Archive | September, 2014

Combining my favourite hobbies – finished Espresso leggings

23 Sep

This post is going to go some way to explaining my intermittent presence on this blog over the last few months.

Those of you who sew will understand how it can be so completely all consuming – you spend all your free time (that you can get away with without neglecting the other half too much) sewing, and your un-free time thinking about sewing.


Nothing like starting a post with a nice arse shot…

So, I recently started playing roller derby, which, as it turns out, is just as all consuming as sewing! If you don’t know much about it, roller derby is essentially a contact sport on roller skates, and it is SO MUCH FUN! I first came across it when I saw the film Whip It a few months ago (if you haven’t seen it, go watch it!), and I joined a beginners’ course run by Oxford Roller Derby about 3 months ago. I had never skated before, but through lots of encouragement and support from the awesome girls of ORD, I can now skate pretty fast, weave, jump, skate backwards (sort of…) and various other things I never thought I’d be doing on wheels. Stopping is something I’m still working on…


Seems I managed to get very few decent photos of myself in this lot…

Anyway, it is awesome fun (if you’re in Oxford and interested, there’ll be another beginners’ course running shortly…), but I stopped spending my days at work thinking ‘I’d rather be sewing’ and started spending them thinking ‘I’d rather be skating’. For a while I was like ‘arghhh, I don’t have time to have two major hobbies’, but I’ve got the balance back a bit now, although I am training 3 times a week, so it cuts down on sewing time a bit…I just need to start being more efficient with the time I do have, and combining my two new favourite hobbies, by sewing kit to wear for roller derby!


I decided to start with leggings (although the Pneuma tank is high on my list as well) I ummed and ahhed a bit over which leggings pattern to use. I do this – I majorly overthink the simplest decision, Marcus will attest to how long I can spend stressing over what is actually a very trivial issue! The two patterns I was deciding between were Megan Nielsen’s Virginia leggings and the Cake Patterns Espresso leggings. I read a few reviews on each pattern (I told you I overthink these things!), didn’t really come across anything bad on either of them, and decided on Espresso mainly becuase I was intrigued by the whole creating a pattern based on your measurements idea.


I bought the fabric from the Man outside Sainsburys in Walthamstow market. I think it was £2/m, and I bought it mainly because I’m a sucker for anything turquoise. To be honest, it’s not the best quality fabric. It’s more of a cotton jersey than a lycra, and it doesn’t have great stretch recovery. But turquoise! And a print that is a little more interesting than I usually go for – I don’t think I’ve ever worn an animal print before in my life!


Erm, I don’t really know what I was doing…living out the animal print??

I went along to watch a bout that my roller derby team were playing in. When I got home, I walked past the door to my sewing room and saw this fabric sitting there. I suddenly realised that it matched our team colour perfectly and set about turning it into a pair of leggings.

The one measurement I struggled to work out exactly how it needed to be measured was the rise. I thought I had it, but in hindsight, I think I must have got it a bit wrong.


My pattern piece ended up completely flat across the top, as opposed to higher at the back like the diagrams, but I figured that was just individual variance. When I had them all sewn up, bar the waistband, I tried them on and realised that the back of the leggings was sitting way lower than the front. I think the back was more where it should be, although could have done with being a bit higher – it was a bit of a struggle to get it all turned over etc at the back, and I could maybe do with them being a bit higher there. The front on the other hand came up about 3 inches too high.


This mismatch made sewing the waistband a bit tricky. I think it probably took me as long to sew the waistband as it did the whole rest of the leggings. It was made much harder by the fact I couldn’t just fold the waistband down my the same amount all round, but had to work out how much I needed to chop off the front, while trying to eke out my waistband from the back.

I’m not convinced by the method of sewing the waistband either. In my head, it would make more sense to sew a channel and then thread the elastic through, rather than sewing with the elastic already in place, but I did it as per the instructions. I have a feeling that I might have then realised why the instructions say to do it that way, but I can’t now remember what that reason was!


I was a bit discouraged by all the comments I read on this pattern of people saying that they made the leggings in 45 minutes. I think it took me about 4 hours or more in total. I had a bit of a ‘ugh, I’m so slow at sewing, I can’t even manage a pair of leggings without it taking me forever’ moment, but don’t worry, I’m over it. I know people work at different paces, and I am a complete and utter perfectionist, which probably slows me down somewhat!

All in all, I’m pretty happy with how these leggings turn out. The slight annoyances with them are more to do with the fabric than the pattern – the stretch recovery really is not great, and being cotton, they don’t wick moisture away very well. After skating in them for a couple of hours, I find that my knees especially, where my kneepads are, are pretty soggy and a bit saggy, but that doesn’t stop them looking good when I’m wearing them :) I think the wrinkling you can see in the photos is also due to the fabric not really having as much stretch as would be ideal. I want to make another pair, in better fabric, and re-doing my measurements to make that waistband easier.


I wore them to training the other week, and when my teammates found out that I made them, they all declared that they wanted some and could I make team leggings! I am not averse to this idea (hopefully I can improve on 4 hours per pair!), but I need to find some better fabric. I really need to find some decent lycra to make these out of, and I need something with a funky, turquoise print – anyone have any suggestions for where I can source some awesome legging fabric?

I could also do with some pattern advice – is Espresso a suitable pattern to use when trying to make multiple pairs of leggings (we’re talking 20-odd pairs here…), or is the having to draw different patterns for each person going to be a nightmare? I might just have to give them all homework to trace the pattern in their size themselves! Awesome as personally sized leggings are, am I better off just using a legging pattern that has a number of sizes and making up however many pairs in each size, and allowing the stretch in the fabric to cover the fitting? What do you think?


I also made myself some nice little sweat absorbing pads for my knee/elbow pads and wrist guards. These are made from a flannel shirt I got from a charity shop, and filled with a mixture of silica gel and bicarbonate of soda, to absorb moisture and odour, and so far they’re working pretty well! Derby is definitely a sweaty sport!


I was going to leave you with a photo of me all kitted up, but this is the only one I have…for future reference, trying to stop one of those swings when your feet have wheels on them – not easy!



Finished: Do the Coco-motion

2 Sep

Is there a pattern that, at some point, you have seen everywhere, and everyone seems to love it and be making it, but you just don’t quite feel it? Has that pattern ever grown on you?


I have to admit, when Tilly’s Coco pattern first came out, and took the sewing world by storm, and my blog feed was filled with an endless stream of Cocos, I wasn’t in love. I wasn’t just sure that it was for me. I just don’t tend to go in for looser fitting styles, and my attempts to overcome this haven’t turned out well, as I found out when I tried to make a Scout tee. Much as I can think that style looks nice on other people, it just doesn’t work for me, and there’s nothing worse than making something, hoping you’ll like it when you’re done…and then not! But I did like the idea of such a simple knit dress, and, to be honest, felt a little bit left out of all the Coco love that was going around!


There were a couple of versions of Coco I saw that caught my eye and made me think ‘ooh, maybe I could make this work’ – they were versions that had been made a bit more fitted. One of them was Marcie’s sleeveless Coco. Love this dress! So I pondered a bit, and eventually decided that I could make Coco work for me! That’s the joy of sewing isn’t it – if you like a pattern, but you’re not entirely sure about some elements of the design, you can tweak it so it works for you.


Trying out Marcy’s low camera angle trick. I guess you could say this is a post inspired by all the Marcies!

Finding fabric was a little tricky. Because Coco requires a heavier, stable knit, I really didn’t want to order online, without being able to feel the fabric. My usual haunts of Goldhawk Road and Walthamstow didn’t really throw up anything, so I went to The Cloth House on Berwick Street, which was one that Tilly recommended in her post on buying knits. I got lucky here, and managed to get two suitable Coco fabrics for £8/m each. I’m not entirely sure what kind of fabric they are, as when I asked the girl in the shop, expecting an answer like ‘ponte’, or ‘interlock’, I was told ‘knit’, and then I asked what kind of knit, she said cotton. At that point I gave up, and decided they would be fine!


The design of my Coco was also inspired by Lauren’s short sleeved version. I have plans for a long sleeved version to, but the short sleeves are great for this end of summer but not quite yet autumn time of year. Like Lauren, I originally cut my sleeves longer (I really had NO idea how long the pattern piece needed to be to make capped sleeves), and then, once I’d tried it on, cut another few inches off, to get them the length I wanted them. Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly how much I cut off, so I can’t transfer that back to the pattern piece for next time I want to make a short sleeved version! I think a short sleeve cutting line/guidance would be a great addition to the pattern! Turns out Tilly has done one, I just didn’t find it, oops.


In order to get my more fitted Coco, I went down in the pattern size I cut out, but then actually took it in more once I’d constructed it. My measurements (34, 28, 37) put me as a size 3, but, looking at the finished garment measurements, I knew I didn’t want 4-4.5 inches of ease at my waist and hips. The bust only includes an inch of ease, so I decided to leave that as a 3, and graded down to a 2 at the waist and hips. Once I had sewn it up, I then took it in a bit more – I overlocked the side seams, and took off basically the width of the overlocked stitches around the bust, grading to about a cm more than that for the middle third of the side seam, and then back to the width of the stitch for the bottom third.


I love how easy this dress was to sew. I used my normal machine to sew the shoulder seams initially, and sew the sleeves on, but I then went over both of these with my overlocker to reinforce them and tidy them up a bit. For the side seams, I just went straight for the overlocker. The only slight issue I had was some of my seams not matching up – my sleeves ended up longer than the shoulder edge they were going into, and the hem ended up with the back longer on one side and the front on the other – no idea how that happened!


I *tried* to use a twin needle for the neckline and hems. Boy, did I try! But my machine was not playing ball – whenever I tried to use the twin needle, the bobbin thread didn’t zigzag across the bottom, it just pulled the top threads across instead, with the bobbin thread just running in a straight line down the middle.

twin needle

Not the best picture, but that light blue thread is one of the needle threads, being pulled across on the underside :/

I spent a good while trying to get it to work. I adjusted the tension – all the way up, all the way down, and everything in between, but it made no difference whatsoever. I feel like the bobbin tension needs to be lowered, but I have a top loading bobbin, and I’m not sure how/if you can do that. The instruction manual for my machine also doesn’t mention it. If you know how it can be done (Janome 525S), please let me know! I used twin needle stitching on my Lady Skater dress, and it worked fine then, so I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I turned to the internet, Twitter, and the Colette guide to sewing knits, but nothing I tried worked. In the end I gave up and just went with a zigzag stitch, and it looks fine, but it’s still frustrating!


When I zigzagged the neckline, it stretched out a bit, but Sonja told me to:

I did what I was told (thank you Sonja!) and managed to save it. It’s gone a bit wavy again after wearing it, so I gave it another little steam this morning (before wearing it again!)


What I love about this fabric is that the way it behaves made it so easy to hem the skirt and the sleeves. I folded them up at one point to the length I wanted them, and then the fold just easily followed all the way round, nice and level. I actually zigzagged these hems before I cut off the excess length – I figured it would make it much easiere to keep the folded over fabric in place if there was a couple of inches of it rather than just a cm or two. I then just cut off the excess when I was done. I debated when cutting out my pattern pieces whether I should lengthen the skirt a little, as I didn’t want it *too* short, but I decided against it, and actually ended up taking off a couple of inches off the standard length. Any longer than this and it just did not do anything for me!


The pockets were also inspired by Marcie’s Coco. I was in Sheffield a while ago and had some time to kill, so I googled fabric shops and found that Direct Fabric Warehouse was only 10 minutes away. When I first walked in, I thought that it was mainly furnishing fabric, but they had a little dressmaking section tucked away. It may have been small, but it was the best organised/labelled fabric I have come across in a shop.

IMG_6360I find that, so often, the way fabric types are named on patterns (with more ‘technical’ names I guess) differs dramatically from how the shops label them, and unless you are very good at identifying fabrics by feel, it can be hard to know what you are actually getting in the shops. But DFW had everything brilliantly labelled, actually using the terms that tend to be used on patterns. So I picked up the faux suede fot the pockets in 3 different colours (£8/m I think), some more Coco suitable fabric (can’t remember if it was ponte, doubleknit or interlock, but it was actually labelled!) for a good price (that I don’t now recall) and couldn’t resist a couple of really drapey fabrics (they are poly rather viscose, although they did have that too) for £2.99, which I thought would make fantastic Gabriolas. Unfortunately they don’t seem to list many dress fabrics on their website, but if you’re ever in Sheffield, I can recommend it!


By the time I did the pockets I was in a bit of a rush to get the dress finished – I started it after lunch on Saturday, and wanted to finish it to wear to a party on Saturday night. By pocket time, it had reached the time that I had been planning on leaving, but I was so close, I didn’t want to give up then! But I could feel myself rushing, and as a result I made a mistake or two (I may have almost sewn the pockets onto the back of the dress when I didn’t realise I had it on back to front when marking the pocket placement! Luckily I realised before I started sewing) and the pockets probably aren’t quite as neat as they could have been, but they do the job just fine!


And what do I think of my finished Coco? I absolutely love it! I have worn it pretty much non-stop since I made it, it’s so comfy, such an easy make (a dress done in an afternoon is a big achievement for me!), and looks great. I don’t often wear skirts this short, but it looks really cute! I wore it yesterday with my winter boots, so it’s definitely a great winter pattern too. To top off my Coco love, I had 3 comments on it within half an hour of being at work yesterday, which is always a good way to start a Monday!

As the song says, I know you’ll get to like it if you give it a chance now. That is certainly true, and I’m very glad I gave Coco a chance!


Eh? What’s going on?!


chinelo bally

Dressmaker| Author| Blogger| Freehand cutter


Sewing, quilting and pattern making

Red Hot Rosie

Sewing Vintage for Dummies (that'd be Me)

Laura After Midnight

Behind the seams at Midnight Costume Services!


ZEGNA ASTON handmade

Sarabwritings's Blog

Life's Musings...being unemployed, starting out as a freelancer, and planning a wedding


A topnotch site

Dresses & Me

I love to sew

Drama Queen Seams

Where handmade is back in style...

Awesome Åshild

Did You Do A "Something Every Day" Today?

Buzy Day

The adventure of NikkiM


Late comer to climbing and want to share that experience with others

What Would Nancy Drew Wear?

Adventures in sewing and other crafty endeavours.

I want to be a turtle

Adventures in sewing and other crafty endeavours.

Molly's Sewing and Garage Sale Adventures

Adventures in sewing and other crafty endeavours.

Tea For Two

Adventures in sewing and other crafty endeavours.

Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing

Adventures in sewing and other crafty endeavours.

Tilly and the Buttons

Adventures in sewing and other crafty endeavours.