Flamingo yoga mat

IMG_1349Just a quickie project today. My pilates class has recently moved location and I now need to take my mat with me. This made me realise I could do with a proper bag so I could carry it comfortably. A quick google lead me to Caroline’s tutorial on this, which I decided to follow. The fabric I used  is a light summer cotton with a pale peach background and fun flamingos on it – one of the nice new summer fabrics appearing in my local shop at the moment. A quick measure suggested Caroline’s sizing was pretty good for my mat, so I cut out the body, end and drawstring cord pieces as described. I decided I don’t need a pocket, and I wanted to do something different for the strap so I didn’t use those pieces.

The bottom of the strap with plastic rectangle for the strap to feed through sewn into the circular base seam.

The bottom of the strap with plastic rectangle for the strap to feed through sewn into the circular base seam.

Sometimes I will want the bag over a shoulder, sometimes over my body, so I wanted an adjustable strap. I used 1 1/2″ wide twill tape in this fabulous-flamingo-matching burgundy (I needed about 1 1/2 metres in total), a plastic rectangle and a three bar plastic slider to create the strap. I sewed a 7cm piece of the tape folded around the rectangle into the bottom circular seam. I then sewed the end of the long piece of tape around the middle of the three bar slider. I fed the free end of the long piece of tape through the rectangle sewed into the bottom seam of the bag, and over the top of the middle of the three bar slider. Finally, I sewed down the end of the long piece of tape at the top of the  bag.

The three-bar slider.

The three-bar slider. The end of the strap is sewn to the middle bar. The main strap piece feeds through the slider,  across the top of the middle bar and sewn loop.


the other end of the strap sewn to the top of the bag.

Tada!!! I am very pleased with this – it is stylish, fun, and functional, and using Caroline’s instructions gave me a nice finish (it’s always nice when others do the thinking for you) – I really liked the tie at the top which is a nice detail. I have used it for one class so far, and it was ridiculously comfortable.


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Tutorial: rotating bust darts for the win

402LineDrawing-137x150My next project is the Mariadenmark Edith blouse. The blouse has a vertical dart at the waist, and a horizontal bust dart. As always with bust darts, I found as well as a FBA I needed to move the darts around a bit. I often find I need to do this to get a good fit, and it isn’t a process I see discussed often, so I thought I would explain a bit.

There are a number of ways to transform darts to improve fit –  I was surprised with the number of options I came up with when I thought about it.

  • Size – do an SBA or FBA to increase or decrease the size of the darts. Mary and Leila both have good summaries of links to tutorials on this.
  • Realign the apex. You may need to move the dart vertically if you have a low or high bust, or move a waist dart horizontally. This is done to move the fullness and dart apex (your nipple for a bust dart) because it is not in the same place as the pattern. From experience I can say that you shouldn’t make an adjustment for this until you have applied a FBA/SBA as needed, as this will affect the position of the apex. Again, Mary has links to tutorials to do this.
  • Rotate the dart – (detailed below) rotating the existing dart around the apex. As with the apex realignment you shouldn’t make an adjustment for this  until you have applied a FBA/SBA as appropriate. Megann and Tatterdemalion also have details on this.
  • Split the dart – if the dart is particularly large you may find success splitting it into more than one. I can’t say I have had success doing this having tried it on a few muslins, but it may work for you.
  • Reshape the dart – keeping the apex, and beginning and end of the dart, you can curve the dart lines convex or concave  to provide extra fabric, or gather excess along the length of the dart (I needed to do this on the back waist dart on my Anna dress).
  • Move the fullness elsewhere – you can rotate some or all dart fullness into other features that include extra fullness such as gathers, tucks or pleats. Cennetta has some great examples of this.

My pattern piece post FBA with the widened darts highlighted.

So let me talk you through my bust fitting process for this blouse to show how I came to the conclusion the darts needed some adjustment. First I applied my standard FBA (2” or 5cm on either side, for 4” or 10cm in total). I do the Y-FBA as detailed in FFRP which is better if you are adding more than 1”. As the Edith blouse already has bust and waist darts this enlarges both of these – nothing new is added, which is the simplest type of FBA.

IMG_1252So here is my muslin. As you can see, something is not right; there is loose fabric above the bust by the armhole (yellow arrows), draglines all over the place under the bust (red lines) and slight tightness across and just under the bust (this is not so obvious in the photo). I marked my bust apex (black dot). The horizontal dart (green line) is just about pointing at it, but the diamond waist dart is not (the photo perspective slightly forshortens it, but it is several cm off). The end of this dart is also finishing too high and close to my apex.

I could have adjusted the waist dart on paper by shortening the length and moving the whole dart across on the pattern piece. However, since I had a muslin I unstitched the dart, and then repined it where it wanted to be based on the excess fabric: slightly closer to the centre and slightly shorter. I could then draw this adjustment onto the paper pattern piece, saving myself some paper manipulation, with the knowledge the adjustment is correct.

The horizontal bust dart seemed to be in the right place, but as mentioned, there is excess above the bust and it felt tight across the bust. I could have decided this needed more volume across the bust, but from experience I decided to play around with the dart position first. Therefore, I also unpicked this dart and then played around with the positioning of the excess – doing it this way means the muslin side seams may not work properly, but gives you leeway for some experimenting with the dart positioning along the side seam, which is much faster than trying several options by manipulating the paper pattern. I tried 2 horizontal darts, but that didn’t fix anything. Then, I tried rotating the dart round to above the arm hole to where I had the excess fabric. Suddenly, the whole thing fitted – the snugness across the bust and the excess above was gone. I confess this was not a surprise to me – I have had success rotating horizontal darts upwards before – it seems to fit my bust better. Interestingly this creates a quasi-armhole princess seam – you can see why they work well for the full busted.

Here is the before and after:

IMG_1252 2  IMG_1246

It is worth bearing in mind that these fit improvements came from moving each of these darts only about 2cm in each case – these were not drastic adjustments, but the effect is – the drag lines, tightness, and fullness all vanished without changing the size of the darts – just adjusting their position.

IMG_1348So how do you rotate a dart? First you need to decide where it is going – FFRP has a fantastic diagram showing many of the options (and a page discussing the process).

1. Identify the dart apex and draw lines on the pattern piece from the ends of the current dart legs to this apex. Also mark on the line where the new dart should lie.

1. Identify the dart apex and draw lines on the pattern piece from the ends of the current dart legs to this apex. Also mark on the line where the new dart should lie.

2. Cut out the wedge of the old dart, and along the line of the new dart. Ensure a small hinge remains between the two at the apex.

2. Cut out the wedge of the old dart, and along the line of the new dart. Ensure a small hinge remains between the two at the apex.

3. Rotate the wedge between the old dart and the new dart to close the old dart. Tape the old dart closed.

3. Rotate the wedge between the old dart and the new dart to close the old dart. Tape the old dart closed.

4. Fill in the gap behind the new dart space with new paper

4. Fill in the gap behind the new dart space with new paper.  Draw in a new dart with the legs starting at the edge of the new wedge, and the end of the dart an appropriate distance from the apex (1” is quoted as standard, but those with a larger bust often want it further out – in this example mine is …)

5. Fold this new dart, and cut along the edge of the pattern piece to trim the edge of the dart – when unfolded this will shape the dart to sew perfectly.

5. Fold this new dart, and cut along the edge of the pattern piece to trim the edge of the dart – when unfolded this will shape the dart to sew perfectly.


Ta-dah! Finished pattern piece with adjusted and rotated darts – tune in next week for the blouse.

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Aubergine v -neck Renfrew

IMG_1336Next in my current line of fast (and probably unintersting) knit tops is another Sewaholic Renfrew. This time I did the v-neck version with a full length sleeve. The fabric I used was this rich dark aubergine viscose from the clothshop, which is a great fabric for the price, but tends to gather hairs, threads etc, so I wouldn’t recommend it for a pet owner. The colour doesn’t show well in photos, but it is a beautiful deep purple – like aubergine skins, as described.

As I have made this top before there is only a limited amount to say about the construction. My cowl neck version was a bit baggy in places, so I graded down to a size smaller for the wrist end of the sleeves. For the cowl neck version I did I did a 2cm no dart FBA and then another 3cm using a standard Y adjustment, rotating the dart around into the neckline. This seemed to provide slightly too large FBA for a knit fabric, so this time I only applied the 2cm no dart FBA. I kept the forward thrust shoulder and broad shoulder adjustment I did for the cowl neck version.

IMG_1339During construction I found the sleeve was about an inch too long so I had to trim that off before adding the sleeve band – next time I could remove this much from the pattern piece. After wearing I am happy with the smaller FBA and sleeve size. With this version of the top I have a bit of an issue with the back riding up – I think I need to broaden the back piece at the hips slightly to prevent this. It is not so bad to make the top unwearable, but it is annoying. I also have a preference for longer tops, and I think I could happily make this top an inch longer for wearing with jeans.

IMG_1260IMG_1327Other than these small fit issues this top was easy to whip up in one afternoon, and I like the v-neck version – the band came out well and this is another good basic top. Not so exciting, but excellent wardrobe building.

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Green wool Bronte t-shirt

I clocked the bronte top when it was released and bought, printed and assembled the pattern when I was ill in the autumn. I even bought the fabric I wanted to use on a long afternoon fabric shopping from the sofa. However, for various reasons it didn’t get made up until January. However, as part of my current phase of fast knit tops, here it is!


The back view on Dolly.

I remember when I did the research for this I found several blog posts detailing fit issues with this pattern particularly with the shoulders and upper back , and therefore I did consider muslining, but in the end I just decided to go for it. The only adjustment I made was a no dart FBA of 2cm.

The fabric I used was the same wool knit that I used for my Kristen kimono top in the bottle green, with the neckband in the navy. Having had a traumatic experience of the stretch of this fabric, I went back into super stabalisation mode. Therefore, immediately upon unpinning I fused stretch tricot interfacing to both neckbands, the neckline, and the arm and bottom hems. And I mean immediately – the unpinning was done on my ironing board with precut interfacing and a hot iron ready – from pins to fused in 30 seconds. Once this was done I followed the construction instructions and it was easy – from cutting to hemming this only took an afternoon and that is lightening for me. I used a ¾ sleeve length as that is my preferred when there are no cuffs (I hate sleeves hanging over my hands uninvited).


A close up of the neckline on Dolly.

Ok, I lie, it was not 100% finished in one afternoon – I took it to work the next day to consult on buttons. I was choosing between 6 tiny blue shirt buttons or two larger green/blue pottery buttons from my stash. As you can see popular opinion was with the blue/green buttons, and I do like the effect – it is amazing how well the colours match. I am sad the fabric shop doesn’t have any more of these.


Why do I always have serious face on the front facing photos that are in focus?

I am pleased with the overall outcome of this pattern. As you can see the fit is good, if a little close. Next time, depending on my knit, I might go up a size to make it a bit less close fitting. I might also try to lower the neckline a bit – in the photos of Lauren the neckline looks a bit lower – on me it is fairly high up around my collarbones and I think it would be nicer a little lower. Finally I think I could lengthen this slightly, and broaden the back at the hips to prevent the small amount of riding up it does. Overall, I think this is a really stylish take on a basic knit t-shirt, and I like the colour variation options with the neckbands and buttons – the style definitely makes a simple knit t-shirt work appropriate.


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A tale of two Kristens

101The pattern in question this week is the Kristen kimono t-shirt by Maria Denmark. It is a free t-shirt pattern when you subscribed to Maria’s newsletter. As top patterns go this is about as simple as possible – a front and back piece cut on the fold with kimono sleeves – no darts or other shaping. For the more ‘complex’ option there is an additional neckband pattern piece. It seems a great really fast basic pattern for knits and is really efficient in terms of fabric use – less than a metre (.75) per top (and that is a long top as drafted – those with shorter bodies will want to shorten and use even less). The only delaying issue is that you have to add seam allowances and the neckband pattern piece is not supplied – you have to calculate the length and draw it.


The final garment on Dolly.

Having made two of these tops I can testify that the pattern is as simple and quick to make as it seems – two side and shoulder seams, sleeve and bottom hem, and a neckband finish to the neckline. That didn’t prevent me having issues – but I’ll come to that.

I made several fit adjustments to this pattern before cutting it, firstly a 1cm forward thrust shoulder adjustment, as standard for me. I am glad to say the top is very long to start with – I am long bodied, and it fit me fine without length adjustment. I also added a no dart full bust adjustment. I also added a 1cm seam allowance all around, as the instructions suggest. After I made my mockup I noticed that the instructions say not to add the seam allowance to the neckline, so I removed this before cutting the first top.


The seam allowance I removed from the neckline.

For this top I used a wool jersey in navy. For the first version I cut and sewed as per the instructions. There were several glitches with adding the neckband which required ripping it out and restitching. First time I realised I had calculated its width wrong – 4 inches rather than centimetres, and second time installing the neckband the wrong way out. Despite this I thought it was all going well until I tried the unhemmed garment. Suddenly a garment that had fitted me well as a mockup was handing off my shoulders – the neck line was far too large, hanging almost as a cowl if I centred it, and falling off a shoulder if I moved.

My first Kristen (navy underneath) and mock up (green on top) showing how the navy top stretched at the neckline.

My first Kristen (navy underneath) and mock up (green on top) showing how the navy top stretched at the neckline.

What had I done? Surely the 1cm seam allowance I had cut off couldn’t make that much difference? Had I miscalculated the length of the neckband? Had I stretched the neckline as I sewed, ripped and re-sewed? I ripped and resewed shortening the neckband easing in the neckline even more and ensuring I didn’t stretch as I sewed. It made no discernible difference. I decided to compare it to my test garment – you can see the neckline is clearly visibly stretched out by several centimetres.



The final top on. I apologise for the facial expressions – none of the photos came out particularly well.

I declared this garment a wadder, but I had more of the fabric left so I tried again. I added my seam allowance back on the front neckline, just in case, and I checked the calculations for my neckband length. With this all in order I cut again. Luckily (as it turns out) the neckband was the first piece I unpinned to press in half. After this simple press I compared the length to the pattern piece – it was now 6 cm longer! About 1/6 of the total length! And I was pressing carefully not to stretch – lifting and pressing, not moving the iron as I went. At this point I realised the problem was the fabric – it was stretching on first sewing/pressing like no other fabric I have ever used.

Therefore, I moved into super stabalisation mode. I cut a third neckband and the second I unpinned it I fused stretch knit tricot interfacing to it as careful as possible not to stretch the fabric in any way. Then I unpinned the other pieces attaching staytape to the neckline immediately upon unpinning. I sewed the rest of the seams immediately (although there was no evidence of stretch on the first garment) and reinforced the shoulder seams with twill tape.


A close up on the final neckline – you can see it isn’t lying flat to due to the unnecessary seam allowance.

When I tried it on it was clear this time the neckline had stayed in shape – not stretched. It did not lay perfectly flat, probably because of the extra necessaries neckline seam allowance I had re-added, but it is wearable and a 98% improvement from the first go, so I was happy. I am satisfied with the overall fit, so I will be able to sew this top again (after removing the uneeded neckline seam allowance) – this will be a great stash buster for left over knit fabric as it only needs 1-2 hours from cutting to sewing. The fit is loose and boxy, but has enough shape for some definition, so it works.


And one final photo. I swear this is the best of the front on photos, despite the facial expressions. There are few details to show, but on the navy they wouldn’t show anyway.


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Grey striped Gabriola skirt


The back of the skirt on Dolly.

I made this before Christmas, but it hung on Dolly for over a month as it waited to be hemmed, so it’s been around a while but only worn for the last couple of weeks. The pattern is the Sewaholic Gabriola. I fell in love with this skirt when Tasia released it. I have only recently started wearing maxi dresses – primarily because I associated them with my school English teachers who were all late twenties (I concede my perception of age was distorted) so before a couple of years ago I felt that they made me look too old, I realise this is entirely personal preference but I have now embraced the maxi shirt with love – I think it helps that the patterns I have found for this are much more stylish and flattering than the styles I tried in earlier years.

I have to say I love Sewaholic patterns, I have never had a bad experience with them in terms of construction and the designs really fit my style – modern but not too fussy, and fitted not shapeless. So when the Gabriola pattern was released I was sold but the making of it got delayed a bit. However, before Christmas I pulled everything together. The main fabric is a really nice cotton I got for free with dolly in the summer. I got lots of free fabric, but most of it is not really ‘me’ but these varied colour and width grey stripes really really are. I got at least 6 metres of this, so there is plenty left over. The plain grey yoke is a plain grey poplin that I accidentally ordered a metre of instead of a sample – thankfully it matched my stripes so there was no waste or unnecessary addition to my stash.


Showing off the cevron effect along the seams.

With so many stripes on the bias along adjoining edges I didn’t even try to stripe match although because of the mixed size stripes I still have a really nice chevron effect along the seams, without trying. Construction was straight forward with little of note to report. There is a sign of some slight buckling along the bias edges of the yokes, as other sewists have reported so beware this one – in future I might stabilise these seams somehow in construction. I did a simple zigzag stitich to finish the edges. I wanted to create an overlap on the waistband to put a button, but I didn’t manage it, so hook and eye it was.

The one variation I made was to add in seam pockets. Anyone surprised? I used my standard pattern piece from the tiramisu dress. My first attempt put them in far too low – I couldn’t even reach the entrance. I ripped them out and resewed them with the top of the pocket level with the seam between the yokes, even this is barely high enough, next time I would put these in even higher, starting several inches above the yoke seam.

Other than that it worked fine out of the envelope – it even fitted with no adjustments! A rare thing for me – this is partly because the skirt is loose over the hips. The skirt was plenty long enough with a very very generous 4inch double folded hem, with 1.5 to 3 inches cut off the bottom (least at the front, most at the back due to my generous rear end).so next time I would shorten the pattern by 2 inches all the way around. I feel great when wearing this, what more can you ask from a great wardrobe piece?

And one overexposed shot, that looks loverly and artistic.

And one overexposed shot, that looks loverly and artistic.

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New Coat: planning and preparation

1540_env_frontI knew that my old coat was getting elderly last year and so I made it a new years resolution to make a new coat. I already owned Simplicity 1540  and really liked the wide collar of option D (the purple one), but I was certainly not 100% sold on this pattern for my next coat, and I made no planning moves. then two things happened:



The beautiful silk for my lining.

I loved this big collar come hood, with princess seams and this beautiful blue wool coating was too gorgeous to pass up. I wanted to use a silk lining, as I really didn’t want to use poly. these two blog posts provided lots of info and I settled on silk charmeuse. I spent quite a while shopping around ‘locally’ online but I couldn’t find anything either in an affordable price bracket, or as pretty as I wanted – in my head I was dreaming of a bold pattern for the lining. Then I stumbled across this Silk Charmeuse from Hong Kong – both affordable and gorgeous.

Armhole adjustment on my muslin

Armhole adjustment on my muslin

With my materials sourced I started this as a Christmas holiday project. I spent the first week on pattern and design adjustments and preparation. for the sake of brevity, here is what I ended up with:

Design adjustments:

  • Took width off front piece for button front rather than zip
  • Marked placement for single welt pockets (cutting across rather than in seam)
  • added a separate sleeve band to the bottom of the sleeve

Fit adjustments:

  • 2″ FBA – as standard for me
  • forward thrust shoulder – as standard for me
  • broad shoulder and back – depends on the pattern, but not unheard of for me
  • broadening upper sleeve – again, depends on the pattern, but not unheard of for me

When making my adjustments I benefited from the experience of those on the PR sewalong.  I cut a size larger to give greater ease, based on everyone else’s experience – adding width to the arms also matched other peoples experience. Even then the list of fitting alterations is relatively long. Like everyone else I found there was more flare at the hips than expected from the pattern envelope, but as I liked it, I kept it.

With the fit cracked I decided to create separate lining pattern pieces with extra ease at the arm hole, a back neck facing from my wool fabric, and a back pleat. If you want a guide to this I used this guest blogpost on Tilly’s blog by Tasia. I am hoping these changes will ensure the longevity of the coat lining. Ironically the front is the only unique lining piece included in the envelope but I am not using this as I putting buttons in, so I am doing a front facing with my wool fabric.

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