Saturday, 29 July 2017

Recently

After a time of extreme highs, you can't always anticipate how you will be feeling afterwards. I had an inkling that my sewjo would be depleted after finishing my wedding dress in March and, if it happened, I hoped it wouldn't be for too long. Instead of bouncing back, my motivation for making *anything* decided to take a long holiday and vanished completely. I believe this was because I needed a rest both physically and mentally, and because I was having a huge internal battle over my identity (this post sums it up better than I ever could). It is only now that the battle is over (I stuck with my original) and that life is settling down into a more normal routine that I am feeling my sewjo come back. It hasn't yet fully unpacked its bag though and disappears for day trips when I try to force it. 

This complete disappearance was bad news for me. Like many others, I rely fairly heavily on sewing as a form of mindfulness to help me keep my thoughts in check. It rivals exercise for being my most effective tool. Discovering that one of my fool proof techniques for nudging or maintaining my mood could no longer be fully relied upon was slightly alarming and made me realise that I needed to expand my creative arsenal. 


Doing nothing isn't in my nature which led me to I experiment. Over the past six weeks, I have worked on my English paper piece quilt so it now covers half of our bed. The repetitive nature of hand stitching seemed less intimidating - I could stitch a few hexies and leave it. Before I knew it, the quilt had doubled in size. I love how it is turning out.


I dabbled with some new free motion embroidery designs. I didn't have any expectation for them - good job as only one turned out ok! However, the mere process of doing this has given me some more ideas for when I can get back to it. 


I've never considered myself as someone who is able to draw but I have always wanted to. Without any expectation, and partially through desperation, I signed up for an online course to learn the basics of drawing. I'm only experimenting with line drawings at the moment but it's nice to see I might have potential if I keep practising. I'm currently obsessed with vintage pattern envelopes and will be using them as inspiration going forward. 

While none of these have the same effect as sewing, it is great to be learning some more creative skills. They do help in their own way and I am looking forward to continuing with them. Another positive is they have been enough of a distraction to stop me constantly thinking about when I will sew again. I already am and have an almost finished Itch to Stitch Anza dress which I'll be sure to share with you soon. 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

GBSB Live Winners plus a Discount Code

This post was updated on 23rd July - see below.

Thanks to everyone who entered this giveaway over the past week. Jumping straight into it with an imaginary drum roll...

The winners of the five pairs of tickets to the Great British Sewing Bee Live, randomly pulled from the box, are:



Congratulations to Rachel, Sabs, Alice's Sewing Adventures, Penguin and Pear, and Batwidow! Please contact me at iwanttobeaturtle[at]gmail with your name which I will pass onto the organisers with your email address. 

UPDATE: I've heard that Batwidow has been super lucky and won two different draws for tickets. Being a lovely soul, she asked me to redraw so the next lucky winner is:


Congratulations, Jodie - contact me as above to claim your tickets. 

For those you of you were unlucky, or missed entering, I can offer you a discount of £1.50 on regular tickets. You can purchase tickets here - just enter the code BAT into the promo code box. 

I'm counting down the days to this event and I hope to see many of you there. 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Giveaway: Great British Sewing Bee Live

Few words cause more excitement in the sewing community than "Great British Sewing Bee" and there is certainly a buzz building again this year. I'm sure you've all heard that the show is taking on a new format and is going live, yes live, at the ExCel in London on 21st-24th September. 


The event looks pretty amazing with so much to try and fit in a single visit. A must see is the Super Theatre where Patrick Grant and Esme Young will talk tips for tailoring and dressmaking before a live sewing bee challenge takes place. Fancy trying a new skill and meeting some of the former contestants? Take a workshop! It'll take you time to narrow them down and I suggest reviewing them with a cup of tea. Want to add to your stash? You won't be short on choice as there will be over 200 of your favourite suppliers there including Girl Charlee, Guthrie & Ghani, Melissa Fehr, The Foldline and Tilly. A lover of Liberty prints? There's the chance to see some archive pieces from the 1930s through the 1970s. As if that wasn't enough they've also included  dressmaking drop in clinics to help you solve that issue preventing you finishing a piece and a made at home fashion catwalk! Check out the website for further details on all the offerings. 


So hands up - who wants to go?

I thought so. I'm pleased to be able to offer five pairs of tickets valid for a visit on the Thursday or Friday (pick the Friday and we can say hello!) To be in the running, leave a comment below telling me which part of the event you are most keen to attend. This giveaway is open until Thursday 20th July 2017 with the winners announced on Saturday 22nd. 

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Handmade wedding stationery

Hi everyone, thanks so much for all the wedding dress love! It was great to share all the details with you and to relive the process. I have one more wedding related post.



I wanted to share our wedding stationery which were also handmade and a joint effort between us. It was very important to me that the day reflected us as a couple and I had a strong desire to have as large a handmade element to it as possible. I stopped at the dress and the stationery as anything else would have been too much. We knew early on that we wanted the designs of our stationery to compliment each other and ideally to involve fabric - cotton as its easy to work with and also leant itself nicely to the venue. 




The hardest part was choosing the designs. I was doing a lot of free motion embroidery at the time and realised this technique could give an interesting look. Adam was still intrigued by the Girih tiles we had seen in Lisbon during the summer and shared a few designs. A couple of trial runs later and we chose two designs - one for the Save the Dates and one for the Invitations. We had a very loose teal and purple theme to the wedding and chose a teal and purple polycotton from our local fabric store. These would be paired with metallic silver thread (more on that later). The motifs and words would be framed in a silver card and then mounted onto a A6 white card. 



You'll see in the photos that a third motif was added at a later stage. We were struggling to come up with a nice name card design. I originally wanted to stitch the names directly onto card but the machine foot left very visible dents. When our caterers provided us with a very detailed menu for all dietary needs, Adam suggested personalised menus for everyone in exactly the same style as the others. I continued to stitch the motifs but added the third partly for speed but also to prevent boredom! While it increased the workload, I really loved being able to add this personal touch and thought they looked great on the tables. I cannot take any credit for the design of any of the insets - Adam took care of those. He managed to match the colours almost perfectly to the fabric. 



The process of making all the motifs and words was one I both loved and loathed. Tracing the designs took rather a long time - I used carbon paper to ensure I could see the lines in the dark colours while stitching in the winter months. Drawing and cutting the silver squares and rectangles seemed to take too long too. But that was nothing compared to the fights I had with Hemline's silver metallic thread. More often than not, it was a nightmare to work with. It got stuck around the bobbin case or snapped at the needle more times than I care to remember. There were magical times when it worked in harmony with my machine and I stitched and stitched in the deluded hope it would never end. It will be a very long time, if ever, before I chose a thread like that again! 


I love how all of the cards are the same style and how those of the same design are all unique. This is the part of handmade that pleases me the most - each item has its own personality and quirks. I was delighted to hear that they were well received and one couple pointed out that we had included something for both the seamstress and the engineer. I guess we fulfilled reflecting both us as we had hoped.


In addition, Adam designed and made our seating plan. We decided to name our tables after some of our favourite places in Europe. Choosing a vintage inspired look, he created polaroids of the places and postcards with the names of the guests before linking them with twine to a map. We used teal pins to help tie it all together. The whole thing was secured to the wonderful architects board that comes with the venue. 


Thanks for your patience while I shared all of these details. We will be back to more normal sewing activities from next week - tune in for an exciting giveaway! 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Wedding dress - the reveal

Thank you all for sticking with me while I shared the details of how I made my wedding dress. I'm sure this is the post you've been waiting for - how the the dress looked on the day and some wedding photos. Ok, I got carried away and there are lots of photos focussing on the dress. If you want to see more of our day and the venue, visit this post by Gareth, our fabulous photographer who supplied all of the shots below. 

The first sighting of the dress on that glorious day in early May was when Gareth took it for its own short private photo shoot. I had asked him at the beginning to get some photos of it as I knew I wouldn't have the opportunity and thankfully he was game! He took the dress to the Cotton Quarter where our ceremony took place. 


This was the first time that the dress had been hung and, without the security of being on me, I was a little worried that the weight of the skirts would cause it to drop. I temporarily added a couple of ribbons to the bodice, secured with safety pins, to give some extra stability while the dress was on the hanger. 



I couldn't have put the dress on without help and my bridesmaids, Emily and Rachel, came to the rescue. 




After the waist stay and the top button were closed, we all pulled the bodice tightly towards the back to ease the pressure on the invisible zip at the waistline. Rachel closed the buttons on the back while Emily took charge of ensuring the skirt layers laid flat.


It was pretty amazing to be finally wearing it! I was completely amazed by how closely and perfectly Kerry, our florist, had been able to match the roses to my dress. I also want to thank Ellie for the make up and performing a small miracle with my hair which didn't want to stay put. 









Amazingly the dress came through the day unscathed - no tears in the lace and no alcohol stains. Just a few small grass stains from the short walk below. 


This is an even more impressive achievement when you consider the amount of crazy dancing that happened during the party. 




We hired an amazing band, Hipster, who kept our guests entertained with a couple of hours of fabulous live music. I ditched my shoes and bounced around for the whole evening! 


I honestly couldn't be prouder of this make.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Wedding Dress - Skirt and finishing touches

This is the last construction post of my wedding dress! I'll cover creating the skirt, adding the bodice and the finishing touches.

You may remember in the photos of the dress toile the skirt was narrow and the train rather short. I was keen to fix this in the actual dress as it felt limiting (both in style and movement) and I wanted to show off the beautiful fabrics as far as possible. With a limited amount of fabric, the width of the skirt and therefore the length of the train was determined by the width of the silk satin. 



At 132cm wide, the early indications were that this would be close to what I had originally wanted. At the cutting out session, we took the skirt pattern and sliced it up the middle, laid it on the silk satin and spread it as far as we could. By this time I had my shoes and they demanded an extra 8cm of length to be added at the bottom. We smoothed out the curved hem before cutting out allowing extra wide seam allowances. These would give us greater flexibility in ensuring the silk satin and lace skirts lined up neatly when they were fixed together. 

Cutting out the lace skirt was a little emotional. I wanted the beautiful scalloped edges to skim the floor at the front and be complete all the way round the skirt and ideally for the train to finish in a smooth curve. The lace had other ideas - to achieve the smooth curve I would need to clip the lace and add a large part by hand. This was based on the assumption that we would cut the lace length ways and piece the skirt together using applique seams. Seeing it all laid out and imagining how it would look made me realise that it didn't feel right. 



While I was cutting out the silk, Chris was laying out the pattern pieces on the lace and experimenting. By placing the pattern on the cross grain it was possible to cut the entire skirt in one very large piece. No side seams, no applique needed! We wrapped the lace around me to check the drape would work and I got very, very excited. Cutting this way would allow the lace to shine as it was intended. There was a compromise though - to keep the full scalloped edge it would have to end in a gentle point rather than a smooth curve. After seeing the drape of the lace, I decided that maintaining that was more important and chose to adapt the train. As an added bonus, it halved my workload!




As with the bodice, the silk satin was mounted onto silk organza. When testing the fit, we took out quite a bit of excess at my hips (a standard issue for me) to ensure that we got the gradual A line. I finished the seams in both the silk satin and the lining with French seams. Alterations were needed to the lace skirt as well - we had to raise it at the waist by about 8cm and ease it into the waistline while ensuring that the lace matched up along the centre back. The back of the lace skirt was left open. Now came the most complicated part - adding the skirts to the silk satin bodice. 



I completed the lining first, attaching the skirt at the waistline to the lining of the bodice. I then inserted the invisible zip to the lining and the foundation carefully keeping the silk satin out of the way. Thankfully the zip went in perfectly first time. Following this, the silk satin and lace skirts were basted to the silk satin of the bodice and stitched into place. The centre back seam allowance of the silk bodice and skirt were pressed under and slip stitched along the zip. Keeping the silk from bubbling at the bottom of the zip was the trickiest part and the thread was ripped out a number of times. 



The lace overlay was added next - hand stitched into place at the side seams and anchored loosely at key points along the waist line. All of a sudden, the dress had come together with only the centre back closing to add. It felt like I was on the home straight although there was still a lot of work to complete and time was slipping away. 



Completing the centre back required long strips of silk satin cut on the bias - somewhere between 7-8m. To minimise the number of joins, I cut the stripes as long as possible - about 70cm - before they became too distorted. I needed two strips at 3m for each of the centre back seams and enough to create about 130 rouleau loops. Despite sounding a lot, the loops were relatively quick to make as the silk turned out on itself easily and were cut to the exact length needed. 



To ensure everything lined up, I basted the bias strips onto each of the lace centre back seams. A quick fit revealed that I needed to let out the middle of the lace bodice as it was pulling too tight across my shoulder blades. I finished the left seam first as it was the simplest - the bias strip was stitched into place with the machine and the pressed towards the centre of the dress. The raw edge was folded under before being slip stitched into place. To keep the top and bottom openings clean, the extra silk was folded up/down and before being anchored by the slip stitching. 



The right side was more intensive as the loops needed to be included. The bias strip was machine stitched into place and pressed towards the centre of the dress. On the wrong side I matched up the loops to the edge of the seam allowance. The loops were added with the following pattern: 1cm between the ends of a single loop, a 0.5cm gap and repeat for the whole length of the dress - 126 loops in total. 



Each loop was pinned and then basted tightly into place. The raw edge of the binding was folded over and covered the raw edges of the loops and hand stitched into place. To secure the loops, they were hand pressed towards the opening and secured into place with a few tiny hand stitches per loop. Even though I broke up the hand stitching into small chunks and took frequent breaks I developed severe cramps in both my hands. Once recovered slightly, I began the process of stitching the buttons on to the left hand binding. The buttons are covered in the same silk satin and were created by Harlequin based in Essex. They were super quick, returning the buttons a few days after I sent off for them. 




Adding the binding, loops and buttons took three days in total - the only part of the dress I can actually put a time frame on! While the dress features 126 fully functioning buttons, only the top 50 were used to put the dress on. 



To fully finish the bodice, I added a rouleau loop and button to the top to help with the strain on the invisible zip. Finally, I was at the hemming stage and went to see Chris for the final time. She kindly measured the hem while I stood in my shoes. The silk satin skirt is hand stitched to the organza using the slip stitch. 



It is 1cm in depth, double folded and I rolled it back to ensure the hand stitching is completely invisible. The hem was very lightly pressed to remove any remaining pin and basting marks while maintaining the smooth curve of the fold. I did this over a couple of evenings as my hands still hadn't fully recovered from the loops and buttons. The lining was finished in the same way but went through the sewing machine and was fully pressed. A quick review of the dress to ensure all the basting thread had been removed and it was finally finished - five weeks ahead of the wedding. 

Stay tuned for Saturday's post for photos from the big day! 

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