Yet another Named make: the Andy Coat

Yes, it’s official.  This is the fourth Named pattern that I have made & I think that makes me a Named Groupie!  Before I even consider my next purchase let’s talk about the Andy Coat, since this is what this post is all about.

Andy coat

The Andy coat is one of those patterns that grew on me the more I looked at it.  Having made the extravaganza of the Lolita Patterns Spearmint Coat, with ric rac which has become my “occasions” coat, I recognised the need for more of an every day coat, and since I was often drawn to gazing at the Named website for long stretches of time, the ability of the Andy coat to fit my lifestyle requirements became clear.

I knew that I would not wear it without the belt, but with the belt it was cute.  I hadn’t appreciated the desirability of a collarless coat at first- but apart from the advantages in not having to sew a collar there was all sorts of scarf wearing potential, and I also meant to make a detachable collar in fur (yes, fake fur!) that would also glam it up a bit.  I haven’t done that yet however, since every time I wear this coat I LOVE pulling a scarf out of my proverbial sleeve (you know, like a magician) & wrapping it around my scrawny neck all chic & elegant-like.  I almost feel like I’ve stepped into the 60s with neck scarf & leather gloves & the belted waist.

andy coat 1

So shall I tell more about the make & start by introducing the raw materials?  The fabric, the fabric!  I bought this a couple of years ago from a local fabric shop  with the specific intention of making it into a winter coat.  It was *one of those fabrics* that felt too good to use though & was kept protected from moths sealed up in a plastic bag in the drawer.  But then the Andy Coat woke me up & the fabric was released.  Whilst it is sooo gorgeous with its lovely mini checking & evocations of vintage granny coats, it was a b*gger to cut.  I cut each piece on the single thickness fabric trying to get alignment across the horizontals. I had thought about the vertical placement too, but thankfully this coat had no particular perpendicular challenges (feel like there should be a Peter Piper in that sentence!).  I attempted to match the shoulder seam verticals, which is passable.

andy coat

Why this check was super hard to match, both cutting & sewing was a. due to its scale & b. due to the difference between front & back.  It’s quite a loose weave & trying to follow the same horizontal when it looks different on both sides of the fabric was tricky – but not impossible.  I found the best way to speed up on this was to always use the same horizontal in the pattern as the stripe that I would match- that way I became familiar with what it looked like on the front & what it looked like from reverse.

andy coatStripe matching

But I tried really hard to get this perfect – this fabric was after all one of my sacred fabrics & I had to honour it.  You know every time I sew one of my “sacred fabrics” I take much more care & attention which makes me think that I should buy more expensive fabric to ensure that I sew at my best.  OK, I’d have less to sew, but maybe the discipline would be habit forming?

To complement the granny chic fabric I had bought some nice satin lining a while ago in Birmingham’s Rag Market in teal.  Not much more to say about it than that!  If I have a preference for lining I do like a nice shiny finish- all lovely & sleek to put your arms into.

Andy coatNo belt is a no no!

So the sewing – I made this in some unneeded fabric (yes, I made a toile).   I found I did need to take a small wedge, as is usual for me, out of the upper chest/ neck edge.  So that made the toile worthwhile.  I did not bother with roadtesting the pockets in the toile – I just made a complete coat with sleeves to check on the pattern fit.  If I was worried, I would have also used it to practise the welt pockets on, but I felt brazen!  I would sew welt pockets on the real McCoy & not before!

All the prep for this coat seemed to take longer because I accidentally bought sew in interfacing which meant basting it to every piece.  Yawn.  *Top tip*  I found out that due to the nature of the fabric, its loos-ish weave – I overlocked all the edges of each coat piece (before sewing) to avoid fraying even though it was lined.  Why not use the overlocking to attach sew in interfacing instead of basting?  (I also overlocked the lining edges too as lining is mad for fray).

Andy coat

I also felt it took a long time to progress into making the actual coat because I opted to make bound buttonholes.  You heard – bound buttonholes.  And yes, it was my choice – the pattern lets you off the hook & allows you to make keyhole buttonholes using your machine.

Bound buttonholesNinja buttonholes- just where are they?

I have to say I am extremely proud of my buttonholes.  All seven of them.   In fact I was so satisfied with cracking these babies that it felt wrong even thought there really was no smugness involved.  Do you delight in getting something so precise & technical right?  And what about to the power of 7?  All thanks, again, to Karen’s E-book.  I feel almost familiar enough with the process not to look anymore – but I know I will forget & need reminding each time I revisit bound buttonholes, because let’s face it, I am not going to be making coats & jackets every month now am I?

andy coat pocket

What about the pockets?  Welt pockets too!  I felt that these could not be as complex as bound buttonholes but that they might carry some of the same rationale & approach.  I had made some before on my cardigan, but that was a long time back & they were also a slightly different layout.  These welt pockets are on the tilt.  I used elephant fabric as my pocket bags to make them more durable than using satin lining.  But having finished them, you can’t see the pocket bag fabric.  My secret elephants.  A less than secret fabric confession is shown by my facings.  Are you ready?  Ok folks, I just did not know which side of the fabric I liked best to use as the *right side* & left it to chance after cutting my fronts.  Because this is not a symmetrical pattern, there is a definite left front & right front.  Cutting the front pieces determined which way up was the right way up  & I followed this for the rest of the cutting out.  A kind of game of chance, because I did not spend the time working it through before cutting the fronts.  But I still really liked the other side of the fabric so cut the facings so that they would be “wrong side” out.  So there you see, the very obvious confession, for the lifetime of this jacket!

andy coat

Once the bound buttonholes & the pockets had been completed the rest of the sew could speed up.  The coat has a centre back seam which provides some good shaping & the rest of the sew was as you’d expect.

andy coat

I think you’d have to feel reasonably confident at making a lined garment to make this pattern as the instructions are adequate, but expect you to know what you are doing.   I followed the general principles for bagging the lining & sewing as much by machine as possible by digging out the Spearmint coat instructions as they are extremely comprehensive & I like it that you use the lining sleeve as the location for turning the coat right way out as opposed to the hem.  Lolita patterns has been hosting a sewalong for the Spearmint coat – it would be a good place to get some tips!

andy coat

I made this jacket is a tad shorter than the original pattern, but it is a good length on me.  There are no belt loops to my relief – I find locating your true waist for belt loops quite stressful so am happy that this belt is a floater & that works for me.  Can you tell that there are shoulder pads?  They are not monstrous & give the right amount of structure.

buttons

Finally look at the buttons.  For some reason the tan/ horn was the only colour I could conceive.  In fact originally I was looking to use piping with this fabric (before I changed course & went Andy coat) & the piping would have been a similar tan in fake leather.  I don’t know if it’s overkill but I bought a second set of buttons to use on the facing side to give extra durability to the buttons (like they do on RTW).  And I sewed the buttons on with a match in between the button & the coat to provide a long enough shank for the button to sit on top of all of those thicknesses.  Goodness knows where that gem of ancient sewing wisdom came from, maybe while I was still being carried as a baby as my Mum sewed herself a coat?

andy coatWhy hello !

Anyway.  I am loving my jacket.  As always a garment that can be worn for work & play is a winner for me.  I have worn this multiple occasions to work now & at the weekend just gone took it with me as my weekend away jacket for it to get some sea views.  It looks equally happy (as long as it is belted up) with a sharp skirt for work as it does with my Jamie jeans.  That is one big wardrobe gap I have finally filled.  Hurrah for my jacket!  (I do need a Minoru though….but will I get round to making it this Spring?  Too may other things on my list?  )

And as for my next Named make…the choice!  I have already bought the Laurie Striped Tee though…

My favorite run

A bit of a picture heavy post here, just to get you through Tuesday!

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I’ve been trying to get my running mojo back, and feel like I’m making progress again, but for whatever reason it’s been hard. So what better way to build a running habit back than by running somewhere that you love?

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I adore running by the sea and am lucky that my parents live in Cornwall just a short incline ( 5 mins run) away from the deep blue. They know that part of my visit with them always involves me leaving them at home for an hour or so to get a huge dose of ozone and views ( ok and hills too! It’s not all good!!)

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The trouble with running by the sea and such stunning scenery, and the ever moving landscape amongst the waves….is that I am compelled to stop and soak it up!

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All these pictures were individual stops along a single run. So not so much of a single run really!
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I love how you are at one point of the coastline and you can see across the bay where you will be ending up- all by the power of your running. I like snaking around the coastal paths following the headlands, although at this time of year I kept out of the muddier trails.

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This is the ‘hewars’ ‘ hut- a look out for the shoals of pilchards coming into the bay. It’s a noticeable landmark on the headland and looks such a distance away to get to, but it’s funny how the distance of a view isn’t as far as you ever think it is.

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And here’s where I took a bit more time to watch the waves. All of the beaches suffered at the force of the recent storms and some of this beach’s dunes have been disintegrated. I love running along this beach when it is drier, but this time kept to the path above. I think I recognised the excuse to go for the easier option – running on sand is more effort after all. And besides, most coastal runs are undulating at the very least.

I love having this run ( and others going the other direction along the coast) as part of my sea fix when I get to see my folks. I love the running of it then get to reap the benefits for hours after with all that good healthy stuff circulating round my body. Plus a feeling of supreme virtue with a shiny exercise halo! It’s got to be good when a form of exercise gives you so much pleasure, yes? And it’s certainly going to help get that mojo back ( and the hills are strength building!) It also allows for some decent cake eating- my Mum is a great baker, and this weekend’s cake was a magnificent sticky ginger cake which was gooey and tasty and really naughty ;-)

I should Coco

Folks I present to you my version of Tilly’s dreamchild, Coco.  I did not want to hold back from making it, & downloaded my very own version as soon as it was released, but sewing priorities meant I had to wait ….until…..last week.

coco top

The funnel neck lured me and is suitably alluring.  I had some incredible sky blue Merino jersey that the wonderful Mrs C had sent across to me all the way from New Zealand that had been waiting to be made into a cardigan.  It had waited a while though, partly because I wanted to get it right & honour the gorgeous fabric with a worthy make (my last green cardigan was a bit of a disappointment).

coco

So inspiration kicked in & Coco became Merino, or Merino became Coco.  I just knew that it would be a match made in heaven.    I knew that I would get a lot of use from it & that it’s turning out well was more of a safe bet than a cardigan.

coco top(Oh yes, another classy photo composition.  Just me & the composter)

Once that decision was made I have to say it was a very quick & delightful sewing experience.  I used my lunch hour to sew most of it whilst working at home.  The hems were finished off later that same day.  Bam.  Coco forever.

coco top

I am so not sorry that I used my Merino.  It is a perfect match & ideal spring wear.  I have many more Cocos in my imagination too.

coco top

You see I have always had a Breton shirt in my cupboard ever since I ordered one mailorder from a Sunday supplement when I was 17.  It is one of the few non-me made tops I still wear & I am so looking forward to rectifying that!  And I seem to have timed this just right for the Coco party.  Now how did I manage that?

My Coco party jukebox track is going to be “Too Many Fish in the Sea” by the Marvelletes.

Looking forward to seeing plenty of other inspiration as this Coco will run & run I think :-)

Big Spring Contest: First Frock of Spring finalist

First of all a big thank you to everyone who sent me their “First Frock of Spring” design for the Big Spring Contest.  I received 19 awesome designs – all of which I would have loved to have seen made up.  There were all sorts of wonderful using a whole range of fabrics & classically simple as well as more ornate.

I have to tell you people that being a judge is not actually all it’s cracked up to be.  The pressure!  The responsibility!  Sooo many lovely ideas & designs.  I hummed & haaed for hours let me tell you.  I tried to judge fairly & my criteria were:

  • How much did the design showcase the fabric?
  • How “Springy” was the frock?
  • Points for originality.

Even then it was a tough one.  Good job I left the whole evening aside to complete this very difficult task – I picked one winner with two “highly commended”& I tried to wheedle in more “winners” in my email to Offset Warehouse, but rules is rules!  You are all winners in my eyes, contestants!  Thank you again.  So who is the winner of “First Frock of Spring”?  Which design will be created & pitted against the three finalists for the other categories?

Well done Marilla with your design cleverly using the striped fabric. I was entranced by this design and cannot wait to see it sewn up and modelled.

Marilla says, My first frock of Spring would be this 1950’s inspired dress. I would cut the Pink & White Organic Stripe Chambray in different directions of the grain to emphasise the detail and style lines. Very springy and swingy!

 

The pattern is a free download from the V&A - http://www.vam.ac.uk/vastatic/microsites/1486_couture/create.php

You can see the other three finalists on Offset Warehouse’s Facebook page.  A list of highly commended submissions will also be on there in the next few days – and you might be on it – so please do keep an eye out!  And finally, don’t forget to VOTE for Marilla (or one of the other three finalists) from the 9th April!!  The judging will be open to public votes on Offset Warehouse’s Facebook page, and we want her to win!  I shall remind you when voting is open :-)

PB Jam Leggings (capri length) with a hint of cheetah

I’ve been promising you these for a while now, haven’t I?  The PB Jam Leggings by Fehr Trade.  I was lucky enough to be involved as a tester & have been timing this blog post to fall outside the initial flurry of excitement when the pattern was released in case any of you have forgotten to go & get it !  You see they are an awesome design & I love them!

pb jam leggings(OK, so next door have a patio with a lovely large table …..)

My first pair are not worth showing due to poor fabric choice on my part (I chose fabric that was far too flimsy for being worn as running leggings.  Maybe as an extra layer in normal use under a skirt, but not for wearing outdoors with nothing to protect others’ eyes against my really visible panty line ! Classy!  )  This pair of PB Jam leggings are made using a magenta wicking fabric from the Sewing Chest which is rather lovely against the skin & has a lovely amount of stretch.  The leopard swishes are just any old lycra – not a technical fabric.  Well I say “any old lycra”  but in truth it just happens to be the same lycra as I made my XYT workout top in – so I now have a coordinating set of running togs that are flaunting more than a hint of cheetah.  Maybe the cheetah will rub off into my psyche & I shall run with grace and break my personal land speed records.    OR kick the pants off some bad dude who is thwarting justice?

(Source)

Anyway, I had tested the pattern using the not-to-be-shown flimsy fabric & so had a grasp of how it all fitted together, along with any adjustments for fit.  I knew that making them shorter as capri length would suit me & the time of year I would be wearing them in, so I just shortened the PB Jams to that they stopped at the end of the back knee contrast – I didn’t cut out the lower back leg piece below this.  I shortened the front lower leg using the knee notches for measuring & comparing against – hem at the bottom of the back knee piece was several inches underneath the knee notch – I made sure the front lower leg’s new hemline was the same distance below its knee notch.

pb jam leggings( & the remains of a clematis which we know will resurrect itself)

As with other Fehr Trade patterns (ie the XYT Top) the instructions are well illustrated & guide you through the construction which just looks more complicated than it actually is.  I mean these leggings are a wondrous jigsaw & the pieces really do fit together !  It’s amazing!  The only step I would urge taking extra care with is transferring notches & matching notches with the swirls to make sure you get them set in the legs the right way up.  I have made that mistake – it’s easily done!

pb jam leggings

I haven’t taken photos to show you, but you do know that there is a canny pocket secreted inside the upper back of the PB Jams that is cleverly constructed don’t you? & just the right size for a phone, or some keys & a gel or two.

pb jam leggings(More of a nose next door – I know you are curious)

So what do you think?  I haven’t actually worn my “lycra suit” out as a pair in public.  I am not really into matchy matchy plus it has not been warm enough yet.  I also think it looks a bit more “Olivia Newton John” than I can pull off.  But guys, I think you’re worth the whole pose.

pb jam leggings

And  in front of the gap in next door’s fence?  I did that for you too.  I had considered drawing some funny stuff on the photo so that there was a rare view of the hanging gardens of Babylon , but in the end my photo editing skills would be far too basic & would look like something a 4 year old could do better at.

pb jam leggings

Anyway, back to the PB Jams.  They have been worn & work well.  OK, so the cheetah legs have not materialised just yet but I am sure it is a matter of time.  You can get them right now as a download!  And you should see other versions that are springing up- clever use of fabrics.  I am planning to make a pair out of the same coloured fabric but use my overlocker’s rolled hem to create faux piping along the swirly seams.  They’d look a bit special I think.

 

Last few days to enter The Big Spring Contest

Hi all!

I’ve been receiving some lovely entries to the First Frock of Spring for the Big Spring Contest, but this is a reminder that you’ve still a few days to enter before Sunday’s deadline.

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Even as we have been running this contest, more fabrics have been coming into Offset Warehouse (eg some fantastic chambrays & denims for your delight!)

And there are more prizes being added.  Take this for example:

Po-Zu

Eco footwear brand, Po-Zu, are giving a £50 voucher towards a pair of their amazing shoes, boots or sandals!

 

 

Check out their range on their website www.po-zu.com and keep a look out for their spring summer collection which they will be launching in the next couple of weeks

The Good Wardrobe

Sew It Forward is a frock-friendly initiative from The Good Wardrobe that encourages people to share their sewing, knitting and mending skills. You could be the lucky winner of a Sew It Forward Knitting gift set which includes a Sew It Forward gift voucher, Rowan yarn, knitting needles and Rowan pattern book in a gift bag.
In the spirit of the initiative, this prize is an ideal present to share with someone else: The “Sew It Forward” voucher doesn’t have a monetary value, but is a lovely way for you to give the promise of your time and skills to a loved one, and the yarn, needles and book provide all you need to fulfil a knitting “share”. (Or you could just keep the Rowan knitting goodies all for yourself!).

Tempted?  Remember there are four categories that you can enter (find them on the original post here).  And you have until the end of Sunday 16th March.  Some come on!   Looking forward to receiving more “First Frocks of Spring” to brighten my day & herald the turn of the seasons…lighter evenings, daffodils, birdsong, sunshine ……….sigh

BLOGGER ScruffyBadgerWEB

Minerva Make: Named Tyler Shirt in retro lawn

This month’s Minerva Blogging Network make is a style-me-up or style-me-down collared shirt using the most wonderful “retro” cotton lawn .  The pattern to me looks a bit Orla Kierly – it’s a veritable topsy turvey forest of cute trees on a black (or almost black) background.

tyler Shirt

I love the feeling that wearing a crisp & soft shirt brings & I like making shirts.  I like the precision needed to construct them, but it’s a precision that is not overbearing.  I can make a shirt in a day, easily.  And I am on a promise to make my sons shirts – no excuse now – this make counts as flexing my shirt-making muscles.  I *shall* be taking them both a Mum-made shirt when I next see them in May – it’s a promise.

tyler shirt

I have used the Tyler pattern by Indie design pattern company, Named.  (Gosh I am turning into a Named fangirl aren’t I?  Looking back over my recent makes you’d think I had some kind of style crush.  OK.  I have.  )  But back to the Tyler Shirt- I was intrigued by the raglan sleeves.  I mean we all love raglan sleeves, right, because they are so much easier to set in.  And the usual  place to find raglan sleeves tends to be t-shirts and some dresses.  But how do raglan sleeves and a collared shirt work together?  I needed to see for myself.

tyler shirt

I was not sure how much of the raglan sleeve lines would be lost in the fabric’s pattern, but actually wasn’t that concerned.  This blouse was ultimately about the fabric, the shirt pattern I chose was an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity.

tyler shirt

So how did the raglan sleeves work out then?  The sleeves have two seams- one underneath & one along the top from neck to top of your wrist.  They are much easier to insert than the traditional sleeve with a gathered or eased sleeve cap.  Fit-wise I think the pattern has been drafted with more rounding on top of the shoulder than I need & in general I feel there’s just a smidge too much fabric in the upper back/ neck that I would take out next time (because I did not make a test garment I’m afraid to say!)  Looking at the way it sits on Barbarella, you would think there is something a bit *different* about the fit across the shoulders/ upper back – so next time I would go in & tweak that a bit.  But equally next time, it would be really cool to highlight the raglan sleeves & the lines created in the fabric you choose – you could use different fabrics / lace sleeves or just a sheer chiffon.  It would look really stunning.tyler shirt

 

As well as the raglan sleeves, it’s a fitted style with bust darts, waist shaping and a centre back seam for added shaping.  The collar is cute & small.  If you are sewing collars you might like to check this tip out for getting a nice sharp point.  I used it this time & it is genius!

tyler shirt

 In terms of sewing challenges, the trickiest part would be the sleeve/cuff placket, but if I said that it’s not as scary as you think it’s going to be, maybe you’d give it a go?  I for one accidentally missed the tracing of the sleeve placket from the pattern so instead sewed a continuous lap using a 1.5” wide length of fabric & the instructions from my Dressmakers’ Techniques Bible.  Sewing a continuous lap is easier I think than a placket.    The centre button stand is made my favourite way – using just one facing per front.  The facing (which becomes the button stand) is sewn facing right side to shirt front wrong side, & then flipped to the front & edge stitched down.  So neat.

tyler shirt

I’ve chosen little jet effect faceted buttons & they have worked really well with this fabric I think.  It’s sometimes difficult to choose buttons online, without seeing them & without your fabric in front of you & I reckon I got it right this time!

So far I’ve worn this with my Vogue baggy trousers – Interestingly enough – I see that Nicole made the trousers I’m wearing as her Minerva make this month too!

Tyler shirt Jamie JeansBut it’s great left hanging out with my Jamie jeans as well as wearing it with a cute simple black skirt for work.   And now you know why I needed to make the *plain black skirt*.

Tyler shirtButtoned up with an organza bow.

Tyler shirt Meringue skirt

With my new (not-so-plain) Meringue skirt is a perfect work outfit.

It’s going to be very versatile ! Even the spook in me thinks so …

tyler shirt ghost

If you fancy making a shirt, it doesn’t have to be this pattern, here’s a link to the kit which includes enough fabric, thread & the sweet jet buttons. Enjoy!!

Not such a plain black skirt: Colette Meringue skirt with extras

I’ve not had a plain black skirt for years & have managed along quite happily without feeling the need.  But then you’ll see soon that I’ve made another shirt which got me thinking differently.   And when you see the shirt (later this week, I promise) you’ll understand.

meringue skirt

A little black skirt can be soooo versatile, can’t it?  Easy to pair up with a blouse or sweater of most colours (& I know that Susannah & Trinny would tell you otherwise & not to wear colour with black, but I happen to like wearing all sorts of colours with black myself…blues, reds, cream – is that a colour?) So, an urge was born.

meringue

The idea of a black skirt grew, & I knew that I had a suitable piece of fabric residing in my stash bought from the Birmingham Rag Market a while ago.  This fabric was originally bought for some Clovers as it has some stretch in it, but it has the most gorgeous drape, even if I have no idea what its composition is.  The important thing is that it feels nice & not too polyester – ridden.

meringueWould you like to know what the grey dots are on the wall to my right?  Well….they are the result of us being *really bad* at darts!

My little black skirt though was not going to be *just a pencil skirt*.  If I was to make a plain black skirt, the design of the skirt had to give back a bit of detail.  It was either going to be a Charlotte (but not enough fabric for the ruffle) or the delightful Meringue skirt in the Colette Patterns Handbook.  I have lived in my pinstriped meringue & love it.

meringue skirt

I decided that I should make it again, in plain black, with polka dot lining & a waistband again (I like waistbands, although the Meringue pattern is drafted with a faced waistline).  I learnt a lot about how to line my first Meringue skirt  through trial & error,lining the full skirt right down to the scalloped hem (read about it here) & acknowledged that this is not the best way to line the Meringue skirt.     This time I would keep the lining free from the hem & use the pattern facing.

meringue skirt

OK, the plan was hatched.  Just one more detail occurred to me: velvet ric rac.  Oh yes!  Another way to bring some pizazz into a plain black skirt.  I would add velvet ric rac to the waist seam as if it was piping: an echo of the scallops below but in smaller form.

meringue skirtCheck out the almost polka dot button! Scoop!

So it all went without a hitch.  I followed Lladybird’s invisible zipper method which has an added safety measure of marking stitching end points both sides of your zip to get balance (genius).  Now that worked even better for me, & it will be a sure new technique added to my sewing armory now.  Thank you Lauren :-)

meringue skirt

How it’s possible to make a plain black skirt, not plain.

meringue (2)Happiness is ….turquoise shoes.  I’m telling you, it was confirmation that the Spring is coming getting these babies on!

Overlocking / serger tips: finishing your seams

Something for the weekend! I’m so thrilled that some of you found my last tip on unpicking overlocker seams useful, but let’s hope that you don’t have to use it too often!!
Today I’ve collected three ways to finish overlocker seams, but this is by no means definitive! These are just the three that I am aware of…

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So the first method must be the most common way to finish serged hems: using a large needle (? Darning needle?) with a large eye to darn your chain back into the seam. It’s quick, effective and easy. But tedious don’t you think? All those hanging chains left after such a quick pass through the overlocker and you’ve got two ends to darn back in for every seam you sew ( or do you see thoughts later)

So another method I’m aware of ( but don’t practice) is to use fray check.

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Now Fray Check is a glue type stuff – thin and solventy. You can tie your chain as close to the seam as you can get. ( use a pin, needle in the middle of your knot as you tie it to position it close). Snip the ends then apply Fray Check.

The third approach requires some familiarity with your overlocker and a degree of comfort using it. You need to meet your ‘stitch fingers’. They are fiendishly difficult to photograph so I have taken off my machine’s foot to get in there for a peep.

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Ok. If you can ( squint through one eye if it helps) look at what’s in the circle. The stitch fingers are the two prongs, really thin, and about 1cm long. Now I am not au fait with the engineering and mechanics of sewing machines and reckon that sewing machines create stitches with a number of threads by *magic*. But I have worked out that the overlocker uses the stitch fingers as part of its magic to wrap the two, three or four threads around that then creates the chain which when around fabric becomes the miracle of the wonderfully secure, bound and neat set of serged stitching.

Ok, so you have now been introduced to the stitch fingers. These guys stay very close to your fabric when you are sewing. Remember that. And now let’s see how this knowledge is useful for finishing the start of your seam.

Get your seam ready to sew with your overlocker and sew very slowly until the needles take their first real stitch into your fabric. Use the hand wheel if you want and leave the needles down in the fabric.

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Lift your foot up and grab the chain at the beginning of the seam. Give the chain a little tug backwards to remove it from the stitch fingers, then bring it forward, in front and underneath the foot. You want the chain to be taught so that there is not any excess hanging around at the beginning of your seam.

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Lower your foot and sew the seam, and you will nicely finish the end in your seam. No darning! Kaboom!
So what about the other end of the seam? Well, ok. It’s got a different technique. Overlock your seam until you get close to the end.

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As soon as you reach the end of your seam stop and raise your foot, I’ve left my needles down.

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Ok, grasp your garment and pull it backwards off the stitch fingers. You want to create a small amount of slack in the threads to do this, but not too much otherwise you’ll end up with a whole load of thread spaghetti and it won’t look neat.

Flip the garment over so that the seam you’ve just sewn is on the right hand side and carefully slide this upside down seam underneath the foot of your machine and butt (?) the edge inside the cutting knife ( we don’t want or need to cut any more of this seam) and position it so that you can sew over your original seam, starting at the original seam’s end ( which is now the beginning!). If that sounds complicated it’s just words. All we are trying to do is to oversew – retrace our steps over the original seam.

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Over sew then, the flipped over side of this seam for a couple of centimetres then veer off to the right to end. Then snip. All done.

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Try it and see?

So what do I actually use most when I’m overlocking? I use a mixture of the first and the third method. I am trying to form a habit to use the third method more as it is the neatest and less faff ( and machine always wins over hand for me). But with the third method you’ll find that the neatness of your finish depends upon how snugly the loose chain is brought back into your finishing- too much excess and as I said above it becomes a spaghetti of birds’ nests.

And here’s the thing. Think about when you are sewing your garment using an overlocker. You do not have to finish every seam. Depending about the order of construction there are seams that you can just leave the chain hanging because that chain will get captured and finished off as it is incorporated into other seams. Eg think of a simple tee shirt.
Leave the chains on the Shoulder seams as both ends will be finished with either a sleeve or the neck band/ facing. Side seams now – depends on what the hem finish is going to be. If a hem band like the Renfrew, then the chain can hang, because there are other pieces to attach and capture those chain ends. If though you will be making a turned up and stitched hem, you need to finish the chains.

But why finish two when you can get away with one plus make it easier to hem? Want to hear another of my cheats? For any folded hem that I need to make on knits I tend to overlock the hem edge, thereby clearing off all of the dangly chains ( even more useful if you’ve made something with a number of different panels as it means even less darning in!). Once I’ve overlocked the hem edge I just have one chain to finish. But overlocking the hem also helps as you can make sure your seam allowances are set towards the back at this stage and also, the stitching sometimes provides a bit more structure for turning your hem. There might be reasons not to do it this way, but so far it’s suited me fine.

So any more finishing methods that anyone else uses? I’m interested to try more!

Home run: the Bath Half

I know I’ve been a bit quiet about *the running* since the marathon last October. So it’s time for a check in with yet more words of a pootling badger’s introspection and observations after my latest race, the Bath Half marathon.
I have run this race for the last 5 years now, it was my first ever half marathon and what started me on this ‘ I quite like running longer distances’ lark. I’ve counted my medals and I seem to have run 9 half marathons now! Wow, how did that happen?!?

2014 Bath Half Marathon  BHAK2913  Marathon Photos - Mozilla Firefox 06032014 095154.bmpI have begun to love the Bath Half route. Not only for the fondness I have of my home race  (so convenient!! And so many friends out along the route and in the race!) but I have begun to enjoy its two laps, it is now a known quantity- I know what comes after the undulations, that I can tell myself, ‘just get past this small up and then there’s a downslope to recover’. I know where the challenges are and where to assign the *emergency tunes* on my playlist. I love the drums at Queens Square, the student houses along the route pumping out their own pumping tunes through wide open windows or speakers brought out into front gardens. The wild crazy crowd cheering by Sainsburys. The awesome start – downhill for the first mile when all you can see before you is a wide regency tree-lined road filled with runners and the sound of a million footfall.   And the final straight along the grandeur & cheering crowds in Great Pulteney Street.  Yes, this is my home run.

To say that my training didn’t quite fire on all cylinders this year is the truth of the matter. I had wanted ( after last year’s glory) to shave another few minutes off my pb, but various factors affected my training which I won’t dwell on as they will sound like excuses which I could have overcome had I thought it was important enough.  (Clearly I didn’t!!)  So when I realised that my running form was not that of a pb I knew I needed to review my race goal. I decided that I would be happy to get around it with enjoyment and not to push myself to the point of holding back kerbside vomiting.

Bath Half Green startThe start

As larger races tend to group people to start according to their estimated finish time, I started in a faster start pen this time (not to be confused with the superfast starters mind you!) as I was aiming higher after last year’s pb. It felt great to be closer to the start, to better hear the pre race build up. It also felt less crowded, more space all through the race. Despite not quite hitting my original target time, I was pleased to see that I was still running and finishing with plenty of other green numbers – so I didn’t disgrace my promotion with my slower than planned time.

A great thing about this race is that you can wear one earpiece and listen to music- it makes such a difference.   My playlist contains loads of happy or big songs that are uplifting to remind me that I’m supposed to be enjoying it!  As I slightly updated my playlist this year, I wondered how many other runners’ playlists included Pharrell Williams – Happy (have some!  it’s the ultimate feel good song!)

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and Daft Punk- Get Lucky.  (I’ve even been hearing “Get Lucky” on the ski slopes, belting out of snowboarders’ backpacks!)

Medal and tee shirt

So I didn’t get my pb, I didn’t feel I ran with the grace of a gazelle, but yes, for most of the race I can say I enjoyed it: I ran around without too much discomfort or mental torture. The crowds who supported all along the route were incredible, especially considering this was great weather for running in, but it was not great to stand around cheering people on- grey drizzle in the most part.  As my friend said who was there cheering like a loon both times I went past, ‘ You’ve just got to do it’ on being a supporter and standing for hours in the cold & wet.  She did confide in me that she is likely to be tempted to put herself through it again on the other side of the barriers next year as a runner, which frankly is awesome as she doesn’t seem to escape injury when she runs the Half.

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I was lucky enough to benefit from Melissa‘s VIP entry which allowed her to take two guests with her for pre race food and drink, post race hot food, plus bag check, parking, showers, real loos….well worth it I’d say.   (Read Melissa’s race review here - now she did get a pb!)

Here we are the night before!  It was so great to meet my sewing & running hero in real life!

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(Yes that is a foam roller behind us!)

And here we are pre-race.

Winnie & Melissa pre-Bath HalfWe are both wearing an item of Melissa’s Fehr Trade running clothes: Me – my leopard xyt top (you can’t see it underneath, sadly) & Melissa, her Rainbow PB Jam leggings.  I’m also wearing a top made using Maria Denmark’s Olivia tee pattern.  My leggings are Sweaty Betty & never have I seen anyone else wearing them until I was in the medal queue at the end, & there were two of us wearing bright floral legs.  Funny that.) And of course, running bows.

 So, remembering that I am continually challenged by running, not being a natural, this year’s personal  lessons:

  • If you’re the kind of person that does enjoy running, when your training loses the fun, have a look at why and see how important this is to you and whether you need to change anything.
  • It’s ok to change your race goal when you realise that your training hasn’t gone to plan.
  • Race goals don’t have to be about your finish time.
  • Yes it is possible to eat too much cheese on a ski holiday and to still feel as if you are carrying it around with you weeks after.
  • And an obvious one – Just because you like running in the rain, it doesn’t mean that only having rain to train in is fun.
  • I like the Bath Half route.  I’ve had a love-hate relationship with it but finally I can say that after 5 times I have warmed to it.  I expect I shall be running next year – although I wish it was slightly later in March – it feels so close to Christmas in terms of training.

SO looking ahead…I shall be aiming to train better over the summer for the Great North Run.  I shall put the right kind of effort in to run better & stronger.  I shall include hills & speedwork in my training (even though I don’t like it!)  Because surely even a crappy summer is going to be more pleasant to train in than the wet dark & grey winter we’ve been stuck with this year?  And for me, running is all about being outdoors.