Thursday, 5 February 2015

First Time Shirtmaking with Granville Shirt

How often do you wear the clothes you make? My answer is - not often. So I decided to make something I can wear on a day-to-day basis. I work in the office 9-5 so formal business shirts are essential in my wardrobe. I have quite a shirt collection. Out of all my shirts, my favourite is the pair of shirts I bought in Japan a few years ago. They fit extremely well. The fabric is smooth and soft but has enough crispness to give a shape. Unfortunately they are a bit worn out. I have more reason to make my own shirts now.

I dug out all my shirt patterns from my collection. Geez, I have accumulated a lot over the years but have not made any of them. I borrowed the book Shirtmaking: Developing Skills For Fine Sewing by David Coffin. It's the best sewing resource book I have read so far. I am very glad I read it as it made my first time shirtmaking much easier.
My collection for tops.. what's next?

I recently came across the new Granville shirt pattern from Sewaholic. Having made two of their patterns (Alma blouse and Cambie dress), I have a lot of faith in the brand. At first glance, the instruction looks very detailed and clear. I decided to start my shirtmaking journey with this pattern.

Granville shirt has all the elements of a classic shirt – Yoke, sleeve, sleeve band, collar stand, front and sleeve plackets, rolled hem. Most importantly, compared to all my other shirt patterns, this pattern is more fitted to the body.

I used a light-weight striped-woven cotton shirting fabric. The stripes are subtle so I did not pay much attention on matching the lines but I did recut the pockets to match the stripes because they are on the front of the shirt.
Matching the strips
For interfacing, I used fusible woven muslin from Spotlight. I hesitated a lot on the interfacing. I have bought a lot more other types and brands of interfacing from other sewing supplies stores. I plan to try out different types to see which one gives the best result.
Interfacing I got from Spotlight. 
I managed to squeeze all the pattern pieces into 1.75 m fabric (112cm width). I notice the yardage chart by Sewaholic often asks for much more fabric. I really want to know what is the least yardage, considering good quality shirting fabric is often expensive. Here is my pattern layout.

I cut size 4 and it fits me easily, although that's the base on their size chart, I should be size 6.

Lots of the reviews are saying the sleeves are unnecessarily long. I have shortened the sleeve by 2 cm and the shirt by 1cm.
I think size 4 is right, although it still needs a bit more adjustment (commented below)

It took me a long time to make this shirt. This is mainly because lots of the processes were new to me and I kept looking for resources and learning new skills and techniques. For instance, if you never make a sleeve placket before, you have to be patient about learning the steps, i.e. which bits to fold and press, where to stitch etc.

Sewing the shoulder seam
It’s definitely worth watching some Youtube and reading some blog posts before sewing (if you are a newbie on shirtmaking). I found the following links extremely useful:

For sleeve placket: ANGELA KANE Sewing TV
For a sharp collar point: grainlinestudio blog
For sewing collar and collar stand: foursquarewalls blog

Things I have learnt
  1. Use iron spray to achieve crisp edges.
  2. Press along as you sew. I found it extremely useful and give a very good result.
  3. Match the stripes for the pocket on the shirt front if you are sewing a stripe.
  4. Use good quality interfacing material
Things to improve
  1. The sleeves are still too long. I will further shorten them by another 2.5cm (1 inch) next time.
  2. I find the pockets are too big on my shirt. Please note there is only one size for the pocket pattern. So that means the pocket is the same for a size 4 shirt and a size 20 shirt! I pulled out my other RTW shirt and they are smaller.
  3. I would also like to change the shape of the cuff a little bit, just to add a small curve at the corners as my other RTW. I think it’s more practical for wearing and easier to sew.
  4. I also want to slim down the flaring at the bottom of the shirt and lengthen the side seams a little bit. This is because I usually wear shirts under cardigans and I don’t like excess fabric underneath. 

For beginners, making a shirt can be an overwhelming process but it’s also extremely rewarding. There are lots of techniques used in there that can benefit me sewing other garments, and the end result is often surprising, mainly thanks to the neatness from the edgestitching and topstitching. I have worn this shirt to work and it's fabulous. I am totally addicted to it and making the second shirt with some Cotton Lawn (up next).

Happy sewing.

Feel free to leave comments about anything :)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Strap Back and Half Circle Skirt: Simplicity 1651

I opted to do a simple project this time. I went with Simplicity 1651. It has two bodice designs and two skirt design. I chose the sweetheart neckline and strap back for the bodice and the half circle skirt. There is no lining but only neckline facing and bias binding on the armscyes. Sounds easy, huh?! It didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped mainly because I had some minor issues on the fitting and the bust darts.

The bust darts turned out to be way too high, almost sitting on my upper bust. It really damaged the shape of the dress! It may be partly because I cut size 8 at the shoulders, 10 at the bust and 12 at the waist so the shoulder seam pulls the dress up. I think the bust darts should be moved down by at least 1 inch.

As I cut a much smaller size at the shoulders, the armholes are also too small. I think I should cut size 10 and do a SBA next time.
Bust darts are too high
The fabric is cotton lawn with print. When I first bought it, it felt smooth and looked very good on the bolt. But after a pre-shrink, it feels stiffer and the colour looks dull. Well what can I say? I only paid $4 per meter. I guess I got what I paid for.

I think I should use Sateen next time, something that is heavier in weight.

The construction is not hard. The only problem I had is when attaching the back bands, I found the bands did not lie flat after I matched the notches. As shown on the photo below, the upper edge of the band has more tension than the lower edge. I had to unpick the seam and lay the bodice on my dummy to fit the band.
Gap under the straps
Pin the strap on the dummy to ensure they are flat
Adjustment on the stitch line of the straps

Another little challenge is the construction of the v-point at the back. One of the first dresses I made when I first started sewing is Butterick 5603. Back then I was confused when constructing a similar v-shaped back bodice, but his time I did better. I took some photos on how to clip the seam allowance at the v-point so they can be pressed flat.

The pattern calls for an invisible zip at the side seam under the armhole. It's a bit fiddly when sewing the bias binding over the top of the zip at the bottom of the armhole. I believe I still need to improve this useful technique.

Material list:
Cotton poly blend lawn 140cm wide: 1.50m x $4 = $6
18" invisible zip

Conclusion... and what's next...
I am really not a big fan of the side seam zip. It irritates me and scratches my skin. Well it's also because I cut the shoulder seam too small. If I have the patience to make this pattern again, there are lots of areas to improve. I would like to try the twisted bodice next time too.

This is the first time I made a half circle skirt. I am not sure whether I like it or not. I think I have enough flare skirts in my wardrobe now. Now the exciting news is that I just started making shirts, and am currently working on Sewaholic's Granville Shirt. I hope I have the review up very soon.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Elisalex Dress took my holiday away

My Christmas was stolen by this dress. I am drained from making this Elisalex Dress by BHL. Let me go back to my post in October where I was saying I just started working on this dress. And guess what? it dragged on for two months. I thought it should be a quick job but it ended up I almost abandoned the half done dress. Anyhow, I forced myself to finish it today and here it is:

Love the look from the back, specially the neckline <3

I used cotton satteem with lovely floral prints and poly lining. The prints turns out very pretty on the dress, I was surprised.

Fitting and pattern changes
If you know about this pattern, you would notice my tulip skirt is much slimmer than those on their models. This is the biggest problem! I spend countless hours to fit the skirt. I made a muslin (I actually made it on real fabric but the first time of sewing didn't go well so I made it muslin.) and I really don't like the big tulip skirt. It is humongous! No way I would wear it out onto the street!
Not a fan of the giant tulip... I feel like I'm wearing a costume.

Initially I also wanted to make the sleeves but the sleeve cap/crown is very flat on the pattern and it just doesn't fit my arm (as shown on the above photo). Grr.. I had to do a sleeveless version.

I also reduced the folds on the pleats and slimmed down the skirt a lot. This is NOT an easy process. I stitched up many seams on the skirt to test how much to take away and it took up a lot of time.

Finally... A smile on my face because it's DONE.

I found another fitting issue after I completed the dress. Look at the side view below. The side seams swaying towards the front, instead of being vertical to the ground. It's very unpleasant. I am just not sure what went wrong.
The side seams are pointing to the front.

The dress is very straightforward to make. I find the instructions are not the best as they omit some steps and the order of the steps is a little bit confusing where steps for different versions are inserted in between. However, By Hand London has the most comprehensive sew-alongs on their website and I highly recommend checking out their blogs as part of the pattern instructions.

I admit I got more practice on sewing princess seams, sewing pleats and adding linings on invisible zips as these are the major techniques used in this pattern. For princess seams, I always like to press them open and clip on the curves. It gives very smooth seams.
Love the princess seams and the pleats

A vintage look
 Material list:
Cotton Sateen (140cm wide): 1.4 m

 This is the second BHL pattern I made after my Georgia Dress. I encountered fitting issues with both patterns and I am not sure if I will buy another patterns from them.

How is everyone's Christmas/New Year Break so far? Busy sewing? I made some bunting as my Xmas project this year. The fabric I bought has got the print and the pattern and the cutting line. It’s very straight forward to make. I also bought the ribbons with the Christmas print. Doesn't it feel Christmassy?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Simple Day Dress: Remake of Vogue 8944

I revisited Vogue 8944 this week. I made a colour block dress from it last time. Despite all the fitting issues, I like a the horizontal seam on the bodice so much that I decided to give this pattern another go. I used a different knit fabric this time. I was very surprised with the fabric. It gives the dress a flaring silhouette.

Here's how it turned out, with a red belt and my favourite red shoes.

The fabric
I am not sure what the fabric is called. It seems to have two layers of knits. The right side has a stripe-like pattern and the wrong side is just black. It also stretches a little bit.

Since this is the second time I made the pattern, I am more familiar with the fitting. I cut it as size 6 and graded to size 8 at waist.

I made a few changes to the pattern. I removed the back darts and the centre back zip. Both back bodice and back skirt were cut on the fold. Initially I wanted to replace the centre back zip with side seam zip. After I made all the effort to sew in the side seam zip, I realised I could pull over the dress without the zip open. Since the zip was really uncomfortable, I decided to unpick the zip and sew up the side seam!! Grrr! I hate unpicking..
All the effort gone to waste.. I had to unpick the zip

I removed the back darts and the centre back seam and cut the back pieces on the fold.
Removing the back darts...
Seamless back

I shortened the sleeves to almost a cap sleeve length. Initially I planned to make the sleeveless version, so I took away 1cm at the centre back to achieve a better fitting. This actually caused a big problem when I later decided to add short sleeves. My sleeves are now being pulled towards the back as you can see in the below photos. It really does not look good!

The wrinkles at the back of my arms 

The stripes are slanted towards the back, suggest unbalanced fitting.
Sleeve fitting is definitely one area I need to study. I find it extremely difficult and there are not many resources talking about sleeves. Can anyone help me out here?

The hem and neckline edges
I have some exciting news. I recently had a new addition to my sewing family - Janome CoverPro 1000CP.
Yay.. new member to my sewing family
I would like to do a full review on the machine when I have more of a chance to play with it. So far I have only used it on this dress to do the neckline edges and the hem. There are some problems with the machine, e.g. it skips stitches when going through a few layers as shown below in the photo.
Skipped stitches :(
Such professional result!
For the hem, because it's on a curve and the fold will have some gather, I used a fusible tape to "glue" the hem before running it under the cover stitch machine.
Applying fusible hemming tape

Another thing I found after I finished the dress is, I should have matched the black and white stripes at the front bodice seams. Now two white stripes are sewn together and it looks unpleasant.
not quite happy with the front bodice seam... 
Material list:
Knits: 1.5 m x $4 = $6

Overall, I like how the dress turned out and the fitting issue on the sleeves may not be noticed by people when I wear it. The dress is very comfortable to wear and looks quite stylish with a thin belt and a pair of pumps. Plus, it's very easy to make, especially if you have a serger (overlocker) or cover stitch machine. 

It's been almost a month since my last post. I said I was working on the By Hand London Elisalex dress on my post more than a month ago, but now I still have not posted anything about it... Well I DID work on it but encountered some issues with the fitting and I was so frustrated that I just put it aside.

Anyway, we seamstress also need to take some time off and enjoy life! As I am doing this blog post, I am actually in the beautiful Tasmania!! For those who ever think about coming down under, you must come to Tasmania! I am a big bush walk fan and Tas has some of the best walking tracks in Australia. 

Yesterday we went to Wineglass Bay, and today we made the walk in the famous Cradle Mountain. After the walk in the Wineglass Bay, we encountered some friendly Wallabies at the car park. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

PR sewing contest win, Road trip to Sydney, etc

I am so psyched about my second place win in PatternReview's Natural Fibres Contest. This is my first time entering a sewing contest and I came in second place. It's a big confidence boost for me. I also feel very graceful for the support within the sewing community. It's an amazing place to be and just makes me love sewing and sharing more.
Snapshot of the contest page on PR
I also would like to use this blog post to say thank you to my beloved husband. He plays a part on this blog too. He patiently waits and carries fabric bolts for me every time I am stuck in a fabric store. He helped take photos of me, and mostly importantly proof reads my English for my blog posts.
Us two

What have I been up to recently? Not much sewing. My brother and sister in law came to visit me from China and we embarked a road trip to Sydney. We also toured around attractions in Victoria, like the Great Ocean Road,  Puffing Billy train ride, and Phillip Island.
Landmark - Sydney Opera House

Ride on Puffing Billy (Melbourne)

My Bro and his wife

Now that they have returned to China, I can't wait to get back into sewing. Christmas is not to far away and I believe lots of sewists or quilters have a tradition of doing a Christmas project. I have been considering that. Maybe I can dig out my unfinished Christmas apron from last year and finish it off or maybe I can do some Christmas bunting. Just something simple.

Enough rambling for now. I need to get something done and have it up by the next two weeks.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Vogue 8944: Colour Block Dress

I almost overlooked this simple yet stylish Vogue pattern if not for fact that Spotlight kept discounting patterns. 

The fabric I used is double Ponte knits. It’s my first time sewing this fabric. It’s easy to cut, comfortable to wear, although it’s a bit too thick or bulky at the seams. I used three warm colour combination – grey, yellow and lilac.

The fitting was not easy. I almost lose my patience and wanted to abandon the project. Based on the model photo, the bodice looks fitted. But the pattern is actually very loose fitted. I had problem with the back bodice – it’s way too wide even I cut a record small size of size 6! I still need to trim away 1 cm width at the centre back.
Armhole without adjustment

 As SunnyGal Studio pointed out, the armhole needs reshaped. I have the final pattern pieces here so you can see my adjustment. I also shorten the yoke by ¼ inch, accordingly same to the back bodice.

During the construction, I combined the two front bodice pieces into one piece with darts. This way, I can save some fabric, extra cutting and stitching.

I also remove the zip because it’s knit and I can just slip through. 

Material list:
Grey Ponte (147cm wide): 0.5m x $11 = $5.5
Yellow Ponte: 0.3m x $11 = $3.3
Lilac Ponte: 0.7m x $11 = $7.7
Tricot for lining: 0.5 m

Overall, I am happy with the pattern. The Once you get your right fitting, you can turn this pattern into distinct dress by choosing different colour combinations and materials.

What’s next?
I just bought the By Hand London Elisalex Dress Pattern. Very excited. Start working on it now. 
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