Sunday, 5 April 2020

Fer Gawd's sake, where does the time go...?

Honestly, it just flies away.

And now...NOW, we're all stuck at home, sewing facemasks and scrubs and I don't know what.

And my sewing space is now my work-from-home space.

And, frankly, who wants to move a laptop and two screens and a docking station, a keyboard and mouse before they sew? I just want to sit and press the pedal, y'know?...

BUT, I've just signed up to an 8-week course on fitting so, sorry husband, the dining room table is now going to have to be my sewing place, because I NEED to sew!

There has been sewing, of course...
The Chalk and Notch Fringe Dress - I've made this a couple of times:


A lovely linen top, made with a bit of linen I bought in Stockholm last May - a lovely memento of a trip with friends. I didn't have quite enough in length for the back as well, so I split the back in two and did a contrast yoke in inky blue/grey.

I had a test toile for a dress for a friend's wedding last April. Months later, in the summer, I had a job interview and NOTHING TO WEAR. Then I remembered the toile. It's a plain grey thing, perfectly sober for a job interview. I couldn't find the sleeve pieces anywhere so I badly edged the armholes in some bias and wore a cardigan. We had a minor car accident on the way and I got a bit lost when my husband dropped me off, but it all seemed to go ok and an hour later I had a new job! Lucky dress! I've now found the sleeves and plan to add them...well, anything to get rid of the, frankly, terrible bit of sewing that is my bias edging.

So, there has been sewing, there continues to be sewing, I'm just a bit terrible at blogging!

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The big project of the year

Autumn jackets and winter coats - I've been thinking about outerwear for AGES.

And when I bought a lovely length of corduroy from the sale rail at my local fabric shop I knew it was going to be a jacket. That doesn't always happen, sometimes I buy fabric just because I have to - it's too beautiful to leave behind - and its destiny reveals itself sometime later. And in the meantime I build a store of fabrics, all neatly laundered, pressed and folded, waiting to be turned into something.

Now, I understand that there are people who do not have a fabric stash.

No stash.



Apparently they decide to make something, get the pattern, buy the fabric and set to.  I can't even...

Fancy NOT browsing the fabric shops and seeing something utterly delicious and being gripped with the sheer overwhelming need to own it.

Well, it's beyond my ken.

But the corduroy - duck-egg blue, with a slight stretch to it - that was always a jacket, from the moment we met.

Pattern-hunting was harder, I wanted something that would do it justice, princess seams, notched collar, single-breasted, unlined.

I love the Luffa jacket, but it was outside my size range and I didn't want to do loads of grading.

Eventually I decided on the Santiago from On The Cutting Floor.  It had pretty much all the details I wanted. It's a PDF, and it taped together relatively easily. I know some people don't like them but I don't mind PDFs. But I do have a dining table to tape them on which helps.

Luckily, just at the point I was ready to start, a local sewing classes shop started a weekly evening class of 6 sessions which I joined. It was just as well really. There were 3 of us and 2 tutors so the ratio was brilliant!

Details: I did a full bust adjustment, a bicep adjustment and lengthened it slightly. I also did a regular sleeve and left off the buttoned cuff detail.

I decided to finish my seams with a Hong Kong finish - enclosing them in bias binding. I happened to have a reel of Liberty Lawn bias which a friend gave me and which picked up the colour beautifully.

I changed from a patch pocket to welt pockets - just to preserve the clean sweep of the front.

The sleeves were a NIGHTMARE! For some reason the notches didn't match up at all so a great deal of it was good luck but eventually we got them together and in place. I lined them in some shot silk that was a total fluke for colour matching. I had just enough, there are literally scraps left!

And then I used the same Liberty lawn in a different colourway for the pockets and the hem binding - the pattern is called Mark.

 Once it was finished the weather was madly hot so I had to hang it up and not wear it for about 2 months! But now it's heading into Autumn it's cool enough to wear and I LOVE IT!

However, there are some issues with the pattern. I had two very experienced people helping me, people who have a combined total of about 80 sewing years. One of them is a teacher. And we had some significant problems with the pattern and the instructions. 

  • The sleeve notches mentioned above. The sleeve cap didn't actually have one and the rest generally didn't match up.
  • The sleeve pieces were really out of alignment , it was quite a hard job getting them to go together.
  • The front and sides didn't match up.
  • The under collar piece has no grain line.
  • There's no note of the seam allowance used, but then sometimes it refers to a seam allowance, so you don't know if this is the standard or a different s/a. I ended up asking the pattern-maker in her Facebook group. It's the same throughout.
  • The instructions look detailed but are actually really quite sketchy.  
  • The line drawings are hard to decipher.
  • The instructions pages are not numbered but say things like "refer to page 12".

All in all, it's a lot of small niggly things that made this slightly more difficult that it needed to be. With the adjustments and making a toile - I was given some swedish tracing paper for my birthday (thanks sis!) - it took me 3 weeks before I even got to sewing my good fabric. I ended up signing up for another 4 weeks to get it finished, and I'm really glad I did, I couldn't have done it without them.

In all this took me 30-35 hours to finish, and part of that is because of the problems I had. If I was to make it again I would probably use a standard jacket construction from a book or Threads or something! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the end result, but I can't honestly say I'd make it again as it's written...

Still, it's nice to wear and I am enjoying it very much!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

The year so far part 2

I really wanted a cosy cowl neck dress. This was ridiculous on so many levels, mostly because a polo or cowl is often held up as a definite "no. just no" on a larger bust. Oh and the fact that I don't like tight things around my neck. I mean. What was I thinking?

I used the Madeit Patterns Groove for this - it's a great pattern, I've made quite a few and really love it. And look! So cowl-y and fold-y and lovely and warm.

And so DEEPLY unflattering!

I had to narrow and shorten the sleeves, chopped a lot off the hem and ended up removing the cowl and it was rescued. And I'm never doing cowl necks again. 

Yeah, I need to do this more regularly...

I always mean to blog more regularly, but that life thing gets in the way. Ahem, anyway.

After the wedding dress, ball gown extravaganza I had a small break. And then it was Christmas, so I made a few impromptu gifts of neckwarmers - these are wool tweed lined with cotton lawn, nice and warm for cold winters, no trailing scarf ends for the cyclists among you.

There were also some scarves - these are backed with linen scrim and then washed so the scrim goes soft and crinkly. It's a lovely simple technique for texture and interest.

I also took the ribbons and the cake-topper mini-bunting from my sister's wedding and turned them in to Christmas tree baubles - not sewing, but a lot of glue-gun action!

After that I returned to my favourite skirt pattern, the Chocolate Chip, by TieDyeDiva. For this one I changed the scoop of the pocket to a slant for more pocket depth. This is Emma Bridgewater Pomegranates fabric which I LOVE. I got it from Standfast and Barracks in Lancaster. It was super-cheap because it had printing faults, but you can't see them. I just love it!

Also not-sewing, I knitted these warm and slightly ridiculous pixie boot slippers - they were ENORMOUS before I felted them in a hot wash!

Earlier this year a colleague offered me a sewing machine and I very gratefully accepted. His wife had upgraded and, in his words, "she doesn't really need two". I didn't say that I already had three... It's very heavy and feels like a total BEAST! I think it'll be perfect for coating or jeans. I contacted Janome who were able to provide a PDF of the original manual which is great. I have a coat planned, I think it'll be getting a proper workout!

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Busy busy busy!

My sister got married at the weekend so there has been a LOT of planning and, for me, a lot of sewing.  Of course.  I wouldn't have missed an opportunity like that!

There was the hen party - I can recommend Bratislava, it's a great mix of Austro-Hungarian empire and Communist brutalism.  I had a lot of fun making little Japanese knot bags and scrabble-tile necklaces for the hens.

The bags were all reversible - unfortunately I didn't re-arrange them in the same order so I can't actually tell you what the fabric pairs are!

Next up was an alteration to the wedding dress - the actual wedding dress.  We are a fortunate bunch with blessings in the ample frontage department! So although it is my sister's size it was a bit unbalanced in the bodice for bust reasons.  My solution was to put in a laced back - and I can wholly recommend Bridal Covered Buttons, their kit was perfect.  They're made to order and are super quality with really good instructions. I had a complete fluke on choosing the right colour match for the kit, which was a relief, and didn't bother with the modesty panel as the closure gap was close enough to not need it once it was properly done up.

It went from this:
To this:

For the daytime I made myself a circle skirt out of blue micro-fibre silk - it's not real silk but it has lovely drape though it is super-slippery to sew.  I originally planned to make Vogue V8980 which is lovely, but the practice piece I made was utterly wrong on me - the pleating made it very bunchy at the front and I've got enough going on up front thankyouverymuch. So I ditched it and decided to go for a simple circle instead.  The hem ended up a little uneven because it's so slippery, but I've added some horsehair braid to give it a bit of flip and I think it did nicely - and who was looking at me anyway?!  All attention should be on the beautiful woman in the white frock!

The wedding included an evening masked ball.  So, OF COURSE, I decided to make a ball gown.  I naturally set myself something of a challenge, and wanted to make something close to Vintage Vogue 4042.  A pattern from 1950, with a gorgeous collar.  I could do the bodice and skirt easily, but the collar - how on earth to get that beautiful shape?  Look at it, isn't it BEAUTIFUL!  I spent a lot of time googling Every. Single. Variation of collar design I could think of with absolutely no solution.  I knew I had to track down a copy of the pattern to get the shape of the collar pieces, and for a vintage pattern that is 67 years old I had limited hope of any success.

After weeks, literally, of stalking eBay I struck lucky when someone listed the pattern for £4.50 - a STEAL, considering it's on Etsy for something like $90 *shocked face*.  It wasn't my size, or anywhere near it, but at least I had it.

So, I bought 5m of a gorgeous dark gold slub silk - I think it's called dupion these days - and got busy.

The silk cuts like butter and sews like a dream, it's not at all slippery because of the slubs, and it's really easy to handle - and trust me, I've wrangled 4.5m in this so I know what I'm talking about!

Changes I made to the pattern:

  • I used my own bodice block with a v-neck rather than the wide bardo-ish style neck of the pattern.
  • Added elbow length sleeves
  • Drafted a turn-back cuff - using the method in this blog by sew2pro - slightly inspired by the cuffs on Modes Royale 959, another early 1950s pattern
  • Used shoulder princess seams rather than the armscye ones in the original

So.  That collar.  Interesting shape, no idea at first how to make it look like the one on the pattern picture. Or how to redraft it.

Most fortunately, in general the shoulder to centre-front distance seems to be the same despite me being a lot of sizes bigger than the pattern.  I made a mock-up and laid it against the neckline and it matched up very neatly.  The pieces themselves go together in a most peculiar way, I practised and got it wrong a few ties before I understood how it worked, and once I did it was a thing of absolute beauty.

The fabric, while gorgeous, has got quite a tendency to fray so I have used French seams on most of it apart from the princess seams in the bodice.  I'll probably need to keep an eye on them for fray, but it should be ok.

I'm still in shock that I've actually made a ball gown.  I suppose a dress is a dress is a dress, but perceptually a silk ball gown seems so much more advanced than a little cotton summer frock - is it?

I wore it with some AWESOME Irregular Choice shoes, a beaded waspie corset and some elbow length gloves. I'm not wearing a hat, it's my mask pushed back on my head!

Apart from all that I also made about 60m of bunting, and the wedding cake, and a bit of mini-bunting for the top of the cake!

It was a wonderful wonderful weekend, worth every stitch!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Sea Fever

There has been holiday!  Sometimes I take a machine with me, and I almost did this year, but in the end I decided to leave it at home.

While on holiday I saw a beautiful dress - the Stay Sail from Seasalt.

It's a simple jersey dress with a slightly nautical vibe that looks very easy to wear.  I LOVED it, but it's £55!  And they didn't have my size anyway.

As I looked at it and thought about it I realised that it was quite similar to the Fancy Tiger Fen dress, a pattern I already own and have made twice.   I asked on their facebook page if anyone had made the Fen in a knit - it's intended for a woven - and while they didn't know of any they give me some very helpful tips.

Saturday saw me hitting the fabric shop for some striped jersey - and I struck very lucky with the sale as it was £3.50 a metre!  So yesterday I got to drafting and sewing...

Alterations to the pattern:

  • Sized down by one size - you can do that when going from a woven to a knit to take account of the negative ease with a stretchy material
  • Changed the pocket hole from curved inset to a slanted one
  • Removed the bodice darts - I just cut them up the centre and overlapped the legs to remove them 
  • Lengthened the skirt by about 3 inches - I felt the previous two were a tiny bit too short and while the jersey is heavier and would probably have pulled down enough I fancied a bit more knee coverage!

After that it was a relatively simple sew.  I stabilised the waistband with elastic - there's clear stuff you can use but I find it maddeningly scratchy (SUCH a princess!) so I normally just use normal narrow elastic which is softer.  I cut it to the width of the bodice and then sewed it to the skirt top with a stretch stitch.  it's done a really nice soft gather that is pretty evenly balanced.

Last of all I used a bit of bought stretch binding for a tiny bit of colour detail and twin stitched the cuffs and hem with a matching red.  You can't tell, but I know it's there and that's enough for me!

I think it would even be possible to size down a little more at the waist but that's a tiny detail.

All in all I'm really pleased with it, it's a close enough approximation of the dress I saw, it's SO comfortable, loose enough but not ridiculously baggy, wearable with gym shoes or sandals, cool, simple, pretty.

So, £55 or £9?  I know which one I prefer!

I'm going to call it a Fen-Sail!

Shoes - Ancient Skecher Go Walks
Hair - bouncy
Greengages - falling off the tree

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Three months later...

Oh, hello sewing mojo - sewjo? - there you are.  I was wondering where you'd got to.

There I was, full of plans and with a wonderful new fabric stash to play with courtesy of my friend who is moving to another country and BIFF. BANG. POW.  No inlination, no spark, sewing room in darkness...WOE!

It felt like a long way back.  And all the while I still had plans actual doing.  And I had promised a garment to my mum for her birthday which was...oh yes, three months ago.  THE GUILT every time I did something else!  She's very patient, my mum.  Which is just as well really.

And she carried on being very patient without saying a word.  But finally, a couple of weeks ago, I got the fabric out and traced the pattern and put the thing together and Hoorah, Mum's birthday kimono is done!  I used Simplicity 1108, view D, lengthened a little, and made it in Liberty poplin, the floral print is called Paul, which I bought from Shaukat.  As with all things Liberty the fabric is really lovely to cut and sew, and the colours are gorgeous.  I edged it in plain blue poplin bias binding.

Have you ever made continuous bias binding?  It's quite easy and way better than cutting endless strips and piecing them together.  I had NO idea how much I needed so I cut a square and drew my lines and got snipping.  About 30 minutes later I was still snipping.  The square I cut was really quite big.  Unnecessarily so.  And I now have around THIRTY METRES of duck-egg blue poplin binding!  It goes from the back of my house all the way to the front, twice.

You can avoid that by using this handy calculator.  Which I had completely forgotten existed.  

The pattern goes together pretty simply - except for the sleeve bits, I couldn't figure those out at all for some reason so that had some unpicking and redoing but we got there in the end.  And I did french seams on all except the sleeves, and they do look very lovely and neat.

And then I forgot to photograph it before I handed it over, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Since then it's been all go back in the sewing room.

I redid the tea-cosy I made last year as all the stuffing had slipped.  So I bought new wadding and used some of the bias to do a new bound edge.

And then I got cracking on a second attempt at the Cashmerette Springfield - a nice top of the kind that goes with jeans or crops.

My first attempt last August was a complete fail.  Luckily Jenny is a very good correspondent on social media and gave me some advice about the right size to cut, it just took me ages to get around to it.  But I'm finally there!

This isn't a very drapy or flowy fabric, it's a straight cotton, but I do love the two together - the green is a Rose & Hubble and the pink is by Belleboo.  I made a slight alteration to the arm and neck finishing - the patterns calls for a facing strip, but by the time I'd cut them they were too wide so I turned them into a bias-bound edge.  My neckline isn't totally flat but I can live with it, especially as I hand-finished them all and don't intend doing them again!  But it's a nice and quick sew, and took an afternoon to finish.  I like the split side-seam and the contrast band.

Top - Cashmerette Springfield
Crops - cut down from charity shop jeans (50p!!) and taken in at the waist
Hair - drying
Toes - really in need of some varnish

And after that I tackled my mending basket and got to grips with popped seams and unlined waistbands and things that needed a bit of tinkering to get a better fit.  I think I'm back, Back, BACK! 

Now I'm going to play with t-shirt patterns.  My most favourite, most perfect Gap one went into holes a couple of years ago and I'm going to try and recreate it...

"Phew, for a minute there I lost myself...."