Sewaholic Renfrew Top: How I did my FBA

First of all, a BIG sorry.  I know I mentioned I’d sorted this out weeks ago and I had.  I then got scared as I’d never sewn anything in a knit fabric before.  So I hid for a week or two from actually making the pattern.  Then I got brave again last night!  So here is my first ever knit top and I made it all on my serger (well, apart from a bit of twin needle top stitching around the neck and at the shoulders – another first!)

A Full Bust Adjustment (FBA for short) is the one adjustment I know I’m always going to have to do if the pattern is in any way fitted below the neck.  They’re quite straight forward and well documented if you’re altering a pattern for a woven fabric.  You manipulate and/or create darts to add the extra length and width you need to go around and over the chest whilst still keeping the shape of the garment.

The Renfrew pattern is designed for knits.  Whilst it would be possible to do a standard FBA and add a dart to the pattern, it’s not something I want to do as the dart will add bulk, could affect the drape and well, I’ve never seen a dart in a t-shirt!

A lot of Google-ing didn’t reveal any process for adding the width and length needed so after a number of weeks scratching my head, and hacking mini bodices about I think I’ve finally got there.  The issue I had ensuring the front side seam matched the back side seam whilst being able to add the required length at the front of the garment.  Normally a dart would ensure the side seam didn’t grow as you use it to control the additional length created.  I also had to get the side seam back to where it started, or pretty close to where it started…

Now, if you’re like Lauren who blogs at Lladybird and you have the option of grading between sizes to accommodate your full bust which is what she does, this is a solution you will want to consider!

Lucky me (insert sarcasm here depending on your point of view…) has to deal with a G cup.  In plain old inches there’s a 5″ difference between my high bust and full bust measurements.  I also start at the top of the Sewaholic size chart so there’s no option of grading between sizes as my high bust is 41″.

So I need to do a FBA of 2.5″ or maybe 2″ if I don’t mind taking 1″ of ease out of the pattern…  Because it’s such a big adjustment I always trace my pattern and work with the tracing.  That means if I get anything wrong, the original is intact and I can start again.

These are the steps for my FBA on the Renfrew Top.  I’m using pattern piece A – the front bodice piece for the scoop or cowl neck versions.

Traced and Marked Bodice

The traced and cut out bodice is on top of another sheet of tissue paper so that I can stick it down once its slashed, spread and adjusted easily.  The green lines mark where I’ll slash the pattern.  The change in direction is about 1″ above my bust point as I know it will drop when I do the adjustment.  I leave a hinge point near the shoulder.

Spread Pattern Pieces

Here is the slashed and spread pattern.  There’s a gap of 2.5″ between the vertical slash on the left and the point of the slash lines on the right.  You can see how this has moved the angle in the line down, lowering the bust point.

2.5" spread between angle of cut line and vertical cut line (ignore the slash about 2/3 of the way down on the right - I took this photo further along the process)

I marked the point where the bottom of the pattern came to and then brought the slashed centre front down to meet it.

Lining up the bottom of the pattern piece

Now I need to get the side seam back to where it was, other wise the bottom of the top is going to be very flared and have no resemblance to the original design.  To do this I put another slash into the pattern, pivoting at the point where the arm scye and side seam meet.  There was no science to where I chose for this I’m afraid!

Rotating the side seam back in

I brought the side of the pattern in until the bottom corner was 2.5″ from the vertical slash line – the same amount of width we added at the top of the pattern.

2.5" from corner to centre slash line

The bottom of the pattern pieces do not in any way match up.  There’s about an inch difference in length and we need to true this up some how.

Trued bottom of pattern piece

I used a french curve to draw a smooth line between the bottom of the centre front of the pattern piece to the bottom point of the side seam.

I’ve now added the length and width I need to get around my chest.  The side seam length has been maintained so it will match the back bodice piece.  The extra curve to the hem is cancelled out as the fabric travels over my ermm, contours?!

Finally I measured the new length of the bottom of the bodice and compared this to the original pattern piece. The length had increased by just over 2.5″ (almost the exact amount added for the FBA) so I slashed and spread the waist band of the pattern to match between the ‘place on fold’ marking and the notch half way along.

Voila!  One FBA for a knit top, or more specifically the Renfrew!  Now, please let me introduce you to the Top of First Ever (serger constructed, twin needle top-stitched, knit item!)

One Wearable Muslin with a Successful FBA! Look, No strain lines, even when sticking my *ahem* chest out and flailing my arms about!

By the way, the cowl in the picture is smaller than Tasia’s design as I had an idiot moment when cutting it out and missed a chunk off one of the pieces.  I have no idea how I managed it, but hey it’s still wearable!

Please please chime in if you’ve got any advice, observations or refinements that may help me or anyone else doing this sort of adjustment in a knit!

Guest Post at Frabjous Couture

I’ve written a short guest post for Marina over at Frabjous Couture on that sewing staple: thread! Marina has a series on her blog called Gadgetmania where she details different sewing gadgets, or short technical posts about things we use whilst sewing, which we may not overly consider. Thread was one of those for me until I started looking at the technology and engineering that goes into something so essential to this hobby of ours! I hope you find the post interesting and enjoy Marina’s blog if it’s new to you!

How I Make Piping

When I mentioned that I had made miles of piping for the forthcoming Minoru jacket, I was asked how I do it.  I’m hoping that this will explain!  If you need anything in more detail or I can make it any clearer please let me know and I’ll do my best!

First up I make the bias tape.  I use the continuous loop method which is brilliantly explained here.  And I got just over 5 yards of 1.5″ bias tape from just under a fat quarter, so making it yourself is very economical, not to mention you get to choose the fabric!

Once I’ve made the bias tape, if I’m making piping I then just press it in half along its length.  If I plan to use it to finish an edge I use a bias tape maker as it makes what can be a fiddly job really easy and stops me burning my fingers.  If you don’t fancy tracking one of these down, you could try this amazing print and build at home version!

It’s really important to press and not iron because it’s on the bias and we need that stretch when we fit the piping and don’t want to pull/steam it out at this early stage!

Piping Foot

Now, there are people out there who have the patience to make piping with a zipper foot.  I’m impatient so for the sake of a few £s I bought myself a piping foot.  It basically has two grooves in the bottom to guide the fabric and piping.  There are two grooves to enable you to have the piping in the most convenient place when you insert it into a seam.

If you use a zipper foot you just try and sew as close to the piping cord as you can, it’s still pretty straight forward, I think it just requires an extra level of concentration and takes a little longer.

So here goes!

Cord into Fold

I place the cord snugly into the fold of the bias tape that I pressed in earlier.  I then fold the top of the tape back over it and using my fingers hold it as snuggly in place as I can whilst the feed-dogs pull the fabric and cord sandwich under the needle.  I use a stitch length of 2 when constructing piping.

Sewing the Piping

Here you can see the fabric and cord sandwich going through the groove on the foot.  I try and put about 8 to 12″ of cord in to the fold at a time as this helps speed things up and is manageable for me.  When there is a join in the bias tape, this needs a little extra care to make sure the cord isn’t pushed out of the fabric or not as tight to the fold as I’d like.

I then tuck the next section in and sew and keep going till its done!  I hope that explains the process.  It’s really quite simple if you have a piping foot, and with a zipper foot it just takes a little more concentration!

A Neat Zipper to Lining

As I’ve mentioned before, not having a neat finish between my zip and lining has been a cause of frustration.  But I’ve cracked it with my circle skirt I think – I’m pleased with how it came out anyway!

Can you see the zip?!

First of all I put my zipper in as a lapped zipper.  I used Casey’s instructions and also watched the relevant chapter from Gertie’s Bombshell Dress course.  I’m pretty pleased with how it came out and that the plaid matches! (PS, the way I’ve cut my circle skirt means no chevrons, but I’m OK with that!)

Lapped zipper partially open

I then sewed the lining of the skirt having finished the side seam allowances before I started.  Sanity prevailed and I have only overlocked the lining!  I sewed all the way up the right hand seam of the lining.  I then measured the length of my zip in my skirt outer where the zip is and transferred this measurement down from the waist of the lining.  I then sewed the seam from that point to the hem of the lining and pressed it open.

Next I measured 1/8″ more than my seam allowance and folded the seam allowance of the gap I left for the zip towards the wrong side of the lining.  I pinned then basted this in place.  I basted it in place so that I could press the lining and get a crisp fold.  Pressing over the pins would have been a lot harder than pressing over the basting stitches!

Basted seam allowances on zipper gap of the lining, wrong side of the lining facing up
Checking how deep the seam allowance is

I then pin basted the lining to the zip tape.  Wrong side of the lining towards the wrong side of my plaid skirt.  I made sure to only pin through the zip tape and plaid seam allowance and not to the skirt.

Pin basted lining to zip. Wrong side of lining to wrong side of plaid

I opened and closed the zip to make sure the lining wouldn’t catch.

Checking the zip will open

I put the lining fabric to the right and the plaid to the left so that it was only joined at the zip insertion.  The right sides of the plaid were together and the right sides of the lining were together.  It looked like a butterfly with plaid on one side and turquoise on the other.

Basted lining seam allowance to zipper tape

I then basted the seam allowance of the lining to the zipper tape and seam allowance of the plaid.  If you looked at it side on it’d be a zipper tape sandwich between the plaid and lining.  I did this on both sides and removed the pins.

Zipper tape sandwich

Using the zip foot I stitched as close as I could to the crease I’d ironed into the lining fabric.  I stitched from the waist towards the hem.  I did the same on the other side.  Be really careful when doing your stitching as you don’t want to catch the skirt in the stitches.  You should be stitching the seam allowances and zipper tape only!

Stitching as close to the crease as possible. Making sure not to catch anything other than seam allowances and zipper tape!

I didn’t do anything special at the bottom, just moved the stitching line as close to the teeth of the zipper as I could for the last 1/2″.  There is a tiny gap where the lining isn’t stitched down at the bottom of the zip, but I can live with that.

I then flipped the lining back so that it was wrong side to the wrong side of the plaid and pressed with a cloth over the inside of the  zip.  Et Voila!  One neat lining to zip finish!

Nice and neat where the zip meets the lining
More zip and lining! It's not this wonky in real life, it's just the way I manhandled all that fabric!

I hope that’s all made sense.  If you’ve got any questions, please post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.  If you click on the photos you can have a look at a full size image…

A Pressing Matter

I have wanted / needed a pressing ham and a seam roll, well since I started sewing and realised FBA (full bust adjustments) were going to be a necessary and regular part of my life.  Princess seams are curvy, FBA’d princess seams are super curvy and don’t like being pressed on a flat board!  In fact it was just plain frustrating and led to me nearly steam-burning my fingers.  Big ouch.

One of Sunni's Beautiful Tailor's Hams. Click on the photo to visit her shop!

I have loved Sunni’s pressing aids for a long time.  Particularly when she did a mix and match option when she had her Etsy shop.  I loved mixing and matching my wool and cotton options and at $40US they were reasonable too.  But $30 shipping to me here in the UK was just ouch.  I can understand the cost, believe me as these are quality goods stuffed with sawdust so there’s some heft to them.  And shipping heavy things costs more than shipping light things.  But it’s still the same result: a little too much to make it a reasonable option.  Sigh.

So I investigated what was available locally and it wasn’t pretty, or of a quality I was willing to accept for the price demanded!  So that left me with two options, continue to have a frustrating curve pressing experience or make them.  Bet you can guess what I chose to do!

If you Google search for a tutorial on how to make a ham or seam roll you’ll get loads of results.  This is what I did though.

First up was a visit to Sewing Princess to get hold of her free tailors ham and seam roll pattern.

I used the green line as my template.  I cut two pieces of calico / muslin, a piece of wool and a piece of cotton for the ham and the same for the seam roll.  I’ve tried to co-ordinate my wool to my cotton, but I didn’t want them to be exactly the same, hence the different prints.

A Ham and A Roll

Now I have to be honest, this has been on the to do list since about April, maybe earlier?  What’s been holding me up is the acquisition of the wool I needed for one side of the roll.  I just couldn’t bring myself to spend a lot of money on a short yardage for this.  And I was concerned about the accuracy of the fibre content description on some eBay listings.  In the end it was Etsy who came good.  Some wool samples were being sold and for less than £5 I got half a dozen almost A4 sized bits of pure wool, or wool and cashmere fabric!

To construct my pressing aids I layered and pinned as follows:

Calico/muslin, Cotton with right side up, twist of ribbon with raw edges towards raw edge of fabric and loop towards the middle, wool right side down, calico/muslin.

I stitched around the edge, using my presser foot as a guide, leaving a gap of 1-2” at the end opposite the ribbon.  This is to turn it all the right side out and so that there’s somewhere to stuff the stuffing in.  I backstitched at the beginning and end of my stitching, as well as over the ribbon.  I then pressed to set the stitches.

Turning them the right side out was, erm, interesting.  If I were to do this again I would leave the gap in the seam roll on one of the long edges, probably somewhere towards the middle.  This was a lot harder to turn out than the ham, and having the ribbon at the opposite end made the process easier as there was something to get hold of and drag through the gap!  I used the blunt end of a knitting needle to help get the corners turned.  Then a bit more pressing!

Next up was stuffing.  Mine are filled with sawdust, provided by a friend who manages a boatyard where they restore old wooden boats.  This means cutting lots of lovely new wood and he provided me with a box of clean (ie no varnish or glue etc on the cut wood) sawdust.  He thought I was mad mind you, asking for a box of sawdust!

My bright and cheerful seam roll

I made a crude funnel out of card and used a wooden spoon to feed the sawdust into the funnel.  The first few were a bit of a challenge as the fabric naturally wanted to lay together.  Once the first few were in though, squeeze and tamped down with the handle end of the spoon, it got a lot easier.  Once it was full and tamped down firmly there was still a bit of a gap, but I couldn’t get any more sawdust in.  Because I wanted a really firm roll I added some pillow stuffing in the last ¼” of the roll before slip stitching the hole shut.

A rather zingy tailor's ham

I repeated the process for the tailor’s ham, and this was easier to fill initially.  Filling the corners at the wide end was more of a challenge and I ended up pressing sawdust into the corners with my fingers.  Some pillow stuffing also went into the end as well before I slip stitched it closed.  I wonder whether having the gap on a long side would have made the filling easier.  It may just be that it’s one of those fiddly jobs that you’re only going to get good at through repetition.  Not something that’s likely to happen here!

So, a bit of research and a little effort and I now have a set of pressing aids for the princely sum of about £5.  Factoring in my time though would make them a lot more expensive, but I had fun making them and learnt a few things.  And that’s one of the reasons I love sewing; I’m always learning.

Pins and Needles in My Arm!

Actually, there isn’t.  All because of my rather lovely pin cushion cuff / bracelet!

After wrangling the yardage of fabric a couple of evenings ago for my circle skirt, I decided to finally do something about my pins.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I need to put a pin in, or take a pin out my pin cushion is always in a slightly or very awkward place!  So, the solution seemed to be a portable pin cushion.  One on my wrist to be precise!

So I did a bit of Google-mooching and couldn’t find any that I liked that were for sale anywhere.  I couldn’t even find anything on Etsy that was what I wanted.  I then stumbled across a free tutorial from Keyka Lou.  I like Keyka Lou, I’ve bought a number of her bag patterns and they’re all very good and her pin cushion cuff tutorial was just the style I was looking for.

I did make a couple of alterations though.  The first being to add a small disk of plastic in between the calico and patterned fabric of the pad so that the pins couldn’t poke me in the wrist whilst I was using it, rather than putting the plastic in the cuff.  The hole in the centre of the plastic was to allow me to bind the pad with the embroidery thread.  My fabric is 3″ diameter and the circle is 1″.

Plastic circle ready to go into the empty cushion pad

The other was to add a layer of calico to the wrist strap to give it a bit more body.  I also didn’t top stitch it either as I sewed the pad on through a layer of cotton and calico, leaving the layer next to my skin free of thread or knots.  This meant that I needed access in thought the hole that I turned the cuff right side out.  I slip stitched the gap on the cuff shut once the pad was sewn in place.

And here’s my finished cushion!  I tried to photograph it on, but my arms aren’t long enough and all I could get in focus were my finger tips, so you’ll just have to admire it as it lounges on my sewing machine.

Finished wrist pin cushion

This used hardly any fabric and was made from some scraps I had lying around.  The stuffing is from an old pillow, and again hardly any was needed.  All in, it was a really quick thing to make and will make using my pins and therefore my sewing a little easier.

And on a completely unrelated note, you should pop over to So, Zo… as she has decided to give away the amazing refashion she did for Miss P’s blog.  If you’re a 30″ waist and a 40″ hip then the amazing pencil skirt she made could be yours!  Ah, my hips would fit, but not yet my post baby waist.  So, go.  Ask before Sunday night and maybe Zoe will provide you with her skirt!

Have Peg Bag, Will Travel

We’re camping this Easter weekend – up at Sandringham no less (but not in the Queen’s back garden…)  With the weather (hopefully, touch wood and fingers crossed) being good I’m hoping that the inevitable washing and towel drying that comes with boy will be dried out side and we wont have to spend £££ on a dryer at a laundrette.  With this in mind, another peg bag has been born!

Travel Peg Bag

I made this in the same way as the peg bag in my tutorial here.  I used one of boy’s hangers so this has a curvier shape and I also added a flap to contain the pegs whilst the bag is travelling in our caravan.  I’m considering putting some velcro on the flap to keep it shut, but as the fabric is reasonably heavy I think there’s probably enough weight without having to stick it down.

I flattened the bottom again (but not the liner this time – time was of the essence!) and this makes it even curvier as the bottom is narrower than the shoulders.  I really quite like the shape it gives it.

Flat Bottom

What ever your plans are for this Easter weekend, I hope you have a lovely time and get to relax a little with the long weekend!

Peg Bag Tutorial

This is my old peg bag.  It’s looking more than a little bit sad!  It’s had a busy life and it’s even busier now we have the little person, but as it was only a few £s in Sainsbury’s several years ago it has done very well.

This is the fabric for the new bag!  Bright and cheerful and from Ikea – I’m sorry I can’t tell you what it’s called, it was part of a bundle of remnants bought on eBay.   It’s a home dec weight material and has a soft canvas texture.  The lining is going to be  some plain red cotton that I’ve got lurking in my stash.

The design is quite simple and similar in shape to the old bag with a few tweaks, the biggest being that it is going to be lined.  This is going to be a luxurious bag for the pegs to live in when they’re not doing their peggy thing!  I’m hoping it’ll mean that it lasts a bit longer too…

I’m going to make it a bit bigger too as I want a larger hole to get the husband sized hands in and so that I can get more pegs into the bag.  We have an insane washing machine that will wash 9kg of laundry per wash, which is a lot, and our line will hold two of these washes!  If it’s all towels and sheets, that’s fine.  When it’s all socks and pants that’s not so good because you need a LOT of pegs, so a bigger bag is the way to go…

I’m also going to square off the bottom of the bag as I like the depth it will add, this is personal preference though and completely up to you!

I’m plannig to re-use the hanger from the old bag but you could always use a child-sized hanger.  Asking in your local supermarket (if in the UK) if they’ve got any destined for the bin is always an option if you don’t have stock from your own small person, or ask someone who does have a small person if you could have one of theirs (hangers, that is…)!  You can buy small hangers, but it makes sense to recycle them where possible.

What I used:
Hanger
Focus Fabric
Lining Fabric

If you’re using lighter weight fabric for the focus fabric on the outside of the bag, you may want to use some interlining to add some strength.  I’d suggest a medium weight woven fusible one.

  • First, decide on your bag size, this depends on the hanger width and how deep you want the bag to be, plus the seam allowance. 
    I wanted my finished bag to be 10″ by 14″ (before I square off the bottom) and my seam allowance is 1/2″, so I need my pieces of fabric to be 11″ by 15″.  
  • Cut two rectangles of this size from the focus, and the lining fabric.  Decide on which will be the top edge and mark the centre.  Make two further marks 3/4″ either side of the centre mark – this will be the gap where you thread the hanger’s hook through, so adjust as necessary!
Outline for my hand hole
  • Pin one of the focus and one of the lining fabrics RST (Right Sides Together) and then draw an oblong where you want the hole to be, making sure that it is centred and square. 
    My oblong is 2 1/2″ down from the top and 3″ from each size.  I’ll have a hole that is 4″ by 5″.  I’ve used disappearing marker to draw on the fabric.
Outline stitched and envelope pattern drawn, ready for cutting...
  • Next, stitch along the line you’ve just drawn as the oblong’s outline and iron the stitches to set them.
  • Then draw an envelope type pattern inside the oblong and carefully cut along these lines up to but not through the stitches around the edge. 
    I also trimmed out some of the excess fabric, making sure to leave at least 1/2″.
Lining pulled through and ironed
  • Push the lining fabric through the hole you’ve just made so that the focus and lining fabric are now WST (Wrong Sides Together).  Manipulate the edges of the hole so it’s lovely and neat and iron so you have a nice crisp edge. 
Top Stitching around the hole
  • I then pinned the two pieces together at the edges and top stitched about 1/4″ from the edge of the hole to help hold the layers and add some strength.
  • Pin the second piece of lining fabric to the first RST.  You’ll need to hold the focus fabric out of the way as you stitch the two pieces together:
    Starting at the right hand side of where the gap will be for the hanger hook to poke through, stitch around the edge of the fabric in a clockwise direction. 
Can you see the longer stitches after the back-stitching?
  • On the bottom edge after stitching a couple of inches of the bottom seam, back-stitch a little then lengthen your stitch length before sewing about 3-4″.  Shorten your stitch length again sew a few stitches, back-stitch then carry on along the bottom and up the side and across the top, back-stitching again just before the hole for the hanger hook.  Iron the seams to set the stitches then iron the seams open.
  • Square off the bottom by pinching the bottom corner flat so that the bottom and side seams line up.  Pin to hold this in place.
Measured, drawn and stitched to make a flat bottom and a 3D peg bag
  • Measure 1″  up from the corner along the seam and then draw a perpendicular line to the seam at this mark.  Sew along this line and cut away the excess fabric at the corner.  Repeat for the other corner then cut away your long stitches in the bottom seam.
  • Pin the second piece of focus fabric to the first, RST.  Make sure the lining is out of the way.
I'm pointing at the hole for the hanger's hook - don't stitch between the pins!
  • Starting at the right hand side of where the gap will be for the hanger hook to poke through, stitch around the edges of the fabric in a clockwise direction.  Back-stitch again just before the hole for the hanger hook.  Iron the seams to set the stitches then iron the seams open.
  • Square off the bottom of the bag as per the lining and clip the top corners of the focus fabric.  This will make sure you have sharp corners when you turn it the right way out.
  • Turn the bag the right way out by reaching up through the gap in the lining and grabbing the outer bag through the hole for your hand.
  • Slip stitch the gap closed in the lining.  Keyka Lou has some really good instructions on how to slip stitch.
  • Poke the lining fabric through the hole where your hand will go to grab the pegs and arrange inside the outer bag so it’s nice and neat.
Threading the hanger through
  • Put your hanger through the hole and thread its hook out of the gap at the top.
A funky new home for my pegs!

Ta Dah!  One very plush place for your pegs to live!  Believe it or not, this has the same number of pegs in it as the old bag so I’ve got lots of room to add more…