Back in July I was thrilled to be invited to join the Bel’Etoile International Pattern Tour. I had purchased two of their patterns earlier in the year but never got around to making them, so this was the perfect kick in the bum to try them out! Here’s how I got on…
Over on Instagram today (3rd Sept. 2018) I’m hosting a giveaway of one Bel’Etoile pattern – so go check it out for a chance to win!
At the same time I was also lucky enough to have spent a day walking from Shannon to Limerick with “Walk While You Can“, a charity walk travelling the length of the country to raise awareness and funds in aid of Motor Neurone Disease research. I decided to take advantage of being family-free on the other side of the country. So the next day I undertook a mini road trip home via Tuam to visit Quilt Yarn Stitch, and then on to Kells to visit Dress Fabrics. It was a great excuse to go visit the real life shops of two of the best online fabric shops based in Ireland.
I didn’t go crazy buying fabric, as my stash is getting a little out of control, but had hoped to use some Irish sourced fabric in the outfits I made for this tour.
In Quilt Yarn Stich I had to close my eyes to all the lovely printed jersey fabrics. I just can’t let myself buy more till I’ve used up some of what I have. I did fall for some lovely white quilted stretch sweater fabric and some cream/white solid sweater fabric too. Quite what I was doing buying white to be worn in a household with three small children I don’t know… (but I’m very glad I did!)
ISA, ISA, ISA
The first item I made was the Isa Dress and used some of that lovely quilted sweater for the front and back panels. This is the first Bel’Etoile pattern I bought back in April. I was drawn to the cool v-shaped colour blocking options. It also has lots of fit options to it – Sweater, Cropped Sweater, Sweater Dress and Dress.
I went with the dress option and, despite loving the v-shaped colour blocking potential, I decided that the quilted fabric provided enough texture. I paired it with some soft pink French terry from Elvelyckan Design that I’ve had in my stash for a while. The combination of soft colours and textures worked out just great!
The fit is lovely and relaxed with plenty of room for climbing about. It will be prefect in autumn/winter paired with some leggings/tights.
We managed to get away from the lads for a bit while on holidays in Castlegregory, Co. Kerry a couple of weeks ago and No.3 really enjoyed collecting stones on the beach – she was delighted to discover the big patch pockets the dress offers!!
Next up I decided to make the Lux Dress, well, two Lux Dresses! As there is now a women’s version as well as one for children! (During the blogtour, anyone who buys the Isa or Lux pattern, gets a free copy of the women’s pattern!)
So No. 3 and I were to get some matching gear for the first time! It occurred to me as I was finishing the Lux Dress for me that I hadn’t sewn a dress for myself in 10 years!! Not since one of my brothers’ wedding! Think I need more now!! I’ve pretty much lived in my Lux Dress since I made it.
For both dresses I used some lovely soft organic cotton interlock from Fabworks Online, a UK based online fabric shop that sells a lovely selection of organic cottons. A finely striped one for me and a whale patterned fabric for No.3. Beautifully soft.
The pattern calls for either a decorative surface positioned elastic waistband, or a concealed one using shirring elastic. I had neither so added in a casing for some normal 1″ elastic I had in my sewing box. I went about it arse-ways for No.3’s dress but learnt from that and improved the technique for my own, so was a much easier undertaking.
The little cuff sleeves are designed to be turned up, but I didn’t sew them up in either dress. There is also an option to hem the armhole, think I’ll try this for me next time. I will sew mine up, but I do like how they form little sleeves on No.3’s dress when left folded down.
I was a little concerned at the waist position – my narrowest point is a good bit higher than the pattern’s elasticated waistband – so it wouldn’t necessarily be the most flattering, but I decided to stick with the pattern for this first attempt and see where it led me.
I’ve got to say I do love the dress. The only adjustment to the pattern I made was to lengthen it by 7cm, as I’m 178cm tall . It is incredibly comfortable and while it’s very casual looking here, another fabric selection would make it so much dressier
This means nothing to me… Oh Vienna!!
Oh , but it really does mean so very much to me to be able to sew!! Next up I made a gorgeous little Vienna Dress for No.3 (the lads were really starting to feel left out!) using some lovely denim from Dress Fabrics and some quilted pink fabric from Fabrics Ireland.
I had picked up a remnant of a lovely soft denim when I went to visit Dress Fabrics’ garden party. It was such a relief to arrive at Maeve’s sheds! I had been driving all day and was greeted with tea, sandwiches (thank you to Maeve’s mum and sister!!) and best of all lots of beautiful fabric! Once again I resisted buying too much, but it was so good to see the fabrics up close. Buying fabric online is so very easy, but it is hard to know exactly what you’re buying. It was wonderful to have a good look around and now to be able to trust in the quality of everything she stocks! I got some lovely yellow French terry and some designer fake suede scuba fabric (not sure what to do with that, but couldn’t resist!) too.
The Vienna Dress is a more formal, structured “pretty” pattern than the Lux or the Isa. The little capped sleeves, and the ruffled seam to the front are lovely details. It calls for a zipped back, but I have never done a zip (!!) so instead added 3 lovely wooden buttons. Zips are on my list of things to learn to do, but hadn’t built up the courage at this point!
I’ve no idea what the pink fabric is! I bought it from TWI / Fabrics Ireland to line a coat that I made earlier on in the year and had a bit left over. It is quite thick and has a lovely bouncy quilted texture and is very soft. I wasn’t sure how it would work but am delighted with the result.
I love the contrast in colour and texture between the two fabrics and the buttons add yet another layer of contrast. It really is a very pretty pattern!
There are so many amazing Bel’Etoile outfits made as part of this blog tour by some terribly talented seamstresses (sewers? sewists?) and I would really encourage you to check them out over on Instagram. Just search for Bel’Etoile and you’re sorted!!
Thanks a million to Isabel from Bel’Etoile for inviting me to join the tour and to Tina Eklund Philp for making the introduction!
It has always been a pleasure to engage with Misusu Patterns. I’ve done a couple of rounds of pattern testing with them and I love the warm, generous attitude that Elles Lanfer promotes within the testing groups. Within the testing group there is a shared goal; to help perfect a great pattern and there is always an atmosphere of collaboration and enthusiasm. So, when Elles put out a call for bloggers/”inspirators” to help inspire others to take part in the “Misusu FREEkin’ Sewing Challenge” I applied immediately.
Please check out Misusu Patterns’ blog with details of the challenge and – links to the blogs/Facebook/Instagram posts of all my fellow Inspirators.
Around the same time as this got going See You At Six released their latest fabric collection and I got well and truly sucked in by the gorgeous patterns and colours. I hopped online to Madeline de Stoffenmadam, who stock See You At Six along with an amazing selection of tempting fabrics, and ordered gorgeous rusty brown giraffes, bright yellow painters, some dusty blue cotton lawn and some plain solids/ribbing to match the others. You see them in featured in pretty much all of the outfits I made for this project. Think I got a little obsessed…
The challenge involved is to make an outfit using Misusu patterns, at least one being one of Misusu’s free patterns and, before getting stuck into some hopefully inspiring sews, I had a pair of birthday pressies to make for two boys. They’re the same ages as my No.1 and No. 2 so did a bit of practice with some easily bribed models on hand to test on. And as seems to happen often these days I didn’t want to give them away…
I used the Rowan Tee pattern and a simple hack introducing a seam along the back giving a few more options for playing with colour/pattern/texture. My two lads enjoyed modelling them!
And did you notice the placement of that giraffe on No.2’s top? Entirely luck that the giraffe ended up where the pocket could sit with perfection!
I love the relaxed fit of the Rowan Tee – it looks just right even when there is plenty of growing room. Growing room; always a must when you spend time and love making something for your children. Just before the beginning of the challenge Misusu Patterns released an updated version of the Rowan Tee with adjustments to the fit and a long sleeved version! She also expanded the size range – it now goes all the way to size 13-14/164!. I’ll get years of fun out of this pattern!
On Your Marks! Get Set! Go!
First up for inspiration time was a long sleeved Rowan Tee for No.1, in French terry, so more of a sweatshirt version than a t-shirt, paired with a pair of Misusu Alex Pants. The great little pockets on the front make these a really lovely pair of tracksuit bottoms. It was my first time sewing the Alex pattern and really enjoyed it. No. 1 was delighted with them! He’s really starting to care about what he wears and loves a bit of coordination, so the matching ribbing was appreciated!
I didn’t want to try and wrestle with pocket/pattern placement on the front of the sweater so used solid yellow for the arms and back and relocated the breast pocket to his right arm (he’s a lefty). You can’t really tell in the pics, but I used ribbing for the back yoke that I introduced and solid yellow to the rest of the back.
He’ll soon outgrow the pattern size range for the Alex Pants (expand it Elles!!) as this is the biggest size (5-6/116). It’s a little big on the waist, and I added a couple of inches to the length. That all important growing room box ticked!
While I have greatly enjoyed the pattern testing I’ve done it’s rare that I would aim to make anything to fit my children perfectly. When testing a pattern you have to try for a perfect fit in order to fulfil the brief but, as I’ve said, I usually aim for a little big so that they get more than a couple of months out of something I’ve spent care in making. Most everything I’ve made for this inspirator project has a bit of growing room included.
Giraffes for the animal lover…
Next up was back to a giraffe Rowan Tee for No.2, this time paired with Misusu’s new Summer Olli Shorts. Both are free patterns!! The Olli shorts (or pants) pattern available through the Misusu Patterns Sew and Tell Facebook group. So join up to get it!
After the luck of the pocket placement in the first round of birthday Rowan Tees I deliberately made sure the giraffe would be well placed in this version. I went with the same fit and simple hack of adding a yoke to the back.
The Olli shorts is a great little pattern (you’ll see it appear throughout the outfits made for No.3) with an elasticated waist and deep side pockets. I knew immediately that I’d need to make No.2 a pair in the lovely yellow linen I got a while back from The Fabric Counter. He loves yellow! I used the same fabric for the Rowan Tee pocket to bring the outfit together.
If there’s one thing that No.2 loves more than animals it’s his little sister…
… and she loves him too, though gets a little fed up with his overwhelming “affection”.
Row, Row, Rowan your Boat
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream… cliche I know but No.3 got the Rowan Tee treatment too so seems appropriate. This time with added gathering to a curved seam at the back. I also lengthened the back hemline for a high-low look. I love how the gathering gives extra width and air to the fit. The gathering and high-low hem also make it a little dressier.
I made a draft of this top that wasn’t quite right but with some great feedback from my fellow inspirators in our Facebook group I think I nailed it. I dropped the mid-back seam position, curved it and also kept the gathers more in the central part of the back. Love the collaboration you get in these lovely Facebook groups that Elles facilitates!
I think the French terry fabric works so well with this Rowan Tee. It is so soft and cosy while the gathers add airy lightness that we have really needed with the hot weather of late. I paired it with those super Olli Shorts again, this time using a lovely zebra printed cotton fabric I’ve had for a while. A bit of a safari theme running through…
I’ve been only dying for an excuse to make another Louise Sweater for No.3. It’s up there with my favourite patterns. Some of the first sewing photos I took using the dSLR were of this lovely Louise Sweater on a very little No.3. It still fits with room to spare about 8 months later! Rumour has it Misusu might be preparing an adult sized Louise… Oh I would love one!
So, back to the challenge. The second outfit I made for No.3 included the Olli shorts again and this time coordinated with the Louise Sweater. I love the diagonal line to the side seam and the ability to use sweater and woven fabric together. See You At Six fabric got some use again in this one! In hindsight I would probably have used the giraffes for the front panel as a bit of added pattern would have been good. You live and learn!!
The Olli shorts are a really lovely pattern. There is an option for a buckled strap at the back and another for a tied bow to the front. Most of the shorts I made for No.3 included the bow option. It really dresses the shorts up. For this version however I thought I’d try adding a ribbed waistband.
I love to see my little girl in shorts. They are so practical for exploring and running around. When graced with such a big round belly skirts often end up under her arms, so shorts are practical and just plain perfect!
All MAXed Out!!
I thought I had finished up all my projects for this Misusu FREEkin’ Sewing Challenge but then decided I’d go for one last outfit and stretch my sewing skills!
I decided to try two techniques I’d never attempted before and one that is a little tricky. This time round I went with a Max Tee paired with, yes, you guessed in, some Olli shorts! I had made one Max Tee before – this lovely green and blue striped one for No. 1. Those front corners are that tricky technique mentioned above – but they are sure worth the risk/effort!
Misusu patterns come with really excellent, clear tutorials. They have always given me the confidence to give the trickier parts of any of their patterns a go. And, touch wood, I’ve always managed to pull it off! Long may that last!
So, first new technique I decided to try – embroidery! I’d never done any embroidery but had seen some amazing examples on Instagram – in particular the work of @defnegunturkun and I thought I ‘d give it a go. Nothing as fancy as the examples I’d seen; I started with the basics.
The Max Tee is designed to be used with woven and jersey fabrics together. So the woven bib was a perfect spot to try some simple embroidery stitches. The corner angles on that bib are a little daunting but having made a few other outfits I was happy to take some risks this time round.
I googled “embroidery stitches”, got myself an embroidery hoop and also some embroidery thread and was all set. I decided to keep it simple and at first embroidered little flowers and petals using a “Detached Chain Stitch”. I then got some confidence and decided to infill with some “French Knots”, a little more tricky.
The second technique I had never tried before was sewing a button hole! I’ve always avoided it. When I realised I had only one snap fitting left in my sewing box I knew I was going to have to bite the bullet – and so glad I did!
Not perfect, but so very close! And along with those two very neat corner junctions I was delighted with the result!
The other adjustments I made to the original pattern were to 1) shorten the sleeves and add a ruffle to the top the shoulder, 2) a gathering to the back yoke seam (I’m in a bit of a gathering mood it seems) and 3) a slightly longer hem to the back to give another high-low look.
I was going to make a pair of white linen Ollis to go with this and then thought “Are you crazy? White linen shorts for a 19 month old?” Thankfully I regained my sanity and made a grey chambray pair. It’s a lovely soft lightweight chambray from Quilt Yarn Stitch and far more practical that white linen! There’s actually a little pink and green fleck in the fabric, but it doesn’t really show in the photos. Love that little front bow!
Thank you! That’s it for now!
There was a super gang of inspirators tasked with coming up with some inspiring outfits for the Misusu FREEkin’ Sewing Challenge – and there are some amazing and inventive hacks to be discovered! Check out Misusu’s blog with links to all their Instagram accounts! I’ve loved seeing all the work as it’s be created and hope you have enjoyed seeing my projects!
I should let you know that Misusu Patterns are offering 15% off all their paid patterns during the course of this challenge and have all their free patterns available to enjoy too! You’ll find the discount code on Misusu’s blog post.
Don’t forget the Misusu Pattern Giveaway!!
Over on my Instagram profile on 5th August 2018, I will be giving away the chance to pick one paid pattern of choice from Misusu Patterns. You’ll see all the details of the giveaway at my Instagram account, @incompletestitches. All the other “Inspirators” will be hosting similar giveaways on their day of the social media tour so there are lots of opportunities to win!
When I realised I had used so much fabric sourced from Madeline de Stoffenmadam I got in touch with them to sheepishly ask if they’d be interested in sponsoring some fabric for my giveaway. I was thrilled when they said they’d love to! So for all you sewing enthusiasts based in Belgium and The Netherlands they have kindly offered the chance to win 1 metre of the See You At Six “Painted” French terry fabric in Sulphur Yellow – as used in this Rowan Tee:
You’ll see all the details of this bonus giveaway on the 5th August 2018 over at my Instagram account @incompletestitches – just remember you’ll need a postal address in The Netherlands or Belgium to be eligible for this one!
(All the links are included entirely due to my love of the fabric/shop/pattern. I think it is great to be able to give a shout out for all those talented, committed people who help me enjoy this sewing lark as much as I do!)
Thank you for joining me on my stop on the social media tour for the release of the Misusu Piper Tank Top pattern.
(Please check out the gorgeous work of all the other testers – links to their blogs/Facebook/Instagram posts can be found on Misusu’s blog page; here.)
Piper! Pick your Pattern!
My previous, and only, experience of pattern testing (I’m a newbie to all this), the Doris Skirt by Misusu Patterns, was a super one. It was so lovely to be part of a group effort to assist in the perfection of a great pattern. The group was full of talented, inspiring seamstresses with a wonderful atmosphere of support, sharing and generosity. When I saw the call for testers for a new Misusu Pattern I jumped at the chance to be involved and I am delighted to have been selected.
This time round the pattern to be tested was the Piper Tank Top. A versatile pattern suitable for boys and girls with lots of options for different versions. And boy did I get sucked into making lots of them… This post is pretty long, so get a cup of tea, or else just have a browse down through all the lovely Piper Tanks I thoroughly enjoyed making.
Perfecting the pocket? Well, nearly…
I don’t know if it’s the architect in me, but I find the construction of Misusu Patterns’ really enjoyable. There are always carefully considered details and interesting diagonal lines. The Piper Tank is no disappointment! When I signed up for this test I was thinking, ah yes, a nice simple pattern; this will be a breeze… And I was right to a certain extent, but I was also happily surprised to find lots of options to the pattern that would allow me to stretch my sewing skills.
I had never attempted a patch pocket before, and this patterns calls for a lovely little pocket on the left front breast (and 3 variations now in the tutorial!). It requires topstitching. Topstitching that will remain very visible. This has always put me off pockets in the past. Well, not any more!! As you’ll see, every version I made included a patch pocket, (or a decorative patch) and each one turned out great! Such pocket success inspired me to add a pocket to a pair of shorts I had in the mill, and I even stretched to using a double needle on that one!! Mightily adventurous for me! I’m guessing there will be pockets on most everything I sew from now on!!!!
As I said, the Piper Tank pattern comes with a host of options for the construction of the back panel. The highlight for me was the “penguin” version of the pattern that has the neatest, most satisfying construction to the bottom hem that I’ve had the pleasure to sew. A little tricky looking at first glance, but it comes together sooo very neatly…
The first Piper I attempted, and although I struggled a little to control the loosely knitted fabric, turned out beautifully. It wasn’t the easiest fabric choice, but its challenges were offset by the forgiving texture that hides a multitude of flaws! I used a zigzag stitch for the bottom hem and, though you can’t tell without very close inspection, I ended up having to sew over the hem twice.
The pocket stitching ain’t perfect, but I’m happy enough to have missed out on perfection when the end result is as gorgeous as this!
It is light and soft and perfect for the astonishingly hot weather we’re having here in Ireland at the moment.
I paired this version with my first attempt at Misusu’s Culottes Tutorial. With the penguin back and the slight A-Line cut of the Piper Tank these culottes work perfectly. The fabric is a cotton double gauze fabric I purchased from Madeline deStoffenmadam at the same time as the stripy fabric – and the colour match is almost perfect. I love the contrast in textures afforded by the double sided nature of the Piper Tank fabric and an additional texture with the double gauze is lovely.
From Penguins to Petals
For my second attempt I went with the Petal version of the pattern. Once again there was an unusual element to the pattern that I enjoyed getting to grips with. The curved hem makes it a little tricky to get the hem to sit flat. The pattern includes a great suggestion to adjust the differential tension on your serger to make the fabric pucker a little; assisting the curve to sit flat. I tried, and I failed; however even a failed attempt looked great from the outside!
I’m not one to let a hem beat me, so I tried the technique once again with another Piper Petal, this time in a more stable jersey fabric; it worked perfectly!!
A pair of Pipers for a couple of Pranksters
At this stage the two lads were getting a little jealous of all the sewing I was doing for No.3. So for my next versions I decided to make a penguin version for No.1 and a straight backed version for No.2. In both cases I used the optional back yoke. It’s the perfect place to use a contrasting fabric/play with the direction of fabric. The penguin version is brilliant for playing with pattern too as it just cries out for using the diagonal line of the bottom hem.
You’ll have noticed that Elvelyckan Design‘s fabric keeps popping up here. It’s a company that produces beautifully patterned fabrics with a lovely range of colours, in gorgeous soft jersey, interlock and French terry (what they call “college”) fabric. Unfortunately their shipping costs to Ireland are very expensive (they are based in Sweden) unless you order quite a lot of fabric. The positive side to this (oh there’s always a positive to HAVING to order lots of fabric) is that I waited till I had a few pennies to spend and splurged on a big order with lots of narwhals, waves and solids. No.2 loves “swimmers” (his term for any water borne creature) so the narwhals were his cup of tea. No.1 is getting very grown up in himself these days and the waves caught his attention. He’d love to be a surfer…
All the Piper Tanks I made have a slight A-Line shape. It was suggested during the testing phase that a straight version might be useful for a more boyish look. Elles Lanfer (the exceptional designer and person behind Misusu Patterns) introduced this option to the pattern, so all bases are well covered! I used the A-Line version for all as I think it is very subtly A-line and works great for the penguin especially, but is perfect on my boys in all versions.
One thing I didn’t mention with my Version 1 is that the pattern matching of my back seam got the better of me. I could blame the late night sewing or the tricky fabric, either way those diagonal lines just didn’t match up. So for my last Piper Tank I went back to the lovely soft stripy fabric I had used before and was determined to master matching those stripes…
I also wanted to use that double gauze fabric to make a patch pocket and use the option for a yoke to enjoy the contrast between the front and back faces of the fabric and play with the stripe direction. This is what Misusu patterns are so perfect for!
No.3 had been more than a little under the weather for the previous few days but she has taken to this modelling malarkey like a pro and managed to give me a few smiles…
I’m a little tired after all that sewing, but definitely not tired of the great pattern that Elles has come up with. Suitable for pretty much all levels; the Piper Tank has simple options for the beginner and interesting details to give the more experienced sewer something to enjoy. And for those of us in the middle, plenty to prompt us to push our boundaries.
I’m so grateful for having been given the chance to get involved in pattern testing again. It was another super opportunity to engage with and learn from the talented bunch of seamstresses and to stretch my sewing skills again. With the added benefit that my family are now well and truly kitted out for what continues to be an incredibly warm and dry summer!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post, or even just having a browse! The Piper Tank Top Pattern can be purchased here!
( Please also visit my fellow testers’ blog/social media Piper Tank Top posts here!)
UPDATE! A special birthday Piper…
Between writing this blog and setting it to publish I made a very special Piper for a friend of No.1…
A couple of weeks back No.1 finished his first year in school. He had met one boy from his class in our local park a couple of weeks before and they bumped into each other as they walked into school on their first day. They have been firm friends all year.
No.1 showed him the space alien that I had made from a drawing of his last year and his friend asked me if I could make him something too.
So I suggested he draw something and I’d figure out what to make. This gorgeous little drawing of a ladybird holding hands with a snail is what he came up with. It is such a sweet little drawing and is evocative of the lovely friendship the two boys have built. Who knows if they’ll remain friends as they grow up, and I hope they do, but it’s been lovely seeing them enjoy life together in this past year at school.
Friend’s birthday was coming up and I had conveniently just finished testing the Piper Tank so I decided I would make him one and try my hand at an applique. I had put a decorative patch on one of the tanks I had made for No.3 during the testing process so thought I could make a similar badge for Friend and that way replicate the scale of the drawing.
I made only a few adjsutments to the drawing; I simplified the number of legs the ladybird had and I added a swrl to the snail’s shell, just to make it a little clearer that it was a snail. Other than that, I similified the ladybird’s spots a little and was good to go!
I ironed bondaweb on each piece of fabric and assembled both animals separately by ironing their component pieces together. I then top stitched it all before fixing them to the patch and the patch to the front of the tank. I was surprised at how easily it all came together and was delighted with how well it represented his original drawing.
I went with the penguin back version of the Piper Tank – the shape reminded me of the ladybird’s shell. No.1 excitedly modelled the tank for me and was sure that his friend would be delighted.
No.1 is a little taller and broader than his friend, so I made the slightly smaller of the two sizes of Piper Tanks that I had made him during the testing phase and hoped for the best.
No.1 was very excited to be giving this to his friend and thankfully it got the thumbs up from his friend too!! My plan for world domination begins with dressing all the children in my son’s classes…
(All the links are included entirely due to my love of the fabric/shop/pattern. I think it is great to be able to give a shout out for all those talented, committed people who help me enjoy this sewing lark as much as I do!)
Ask me my favourite colour and I’d be hard pressed to choose between yellow and green. Both are bright, joyful and fresh.
Luckily I’m not the only one who loves these colours; No.1’s favourite colour is green and No.2’s favourite colour is yellow. I got a great run of green clothes over the past few months out of an emergency purchase of green fleece from Fabrics Ireland paired with yellow jersey/college fabrics from Elvelyckan Design. My favourite of the lot is this wonderful Origami Sweatshirt by Misusu Patterns.
When it comes to clothing for myself though, I’ve a fairly red complexion and yellow isn’t always the most attractive colour on me, however much I wish it was. I was lucky enough recently to find a shade that is perfect for my beautiful No.3 and that I can also just about get away with wearing.
The Fabric Counter in Stoneybatter has stocked up on a beautiful range of linen fabrics (and now it seems they have a web-shop up and running too!!), and the shade of yellow is just beautiful. A soft, mustard yellow is how I’d best describe it, though that certainly doesn’t do it justice. I bought three metres of the linen with a couple of projects in mind…
The first project was a little pair of culottes for No.3. She has finally started walking so I felt safe that the bum wouldn’t be torn out of them immediately. The linen is a medium weight and I am hopeful that it will take a fair bit of wear and tear.
Upright and on the move!
As soon as I saw the fabric I was reminded of a gorgeous pair of yellow culottes I had seen made in Brindille and Twig’s new Culottes Pattern by Tina Ekklund Philp. She makes gorgeous clothes and has one super stylish mini with great attitude! Her culottes were paired with B&T’s new Cropped Sweatshirt (a super cosy looking version of that!); a perfect match. So I was armed with inspiration and a plan…
I bought the two new patterns (because I need only the tiniest excuse to purchase a new pattern) and got to work.
The culottes were super easy to make, though took a bit longer than expected. I didn’t have yellow thread for my serger, and didn’t really want another colour muddying the beautiful colour. So I finished all the seams with a zigzag stitch and it produced a very neat finish, if a little slow. The pattern really is super easy. Made of only two pieces it couldn’t be easier to put together. It calls for 1″ elastic, but I only had 3/4″ elastic, and I think I will happily use that in future. Super easy to pass through the casing width called up in the pattern and perfectly adequate.
I’ve been using knit fabrics a lot of late and it was a pleasure to be sewing with a woven fabric that was so straightforward to handle. It also doesn’t wrinkle as much as I expected it to which is a huge bonus!! My serger is noisy, very noisy and I found it lovely and relaxing to be using the much calmer animal that is my sewing machine.
Now I had to figure out what to do with that cropped sweatshirt pattern I had bought…
With another straightforward pattern it seemed like a good time to stretch my (very limited) applique skills a little. Well, test them out anyway. I’ve only done some really basic applique in the past and was a little daunted by anything other than a very small area. I went into Hickeys on Henry Street in Dublin and asked for a product called Bondaweb. I wasn’t really sure if that was the right name, still amn’t, but they seemed to know what I was talking about and suggested some double-sided iron-on stuff. Boy it worked a treat! It really kept the applique stable and in place as I sewed. I also bought my first water erasable pen to draw the shapes. Wow, that stuff really works too! A damp cloth over the whole thing and the blue marks just disappear!
I decided to cut up a failed sweater I sewed for myself a few months back. (I had made the “Shirt Catrin” by Schnittchen Patterns out of a lovely red sweater and it turned out perfectly on my first attempt. It gets worn almost every week. My second version however in a heavier weight grey fabric was a bit of a disaster. The weight of the fabric made it far too bulky and sloppy looking.) I chopped it up and used it for No.3’s Cropped Sweater.
Another easy pattern. Unfortunately I banjaxed the sleeves a bit, partly due to the thickness of the sweater fabric. My serger did not appreciate having to work so hard. In the end I cut them off the next morning and just serged on some cuffs that I shaped a little to make a kind of cap sleeve.
I have a little stash of Elvelyckan Design fabric solids that I invested in a while back, including some yellow and dark blue “college” and ribbing, I went with a dark blue waistband and sleeves and a yellow neckband.
Fishy, Fishy, Fishy!
I’ve been wanting to applique some little fish onto clothing for a while. (I’ve used them on soft toys I’ve made before; I love having the little fish hide on the back of the toy!)
I cut out seven little fish from some blue fleece and hand stitched an eye on each. In the end I decided on three little fellows jumping out of the blue waistband sea with an asymmetric yellow sun shining down from the neckline. And oh it turned out great!!
No.3 knew exactly what was called of her when I put the culottes and sweater on. She immediately went to stand by our brightest, cleanest wall for some pics. And in fairness she was pretty patient for such a little chicken! She loves the fishy!
Both patterns are perfect for the disconcertingly beautiful weather we’ve been having over the past few weeks. Airy and light, and super comfortable to wear.
For the second project I decided to attempt to make some wearable yellow clothing for myself… next blog coming soon!
(All the links here are entirely due to my love of the fabric/shop/pattern. I think it is great to be able to give a shout out for all those talented, committed people who help me enjoy this sewing lark as much as I do!)
(To celebrate the release of the Doris Skirt pattern it will be on sale until the 15th April. Be sure to keep an eye on Misusu Patterns’ Facebook and Instagram pages for a special surprise on the 15th!)
My first experience of pattern testing…
Part of what has sustained my sewing addiction for the past year has been the access to inspiring online sewing communities, most specifically a couple of Facebook groups I have joined where you can share your work and get advice, inspiration and information about patterns, fabrics, tools and techniques. It is pretty much all I use Facebook for these days. These groups are warm, friendly places with generous contributors and even more generous hosts. None more so than Misusu Patterns Sew & Tell group, where I am a member since discovering Misusu Patterns only about 6 months ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed seeing other sewers’ versions of Elles Lanfer’s beautiful patterns.
When Elles put out a call within the group for pattern testers for a new pattern, the Doris Skirt, I nervously applied! It promted me to get out the dSLR, which I use only for architectural photos, and try getting some proper pictures of previous sewing projects. I managed to get good photos of some of previous Misusu makes; Louise Sweater (one of my favourite patterns at the moment; I would love an adult version!!), Eva Sweater Dress and Rowan Tee.
I shared them within the Misusu Facebook Sew & Tell group and on Instagram with the hopes that having some half decent pictures out there might help get me selected! I was delighted to be informed a week or so later that I was on Team Doris!!
Prior to calling for testers, Elles had asked for feedback on what size ranges to offer in the pattern. The vast majority of comments agreed that it was fairly impractical to put a skirt on a child who couldn’t walk, as it would end up around their waist. This I agreed with, and so I was in a bit of a pickle; No.3 seems fairly committed to her bum shuffling. She can walk when holding hands, but really doesn’t seem likely to take off on a solo run anytime soon. I’ve justified making up a load of test skirts for her by convincing myself that she will walk before she has out grown them all. Fingers crossed. She can’t stay on her bum forever, can she?
Within the online sewing groups contributers regularly ask how a pattern sizing runs. It is not something that I have ever been too worried about, basically because I pretty much always aim to make clothes for my children with pleeeeenty of growing room. I’m damned if I’m going to spend time making clothes that will only last a couple of months! It also helps that while I clearly have an interest in clothes, I don’t really have a huge interest in either “fashion” or having my kids dressed perfectly. I love to see them running (or shuffling) around in brightly coloured, comfortable clothes made of interesting, soft and preferably hard-wearing fabric. Achieving a perfect fit has never been a high priority for me. I will always make a pattern a size or two bigger than they measure (if I even bother to measure; I usually just go for a couple of sizes bigger than their age suggests) and sure if it’s a bit long/big they will always grow into it!
So, the first challenge I could see coming with testing the Doris Skirt was that I would actually have to make the skirt to fit Maggot No.3! A daunting prospect, but fundamentally the point of the testing process. I came to the testing team with the hopes of being able to contribute to the success of the pattern, but also to push my boundaries a little and learn some new approaches and techniques. Challenge No.1: make a skirt that fits!
The Doris Skirt is a simple, clean lined pattern and, as with so many Misusu patterns, there is super opportunity to play with colour blocking and patterned/textured fabrics within the pattern. Unusual/asymmetrical lines are another beautiful feature of Misusu Patterns and used to great effect in Doris. I love the diagonal seam running from back to front and the little pockets that can have a cuffed edge, not to mention the dipping, crossover waistband; what’s not to love!! The potential for using piping along the diagonal seam appealed to my hopes of pushing my sewing boundaries. I had never done piping; Challenge No.2 accepted!
One of the benefits of starting a new sewing project is the opportunity to BUY MORE FABRIC! I have plenty (flipping tonnes!) of suitable fabric in my stash. The tiny size of the skirt, made with a number of pieces, lends itself to using up leftover bits ‘n’ pieces of fabric, of which I have many. But sure I wouldn’t be doing Doris justice if I didn’t get some lovely new fabric, would I?
I decided to check out Quilt Yarn Stitch, a fabric shop based in Tuam, Co. Galway with an accompanying online store. I had bought quite a few meters of different fabrics from them when I visited their stand at the Knitting and Stitching Show last autumn. (Their selection was the highlight of my first ever visit to the show.) I had bought my favorite “sloth” fabric from them, and so check in every once in a while to see if there is anything of interest.
They had a lovely double-sided jersey that seemed like it would be heavy enough to work for Doris. It also had contrasting pattern on either side, dots on the front and stripes on the back. I went with the blue & pink version and bought some matching pink ribbing too… when it arrived I was delighted with the weight and softness, but also realized it looked familiar. Misusu had a very similar fabric on the Doris Skirt in the Facebook test group cover picture! So I was safe in knowledge that it should work for the pattern! That fabric was set aside to be used as my final version and I got cracking on the pattern with fabrics from my stash for the draft skirts.
It’s Testing Time! Round 1…
I had categorized myself at application stage as “Confident Beginner”, as is pattern skill level assigned to the Doris Skirt pattern. Given a good set of clear instructions I’m pretty happy to tackle most patterns. I don’t have extensive sewing experience, but the basic Doris pattern is straightforward enough. It still has a few elements/options that are a little trickier for a newbie; numerous layers of fabric in places that are a bit difficult to handle, ribbing to the pocket edge, the possible use of piping and the unusual crossover v-shaped waistband. Nothing terribly daunting but a bit of a challenge for me nonetheless.
For round one I rooted through my stash and selected two french terry fabrics, white with a black grid and black (both fabrics by See You At Six) and contrasted this with some pink ribbing for the waistband and cuffs to the pockets. The pattern has an option for finishing the skirt with a hem or a band, I went with the hem for his first version. It all proceeded pretty smoothly. The pattern tutorial originally suggested attaching the pocket cuffs and inner pocket piece to the front panel on in two stages, so I did this, but actually found it easier in later versions to do in one go, as is now proposed in the final tutorial.
I was pretty happy with my first effort, but noted that for future versions I wouldn’t put a stripe running parallel to the diagonal seam, as it can really highlight any inaccuracies in keeping this seam perfectly straight. I also realized that it is pretty unforgiving to use a double needle to hem while trying to stitch parallel to narrow black lines (when you’ve only used your double needle a handful of times). Another thing I’ll avoid in future, at least until my skills have stepped up a notch!
I tried Doris 01 on No.3 the following morning and it fitted ok, but was too big. When I measured her, at the time of applying to be part of the testing team, she measured pretty much bang on Size 80 (48cm waist, 52cm hips and 78cm (approximately, it’s hard to pin her down/get her to stand up straight for a height check) length).
However, I’m guessing I initially measured her after dinner, as her little waist with it’s balloon belly measured closer to 46/47cm first thing in the morning. It was generally a little looser than planned. As I was using the smallest size the pattern provided and the fit was only a little too big, and mostly around the waist, I decided to take about 1cm off the waist for the next time round and grade this down along the side and back seams. The pattern tutorial contains clear instruction on how the grade between sizes to get the perfect fit, so important for a neat fitting garment. No.3 was measuring smaller than the smallest size, so I just used my best judgement in grading it down for the next version.
Round 2 – The Piping Beast
With the next Doris I decided I’d try out piping along the the side seams. I had some peach stretch piping that would contrast really nicely with a purple sweater and zebra stretchy sweater that I had in mind.
It didn’t work out so well. The first mistake was to use the cuffed pockets version, which added to the thickness of the layers at the side seam, so made it that little bit trickier than needed. Also, I don’t have a piping foot or any suitable foot for the serger that would help the keep sewing on the correct line. Suffice is to say I ended up sewing too far from the piping generally and then at the junction with the pocket cuff the serger pulled it all in too much as it struggled to get through the layers of fabric. I ended up trimming the seam off, re-cutting the back pieces and hoping that I hadn’t lost too much off the front panel in the process. Disgusted that it had beaten me, I went ahead with no piping to finish off this version.
The fit was actually not bad this time round, but the waist still a little big. I love the pink/purple/zebra print combo!
It was around this stage that Elles sent out her survey looking for feedback on the pattern and tutorial. Questions included asking about the overall fit, whether the waist sat too high or low at front and back, the angle of the side seams, having a split versus cutting on the fold in the back seam. This part of the process gave an interesting insight into how the pattern testing can help with the fine tuning of the pattern, and a little peek behind the scenes of the world of pattern design.
My next Doris would have been the last as the deadline was approaching, but Elles let us know that as there were a few more adjustments needed than originally expected that she was extending the process for another week. I decided to use the extra time to do a draft “final” version. I wanted to make a little top to compliment the skirt and I was delighted with the chance to practice taking final photos of No.3.
It also coincided with St. Patrick’s Day…
My middle child, Maggot No.2, needed something green to wear into crèche on the Friday, so on Thursday afternoon I popped into Fabrics Ireland on Mountjoy Square, conveniently located next door to my office (incredibly dangerous!) and looked for some nice green sweater fabric. I found a lovely rich green fleece, so went with that and spent till 1am on Thursday night making two fleece hoodies for the lads. I must be mad.
They were delighted with their tops, and I was glad I used the fleece as the weather was forecast to take yet another turn for the worse. At least they’d be snug to go see the parade.
Continuing the St.Patrick’s Day theme for the next Doris edition I went for a snuggly Doris “Patrick”. I love this fleece version. It is super cosy and the thickness of the fabric is very forgiving. The colour is great, a lovely shade of green, and the soft yellow bands compliment it very well. I also completely changed my initial opinion on using the bottom band for Doris. I love it. And looking at it now I think it has a slightly sporty 1980’s look? It is certainly gives a really simple neat finish.
I decided to use Misusu Patterns’ Lotte Dress/Tunic/Top pattern to make a matching fleece top to go with Doris. I simplified it by using only the main body part; leaving out the skirt element. I hoped that the slightly higher front would show off the lovely v-shaped waistband of Doris. I pared back the neckline too, mainly to make it quicker/easier to make, but also to keep it simple so as not to distract from the true star of the show; Doris.
I was delighted with the combination and No.3 seemed happy out too. She complied very well for the photos, with a helping hand from her dad! The weather was miserable outside, so I tidied up at the couch under the rooflight to get the best indoor daylit pictures I could.
After a little break from sewing for a night or two of the long weekend I got back into week two of the Doris testing. I had a couple more fabric combinations in mind and definitely wanted to conquer that piping beast…
For version Doris 04 I used some lovely pink french terry I had in my stash and combined it with the purple (aubergine?) sweater fabric I’d used for Doris 02. I decided to go simple, with no piping, no pocket bands and no bottom band. I used zigzag topstitching along the pocket seams and the hem, much more forgiving than the double needle!
At this point having done two versions with a hem and two with a band I decided that I definitely preferred the look of Doris with a band. I think it’s a little more casual and a more snuggly looking finish. The never-ending winter we are enduring might be contributing to this opinion…
Elles let us know that the pattern for the smaller sizes was pretty much finalised with the last draft, so we were good to go with final versions of Doris! I decided to go with two more options, a safe version Doris 05, and go for broke and try to beat the piping demon with Doris 06.
I really like how Doris 05 turned out. There was little or no stretch to the purple/augergine sweater to the front panel so I was concerned that it might not work, as stretch fabrics are recommended, but it fitted really nicely. I made another fleece Lotte top to match and tried to get some “final” photos. No.3 wasn’t in the form for it and I managed to get only one reasonable photo. I guess this is why they say never to work with children!
A Final Doris (for now…)
For my final test Doris I took on the piping beast once more. Well, sort of. I didn’t have any matching piping so used the ribbing for the waistband and hem to make a narrow strip along the diagonal side seams. The same challenges with standard piping applied. Keeping the seam perfectly straight and even. Not bumping out/in where the pocket edge is met. With the first run through the machine and the piping was a little off, (again veered off course at the bulk of the pocket edge) but I ran it through slowly a second time and it worked a treat!! In the final pattern tutorial Elles now directs that the seam allowance be graded back to reduce the bulk at these pocket seams, so that will probably help in my future versions!
The piping is so effective! It accentuates that gorgeous diagonal seam that is such a beautiful feature of many Misusu Patterns.
The fabric was a perfect selection for the Doris Skirt. The double sided nature works so well for the pattern. I used the dotted side for the front panel and the stripy side for the two back panels. I kept the stripe running perpendicular to the diagonal side seam, and it meets at an angle on the back seam too.
At the last (late night) minute I decided to go for (yet another) Lotte Top to match with Doris 06. I wanted to adjust it to cross over leaving a gap in the middle so as not to obscure the skirt in final photos.
I must have spent a couple of hours looking at the Lotte Top trying to figure out how to make the crossover line up properly at the shoulders, what order to sew the bits together to get the hem/rib to line up correctly. Not a job I should have done when tired. Unfortunately I made quite a few adjustments in a freehand manner, so don’t have a final paper pattern cut out that I could just use again without having to figure it all out once more. Oh well!
The final Doris/Lotte combination turned out great! The double sided fabric was so effective for both patterns. We had fun trying to get final pictures as the weather was pretty changeable, as was No.3’s mood!
Tried, Tested and Loved!
This pattern testing experience was thoroughly enjoyable. I loved seeing everyone else’s work as the process went along and loved that my late-night sewing formed part of a team effort. I am so grateful to Elles for selecting me to join the team. There was such a helpful, positive atmosphere to all communications within the group. I will certainly have no hesitation in putting my hand up for the next test call.
No.3 now has 6 beautiful Doris skirts ready to go in her wardrobe. Hopefully they will still fit her by the time she decides to start walking!!! She’s nearly there!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post, or even just skimming through! I know it was a long one. I need to practice, not only my sewing, but also my editing skills!
(And remember, to celebrate the release of the Doris Skirt pattern it will be on sale until the 15th April and keep an eye on Misusu Patterns’ Facebook and Instagram pages for a special surprise on the 15th! Please also visit my fellow testers’ blog/socialmedia Doris posts here!)
Back in late last December No.1 came home from school with a bag full of space related drawings. They had been learning all about space that term, his first term of school. I couldn’t believe it when he showed me this amazing drawing of a space alien.
I loved the way the drawing filled the page, the detail and the clarity with which he spoke about it. Those two yokes are not eyes, they are antennas, definitely antennas.
That same evening as he was sitting down drawing he, all of a sudden, got himself into a complete state of upset, ripped up the drawing he was working on and was inconsolable. All because he had made a “mistake”. It escalated so quickly and so intensely it bothered me. It’s not unusual for him to get upset when he colours outside of the lines, or isn’t happy when a drawing isn’t exactly as his mind’s eye sees it. I do my best to gently encourage him and try to explain that drawing isn’t about creating something perfect, but about exploring ideas and having fun. That evening however nothing could get through to him and he was still upset going to bed, was all tense and frustrated and was telling himself he was no good.
So I decided to make something that was inspired by his Space Alien drawing with the hopes that he would see that he was wonderful at drawing, not just wonderful but that he was inspirational. Which is completely true.
However, I was a little nervous about trying to turn his drawing into a toy. Mainly, I was afraid of adding to his frustration by making something that he found intimidating, by making something that overshadowed his creation. Later I had the idea to get a frame for his own picture. A €2 purchase in Ikea (though one never leaves IKEA having only bought what you went in for) might help reinforce how wonderful I thought his picture was and ensure that this project was about his creation, not mine. But I was also a little worried that by focusing on the brilliant drawing he had done that I would be reinforcing his perfectionism, not helping him relax and enjoy the process… Who’s to know what to do?!
I also hoped that in making the toy I wouldn’t get something drastically “wrong”. No.1 had such a clear understanding of his drawing that I hoped I wouldn’t misinterpret something so drastically that he I wouldn’t like it.
Ah, I can’t predict if the maggots are going to decide not to like their favourite dinner of an evening, let alone whether or not they’ll like something I’ve spent hours working on into the wee hours of the morning…
So with my doubts all still there, but put aside, and children asleep, I rooted out some scraps of felt and fleece and got stuck in.
I traced over the drawing and cut out felt and fleece shapes. I made sure I had the right number of eyes, and the correct no of eyebrows. All important details. I had to make up the back of the Alien myself and wondered what No.1 would think of the ponytail/mullet!
I found some leather string to make the antennas and doubled up the fleece to give the three skinny legs some strength.
I filled the toy with a mix of polyester stuffing and a little bag of dried cherry stones (the stones bought online from Stoff & Stil) to give the toy a bit of weight. My favourite toy as a little girl was “Dolly Beans”, a rag doll who was full of little heavy beans of some sort. I lost her when I brought her to school one day against my mother’s advice. Since then I have always loved a toy with a bit of weight to it.
I put Space Alien away and decided that if I could get another one made before Christmas I’d give one to No.1 and one to No.2 for Christmas. No.3 was to be neglected as usual. In the end life got in the way and it was pretty clear that I wasn’t going to get another alien made.
I decided I would keep it aside and pick my moment. One evening before bed when No.1 had had another creative crisis earlier that day I produced his drawing in it’s frame, and the toy.
He was utterly delighted. Of course he counted the eyes and eye brows and wasn’t convinced about the hairdo. He noticed that I had forgotten to put the little sticky-out bits in at the bottom corners (not sure what they were meant to to be) and that the teeth were upside down in his mouth. (Jaysus he has some eye for detail. Wonder where that came from?!) He was genuinely thrilled that I had “made the Space Alien real” and very, very, thankful.
I set up this website/blog a week ago. Bought a domain name, set up a web-hosting account, picked a WordPress theme and got stuck in. It’s far from perfect but it is a start. It’s too easy for me to procrastinate so I decided I’d get the ball rolling and work on the details as time allows.
First order of business, now that this animal is living, is to feed it. So I’ve started compiling images of my sewing projects to date. Hmm, wish I had started using the dSLR sooner…
I plan to write a few posts about various past projects that I’ve found particularly enjoyable and inspiring or where I’ve learnt something that others might find useful/interesting. I will most likely concentrate on current/ongoing projects and hope to spend some time visiting local and national fabric shops and write a few posts about what I find!