Moving gently on

I have been ridiculously well occupied in my blog absence – not always with sewing but mainly so. I am staggering out of the end of a load of client work, including three weddings which make me wonder how Mrs Mole , who specialises in wedding and prom dresses, ever stays sane!

I was a bit glum after my recent batch of sewing for me. Nothing really seemed to ‘hit the spot’ so I decided to go back to the wardrobe and analyse what I actually wear rather than what I would like my wardrobe to be. My wardrobe staples are jeans (sorted now thank to the Kenneth D King course) and t-shirts/tops. I tend to wear those in preference to shirts although there is no real reason why. Particularly strange since I can’t generally buy t-shirts which fit both my bust and waist/stomach area – they tend to stick out away from my front below the bust.

I still wanted to do more with the wonderful Japanese pattern cutting books but, again, I had been struggling for success with them. So…. I started by drawing out a new T-shirt block using the Kristina Shin book I used for my (successful) leggings. I knew that by drawing out a t-shirt block which fitted well I could use that to check to Japanese pattern sizing to be more sure of a good result.

Kristina Shin T-shirt block

Kristina Shin T-shirt block

The first attempt was very short. Seriously, I went back and checked my measurements and pattern cutting against the instructions and decided it was clearly personal preference. If you are using this book it would be worth checking the finished pattern length against an existing favourite garment. The fabric used was a cheap single knit viscose mix from Birmingham Rag market which was surprisingly nice for the price. Closer examination showed a run right along the centre fold that didn’t concern me as I managed to cut around the problem. The second attempt is shown left, still a little shorter than ideal and whilst not a perfect fit much closer than any I can buy so I am calling this a win and will tweak the block before making again. The neck binding is a little tight (I cut a length 80% of the neck measurement for the binding but could possibly have forgotten seam allowances.What can I say?), and the bust could possibly benefit from a small FBA but it is very comfortable to wear. Since making this I have worn it on a number of occasions and it has washed and worn well.


Side drape

Side drape

Happy with the stripe matching!

Happy with the stripe matching!

With this small success in my system I went ahead and traced out the pattern from Drape Drape 2  for the Number 2 dress. I have long wanted to try this dress but had minor doubts that it was a sensible idea for a lady of my bulk and vintage. Despite that I went ahead and traced the largest size in the book and used my new t-shirt pattern to ensure I would actually fit into it. On the same trip to Birmingham I bought a length of single knit jersey from Barrys. It feels very cool and has a cottony/lineny feel but I can’t remember the fibre content and cant be bothered to do a burn test on the remains. It has no lycra content so is reliant on its ‘mechanical’ return, which is not as good as a jersey with lycra. The pattern fitted easily into the 1.5m I had bought and I made the whole garment using just the overlocker/serger and my coverstitcher so it took very little time. I was particularly happy with the chevron stripe matching on the left side as I hadn’t relied on the overlocker to do as good as that before.

I am pretty happy with the result, though it doesn’t look anywhere like as good on me as it does on Sew Busy Lizzie ! I knew I had admired her dresses(yes, she has multiples of this dress) a good while ago but was a little surprised to see it was the beginning of 2014, shortly after receiving this book from my dear sister as a Christmas gift.

Bare legs....

Bare legs….

...or leggings

…or leggings

I wore this to a family lunch on Saturday in Northumberland  and was pretty happy with the result. It was unusually warm for the north east of England and perfect conditions for a sleeveless dress, although I did wear it with leggings as my legs are still blindingly white! Over the course of the day I was aware of the hem getting wider, and less snug on my thighs which helps to keep the ‘swag’ in shape. I will almost certainly make another one of these but will ensure I have a fabric with a good lycra content so it holds its shape better. Despite that I feel happy with the result though I think I will almost always wear this with leggings.

The trip ‘up north’ was also to take in a visit to The Bowes Museums ‘Style is Eternal’ Yves Saint Laurent exhibition which was wonderful, and as soon as I get the photographs sorted I will do another post. Just like buses – no posts for an age then two in quick succession. Back soon.

Where is May going?

I can barely believe that it is already the 18th May. It has been busy here Chez Hood, and in addition to client work I have had a wonderful house guest as my dear old Mother-In-Law has been to stay. Now that is all wonderful, we even had a trip to Stratford to see Henry IV Part 1 at the RSC (Wonderful dahlings!) with dinner after, but it isn’t getting my sewing done.

I have made a start watching the wonderful Kenneth D Kings Jeanius course, and I have to say I am enjoying it enormously. Quite a lot of what I have seen is basic practice when you have been sewing for decades but you never stop learning – and few sewers think they don’t need to know any more. Sewing is the sort of thing where it is always possible to learn something both new and amazing. Sadly, I haven’t got any further than watching (but I hope to get the trousers prepared for copying this week – honest!).

Sleeve detail (The Management said 'Ready for take off' at this pose. Beast)

Sleeve detail (The Management said ‘Ready for take off’ at this pose. Beast)

Back view

Back view

However, I did make another incarnation of the Drape Drape t-shirt that was so nearly right – but not quite. I made the adaptions to the pattern soon after the last effort was made so that I didn’t forget anything I wanted to do. That meant that I was ready to go as soon as I found a suitable stretch fabric to make up. A trip to Birmingham (whilst collecting the aforementioned MIL from her train) meant I was able to buy a suitable, but not expensive – this was still a try out – fabric. Once settled with pattern pressed flat (yes, I folded it for storage) and fabric ready I think this project was done in under 2 hours using the overlocker and coverstitcher.  I raised the neckline 10cm which means it is now decent (although if you aren’t careful you could probably still ‘flash’), and reduced the size overall. I wish I could say how I did that but I’m afraid it was just a bit of ‘fiddling’ with the original copy shop print. I had traced two sizes onto the piece I took to be enlarged and this incarnation is around the smaller size – but with some alterations. I will never be able to repeat the pattern if I lose the one I now have!

The fabric is just a four way stretch polyester jersey in another of my ‘shy, retiring’ prints! The lady in the shop has also bought this with the intention of making a holiday garment. I have to say it is perfect sunshine clothing, and I suspect this will be washed and worn to death over this coming summer.(Yes I know, I am an optimist but I am sure this will be a good one!).

The Management has just left for a week overseas so I am hoping to get loads done this week. Watch this space. And if you see me with a cup of tea and a book please remind me of the list of jobs that are waiting for me 🙂

Drape Drape OK? – The Pictures

So today the picture feature seems to be working so here we go….

Odd shape

Odd shape

As you can see the finished garment looks weird (and is a monster to fold) but that is what gives you the wonderful drape.

Neck detail

Neck detail

The instructions were to bind the neckline but I went with the easy option of a 4cm strip, folded in half, and sewn at a slight tension round the opening before anchoring with another row of stitching. Easy, fast, fine.

Back view showing fullness

Back view showing fullness


Front view - check out that neckline!

Front view – check out that neckline! 

The front view of the top doesn’t quite give the impression of how low this neckline goes as it is leaning to the back. Next version will have the neck raised by the recommended 10cm (Thanks Melissa!). The back view shows the amount of cloth in this garment – it is huge! The left sleeve is a pretty normal kimono type sleeve but the right is just a hole in the seam at the top of the  fold. I like the idea but I think that my pattern needs some attention to fitting. 

I also need to find a photographer who will mention that the back is folded up before they take the photos and clear off back to their newspaper!

I will probably wear this as I love the fabric – but I really need to try again in a different size, with a raised neckline, to see if that is better. A reasonable first draft.


Drape Drape OK?

I have finished the one piece draped t-shirt from Drape Drape 2 detailed in my last post – and I like it. I just don’t love it. I made the pattern in the size indicated by my body measurements but I think it might have been better a little smaller. I know that Melissa commented in this post that she made this up in the largest pattern provided (despite her also thinking she needed a larger size) and it was fine.

At the moment I can’t get the pictures to work on this post but I will update as soon as I can. The one major comment I would make is that the neckline on  this is low. Like really low. Just in case you were about to cut out. Check it. Twice.

Hopefully there will be more to show tomorrow if I can get the photos to work. The peas are waiting – I hope that doesn’t suffer the same size issues. (Maybe I am just making things to grow into?)

February tops progress

I have enjoyed my time making the patterns for the two Japanese tops I am making as my February Garment(s) of the Month – and they really weren’t difficult.

The Drape Drape 2 book comes with the patterns included – but not in my size. In order to be able to have these enlarged at my local copy shop I did a ‘Burda’ on them and traced all three pieces on one sheet for enlargement. They were easy to trace off into one big pattern piece after that, and it is now cut out. The fabric is a piece of 4 way stretch jersey that I bought at Birmingham Rag Market. Who knows what the composition is – but I would guess at polyester rather than rayon by touch. As you can see it is another of my shy, retiring pieces. The piece was about 150cm square and the piece took almost all of the fabric.

Only one weird pattern piece

Only one weird pattern piece

The top from Pattern Magic Stretch Fabrics, the Two Peas in a Pod, needed to be drawn out from the instructions in the book but that was an easy task. As I said in my last post I had graded the blocks up to my size so I knew this was going to fit. I still needed to take it to the copy shop as it is finished by increasing the size of the back piece, and decreasing the front. Again you end up with very strange looking pattern pieces but after the Morley Courses I wasn’t too put off by that.

More odd pieces

More odd pattern pieces

This fabric isn’t so stretchy – only across the grain – and is 100% Polyester jersey. It isn’t what I wanted to use but the other piece I chose wasn’t big enough. This took 130cm as that was how long the larger pattern piece is. The small piece could be cut from the remainder at the side after the back was cut out. I did add a little to the length of the original pieces as I may be a bit taller than the pattern was intended for (despite being only 5’4″). I can always shorten it again if this version is a bit long.

I really don’t think these will take too long to sew together once I get the right machines threaded ready to go. I do have other deadlines that I must meet before I start these but I hope to finish them before the end of the week.

February GAM – Turning Japanese!

Well, I managed to complete the garment for January in good time so I feel fairly chuffed. In addition to that I succeeded in staying out of the stores and didn’t but any RTW clothing at all in January – not even tights or other small sundries – so I am very happy. The Minoru jacket I made was almost entirely completed from stash  fabric. The only purchases made for that project were the Thinsulate interlining, the NIKWAX wash in waterproofing, and some seam sealing tape. Very satisfying.

Now, on to February. I have long enjoyed looking through all of the Pattern Magic books, and now the Drape Drape options which are growing on my bookshelf. I have been slightly put off making from the books because they seemed somewhat unwearable (particularly for a lady of my size and vintage!) but after spending all that money on the darn books, and doing two courses at Morley College (which I can strongly recommend by the way) I really feel it is time to make something I will actually wear. So….

A very wearable draped t-shirt.

A very wearable draped t-shirt.

Odd - but nicely so.

Odd – but nicely so.

For February I am proposing to make two garments. GASP! I have decided to make the strange but lovely ‘Two peas in a pod – A’ from the Pattern Magic Stretch Fabrics book (don’t ask how long I have had this!), and Model 4 ‘One piece scoop neck asymmetrical top’ from Drape Drape 2 which my sister bought me for Christmas. In fairness the bulk of the work is in the patterns with these tops – once the patterns have been drawn out the sewing should take very little time. Again there is a however. I am nowhere near the dinky little Japanese sizes. Nothing like.

Thankfully ‘The Management’ is very mathematical as I am useless and he has shown me how to work out how to work out how much I need to have the patterns included in the Drape Drape 2 book I was given for Christmas need to be enlarged. This means that I can just trace off the largest size and ask for them to be reproduced at a larger % at the copy shop. Easy. I hope.

For anyone else mathematically challenged with the same size difficulties here is the way I was shown to get the size to ask for.

Divide your actual measurement by the pattern measurement and then multiply by 100. This should give you a number greater than 100 which will be the percentage to ask for from the copy shop. For example: (Increasing 2 sizes from books largest option)

Actual measurement (98)                 ÷ 100   = 109%

Pattern Measurement (90)

In principal this should be easy to do, tracing off only the size you want to use. Don’t forget that any included seam allowances will also be increased by the extra percentage so it will be worth drawing in the pattern excluding seam allowances pre  copying.

The Pattern Magic Stretch Fabrics isn’t quite so easy as the patterns aren’t included. The blocks included suffer from the same ‘tiny model’ problem that applies to the pattern in Drape Drape. I have spent an afternoon grading them up to my enormous size (seriously – this makes me feel like something out of Gulliver’s Travels!) and the pattern adaption is very simple once you have a block that is your size. Again this needs to be taken to someone who has a clever copier that can make the increase/decrease needed for each piece. The calculations are given in the book to enable you to do this yourself but I am more than happy to pay for this to be done. It is more likely to be somewhere close to where it should be if I don’t do it!

I haven’t done any stash diving yet but I know that there should be a few options available to try these out. Only 24 days left to do this 🙂

Especially for Rhonda who asked me to flash the Minoru lining…..



….(The Management says I look like a Vulcan bomber preparing for take off. Beast.)