Saturday, 24 January 2015

Self drafted pencil skirt

I recently stated that I hoped pattern drafting would feature more this year. Well, there's nothing like starting as you mean to go on! Here's my first completely self drafted item. I drafted my cocktail dress on a course but this was completed without any guidance from a teacher. 

Self drafted pencil skirt

I decided to start simply and tackle the pencil skirt that I wanted to create from the leftover fabric from my jewel jacket. Buoyed by the strong support for it, I pulled out Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich to create my skirt block. I was given the book about six months ago but it's the first time I've really looked at it. I've seen this book referenced quite a lot recently and it seems a good one to start your pattern drafting journey. 

The block was quite quick to create. I think it took me about 90 minutes with a quick toile to check the fit. Thankfully it fitted very well and I didn't need to make any alterations. 

Self drafted pencil skirt

This pattern is a very simple one. It is essentially the block with a waistband and a vent. Keeping it simple was a good idea as it not only led to a quick win, therefore boosting my drafting confidence, but also gave me the classic style pencil skirt for the office that I had been wanting. I adore the shape of pencil skirts but struggled with RTW ones as fabric pools around my narrow hips. It feels great to have a one that fits very well. 

Self drafted pencil skirt

The waistband was easy to draft. I traced off the top 5cm from the front and back blocks with the darts closed, creating three pieces that join together. Tracing from the top of the block ensured that the skirt sat at my natural waistline. Adding the vent to the shell was also fairly simple. I extended the hem line of the back block out by about 3cm and then drew a line up to where I wanted the vent to stop, allowing for a 45 degree line to join them. 

Self drafted pencil skirt back

I wanted to try a new technique and decided to create a lined vent. I used this tutorial by Sunni to draft the lining. I didn't get this quite right as there is some bulk at the top of the vent. It doesn't add strain to the seam line and I can sit comfortably so I'm not too bothered. I worried about using an invisible zip as I thought the fabric might be too thick but it has worked ok.


Self drafted pencil skirt inside

While it isn't perfect, I love this skirt. This is mainly because it fits so well. It is also extremely comfortable when I'm sitting which is a major bonus. The one thing I would change is my choice of lining fabric which I picked up at the Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham. While it is soft, has a good drape and is quite easy to handle, it is also incredibly static and sticks to my tights a little thus moving the vent into an odd shape at times. Annoying as static is, it won't stop me wearing this skirt and I suspect it will be in rotation fairly frequently but I will need to find some more tops to wear with it - it's a wardrobe orphan at the moment. I'll have to make sure I prioritise the tops over the other skirt ideas that are circulating in my mind now.  

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Stash Star Fabric app: a review

Could you tell me what's in your stash? How about how much of each piece? Nope, me neither. Organisation of all sewing related items has been a persistent problem for me and only gets worse as my fabric (and pattern) stash grows. Is this a familiar problem?

I needed to find a solution to recording my fabric stash and as I was browsing the Apple App Store, I came across a free app called Stash Star Fabric. I've included a number of photos so you can get a feel for the app. 

Fabric app

The app is rather basic and consists of two pages. The home page details your stash in photos. The other pages are for each individual piece of fabric. The fabric specific page allows you to record the name, colour, pattern size, fabric measurements in metric and imperial, fiber content, the details of where you purchased it, designer and manufacturer details, where it is stored and any notes you want to include. 

Fabric app

Fabric app

You can add a photo at the top which is displayed in the home page. If you find that the fiber, type of fabric, or measurement, is missing from the list provided, you can add it. You can choose your favourite or most regularly used fabric widths and fiber on the menus. 

Fabric app

Fabric app

Adding the details in the fabric pages allows you to group your fabrics. This is useful if you want to know only the cottons in your collection, or those that are 140cm wide. The location box is especially useful as my stash is split across a couple of wooden storage boxes and I can never remember which one to look in. The layout is pretty clean and uncluttered with the information in two columns. 

Fabric app

There's a small number of issues with this app though. It has constant adverts at the bottom - this is annoying but to be expected with a free app. I can generally ignore them and haven't yet accidentally clicked on them. It also doesn't remember what measurement type you use to record the length of the fabric. I've listed my fabric in metric and have to choose this option every time I add a fabric but still, it isn't too bad and doesn't take much time to hit 'm' instead of 'yds'! It is also only available on Apple. 

My entire stash has been added and it is so much easier to plan projects now. I will no longer be found pulling out fabric only to find that I can't fit all the pattern pieces on it! While it is a very basic app, it has everything I need. I now add new fabrics as they arrive and before they go into washing basket with a note that it hasn't yet been pre washed. I can see myself continuing to use this for some time. 

I'm always interested in new options for staying organised so please do share your preferred way of keeping track of your stash. 

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Hungry Caterpillar quilt

I’ve made another quilt. This is the final baby project that I worked on the back end of last year. I came across the Hungry Caterpillar fabrics by Eric Carle, produced by Andover, a while ago and knew that I wanted to create something with them. I snatched up a fat quarter pack and set about finding a good quilt pattern.

Hungry Caterpillar quilt

I found this fantastic I-spy quilt, made from a disappearing nine square block. I loved the neat lines and bright colours - it seemed perfect. There is a lot of cutting involved to create the top: 88 centre squares, 88 black squares, 22 turquoise squares, 22 black rectangles and 20 small turquoise squares. I managed to cut them out in a couple of hours with some music on. Once you get in the zone, it is amazing how quickly the piles of cut fabric mount up. I deliberated for quite a bit whether using black was a good idea. I needed a colour that would make the caterpillar material pop and from all of the cotton in my stash, the black was the only one that seemed to work. The turquoise is the left overs from the baby kimonos



Hungry Caterpillar quilt - squares

Stitching the squares was easy, although a little repetitive as I worked in assembly mode. Every piece that needed to be stitched was pinned before it went through the machine to make sure I lined up the seams well. I used the chain stitch method, where you leave a few stitches between each piece instead of cutting the threads, as it is a great time saver. The pinning probably doubled the time I spent of the top but it was worth it. I’m rather pleased with how well the seams line up on the majority of squares - they aren’t perfect but you can’t see any that are very noticeably off. This also means that my cutting was pretty accurate. Accuracy is key to patchwork I've discovered, and definitely worth spending time on. 
I made sure that I didn’t rush the section where you slice your nine square blocks through the middle, both horizontally and vertically, to create four new pieces. It was slightly nerve racking as I was out of black cotton by this point but thankfully the inside seams were level enough to produce a good result.


Hungry Caterpillar quilt - backing

Hungry Caterpillar quilt - edge stitching

The backing is a recycled beige duvet cover. Pinning the batting and the backing wasn’t as hard as my first quilt attempt. I laid all of the layers over the ironing board and worked line by line. I found it much easier to smooth out the fabric this way than placing the whole thing on the floor. I wanted to keep the quilting pattern simple. I stitched around each square. Yep, all 88 of them. Tedious doesn’t even cover it! And that doesn't take into account the unpicking of many wonky seams. I was very glad to finish the final square. The quilt is bound with bought bias tape as I had run out of turquoise fabric and honestly couldn’t face making 5m of binding after all that quilting. The colour isn’t a perfect match but it is close enough to some of the blues in the squares. I used my blind hem foot to help give an even edge stitch throughout. 

Hungry Caterpillar quilt

The quilt was a surprise gift for our friends who have recently had a little boy. It's now making its way to them but I'm still a little unsure about the black! 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed the festive season if you celebrate Christmas, had some well deserved rest and a good evening yesterday. I can't believe we've reached 2015! 

It's traditional at this time of year to review how the last one went. I've had a number of highlights - taking on a line management role at work, three very relaxing holidays to Prague, Barcelona and Paris, taking up running. Sewing has also been a success - I made 22 items for me, four baby outfits (one to be blogged as soon as the little one makes an appearance), three selfless makes (bedlinen and two to follow as soon as I can get the photos), some Christmas themed cushions for a close friend and nine fabric baubles as stocking fillers (sadly no photos). I couldn't resist the call of the collage maker to share my top makes:

2014 best makes

And for the items that I said goodbye to:

2014 goodbyes

Yet, even with these highlights I can't shake the feeling that 2014 was a bit of "meh" year for me and I would like 2015 to be a little different. The back end of last year saw me spend most of my time battling with my head again and it wasn't easy. I'm not sure I'm fully out of that patch yet but I'm definitely getting back into the swing of things. 

Which means goals and plans right? Absolutely! I'm still working on my sewing plans for the year. I'm hoping that pattern drafting will feature more and I'm planning an exciting winter project. I'm also taking a hard look at my stash to work out what is in there. However, my focus recently has been on how to better manage my moods, thoughts and actions so most of my goals are around these and I hope you don't mind if I share three with you. 

2015
  • RunningI have a feeling that exercise will be key so I've set a challenging, but achievable, target of running 750km over the year. I even received new running kit for Christmas so there's no excuse now! 
  • Eating wellanother essential component. I love cooking but have got into a rut this year despite having a number of decent cook books. I plan to use them once a week to bring a bit of variety to the dinner table instead of relying on well tested dishes.
  • Picking up an old hobbyneglected but loved past time of mine is reading. I've failed miserably at slowing down and picking up a book over the last couple of years so this year I will find the time. I plan to read a minimum of ten books over the year - they can be on any subject, any length, any format.

I'm hoping that these goals will help provide a little more structure in case there is a time over the coming year when I feel I can't keep up. I might post updates every few months and hope that you'll indulge me if I do.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to say thanks for following my adventures over the last year either here, on Twitter or in real life - your comments and encouragement are truly appreciated. I've said it before but the interaction with the sewing community is genuinely one of the best parts of this blogging lark. And now onto a lighter note - what are your plans (sewing or not) for the forthcoming year?


Sunday, 14 December 2014

A Jewel Jacket: B6105 by Gertie

Here's a project I didn't expect to share so quickly. I knew I wanted something new to wear around Christmas but didn't want to create something that was limited to one month of the year. This focussed an idea that had been slowly forming in the back of my mind over the past few months but only took a day and a half to complete. 

B6105 by Gertie

The idea started with the fabric. I picked up this gorgeous teal with a black velour print while I was in Barcelona on holiday in August. I kept returning to it and knew I would leave with fabric regret if I didn't buy any. Of course I obliged by getting three metres as I wasn't sure what I was going to create. Slowly but surely my mind settled on B6105, the wrap around jacket designed by Gertie. What if I paired the fabric with a silky black contrast? It seemed like a win in my book so I set to it. 

I made a toile to check the fit across my shoulders and discovered that the sleeves were too wide. There is a lot of ease in them. I took out 5cm from the cuff, tapering to nothing at the sleeve cap, on the upper sleeve. This was the only alteration I made, although I probably should have moved the arm hole seam in a bit as I forgot this pattern was drafted for shoulder pads - which I didn't include. 

B6105 by Gertie

I recommend reading through the instructions before starting this pattern and getting familiar with all of the markings on the pieces. You will trace a lot of small circles to help the pieces match up and sew between as well as reinforcing lines and darts. Construction is logical and easy to follow but there is a lot going on. As the jacket is fully lined, you will follow nearly every step twice as you create two jackets. It is possible to jump ahead of the instructions and complete all of the stitching for the shell and then the lining before bringing them both together. This saved me a lot of time as I didn't have to switch needles and thread as much as I might have. 

B6105 by Gertie

I found stitching the collar particularly tricky. I find the technique of clipping to a point, stitching three sides of a square and reinforcing the corners difficult and haven't yet managed to perfect it. It is better on one side of the jacket than the other but I'm hopeful no one will notice! Be prepared for some hand stitching if you choose to make this. The lining is closed at the waist seam which requires slip stitching the entire width of the jacket. I also hand stitched the sleeve hems in place. We all know pressing is important in a project; but it is particularly important at two stages for this jacket. The contrast collar and lower front lining are only pressed into place and it is helpful if you take your time to press it very well. Under stitching would have been a useful addition but I didn't have matching thread for either (how do you run out of black thread?!)

B6105 by Gertie

There are two versions of the pattern. View A is a jacket and View B is a knee length coat. I was tempted to go all out and make B but sadly I didn't have enough lining. The lining is silk that I bought on Goldhawk Road while Lauren was in town. It is very smooth and a hell of lot easier to work with than my last lot! It shifted a little while cutting out but it withstood going through the machine with ease. I'm not fully certain what the teal fabric is. I'm starting to wonder if it is some form of knit. It is very stable, has some stretch on the cross grain and doesn't need finishing. Normal needles couldn't cope with it so I switched to a jeans needle (the only other one I had to hand) and it worked perfectly once I had lowered the tension a little. 

B6105 by Gertie

I'm delighted with how the jacket turned out. I had a strong idea of how I wanted it to look and was praying it would throughout construction. Thankfully it has mostly lived up to expectations (the collar being the exception). It feels like a little treat to wear this and I think this is down to how well the fabrics work together. It's reasonably warm too. I didn't get too cold while the photos were being taken - despite the look on my face in the photo above! I couldn't leave that photo out as it the one that most realistically captures the teal. I'm looking forward to wearing this more over the next couple of weeks and then to finding other occasions in the new year. I also need to decide what to make with the left over metre and a bit. I'm tempted by a pencil skirt, or a similar shape. What do you think? 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Simplicity can be difficult - a silk Belcarra

I finished this project this morning, after starting it in July! The Belcarra was supposed to fill a gap in my summer work wardrobe. I wanted something simple, cool but stylish. Sounds easy, right? I mean the pattern isn't a difficult one to stitch and it should have been completed in a day or so. 

Silk Belcarra

Why did it take me five months to complete? The fabric. I choose this delicious red silk with white stars. I picked it up in Zadar, Croatia on holiday last year. It is lightweight, drapes beautifully and feels like air next to the skin. Needless to say, it is incredibly delicate and this makes it difficult to sew with. You can't put much pressure or tension on it otherwise you're left with pulls throughout the fabric. 

I tried everything I could think of when putting this together. I cut the fabric single layered on the carpet which provided more grip and stopped the fabric moving. I used small needles and tissue paper over and under the fabric to protect it from the feed dogs and needle. Gently hand stitched the hem and neckline in an attempt to ensure that the stitches are invisible. Unpicking is extremely difficult as the fabric retains the original stitch marks. All of this required patience, which I only had in small quantities for this project. Thankfully there aren't too many pulls in the fabric but those that are there are along the neckline and the sleeve bands. 

Silk Belcarra

Construction of the Belcarra is relatively simple. I used French seams throughout as it provides such a delightful finish but this would look just as good if you used another method. Attaching the band to the sleeves was the most difficult part as the silk wasn't stable enough. In addition, I don't really like the method of leaving 1.5cm open at the edges as I find it hard to match up the seam lines neatly. I didn't make any changes to the pattern, except my usual grading between sizes although I probably should have moved the neckline inwards by a couple of centimetres so it doesn't slip to one side and reveal the strap of my cami. 

Silk Belcarra

While I missed the option of wearing this during the summer, the colours lend themselves very well to Christmas, don't you think? This was the impetus behind finally getting this top finished. I will definitely be wearing this a few times this month as the party season gets into full swing but I'll be honest - I'm not sure how long it will last. The seam lines and hem are causing some concern due to the pulls but still, it will be fun to wear it even if it is only a few times! 

Are you stitching anything fun for the party season? 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Baby clothing

There comes a time in life when you realise you’re growing up - you become surrounded by friends and colleagues who are pregnant. At last count, I knew of four. And we all know what that means, don’t we? It is time to crack out the little patterns and whip up something cute. 

A friend has recently had a little girl, and a colleague is expecting one early in the New Year. I wanted to try a different pattern to the sailors dresses I made (here and here) and had heard about this baby kimono from Vairë Gwîr. 

Baby kimonos

I purchased a meter of Acacia by Free Spirit fabric with a meter of plain turquoise for the bias binding to make the 0-6m size. As I was cutting out the first one, I realised that I could get two out the fabric and promptly cut another. I still have fabric left over from both fabrics - that’s how small they are!

You need to draft the pattern, all two pieces of it, but this isn’t a big deal as a clear diagram and the measurements are provided in the instructions. The pieces are made up of straight and diagonal lines only. Construction took longer than I expected though. Admittedly I was repeating each step twice and I opted to make my own bias binding as the turquoise matched perfectly, but it still felt like I was spending a lot of time on them for their size and that they are essentially straight lines. 

Baby kimono inside 


All seams are overlocked and are smooth so shouldn’t irritate young skin. The fiddliest bit was creating the two bias straps on either side of the kimono - my machine wanted to eat the fabric but eventually I tamed its appetite. The sleeves are hemmed by folding over a couple of times and stitching into place. 

I’m completely in love with them. Their size is almost unbelievable and look like they have been made for a teddy bear (yes, I know babies are small when they have just been born!). Despite the perceived length of time it took to create them, I would definitely dig out this pattern again. 



Baby dungarees

My other colleague is expecting a little boy and I made another pair of baby dungarees. I found this beautiful dark navy blue cord with little teddy bears on it in Barry’s during the SewBrum meet up. I just couldn’t resist it. I paired it with a plain light olive cotton for the lining. 

I don’t have much to say about the construction as I covered it all in my first post. This is the third time that I have made this pattern, and it just gets easier with every creation. Ensuring that you can’t see the lining on the pockets is still the trickiest part and is something for me to improve the next time I make these. There will be a next time - I’m not yet over this pattern! 


Baby dungarees back

And the fourth make? I’ll share that with you later as it deserves a post of its own. It’s a little different to everything else I’ve made for tiny people. I’m also on the hunt for new patterns. Do you have a favourite baby pattern to make? If so, please do share the link below. 

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