It’s All About the Blog

Dibs nominated me to answer the blog hop questions doing the rounds at the moment.  I hope you’re not sick of them yet – I personally find them fascinating.  But I’m a nosey so-and-so and love to learn about the people behind the finished items and published posts.  It’s also made me write again, which is something I’ve missed doing!  So, here goes…

Why Do I Sew?

I have always liked making things.  Before sewing I was into cards and scrapbooking – paper based pursuits.  It sat really well alongside photography and I love taking pictures (as long as I’m not in them).  It’s a love I inherited from my Dad who used to develop photos he’d taken in our bath at home and would earn extra money as a quantity surveying student working for one of the best photography studios where I grew up.  Let’s just say he has a good eye!  I guess that need to be creative against a very precise job (I work in an enforcement role) is something we have in common.

My favourite class at school was graphic design – the aesthetic considerations being of just as much importance as the practical.  I guess sewing your own clothes is a (possibly stretched) extension of that.  You have the aesthetics of the fabric, colours and print against the amazing engineering blueprints of the patterns.  What intrigues me and challenges me after learning to follow that blueprint is that those blueprints are really springboards.  There are so many possibilities stemming from some lines on a bit of paper.  The possibilities are vast (and sometimes overwhelming!) and there’s always something new to learn.  A new technique, a new style line, a new fabric.

One of my most treasured sewing possessions is my copy of ‘Fabric for Fashion’ which is a swatch book of a myriad of unbleached fabric samples.  It’s a fabulous resource for learning about fabrics without getting distracted by the ‘ooooh, pretty!’ effect a good print can have!  Dad, with his construction background, saw it as a great reference tool to help understand the suitability or not of the materials you intend to use to follow the blue print (and yep, Mum and Dad bought it for me – it’s not a cheap book!).

The other reason I learnt to sew is because I wasn’t short changed in the bust.  Seriously – to get clothes that fit my upper torso means that they are around 2-3 sizes bigger than anywhere else on my body.  I hadn’t really realised this until I had Boy when all those hormonal changes increased that disparity even further.  I was sick of wearing clothes that drowned in one place whilst straining in another.  I felt self conscious enough, trying to wrap my head around how my body had changed, without the disaster that RTW was and is for me.

Sewing started out as cushions with my Nanny’s old Elna (a solid metal workhorse with those cams for different stitches), and then bags.  I followed a link from U-Handbag to one of Gertie‘s posts and the rest is history.  My focus switched to garments, my skill set grew (as did my blog reading list!), my clothing began to reflect who I was rather than what was the least offensive thing that fit, and I became a part of this amazing community.  You guys are part of the reason why I still sew – I wouldn’t have half the skills I do without you all sharing your knowledge so freely or providing me so much inspiration on a near daily basis!

Bound Buttonholes 2

What Am I Working On?

Currently, my Papercut Patterns Milano Cape.  It is so very nearly done and has involved a load of new techniques that I would never have tried a short time ago.  Pad stitching, re-drafting, bound buttonholes, welt pockets, bagged lining, drafting…  I can honestly say that the pattern has been an excellent jumping off point for me to make something that is perfect for me.  It’s not changed out of all recognition, but I’ve definitely put my own stamp on it beyond the usual fitting and fabric choices.  It’s also only been possible to make these changes because of the help I’ve had from fellow bloggers (Maddie and Emmie in particular!)

What am I going to sew next is a far harder question to answer!  I’ve got a wrap dress cut out and ready to go so I should make that up really, but I also want to make a Kimono.  I’ve had the fabric with that in mind sitting around for far too long.  There’s also a bag project I’ve started, Zo’s ‘Dolores’ top that’s recently come off the printer, and some hacked ‘Day to Night‘ tops that will fill a fairly massive void in my current wardrobe!  I also have an Elisalex hack that will be perfect for some events in December (and I have nothing else suitable for them so I’ll have to make it!).  Add the fact that fitting is like trying to hit a moving target at the moment, and my lack of ability to focus or stay awake beyond 21:30 and who knows what will come off the machine next!  Or when!

How Does My Sewing Process Work?

I’m not sure that I could ever call it anything like a process!  Sometimes I get ‘see-it-want-it-isis’ when someone has shared something they’ve made and I neeeeeeed it.  It could be the silhouette, the pattern or the fabric.  Other times I’ll see a fabric and it has to come and live with me and eventually I’ll find a pattern that it’s ideal for.  Other times I’ll have a pattern and then obsessively hunt down the fabric I’ve pictured for it (My maxi Annalex was one such combination).

I can’t say that my pattern purchases have any logical reason to them.  Some will be love at first sight, others will need to grow on me through repeated exposure (hello blogland!!), then there are the ones with an interesting detail (such as the Deer and Doe Belladone).  I’m not a pattern drafter – whilst I’d love to have the skills and am pretty sure I could develop them, my spare time is at a premium.  Rather than working from scratch I’m much happier paying a designer for something I like and then tweaking – it’s much faster than starting with a blank sheet of paper!

What Keeps Me Motivated to Blog?

You guys.  My interaction with you all through this space, Twitter, Instagram, keep me sane.  I think you also keep my Husband sane so that he doesn’t have to listen to me talk about sewing (just pretend not to see the mess I make).  My skill set has grown, my ambition and ability has grown and my circle of friends has grown.  All because I decided to do something a little reckless and very brave (for me) by hitting publish on that first post.

I’m never going to make a career out of this (and have no intention to do so), my writing is to infrequent and haphazard for that!  I’m also never going to be an expert or a professional – enthusiastic / slightly obsessive is where I sit.  I blog because I get to share what I’m doing with you all.

Sewing is quite an introverted thing to do – you don’t need a team of people around you, you don’t have to put yourself into new social situations unless you choose to.  Go to a meet up, or not; you can do what is right for you and share your sewing and your life on your terms.  Letting people in as much or as little as you like.  I’ve learnt about countries and cultures I have never been to and may never visit.  I have friends on every continent who all share a passion with me.  Through this blog I have people who will send me an email just to check up on me if I’ve been a bit quiet.  You all inspire me in some way or another, you’ve encouraged a shy and introverted person to interact on a global platform and travel to a capital city to meet people that I’d only previously met on the inter webs.  You’ve broadened my horizons, educated me and inspired me.  So I blog; in the beginning for my own records and now because I love having a conversation with you all and going ‘wheee!  Look what I made!’.

At this point I’m supposed to pass this on to two other bloggers, to find out what their take on the questions is!  So, I’m going to ask Sonja at Gingermakes if she fancies having a go at this one, as well as Amanda at Bimble and Pimble.  Both of these bloggers have awesome style, sew up a storm and regularly inspire me whilst making me laugh all at the same time – that’s a pretty hard combination to beat!!

A Bit (Lot) Stuck

So, I’ve managed to sew one garment since I last spoke to you and have taken no photos of it!  I’ve also cut out one pattern and got no further – the fabric is still a big piece of fabric.  So this is going to be a wordy rather than pretty post I’m afraid.

Basically – I feel a bit stuck.  I have all these plans of what I’d like to make (as you know from my last post) but I’m…  I don’t know really…  Confused?  Not sure?  Long story short – I’ve recently been living in my maternity jeans from five years ago and a couple of vest (singlet) tops and a maternity top that’s also five years old.  Don’t get me wrong – they’ve got plenty of life in them and they don’t need replacing at all but…

I like dresses.  I like woven dresses.  I like dresses that make the best of what I have and I’m not sure how to do that at the moment.  Don’t get me wrong – I adore being pregnant (and everything that it brings!) but I’m not sure how to express who I am through my clothes at the moment.  I’m also in that slightly odd transition phase where I don’t fit into my clothes anymore but don’t really look pregnant at the moment (although I’m told I’m starting to ‘pop’).

This leaves me wanting to sew but not having any real clue WHAT to sew!!  I’m in the middle of making a quilt but even that isn’t scratching the itch at the moment.  I want to sew something for ME so that I feel less casual and more put together if that makes any sense at all?

It’s a weird situation and one I wasn’t in when Boy was a bump.  I didn’t sew clothes then and having found out so late, a couple of pairs of jeans and a couple of tops got me through the few months when I did know about it (and went from not looking pregnant to looking very pregnant in a very short space of time) – I didn’t have time to get frustrated about what was on offer on the high street and quite honestly I didn’t project myself through my wardrobe in the same way!  I’m so grateful that I can do that through sewing but it’s a bit of a mind bender at the moment…

Sooo…  I’m getting used to the idea of (nearly) everything in a knit (I’m not a fan of the draped look although I know some people can pull that off brilliantly) as I still like to have some definition where I can.  Sewing knits is not a drama at all on my two machines either.  

So I don’t know what my problem is:
Is it what to sew?
Is it how to project who I am through who I sew?
Is it simply that I need to wrap my head around this transitional period and just sew something!

I think I’ll go with option three…

PS – Boy starts school on Thursday…  How on earth did we get to that stage already?!

Belcarra Blouse by Sewaholic

Hello my lovelies!  I’m so excited to share with you the Belcarra Blouse by Sewaholic!  Back in February I got an email to ask if I wanted to test the pattern and after doing a little shimmy of joy I sent back a very happy ‘yes please!’ to Tasia.

You’ve seen the Belcarra Blouse quite a bit on the Sewaholic Blog already as Tasia was wearing it to model the Gabriola maxi skirt.  It is such a quick make but has some lovely details that really set it apart from your usual knit T’s.

Belcarra 2

View A is a simple raglan sleeved top with bias cuffs, View B has the cute pleat / tuck details and View C has the little pocket.  Me being me just had to overload my tester version with all the details so I made View B with the addition of the pocket from View C.

There are no darts in this top so it’s quite a loose fit but to accommodate the bewbs I did need to do an FBA (Full Bust Adjustment).  I used the ‘Fit for Real People‘ Method which adds a side dart.  I did consider rotating the dart out but this added more fabric to the front and that’s not a look I’m a fan of.  However, Stitches and Seams has an FBA method that gets rid of the side dart and that extra fabric.  I’m going to give this a go on my next version.

Whilst I love the fabric I made this top from (a japanese slubbed cotton) it is probably a little too stiff for this stort of top – something much more liquid and flowing would give softer lines and would not crease nearly as much as mine does!  As a result of my fabric choice, my version looks far better tucked in than it does left out.  I wear it a lot to work with this Rachel Comey for Vogue 1247 skirt that I made over a year ago which is another wardrobe staple.

Belcarra 1

In the defence of my fabric choice, because of the slubs in the weave it makes it really easy to find the grain line and also makes the bias areas (cuffs and neck binding) a bit more interesting than just a change in direction of the print.  You could have a lot of fun with stripe placement on this top!

This is a really satisfying and fast make.  It has the potential to be a wardrobe staple depending on your fabric choice and it wouldn’t surprise me to see people with multiples of these in their wardrobes.  I have a number of future versions planned including one with lace sleeves (omitting the pleats and cuff) as I think that will look really cute with a solid coloured bodice.  I have a couple of other drapy fabrics in the collection that are destined for this top now too, particularly as it’s not too fabric hungry – mine came out of less than 2 yards of 44″ fabric.

Who knew that something as simple as a T could be made so interesting?!  Thank you for the experience of pattern testing for you Tasia, I loved every second of it.

There’s a Fine Line Between Being a Fangirl and a Stalker

I’m a little bit scared that Sew Dolly Clackett may have tipped me over that line.  The whole point of this little frock-fest organised by Sarah at Rhinestones and Telephones is to celebrate the marriage of Miss Muldoon to Dr Nic in May.  The sewing tribute was announced eons ago and entries could be made between the 23 February and tomorrow, the 23 April simply by posting your photos over on the Flickr page specially set up.  And whaddayaknow.  It’s the 22 April and I’m typing this post whilst still needing to finish the never ending hem on my Dolly Clackett Dress and take the photos despite having plotted this dress since the announcement.  Actually since before then because as I said, there’s a fine line between fangirl and stalker.  But, I’ve done it.  And there’s photographic evidence to prove it!

Georgalex 1

I’ve always loved Roisin’s style.  She makes lovely dresses in the best prints ever.  In all seriousness, without her inspiration I’d still be using sensible colours in everything I make.  Roisin’s given me the courage to wear something a little brighter and a lot more fun!  Whilst there is certainly a time and a place for a sensible wool dress, there’s also a lot of fun to be had in wearing something bright and colourful and a little irreverent too.  When I think of a Dolly Clackett Dress I think of Alexander Henry fabric, full (preferably a circle) skirt, a fitted bodice and amazing shoes.  When I think of Mr and Mrs soon-to-be Clackett I think of Paris, Gin, Kate Bush, Pizza and a blue front door.  Does a blue garage door count?

Georgalex 2

I knew exactly which fabric I wanted to use as it has been sitting in my collection for over a year now waiting for the perfect dress.  It’s preciousness brings out in me Gollum like tendencies.  This was no time for a ‘suck it and see’ dress if I was going to use my ‘Home Sewing is Easy’ fabric.  This had to be something I’d love.  And what better than to use a fabric I love in tribute to two people who I’ve had the pleasure to (briefly) meet, annoy online and who are so fabulous?

Georgalex 4

Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding for the Floralex.  Hey, if you’re making a dress inspired by Roisin, By Hand London has to feature as does a pattern mash up!  As I mentioned, I didn’t want the hassle of fitting and I like the way the Elisalex bodice fits me.  Splice on the dipped-hem-circle-skirt-with-pleats from the Flora pattern and you have a lot of fun out of 3m of fabric!

Georgalex 3

 

I may have committed a minor misdemeanour in that the front of the skirt has a seam running down its centre but that was the only way I was going to get the skirt out of 44″ fabric.  It’s not that obvious on first glance and damn it, I love this dress!

I cut everything out on a single layer to make sure I got the pattern placed where I wanted it and then lined the bodice using a plain white cotton and I underlined the skirt in the same.  I then did a kind of flat felled seam thing to make the side seams in the skirt disappear.  I was going to wrap the centre back seam in white bias tape to magic that away too but changed my mind.  It’s behind me so isn’t going to be that obvious (I hope).  And yes, I realise that the side seams are even less conspicuous…

Georgalex details

 

I know the preferred zip insertion at Clackett Towers is that of a hand picked lapped zipper and that is what I have done on this dress.  The canary yellow zip is carefully concealed by the lap and went in quite smoothly.  I did briefly consider an exposed zip but it just didn’t seem right with flirty skirt.  The hem is pressed up and then hand stitched to just the underlining layer so that it’s invisible from the outer edge.

Then, of course, you’ve got to accessorise.  Something Roisin is known for is her shoes and her Instagram outfit shots showing a slice of skirt and the shoes.  Did I mention the shoes?!  These Mel shoes are a direct and blatant copying of a pair modelled by the muse for this whole dress.  I had no idea that Mel shoes are so comfortable.  Seriously – you have no idea your in heels when wearing these things!  And I had to pay a little tribute to Paris and these earrings from Betsey Mae on Etsy are perfect.  I bought a necklace too but it got lost in the print – it’ll be worn though!!

Accessories

So, ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses to Miss Muldoon and Dr Nic.  I wish you both a lot of love, laughter and happiness in your future.  Love you guys x

Me Made May 2014

Hello my lovelies, it’s another made week here where my sewing ambitions are again massively outstripping my available time!  On the plus side though I’ve nearly nearly nearly finished stitching my Emery and just have the sleeves to insert and the hem to go…  This dress has taken me sooooo long to make and it’s not the pattern it’s me and everything else that needs doing!!  But I’ll bore you all with that when I actually finish her!

However, in other news (and now that all the April Fools malarkey has finished and my Twitter feed has blown the ending to tonights Sewing Bee – must learn to not use Twitter until I’ve had a chance to watch the show!) Zoe is once again organising the annual self sewn wardrobe curation and exhibition that is:

MMM14logolarge

I love Me Made May.  So much inspiration from so many people rocking their hand made wardrobes.  I’ve signed up and this year am aiming for a Me Made garment every single day.  This is the same pledge I made last year, but I did struggle on a few days so we’ll see how this year goes!

You can make the month as simple or as challenging as you like, depending on where you are with your self made wardrobe.  Some pledge one or two garments a week, some pledge that everything will be made by them!  It’s about learning about your sewing and your wardrobe and what you actually wear.  Documenting what you wear is down to personal preference – some join the Flickr group, others use IG, some post on their blogs.  I’m going to be doing three or four posts over the course of the month as I find it easier to refer back to later on!

If you’d like to join in, here’s Zoe’s post with all the details and where you can make your pledge!

Fabric and Friends

On Saturday, I got on the train just gone 7am and headed to London.  My plan was very simple – visit Walthamstow Market and visit Dibs.  Claire very kindly met me off the train at Liverpool Street and escorted me to Walthamstow and showed me around.  Oh. My.  I loved Goldhawk Road when I went last summer and quite frankly I also love Walthamstow but for different reasons.

22 March 1

In my whistle-stop shopping trip Walthamstow seems to specialise in knits, trims and haberdashery.  I did see a couple of places selling African Wax Print and Sari fabrics too but didn’t go in.  Whilst there were plenty of wovens on offer (particularly at Saeeds and the Man Outside Sainsburys) the strong suit really did seem to be knits.  I have to admit to not being a well versed visitor to either area, this is just my general impression!

Claire took me to the far end of the market and we worked our way back towards Walthamstow Central.  I loved our first stop where we bought fabric at £1 or £2 a metre.  I came away with a print test run on what is (we think) Rayon that cost £2/m and as there was only 2m I bought it all!  I also bought a gorgeous brushed navy twill, a very stable striped knit and a solid navy.  10m of fabric for £18.  I’d be lucky to get 2m of knit for that price locally.

22 March 2

Over the road was another fabric shop with similar prices where I bought a pink leopard print knit.  I think this will probably become a Tiramisu and a pair of cropped leggings.  We’ll see how it goes particularly as I’ve now noticed it’s got lots of little runs in it.  It only cost something ridiculous like £1.50/m so whilst it’s annoying it’s not the end of the world.  I know I got change out of a £5 note for it!

We then went into a haberdashery and trim shop where I spent £14 on thread.  12 cones of overlocker thread which are identical to the ones I use at home and paid £4 each for – these were £1 each!  The Coat’s Moon thread was 50p a spool – vast improvement on the £2 I usually pay.  Whilst I only bought black , white and navy and some moon thread to match the pink leopard knit this shop had every single colour under the sun.  Salmon pink, neon orange, sage green, dusky blue – you name it, they had it.

22 March 7

Next stop was Saeed’s.  This was a complete contrast to the other shops in the area in terms of space, general presentation and how the fabric was displayed.  I bought 3m of a digital print linen to make Sewaholic’s Gabriola and spent the most per metre I had all day; £6.  £6!!  I am sure that locally this fabric would be at least £12/m if not more.  The staff were so friendly and helpful too – I can’t recommend them enough!

As we went down the market we popped into another haberdashery where there was a wall just full of beads and sequins.  I only bought 2 bags of trouser hooks – each bag was £1.  I was starting to become completely overwhelmed by it all.  The number of trims was insane.  Pompom, braid, bias tapes, ribbons, diamante, beaded collars…

We then found the legend that is the Man Outside Sainsburys.  I bought a dress length of cotton lawn and also of an alleged silk blend.  I’m inclined to believe him as it has the most beautiful drape.  Being such a dork I didn’t even ask the price when I saw the silk – I just wanted it!  I was gobsmaked when he only charged me £5.50/m for it and £2/m for the lawn.  He also had a lovely drapey fabric with an enormous digital print of magnolia in black and white on it.  Quite frankly, a trip to Walthamstow is worth it for him, Saeed’s and the insanely cheap first shop and my favourite of the day The Textile Centre (the one with the green writing outside at the end of the market nearest the tube, hiding behind a stall selling saucepans of catering proportions).

22 March 8

It was mental how many people were in there.  It was still a pleasant experience though as the staff were doing all they could and apologising for the delay.  I came away with 3m each of an Ikat style knit in blue and purple and 4m of the same hummingbird border print knit that Karen used for her Coco.  These were all about £2/m!  They also had a sequin fabric at £5.50/m which I loved but had no idea what I’d do with.  I’ve seen a gown online though with a similar silhouette to BHL’s Anna that was a full on sequinned number so that is now haunting me.  Not that I’d have anywhere to make such a gown!  Whilst we were there we were told about their other store on Watney Market (Called Paul’s Fabrics) which is apparently twice the size…

Whilst we were there Dibs caught up with us and did some quick shopping herself before we all headed off to her home to make macaroons!  Which I’ll save for another post as this one is ridiculous already!!

Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Bat Shirt!

Seriously, it took me so long to work out how many Nah Nah’s there were in this title and I’m still not sure it’s right!  Anyway, behold the Bat Shirt!

Bat Shirt

Boy has got a serious Super Hero thing going on and this has lasted nearly a year!  His favourite hero is Batman, which I think is kinda cool as he told me it’s because he hasn’t got any super powers but is just really really clever and strong.  He has a point, although I’m sure the fact that Bruce Wayne is a billionaire or something probably helps!

This shirt was made back in January, but photographing a marauding four year old is hard!  I have no idea what he’s holding in that first photo – I think it might be an apple.  Or it could be a toy car – anyway he’s definitely not standing still!

The pattern is The Thomas Shirt pattern by Felicity Patterns.  It’s a PDF that cost less than £5 and I am so pleased with the result!  She states in the description that it’s a generous fit and she’s not wrong.  In the end I used the age 4 length and one of the skinniest cuts as Boy is not bulky – he’s like Husband and very lean.  Even so the shirt is a little big on him, but I hope that means we’ll get a year or so of wear out of it.

I followed the instructions that came with the pattern and didn’t make any changes – the yoke is a double one so the inside is all neatly finished in the same way Grainline’s Archer is.  There aren’t any flat felled seams but for a casual shirt like this I don’t have a problem with that.  The hem is just overlocked, turned up and stitched.  Not the neatest looking finish when you can see the guts but it’s plenty robust enough.  This shirt is in heavy rotation and is standing up to the consequential numerous trips in the washing machine just fine.

The fabric came from Plush Addict (who don’t seem to stock it any more) and this shirt came out of 1m.  The buttons came from eBay although I did make a bit of a mistake in that the shirt buttons up ‘girl’ style as the buttons are on his left hand side rather than the apparently correct for boys right hand side.  I wasn’t aware of this until Husband pointed it out.  Boy doesn’t care though – I’ll just try and get things the right way round when I make the next version with another Batman print!