Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Japanese trousers

Hello! How is everyone enjoying October?
This month has gone by in a veritable whirlwind, with typically unpredictable British weather to boot. Torrential rain one moment, freezing cold evenings or bursts of bright sun the next, it's been best characterised by a rather flat grey light throughout. I've been too busy to go out into my garden for the past two months, and it's a jungle out there still! The jasmine and nasturtiums have gone mad; the fruit bushes have withered away; but I was surprised to see clusters of calendula and poppies still going strong so late into the year.

During a quiet moment this week, I finally managed to sew up these trousers, made from linen that's been hanging around since April. This is my second attempt at sewing a variation of the 'Z Trousers' from Stylish Dress Book: Clothing for Everyday Wear by Yoshiko Tsukiori. Alterations were adding a fly front, pockets, waistband and darts to what were essentially linen jogging bottoms.

I'd intended my first version (project link - to my old blog) to be cycle-friendly trousers. This was because at that point, all the trousers I owned were 1940s-style wide-legged ones, which weren't great on the bike. Sadly though, the cute details I'd included like the ankle vents and loose ankle cuffs turned out to be very cycle-unfriendly: my pedals frequently got caught in them. Also, linen isn't actually that great for cycling in the heat. Though extremely absorbent, it has no moisture-wicking properties so I often found myself dismounting with trousers that were still holding onto perspiration!

Other faults were the side-entry pockets, which frequently bagged out unattractively; and my failing to use interfacing at stress points. I was happy to be able to correct all this with the second pair: adding interfacing in the ankle cuffs, waistband and fly; and changing to sloping pockets cut into the waistband, with the pocket bags extending into the waist to hold them in place. Basically, treating the trousers more like tailored trousers despite the casual feel that they have.

Despite all these faults, my first pair of Z trousers were a firm favourite over the summer, and in fact became my go-to trousers to wear. They've actually become quite faded and worn, although the linen has reacted well to frequent washing, becoming extremely soft. I was pleased to finally be able to make a second pair, correcting some of my poor decision-making from the first pair. I like how the cut is practical but a  little bit quirky: I don't really see other women wearing this sort of thing. 

I thought that I was going to have difficulty in choosing a button, but in the end simplicity sufficed. A plain black fly button was all that was needed. The contrast in the horizontal bands is also pleasing.

I finished the insides beautifully: matching pocket and fly linings, a little overlocking where needed, and French seams everywhere else. I love French seams, they're definitely my go-to choice for a seam for the strength and neatness in one. It only works after you're confident in the fit, though.

The insides are completed by a seamstress-worthy hanging loop in a deliciously contrasting yellow.

My fly piece should really be narrower, but it's not the end of the world. I used this tutorial from Grainline Studios, which does one step in a slightly different order than I'm accustomed to. It's a good method. 

This pair of trousers is still somewhat imperfect. I added darts instead of gathers, and I think that the trouser front looks good; but there's something to be desired about the dart placement over the bum. My pattern placement is also not quite 100% there; but in person, the stripes are somewhat of an optical illusion, so I don't really mind.

It'd great to add another pair of comfortable linen trousers into the rotation, so that I can give the first pair a bit of a break! Until it gets really cold, these are fine to wear in the autumnal weather with a thin pair of thermal leggings layered underneath. 

Project details:
Japanese trousers
Modifications: Raising the rise; adding waist darts, pockets and a fly front
Fabric: stripe cotton/linen blend from Fabric House, Goldhawk Road
Cost: less than £10 for the striped fabric, everything else from my stash. 

What's your go-to pattern for loungewear that's worthy of leaving the house in?

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A red & aqua quilt


Wow, I really didn't mean to let this lapse for so long yet again. The last time I wrote, I was attempting to stay on the ball with August's month-long Instagram meme, #SewPhotoHOP. It was pretty hard to keep up though, as August marks the start of my annual costume summer job, when I'm sewing so much at work that I never make anything for myself. I spent the whole month doing alterations, re-decorations, and re-makes on all manner of costumes for a West End show. Combine that with starting a Masters degree, 5 family birthdays in 4 weeks, and flat hunting when we realised we had to move - well it's obvious that blogging has been pretty hard to fit into my agenda.

After collecting fabrics for my first quilt between 2013 and the beginning of 2015, I finished this project during a week's quiet between jobs at the end of July. I took photos at the beginning of September (when it was incessantly rainy, not much natural daylight, gah!) and finally now I'm blogging it.

Without further ado…My first quilt! 

I've wanted to make a quilt for years. Years! I'm sure that I've at least been entertaining the idea since I was 17. When I was 19, a family member asked me to make one as a wedding gift, which I obviously didn't do as I was a time- and cash-poor undergrad student. (Only now do I realise that this was a request bordering on unreasonable, given how time consuming and costly these things really are! Did she not realise?! I guess not.)

I could pour over quilting books for hours: there is so much potential for design. The fabric choices, the shapes you cut them into. Patterned or plain; dark, light, or mid-toned. Piecing in blocks, or making crazy patterns from geometry and patience. Being random, sketching in colour, or creating images and symbols. And then there's still the quilting process itself.

I knew that I wanted to make a big quilt. I'm not a fan of small lap blankets; they slide off your knees. I wanted something to get underneath. So as it was my first quilt, and I wanted it to cover a double bed, I decided to focus on either log cabin or half square triangle quilt patterns. That actually turned out to be pretty hard; did I mention how creative quilters are?? There was SO MUCH CHOICE of what I could do with these patterns! In the end, I fancied cutting out squares more than strips; so it was the half-square triangles. Finally, I decided to go against making a clever, well thought-out, planned pattern on the quilt. I knew that this was going to be a big project, and I didn't want to put myself off doing it by giving myself too hard a make.

So random it was! This meant that errors in piecing could be utilised creatively, within a mish-mash of tones. I tried to choose specific colours: postbox red, burgundy, sea foam green, jade, aqua, and cream. The fabrics in the quilt are also very random: alongside your predictable ditsy roses and 1970s-esque mini floral prints, there are lobsters and whales; 1950s kitschy animals; geometric shapes; and Japanese woodblock prints.

Then there's the quilt backing. I could have gone for white cotton…instead, I decided to stash bust this elephant print cotton lawn that I impulse-bought four metres of on Goldhawk Road and never made into a dress.

I wound up with a metre of delicious dusty aqua alphabet print uncut, so I used it for binding off the quilt. I love this edging, and of course that's the part that you look at the most when you're lying in bed! I adore the aqua with the grey and yellow elephants; so it's a nice option to have for reversing the quilt.

Only after making the quilt and looking at it from a distance did I seriously question my decision to use a bold print on every single piece. The quilt is extremely busy, to say the least. I'm almost looking forward to it fading a little, so that the eye can relax on it a bit more!

After making such a nutty quilt top, I knew that I would have to quilt it as simply as possible. I just ran down the square seams using the longest stitch on my sewing machine, and off-white thread. My piecing errors are very obvious on the underside: it's far from a perfect grid. But I love how it looks like a vintage eiderdown from this side; and the elephant fabric is so soft to lie beneath.

The quilt really is big! It hangs over the bed, which is great as your feet don't poke out the end of the blanket! I originally intended this to be used in the summer months, but it's proven a welcome layer on top of our duvet now that the nights are much colder. The project really was epic, and I was utterly relieved when I finally stitched the last stitch in it! I got a frozen shoulder with the effort of stuffing it under my domestic sewing machine to quilt it. I also cut my finger really badly whilst quilting, not just once but TWICE in the same spot! 

The fabrics used in the quilt were accumulated over several years. Several were from my stash, utilising small scraps that people gave me; and leftovers from projects.  Others were acquired on my travels around the UK, in small independent sewing shops in towns such as Londonderry, Aberdeen and Dunfermline. Some I bought from Goldhawk Road in London. And the lastly, many are from Ebay. Although the quilt batting is polyester, I only used natural fibres for the quilt top and backing. 

I have many scraps of these busy prints that I don't know what to do with! I contemplated pillowcases. I quickly decided that they would be a terrible idea, and that I should only ever put solids against this quilt.

At the time, I said to myself, "NEVER AGAIN!" But of course, now that a couple of months have passed since finishing it, I find myself having thoughts of making a clean quilt…a quiet quilt…a quilt with hardly any patterns on it…and only big enough for a single bed…