love sewing magazine

2 more Suki Robes

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I have plenty of clothes, so how can I justify making more?

Here, my friends came to the rescue (actually they probably have more clothes than me but it’s their guilt now not mine).

On our weekly zoom chat I was moaning about having lots of fabric and wanting to sew but not needing anything. My friends said ‘you could make something for us’

I am generally not keen on making things for other people. Too many of us have got used to the idea that clothes are not valued, and are disposable. I have seen this in practice when sorting through charity shop donations. I choose my gift makes carefully.

In this instance the gifts were to be Helen’s closet Suki robe’s. This pattern works best in light weight fabrics to be used as a summer dressing gown. It’s good to make as a gift because there are not too many fitting issues – loose fit, wrap front.

I gave my friends some 100% cotton fabric options to choose from then ordered accordingly.

I made this one from fabric bought on ebay for £9 per metre, 2.5 metres purchased. My friend identifies with Sicily so I chose the lemon fabric. There is huge error which is the lemons hang upwards but I was focussing on the leaves which I thought lookd better pointing upwards.

I made this one from Japanese fabric purchased online for £18 per metre, 3 metres purchased.

This is probably the best quality fabric I have ever sewed. It just oozed quality. The birds and colours are amazing, I think they are storks. Despite this being a size small, there was not much fabric left over from the 3m I bought. I imagined myself pattern matching but that was beyond my skill level and I had to content myself with all the birds flying in the same direction.

I tried both on, and the lemons one, being my size, was a lovely fit, but disconcertingly the stork print looked all wrong because it would not close properly and even the neck was too small. I will just have to hope that Helen knows what she is doing and this will look wonderful on my small sized friend.

Having sewed 2 Suki robes in 4 days I am now familiar with the pattern and have some observations.

  1. French seam the shoulder seams
  2. Don’t bother with the belt loops
  3. The front overlap is quite small, don’t skimp on sizing in this area.
  4. Its a great pattern

I love sewing, its rewarding and challenging.

Siella McCalls 8085

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I got this pattern free with Love Sewing magazine and was surprised to find it was intended for knit fabric, as the design looks like a woven. (In fact many sewists have sized up and made it in woven). The fabric it has been made up in for the cover photo immediately reminded me of some fabric in my stash bought recently at

which is a viscose jersey with 4% lycra

I sewed view B

The pattern instructions are for a simple folded over boat neckline with no facings or binding but others who have sewed this suggested it could be improved by adjusting the neckline to add a bias facing. I agreed with this suggestion as I was worried the weight of the dress would pull the neckline down and also the neckline looked a bit high and would benefit from being lower.

I made other adjustments to the front bodice which were to raise the shoulder by 1cm as I don’t have much of a shoulder slope, and raise the armpit by 1cm accordingly. I took 1 inch out of the bodice length and cut the side seams of the front bodice a size larger as a sort of rudimentary FBA, so overall I cut a size M but for the bodice side seams I went to L.

Here is my adjusted front bodice piece.

The dress looked quite long on the model so I took 2 inches off the main skirt piece and 1 inch off the ruffle and it still came up quite long on me.

Although not transparent, my fabric was quite thin so I cut 2 front bodice pieces exactly the same and sewed them wrong sides together as I have a RTW dress in similar fabric which is constructed like this. I then used the double layer as one piece, and this also helped to support the weight of the skirt better.

The pattern instructions suggest taping the shoulder seams and I taped the bodice side seams as well.

Construction was easy and straightforward, the skirt pieces are just rectangles, the trickiest part was the large areas of gathering and getting it even, which was needed time and patience.

The instructions suggested making an elastic casing from the seam allowances where the bodice attaches to the skirt but I was confused by this and missed it out. I already had extra bulk there due to by double layer bodice and the fabric is gathered and stretch anyway so didn’t understand the need for elastic. I can always add it later if the dress seems to need it.

When it came to binding the neckline I used normal home made cotton binding as a facing. I topstitched it down near the seam instead of under stitching (mistake) and then thought it would look awkward if I secured it with a second line of top stitching, so used one of my decorative stitches to secure the binding and am quite pleased with the result.

This dress has received many compliments. I am very pleased with it and would highly recommend this pattern. It’s easy, super comfy to wear, could be dressed up or down, has pockets, and is multi seasonal.

Sewing with less fabric

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When you sew it’s only a matter of time before you own some sort of fabric collection and some of these lengths will be smaller than required to sew up a garment.

There are 3 basic ways a fabric can end up in my stash, not having been bought for a specific project.

  1. I may have gone into a cute little fabric shop in a pretty town and wanted to buy something to support the owner .
  2. I saw some fabric, any fabric, in a charity shop and bought it.
  3. I have bought for a song or been given someone else’s fabric collection for free – I am unable to say no to any offers of this nature.

My pattern collection is mostly made up of ‘free patterns’ from magazines, in fact my whole sewing practice is quite chaotic and unplanned and I like it like that, but as my experience grows, order and satisfaction is emerging from chaos. With a now pretty decent collection of both fabric and patterns, the garments I sew may be driven by either, but often when I chose a fabric and a pattern from my stash to go together, there will not be the required yardage. I have stopped worrying about this because whatever yardage is available it can usually be made to work .

Once I have settled on the main fabric for a garment, I will make fit adjustments to the pattern pieces like shortening the length (I am 5ft 3in so this is a usual adjustment for me), lay the main pieces out on the fabric to see what will fit and cut these pieces out. The main pieces will be the largest ones on the front of the garment so shirt fronts, skirt fronts, dress bodices, front trouser legs, and as long as 2 or 3 of these main pieces will fit I am good to go. Sleeves, pockets, collars and belts are OK on the cross grain if the print is non directional.

Denim A line skirt with yolk waistband

Most recent make is this skirt for which stated the fabric required was 1.95 square metres. I only had 1.2 square meters of this black stretch denim, and the width was an unuseful 110cm which would only accommodate 3 of the 4 panels of this A line skirt. I cut the 2 back panels exactly as required by the pattern and then re-assessed the situation. Instead of cutting one front panel whole, I made a seam about a quarter of the way up from the hem of the front pattern piece and cut the front 2 pieces of the skirt in 4 parts. The reason I chose to do this on the front and not the back was because I planned to cover the seam line with some sort of trim which would sit better at the front than the back.

The remaining pieces were the yolk style waist band and pockets, which were completed with co-ordinating similar weight small pieces of stash fabric.

I’ve shown the skirt here with the top tucked in so you can see the waistband and pockets but this is only for pictures and I would not normally style it like this.

I didn’t cover the extra front seam with a trim as the final garment didn’t look as if it would be improved by it.

Of course I had chosen this pattern in the first place because the 4 panel construction meant the pattern pieces were smaller.

Cotton shirt M6436

I didn’t make a note of how much of this cotton fabric I had but knew it was less than the pattern requirements for McCalls shirt 6436

The sleeve for this pattern is made of 2 pieces so I cut what I could from the main fabric then selected a contrasting but similar weight cotton for one sleeve back, pocket and button band. I am pleased with the result which enabled me to make a garment from 2 small fabric pieces. I knew finding a small piece to go with the main fabric would be no problem because I have a lot of these in quilting type cotton and the sleeve being in 2 pieces was a bonus.

M8379 Wrap dress in stretch jersey

Things started out well with this vogue wrap dress V8379 with the skirt and front bodice pieces coming out of the fabric whole and as designed.

I did have at least 2 metres of 150cm wide fabric but this dress uses a lot. The sleeves were shortened and cut on the cross grain but then things began to get tricky. There was virtually nothing left for the back bodice, belt and collar. I slept on it and hoped that inspiration would come, and it did.

I raided my fabric stash and found some skinny rib fabric in black which was sufficient for the belt and collar then gritted my teeth and cut the back bodice from 4 small pieces, breaking all grainline rules but with the polka dot design you can’t tell that much.

The collar and belt work well with the main fabric and I think I can just about get away with the back bodice being pieced together, which seemed a better option than using a contrast fabric on this occasion.

Its become almost a challenge for me to sew this way and part of the reason I do it is to use up my smaller pieces and be left with fewer new ones from each sewing project.

Threadcount ultimate sweater set TC1912

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Along with my Love Sewing Magazine this month came the above pattern. This was fortuitous because I had recently bought some knitted fabric (on a trip to Walthamstow) and jumpers are actually something I was short of.

This fabric was like nothing I had ever used before. It was a rib knit as in it looked like hand knitting but on a smaller scale. I had no idea how it was going to behave during the cutting out or sewing. At the bargain price of £5 per metre and I had bought only 1 metre.

My first ‘session’ with a pattern is always cutting out the pattern pieces and deciding what size to make or more truthfully deciding the exact mish mash of sizes for shoulders, bust and waist and if a full bust adjustment is needed.

Sizing decisions are based on comparing the pattern pieces with other garments I have sewn, measuring the sizes of the pattern pieces, looking at the fit on the pattern model.

In this instance for comparison I used a RTW jumper in a similar rib fabric which was a bit smaller and a bit shorter than I wanted the new one to be.

The pattern required fabric with 75% stretch, which mine had. This means when you lay the fabric out you are scared of over stretching it or stretching it unevenly before the cutting starts. The pattern calls for 1.5m of fabric, and from laying the pattern pieces on the fabric I could see I didn’t really have enough. The measurements on the pattern packet put me in a size L but due to lack of fabric , comments from the pattern tester in the magazine, and the size of the pattern pieces, I decide to cut a straight size M and trust that the large stretch element in the fabric would accommodate everything. Due to lack of fabric I had to divide the sleeve piece into 2 sections and cut the cuff end out on the cross grain. The neck piece also had to be about and inch smaller than the pattern.

Sewing up was quick and easy, with a narrow zig zag stitch for the main seams and a wide zig-zag for the seam finishes. There was no pressing involved with this type of fabric which speeds things up.

The whole thing was done in about 4 hours which counts as super quick for me.

There was practically no waste fabric, so little there was nothing at all worth saving .

The fit is everything I had hoped for, perfect length and no size issues, I may use this type of fabric again just because there is no sizing drama

Jumpers could be the way forward in 2020.

I think the only question mark over this make is the hem, it may stretch out.

Betty dress Love sewing mag in green gingham

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This is how the model looked in a linen version of the Betty shirt dress from Love Sewing magazine. I made this up in a green gingham hoping that it wouldn’t turn out looking too much like a school dress.

The pattern is included in issue 68 of Love Sewing magazine, the instructions being in the mag and you download and print the PDF file from their website, and it’s designed by Fiona Hesford of Sewgirl.

This is how my version turned out.

The gingham was bought locally with this dress in mind. It’s 100% cotton, slightly thicker and softer than school dress fabric and the squares might be a bit larger. I specifically wanted to make it to wear on holiday in Greece so it had to be cool and loose and I loved the pockets.

The bodice design is similar to my previous make with no actual sleeve pieces so avoiding all those fit issues. There are no bust darts which concerned me slightly because the model appears to have a small bust and I was worried how this would work out for my body shape.

The skirt is softly gathered with patch pockets and has a shirt tail type hem.

I had a go at pattern matching but there were a lot of lines to match up

I printed out the pattern pieces and mulled over which size to make.

The armholes were large, no problems there, the V neck looked about right too. I cut size 16 bodice, 18 waist and 14 hips, probably could have shortened the bodice length a cm or two and used a size 14 on the shoulders.

I wanted a dress which had a lot of room in it and that’s how the fit turned out.

To check the fit, as always, I machine basted the bodice pieces together and tried it on. All seemed OK and at that point I realised the dress would pull on over my head, which meant I could sew the button placket shut an use some large buttons from my stash, last seen on a corduroy jacket.

The buttons would probably have been too large to fit in the buttonhole foot but as they were only there for show I just sewed them on and I doubt many people would notice there wasn’t an actual button hole.

I missed out the self tie belt, as am not a fan of belts.

This dress turned out to be everything I had hoped for in a holiday dress and it got worn for several evenings out to dinner on the Greek island of Paros. The weather was 20 – 25 degrees in the evening and not too humid which was perfect for eating outside.

This bodice design is devoid of any fit issues but does result in excess fabric around the shoulder area. Its not something that worries me too much and the extra fabric almost seems to fold itself into a bust dart shape quite neatly during wear.

Pattern review Lovesewingmag retro revival dress

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I have a subscription to Love Sewing magazine and have started making some of the patterns. You always get 2 paper patterns, one of which is McCalls, but there are also 2 or 3 others which are PDF only from the website with the instructions being in the magazine.

Anyone can use the PDF’s for the price of your email address, and sewists with some experience could work out how to put them together without the instructions so I urge you to check them out.

This one from the recent issue 70 looked like my kind of style and I bought this cotton fabric from a local shop. The recommended fabric was linen. Stated requirements were 2.4m which was about right.

A medium weight cotton with spider webs – it was on sale and I suspect originally meant for some kind of childrens’ halloween costume. The actual colour is purple although it looks more like blue here.

The point of this dress is ‘learn a new skill, fabric covered buttons’. The button placket is not functional as there is a zip all the way down the back of the dress.

I printed out the 30+ pages of pattern and stuck them together. This was a big job in itself but using another tip from Love Sewing I held the pieces of paper up to a window and matched up the lines of the pattern pieces rather than cut off the edges of all the sheets. The accuracy of the sticking seemed to be improved using this method.

The sleeve is a batwing/dolman/grown on type, not sure of the correct term ie there are no separate sleeve pieces. The bodice has waist and bust darts. The bust darts didn’t print out properly but it was obvious by the shape of the pattern pieces and extra length on the front bodice that they were meant to be there.

I also find its a really good idea to take a close look at the fit on the model in the picture. The model will usually be slimmer and taller than myself so any fit issues I can spot on her will be the same on me plus some.

Areas to especially look hard at are the shoulders do they look dropped? ( I don’t like dropped shoulders), the how tight are the arms, how low is the neck, in this case I thought the bodice looked a bit long on the model and removed 1cm from the length of the pattern accordingly, I also made the neck a little lower.

Whilst knowing that making a toile is a good idea and have made them for some projects in the past, I mostly can’t be bothered. I do however want a good fit as much as the next person so my answer to this dilemma is to cut pattern pieces, erring on the side of big , machine tack them together, try on, and consider any appropriate fitting adjustments from the tacked garment before sewing together properly. In this instance I was able to take a further 1cm off the bodice length and move the bust darts points to the right place.

The garment construction was fairly quick easy and straight forward. I like the welt pockets and general style. The covered buttons were easy to make but they tend to blend in so if I hadn’t already made them I would have used a different contrast button instead.

As the buttons are purely a design feature I didn’t take any chances making potentially dodgy button holes and merely hand sewed the 2 placket sides together behind each button to make it look as if the buttons were securing it. I doubt if many people would notice the lack of actual button holes.

I am quite pleased with this dress, the cotton fabric means it can be worn in warm weather but as its fairly thick it will be trans seasonal as well.

This is my first ‘pattern review’ and I believe its customary to include some Q & A so here goes.

What did you like about the pattern? – Semi-fitted style, welt pockets, easy batwing sleeve which eliminate sleeve fitting issues, only a few pattern pieces, would work with a variety of fabrics and seasons.

What didn’t you like? – bust darts didn’t print out, no notches, sketchy instructions compared to independents.

What size did you make? – Bust 16, waist 18, hips 14

Fabric used : bought 2.5 m medium weight cotton, 22 in zip, fabric button backs

Modifications: Shortened bodice, lowered neck, didn’t make button holes

Would you make it again/recommend: I normally like to try something different but would recommend, I’ve worn it a few times and feel good doing so.

Bonus feature : Tailor’s ham

I bought a t-shirt for £1 from a charity shop but once home it looked a bit shabby to make anything from. However I did fancy owning a tailor’s ham so I used the t-shirt to cut out some ham shaped pieces and stuffed them with the rest of the t-shirt fabric cut into small pieces.

It works well, job done.