have grand plans. Big dreams. My ultimate dream is coming home from work a balmy July evening, uncorking a chilled bottle of wine, and making dinner with vegetable I've grown from tiny little seeds. Eating and drinking with friends well into the night (obviously this dream takes place on a Friday).

All this while wearing something me-made. This is where the spring wardrobe comes in. The new hobby does not displace the old. With longer days and more energy there is time for both. So while I am planning my vegetable garden I am also planning my spring wardrobe. I've gone about both projects in much the same way. Decided what I want to make/grow, ordered the materials, and started the prep. Now that the seeds have germinated and my seedlings are growing in the conservatory I've started sewing. I don't have much to show yet, but it wouldn't be spring without some florals, so I've started off with this floral pencil skirt.

The pattern is the Axel skirt by Megan Nielsen. I've always been a fan of her simple, timeless designs with a little modern detail. So far I've made two Darling Ranges, one Kelly skirt (which never saw the light of day because I realised I hated my fabric choice, which isn't exactly a fixable problem) and now two Axels.

The Axel blew my mind. It is so simple, but so perfect. I made the Colette Mabel skirt last year and it just didn't work for my body type. I was so disappointed, because I love how it looks on others. The Axel suits my body the way I wanted the Mabel to. And it's so quick to make! I love quick makes. Sure, something slow and complicated is satisfying, but something quick and easy means half a new outfit in one sewing session. Clearly, I'm not one for delayed gratification.

I made one version 2 without the hip sashes (see photos below), and one version 3 (above). I have nothing but praise for either. The designs and pattern instructions are perfect. This is a great pattern for both beginners and experienced sewers.

My version 2 is a simple black ponte number. It's nothing special (aside from fantastic fit and superb comfort!), but a great wardrobe staple. I expect that I will wear it until it falls apart. And then immediately make another.

I made version 3 in a lovely floral scuba. I've not worked much with scuba as I'm not a huge fan of synthetics (but oh boy is that changing! more on that topic coming in a different post), so I was very pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to work with it. The only difficulty is pressing as it doesn't respond well to heat.  I find using a lot of steam and keeping the iron on the fabric for a bit longer than normal to lock in the heat works well. Just don't use too high heat as it is a synthetic after all.

I have so many more spring projects planned, and so many things to sow in the garden! Good thing the Easter long weekend is coming up!

Toaster Sweater 2 and a trip to Rotterdam

At the end of last year I signed up for Sew My Style 2017. The first item, to be sewn in January, was the Toaster Sweater 2 by Sew House 7.  I had some wonderful sweatshirt fabric that I had bought from Guthrie & Ghani with the intention to turn it into a Linden sweatshirt. However, I didn't get round to sewing the Linden, and when the time came to sew the Toaster sweater, I decided to use my fabric for this.

The sweater sewed up really quickly and easily. It is incredibly comfortable, yet looks stylish, thanks to the neckline shape. I didn't do any modifications at all, and while I am happy with it, next time I will lengthen the hem slightly. Also, I'll try a slightly thinner fabric. My sweatshirt fabric is very thick, and as a result a bit stiff. It looks fine, but I think a bit more drape would look even better. 

Shortly after I made Toaster sweater Josh and I were heading to Rotterdam for a long weekend. It was early February and still cold, so I packed the Toaster. And it did a great job keeping me toasty.

So overall, I am a fan. So much so that I made one for my friend as a birthday present recently. 

The February Sew My Style item was a disaster for me, but that's a story for another time.

And regarding Rotterdam, it is a lovely city. The reason we chose to go was to see a photo exhibition at the Kunsthal. We knew very little about the city before going, except that is has the largest port in Europe. I had been told by a colleague who'd been that it's quite ugly. 

But actually, I didn't find it ugly at all! I loved the architecture! And the mix of old Dutch houses and new, funky buildings.

Of course, it's nowhere near as beautiful as Amsterdam, but it has its own charm.

I wouldn't necessarily go again, as I have an endless list of other places I'd like to see, but I enjoyed our trip here very much.

Photo credit: first 3 photos are by Josh.