Wet look leggings: Burda 130-01-2011

Ages ago I had a pair of wet-look leggings from Topshop that I wore under skirts and dresses to add a bit of interest. They were always slightly too small for me, and the seams strained alarmingly from day one. Pregnancy finished them off completely. Just before my baby arrived I bought a length of wet look scuba knit from Tia Knight so I could replace them. It’s been over a year now and I have finally got around to sewing the fabric up! The exact same product code is no longer available, surprise surprise, but this one looks very similar and I think the product photo is the same as the one in my order confirmation.

Burda wet look leggings 130-01-2011

The pattern is Burda 130-01-2011, a very basic leggings pattern. There is just one pattern piece on this view; not even a separate waistband. The pattern has a second view which has an overskirt added to the design. Not something I intend to use any time soon but it makes it a little more versatile.

It’s designed for stretchy knits and my scuba is fairly stable so I measured the flat pattern carefully and sized up quite a bit; I’d normally make a 40 on hips and legs and what I ended up with was more like a 44. One adjustment I didn’t need to make was length. I am tall and yet the standard length on this is more than enough for me. Perhaps they are meant to be worn scrunched up? Worth checking if you make these yourself. I didn’t hem mine but even allowing for that they are too long.

Burda wet look leggings 130-01-2011

The fabric was a challenge to sew. My sewing machine could not feed it at all if the coated side was in contact with either the foot or the feed dogs. I ended up sewing the waist casing on my overlocker because I couldn’t get it through the regular machine. I did it the way you’d sew a hem on an overlocker: folding the fabric as you do to use a blind hem stitch on a regular machine and using a flatlock stitch to catch the raw hem edge to the fold. It’s not at all beautiful and the elastic tends to twist, but it was better than nothing. Another time I’d make a completely separate waistband piece and overlock it on. And I’ve since picked up some tops for sewing pleather type fabrics from Alex; that’s a good thing as I have quite a bit of the scuba left over. For what it’s worth I used size 90 needles on the overlocker with this, and on the regular machine a size 100 ball point, which worked fine as long as I only sewed the fabric with the wrong side out.

Burda wet look leggings 130-01-2011

The fit is OK – which is to say not brilliant but considerably better than my Topshop leggings. The front crotch depth is too long and the waist could do with being a bit smaller. There’s a reason I’m wearing a long top in the photos. But I would never wear these in real life without something over the top that covers my bum so I don’t think it’s really cheating.

These aren’t the greatest thing I’ve ever made but they fill a wardrobe hole and didn’t take long. If anyone’s wondering what happened to my Style Arc jacket I did finish it but it took forever to get photos…watch this space.

Overlocker weirdism

So one thing about overlockers is that most of them come with a feature called differential feed. This lets you vary the ratio between the rate at which fabric is fed in and out of the area under the presser foot and needles. It is supposed to be a magical fix for tricky fabrics where seams won’t lie flat. If the seam is stretching out you make the inward feed faster than the outward feed, and if it gathers or puckers you make it slower.

This sounds great in theory and you can find loads of blog posts explaining it. It’s also what my machine’s manual suggests to do to correct stretched or gathered seams. But it never really works for me. I can see a small difference when I adjust the feed, but I often find I get gathered edges on lightweight fabric even with the differential feed down at the minimum. This sample is a case in point: three thread overlock seam finish on a lightweight fabric with the differential feed at 0.7 and everything else at the default settings. Awful.

Puckered overlocker edge

The problem seems to come from the needle thread; the loopers look fine. Reduce the needle thread tension, and suddenly all is well.

Flat overlocker edge

Does this happen to anyone else or is it just that my machine has overenthusiastic tension?

How have I never noticed this before? Overlocker maintenance

Cleaning the sewing machine is a never-fail way to kickstart the sewing mojo. Cleaning and threading the overlocker, even more so. Clearly I haven’t been lacking in mojo lately because ewww.

Sordid overlocker innards

I wanted to switch from three to four thread mode on the overlocker which meant inserting a second needle. I have trouble getting needles into this overlocker correctly. I sometimes even have a needle slip out while sewing because I haven’t tightened the screw enough. And this time, something seemed obviously wrong because when I put the second needle in the eyes didn’t line up. No mention of this in the manual. No amount of undoing and redoing, trying different needles, or fiddling with the screws made the slightest difference. Eventually I resorted to the Internet. And apparently they’re not meant to line up! How have I never noticed this before?

Overlocker needles

Ouch

I’m never quite sure how often to change the needle on the overlocker. I change the sewing machine needle for most new projects, but I’ve been using the same overlocker needle for a while. The tension on the overlocker was being more than usually temperamental recently so I decided to treat it to a new needle. When I got the old needle out and had a good look at it I realised I should have done that a long time ago! In the picture below the needle from the overlocker is the one on the bottom and the top one is a brand-new universal size 90.

Damaged overlocker needle with new universal needle

No wonder things weren’t quite right. Here’s the universal needle next to a new stretch needle. That’s more like it.

After the change of needle and bit more fiddling with the tension the overlocker is working smoothly again. Phew.

Pattern of the year – the last make of 2011

Happy New Year! I’m actually writing this post on December 31st. Come Sunday morning I expect to be lying in bed nursing a small hangover after our traditional New Years Eve barbeque. It’s the only night of the year I manage to stay up late any more.



The dress above is my last make of 2011, Vogue 1220 in grey cotton sateen. I made it once already in navy blue sateen and it came out scandalously short. Despite the lack of length I have worn it a lot, always combined with very thick tights. The blue version also needs a slip because the sateen sticks to tights and wrinkles at the slightest excuse.

The grey version has another two inches of length added to the bodice over my usual two, making four in all, which brings it to about the right length. It is lined in black cupro.



Lining was pretty easy because the dress is finished with facings all the way round. I cut out the main pattern pieces in the lining fabric (leaving off the foldback self-facing on the front pieces) and made them up in the same way as the dress but without the front pleats to give a bit of ease. Then I pinned the lining inside the dress shell and and finished the facings over the top of it. I had to invisibly hem the lining to the dress around the neck to make it stay put there. I didn’t line the sleeves. I basted the lining to the dress at the armsyce and finished the armsyce with the overlocker after setting in the sleeves.

The buttons nearly caused this dress not to get finished at all. I marked the button placement incorrectly and didn’t notice until I’d sewn five of them on. Sewing on buttons is absolutely my least favourite sewing activity. But here they are, all attached in the right places at last.



This is my pattern of the year, narrowly beating Vogue 1239. It’s comfortable, flattering, and it has pockets. I’ve liked every version I’ve seen made up and there are a lot of them out there. Come on Vogue, give us another one like this in 2012!

Flowerpot

Fashion has yet to invent a hat that doesn’t look like a flowerpot on me. But on Friday it was snowing as I walked to work, and I ended up having to dry my hair with paper towels in the Ladies. I don’t do umbrellas; I always lose them. So without further ado, here’s my new flowerpot:

It started out as half a metre of black wool jersey I’ve been keeping in my stash for nearly a year. Most of the piece became a long-sleeved t-shirt but as usual it turned out I’d bought too much yardage. I always intended to make a hat out of the leftovers, but didn’t get any further at the time than finding a suitable hat tutorial on the Internet. By the time I finally made the hat I’d lost the link to the tutorial.

However I acquired an overlocker this year, a device which I find induces a spirit of complete recklessness in sewing. It’s something to do with its whirling blades of doom. I made the hat according to what I could remember of the tutorial. I sewed the jersey into a tube of about the right circumference to fit round my head and then sewed a straight seam along the top. The next step I find almost impossible to describe or draw. I wish I could find that tutorial and link to it! You flatten out the fabric along the top seam, letting the sides fold underneath, so you have a right-angle at each end of the top seam. Then you sew two seams at right angles to the original seam, cutting off the corners. I’m not sure what was supposed to come after that, but I chopped off the other end of the tube, folded it in two, and overlocked it back onto the cut edge to make a ear-warming band.

The top has little pointy bits where the ends of the seams are, which I quite like. From this angle it doesn’t so much resemble a flowerpot as an attempt at medieval costume.

I am certainly going to wear it. And if anyone knows the tutorial I have lost, do let me know so I can link back to it.

Things they don’t tell you about overlockers

Recently I bought an overlocker. I’ve been assured that once you get one, you’ll wonder how you ever sewed without it. I duly tried out all the stitches on mine and then decided I’d wait for the right project to come up before I used it for real: one where the fabric was something I wouldn’t mind destroying if it all went horribly wrong.

Well the best laid plans, etc etc. My sewing machine flatly refused to sew the viscose doubleknit fabric I am using for the current project. So I nervously threaded the overlocker and fed a fairly straight seam into it. And then a curved one. And then I sewed the sleeves in. It’s brilliant. It sews through just about anything and it’s seriously fast.

But there’s one thing about it that surprised me. Regular sewing makes quite a bit of mess – at least I’m always surprised by the state of the floor round the sewing table. But the overlocker spreads its fuzz even further than the sewing machine. Specifically, all over your face. I don’t notice it until I take my make up off, but the cotton wool comes out grey! Does this happen to anyone else?