samedi 28 novembre 2015

Finished Project: Men's running tights (and a few thoughts on Spoonflower)

This was actually the first item that I completed for our October Hallow's Eve race. B. was running the Marathon for the second time, and he wanted to be a bit more "dressed up" than the year before, while still wearing a costume that wouldn't be a hassle to run with for 42 km.
So I decided to make him tights, and he also asked for a cape. I really wanted a print that would be fun but would also reflect that he was doing something pretty impressive, a physical prowess (to me anyways). So I looked for cartoony super-heros prints.

I looked at several websites including Funki Fabrics. They had some good options, but it ended up being quite pricey and I as worried about shipping times. Eventually I ended up on Spoonflower and found this super cute "action hero" print, with colors that were pretty much B's usual color scheme (red and black). Also turned out Spoonflower had just introduced a new fabric to their catalogue: Sports Lycra, intended for leggings and tights. It all sounded pretty perfect, but I still did some research on their product and found out that some of their fabrics didn't sustain washing very well and colors tended to fade especially on natural fabrics.

Because the lycra had just been released, there hadn't been a lot of feedback on it, but fortunately I found this thread on Pattern Review that sounded like the lycra didn't have the fading problem. So I went ahead and ordered 1 yard (still pretty pricey), and then waited.

When the fabric arrived I wasn't disappointed! The colors were vibrant and the scale of the print was great. I washed it right away and the colors didn't change at all. Success!

To make the tights, I looked at several available commercial patterns. This Jalie one was an option, as well as this one from The Green Pepper. I was concerned about the crotch area though, as none of those had gussets or any type of "crotch shaping", which i would think would be more comfortable to include on men's tights. So eventually, I just grabbed one of B.'s RTW tights, one that he hadn't worn much and that wasn't stretched out of shape yet, and just traced it.
It turned out to be the best option. I just added a waist band as the original tights didn't have one, only a wide elastic sewed at the waist.

The tights came together super fast. I was really happy with my choice of tracing the existing tights as they pretty much had the perfect lines: crotch pieces (similar to that of tight boxer shorts, so basically like underwear) and the legs had one piece that wrapped around most of the leg (no side seam), except for one vertical band on the inner leg, from crotch to bottom. So this was perfect to add a bit of contrast with using the same black moisture-wicking polyester fabric on the inner leg piece as I had used in my own activewear.

When B. put them on the first time though, I realized the limitation of the Spoonflower fabric. Because the design is printed on a white fabric, the white tends to show when the fabric stretches, so if it stretches too much, the colors end up looking quite faded (especially if the print is in dark colors).

I only had one yard of the Spoonflower print, so I couldn't recut the main leg pieces. Instead I removed the black inner-leg pieces and recut those about 1inch winder. That way I made the leg a bit wider and the fabric didn't have to stretch as much.

As I said, the tights came together really easily. I used a zigzag stitch on all the seams, and a wider and narrower zigzag stitch to finish the edges. I used wooly nylon in the bobbin...I don't know if the wooly nylon really made a big difference in the feel of the edges...But I felt all "technical" using that kind of thread :P

In the end I was really happy with the result and they fit B. perfectly. I was a bit worried that they would fall apart or that some seams would end up being scratchy or uncomfortable, but B. took them out for a test run and they were fine.

One thing I did notice about Spoonflower, is that a lot of the print feel like they have obvious repeats. This is due to the way prints are designed and uploaded - as a single tile basically that is repeated.  In the case of these tights I didn't mind because it's really only the one little character that is repeated two ways but in some other designs, i find that the repeat takes away from the design itself, it becomes more prominent visually than the actual print, if that makes sense.

Funny enough, B. found this link on facebook a while back, explaining how create a pattern repeat that doesn't feel like a repeated square tile. I would definitely try this if I ever design a print myself.

Another thing that I learned in sewing those tights and mine, is that the amount of stretch of the fabric is extremely important. Because those kinds of patterns are designed with negative ease, if the fabric doesn't have the proper amount of recommended stretch, the tights will probably end up...well too tights. So in the future, I'll definitely take the stretch of my fabric into account when making a new pair.

The cape was made last minute the night before the race. I bought a piece of light-weight, water-repellant nylon and just finished the edges with my narrow-hem foot in about 15 minutes (so glad I have that one). The cape was just attached to B's backpack with safety pin and it held up no problem for 42km....He was actually quite a sight to see racing up and down the hills :)

lundi 23 novembre 2015

Finished Project: Running my first Race in my Activewear

I wouldn't say that I only started running just so I would have an excuse to sew activewear... but almost.
I kind of became obsessed when I started following Dawn's blog Two on Two Off. I became really inspired both by her sewing productivity, and also by how athletic she was, running half marathons and such..all the while being a mother of 4...Anyways, hats off to this impressive lady, and soon I became obsessed with sewing my own tights and sports bra, etc...

As it happens, B. got really into trail running a couple of years ago, and after a while I figured I should give it a try, if only to see what all the fuss was about. So when he signed up for the Mountain Madness Hallow's Eve Trail Marathon, I decided to register for the 10km race. And there was my perfect excuse to sew some fun activewear!!! I won't lie, I was slightly more excited about all the pieces I was going to make than about the race itself.
Because the race was Halloween-themed, I thought I would use fun fabrics, rather than plain old black or grey. I found fabric with little superhero characters on Spoonflower and I knew it would be perfect for B (seperate post to come).
For me, I had my eyes set on something with skulls, and found a cool print from Spandex House.

Because the race was in October, I knew I couldn't just run in a sportsbra, I needed a top. I think someone had mentioned how good Icebreaker clothing were for winter outdoor activity, all made out of warm Merino wool...Since I was pretty set on making my entire outfit, I decided to source out Merino fabric online, and sure enough, I found what I was looking for at New Zealand Merino and Fabric.

I got a little merino-crazy and ordered 5 pieces of fabric (on the left of the print). 3 destined to become running/outdoor tops (orange, blue and black) and 2 to make everyday shirts (light grey for me and probably a Henley-type shirt for B in dark grey.) Merino is just so soft and cozy...I couldn't resist.
Once I had figured out my main fabrics, I put together a little mock-up of what i wanted the full outfit to look like:
For the patterns, the Cora tights by Jalie patterns felt like an obvious choice right away (especially after seeing it on Dawn's blog). For the bra i went with the Pneuma tank by Papercut Patterns, i liked the double straps and the tank version with a loose layer on top. I chose McCall 7261 for the top. I had just enough fabric to make the hoodie version, but I left out the pocket. I also wanted to make a merino vest with Mc Call 7026 but I ran out of time (currently on my sewing table though).
I then started researching online where to source technical fabric: Fabric that was breathable and moisture-wicking. After looking through ebay and amazon i finally came accross Spandez by Yard, an online store that carries an impressive amount of technical polyesther and spandex, from mesh to jersey knit, to various weights of wicking polyester, etc... I got some black and blue poly spande from the M-200 line, and some black nylon spandex tricot mesh (used in the bra).

I had never ordered so much fabric on the internet, and all at once. For a whole week I got a new package in the mail everyday, delivered to my work. My co-workers got to see the full extent of my sewing obsession! 
And then it was time to get sewing. Of course, even with planning this project a couple of months ahead, I ended up finishing the last item on the week of the race!

I made the tights first. The pattern comes with a side seam, but because I was using such a bold print, and didn't want to cut it up and have to match it, I taped the side front and side back together into one piece that would wrap around the side.

I cut size Q based on my measurements, lengthenning to size S at the bottom. Unfortunately when I first cut the skull fabric, I didn't take the stretch into account. My fabric had a lot less stretch than what the pattern recommends (there's a handy little scale to test your fabric stretch on the pattern cover). So even before sewing the pieces together I knew the skull pieces would be too small.

Instead of re-cutting a bigger size, I slashed my pattern piece in half lengthwise and added about 2cm of width. I also slashed it horizontally accross the crotch and added 2.5cm of height. I also had to adjust the pocket piece  (2.5 cm deeper), as well as the waistband.

After these changes I recut my skull fabric. The tights came together really fast and without any major difficulty. I used the patterns's recommanded technique for stretchy fabric: "First stitch: wide zigzag stitch along the edge of the fabric, without stretching the fabric", then "Second stitch: straight stitch 6mm from the edge, stretchy thefabric gently to preserve the seams elasticity".
I have worn the tights many times and haven't had any problems of stitches breaking, so I'd say it's a pretty realiable technique.

Next the bra. I won't go into much details as I've already written a full tutorial on how I added a lining and foam cups. As for size, based on my measurements, I cut between the two smallest sizes on the pattern and i didn't have to make any adjustments (see red line in photo below).

I used the main fabric for the front only, and used blue polyester wicking fabric for the back. I really like the contrast with the orange of the straps. Speaking of, those actually gave me the hardest time. I followed Sophie's tutorial on how to create elastic straps, but the turning over was a total pain in the butt. The safety pin kept un-hooking and I had to start over like 3 times. Those alone took me 2 hours to make.  

Finally, the hoodie. I cut a size 10, added 2.5cm to the bodice and sleeve length, and removed about 3.5 cm in sleeve width. I originally planned on making the turtle neck version, but I had enough fabric to make the hood, so I went with that. 

I think I also took in some of the hood depth when I was putting it together, I can't remember exactly. The merino fabric is pretty lightweight so the top turned out a bit more drapy, but I don't mind it.
You can't tell on the photos, but I used a slightly lighter thread to add a zigzag topstitching on the princess seams, the hood seams and the hem, just to give is a bit more interest.  The hem is a little wonky, proabbly due to the light weight of the fabric, but I can live with it.

The fit of the top isn't amazing, maybe a little too loose, but it's really comfortable, and soo warm! I actually wore it over another long-sleeve running top and I didn't get cold at all. I've been wearing this top pretty consistently since I made it to go run at night, and it's a great layer.

So that's it for my active-wear sewing spree! (well, aside from the running tights that I made for B, photos to come in a seperate post). It was quite the project and it's got me eager to make more pieces. I'm currently completing the final item (black merino vest), but I'll most definitely make more tights and the tank version of the pneuma pattern is on my list for spring.

Active wear sewing is quite popular these days, with so indie pattern designers coming out with their ow patterns. Are you sewing activewear? what are your favorite patterns?

samedi 14 novembre 2015

Finished project: Inari Dress

I bought this fabric a couple of years ago at Fabricana. I just couldn't resist the print. It's a medium weight knit, almost like a sweater knit, so right away I knew I wanted to make a t-shirt dress of sorts with it.


Fast forward to a couple of years later, and it's the Inari craze everywhere on the blogoshpere (still is!). Great versions of that pattern popping up everywhere in my blog roll so despite my will to try and not by new patterns, i finally caved and bought the dowloadable pdf.

Because the print is pretty bold, I wanted to break it up a bit, so I decided to do the sleeves in a plain colour. I was lucky to find at Fabricana again, a knit that matched almost perfectly the colour of the main fabric background.

Because it's a pretty basic pattern for a loose fitting garment, I didn't want to  spend time making a muslin, so based on my measurments, I just went ahead and cut the size 36 (which is also the European size I normally wear in RTW), and cut my fabric. 

Matching the pattern at the side seams was a bit tricky. I could easily match the vertical lines, but it proved impossible to prevent the repeat motifs from being cut off or repeat twice. Oh well, i can live with it.

For such a simple pattern, this dress gave me quite a bit of fitting issues. When I first sewed up the pieces, it just looked like a shapeless sack. I could tell there was way too much fabric at the center of the front and back, so I went back to the pattern and folded over about 1.5 cm at the center front and center back.
Another problem I had was excess fabric at the armhole. To remedy that, I pinched a 3cm dart at the armhole. I'm not sure how common those are, usually you see darts at the side deam, but that seemed to fix it. I aslo took about 2cm off the height of the armhole at the shoulder.

One thing I had noticed on other blogger's versions, before buying the pattern, was that the armhole seemed to pull at the front when the arm was extended away from the body, resulting in the armhole seam shifting out a bit. You can see what I'm talking about in these different versions by BeeMadeCloset Case File and this one by House of Pinheiro . I do love all three versions of their dresses (Bee has made a few of them, all of them really great!) and they've all done an amazing job sewing them. I'm just noting a design aspect of the pattern that I had noticed and was slightly concerned about.
I did do a bit of research before sewing the pattern, and the only thing I could find was Diane of Sew Santa Fe commenting on how low the armhole was on her version.
I don't know if any of my armhole fitting issues had anything to do with this specific drafting, but in case someone has ran into the same problems, I thought I'd mention it here. From the looks of it, I am the only one who was bothered by that anyways.

I had already cut my dress and didn't have anymore fabric, but thankfully, since I had removed about 3cm of width on both front and back, I was able to recut new pieces from the same ones. I did lose a couple cm of length, and I had to rake the shoulders in at the neck to avoid a gaping neckline,but luckily the finished product doesn't show any of this.

Because I reduced the armhole height so much (between the shoulder and the dart, that's 5.5cm total, about 2"), I had to do quite a bit of redrafting on the sleeve cap.  I think I might have made it a bit too narrow as a result but that could easily be fixed if I make the dress again.

After recuting the pieces and re-sewing it back together, the dress still felt too wide on me. As much as I wanted to like the cocoon shape (and it looked so great on everyone else!) it just didn't work on me. I don't know if it's my general curveless-ness, or that I cut the dress the wrong size to start with, or maybe my fabric was a bit too drapey for it to work. A lot of versions that I saw used thicker/stiffer wovens with more body, so maybe that's the key. In any case, I ended up recuting the side seams of the back to a much straighter line, and eventually managed to get a shape I was happy with.

I didn't adjust the length of the dress at all (I'm 5'11 and it's designed for a 5'8 silhouette). When I originally put the pattern up in front of me, the length in the mirror looked ok so I just went with it. But I forgot to take the slits into consideration, and those ended up hitting quite hight on my thigh. A bit higher than I would care to show at the office. But nothing a pair of black tights can't fix.
In the end, I'm still quite happy with the result. The uneven, split hem and the rolled up sleeves where the two features that really attracted me ot this pattern, and they turned out well. 

If I make this dress again, I might start by printing out a smaller size, to compare to my altered pattern. I would probably chose a woven fabric with a bit more body to see if the cocoon shape works better that way... I really love this version, which is almost more of a tunic and the silk fabric is so luxurious! if I had the guarantee it would look as good on me as it does on Charlie I would make it again in an instant...

Since the fabric is more on the sweater-weight side, this dress is actually too warm for the dead of summer, but it's the perfect transition piece for the beginning of fall - as you can see the photos were taken with fall well underway and leaves covering the street, such a beautiful time of year...until rain started pouring down :)

dimanche 8 novembre 2015

Tutorial: adding cups and lining to the Pneuma Tank

I made Papercut patterns' Pneuma tank (bra version) as part of my outfit for my first trail race in October.
I really liked the strap design and the options between bra and loose tank, but I also wanted to add cups, you know, just to pretend that I had some kind of curves under my shirt...

Anyways, it wasn't that complicated, the tricky part was figuring out how to attach the lining to enclose all the seams. I'm going to try my best here to describe what I did step by step. Apologies for the dark-ish photos, I was sewing all of it at night, hopefully they do make sense.

First, I looked at RTW bra of mine to see how the cups where built in. Turns out they'ré where sandwiched between the lining and another mid-layer of mesh between the lining and the outer layer. This was so that the mesh and lining can be sewn together, creating two seperate "pockets" for the cups to stay in.

So first, I cut three layers of the front: outer layer in main fabric, mid layer in mesh mesh and lining in moisture-wicking polyesther fabric, and two layers of the back (main fabric and polyesther lining)

Note: I used a zigzag stitch for all the seams, and wooly nylon on the bobbin.

These are the cups that I used in the end. I just placed them on top to make sure they would fit. After that you can put them away until it's time to put them in.

Sewing the cups "pockets": Baste the lining and the mesh together along the top, and stitch a line right down the middle. This will prevent the cups from moving around and will keep them each on one side.

I wanted the cups to be removable for washing, so in order to keep an opening, the side seam on the lining layer need to remain open. Trim the seam allowance off on the lining layer, and coverstitch or zig-zag the edge. You'll have to make sure to always keep that edge free, especially when seing the side seams together.

Next, baste the straps to the outer layer.

Then stitch together the outer front and the mesh/lining layers, right sides together (in the case of the mesh/lining layer, the lining side is now considered the right side) with the straps sandwitched in between. Stitch along the neckline and accross the straps. Don't stitch across the armscye just yet.

Adding the elastic to the neckline: With the bra still turned inside out, lay the elastic on the mesh layer along the neckline (on the seam allowance), and stitched as per the patterns instruction. Turn your bra back the right away, and you can topstitch the neckline now with a zigzig stitch, or do it later after the rest of the armscye and back are sewn.

Next, moving the inner layer out of the way, attach the outer layer of the back to the front at the side seam, right sides together.


Then attach the lining of the back to the inner layers of the front. The lining layer of the front should be facing the right side of the back lining, but you're only attaching the back to the mesh layer. as mentionned above, the lining layer of the front should remain open at the side seam so that you can put the cups in at the end.

Next, attach the straps to the outer layer of the back. At that point, you should be able to pin them to the back and try the top on to check the length. The pattern calls for 2m of straps so 50cm per strap, but I ended up chopping off about 15cm to get the right length for me. This is the time to figure that out. Once you've determined the right strap length length, you can baste the straps in place on the outer back.

After that, stitch the top of the outer back to the top of the back lining. Your bra should be all inside out at this point, with the straps on the inside and just the excess length poking out. Stitch all around the top of the bra, from one armscye to the other and accross the back. Trim the excess strap.

Keeping your bra inside out, pin the elastic from one armscye to the other accross the back (It looks like this time I laid it on the outer layer instead of the lining, but really the result is the same).

Stitch your elastic as per the patterns instructions. Then turn your bra back the right way and top stitch all along the back and neckline.

Finally, baste all layers together at the bottom and attach the bottom elastic as per the pattern instructions, treating all layers as one. 

I tried to figure out a way to have the bottom elastic also hidden between the outer layer and the lining but I couldn't figure it out...It probably would have required some hand stitching somewhere, but since the main fabric gets turned to the inside, the elastic still gets encased in fabric so it's not that big of a deal. I didn't finish the edge of the bottom as the final topstitching of the elastic kind of did the job for me. for a neater finish, you good legnthen the main fabric by 1cm and have that extra length folded over so there's no raw edge showing...

And there you have it! A fully lined sports bra with cup "pockets". Slip your cups in and you're good to go!