Seven Random Facts

I’m not a very happy bunny today. I have a nasty head head cold that leaves me feeling wiped out if I try and do anything and restless if I sit down. I have no makes to post about as I haven’t felt up to making anything (although I did manage to sew some hanging loops on the new towels I bought, just before I got ill, wohoo). I have a new pdf pattern, printed out and taped together (no mean feat) sat on the ironing board along with the fabric (and a load of other junk) and the mere thought of it made me feel tired last night.

So when I was browsing through my list of bookmarked sewing blogs in an attempt find new posts and distract myself and I came across Philippa from Gloria and Me‘s Seven Random Facts about herself in response to being nominated for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award I happily read away. And then I discovered that she’d nominated me. So, as I have nothing better to do, and possibly against my better judgement (as my brain is not fully functional right now so I’m not sure I trust it to find suitably interesting facts that I’m willing to share) , here are seven random facts about me….

I’m a maths geek: I sometimes describe myself as a Resting Mathematician (think Resting Actor waiting tables in LA, but less glamorous). Now don’t get the wrong end of the stick and think that I can actually do any maths anymore, I’m severely out of practice and have forgotten most of what I knew and even when I was in practice it was hardly anything you might find useful, so don’t go asking me any statistics questions. But I do have a PhD in maths (abstract algebra if you want to know – specifically calculating characteristic sets of matroids (no not matrices) using Groebner basis), so if you want to insist on being formal, that’s Dr ProlificProjectStarter to you (not that I normally bother with the title, except when dealing with snotty call centre staff).

I used to have blue hair: bright Austin Allegro blue, honest, I just don’t have a photo, for no good reason. Anyway, I had bright blue hair, pillar box red, peroxide blond and multicoloured streaks in my youth. No reason, just cos I could.

I don’t have a TV: this fact freaked out some people I used to work with. I just got really bored of all the dumbed down rubbish on it. Plus I struggle to not watch a tv if it’s on. So when we moved house we left the tv in a box in the attic, never missed it and never looked back. We used to be too busy doing interesting stuff to watch tv (playing music together, going out, that kind of thing). Then we were too busy/tired with babies/small kids. These days we footle around on the internet instead and occasionally watch stuff on i player. Mainly Dr Who and The Great British Bake off.

I don’t have a car: Living in a city helps. I used to cycle everywhere but we’re at an awkward stage with kids being too big for bike seats and trailers yet not big enough to cycle with us (well, one is but I don’t trust the car drivers). So we do lots of walking and buses. And trains for long journeys, for long journeys with kids trains trumps all other forms of transport (except in the cost stakes). We do occasionally use the local car share scheme car though. Cos, you know, camping and stuff.

I’m a caller – ever been to a ceilidh (kay-lee) or a barn dance and had someone at the front trying to persuade you to dance and explaining how to do it and checking the musicians had got back from the bar and prodding them into playing something appropriate and talking you through whilst the dance was happening and then stopping the dance whilst it was still fun and before you were too knackered. That could’ve been me.

I can see a giant gnome from my bedroom window. Seriously, it’s about 3 foot high. Someone in a house on the road behind us put one in their back garden a few months ago. I have no idea why.

I don’t like asking people to do stuff So I won’t be nominating anyone else. I hate to make anyone feel obliged. Not quite sure how I manage the calling really.

Belated Birthday Hoodie

A couple of years ago I got the boy a gorgeous, subtle, multicoloured fleece hoodie made by Lizzie Shirt. It’s a really high quality garment, he loves wearing it and I love cuddling him when he’s wearing it (and when he’s not wearing it too obviously, he’s just a bit more snuggly in it). But it’s starting to get a little on the short side. Sadlly, the shop I impulse bought it from has now closed down and it’s going to need replacing. Of course, I could order a replacement online (and I may yet do that because I cannot emphasise enough the amazing quality and design of these hoodies) but then again I could make something similar…

I also have a pattern that irks me in the Sew Chic Kid’s book. It’s the Pull Over Parker that You and Mie and Elsie Marley jointly hosted a sew-a-long for recently – check out all the wonderful variations in their flickr pool.

So what irks me about this pattern? Well, I just can’t get my head around when you’d want to wear a 3/4 length sleeved light weight woven top with a hood. It seems neither one thing or the other.

At some point, these two thoughts melded and I thought I could adapt the pattern to make a fleecey top replacement, and maybe one for sister as well. I had half a mind to join in the sew-a-long and make a headstart on some sewing for Christmas but that never happened. I looked to see if anyone in the sew-a-long had made one in fleece to see how it went, but apparently not. So I sat on the idea some more.

And then I came across this funky geometric sweater knit fabric by Kitschy Koo. It’s perfect for the boy. He is a lover of all things bright and patterned – I think in part due to his fairly severely colour deficient vision. This ticks the geometric box big time and might help tone down the brightness on some of his outfits.

So, I had an idea (replacement snuggle hoodie), I had sourced the fabric and I had a pattern in mind. Then I decided it was the wrong pattern. It was a combination of the neckline elastic detail, which I wasn’t sure about (and surely wasn’t needed for a stretchy knit fabric, but I also wasn’t sure how to change it) and how to finish the sleeves once I’d extended them to full length, I thought I’d get away with it in fleece but I’d know chosen a knit fabric – plus someone had commented the hood was small, indeed I found that when I hacked this pattern hood for nativity spiders and wolf costumes. And so began the hunt for a boys hooded sweater pattern – I figured I could make up the kangaroo pouch detail. But I couldn’t find one. I changed my search terms, but I still couldn’t find what I was looking for (although I did discover that in the USA pullover seems to mean a dress for small girls, rather than a jumper/sweater).

I kept coming back to a free zip up hoodie pattern from The Boy Trifecta. It wasn’t quite what I wanted as it had a zip and I wasn’t feeling up to working out how to change the neckline/hood if I left that out. But it kept popping up in the search terms. Maybe a zip isn’t so bad I thought. But then I can’t have a kangaroo pocket. A half zip maybe? How to do that? Finally it dawned on me, half kangaroo pockets. Right, deal, order the fabric (got a little carried away there), try and print pattern, several times, finally get printer to work, print it again at 100% rather than 70%, get ill, be busy, lose the pattern, print it again, breathe and start.

After all that faffing, most of the actual make was pretty straight forward and came together very quickly. I had a couple of dips in confidence at first. The fabric when it came looked more knitted and less sweaterey than I imagined. It’s described as a sweater knit, which I thought meant it was sweatshirt type fabric that was technically knitted, whereas it looks and feels obviously more knitted than that. Indeed hubby commented when I was half way through the make that I looked like I was making him a cardy and I know what he means. However, the fabric has grown on me (and I must say there is nothing at all wrong with it, it’s great quality, just I’m a little inexperienced at understanding fabric descriptions) even if it is a long way from the snuggly qualities I originally had in mine.

PDF pattern time

PDF pattern time

The other minor wobble came when I printed the pattern – I was surprised to see a clearly hand drawn line marking our the one sized pattern. Also it didn’t have page match up markers, so all in all it didn’t look as professional as the patterns I’m used to printing off (free or paid for) and I was worried about cutting into my expensive quality fabric on the strength of it. But I gave myself a stern talking to about my prejudices, after all it’s a free pattern, which is very generous, and it has clearly been used by Emma to make a fantastic looking hoodie. Plus how is a Computer Aided Design package style line on a pattern any more or less accurate than a handdrawn one – it’s the skill of the pattern designer that counts and I certainly can’t judge that by glancing at the pattern. When I came to piece the pattern pieces together I found it no harder than a “normal” pdf to match up – in fact it was on the easy side, once I’d worked out what was going on with the hood shape.

Technical sizing process underway

Technical sizing process underway

Next off I compared it to a top he already has for a size adjustment, as the pattern is for “a tall 9 year old” and is “comfortable a size 12” (which I didn’t spot at the time, I just went with the 9 year old bit) and my lanky son had just turned 8. The width seemed pretty comparable, a bit baggier, but the length was huge. So I randomly on a whim scientifically measured and calculated took about 3 inches off the overall length and an inch and a half of the sleeves. And then I cut out a half kangaroo pocket (surely that’s not the correct term) pattern piece, I was going to copy the one on little sisters onsie, but she was snuggled up in bed asleep in it, so I did more impulsive guesswork careful measuring out.

pattern alteration in action

pattern alteration in action

Right, pattern pieces sorted, onto cutting the fabric. I found pattern matching on this fabric so very hard as it has a really obvious horizontal stripe of different designs, but some of them are wavy so they don’t always match up or have the same distance between them. Arghh. But I got it good enough I think. The fabric is 160cm wide. I think I would have got either a hood or the sleeves out of the same width as the front and back pieces if it wasn’t for pattern matching. As it was I glad I bought a metre and a half, just a metre and there would’ve been tears. Plus I have a biggish piece left.

For the hood lining I used some mint plain organic jersey that I had randomly bought from Kitschy Koo. I had completely forgotten to get hood lining when impulsively splurging buying fabric for the hoodie but had ordered 1/2 m of a smokey blue jersey – thinking of something for me (not sure what from that little fabric??) but then I had a lovely email apologising that they were out of it, so I picked the mint green instead. I had looked at the mint green when ordering, but was put off by the description of it as mint, which was a greener green in my head than the colour I saw on screen. Luckily when it came it was actually a bluer, kind of pale turquoisey green, which I love and is more like it appeared on screen. Also it handily looks good with the sweatshirt knit whilst still being subtle. I cut pocket linings from it too. I kind of wish I had enough to line the entire hoodie with it, but it was already pretty expensive (I don’t want to add up how much, more than I would spend on one new in the shops).

The sewing up started of well. I made the pocket’s first, bagging them out and then sewing them with twin needle to the main body – which took a bit of tweaking to get the patterns to match “well enough” (they’re not perfect now but they don’t scream at me). Then I nearly sewed the fronts on the wrong way round, I realised just in time. The reason for getting them mixed up was because I’d sewn the pockets on the wrong sides, so they opened in the middle not at the edge. Grr. I must confess I left them for a while and did some more hoodie construction before unpicking them because I was so cheesed off so I could use natural light.

The instructions didn’t mention a seam allowance that I could find, I assumed one was included in the pattern and used 3/8″ throughout (as I prefer using a smaller seam allowances to a larger ones that then needs trimming – due to my laziness. Plus lining up the edge the fabric with the edge of my presser foot handily gives a 3/8 seam allowance). I also tried a wide zig zag stitch (being fed up with the triple stretch stitch and the unitdy look it gives and how hard it is to unpick) and it worked fine. I was working on the assumption that knit fabric doesn’t need finishing because it doesn’t fray, but it’s a looser weave (knot? stitch?) than a jersey and I’m starting to think I may have to go back over my seams and finish them off. Also, I topstitched down the seam allowance on the hood/main body seam to help it lie flat. I considered finishing it with twill tape but didn’t know how. I did remember to add a hanging hoop.

surely we're on the home straight now

surely we’re on the home straight now, well, once the pockets are unpicked and resewn (the boy wanted me to leave them like this, he like the idea of crossing his arms over in order to use them)

Pretty soon I had a hoodie looking garment that just needed a zip adding. There isn’t much in the way of instructions with the pattern on zip adding, but I was confident as I’ve added many a zip to a Presido Purse/Bag. Oh silly, silly me. I have never made a bag from stetchy fabric. Adding a zip proved to be a nightmare. My zip was too long, I knew I would need to trim it, but no matter how I pinned it the excess was a different amount each side. So instead of leaving it, I decided sewing carefully up from the hem on each side would sort that out. It didn’t. It made a hot mess.

wrinkly, bumby, mismatched, uneven lengthed zip issues, gah

wrinkly, bumby, mismatched, uneven lengthed zip issues, gah

This time I asked for help from the Stashbusting group and the general consensus was interfacing of some kind. I unpicked the zip whilst sat in the waiting room at the dentist (I was there to accompany my friend home). The next day I decided to loot my mum’s stash for double sided fusible interfacing type stuff (she had some bondaweb) whilst I was there. I scored some and contemplated ironing my zip in place with it. I couldn’t work out how to do it. Then I tried pinning it in place first and I was back to the issues I had before pinning the zip in place. Then the inspiration struck me. I needed to tack it in place. Yes, tacking (a.k.a. basting), that we were always made to do at school and I’ve never done since.

So, I tacked the zip in place. Slowly. A section at at time. Starting with the rib and working up. I would mark off on one side of the zip where it came at the top of that section, match the mark on the other side of the zip, pin both sides in place at the top of the section and then carefully tack that section on either side. Then I would zip it up, check it matched and go on to the next section. I didn’t use any fusible anything or any kind of interfacing. I had to persuade some of the sections to fit as I think one of the front pieces had stretched, but it worked.

using my zipper foot to sew my pre tacked zip in place. (The zip is right side together with the fabric, teeth facing the wrong way at this point).

using my zipper foot to sew my pre tacked zip in place. (The zip is right side together with the fabric, teeth facing the wrong way at this point).

After that it was quite straightforward to sew the zip in place on my machine. Then unpick the tacking. Why didn’t I think of this sooner? (At least I didn’t buy expensive unnecessary sewing stuff I guess).

Overlocking, just in case

Overlocking, just in case

I used my overlocker foot to finish as I was becoming paranoid about the fabric fraying, then I pressed the seam to set it, then I panicked that I shouldn’t have done and that doing so had damaged the zip (it hadn’t), then I turned the zip the right way round (with the teeth facing in towards the other zip), pressed and topstitched in place.

topstitching the zip in place

topstitching the zip in place

In the end, I’m pretty pleased with how my zip came out. Oh I forget to mention the last minute design decision, I just extended the zip up the hood a little rather than trimming, which is fine as it’s absolutely huge on the boy.

zippin it up

zippin it up

The length (from nape of neck to end of ribbing) is a whopping 26″, the width is 16 1/2″ (so 33″ circumfrence) and the length of the sleeve (from the shoulder seam down to the end of the cuffs) is nearly 23″ – and remember I cut about 3″ off the length and 1 1/2 inches of the sleeve length of the pattern.

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Luckily he likes it because it’s going to fit him for a while (should’ve read the age 12 bit!). Personally I’m really pleased with this one, thanks for the pattern Emma. And it was only a week late in the end.

I even remembered to pattern match the hood

I even remembered to pattern match the hood

However, it’s not a snuggly fleece top, so I may have to think again on that one. Let me know if you’ve tried the pullover parker in fleece or have a better pattern suggestion.

The pockets work

The pockets work

Hmm, I think this post has got ridiculously long, so should you have made it this far, feel free to skip the last couple of gratuitous shots.

Rascal

Rascal

I'm sure the zip isn't perfect but I'm pretty pleased

I’m sure the zip isn’t perfect but I’m pretty pleased

Pocket peep

Pocket peep

Quick pick me up

So, I’ve nearly finished the present I was making for the boys birthday and it’s less than a week from his birthday and I’ve written lots of a blog post about it as I went along. But then I got stuck on the zip. I thought I knew how to do zips, after all the Presido bag’s I’ve made. Turns out sewing stiff zips to stretchy knit fabric is a whole other ball game….

So, yesterday evening, feeling despondent about zips and not inspired to unpick the black zip off the mainly black knit fabric that was sewn on in black (arrghh) I looked at one of the (non black) remnant bits of fabric from the make, and I looked at the starry t shirt I made her last week and it looked big enough to be the main body. Plus it co-ordinated with one of the other bits of fabric I’d bought half a metre of at the same time, one that I really did mean to buy just half a metre of. It’s a great turquoise fabric with white polka dots and the odd one coloured in. I love it but thought it would be too much in a whole garment. So I thought I might make t shirt sleeves out of it on a garment for me. But surely I could make t shirt sleeves for the girl out of it too and still have some left…

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I used Simplicity 1573 again, the body is a little narrower (but not much, less than 1/2″ maybe) than intended on the fabric due to fabric restrictions (there just was not enough, even after I retraced the pattern and reduced the seam allowance by 1/4″ to a less wasteful 3/8″) so I had to ease the sleeve heads in slightly, but you can’t tell. It looked too short when done (I think it’s more a wide fit on reflection but it’ll last a while, bonus), so I added a band at the bottom. I also added a pocket, that I cut too tall and then trimmed to short and then realised I hadn’t considered where the coloured spots would fall. Ho hum. I thought spotty neckband might be too much on top, but hubby was hanging around and voted for it (plus the alternative was just to turn the neckline under and sew down as there was not even enough plain left for a mouse garment).

Of course, a new garment has to be photographed STRAIGHT AWAY, so if the ideal model is in bed, you get a stand in (and yes, those curtains are falling apart, they came with the house and are horrid, so I don't want to waste time fixing them, but I don't want to make new ones until we've deorated the room)

Of course, a new garment has to be photographed STRAIGHT AWAY, so if the ideal model is in bed, you get a stand in (and yes, those curtains are falling apart, they came with the house and are horrid, so I don’t want to waste time fixing them, but I don’t want to make new ones until we’ve deorated the room)

So, there we go, one quick pick me up make. That made the boy cross with me (it doesn’t take much, and yes, he knows about the nearly finished thing which is much more complicated than a t shirt, well a bit more). So now for some gratuitous shots, cos I got some for once.

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Gosh, I didn’t notice the bags under her eyes at the time, blame the end of the school week.

Gosh, I didn't notice the bags under her eyes at the time, blame the end of the school week.

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His ‘n hers Scandi style t shirts

I’m a sucker for brightly coloured, fun kids clothes, (surely that’s how kids should dress, not as little adults) so when I was shopping online at Kitschy Coo for something to make a kids hoodie with I got a bit carried away.

Woops

Woops

I don’t buy fabric online much and this was my first time getting anything from Kitschy Coo and I must say I was really impressed with the quality, some lovely thick stuff. I’m less impressed with my buying skills. The stuff on there isn’t cheap and it’s listed by the half metre (which makes it seem cheaper if you’re not thinking) and I bought quite a lot of stuff, a lot of it I only got half a metre of. Why? What am I going to do with half a metre of jersey? It’s not even enough to make my kids tops, they’re getting too tall. And as it’s all patterned I don’t really want to mix and match it, but it’s much better quality than the stuff I can get loally, so I don’t want to match it with that either. Any suggestions? (Apart from going back online and spending even more).

Luckily I bought a metre each of the ace star fabric (I think I might be a bit star obsessed), so I could make them tops. I used the Simplicity 1573 pattern – which I bought at the beginning of the summer. I was looking for a basic t shirt pattern and this had pajama trousers and a dressing gown as well as several sleeve options on the t shirt. It has a wide age range and goes up to a size 8, but I was counting on the t shirt being baggy (as it’s a big four pattern) and so able to last me longer than that as I can easily add some length. I nearly used this pattern to make my daughter some summer pj’s a few months ago from this with some left over fabric, but she spilt milk over the pattern pieces as I was trying to prepare them so I needed to mop up and dry tissue paper and by the time that had happened my mojo was gone, so this was it’s first proper outing.

Anyway, thankfully after my last two hashes, they turned out to be a straightforward make. I cut out a size 7 for my 6 1/2 year old but made it the length of the size 8, as she’s shot up recently. It looked quite wide, as I thought it might, so I cut a size 7 for my lanky 8 year old as well, but added 2 inches to the length of the size 8 for him. Technically there isn’t a short sleeve option as one of the views, but I just used the short sleeve pattern piece from the layered look. I cut a straight size 7 for my daughter and added a bit (an inch maybe) to the length for my son at the request of my husband (he thought the sleeve looked like it would come out short and look girly).

Then I just sewed it up, without looking at the instructions. No problem. The neckband calls for ribbing, but instead I used Maria Denmark’s method from the my last t shirt and cut them (not on the bias, just straight) at 85% of the length of the measured neckline. I did however, cut them wide enough to iron in half and then fold the edges to the middle and press again, so I could apply them bias binding style, as then the seam allowance is all enclosed and can’t flip to the outside. I like this style of neckline and think it gives a fairly professional finish, considering I just have a standard machine. I also added a “label” to each so they could find the back easily. A satin one for my daughter and a bit of measuring tape twill ribbon for my son’s, cunningly cut to reveal his age (it was his birthday week).

The t shirt on the left is upside down for illustrative purposed, and not because it has a stain on the front, ok.

The t shirt on the left is upside down for illustrative purposed, and not because it has a stain on the front, cough.

I’m mainly very happy with them, but the hems flip up a bit on the sleeves and a lot at the bottom. I didn’t use my twin needle to topstitch this time because the twin needle top stitching on the top I made my son has started coming undone at the neckline as it’s not stretchy and I couldn’t get any stretch interfacing locally to try this method. So instead I used the triple stretch stitch for the hems and the neckband, which looks a bit scruffy. Not enough to notice in general wearing, but room for improvement.

Any suggestions on what I can do better (without a fancy coverstitch machine) or what I can do with my measley half metre lengths of amazing fabric, please let me know. Oh, and there wasn’t a proper photo shoot, but here are some action shots…

At the local food festival in the park, slope + tarpaulin + scrap cardboard = great fun

At the local food festival in the park, slope + tarpaulin + scrap cardboard = great fun

back view

back view

this model was more stationary but less co-operative

this model was more stationary but less co-operative

She loves the shirt though and has been wearing it lots

She loves the shirt though and has been wearing it lots

Brief Encounter

It’s been a fun, busy, jammed packed summer her at ProjectStarter towers and I haven’t got much sewing done. So buoyed on by managing to bodge together finish my first FBA, I immediately started on making something with the remaining fabric.

I only had a sort of L shape piece of t shirt material and not even big enough for a kids t shirt. However I had a hunch it would be enough for the Comox trunk pattern. I had it sitting on my laptop having purchased it when it was on offer thinking I’d join in the sewalong but never got around to it. (By the way, if you haven’t heard of Thread Theory’s Comox trunks then you must check out the link, you don’t need to be remotely interested in making them, trust me, it’s worth it for the scenery in the photo shoot).

I struggled a bit assembling the pattern, nothing really to do with the pdf, more that my printer printed some pages twice and most of them over a second copy of the Maria Denmark kimono T pattern – not sure how that happened. Then when I did have them all correct, I had to double check the cutting layout to make sure that they were right as the main short piece looked such an odd shape I was convinced it was wrong (it wasn’t).

I had no idea at this point how all the pattern pieces were going to all meet up to make a pair of boxer shorts. The sensible thing to do at this point would have been to find a pair lying around the house and examine them and compare them to the pattern pieces. Or to read the instructions all the way to the end and look at the clear diagram for the elastic joining step and to work it out from that. But instead I soldiered on, with the kids running in and out (I normally sew when they’re in bed).

As I had no idea how they went together I decided not to attempt pattern matching as I had no idea what to match with what. I also ignored the cutting layout, due to my odd shaped piece of fabric, and just cut the pieces out of the single layer in order to squeeze them all in. I did my usual mistake of forgetting to flip the pattern pieces over the second time. Duh. And this time, I didn’t remember until after I cut them out (usually I remember post fabric marking, pre cutting). I decided that it wouldn’t matter too much, as no one would see them, I would just have to use half the pieces wrong side out. And indeed, hubby didn’t notice this error when presented with the finished pair, although it looked glaringly obvious to me.

The other stupid mistake I made was with the front cup bit. Hmm, maybe I should explain, for those as unfamiliar with the topography of men’s underwear as myself, the pattern pieces involved are a sort of u shaped back piece (which avoids having an uncomfortable centre seam) that basically covers the bum; 2 pieces that are called main short in the pattern, but that I thought of as the sides (once I worded out where they went), as they wrap around from the back to the front and form nearly all of the leg bits; a gusset, that goes in the normal gusset place and makes a little portion of the legs to; and the cup bit at the front. This cup bit is made of 2 pieces with a curved seam in the middle to make it shaped and the top half of one side is bound, as it doesn’t end up in the seam, it’s left open, for access. You make 2 identical ones, and then baste them together, so that these bound sides are on opposite sides. At least, that’s what you’re supposed to do, but I didn’t. Not sure why. In my defense I think I got confused by the sentence that said “Lay the trunk front pieces on top of each other with one WRONG side facing one RIGHT side.” As both my cups were half wrong side half right side due to the vagaries of the cutting process this was confusing. In Thread Theories defense the next sentence clearly states “The curved bound edge will be facing in two different directions.” but I obviously didn’t notice that. I think I was too busy worrying about why the stitching line looked like it did, which is now obvious to me now I know what I should have done. I don’t think swapping between the instructions and the sewalong helped me either.

I also got confused sewing them up. At this point swapping between instructions and sewalong really didn’t help as they started with opposite sides of the cup being attatched to a side piece. I now realise it doesn’t matter which you do first, but at the time it led to me needlessley unpicking a seam of triple stretch stitches as I thought I’d gone wrong and then soon after having to re sew them. Ouch.

Before I attached the gusset I realised that I’d gone badly wrong somewhere. My two bound edges at the top of one side of the cup were on top of each other and the bottom one was sewn into a seam – clearly bonkers. I realised that if I attatched the gusset to both the bottom layers of the cup as per the instructions I would create a pair of shorts with what basically would amount to a pocket on the front of them, as there would be a way into the middle of the cup but no way out on the inside. Not very practical!

At this point I saw sense and examined some of the many boxers in the house. They looked so familiar and yet I realised that I had no idea how they worked. All the ones in this household, mens and boys, have a curved opening at one side on the outside of the cup, like the Comox, but instead of a corresponding curved opening on the other side of the cup like the Comox design, on the inside the bottom piece of the cup is shorter than the outside and not attatched to the gusset, so access is from there. (I wonder if this is a UK/Canada difference as I looked at several different makes of boxers for both men and boys and they were all like this – I suddenly realised how little I know about boxers). As the bottom of my cup’s were only basted together I unpicked this and fudged my own version of this design.

By the time it came to hemming and elastic I abandoned instructions as I clearly wasn’t having a good reading day and just winged it.

Amazingly, after all that, they came out looking like underwear.

front view

front view

And they fit and they’ve been worn to work.

back view

back view

The back panel sits a little low and could do with being a cm or two higher up, I may look into redrafting that if I make it again, although if it means altering the wierdly shaped side pieces I may chicken out on that one. I don’t supposed the elastic I used helped, it was what I had in the house and could really have done with being wider.

inside view of the bodged, err, access point

inside view of the bodged, err, access point

The opening arrangements have been deemed as just about usable. Really if I wanted to make the opening like this again I would fold up the bottom portion of the inner cup before basting the two cups together. As the change was made so late the entire sides of both cups are caught in the seams to the side pieces so there’s not as much of a gap as there really needs to be. Of course, I could also try following the instructions properly.

side view

side view – in case you were wondering

He did offer to model them to camera – on condition he got to wear trousers too, but the photo shoot never happened.

I’m officially declaring this pair a wearable muslin – you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Tales of a Full Bust Adjustment Virgin

Once upon a time, long before this blog started, ProlificProjectStarter was happy starting many rectangular projects, bags, curtains, beanbags that kind of thing, where being an inch out here or there made little noticeable difference.

Then, along came the Great British Sewing Bee and she was motivated to make a skirt for her daughter, which was basically 3 rectangles sewn together with elastic to draw it in at the waist and was not too far out of her comfort zone. Pretty soon she was forced to rediscovered her long forgotten pattern following skills from her schooldays in order to silence the complaints of unfairness from her son. Things snowballed from there and before she knew it she was taking part in Me Made May.

But underneath it all, she was still pretty mystified by the art of fitting and adjusting patterns feeling much more comfortable with her rectangles. However, the evidence began to mount:

new look hospital scrubs anyone? if I change

the self drafted kimono woven t shirt that ended up looking like hospital scrubs

My attempt at sophisticated model pose (good job I'm not after a new career)

The ill advised Tova a little tight across the chest

Too baggy at the back

Yet too baggy at the back

Could do with a little more space for my bust

The Coco top that could do with a little more space for my bust

with extra space at back

and less space at the back

Apologies for the daft pose

Another Coco that could fit beter

Wibbly wobbly leap into present tense (I can’t cope with any more third person stuff).

So, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was having fitting issues, which surely needed addressing, because what’s the point of spending time, money and effort on something that doesn’t fit right. But a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA), really, did I have to learn that, eep, that sounded scary.

So this post is dedicated to any FBA virgins out there wondering whether to dip their toe in the water. I can’t promise expertise, but I hope to show what learning to do a FBA is really like, as I go along and then maybe you can learn from my mistakes.

Right, deep breath, time to do some Proper Grown Up Sewing.

First off, I read around the topic. Most patterns are drafted for a B or maybe a C cup. I’m a F-G cup. That’s some difference, no wonder I’m having issues. But that sounds like a scarily big adjustment to make. I came accross a tutorial on adjusting princess seams for fuller busts on the Curvy Sewing Collective – it looked comprehensive and more than a little scary. I did some measuring and that’s when I got confused. Leading to me leaving this comment:


I did want to ask some advice though as you say this is not the standard FBA. As I wear a F-G cup bra I assumed I would need to do a fair bit of tweaking as I believe most patterns are drafted for a B cup. When I take an upper bust measurement as in the link you give above I get an upper bust measurement of 38″. My full bust measurement is 41″. So following your calculations I would use the size 12/16 and only need to add 3″ to the bust which is 1 1/2 ” on each side.
I have two thoughts on this. The first is is that really enough to make a B cup into an F cup or am I measuring wrongly. My measurement just under my bust is 34″. The second thought is, if that is right, as it’s not much more than 1″ am I best off following this extra tutorial or a more “standard” one?
Any thoughts gratefully received.

and the same day I got this encouraging reply from Mary

Hello, R! This is a really great set of questions. It sounds like, though your bra size is one thing, that your actual measurements are telling a different story. I’m guessing, just from your measurements, that you have a fairly proportional shoulder-to-bust ratio, unlike most women with large cup sizes. That’s why your high bust (around the top of your bust line) and your full bust (around the middle of your bust) are more in line, You are probably an F cup, because of that third measurement–your underbust, which is narrow in comparison to your other two numbers. That means–hooray for you!–that in the world of sewing, your FBAs won’t be as extreme. The reason we say to pick a size based on your high bust is that, for most well-endowed women, their shoulder area is much, much narrower than their bust measurement would suggest. In your case, you lucky lady, that isn’t so.

That’s a lot of rambling. The short answer is: you do in fact only need a small FBA, if you’re choosing a size based on your high bust. A 1 1/2 inch FBA is pretty small for a princess-seamed bodice like this one, so you could use a much simpler, far less overwhelming tutorial. I really like the one from By Hand London at this link: http://byhandlondon.com/blogs/sew-alongs/11628649-elisalex-dress-sewalong-2-full-bust-adjustment-for-princess-seams-fba

The only thing further thing I would tell you, when it comes to fitting, is that you should be cautious of your waist measurement. From your measurements, it sounds like you probably have a narrow waist, which normally goes along with a narrow underbust, so be sure to account for that measurement when you’re making adjustments. You don’t want to add too much extra room in that area! It’s an easy fix, but one I also have to watch out for, when adjusting patterns.

Also, if you’re leery of fitting still, you may want to check out Colette Patterns. They are drafted for a C cup, but given your smaller difference between high bust and full bust, I’m guessing they would fit you splendidly, out of the package!

Thank you so much for your advice Mary and hurrah for the Sewing Blogosphere. Having looked into FBA+, to find out I only need to do a standard FBA gave my confidence a huge boost. Maybe I could do this after all.

I decided to start on a t-shirt, as jersey is pretty forgiving, it’s a relatively quick make, it doesn’t eat fabric so it’s cheap for experimenting purposes, plus I bought a load of t shirt material recently that was sitting patiently in my stash. Wanting to keep it simple, and not wanting to invest money and effort into something with an uncertain outcome, I decided to try Maria Denmark’s free kimono t shirt pattern (which had been sitting in my sewing patterns folder for a while), following her fba tutorial for t shirts . It was a toss up between that and Cake Patterns the Tee (also sat on my computer waiting to be printed)- which is also free to download, is also a kimono t, but rather than doing a fba you trace between different sizes on the pattern (if that sounds a little vague it’s because I haven’t tried a cake pattern yet but they have come recommended for easing fitting issues). The plan is to try both and compare ease and results. That may take a couple more t shirt makes.

Ok, so first up I printed out and taped up the standard pattern pieces. I had my normal issue that my printer stretches one side of the page slightly compared to the other that I always face with pdf’s (yes, I tick no scaling), but it seemed a little easier than normal – maybe due to just 2 pattern pieces. I was really impressed with Maria’s pattern lay out, there is a border on each piece showing where to join to the next but the lines extend a little beyond that – which is helpful in matching. There are a huge range of sizes, and for once I was somewhere in the middle rather than at the top edge, also good. Plus the size lines were in different colours which made them easy to pick out. So that’s 3 thumbs up on initial impressions of my first Maria Denmark pattern.

So, I measured my upper bust which put me at a size large (I’m not being deliberately vague on my measurements here, I meant to include them, but I’ve misplaced the piece of paper I made notes on as I went). Then I worked out how much I needed to add for my FBA, I think it was about 10cm altogether, so 5cm each side (I went all metric for a change, as suggested in the notes).

Right, so I cut out the large size pieces (I did alter them to be the length of the largest size, as I find most of my t shirts annoyingly short and I thought I could always hack some length off before hemming). Next step, FBA.

Now, at this point, for some reason, I started looking at this other tutorial of Maria’s for an easy FBA and quickly got really confused. Not because of the tutorial, which seems really clear, but because it starts with armholes and my kimono t shirt pattern has no armholes and I couldn’t work out where they “should” be. I tried a couple of different fudges but couldn’t get it to work because after pivoting I just had an line going out from my armpit in a kind of A line that if extended would make a great tent, but with no obvious way of joining it back to the pattern.

I left a comment for Maria, which she replied to very helpfully the next day. Maybe I should’ve waited for a reply, but I was impatient and I ploughed on.

I decided I needed a new approach. A bit of fettling about on tinternet and I found Maria’s other (standard? normal?) fba tutorial that I’d seen before and thought I was using, and tried that. OK, first off, she mentions carefully measuring t shirts to ascertain the correct placement of the bust apex (more commonly referred to as a nipple). That sounded like hard work. She helpfully gave those measurements as they might work for others. I looked at her photo, she looks a different shape from me. So, I tried an intelligent guess of measuring the difference between my bust apex’s (api?) – which I remember was 22cm (it’s sort of burnt in my head as I suddenly realised that my husband might walk into the room and find me peering at a ruler held to my chest and think I’d finally lost it). Then I drew a line parallel to the centre fold and 11cm distant from it (half that measurement). Great, that must be right. But how far up/down to mark the spot. I tried a couple of guesses but again was thrown by the kimono sleeves. I settled on one fairly at random and tried the next step, but then, you guessed it, the sleeves not armhole thing threw me again on where to draw my lines.

At this point, I tried another fba tutorial, the Cashmerette – do a FBA by adding a dart to a non darted top of dress one. (Anyone spot my mistake?).

First off it suggested holding the pattern piece up to you to find the apex. Genius. Why didn’t I think of that. I tried, twice, and got two different points, the same height, and about the same distance either side of my 11cm line, so I now confidently marked my apex at that height on the 11cm line. Then somehow the suggestion of where to draw the lines seemed easier to translate this time to a kimono top, I just drew the line to a third up the sleeve cuff rather than a third up the armhole. Pretty soon, some cutting and stuff later, I had an altered pattern piece and was very chuffed. I showed a confused husband (I think he thought I was making some random peep hole t shirt as I hadn’t filled in all my gaps caused by cutting and spreading just braced them with strips of paper). And it looked kind of right when held up to me. Feeling pleased, I went to bed.

{Now, imagine a stupid photo of me grinning like an idiot and holding the pattern piece up to myself, showing that the FBA seems to sit in the right place (you can tell cos my pattern piece is full of holes). I have such a photo but despite several attempts it won’t load so you’ll have to use your imagination.}

Next day I woke early and cut out my pattern (what else is a girl to do at 6.30 am?). Then I started sewing. This’ll be quick, I thought, only 2 pieces. Shoulder seams, done. Side seams – I started pinning. Then hit a problem. My front side seam was bigger than my back. I pondered. I’d altered the front, it clearly sticked out a bit now, maybe I should’ve altered the back to. I went back to Maria’s tutorial, which in the light of day seemed clearer. She kind of makes the slash then joins the ends together so the side seams are unaltered and ignores the resulting lump in the pattern. The reason being she doesn’t want to put a dart in a t shirt. The penny dropped. I’d followed instructions for adding a dart to a non darted top, that was why it didn’t match up, I’d need to sew the dart first. Except I didn’t want a dart in a stripey t shirt, it would look wierd.

What was a girl to do? I considered re doing the FBA Maria’s way and recutting my piece, assuming it fit inside the piece I had cut, with only 1m of fabric bought there was no way I could get another piece out. Then I remembered a tutorial that I think is another Cashmarette or Curvy Sewing Collective one (apologies, the exact location is currently eluding me despite the fact I lost it before, refound it and made a note, somewhere – I’m obviously very scatty) where a t shirt pattern was simply adjusted for a larger bust by adding length to the front only (as more length is needed to go around a more ample bust) and then this is just sewn up with a bit of stretching at the right place on the side seam to get the back to fit the front.

So, I tried that, with my darted pattern, (after leaving a couple of inches right at the bottom unstitched as my son had told me it needed vents – I’m not sure I’m proud or annoyed that he was right) I matched the bottom section of seam and then further up I stretched the back to meet the front. A bit of a fudge and hence I don’t think I can really count this as a part of my experiment on comparing FBA techniques. Darn, I’ll just have to do more sewing.

The rest of the construction went quite smoothly. The sides look ok, there’s a slight wierdness at one point in each seam if you stare at them, but I don’t think a non sew-er would notice. I hemmed the bottom and cuffs. I read Maria’s tutorial on effective twin needle hems – but it needed stretch interfacing, which I didn’t have (and clearly I needed to finish this t shirt now) so I just used a stretch stitch as last time I tried a twin needle it looked great and then some of the stitches pulled out afterwards as it didn’t stretch. I was careful and used grey thread and sewed on a grew line wherever possible. I also added a neckband (unlike my drape drape t shirts where I just folded the end over and sewed it down as I was befuddled by the directions). What a revelation. No ribbing (there was an option for ribbing), no bias cut pieces, just measure the neckline and cut a length 85% of that, going accross the fabric. It was so easy, and it worked. I even managed a passable attempt at stitching in the ditch to hold the neckband in place. I’m very impressed with this method, lack of ribbing locally is one thing that’s really put me off making t shirts.

Anyway, pretty soon it was done. But importantly, after all that fba faffing, was it worth it? Well, it looks like a t shirt.

Maria Denmark Kimono T shirt

Maria Denmark Kimono T shirt

I’m really happy with my side vents, they came out as intended. This shot also illustrates that due to there being more fabric at the front, the stripes match nicely at the hem (as intended) but go out of sinc as you look up the side seam.

Extra detail

Extra detail

And when I put it on, it fits!

I think this shot successfully illustrates that there's enough fabric at the front

I think this shot successfully illustrates that there’s enough fabric at the front

The length is very long, making me think that I would’ve managed fine with the drafted pattern length. I like the length and I’m going to keep it but another time I might use the suggested length. The vents are a bit of a must as it sits on my hips and needs that extra give, as I didn’t flare it out when I extended it, just continued the line straight down.

and not so bad on pools of fabric at the lower back, if you can see anything at all in hubbie's arty shot

and not so bad on pools of fabric at the lower back, if you can see anything at all in hubbie’s arty shot

I like the fit at the back too – I hoped that having a smaller size overall would help here and it seems it does. Which is good as I want to master FBA’s before I have to try and figure out whatever other mystical sewing arts I need to master (no idea what a Sway Back Adjustment is, yet, but I think I may look into that in the future).

Action shot (jumping with shears not recommended)

Action shot (jumping with shears not recommended)

This ones definitley a keeper. The only issue I’ve had is despite Stitching in the Ditch to hold the neckband in place, the back seam allowance sometimes flips to the outside. Also, if I made it again I may make the neckband a bit deeper, but that’s personal preference. The cutting it straight (not bias) at 85% of the neckline measurement + seam allowance worked really well. I shall henceforth ignore all patterns calling for unobtainable ribbing.

Photobombed (my hand is firmly keeping her from standing where she wants to - right in front of me)

Photobombed (my hand is firmly keeping her from standing where she wants to – right in front of me)

So, dear potential fba novice reading this, is it worth trying a FBA. YES, DEFINITELY, go for it. My top tips are

  • * find a tutorial that makes sense to you – there are loads out there, and try not to switch between them mid make ! (especially late at night)
  • *take a break if it doesn’t make sense (again, especially late at night)
  • *if you’re happy sewing jersey, a tshirt is a fairly forgiving start
  • Let me know if you try it for the first time too. And if you know of any great web resources. And I’m planning to try again to refine my technique, I’ll keep you posted.

    Fit for a Countess

    It came to my attention a while ago that a busy life of timetravelling, adventuring, and maintaining the Automata had had a detrimental effect on certain items of Countess Isabella’s wardrobe and she could really use some new undergarments to preserve her dignity when dancing with the Automata.

    Barely decent in this shot.

    This plate somewhat illustrates the issue at hand.

    I awoke recently on a Sunday morning with a sudden impulse to remedy the situation. The Difference Engine provided me with a tutorial from Evange Sews on how to make Victorian Bloomers and Victorian Nonsense had supplementary instructions for adding ruffles. Armed with this information and an old bedsheet (cream organic cotton with a subtle sateen strike (sadly threadbare in places) nothing but the finest for the Countess) I set to work.

    Unfortunately I struggled to take in the information as it was presented in an animated format, being more used to written instructions with supplementary diagrams. I also did not have the Countess’s measurements to work from, having instead to estimate the correct proportions from those of one of the Automata who happened to be in the vicinity. It was in my favour that the fit of bloomers is fairly forgiving to minor discrepencies. I eventually worked out a system and I shall record it here in written format for my future reference and also in case it benefits anyone else. I wish to stress that this is my notes on the original tutorial by Evange and the method remains hers, apart from the supplementary notes on adding ruffles, which were provided by Victorian Nonsense as described above.

    First determine the amount of fabric needed. 45″ wide fabric will be sufficient for most (unless your thigh measures more than 40″ circumference). Measure the distance from your natural waist to your knee and add 8 inches (2″ ease both top and bottom and 2″ seam allowance both top and bottom) or 9″ if you wish to have ruffles at the bottom. You need two pieces of your fabric this length. Lay them on top of each other.

    Preparing your fabric

    Preparing your fabric

    Then fold them in half, so that you have 4 layers of fabric, which will be 22 1/2″ wide (or whatever half your fabric width is) and Waist to Knee length plus 8/9″ deep.

    At this point the Difference Engine and I had a disagreement over whether it was supposed to create illustrations for me and I had to resort to Other Methods, so if would aid you to see further diagrams you will need to click on this link.

    At the top edge of the fabric, measure in from the fold a distance of a quarter of your hip measurement and mark (you’re making the waist here, but it needs to go over your hips as your widest part, to get the bloomers on and off, then it’s gathered with elastic),

    Then at the bottom edge of the fabric on the non folded side, measure up and mark the distance of your crotch to your knee + 2″ ease (or 3″ if you’re making the ruffled variation). This is the length of the “leg part” of the bloomers that you’re marking.

    Now draw a curve joining those 2 points, it should be reminiscent of a quarter circle. Cut along the line you just drew and discard the 4 quarter circle pieces.

    Unfold you’re fabric so that you have 2 pieces lying on top of each other that are kind of a giant pair of pants shape. I think it was this similarity to pants that got my poor brain muddled as to what to do next. First make sure you’re pants are upside down, with the smaller straight edge at the top (which should be half your hip countermeasure – this will be your waistband) and the longer straight edge (the original fabric width) at the bottom.

    Now sew the two pieces of fabric together with two seams along each quarter circle (if you’re still thinking about them as pants now, stop, as this is equivalent to sewing the leg holes of the pants shape up, which feels wrong, whereas actually you’re sewing the crotch seam, which is what you want).

    Take the points at where the curved seems join the short edge and bring them together, refold the waistband so that they’re now in the middle, rather than at the edges (so much easier to do than to describe). It should now be fairly obvious where your upside down “U” shaped inside leg seam needs to be sewn and then all that remains is to make casings for the elastic at the waist and cuffs.

    Anyway, enough of the description, the important matter is were they fit for purpose? Well, due to the benefit of time travel I managed to present them to the Countess for her 21st Birthday when she had taken her Automata to Teignmouth. Unfortunately there is just one historical plate recording her reaction and none of her dancing in them so you will have to take my word for it that her modesty was duly protected.

    Countess Isabella strikes a flawless modelling pose

    Countess Isabella strikes a flawless modelling pose