Thursday, 23 October 2014

Schnittchen Malu Jacket

I knew once summer was coming to an end that I needed to get to work on a new jacket - my old one only just made it through last autumn/winter, and I wanted to try to make a replacement so I started looking around for inspiration. I was almost set to make a winter version of the Anise jacket, but then within a couple of days of each other I spotted the Schnittchen Malu and some lovely coating fabric that I seemed like a brilliant match for the pattern, so I took it as a sign that they were meant to go together and here's the result...

The Malu is a fully-lined coat or jacket (I made the shorter jacket version) with kimono sleeves and welt pockets, and the options of either a collar or hood, and zip or buttons (obviously I went for the hood and buttons), so there are plenty of variations to choose from. 

The pattern is also designed to have hem bands, but when I made up my toile the extra length that the hem bands added made the jacket a bit of a strange length on me, so I left the hem bands off, which gave me a jacket just the length I wanted. 

As I was going to leave the hem bands off, sewing the rest of the pattern as drafted would have meant that the lining might have ended up visible around the hem, so I shortened the lining pieces slightly and drafted hem facings to make sure the lining stays hidden away.

I was surprised by how quickly the jacket came together, but then I realised that I'd been basing my expectations on my experience making my Anise jacket, whereas this is a much simpler pattern. The fit is quite relaxed, so there are no darts or princess seams. The kimono sleeves also mean that there are no sleeves to set in, and finally the lining is bagged and turned through a small hole in the arm seam, so there's not a lot of hand stitching involved (I do quite like a bit of hand stitching, but there's no denying that it does take longer!). I did take my time with the welt pockets to make sure that they turned out nicely, but then I managed to sew up almost all of the rest of the jacket on a Sunday afternoon (and it would have been even quicker if I hadn't had an incident with a broken needle colliding with my finger!).

The instructions were fairly easy to follow, although they are just written instructions without any diagrams to illustrate the steps which might not be great if you like to see things visually instead of doing lots of reading. There is a tutorial online with photos though, so that definitely helps (it's in German, but even if you didn't speak German I think it would be pretty easy to work out which photo goes with which step). 

I had the instructions in English and German, which was interesting for me because I work as a German-English translator so it gave my inner language geek and sewing nerd the opportunity to work together for a change! In general, the translation was fine and it all made sense, although there were odd little things like using "sewing allowance" instead of "seam allowance" which were a bit strange. That's me being a picky translator though, it probably wouldn't bother a normal person!

The fabric is a poly/viscose/wool blend coating from Guthrie & Ghani. I fell slightly in love with it as soon as I saw it online and it didn't disappoint in real life! It's a nice weight for autumn, and it's a lovely shade of blue (it's also actually reversible, and the blue flowers on a grey background look great too, if that's more your style), and I like the fact that the pattern makes it a bit different from normal coats. I thought it would be a good match for the Malu because the lack of darts and everything means that the flower pattern doesn't get broken up too much. 

I did attempt some pattern matching down the centre back seam, but that failed spectacularly - obviously my brain wasn't working properly when I was cutting out my fabric. I got a bit annoyed with myself when I realised it didn't match, but then I told myself that nobody who doesn't sew would ever even think twice about the fact that the pattern doesn't quite match down the back of my jacket so it doesn't matter too much. I succeeded in making sure the lines of flowers matched up across the front, so that's something at least!

For the lining, I used some "superior lining" from Truro Fabrics in silver. It's an acetate and polyamide mix, and it is a lot more expensive than a standard poly lining, but it's breathable, really soft and feels so much nicer so I definitely think it was worth the extra that I paid for it. I wouldn't necessarily start using it to line all of my garments - skirts that I've lined with normal poly lining have seemed fine to me, but I think it's worth paying that bit extra for more special (and hopefully long-lasting!) projects.

I wasn't sure what to do about pre-treating the coating fabric, but in the end I did what the Colette Anise Companion refers to as the "London shrink" - you wash a bed sheet and then lay out the damp sheet and roll the fabric up inside it, then leave it overnight, before unwrapping and leaving to dry completely. I'm not really sure if that's the right thing to do, but I feel better that I've pre-treated it in some way at least!

It took me a while to decide what buttons I wanted to use - I initially had it in my head that it would be good to use some self-cover buttons, but the print was the wrong size for that to work well, then I wanted matching blue, but eventually I found these grey ones in a local wool shop. I really like the fact that they're a bit different but without distracting from the main fabric, if that makes any sense?!

I don't think I'll be rushing to make another Malu, but that's mainly because I can't justify having multiple versions of the same coat in the same way that I can with dresses! As I mentioned before though, the Malu does have a couple of options to choose from so you could make versions that were a bit different. I'm kind of tempted to try an unlined version of the longer coat in fleece and use it more like a long cardigan than a coat, but it's just an idea that's floating around in my head at the moment - it may not go anywhere.

Overall, I'm really happy with how this turned out, and it's the perfect weight for this time of year. The Malu is a nice pattern, and I think it would be a good option to choose if you fancy having a go at making a coat or jacket, but aren't quite ready to commit to lots of tailoring or a more complicated pattern (as long as you're OK with the lack of diagrams in the instructions). Has anybody else been sewing a coat or jacket recently?

Friday, 17 October 2014

Mastering the art of intarsia: polka dot knitted cushion

Yay, it's the weekend! How's your week been? I've had a bit of an odd one involving masses of work, my washing machine nearly catching fire and getting part of my sewing machine needle stuck in my finger (still don't know quite how that happened, as you can imagine it was pretty painful at the time but nothing too serious and thankfully my machine, needles and hands have been getting on again nicely since then!), so I'm glad it's time for a couple of days off. This will probably be a fairly quick post, but I wanted to share my latest knitting project with you.

One of my aims for this year was to try out some sort of colour work in knitting. I've got a couple of Fair Isle and intarsia cardigan and jumper patterns that I want to knit, but I thought I'd start with something a bit more low key so I gave this cushion cover pattern a try. Knitting a cushion cover might seem like a lot of work when I could sew one in next to no time, but I thought it would be a good practice project because I wouldn't mind if the results were less than perfect, whereas if I made a slightly dodgy jumper or cardigan, I probably wouldn't wear it much so all the work would go to waste.

For anyone who isn't familiar with it, intarsia involves knitting one colour at a time, with separate mini balls of wool for each individual patch of colour, which are then twisted around each other to prevent holes where the colours join. I'm probably not explaining it very well, and it all sounded a bit scary to me before I tried it, but it's actually fairly easy to get used to. I'm glad I did use this as a practice project though, because you can definitely see my technique getting better as I went through the cushion. The spot above is one of the later ones that I knitted, and it's not perfect still as the tension's a bit off on the left-hand side, but it's not too bad and definitely better than the earlier spots.

If you're thinking of giving intarsia a go, I'd definitely recommend getting some bobbins for winding the individual yarn colours around (I used these). I started off just winding little "butterflies" of yarn but I found that they just got into a tangled mess. There was still a bit of tangling when I used the bobbins, but much less, and it was much easier to sort out.

The pattern is from a random knitting magazine I got a while ago that's just full of cushion patterns - it was part of one of those magazine series where the first one is 99p and you get loads of free stuff and then the others are all massively more expensive. This was the first one in the series and for 99p it was a pretty good deal!

It's a straightforward pattern - just one long rectangle in stocking stitch with the intarsia polka dots in the middle and 3 buttonholes at one end, then when you've finished knitting you just fold the rectangle back on itself and sew up the sides to make an envelope, then add the buttons. Simple!

So there we go, that's my cushion. It's by no means perfect, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. It's in its new home next to the rainbow crochet cushion I made last year, so I have a chair full of colourful yarny fun! I'm now getting started on one of my intarsia jumper patterns - hopefully I'll manage to get it finished in time to get a bit of wear out of it this winter. Has anyone else got any good winter knitting projects on the go?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Mortmain dress & an ode to chambray

I mentioned in my post about my denim Lilou that using the remains of my first Mortmain dress for the lining had reminded me that I should make another version of this pattern. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to be honest as I really like my first version and I had definite plans for making a sleeveless version this summer but they never quite became reality, but I've now got a second sleeved version at least - better late than never!

There are a couple of differences between this version and my first one. Firstly, I decided to reverse the pleats in the skirt - this is one of the suggestions included in the pattern instructions and there's also a really helpful tutorial on the Gather website if you're not familiar with sewing pleats. I'm pleased that I reversed the pleats on this one, in some ways it's a small change but I think it makes a surprisingly big difference to how the dress looks and, much though I like Mortmain no. 1, I think I prefer the pleats in this one.

I also used a regular centred zip this time instead of using an exposed zip as the pattern suggests. I quite like the exposed zip on my first version because it's a bit of a contrast with the extreme girliness of the rest of the dress, but as a general rule I'm not a massive fan of exposed zips. Plus, in places where I've seen them for sale anyway, they cost about five times as much as regular zips!

My first version uses ribbon ties on the sleeves, and I really do love this feature, but it's not massively practical for wearing under cardigans, so this time I used buttons on the sleeve cuffs instead. The pattern has instructions for adding a small elastic loop to one end of the cuff to secure the button, but I found that I had enough space in the cuff to sew in a buttonhole, and I thought that would be more secure, so that's what I did.

OK, so the material. It's a gorgeous dot chambray by Robert Kaufmann that I got from Dragonfly Fabrics and I LOVE it. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, if I had any poetic talent I might even be inclined to start writing sonnets about it, that's how much I love it. The only thing I don't love about it is that it seems to be some kind of shy wallflower and doesn't want to show off how lovely it is to you because it doesn't photograph brilliantly so you might not appreciate it in all its glory, but trust me that the glory is there. I do love spots and dots, so that definitely helps, but aside from that the colour is gorgeous, it was lovely to sew and it feels so nice to wear. I'm seriously tempted to get some of the indigo for another dress. And as a bonus, the material came so beautifully wrapped that it felt like Christmas had come early!

Sorry if I sound like I'm going a bit over the top there, I possibly may be getting a bit carried away with myself, but it really is lovely fabric. I've also become aware recently that the difference between me just liking a finished garment or really loving it tends to be the fabric that I've used, and not so much the obvious aspects like the colour or the print, but the the quality of the fabric, the way it sews up and how it feels to wear. Does anyone else find that? It's not a particularly earth-shattering realisation, and probably one that that I have been a bit slow to arrive at, but I'm glad I got there all the same.

On a not-particularly-related subject, the photos for this post were taken in the grounds of the American Museum in Bath. My Mum and I popped over there last Saturday mainly because they have a Kaffe Fassett exhibition on at the moment, which was so inspiring. It's on until 2 November, so if you're in the area and you're a fan of colour I'd definitely recommend it. The only problem was that I came away from it wanting to buy huge amounts of rainbow-coloured material and yarn to make massive quilts and blankets to brighten up my flat (which is rented, therefore entirely painted in magnolia). I'd always been intimidated about quilting, and not really sure if I wanted to give it a go, but after seeing some of his work, I definitely feel like I should try it some time. I'm still slightly intimidated by the idea though! Any tips on how to get started?

Even once the Kaffe Fassett exhibition is over, the museum would still be worth a visit if you're interested in quilting at all, because they have a lovely collection of quilts and textiles. Plus, as you can see from these photos, the grounds are beautiful. Although I don't think there'll always be yarn-bombed lampposts to greet you, I think they're in honour of the exhibition!

To cut a long story short, I love this dress and I had a great day wearing it for its first outing. I still really like the idea of a colour-blocked Mortmain, so number 3 may be appearing at some point this autumn/winter. And there will probably have to be some more dot chambray in my life - it's OK to use the same fabric multiple times, isn't it?!