Saturday, 23 August 2014

Notionally Speaking: Muslins

Are you ready for the next Notionally Speaking post, where a blogger picks a sewing related word at random from a predefined list and writes a post inspired by that word? I hope so as Daniela from Ela Sews and Doesn't Sleep talks muslins. I had to smile when Daniela chose this word as she is well know for her exceptional fitting and patience during this process, including creating five (yes five!) in the past. So grab yourself a cup of tea and let us know your feelings about muslins. 

Notionally Speaking

Do you hate or love making muslins (aka toile)? When I started sewing I hated them, because they took so much time and then when you are done they land in the bin. Now, one and a half years later, I still don’t love them but I have recognized that they are essential to sew a garment that fits me and that I am happy to wear loads of times. For this post, I thought it is a good idea to answer some of the questions I had when I started to make muslins. If you have any more suggestions please share and comment!  Thanks a lot Claire for allowing me to babble about muslins.

Muslin can be either a test garment (=toile) or a woven cotton fabric. I’m going to talk about the muslin as a toile.


Why bother with a muslin when you can directly start with your fashion fabric?
There are different reasons. Maybe you make a pattern for the first time and are not sure if the style of the garment suits you. Maybe you are one of those people who need to adjust the pattern to get a great fit. Maybe you want to try a new sewing technique. Making a muslin will give you more confidence when sewing the real thing.


What fabric should you use for your muslin and where can you get it?
The rule of thumb is to use a fabric that will have similar qualities as you fashion fabric. I usually use different-weight cottons and polyesters. I tend to go to Charity shops and buy old bed sheets, duvet covers and curtains. You can get king size duvet covers for £4 already and that means you will have a massive piece of fabric that will last a long time (except if you are muslining a men’s shirt). Sometimes you are lucky and can even find fabrics in these Charity Shops. You can also buy cheap fabrics from fabric stores (look out for sales), ask family and friends, use any leftover fabrics you have from your projects or order online. But beware, I ordered muslin (aka cotton fabric) once from ebay and got very stiff fabric. It felt almost like canvas. Also stay away from butter muslin. You don’t want to make a test garment with it (ask me how I know---but it works great as a press cloth), because it is used to drain cheese! 


Pre-washing and cutting your muslin
Good news, you don’t have to prewash your muslin fabric! But give it a good iron to get out any wrinkles (if you skip this step, your fabric pieces might grow on you when the wrinkles start to smooth out). Then lay out the pattern pieces on grain--which might be difficult on an old bedsheet. Advice: tear the sheet to get a straight edge. It is important to cut the pieces on the grain so that you can be sure the fitting problems you are spotting are from wrong fit and not wrong grain. You can add some horizontal and vertical lines to your cut pieces by either using a sharpie or a straight stitch. These lines will give you an idea where your fitting problems are. For example a horizontal line that goes up over your belly means you need more belly space. I’m not going to cover any fitting techniques, but can recommend reading “Fit for real people” by Palmer and Pletsch and a free fitting guide from the Florida Cooperative Extension Service. There are many techniques out there and you just have to find out what is the best for you.


Sewing your muslin
Just use a long basting stitch on your sewing machine. This way you can easily rip out the stitches. Also there is no need to make the whole garment from muslin. For example, if you make a dress with a circle or gathered skirt you can only make the bodice. But: I would always add the sleeves as they can change the fit of the bodice quite a lot.


Working with your muslin
When working with a muslin have your shears, stripes of fabric, sharpie and pins ready---because you are going to cut into this fabric and try out some alterations. On the photo below, you can see one of my muslins for a blouse. I needed a square shoulder adjustment. Thus I cut the muslin at the position where I needed the additional fabric and pinned a strip of fabric there. I then stitched fabric and muslin together with a zigzag stitch to see better if my adjustment was working.  I added even more fabric by pinning it in.


Fitting buddies
It is difficult, but possible, to fit the muslin by yourself. Do it in front of a big mirror. When fitting a bodice, sew a zipper in and with some wiggling you might be able to close it. You can also tie a string to the zipper to pull it up and down a bit easier. Look out for a fitting buddy, which can also be family and friends. My boyfriend helps me with the pinning and sometimes even with the adjustments when I’m explaining to him how to do it.  


How many muslins should I make?
That depends on how well fitted you want your garments to be and also how many adjustments you have to make. I made as many as five and as few as one! It can become very frustrating at some point, because you have the feeling your adjustments are just not working. Don’t give up, it will be worth it.


Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Phoenix Gabriola

This is a story about a skirt that rose from the ashes of disappointment to the joy of completion. A while ago I was fortunate to come third in the Winifred dress competition and I was sent some beautiful rayon crepe from Sunni. Following wise words from a colleague this fabric was destined to become a maxi skirt, specifically a Gabriola

Floral Gabriola

I have always like the maxi style but it is a style train I never jumped onto, mainly because a fear that I was too short for it (I'm 5' 6"). But yet again, Tasia at Sewaholic has lured me out of my comfort zone. I knew I would need to make a couple of alterations to the pattern to get the fit right so I made a toile. My standard grading down a couple of sizes for my hips worked but my slight sway back caused a problem. Just how do you make a sway back adjustment with those yokes pieces? Luckily Maddie had posted her solution which saved my brain a difficult puzzle. I made one other change - I decided to move the zip up and remove the button closure at the back. 

Floral Gabriola

Construction isn't too difficult, essentially you are sewing a lot of straight lines. It can be a little tedious to sew these lines when you throw in overlocking as well, however the results are totally worth it! The trickiest part is sewing the tip of the yokes at the front. Thankfully the skirt visibly comes together quickly. Until I noticed my MASSIVE mistake. 

Floral Gabriola

After adding the waistband, I wrapped the skirt around me to test the fit. It did not cover my hips. Eh? The toile fitted fine. That's because it had all four side panels and my skirt only had two... To make matters worse I didn't have enough fabric to cut the additional panels. Following many expletives the skirt was thrown into the corner. 

Sadly Sunni was out of fabric. Unsurprisingly it was very popular and sold quickly. The skirt remained in the corner until a possible solution hit me on my walk home from work quite a few weeks later. "What if I divide up the panel into several pieces and stitch them together? The print is quite busy - I might just get away with it. I have nothing to lose - I can't wear the skirt as it is and I can't create another item from it. And the fabric is too pretty to gather dust in the corner." Turns out I didn't have enough for two side panels but I could get two more back panels created from three pieces each. Suddenly I had a full skirt! As I hoped, the print covers it pretty well and if I look down the panel I have trouble finding the seam lines although it is pretty obvious when your pressing the skirt! 

Floral Gabriola

Gravity then gave me another problem. It pulled the bias panels further than I anticipated and hemming became a bigger job. I put the skirt on and sweet talked Adam into pinning it from the floor up. I whizzed it through the machine to finish. 

Floral Gabriola

Let's talk about the fabric. It is quite possibly my favourite fabric I have used to date. The navy blue background is the perfect shade to show off the flowers. It has a lovely drape, feels smooth to the touch but is actually quite weighty! I had trouble working out how to wash it and decided to throw caution to the wind and washed it at 40 degrees. It didn't shrink and has held up very well which was a massive relief. Anyone know how you should properly care for this fabric? 

Floral Gabriola

I've worn this skirt a few times since completion, including on holiday (these photos are taken in the beautiful city of Girona, Spain) and have loved it every time. I don't feel short, in fact I feel a little taller - a great illusion! I love the swish of the fabric as I walk and when it is caught in a breeze. I honestly don't know why I waited so long to make a maxi.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Scrap busting: Passport cover

Im currently on holiday in Barcelona (yay! sun, sea and tapas!). When I go away I'm forever struggling to identify my passport from the others I am looking after. So I made a cover for mine. Making this cover is a very quick project - it took me about 30 minutes.
What you need:
Main fabric
Lining fabric
Cut a 34cm x 16.5cm rectangle in both your main and lining fabric. Cut another rectangle, this time 12cm x 6cm, in your main fabric.
Passport 1
With right sides together pin the large rectangles together. Stitch using a 5mm seam allowance but make sure to leave a 5cm gap on one side.
Passport 2
Cut off the corners being careful not to catch any of the stitching.
Passport 3
Turn out the right way and press. Slip stitch the gap closed.
Take the smaller rectangle, this will form the fastening tab. Fold in half, right sides together and stitch one short edge and the long one using a 5mm seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance and turn out. Press and top stitch.
Passport 4
Go back to your main cover and press in half. Then fold each edge towards the centre so you have a 6cm overlap. Press.
Passport 5
Now you need to work out where the fastening tab will go. Fold under the raw edge of the tab about 1.5cm. Fold the cover in half and place the tab over it so it is even on the front and back. Pin the back in place.
Passport 6
Stitch in place near to the edge of the tab and the end of the raw edge. Add the popper to the back side of the tab and the front of the cover.
Passport 7
Finally, top stitch all the way round the cover making sure you move the tab out of the way.
Passport 8
You should have something that looks like this.
Passport 9
Passport 10

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Late to the Party Anna dress

I’m late to the party again. But hopefully, fashionably late. This is my first Anna and she wasn’t part of my sewing plans. When byhandlondon realised her as a pdf it was about five days before their party in London I wondered "can I make an Anna in just five evenings?" Well, there was only one way to find out!

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I figured if I could get the fit worked out in the first evening, it might just be possible. I quickly taped together the pdf. It goes together very easily and there is little wasted paper. It only comes in the midi version which was perfect for this make. Instructions are included for making the maxi skirt though.

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I had to think for a while about which size to make. I knew I would have to grade out for my waist but I fell right between two sizes all over. Erring on the side of caution I made the bigger one for my toile. It fit well across my waist and back but there was so much excess across my chest and into the sleeves. I started to pin it in when I remembered Kelly’s fitting experiences. This was a great time saver. I made another toile which was a smaller size at the shoulders and bust. Most of the excess fabric disappeared. You can see that the fit isn’t quite right - the neckline is a little too big and the dress slips to one side a little. It isn’t too big a deal though.

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I knew I wanted a dress that would go from day to night and I think I have achieved that. It is a smart dress for the office that works well for going out after work. Also perfect for a weekend evening meal out. 

I went stash shopping and pulled out this fabric that I picked up at Goldhawk Road a couple of years ago. Unsurprisingly, I just couldn’t resist the bright blue flowers. I’m not fully certain what fabric it is but it has a lovely drape, is as silky as it looks on the outside and is matt on the inside. One of the benefits about sewing this in the evening is seeing the fabric in artificial light. Turns out it is a little transparent and you would definitely be able to see everything underneath in bright light! I should have lined the dress but opted to buy a slip instead. Don’t judge me - I was on a time limit!

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I got the full dress out of 2m of fabric and decided that pattern matching didn’t matter that much. I’m not even sorry for that decision, although I will say I’m pleased that there is almost a full flower on the centre back - complete fluke. Oh, can I show you the zip please? It is my best invisible zip to date! I didn’t change the way I inserted it but for some reason it just clicked. Or maybe it was the fact I was determined to make it work with a £4 zip! Needless to say I won't be going back to that shop for a zip.

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I finished the neckline, sleeves and hem with bias tape turned to the inside and hand stitched in place. Yep, somehow I found the time to hand stitch although I thought I would become permanently crossed eyed. I did wonder if the hem would be a little too rigid but I think it is ok. What do you think of the length of the dress? It has caused a fair bit of discussion between me and Adam... I think I was trying to show the swish of the skirt in this picture.

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I've worn this dress twice and loved it both times. I can definitely see this getting a lot of wear and it certainly won't be my last Anna.  

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Notionally Speaking: Style

It's time for this month's instalment of Notionally Speaking where a blogger picks a sewing related word at random from a predefined list and writes a post inspired by that word. Style is always personal and can be a sensitive subject - you either feel you know yours or are trying to find it. Please welcome Jen from Tea for Two as she takes you through what it means to her. 

Notionally Speaking

Style. What does it mean to you? To me it's quite a loaded word. I feel like it should be totally subjective. We decide what is stylish, right? According to our own tastes, our own preferences. And yet the media is constantly telling us about trends, who looks good this week, who looks bad; what is in style. 

So I prefer not to think about that side of it, and instead to think of it as a very personal notion. It’s what catches my eye right now, what inspires me, and what I strive for, both in terms of what I wear and my sartorial mood. And boy does that change a lot.

The word style may mean something totally different to you. And that's fine. It has a lot of meanings. I'm going to talk about MY style – and I hope it entertains you for just a few minutes and that you forgive my narcissism. After all, we should write about what we know, right?

My style has changed A LOT in just the past 10 years - my twenties. Of course it has. In that time I’ve been a university student, I started the world of work, I moved to our nation’s capital, and I got married. And this year I turned 30. It’s only these last few years really that I’ve started to feel confident in dressing for my style.

So indulge me while we take a visual tour of my style over the last decade… At the very least, I’m sure we’ll have a bit of a giggle.

(By the way, anything I go 'blergh' at in these photos is in no way meant to offend anyone who does like that kind of style. It's just my personal preference at the moment, and I'm mostly just being very self-critical!)

Pic 1

1. June 2005 – 21 years old. Just before third year of university, just back from a holiday with friends and Josh to the south of France. Back then I was definitely keen on the vest-under t-shirt look, as seen here. Also, those shorts – WTF? This all feels like far too scruffy a look for me now.

2. April 2006 – 22 years old. A night out during third year of uni. Ignore the wig. Yes, I wore cardigan on a night out. I had the usual chub of a uni student and looking back I don’t feel like I dressed well for it. I was also very keen on wearing a belt round my hips, as in this photo. Very noughties.

3. May 2006 – 22 years old. Another uni night out. Trying to be sexy? Coming off as sweaty. Note the vest under vest AND the belt round the hips. Oh yes! I was clearly lacking in imagination. I also owned A LOT of black tops.

4. July 2006 – 22 years old. Just finished uni, on a canal holiday! University hoodie was a must. I don’t wear hoodies anymore, they feel too bulky and too casual for most of the time.

Pic 2

5. June 2007 – 23 years old. At my aunt’s wedding. Blonde! I think we can all agree this was not such a good look for me. I also cringe when I look at the style of my dress – not flattering for my shape at the time; too empire line and not fitted enough around the waist.

6. October 2007 – 23 years old. On holiday in Sorrento. I think this isn’t bad, but not surprised to see an unimaginative black top, but then they are pretty good as a basic. The blonde is still there (WHY???). 

7. January 2008 – just before my 24th birthday. On a work trip to Nice. Again, prolific use of black, and I obviously didn’t notice at the time how much extra bulk that cardigan added to the tops of my arms – big mistake! Also still wearing bootcut jeans – not my style anymore!

8. September 2009 – 25 years old. On holiday with ‘Lena in Barcelona. Haha, white bootcut jeans. Enough said.

Pic 3

9. As pic 8, on that same holiday. Again, my style has veered away from the leggings with dresses style (not that there’s anything wrong with it) – it just shows me how much my preferred style has changed.

10.  May 2010 – 26 years old. On holiday in Cornwall. The blonde has gone! I finally saw the error of my ways. I don’t hate what I’m wearing here, I just know for some reason I wouldn’t look twice at it these days in a shop. And the headband? So not a good look for me!

11. October 2010 - 26 years old – on my way to Amsterdam with friends. Ahh, jeans tucked into boots – I still do that and actually really like it.  The long blazer is also a style I’m still keen on.  Starting to feel more comfortable exploring my style here, as I’d lost quite a bit of weight.

12. June 2011 – 27 years old. Loving the short hairstyle here and was v happy with my size, hence the short short skirt! Also shows how I was keen to start wearing more colour and interesting prints, and just generally be a bit more adventurous with those.

Pic 4

13. August 2012 – 28 years old. On my minimoon (sorry) in Whitstable. Demonstrates my current fave style of skirts sitting on the waist, with tops tucked in.

14. May 2013 – 29 years old. On honeymoon! In Yosemite National Park. One of my favourite summer vintage dresses. A few years ago I started buying vintage clothing and fell in love.

15. September 2013 – 29 years old. In my Elisalex dress at a wedding. Starting to make my own clothes at the start of 2013 has also really made me think carefully about my style. I love the Elisalex and think it went perfectly with this vintage hat/fascinator.

16. May 2014 – 30 years old! In one of my most recent favourite vintage dresses. I love the unusual prints you get on vintage clothing, and the knowledge that you’re wearing something no-one else will have on.

So that’s a little round-up of just a snippet of my style evolution! Thanks for indulging. It’s made me realise how quickly things go in and out of favour with me, but also how my style tends to directly relate to my current shape and size. Is that the same with anyone else? When I was a bit larger I think I didn’t really want to make a statement with clothes, but I also didn’t have the confidence.

I’m now really enjoying have a little bit of individuality. I like nipped-in waists, high-waisted jeans and vintage styles (both actual vintage and vintage-inspired). Sure, there are still plenty of days when I’ll throw on any old thing, but more and more I’m having fun with fashion, and not letting fashion magazines or high street shops dictate what I wear.

So tell me, what does ‘style’ mean to you guys? I really wanna know!

Thanks so much to Claire for letting me wax lyrical – I really enjoyed it!

Jen x 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Door stops - saving my sanity!

Do you have doors that creak or are prone to slamming? We do. I'm constantly in and out of them when crafting as I always forget something or the ironing board is in a different room, and the creaking drives me insane! It is even worse when the windows are open in good weather. But not anymore. I made some door stops to retain my sanity! 

Here's how I made them. 

You will need: 

Outer fabric (choose something sturdy) 
Lining fabric (again, choose something sturdy)
Medium weight interfacing 
2kg fish tank gravel (or equivalent, just make sure it is heavy) 

Seam allowance is 1cm throughout. 

1. Cut out the following pieces in both the outer and lining fabric:
  • One rectangle - 50cm x 22cm
  • One circle - 17cm diameter
  • Two truncated circles - use the full circle as a template, draw a vertical line 3cm from the edge and cut. You want opposite edges cut on each piece. (See picture below in step 6)
From your outer fabric and interfacing:
  • One rectangle - 10cm x 20cm
Door stop 3

2. Prepare the handle. Take your 10cm x 20cm rectangle and apply the interfacing to the wrong side. Fold the fabric, right sides together, pin and stitch.  Turn the fabric through, and press with the seam line in the centre. 
Door stop 4

3. Take your full circle and place it right side up. Take your handle and place it on top, right side up, allowing a couple of centimetres to fall over the edge. Baste in place. 
Door stop 5

4. Take your outer fabric 50cm x 22cm rectangle. Fold in half, right sides together and pin. Stitch and press seams open. 
Door stop 1

5. With right sides together, pin the circle into the cylinder. Stitch in place. 
Door stop 6

6. Take your truncated circles and press the straight edge under 2cm. Stitch in place. 
Door stop 7

 7. Cut two strips of velcro to the length of the straight edge. Place one on the wrong side of one truncated circle, the other on the right side. Stitch. 
Door stop 8

8. Put the velcro edges together. Pin the full circle to the cylinder, rights sides together and stitch. Open the velcro and turn the cylinder out. 

9. Repeat steps 4-8 with your lining fabric. 10. Fill your lining with the gravel. Close the velcro securely.
Door stop 9
11. Put the lining into the outer fabric, velcro circle first. You will need to manipulate the shape the lining to do this. Once in, close the velcro of the outer fabric securely. 

12. Place by the door!
Door stop 10

Thankfully I can enjoy the peace now...

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Bellatrix Blazer

I've often said that I have gaps in my work wardrobe and I finally have a make to share that goes a little way to filling it. Every now and then I need to dress sharply at work. I've wanted to make Papercut's Bellatrix Blazer for a while and a VVIP event on the horizon provided the perfect excuse to get going as well as filling a small part of the hole in my wardrobe.

Bellatrix Blazer

If you don't know this blazer, pop over here to see the line drawings. I love the sharp lines with the princess seams, the gentle curve of the collar and the cute sleeve detail where the back is longer than the front. I chose version one, which has the longer hemline as I am more likely to wear it over trousers.

I picked up the fabric at Barry's in Birmingham. It is a lightweight black brocade with blue "eyes" running in perfect lines throughout. I tried to keep the lines steady throughout the jacket but the curves boggled me a little. They are reasonably straight although no where near perfect. Ah, well. The lining is a plain black fabric that comes from the Fancy Silk Store. It has a lovely drape and will be able to withstand the occasional wear this blazer will get. It also feels good against my skin.

Bellatrix Blazer

I made a few alterations to ensure a good fit. As I have a slight swayback, there was a lot of excess fabric in the upper back, about 4cm from the seam line. I pinched out 2cm at the centre back and tapered to nothing at the side. The the front, I added an extra 1cm to all sides. I added an extra 5cm to the sleeves. I don't like sleeves which move substantially past your wrist when your arm is straight and this extra length ensures this doesn't happen.

Construction takes a while, this isn't a project you can rush through. To start with there are a lot of pieces (about 26 when you include the lining) and then there's the interfacing. Wow, you will spend a long time at your ironing board applying the interfacing! The front, lower front, lower back, collar, sleeve hem facing and the welt pockets (all x2) require this treatment. To save time, I blocked fused the pieces and then cut them out. You could fuse your fabric before cutting out your pieces but it seemed like a waste if interfacing to me. I chose a lightweight black interfacing from Minerva as I didn't want to stiffen the fabric. I was aiming for a sharp but soft look. 

Bellatrix Blazer

The most daunting thing about this pattern when looking at it is the welt pockets. Creating neat ones can take a lot of time and increased attention to detail. However, the difficulty vanished when I realised they were in seam pockets. It gives you the same effect but without the panic of cutting into your fabric with no going back! They came out perfectly first time! You also need to be careful to remember that the seam allowance is 1cm, rather than the standard 1.5cm.

Bellatrix Blazer

The instructions are very clear to help you throughout and are written as if you are having a conversation with someone. I was impressed with how Papercut packaged the pattern. The strong paper the pattern is printed on will last a long time. I found it a little annoying that the instructions are on the same sheet of paper. You do have the option of cutting them out and creating a cute little book (which I did in the end) but I would have liked to have kept the sheet fully in tact.

Bellatrix Blazer

You'll notice that I haven't added a button and I'm holding the jacket closed in the photos. I haven't found the right button to work with the colours yet so played safe and decided not to cut a buttonhole until I have the right button. I am considering adding a hook and eye at the front instead though, allowing the edges of the jacket to just meet at the seams. What do you think?

Bellatrix Blazer

Sadly, the first time I wore this blazer was for the photos. The morning of the event was one of the hottest of the year to date and called for a complete rethink of my outfit! It seems a shame to have out all the work into making it and then not being able to wear it. At least it is a useful addition to my wardrobe and I have no doubt it will get worn during the autumn - but I'm not wishing for that just yet!


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