Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Belting it out!

I recently made a skirt (New Look 6215) which I really loved for the design lines, mostly the pleated wrap skirt overlay across the front. This very feature, though, made it hard for me to imagine adding pockets to this skirt -- I add pockets whenever even remotely possible, as I love the convenience. This time, however, I didn't think it would work with the style.

So I pondered a bit about how I could make this practical for work. I have a loathing for lanyards, key rings that you wear on your wrist, etc. I like to keep unsightly but necessary keys out of sight. I could wear a blouse or cardigan with a pocket, of course, but what about when I just wanted to wear a light top, like the matching New Look 6217 I also just made from the same fabric?

So that was the genesis of this idea. I decided to make an obi belt, with a hidden pocket big enough for my keys. I thought that an obi belt would both be large enough to carry a pocket, and also look good with this particular skirt.

I whipped it up in an hour or two, and absolutely love it.

It was so quick, and proved so useful, that I thought I'd share how I did it, in case it might inspire anyone else to give it a go. Let me know if it makes sense, as it's my first go at trying to explain my rather free-form sewing style ;)

Obi Belt + Hidden Pocket: A Tutorial

I'm sharing a recent project I put together when I was wearing an outfit short of a pocket. Here's my take on the ubiquitous Obi Belt, this time with a hidden pocket to store all those little necessaries like keys. I hope my free-form sewing makes sense to you!

Obi Belt with Hidden Pocket

About 1/2 metre of 60" chosen fabric (knit or heavy woven)
Scrap of fabric for pocket (I used a silky polyester from a dress project)

I started with a favourite obi from another dress, and traced around it, then split the "fat" front panel into a separate piece from the ties (to fit onto a regular piece of fabric). My original RTW inspiration was made from a stretch fabric, and I found this piece of heavier brown knit with a thread of gold in it and thought it would work beautifully. I bought 1/2 metre of 60" wide fabric, but you might want a slight bit more, as I ended up piecing the back of one of the ties.

You could start with a more specific pattern, say Mimi G's downloadable version, or even the belt pattern from New Look 6120 or 6144, or anything similar that you may already have. You may have to make a few alterations to the pattern, though!

What you need to start is two pieces for the front panel, and four for the ties -- you could use only two for the ties if you have a double sided fabric that won't show a "wrong" side when you tie them, if you want. In that case, the final steps will be slightly different. You will always need two pieces for the front panel, though, so that you can sandwich in a pocket.

Remember to cut these out on fabric folded right sides together so the orientation is correct

Next you'll want to put a pin in the centre of one of the front pieces - just fold it in half and pin mark the centre. Use a piece of tissue or paper and place it about half way between the centre and the outer edge and draw a pocket shape. Make sure you leave enough room at the bottom to allow for the seam allowance (1/2 inch) and a bit of wiggle room.

Use this pocket pattern to cut out your pocket pieces from scraps, right sides together.

Pin one piece to the front panel, right sides together. Lay the other front panel piece alongside and pin mark the placement for the other pocket piece. Remember to mark this with the right sides of the front panel pieces together so that your pocket pieces end up on the same side!

Sew the pocket on with a 1/4" seam 

Flip the pocket out so that the front panel and pocket are both right sides facing up. Give it a press to smooth it out, and then understitch the pocket piece to help keep it from rolling out when you're wearing the belt -- this is a hidden pocket, after all! Do the same for both sides.

Pin the two front panel & pocket pieces together and sew with a 1/2 " seam allowance. Stitch along the long side, pivoting and stitching around the edge of the pocket pieces and then to the end of the belt. Notice that you leave the pocket opening where the pin is in the photo. Trim the seams.

Stitch each of the the two matching ties together along one long end, then pin to the prepared front panel piece. Stitch with a 1/2 " seam allowance. Trim. Do this for both ties.***

Fold right sides togeter and pin all the way around the belt, remembering to leave an opening to turn the belt. It's best to do this nearer the centre so that the larger middle isn't too difficult to turn through a really narrow tie end.

Trim the seams and snip off the point of the ties, it makes it easier to turn and poke out the ties afterward.

Carefully start pulling the belt inside/right-side out. You may want to use a chopstick to gently encourage the tie ends to turn out completely. Don't poke too hard! You don't want to jab through the fabric. Give it all a good press when done.

You'll note the opening left between the two pins here that we've just used to turn the belt right-side out. Depending on your fabric, you'll either want to slipstitch this closed by hand or if  you are using a thicker, busy fabric like I am, that hides the stitching really well, you can just topstitch it close to the edge, turning in the seam allowances first.

Like this.

Ta Da! What a cute belt. Press it neatly and wear proudly.

Enjoy our little secret...

***If you are using fabric with indistinguishable right & wrong sides and want to use a single layer tie rather than a sewn and turned one, your process will be slightly different. When sewing in the pocket, sew both long sides of the front panel closed, leaving the short ends open. Press a 1/2 seam to wrong sides and turn right side out. Slip in the ties (finish the edges first) to each end, pin and topstitch in place. A bit of a different look but also a bit faster.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Me Made May, Update 4

It's already time for another #MMMay14 update! Here's what I wore this week:

Monday (centre) -- it was a holiday weekend here and I wore my new Polly Top 
Tuesday (right) -- wore my Starry Night dress
Wednesday (left) -- wore my new Pencil Skirt with red accessories!
Thursday (top) -- wore a black dress I made a long time ago + sweater as it was really chilly again!
Friday (bottom) -- wore a tank top I made from suiting fabric
Saturday -- stayed home all day in my lounging clothes and totally forgot to wear something Me Made!! My first lapse this month :)
Sunday -- wore the Polly Top again

This has been great fun so far and I still have a few items to wear this week that haven't seen the outside of the closet in a while...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

By Hand London's Polly Top

Last weekend I made this Polly Top from By Hand London. It's a free downloadable pattern, and so I thought I'd check it out for Sew Indie Month. I've seen many, many, examples of BHL's fabulous Anna and Elisalex dresses all over the sewing blogosphere but not too many of these tops.

So I printed it off and got busy, and searched the stash for some suitable fabric. I had a bit of grey striped linen from a dress I made last summer, but it was only a narrow remnant. So I cut the front insert of the top in two pieces and sewed it up along the middle -- the stripes made it a little more tricky so I had to be exact. Then I had some lovely navy linen that I bought a year ago, which matched perfectly, so I used that for the main body and the neck and arm binding.

It went together fairly easily. The hardest part was the curve around the top of the insert -- but their instructions are good and give suggestions and tips as to how to make this work. I think beginners would be able to easily create a lovely and successful top while learning a few new techniques.

This was definitely a one day top as it is really simple. I finished it off with what is the best bias binding I've ever done -- yay! Nice and even. I think the linen I was using helped as it cooperated beautifully with everything I wanted it to do.

I really like the simplicity and the slight difference that the contrasting insert adds to the this top. One thing I did notice though, was that the sizing was off for me. I cut a 12/16, and it's a bit too large. It slips off my shoulders, and so I'll only be wearing it very casually, mostly at home, I think. I also had to take a half inch out of the length of each of the shoulder pieces, front and back.

Next time I'll measure again before cutting, and think I'll narrow it by an inch at centre front on my next try -- I always forget that tops fit me better when I take them in at centre front, until I'm done. Sigh. Anyhow, I like the pattern and the ease of construction, and can see how this could be made up in many different ways. I like my slightly oversize linen version and have ideas for other looks as well. Has anyone else made this one?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pencil This In

This month's garment of choice for my merry MAGAM make was this nifty fabric, made into -- what else -- a pencil skirt! After much deliberation among my many skirt patterns, I used New Look 6128; I liked that it had great pockets and belt loops too, on View A, my choice. (the bottom pink one).

I am really pleased at how it turned out. I learned a lot from this project: I'd never made or added belt loops before; the pocket, though a basic design, was new to me; and because it was a quilting cotton that was fairly see-throughish, I also lined it with white cotton broadcloth. Thankfully I've done a few lapped zippers by now so that wasn't new or difficult -- as a matter of fact I just bought a proper zipper foot so it was actually much easier than previously!

Here's how I wore it today:

I found this a straightforward pattern -- I made a few changes but not really very big ones. I found the sizing pretty good; I cut a test waistband from the broadcloth before starting the 'real' project, and found that I needed to take 1/2 inch in, from the size 16. I kind of wish I'd taken another 1/2 inch but it does fit very comfortably and of course, there are those nice belt loops for a snugger belted look. I cut 16 across the hips, and tapered in for the last 6 inches or so to end up with the hem 1/2 narrower on each side (1/2 on each seam allowance, so both sides had a total of 1 inch narrowed). So really, it's probably a 14 at waist and hem and 16 across the hip area.

I changed the front pleats too -- the way they are drafted, it created a boxy fold right across the middle -- not where I want to add bulk! I think it was mostly because of the fabric choice, as it stood out in folds quite sharply. So I turned them into inverted pleats and pressed out the remaining bulgy effect. It works quite well, I think.

I also lined it, stitching the lining into the waistband seam but leaving it loose around the zip so I could hand stitch it down and give a nice neat look to the finish. I also pressed up the lining with the hem and then hand stitched the hem so that there was no stitching line on the outside. Because of the crispness of the cotton, it took pressing very well, and held its shape nicely while I handstitched, so the hem turned out nicely even -- skirt and lining both laying together smoothly.

I really love it -- it's fun and colourful and very comfortable, and not nearly as wrinkle-prone as I had feared! And because of all the cheery colours in it I can wear it with numerous tops that I already have -- some RTW and some that I've made myself. Here are a few examples!

This was a super fun project, and I know I'm going to get lots of wear out of it this summer.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Me Made May, Update 3

It's already time for the Week 3 roundup for Me Made May -- this month is flying! Here's what I wore this week -- I didn't include today (Sunday) because I stayed home all day sewing & relaxing and the only me-made I was wearing was my slippers - boring! 

As for the rest of the week:

Tuesday: last year's New Look 6602
Wednesday: New Look 6936, in greens
Thursday: New Look 6936 again, in a wacky pink print
Friday: Chilly morning, so my warmer Vogue 8634 top
Saturday: a floral Sorbetto 

Looking at all my pics from this month's project, I'm starting to realize that I'm a bit all over the place with my choices -- I think I need to go through Collette Patterns' recent Wardrobe Architect series to work out my best silhouettes and colours and stick to those. I feel a bit like a kid in a candy shop when I see all the cool patterns and fabrics; I should decide on what is actually good for me at this point :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sewing Indie with Maria Denmark

As you may know, May is Sewing Indie Month. I've been looking around at all the indie pattern companies participating -- some I hadn't heard of before, some are designers I've been coveting patterns from for some time! Mari of Seamster Patterns created this massive project, and so I wanted to be sure to buy one of her designs --  I chose the Rose Hip Tights (more on those later!)

But the first Indie project I finished is a basic tshirt from Maria Denmark, the Kristen Kimono Tee, a free download from her website when you subscribe to her newsletter.

There are other Maria Denmark patterns that look very tempting...particularly the Edith Dress...but for now, I've tried out this tee.

I traced it out -- 3 pieces -- and cut it from some knit leftover from another project. It was really quick and easy, and the neckband went in beautifully. But I had made it in such a hurry that I hadn't paid attention to the fact that the tee is fairly straight from the underarm to the hem. My figure doesn't really work well with that line! So I rejigged it a bit: I unpicked the side seams up to about the underbust area, and cut a wedge of my leftover fabric to insert into each side. I added 2" to both seams at the bottom,sewing in a long triangle on each side, then hemmed it to just around my hips. It fits in a way that I am comfortable with now, and I've noted those changes on my pattern. (I could probably go up a size, if I retraced the pattern, too)

Otherwise, I love the fit of this tee -- the kimono sleeve is easy to sew, and comfortable to wear under a sweater, and I like the neckline finish. I'd like to make another one with my personal alterations added and see how it goes. This is a super-simple and quick design that could be fancied up or made very plainly, depending on your taste.

I have a few more new Indie designs to share with you this month -- do check out Indie Sewing Month and see the possibilities for yourself!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Me Made May, 2nd Update

Well, it's the end of MeMadeMay, week 2. The weather here is so changeable! I went from wearing my sweaters last week to a sundress today -- not complaining though :)

It's been fun realizing that I have plenty of choices each morning. And that there are new outfits in my closet just waiting for me to discover them. Here's the rundown for this week:

Monday: New Look 8643 skirt and a refashioned blouse that is also incidentally the first thing I ever blogged about!
Tuesday: Kwik Sew 3658 green tshirt
Wednesday:  Boo :( Sick day. Only my slippers were me-made.
Thursday: Vogue 8755
Friday: Yellow Sorbetto, never blogged -- it was my trial attempt before my first "real" one. I removed the front pleat as I didn't have enough fabric for it, and added sleeves. Decided to finish it to make it wearable.
Saturday: Recently made New Look 6217 top
Sunday: My oldest me-made item: a sundress I made 23 years ago! I only wear it around the house now, especially on warm days like today. Like when I'm hanging up the wash ;)  It's Simplicity 7177, by the way.

That's it for this week's roundup -- I had better get back to the sewing table so that I can blog about new things as well!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Me Made May, 1st update

I'm taking part in Me Made May for the first time this year, and I'm mostly sharing updates on my daily wear via Flickr and/or Twitter. But I'll be updating once a week, Sundays, right here on the blog with some of the things I'm discovering through participating in this project. Here's the brief first update for you --

Thursday: Simplicity 2474 cardigan
Friday: KwikSew 4013
Saturday: Vogue 7155 (never blogged, PR review here)
Sunday: Vogue 8514 

(I'm wearing Vogue 8514 backward according to the pattern design, but it both fits
 better and looks more flattering this way. The shoulders sit more comfortably with
 this top  "backward" as well -- this is the only way I actually wear it now)

I'm finding that taking pictures is the worst part: I don't like photos of myself very much, plus I don't have a nice camera so can only get blurry snapshots most of the time...I feel like other sewing bloggers have nicer photos plus they are doing much more interesting things than simply going to work! ;)

But I am also finding that I am enjoying looking at my closet and realizing how many things I have made. Plus seeing myself in them helps me realize what I like best and what I think I look best in. And it also reveals that there are some fixes I need to make! I am noticing that I don't make many "bottoms", either skirts or pants, usually going for dresses or quick tops. I'll have to see what the rest of the month reveals.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Feeling French...

I seem to have a thing about mustard yellow lately. Not only have I made both a woven tee & today's skirt out of mustard colour stash fabric, I also just bought a couple of metres of lovely soft mustardy knit! That will come into play soon...

I recently finished New Look 6217 using my flowy woven from the stash, and there was enough left to make a skirt. So I chose New Look 6215, liking the look of the front drape.

I"m quite pleased with how it turned out, though like the first skirt I made, I do find the waistband just slightly too large -- I have to figure out how to have the waistband fit at the same time as the hip does. In this skirt, I really like how it fits across the hips and, well, big bum area! The front drape is attached to what is essentially a finished skirt, so there is no potential to gape disastrously either.

The pattern is fairly clear to follow, but I didn't like how it gave no indication that the seam edges should be finished before inserting the zip. Since it's inserted all the way up through the back waistband, that could be a really ugly foldback if you were a beginner and didn't know to finish the edges somehow. But otherwise, it was a fairly simple process. I really liked the facing on the edge of the drape, it looks very tidy and gives some weight to the overlay which makes it lie very nicely.

Here is a closeup to get the sense of how this fits -- although something else I discovered was how quickly this fabric wrinkles...I finished it and folded it up on my sewing table I have a wrinkly photo! 

I didn't do my usual addition of pockets, as I didn't think they would fit in with this design. I simply followed the pattern, really quite closely. I haven't made many skirts, and so I was taking it easy with this one. It has a lapped zipper, and I had a bit of a struggle with it, but it did turn out well, even if I forgot to take a photo. I just have to sew the hook and eye on at the top of the back zip and this will be complete.

I think I'll be able to wear it with a number of the tops I've made in the last while -- and here it is in ensemble with the top just made from the same fabric.

Now if only it would get warm enough here to wear this kind of outfit out!