Thursday, 30 January 2014

Sewing with leather: first attempt.

After two days of thinking, twenty minutes of drafting, one hour and one broken needle, I produced this bag.

I always knew I needed more sparkles in my life - hey, who doesn't need sparkles? So when I joined a blogger meet-up in London two weeks ago and saw these two sparkly pieces of leather in a shop, I bought them immediately.

If you are an animal rights activist, you can stop reading here! If, like me, you are interested to discover working with this material, read on!

This was the very first time for me to sew with leather and it was scary. But we all have to start somewhere!

Initially, the inspiration came from browsing online but then I started thinking about everything I like and need in a bag. Besides being pretty, I like big bags where I can carry many things: laptop, camera, Kindle, notebook, bottle of water or thermos with coffee, a pair of dancing shoes and many other little things.

After that, I looked at my old bag and evaluated its pros and cons, and I came up with a pattern. Basically, there are two rectangles, one of which has rounded edges. Since this was my first time sewing with leather, I realized that it would be more difficult to work the corners.

When I finished drafting my two rectangles, I also added 0.5cm of seam allowance as well as a strap.

From the leftover fabric, I made a little inside pocket for more things :) 
Once the pieces were cut, I sewed them together as if they were fabric, right sides together.

Different sources on the Internet suggested two methods of handling the seams: either by topstitching or, if you don't want the stitches to show on the outside, by gluing them. In my case, the 0.5cm seam allowances don't bother me at all, so I left them as they were.

When sewing straps, I folded each one twice lengthwise, creating three layers of leather (the final strap is 2cm in width). Since I made the bag, I've being carrying tons of heavy things including my laptop with charger, groceries and fabric (did I say fabric?) and the seams have not split.

Fancy stitching for the straps!
I am a bit concerned about the aesthetic look of the straps where they are attached to the bag. You can see from the photos that, at first, I stitched all the way along the strap and then, to attach each strap to the bag, I stitched rectangles . Do you know any other method to stitching straps to the bag!

Having made this bag, I'd like to share some points to consider when sewing with leather.
  • Do not use regular pins because they leave holes, but quilting pins
  • You can use regular polyester thread. 
  • Use a special leather needle. I wanted to disregard this advice myself, but ended up with a broken needle after 20 seconds. 
  • Sew with tracing paper on top of the leather to avoid the pieces from shifting. I made a few stitches without paper and had to rip the seam and re-stitch it again.
  • If you leather is very thin, you can iron it! I adjusted the heat of my iron to 'Wool' (low heat) and had absolutely no problem ironing my leather.
Besides that, have anyone of you worked with leather before? Are there more tricks and tips you can share to help me improve for the next project?

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Stripy Alpi Chinos or Choosing the right fabric for your sewing project

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Named Patterns who offered me to become a pattern tester for their new Spring/Summer collection. This time, my living conditions were more stable than when I sewed the Ninot jacket, and so I accepted.

Where I had difficulties this time with is that Saara and Laura, the founders of Named, sent me their entire catalogue,  from which I had to choose only one pattern. The task took me some time because I wanted to sew at least five garments but I ended up sewing the Alpi Chinos. I chose this pattern for a very practical reason: with most of my clothes still sitting in boxes, I was in desperate need of a pair of casual trousers.

The Alpi Chinos are low-waisted trousers fitted at the hips, with straight-cut legs: perfect for somebody who "lives in jeans" and leads an active lifestyle.

First of all, the pattern is beautifully drafted. The crotch and center back seams are long enough to hug the body and not fall down, even for a low-waisted pair :)

Named Patterns have made a number of major improvements for this new SS14 collection in response to direct user feedback, such as:

  • adding step-by-step technical drawings to all patterns
  • offering all sizes (from 32 to 46) when purchasing a pattern
  • lower prices than their previous collection

According to the size chart, I've cut the Alpi Chinos in a 40. The muslin fit well and I only made a few minor alterations at this stage of the process:

  • raised the crotch depth by 0.5cm 
  • removed 0.7cm from the back inseam
  • removed 0.5cm from the trousers' leg width

But having sewn the chinos from fashion fabric and worn them a few times, I realized that the fit was not great. From the pictures, you can clearly see that the trousers are bigger than my actual size and the reason for this is ... the wrong choice of fabric.

The instructions clearly suggest to use inelastic fabric such as cotton or linen. My fabric is cotton with 5% of elastane. From the moment the Alpi Chinos were ready to the day I took the pictures, I wore them on several occasions and they have expanded by one size.

Read and believe the instructions!
To summarize, I like this pattern a lot but I am extremely disappointed with myself for not trusting the instructions. I regret that I did not take a photo of the muslin to show you the difference in fit.

A mental note to myself: if I make another pair of the Alpi Chinos from stretch fabric, I would sew them in a size below, or I would use a fabric with 0% stretch.

Next week I will sew and blog about my second pair of Alpi Chinos, hopefully made from the right fabric and with a better fit!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Structured Bra Making class

Recently, I took a one-week course at the London College of Fashion: Structured Bra Making. I've been intrigued by lingerie-making for a long time but so far I've made only two bras. Sewing a bra represents a lot of meticulous work and precision which scares me away since I am not always good at paying attention to details.

In the beginning, I was tempted by the class which Stephanie took in London, but having researched other opportunities, I finally settled on the London College of Fashion because of its reputation for high standards of teaching and the duration of the course.

The course focused on cutting and constructing three types of bra: a darted wired bra, a padded wired bra and a non-wired lace bra. It did not include information about taking measurements and fitting.

The pattern we worked with was a size 34B which happened to be my size but only one of the three bras fits me perfectly: the darted bra. The other two need to be fitted due to the asymmetry of my cup sizes.

We also were provided with all the materials necessary for the three bras.

Darted wired bra
Padded wired bra
Non-wired lace bra
Overall, I was quite satisfied with the class. If, like me, you are at the beginning of your bra-making journey, this class is quite relevant. My only concern for the class was that, despite being advertised for intermediate/advance seamstresses, it included a couple of people who had never used a sewing machine or a rotary cutter before.

What really excited me about this course me was the chance to use industrial sewing machines. To make the bras, we used four different machines, each of them performing a single function: lockstitch stitching, zig-zag stitching, inserting channeling and making tucks. Later this year, I plan to purchase an industrial sewing machine and the course was a great training platform. It was not easy to control the machines: a slight touch to the pedal was like starting a rocket engine!

From the learning point of view, the biggest revelation for me was... stay tape! It had never crossed my mind that bras, like any other garments, require stay tape to prevent them from stretching! Silly billy! I also don't remember reading about it. Did you know about it?

One of the books recommended in the class was Bare Essentials: Bras: construction and pattern drafting for lingerie design. I could not recommend this book enough because it has EVERYTHING, starting from step-by-step sewing instructions and ending with pattern manipulation for a strapless bra!

The book also contains a basic bra pattern and offers pattern manipulation advice for all skill levels.

Previously praised by The Perfect Nose (why didn't I get the book back then), it deserves a place on your bookshelf, especially if you are into bra-making.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Royal blue Ninot jacket

It had been a while since I really sewed something, using both a machine and my hands. But finally, I present you the lovely Ninot jacket, pattern by Pauline Alice. Ta---daaaaa!

Almost two months ago I was approached my Pauline to become a pattern tester for the jacket. I really like Pauline's creations and was very excited about her new venture: Pauline Alice patterns! So I did not hesitate to accept the offer. I immediately bought a new sewing machine and fabric for the jacket, but then the things with my accommodation started to turn out not so well. This little drama affected my participation in the pattern testing and I missed the deadline. But I really wanted to finish the jacket!

I cut a size 38 and lengthened the hem by 10 cm. I also lengthened the sleeved by 3cm, but I should have added 2cm more, because my arms are very long. The step-by-step instructions to the pattern are very easy to follow and contain detailed technical drawings to show how to execute almost every step.

For this pattern, Pauline was inspired by '40s and '50s fashion. The jacket is fitted to make it more wearable daily, but it contains a back pleat, bound buttonholes and welt pockets to give it a special touch.

To be honest with you, I have never worn a coat of this style but I like wearing it and I think it can look pretty flattering on most figure types.

The only thing I disliked for this jacket was the fabric. I purchased it on MinervaCrafts and was very disappointed. Unlike the wool cashmere I worked with to make the Andy coat, this wool is very bulky and wrinkles very easily. If I make the Ninot jacket again, I would use a fabric which drapes better and is thinner than this one.

Since I cannot help using some couture techniques even for my everyday clothes, the making of this jacket took me a week, instead of the planned two days. Although I did not use a lot of techniques for this coat, I decided to go with a few. The jacket is fully underlined with silk organza;  I followed the instructions from Couture Sewing Techniques for the welts and bound buttonholes. 

When I wanted to have a photo shoot outdoors, the rain would not stop. But staying at home did not stop me from trying on my new Wellington boots. They match the colour of my new jacket!

My overall impression from the pattern was positive in terms of both quality of the garment and the instruction. I wish I had finished it earlier!