Thursday, 30 October 2014

Tessuti Libby A-line skirt in psychedelic-ethnic fabric

Warning: this post isn't particularly seasonal... it dates back from the sweet time of flip flops and bare legs! Seems ages away now, so I thought I'd better write this one up before it starts to snow.
So these last few months my waistline has remained quite far removed from my usual UK size 8-10("You'll see, a month after giving birth you'll be back to wearing your pre-baby clothes" said one of my colleagues... really!! I actually PUT ON weight after my baby was born! I blame all the lovely people who kept bringing us chocolate :) ), and when summer came, I was starting to get fed up with wearing the same black and shapeless clothes, and only being able to do my fly up half way. It wasn't very glam, or comfortable, or self-esteem enhancing!
Having neither the inclination nor the means to entirely renew the contents of my wardrobe (It was a case of carrying on believing that one day I eventually would manage to shed those extra inches!), I needed a quick, easy and cheap sewing project that would jazz up all that boring black.

Thank you daddy Monkey for the photos. You will of course recognise the cobbles of the Place de l'Etoile in Paris! And apologies for the display of lily-white legs...
Whilst wandering on the sewing blogosphere I had come across Boo Dogg's pretty A-line skirt. It was made with 2/3 of a yard of fabric, and from a free pattern. Perfect!
As for the print, I did hesitate rather a lot. I just couldn't decide if it was the colourful ethnic print I'd always dreamt of, or if it was just completely over the top. But then it was reduced in the sale and good quality material (a nice stretch cotton canvas, easy to sew but friendly on the waistline) so I eventually went for it.
Technical info:

You need:
Tessuti's free Libby A-line skirt PDF pattern - short version (the pattern includes a knee length and maxi option, and is also available to purchase as a printed pack or download for free in a copyshop-ready version)
* 65 cm of cotton fabric, with a little bit of weight to it to hold the A shape
* 20 cm invisible zip
* fusible interfacing (I used scraps, you only need very little as it is for the waist facings)
* thread, sewing machine, universal needle, bias for the hem if you wish to use it

Time needed: 1 afternoon (or 2 nap times !)

Cost: 65 cm of fabric, £6 a metre in the sale => £4, zip around £2, thread and bias £1, so a total of around £7

Eco credential: PDF pattern printed on recycled paper (OK, it's a bit of a far stretch but that will do for today!)

Tessuti's pattern is a joy to sew with: it has 4 pieces (front, back, and 2 waist facings), 2 darts on the back, an invisible side zip, and very comprehensive and detailed explanations, illustrated with photos. Quick and easy, just what the doctor ordered. I cut an australian size 12 according to the measurements table given with the pattern, using my waist measurement. I considered cutting a size 10 at the bottom, and I should have: having put more weight around the waist than the hips it fits lovely at the top but is VERY A-line at the bottom. Nevermind! I also opted to use bias binding for the hem, as the skirt seemed quite short when I tried it on before hemming it, probably because I have to wear the waist quite high. In the end I am happy with the length as it came out. This pattern is perfect, the final garment is easy to wear and comfortable, and I highly recommend it. I am probably going to have to sew another one soon, just because it is soooo satisfying!
Trying to be quick and finish before the little one woke up I didn't read all the instructions properly, hence the double topstitching at the waist, and the not-so-invisible zip... all entirely my fault, and nothing to do with the pattern!
Of course, as soon as the skirt was done, those extra few inches started to disappear and it is now too big! Typical... Anyway, it has motivated me to start sewing for myself again :) However I'm still not sure about that print... Maybe one day I will embrace understatement, which might allow me to wear the stuff I make more than once!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Autumn, jeans season #2: jeans playmat DIY

OK, I cheated... it was meant to be jeans month, but it's going to be jeans season, just because I am sooooooo slow...!
So here is our second installment in jeans season then, the playmat DIY.

You need :
* An 18x18 cm piece of card, to use as a template
* 3-4 pairs of old jeans (even better if they are different colours)
* A few scraps of other fabrics (to make it more interesting to touch, choose fabrics which have different textures)
* A piece of thick/upholstery fabric cut to the size of your intended mat, for the back
* A piece of thick wadding cut to the size of your intended mat
* Thread, needle, pins, sewing machine

Hw to proceed :
Start by opening up the jeans by cutting them along the seams shown on the illustration below, then cut out some square patches using the card template. The squares are 18x18 and include a 1 cm (3/8") seam allowance. Once the squares are sewn together, they should therefore measure 16x16 cm. The number of squares required will vary according to the dimensions you intend to give your mat (mine is 144x96 cm so I needed 54 squares to make up 9 rows of 6). You can also use some squares cut out in the other fabrics to add a bit of variety in colour and texture.
If you want to include pockets, do take care to cut them out AROUND the existing stitching (even if this gives you a bigger square, this will be rectified whilst assembling) so as to stop them from falling apart.
Position the squares on the floor next to each other to find a pattern that works for you. I find it looks more interesting if you alternate the weave of the jeans fabric (one horizontal, one vertical, see illustration below) and add in other fabrics randomly for a mosaic effect.
Assemble the squares into strips of the required length by placing them right sides together and sewing them on one side using a jeans needle on your machine and some good quality thread (I am rather partial to Gütterman "sew all") with a 3/8" seam allowance. Then join the strips together using the same technique.
If you use stretchy fabric like Minkee, it is probably better to baste these squares into place or to use fusible facing to avoid the patches stretching and ruining your straight lines (see dodgy seams in previous post!).
If you are using jeans pockets, now is the time to align them properly and to make the excess fabric and unwanted stitching disappear into the seam allowance.
Once the patchwork front is done, all that is left to do is to assemble it to the backing fabric and to the wadding. Place the large piece of backing fabric on the floor, right side up, then the patchwork jeans, wrong side up, and then the wadding (see picture if this makes no sense at all, I struggle to even understand myself sometimes!!) and pin into place. Sew all layers together with a 3/8" seam allowance, leaving a 10" opening to allow for turning out.
Once all is stitched, recut the seam allowances and round the angles, then turn right side out. Finish your mat by closing the side opening with an invisible stitch.
There you are !
Please send me any comments or questions you may have, and I would love to see your mats!
See you soon my little monkeys !

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

What made me happy in September...



A few warm sunny days
A stroll with my mum in the place where my parents got married
Mr Monkey on his bike Under the Arc de Triomphe
Knitting in the park, finishing some WIPs and re-starting others
The leaves falling, that smell of autumn in the air
Finding vegetables in the garden that I never knew I had planted
Buying myself an ice-cream, because it is 5 pm, that the sun is shining, that the kiosk is open and that I have got just enough money in my purse
A very successful first day at nursery
Trying to make the old brain work again, and finding out that I actually quite enjoy it!
Re-descovering Oxford with Mr Monkey and our mini lad
An exciting new haberdashery and fabric shop opening in Ipswich...