Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Lately and pledges

Wow, how did we reach May already? Time has got away from me recently and I've been struggling to do more than work, sleep, keep up with the house, celebrate getting to the end of another week and fitting in something creative - however small. Work has been relentless over the past month but I'm hopeful it will settle down again in the next few weeks (I'm ever the optimist!) and I can get back into the rhythm of actually blogging what I've made.

EPP hexagons

This past month has been wonderfully productive for my English Paper Piecing quilt. I started this back in January and had been slowly but steady piecing the hexagons into small groups. It has been rare to see me without a needle and two hexagons in my hands when I've finally sat down for the day to watch TV. It is blissful to keep the stitches going and follow my plan - no real thought is needed! This and picking up exercise again (I got a bike and now cycle to/from work) have definitely kept me going. All of the hexagons in the photo above (and more) are now stitched permanently to at least one of their neighbours. 

Garden

I've been venturing out into the gardens. It turns out we have some very healthy fruit plants out there! The rhubarb is thriving and makes a wonderful syrup that works very well with prosecco. I was surprised to learn we have one small strawberry plant, a thriving small community of raspberry plants, that our pear trees are in good health and we have a lot of herbs in pots. I've supplemented this by adding tomatoes, peppers and chilli peppers to grow bags in the green house. 
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And finally, I've been keeping up with what some of you are doing via social media (I've been really poor at blog reading since we moved and am trying to get back into the habit). So much so, that I made a late pledge to join in Me Made May. I was in two minds whether to do this as I often wear my makes and wasn't sure what the challenge would be. I realised that I had a number of makes that I rarely worn - mainly old makes and I thought it would be a good idea to try and reintegrate them into my wardrobe. If I can't by the end of the month, a few tough decisions might have to be made. I'll be documenting the makes I'm wearing everyday on Instagram. 

“#VintagePledge

I'm also very late in declaring my Vintage Pledge. I'm thrilled to be part of the wonderful group that Marie and Kerry have put together for the activities in July. I've completed the item for this and you'll have to wait until 20th July for the details but it's deep red and rather different to the styles to which I'm normally drawn. I'm pledging to make two more vintage makes this year - this seems reasonable and I have one dress already traced waiting patiently to be toiled. 

What have you been up to recently? 

Monday, 28 March 2016

The Smoky and Red Arrows Anderson Blouses

Good evening, everyone. I've hoped you've all enjoyed a glorious long weekend. Ours has been lovely, we've spent time with family and friends and ventured outside to start clearing out the green house. It still needs more work to remove the grim and moss from the glass but I'm hopeful I can start using it next month. The long weekend also meant I could get some photos of two tops that have been part of my wardrobe for quite a while!

When the Anderson Blouse by Sew Over It was released, I was transported back to about five years ago. I owned a lovely deep blue blouse with a cross bodice made from jersey and billowing sleeves made of crinkled georgette. I wore it often and hated the moment I had to retire it due to overwear. Now was my chance to make a similar shape and different versions were created when I unpacked my stash. 

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The Smoky (white) Blouse was made first. Given the loose nature of the blouse, I went straight ahead without making a toile. The worst that could happen would be a wearable toile and this blouse is more than that. I made a few changes directly to the pattern - 1 cm to the back side seams, brought the shoulder seam in slightly, lengthened the sleeves a few centimetres based on my experience with the Ultimate Wrap Dress, and graded down a few sizes from the shoulders to the waist. 

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The finished measurements suggested there would be too much ease for my comfort level and I don't like to feel like I'm drowning in fabric around my tummy (it makes me self conscious). The grading down works well for this version. For the second version, the Red Arrows Blouse, I lengthened the bodice substantially as I struggle to keep the Smoky Blouse tucked into my jeans without the fear of revealing too much! I much prefer the security of the Red Arrows Blouse. I chose not to add any hand stitches to either blouse as I like how they flow freely and decided to wear a cami underneath.   

Anderson Blouses back

I love seeing how two fabrics can make a difference to a pattern and bring their own personalities. Both of these fabrics came from the Birmingham Rag Market and were a few quid a metre. The Red Arrows has a lovely drape, is very light and cool to wear. It also creases as soon as you look at it. The Smoky is a heavier polyester with a good drape but has more structure and is slightly warmer to wear. You can see the difference between them in the gentle gathers at the shoulders. 

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The Red Arrows Blouse feels more casual too. It works very well with jeans, not so well with my formal work skirts - that's the strength of the Smoky Blouse especially when paired with a black skirt. This top is definitely a winner for me and there will be a third version in a gorgeous Art Gallery cotton as soon as I've prewashed it! What's currently on your sewing table? 

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Attempting curtains

Hands up – who loves home decor sewing? I don’t mean cushions, think more curtains and bedding. I’m squinting, is there anyone raising their hand? I’m amazed at those of you do.

When we bought the house, I was sure that we would buy everything we needed. I knew that all bedding would be bought after making this set for my mum. While it is pretty and making your own gives you the freedom to have something different from you can buy, the process of making bedding is super tedious – easy with those straight lines but tedious. I figured curtains would be the same experience and vowed that I would only make them to save money. So guess what happened?

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Our biggest issue this winter has been keeping the house warm. It has solid walls having been built in the 1930s and the back end of the house is open plan. While I adore the space, it can be like living in a draughty barn. Keeping the heating on seems too indulgent when adding a few furnishings would help.

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When I posted a heat proof runner I had made for the kitchen island on Facebook, someone asked me if I was making curtains from the fabric and an idea was born. The fabric is Amy Leaf furnishing fabric from John Lewis and not only is the pattern gorgeous, but so is the quality. I knew they would make great curtains for the French doors. Turns out buying curtains that size is rather expensive. Having sewing skills, and the need to spend money elsewhere, I did a few calculations and realised I could save about £125 if I made them myself.

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After getting 16m of fabric home, I got cutting. In order to make curtains the right width, I needed to add a panel to one full width of fabric. Thankfully the pattern repeat is every 25cm which made that task easier than it could have been. As ever, matching one was smooth, the other took about three attempts. I don’t like to think how much thread I lost basting and re basting that 2.5m edge. Overall, the matching is pretty good and you can’t tell where the seam is without inspecting very closely. I had intended for the curtains to match in the middle when they are drawn, that didn’t quite happen after adding the lining but they start from the same place at the top and that’s good enough for me! They are finished with matt nickel Jupiter rings which were very easy to apply directly to the fabric.

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Overall, I’m delighted with them. I’m not going to say they were fun or easy to make. Lugging that amount of fabric around for a day almost broke my physically and made my legs thought they were turning into a pin cushion as they supported the endless lengths of fabric through the machine. Totally worth the effort though. We’re now on the hunt for a bright painting or print to go on the wall next to them. While we love the various shades of grey, it is starting to feel a bit much! Will there more curtain making in my future? Quite possibly. We need to add some to our bedroom to block out the light from some inconveniently placed street lamps but I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll be able to buy them.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Ultimate Wrap Dress

For a few years I have been without a staple in my winter wardrobe - a wrap dress. When my last RTW fell apart, I had already begun to sew my own clothes and therefore didn't replace it. I figured I would make one but that involved picking up knit fabrics. Ah, knits. Apparently easy to work with but also fear evoking for some. I wouldn't say I have ever developed a fear of using knits, more I never found the time to read up on how best to approach them. Having a lot of spare time in between houses changed that and I finally dived into The Colette Guide to Knits. Suddenly my plans for a wrap dress jumped to the top of list for new year stitching.

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My pattern of choice is Sew Over It's Ultimate Wrap Dress due to its classic design. I always note the month and the year I trace a pattern on the pieces (a quick helpful indicator in case my measurements have changed since tracing) and laying out the pattern pieces revealed I had the same plans last January but for some reason didn't get round to making the dress. The benefit of waiting a year means you can learn from other people's experience and I made a few tweaks to the pattern before getting my fabric ready. I raised the neckline a fair bit to ensure decent coverage and remove the need for a cami and lengthened the dress. 

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With my new found enthusiasm and excitement to complete this dress, I chose to live dangerously and didn't make a toile. I thought about making one to help with my lack of experience in fitting knits. The thought stopped when I realised it's only fabric (and not made from unicorn eyelashes) and I could chalk up a failed dress to experience so I chose to hope that the slight stretch in the fabric would cover any areas that might have been too small. Turns out my risk paid off and this dress fits much better than I thought it would - in fact, just like the RTW ones I used to own and my initial alterations have worked perfectly. After wearing it for a full day, there are some additional tweaks I would like to make for my next version which is already planned. These include lengthening the sleeves which are a few centimetres too short for my liking, the shoulder seams need to come in, a smidge needs to be added to the back so the side seams sit where they should and I'll reduce the length of the ties - they are seriously long! 

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I figured that this dress would get a lot of wear and I wanted to it be comfortable, cozy but smart. The fabric came from my stash is a beautiful petrol coloured interlock bought from the Village Haberdashery (other colours available here). The colour is very difficult to capture in the photographs and it has a strong green hue in real life. The quality is fantastic and is soft to the touch, wonderful to wear, and it ticks all of the boxes. There is a very strong temptation to never take it off! It is very stable with some stretch and was a perfect introduction to using knits (I like to start simple and build from there). The only issue I had with it was getting the neckline to lie flat once the facings had been added - a row of under stitching and a long press solved the problem. A very satisfying part of the project was how quick it was to make - I cut it out during an evening and stitched up in an afternoon. Who doesn't love a quick project? 

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All of this gushing means I'm now off to prewash the fabric for my next version (which may or may not be some Art Gallery jersey I treated myself too). Have a great weekend everyone - is there something on your sewing table? 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

January

Over the past few years, January and I have not been friends. It is the month that I find the most difficult and it isn't helped by the fact I normally have to a work trip to Switzerland where I can't find a quiet space for nearly a week. I had hoped for this January would be different and took steps to help by planning some new activities to help me relax and distract me and I've a rather productive month in between long hours at work. I also got a very welcome surprise when the work trip was cancelled for me and I'm delighted that I'm now writing this from my lounge in my dressing gown with a vanilla coffee rather than freezing my toes off making my way through the Swiss alps. 

The first new activity I've picked up is English Paper Piecing which I have wanted to try for a while. When you move into a new house, everyone tells you that you will go through your first winter saying you'll do things differently next year as you'll know the quirks of your house. I'm already there! As delightful as our house is, being built in the 1930s and being open plan, it is a little chilly especially during a cold snap. I've stolen Adam's fleece blanket for evenings on the sofa while he wears a thicker fleece. I feel a little guilty about this but not enough to buy another blanket right now. Instead I've used it as an excuse to make myself a quilt using English Paper Piecing. I've decided to keep it simple by using hexagons and have been slowly working my scrap box to get a variety of colours and prints. I don't have a set design in mind, just a vague notion that I'll work out over the next few months as I stitch the hexagons together. I've found the process so far to be very relaxing for the evenings - the repetition of folding over fabric and long basting stitches soothes the mind after a busy day. I'll have to find somewhere else to store these as my side of the sofa is filling up!

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Last Saturday I visited FabricHQ for a free motion embroidery class taught by Sam. This is another craft that I have been wanting to try for a while and when I realised they were only a 45 minute drive from home, I immediately booked. It was a great morning and it was lovely to finally meet Sam, who patiently took us through doodling on a scrap through to completing a picture. Moving the fabric around without the help of the feed dogs was a little strange to begin with but doodling my name and a few flowers helped me to get the feel for creating curves. I chose to make a pair of shoes and I'm happy with how they came out, especially for a first attempt. I'll be putting them up in the office next week now I've photographed them for this post. As it is so quick to make a small picture and is a great scrap buster, I will definitely be giving this a go from home. I'm just waiting for payday so I can buy a darning foot and some bondaweb.  

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My poor sewing machine has been feeling a little unloved while it has been trapped by boxes but I have had use of my overlocker. I could have moved the boxes to get to my machine but I decided against it and saw it as an opportunity to finally get to grips with sewing with knit fabrics. Last January I traced the Ultimate Wrap Dress by Sew Over It and then put it away for some reason and forgot about it. I now have a nearly finished dress to share soon. I honestly don't know why I waited so long to start with knits - strange how a delay in starting a project can become an unhelpful mental block. 

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Finally, the cancellation of my trip meant I secured the last place on the trouser drafting course run by Darn It and Stitch. Over four weeks I'll have a block to fit me and the skills required to draft some basic trousers. I'm really pleased to have got on the course as trousers are the most difficult item for me to fit or buy due to my body proportions being different to the measurements used in ready to wear. In the first class we drafted our block and I could see this difference clearly on paper. Homework for this weekend is to trace the block and toile them ready for fitting on Wednesday. I also need to decide on what style of trousers I want to draft over the coming weeks. I have few ideas as you can see in the photos below. 

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Learning new skills and trying new crafts/fabrics has been a lot of fun the past few weeks. Combined with an amazing mattress and some black out blinds for quality sleep, I honestly think they have helped my to get through the month and stay more positive than I might have been. Long may that continue! How has your January been? Have you been learning anything new?

Monday, 4 January 2016

Back to blogging and a peak at my new sewing areas

Well, hello there. It's been a while hasn't it - just over two months in fact. I hope life has treated you well, that you all had a good rest over the festive period and are looking forward to a brand new year of opportunities and stitching. 

The back end of 2015 was rather busy for me. Work exploded with a whole host of changes but more excitingly, Adam and I moved into our new home. Thankfully getting the place was relatively smooth and we got the keys in early December after living with some very kind friends for three weeks. Since then, we've been working on getting the place just the way we want it around the madness of Christmas. We're lucky as we don't have to do any decorating - the house was gutted and redecorated in the four years before we moved in and the previous owners had pretty good taste in decor. The slight downside to this is that it has taken a while to remove the feeling of this being their house but that continues to disappear as we unpack all of our possessions - the final lot will come out of boxes this weekend when the furniture for upstairs is delivered. It is pretty awesome to come home to a place that is ours - I still can't quite believe it! 

I'm slowly getting back into sewing and managed to squeeze in a final 2015 make on New Year's Eve which I'll share in another post. For now, how about a tour of my new sewing areas? We'll start upstairs in the study. This is where my overlocker will live and I'll have to come upstairs to use it as the noise drives Adam insane. I'm not sure how this will work out in practice but I'm sure I'll make it work. In addition to being a work space, it is also home to all of my sewing paraphernalia which is stored in Kallax units from IKEA. The top row contains my entire fabric stash and those pieces that are big enough to squeeze a full or partial item from. My crafting book collection (sewing, cross stitch and other) takes up the next row. It's so nice that they are accessible in full for the first time. The bottom two rows contain my thread, notions, UFOs and other craft equipment. On top of the units are my sewing patterns and button box. Jessica has found her home next to the units. 

Study

Time to move downstairs and to reveal the room that sold the house to me. We have a gorgeous open plan kitchen and dining area with quite a bit of space! The dining table is big enough for me to leave my machine at the end of the table while we use the top half for dinner (sssh! Please don't tell Adam this is my plan - we can keep this quiet right?) It is also big enough to trace and cut out. 

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In addition, the island is big enough for both activities too. I bloody love this island! I've used it so much in the time we have been here including cooking a Christmas dinner for seven. 

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The open space in front of the chimney breast is big enough for the ironing board. I'm looking forward to having friends round for a sewing party at some point in the near future. 

Open space

Despite not sewing for the last three months of 2015, I still had a productive year. I completed 26 items: five skirts, one coat, one pair of trousers, one jacket, four shirts, one sweatshirt, eight dresses, one Mary Poppins outfit, two night dresses for my mum, and two cross stitched penguins. I completed two of my three Vintage pledge makes although one hasn't made it to the blog. In addition, I made seven pocket squares, eight table squares and added a trim to three bridesmaid dresses for our friends wedding - all in tartan to match the groom's trousers (which I didn't make!) 

New goodies

At present, I don't have any major goals for 2016 although I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before I formulate some sort of plan. I was lucky enough to receive a number of sewing books, patterns, and machine feet for my birthday and Christmas and I have no doubt that they will feature throughout the year. In addition, I now have two gardens and some indoor plants to look after. I've never been a gardener or a vegetable grower but I strongly suspect that will change now as I give the latter a try. One of the quirks of our home is that the front garden has been converted to an allotment - it has three big vegetable boxes and the beds around the edge have a mix of plants. So far I have identified rosemary and rhubarb - who knows what else is there! The back garden won't need so much work as it has a small lawn. However, we inherited three pear trees and a green house. Both gardens are looking a little sad and unloved at the moment but I'll get out there once the weather warms up. In the meantime, wish me luck as I attempt to keep two orchids alive - thanks to everyone on Instagram who gave me advice. I have some healthy looking buds I'm hopeful about. 

How about you? I'd love to know what you have been up to and whether you have plans for 2016. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Green Moss Mini

So after saying there will be delays, I'm back almost on time with a new post! Thanks for all your good wishes for the potential house. All is still going smoothly and I've now turned my attention to slowly packing up the flat in an attempt to avoid that pre-move crush. Well, that's that theory anyway! I've cleared out some of my patterns and fabric and this weekend will be tackling the monstrous mound of scraps that I seemed to have accumulated. I can't quite believe how much of a hoarder I have been with the scraps! If anyone has any sensible ideas of how I can clear them out, please let me know in the comments. Textile recycling seems to a winner at the moment.  

Moss Skirt green

Anyway, enough packing talk - I have my favourite self-sewn skirt to tell you about. This skirt started with the fabric. I popped into Darn It and Stitch hoping to bag a payday treat a few months ago and they didn't disappoint. I walked out with this gorgeous green cotton twill and plans to match it with the Moss Skirt by Grainline Studio, a pattern I had been meaning to buy for ages especially after seeing those made by Carolyn

Moss Skirt green

I wanted the twill to be centre stage with this make and kept it simple. I was very tempted to continue my obsession with edge and top stitching but it seemed too much. Instead, I kept it to the back yoke, pockets, waist band and at the hem. The twill washed well and construction was plain sailing as it behaved itself perfectly. It also a delightful fabric to wear although it crumples extremely quickly as you can see from the photos. As this was intended to be a summer skirt, I didn't line it. I'm starting to regret that decision a little as I would like to keep wearing it throughout the autumn but it sticks to my tights forcing me to constantly pull it away from my thighs - not a good look! Like many of us, I wanted some interesting pockets and chose this feather cotton fat quarter from my stash which also came from Darn It and Stitch. It's a shame you can't see them but it makes me happy to know they are there. 

Moss Skirt pockets

What surprised me most about the Moss skirt is the fact that I didn't need to make any changes to the pattern. It fitted right out of the packet without any excess around my hips - a standard problem for me. The length is that of the pattern and at the beginning I thought it was a little too short but I got used to it very quickly. The second surprise was putting in the zip. I have limited experience inserting a fly but this method was so easy and clear to understand. I'll definitely come back to it for future projects. I'm very tempted to make a winter version, lengthening it slightly and definitely lined. Another project to add to the list... 

What are your seasonal sewing plans? 

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