Apples and Roses

Last November, I was contacted by Nadja from Schnittchen. She wanted to know if I’d be interested in sewing one of their paper patterns for free. I had never tried a Schnittchen pattern before, so I was curious and went and took a look at what they had on offer. I didn’t want to try a pattern just because it was free; I wanted to try a pattern I would have bought myself. I saw a lot of things I liked, but the style of most of the patterns was still more modern than what I usually wear. The Zoe dress on the other hand seemed like something I would have bought with my own money: fit and flare silhouette, very high waist*, peter pan collar, pin tucks, cute sleeves… Need I say more?

*I’d say between high waist and Empire line.

Bodice and skirt pin tucks.

I debated using this rose and apple print from my stash or buying a solid colour fabric that would bring out the pin tucks better, but in the end I preferred using what I had on hand. Besides, I thought the dress might look pretty cute in that print! I had originally bought it from Stragier, on the same day as this other cotton print, because at €15 a metre they seemed like bargains in contrast with what you can usually find there (to give you an idea if you don’t know Stragier, Liberty tana lawn is by far one of their least expensive fabrics! 😱).

I didn’t make a muslin, but I did try on the basted bodice before sewing it for real. The only fit modification I made was rising the darts a touch. And I have to say I’m quite impressed with the fit of the dress! The bodice, sleeves and waistband are a size 36, the skirt a size 40.

Other than the small fit modification I’ve just mentioned, another minor change I made was adding side seam pockets. FYI, I placed the top of the pockets 7 cm below the bottom of the waistband.

I also added two decorative buttons at the neckline: I couldn’t find any markings for the placement of the collar, so I looked at the close-up pictures on the Schnittchen website and tried to keep the same distance between the two front ends of my collar as in that picture, but mine seem to have ended up a bit too far from each other and because of that the area looked strangely empty. Hence, two red buttons (from my stash – no idea where they came from, but if I had to guess I’d say my mother reclaimed them from an old garment) to fill that space. I think it’s one of those happy accidents because I love those buttons on the dress! Monsieur is less enthused: he doesn’t understand the need for buttons where there’s no opening. I myself have no problem with purely decorative buttons, as you may have gathered by now if you’ve been reading this blog for a while.

My last tiny deviation from the pattern concerns the zipper, which I chose to hand-pick. I could tell you that I wanted to get all couture or something, but I favour honesty over glamour so I must confess that I opted for the method that allowed me to sew from my couch! 😀 I also appreciate the control hand-picking a zipper gives you in comparison to inserting it by machine.

Sorry about the wrinkled skirt and sleeves: I had been wearing the dress all day before taking the pictures.

I haven’t found a lot of pictures of the Zoe dress on the net, and I actually haven’t found any apart from the technical drawing that showed its short-sleeved version (not even on the Schnittchen website), which is the version I chose to make. So I was bummed when I first tried on the dress with the sleeves, because I was expecting something else, something more like the sleeves of these two dresses, with gathers on top. I also found the Zoe sleeves aesthetically too long. But they were very comfortable, and I thought, why not try wearing the dress for a day first and then see whether I’m disappointed just because I was expecting something else or because I really don’t like the sleeves and should maybe shorten them? I’ve been wearing the dress a lot already, especially considering I finished it two weeks ago, and I can’t even see what the problem was anymore! As a matter of fact, the dress literally hasn’t seen the inside of my wardrobe yet!

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Second Serving

Sencha2I sewed a Sencha blouse a little over two years ago, and although I loved the pattern and the look of the finished blouse, after some time I just couldn’t bear the synthetic quality of the fabric anymore. It was sweaty, unbreathable… made worse by the fact that I cycle everywhere, every day! So I ended up donating the blouse and vowed to make another one in a nobler fabric someday.

Sencha1After finishing my Edenham Chelsea dress, I wanted to use up the whole length of Liberty instead of putting it back in my stash for God knows how long. I hesitated between two of my favourite blouse patterns, Tilly’s Mimi and Colette’s Sencha, and the ridiculously small number of pattern pieces of the Sencha tipped the scales toward the latter.

Sencha4I remembered spending a lot of time on hand finishing for my first version of Sencha, because it was said to be impossible to use French seams due to the construction of the blouse, and I didn’t own a serger at the time. So this time I was about to gain a lot of time thanks to my serger, until I stumbled on this article that claimed it was entirely possible to French seam the whole Sencha blouse! I was both too lazy to change the serger thread to black and curious about testing this method, so I decided to try and use French seams instead of serging the blouse.

Sencha7And it worked, so many thanks to the author! 🙂 The only raw edge that was left was the bottom part of the sleeve hem, which I simply folded into a triangle and invisibly hand stitched like the rest of the sleeve hem.

I didn’t follow the instructions of the pattern for the back opening: I didn’t sew it right sides together as per the instructions, but folded and pressed it wrong sides together (with the seam allowances of the top part folded inside), then hand stitched the top part closed at the same time as the rest of the button band. I think that’s what I did on my first version, too.

Sencha6

Front and back

I’m delighted with the finishing of this blouse! I used black interfacing so it wouldn’t risk showing through and finished the facings with some narrow green bias tape I had in my stash.

The buttons I had to buy. I chose pale yellow ones that closely match the yellow flowers of the print and pop out against the black background.

I almost forgot that it wasn’t included in the pattern, but the peter pan collar was drafted the first time I made the blouse, following Gertie’s tutorial (also in her book).

Sencha5I sewed the same size as the first time but I think the fit is better on this one, because I didn’t sew the side seams as high up as the first time. I stopped at the bottom of the sleeve hem instead of at the pattern marking. I didn’t feel constricted in my first version, but it does look better from the back!

It’s rare that I don’t have anything to nitpick on something I’ve made, but this is one of those occurrences where I don’t have anything negative to say about the finished garment! A fabric I love, a pattern I love with bonus peter pan collar — what’s not to like?

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Edenham Chelsea

Chelsea2I initially finished this dress on Christmas Eve, but since I had had to rush, I was not entirely happy with it. It was okay for a family Christmas supper, but I intended to wear it beyond that night, so I knew I had to change some details or I would not want to wear it for everyday life. So what was supposed to be my last project of 2015 became the first of 2016!

Chelsea1The first thing that did not satisfy me were the buttons. I realised at the very end that I did not have any that were suitable. I have a lot of buttons that I’ve gathered from here and there, yet never seem to find what I need for a specific project and most of the time have to buy some new ones instead. The only series of minimum three black buttons in my stash were too small, and I also thought they didn’t go with the style of the dress. I used them anyway because they were all I had, but I knew there was a good chance they were just a temporary solution. I also sewed them through both layers of the button band for lack of time, and although it was possible to get the dress on, it was not very convenient either. And the last straw, I had sewed them unevenly!

Chelsea3

Yay pockets!

I bought prettier buttons (at Veritas – smaller versions of the ones I put on this cardigan) and attached snaps to the button band. I had chosen snaps for this dress and have found them to be very practical, so I am now a snap convert for this type of dress.

While I was at it, I also rearranged part of the gathering. A small pleat had formed at centre front (you can sort of make it out in this picture) that made my eye twitch, so I unpicked and restitched a few centimetres.

Chelsea6But the worst thing was, the dress was way too short! Once again, alright for Christmas supper, all wrong for everyday life… There was not even enough length folded in the hem, so I could not get away with just letting out a few centimetres. I had to resort to adding a piece of fabric as an afterthought, and hated the effect… until I had the idea of covering the joint with some lace from my stash that I hand sewed in place.

Chelsea7The piece I added to gain some length (about 7 cm – the original length was 1 cm above the lace!) is in fact the pattern piece of the contrast band of the other version of the pattern, which I folded in two lengthwise to cover the pinked seams of that section. The rest of the dress is serged, but I had changed the thread to white for the yoke and I was too lazy to change it again. But I think the result looks quite nice now! The lace does a great job of covering the seam and I simply love how it looks. A very happy accident.

Chelsea4The main fabric is Edenham Liberty tana lawn. I cannot justify paying full price for Liberty, so I usually buy it either on sale or off eBay, where you can find quite a few good deals. The contrast fabric is a remnant of honeycomb stretch cotton (the same I used for the collars, plural, of this dress). The stretch factor bothered me a little bit, but I liked how opaque it was for a white fabric so that’s what I chose in the end. And with such a light fabric as this Liberty, there’s actually no real risk of the yoke getting distorted, which was what I feared. While we’re on the subject of Liberty, can someone explain to me how come I seem to be the only one whose Liberty wrinkles? I always read about how wonderfully soft it is and how vibrant the colours are, both of which are true and the reasons why I buy it in the first place… and how it doesn’t even wrinkle and, well, mine does! 😀 Not awfully, but still, it’s a cotton after all!

Chelsea5The pattern is the Chelsea dress by Christine Haynes. I sewed a size 4, the same as for my Emery, and didn’t bother with a muslin because I never bother with a muslin I knew this would be a forgiving fit. Except for the fact that I lengthened the dress and added snaps instead of buttonholes, I didn’t make any modifications.

It was an easy dress to sew and it’s an easy dress to wear, now that I’ve lengthened it. I just throw on my black Zinnia cardigan and I’m in a cute and comfortable outfit, with matching buttons!

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Out of Season

GrisRoseHey, I finished my Summer sweater! In November, how timely!

I actually finished it two weeks ago, but I really didn’t feel like taking any pictures, what with the lack of time and daylight. I finally took the time to take some pictures yesterday, only to realise afterwards that I had completely forgotten to iron the peplum. Ah well, there’s no way I’m taking the pictures all over again, so you’ll have to forgive me for the wrinkled peplum and its curling up hem.

GrisRose2The pattern is from Phildar magazine #86 (sweater #29). I mostly followed the instructions, the only tiny changes I made were to knit a longer peplum (13 cm instead of 12, how daring of me!) and to pick up stitches for the collar instead of knitting it apart and then sewing it stitch by stitch as per Phildar instructions.

I used the recommended yarn, Phil Coton 3, in Mercure and Rosée.

GrisRose3It was a really easy knit, but it made me fully realise that, while I usually love the result, I actually hate knitting colourwork. I find it so tedious with the bobbins and the tension, argh! I’m not saying this is my last colourwork project, because there are some cute patterns out there, but for my next projects I’d better concentrate on something else (ah, lace… ah, cables…).

GrisRose4It was really hard sticking to that project once fall had arrived and made me long for cosier knits, but I’m glad I have that no UFO rule because it forced me to complete it instead of putting it away and most probably never being motivated enough to get back to it and finish it. And, even though it’s clearly not the most useful garment for November, I have to say I find it pretty cute. But how could a knit featuring both a peter pan collar and a peplum not be cute? I like the colours, too, and the trompe-l’œil strapless bodice of course. I’m pretty sure I won’t be having any trouble wearing it come the warmer weather.

GrisRose5PS: I have of course already started another knitting project, a wintery one this time.

After the Before

Refashion1Finally, after a lot of work (and a few tears) here’s the outcome of the refashion I posted about! I’m beyond happy with the result, but, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the work in progress almost ended up in the trash…

With a week off of work, I thought I had plenty enough time before me to make it in time for the contest, but I had forgotten that my boyfriend and I had planned to spend a few days at the North Sea. This led to me spending hours on end sewing on my free days, hoping to finish before I left last Wednesday, which I didn’t. I came back Saturday evening and spent my whole Sunday sewing. I was pretty sure the dress would be finished by Sunday evening, and it would have been if I hadn’t made the most stupid mistake. I carefully gathered the skirt and attached it to the bodice, finished the waist seam with the overlock stitch of my sewing machine, trimmed said seam to 5mm… only to realise that the left side seam of the skirt, instead of corresponding to the left side seam of the bodice, was corresponding to the left front princess seam of the bodice! It looked awful, made even worse by the fact that I had added side seam pockets on the skirt: hello, kangaroo pocket!

Refashion2I had to restrain myself from cutting the dress into a billion little pieces out of rage and, following the wise advice of my boyfriend, I took a small break, ate something and, when I came back with a calmer mind, decided to unpick and redo the waist seam. It made me lose a lot of time, which meant that I couldn’t finish the dress on Sunday and had to do it on Monday evening, after coming back from my millinery course at 10pm… But I did finish it, and I was able to take pictures on Tuesday despite the gloomy weather, so everything’s well that ends well! To think the deadline for the contest was originally Sunday evening… It sure was lucky that they moved it to Tuesday! 😀

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Pockets!

Now, enough dwelling on the negative, let’s talk about the dress itself. Doesn’t it look nicer than the original? 😀 I cut the whole original dress apart and used the pieces as fabric for a recently acquired pattern. The pattern is from this adorable Belgian sewing book I recently purchased. Here’s the original design as pictured in the book:

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Click on the picture for the source

I changed the asymmetrically pleated skirt for a simple longer gathered skirt that used less fabric and, as I mentioned above, added side seam pockets. I also replaced the lining with bias binding at the armholes and neckline (and it was a real pain to sew that bias binding properly: next time I’ll use the lining and avoid a lot of drama) and I used the same bias binding to sew the hem (I used the same method – and the same binding but in black – as for my Chardon skirt). Contrary to the neckline and armholes, the hem was easy to finish that way, and the stiff binding makes the skirt stand out as if I was wearing a light petticoat, yay!

Refashion4I found the pattern a touch difficult to trace (I had trouble figuring out which lines belonged to which pieces), but I don’t really know whether to blame the pattern sheet or the lack of light when I traced it, and everything ended up fine in the end, so no real complaint here.

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My invisible zip isn’t really invisible, ah well!

And can you believe how cute that pattern is? I mean, did you notice? Not one, not two, but THREE peter pan collars, I die! And the fit is simply wonderful. I didn’t take the time to make a muslin (oops, here’s that broken record again), but I first basted the whole bodice together to check for any fitting issues beforehand. And, I couldn’t believe my luck, it fit almost perfectly!

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The two top collars are made from some cotton remnants I had in my stash.

I used French seams everywhere except on the waist seam: I don’t know who is responsible for the misconception that you can’t French seam curved seams, (probably the same person who spread the belief that sewing knits is difficult!) but it worked perfectly on the princess seams… and on the side seams with pockets! I used this tutorial for French seaming the side seams with pockets and it was a revelation. To think of all the times I thought I had to choose between side seam pockets and French seams…

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The polka dot bias binding.

Despite the drama, I now have a dress I LOVE. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to wear it to work, but I know I’ll be wearing it a lot outside of work. And it’s so cute and comfortable, I’m pretty sure I’ll sew another version in a less crazy fabric, one that I can wear at work without the risk of mesmerizing my students with colourful tulips mixed with what, come to think of it, kind of looks like marijuana leaves…

Romancing the Blouse

Green1

Looks nice untucked…

I love green. A few months ago, I realised that, every time I had to pick between various colours of yarn or fabric, I chose the green one. A few random people also asked me what the deal was with me and green and why did I wear so much of it (people tend to ask me the strangest questions!). Maybe it’s just that a lot of people do not wear green at all, because it’s not like I was dressed in green from head to toe or every day or whatever, I swear, but still, it made me realise I should try to avoid adding more green to my wardrobe. I think it has to do with the fact that my everyday jacket and shawl are green, so when I add a green garment to my outfit, that’s already three green pieces.

Green2

Looks nice tucked in!

Anyway, after knitting my green Miette cardigan, I decided not to sew or knit any green piece for some time. But now it’s been long enough, I think I’ve earned the right to sew myself some green!

Green3I got this beautiful fabric from the great swap organised by Saki at the beginning of September. I first debated taking it home with me (I was on a green ban and it was synthetic), but its drape finished convincing me.

It was not easy to sew, but I must say I love the result! You can see that the shoulder seams are a little bit wavy, but nothing really noticeable unless you’re looking for it specifically. The worse with this fabric was the way the colour faded everywhere I put even a (silk!) pin, I’m not even talking about covering the buttons! Yet again, I don’t think anyone will notice but me.

Green4The pattern is the Sencha blouse by Colette Patterns, with a peter pan collar I drafted following Gertie’s very clear instructions (in her book, but you can find them here on video). The pattern itself was not difficult to sew at all (it’s beginner level), only time consuming because I had to sew a lot by hand: partly (the sleeve hem and back openings) following the instructions, partly (overcasting the side seams and stitching the hem) because of the nature of the fabric and because I don’t own a serger.

Green5I chose version 1 for the front (the plain one, so that I could add a collar), and version 2 for the back (I wanted, no, needed the button back), in size zero. I chose the size according to my measurements, without checking beforehand (a what? A muslin you say? Interesting!), then I realised after tracing and cutting everything out that, ahem, it seems like I put on a tiny bit of weight during my two months summer holiday where I stopped biking everywhere every day, oops!

Green6Knowing I had chosen this simple project to get back on my feet after my last project flew out the window (or down the trash to be exact), I was kind of bummed, to say the least. But I decided to complete the project nonetheless, after all I’m biking again, so it shouldn’t be too long until I lose that damn holiday weight!

Green7And, who would have thought, the completed blouse does fit! I’ve already lost part of the unwelcome weight (yay biking!), and my Sencha is closer fitting than many versions I’ve seen, but I really like it that way. The upper back may be a touch too tight, but here’s hoping it won’t be anymore after a few more weeks of biking!

Now all I need is to sew myself a jacket or a coat of a different colour (and knit an assorted shawl or scarf) to avoid the monochrome look!

WIP: Grey and Pink – Take Two

WIPIt seems of late that I can’t knit for the current season: I knit a merino fall sweater under the Spanish August sun, and here I am knitting a cotton summer sweater when fall is definitely ahead of its schedule here in Belgium!

When I began this sweater about ten days ago, the weather was so warm I was pretty sure I’d be able to wear it towards the end of the month. Now I’m not so sure, to say the least! But I still want to finish it before starting another project since I don’t do UFOs (I’d never finish anything if I did).

The pattern is from Phildar No. 86. I didn’t see the potential of this particular pattern rightaway because the colours really put me off. I’m not usually one to fear colours, but come on, red and orange… and green… and black?! I’d be surprised if even one person knit this pattern in those colours! I initially thought of black and white, then I remembered I wanted to add a few grey and pink items to my wardrobe, so I chose those two colours instead.

The start of the schoolyear means I haven’t had a lot of time to knit lately, but the sweater is progressing slow and steady. The stockinette stitch and simple construction mean that I can take it with me and knit everywhere, which has helped a lot.

April Fools’ Sweater

AprilFool1It‘s finished!!! I can’t believe it took me so long to finish such a simple project: I began knitting this sweater on April 1st, which means it took me almost three months! I usually knit a sweater in one and a half to two months, but with this one, after a great start with the back, the front took me forever to complete, among other because I kept screwing up the part with the eyelet bows and having to frog and reknit it. After that I kind of lost my mojo and had to wait until I reached the second sleeve to find it again. And now it’s too hot to wear a sweater, waaaah!

AprilFool2But I still have a cute new sweater, yay! It’s exactly as I had envisioned, no surprise about the size or whatever, phew! All in all it was fairly easy to knit (the mistakes I kept doing on the bows where due to my lack of attention, that’s all), especially for my first real foray into colorwork (I don’t know whether to call this sweater colorwork – the chart was so easy).

The pattern is #3 in Phildar Magazine N°69:

Pull3As you can see I’ve changed the colours a bit! I liked the original ones, but I wanted my sweater to be as versatile as possible and I don’t think you could wear such colours in many different outfits. So I chose beige and dark blue, even though I already own a sweater in those colours, because I like nautical style a lot and I thought the form of this sweater was different enough from the other one. And who knows, I might even knit a third one someday seeing as I bought way to much yarn for this project and I still have five balls (almost six) of the beige yarn and four of the blue. 😀

AprilFool3How do you invisibly seam up a striped knit? I couldn’t stop the beige yarn I used to sew the sweater from showing a tiny bit in some places on the blue stripes. I hate seaming up knits!

But what I hated doing the most knitting this sweater was the collar band! Phildar always has this crazy idea of having you knit the collar band separately and sewing it to the sweater afterwards (they don’t seem to know circular needles even exist – they NEVER have you use them). I usually ignore that part and pick up the stitches to knit the collar band directly on the sweater. But this time, my circular needle would not cooperate. I don’t know whether that’s because my hands were sweaty from the heat or just because the needle was poor quality, but after hours (yes, hours! – my left forefinger is still a little numb) of suffering and not even managing to complete one row, I finally had to literally cut the cable of the needle to save the sweater and, the horror, resolve to using the dreaded Phildar method.

AprilFool4Look how cute the back is! They don’t show it in the magazine (you only discover it by reading the instructions!) but it was a pleasant surprise. I thought the pretend button placket looked a little sad without any buttons, so I added three.

So, when’s the cold weather coming back so that I can wear my new sweater?

WIP: Variation on the Marinière

MarinièreEnCoursHere’s the knitting project I was talking about, the one that has been taking forever. I just checked, I began working on it on April 1st (oooh, that’s nice for a marine themed sweater!). I’ve already knit the back, the front and the first sleeve: only one sleeve to go (minus most of its ribbing as you can see)!

I’m using a different yarn than the one recommended and it seems I didn’t estimate how much I would need very accurately: with less than one sleeve (and the collar, but that’s only a few rows of ribbing) to go, I still have six balls of the beige yarn and four of the blue. How many did I even buy in the first place?!

Anyway, I really can’t wait to finish this sweater as I think it will get lots of wear! Well, assuming it fits, you never know (crossing fingers)!