slouchwear revisited

Those of you who have been following my adventures in stitch, will be aware of my deep seated desire to make loungewear I would happily answer the door in. And whilst I have no desire to be anything other than a 6 ‘o’ clock pyjama wearing semi-hermit, I’m keen to expand my choice of evening attire.

There have been some tentative forays with varying degrees of success:

It’s only when I booked on a couple of workshops with the queen of knits herself, that I felt the door to this secret club swing open for me. The Roewood from A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts and T-shirt from The Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking are not my usual style of skin tight top and a-line shape silhouette. But I signed up regardless, as I was keen to glean any wisdoms I could from someone who held the key to my slouchwear aspirations. And I’m happy to say, with my knit game strengthened and both items in regular circulation, the investment more than paid off.

On reflection, one of my main stumbling blocks was treating knits in the same way as I do a wovens and by that I mean shoddily and with a distinct lack of respect. I live in a tiny one bedroomed flat and my living room is my every room. I’ve got by cutting denim and craft cottons on my carpeted floor but I’ve finally woken up to the fact I’m going to have to find an alternative surface for knits.

I’ve also grappled with curling edges in an attempt to find those elusive selvedges – spray starching and ironing them out of shape. I recently learnt that most knits are constructed in the round and that when cut and glued, the selvedges might not even be true. Finding the grain line is as easy as following a couple of ribs in the fabric and pinning them straight. And my enduring struggle to find the right side of the fabric has disappeared in the knowledge that the selvedge rolls to the wrong side and a cut edge rolls to the right.

With my new found confidence, I finally felt equipped to cut into this medium weight french terry I picked up from Dots n Stripes a few months ago. I was fortunate enough to meet the shop owner at a stitch show in Manchester and she kindly helped me choose a navy single jersey for the contrast sleeves and bands. Both materials are cotton in composition with an elastane content of 5 and 8% respectively.

For my first Linden I cut on a on 10 based on my waist and hip measurement and this was way too big, so I sized down to a 4 grading out to a 6 at the hip. This time I cut on a straight 4 and the only alteration to the pattern was to take 5cm off the length at the shorten/lengthen lines. And you know what, I can’t quite believe I’m writing this but it came together LIKE A DREAM. So much so that I’m now in an obsessive loop, contemplating which knit project I’m going to dive into next.

I cut the material out on a table, not the floor and I can’t emphasise enough how key this was to my success. I also used my now beloved walking foot and machine basted every seam before overlocking. I couldn’t bear to bring a knife anywhere near the neckline, so to finish this seam I used the mock overlock stretch stitch H on my Janome Sewist and – after seeking Wendy’s advice – top stitched around with a regular straight stitch. The result has surpassed all expectations and I now own half of the slouchwear outfit of my dreams. Coming up with the goods for the bottom half will be no easy challenge but I’m in this comfort seeking game for the long haul.

what a feeling …

Ever since I saw the film and heard the anthem, I’ve lusted after the slouchwear aesthetic so artfully channelled by Flashdance’s Alex. The type of clothing that allows you to break into a run or slide into a yoga pose at a moment’s notice. So many life goals encapsulated – her style, her single pointed ambition, her flat, her welding skills.

I saw the pattern for this sports luxe sweatshirt in a recent issue of Simply Sewing magazine and I knew this was as close as I was going to get to living out a childhood fantasy. Not only that, it also looked like a super quick win – with only one pattern piece what could go wrong? Surprisingly, quite a lot if you decide to dispense with reading the instructions and let your intuition guide you.

The back is one piece cut on the fold, whereas the front is two pieces sewed together to enable some top stitchery. You’ll notice my front and back both have seams which wasn’t intentional – it’s because I cut them out before realising I should have folded the straight edge of the back pattern piece over 1cm before pinning it to the fabric. At this point, I’d like to point out the lack of top stitching was a considered choice. I figured the colours and contours made enough of an impact without bringing anything else to the party.

I cut the pattern on a size 14-16 based on my bust size which produced a voluminosity which did my frame no favours. Paring the underarm and waist seam to the lowest size and taking the sleeve length down one size, brought the shaping I was looking for. I overlocked the shoulder seams together and serged the front and back central panels individually before seaming with a narrow zig zag (0.5 width, 2.5 length).

My desire to clean finish my insides tripped me up on the side seams. Read the instructions here and you’ll get the result I achieved second time around when I slimmed down to a size 6-8. Here are some of the details of which I’m quite rightfully proud. Lining up the the central seam with the waistband join was a moment to savour … until I realised that shifting the joins to the side seams would have been the calling card of a seasoned sewer. Ah well – I pulled it off, so I’ll let my central lines sing.

I’m learning not to pay too much attention to the recommended band sizing as it’s all about your threads and how they work together. For the body, I sourced this French Terry Brushed Teal from Dragonfly Fabrics and teamed it with some green ribbing. The 75% differential suggested resulted in visual pollution of the highest order so I experimented a little, until I achieved the look I was after with a waistband 8cm smaller than the circumference. The neckband is reduced by 5cm and next time I’d probably shave off another cm or two for a bit more traction.

I could tell you how my second dry month of the year is going but that would eat into some valuable sewing time. What I will say is that not drinking has bought me shed loads of time which I’m itching to fill. So I’ll leave you with some pictures taken at my fella’s house this morning, living the dream in my sunday slouchwear.






slouchwear – his and hers

A while back I made a bold announcement – slouchwear the name and comfort my game. I soon realised that the swift progress I hoped for was hampered by a severe skill deficit and until I faced my fear of knits, I would remain firmly in the structured stable.

I’m happy to say there has been some movement and I’m making tentative steps towards vanquishing my fear. A full range of slouchwear has yet to be realised but I’ve fashioned a his and hers which I’m happy to be seen in daylight at a distance:

‘His’ is my second attempt at the Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt.  I cut on a straight 12 and the only modification was to add thumbhole cuffs – again shamelessly copied from The Last Stitch. My first attempt came together relatively easily but boy did I struggle with the neckline on this one. Following the pattern’s neckband measurements produced gathers befitting of a clown. So I developed a close relationship with my seam ripper and detached and reattached it numerous times before I got a length which achieved a traction I could live with. I’m guessing different fabric compositions affect the length of your neckband? I’d love to hear from any of you who’ve learnt this the hard way?

‘Hers’ is my first foray into the world of Ottobre Design and I don’t mind saying I think I picked the cream of the crop with this New Boheme Jersey Tunic (Woman Autumn/Winter 5/2014). Tracing these patterns off is not a task for the faint hearted and I was eased out of my inertia by entering into a #patternpledge with Grace over at @beyond_measure_uk. We resolved to bring an Ottobre pattern to life by the end of March and encourage each other along the way.

It’s such a good idea to get involved with little projects like this and without the knowledge that we were in it together, I would have given up at the first hurdle. I’m not going to lie – tracing of this magnitude is meltdown inducing. But, it was sooo worth the effort – this is a pattern I know I’ll be making again and again.

I cut on a straight size 40 but added an extra 1cm seam allowance at the sides to accommodate my hips. Turns out this pattern has ample design ease for my pear shaped figure but I’m glad I erred on the side of caution as I did utilise the extra allowance from underarm to cuff. If you stay true to the pattern you may find the sleeves a little snug and as I have a propensity for layers, I’m glad I had that room to play with.

After tracing and cutting, construction is pretty straightforward and the only sticking point for me was the neck pleats. The pattern had me in a quandary and eventually I decided that the central markings were for an inverted box pleat. I used a long straight stitch on either side to secure it in place but when I googled other versions, I couldn’t see any top stitching. It’s like they’d all discovered the formula for creating this pleat which eluded me. If you know the secret, please please have pity on me – I need entry into the Magic Circle before my next iteration.

For the seams I dug out my walking foot and used a long straight stitch before finishing them on my serger – I’d need to undergo a serious course of counselling before overlocking from the get go.  Attaching some Steam to Seam Lite to the hemline and sleeves before stitching with a narrow zig zag (0.5 width, 3 length) worked a treat for me but I’d welcome other suggestions on fusible hemming tape for knits?

Like the Linden, I came unstuck again at the neckline. When adding the facing I stretched it disproportionately and the back lacks the tension I achieved at the front. As for the top stitching … I almost don’t want to draw your attention to it. I reduced the length of the narrow zig zag to a 2. 5 and now I’m wondering if a 3 would have made for a more subtle finish or whether to opt for a neckband next time.

Regardless of the flaws, I’ve faced my fears and for that I’m rightfully proud. This is a very wearable toile in an unremarkable fabric and hue which I’m itching to revisit in different textures, colours and patterns.

Slouchwear – it’s ON.

caretaker of decay

There’s so much I embrace about getting older – where I once longed for a homogeneity with my peers, I now celebrate my difference and the freedom of a life unfettered by the pressure of conforming to conventional norms. If a vast amount of money were to come my way, there’s not much I would change. I’d probably switch to home ownership, to remove my biggest financial outlay, but have no desire to upscale in any way – I’m an advocate of tiny living and drawn to the minimalist aesthetic. Oh and I’d go part-time to afford myself a four day sewing week – now that’s what I call work/life balance.

But that’s about it … otherwise I’d pretty much keep things as they are. I don’t hanker after days gone by – behind my youthful facade hid a multitude of existential angst I have no wish to revisit. Approaching middle age, I’m the best version of me I could be and if that comes with visible signs of age, so be it. But what I’ve been finding increasingly challenging since I turned 40 is the multitude of minor illnesses that keep coming my way. Nothing life threatening or sympathy worthy – just bloody inconvenient and impeding my resolve to become fitter and stronger.

Having lived in a Buddhist community for many years and working with people with life-limiting illness, my thoughts are often framed by the inherent suffering of existence. I’ve always been a glass half full person, with a propensity towards depressive thinking – overthinking, overfeeling, overanalysing. What saves me from being the most draining person you’ve ever met is a dark sense of humour and lack of self-importance. I’m painfully aware of how short life can be, which has propelled me to make the most use of this form – despite feeling like I am the mere caretaker of its decay.

I’ve explored many approaches in my quest to live a more meaningful life and since discovering sewing, cannot wax lyrical enough about its benefits. I’m sure it’s old news to the initiated but the therapeutic effects are bountiful. And what I’ve found most interesting is how my approach to the craft is becoming inextricably linked with my desire to live in harmony with the environment and my ideals. I stumbled across Fashion Revolution thanks to In The Folds and Emily’s thought provoking Instagram feed. It was a timely discovery as I was on the brink of being swallowed into a vortex of compulsive making.

Since then, I’ve adopted a more considered approach, thinking about what I need along with what brings me joy. Which brought me to the conclusion that there was a gaping hole in my burgeoning handmade wardrobe – slouchwear. But addressing this meant conquering my fear of knits which was no mean feat. The vehicle for my tentative first foray is the Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt – a pattern I’ve resisted for some time, as I wasn’t sure how it would marry with my wardrobe staples.

And then I came across these lovely interpretations which convinced me to take the plunge. Inspired by Cut Cut Sew, I opted for a hybrid with a cropped body, slightly shortened hem band, long sleeves and cuffs with thumb holes. I’d first seen the cuffs on Punktyodniesienia’s Instagram feed and managed to fashion them thanks to an excellent tutorial from Johanna Lu over at The Last Stitch. Here’s me failing in an attempt to strike a pose in them Madonna style but having a laugh nevertheless.

I originally cut on a 10 based on my waist measurement but was underwhelmed with the result. After an hour or two with Google, I discovered other bloggers had cut on their bust size – particularly when opting for the shortened version. So I cut on a 4 and graded out slightly to a 6 at the hem but I’m not entirely sure this was necessary. Apart from that, the only adjustments I made were to shorten the arms by an inch to accommodate those glorious cuffs. The material was sourced from my beloved Abakhan fabric bins for less than a tenner. I couldn’t find any suitable ribbing so I went for a contrasting colour of stretchy knit.

Linden is described as a beginner’s pattern and I would concur, even though a lack of confidence and expertise made my journey a tad fraught. I serged the body peices together and then switched to a stretch stitch on my machine to attach the cuffs and bands before finishing with the overlocker. On several occasions the material got swallowed down my machine’s throat plate and I struggled to keep control whilst serging. I’ve since discovered a mine of informative sewing with knits tips, including this cracking post by Serger Pepper and have resolved to put some time aside to get to know my machinery better.

However, for my first attempt with knits I’m more than happy with this very wearable Linden toile. I predict numerous iterations with very little departure in form. Grey is my new colour of choice and I see it teamed with teal and green in the non too distant. Viva la slouchwear.