Sew Must Go On: Forgiving Floral Shirt

Soon after the birth of the munchkins I realised that I needed many more button down shirts for quick nursing access.  Also all those cute little nursing for discreet breastfeeding weren’t really going to work with the twin feeding that was taking up most of my time.  As much as I like my pattern for the Lesley blouse, I figured, I needed something that was a bit more forgiving and hid some of the mamma ‘magic’ that was still sitting around my waist. And so the Forgiving Floral Shirt was born.


The pattern is an adaptation of my Lesley Blouse: I left out the waist darts, made the sleeves less fitted and the cuffs not as wide (more normal!). Everything else is pretty much the same but I used quite a light interfacing for the collar and the lightweight fun floral makes a whole shirt much more casual.


Needless to say, it took quite a while to come together and even longer to photograph and upload here but I think it came out pretty well and I enjoy wearing it.  The photos above makes it looks like the bottom doesn’t line up properly but I think that’s a function of not properly ironing the shirt (who has time to IRON??!!) rather than a terrible sewing faux pas – although it’s highly likely it doesn’t line up 100%. The other thing I don’t really like about the finished product is the button holes: I tried to forego interfacing on the button stand and instead fold over the front piece fabric to create some stiffness. But I think the fabric is too light for that and my button holes don’t look amazing. They work but they look a bit home-made…if you know what I mean?


The fabric was a piece given to me that initially I thought was Liberty of London but I think it’s just pretending to be such high class!

Fun shirt…that I hope to wear more this winter.


Pattern: My own Lesley Blouse pattern with a few key alterations

Fabric: Lightweight Floral cotton from the fairy godmother stash. Thought it was Liberty but actually think it’s just wanna be Liberty

Alterations: No waist darts, re-drew the cuffs to be narrower, less fitted; Double checked the shirt was long enough and the shaping at the bottom provided enough slit on the side.

Do it again: Perhaps…but watch out for the non-interfaced button stands if using lightweight fabric.

The Lesley Blouse

This fitted blouse was a long time in the making (and even longer time in the blogging!) and is named after my sewing buddy Lesley.

Lesley blouse_frontThe pattern is a self drafted pattern based on my fitted bodice block from my very first pattern making class at Studio Faro. But it took me a while to get my head around collars and cuffs and all the bits and pieces that go into making a button down shirt.  This is where Lesley came into her own, sending me online tutorials for various parts of the shirt and tricks of the trade.  We had a pattern making session together where we went through some of the more tricky bits.  I don’t think I would’ve endeavoured to the end without the encouragment from a fellow sewist.

Lesley blouse_backI made this first version out of an Italian cotton with a little stretch from Remnant Warehouse and a contrast quilting cotton under the collar, the inner collar stand and in the cuffs.  I went with a fairly standard collar, a simple button stand (just folded over section of the two front pieces rather than a separate button stand) and kept all of the waist darts as per the pattern block – that’s 4 in the front and 4 in the back!

Lesley blouse_collar

Lesley blouse_collar stand

Lesley blouse_cuff

I decided on long cuffs for a more retro look but somehow miscalculated the cuff width and ended up with VERY tight cuffs.  Luckily I can still do up the buttons but I can’t slip my hands through without undoing the buttons.  Oops! I was considering doing sleeve plackets (Lesley had a good block for that too) but decided that I needed to keep it simple for version 1 otherwise it would never get made.  Next time I’ll have to tackle the placket.

Lesley blouse_untuckedI made the shirt extra long to accommodate my long body and so that it doesn’t get untucked when I raise my arms.  I like that alteration although I may need to make it wider at the bottom to get over my hips.

All in all, not a bad little attempt at my first blouse pattern.  I’d love to make it in a fun Liberty fabric or something.  But I’ll have to stay skinny to fit into it with all those unforgiving waist darts!

Pattern: My own Lesley Blouse pattern

Fabric: Italian cotton from Remnant Warehouse and quilting cotton for the contrasts

Alterations: Specific design decisions this time was the long cuff and extra length.  Next time I’ll stick with the extra length (wider over the hips), have short and WIDER cuffs and I might have a go at the sleeve placket.

Do it again: Yup… but maybe not for summer

The MC pants

The ‘MC pants’ were originally named for their ‘Multi-Cultural’ ethnicity but as they came into their own I soon realised that they also liked to own the room, announce themselves to the world and be their own ‘Master of Ceremonies’.  So without further ado, I present the MC pants… ta da!

Multi pants4“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the MC pants show!

I started life a long time ago in a pattern making class at Studio Faro. But as a well fitting block and calico toile, I sat in the sewing pile waiting to be made into something special.  You see, Mary is (was?) a bit scared of sewing pants.  And designing a pair from scratch?! All those bits and pieces of flies, and fly shields and pockets and pocket facings and waist bands…Heaven forbid.  But I’ve gotta give the girl credit, after a successful Me-Made-May, she realised that she needed more pants in her life because otherwise how would be she make it through winter?  So she got out the ol’ pants block and got going on turning it into a real pair of pants.  The idea was that the shape of the toile would stay pretty much as is but with a proper waist band, pockets, fly etc.

DSCN2628A lot of research went into how to cut and sew a fly in pants. This tutorial from Notes from a Mad House Wife was particularly helpful. And the Sewaholic Thurlow sew alongs also provided guidance.  Finally the pattern was ready and it was time for the fabric.  And this is where my Multi-Cultural ethnicity comes in.  You see, Mary had her eye on some tartan and had figured it was time to try her hand at that.  But a pure Scottish lass, I was not to be.  So she had to add some red Xhosa Shwe Shwe into the mix as the contrast on the waist band and pocket inserts. Quite an ecclectic mix but I think it works.  The pocket bags were a bit of left over lining from the Ziggi jacket. The button is a self-covered button made from one of those kits and a bit of the contrast fabric – I have my doubts as to how it will survive the wash.

With Mary’s new-found overlocking skills, I can even expose my insides to the world to show the neatly finished seams…aahh bliss.

DSCN2631Oh and please note the piping around the pockets…gotta love piping.  That idea was almost thrown out the window because it was ANOTHER step in this already long complicated process.  But Sew Maris’s timely tutorial on piping reminded Mary that piping really does add that extra zing.  She put piping on her first pair of pants so why shouldn’t I get it too?!

MC pantsThe legs of the pants did turn out to be rather wide as the original pants block for the legs wasn’t altered at all.  This does pose the risk of people mistaking me for pajama pants but with red shoes it’s more likely people think I’m clown pants! But it’s all good.  With a good fit around the hips and butt, I rock the tartan.

MC pants2Mary did think about matching stripes and tartan but somehow the thought got lost along the way and I’m a bit ‘bummed’ that the tartan doesn’t match up across the…bum.  Better luck next time.

Thanks for listening folks and I’m sure I’ll see you around because I think I’m gonna get out a LOT.”

Phew she had a lot to say!

Pattern: Self drafted ‘MC pants’ pattern

Fabric: Cotton Poly (I think) Tartan from a Marrickville fabric store for a steal, Red Shwe Shwe from Fabric World in Cape Town, left over lining from the Ziggi jacket

Alterations: This WAS the alteration

Do it again: Yup – this was v.1.  The next ones need to be a bit narrower I think

Thanks for joining me.  I’d love to hear from you.



More pattern making and my 30 seconds of (almost) fame

Yesterday I had the privilege of joining two other budding pattern makers at Studio Faro for the filming of a video clip soon to be released about the wonders of pattern making with Anita. (I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s up). It wasn’t hard to talk about what drew us to pattern making and afterwards we got stuck into some pattern demonstrations and some of Studio Faro’s pattern puzzles  – hardly even noticing when the filming stopped and our film crew left the studio.  One of my fellow students was the lovely Gail from My Fabrication – it was great to meet her and put a real face to another blogger out there.


So a brief summary of some of my answers:

Why pattern making? : With a background in engineering and a brain that likes to deconstruct and reconstruct things, I was always fascinated with the process of taking 2-D cloth and turning it into a 3-D garment.  I have dabbled in sewing and crafts since I was a child but in 2010 when my sewing took off I soon became frustrated with off-the-shelf patterns but when I tried to make patterns myself they had limited success.  I wanted to know the science and maths behind it all.

What brought you to Studio Faro? : I was new to Sydney and trawling through the internet to find what pattern making classes were on offer.  Most of the full time courses were incompatible with full time work and Studio Faro offered a flexible schedule, a class tailored to the students’ abilities and a wealth of knowledge from industry and teaching.

What do you want to do with your pattern making? : Good question! For now I’m happy to be able to make clothes for myself that fit and flatter my body. I also like the challenge posed by seeing a design and trying to figure out the pattern that it came from.  Maybe in the future it will turn into more but I still have a lot to learn.

For the demonstration, Anita stepped through the pattern manipulation for the Drape Skirt with the lovely Mortitia Adams fish tail at the back.  I definitely have to try that one at home. I think it would look great in Shwe Shwe…


Then we tried our hands at a twisted skirt which took quite a bit of brain power to get our heads around that one.  It really helped with work alongside anita with mini blocks so that we could watch and do at the same time.  Although when it came to cutting up all the pieces and laying them out again, we had to take a break and just watch.  I get the idea of it, but I think I’ll have to try it in fabric before it’s completely clear.


Many of these pattern puzzles are available Studio Faro’s Facebook page so I definitely suggest going to check them out.

It was a fun, full afternoon and now my head is filled with too many projects!  So many ideas…so little time. Don’t you find that?





Stretchy sewing: Making the stretch block toile


Sewing with knits or ‘stretchy’ fabric has always been a bit erratic for me.  Some projects work out well while others clearly looked home made and miss that professional touch that I’m aiming for.  So the past few weeks have been my ‘learn to sew with knits’ time and this has morphed into a ‘learn to make patterns with knits’ too!  My first step was to find out from the experts.

Sewing with Knits

I am in the process of watching Craftsy’s class on Sewing with Knits by Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated. It’s a great introduction in sewing with knits or stretch fabric without the need for an overlocker/serger.  Which is great for me since I don’t have one…yet. (This foray into stretch fabrics makes me want an overlocker even more!).  And the class comes with 5 print off patterns.

I have only watched the first 3 classes but already I’ve learnt about the different types of knits, different amounts of stretchiness, the tools I should be using (I need a ‘walking foot’…who knew?!) and the stitches that work well.  The first class project is a hoodie but it’s way too hot in Sydney for that right now so I might jump to the T-shirt or dress while we still have summer days.


My little Elna Lotus tsp (a great little machine but I do probably over work her!), seems to do ok on a four-way stretch fabric with a stretch needle (75/11) and a narrow zig zag (not much zig and zag).  This gives a seam that stretches with the fabric but without making the seam look like it’s pulling too much.


Another new piece of information is about stabilising shoulder seams using clear elastic. Brilliant!  You just sew it into the seam. (Or so I’m lead to believe). I got a piece of this from my pattern teacher but I’ll have to find out where to get it.  Anyone know where to source clear elastic in Sydney or online?


Stretch patterns

And just because I like to take the bull by the horns, I thought now would be a good time to learn about making stretch patterns. For this I went to the very talented Anita of Studio Faro whose basic pattern making classes have put me on the right path for some of my amateur design endeavours. The class is a two part class with last week focusing on developing a custom stretch block with necessary alterations to make it just right.


As suspected my waist line needs to go down by about 3cm to accommodate my long body – remember to alter your pattern at a horizontal line between bust and waist not at the waist. Some of the other women in the class needed to add darts into their blocks to get a better fit over the bust. We were assured that this was only for the block and any future design would incorporate the dart in a creative, non-darty, feature.  We also added a pseudo dart beneath the bust point that will be used later for design purposes.

Sent home with our newly made, personalised stretch block patterns and a piece of clear elastic, I set about constructing a toile for fitting at tomorrow’s class.  You will notice that I haven’t finished off the neck, sleeve and hem lines as this is a toile. If the fit is good, I’ll try clean it up for public appearances.


The back looks good and the fit feels good


Shoulder is nice and snug but not too droopy – I think the stabilising helps. The sleeves are fine – I actually had to make the sleeves a bit shorter because I ran out of fabric but they are already long enough so I’ll just have to remember that the pattern has long sleeves that need to be checked depending on the desired look.


The front fit feels good and generally looks good although at some angles it looks like it’s pulling funny off the bust point.  I don’t know if it’s just the way it’s hanging or if there’s something I’m missing in my pattern block. I guess all will be revealed tomorrow.

Thanks for joining me and let me know if you have any comments or experience with sewing or pattern making with knits.