Friday, 26 February 2021

Overlocker/Serger Cover

I've got a slightly different post to the usual garment sewing today as I wanted to share this cover I made for my overlocker/serger a couple of weeks ago. My sewing space is in our living room so I'm always trying to find ways to tidy/hide things away or at least make them look nice and non intrusive. I often put my sewing machine away but my overlocker sits out on the desk and up until now has been covered by the thin and flimsy cloudy plastic cover it came with. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Overlocker/Serger Cover

I used the Closet Core Patterns free pattern (which also includes a regular sewing machine cover) and blog tutorial to make this. I've been meaning to sew one ever since this pattern was first published but was struggling to find a fabric I wanted to make it in. It ideally needs to be an upholstery weight fabric to give it some structure and I also wanted it to be fun and go with our living room in some way. Fabrics Galore posted this Marcel home furnishing fabric on Instagram in January and I knew it was just the fabric I'd been looking for the second I saw it! Our soft furnishings are a similar grey to the background and we also have a lot of greenery in the form of plants and cushions which I made from a foliage print from Stoff & Stil years ago. But of course the main appeal of this fabric is the monkeys! Ed and I both love animals and there are a lot of nods to them in our home decor too.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Overlocker/Serger Cover

The pattern calls for a metre of fabric which is quite a lot but you need the length for the main pattern piece which reaches right over from back to front of the overlocker. You will end up with some quite big offcuts, which you could make little matching sewing accessories out of like a thread catcher or soft case for your shears. Having  quite a lot of fabric to work with worked out well for me though as I could play with where I put my pattern pieces to get the most out of the monkeys! I picked one monkey to sit centrally on each side piece and then made sure two were evenly spaced on the front and top of the overlocker. I'm really pleased with how this turned out.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Overlocker/Serger Cover

The pattern is great and easy to follow and I particularly liked the addition of piping which I think elevates the item a little and was also really fun to make (note that the seam allowances for this pattern are 1/2" so for an easy life make your piping seam allowances that width too, then you can just line up the raw edges and sew!). However, the sizing hasn't worked out so great for my overlocker. I looked at the machine measurements the pattern is drafted for (12" long, 12" high and 14" deep) and used the lengthen/shorten lines on the pattern to adjust the pieces to fit my machine (12" long, 12" high and 11" deep). If you do this make sure to reduce the length of the central pattern piece accordingly, so it matches the length of the long curved edge of the side panel.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Overlocker/Serger Cover

Whilst the cover is the right size for my machine the main body of mine is quite an irregular shape and therefore there is a lot of negative space and the cover sort of sags in in places. I think the cover would work best for a very square overlocker as the fabric would then be stretched out from corner to corner and fit snuggly. Fortunately, as my fabric is fairly structured it holds the shape ok and this doesn't look too obvious. The cover also ended up really tall for my machine. I ended up having to take off just over an inch from the bottom before hemming it with a deep hem. I guess this has to do with the volume of your machine inside the cover and how much it lifts it up...but definitely check the length carefully.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Overlocker/Serger Cover

I added a pocket to one of the side panels (for which I very carefully pattern matched the monkey!). My overlocker (the Brother 1034D) doesn't come with a place to store all the accessories on the machine so these float around in one of my desk drawers and I liked the idea of being able to keep them with my overlocker. Unfortunately as I had to lop a bit of length off the cover the pocket is now a bit shallow to be all that useful, especially given that the deep hem stitching reduces the depth of the pocket further. It also would have been better on the opposite side of the overlocker I think where the machine fills the full cover and the pocket would have been kept taught. Ah well, lesson learned if I ever make another one!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Overlocker/Serger Cover

Despite not being perfect I'm really pleased with how the cover looks sitting on my desk; certainly a lot more pleasing than the battered old plastic sheet before! I'd definitely recommend the Closet Core Patterns and tutorial for making a quality cover but do suggest looking at the measurements of your machine carefully before diving on in. I think the regular machine cover will likely be more successful as they are generally a more standard boxy shape across the board.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Floral Silk Satin Sicily Slip Dress

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewing Patterns by Masin Sicily Slip Dress in Liberty Print Floral Silk Satin

I don't know what possessed me to make this dress when I'm not going any place suitable to wear a dress this fancy for the foreseeable future. But I do know that I loved making it and I'm excited to be able to wear it to drink some sort of cocktail in eventually. I guess I had an urge to work with a piece of really beautiful fabric which this Liberty print silk satin certainly is. After making somewhat practical clothing for quite some time it was refreshing to put my sewing skills to the test making this and bring out all those refined techniques. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewing Patterns by Masin Sicily Slip Dress in Liberty Print Floral Silk Satin

This is the Sicily Slip Dress from Sewing Patterns by Masin. What a great pattern this is. It is a bias cut slip dress with cowl neck and super skinny spaghetti straps. There is a second view which is sleeveless if you'd rather a wear a bra with straps. The simplicity and elegance of this style is what first drew me to it. For those of you who are new to bias cut garments it means they are cut across the diagonal of the fabric rather than following the grainline. The fabric has a bit of give when cut in this direction which allows it to hug and skim the curves of the body and drape in interesting ways. It does make the fabric tricky to work with though as it can so easily be stretched out of shape.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewing Patterns by Masin Sicily Slip Dress in Liberty Print Floral Silk Satin

Despite having sewn quite a large quantity of garments now I have very little experience sewing bias cut garments and it is a technique which slightly fills me with dread! I was therefore incredibly appreciative of the plethora of guidance about sewing on the bias that was included in the instructions. I learnt so much. My favourite tip was to sew with a slight stretch stitch so that the stitches can give with the fabric and allow the garment to drop. It makes SOOOO much sense! You are also advised to store your garment flat so it doesn't continue to drop which is a great idea.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewing Patterns by Masin Sicily Slip Dress in Liberty Print Floral Silk Satin

On Masin's website she states she has a passion for slow fashion and this really comes across in the instructions which encourage you to take your time, think about the techniques you are using and treat your fabric with care. I really did slow down with this project and was very careful when handling my fabric pieces as it is so easy to stretch out bias cut edges. I followed ever instruction to the letter including stay stitching and french seaming my side seams. Despite all this I did end up with some slight rucking down the lower side seams. I left it to hang for a good long while on my dress form and with that and some careful steaming the worst seems to have disappeared. I'm really pleased with it now.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewing Patterns by Masin Sicily Slip Dress in Liberty Print Floral Silk Satin

I certainly gave myself a challenge with this delicate and slippery fabric but it is so irresistibly gorgeous! The colours and the print have a real depth to them and the satin weave seems to bring this out even more. It is worth the effort and patience required to sew up this slightly tricky garment in a very tricky fabric as the pattern is perfectly suited to fabrics like this. The fluidity of it skims the body and shows the beautiful cowl neck at its best.

As the dress is cut on the bias this does take more fabric than you think. I just about managed to squeeze it out of 2 meters of 137cm wide silk. The cowl neck has quite a deep facing which is grown on to the front pattern piece so it is quite a long and wide piece to fit diagonally on to your fabric. The grown on facing helps the cowl sit softly but the back has a separate facing which creates a nice crisp, clean edge. I opted to cut out on the floor rather than the table as I find silk like this doesn't shift around as much on carpet and as the drape of this garment is key I didn't want the grain to end up wonky.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewing Patterns by Masin Sicily Slip Dress in Liberty Print Floral Silk Satin

I cut the size B at the bust and waist and graded out to a C at the hip. I'm delighted with the fit as it is comfortable and doesn't feel at all clingy. The cowl neckline does dip quite low at the centre front on me. I'm assuming this is a little bit to do with bust size and how the cowl sits but I find I am a little short in the shoulder with most patterns. I shortened the straps by about 1.5" but was hesitant to do more in case it started to tip the balance of the dress. I made no other alterations other than to remove a little length when I levelled the hem.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewing Patterns by Masin Sicily Slip Dress in Liberty Print Floral Silk Satin

I feel like I've got a little bit of excess fabric in the small of the back so could potentially do with a slight sway back adjustment but given that this is cut on the bias I'm slightly hesitant to dive in there with any adjustments as I think this could affect the balance of the dress and lead it to pull across the tummy (which no one wants!).

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewing Patterns by Masin Sicily Slip Dress in Liberty Print Floral Silk Satin

I can't recommend this pattern enough for both the drafting and instructions. It is a fantastic project to pick if you've never sewn a bias cut garment before as your hand will be held the whole way. I'm keen to make a couple of top versions of this too as I think it could be a real wardrobe staple. I've got a small piece of cream sand-washed silk in my stash which I think would be perfect for it. As for this dress I can see it being worn all year round; layered over a long sleeved merino Nikko Top in winter or paired with high strappy sandals for a summer wedding.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Fabric Stash Organisation

I mentioned in a post earlier this year that one of my aims for 2021 is to make better use of my fabric stash. I'm not limiting myself with a rule of not purchasing any new fabric as I firmly believe that making good and careful fabric choices is integral to the success of a project. I don't want to settle with 'that fabric will do because it is in my stash' and then end up not wearing it because the fabric wasn't quite right. That doesn't feel sustainable to me. However, sometimes a really interesting a unique fabric choice is right there in front of you when you take the time to think about it and you don't need to buy something new.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation

After a slow start to the year I've suddenly found myself full of motivation to sew and create and was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed with all the inspiration! To help me plan out some projects and match up fabrics with the ideas in my head I spent some time last weekend sorting through my stash. A few of you expressed an interest in how I organise my fabric stash and as I was reworking it I thought this was an ideal opportunity to share.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation

My organisation method certainly isn't ground breaking or particularly exciting but a basic easy to access method is what works best for me. I think my stash is fairly modest compared to some. I'm definitely a sewer who predominately starts with the pattern before the fabric so I tend to purchase fabrics with a project in mind rather than on a whim. The fabrics in my stash generally had a purpose at one point but either I didn't get around to making it (because lets face it the sewing time I hope for in my head is far less than I have in reality!) or I went off the idea. Quite a chunk of my stash are sentimental pieces which were either gifts or I bought on a trip and has a special memory. In particular I've got some African wax prints which my sister and best friend brought home for me and a couple of pieces of Masai fabric which members of the tribe gave my boyfriend on a trip to Tanzania. They are the traditional cotton plaid so I'm hoping to make him a shirt or pyjama bottoms from these but in general I find it so hard to decide on a project for these special pieces! Do you?

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation
My fabric stash is in the hamper on the right of the photo, under the globe! 

Ed and I live in a small flat and my sewing space is in a corner of the living room so I try to make sure everything is hidden away as much as possible so we can both enjoy the multi-purpose space. My fabric is all stored in a big bamboo hamper in the corner...well I say all but there's usually a few pieces that won't fit. I am happy to report though after a month of sewing from my stash it now all fits back in there comfortably! The basket is great for keeping it all hidden away but it does mean it is not easy to see what I've got in there. So I created these easy reference sheets so I can see what I've got at a glance without having to empty the whole thing.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation
A sheet of knit fabrics

I've tried a couple of stash organisation books and print outs and while they were great they weren't quite right for me. I know a lot of people like to use an app like Trello. I might try using this for my patterns but with fabric I need to be able to touch the fabric. A lot of these methods tend to include a lot of information right down to washing instructions and personally all I need to see at a glance is a sample, the fabric type and the length and width of the piece. You might like to include a note to say if it is pre-washed or not but I make sure everything is washed before it goes in the basket so I know they are all ready to go. The only other information I include is a pencil note of any ideas I have about what to make with the fabric. Once I've used a fabric I cross it through with a sharpie and remove the sample or adjust the quantity if I've still got some left. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation

I considered putting the swatches into a book or making a sort of flip book of individual tags (like this one on the Colette blog) but I find this sheet method works best for me as I am able to spread them all out easily and see what I've got at a glance. I find them much more inspiring to look at this way. I can also keep them vaguely organised in groups of knits, denims e.t.c. I think that these sheets might actually be a habit I've picked up from work! As a Costume Supervisor you put together a 'Costume Bible' for each show you work on. This contains all the information about every costume in the show; where you bought those shoes and what size down to what buttons were used on that dress. You compile a sheet per costume and staple a sample of each fabric to the sheet, making a note of the price, width, quantity and source. These sheets I've made are actually very similar...I feel like I've just costume supervised my fabric stash. I guess I'm missing work during the pandemic more than I thought!

I could put the sheets in a folder to contain them but I like having them loose and stored in a tray on my desk so they are easily accessible. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation

I then keep a 'To Sew' list and a 'Sewing Ideas' list in the reminders app on my phone/iPad, which is great as I can update them when I am out and about. I quite often have sewing ideas while daydreaming on a train. 'To Sew' is projects that I've got fabric ready and waiting for and 'Sewing Ideas' are just thoughts or projects I need to buy fabric for. I never end up making everything on either list as my tastes and the seasons change before I get round to it but it helps to keep me focused. If an idea has been on there for a long time and I'm still excited about it I know it is probably something I'd get use out of or enjoy making.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Fabric Stash Organisation

Looking back at my Instagram I can see it has been pretty much exactly a year since I started using these methods. I think they are working out for me well. Since starting these sheets I have found my stash decreasing or at least staying at a manageable size and feel more on top of my sewing projects and ideas. How do you keep track of your fabric stash and plans for it?

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Quilted Sienna Maker Jacket

After my little stint of sewing quick jersey palate cleansers I was up for a more challenging project but still wanted to make something cosy, comfortable and appropriate for our current lockdown lifestyle. I've had this amazing cloudy quilted fabric from The Fabric Store stashed away awaiting the perfect project for a while and decided it was time for me to get my head down and put it to good use. It is so beautifully soft and spongy that I was tempted just to hem it and use it as a throw but in the end I kept coming back to the idea of turning it into a (hopefully!) sophisticated quilted jacket.

I've had my eye on the Sienna Maker Jacket from Closet Core Patterns for a while but was originally planning it in a cotton twill. It felt like a bit of a risk making this pattern in a quilted fabric. I couldn't exactly envision how the details were going to turn out and I wasn't 100% sure it would work but the risk paid off! Sometimes it pays to be creative with fabric choices although I would recommend carefully reading through the instructions before you start to see if you need to adapt any of the construction techniques to suit your fabric. I my case I opted to bind the raw edge of the facing as my fabric was quite thick to turn back and topstitch. I was conscious of bulk the whole way through and was particularly concerned about areas with lots of layers of fabric like the collar but it was absolutely fine. The fabric has a kind of strange construction as the middle layer of the 'quilt sandwich' which would commonly be a flat piece of wadding actually was formed of lots of separate little strands which were bulkier in some areas of the quilted design than others. It is hard to describe but the brilliant thing about it was that I was able to pull strands of the 'wadding' out of the seam allowances to reduce bulk. I considered choosing a thinner fabric for the facings but I'm glad I didn't as that might have changed the softness and structure of the main fabric.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Sienna Maker Jacket in Quilted Cloque from The Fabric Store

The fabric was so lovely to work with! It was really malleable and responded well to steaming and pressing. Setting in the sleeves was a breeze. I'm so surprised to look back at the fabric listing and see that it is a polyester/viscose blend as it feels like an airy loosely woven cotton like a muslin or gauze. It is so soft and spongy against the skin. The right side is quilted with tiny stitches like you might see connecting the layers of a double gauze and puckers up in a design of grids and circles but the rear side is completely smooth. Such an unusual fabric. Despite being really soft the quilting gives it bounce and structure so it holds the shape of the jacket really well. The springy hand and puckered nature of the fabric (along with slight elastane content) does make it prone to stretching out when pressed so I had to be quite careful when pinning and pressing to make sure nothing was getting distorted and pockets e.t.c were sitting straight. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Sienna Maker Jacket in Quilted Cloque from The Fabric Store

I chose to make the hip length view B because I loved the design of the belt. It is attached to one side of the jacket rather than hanging loose through belt loops. It passes through a cleanly finished slit before looping through the d-rings attached with a tab on the other side. It does look a little odd and lopsided when left open but I doubt I'd want to wear this undone anyway. I found elements like the slot for the belt really satisfying to construct in this quilted fabric and even more satisfying to look at. I particularly liked the method for attaching the collar the way the collar and the way the top-stitching around it looks. It was quite straightforward to achieve a nice clean finish.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Sienna Maker Jacket in Quilted Cloque from The Fabric Store

As usual when working on a project with lots of elements like this I jumped back and forth in the instructions a bit. I like to assemble small bits like pockets and belts ahead of time so they are ready to go when I reach that part. I love seeing the whole thing come together quite quickly once you've got the front, back and sleeves all ready to go. I found it difficult to achieve neat patch pockets at the top corners, partly because this fabric frays and falls apart a lot at raw edges but partly because the seam allowances weren't trued up on the pattern so once you've folded the raw edge in the seam allowance sticks out the top. My fabric was too bulky to fold this down in to the pocket so I had to trim it off after the fact leaving a small bit of raw edge and a point vulnerable to fraying. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Sienna Maker Jacket in Quilted Cloque from The Fabric Store

I loved the idea of the unique sleeve pocket, and enjoyed constructing it but in reality I probably won't use it. I'm toying with the idea of sewing it shut but it isn't at all that noticeable when worn as the structure of the fabric keeps everything sitting in place; it doesn't even need the popper/button to close it as it sits nice and flat against the arm. Ed said it looked like I'd made a mistake and put the sleeve on back to front or something! But he did also say the jacket looked really cool and a little bit Japanese so he is forgiven.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Sienna Maker Jacket in Quilted Cloque from The Fabric Store

I wasn't feeling particularly motivated when I started this project so I skipped the muslin stage. I think that might have been a slight error as this feels a little large overall. It is not a huge issue as the fabric choice already gives it a slightly more relaxed and casual vibe but I would like to be able to pull the belt a little tighter. I quite often find Closet Core Patterns run a little large on me, or at least the proportions aren't quite right. They're just not drafted for my body type - some pattern companies I don't have to alter much at all but these I do. For this project I cut the size 8 as usual which is roughly my size. I'm thinking going forward I should go right down to a 4 at the bust to get a better fit across the shoulders and upper chest and do an FBA if necessary. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Sienna Maker Jacket in Quilted Cloque from The Fabric Store

The main issue I have with the fit is across the shoulders and that the armhole feels a little deep. It feels like I would have a better range of arm movement if the underarm seam went up more snuggly into my armpit. Perhaps I should have shortened the jacket slightly across the upper chest as it wouldn't hut for the belt to be a fraction higher too. If I'd chosen a stiffer fabric this would be a big problem but as this fabric is nice and soft it isn't enough of a worry to stop me getting a lot of wear out of this. 

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Sienna Maker Jacket in Quilted Cloque from The Fabric Store

I actually cut this project out ages ago and then got busy with work and didn't have the headspace for a big project with lots of pattern pieces. So I can't remember very clearly how hard I was trying with pattern matching when I cut this out but I've got a feeling the matching across the opening of the sleeve pocket was a complete fluke haha! I feel like I probably put some thought into the matching of the horizontal stripe in the quilting across side seams and this was worth while to keep the look clean without too many broken up lines. One side turned out better than the other so I'm assuming I cut it out on the fold and the underside wasn't lined up quite right! 
Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Closet Core Patterns Sienna Maker Jacket in Quilted Cloque from The Fabric Store

I was initially looking at very simple jacket patterns for this project as I felt the quilted fabric was probably enough on its own but now I'm delighted with how all the little design details sit on top of the fabric. I adore how this fabric looks topstitched! I was slightly concerned I might end up just looking like I'd wrapped myself in a duvet but the details definitely stop that effect. I really like that it has a smart look but is also so comfortable and cosy. I can see me wearing it around the house (keeping me warm while I'm sewing!) but also out and about. It felt good to get my teeth into a big project again and since making this I've been pushing myself to work with some of the more challenging fabrics in my stash and focus on my techniques. I'm looking forward to sharing more soon!