Monday, 30 April 2012

Late to the party but at least I passed the finish line

Well, my first sew-along and I finished on time - yay! thought it would have helped if I'd remembered to put up this post last night for the pyjama party - doh! As a complete beginner to sewing I found the pace of the sew-along a real help as it stopped me doing my usual and rushing ahead without reading patterns. I think I could do with shortening the elastic a bit more to make them tighter, though whether I get round to doing this is another matter, I'm just happy to have a pair of PJ bottoms I can wear- yay! So a big thank you Karen, for restoring my confidence in my ability to learn to sew. I think more sew-alongs are the way forward!

As to what I'm reading, ok I know it's after 7am so I've missed the give-away but I'll add this in anyway. I'm reading a novel by Winifred Holtby South Riding.  It was first published in 1936, after Holtby's death at the age of just 37.  The book tells the story of a fictional community in Yorkshire, South Riding, in the 1930s and the reason I picked it up in the library is it tells of a young idealistic headmistress and her fight to improve education for girls.  This ties in with my current archivist post - cataloguing the records of a teaching union, the National Union of Women Teachers, who along with fighting for equal pay for women teachers also fought for equal educational opportunities for girls.  It may sound a bit dry but it's written in a really easy to read style and gives a very colourful depiction of life in the 1930s.

Trying to check if the hems are equal. Doesn't look it but I think they are, must be my legs that are squint heh heh!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

I have two legs!

After the debacle of my last attempt at sewing PJ shorts I was quite apprehensive about having another go, indeed it really messed with my confidence for sewing at all! However when Karen announced her Pyjama Party sew-along I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss. True to her aim, it has been a nice amble rather than a breakneck speed sew-along - perfect for a novice like me. I can't believe I now have something resembling pyjamas - with two legs!

On my last attempt I managed not only to sew both legs together but to somehow sew the shorts upside down?! Anyway, maybe I'll share them another day but for today I thought I'd share some of the problems I've had with the pattern I chose. Mccalls Easy M6249 - easy they say? Pah! Clearly not easy enough for me as I had some real problems with the instructions.

I cut out the correct size of the pattern - helped immensely by Toile and Trouble's kind offer of doing me a full set of measurements.  I am sure this list of my measurements is going to come in so useful with future sewing work as I hadn't realised how different pattern sizes would be to shop sizes to each other.  I also had problems with the cutting out as to my mind if you're cutting on the fold well then you'll have one piece, right? So I ended up with one front piece, weirdly joined at the top, and two back pieces. I quickly realised, from seeing Karen's version with only 2 pieces that I should have either 2 or 4 and after checking with Toile and Trouble again (I'm so lucky to have sewing friends I can consult for advice - I was too embarrassed to post a question about this on the sew-along!).

So, with four pieces I moved on.  Right from the first stage I found the instructions difficult to follow. 'Stitch front and back together at inner leg' - well it doesn't say anywhere to stitch one front piece to one back piece and other front piece to other back piece. So, when I first attempted this pattern with shorts I duly stitched both 11's to both 12's.  As you'd imagine this was a FAIL! Of course if I'd just taken the time to read my Reader's Digest Guide to sewing I'd have worked out how to do this but I had placed full and implicit trust in my pattern.  Bad move!

Again, I consulted Toile & Trouble, who helped me out, and also suggested I might benefit from reading my Reader's Digest sewing book a bit more often - point duly taken!  I made notes with fabric pen on each front and back piece and then .. ignored the pattern again. The pattern (as seen below) says to sew up the inner leg seam, then the crotch, then the outer leg seam.  I didn't do that, I followed the sew-along, and Reader's Digest, and sewed the inner leg seam, then outer leg seams first and then the crotch. 

Tonight I made the waistband and inserted the elastic and am all ready for hemming - bring it on!

Friday, 20 April 2012

A month of letters - reflections

I've just realised I never posted about completing the Month of Letters challenge in February so here goes! I'm so glad I took part though I use the term 'taking part' loosely as February was such a busy month, including two weekends back in Scotland, a friend coming to stay for a few days, a few birthdays and an increasingly busy work schedule as I near the end of my current project. So, I had to admit I didn't really check back at the Month of Letters blog at all, but I did manage to write a letter or postcard 19 days out of a possible 25 and I'm really happy with that.

So to recap, the challenge was:

  1. In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.
  2. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.
I really enjoyed taking the time to write to people I don't see as often as I'd like - due to time, distance or both. I also just enjoyed taking time. Sitting in the morning and writing a postcard rather than automatically turning on my laptop and checking my e-mails whilst eating my breakfast.  Due to my love of stationery I have rather a large drawer full of postcards and paper for letter writing so it was nice to use some of my stash up, particularly as everything I've collected has memories attached to it.   Sending mail is something I've always enjoyed doing, and will continue to do.  I enjoyed having the challenge of trying to do it every day and although I haven't, and wouldn't want to, keep that up I did like the implications of slower communication as well. Taking time to concentrate on writing to friends and family as well as sending quick text messages/tweets etc was very satisfying.  These are all important forms of communication and I just hope that writing, and posting mail, continues to be one of these.

Below - a few of the postcards I sent during February.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

There hasn't been a whole lot of sewing going on with me, though I have been busy - trips away visiting family and friends, work, films - and most importantly the opening of my brother's restaurant Pizzorante in the lovely town of Abergavenny! I'll save talking about that for another post though as I need to put the photos of the opening on to my laptop first so I can share some of them too.

The last item of clothing I made was another Sorbetto at the start of February.  I am actually pretty pleased with this one, I used a vivid blue shop-bought bias binding that I think provides a nice contrast to the green of the fabric. The only thing is that somehow I still managed to make this too short, even with adding an extra inch on the bottom.  I've worn it tucked in with a navy skirt to work and it looked pretty smart but I think with jeans it might just keep untucking, unless I get some new higher-waisted jeans (any excuse!).  I love the fabric, it's a Liberty print I picked up in one of the shops on Goldhawk Road for £7/8 a metre - half the price of the fabrics in the Liberty shop!

I really thought I'd have done more sewing by now but there's a number of factors - business at work, enjoying exploring London and taking advantage of living in such a busy city, and of course sheer laziness as well.  By the time I get home from work I can't face getting the sewing machine out and hitting the steep learning curve that is inevitable for such a novice sewer as me.

However I just spotted that Karen of Did You Make That? fame is hosting a pyjama sewalong so I'm going to take advantage of that to get myself moving on the sewing front! I've cut out a pyjama pattern (Mccalls 6249) and had it pinned to the fabric I'm going to use for ages now.  Yes, just pinned, I haven't even got round to cutting them out yet.  So, thank you Karen for giving me the extra bit of motivation I hope will get me started on learning to sew again!