Sewing for the Soul

It’s been a bit quiet around here lately. I changed jobs last month and the few weeks leading up to that decision were pretty stressful. I lost my sew-jo and most of my enthusiasm for almost everything else.

Sewing is usually my go-to defence against stress but when that fails me, going to the gym, riding my bike, and more recently, running, are just some of the other tools I employ to keep me sane. I wouldn’t call myself a fitness freak but my brain needs to be active and doing something to keep it on track.

With that back story sorted you can understand what a wonderful distraction the sneak peek at the newest patterns from Papercut were for me.

They jump started my sew-jo AND my fitness-jo!

I stitched like a wild woman then I reinstalled the Couch to 5k app on my phone, along with the entire season of Project Runway 12 and hit the treadmill. It’s winter here but we have the odd nice day when I can get outside. My goal is to get back to comfortably running 5kms and then join my local ParkRun every Saturday morning. I run slower than I can hand stitch but I can run, and I feel good!

So, enough about my pavement pounding goals, let’s talk PATTERNS!

There are three new patterns in the collection, cleverly called TRI:

The Soma swimsuit which includes the one-piece plus two bikini and two pant variations, that’s 5 options in one pattern.

The Anima Pant in three lengths, with or without cuffs.

And finally, my favourite, the Pneuma Tank with optional drapey over top.

On top of these three patterns Katie has also re-released four previous patterns with new variations and all are also now available as PDF downloads.

Coppélia, Ooh La Leggings, SJ Tee and Undercover Hood.

If you already own one of these older patterns, don’t panic, there will be tutorials on how to mod them on the Papercut blog soon.

Pneuma (translation: soul) is my favourite of this collection because I have given far too much of my precious fabric money to Lululmeon (except for this year since I am RTW Fasting). I really like their workout gear but they are super exxy and so I may a squealed just a little bit when I saw the line drawings for the Pneuma Tank.

It’s been tricky lately to get finished garment photos. The weather doesn’t co-operate on the weekend and after work it is too dark. Luckily last weekend was beautiful and sunny so I headed into town to meet Kat and Nikki for a mega-photo-shoot-catch-up. We chose the ANZAC Memorial which has just undergone a huge restoration as part of the lead up to ANZAC Day’s 100th commemoration in 2015.

It’s pretty there with lots of great background variation but, more importantly, has lots of bushes and other nooks for quick and (kind of) discrete outfit changes.

The Pneuma is really easy and quick to sew and the instructions are written for a standard sewing machine but you can also use your overlocker or coverstitch machine.

It has wide elastic under the bust and thinner elastic around the arm holes, neck and across the back so it feels snug and comfortable. You zig zag the elastic in place and I finished it with my coverstitch. You need a fabric with high lycra content for the bra top and something nice and drapey for the tank. The straps are bra strapping.

The cross over straps are a really nice feature and super easy to adjust when sewing. I recommend safety pins when you attach them to test their length or you may get stuck like I did, unable to get out without sticking yourself with the pins.

And then your husband will laugh and laugh and laugh…

The extra black straps you see are my sports bra underneath. I guess didn’t actually need to wear a bra for the photos but obviously I do need one for exercising.

Just keepin’ it real, yo.

I have paired my Pneuma with a knee length pair of Anima pants. They are sewn in a medium-weight grey marled fleece with the cuffs and waistband contrasted in black.

They are really comfy but actually a bit thick for exercising. Also I cut a size medium, a decision based on the combination of thicker than normal fabric selection and me worrying about needing extra booty room. They are a bit too big so next time I will use a merino or merino blend and cut the small size.

They have a wide elasticated waist with drawstring (that I didn’t manage to capture in any of the photosgraphs, oops) and I used eyelets for the tie holes instead of button holes, copying from a pair of RTW track pants.

You can whip these up really fast on an overlocker. I just threaded up all 4 spools and went nuts. You only need to top stitch the faux fly and waistband on your sewing machine and then you can put them on while you sew the second pair 😉

As per usual Kat and I ended up with about a million and one photos…but this time we can blame Nikki 😉

I had 2 weeks off between my old and new job when I sewed these up so I also made a long pair in thicker fleece to keep me warm while temporarily unemployed.

I call them my Temporary Lady of Leisure Pants.

Nerdy Husband calls them my Please Don’t Wear that Crazy out in in Public Pants and I’m happy to admit that they were never sewn for exterior excursions but they make me smile and they give you a different perspective on the pattern.

They are also really warm and perfect for winter.

I already have a second Pneuma in the works and plan to pair them with some cropped Ohh La leggings (pattern and fabric for which have been sitting on my “to sew” pile, literally, for months) and I also caved and added the Undercover Hood to my pattern collection. If they work out I’ll need another pair, of course, plus Pneuma #3 and #4, and two more pairs of Anima pants and then I am sure I will be 100% weaned off of Lululemon.

Which means more money for fabric 😉

Yeah!

You can check out Kat’s Pneuma and Anima here.

Also we met this donkey and his friends.

Photography and modelling is hard work…

…so we rewarded ourselves afterwards with high tea at Logan Brown.

I was so, so good!

Little teaser: I also made the Soma one-piece, but those photos will have to wait for some beach-appropriate weather.

THE DEETS:

Pattern –

I want to make another knee length pair (or two) but next time I will use a merino, or merino blend and cut a size S

Fabric – Various fleece from Spotlight. Lycra and cotton from The Fabric Warehouse

Other notions – Cord, eyelets, various elastic, bra strapping

FO: Wellington Spec’d Sewaholic Robson Coat

I love it when the independent pattern companies release a new pattern! I also love sneak peaks and I was lucky to get one at the latest from Sewaholic, the Robson Coat, before most of you 😉

The Robson Coat pattern features everything you’d hope for on a trench coat, including front and back storm flaps, epaulettes, top-stitching, tie belt and sleeve tabs. It’s unlined to make it easier to sew, as well as easier to press the finished coat.

I was selected for pattern testing by Tasia and I was SUPER excited about this coat. As soon as I saw the line drawing I knew it was the perfect opportunity for redemption from the Gok Coat of Doom and rushed out to find the perfect fabric.

And I found it! But I have to say, I don’t think I have ever squeezed a pattern out of quite so little fabric!

Standing in The Fabric Warehouse with a 150cm wide bolt of wool under my arm and converting Tasia’s rough yardage (this is pattern testing) gave me 3.4 meters…I hrmmed, that’s a lot of fabric!

I wondered aloud to my confidant, the sales assistant, at the cutting counter. I said, “maybe I’ll just get 3.2m…it is based on the larger sizes and I am cutting a 12…”, Miss Confidant said, “If it was me, I’d just get 3 meters…” we discussed it further and I went with 3 meters. This fabric wasn’t cheap ($32/m) but I knew this coat was going to be luxe so I wasn’t too bothered, confidant in Tasia’s pattern drafting, in my head this coat was going to FABULOUS!

As you can see from the description the coat is unlined which makes it more beginner friendly.

I do just want to say: don’t be scared of linings! In their most simple form all you’re really doing is sewing a duplicate and sticking them together. Linings can be super fun, a secret (or not so secret) hidden touch to your garment. However, I can see exactly what Tasia was thinking as she drafted this pattern. Not only can linings scare newbies off of a pattern, they can also almost double your sewing time and a coat with this many pieces is already going to be a longer project than most.

So, for the Robson coat, you neaten your internal seams by binding them with bias tape which still gives you an excellent opportunity to embellish the internals. I can see a patterned outer with solid coloured bias bound seams or the opposite, and we haven’t even talked about contrast top stitching yet! The fabric (and thread) world is your oyster so don’t be afraid to experiment!

Me? Well I decided to take it a step further. I bought a solid coloured cotton in bright blue for my bias binding and then I grabbed that ridiculous ikat-esqe printed cotton.

Ridiculous in a good way.

You see, in Wellington, it gets cold. We don’t get snow (well, not usually!) but the wind, wow! It will freeze your bones from the inside out! The wool I bought is warm, but I already have a few warm jackets and cardis, I wanted warmer but I had absolutely no intention of drafting a lining pattern so I thought underlining would be a brilliant cheat.

I am a sucker for punishment, I can’t remember how many meters of bias I made but after I got to the sleeves I discovered it wasn’t enough and I had to make even more! (EDIT: I just checked and I made about 12.5 meters of bias, wow!) But, I am glad I made my own, I have never seen pre-made bias in the perfect colour at the shops! So has this project cured me of my bias addiction? Not likely! 😉

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So much bias!

So, back to the shell fabric story: When I got home I cursed the stingy 20cm I’d left behind at the shop, because that was by how much my last pattern piece was over hanging the edge after a quick pin-and-check.

It was my own fault, I gave the final call for the scissors. Luckily I always pin every piece and check before I start cutting, that way if I am short on fabric I get a second chance to re-work the cutting layout. In this case, working with 3 meters of fabric, I had to pin a few pieces to my wool and then roll it up and pin some more…so I started unrolling and thinking…

…if  I move the sleeves around…if took off all the little pieces…if I could just get all the long pieces on, maybe I can get away with just buying that extra 20cm for the small bits…

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My saviour in the end was a combination of re-working the cutting layout and elimination. I decided to cut the underside of the back and shoulder flaps out of my underlining (I bought extra, because any leftover of that ridiculousness is becoming a skirt someday), it would be a cute little secret pop of colour that might give a sneaky show as I move or they get caught in the breeze wind and also help counter the extra fabric thickness.

Hey it was my jacket, I was just hoping Tasia would appreciate my creativity! 😀

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All-in-all I cut the following pieces out of my underlining fabric:

  • 2 – Back  x2
  • 3 – Side x2
  • 4 – Top Sleeve x2
  • 5 – Under Sleeve x2
  • 6 – Back Flap x1
  • 7 – Front Flap x2

Then I basically stitched up the pattern as per the instructions, treating my shell fabric piece and it’s matching underling piece as if they were joined wrong sides together as a single piece. You should really baste them to each other but…well…I might not have done that 😉

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Time constraints meant I do not have any more progress shots and since it was summer, the trying ons were quick and clammy! In fact I only survived because I have this bad habit of sewing in my underwear…don’t lie, you do it too! So I knew straight away this coat was going to be a winner against the winter winds!

Ok, enough words? Agreed! Here it is:

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I decided to make a proper belt for my coat, something about the tie belt coupled with the thicker fabric of my coat made me feel like I was in a bathrobe.

You can make your own belt too, just cut one angled end off of the belt piece, then you just need a buckle and some eyelets. It’s fun because you get to use a hammer.

I also used 1 inch buttons for the front of my coat, and 3/4 inch everywhere else – I just preferred the proportion of the bigger button on the front.

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I will say (and Tasia has said) that this pattern really should be made from a much lighter weight fabric than what I chose to work with. My wool was probably already pushing the boundaries and adding the underling, well, let’s just say it didn’t make it any easier! There were times when I questioned if I’d get it finished and wondered what the heck was I thinking but I got there in the end and I am super happy with the result.

Click an image to view the rest of the gallery:

Thinking about making this coat in a thicker fabric too? I have some I-am-not-an-expert tips.

The Curious Kiwi’s tips for sewing in the thick:

  • Make a test swatch – I did a test seam with two pieces of shell fabric underlined, then I sewed my bias tape to the seam, folded it over and top stitched it, just like the real coat. I also tested my interfacing and before I started my button holes. Use scraps of your fabric and double it up to simulate how thick the real seam will be to see how it goes. This is your chance to fiddle with the tensions to find the perfect stitch.
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L to R: Top-stitching a full seam, interfacing test and a button hole

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L to R: Full seam test (inside), and cut button hole

  • Let the machine eat the fabric at its own pace. Sometimes you do need to gently help it but you also need to remember to let the feed dogs do their own thing.
  • Most of us know that loosening the tension also helps your machine sew through multiple thick layers, but so does lengthening your stitch.
  • Use a brand new needle, nice and sharp!
  • Use your appliqué foot, it is clear so you can see through it and the split is off-centre, that stops the edge of your bias from folding up into it as you sew.

Appliqué foot on the left, regular foot on the right

Thank you Tasia for another amazing addition to your pattern range and for the opportunity to test it for you.

I wish I could do this for a living!

The deets:

Pattern – Sewaholic Patterns Robson Coat 1301 (testing phase), size 12

Fabric – Shell: 70% wool, 30% Viscose. Underlining: 96% Cotton, 4% Lycra/Spdx – The Fabric Warehouse, Wellington. 100% cotton poplin for the bias – Spotlight Ngauranga

Other notions – Belt buckle & eyelets from Made Marion, Wellington. Buttons (1″ & 3/4″ plastic 4-hole) from Pete’s Emporium, Porirua. 2 x 150M spools Mettler thread, col. 0580 from The Fabric Warehouse, Wellington

Photos – Nerdy Husband at Wilton Bush, Wellington

Something a bit Nerdy:

Has this ever happened to you? Almost at the end of the project and: eep! Thread spool starting to show through.

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This was my view as I was about to start top stitching the belt – my last bit of sewing – oh and one button that I had to cut off and re-attach – kind of sewed that puppy right through the pocket lining, oops! 😉 Anyway, when I see the thread running out for some reason it makes me sew faster, as if I can out-sew the quickly disappearing thread. Do you do that too?

This is all I had left by the time I was 100% finished 😉

The Nitty Gritty:

I read lots of blogs and I love hearing stories about how an item was made from thrift store fabric for $2…or the fabric was a gift so the total make cost was $0. I don’t have stories like that but even I’ve managed to make a silk blouse for $10 and another for $20, I mean: SILK!

Sometimes sewing is a cheaper option, sometimes it is not.

That said, I don’t sew to save money. Sewing is my creative outlet, it’s fun, it mentally balances my life and it’s also a great way to make new friends who don’t roll their eyes as you veer off towards the fabric sale sign when walking down Willis Street.

So you are probably guessing that I am about to tell you: this coat wasn’t a “cheap” make.

Total for fabric, buttons and thread? About NZD$160.00

But it’s all about how you look at it – check this out:

david lawrence coat

I spotted the coat on the left in the window at David Lawrence on Lambton Quay last Wednesday, mostly due to the colour, but they also have the coat on the right, which is pretty much the same style as mine. Both are made from 90% wool/5% cashmere/5% nylon and lined in 55% polyester/45% viscose.

Want to guess how much either of the DL coats above will set you back? NZD$560 each- yep, that’s FIVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY DOLLARS!

My coat’s looking pretty darn cheap now huh?

Oh but I should say that the DL coats are on special right now, NZD$450. I still don’t think the term “bargain” is applicable, but I guess that’s , umm, less?

And The Curious Kiwi still wins 😀

Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt

I haven’t been very well this last week. Nerdy Husband kindly shared some sort of cold/flu malady with me that knocked me out for a few days. I have made a bit of progress with the RNHS Rugby Jersey and it’s looking good. I’ll share that and a bit of Christmas Sewing with you soon.

But first!

Some Secret Sewing that I have been dying to share with you all!

I was really excited to be selected by Tasia to test her next Sewholic pattern, the Hollyburn Skirt, but I was also really nervous because I wanted to do a good job! No pressure or anything!

The Hollyburn skirt is designed for the beginner/novice and is a comfy a-line skirt in three lengths (and flare variation), with waistband options and pockets, it also receives a gold star for twirl-ability.

After I saw the line art I was a bit worried because I have never owned, let alone sewed, a skirt of this style before so I had no idea if I would like it or find it flattering for my body shape. I am a “pear” so I put my trust in Tasia’s hands and started sifting through my stash.

Actually that came after printing off the pattern – pattern testers received the pattern as a print-at-home style pdf that many of you will be familiar with from BurdaStyle…but I cheated and assembled my pattern pieces in Photoshop and printed them out on a large format printer that may or may not be conveniently located at my place of work 😉

I selected ‘view B’ and the button tabs option for the waist band.

Right, back to the fabric: I knew I would find a fabric in my stash because I find it easy to spot fabrics that I think would be great for skirt and stashing it. This made it a hard decision because I own a lot of great prints with good weight/drape for this style skirt.

Lightweight Cotton (Potters), Vintage Lace (new to the stash, Fabrics Direct) Cotton Sateen (Spotlight), Japanese Cotton (Tesutti), Japanese Cotton/Linen (Tessuti), Heavy Japanese Cotton (Tessuti)

I loved all the possible skirt images I made up to help me choose…so that wasn’t very helpful in the end 😉

Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt Fabric Options

Photoshop instructions here, Gimp instructions here.

So I went for the fabric with the best drape which was a Japanese cotton/linen that I bought from Tesutti in Melbourne in August 2010 – It has matured well in the stash.

My next decision was to cut the skirt front on-the-fold to eliminate the centre front seam and avert any potentially regrettable pattern twinning…large circular flowers have a bad habit of joining at the seam in the most embarrassing of ways!

In general I am not a huge fan of centre front seams on skirts and dresses but I can understand the reasoning that they save you lots of fabric but in this case removing that seam was critical. I have learnt that when it comes to pairing fabric selection with sewing pattern the scale of your fabrics print and the number/placement of seams in your pattern is really important.

It is not a difficult thing to do at all, just fold over (or cut off) the edge that is marked “centre front seam” the width of the seam allowance, in this case, 1.5cm then place that edge on the fold. For future reference I suggest you re-label that piece so you don’t forget when you next pull out this pattern!

My fabric was only 110cm wide and I had 2.0 meters of it – cutting the front on the fold meant I had just enough for the rest of the skirt!

I didn’t take any WIP photos because I wanted to just get this skirt sewn up and my photos back to Tasia asap, it’s not like I could share them with you anyway 😉

I did stumble a little during the construction – doubt set in when I first tried it on, un-hemmed, about how flattering this style of skirt was for me. This then dominoed into my doubting my birthday dress selection because that is also a flared skirt.

I pushed on though, inserted the zipper (I went for an invisible one), and started playing with the hem length and in the end I hemmed my skirt shorter than ‘view B’ but not as short as ‘view C’, if that makes any sense! 🙂

The key with this skirt, I think, is to find the hem length that flatters you the most and the basic overall shape makes this an easy customisation to play with.

Ok, you guys want to see some pics?

I wore my skirt just like this to work the next day and received two unsolicited complements so I took that as a good sign.

These are the photos I sent to Tasia. I wish I wasn’t feeling so crappy otherwise I would have taken some new photos outside in the garden…but also our grass looks terrible while we painstakingly kill off of all the clover and broad-leaf weeds that have been left to takeover the lawn for far too long… yucky dead brown circles everywhere = not so photogenic!

There was some twinning at the CB seam but is not that bad at all.

I went with a simple black button on the tabs because I think the fabric does enough work for this skirt.

I think this pattern would look great in most fabrics and amazing in a solid colour too, see Tasia’s photos on the pattern shop page here.  You could also choose a contrast for the pockets and/or waist band and even widen the waist band and add some boning for a more dramatic waistline.

This pattern is great for the new seamstress as the instructions are extra thorough with lots of clear diagrams.

Ok, last photo, promise:

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