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?