Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Sewing for Sunshine - A May Mallorca Getaway

I was lucky enough to have a quick getaway to Alcudia in Mallorca last weekend for a flying birthday-treat visit, with two fabulous friends.  Perfect bliss!  

And of course I couldn't leave without packing a couple of new makes to wear.  26 degrees, turquoise seas and pearly white Balearic beaches gave me the perfect opportunity to indulge in sewing up a couple of cool summer garments, even before the temperature gauge has reached double figures in the UK.  Summer wardrobe staples, hot off the machine, and I am ahead of the game.

For the last couple of weeks though I've been pretty focused on getting my work finished before taking a couple of days away, so I needed patterns that were tried and tested, that I could whip up with minimum fuss and in double quick time over a couple of evenings.  For example, I already know that the blue Bardot style top from Cynthia Rowley doesn't require any fitting as it's a very loose style, and having solved the wayward neckline issue a couple of weeks ago (see that post here for how, which I am still very chuffed about) I felt another one of these would fit the bill for a cool and floaty top.  This crisp cotton was already in my fabric stash and its coastal blue and white anchor print was just calling out for a beach themed garment.

Yes I know it's a bit 'coals to Newcastle' taking a nautical print to a seaside port, but I think it's really fresh and fun looking.  And I love the way I can have the sleeves on this either longer or shove them upwards for a poofy, shorter look. Is there a technical word for that sort of sleeve?

Now, the blue top that I already made from this pattern is purposely swingy and has a lot of volume going on.  It's great with skimpy shorts or some sort of tapered bottom half, but I had the idea of creating some means of reining a little of that excess in for this new version.  I thought about creating another channel for elastic at the waist, or at the hemline for a cocoon shape, but after a bit of experimentation I came up with this.

The two very small loops inserted at each side seam at the waist, accommodate a length of cotton tape, which when pulled in at the back, creates gathers that fold inwards.  From the front it looks a little slenderer and creates a bit of interest at the back. Ideally I would have used white or navy grosgrain ribbon for this waist tie, or even introduced a colour (yellow?) but I used this white tape from my stash as there was no time to shop for bespoke notions pre-flight!

The next garment to hit the machine was a pair of shorts to compliment the top.  This blue cotton, on the right of the anchor print, is very like lightweight denim, with an interesting finish on one side that appears exactly like the reflections of light on water.  The back of the fabric is solid blue.  

It was a scrap I salvaged, along with some other miscellaneous pieces, from a pile of cloth remnants left in a box outside a house on my street.  The box had a notice on the front offering the material to anyone who wanted it, with a request that any donations posted through the letterbox in return, would be directed to the local cats home!  I love fabric bargains, and I quite like cats, so double happiness right there.

There was just enough of this fabric for a pair of shorts and the pattern is taken from one that I have re-used many times before and has become a bit of a wardrobe staple for me.  Simplicity 1430.  None of these designs are going to set the world of sewing on fire, but actually I have made quite a few of each of the tops, trousers and shorts and they have been reliable bread-and-butter basics.

These shorts are a really flattering cut, with front pockets, a neat fly, a wide waistband and double button closure.  I've tweaked the pattern in the past so I know it is tried and true.  I also know that I can make these out of fabric fumes if I am running on only remnants, using contrasting fabric for the inside waistband and pocket yokes if necessary.  In this case, there was just enough blue cloth to complete the whole thing.

The great bonus about both of these makes, apart from the fact they go perfectly together and with lots of other things, is that they are so soft they pack away to nothing.

Obviously this means lots of room to pack a TON of other clothes into my carry-on case that I just didn't need and didn't wear at all!  Never mind.  Part of the fun of holiday packing for me is second guessing every possible eventuality that might occur and making sure I have it covered.  Minimalist I am not.  I can vacuum pack 27 outfits into Ryanair size-conforming hand luggage with a selection of shoes to match, and still have room for souvenirs on the way back.  

Also included in the flight bag for evenings that I must mention, was this top, made last year and again from charity shop remnants.  

I made this from a scrap of beautiful silk-satin moire found in a trunk of old linens, along with some black lace and black grosgrain ribbon.  I love this Burda bustier top pattern, even though it is very cropped (and my abs have unfortunately taken early retirement).  I haven't worn it very much here in the UK for that reason (I can perform a reasonably impressive 'plank' if forced to, which would suggest I do have some core muscles somewhere within, but lord knows where).  I added a little more coverage at the waist using black lace along the bottom hem and paired it here with a high waisted black skirt with a wide waistband, found at New Look.  This gives the whole look the desired cropped-top effect combined with a comfortable amount of coverage.  

I couldn't resist making up some tassel earrings in black leather to go with this too.  Ready for cocktail o'clock and a couple of Moscow Mules, beach-side.

And so a fabulous three days in Alcudia, Mallorca was had by all and my Vitamin D levels have had a much needed boost.  I'll be hanging on to these memories as long as I can.  

Friday, 5 May 2017

Blue Cold Shoulder Top - How to Sort Out Sleeve Slippage!

Welcome back to the wardrobe, blue Bardot style beauty!  Saved from the scrap heap, I'm back in love with this off the shoulder top again after a rather stormy start.  

This was created in late August 2016 as a last minute summer make to wear on those balmy early autumn days.  Due to a technical issue with fit, i.e. not being able to do so much as lift a glass of prosecco halfway to my lips without the top pinging upwards in an alarming fashion, I gave it the cold shoulder treatment and never wore it.  This morning I decided to look at it again, and voila!  I'm smitten.  Problem solved.  For that reason I thought I'd let you know how I sorted out the fit, as it's something I think many of these types of garments have as an issue, and it might be useful to share.

So let's go back a beat. The pattern is a Cynthia Rowley one and I won't bore you with the detail of the original make again.  If you look here you can see the process in my first blog post about this make (and you can read the grumbling too).  

At the end of last year I saw so many cold shoulder, Bardot style tops around and decided to make this one.  Made it. Loved it. Wore it.  Hated it.  Basically, the top itself looked great on, the fabric was lovely and the colour right up my street.  But I just couldn't get it to stay on - or rather off - my shoulders.  Every time I moved my arm higher than waist level, the elastic would pull in and whoosh!  Up it popped in a desperate attempt to contract to its unstretched state, only to slap me in the ear and come to rest at a rather odd angle.  The issue of course was that, in order to magically stay in place at that golden spot on the top of my arm, the elastic must remain tight enough to stay up above the bust (major wardrobe mishap waiting to happen if it was too slack here, as I don't have that much up front to hold anything aloft for long), but relaxed enough not to want to zoom upwards.  For this reason, it was never worn and I ended up flinging it back on my fabric pile to be reused again as scrap.  

Lately I've been eyeing up some other similar tops on the high street and thinking, hmmm I do still really like those, maybe I could just buy one?  And after flirting with a couple of them last week in the changing rooms, I had to stop and give myself a good talking to.  What on earth am I doing purchasing the EXACT SAME style top, with the EXACT SAME issues?  I am a maker.  So what I should be doing is going back to the original and using my knowledge of making to sort it out.  And so I did.  This is what it took.

This highly complex and sophisticated structure, also known as five inches of elastic, is my solution.  Yes it really did take that much investment, along with 25 minutes of sewing time, to totally solve the problem.  Genius.  This little piece of elastic, covered in a tube of the same fabric, goes inside the top, attached to front and back of the sleeve, and sits just around the very top of my upper arm. 

Here it is in situ.  I have attached it in place inside the top, along the front and back seam lines, stitching in the ditch so that the fixing is invisible from the outside.  It is snug against my underarm, but not tight, and there is plenty of room for moving around without it being restrictive in any way.

So I have essentially created a loop, and I put my arm through this, and then into the sleeve itself. This comfortably keeps the top neckline elastic in place and makes it impossible for it to creep upwards.  

And it's back in the game!  In fact I can, after rigorous testing confidently report that even 180 degree arm swinging is now perfectly possible and the top will return to exactly where it is supposed to be.  Top shelf cereal packets?  No problem!  Tying laces?  No problem!  Adjusting sunglasses?  Just watch me! No wriggling around, no hoiking it back down, no more mini robot-arm movements with my elbows glued to my sides.  I'll be celebrating by drinking a glass of something chilled in the garden this Friday evening and demonstrating, with expansive arm movements, how my superior engineering skills saved Bardot from the bin.

It makes me wonder why I didn't just spend a bit of time thinking about this in the first place, before getting into a huff with it and throwing it in a heap.  Well I guess that's a lesson learned really, to spend a a little bit less time huffing and puffing and a little bit more time applying myself to finding a solution.  Lessons for life and sewing.