Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A dilemma

If you're taking part in Me Made May then you've probably been getting ready for the month ahead. I've busy making sure all my items are freshly washed and ready to wear. I have managed to avoid temptation and kept to my 20:20 plan instead of panic sewing. This hasn't been easy as I know that I have holes in my wardrobe and have spotted some already but that is one of the reasons I signed up - to spot the actual gaps not just perceived ones. 

Anyway, while checking my hand made items I came across the dress I made on a course. It is McCall's 2401, made from quilting fabric (the only fabric I could get my hands on as I got a place at short notice), is nicely finished and the fit is still pretty good (I have lost a little weight since completing it). I have worn it just once since finishing and I didn't like it. It seems a shame for it to languish on the hanger so I thought I would give it another go and wore it yesterday to see if it could feature in the month somehow. 

McCall's 2401 (2)

And the problem remains. I am just not feeling it. It makes me feel slightly frumpy, older than I am and I am much more conscious of myself in it. Not a good feeling! And it is how you feel that counts right? I can't work out if it just the length and I should take it up a few inches. Or if I find the print too much for a dress. Or what it is.

McCall's 2401

So, please help me. Should I take it up? Make a separate from it? I could see a top or a skirt, although I don't think I have enough fabric for both unless I add a waistband. Or do something else? Here is a close up of the fabric, see why I think it could be the print?

McCall's 2401 fabric

All ideas welcome. Leaving it as it is isn't really an option as I can't see me wearing it again. If I don't do anything I can see it landing in the bag destined for the charity shop. 

Saturday, 27 April 2013

French Seams

French seams featured quite a lot in the Great British Sewing Bee and I have been asked several times about them. French seams are a fantastic way to give your garments a very neat and professional look. It works by encasing the raw edge of the fabric. They work best with lightweight and delicate fabrics and I am using this style of seam on my latest project. Creating French seams is easy! Here's how: 

(Apologies for the changing colour of the photos - this fabric is rather difficult to photograph)

Pin your fabric wrong sides together. 

French seams

Sew using a narrow 1/4" seam. Press the seam flat and then trim fairly close to the seam. 

French seams

Press the seam down to the side. Turn your fabric over so the right sides are now together. Press again. 

French seams

Return to your machine and stitch a 3/8" seam. This will ensure that the raw edge is encased. Press to the side. 

French seams

There you are - lovely, clean and neat seams. 

French seams

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


I was wandering around town at the weekend picking up threads for my cross stitch project when my phone buzzed with a notification of a new email. That email brought news of a surprise. The lovely Danielle from One Small Stitch had given me a Liebster award. I was delighted! If I’m honest, when I started this blog a few months ago I had hoped that a few people that I knew would be interested enough to read it but I don’t think I expected it to be picked up by other sewers. So this feels pretty good at the moment!

My understanding of the Liebster Award is that it is awarded to bloggers who have under 200 followers. I have 10 questions to answer from Danielle and then I need to nominate 10 people, with less than 200 followers, for the award and ask them 10 questions. I notify my nominees by posting a comment on their blog. So let’s start in order. Here are my answers to Danielle’s questions:

1. Why did you start sewing?
I have always made things and I can’t actually remember what inspired me to begin sewing my own clothes but something must have. There was a about a 2 year gap in starting off and developing the sewing habit I have now. The reason I sew now is because it is a great way to be creative and have something of use at the end. I also got bored of walking around shops for hours and coming home empty handed because I couldn’t find anything I liked, let alone something that fitted properly. 

2. Five words that describe you: 
Eek, sounds too much like an interview question to me!

3. What is your favourite make?
Hmmm, for achievement and advancing skills it has to be my Lady Grey coat which I have been getting some wear from recently. But I also love the Ginger skirts I have made (they are yet to be posted about) but they will definitely feature in Me Made May

4. And your least favourite?
I think it is my green Taffy blouse, also be to shown and probably in MMM. I love the colour and the drape (it is silk) but I feel that the pale pink trim I added lets it down a little. 

5. What piece(s) of sewing equipment (besides your machine) could you not live without?
Without a doubt, my seam ripper. This little tool has saved me so many times when I have made a mistake. I also couldn’t live without my Frixion pens - so much easier than tailor’s chalk! 

Mission complete - unpicking lining

6. What are your three favourite blogs?
Oh, this is a very difficult question as there are just too many that I like. But if I had to choose three it would be Dear Golden Vintage, Did You Make That? and Sewaholic

7.  What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m going for a sewing related accomplishment. Making my first bound buttonholes. Somehow these seemed more intimidating than making the coat! 

8. Sweet tooth or savoury?
Definitely savoury. I do love sweet things but if it was a choice of cheese or chocolate for the rest of my life, it would be cheese! 

9. What's the most daring thing you've ever done?
Climbing a 30 metre metal tower in the Amazon rainforest without a proper harness. It was a narrow structure that swayed a lot as I climbed it. I was attached by a harness but once I got to the top I realised that it the tower collapsed then I would go with it as I wasn’t secured to anything else! The view was totally worth it though!

The Amazon canopy

10. What's your secret for a happy life?
This may sound cheesy but be true to your core values. It took me a very long time to work that out! 

Choosing 10 nominees has been quite difficult. I have used bloglovin as a guide although I’m sure that all of them have more followers through different means and some have been blogging for a while. In addition, I wanted to “share the love” further and many of those I would nominate have received the award recently. As a result I have 8 nominees instead of 10. I think it is ok to bend the rules slightly! 

Today's Agenda - Gail has been blogging for a few years but I have only recently come across her work. Check out her coral coat and the great lining she has paired it with. And I love that she has a separate section for her goals this year, what a great way to keep track of your progress. 

Silk Lace & Steel - Julia hasn't been blogging long but has already made an impression with her sense of style and eye for colour. Anyone who makes a dress out of pure silk crocodile print surely deserves some form of accolade! I'm looking forward to seeing what else she comes up with. 

Of dropped stitches - Who doesn't love superheroes? Well, every now and then you will find them here. Emma has recently appeared to be a superwoman who carried on sewing in the final weeks before her wedding. Her Linen Hollyburn skirt is one of my favourites. And she has done a tutorial on how to make cross stitch buttons - this is something I might just have to try! 

Errant Pear - I came across Emma when she posted about her finished Minoru which is lovely and looks so warm! I love her easy going conversational style and that she is making is making her sister's wedding dress. 

Crafting a Rainbow - I adore Gillian's blog and all of her recent makes. I'm also impressed by her original Me-Made-May pledges. Her blog speaks for itself so make sure you pop over to see it if you're not familiar with it.

Top Notch - Kirsty has made some pretty awesome items, many from Liberty’s fabric and they are beautiful. Check out her Mathilde blouse. I always look forward to seeing what her next creation is. 

The Little Tailoress - Where do I begin? Ami makes beautiful clothes and looks absolutely fantastic in them. Her posts are always a good read and there are a few really helpful tutorials. I’m particularly struck with the one on bound buttonholes. Hopefully there will be more to come. 

Sew Much Choice - Jo has done some wardrobe planning like me but has undertaken a much bigger challenge. And check out the amount the gifts she made for Christmas, if only I could do that!

Here are my questions to you:

1. Who, or what, is your biggest inspiration?
2. Why did you start blogging?
3. What is your favourite pattern (sewn or not)?
4. What is your best sewing tip?
5. Do you avoid a pattern because of a certain feature e.g., buttonholes?
6. Name one thing that is on your bucket list.
7. Your worst sewing experience
8. Cats or dogs?
9. To trace or not to trace (a pattern)?
10. Would you apply to be on The Great British Sewing Bee?

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Completed: Laurel dress

When Colette Patterns released their latest pattern, the Laurel, I was seriously underwhelmed. I had been hoping for a shift dress as many had rumoured as I wanted one, or perhaps two, to add to my summer wardrobe. I worried that the pattern would be far too loose and big on me and that it would be very unflattering. But then Sarai began to show how the pattern could be changed and I began thinking. Perhaps there was potential in this for me, so I bought the pattern. Being slightly in doubt about it still I decided to make a muslin. You might think that is a little strange for a loose fitting garment but I am so glad I did. I honestly looked like I was wearing a sack! Adam actually laughed at how big it was around my hips! However I could see that this is something I could wear if I cut out a smaller size. I liked the shape of it but just not how big it was. So that is what I did. 

Colette Laurel Front 2

I wanted a dress to add to my summer collection. It had to be simple but delicate. The fabric is cotton poplin and this is my first time using it. It is more delicate than I imagined with pin marks lasting a long time after they had been removed. It also crumples quickly as you can see from the photos. It began life in white as I couldn’t find the right colour. I decided to dye it using Dylon’s ‘Burlesque Red’ which is actually more along the purple line than red. I hand dyed it to give me a little more control over the colour. The finished article couldn’t be plain, I needed to have some form of embellishment and settled on a crochet cotton trim. 

Colette Laurel trim

The construction is very simple as there are only three pieces or six in mine as I opted for version one which is fully underlined. The underlining is made from the same fabric in the same colour to be as true to it as possible. I hadn’t underlined before but it turns out it is very simple. The zip went in reasonably well. It isn’t perfect but I can live with it. Putting a zip in properly is definitely something I need to work on. 

Colette Laurel back

The trickiest thing for me was actually the placement of the front darts. I put it on to check the fit after inserting the zip when Adam pointed out that one my darts was off by about 5mm. Cue some unpicking! I’m still not sure they are fully level but I can cope with them now. I won’t spend every minute I wear this dress wondering if others can see my mistakes. One thing I loved about this pattern is that there are no facings! I generally don’t get on well with facings. Instead you use bias binding. I chose a narrow binding around the arms and neckline to fit in with the simple but delicate theme. 

Colette Laurel Front

Do I love this dress? Sort of. It is different to what I usually wear and there were times when we taking the photos that it looked rather unflattering across key areas which makes me worry about what it looks like normally! But I love the colour. I’ll definitely make the pattern as a top as the fit there is much better. If I made the dress again I would need to play with the fit a bit more. However, I’m sure this will make it into my suitcase for a summer holiday…

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Oh, the excitement!

I can sew! I can’t tell you how happy I am to find out that I can continue to sew without using either of my feet. It is also slightly embarrassing as I didn’t realise that my machine has a Start/Stop button until a colleague mentioned she had used a machine with one. That rang a faint bell and I raced home to find out that my machine has that magic button! I can now get on with my Laurel, my skirt and goodness knows what else! It is almost like an early Christmas present - one of my stress relievers is back in the game.  

Anyway, enough excitement. What I actually want to talk about today is
I first came across this last year and thought it was a great idea. This year I’m signing up to take part. Ok, so the excitement continues! For those of you who don't know about this challenge head of to Zoe's page. Some of the pledges are amazing. 

I decided I would take part while I was on the bus. I had images of all the outfits I would wear, flashing past like the buildings on the route home. And then I was jolted awake from my daydream. Just like that feeling when the bus driver hits the breaks too hard and you jolt forward, I realised that I couldn’t fulfil this challenge the way I wanted to. Why? Quite simply, I don’t have enough home sewn items. If I pledged to wear something every day then you would be seeing my wearing the seven same outfits, or slight variations of, each week. That would be pretty boring for me, and for you. 

While I can’t fulfil my daydream I can still set myself a challenge. I can easily increase the number of items available if I finish attaching some bias binding to a top and replace a zip in a skirt and maybe seeing if I can save some of my first makes. Add that to the (hopefully) 4 patterns I am due to finish between now and then and I should be more than ok. I’ve decided to tie this in with my 20:20 challenge to give me a extra push. So, here goes: 

 'I, Claire at iwanttobeaturtle, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '13. I endeavour to wear one home made item for fives days each week for the duration of May 2013. In addition I pledge to make two new items and repair at least one.’ 

I won’t be posting daily photos of my outfits, mainly because I am lazy (!), so I’ll do a round up each week. Anyone else taking part?

Also, to readers using mobile devices I have finally managed to work out how to get the photos to show! 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Project planning

I had hoped to share with you my finished Laurel dress today but there is a serious lack of sewing going on at the moment. The reason is I have been spending a lot of time with my foot raised on the sofa. 

Last Saturday I managed to miss a step on our stairs and somehow twisted a number of my ligaments in my right ankle. It was a comical fall! While I’m pleased it isn’t broken the official verdict is it might take six weeks to heal and I have to spend a lot of time resting it. SIX weeks?! This was not the news I wanted to hear as I am incapable of sitting still for a couple of hours. I’m not the type of person who sits in front of the TV night after night without doing something else (although there is nothing wrong with this). I cut out two parts of my Laurel dress yesterday and then had to rest it. It will be slow and small steps to finish this as I use my right foot to use the pedal at my machine. I tired using my left but it sort of messes with my head! 

So, I’ve spent some time planning projects. 

First up is Simplicity 2451. I have some beautiful fabric in my stash which I’m planning to use for this. I have been waiting for a long time to use these. I just can't resist butterflies!


A dress would be too much and I haven’t been able to find the right pattern for a top. I haven’t quite decided which colour and yes, I am aware that my choices are pink and blue! But that is ok because my Laurel is not.

I’m also going to try out these. 

Avery transfers

They are part of a surprise so I can’t say much more but if anyone has any tips on working with them please let me know. 

I’m working on some gifts and the red bias that I showed in the last post is part of this. I know need to make some piping with it. I’ll share how I have made that once I am to. 

The fourth project is one I’m quite excited about. I have crossed stitched for many years but I haven’t really done any over the last year. This project requires a lot of cross stitching. It will test me a bit as my stitches at the back will be on show and therefore need to be tidy. Normally I frame or sew on my finished items so it doesn’t matter what the back looks like. No so this time. I’m waiting for the postman to bring me a plentiful supply of 14 count Aida before I can start. At least this is a project I can do in front of the TV! 

A couple of the patterns in my 20:20 challenge will need grading up so I’ll spend some time looking up how to that. And I need to think about my fabric choice. 

1960s Off Center Front Button Belted Dress.
Simplicity 8482 1960s A Line Dress
I’m starting a pattern drafting course next month to make a summer dress. This will be my first attempt at drafting and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been browsing the web for ideas and think I am almost there. 

And if I get through all of that I can think about the other patterns from 20:20 that I haven’t thought about yet!

It feels quite good to have a plan, normally I hop from project to project. Do you plan your projects or hop around? 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Making your own bias binding

I’ve been making a lot of bias binding recently. While there is nothing wrong with the stuff you can buy in the shops, none of them have quite matched the fabrics I have been using and there is something nice about creating your own. I generally use one of two methods, the continuous loop or the piecing method. The piecing method was my favourite until I mastered the potentially tricky step to join the sides in the continuous loop method. Anyone else have problems with it or was it just me?!

Here’s how to make about 100” of bias tape from a 10x10” piece of fabric. Although growing up with metric, for some reason I still use the imperial measurements for making this.

Step One
Cut out a 10x10” square of your chosen fabric. Fold it in half diagonally (along the bias) and cut along that line.

How to make bias binding step 1

Step Two
Lay one piece over the other, matching the sides not the diagonal line. Pin in place.

How to make bias binding step 2a

Edge stitch. Press open the seam. You should get a parallelogram like this.

How to make bias binding step 2b

Step Three
You now need to mark your cutting lines using chalk or a washable fabric pen and a ruler. Begin at the edge of the fabric and draw lines 1” apart. The lines should be diagonal and will be parallel to the edges. The more accurate you are here, the more tape you will make. Make sure you mark the wrong side of the fabric and leave your scissors alone at the moment!

How to make bias binding step 3

Step Four
This is often the trickiest step. Fold the edges towards the middle to create a square with right sides together. Offset the marked lines by one and fold the tips under. It should look like this but with the tips folded under!

How to make bias binding step 4a

You now need to pin the lines in place. Make sure that the lines match up at the seam line (¼” in) and not at the edges. (This is the bit that took me a while to work out!) The easiest way to do this is to put a pin through the connecting lines ¼” in. 

Stitch a narrow ¼” hem then press the seam open. You should have a tube like shape.

How to make bias binding step 4b

Step Five
Time to pick up your scissors! Starting with the first offset row, carefully cut along your marked lines all the way to the end.

How to make bias binding step 5

Step Six
If you have a bias tape maker, pass the strip through it while pressing the folds. If, like me, you don’t have one here is an alternative way. Press the strip in half and then lay the tape open. Fold in the edges to the centre fold and press. This may take a little longer but it works! Please don't judge me on the state of our ironing board cover. 

How to make bias binding step 6

And there you have it! Beautiful handmade bias binding. Do you have a preferred method or a different way of creating it? 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Mission complete

And what a mission it was! I completely underestimated just how long this would take - 8 hours from start to finish! In case you're not sure what I am talking about check out the last post. Turns out the lining for this coat is made up of 12 pieces! I didn't expect that and clearly I didn't look hard enough when I was working out how much fabric to buy. 

Anyway, here's how I did it:

First, I took pictures of how the lining was attached to act as a reference when it came to inserting the new lining. I then removed the original lining from the coat using a seam ripper (one my biggest friends in sewing!) Unpicking the sides took a while as there is a ribbon trim that I wanted to keep. I ended up ripping the fabric away from the collar as I got bored by this point. If you're going to do this yourself I would recommend unpicking as it is neater. 

Mission complete - unpicking lining

Once I had the unlined coat and the lining shell, I unpicked the individual pieces for half of the lining to use as my pattern. This is where I discovered the number of pieces! I had hoped that I could just slice the lining up the centre back line and work with about four pieces but never mind... 

I laid out the pieces on my new lining fabric, pinning the centre back pieces on the fold. (Please ignore the mess in the corner of the picture) 

Mission complete - pieces on new lining fabric

Many of the seam allowances looked like the had been trimmed so I marked a 5/8 inch seam allowance around each piece with tailor's chalk. I cut along the marked lines for each piece. 

Mission complete - adding seam allowance

Now I could start stitching. Luckily I had numbered the original pieces so I knew which order to sew the top section. You could use the other half of your lining or the photos for reference. I started with the pleat in the centre back and the rest came together very easily. Suddenly I had this:

Mission complete - new lining shell
I pressed under the seam allowances for the sleeves and the body hem. It was now time to join the lining to the coat and progress slowed. I pinned the lining to the front of the facings with the ribbon I had saved. After stitching in the lining I had to slip stitch the lining to the ribbons as the lining was lifting up a little too much. Apologies for the photo, I couldn't get a clear shot of black and brown together except with the flash which made it all shiny. 

Mission complete - slipstitching lining and ribbon

It was then time to attach the lining to the collar and shoulder areas. I had to fudge this area as I couldn't work out how to attach the lining to the collar without taking it apart. Instead I pressed under the seam allowance and lined it up with the stitches and sewed it into place. I then hand stitched the lining to the cuffs and finally sewed the the body hem.  And this is the finished result.

Mission Complete - lining inside front finished

Mission complete - new lining back finished

I'm really pleased with it although I do miss the shine of the original lining. I swapped 100% acetate for a cotton sateen which lost it shine in the dyeing process. However, it fits well and I can pull the coat on and off without difficulty. 

Will I do this again? Hopefully not in the immediate future as this took a long time.  Saying that, Adam has a couple of jackets that need the sleeve lining replaced and I have another request to line an unlined jacket so it might be sooner than rather than later! 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

In need of some tender loving care

This is my winter coat. I love this coat. I got it in the sale from Coast in December 2011 after eyeing it up for months. 

In need of TLC coat front
Recently I haven’t enjoyed wearing it so much. This is why. 

In need of TLC inside lining
Every time I pull it on something else rips. The lining is ruined around the sleeves and in some places, it is just hanging on. There is a rip at the waistline, probably caused by my belts. Even my patch needs re-patching. 

In need of TLC worn through patch

The outer shell of the coat is far to good to give away or throw out so I have decided to use some of my week off work to replace it. I’ll share how I get on at the weekend. 

In the meantime, will you be curled up on the sofa with a culpa watching the Great British Sewing Bee? I’m almost in place!


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