Wednesday, 2 September 2009

I've moved and here's the link

Some day I am going to learn how to do pretty "click here" style links.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Goodbyeeee, goodbyeeee....

This will be my last Tops & Tails post. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that the blog's title vacillates between Tops & Tails and Les Petits Anglais. I started out my business life as Tops & Tails because I made nappies and hats. Well, I no longer make nappies and Nappydashery have started a Tops & Tails shop using the Tops & Tails domain name, and now I mostly make children's clothes, with the occasional hat thrown in as the fancy takes me.

So, I am 're-branding', as I understand it is known in marketing circles. I have switched my blog posts to my new blog, Les Petits Anglais and have also opened a Misi shop under the same name. I have a currently empty Les Petits Anglais shop on Folksy and this is where I shall be selling my autumn line from. Assuming I ever actually get the autumn line done!

Soon (I use the word loosely, you will understand!) to come on Les Petits Anglais blog will be a pattern-drafting tutorial for an A-line pinafore dress, which will be part of my autumn line, and a knitting pattern for this tank-top for the digger-mad boy in your life. So it'd be great to see you over on the new blog.


Monday, 31 August 2009

The Olivia set

This morning Nigel took the children out for breakfast so I could finish an outfit for one of James' schoolfriends. It's her birthday soon and I wanted to make her a dress as a present. I don't normally do this but her mother is a friend of mine and has given us binbags full of clothes for Laura, so I thought it would be nice to return the favour with a handmade birthday outfit. Rachel chose the pattern herself from my collection and the Olivia knit dress with pinafore is definitely her style.

I had some lovely check cotton from Dots n Stripes so I used that for the pinafore and used some self-dyed interlock for the underdress. The interlock came from Specialist Sportswear (an Ebay seller). It's gloriously thick, soft and stretchy and although it isn't listed, he does ribbing to match the interlock. I shall be buying lots more!

I really liked the idea of the pinafore/knit dress combo, but didn't like the gathering of the pinafore at the waist, so I re-cut the pattern so that the gathering was omitted. It's definitely better than the original but now it's made up, I think the fundamental problem with the design is that the knit underdress hangs straight down, while the woven pinafore sticks out. It just looks odd! I'm tempted to take in the sides of the skirts to make it more streamlined but will wait until I've seen the dress on before I decide for sure. It may just be that the when the knit is filled out with five year old girl, the outfit falls into place.

But there have been other problems! I had to hack at the pinafore's armholes because the armscye depth wasn't as deep as the underdress'. Too irritating! And I only realised this when I'd topstitched the pinafore's armholes so I just added some binding to the armhole to cover the hack-job. The underdress was just the right length on my son who is a good 10cm shorter than Rachel, so I added a Geske style flounce to lengthen it. Many of the examples I've seen are worn quite short, almost as tunics. They look lovely, but this is meant to be a party dress, so it really needed to be below knee length. I added some poppers to the pinafore (Rachel doesn't like buttons), and it's done.

All in all, the Olivia underdress is a great pattern - I love it, and will be making another one (or even two!) as cute comfy Autumn dresses for Laura. I also love the idea of the pinafore, but wouldn't be making another from the Olivia pattern. Which is, I think, given how few examples of the pinafore appear on Flickr something that other people have also found!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Not that he deserves it, mind.

James has been composing a song. I have not yet heard it, but I understand from my husband that it goes like this:

I love daddy.
I love granny.
I love grandpa.

Chorus (loudly and with relish): And sometimes I love my muuummy

I love aunty.
I love Laura
I love nana.

Chorus (con amore): And sometimes I love my muuummy.

Repeat loudly, inserting different people in the verses, but always having mummy in the chorus.

I wouldn't mind, but we hadn't even fallen out!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

And finally, something for James

Regular readers may have noticed that although I mention two children in my profile, the only one I seem to sew for is Laura. There's a simple reason for that: I very rarely sew for James. This is mostly because, if given the choice, he'd rather have a new digger than a new t-shirt. But it's also because it's very hard to find nice fabric for little boys' clothes. It tends to be funky camouflage (which I really don't like) or too babyish for a four year old. But today, I hit the jackpot and won 1m of Tyrrell Katz jersey fabric on Ebay!

I am completely thrilled about this - I actually gave James the TK Working Vehicles card for his birthday this year, which he really liked. I also thought about getting him a t-shirt but balked at the price - £15 can buy a lot of toy-digger-action! At the time, I googled TK fabric but found nothing. And now I have a whole metre which will make many, many t-shirts because obviously I'm going to cut the fabric into squares or strips, rather than squander the lot on just one, or even two, t-shirts. I might even offer one up on Folksy - I can't be the only mother with a digger-mad son in the house. But it rather depends on whether James feels he can spare one....

And by the way, I don't often sew for him, but I do knit, so he isn't really neglected! And every garment I knit for him features - you've guessed it - a working vehicle!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The ruffler foot hokey-cokey

Many moons ago I made Laura a ruffled Feliz. It took 9 hours, 6 of which was spent making and attaching the ruffles. I loved the dress and didn't begrudge the time but I wasn't going to tackle another one without buying a ruffler foot. So I did.

It arrived, I took one look at the foot, one look at the scanty black & white instructions, and I put both away. The ruffler gathered nothing but dust for several months.

In my recent overlocking enthusiasm, I made Laura a very striking shorter-length Anna, and a pair of jeans to go with it. They didn't 'go'. In fact, my eye was so far out there, it must have been in the next village. So I decided to lengthen the Anna with a ruffle. This was the perfect opportunity to get to grips with the ruffler, so I got it back out. And after trying to work it out for over 30 minutes, I put it away again, and started ruffling by hand. Forty-five minutes of fruitless gathering later, the ruffler was retrieved. The instructions weren't any clearer BUT Google had the answer. Or rather, Carla C from You Can Make This had the answer.

Thanks to her idiots' guide to the ruffler foot, I eventually finished the ruffle and attached it (next time, I'll be confident enough to do it in one operation). So if you, too, are battling to work out which side of your ruffler foot is up, and just what the fabric guide is, then this is the link for you! Carla, I am grateful.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

A peacocky kind of party dress

As part of the successful UFO & Mending clear-out, I finished a silk dress for Laura this morning. I can assure you that I do not make a habit of giving silk dresses or indeed silk anything else to children, but this fabric was £8.750/m in the John Lewis sale, I had vouchers burning a hole in my pocket and, well, it was sooooo gorgeous I couldn't resist!

Now, I've never (sucessfully) sewn with silk before, and this was tissue-fine, crinkled silk. With spangles. Gorgeous but terrifying - rather like Daniel Day Lewis. So I turned to my trusty friend the internet for help and advice. And it didn't let me down! I wanted something that would be super-simple to make, partly to let the fabric do the shouting and partly because I feared I would run out of skill on a more complex design. So I did a very modified Ottobre 3-way dress (#18 from issue 03/09). With the help of a #60 needle and some fine silk thread, it wasn't nearly as tricky as I'd expected but I still wouldn't fancy doing anything harder than vertical or horizontal seams.

I did a kind of lettuce edge hem because I couldn't think of what else to do with it. I was going to line it with some aqua cotton lawn, but decided that it might impede the flow of the silk. I found a suitable ribbon in the stash but I think a longer wider one might do the dress more justice.

There's two pieces of silk left, each about 50cm long. One is blue and the other is aqua, and I'm not quite sure what to do with them. No doubt the internet will provide the answer eventually!

It isn't my favourite dress - I've never been a huge fan of the pillowcase style - but it's definitely Laura's! I had to prise it off her, which was very gratifying. I think when you do lots of sewing for your children, they are apt to take it a little for granted - human nature, I guess. We have a party early September so she can peacock in it at that. She'll be thrilled!

Friday, 21 August 2009

One dull job out of the way.

After a week's work, I've finished the business cards and flyers. I doubt if St Martin's will come knocking on my door on the strength of them, and I'd love to know how I can stop the images from corrupting every time I save them, but on the whole I'm pleased with them. Which is a good job because my desktop publishing enthusiasm (such as it was!) has dwindled away completely. I just need to get some name labels and size labels, and I'm done!

Tomorrow morning is earmarked as a UFO day - which translates as 'deal with the Unfinished Objects' Day. So more dull jobs, but there's something very satisfying about clearing a batch of jobs you don't want to do from the 'to do' list. Yesterday, I acquired another such job. I dyed some fabric using Dylon's Rosewood Red. I love Dylon's machine dyes - they're easy to use and come in nice clear colours that don't fade much over time. And they're reasonably cheap. I'd been dithering for a while over this Rosewood Red colour, which on the box is a dark red colour. The word "Rosewood" made me suspicious but I needed a dark red so I went for it. And this hideosity is the result. This is not red. This is brown - and a yucky rusty brown at that. Believe me, this is a very flattering photo of it... it is much uglier in real life. So now I need to get some dye-stripper (Dylon think of everything!) and try again. Probably this time with Tulip Red which is actually red, even if it isn't quite the shade I wanted.

Once I've got all that out of the way, I can get back to sewing.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Time to do some marketing, and not the fun shopping basket kind!

It is becoming clear to me that I need to do some marketing. More specifically, I need business cards and flyers, and that means that I really need to get myself a logo. OK, I could pay for one but I would then have less money for fabric, so I'm having a shot at doing something myself.

Last night I sat down with a pad and pencil and did some playing around. I eventually came up with this. I'm going to use the middle drawing and work it up into something that looks OK in black and white for labels, but can also be extended and made more colourful for a leaflet and website banner. Doing this is quite fun in a way, but I won't be sorry when I've printed the cards and distributed the flyers and I can get back to 'real work'.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

A productive weekend

Yesterday I gave the overlocker a work-out and it performed beautifully. Over the course of the day I completed this custom order, together with a couple of similar outfits for Laura, who is growing bottom-wise out of her RTW trousers. Her wool nappy covers are fantastic in so many ways, but they do make for a very large bottom - even my usual reliable brands can't always cope. But the two pairs of trousers I've just made should do her right up to potty training, though not beyond. It is possible to have too much nappy-ease!

When James reached this stage, I casually gave his size 86s and 92s to the charity shop, only to want them back when he came out of nappies and his size 98s slid gracefully over his pants down to his ankles. So, the charity shop will have to wait for Laura's for another couple of years.

During the day, it became clear that neither the overlocker nor the sewing machine were happy sharing a table, and nor was my back, so we had a trip to Ikea and bought a computer table for £13. I often wonder how Ikea can sell so cheaply, but am afraid to enquire - we are boycotting so many shops and brands already, I don't think I could cope with adding Ikea to the list! But my sewing room is now so comfortable I have no excuse for ignoring the growing pile of mending and UFOs. Obviously, I am not trying hard enough to find one...

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

I have an overlocker, wooo hooooo!!!!!

So thank you, darling DH! It's a second-hand Husqvarna Huskylock 905, bought on Ebay for an excellent £210 including postage. It even arrived ready threaded. So far, I've just serged the edges of some fabric ready for dyeing but it even made that tedious job fun. I can't wait to do an actual garment with it!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Time to suck it and see

The skirt itself is a doddle to make. I cut it out, adding seam allowances as I cut. There are two centre panels (cut on the fold), four side panels, four godets and two yokes (cut on the fold). I then cut the same again in some cotton batiste for lining the skirt - I know it's only a toile, but I still like it to be lined.

Then I seam the godets to the side and centre panels. All seams are pressed and top-stitched as I'm going along. I never used to bother topstitching but I have since realised that omitting this just results in a slightly shoddy looking garment.

I then attach the skirt front to the the front yoke lining, and the skirt back to the back yoke lining, feeling mightily relieved that the pieces go together after my hack job on the pattern pieces. I then seam the skirt front to the skirt back.

Next I seam the yoke front and back shells together at the sides, before attaching the yoke lining to the yoke shell, right sides together and pressing the hem of the yoke lining so that I can just top stitch it in place once I've put in the elastic at the waistband

I cut a piece of elastic to cinch in the skirt back and attach it at the top of the skirt, sandwiched between the shell and the lining. I attach it by stitching in the ditch of the side seams of the shell. It would have been a good idea to take a photo of the process, but I forgot.

I then press the top seam where the shell meets the lining, and seam the shell and lining together just under the elastic to form a casing for it. I continue the seam across the front to make a faux waistband. It would have been a good plan to attach interfacing to the front faux waistband, but I thought of it too late.

I do however remember to do another seam across the elastic casing, which makes the casing look neater and stops the elastic from rolling. On the downside, it makes the skirt virtually unalterable if you ever decide you need to replace the elastic with a longer piece to prolong wear...

Finally, I hem the skirt and it's done. It isn't as swingy as I wanted, so next time I'll put in quite a bit more flare either by cutting the panels and spreading them, or by cutting and hacking a half-circle skirt block. But the skirt is fine for everyday wear. And Laura seems to like it!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Hacking the block into a pattern

Once you've made your block, you need to put on the markings i.e. mark the Centre Front/Back and put in any foldlines or grainlines). Then trace the block onto some dressmaker's tracing paper so that you can hack into it.

Using a hard pencil so that I only do faint lines, I mark the yoke. I want to make it about 10cm deep, so I mark 10cm onto the side and centre lines and join them freehand. I then draw a line vaguely perpendicular to the hem and yoke line, to divide the skirt into panels.

Then I mark the grain lines on each pattern piece. The grain runs down the Centre Front/Back of the skirt so I mark the grain lines exactly parallel to that line. While I'm fairly haphazard with most aspects of sewing and drafting. I always measure grain lines very carefully because if they're skew then your garment will never hang right. So measure once, measure twice and check them again before you take the scissors to the pattern. Ensure that each individual pattern piece has the grain line marked before you cut it out.

Then I make the godet piece. There are no instructions for this in the book so I'm kind of winging it here.

So... I measure the length of the skirt from the yoke line to the hemline. It's 21cm so I draw that line on the tracing paper. I then get out my set square - I want to draw the kind of triangle that has two lengths the same - in this case, 21cm. I have no idea how to do this so I decide to take my 21cm line as the middle line of the triangle. From that, I mark two lines on either side of it each 45 degrees from the centre. I extend each line to 21cm and freehand draw a gentle arc to join them. The centre line is of course also the grain line.

I cut out all the pieces and see how they jigsaw together. I trim the tops of the side and centre panel a little so that they are a better fit with the yoke - this is a bit 'suck it and see' but I'm hoping it will work.

Friday, 17 July 2009

I should be sewing a custom order...

or even finishing the skirt tutorial, and instead I'm surfing the net, seeing what lovely stuff people are making and blogging about. Blogger doesn't seem to have an internal search function (or am I wrong?) so I'm googling like mad, finding the sewing and craft sites out there. And then doing links because otherwise I'll never be able to find them again! Great fun but not very productive...

Hopscotch Camis GIVEAWAY!!!!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Pattern-cutting Part 3 - Drafting a skirt block.

I guess I should start by explaining that a block is a very basic pattern, from which you trace your own more exciting patterns. I am going to draft a skirt block for my 2 year old, and then trace off a gored skirt from it. There are only 4 measurements to be taken for this - I am using the standard measurement charts from Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear and Babywear, but if you want a perfectly fitting garment for your child, then you will need to measure said child!

You will need:

  • squared dressmaking paper - I should imagine you can do it without this, but it would be very difficult and require much use of a set square [shudder].
  • A sharp pencil, more like a 3H than a 3B.
  • A longish ruler.
  • A calculator - again, you can do this without, but it's easier with.
  • A rubber/eraser
  • tracing paper
  • The following measurements:
  1. waist,
  2. hip,
  3. waist to hip, and
  4. waist to required skirt length.

First step: taking the measurements.

Ensure wriggly child is only wearing whatever she will be wearing the skirt over - whether it's pants or a nappy. Get wriggly child to stand still (I find that CBeebies is marvellous for helping out with this!) Measure her around her waist - this can be hard to find on small children, but if you look at where most skirts come up to on her, this will help you to find the right place. And it isn't the end of the world if you don't get it quite right because the chest, waist and hip measurements are pretty similar on small children.

Then measure her around the fullest part of her hip/bottom. You then measure the vertical distance between the waist measurement and hip measurement , and finally the waist to skirt length - I have used a favourite ready-to-wear skirt to take this measurement.

If you want to use standard measurements, then this link: is not a bad place to start. Remember though that while these measurements are cut for nappies up to age 2, they are not cut for cloth nappies.

We can now start to draft our skirt block.

Mark point 0 on your squared paper. This is going to be the centre waist of your skirt, so do not put it at the furthest left edge of the paper because you will need to go still further left when you square up to the edge of the skirt. You'll see what I mean when we reach that point! Two or three centimetres in from the edge should be fine. Please note: the drawings that follow were prepared on Paint and are not to scale!!!!!! They are just to give you an idea of what you should be doing.

Then draw a line across the bottom of the page ("square across"). Mark the length of your skirt on this line as point 1. Then mark the ((waist to hip) +1 cm), as point 2. Draw perpendicular lines up from 0, 1 and 2 ("square up").

On the line you squared up from 2, you need to mark off point 3, which is 1/4 of the hip measurement, plus 1.5cm for ease. You then square left to 4 and right to 5. Join the points horizontally.

Next you need to mark point 6, which is on the 0-4 line, at (1/4 waist measurement) + 0.5cm.
Point 7 comes next. This is where we do the waist shaping. You don't quite square across to 7 from 6, it's more of a slight diagonal line, 1 cm above 6. The picture makes it more clear.

We now mark point 8, which is 2cm up from point 5. If you like more flare to your skirt, then you can hack into the working pattern later.


Finally, you join the dots. This calls for a degree of artistry that I cannot reproduce on Paint! Essentially, the lines will be straight from 8 to 3, straightish from 6 to 3, and very curved from 6 to 7, and 1 to 7. To put it at its simplest: you want it to look like the front half of a skirt!

And that's the skirt block done. Next post will be how to turn it into a pattern.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Can we fix it? Erm, I think so!

In the warm light of day, the t-shirt looks no better. I try it on Laura and it doesn't improve. If there were ever a 'just plain wrong' sleeve length, these sleeves are it. And the body is way too short. That should be easy to fix so I'll deal with that first.

I could just sew a strip of co-ordinating jersey to the bottom of the top, right sides together, to create a single-layer longer body, but I think that making a faux two layer top would be prettier. So first I hem the red polka dot, using a narrow rolled hem sewn with a zig zag stitch, and s-t-r-e-e-e-t-c-h-i-n-g the hem as far as I can while sewing it. This creates a really pretty ruffled finish (called 'lettuce edge') for a stretch fabric. I then cut a wide strip of white jersey, join the two ends, and stitch it to the wrong side of the polka dot, about 5 cm up from the hem.

All I need to do is to lettuce edge the white strip as I did with the polka dot, and that will add about 6 cm to the bottom of the top. I do just that and the top already looks much better. But aaaargh! those sleeves are hideous!!!!

So... I could cut them short and re-bind them with the foldover elastic, but I suspect that this won't really help. The armhole is too easy-fitting to attractively accommodate a puff sleeve. So I decide to just cut the sleeves much much shorter, and then do the lettuce edge hem. And all of a sudden, the top has come together. It's feminine, pretty and in proportion. I really like it!

And that is the beauty of sewing with knit fabrics. It's really forgiving and endlessly adaptable. And if you use a stretch needle, and a zig-zaggy kind of stitch to sew it, it's easy to sew too. Go on - have a try!

Next, I'm going to have a try at drafting a pattern for a godet skirt with a yoke. There are only 4 measurements to be taken in order to do a skirt block, so it would be perfect for a draft-and-sew-tute. I hope you agree!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Sewing the t-shirt

I need to test out the t-shirt pattern so I'm going to 'make a toile'. This is seamstress speak for knocking up a garment from cheap fabric so that you can see if the patten actually works and what you need to do to it if it doesn't. I have some cheapish jersey that is pretty nice so if the pattern comes together the toile will be wearable.

I've cut the pieces out using a rotary cutter and a cutting board. The equipment is marginally more expensive than dressmaking scissors, but much easier and quicker to use. I've added seam allowances to the pieces as I've cut them - about 1cm to all the seams apart from the neckline, which I shall bind rather than seam, and a few centimentres to the t-shirt hem. I'm starting to think that the top might not be long enough, but I'll worry about that later.

First, I iron thin strips of lightweight interfacing to where the back shoulder seams will be. This will stablise the seams and keep the garment looking better for longer. Next I join the back and front pieces, right sides together, at the shoulder seam. USE A STRETCH NEEDLE for sewing stretch fabrics such as jersey or interlock. You can sew the seam using a straight stitch, but the seams are more likely to pucker and end up generally squiff if you do that - I always use a zig zag stitch or, even better, a stretch interlock stitch. The stretch interlock seam is sewn in a 'two steps orward, one step back' movement which keeps the seam straight and even. It sounds slow work but it's effective.

Then I press the seam allowance to the back of the top, and topstitch it with a straight stitch. I do this with all seams - it makes for a much more professional looking finish.

Next I need to bind the neckline. I was going to cut some ribbing for this, but couldn't find any with good enough stretch and recovery (i.e. pull the ribbing across its grain, and see how quickly it returns to its normal position) so I've used some foldover elastic instead. The actual sewing of
this is very different from sewing ribbing or jersey binding, but the technique for working out how much you need and attaching it evenly is pretty similar. So, first I work out how much I need. I measure the neckline - only roughly because I'm using the ruler on my sewing table (can't be bothered to find a measuring tape). I then cut some elastic to 75% of that measurement. I mark the approximately halfway point, and then the quarter points. I do the same on the neckline and pin the elastic to the binding, matching the marks.

I sewed the foldover elastic using the same technique I'd use for sewing ribbing. I sewed the elastic to the right side of the neckline using a narrow-width medium-length zig-zag stitch, stretching the elastic as far as I could while sewing it. I then folded the elastic over to the wrong side of the neckline, and top-stitched it with a straight stitch, stretching both the jersey and the elastic slightly. The experienced seamstress will know that this is not a great technique for sewing foldover elastic - it worked on this occasion, but I was lucky to get away with it. Generally for sewing foldover elastic, I would sandwich the fabric between the folded elastic and just do one seam using 3-step zig-zag. What can I say? it was late and I wasn't thinking properly.

Next I pressed the neckline and was pleased to see that although it looks very odd from the inside - red thread against brilliant white elastic, yuk! - it looks just fine from the outside. I now sew the second shoulder seam (topstitching over the elastic binding as well as the shoulder seam) and then start on the sleeves.

First I attach foldoever elastic to the hem of the sleeves, using the correct 3-step zig zag technique. This gathers the hem nicely into the elastic binding.

I then mark the middle top of the sleeves and sew a line of long straight stitch around the top of the sleeve, starting from and ending at about 5 cm in from the sides. I pull on the bobbin threads to gather the top of the sleeve - this makes the sleeve puff up. I then pin the marked top of sleeve to the shoulder seam of the armhole, right sides together, and arrange the gathering so that the sleeve fits nicely onto the armhole. I do this for both sleeves and then sew the sleeves to the armholes using the useful stretch interlock stitch. This is the most fiddly bit of the t-shirt but it's worth spending the time to get it right.
When I've finished, I seam up the right sides of the t-shirt to the armhole, and keep going to join the two edges of the sleeve. Repeat on the other side of the t-shirt. it's then that I realise a number of pattern errors: the sleeve is miles too long and the body could do with being another 10 cm longer. These can be fixed: what could be more tricky is that the easy-fitting t-shirt style does not lend itself well to a puff sleeve! The sleeves look very odd and I think I'll leave it for tonight and see if I can dream up a solution.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Part 2: Messing around with the sleeve block

I'm using tracing paper to transfer the sleeve pattern block onto a working pattern that I can hack into. I won't cut out the pattern blocks until I know that they're good to use - that way, I can amend them if necessary. Once I've cut out the traced sleeve, I can start cutting it up.

Here you can see that I've sliced the sleeve lengthwise into four pieces so as widen it ready to be gathered.

And here, I've sticky taped the pieces, with 1 cm between each, to some more tracing paper. I've traced around it, adding 1 cm or so at top and bottom. You can just see the new cutting line.

I can now cut out the three pattern pieces and I'm just about done. I'm not going to add seam allowances to the pattern - the European patterns that I mostly use come without seam allowances so I now prefer to just add the allowance as I cut. I also won't try and make a pattern yet for the neck binding - my plan is to sew the t-shirt together, find some binding fabric, and then working out how long the binding piece should be.

Next step - making the t-shirt! Sewing with jersey fabrics is something that I was scared of doing until very recently, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's easier than I thought. Well, it could hardly have been harder... So I'm going to do the t-shirt as a kind of tutorial.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Pattern-cutting Part 1 - Drafting the block. And it really is easier with a calculator

I've been setting up a home business making cloth nappies, hats and clothing for children. Although I can sell clothes made from Farbenmix, I want a better range of basics, which means I need to draft my own patterns. So.... this is where I start.

I want to make Laura a crew-neck close-fitting t-shirt with puff sleeves, and I find that I don't have a pattern for one. (How can this be? marvels my DH, eyeing the pile of patterns and magazines in the den).

I've faffed about trying to put together three Ottobre patterns to get the one I want, and was only moderately successful - it took some remedial hand-sewing at the shoulders and even the addition of some poppers to make the t-shirt wearable. A proper seamstress would shudder to see it so please, proper seamstresses, don't look at the picture on the left!
So, now I'm going to have another try, using my new copy of Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear and Babywear. It's been my bedtime reading for a few weeks (which is not probably something to put in a first post, but it's best you know the kind of person you're dealing with here...) Now I'm going to see if I can put it into practice.

Winifred tells me that a calculator is a necessity to take the tricky calculations out of the proceedings. Now that's a bit scary hearing for someone with only CSE 1 in maths. But once I've sat down with the ruler (a bit bendy but it'll do for now), pencils, squared paper, pencil sharpener, and make a start, it all starts to fall into place and the calculator is definitely a necessity. After a false start, I realise that it's easier to do the calculations before marking the dots on the paper, rather than doing the maths, making the mark, doing the maths, you get the idea.

Once I've got that taped, I do the close-fitting t-shirt and realise that it's probably going to be slightly too close-fitting for comfort since I'm not going to be using super-stretchy jersey fabric. So I do the basic one next. I'm using the standard measurements for size 92 (age 2) rather than doing Laura's actual measurements. Firstly because it's hard enough getting the child to pose for a picture, never mind taking 7 or so measurements, secondly because size 92 is a fairly good fit for her and I doubt if I could do much better - certainly not on a first attempt, and thirdly because my aim is eventually to sell these t-shirts and I'd rather only cut one pattern block for size 92.

The final pattern blocks look OK. I would have liked more help from Winifred on drawing the necklines and armholes, given that these are where I tend to go wrong when I'm amending commercial patterns, but we'll just have to see.

Tomorrow I'll try to turn the sleeve block into a puff sleeve pattern. Fortunately, Winifred has step by step instructions for that too.