My Simplicity pattern hack for The Eve Appeal.

How often do you alter or adapt a pattern when you’re making it? By that I don’t mean the usual things like adjusting the fit to suit your height or bust measurement, I mean really alter it significantly with things like changing the sleeves or completely changing the length. 

I’ve always enjoyed doing exactly this because it’s a way of making a garment completely original and all your own even if loads of other dressmakers are sewing and sharing their versions of a particular pattern. These days this process even has it’s own name-pattern hacking. You can read a couple of my previous blog posts where I’ve hacked patterns to give you some other ideas, here and here.

When I was invited by The Fold Line to take part in the Simplicity Patterns/Eve Appeal campaign this year I knew it would be something I’d enjoy and could really get my teeth into. There are a range of patterns you can choose from and for every one sold Simplicity will make a donation to the Eve Appeal. I picked a blouse pattern #8658 to use because I could see its potential for changes, not least because it’s shown in stripes on the envelope and I knew there was fun to be had playing with the directions of them. I chose a really lovely blue striped shirting with a little bit of stretch generously provided by Minerva and while I waited for it to arrive I did some sketching of ideas. The raglan sleeve is in two parts running down the top of the arm to the wrist so my first idea was to have the stripes running in different directions, which led on to having the lower, bell-shaped part of the sleeve cut on the bias. 

I thought the back needed to be a bit more interesting than just a centre back seam with a button and loop closure so I altered it to include buttons and buttonholes. The blouse is over-the-head anyway so I don’t need to be able to open the buttons to get it on. The neckline is finished with bias binding but why put it on the inside when you can make a feature of it on the outside? 

Strangely I never saw it as staying just a blouse, it was always going to become a dress but how to do that? I like long floaty skirts so I sketched out quite a few variations of gathered, pleated and flounced skirts, all with pockets in the seams somewhere. I had decided that the bodice should be higher at the front than the back which obviously would affect the skirt levels but I eventually left that decision until the bodice was made up and I could see it more clearly on the stand.

I thought I’d do some of my initial adaptations and make it up as a blouse first to check the fit. The back is easy to change because it already has a CB seam so I merely added 5cms to the edge to allow for a grown-on button-stand. The original stitching line will remain as the CB and that is where the buttons and buttonholes will get positioned. I traced all the pattern pieces I needed onto spot-and-cross paper although the envelope does include a large sheet of squared tissue paper for you to use to make your own changes if you don’t have spot-and-cross. [You could use cheap wide greaseproof paper if you have it, I used to use broadsheet newspaper taped together when I was a student but that’s getting harder to find!]

Having traced the two parts of the sleeve once I then retraced them again (I didn’t want to cut up the first ones, I may want the sleeve full-length at some point) just the top parts to a length a bit above my elbow, around bicep level, not forgetting to add seam allowance to the new lower edge. Next I pinned the FULL-LENGTH sleeve pieces together along the stitching lines vertically so that I could trace off a new single piece for the lower sleeve. As well as the regular straight grain I added a bias grainline too because I’d be using that with the stripes. You could add extra fullness to this part by cutting and spreading if you wish, it would make a very voluminous bell-shaped sleeve.

I cut a size ‘medium’ according to both my body measurements and by referring to the finished garment measurements printed on the pattern. Using some lovely printed poplin from Stitch and Knit, a new fabric and yarn shop near me, I made up the blouse. Part of my plan on the dress was to highlight the seaming with topstitching so I did this on the blouse too although I used a fun ‘circles’ stitch in a contrast colour which echoed the design on the fabric. I didn’t cut the lower sleeve on the bias though because it wouldn’t make any obvious difference to the look of the print. I tried out my idea of French binding on the outside of the neck edge and that looked good too. 

Overall I was very happy with the fit of the medium so I didn’t need to make any changes to sizing. This meant I could retrace the front and back bodices to my chosen length which was approximately Empire-line or a few centimetres below my under-bust line. To decide where this was first I pinned the front and back parts together at the side seam on the stitching line and then attached it all to the stand. You can then see more clearly where you might want to draw the horizontal style lines from front to back, especially if you want a sloping line. With these lines drawn on you can trace off the new, shorter parts and check them on the stand and on yourself too. This is important because I thought I’d made the line a little too high so I added some more length to the bottom, 5cms in all I think. 

This might all seem like a lot of tracing off and you could just indicate on the pieces where your various cutting lines are (or wing it!) then transfer your markings direct to the fabric. As I planned to rotate the back so that the stripes were horizontal I wanted accurate pattern pieces. 

The bodice parts cut on the various grains to utilise the stripes.

After cutting the bodice section in striped fabric I first reinforced the buttonstands with iron-on interfacing up to the fold line. Next I attached the appropriate sleeve parts and top stitched the seams, then joined the shoulder seams so that I could bind the neckline. I’d cut a long bias strip of fabric 5cms wide which I folded lengthwise wrong sides together and pressed to get a crisp edge. Next place the bias on the WRONG SIDE of the fabric with its folded edges to the cut neck edge, this is because you will flip the binding to the outside eventually where it will be visible. Once you have pinned the binding in place you will know exactly how long it needs to be so then you’ll need to neaten the ends by turning them RS together and stitching. Fold them back out and pin in place, it should be level with edges of the buttonstands. Stitch the binding in place using a 1cm seam allowance, trim and snip as required then flip it to the right side and topstitch in position around the neck. The photos of the blouse version should make this clearer.

Once you’re certain of the length stitch the end of the bias like so.
It’s clearer in this image that the RIGHT SIDE of the bias is first attached to the WRONG side of the fabric, and that the end is neatened to finish level with the fold.
It should look like this when it’s finished.

You can sew the buttonholes at this stage too if you like or leave them until the end. I’d bought the most gorgeous metal buttons from Duttons for Buttons in Harrogate, Yorkshire, the only problem was that the loop on the reverse of them isn’t central which is why the top button looks a bit off kilter, it had to be sewn like that so that the top band remained level.

I attached the lower bias-cut sleeve parts next, sewed up the side seams and elasticated the cuffs., as per the instructions (yes I did use them occasionally!)

I still couldn’t decide what to do with the skirt so I tried a couple of ideas out with fabric scraps to mock-up various looks. The shirting is quite fine so it gathers really nicely without a lot of bulk, if I’d used pleats I would have had the complicated task of working out the pattern pieces to fit accurately onto a curved and dipping lower bodice edge and that was a challenge too far-especially as the stripes would have had to match too!  

flat all the way around-too much stripe matching for this one!
gathers all the way around.
Smooth front with side gathers, which is what I finally settled on.

Eventually I settled on a bit of a technical cop-out by using two simple rectangles which gathered onto the lower edge of the bodice instead of making shaped skirt pieces, apart from the central areas where they would be flat. This meant that the hem followed the same line as the bodice, higher at the front than the back, but the side seams will pitch slightly forwards as a result. It isn’t the end of the world but rather that than make the dress too complicated for you to try copying for yourself. And of course I put pockets into the side seams, with the stripes running on the opposite grain. I have a cardboard template for the pockets which I made ages ago and I just draw around it directly onto the fabric as required. (Basically I drew around my hand onto card, plus a bit of extra space, plus a seam allowance and a straight edge on one side to sew to seams) 

I placed the pocket bags 10cms down from the top edge on each of the side seams.

One final twist I added at the end was to insert elastic around the hem to give it an unusual silhouette. I turned up the hem 5mm and pressed it in position then I pressed it up again by 2.5cms. I topstitched top and bottom leaving a small gap through which I inserted 2cm wide elastic about 1 metre long. The casing could double as the hem if I choose to take the elastic out in the future. 

Mr Y and I went to Kew Gardens on a beautiful day in September and I took the opportunity to pop into the ‘Ladies’ and change into my dress for a photoshoot with more interesting backdrops than my back garden!

I hope this has given you a few ideas that you could try for yourself, this pattern is an ideal blank canvas and it has a few suggestions included which you could try first of all. There are so many possibilities you could attempt, and some of the other bloggers involved may have used this pattern too so it will be interesting to compare their own takes on it. I wanted to mess about with stripe direction, this would also work if your fabric has a strong one-way design. You could highlight the seams using piping, ribbon or other trims, what about an exposed zip down the back? you could leave the seam on the top of the sleeves open and secure it at intervals with little buttons? Obviously you don’t have to turn it into a dress but you could play with the length or put straight horizontal seams across, maybe at different levels to each other? It could potentially be a scrap-buster too…so many possibilities! If you’re going to add style lines which aren’t already there don’t forget to add seam allowance to the edges of them, include a notch or two if necessary so that you know which pieces you’re matching together.

You might have tried and trusted patterns at home which would be ideal springboards to new ideas, or by buying this pattern you will be helping raise valuable funds for research and support of those suffering with female gynaecological cancers.

Whatever you decide to try, enjoy the exploring the possibilities, don’t use expensive fabric to start with if you’re not sure you’ll like the result, look in your workbox to see what trims and embellishments you could use, contrast top stitching is one of my favourite, and most simple, ways of making something unique. There’s a whole series of other bloggers who will be taking part in this challenge in the coming weeks and months so why not take a look at what winner of the Great British Sewing Bee 2018, and pattern-hacking queen, Juliet has done for starters, or Abi of @whatabimakes and Rachel @thefoldline have added their spin to patterns in the range now too.

You can find further information about the patterns used here too

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and for more information about The Eve Appeal try here

Twitter: https://twitter.com/eveappeal

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eveappeal/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eveappeal/

Think outside the box, what’s the worst that can happen? you’ll ‘waste’ a bit of fabric, or you could discover hidden designing talents, just have fun and do your bit for charity at the same time.

Happy Sewing!

Sue

Isca dress by Marilla Walker

You’ll know if you’ve read my recent blog about pattern companies that I have a ‘mixed’ opinion shall we say of indie patterns. Some of them are great with interesting, original and well-drafted patterns, others are too simplistic, lacking in instructions and poorly drafted. I happen to think that Marilla’s patterns definitely fall into the first category.

I first met Marilla nearly 3 years ago when she organised, via Instagram, a meet up at Walthamstow market in London. It was my first sewing meet up and I was more than a little nervous because it was such an alien idea in principle-turning up in a part of London I’d never visited before to meet a bunch of people I’d never met before! It was like a sewing blind date but I needn’t have worried because everyone (of course) was lovely. I’m slightly embarrassed now that I think about it that it’s actually taken me this long to try one of Marilla’s patterns out, anyway, I’ve broken my duck and I want to tell you all about the Isca dress.

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You actually get two quite different dresses for the price of one with just a few similarities. I got mine as a PDF but you can also buy them as paper patterns which Marilla hand-prints and packs herself-what a lovely touch.

I was particularly intrigued by the draped wrap-over front so this was the one I printed off and happily the PDF all went together well. I’m getting better at them now I think because I found them quite tricky to start with. I don’t always print off the making instructions because they can be quite lengthy but I did print these in ‘booklet’ format so now I don’t need to lug the laptop out to the workroom. Although I didn’t encounter any problems Marilla does give lots of useful advice in the instruction booklet about all sorts of details so if this is all new to you either read them first on a screen or print off the booklet before you do anything else.

The pattern has been out for a little while now so there are quite a few to look at for fabric inspiration but I think this striped version by Takaka is particularly lovely, if you search with the hashtag ‘iscashirtdress’ on Instagram you’ll find more for both styles.

I’d found a lovely soft chambray at Hitchin market which was perfect because it had sufficient structure but with drapiness. You could also choose a washed linen, a printed medium-weight crepe could look nice too, nothing with a lot of stretch though because of the neck-band feature-it could be a nightmare of stretchiness to sew then.

Because my fabric was plain it’s a breeze to cut out, yay, no matching!

The sizing isn’t the traditional 10/12/14 etc, take your body measurements and compare them to the chart [in inches or centimetres] and then pick the size nearest your measurements. There’s also a chart of finished garment measurements which will help you decide the sort of final fit you want. I’m really happy with the fit personally, it’s a close fit to the bust and shoulders becoming looser over the waist. One really useful thing Marilla has included, although I personally don’t have to use it, is instructions for a full or small bust adjustment. This would be particularly helpful because the strange shapes of the front bodice pieces could make this a bit of a head-scratcher otherwise.

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FBA and SBA instructions

Although I’m a very experienced dressmaker there is some very helpful guidance if this a more advanced construction to you. Marilla is very thorough about where to trim seams, which direction to press them and how to make lapped or French seams if you want to use them. I didn’t top stitch any of the seams but you could do this if you wanted faux lapped seams for example.

I found topstitching the narrow band at the neck the trickiest part to sew, it had a tendency to twist and I had to unpick and re-sew a couple of sections. It would be well worth tacking this whole area if you’re in any doubt at all, it might save you time and frustration in the long run.

I really like the unusual details in this dress such as the raglan shoulder seam at the back, and of course the draping front section with it’s narrow band.

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The raglan shoulder seam at the back. It has a small yoke piece on the inside too, to stabilise the shoulder which is another construction detail I like.

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The back has darts and a waist seam which give it a very smooth, fitted shape in contrast to the front.

The pattern pieces for the front may look slightly curious shapes initially but the reason will become clear when they are joined together. There is bust shaping which results in the dress sitting smoothly over the bust and armhole area. This is a very well drafted pattern and a lot of time, care and attention has gone into it. This is the sort of indie pattern worth investing in! A single designer has put so much into this pattern for it to be the best it can be and I really respect that.

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I love the way it ties across to the side seam.

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Indoor Doris is a bit skinnier than me so the dress looks a bit droopy on her. Also, it’s crumpled because I took these photos after I’d worn it for the day!

When I finished the dress all it needed was a button-fortunately Marilla points out that unless you need the dress to open up for nursing then this can be purely decorative. I had a rummage and found a single beautiful vintage button so I used that, it would have been too big otherwise. IMG_8012I finished the dress in time to wear at the Sewing Weekender in Cambridge and it got lots of very nice compliments which is down to the pattern not me being model material!

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pockets on a slant!

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The other pocket is under the ‘flap’

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The hem dips at the front and isn’t intended to be level all the way round.

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I’ll definitely make another version of this style of Isca before too long but the shirt-dress version won’t be very far down my autumn sewing list either. Plain or patterned, this is a stylish and unusual dress, in many ways it sums up why I love to sew my own clothes than a more ‘conventional’ style pattern might. You’d be very hard-pushed to find a dress like this in the shops and even if you did it would almost certainly come with a designer price tag! It could be sleeveless for summer in a cotton, or a really soft babycord with a sweater under for cooler weather. There’s room to eat a big lunch as well!!

Marilla has created a number of other patterns, including the Roberts collection dungarees which have been incredibly popular so check out her website to see them all. She’s an amazingly crafty and creative woman and if you want to hear her talking more about her background you can listen to her on the Stitcher’s Brew podcast here. Oh, and she makes her own shoes too…and bras…and soap…in fact I don’t think there’s anything she wouldn’t have a go at making!!

So normal blog service has been resumed and I’ve returned to writing about dressmaking and not just getting uppity about sewing stuff that bothers me….although judging by all the responses I’ve had, much of it bothers you too.

Until next time,

Happy sewing,

Sue

 

Mayberry dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade

Jennifer Lauren is a designer who is based in New Zealand and her patterns come in both paper and PDF format. She has several womenswear designs including dresses, tops, skirts and a cardigan, and there’s a man’s cardigan too and, just for a change, her newest pattern release is Nixie knickers! Her aesthetic is both modern and vintage, and lines are simple and unfussy with the occasional quirky detail which is what attracted me to her designs in the first place.

The Mayberry is a dress with a drawstring waist and an asymmetric button front, and 3 different sleeve lengths. It also comes with the choice of 4 cup sizes (A to D) alongside the actual bust measurement which means you should be able to get an excellent fit without having to do an FBA or SBA.

I was chosen as a reviewer for the dress and obviously I would be making the PDF version, so initially I was aghast when I thought there were 100 pages to print out! On closer reading it was clear that you only print the bodice front in the cup-size that you need, not all of them, phew! Also, you don’t have to print all the sleeves, only the ones you want. To help you decide which sets of pages you need to print there is a single page with all the plans for each section illustrated which is really helpful.

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This is the ‘key’ to which sets of pages to print out

If you need help with deciding which size and cup you need to choose there’s a very comprehensive set of instructions, with illustrations, which should set you right. There are also several lay plans for the different sizes on different fabric widths so you shouldn’t have a problem cutting out.

As with previous PDFs I don’t print out the instructions, I read them as I go along. Jennifer suggests that you print out and stick together each of the sections, and then trace them off and cut the traced sheets out. I can’t be doing with all of that, I just want to get going but obviously the choice is personal so you might prefer to do the tracing/cutting out method.

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I’ve used a highlighter so that I can clearly see which line I’m following.

Once I’d got everything good-to-go I could cut out my fabric. I used a gorgeous plain aubergine-coloured fabric I’d bought about two years ago from the Man outside Sainsbury’s at Walthamstow market, I’m not sure what it is though, possibly challis. Either way it has a nice drape so would be ideal for the Mayberry. Other suitable fabrics would be chambray or soft denim, soft woollens or cotton lawn, Jennifer lists a few choices and also reminds you to wash your fabric before using it.

It’s really important to bear in mind when you’re cutting out the bodice fronts and facings that because they are asymmetric you mustn’t flip the pieces over if you’re using a patterned fabric because they could be all wrong if you do. You should be OK with a plain fabric just so long as it’s the same on both sides-not needlecord for example. a note on that-if you’re making the Mayberry in a thicker fabric for winter then you could cut the facings in a lighter contrast fabric for a neat touch and to reduce the bulk at the edges.

 

It’s an idea to highlight important information as a reminder to yourself. You may notice in the right-hand photo that my cutting out looks a bit inaccurate, this because the fabric is a bit slithery and moved about a bit so I had to check some of the smaller pieces carefully. I’m always very fastidious about cutting out because if it’s wrong before you start sewing pieces together it will only get only more wrong as you go, especially if you tend to be a bit sloppy with seam allowances too! You have been warned! 

Jennifer’s order of making has you putting the bodice together and completing the buttons and buttonholes at this early stage. This is good a good idea although it’s one that I didn’t follow!! That’s because I hoped to use some snap fasteners instead of buttons but I hadn’t got (and never did manage to get) any in the colour that I wanted. Eventually I used buttons so making the holes was less accurate than if I’d done them without sleeves and skirt attached, never mind.

One of the details I like about the Mayberry is the drawstring waist. I was really chuffed to find some cord in exactly the right colour in Anglian Fashion Fabrics in Norwich on my recent visit, along with some cute little metal stoppers (if only they’d had the snaps in the same colour too)IMG_4282

Delightfully, there are pockets in the side seams which is always good news! Joining the skirt to the bodice is pretty straightforward and I thought the instructions for sewing the casing were good. You sew a wide 2.5cms seam allowance first of all then you trim one side down and press under and stitch the remaining side down to form the casing.IMG_4278

The sleeves are nicely full without being overblown and they have a pretty, narrow band to finish them off. The instructions for making the sleeves and inserting them into the arm-scyes are very detailed, along with helpful illustrations. IMG_4281

I decided to finish the hem off by hand because I didn’t want a row of machine stitching showing but you can also machine it up if you choose.fullsizeoutput_2031

I think the Mayberry is a nice variation of the shirt-waister and I’ve made my version as a simple, elegant winter dress but I’ll definitely make more in other fabrics and with another sleeve length. You could make it in nice check brushed cotton for example, how about cutting the left front panel on the bias for a quirky feature?  I appreciate Jennifer Lauren giving me the pattern for nothing in order to review it and luckily I’ve been very happy with the outcome. I made the 14 with a C cup and the fit is very good for me. If you’re a bigger cup size than a D then you’ll still need to do an FBA but at least you’ll be starting from a better position.

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T-dah! (that carpet needs a good vacuuming…)

This would be a good style to try if you’re an ‘improver’ and keen to try something a little more tricky. You need to concentrate when you’re cutting out, and making up too because of the asymmetric front but it’s a satisfying make.

Why not give it a try…

Happy Sewing

Sue

 

 

A Grainline ‘Alder’ shirtdress with sleeves

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I’ve already made one Alder earlier in the summer and liked wearing it more than I expected to…a slightly bizarre statement surely?  I loved the fabric, a cute butterfly-print poplin bought from Backstitch in the spring, and I like the style a lot but it felt a bit snug over the bust (and I’m not large) and I couldn’t get the collar to go on the neatly. This may have been because I forgot halfway through (or never actually checked) that the seam allowances are 1/2″ which isn’t a typical SA for most patterns sold in the UK. If I used 1.5cms this would explain why it was a bit tight. Rookie error!

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Sorry about the messy hair-I was on holiday!

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I made view A again.

I added a box pleat to the back this time to create a little extra fullness, as well as it being a new detail. This is simple to do. Instead of placing the pattern piece directly against the fold of the fabric just move it parallel away from the fold by the amount you want, I moved it by 2cms which added a total of 4cms. [If you don’t want fullness all the way to the hem, place the hem against the fold and pivot the pattern piece from that point away from the fold at the top by as much as you want to add] Then you can pleat out the extra as you wish, I top-stitched it down, western-shirt style.

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This is what it looks like finished

I decided exploit the distinct pile of the fabric by cutting the patch pockets on the bias. It was pretty straightforward from then on to make up the dress, I was really careful about the seam allowance this time.

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pockets cut on the bias and saddle stitched

I top-stitched most of the seams using the saddle stitch setting on my machine [it looks like 3 lines of stitches side by side in the diagram if you’ve got it, it oversews each stitch so they’re highlighted more than if you just did one row of normal stitch in regular thread]

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This time the collar went on just fine, I must have goofed somewhere on the previous one.

In the end I decided not to make it sleeveless as before so I added sleeves from a Simplicity pattern I’d used previously. I checked the arm scye measurement against the sleeve head to ensure the sleeve was big enough, but not too big, to go into the armhole. This sleeve has a simple cuff without a placket so it was speedier to make and not too bulky in the cord fabric.

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Finished cuffs, I haven’t top stitched them although I might…so indecisive

I should mention that I’ve also added pockets to the side seams this time-always handy for a tissue to go through the washing machine and cover everything in white fluff!img_0346

Considering I have about 4 billion buttons in my collection I was somewhat surprised to not be able to collect together enough buttons all the same! So….there are two different-coloured ones on the front and perfectly matching red ones on the cuffs, a quirky detail I like to think.

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You’ll notice it’s been hard to capture the colour of this.

And there we have it, it needs a bit more of a press judging by this photo but I think it will be a lovely cosy winter dress with thick tights or leggings, and boots. The pile on plain cord gives lots of different shades even when it’s all cut in the same direction as this was.img_0418

…and there’s still a bit of fabric left too, perhaps I’ll keep that another 23 years and make something for my yet-to-be-born grandchildren!

Happy Sewing,

Sue xx