Thursday, October 30, 2014

Perfect Parcel I.e The smoking bear

Hello darlings, I'm pretty sure you already heard about Perfect Parcel. A curation of 6 independent patterns put together for a limited period: Only one day left to buy now! The aim is not only to support independent designers but to raise money for children’s education. To date, the sewing community has helped them raise over $13,000! Amazing!

Can you guys tell what pattern I picked to sew from the parcel #6 collection? I think this pattern is quickly turning into a internet sensation....
I made the Julia Cardigan by Mouse House Creations with a few modifications....

There are two trends right now that I was completely obsessing about. Oversized cardigans and textured coats... Couldn't be more excited to match them both on the same make!!!

Let's talk fabric first. Mid october my local sewing club and I had a shopping day out and we visited Plush Addict open day. I normally get my FOE from them but I didn't imagine the range they had until I got lost on their warehouse. I was particular intrigued by all the "plush" fabrics and bought 1, 5 metres of this emerald green.
I confess that at first I was questioning my initial judgement. Isn't it too dressing gown, pjs like fabric. The idea was to use the jersey as the outer fabric and the plush inside, hidden to keep me warm.  I actually had a plan to sew another Lola dress. How volatile my sewing plans are...  My brain don't stop extrapolating combinations of fabric and shapes. Plans aren't final until I finish!
The lapel/ facing is left over velvet from this dress.  The more I touched the fabric the more I wanted to play around with the idea to wear both sides. That was possible by making the pattern reversible , so I end up sewing all my seams like my pink coat. 
Welt seams are great to reduce bulk on heavier fabrics. The sleeves were the tricker part but so manageable. It was a delight as this pattern is so quick to make.
Modifications: I made size L, slashed and spread the pattern an extra 31 cm, used the XXXL width of the collar and back bottom pattern. As I wanted to avoid the velvet showing up when I worn the plush side I cut it smaller, leaving a little bit of plush fabric showing when I wear the jersey side up. I'm really delighted that it worked out exactly as I imagined. I been wrapped on this cardigan daily!
Ohhh Mister Hefner, you cannot steal my cardigan!!!
During the sewing process I keep calling the cardigan "my bear" because plush fabrics does make me think of teddy bears but HRH insisted that I should call it a smoking jacket. During the whole sunday afternoon at the pub he teased me about it.  In his indiscretion he also described the one I shawl sew for him in the future.
Doesn't he knows velvet isn't the easiest fabric to work with, specially when one will be expecting tailor quality of a one of kind jacket that magically will Fit itself since the recipient refuses to get fitted during the sewing process. Keep hoping...
My favourite feature of this modified cardigan is the dramatic tulip shape it creates...
My advice to sew plush fabric is similar to velvet. You can read my tips for velvet here.
I like to keep my makes classic but sometimes I enjoy using fashion as an inspiration to push me forward. To explore my creativity beyond my normal boundaries of taste. Is there any trend you are excited to sew right now? There are a few more I want to tackle this fall.
Would you pick your favourite side to wear? Would it be "The teddy" with the plush outside or the "Smoking jacket" with the plush on the inside? I'm curious....

Saturday, October 25, 2014

{Blog Series} How patterns compare? Prices of sewing patterns in the UK

Sewing isn't a cheap hobby. Add the cost of the pattern, fabric, notions and the bill is sky high. So price may be one of the parameters when picking a sewing pattern. For sizing comparison, wait until second part of this series.

Unlike the USA where Big commercial patterns like Vogue, Butterick, McCall's, Butterick, Simplicity, New Look go on massive sales ($1.99//£1.20) when those patterns go on sale here (UK) is generally about 20% to 40% off. That means that an amazing Vogue number on sale still going to cost £9//$14.48 Once or twice a year an online retailer will go as low as 70% but the range isn't complete. We do get pattern sales but we will never get the chance to pay only $1.99 for a new pattern. The closest we can get to pay this low are a few bargains found on charity shops. With the resurgence of sewing now they seen to be increasing in price too. 

It takes about 3 to 4 weeks for a Simplicity pattern launched in the USA to reach the UK market and not all the designs are made available. There a few of new Cynthia Rowley (I love them) patterns not made available at all.  Similar delay with Big 4. There is always an option to buy directly from US websites. Unfortunately royal mail cap expenditure to $20 and there is a hefty fine if you go over. Unless it's a book.

There is a way to get Big 4 patterns cheaper if you buy a lot. If you are a subscriber to Sew Today (Quarterly cost of £7.49//$12 - Similar to club Bmv) you can buy Butterick, Vogue, Kwik Sew and McCall's half of the retail price. That means some of the cheaper patterns can go under £5//$8. I had this subscription for a year and confess I didn't use it to it full advantage.

Simplicity UK do offer a pattern of the week for £2.99//$4.81 on their website so if you keep an eye and can wait, the pattern you desire may be there, maybe be not. This week is a great one 1589.

So no wonder PDF's are turning to be a good choice for sewist out there. I used to dislike using PDF in the past but grown to appreciate some of their advantages, price being one of them.

Burdastyle is far the cheapest option. The magazine cost £4.99 but PDF patterns can cost as low as £1.99 for individual pattern downloads. My favourite coat only costed me £3.99//$6.45 

The most expensive paper pattern is Named. Buying locally their most expensive patterns will set you back £17.50//$28. If you buy online the cost go over £22//$35. Ouch!  That's make my wallet very sad because they offer my dream style. I choose to pay extra for the quality of the design and personally I do think is worth it. I don't mind the instructions (I do mind a little the tracing but their layout has improved). That's when value for money becomes so subjective. I work harder, pay more but still my experience is of a happy customer. 

The average cost for a printed indie pattern here in the Uk is £13//$21. Let's compare how an American and British pattern cost overseas. We know the cost of a Colette pattern is $16 (USA) and for us would be an equivalent of $20// £12.50.  Turning around, we pay £14//$22.52 for BHL, and in USA they pay $21//£13.  Similar with another Brit pattern company, only £0.50 difference less from what you pay for Tilly and the Button patterns. If we take consideration the fluctuation of conversation rate, we get the same product for the same price.

Same for Big 4. If we picked a McCall pattern in the UK we would be paying £8.25// $13.27. Not so different from USA $12.50//£7.80. 

We can establish that patterns retail cost almost the same but the sales available in the USA make the biggest impact on the prices. During this research McCall's patterns are $3.99 //£2.50- Can I say I'm crying right now. Indie patterns when on sale don't go over 20% ( unless I missed something)

The average price of an indie pattern PDFs is £8, which will sit at the same range of a mid range big 4 printed pattern. 

Prices are pretty much matched between the companies so other decisions like personal taste, availability, instructions, brand, sizing may play bigger part of picking a pattern.

 I'm very curious to know if the same price scope happens in other parts of the world. Do share what you know.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sabrina, let me tell you straight: we cannot be friends!

Hello friends,
You all know I LOVE the BHL girls and been their oldest tester. So one day inevitability I would be asked to test a pattern I didn't like. well, that's Sabrina*.
I did test it and reported the fitting issues I have encountered (now fixed). The test pattern looked horrible on me. I hated and the dress was chucked on my recycling bin. Not something that happens often but it's more likely to happen when patterns are on their testing stage and why is so important for testers to sew it mindfully to find errors. 

To make the pattern interesting to me (I honestly feel Sabrina is a bit too boring- BHL girls have so much potential), I drafted large pockets and distressed the denim* I received part of the testing process. 

Distressing denim was quite fun and easy. I only needed a cutting mat, a craft knife and a rock. Quilting ruler optional. I used "pedra pone, a Brazilian native stone. Works brilliantly. 
Once I knew where  I wanted to distress, with my quilting ruler as guide to my craft knit, I sliced the fabric.
The distressed result will vary accordingly to how often and the strength you use the rock in a back and forward motion.
The fabric selvage was added within the pocket top and princess seams.
Looks like the distress seam is a trend flash back from the 90's. Marques'Almeida just launched a collection for Topshop  similar to the vision I had for my dress.
Giving another thought, I chopped the dress, removed the whole extra back panel (inc the zipper) and used an elastic to create a skirt. 
As a skirt is wearable enough. Hopefully I can see versions that would change my mind but so far I haven't got inspired to give Sabrina another go.

*updated 18:22
Thank you for reminding that's sometimes that is no way around things that needed to be said. Honesty is the best policy and I appreciate that you guys agree!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

McCall's5400 & swimwear musings

Spoiler Alert: This post contains bad stitching and free fabric.

Once upon a time I talked about my disinterest for swimwear making, after all, my large collection of Brazilian swimsuits needed to make their appearances once or twice a year. 

That, until last year, when I made the bombshell. I felt SO accomplished. I felt part of the cool club. Oh yeah.. take THAT unknown territory... This positive experienced really changed my mind about the subject. Making swimwear is FUN! Fierce and not that scary. I wanted more...just needed to wait for better weather.
Even having my beach holiday trip schedule months ago (even before my trip to Paris was booked) time flew by and I didn't achieved even half of my summer sewing plans. To make the situation more challenging I only had 2 days between trips. It would be my last opportunity to sew a swimsuit for the year. 

Not often I have forced myself to sew in a rush. I like to take my time... I enjoy the creative process of adding/removing/changing/ when I'm sewing. Feeling like I haven't sat in front of the machine for ages I accepted my self imposed swimwear challenge.
Successful sewing projects steps fall in two categories for me: great choice of fabric and great fit. Have those under control and very likely the result will be good.
As swimsuit fabric is super important to get it right I wanted to use something tried and tested. Honestly, before FunkiFabrics* got in touch, I already had fabric samples ( many were posted on my IG/Twitter) since the beginning of April. I told you, I have caught the swimwear bug.
My fabric choice was a little bit unplanned. From the minute I said yes please (I received the fabric free) this was chosen. Didn't take me more than 3 minutes. I didn't think about my previous plans... ohh silly girl. In my defence my mind is somewhere else.

I didn't took consideration of print size and placement. When I arrived from Paris the package was waiting for me. A quick glance and I thought...Oh OH.

I don't need to write details how odd the lamp/lip shape would look on my lower privates.  Should I save for a workout gear instead? A doubt that quickly got dissipated. The fabric print is gorgeous. The colours are striking. This will look lovely on a tanned skin. Digging my stash and found a complimentary solid swimwear fabric to sew the bottom.

Once fabrics were on hand, next on the list was picking the right pattern. With my pattern list in hand I narrowed my swimsuit patterns: Bombshell (done that), BurdaStyle Jessica (too sexy for a trip that involve the inlaws) and Alison , Papercut Soma and Mccall's 5400. 

I needed something that would: 
  • Allow me to sunbath. A girl can dream of golden limbs.
  • Be a super quick project.
  • Be demure but not boring. 
What tipped the balance for the McCall's was the fun mix of variations. I chosen view C/D without the band for the top. Using fold over elastic (FOE) and lengthening the front to create neckties. The bottom is view F as is. To marry the swimsuit pieces together I made  matching details with scraps.
I love how the top turned out. I had enough security and didn't need to add extra support. I worn it so much on holiday.  Beach walks, sunbathing, swimming... It also matched with RTW bikinis I had. It was fun mixing up.
The bottom fitted well but I hated it. Let me share with you a not so secret little secret.  Most Brazilians hate dislike their swimsuits to be large on the backside, covering the whole bottom.  Even older Brazilian ladies would not be seen on those big pants.
It felt so alien to wear really... funny how cultural influences get ingrained on personal taste.  I didn't expect the pattern to come up that big until I tried on.

By than I was too tired, we where due to wake at 4 am for our flight (I finished midnight). Next time I plan to use one of my swimsuits bottoms to modify the pattern, creating a mid term between super sexy and full coverage.

Lucky my scrap details worked as an adjustable sliders and I kept making the bottom smaller. 
The solid fabric I used for the bottom wasn't as good quality as the print fabric making me feel worried when I dipped in the sea. Lucky nothing went wrong but I wasn't impressed by the bottom bikini and really want make a new one with my improvements.

I really wished I had taken my time and not sewn so tired as not all the stitching are as neat as I can make but I decided to cut myself some slack. Recently there are a lot of bloggers posting recent mess up and it's nice to hear things like that. No one perfect... It's all ok.

I'm glad I sewn swimwear again and had a bloody good time wearing my new bikini!

Overall I'm very impressed with the Mccall's pattern instructions and sizing (straight size 12). I will be totally using this pattern again.

This make is a real mix of lessons learned. Let's roll for next year swimwear trials.

Last year HRH was cross that I posted swimwear photos of myself. We forget how much exposure we face so I promised that if he took my pictures we could choose the ones to go online together. I think he done a great job taking them. He loves and support me, and is happy that I get so much satisfaction from my hobby but he is not a big fan of "blogging'. So he taking my photos was a huge progress. Ps: But I won't be retiring my tripod any time soon xx

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hello there!

Hi darlings,

I cannot thank you enough of all the time and love you send my way and I would love to take the opportunity to get to know you all a little better.
I would like to open the comment space for you to tell me about yourself. ANYTHING you want.

Your favourite pattern, your biggest sewing frustrations,  why do you enjoy reading blogs, what is the latest film you enjoyed...

You are more than welcome to add your blog so I can go and visit. Maybe others reading would love to come and meet you there too. If you don't blog, you can tell me your twitter/Ig, or even why blogging isn't for you.

love xx