Man Sewing {Thread Theory Jedediah Pants}

I apologise in advance for the length of this post.

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I’ve always seen sewing as a set of levels. You start out on the lower levels – straight lines on wovens etc and move up through the levels – buttonholes, basic zippers, set in sleeves, knits etc. Pants are a new level for me, not only because of the zip fly but also due to the fitting required.

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This year I made it my goal to sew a pair of jeans for myself. But after washing a pair of my husband’s near transparent work pants, I figured maybe I’d start with pants for him instead, to ease me into the world of pants. His body must be easier to fit than mine, right?

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Yep. Correct. He does have a bit of trouble buying work pants though, mostly because of his impatience with shopping but also partly due to his height. He’s 6’4″ and generally a 34″ waist, sometimes a 32″ though. He also has no butt (just like me – what hope do our children have?) and skinny legs. He’s always had an aversion to pants and jeans with narrower legs and as a result gets around in work pants that look like they belong in 1995. I planned to change that.

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Patterns for men are few and far between. Decent patterns for men are like hen’s teeth. Have you looked through the pattern books for men’s patterns from the Big 4 companies? Appalling. I knew that for my first foray into pants I would need something modern and indie. Something that wouldn’t require a lot of adjustments. Enter Thread Theory’s Jedediah pattern.

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They’re described as a slim fit, chino -style trousers or shorts pattern. That perfect line between casual and dressy. I love the binding finish and the option to do french or flat felled seams. I couldn’t figure out the waistband finishing instructions for the life of me, so did them my own way. There is an excellent youtube video for the fly, so that wasn’t a problem at all – actually much easier than I was anticipating!
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I started with the 34 for him and made them from a cheapy gaberdine that I picked up from The Remnant Warehouse. Straight off the pattern they were a decent fit, but too small in the waist and too narrow in the lower leg. Length was perfect though. Ok. Round two – the size 36, which I made from a navy wool blend (also from The Remnant Warehouse).

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They came up ok, but much bigger in the waist. What? A bit too big in the legs too, so I brought those in. The waist I couldn’t really change without doing a lot of seam ripping but he was happy to wear them, so I left it. He is used to RTW, after all. I was a bit puzzled at the difference in waist size but put it down to the fabric stretching out a bit.

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Enter pair three. Once again from the gaberdine I used from the toile (I had just enough left over for another pair). This time I did a slight flat seat adjustment and graded between the 34 and 36 at the waist and legs. This has to be it. Uh, no – still big at the waist. WTF MAN?! I dug out the toile pair and compared the finished measurements to those on the pattern. I have no idea what happened but my toile pair were 1.5 inches smaller at the waist than they should have been. Oops. Possibly due to some error in the fly construction, but I’m still not sure.

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Oh well, still quite a decent fit and he’s a bit fan of the Pacman pockets and binding. So am I, if I’m honest.

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Enter pair four. Oh yes, I’m like a dog with a bone. Size 34 with a flat seat adjustment and a bit of width added to the lower legs (not that you can see that here, because they’re shorts). This pair from cotton drill. My pants-making is now like a well oiled machine and I’m finally pretty happy with the fit.

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A bit no-bum in the seat, but that’s how RTW fits him too. Exacerbated by hands in pockets also. The drill seems to have a lot more give than the sturdy grey gaberdine used in the last pair.

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The waist fits well, I’m loving the cuffs and narrower legs on him (he was stuck in the 90s with his wide legged shorts too).

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He is what polite people would call ‘thrifty’. I say tight arse. So he’s bloody thrilled that I can now make him shorts and pants. Plus he gets out of shopping. It’s win-win.

 

 

 

 

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That 80s Dress With The Ruffles {Vintage Simplicity 5884}

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If you follow me on Insta, you would have noticed that I’ve been getting into a bit of pants (sorry UK friends – trouser) sewing lately. I bought the Jedediah Pants pattern by Thread Theory and figured I’d start with sewing pants for my husband since he’s a bit less curvy than me. He’s actually the complete opposite of me – tall, angular and mostly straight lines. I made one muslin, a couple of changes and bam – now he has three pairs of pants (which I’ll blog when I can photograph them all on his person). Did I get cocky? Yes. I moved onto Closet Case Patterns Morgan Jeans for me. Oh man, what a steep and painful learning curve. Long story short – even after two muslins I can’t get any semblance of fit.

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So what’s a girl to do to come back from such a knock to the ego? She bloody digs through her gifted vintage pattern stash and finds something to reassure herself that she can actually sew. An elastic waist almost guarantees that baby will fit.

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I’ll admit I did hesitate. I mean, look at it in all its 1983 glory. It could be amazing or really, really bad. There is no middle ground with a pattern like this.

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Did I sew that sucker anyway? Of course! I do love me a frill and they are bang on trend right now. Not that I’m a huge follower of trends, but frills man – so fun.

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I sewed this one out of a super light and floaty Lizzy House double gauze (I bought mine locally and I’m not sure it’s even available anymore). If you’ve never used double gauze before, let me try and describe it for you. It’s a bit like a Labrador puppy (stay with me) – soft as hell, cute as a button but does like to roll over on itself and misbehave in a ridiculous manner. Plus it sheds like crazy. It needs a firm but gentle hand or it will end you (or itself when it throws itself under the overlocker blade – fabric, not puppy – the puppy analogy ended).

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I think after the ruffles and the forgiving waist, the coolest part of this pattern is the rad way the back is finished. On modern patterns with the keyhole back, I’ve only ever seen them finished by slashing the back and wrestling with a very narrow seam allowance to stitch down either side. This way is so much neater and easier! You sew the facing around the neckline and then stitch down the back to a point (through the back and facing) and back up. Then you slash between your two stitching lines to get the back opening. It’s super cool (and I might have been living under a rock but I’ve never seen it before). I do find I learn new techniques from vintage patterns.

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To be honest though, I really wasn’t sure how this would turn out until the very end. I’d decided to attempt sleeves because I really do prefer them, but I knew those puffy delights on the pattern weren’t for me. I decided to make them but leave off the gathering into the cuff on the bottom – I figured they’d be more like flutter sleeves that way. ALMOST RIGHT KATIE. But I forgot one thing – the metric shit tonne of ease in the sleeve caps. OMG. It was like gathering another skirt. Those babies stood out all on their own with structure never seen before in double gauze, no doubt. Those sleeves were turfed into the bin, I dug out the sleeve pattern pieces and traced it again, this time taking a couple of wedges out of the cap. Not technically correct I’m sure, but it worked very well.

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Feeling pretty damn pleased at my problem solving skills, I tried the dress on before hemming. Oh wow, I nearly cried – frump city. The skirt hit me between the shin and ankle and was very very ‘sister wife’ looking. I had nothing to lose, so I cut 15cms off the bottom, hemmed it and tried it on with a belt. YASSSSSS. It was just as I’d hoped. It’s truly amazing what a hem and a belt can achieve.

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I was so damn pleased with my frilly 80s secret pjs, that I went up to my sewing room and grabbed this beautiful nautical print from The Material Girl that I’ve been saving for something special.

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Isn’t it amazing? Bearded sailor, pretzel rope – what’s not to love? I only had 2m so had to forgo my precious sleeves. If it comes to it, I can wear a cardi or a fitted t shirt underneath.

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I sized down for this one as the gauze one is slightly blouse-y and because I was using a quilting weight (although incredibly soft for qc) cotton this time, I thought it would be better a bit smaller. Also that clever back facing wants to flip on this version, so I’ve stitched it down.

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I love this dress so much that you might just see its friends appear in the shop eventually…

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To Me, From Me {Closet Case Files Carolyn PJs}

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Today is Valentine’s Day. It’s not really a thing in Australia – well, not a thing like it is in the US. Keeping in mind my ideas of Valentine’s Day are pretty much all based on The Simpsons.

Regardless, my husband and I don’t even acknowledge it. However, there is one love vibe I can get on board with and that’s a little bit of self care. And what is more self caring than bloody comfy yet glam PJs? Well, a lot of things, but PJs are up there!

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And since we (I), spend a lot of time in our (my) PJs, it was time for a fresh pair. I’ve used my favourite PJ pattern in the world – the Carolyn PJs by Closet Case Files. I love how classic they are. Yeah, they are a bit of work with the cuffs and the piping and the pockets, but so worth it. They feel fancy. They feel expensive. They feel like I want to wear them 24/7 and pretend I’m Claire Foy in The Crown. Except instead of corgis I have a Frenchie and instead of staff I have kids. And no one to dress me except me.

A Queen that is in desperate need of a hair cut. OMG. In a few weeks that is all going. Too much sun, too much salt water, too much chlorine and a bit of neglect.

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But look how faaaaaaaancy they are. They are my fanciest pair. I have three pairs – two shorts/short sleeve pairs in cotton for summer and one pair in flannelette for winter. The summer pairs get the most wear because we don’t have much of a winter. February is actually our hottest month of the year so these babies won’t be getting worn for a while yet. See that sheen on my face? That’s not a triumphant pj-making glow, that’s sweat because it’s currently 34 degrees (that’s 93.2F for my American friends).

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Fancy with creepy buttons. I love these buttons. My husband picked them up for me from an Op shop recently. Who needs flowers when you can have creepy hand buttons. I used the gold piping just to match my gross but delightful buttons.

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The fabric looks cool right? But it’s actually the devil. I’ve sewn with satin before and survived, but this is satin with spandex. WHAT WAS I THINKING? I know what I was thinking. It feels amazing and that little bit of stretch will make for added comfort when I’m lounging around on a Sunday morning (or, more likely, when it’s 3pm and I’ve picked the boys up from school and don’t have to be seen in public anymore). You can purchase the satan (ahem, satin) here if you’re keen for a bit of crying. I honestly unpicked those cuffs and collars more times than I care to admit. That slippery, stretchy devil did not want to cooperate – despite stay stitching and interfacing. So no, they aren’t perfect, especially that collar. But they’re good enough for me.

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Stop looking at my wonky collar.

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Now if summer would hurry up and leave, that would be great. I have swanning to do.

Bra-Bra-Bra, Bra-Bra-Bra-Anne {Orange Lingerie Marlborough Bra}

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Over the weekend I had a craving for some rock solid bra sewing. Can you have sewing cravings? I do. I love bra sewing for the same reason I love swimwear sewing. It’s very different to sewing a dress, it’s a bit challenging and it’s one of those things that really throws people when you tell them you made it. I always feel very accomplished when I have a bra that fits.

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Of course, the extra level in bras is the fit. Especially wired bras. I always say that sewing them isn’t the hard part – it’s the fit that can drive you nuts. Once you have that down though, you’re golden.

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Even though these aren’t my first Marlborough bras, I went the extra fitting mile this time and compared wire sizes to my breast root. This basically involves standing topless in front of a mirror and holding up a variety of wire sizes along the underside of your breast to check which size fits best. Then you make the bra to fit the wire, rather than buying wire to fit the bra you made. The theory is the fit is more accurate and I totally agree.

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So, turns out I had been making the correct Marlborough size all along (a 40D, although my measurements put me in a 40B according to the pattern), but using a slightly different wire size has really elevated the fit. They are so comfortable. I used to scoff when people would say that you don’t feel the wires in a correctly fitting bra, but it’s definitely true in this case.

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The floral print in the first bra is Cotton and Steel cotton spandex jersey. Not recommended for this particular pattern because it stretches, but I’ve lined it with bra lining to counteract that. The fabric for the second is a rigid lace from The Remnant Warehouse and the fabric for the third is some sort of mesh with velvety stripes (also from The Remnant Warehouse). I wasn’t even sure that fabric would work for a bra because it’s quite heavy, but it turned out really well. All are lined with bra lining and the seams are enclosed.

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All the side panels in the knickers are non stretch, which meant I compensated by cutting the front and back panels a bit bigger. The top pair use that lovely cotton lycra for the main part and I’ve used nice stretchy black spandex for the other two pairs. Bra hardware, strapping and elastic is all from Booby Traps.

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Is there anything that boosts your self esteem like well-fitting, comfortable lingerie?

 

 

This Is Australia {Next State Print Active vs Spoonflower Sport Lycra}

You know what’s cool? Being able to print your own designs onto the fabric of your choice. Now, I’m not clever enough to be able to design my own fabric, but I know what I like. Sometimes you’ll find the right fabric in a print that blows your mind, sometimes you won’t. Especially when it comes to fabric that is suitable for swimwear. It needs to be a magical combination of either polyester or nylon and spandex (or lycra, which is just the brand name for spandex).

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I mean, where else could you find Iced Vovo fabric but Spoonflower?

The more I sew swimwear, the more I crave those unique prints that tickle my fancy.

Like these moths from Andrea Lauren on Spoonflower:

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And these little kewpies from Ellie Whittaker on Next State Print:

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That’s right, Australians. Next State Print (based in Melbourne and possibly the most helpful company around) now offer their own version of activewear and swimwear fabric. So of course I had to order a metre and test it out as I really wanted to see how it compared to the Spoonflower Sport Lycra. Because: (a) I’m nerdy like that and (b) I really like to support Australian businesses when I can. Also, I reallllly like the Spoonflower lycra, so could another product compare? Let’s see.

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Here are the stats (I told you I was a nerd):

Content:

SF: Polyester (88%) and lycra (12%)

NS: Polyester (80%) and spandex (20%)

Width:

SF: 142cm

NS: 140cm

Price:

SF: $32USD/yard (approx $41AUD per 91cm, if we’re getting picky)

NS: $37/metre

Stretch:

Now, if you’ve seen my last post, you’ll know this is a tricky number to nail down.

SF: Claim 75% in one direction and 50% in the other. I honestly find this hard to believe. It’s much firmer than that.

NS: No stretch listed but it’s stretchier than the Spoonflower version.

Sorry it’s not a more exact science than that.

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General feel? They both feel good. Both are a decent thickness and nice quality. If you haven’t used digitally printed fabric before, know that they have their limitations and are different to their screen printed cousins – it’s the nature of the beast. But what I have found is the colour and quality is much more vibrant on synthetic fibres (like spandex) than natural fibres (like cotton).

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The Next State Print Active is definitely lighter and stretchier than the Spoonflower Sport Lycra. But it’s also silkier and softer. It does work out a bit cheaper but of course, they don’t have as much variety in their prints as Spoonflower. My Spoonflower swimmers have been washed and worn many times now and are holding up well, I will update what happens with the Next State version as I’ve only just made them and worn them in the pool today.

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Oh and if you’re wondering about this swimsuit, it’s a hacked version of Megan Nielsen’s Rowan pattern, which I’ve also made here and here. It’s a good one and I love it.

 

Let’s Talk About Stretch, Baby {Patterns For Pirates Peg Legs}

I apologise in advance, this post is going to be all over the place.

So hey, how confusing is stretch stuff? Pretty bloody confusing. There’s all those different combinations of compositions – poly/spandex, nylon spandex, cotton lycra….

Then there’s percentages of stretch. Wat?

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Oh yes, not all stretch is created equal. Especially when you don’t have a fabric shop nearby and you’re just going by website descriptions. Let me explain…

When I made my very first pair of Patterns 4 Pirates Peg Legs, I used Spoonflower Sport Lycra. The pattern calls for at least 50% stretch in both directions, the sport lycra claims to have 50% in one direction and 75% in the other. I made those babies according to my measurements and could not get them beyond my thighs. WTF, man?!

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If you’ve felt the Spoonflower Sport Lycra, you’ll know it’s pretty heavy and firm. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff and have used it for many pairs of swimmers. But 75% stretch? Nah. I even emailed them to double check and was assured the website is correct. So I’m not sure what I’m missing or what sort of sorcery this is, but it’s puzzling.

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So moving right along in my peg journey, I ordered this rad printed poly/spandex blend from fabric.com. It’s described as an athletic knit with 10% stretch. Wait, what?! 10% STRETCH. FOR ATHLETIC USES. NO.

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By this stage I’d lost my faith in the accuracy of any stretch percentages on websites. Whatever, I like the print let’s give it a whirl. When it arrived, it felt exactly like the Spoonflower lycra – not hugely stretchy and also quite thick. Definitely more than 10% though, for sure. Anyway, I sized up to an XL in my pegs pattern to compensate for less stretch and here we are – leggings that fit.

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Interestingly, I ordered this awesome scale print spandex at the same time and fabric.com lists this one as 30% stretch. It honestly feels the same as the one above to me. Same legging size cut, fit is the same. So this description is possibly accurate.

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PS I love them.

PPS I’m bad at yoga. Actually my physio banned me from yoga because I’m too bendy.

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Can do a handstand though.

Making your own leggings is amazing. These ones fit properly, they don’t creep down and they are squat proof – no transparency in the butt region at all. Eleventy billion times better than RTW. But yes, stretch percentages and buying online is quite the mine field. Sometimes you just have to take a gamble.

 

 

‘You can call me Queen Bee…’ {Button Up Shirt x Liberty Queen Bee}

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I’ll keep this short because this is my fourth version of this shirt. Original pattern info can be found here. This time I made the collar slightly bigger again. Ha. I know.

Super awesome Liberty tana lawn from here.

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Yes it feels as amazing as you’d imagined. Maybe more. I want to wear nothing but Liberty from here on in, ok? I would also like to sleep in it. I will probably need to sell my organs on the black market to fund my new habit, but less body parts to dress at least. Glass half full.

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Special fabric deserves special treatment, so this shirt got French seams and little green vintage buttons that remind me of bowling balls because they have that funny iridescent marbly look. Shut up.

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I feel fancy.

Here’s a quick history of Liberty and why it feels so amazing and costs more than your average lawn:

It’s made by tiny pixies only by the full moon on a small island off the coast of Greenland. They weave together a secret combination of sparkly spider webs, angel hair and clouds.*

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*my version of events may deviate slightly from the truth. You can read some legit info here.

Take Two and Three {My quest for the perfect button up shirt}

So this guy, right? Pretty close to perfect. But could I leave it alone? No.

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My only bother was the collar felt too big – both in size and circumference. So what does this dickhead do? Retraced the neckline so it’s smaller but higher. If I’d stopped to think about that for more than a second, I’d realise that it was a rookie error and would make the whole shebang move further up my neck. I did cut down the collar and stand a smidge at the same time.

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Upon realising my mistake, I unpicked the collar and stand, recut the neckline so it was lower once again and made another collar. Which gave me this baby. Aw yes, better. Now to try on…

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WTF HAPPENED WITH THOSE BUST DARTS? Is this sorcery? Did I trace them with my eyes closed? Possibly. I don’t even know, man. Also that collar in sitting weirdly to the left. Now I have beautiful vintage Lion King fabric in a poorly fitting shirt.

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Ah well. Still a better fit than RTW. Will still wear.

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Last week, I ordered some beautiful Liberty lawn. So stunning. So spenno. Another tester was in order to get this shiz right before I cut into all those $$$$. This flamingo voile from Spotlight is the perfect test fabric really. Lovely and light but also reasonably priced. This time I took about a centimetre off the centre front all the way down, making that neck circumference a bit smaller and taking out some of the excess in the front. Good. I added some to the side seams to compensate and moved those bust darts in a bit. Good. New, smaller collar remained the same. Good.

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I think this is it. I mean, the collar still feels a bit big around my neck, but I don’t really like the feeling of being choked either. So this is the one. Promise I won’t touch it again.

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Wearing this to work today like a professional. Will be back with my fancy Liberty shirt later in the week.

The Power of Three {Rosa, Alma and McCalls 6696}

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The perfect button up shirt pattern. I’d been on the hunt for one for quite some time. Does it exist? Will I ever find it? Truth be told, I was being a bit fussy with my prerequisites.

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Stuff I wanted:

Legit collar and collar stand so I could button it all the way up, all hipster-like.

Minimal seams and yokes and other fussy bits so I didn’t have to cut through my busy prints like some kind of animal.

But some shaping (darts) is necessary. No one wants to wear a sack. I’m not a monster.

No gaping of buttons. I know I have boobs and a waist, but is this really such a big ask?

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I’d browsed the pattern books, I’d looked online at the indie companies. But no one had exactly what I wanted. It was either loose fitting men’s style shirts or yoked and princess-seamed women’s numbers. NO. I was feeling a bit foot stompy.

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Then it occurred to me. What if I just mash up the patterns I already have? Can I create some kind of shirty Frankenstein monster?

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Yes I can, you guys. Yes I bloody can. Not gonna lie, had no idea what I was doing and was quite sure it was going to end up disastrous. Turns out though, I ended up with the best fit I’ve had from a shirt. Ever.

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To make the monster, I used:

Tilly and the Buttons Rosa neckline and collar, because those are the shiz. Rosa is a rad pattern, but has two yokes and front and back princess seams. I didn’t want to chop my foxes.

McCalls 6696 for the bust dart and all round bust fit, as well as the armscye and sleeves. That dress never lets me down at the bust, but you know, it’s a dress.

Sewaholic’s Alma blouse for the length and front and back waist darts, as well as the shaping in at the waist. Delicious.

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And there she is, folks. Look at that fit! No gaping at the bust. Those buttons aren’t going anywhere. Ever. My only consideration for next time is that neck and collar region. I think it could be smaller. But I’m not sure where to start with that so maybe I’ll just leave it. It’s so close to perfect.

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Ooh fabric is Cotton and Steel from Hawthorne Threads (it looks to be out of stock, sorry!). Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make more of these babies. They are a tip top work shirt. Professional, yet not.

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How To Sew A Rashie and Matching Bikini Bottoms {Megan Nielsen Rowan and Acacia}

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What I’m using:

Megan Nielsen’s Rowan and Acacia patterns.

A stretch needleΒ  in my sewing machine, but not in my overlocker.

Swim fabric (spandex/nylon blend) from Pitt Trading.

Swim lining (bottoms only) from The Remnant Warehouse.

A chunky plastic open ended zipper (51cm) from Spotlight.

A couple of strips of light to medium weight iron-on interfacing.

 

I’ve used the turtle neck t shirt pattern pieces from Rowan, but instead of cutting the front pieces on the fold, they’ve been cut into two pieces with a bit of seam allowance added for the zipper. I’ve added the same allowance to the neckband piece. The first video covers the basic construction of the rashie – sewing the front pieces to the back and sewing in the sleeves.

The second video shows how I add sleeve bands instead of hemming the sleeves and also adding the neck band.

The third and final video shows how to interface the front edges to stabilise them before adding the zip. Then I finish off the neck band and hem.

 

Super awesome bonus round:

Making matching, fully lined bikini bottoms from the free Acacia pattern!

I make swimmers from underwear patterns quite often and this is something I get asked about all the time. What takes something from knickers to swimwear? Let me show you. Spoilers: Fabric choice, lack of gusset, including a lining and leg and waistbands instead of picot.

I also added some height to these are they are quite low.

welcome

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