Sunday, 24 May 2015

A Robson Summer Jacket

Are you full steam ahead in your current seasonal sewing? I'm certainly am! This make is in anticipation of cool mornings and evenings in spring and summer that the UK is so prone to. It also fills a gaping hole in my wardrobe: a lightweight summer jacket.

Summer Robson 3

It's no secret that I absolutely adore my Sewaholic Robson Trench Coat. It is one of my most worn items due to the shape, fit and fabric so it was pretty clear which pattern I would use for this jacket.

Summer Robson 2

I made a number of changes this time. The most obvious is changing the length so it finishes around my hips. The second is stripping away a lot of the features: the front storm flaps, epaulettes and sleeve tabs were all discarded. I took out 2cm from the back - regular exercise is definitely changing my shape! I decided to keep the back storm flap as I really like this part of a classic trench. Instead of cutting two and securing them with a button, I used one and top stitched the turned seam allowance. Shortening the length meant the pockets needed to move upwards. They are as high up as I could make them while maintaining comfort and practicality. 

Summer Robson

As you would expect, there is a lot of top stitching in this jacket. Every seam on the main part of the jacket is top stitched either side and including the sleeves. The stitching is even throughout and this makes me smile a lot. The stitching that lets the side down though is the bar tacks. I definitely need more practice to neaten them but at least each belt loop is very secure. Forgive the collar in the next photo - I should have straightened it out.  

Summer Robson 4

The fabric is a cotton drill from Plush Addict and a Christmas present from Adam's Grandpa. It is of great quality even if it crumples as soon as you touch it. It was fun and forgiving to work with. I managed to squeeze the jacket out of 2.5m - not bad when you want a fabric hungry belt. Shall we talk about the bright pink lining? Yes, that's right, I was far too lazy to want to deal with all the bias binding that I created a lining. Somehow cutting additional pieces, stitching and overlooking the seams seemed much a more attractive use of time than lining up and stitching perfect binding. More practically, the drill would stick to my clothes making it hard to pull the jacket on. I debated for a while on how to finish the lining ( a cotton silk I bought on Goldhawk Road) and in the end chose to bag it. I would recommend top stitching the outer shell before you bag as it is very easy to catch the lining in the stitches. 

Summer Robson insides

This has already become a staple of my wardrobe as it has had a lot of wear since completion. I just love it. The top stitching, fit and the happy colour are the major reasons for this. Although I love the purple, I'm tempted to make another in a more muted colour so I have all occasions covered but I'm not sure I yet justify another version. Do you have a pattern that you want to make over and over? 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

When is a handmade piece worth more of your time?

See that small pile of clothes below? That's the pile of handmade items I can't decide what to do with. They are all currently hanging in my wardrobe waiting patiently to know whether they will ever be worn again or if their fate lies somewhere else.

Pile of clothes

I'm pretty good at clearing out items that I no longer like and wear and this includes my handmade clothes. Yet it is different for these pieces. Sadly they do not see the light of day. They are all too big and look ridiculous when I put them on.

There are many reasons why they have not been added to the charity bag: I thoroughly enjoyed making them, I loved the feeling I got from wearing them, and the fabrics are just gorgeous that I can't bear to let them all go. A small but influential part of me thinks they should be unpicked and resized. Why haven't I? Time - they would all take so long to complete. Somehow it is easier to start over than alter. But isn't that just laziness? 

I'm really not sure what to do with them. What do you think? Should I just take the plunge and invest the time or should I say a fond farewell? To all? To some? I would love to know how you decide whether a piece is worth more of your time. In case you want to judge the individual pieces they are: Peacock dress, Anna, Mae blouse, Cressida skirt and Ceylon

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Morning Granville Shirt

This post feels like it has been a long time in the making. Do you remember when you helped me decide that Sewaholic's Granville shirt would form the basis of my sew before work experiment? Here it is, after 22 days of stitching, in all its glory.

Granville shirt

You were right: a shirt is the perfect project to stitch when you have limited time as it breaks down into small enough steps. I often completed a couple of steps during the morning. I posted my progress on Instagram each morning and if you missed it you can catch up by visiting my feed. I have to come clean though and say I didn't complete this solely in the mornings before work. As I had very limited silk to work with, I checked I could get the pieces out of the fabric and also reduced the sleeve length in the evenings. Messing up these steps would have made the project impossible! Like many others, I had to reduce the length of the sleeves. I think I took off 7cm. I also pretreated the fabric and unpicked a few seams in daylight to reduce the possibility of snagging the fabric. Still, all of the actual stitching took place between 6.15-7am.

Granville

This is shirt is made from handmade Thai silk which Debbie sent me in the Spring Swap last year. I fell in love with it as soon as I opened it. The purple is amazingly vibrant and the floral print was one that I could actually see myself wearing regularly. It sat in my stash for so long because it measured 97cm wide and 2.3m long. The inside cuffs, inside collar stand and lower collar are from some random black fabric I was given as part of a fabric haul. I think it is a polyester. I wouldn't use it for an actual item but it works for the shirt as it complements the drape and weight of the silk. 

Granville

Given the hour of sewing, stabilising the silk was vital. After seeing how gelatine had changed the hand of one of Hannah's silk blouses, I decided to give it a go. It worked beautifully. The silk became crisp, lost its slippery nature and was like a cotton lawn. This made stitching flat felled seams so much easier. It also slowed the fraying. The gelatine came out very easily at the end and hasn't damaged the silk in any way - it has regained its drape, soft hand and it feels amazing to wear. If you want to know more about using gelatine, check out Hannah's post. I will definitely be using this technique again. 

Granviille upclose

This is the first time I have made a shirt and I found the process to be rather satisfying. There is a lot of precision sewing but I got through that by going at a slower pace. My stitching isn't perfect in many places, especially the sleeve plackets and the collar stand but I doubt anyone will notice. I found the sleeve plackets the trickiest part. Getting a clean point while turning under a small amount of fabric is fiddly. I chose to baste the point in place before stitching the placket to the sleeve. It worked reasonably well and didn't get in the way of adding the placket. We all know that pressing can take a make to the next level and this has never been more true than when making a shirt. I found it fascinating to see the difference. Here's a goofy picture of me but one that shows off the shirt well. 

Granville

While this make is no where near perfect, I do love it. It is a great feeling to have a shirt that fits well, is comfortable all day and is worry free - there's no gaping here! While this shirt was made to go with black trousers or a skirt for the office, I think it works well with jeans. I'm seriously tempted to make several more of these for the office and more casually. Will there be another sewing before work challenge, I hear you ask? Not just yet. This isn't because I don't have the energy or the project but because I am about to start a mindfulness course which will take up the spare time I have in the mornings. 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

"What is your biggest hurdle?"

How do you spend your morning commute? I have recently been listening to podcasts - I just can't seem to get enough of them. Lately, I have started working my way through the archives of The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry and one episode in particular hooked my attention. 

Todd chatted with Jeff Goins about his latest book. The conversation about finding your thing in life, your calling if you will, was interesting but there was a question towards the end that I've been pondering for a while since hearing it: 
Struggle
That question is applicable to every part of life: work, personal battles, family, relationships, exercise and healthy living etc. It also applies to hobbies. I could list a lot of things I find difficult or wish I could overcome with sewing and blogging but I don't really class them as a big hurdle or a struggle - I just need to practice or research them. However, I do have an answer for both.

Sewing: time. Put simply, I do not have enough time to make all of the projects I would like or to learn all of the things I want at the speed I would like. This where I got the idea of sewing before work and I am having fun trying to figure out how to make life a little more efficient while actively building in relaxation and rest. It is definitely an interesting challenge! 

Blogging: the fear of taking the next step. Now that sounds grand, doesn't it? It's actually rather smaller as I don't have plans to change the focus of this blog. I do wonder if I could grow this little corner of the internet in some way though. The struggle comes from many questions that stack on top of each other: what direction? Will my next series be any good? Will you come back if I made changes? And the cycle continues... I'm waiting to see where my thoughts settle. 

How about you? Would you be willing to share your biggest hurdle or struggle in sewing and/or blogging? If so, leave a comment below or drop me a email. 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Vintage Pledge: Butterick 4795

It has been a while since I joined in with a sewalong but I couldn't resist joining in with the Vintage Pledge this year. My pledge is make three patterns over the course of year. I know two of the three I will make and want to share the first today. 

A couple of years ago, Hazel sent me Butterick 4795 as part of the Spring Swap. I loved the silhouette and the front panel. The pattern is cut but complete and comes with a previous owner's handwritten note on the front detailing how she planned to make version B. 

Butterick 4795

The reason this pattern sat so long in my increasing pattern collection is the fabric. I needed to wait for the perfect combination. I knew I wanted a contrast front panel but it had to compliment the rest of the dress. Eventually I found this combination in the M is for Make spring sale. The main fabric is Robert Kaufman's Brussels Washer in Mist, a 55% linen 45% rayon mix. It feels and behave like linen but the rayon gives it more drape. The panel is Feathers Mineral cotton voile by Charley Harper of Birch Fabrics. Both fabrics are of really good quality and were wonderful to work with. 

Butterick 4795

I originally graded up the pattern as my waist measurements were well off those of the pattern. This turned out to be a waste of time as it came out as an enormous sack! Adam and I started to pinch out the fabric to see what alterations were actually needed and it turned out none were. I threw out the toile and retraced the pattern while making a mental note to more carefully measure the pattern next time. I'm pretty happy with the fit from the packet although the neckline is high and it can have a chocking effect when I lean far forward. There is also a lot of excess fabric across my chest but overall it fits well. 

Butterick 4795

The dress is incredibly easy to make except for the sharp points at the top of the front panel. I carefully transferred the markings from the pattern and traced in the seam lines before stitching slowly. I'm really thrilled with how they turned out. I added a lapped zip as the only the zip I had to hand was a normal one but in the wrong shade of green. It would have looked ridiculous on show so I tried a new technique. I followed Sunni's free zip class on Craftsy and was delighted with the result.

Butterick 4795

The dress is designed not to be lined. I'm trying to get into the habit of lining all of my dresses and added one here. I skipped the front panel by mashing the front pieces together and adding bust darts. The lining is a peach poly lining that I bought at the Birmingham Rag Market for £1m. I was surprised by the quality for the price - it doesn't have many of those annoying features you normally expect with poly lining. 

Butterick 4795

I absolutely adore this dress and have worn it to the office every week since completing it. I can see it being worn all year round as it will be easy to layer with tights and a cardi in the winter. Have you joined the Vintage Pledge? If so, how are you getting on?


Saturday, 18 April 2015

Simplicity 2442: the determination dress

Hello, everyone! Today I have a dress to share with you. With the sun starting to shine a little more frequently I have fully turned my attention to spring sewing. Spring sewing means one thing to me - dresses! I adore summer dresses especially as they don't (always) need tights. 

This dress is Simplicity 2442 and I came very close to not sharing it as I made it in the depths of my mind fog of March when I was trying to get back some of my self confidence and needless to say it isn't one of my best but I figured the outside looks good enough to share! 

Simplicity 2442

I debated about this pattern for a while - I was sure that I could see some promise in the line drawings but couldn't quite get past the awful pale blue satin the model is wearing. The final push came when Simplicity got in touch about their blogging circle and offered me a pattern. Despite the satin, I chose to continue the pale blue theme and used the sky blue and white polka dot nylon that I picked up in Croatia a couple of years ago. I say it nylon tentatively as the burn test was inconclusive. The fabric is quite crisp, creases fairly easily and is a major static generator but it was easy to work with despite some fraying and permanent pin holes. I chose to fully line the dress (the pattern only calls for the bodice to be lined) with a white cotton silk from Goldhawk Road for the lining. 

Simplicity 2442

I didn't alter the pattern much except for grading out for the waist and taking off a whopping 7cm from the hem. My toile did reveal another alteration I should have made but I completely forgot about it when it came to make the real thing as I was absolutely set on making a finished item that I didn't really care how it turned out. I should have raised the neckline by a centimeter or two and stabilised it with twill tape. At the moment is too low and floppy and the first time I work I pinned it to my bra it ensure it didn't move! It looks ok in the photos but I'm very conscious of this area while I'm wearing the dress. 

Simplicity 2442

While there are a lot of pattern pieces and a bit of preparation, this dress comes together fairly easily and quickly. I threw this pattern together in a haphazard way (the inside backs up this statement) and I still found it ok. The hardest part is the gathering of the midriff. Getting a even gather across the three pieces is tricky. Each piece has three or four stitching lines to help bring the fabric together. The ones near the seam line are easy to work with while the ones in the middle are more difficult. I also had a little trouble with inserting the invisible zip with the bulk the gathering brings but I managed to get it to line up perfectly. 

Simplicity 2442

Despite its flaws, I quite like this dress. Overall, the fit is spot on and it definitely speaks to the arrival of spring. I'm very tempted to try this pattern again, complete with alterations and a pretty inside, in a more soft and floaty fabric. What do you think?

Disclaimer: the pattern was provided by Simplicity free of charge as part of their Sewing Blogger Circle but all opinions are my own. 

Friday, 3 April 2015

2015 goals: 3 month update

Wow, I can't believe three months have passed since I announced to the world my personal goals for this year. I promised an update - mainly to keep myself accountable and a few others expressed an interest in hearing how I was progressing. If you don't like these kind of posts, feel free to skip it!

Running

The stats:

Running update photo
Some observations:
  • I'm slightly behind on this target but as it's only 5km I'm not too worried!
  • The cliche "You won't feel worse for going" is true, except for when you haven't rehydrated properly from a night in the pub
  • Getting out three times a week has been challenging and this gets worse when I have not been feeling myself (which has been a lot this month)
  • I'm beginning to consistently win the argument that happens in my head on every run. More and more I am proving that I am in control of my thoughts and actions while running and I am able to dig deep and complete my goal whatever that little voice says
  • Physically I feel better than I probably ever have. I've lost a bit of weight and the size of my tummy has definitely decreased (yay!). I've noticed this mainly through the changing alterations I need to make to patterns
  • Investing in a couple of decent sports bras has been my best decision to date 

Eating well

While I haven't kept a detailed record of everything I've made, I can safely state that I have used three different cookbooks to make four meals a month as I buy the supplies specifically for the chosen recipes and they aren't used for other meals. 

This one has been surprisingly easy to incorporate into everyday life. At the beginning of each month, either Adam or I select the recipes. It doesn't matter how complicated or long it takes to cook - if it sound delicious we will give it go! Those that take longer to prepare tend to happen at the weekend for obvious reasons. I've included links to the books below in case you want to check them out (I don't receive anything for it). 

My favourite meals so far:

The Slow Cook Book: this book has two Jambalaya recipes which I mashed together as I didn't have all of the ingredients for one. Definitely something I will be making again! 
Rachel Allen's Home Cooking: chicken casserole with cheesy herb dumplings and tagliatelle with smoked salmon, watercress and peas - a light and refreshing dish that can be made all year round. 
The Hairy Dieters: every one I have tried! The skinny lasagne is wonderful - you swap the pasta for leeks, homemade muesli with puffed rice really does keep you going until lunchtime, and the cassoulet feels wonderfully indulgent but is more healthy than the original. 

Reading

Two books completed, two on the go. 

I'm a lover of fiction but interestingly I've been inclined to read non-fiction recently. This is mostly because I am trying to understand me and depression more. "Reasons to Stay Alive" by Mat Haig has had a profound effect on me. The book covers stats, research and one man's story. It gave me the courage to follow my own path of treatment as well as an understanding that the illness does not define me. It is there currently, and may be again in the future, but it is always smaller than me - it operates within me, not me within it. If you have experienced depression and anxiety, or know someone who has, I highly recommend this book. You will come away with a better understanding. 

"Creative Confidence" by Tom Kelley and David Kelley is the other I have read. This stems from my increasing desire to find out what the common terms I hear at work actually mean. For those of you who don't know, I work at a business school and am constantly surrounded by terms like "lean", "design thinking", "entrepreneurs" and "responsible leadership". The time feels right to go below the basic understanding of what these mean. This book, by the founders of design company IDEO, shows you that everyone can be creative and it doesn't have to be by picking up a paintbrush or a needle. Human centered design is discussed a lot and it is backed up by inspiring stories of individuals who have successfully implemented this - whether it is revolutionising the MRI experience for children or creating the first news app when the iPad launched. 

Books

"The Lean Startup" continues my business education while "Dragon Haven" fulfils my need for magical escapism. Robin Hobb is one of my favourite authors. I adore the Farseer trilogy but have struggled a little with the Rainwild Chronicles - the dragons irritate me a bit. I'll stick with it though - I need to know what happens to the main characters!

How about you? Are you on track for any goals you may have set? 

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