Wednesday, 14 March 2018

I AM Patterns Zebre Sweatshirt Review

The belated cold snap in the UK has lead me to wear my various me-made sweatshirts on heavy rotation. I have multiple Linden tops and I'm always on the lookout for another reliable sweatshirt pattern so when I saw a few versions of I AM Patterns Zebre sweatshirt popping up on Instagram, I thought I'd give it a go. It has flared bell style sleeves that end with a long shaped cuff. One shoulder is finished with a placket opening and snaps.

I bought the PDF, two-in-one Zebre with a full sleeve at the cuff and Lion which has a puff shoulder. The body shape is the same, it's just the sleeve shape that varies.  I made a test garment first (pics are on my IG @verykerryberry) using the Lion pattern but reducing the puff to a standard shoulder using other jersey tops to sketch the curve. The text version was size 38 which matched my body measurements but came out at quite a generous fit, although still very wearable; it has been already been worn a lot!
The Zebre version uses quite a lot of fabric as the sleeve pieces are wide. I used the most wonderful, drapey french terry from Eternal Maker.  It's produced by Lady McElroy and has around 20% stretch so enough for bands and ease and is a lighter weight than many sweatshirt fabrics, so perfect for the extra fullness at the cuff. I cut a size 36 with no size alterations. For reference,  I'm just over 32" bust and 36" hip, 5' 5" height.

The pattern came with English and French instructions.  The English instructions include imperial measurements and the seam allowance is 3/16"- easier understood as either a scant 1/4" or 5mm. This is for an overlock sewn version, I adjusted my seam width to fit so no trimming was needed as I overlocked the seams. If you wish to use a sewing machine throughout, the instructions suggest that the seam allowances are increased when you cut out/trace the pattern. Otherwise, construction is straightforward and pretty basic. Hems are finished with bands. My only addition was to add stabilising tape on the sewn shoulder and fusible interfacing on the placket shoulder. The placket construction is very easy, just folded over fabric- no separate pieces are added. I'm really happy with the finished top, it works well with long skirts and the sleeve finish adds a little extra drama and style to a warm, cosy sweatshirt. It is a quick make, I could stitch one up in two or three of hours and I am not a fast sewer! Definitely one to repeat.  If you prefer a paper pattern version, Alice is selling this style at Backstitch.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Simple Folk Month One

I signed up to Sarah Fielke's 2018 Simple Folk BOM so I thought I'd share my progress in a regular monthly post; this one is for January's blocks.  I love folk art motifs and I wanted to improve my applique so this seemed like the perfect project. Each month a set of patterns and videos are released and Sarah shares all her techniques and tips. If you've experienced her Craftsy Big Techniques for Small Scraps class, you'll be familiar with her silver pen, template and finger pressing methods. I'm trying all the things she suggests and then adapting to other techniques where it feels comfortable.

It is quite challenging stuff but I'm happy so far. The only real issue I had was the applique block fraying around the edges.  Usually, I would cut a larger background block and then trim back but these are already cut and corners added, so I followed a great tip from the facebook group and machine sewed 1/8" from the edge, worked a treat!

It's been a strange week.  The weather has been exceptionally cold and snowy for the time of year and from Thursday afternoon, everything ground to a standstill, no traffic could move and it was too cold to do more than the shortest walk outside. Our little dog Lottie had a heart scan which has shown up some advanced issues which are very common in Cavaliers. She's fortunate that she's 10 1/2yrs old and this is only recently starting to affect her, even if it has been building for some time.  She's now on lots of meds but the benefits will only be short term.  We're making the days count. She is still a happy, spirited little dog. She has struggled in the cold and her very brief trips outside. But, it's starting to thaw and we cannot wait to get onto grass again and wrap her up for a trip to the beach.  

Monday, 26 February 2018

February Fabrics at Plush Addict, Village Haberdashery & Eternal Maker

It's been a cold month with more to come in the UK before Spring finally kicks in, so I'm keeping my selections bright and happy with a bit of added warmth and chosen from the new arrivals in my sponsors' shops.

First up, Village Haberdashery and some delightful prints which have just arrived from Dear Stella alongside a beautiful woollen fabric with some coat pattern suggestions:
  1. Cold Comfort by Dear Stella.  Cute landscape and animal motifs, contrasting palette and perfect for children.
  2. Wool blend Aztec Fabric: perfect for coats/wraps and cloaks, 85% wool/15% acrylic. For beginners, I Am Patterns Mimosa, a pop-over cloak, would be a great option.  For more garment makers, pair with the new Avid Seamstress coat or for a sleeved option, I Am Patterns Artemis coat, simple cosy shape with generous pockets would also work well for the Aztec motif. 
  3. Garden Sanctuary by Rae Ritchie for Dear Stella.  I just love Rae Ritchie's work and this collection has me longing for an afternoon in the garden, digging with my trowel!  Buy it in a bundle with some coordinating Kona solids here, or choose a cut of your favourite print here.  There are foxgloves, hedgehogs and so much more cuteness!

Next, I have some delectable fat quarter bundles from Plush Addict; Kellie-Rose knows how to put a tempting bundle together!  From left to right (individual print links are usually an option within the bundle link).

  1. Fat Quarter Bundle: Dashwood New Horizons- 8 fabrics.  I love this new Dashwood fabric range!  Great colour palette, mid-century shapes mixed with maps, it reminds me of paper collages too.
  2. Fat Quarter Bundle: Studio E Super Heroes- 6 fabrics. A blast of colour from Sarah Frederking's new comic themed hero collection for Studio E which would be perfect for children's quilts and clothes. 
  3. Fat Quarter Bundle: Happiness is Handmade- 7 fabrics. Vintage inspired prints from Loti Whitlock for Riley Blake.  Sewing themed designs + florals, what's not to like.  The floral yellow is my favourite!

To finish, I've chosen a mix of quilting and garment making fabrics from Eternal Maker:

  1. Chartreuse Blue Custom EM Bundle: 7 fabrics. Cottons and cotton/linen blends. I adore the Ellen Baker block tulip print at the centre of this bundle and all the supporting fabrics have such a vibrancy...this is project waiting to happen!
  2. Greyspot Loopback jersey from Lady McKelroy fabrics. This is my idea of perfect in a loopback jersey.  It's 100% cotton, a small amount of stretch, a little weight and a lot of drape. It really works best in a clothing pattern that maximises its drape.  I've bought a couple of metres for an I Am Patterns Zebre pattern- those full-bottomed sleeves.  It would also make a wonderful Wendy Ward Longley Cardigan- I've made three of these and they see a lot of wear. 
  3. Cat Panel: Woof Woof Meow Meow.  Seriously adorable cut-out style panel to make two large softy cats with four kittens, simple to make and instructions printed on the panel.  The dog/puppies version is here.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Velvet Cleo Dress: A-line Edition

I made my first Tilly and The Buttons Cleo dress towards the end of last year. It's a wildly successful pattern, there a pattern reviews all over the internet, and it is easy to adapt if you want to add length, pocket modifications or change the skirt silhouette. The original pattern has straight sides; the split provides movement in the longer length. I tend to prefer an A-line shape so I gave that a whirl with a velvet Cleo:

This time, I sized down to the size 2 at the waist and hips.  This fits my chest measurement better but it also means the dress needs to go over my head rather than be pulled up over my hips.  Cutting size 2 made for a better fit at my waist and at the back.  The A-line was created by adding an extra 1.5" at the hemline for the front and back pieces and then using a ruler to blend this from the hem to the hips (around the top of the pockets).   I used a cotton velvet(woven and non-stretch) from Eternal Maker, the original colour has sold out but there is this sapphire blue.  I just loved the bright colour and I originally stitched this up in December for my Christmas Day attire.

Here are some of my construction notes:
  • I cut the velvet on a carpeted floor - it stopped it sliding.  It's also easier to cut in a single layer rather than on the fold.  I used a rotary cutter and cutting mat wherever I could; the pattern pieces slide like crazy so chalking around them helps too.
  • I made a simple lining from a shiny poly fabric in my stash.  Cut the same shape as the main dress pieces and cut shorter at the hem.  It does make the dress hang well and stops the velvet sticking to tops and tights. 
  • The front was cut as a single piece to avoid the central seam.
  • I finished the dress opening seam edge with Liberty bias binding
  • For the hem, the A-line adds a little extra fullness at the sides and you can see where I eased that in in the picture above and basted before hemming on the machine.
  • I used a walking foot as velvet tends to creep out of place.
  • Conventional pressing with the iron just flattens the velvet so instead, I hovered the iron using a little steam over the top of areas that needed pressing and then used a wooden tailor's clapper.
  • Patch pockets cut as my previous Cleo.


Saturday, 17 February 2018

Spelling Bee Saturday: Dog Block

Hi and welcome to my second Spelling Bee Saturday. The Fat Quarter Shop and Lori Holt sew-along is now 20 weeks in and I am this Saturday's guest blogger.  I was lucky enough to make the Dog block which does bear a little resemblance to my own little dog Lottie!

All the blocks in Spelling Bee are rotary cut and I chose to make the block at 6" finished - all the picture blocks have instructions for both 6" and 12" blocks. There are lots of little pieces so it helps to tick the cutting list as each is cut as well as use some post-it notes for identification.   In the head and the bandana sections below,  I took a bit of extra time pinning to get a good alignment where the seams meet.

For the embroidered features, I used a snippet of Sulky Solvy.  It took me a while to love this product - sewing with it in warm weather can be a sticky experience!  The more I've used it the more I've enjoyed it, especially the stabilising effect it creates (especially good for a single layer of quilting cotton) as well as it being easy to trace on with a pencil. 

The features are embroidered in Aurfil 12wt thread.

This one is joining some of the other picture blocks I've made for a small quilt combining some of Lori's blocks with some picture blocks I have from other projects.  

Fabrics used:
  • Dog body: Free Spirit, Eastham by Denyse Schmidt, Fine Plaid in Bitter
  • Ears/Tail: Kokka, Lighthearted by Ayumi Takahashi, Dots and Flowers in Brown
  • Bandana: Vintage scrap
  • Background: Robert Kaufman Essex linen in Natural

The Instagram hashtags for those following along are #SpellingBeeSaturday and #fqsquiltalong
  • Links to all the Spelling Bee sew along blocks so far are here
  • My review of the Spelling Bee book is here where you'll also find links on where to buy the book.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Sewing on Screen: A Stitch in Time

I envy sports fans, especially football.  Hours of radio and TV broadcasting devoted to watching and discussing their passion.  Great British Sewing Bee has not shown any signs of continuing, even the show that was planned for later this year has been postponed. So when some nuggets of sewing TV appear, sewists are quick to tune in and Amber Buchart's Stitch in Time series for BBC4 is a joy to watch.

You may recognise Amber from Tilly and the Buttons' Orla Shift top pattern. She's also an author on fashion related topics. I bought my daughter Amber's Nautical Chic book and it is an excellent combination of beautiful imagery combined with historical background on a perennially popular fashion theme. Stitch in Time takes a garment from a moment in history- usually through a painting or art object and then looks at the story behind the garment and its wearer as well as the construction and recreation by a team of specialist historical tailors.  Each episode goes off on a series of tangents appropriate to the garment.  I've watched all the episodes and there's a mass of sewing and textile detail in each.  Sometimes I was surprised which ones I enjoyed the most.  The Arnolfini dress recreation gives new insight into an iconic painting and what the dress symbolised. I wasn't expecting to be as drawn to the Black Prince's story and yet that was possibly the most interesting.  Amber wears the completed garment at the end of each programme- male or female clothing is covered and even learns how to move in some of them (The Black Prince). Amber carries historical clothing very well. She has a dapper costume style to her everyday dress and wears a dazzling array of turbans through the various episodes, even when working with indigo.

 The tailoring team are lead by Ninya Mikhalia working with Harriet Waterhouse and Hannah Marples.  Skills are explored in the sort of detail that sewists love, lots of close-ups on stitches and techniques...

 discussions on the most period-appropriate way to quilt layers of fabric and fibres for quilting...toiles and trials...old urine, dyes and colour matching...

it's all wonderful stuff!  There are also rare glimpses of treasures like Marie Antoinette's wardrobe book with its delicate fabric swatches and embroidery samples so she can choose the fabric she desires. 

For a short time, the recreated costumes featured are on display at Ham House.  I'm hoping they make it to some of the national sewing fairs and shows in the future too.  They showcase amazing textile talent- the tailors, embroiderers, dyers, fabric producers, who contribute to the different outifits. A Stitch in Time is currently on BBC iPlayer for UK viewers, tune in before it disappears as the first episode is no longer available!  I don't know if it's accessible to viewers outside the UK, I can only hope it is sold to other networks to show, it really is a pleasure to watch.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Framing Small Embroideries to Sew in a Hoop

I'm really enjoying sitting and stitching by hand at the moment.  I have a wonderful audiobook, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by  Gail Honeyman, that I've been listening to on Audible and I can hardly bear for it to end. It's a debut novel and the best book I've 'read' in ages.  The narrators in audiobooks can make or break a good story and Catherine McCarron is outstanding, she slips into the various voices so easily.  I've wanted to concentrate on every word so embroidery has been the perfect past time.  The screen printed design is from my Jessie Chorley Friendship Quilt kit. There are six different designs each measuring around 4" square.  I find holding these without a hoop make my hands sore, so I created a temporary fabric frame so they will fit in a small hoop- this one is 6" diameter.

It's easy to do. I used scrap cotton fabric from a dress toile and cut it large enough to fit my hoop.  I then pinned the embroidery square into the centre and stitched it 1/8" from the square's edge.  I also zig-zagged all my embroidery square raw edges before sewing them on as they fray very easily.

Next, pull the back and front apart so there is a gap between the scrap fabric and the embroidery, pinch the centre of the back and flip over so the wrong side of the back is facing you.  Keeping the fabric lifted, make a small snip into the centre of the back, making sure you are only cutting through one layer.

Use the snip as an entry point for the scissors and carefully trim the backing fabric until it is around 1/4" from the stitching and you can see all the design peeping through.

The little embroidery square is ready for a hoop!

I've felt pretty flat since the start of the year, but today I felt a small shift, the days are a feeling a little longer, I saw a rush of orangey yellow crocuses popping up around two large trees and Lottie (our dog) has shown a little energy too. She's an older dog these days and loves to sleep, sleep and more sleep, but in the last couple of days, she's had a few moments of skittish giddiness when the sun has shone. Bring on Spring!