Merchant & Mills Workbook: The Strides

The Strides trousers The Strides trousers

I’ve often heard about Merchant & Mills patterns and sewing supplies, but have never found the patterns here in Japan. The closest that I can get was several T-shirts by Uniqlo when they collaborated with Merchant & Mills. So I was very happy when they contacted me to review their newest book, Merchant & Mills Workbook.
The Strides trousers

The Strides trousers

The Strides trousers

The book has six paterns for vest, dress, skirt, top, jacket, and trousers. Four of the patterns have style variations so you can get more from this book. Although the patterns are simple, they are aimed to develop new sewing skills. So it is perfect if you are beginner who wants to learn more.

Merchant & Mills also offered to send me some fabric to make something from one of the patterns. I decided to make The Strides pants with Aizu fabric, medium weight Japanese slubby cotton in charcoal. For the pocket lining and fly facing, I used Indonesian batik fabric.

The Strides trousers

The Strides trousers

grading down
Grading down the pattern

The patterns are in sizes 8-18, and unfortunately the smallest size is still too big for me. So I graded down the pattern one size to size 6.

The trousers are full length with style variations for shorts, but I decided to cut the hem about calf length. I also shortened the seat around 1 cm.

Instead of making the trousers the way I used to do, I followed the instructions quite closely. The instructions are quite clear with hand-drawn diagrams. I love the hand-drawn pictures!

Here is a few notes about the pattern:

  • – no grainline mark on the back piece.
  • – no grainline mark on waistband pattern but probably not necessary as it is a straight piece and there is fabric placement diagram.
  • – there is a pocket back piece in the pattern sheet, but it is referred as pocket facing in the instructions.
  • – instead of being mentioned, the seam allowances are marked by notches. I think the reason for this is because it may vary. However, I prefer the seam allowances are mentioned as well in addition of the notches. For these trousers, the seam allowances are 1.5 cm all around.

The Strides trousers The Strides trousers

Other than those things that I mentioned, I’m quite happy witth how the trousers turned out! My favorite part is the fly facing with button inside that is similar to men’s trousers. I’ve never made this kind of fly facing before, so I’m happy that I learned some new things. And of course I should wear the tousers with my Uniqlo Merchant & Mills T-shirt!

Pattern is The Strides – Merchant & Mills Workbook, graded down to size 6.

Guest post: Attaching Bias Binding For Corset Making

I am happy to once again have Scarlett from CorsetTraining.net here! This time she will show you how to attach bias binding on corsets. There’s a few tricks for finishing the end, especially when the binding ends in angled shapes.

Thank you Scarlett for the tutorial!

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1 bias binding examples
I was so excited to find out I’d be guest blogging for Novita, I’m always in awe of all the beautiful clothes she makes. So I had a real think about what you, her readers, might find really useful. Something that could be applied not just to corsetry but to other items of clothing.

In corsetry, like with most home sewn garments, the finishing touches can elevate something to couture or make it stand out as homemade (we like to tell people we made it ourselves not have them guess!). With corset making the binding is one such ‘make or break’ detail; if you apply it badly it shows, especially at the centre front and back.

So I’ve put together this tutorial to show you exactly how to apply bias binding to a raw edge with a corner (which any garment with a closure has, the bottom edge of a button up shirt for example) and then I go over how to get those crisp corner edges, no matter what angle the corner is; for example at the front opening of the corset pictured above, the top edge slopes inward to meet the front and the bottom edge points out, creating two very different angles.

There’s also been a special 30% ‘Summer Fun Purple Discount’ in my store since last week when Novita kindly reviewed my corset making video course. It ends in the next few days so take advantage and learn corsetry this summer by clicking through and using the special PURPLE30 discount code before Monday!
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The first thing I want to point out is that this is ‘bias binding’ which, you guessed it, is cut on the bias so the grain goes diagonally through the binding allowing it to ‘bend’. Don’t be tempted to use any other kind as you’ll get wrinkles if there’s even a slight curve in the fabric edge.

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Place the binding with the opening face up, unfold one of its edges and line it up along the raw edge of your fabric, then pin as shown above. Leave about an inch hanging over the cornered edge.
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Now sew along the crease in the binding, staying just to the side of it that’s nearest the raw edge. When you’re done it should look like the picture below.
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Now fold the binding up along your line of stitching and flip the fabric.
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Cut off any excess binding so you have about half an inch hanging off the corner and fold it in as shown below.
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Now fold the binding down so it covers your line of stitching and pin. Do the same at the other end of the binding.

At this point you can hand stitch the binding to the wrong side of the fabric for a truly couture finish by taking a long stitch through the crease in the edge of the binding and then a tiny stitch through the garment fabric and repeating along the entire edge.

To machine stitch, turn back to the right side of the fabric and continue with the steps below.
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Butt your machine needle up against the edge of the binding, one stitch away from the corner edge as shown above. We’re going to sew through the binding that needs securing on the back. This is why we pinned it below our first stitching line, so check your needle will catch it if you don’t think you pulled it down far enough on the back.

Now backstitch to the edge and sew a careful line along the fabric where it meets the binding. When you get to the other end, backstitch once to secure. It should look like the picture below.
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And here it is from the back. I’ve used a very thick thread in a contrasting colour to make it easy to see but in a normal, colour matched thread it blends in nicely.

Perfect corners

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Here we have a pointy corner that needs binding, I’ve already sewn the first line on the front and flipped it over.
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The trick to getting perfect corners, no matter what the angle, is to fold the edge of the binding so that it matches the edge of the fabric. In the image above you can see my folded bias binding continues the straight line of the fabric edge. You can place a ruler next to the fold to check everything lines up if you don’t want to eyeball it.
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Now fold the binding down as before, preserving that folded edge by letting any excess flap out on the back (just make sure the binding fold looks nice and straight from the front). You can then tuck in any pointy bits on the back, as shown in the picture below.
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Once you have any excess binding tucked away at the back it should look like this.
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Flip back to the right side of the fabric and secure as we did before. Here is the stitching on the inside.
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And here’s the stitching from the right side with its perfectly pointy corner binding. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and learnt something new. A massive thank you to the lovely Novita for having me! :)

Neon skirt

Neon skirt Neon skirt

Since Sidra entered junior high school, he became very busy with all the school activities. Even on weekends, he often has to go to school for sports practice. I suddenly found myself with lots of free time, so I started taking a couple of jobs recently.

One thing that I do is working with a designer in developing a product. The company makes bags for outdoor use like backpacks, photography bags, and such. I’m very excited with this job because I get to work with materials that I’ve never used before (do you know what a gatekeeper is? I didn’t know either!), and make something that I will probably never use. It’s like taking a peek into a completely different world.

Last week I just wrapped up a development stage and sent the bag to the designer. I had been working with the bag for a couple of weeks and needed some refreshing time, so I made a skirt for myself. You might think that it is somewhat strange that my idea of refreshing myself after a couple of days sewing a bag is to sew another thing. But these are completely different things to sew!

Neon skirt Neon skirt
The fabric is polyster knit in medium weight that I found in Okadaya, Shinjuku. You wouldn’t miss the rolls of fabric when you saw it on the shelves. I was considering between yellow lime, shocking pink, or neon orange before deciding on this one.

The pattern is Hollyburn skirt by Sewaholic. I tested the pattern before and made myself  a short skirt. This time I made view B which sits below knee. I made it in size 4 with no alterations, a size bigger than what I usually wear. I find that I’m not really comfortable with skirt that sits exactly on my waist because my body has an asymmetry.

Dresses are fine because they hang on the shoulders, so are pants because they follow the shape of the legs. But skirts that hang on my asymmetrical waist will cause asymmetrical hem, so I prefer a high-waisted or low-waisted skirt. Of course, I might exaggerate a bit in my mind. The asymmetry looks so obvious for me, while people often don’t notice. It’s funny how we see our own body.

Neon skirt Neon skirt

As usual with Sewaholic patterns, everything goes smoothly. Tasia from Sewaholic always makes well-drafted patterns with good instructions. That is why I chose this pattern for my refreshment project. I didn’t want to think about taping PDF patterns and decode some unclear instructions.

When I said neon orange, it is really neon! The skirt reflects every bit of light that falls upon it, so it looks like it is shining. My husband was a bit hesitant to see such a bright color. Everyone made a double-take when they saw me walking down the street in this skirt. Actually it is not a color that I usually wear, but why not? Life is too short to never wear neon colors!

Pattern is Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt view B, size 4.

Review: The Express Corset Making Course

I always love to learn how something works. When I was a child, my favorite book was ‘How Things Work’. In the sewing world itself, there is still so many things that I don’t understand and want to learn. People often says, ‘Isn’t it difficult to make this or that?’ Of course everything is difficult when you don’t understand, but there is a satisfaction when your brain is slowly figuring out how something works.

In pursue of this satisfaction, a couple of years ago I learned to make a corset. It was a very satisfying experience and I really love the result although I rarely wear the corset anymore. At that time, there was not many resources for people who want to learn corset-making. Even now, I think there the resources are still scarce.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 1.36.45 PM.png
Pattern Compendium

So I was happy when Scarlett from Corset Training.net contacted me about her newly launched The Express Corset Making Course. It is a package of downloadable MP4 video course and a couple of PDF books. She sent me a link to download the package and it consisted of:

  • 2 hours of step-by-step corset making video
  • 36 minutes of bonus features on making the back panel and altering the mock-up
  • 51 pages of corset making manual
  • 26 pages of pattern compendium, on drafting several corset patterns

Now 2 hours seem like a long time! But I have watched it all and it is really a step-by-step video of how to construct a corset. If you have all the materials and equipments, you can basically start sewing with the video playing and finish a corset during that time. Of course it is better to read the manual and watch the video first before actually making the corset.

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I wish I found this course when I first made my corset! It has everything basic that you need to know on making corset. The PDF manuals has all the information on making the mock-ups, the types of materials and where to get them, the order of constructions, and how to finish and embellish the corset.

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If you’re interested in this course, you can watch some preview video here:

The course is $49.99 but Scarlett has offered a 30% off if you use the code PURPLE30 when you buy The Express Corset Making Course. The code will be available until the 13th so you have plenty of time to think. She also has 100% money back guarantee if you find out that the course is not for you.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 5.02.51 PMIf you’re looking for something even more simpler, you can download this free corset belt pattern!

DISCLAIMER:

I was offered the course for free in exchange for a review. I was not paid for this review but the link is affiliated. However, every opinion is my own.

Shortie shorts

Shorts and white tee Shorts and white tee

Summer is coming and it means shorts season! Sometime ago I bought BurdaStyle Retro Classics Pattern Collection which have 9 patterns from the 1950s-60s, one of them is pattern for these shorts. I’m not sure what’s so retro about them but I quite like the double pleats on the front.

As usual for Burdastyle patterns, I printed them at 92% at cut size 38. They are quite short though, so I lengthened the hem about 5 cm. The fabic is cotton twill with a bit of stretch on them. Sewing the shorts was quite straightforward. The only thing that I don’t really like is the straight waistband. The shorts sit a bit lower than the waist, straight waistband on a woman’s body will usually leave quite a gap on the center back. To fix this, I took a wedge about 2 cm on the center back.

Shorts and white tee
Burdastyle shorts

The white tee was made with SJ tee by Papercut Patterns, currently my favorite tee pattern. This pattern actually has quite a wide neckline, I just made the neckband shorter and pulled them a bit while stitching.

These photos were taken with iPhone 6 and edited in Google photos. It has some basic light editing and filters, not too bad I think!

Shorts and white tee Shorts and white tee

In other news, have you ever heard about The Super Online Sewing Match (SOSM) on Sew, Mama, Sew? The first one was held about two years ago, and this year is time for the SOSM II! The Grand Prize Winner will receive both the Janome Skyline S5 Sewing Machine and the Janome 1110DX Pro Serger! I wish I could participate, but I’m one of the judges for this year.

If you’d like to become a challenger, you still have until June 21 midnight PST to send your audition!

Shorts pattern is Burdastyle Retro shorts, size 38 printed at 92%.
Tee pattern is SJ tee by Papercut Patterns, (PDF) size XXS.

Yogawear

Yoga wear Yoga wear
I have started to go to a yoga class several months ago, in addition to daily exercise at home. After seeing Gingermakes’ post about her yoga leggings, I got very inspired to make my own! I considered using Fehr Trade Steeplechase Leggings pattern like her, but at the end I chose Ooh La Leggings by Papercut Patterns. The reason was because I’ve used Papercut Patterns several times before with good result.

I had no idea about what kind of fabric that I should use, so I picked this black soft ponte knit at the store.  The content is 73% polyester, 21% rayon, and 6% polyurethane. Sounds good I suppose. I read in several blogs that the waist is quite high on this pattern, so I shortened the hip about 1 cm. Other alteration is shortening the hem for my petite figure as usual. I cut the knee-length version in size XS.
Yoga wear Yoga wear

When started making it, I got the idea of inserting a red band for details on the hip seam on the side. The band is just a strip of folded red lycra fabric inserted between the seams. I think I kinda like the effect! Sorry for the pictures of my butt.
Yoga wear Yoga wear

You might recognize the fabric for the top from my previous post. This time I used another Burdastyle pattern, Chill dress that I cut as top. It is a very easy pattern with only two pattern pieces plus neck bindings. The sleeves are finished by folding the hem inside.

The armholes are quite big and I see that some people modified the pattern so the armholes are smaller. In my personal opinion, the big armholes are part of the charm. I just wear a sports bra underneath and I think they look fine. In fact I really like this pattern that I made another top in orange jersey. Next time I’ll make the dress version.

Yoga wear Yoga wear

I really, really like the leggings! I feared that they might ripped apart but they have survived several visits to my yoga class. They hug the body quite well, and the seamlines add some interesting details. The knee-length are perfect for warmer weather!

Yoga wear Yoga wear

Top pattern is Burdastyle Chill dress (cut as top), size 38 printed at 92%.
Leggings pattern is Ooh La Leggings by Papercut Patterns, size XS.

Sandra jeans and Basic tank

Sandra jeans and Basic tank Sandra jeans and Basic tank

I made a new pair of jeans! Actually they were made a couple of weeks ago, and I have been wearing them a lot ever since.

The pattern is Sandra narrow leg jeans by Style Arc, a classic narrow legs jeans with contoured waistband slightly below waist. I love this pattern since I made them last year, the first one that I made get lots of wear. The fabric is dark denim, it has less stretch than the previous jeans so the fit is a bit different.

I find it funny that you can see a dachshund in these pictures, similar to the one in my first Sandra jeans post. They are different dachshund though, the first one is Shake who has got adopted a long time ago. This one is Miggy, a 12 year old female dachshund who had to go to the shelter because her owner has a baby with allergy. Such a sad thing to happen to a senior dog.
Sandra jeans and Basic tank
Sandra jeans and Basic tank

Now, about the jeans. My alterations are the same, a bit of swayback and lots of leg shortening. I cut the waistband a bit wider because I want to use two buttons. As a result, the waist sits a bit higher. On my first Sandra jeans, I used elastic as waistband interfacing, this time I don’t use interfacing on the waistband. In fact, I didn’t use any interfacing at all on this jeans.

After installing the buttons, I realized that the placement of the buttons was a bit off. So I removed the buttons with pliers and installed a couple of new ones a bit further. The holes from the old buttons were darned closed with sewing machine. It doesn’t look too bad in my opinion, but the whole thing was such a nuisance to do. So please mark carefully before installing jeans buttons!
Sandra jeans and Basic tank Sandra jeans and Basic tank

But no worries about the buttons! They are fixed and nobody can see them anyway now.

The top that I’m wearing is also a new one that I made. The pattern is Burdastyle Basic tank, and as usual for me, in size 38 printed at 92%. Aside from the shrinking the pattern, the only alteration I made was using knit band to finish the neckline and armholes.
Sandra jeans and Basic tank Sandra jeans and Basic tank
I have begun to exercise regularly since several months ago and actually made this top to wear to my yoga class. So far, this is the only exercise that I keep doing daily for more than a month. I was a total couch potato for forty years so this is quite surprising for me. The fatigue and back pain that were always with me are slowly decreasing now. Who knows, daily exercise can make you healthier?! Duh.

Recently I noticed that all my clothes, especially dresses, don’t fit me the way they used to be. It feels like they are tighter in one part and looser in another part. My body still looks the same though, it is as if that all those clothes that are changing. Maybe it is because of the exercise, or maybe I’m just aging. Either way, this is a new thing for me and I’m trying to get used to it. It also leaves me with an empty wardrobe because almost my clothes are dresses. So maybe it’s time to create a new wardrobe!

Sandra jeans and Basic tank Sandra jeans and Basic tank

Pattern is Burdastyle Basic tank, size 38 printed at 92%.
Jeans pattern is Sandra narrow leg jeans by Style Arc, size 6.

Jedediah shorts

Jedediah pants Jedediah pants

As summer is approaching, I’m reminded that my husband has been asking for a new pair of cropped pants since… several summers ago. His favorite pair were made four years ago, and were actually muslin for his jeans so it’s about time for a new pair.
Jedediah pants

Instead of using his much-tweaked jeans pattern, this time I’m using Jedediah pants pattern from Thread Theory, I got it as a part of Parkland Wardrobe Builder package that I bought sometime ago. Jedediah pants are described as “Chino-style trousers updated with a slim, casual fit, back yoke and stylish slash front pockets. These pants include two length options – knee length shorts with rolled cuff and full length trousers. They will wear well in a denim, corduroy or twill with the extra durability of flat fell seams. They could also be made in a lighter cotton or linen when sewn as summer shorts.”

When I made jeans for my husband, I made muslin and altered the pattern a lot to fit him. With this one, I just cut straigt size 32 and surprisingly they fit him quite well. I should have just used this pattern for all his pants!
Jedediah pants Jedediah pants

The pattern is drafted very well with good instructions. But I have made several pants, so I didn’t really rely on the instructions. I noticed that the slash front pockets add a bit of bulk around the hip, so next time I’m going to change them to curved jeans-style pockets. This is my personal preference though. Other than that, there is nothing to complain about this pattern and I’m very satisfied with the result.

This is the second pattern from Thread Theory that I have made with satisfying result. The first one is this Stratchcona Henley T-shirt. Looks like I have found the perfect pattern company that makes basic menswear for my husband!

Jedediah pants Jedediah pants
Making these pants was an exercise for me in making basic, wearable clothing. The fabric is black, the topstitching is black, the button and rivets are black, sooo boring. I was tempted several times to add some red label or other interesting detail but I was perseverant! So glad that I did, now my husband has a perfect basic shorts that he can wear with anything. Maybe I should make a pair of plain black pants for myself too.

Jedediah pants Jedediah pants

That’s his face asking me, ‘Are you taking a picture of me holding this poop bag?’

Pattern is Jedediah pants by Thread Theory, size 32.

Slip dress and panties

White slip dress and panties
I like to wear a slip under my unlined dress to keep them from clinging. So when I found this very soft white jersey in a sale box, I immediately got to work and turned it into a slip dress! The jersey is very soft and stretchy, very comfortable against the skin.

Merckwaerdigh E-O2
Merckwaerdigh E-O2

The pattern is Merckwaerdigh O2, described as: “Pattern O2 from Dutch design Merckwaerdigh with a lovely underwired bra-shirt and a close fitted slipdress. Comes in sizes S till XXL for the slipdress and for the bra-shirt”. I’ve used this pattern before to make this nude and black underwired bra slip dress. This time I made the close-fitted slip dress so I can wear it over my bra.

The close-fitted slip pattern has princess seam lines and gently shaped curves over the breast. I lengthened the pattern a bit so it reaches mid-thigh and omitted the lace on the hem.

The pattern actually has lace straps that look very sweet, but the lace showed when I tried wearing the slip under a dress. So I made a simple strap by wrapping the fabric over some elastic and triple zig-zag stitched over them.

White slip dress and panties White slip dress and panties

Although the pattern has no particular construction for the breast, the shaped seams actually gives some sort of light support. I don’t usually go bra-less, but in this slip I might be able to do it. Maybe for lounging around the house. Although why would I wear such a pretty slip just for lounging around the house?

I still have some leftover fabric for a couple of panties, using my most -used pattern Merckwaerdigh MIX30. Anyway, photographing white fabric and white lace is so difficult! I hope you can still see the details.
White slip dress and panties White slip dress and panties
White slip dress and panties White slip dress and panties

Now I need to make an unlined dress to wear over this slip!
Slip dress pattern is Merckwaerdigh O2, size S.
Panties pattern is Merckwaerdigh MIX30, size S.

Burdastyle Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket

Burdastyle Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122 Burdastyle Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122
This is my favorite jacket in the last couple of months. You have probably seen me wearing it to Sidra’s elementary school graduation here.

The pattern is Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122 from Burdastyle. The jacket has boxy shape with wide straight sleeves, wide lapel, and wide back pleats. It is an unlined jacket with no closure so it’s perfect for when the weather is not too cold. The jacket reminds me of my old jacket that I made in 2010. I lost it during a visit to IKEA! So sad.

The fabric is wool in this undescribable color. Recently I have been trying to use more fabric in solid colors instead of print so they can be mixed and matched more easily. But I’m still trying to find out which colors work best for me.

Burdastyle Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122 Burdastyle Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122
Burdastyle Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122 Burdastyle Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122
Burdastyle Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122 Burdastyle Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122

I also made a simple top with another Burdastyle pattern, Retro Top 07/2013 #130. It is a very simple top with bust dart and loop closure in the back. Not my favorite top though. When I wore it, the neckline was a bit too high so I decided to cut it lower. The new neckline is a bit wavy, maybe because the fabric is already stretched out. The fabric is double gauze cotton.
Burdastyle Retro Top 07/2013 #130 Burdastyle Retro Top 07/2013 #130

As usual for Burdastyle patterns, I printed them at 92% and cut size 38. This is my favorite way now because the result is quite perfect for my petite body and I don’t have to make any alterations.

Burdastyle Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122 Burdastyle Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122

It is getting warmer everyday so it looks like I can’t wear my favorite little jacket anymore!

Jacket pattern is Wide Sleeve Lapel Jacket 02/2015 #122, size 38 printed at 92%.
Top pattern is Retro Top 07/2013 #130, size 38 printed at 92%.