Thursday, 19 April 2018

Recovery and activewear

My focus right now is on post-op recovery so of course, new activewear is a bonus outcome. Recovery ie, keeping your foot elevated, means I have a lot of time to research and plan in between  taking pain medication and napping during the day.
In between naps, I have enough concentration to review a couple of activewear books.

Book review

This post begins with a review of 'Sew your own Activewear' by Melissa Fehr.
I've pattern tested many of Fehr Trade patterns after following Melissa's blogs for over 10 years now. Melissa sent a copy of her 'Sew your own Activewear' book as a thank you for our support of her pattern development and online promotion.

My main activewear reference book had been and still is Kwik Sew's 'Swim and Action wear'. This book has been all I had as reference when I first started to sew activewear and I've kept going back to the basic patterns of this book. This book contains timeless block patterns that I keep using.

Kwik Sew's Swim & Action Wear: Martensson, Kerstin

Once blogging started (yes that's how long I've been sewing), I started to search out more contemporary sewing techniques because the technology behind activewear fabric improved all the time.


My original project idea was to make the raglan tee from Melissa's book. Marie had already posted her experience about making her loose fitting raglan tee. I changed tact when I did a pattern check and I already own raglan tee patterns that work.


Bear in mind that when I received Melissa's book, I was in a lot of pain post surgery, so my concentration span was almost nil.


New activewear supplier

Next up, in Australia we have a new activewear fabric supplier - Sew Active Fabrics.
Activewear fabrics are a niche product so I was thrilled when I saw this new online supplier.
Sew Active Fabrics
Large fabric retailers like Spotlight and Lincraft locally supply standard poly/lycra fabrics which you can easily make basic activewear. These are fine while you learn to sew your own workout gear.


A couple of things caught my eye with the fabrics offered by Sew Active Fabrics.


Sew Active Fabrics sells wicking compression fabric.

This is a heavy weight knit with a very smooth feel and good recovery/stretch. You can read more about this fabric on Laura's website.
Wicking Compression Spandex - Marine


The other goodie that caught my eye was their gripper elastic.

This elastic is 2cm wide and has two swirls of silicon on one side. When this is sewn to a hem, the silicon grips 'you' (your skin and clothes) and keeps the hem in place.
Gripper Elastic, Black
Now I've tried to sew previous gripper elastics by machine before and failed dismally.

When Laura sponsored me to make two activewear pieces while I was recovering, I automatically decided to make the cycling top and a pair of compression tights.


Local cycling gear designer

There's a great local cycling gear brand called STeLF cycling.
"STëLF is ... Designed in Australia & Made in Italy"
Have a closer look at how STeLF began.
STëLF Cycling
If I raced with a real cycling crew I would order my kit from them but I don't so I decided to take some of the smart ideas used by STeLF for my own cycling jersey.

I've met the founder of STeLF and he's a clever cyclist who is committed to designing good cycling kits with unique fabrics.

Cycling jersey
I chose the loudest print from Laura - Mint Madness - to make a cycling jersey. if you're interested, have a read of the properties this quick dry cooling stretch fabric offers.

Quick Dry Cooling Stretch Polyester -

A bright cycling jersey makes it easy for drivers to see you when you're training on the road.


Mint Madness has all over print. I didn't need to be match the print on this jersey so I had fun pairing this print with bright zippers and reflective tape placement.

WIP back view
I did follow the sizing in the book and created a test jersey.
This jersey was too big on me. The shoulder line was too long so the sleeves were sewn off the shoulders. The neckband was sort of 'ok', but sort of 'not ok'.
I was able to practice adding the reflective tape across the back of the jersey. Johanna Lundström's book 'Sewing activewear: How to make your own professional looking athletic wear' suggests hand sewing in the reflective tape before sewing it and it worked a dream.
Don't be afraid of this zipper insertion method.
This is such a no-nonsense method of sewing in a zipper again by Johanna Lundström.
I only discovered Johanna because her book was recently published.


I'll show you the techniques I've been working through that Johanna has in her book. Johanna sent me her book to review hence my interest in her sewing work.

What you're looking at above are the updated pattern pieces for the cycling top. It was worth testing with remnant lycra.  
It was also worth testing sewing the gripper elastic on a strip of fabric using a Teflon foot too.

The stitching on the left hand side was achieved by sewing with a Teflon foot.


By the time I sewed on the black gripper elastic I could see how the weight and composition of this fabric would make it perfect for cycling or running training.

The cycling jersey instructions in Melissa's book to draft this jersey from the close fitting block patterns were good as were the construction notes. The notes for sewing gripper elastic was good too.


I couldn't make the neckband on this pattern work for me so I decided to bind the neckline with a strip of lycra. You can go to the effort to make the neckband more fitted but I honestly didn't have the concentration to work it out.


The main thing that would have made pattern drafting faster was to have 

- pattern pieces numbered separately and identified with each project
- a guide of what pattern pieces was on each pattern master sheet.

Compression tights

After looking at the designs offered in the book I decided to take a closer look at the compression tights that I've bought and work well for me.

There's a Pearl Izumi pair of compression tights and 2XU pair that I love wearing when training for a half marathon. I wear compression long tights over short cycling knicks in the winter so I wasn't going to try making cycling specific knicks with a chamoix. That's never worked for me in the past.


I decided the easiest thing to do was to trace off the 2XU compression tights and use the compression fabric from Sew Activewear fabrics.

As you can see above, I made a test pair using lycra from my stash.
Here's the top down view.

After making a test pair out of very average poly/lycra, I was able to make a brilliant pair of compression tights just below 2XU quality.

The finishing touch was to use a 32mm wide elastic in the waistband.
This 2XU pair has an internal pocket so I didn't have to 'faff' around with a zipper.

Conclusion
There's a lot to learn as I work through the techniques offered in 'Sew your own activewear' and practiced techniques from 'Sewing activewear'.

Having access to really good fabric makes the outcome worth making.


It has taken time to build my knowledge of making the right pattern adjustments. I can now appreciate the technology behind good quality custom made gear and try to make my own activewear that works for my shape.


I'll trace off the Pearl Izumi compression tights as the weather cools down and use another piece of fabric I bought from Sew Active Fabrics (precious quest) on sale for a different pair.


Growing your skills
Now that I've had all this time on my hands to recover from surgery, I realise that when you're building new sewing skills, moving to sewing with knit fabrics is a hurdle. A worthwhile one.
However then to build your skills to sew your own activewear is another couple of hurdles.

There's not just the skill involved to make activewear but also the fact that you have to accept your shape as it is and mould the pattern to meet your shape. Making activewear is really is all about you from a lifestyle perspective and your body shape and comfort. Having the time, patience and resources to make your own gear is satisfying and these aspects are hard to obtain when you're a busy person.

Once you jump these hurdles there's also the fact that you need to get good quality fabrics and notions to make your own activewear.

Today, I'm very thankful that we have retail suppliers who offer good quality specialty fabrics for activewear. 

Sew active fabrics supplied me with their fabric and notions for this review. I have since bought their 'precious quest' fabric and more gripper elastic because I know they are worth having ready for new workout gear.

Both Melissa and Johanna provided me with their books (thank you so much) and I will still do a separate post with the techniques that I've practiced from Johanna's book.

When you sew, there are lots of basic activewear patterns you can practice on and start to build your skills. So I say, trust in your skills and keep developing them when you have time. When you're ready to draft your own gear with guidance, Melissa's book as well as Kwik Sew's book are worthwhile getting your hands on.
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Friday, 13 April 2018

Going tropo

Last year I tested the Tropo camisole designed by Erin now rebranded as Tuesday Stitches.
This Tropo camisole is Erin's latest pattern.
This top has a few versions available that you should have a look at.
My test version was this red version.  I used bra strapping and bra notions for all the Tropos I made.
I made two tops and two dresses from this pattern because it's so quick to make, even when using bra notions.
The internal bra makes this a handy cami pattern.

By the way, the green skirt above is a test version of Susan Khalje's skirt pattern.
The bra notions helps fit this better depending on your style and body type. The bra shelf make this easy to wear confidently.
I'm still working on the best length of this top.
Finally I have a strappy knit dress with support for Summer.
When I was cutting out this as a dress, the fabric print needed some thought.
Here's the dress version in the plaid lycra.
The front and back patterns pieces are the same so the image above shows how I tried to match the stripes while I was cutting the dress out.
This version has a wider skirt section cut out.
So the back looks a better fit.
Erin's instructions for this pattern were clear and easy to follow. I only used the instructions at the start because I used bra making techniques for all of these versions that I made.

All of these cami versions have been great to wear for Summer and our current hot Autumn weather.


All of these fabrics, elastics and bra notions were purchased from Pitt Trading.


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Thursday, 5 April 2018

Being Helena

With the prospect of Susan Khalje visiting Australia again, I decided to try another challenging project - this outfit worn by Helena Bonham-Carter at a Berlin Film Festival.

After trawling through pinterest, here's how Helena wore this outfit.


I love how this suit is a deconstructed, fitted suit.
For this project, I ordered from the Minerva Crafts website a paisley lining and two different suitings plus the buttons and trims to reflect the original photos of Helena's outfit. Bear in mind that I didn't have the patterns available so I ordered plenty of lining and suiting just in case I needed to include lots of detailing.

The patterns
As you can see, the jacket uses McCalls 7513 body and Vogue 8931 sleeves.

Two-piece sleeve
My choice of McCalls 7513 was because it has amazing pleating at the base of the jacket.
The easiest way to make this suit would be to make a basic jacket and pencil skirt. My aim was to  make something close to the actual outfit and I knew Susan would have the couture experience to help me achieve this.

I did use Vogue 8931 in 2014 and 2015 so I knew the sleeve pattern would work. 
This is the pinning needed to make sure the sleeve was positioned correctly.

Preparation During the 6 days couture sewing week, I prepped the jacket and skirt pattern using calico. My working was made more accurate using the Prym products to mark the seam allowances and pattern markings for this project.
The jacket fabric is made up of a Portuguese Pinstripe Stretch Suiting.
 

Without knowing how much fabric I needed, I ordered 2 metres and I used it all for the jacket.
Sewing with Winter suiting during our humid Summer was a huge task but so worth doing.

Back to the jacket...

Would you believe this was my starting point for both the jacket and the skirt? 
When you think about it, the project might be daunting.
However, as you can see, Susan had pinned the jacket into the shape that I wanted and she prompted got to helping someone online, with a handy cup of tea.

This is where I got to on day 2 of the workshop.

Faux vest
These closeup photos of the jacket show a faux vest.
Here's the toile of my version of this faux vest piece.

I had to include the faux collar on the faux vest at the top of this pattern piece.


What you see here is the prepped faux vest piece thread traced so I could have the buttonholes sewn professionally.
This is the industry button hole sewing machine used to sew most of the buttonhole. This was done on day 5 of the workshop.
What you see here is Mick sewing the bar tack end of the buttonhole on a separate industry machine. In Sydney Mick is the only person who does this work for the garment industry and he's more than happy to do this for us locals.
When I saw these buttons on the Minerva Crafts website, I knew they would be perfect for this jacket.
Crendon Embossed Floral Metal Buttons
I love that this button is metal and has a darkness to it. The flowers on this button gives this a bespoke feel to the jacket while still being a bit girlie.

Jacket pleats
Days 3 and 4 confounded me as I tried to get the fit of the jacket pleats accurately.
To get the pleats to sit flat, I had to thread trace the pleats and adjust them to my shape.
The pleats did need some re-work.
The collar
The other challenge was the collar.
Every seam allowance on the collar was thread traced and rechecked to the pattern.

In the end, we repined the collar and it's less wide than the original collar in the McCalls pattern but suits my size - petite.
Below is the jacket body ready for a lot of work to apply the lining at the end of day 6.
There was still a lot of work to do and I was happy with the fit. Ecstatic.
Below is the pinning required to hand sew the lining into the jacket.
You can see the lining pleat along the centre back seam.
The sleeve of my jacket has a faux opening with the button sewn onto it.


The skirt

The skirt was made using this Portuguese self pinstripe in a navy.


There wasn't enough time to adjust the pattern for this project.
What you're looking at above, it the calico example that Susan set up for me so I could replicate this on the skirt pattern after the week ended.
The original pattern for the skirt was Susan's straight skirt pattern.
What you see here is the full sized pattern I developed.
These are the thread traced pleats on the front of the skirt.
I rechecked my work against the green test version of Susan's pencil skirt pattern. After making the initial skirt fit adjustments on the calico, I sewed up a test skirt in green and it fit well.
This shows how the final pleating looked with thread tracing intact.
This shows how the inside of the skirt hides all the seaming. I've used grosgrain to face the waist of the skirt.
Could I replicate this suit again? Yes.
Would I replicate this suite again? Yes.

The jacket is so unique that I want a casual version to wear in winter. That will happen once our hot humid weather subsides. It's just way to hot and humid to sew suits in Sydney at the moment.

Thanks Minerva Crafts for supporting my couture habit again this year.


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