Monday, 29 October 2012

This week I'm...

Making: I started transferring the alterations to my dress pattern last night so I'd like to get that finished and get my dress cut out this week.
Reading: Still on Keith Richards autobiography - all his talk of old blues artists is definitely influencing the type of music I've been listening to on the way home from work
Listening: see above point and.. I'm getting so excited about going to see Max Richter at the Barbican on Wednesday night so I'll be listening to a lot of him whilst I'm working as well as having a listen to the new Beachhouse album in preparation for seeing them on Friday at the Roundhouse - two live music gigs in one week yay!
Planning: what to make with the gorgeous red cord I got at the Peter Jensen fabric sale (more of that in a later post) and get a toile made-up from my self-drafted pencil skirt (it's all cut out now and ready to go!)

Car boot sale find - some Care Bears glasses; fabric & buttons from Peter Jensen sale; spooky mirror/art in Tate Britain

Monday, 22 October 2012

This week I'm...

What a weekend! Toile and Trouble came round for dinner on Friday night so I cooked up some Indian food - saag paneer, ginger & garlic potatoes, and spicy onions with poppadoms.  We had a fun night and I also got some very valuable help and advice with my dress toile (see yesterday's blog post for more on that).  I don't think I mentioned my crazy Saturday in my last post? I watched films all day (i.e. procrastinated over sewing but had a very good time whilst doing so) and by about 4pm decided I'd do some sewing.  As my downstairs neighbours were having a party I knew the noise of the machine wouldn't disturb them, and I doubt I'd have been able to sleep anyway, so I stayed up sewing till 2am and got my dress toile finished!  I didn't leave the house all day and I loved it! On Sunday I watched Vertigo for the first time (I loved it) then ironed my toile and cut out a practice run for my pencil skirt pattern before making a lovely spicy chickpea and spinach stew for dinner.  It felt like such a luxury not to go anywhere or have anything I needed to do, except what I wanted to do creatively! Does anyone else get those weekends where they know they just have to stay home and have some downtime?

Spicy chickpea & spinach stew
Making - I have archive-related stuff on Tuesday and Wednesday night after work, and a work leaving do on Thursday after work so I doubt I'll be making much! Though I am going to try and get a bit done on the toile for my self-drafted pencil skirt
Reading - I was so excited to receive Lindsay Anderson: Cinema Authorship in the post on Friday afternoon so I'll be reading that in my spare time this week as I haven't read any of the chapters in almost two years! The book was one of the outcomes of a three-year AHRC-funded project I worked on at Stirling University.  My job was to catalogue the film-related papers in the Lindsay Anderson Collection and carry out research.  It was such a proud moment to get this through and see all our work in this published form - though I'm still not sure my contribution merits a front-page credit!

Listening - I've been enjoying revisiting lots of Boards of Canada recently and last night spent some time listening to John Fahey for the first time in ages - bliss!
Watching - no time for TV this week probably - and seeing how much I watched over the weekend that's probably a good thing! 
Planning - too much! I have 3 versions of the self-drafted pencil skirt in my head, 2 Banksia's, and of course still the dress to make for the wedding mid-November.

I wish I'd taken part in the Banksia sew-along but getting on with the dress had to take priority when I've got a deadline of mid-November. I'm still planning to work on the Banksia's but the dress, and some pencil skirts for work, are more essential right now - if a dress for a wedding can be considered 'essential'.  Did anyone else take part in the Banksia sew-along? I'm so looking forward to seeing everyone's creations!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

My first toile!

With the help of Toile and Trouble I'm making a dress for a wedding I'm going to mid-November.   Away back in July 2011 I asked for some advice here on whether to use McCalls or Simplicity Lisette for my next sewing plans.  I was so happy when both Tilly and Shivani responded - with the same advice, start with the McCalls.  Well the dress never quite happened - until now!

The fabric I used for the toile is an old grey duvet cover.   It's actually a really nice fabric so if I can sort out a few wee mistakes I've made, particularly with the way I've sewn up the top of the zip and facings, then I think I could actually get wear out of this.  After some much-needed advice, and help with the pinning, I managed to install my first invisible zipper - yay! It's far from perfect but it'll do and I'm pleased with my first attempt.  The dress fits pretty well round the hips but it's definitely a bit large on the waist and at the back so, with some more help from Toile and Trouble, I'm sure we can get the pattern altered slightly to make it a bit more fitted.  I thought the sleeves looked like they'd be huge but they actually fit pretty well.  I feel like I'm learning so much all the time now with my sewing - both with help from an IRL friend and help from blogging friends and it's so exciting to see projects come together like this.  I can't wait to get started on the real fabric now - after some pattern tweaking of course!
Not so 'invisible' invisible zip

Monday, 8 October 2012

This week I'm...

Making - I am still planning to take part in the Banksia sew-along so I'll be working on that this week.
Reading - My father-in-law gave me Doghouse Roses, a book of short stories by Steve Earle, and I've been really enjoying reading that in my lunch break today.  I'm still reading Life by Keith Richards as my night-time read. I always have at least two books on the go at the one time, how about you? Do you have different books for different times? Usually I keep my fiction for the evening and non-fiction during the day but at the moment it's the opposite as the dreary weather is making me crave some lunchtime escape.
Listening -lots and lots of Max Richter as we're going to see him perform Infra at the Barbican at the end of the month and I'm so excited already!
Watching - Last night I watched the first episode of Paradise, the new BBC drama set in a department store in Manchester in the 1860s.  The clothes are beautiful and the programme itself is a good bit of escapism so I think I'll watch the next 2 episodes which have aired already.
Planning -a dress for a wedding I'm going to in November. I got the fabric in Walthamstow market and will hopefully get a toile made up this week.

fabric from Walthamstow market (top fabric for dress)

Monday, 1 October 2012

Sew Over It - weekend dressmaking class

It's only taken me two weeks but I've finally got round to writing about the weekend dressmaking course I too at the Sew Over It shop in Clapham (details of the course here).  I had such a great weekend and learned so much, small tips about simple things like cuttings and ironing, as well as bigger things like how to use an overlocker!  More importantly I came away feeling more confident about sewing, which is a boost a beginner like me really needs.  The two tutors, Dominique and Freia, were really lovely, and very helpful and the other girls in the class were lovely too.  With only five people to a class it's very good value for money as there's plenty of time for all your questions - as well as some delicious cake and lots of tea!

Proudly wearing my new skirt - the same day I made it!
The first day is devoted to making a circle skirt - we cut the pattern from our own measurements so it fits really well.  This was my first time making a waistband and only my second time inserting a zip (first time in an item of clothing).  The fabric I used is really soft with a nice drape to it which I bought in Copenhagen recently.   When I saw it the colours just reminded me of autumn so I had to buy it.  It worked really well for this skirt as the drape in the skirt actually works to hold it down a bit and reduce the chances for flashing that a circle skirt can result in!  The only problem with this though, and I can't see how it's anything they could sort in the class really, is that as I didn't leave it to hang the hem is now a bit uneven.  I suppose what I should have done is left it unhemmed, taken it home and hung it for a while before hemming - however I have no patience, and part of the excitement is getting it made in one day!

On the Sunday we made 'the ultimate shift dress'.  This meant darts and a hook and eye fastening at the back.  It was my first time making a dress, and my first time making my own covered button for above the hook and eye fastening.  I'm so happy and I've already worn it two Friday nights in a row!  Apologies in advance for my poor quality images of the dress - I really need to get my camera fixed as the phone photos just aren't cutting it! Also, I need to remember to take more photos when I'm wearing the clothes I've made as this dress looks so much more flattering on than it does in this photo - especially with a lovely gold belt I've got. The mustard/gold fabric is from Ray Stitch - I love this shop, and it's on my walk home from work - bonus!  The fabric is a beautiful organic bamboo cotton and it's so soft.  They have a great range of colours and it costs £12 a metre.  The gorgeous fabric on the sleeves was a present from a friend in Copenhagen.  It was a little square of fabric (Japanese?) which must have been intended as a table runner but I'm sure is much happier as the decorative part of my dress! 

Dress and skirt - products of a busy weekend at Sew Over It

Close-up of my cap sleeves
If anyone at the start of their journey learning to sew has saved some money and is swithering about whether to go to a class, or what class to go to,  I can thoroughly recommend this Intro to Dressmaking weekend at Sew Over It.  It was £170 for the weekend, two days 10 - 5, five people a class.  It seems a lot of money but when you work it out that's £14 an hour.  Plus you get to take the two patterns home so you can make as many more as you like!

Giving thanks

The noise of scissors against the table as they cut through fabric, the noise of the sewing machine, the collecting of nice fabrics – all these things remind me of my mum.  Today is the fourth anniversary of her death so instead of my usual ‘This week I’m...’ I thought I’d make my Monday post a tribute to my mum.
You see Christine Mackenzie, my mum, was an artist who worked primarily in textiles.  Me and my brother were always so proud of her work and would go along to any exhibitions she had, I even used to go and sit in when she was teaching weekend sewing workshops.  She always encouraged me to be creative, and my first attempts at sewing were with my mum.  Well, I say ‘with my mum’ in the loosest sense as somehow they always ended up with her doing the sewing for me.  When I was a moody 17 year old into grunge she made me a plaid mini-skirt and some floral dresses without complaining (and without a pattern) even though I’d probably promised her, that ‘yes mum, this time I’ll do the sewing myself’!  

Fife fishing village ©Christine Mackenzie
She never thought it was weird when I was wee and would rather stay home and draw than go out and play and the walls of our house usually displayed at least one drawing by both me and my brother.  Her work room, where she created most of her art, was filled with all the art tools any child could dream of.  Any kind of paint we wanted, any colour of card, pens - we were sure to find it in that room. She had a huge double wardrobe filled with fabric that she used in her art works.  The fabric was all colour coded and was so much fun to look through as it ranged from huge pieces (such as the pink I used to make my first Sorbetto) to tiny wee scraps of fabric with a particularly unusual texture or colour.  There were drawers filled with embroidery threads, walls covered in sketches, poems, photographs and images from books and magazines.  I could always ask her advice on creations I was making, whether it was to do with the colour or perspective in a drawing,  how to do different knots on friendship bracelets, or what type of glue to use to stick paper to wood - if she didn’t have an answer then she’d tell me not to worry and just experiment, just go for it and see what the results were. 

Maighdeann-mhara, Coire Bhreacain (Mermaid, Corrie Vreckan) ©Christine Mackenzie
This time round I don’t have her on hand for advice but I still have the comfort of using her sewing machine, a pin cushion she made, even her pins.  It makes me very happy to think that I’m finally learning how to use it properly, although not in the same clever ways she did!  I think I also need to take a bit more of her spirit to heart - to stop being so afraid of messing it up, or not making it perfect, and just go for it and be happy with what I create. 

small embroidery, created to teach textile students ©Christine Mackenzie
So tonight, I’m going to do a wee bit of sewing and be thankful. Thankful for having had such a wonderful mum, for having known such a great artist, and thankful for all I’ve learnt from her.  As time passes I’m learning to concentrate more on what I have – in the sense of the family and friends I have around me – and also in the sense of who I am, as of course my mum was central to creating the me I am today.  It’s funny that Karen just wrote a post on her mum entitled 'Who Should You Thank?' asking readers who they were thankful for - synchronicity in the sewing blog world! So I pass the question on - who are you thankful for/to? Who taught you,or inspired you to start sewing, or knitting, or anything other creative endeavour you enjoy?

Monday, 24 September 2012

This week I'm...

Making - still working on a tiny pocket tank! I've been having too much fun hanging out with husband and friends at the weekend, and too busy with work during the past week to do any sewing.  I'm also planning on taking part in Megan Nielson's Banksia sew-along - I have the fabric all washed and ready, just need to get some matching buttons.
Reading - I'm getting really into Life by Keith Richards and am close to finishing Bladerunner by Scott Bukatman, which is definitely going to be followed by another viewing of Bladerunner.
Listening - there was a lot, a lot of Prince going on at the weekend but this week I'm going back to country as I watched Crazy Heart again yesterday and it really put me in the mood for some Gram Parsons and Willy Nelson!
Watching - I watched so many films at the weekend - Crazy Heart, We Bought a Zoo, Groundhog Day.  This week if I want to get some sewing done it'll be some easy watching to accompany cutting and pinning - which for me means CSI and Without a Trace.
Planning - my Autumn wardrobe! Tonight I unpacked my winter clothes from their suitcase and packed up some of my real 'summer' clothes that won't be likely to be used much now till next Spring. I thought I still wore lots of brights in the autumn but the A/W pile is depressingly darker than S/S!

Monday, 17 September 2012

This week I'm...

This week I'm... starting back work tired but happy after a weekend of sewing at Sew Over It in Clapham.  I did the Intro to Dressmaking weekend course, Saturday and Sunday 10 - 5.  It was so good and I'll write a full post about it later this week but I couldn't resist including a photo of me wearing the circle skirt I made on the Saturday! Everybody's makes from the weekend were so lovely and I'm so happy to have made my first skirt with a waistband and zip, and my first ever dress! Hopefully I'll get a chance to wear the shift dress on Thursday or Friday evening as I'm doing lots of reboxing at work which means lots of dirty, dusty boxes - not what I want to subject my new dress to, well not on its first outing!

wearing my new me-made circle skirt with my favourite Lotta from Stockholm sandals and an Oasis t-shirt
Making - still working on a tiny pocket tank. I didn't have enough of the pink cotton I brought back from Copenhagen so instead I'm using a lovely pink and white Betty Jackson fabric from the Clothhouse in Soho.  I didn't get any sewing done last week at all as I had a really busy week at work, plus an unexpected, very late, night mid-week when new neighbours moved in and held a party till 6.30am. Thankfully it appears to have been a one off!
Reading – I still haven't started Life by Keith Richards. I took it to the park a week past Sunday but got happily distracted by friends, husband, and beers! Instead I've become totally engrossed in Scott Bukatman's BFI Classics book Blade Runner - it was great to get the chance to sit and read on the tube to and from Clapham on Saturday and Sunday.
Listening – a lot of Alisdair Roberts if the weekend was anything to go by, where I was listening to Farewell Sorrow right through , then flipping it right back to side A again for another listen.
Watching – I overdid it on the CSI and Without a Trace last week so I'm going to have a break from TV this week. Some sewing, and lots of housework early on in the week then we've got friends arriving on Thursday night so there will be no place for tv watching from then through till Sunday - yay!
Planning –  what skirt to start on making - attempt to use my self-drafted pattern? or make a Colette Ginger? or a Colette Meringue? too many choices!
Loving – Sew Over It for their fantastic 2 day dressmaking course and their super friendly and helpful sewing teachers; London in the Autumn - lots of crisp sunny mornings already yay!; this archive blog Awesome Archives; my work!

Monday, 10 September 2012

This week I'm...

feeling the serious post-holiday blues on returning from a week in Copenhagen on Sunday.  We were visiting friends and had a lovely week catching up, cycling round the city, visiting art galleries and drinking lots of beer!

I'm also - Making - a tiny pocket tank, hopefully with some pink Indian cotton I bought in Copenhagen (I still need to wash it and check there's enough of it as it was a remnant)
Reading – finishing off one of my favourite books in a long, long time The Gay Talese Reader: Portraits and Encounters and starting Life by Keith Richards.
Listening –not much at the moment as I've been doing a lot of reading and I don't like reading a book and listening to music at the same time.
Watching – New Girl, Big Bang Theory, How I met your mother - I love this kind of stuff when I get in from work but hopefully later on this week I'll get on with some sewing instead!
Planning –what material to use for my sewing workshop weekend at Sew Over It in Clapham - I'm so excited!!
Loving – why Copenhagen of course!  I've included a few of my favourite spots below, but most of all I just loved cycling around, which is amazing as I was pretty nervous about the cycling before we went. Of course I also visited a fabric shop, Stof 2000, but I'll save that for a separate post.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Change of plans..

My sewing plans for this week changed when I realised that the kimono t-shirt I'd sewn up as a trial run of working with jersey actually looked quite nice.

I decided that instead of working on a toile for a skirt I'd do something that I knew would be done in time to take on holiday.   To make this t-shirt I just cut round a kimono style t-shirt I have which has a bit of a boat neck.  I found some dark lilac bias-tape I'd made a while back and never used and attached it to the neckline and sleeves - though I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to attach cotton binding to a jersey!  I really like how it's turned out even though it's got a bit of a larger boat neck than I'd intended! The jersey really stretched when I was sewing the bias binding on but I don't care as the wider neck makes it look a bit more dressy.  I zig-zagged all the seams then used the vari-overlock stitch on my machine.  I used a twin-needle for the hem but didn't bother overlocking the hem fabric as I thought it might add extra bulk to quite a fine jersey.  The jersey was a bargain from the remnants bin at Mandors in Glasgow and it's got a really lovely drape to it and feels very luxurious. 

Jersey maxi-skirt - I love the yoga pants style waist, so comfy!

My other jersey make was a maxi skirt which I used this tutorial at Elle Apparel to make.  The instructions for attaching the waistband sound a bit strange but after a bit of trial and error I worked it out.  This jersey was thicker than the khaki stuff which seemed easier to sew with, particularly the hem.   The weather's changed a bit this week and it's not been warm or dry enough to wear it but, ever the optimist, I'll take it on holiday to Copenhagen where I'm sure I'll get to wear it. even further north. in September. yeah! Optimism or stupidity, who knows?! I'm so happy with how both these makes turned out and am now well and truly hooked on the quick thrill of sewing with jersey!

Monday, 27 August 2012

This week I'm...

Making -a toile with my newly drafted skirt block - exciting!
Reading – back to John Cheever's Collected Stories - I've been reading this book for over a year and although I'm really enjoying it the stories are quite similar in style so I tend to read it in fits and starts.
Listening – rediscovering Joanna Newsom's Have One On Me. This kept me calm whilst doing the maths calculations on the skirt block.
Watching – I've got plans to make a tiny pocket tank, plus fix the gaping back on a pair of jeans before we go on holiday so I doubt I'll be watching much this week.
Planning – our holiday to Copenhagen next Saturday!
Loving – the corded loop pocket tutorial on Coletterie.  I'm thinking of trying to incorporate this into a Sorbetto dress I've got planned for making when we get back our holidays.

and today? I finished hemming my jersey maxi-skirt today and I love it! I'll write up a post about it another day when I can get a photo of me wearing it.  This was my first time using my twin needle and only my second time sewing with jersey (I've currently got a half-finished kimono sleeve t-shirt that I started last week).  Right now I'm enjoying watching The Ladykillers (original version) whilst cutting out and sticking together my Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank pattern.  What a great bank holiday weekend this has been!  I've relaxed a bit about living in London and, rather than feel guilty about all the things I could be out and about seeing, I'm just enjoying having the time to spend at home, sew, listen to music and watch films.  Though I did go to Notting Hill Carnival yesterday so I have left the house!

Writing these weekly updates and plans has been really helping me stick to sewing plans.  I know it's only been a few weeks I've been doing them but hopefully I'll be able to keep the motivation and good planning up!

Friday, 24 August 2012

First attempt at pattern drafting

Today was a bonus day off for me as the Uni I work at was closed - as it's a bank holiday on Monday that means a four day weekend, yay!  My original plan was a day of sewing. It all started off well, drafting a skirt block using these instructions, until I got to calculating the back dart.  I've tried the numbers again and again and keep getting 10.2cm - it just seems really large for a dart so I must be doing something wrong I think?  Here's my calculations below, followed by the blank table from the skirt block instructions I'm using.  If anyone has any ideas of where I'm going wrong I'd love to hear them! I also don't have a hip curve and am a bit hesitant about drawing in the side seam curves without one so I'm off to some fabric shops tomorrow to buy one.

Hip – waist:
÷2 = total fabric to be removed:
Front dart size (2 – 2.5cm max):

Side seam ‘dart’ (3–4cm)
÷2 = fabric from each side:
Back dart = total – front dart – side seam (5 -9cm):

So, I gave it a break and did some picture framing and hanging instead.  Our new flat is much larger than our last one so we've finally got space to hang up all our photos and art work.  The one below was a wedding present from Leo Blamire, an artist, framer, and friend, whose work is for sale through McGill Duncan Gallery (an amazing gallery in Castle Douglas run by Jill and Zoe Blamire - a family affair!).  I absolutely love this painting and the story behind it.  Leo found the frame, with real butterflies inside it.  They were all brittle and falling apart so he took them out, painted the back of the frame the gorgeous turquoise colour, then cut all the butterflies out of wood and painted them in oil paints. Much nicer than having real butterflies in a frame!

I got lots of small pictures framed up and just need to buy some small tacks tomorrow to put the rest of them up.  I also found this gorgeous photo below, of my mum, aunt and Grandma.  It was taken by my Grandpa who was a keen photographer and part of an amateur photography group.  It's quite large 15.5 x 11.5 cm.  I'm pretty sure it's Italy and would say it's about mid 60s.  My mum is wearing the full skirt and has a scarf in her hair.  I found the perfect black frame for it and it's now hanging up in our living room. So, although I didn't get a whole lot of sewing done I've had a very relaxing and still quite creative day off.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Scalloped shorts re-fashion

Quickest refashion ever! These jeans were almost 2 years old and had gone totally white at the knees.  A year or so ago I'd have just put them in the clothes recycling bin or given them to the charity shop but not now as I knew I'd be able to find a use for them.  Turning them into shorts isn't exactly the most original idea but I thought So Zo's scallop hem short refashion made it that bit different.  I used a mustard jar lid as my template for the scallops, marked it out in biro then simply cut it out.  However I didn't get a chance to sew round the scallops like Zoe suggests before the blazing sun came out on Saturday and I just had to get out to the park and wear them!  I will take her advice though and sew round them to try and stop any fraying.  I just love these and here's hoping the sunny weather keeps up so I can get some more wear out of these before Autumn starts!

And I've just seen another great jeans to shorts refashion using painted sections to add detail. It's over at LulaLouise - check it out!

Monday, 20 August 2012

This week I'm...

Making - a jersey maxi skirt out of some bright coral fabric I got in the remnants bin in Mandors in Glasgow (that's it above, with my book, though the colour is a lot brighter in real life)
Reading – The Canal (I'm really enjoying it, it's just taking me a bit longer to get through than usual due to all this sunshine - too hot to concentrate on a book!) and Alice in Wonderland with gorgeous illustrations by Tove Jansson. I love re-reading children's books!
Listening – lots of reggae in anticipation for my first time at Notting Hill Carnival next weekend
Watching – catching up on new series' of CSI and CSI Miami
Planning – to draft a pencil skirt pattern and make a muslin
Loving – sunny days and spontaneous mid-week picnics in the park! 

Practice makes perfect

and tonight? I'm... practising sewing with jersey in anticipation of making my maxi-skirt.  This khaki jersey is a lot finer than the coral I'm going to use for the skirt so I figure, if anything it'll be harder to sew with? I'm using Lladybird's Conquering knits and Maria's kimono t-shirt instructions for guidance and help.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The magic number

In order to practise basic sewing skills like sewing in a straight line and finishing seams (when I said basic I meant basic!) I decided to use Karen's pyjama party sew-along another couple of times.  Instead of PJ trousers I made two pairs of shorts for the summer- and given the recent heat I'm so glad I did!

I'm really pleased with both pairs as I've definitely improved sewing in a straight line, finishing seams and I've learned how to sew a buttonhole using the buttonhole settings on my Bernina 1008. I finished the seams with a vari-overlock stitch and am so happy with how much neater these two pairs are. My final attempt, in the grey fabric, are definitely my favourite as I reduced the length from waist to crotch and they sit a lot better than the other pairs. However I just love the feel of the Liberty fabric of the blue pair so I know I'll get lots of wear out of both pairs.  Copying the style of a pair of M&S PJ's I own I only put elastic in the back and used ribbon for the front.  It was nice to feel confident enough to change the pattern as well! Even on the first pair I made I thought the fit was wrong but it wasn't until the third that I felt confident enough to go with my instincts and cut different to the pattern!

So, I think for the next wee while at least, 3 is the magic number! I'm going to try some basic patterns, such as a pencil skirt, kimono style t-shirt, a dress, three times each - improving my basic skills and my confidence each time.

P.S. I forgot to say where the fabrics are from - the original pair of stripey pyjamas are made with really cheap fabric from Goldhawk Road, a coupe of pounds a metre; the blue fabric is Liberty from their recent sale I think it was reduced to about £9 for a metre remnant; and the grey pair are made from an old pillowcase.

Monday, 13 August 2012

New Monday posts and.. I'm a winner!

I just discovered a lovely new blog Peas and Needles and thought I'd shamelessly copy her 'just a minute' series. Instead of a monthly update I'm going to go for a weekly one on a Monday as I'm planning to use it as motivation to keep on the sewing learning curve and stop me getting too discouraged by my slow progress! 

So. This week I'm...

Making - some more pyjamas, this time pj shorts
Listening – William Basinki's Disintegration Loops
Watching – no more Olympics, what to watch?!
Planning – to make a jersey maxi skirt
Loving – the lift I get every time I see the watercolours and photographs of flowers & fauna created by Rosemary's Blog.  Recent favourite - purple clemetis.

Practising buttonholes

And tonight? I'm... practising buttonholes for a ribbon opening on the pair of PJ shorts I'm working on. Far right was the first attempt, far left the most recent - I think there's an improvement but maybe that's just what I want to see!

And last, but by no means least I'm super excited to have won a sewing giveaway hosted by the lovely Shivani at Pins & Needles! When I'd just started this blog Shivani was kind enough to leave me some encouraging comments.  I was so pleased to receive comments from someone whose blog I' ve enjoyed since I started reading sewing blogs. When she posted about her giveaway I immediately fell for the Vintage Simplicity 4947, even though I think I'll need to grade it up (is that the right term?!) as it might be too small.  It's just the perfect pattern for this vintage Liberty fabric I've got (which you can see here) so I'm so so happy to have won! Also, only 3 main pattern pieces - sounds appealing right?!

Sunday, 5 August 2012


After reading Sarai's post on developing good sewing habits, and reading about needles in the Colette Sewing Handbook I thought it was about time to change my needle and think about which one I should be using for which fabric.  I opened up the messy box containing all my needles, lots of ribbon and thread, and tailor's chalk - yes it's very messy! - and found a huge selection of needles. I've now thrown away the one in the machine that had been there for, well I don't know how long but I've never changed it, and I've put in one for the light cotton fabric you can see in the background of the photo. This fabric is in the process of becoming a pair of PJ shorts - the legs are sewn up, an it's a rainy day today so I'm hoping I'll get them finished today.

When I was deciding what, out of my mum's room-full of sewing, embroidery and other art supplies I should keep, it was hard to know what I might use in the future.  There were lots of things I had sentimental attachments to that I couldn't get rid of, but as a non-sewer I found it hard to know what would be most useful.  In the end I gave most of the craft supplies to friends of hers and of mine, people that I knew would get lots of use out of them.  I kept the sewing machine, all the machine threads, needles, scissors and a selection of fabric as I just couldn't keep it all.  It's lovely as I still get surprises when I go through boxes - for example just after taking the photo above I found another little needle box containing 3 twin needles!  Another discovery this week is that my sewing machine has a light bulb! I can't find the little gadget that my instruction book says should be there to remove the bulb and put in a new one - maybe it was one of the things I got rid of as I didn't know what it was! It's going to come in really useful in the winter though to be able to add some extra light to my wee sewing table.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Wanda dress

That's me back from holiday in Scotland.  I had such a lovely time and it was great to be away for so long (10 days in total).  We fitted a lot in to those 10 days  - a lovely wedding in Fife; visits to both our families and some friends in Glasgow, Fife and East Kilbride; a lovely three night mini-break in Cullen in Moray; and finished off with another wedding in the beautiful surroundings of Mar Lodge in the Cairngorms National Park.  I have to admit though, that on the last few nights I was dreaming of getting started on some sewing.  However after a 5am start on Monday morning (a 1 hour 30 minute drive through the Cairngorms to Aberdeen airport) and a big meeting at work today I haven't felt up to doing much yet - tomorrow night though!

In my last post I mentioned a dress-fix I had to do before going away and the dress in question (pictured above) was a gorgeous cream/peachy dress I got in Snooper's Paradise in Brighton.  The reason I was immediately drawn to this dress was its resemblance to a dress worn by Barbara Loden in the film she directed and starred in Wanda (I wrote a post about going to see the restored film here). 

close-up showing the lovely flower design of the broderie anglaise with the peachy/yellow lining
There are lots of other reasons I love this dress - the shape, the fit, the colour and the fabric.  However the more I looked at it when I was fixing it the more I realised that it was the fact it was home-made by someone else that really made it stand out for me.  The neck was slightly too tight and I felt the length was a bit too short but it pleased me to think that whoever had made it had done so to fit them. I didn't do anything about the neckline but I did lower the hem as my mother-in-law helpfully noticed that it had been taken up quite a bit.  She thought this might mean someone else had bought/been given the dress and had made that adjustment so maybe I'm the third person to enjoy wearing this dress!  There were also a few gapes in the side seams which were the result of the stitches coming loose in the empty spaces of the broderie anglaise so I fixed these up with some hand-stitching.

Barbara Loden wearing the dress inspiration in Wanda left image: source right image: source

Friday, 6 July 2012

New fabrics and my first real sewing space

So although there hasn't been any sewing going on (except a dress repair for a wedding I'm going to), I have been buying some fabric! I couldn't resist the Liberty sale and came home with a metre of lovely Liberty digitally printed cotton. It's really soft and gorgeous colours of blue - my plan is to make a pair of PJ shorts with it. I also bought two printed cottons (quilting cotton?), which seemed quite stiff but after I washed them they're a lot softer and I'm planning to make them into basic pencil skirts.

I'm most excited about finding the blue and orangey/red polka dot fabric which I ordered online from M is for Make.  I've got so many favourite photos of my mum but the one below is one which always sticks in my mind, partly because she looks so happy but also because I really wanted the top she's wearing! I've had it in my mind for a while now that I'd like to recreate it so when I saw this fabric, which is pretty much perfect really, although the dots are slightly smaller I think, I couldn't resist!

However, there's been so much unpacking and tidying to do that, rather than start sewing, we went out to our new local pub for a nice refreshing drink!

There are lots of things I like about our new flat but the best thing is we now have the space for me to have a small sewing area! It's amazing being able to have my sewing machine out all the time as before I had to pack absolutely everything away after every use as our flat was too small.  All I've done so far is fix a dress (you can see it hanging in the window) but I'm looking forward to getting started on some proper sewing - and making use of my new sewing book the Colette Handbook!
My new sewing area!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

On the move, and some small makes

Well hello there! There hasn't been a whole lot of sewing activity going on here recently as there's been a whole lot of moving going on. For some reason neither of us thought about hiring a removal company and decided it'd be fine to do the move in my wee Nissan Micra. I don't know what we were thinking as it took us 10 loads - isn't it incredible how much stuff you have when you start packing?! We're finally getting everything unpacked now, getting pictures up on the wall, and really settling in. I love our new home, it's bigger than our last flat ad we now have a garden as well - so exciting!!

I've been enjoying getting to know our new neighbourhood and am still trying to walk to work as much as I can.  It's a longer walk than it was from Camden, 45 minutes rather than 15, so quite often I only walk in then get the bus home. As you can see below though there's lots of nice sights on the walk!
All this moving, unpacking and settling in has meant that sewing plans have been on the backburner a bit. So one night, when I felt like being a bit creative, I decided to make myself some earrings. I used Sown Brooklyn's spirale de cuir tutorial for the two cone shaped pairs, one peach and one in red & white patterned leather.  The mint pair were made using this tutorial for Freshly Given.  Apologies for the poor colour representation but I've just taken the photos now and it's after 11pm so the light isn't very good! I really like them all and they look better on than they do here. However husband's comment when I showed him the turquoise pair was 'they look a bit home-made' hmmn, well maybe they do as I did have to make the jump rings myself as well and didn't do a very good job of them. But you know what? I don't care, I like them!

Friday, 29 June 2012

My first skirt!

Using some more of a Liberty print fabric I bought on Goldhawk Road I've made my first skirt! I decided that I'd treat myself gently and try an elasticated waist skirt before attempting one with a zip and I'm very glad I did! I made this skirt once, took it apart, re-measured and re-cut the fabric , then re-made it. The reason for this? The little cloth tape measure I was using was wrong, yes that's right the tape measure was wrong, and that's not me making excuses for myself it really was! After I made up the skirt the first time it was far too wide (making it extremely bulky).  Looking for who to blame (because of course it wasn't my fault!) I looked again at the tape measure and started to suspect the length of an inch wasn't quite right. Sure enough I got out a ruler and.. the measurements on the tape measure were way out! So, I put the faulty tape measure in the bin and brought home my trusty work tape measure (every archivist needs a tape measure!).  I unpicked the skirt, re-measured and made it quite a bit narrower.

Then I followed this great tutorial for making the skirt. It's got nifty side panels that you leave out the elastic, thereby reducing the bulk at the side of the skirt.  Pockets! My first time putting in pockets and, after a few attempts, I got it right! Well.. almost right somehow I managed to sew one of the pockets to the back of the skirt so I had one facing forwards and one back. To sort this I just unpicked it from the back of the skirt so the pocket now hangs loose and can sit forward facing.  I'm so happy I've put in my first pockets as I just love pockets!  Not only can I now put pockets in everything I make (if I want to of course) but I can also add pockets to thrifted skirts and dresses I buy.

the weird greasy looking mark is actually on my camera rather than my skirt

close-up of the pattern on the fabric

Monday, 21 May 2012

Apples and pears from Walthamstow market

Well I think I jumped ahead of the sew-along over at The Pretty Pickle but I was getting on so well with my sewing yesterday that I didn't want to stop! I can't quite believe I've made something with sleeves!! Okay, they're most definitely not perfect, and I totally winged it so there are probably much easier ways to add the sleeves but for now I'm just happy I made something I love so much! I used the sleeve pattern that Sew Incidentally kindly made available here.

This fabric contains quite possibly my favourite colour combination ever - pink, purple and orange - and the added bonus of featuring apples and pears! I wouldn't have thought of adding red to all these colours before but it totally works - well, I think it does anyway hehe! I bought this on a lovely Saturday morning stroll round Walthamstow market with The Toile and Trouble and I think the fabric was a grand £2 a metre (I really need to start keeping a note of what I spend on fabric).  I also bought some lovely soft purple cotton which I think could be another sorbetto - I have plans for a dress with another inverted pleat.  As well as the sleeves this was my first time attempting a hand rolled hem.  The fabric I used is quite sheer so I thought this might be the best way of doing it.  The hand rolled hem tutorial on the Colette website was really helpful.  Changes I made this time were to make a size smaller and although I did add length once again I wish I'd added a bit more. I also really like the inverted pleat as a change from the normal one.

Another truly awful photo by me - just wanted to show off my neat inverted pleat though!
I'm so pleased I got this finished over a Saturday evening and Sunday!  Next on my list is an elasticated waist skirt as I've not made a skirt yet, and don't quite feel confident enough to tackle one with a zip yet.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Vintage Vision

On my most recent trip to Abergavenny I stumbled across a lovely vintage store Vintage Vision which is handily situated just down the street from my brother's restaurant Pizzorante.

I was very restrained (there were a lot of gorgeous clothes in there!) and, almost, didn't buy anything. However when I saw this pattern I practically squealed with delight and couldn't leave without it.  This pattern is so similar in style to one of my favourite dresses - a stripy sun-dress I bought in Iguana Vintage Clothing in Los Angeles.  When I bought the dress it had stripes in the v-neck like the yellow version on the left. Not just one stripe like shown but three, and in a luminous pink fabric that I really wasn't sure about.  Apart from the stripes I loved it so I bought it and quickly cut the stripes off.  There's no zip on my dress, just some thin elastic at the waist and some buttons on the shoulders which I never need to undo to get it on and off, so I know I could make it again without the zip (another bonus!).

I get so much use out of the dress I have that I'm looking forward to making another one up and I particularly like the blue stripy version with the contrasting stripes on the shoulders. 

Minus the pink stripes

Wearing my LA dress for a friend's wedding

Monday, 14 May 2012

Signing up for another sew-along!

I so enjoyed participating in the pyjama party and think sew-alongs are the way forward for me in terms of learning to sew, keeping my motivation up and not getting discouraged when I find things a bit difficult.  So I was very happy to read that The Pretty Pickle is hosting a Sorbetto sewalong starting tomorrow! I've already really enjoyed making three sorbetto's but haven't deviated from the pattern at all.   Now is the time for some deviancy!

I'm still trying to decide between a Sorbetto dress a la TidyTipsy or using Sew Incidentally sleeve addition to do a short-sleeved Sorbetto with an inverted pleat (like Casey does here) .  If I'm feeling particularly brave I wondered about some two-toning in the style of the photo below (though with short sleeves not long).  I wonder if such a large pleat would work though? Would I need to sew it down each side of the pleat to sit flat?

Sorry, I can't remember the source for this image

So in answer to Sara at The Pretty Pickle's question's 'Have you made you final decisions yet? Are you ready to start cutting yet?' eh that'll be a no then - how to choose between so many great variations?! and fabric, I haven't even thought about that yet! I'm planning my first trip to Ray Stitch after work tomorrow and hoping that choosing a fabric will help me decide which variation to go for!

Friday, 11 May 2012

A one-night project

Due to the tiny size of our flat it can often be difficult for me to get the sewing machine out as it takes over the living space and can be quite distracting if my husband is trying to work.  So on Wednesday night, feeling too restless to just vegetate in front of the TV, I decided to do a wee bit of jewellery making.

At the age of 15 I decided that jewellery making was what I wanted to do so I left school and went to college (or maybe I decided I was desperate to leave school and found a jewellery course as a suitable alternative!). Either way I've always enjoyed making my own jewellery but haven't done any in ages. This DIY Anthropologie inspired flag bunting necklace by Mrs Priss was a perfect project to start back with.  It didn't require the sewing machine and I made it in one night!

The colours I chose out of all the leather scraps I've got.

I've got this bundle of leather scraps that I inherited from my mum and have never done anything with them.  I imagine she got them in the mid-late 70s when she was making lots of beautiful patchwork leather bags (I'll photograph some of these another day and put them up).  I've got a plan for a camera bag in the piece of lovely red and white cross-hatch design but that would have required the sewing machine.  All this necklace required was jewellery pliers, leather, a needle to make holes with, scissors, jump rings, gold chain and a necklace fastening.  I bought the jump rings, chain and fastening in packs in John Lewis so I have plenty to make some more necklaces now - yay!

You can see the result above.  I decided to leave the ribbon off it - I couldn't get it to sit right and now I've made it I think I prefer it without.  Some of the pieces of leather were thinner than others and you can see them curling a bit in the photo.  On getting home from work tonight I've added medium interfacing to the back of them with fabric glue and it looks much sturdier now (see below). I'm so happy with it and I know I'll get lots of wear out it. Thank you Mrs Priss!