Thursday, 30 January 2014

Let her [sew] Cake!

An hour earlier than scheduled, but I have now closed the Cake Hummingbird giveaway, and using a random number generator picked commenter number 1: SewLittleToSay!

Please to be contacting me at at with a suitable snail mail address and I will pop it in the post to you ASAP!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Reviewed: Burda 01-2004-121 a.k.a the World's Most Boring Skirt

Although I'm not currently doing the 6PAC thing I tried last year, I am nevertheless actually still sewing to a wardrobe plan. At the moment, I am concentrating on plugging wardrobe gaps with some simple staple items. The first item in this set of basics was my red Hummingbird skirt (I know glow-in-the-dark red might not look like a staple item colour to everyone, but since I wear a lot of red as an accent colour it actually fits into my wardrobe very neatly). That's probably about the level of complexity I'm going to be working at for the next few weeks, so I guess you should look forward to a series of things being made that are not all that exciting or technically demanding. This one CERTAINLY isn't. However, since my blog is only about 10% for the entertainment of my readers and 90% for my own edification as a sewing diary, I'm afraid anyone who reads on will just have to live with the tedium.
Burda 01-2004-121 pattern (images from Burda Russia) and technical drawing. Exciting, eh?
So: wardrobe gaps. The next most pressing item on my wardrobe replenishment list was a simple navy skirt, of a sort that is comfortable and nice but that can be a neutral background to a variety of more colourful and interesting tops. I wanted to make something A-line but not too triangular, and I wanted a skirt with a yoke. I've made a yoked A-line skirt before, Ottobre 05-2007-03 (most recently this one) but that pattern is quite a wide triangle shape and wouldn't have fit on my fabric. Obviously I could have just changed the shape of the pattern but since I would have had to re-trace anyway due to size changes since I last made the Ottobre pattern up, I decided to give this old Burda pattern from January 2004, which already had a narrower hem, a chance. Only observe how incredibly exciting the technical drawing is! Thrill a minute stuff, for sure!

And it's just as exciting in person

Pattern Description: From the magazine: "A brilliant soloist! This knee-length A-line skirt ... is extremely simple to sew! There's no waistband, just a zip as fastener. A wide yoke ensures a perfect fit and a flattering waist line."

Pattern Sizing: 34-44. I made a size 40 as I was using a ponte knit with some stretch. My measurements would ordinarily put me in a size 42 in Burda.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, just like the line drawing.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I only glanced over the directions as I didn't need much guidance, but they seemed terse but adequate, typical Burda.

An exciting view of the lining fabric. Blue tulips!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? This is such an incredibly basic pattern it's hard to like or dislike anything strongly. I was particularly looking for an a-line pattern with a yoke to use with a ponte knit fabric I had in stash: this very easy lined skirt pattern fit the bill perfectly, didn't require any pattern changes, not even for length, and was exceptionally easy to make. The most remarkable thing about it was that once I got started cutting it took less than 2 hours to make.

Fabric Used: I used 1m of a 140cm wide ponte knit in navy, plus 60cm of lining fabric as I prefer to self-line the yoke rather than having a slippery synthetic fabric next to my skin at my waist.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: As I was using a ponte knit with a small amount of stretch, I left off the zipper and cut the back of the skirt on the fold rather than having a centre back seam. As mentioned above, I cut the lining yoke from ponte rather than the synthetic lining fabric I was using. I should also have adjusted the curve of the back yoke a little as it is not quite as closely fitting at the back waist as I would like, but it is wearable nevertheless, particularly as I never tuck my tops in.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would definitely make it again. This is an old issue of Burda that I picked up cheap on eBay and I really doubt anyone would run out to try to find it on the strength of this extremely basic pattern. However, it's a great little workhorse pattern and I like it a lot.

Conclusion: This is possibly the least exciting garment to ever be reviewed on Pattern Review, but it was quick, easy and filled a wardrobe gap I desperately needed to fill. I'm very pleased with it!

Additional Wibblings

1. Cost: My 1m piece of ponte knit was from Fabrix in Lancaster (UK) from their remnants rack and set me back a princely £4 in May 2013. The lining is left over from the Disappointing Cape wadder last year and was bought somewhere on Goldhawk Road in London in November 2013 for £4/m. I used all of the remnant, about 60cm, so about £2.40 worth. With overheads, that makes the cost about £7. This was definitely a money saver for me, since I actually seriously considered buying this very similar, equally boring £25 M&S skirt just a couple of weeks ago.

2. Fabric: I've never used ponte knit before and I LOVE IT, oh my goodness. I definitely want to make more with it. I haven't really got any more, unfortunately, but it's top of my list of fabrics to keep an eye out for in the future. So easy to sew with, and also so forgiving! I love how the weight of the fabric creates a bit of drape in this simple A-line and makes the skirt less triangle-y looking. It's got just a little flare and swing at the hemline but looks almost like a straight skirt when you stand still.

3. Burda! This is my first actual wearable garment from Burda (I've made a couple of muslins of other items). I know, I know, I talk about Burda CONSTANTLY, and yet I don't tend to make much from it. This first project wasn't a great size testing run because of course I was using a stretchy fabric with a non-stretchy pattern, but it was definitely good experience. It's also one of hopefully at least 12 Burda patterns I'll be making this year. It's not one of my official Sewing Goals for 2014, but one of the things I thought I might try to do is make one Burda pattern a month. This month it so happened that I came across a January pattern I really wanted in January (albeit 10 years after it was originally published) but I'm not going to try to slavishly go month by month. I will if I can, and if I can't, well, any old Burda at all will do! So far, so successful, I guess! :D?

4. Sewing: This was really my first item made with my walking foot in earnest and oh my goodness, I LOVE IT. LOVE. LOVE. I was kind of dreading sewing the ponte yoke onto the synthetic lining because that is usually a recipe for terrible puckering and awfulness, but no! Not even a TINY pucker. So happy I got a machine that came with a free walking foot this time!

Also, I did a two needle hem with my coverstitch. It wasn't 100% successful, I would say maybe 90-95%, because I had a little bit of tunnelling in a few places. However, for a first attempt on a knit and a second attempt overall, I am pretty damn pleased with it. :D I also find it absolutely amazingly quick to re-thread. I dread threading my overlocker because it always takes me forever, but my coverstitch is so quick and intuitive, I LOVE it. I still have one big thing I need to try on my coverstitch, and that's binding/neckbands on a knit, but my verdict so far is that is has been money so incredibly INCREDIBLY well spent, I am thrilled with it.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Reviewed: Cake Hummingbird 'Orange' skirt in red corduroy

So, this was not the greatest first garment make for 2014. My overall verdict is: meh. I am giving the pattern away if anyone fancies having a go to see if they like it better, though (and I know there are some Cake fans among my handful of readers!)

Pattern Description: From the pattern envelope: Knit top with horseshoe neckline, cap or elbow length sleeves and a seamless four-leaf-clover-shaped peplum inspired by the work of Charles James. Optional mid-century sewing challenge: dickey and bias cuffs from woven shirting fabric. Woven Skirt with no-gape panel pockets, back zipper and simple bound waistline (~1″ below natural waist). Optional back tailfeather flounce.

I made the "Orange" skirt, which is the basic skirt in the package (no tailfeather flounce).

Pattern Sizing: The sizing of this pattern is idiosyncratic, consisting of a set of sizes between 35-55" full hip. I made a "size 40" -- no noticeable relation to normal European size 40s, whether RTW or pattern -- and used the marking provided to choose what I thought was an appropriate waist band (it wasn't, as it turned out). I found the sizing easy enough to understand when I looked at it but didn't find it added much to my experience of making up the pattern, in terms of customizing fit out of the envelope.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? For the most part, yes. I think the line drawing makes it look like the hem is slightly pegged, and the actual pattern is completely straight.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, they are clear and straightforward. I found the constant references back to the pattern creator's website for information on steps like installing the zipper annoying, but I can see some, particularly novices, might prefer this option to a truncated description in the printed instructions.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I was most drawn to this pattern by the design and placement of the pockets, which I liked very much and which I think are the nicest feature of the finished garment.

Even after careful initial measurement and considerable tweaking during the sewing process, I found the waist and hip fit of the pattern a poor match for my body. This is not really the fault of the pattern itself, of course, which cannot realistically anticipate every body shape variation. However, it left me with the rather lukewarm conclusion that for me, with this particular pattern, while the unique sizing scheme is certainly not worse than Big4 or Burda, it is not particularly any better either, in terms of permitting out-of-the-envelope fit, with the disadvantage that I had to invest additional time figuring out what size to make in the first place.

Stupidly, I decided to take the suggestion contained within the instructions and did not interface the waistband, which was a terrible, terrible mistake. I think it is misleading to include this anti-interfacing commentary in the instructions. However, to be honest I am more baffled by my own suggestibility because no, really, I do know better than to think such a rule can be applied to all fabrics, especially when handling the fabric suggests it needs interfacing.

I also, as always, dislike the use of half inch seam allowances, although at least on this occasion it is clearly marked on the pattern and stated in the instructions. As far as I can tell there's no real advantage to this departure from the norm and it's an annoyance to me as I use a machine with metric markings, which do not include 12mm (1/2") marks. This is the second indie pattern in a row I've used to make this choice in pattern design, and I honestly don't understand it. I can only assume there is some design or philosophical reason behind it but from my metric-using point of view it is just a pain in the behind.

Fabric Used: I used just about 1m of lightweight red needlecord, and a scrap of cotton blend left over from another project for the pocket linings. This is slightly more than the pattern suggests as my fabric was a peculiar width.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: As written, the pattern is too short for my height and skirt length preferences. I added around 9.5cm to the length, but this was not entirely satisfactory in outcome. As I discovered, however, the skirt being quite narrow and not vented, it substantially reduces my stride when worn at just above knee length. As the skirt has a centre back seam, it would not be overly complicated to add a vent and depending on your preferences for stride and movement you may wish to do so if you also add length to the skirt.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I don't precisely dislike this skirt, but I am decidedly indifferent to it. I am very unlikely to sew the pattern again. Like most indie patterns this pattern was quite expensive. I would very likely only recommend it to others if they also wanted the remaining patterns and/or found some particular value to the sizing scheme (it does nothing for me, but I know from other reviews that it has been a hit for other people) because otherwise it works out rather expensive for a simple skirt pattern.

Conclusion: Not really the skirt I was hoping for, but not terrible either.

Extra wibblings 

Fabric: I bought 5m of this needlecord from the lady on eBay liquidating her late mother's fabric stash for £4/m including p&p. It is absolutely gorgeous fabric but making this skirt alerted me to how relatively lightweight it is. I have always planned to make a coat or jacket from the remainder -- I have a Mad Plan of Madness, actually -- but now I am wondering if the weight of the fabric will work in my favour or against me in the MPoM. The other thing is that it's really, incredibly RED, and I am wondering also if I would ever actually wear a coat quite so brightly hued!

Sewing: There isn't much to say about the sewing on this except for the part where I tried out my coverstitcher! Check out that triple stitched hem front and back :D I also did a ton of top-stitching to give this skirt a tiny bit more edge. I didn't contrast top-stitch, so it's barely visible, but at least I know it's there.

Cost: The big cost for this skirt was the pattern, which was far more than I should have paid though I don't remember how much. Fabric was, as noted above, £4 as I used a metre. The zip was from a very cheap bundle and cost 8p. It was theoretically 2cm shorter than the pattern required, but it was totally fine.  Catch was 25p. Including overheads, I guess the total cost comes in somewhere around £5 plus the price of the pattern.

On criticizing indies: My sense is that despite the backlash at the end of last year, you criticize the indies at your own peril. However, I am not going to lie: I find the fact that the instructions relied on you going back to the website constantly extremely grating, and I thought the "unique" sizing schema added time and complexity for no appreciable gain in the case of this particular pattern. However, I also think at this stage I can also conclude that I am just not the intended customer for Cake patterns, on many levels. I gave it a try, it was moderately successful in that I don't by any means HATE my skirt, and now I am done.

Saturday, 25 January 2014



I am, for reasons that will be further explained in another entry, giving away a very lightly used copy of the Cake Hummingbird pattern, having made the "Orange" skirt from it. Photos and review to follow!

What do I mean by lightly used? Well, I have unfolded the skirt pattern and had the instructions open and hanging about, but the pattern for the peplum top has never even been unfolded and there's no damage to the skirt pattern at all, not even a pin-hole. I trace all my patterns, so it is 100% intact. The envelope has a couple of creases in the corners.

As a spoiler I will say that I am giving it away because I am not overly impressed with the pattern, but I do think it has many good points. Don't be put off by that if you're a big Cake fan or you just want to give this pattern/pattern company a try yourself. My feeling is I would rather it went to an enthusiastic sewer who would enjoy it than sit, unloved, in my pattern basket. Please don't be shy, even if you normally silently lurk! If you'd like it, just say something to that effect in a comment, and I will do a random draw if more than one person comments. I will post to you anywhere in the world.

I am full of other things to tell you, blog readers, but all of them depend on decent light and getting round to fixing poor Flossie's (my inherited dressmaker's dummy, named by my mum when she went to teacher training college in the 1960s) dimensions so I can take photos of my skirt (it is VERY RED, but does not actually light up the room). Also, I am so far full of delight with my coverstitch, about which, however, I am waiting to rhapsodize until I have tried it out on a knit as well. And finally, I have made one entire sock! It's kind of AMAZINGLY TERRIBLE, but I need to block it and photograph it before the true horror can be revealed to you. And then I need to make another entire terrible sock to complete the set, or chop a foot off, which is the downside of sock knitting, I fear.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Made: Little Pouch with sashiko embroidery

First project of the year: a tiny little embroidered pouch. This was one of the small portable projects I put together to take home and work on over Christmas, and I actually got round to making up the pouch from the embellished pieces this weekend. It's made with some scrap silk dupion (left over from the Wedding Clutch) and a spool of metallic thread that came in a kit I bought towards the end of last year.

For the sashiko element, I used the "Hemp leaf" sashiko pattern that I tried out last month. The pouch itself is from my favourite small bag/clutch pattern maker, Michelle Patterns. When I bought it, it was about $2 and a "pattern pieces only" pattern. Now it comes in a package of two patterns: Little Pouch and Long Pouch. As the name suggests, this is a small easy pattern, of a type I've made a ton of before. I thought it would be a good thing to try out a small project on silk before I attempt anything more drastic.

As far as the embroidery is concerned, I am pretty happy with how the pattern turned out on the fabric and my own stitchery. However, the thread is actually not really thick enough or shiny/visible enough for the outcome to be quite as visually interesting as I had hoped. I doubled the thread to try to get some extra oomph to it, but I don't think overall it was entirely successful because the thread was just not the right weight. On the other hand, I then tried to do the fish-scale pattern with quadrupled silver thread of the same type on another piece of silk, and I had two problems: one, the many threads wanted to snarl up and leave loops; and two, it was too thick for the silk fabric I was sewing it into. There's definitely something remaining to be figured out about thread thickness on this fabric. I have a few more scraps left of this very dark blue silk dupion so I might try again. I did enjoy the process and I still think it might be interesting as an embellishing technique.

In other news: My tax return was burning a massive hole in my pocket so I ordered a coverstitch machine, which I have been wanting for about 9 months now. Watch this space for coverstitch news!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Bits and Pieces

I am so sick of being sick. On top of still recovering from the latest round of ugh at the hospital in December, I now have a sniffly, snotty head-cold, just to put the icing on the cake. I hate colds, they are miserable and make you feel like a boiled owl, and at the same time they are so trivial that you can't really justify taking time away from work to baby yourself through them. At any rate, as a consequence of all this ongoing illness, plus the fact I start teaching this week, I have yet to finish making anything at all this month and so all I have to report so far are various Bits And Pieces.

1. Knitting Work In Progress: I am knitting a pair of socks! I can't say it's going well, but I have something that is ALMOST recognizably a sock and will only need another few sessions of work before it's finished. Then I have to make another, of course, which is the great trial of making socks.

2. Knitting Plans: I am going to revert to the Purple Jumper Of Doom once the socks are done, just so it's DONE, but then I think I might make a wrap or a shawl of some description.

3. Sewing Work In Progress: I have embroidered -- using one of the the sashiko patterns I tested previously -- the pieces of a small silk pouch and it is all ready to sew. It's also pretty much a test object so it will be interesting to see how it turns out in the end. The actual making of the pouch will take no time at all, from experience, I just need to find an hour or so to do it.

4. Things I have planned: The big wardrobe gap I have that I wanted to address this month is long-sleeved knit tops suitable for work. I have a couple of nice (stash) fabrics to use, but I am going back and forth between using Ottobre 05-2010-01, of which I made a too-large version that I use as a PJ top a year ago and a long sleeved top in Ottobre 05-2013 that I would have to start from scratch, the green one in this picture. I feel like there is less that could go wrong re-making the first top, although with my recent change in size I'll have to trace out whichever of the two I pick.

5. I am excited for the new Ottobre (02-2014) already, even though it's not due out 'til February. They posted a photo from the new issue on Facebook last night and I REALLY want that short trenchcoat pattern for a project I have planned for later in the year.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Goals for 2014

Happy New Year! :D Time to put our shiny new calendars on the wall and pretend we can plan our lives and that we're all going to turn over a new leaf and eat less/exercise more/keep our houses clean/fix whatever bad habits we ignore or regret the rest of the year.

Actually, my sarcasm about whether or not we can change our habits or plan our lives is kind of pointed for me right now. There's so much uncertainty in my life right now, for all kinds of reasons but especially because of my health, that making any kind of more specific plan for 2014 about anything past "survive" feels like tempting fate -- or maybe just setting myself up for disappointment. However, I'm going to choose to be optimistic and decide that no matter what else happens, I am going to be sewing and blogging in 2014. So, here are some thoughts about my sewing goals for the year:

I think, like last year, my over-arching goal is really just to enjoy my sewing in 2014, to see some kind of improvement in my skills and to challenge myself to try new and more complicated things over the course of the year.

I have two really firm goals, which are both numbers goals:
  • I've set myself a budget again for all my crafty endeavours. Let's see how I can do sticking with it!
  • At the end of the year, I want to have used more fabric than I've bought. I really REALLY need to do this. I've posted before about the state of my fabric stash, and that really highlighted that I both need and want to sew my stash. I like the fabric I own and I really do want the garments that fabric could turn into. And as fun as buying new fabric is, I also need less stuff, not more.
I've also got some specific challenges in mind for myself: 
  • Bag sewing challenges: I'd like to really go to town with handbags for myself this year -- leather, hardware, the whole nine yards. I love making bags and I'll keep making simpler bags to sell I expect, but I have this desire to make some more complicated bags for myself. By "some" I'm of course thinking maybe two or three rather than dozens!
  • Garment sewing challenges: One that I didn't manage in 2013 but which is still a major ambition of mine: I'd like to make a collared blouse. New for 2014: I'd like to get to the point where I have a simple woven dress TNT pattern (once I hit a stable weight) with a princess seamed bodice in my repertoire; I'd like to make a lined jacket and/or a lined coat; I'd really like to try to make a pair of trousers. (I have already bought Pants For Real People in preparation!)
  • Knitting challenges: I'd like to finish a jumper this year, even if it's only the sad purple jumper of doom from 2013.
  • Other: I'd like to make some progress on the World's Slowest Quilt, which is something I work on sporadically and then abandon out of boredom (I am so very much not a quilter). Also, I'd like to work on taking better photos for this blog. They're routinely pretty terrible, so there's loads of room for improvement. The other thing that is sort of lurking in the background is my desire to have a flexible, awesome wardrobe. I feel like I actually have a pretty good grip on what I want that wardrobe to look like now, after many months of playing around with ideas, and I'll probably continue to write a bit about putting together my co-ordinated wardrobe over the course of the year.
Does that seem like a lot? I feel like the list of challenges is really best understood as just an indication of things I'd like to try to get to, rather than some big specific output list, which is a lot of pressure. The only things I really want to be completely firm about are the money and the fabric stash bullet points, because I really have to keep both finances and stash under control. If I end up doing something completely different on the wishlist front, well, so long as I have fun I am not sure I will be all that bothered at the end of the year.