Tuesday, 27 August 2013

This might be a cop out but...


Uh oh! That dreaded moment you read about has happened. I've got writer's block. When I started this blog I promised myself I would post twice a week, more if I had a lot to share. In some cases routine works for me and I knew that routine was needed for me to carry on posting, it gives me momentum. So far, this has worked well. 

But this week I have been racking my brains for a topic to write about but have drawn a complete blank! I wondered about many topics: tips, inspiration, updates, fabric choices, plans, preparation but realised that all of them need more time to craft the posts than I currently have. All of these ideas were added to the list of half baked posts that may or may not make it. I then thought about a picture only post but somehow it felt like a cop out (I'm not sure this post is much better!) even though I love these from others bloggers. 

So rather than missing a post this week, I thought I would turn to my fellow bloggers in the hope that I, and other, would learn something. What you do when you when you are struggling to write a post? How do you keep the momentum going? I really would love to know! 

Friday, 23 August 2013

Fall for Cotton

When Rochelle and Tasha announced their sewalong Fall For Cotton, I knew I had to take part. The challenge is to sew a vintage pattern, anything from the 1920s to 1970s counts, and it must be created from 100% cotton. This fitted perfectly with my next project and the thought of joining a community of sewers all working towards the same goal was really appealing. I signed up immediately.

Technically, we are still meant to be collecting supplies until 1st September but I'm a little bit ahead. The pattern I am using is this 1960s pattern. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. 

1960s Off Center Front Button Belted Dress

I'm making it out of this beautiful peacock Lawn that Minerva Crafts kindly sent me. I cannot wait to cut into it!

I've had to grade the pattern and luckily my toile fits reasonably well. I know need to work out how to chop the pattern so I can add a blue strip behind the buttons. From the pattern picture it looks like it is a separate piece but I have now discovered that it is all in together. Oh well, that's Monday challenge as I'll be sat in a field with friends at a beer festival for most of the weekend! 

Are you taking part? 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

My first giveaway!

Have you seen the different groups of patterns that are flying across the blogsphere? Well, amazingly my name came out of the hat over at Flossie's. When I got back to the office this week there was a big brown envelope waiting for me that contained the following patterns.

Patterns part 1
Patterns part 2

I tried to leave the package sealed until I got home but I just couldn't. I also showed them to a couple of colleagues who were full of advice on which patterns would look great when made. After quite a lot of debate with four or five, I decided to research them. Within the space of 45 minutes I decided to keep these two. 

My finds

The Vogue pattern is so versatile for both work and play dresses and the fabric combinations are practically endless. I've been after a Cynthia Rowley pattern for a while but couldn't decide which one. I'm not keen on the slit in the back but with a little tweaking I can make it work for me. I'm quite tempted by view D, the short one without sleeves. 

Now for the fun bit. All of the other patterns are up for grabs by you guys. I've also added a couple from my collection as I like the thought of these parcels continuing for a while. 

New additions

But that isn't all! I wanted to offer a giveaway when I got back to mark a milestone with my blog. When I first started blogging I honestly didn't believe that anyone would be interested enough in my chatter to come back regularly but I have recently passed 150 known followers! Needless to say, I'm a little proud that my efforts are appreciated and you all enjoy visiting here. 

"But what is the extra?" I hear you cry? 2 meters of the blue with white spot fabric that I bought in Zadar recently. I bought enough for me to make something as well as someone else. I did my first burn test on it and the results were a little inconclusive but I have narrowed it down to nylon or silk. Given the texture I think it is probably nylon or a mix but it has a lovely drape and would make a nice top of some sort or perhaps a lining for a jacket. 

Light Blue spots

You can enter for just the patterns, just the fabric, or both, by leaving a comment below that tells me your preference plus what is on your sewing table. Please note that you need an active blog for the patterns so you can offer them again. The giveaway closes on 31st August. I'm happy to ship anywhere.

Good luck! 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Beauty, ice cream and a purchase or a few

I'm now back from a wonderful couple of weeks in Croatia, feeling refreshed and raring to go (anyone know of a way to bottle this feeling for the forthcoming months?). Before I share some of the things we got up to I wanted to say thank you to Katy, Hazel and Kirsty for their guest posts which were very popular. 


Have you been to Croatia? If not, I recommend it. I was struck so often by the beauty of the country, both the natural and the built. 

Sunset over Zadar

We moved about quite a bit, basing ourselves in Dubrovnik, Split and then Zadar. We visited several islands, my favourite being Mljet which is full of small coves on the coast line that it is like having your own private island for a few hours.  The Plitvice National Park is well worth a visit. The main attraction is 16 lakes, linked by a series of waterfalls. You can walk around and through them - I actually couldn't believe the colour of the water.  

Plitvice lakes

I was amazed by the variety of ice cream flavours on offer (I may have tried a few!) and the sheer number of steps that you have to climb to get to some places.  

Munching ice cream

Perhaps it was the heat out there but I did something I never thought I would do. I bought a hat! Now, this may not sound a lot but I honestly cannot remember the last time I freely wore a hat, let alone bought one. What do you think?

My new hat

Of course, I couldn't resist taking some snaps of the handmade crafts that I came across. The first is traditional crochet and lace from the region being sold in a small market. You could watch the ladies at work while they weren't selling. The second is hand painted silk scarves, a bargain at about £15 a time. We also watched a lady create gorgeous little bottles and earrings by blowing glass but sadly didn't get any photos.

Handmade Croatia

I secretly wanted to find a fabric store to look in and almost lost hope until we stumbled across two in Zadar. They were full of Italian fabrics, mainly beautiful wools and a good range of silks. There was no way I would be walking out of them without purchasing a few items. 

I picked up four wools, all reasonably thick. I'll probably make a series of winter skirts from these. 

Four wools

Next up is a beautiful thick purple cotton that is screaming out to become a dress. The red with white stars is a lightweight silk. The last one is a light blue with white spots, the blue is hard to photo correctly and I have no idea what fibre it is - I can feel my first burn test coming up! 

Purple cotton & red silk
Light Blue spots

What about you? Have you found some good fabrics while on holiday? 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Create an envelope cushion

I recently made four envelope cushions as a birthday present for Adam's mum (Hi Frances!) and thought I would share the construction with you. They really are very simple to make but they do require a teeny bit of maths. I've detailed the construction of a very simple cover but you can customise to your hearts content! 

What you need:

A Cushion to cover
Trims such as piping, buttons (optional) 

Step one
Let's get the maths out of the way, otherwise you won't know what size to cut your fabric. First, you need to know the size of the cushion you are going to cover. You will need to create three pieces for the cover. The front is cut to the exact measurements of your cushion. You will sew the cover together with a 1cm seam allowance - this will give the cushion a more upholstered, filled look. 

For the back pieces, they will be the same height as your cushion but they won't be as wide. You need to decide how much overlap you want on these pieces. Many decide on a third of the width of the cushion but I went for a little more so none of the filler could be seen. You then need to add 2cm for the seam allowance. 

Here are the measurements I used:
Front: 50cm x 50cm
Back: 50cm x 39cm (half the width of cushion + generous overlap + 2cm seam allowance) You can see the generous overlap in the photo below, it is about 12cm. 

Envelope cushion pieces

Step two
Mark your fabric with your measurements and cut out the pieces. If you are adding detail to the front cover such as a pleat add this now. I did for one of the designs. 

Envelope Cushion: front cover

Step three
Add your piping or trim to the right side of the front cover. Do this by starting somewhere inconspicuous enough to hide the join. I would suggest at the centre of the bottom seam. Pin the raw edges together but leave a tail of a few centimetres. When you reach the corner, turn the piping/trim into a tight corner and pin in place. Continue all the way around. The join will be different for piping to a trim.

Envelope cushion: trim corner

Begin stitching the trim in place a few centimetres from the centre. Stitch all the way round and finish a few centimetres from the centre. Fold the fabric in half and pin the trim at this point being careful not to catch the main fabric. Stitch the trim along that line and then trim the seam allowance. Finish sewing the trim in place. 

Envelope cushion: trim finishing

You want to create a curve with the edges of the piping at the join. Do this by laying one end of the pining across the other before you begin stitching. Stitch all the way around the sides. Continue stitching in a straight line when you reach the join. Trim the seam allowance. 

Envelope cushion: piping finish

Step four
Take your back pieces. Turn under the overlapping seam by 1cm and then another 1cm. Stitch in place. 

Envelope cushion: hem

Step five
Pin one back piece to the front cover and then the other. They will overlap at the top and bottom. Stitch all the way around using a 1cm seam allowance. 

Envelope cushion: pinning together

Step six
Turn the cover through to the right sides and press if needed. Add the cushion filler and you're finished!

Here are close ups of the ones I made. I can't take credit for choosing the fabric though, Adam chose them. 

Finished tree envelope cushions

Finished envelope cushions

Finished leaf envelope cushions

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Guest post by Kirsty: Fitting sewing into your everyday life

Hi I’m Kirsty all the way from Top Notch. Big thanks to Claire who asked me to do a guest post on fitting sewing into our everyday life.

How do you fit it in? I’ve got a clock! Yep, a clock with a timer. That’s how I fit sewing into my life. Well it’s not the whole story but it sure goes a long way to explaining a big part of it. I asked for it for my birthday last year after I realised that my ‘5 more minutes’ was turning into a whole lot more and I needed a solution. The one more seam, one more button was taking over ... I have a family, other things and work that knocks a lot on my email after hours, so I have other things to do,  I can’t just go into a sewing bubble. Oh, the clock  isn’t just for me. Sometimes I use it for the kids when they are playing, but it’s mainly for me. The timer is set and when the buzzer goes, it’s down tools. For all of us!


I bought an entry level Pfaff about 4 years ago, when Elliot was about one and I started reading blogs and having to prepare costumes for Oliver for 3 and 4 year old birthday parties. I started sewing basic things for them, moved onto making simple clothes for me from Japanese sewing books and then onto other patterns. I started my blog about a year ago to help document Me Made May 2012. It’s funny to me that I started sewing right about the time that I had less time on my hands. I probably have even less time on my hands now than I did back then, but probably sew more. Not an usual story I know, most of you are the same.  

Simplicity 2154 in Mawston Meadow

I rarely make because I’m obligated to make. In fact, I hate obligation sewing. Time is precious and there are enough obligations. I make and prioritise the time to sew, usually because I’m in love with a project. I love clothes and fashion and style and therefore I sew when and because I’m inspired. I sew a lot with Liberty of London fabric because I love the narratives around their seasonal prints which now form part of my style and my me made wardrobe. 

Finding time to make and improve and learn new techniques isn’t easy and there are always going to be times when it is just plain impossible to make.   

Drop waist shirt dress by Pattern Runway in Tiny Dancer Liberty fabric

What works for me, is that we live in a small house. I have my sewing machines set up in the main area of the house and thanks to a present from my sister last year, I now have my current project stored ready to go in a basket. I’m still around for the kids, but I can be my own little sewing island in a sea of legos and batman and superman and noise. Of course I dream of having my own room but for now, with the boys at the age they are, it helps to stay connected with what they are doing. I think that it’s also really good for them to see me making and creating.  


I don’t have a set timetable for sewing. It depends on what I’m sewing as to when I can sew. I don’t always use the clock of course! I can’t sew so much during the week, but if I’m really excited about a project, sometimes I sneak time in the evening when the kids are playing (this is definitely clock time otherwise nothing else would get done!) or some hand stitching while supervising homework or tape up patterns while watching TV. I usually try to fit in a few hours over the weekend after sport and chores and sometimes late at night when everyone else is in bed.

Do you have a special time when you sew, or are you like me and squeeze in time and steal little snippets when you can? What helps you find time for your projects and to stay focussed, but not at the expense of everything else in your life?

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Guest post by Hazel: Demystifying the envelope back

Hey :)  I'm Hazel and I was fortunate to be paired with Claire as a part of Kerry's Spring Sewing Swap.  Claire asked me if I would mind guest-posting whist she was on holiday and there was no way I was saying no.  Claire mentioned that maybe I could post about fabrics or something like that as I work in a fabric shop and as I got thinking about it, I decided that I would start with patterns as we're commonly asked the same questions about what the various parts of the back of a pattern envelope mean.  So I'm going to try and demystify this a little.

envelope back

Orange Section - Line Drawing
The first thing I advise looking at on both the front and back of pattern envelopes are the line drawings.  Using the line drawings allows you to look beyond the (sometimes questionable) fabrics and styling used by pattern companies.  These line drawings will also give you and indication of what's involved in the construction of the pattern, clearly showing gathering, darts, zips etc.

Green Sections - Sizing
We all know how frustrating choosing a pattern size can be, and I'm sure everyone is aware of the numerous debates online as to how to go about choosing your size.  This is why I've grouped these two sections together.  The first is body measurements and the second is finished garment measurements.  Somewhere between both these figures is the best fit.  All patterns are designed with a certain amount of ease.  This means that for a close fitting garment, it can be best to go with finished measurements and for looser items go by body measurements.  Personally, I usually go by the finished garment measurements as I feel this works best for me, but it's taken me over 3 years to work this out.  I would suggest, as I would to customers, to make a toile first to see what fitting adjustments and pattern size would suit them best.  Another note on sizing is that patterns are usually designed for someone of 5'5" in mind, this means that depending on your height, you waist may not be where they think it is.  Take this into account when determining size and remember there are lengthen/shorten lines on the tissue.

Yellow, Purple & Pink Sections - Fabric yardages
Ever wonder why there are two sides to the pattern back?  Well the English side is for the American market which is why it is in yards as they are still imperial.  The French section is for the European market which is now metric.  We always advise customers to use the French side as we sell in metres.  I know it can seem confusing to work this way, but use the American side to identify your size and garment then trace across to the European side to work out what you need.  You can also use the headings on the American side to help identify those on the European side.  The other thing to bear in mind when using these yardage requirements is that they tend to over estimate.  This is due to the pattern piece layout.  Often you can use the layout to determine how much less or more you can get away with.  I often advise customers who want to buy more fabric just in case to do so logically.  Often taking an extra half metre will not be enough to cover mistakes due to the length of the pattern pieces.  Look at the layout to work out how best to go about this.

Blue Section - Notions
This section simply states the extras you need to make the pattern, zips, threads, buttons etc.  Again with this section, the recommended sizes can be adjusted, buttons don't have to be a certain width as you're making your own button holes, as long as you don't use massive buttons on shirt front, or small buttons on a coat, you're good to go!  The same applies to zips, if you can only get longer zips (as is sometimes the case with invisible zips) all you do is make the channel longer or keep it the same size and cut it to length and stitch over the teeth.

Red Section - Recommended Fabrics
Now the fun part.  The fabrics suggested by the pattern companies are those that are used to make the garment on the cover.  Some times this scares people as they are expensive or we're unable to get them.  My advice is to use these suggestions to determine weight, drape and type of fabric.  If a pattern suggests chiffon, there's no reason why you can't use a georgette or light crepe.  If it suggests cotton, there's no reason to not use a synthetic.  If it suggests duchess satin, something with body is all that's necessary.  It takes time to get used to this idea, but eventually you'll be able to make these replacements without thinking.  This also stands for interfacing.  Some Vogue patterns require 'fancy' interfacings.  This is only so they can refer to these patterns as advanced or couture, so regular interfacings can be used with care
I often suggest buying a pattern, studying it (and doing some research online) and then coming back to the fabric shop to get fabric.  This will make you better placed to make the right judgement on both the fabric and how much of it you need before spending your money.  This can often make the difference between a good make and a great make! 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Guest post by Katy: where to find inspiration

Hi Everyone. I’m Katy from Sleek Silhouette. Firstly, I want to say thank you to Claire for asking me to write a guest post, I’m so excited to be featured on her blog!! When Claire first contacted me she suggested that I write a post about my inspirations. I was feeling particularly inspired at the time and so was really excited by the idea. But then I tried to write something and didn’t know where to start…

I mean, inspiration is absolutely everywhere! For example, I live in London. At times it’s gritty, sometimes it’s dirty, it’s almost always full of life (it’s awesome).  That has a massive impact on the clothes that I wear.  Sometimes I just want to be gritty, put on my leather jacket and walk out the door. Other days, usually when I go to my home town (soon to be my home town again), I tend to wear something pretty.  Maybe because it’s green, fresh, clean, POLITE! I realised that my style changes by what is going on around me. I realised that I can inspired by anything. My personality is complex, therefore so is my wardrobe. If you look inside it, you’ll find my style choices represent my wandering, changeable style on different days. I like it!

Katy's photos

Learning to sew has allowed me to embrace that more than ever before. Now I get to play with shape and colour exactly how I want to! Recently I’ve been drawn to the vintage inspired designs by Colette, such as the Laurel and the Hawthorn (Mmmm). Hang on! Vintage? I didn’t think that was my style? I was actually a bit surprised to find that I like them.  Then I thought about it a bit more.  These are flattering and interesting shapes. Experiment with colour and pattern and I can make them totally up my street!  Look anywhere in the shops at the moment and you’ll find 50’s inspired ‘fit and flare’ dresses. The shapes are universal, it’s the fabric choice that makes them special.

So, I guess firstly I’m inspired by the patterns available, mostly by indie designers like Colette, ByHand London, and Victory patterns. And secondly, I’m inspired by fabric. Since I started sewing 6 months ago there’s a lot more colour in my wardrobe. It’s allowed me to be a bit braver in my choices. Before I sewed I was a complete shopaholic, I liked to follow the latest fashions and mini fashions.  The things that caught my eye were full of pattern and colour, but when I look into my actual wardrobe few of these clothes seem to have made it in. They seemed a little too risky… Instead my wardrobe was full of boring black and grey and ‘work appropriate’ clothes. Now I figure if I’m putting effort into making clothes they might as well have some imagination! I’m still a shopaholic and into fashion trends, but now when I look at fashion magazines and blogs it only informs my growing fabric addiction. (If you’re looking for any fashion blogs to follow I recommend Atlantic Pacific – that girl has style!) Now I feel I have the chance to make my perfect wardrobe, which reflects my (changeable) personality. Interestingly Collette wrote a similar post on just this point a few weeks ago too. She suggested that it’s easy to be seduced by fabric, I agree. But I think that’s a good thing – maybe it’s the ‘real’ you?  Choosing fabric and working out how to show it off to its full potential is the fun part!

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve realised that you don’t have to be inspired by any one particular style or fashion, but that you can draw inspiration from anywhere. Be a style chameleon! Or not If there’s anything the current trend for clashing prints shows, it’s that anything can go with everything! Just look at Rachel's clashing print Laurel, looks amazing right?

If you’re interested in seeing my different inspirations, check out my new feature Recre-Kate! This is basically my chance to show a starting point inspiration, and how that leads to a finished project of mine. You can literally see my inspirations and where it leads me.

Thanks Claire for letting me take over your blog for the day! xx

Saturday, 3 August 2013

See you soon!

A very short post today to say that I'll be away for the next two weeks on holiday. I'm hoping our time in Croatia will be relaxing . This past month has been a bit of a slog, isn't that always the way when you are nearing the departure date?  Needless to say, I am rather excited to get away!

Anyway, enough about what I'm up to - what about the blog? Well, I'll leave you in the capable hands of three very talented sewers who will discuss different elements of the sewing process. I hope you will make them feel very welcome. I'll then finish off with a tutorial before being back properly, and I promise not to bore you with too many photos from ourtrip! See you all soon. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Completed: The summer cocktail dress

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I started a pattern drafting course earlier in the year. Three months ago I walked into my first session wondering whether my inspiration dress could be turned into a real one, made to measure, just for me. 

Summer cocktail dress: front

I had never drafted a pattern before so the first three lessons or so were a learning curve for me. I learnt how to take a picture and add it to my block. This 2D image then became separate pattern pieces, which is a wonderful experience when you have created them yourself. A few modifications were needed and then I set about the complex construction. I won't go into details but you find them all in previous posts. Last night I added the final stitch. 

Summer cocktail dress: front

Never one to shy away from a challenge, I honestly thought, at times, I had bit off too much with this dress. I don't think any item has taken me so long to finish nor has one demanded so much emotional investment. The construction was a little like a love-hate relationship. There were days when I adored it, days when I couldn't get excited about it. Posting about it made the process a little easier as the comments left were encouraging. I last left you at the terrifying stage of cutting the chiffon for the godets. Eventually they decided to cooperate although tears were nearly shed and I did need some expert help in getting the point right on the centre front one. Inserting godets into a seam is much easier, so much so that I added an extra one to the centre back seam. 

Summer cocktail dress: back

The dress has an invisible zip which I put in by hand. It is fastened at the top with a hook and eye. The bustier needed an extra layer on chiffon at the top to hide the fact that both sides had stretched. I also noticed that it wasn't big enough to cover my bra - not a look I was going for! The sleeves weren't as difficult as I expected them to be. I did have help putting them in but I added the cuff independently. The band on the right arm is a little tight but I do have room to move and didn't think it justified unpicking. I have to say I've had my fill of unpicking silk! 

Summer cocktail dress

Hemming isn't the part of sewing I enjoy the most and I had two hems to do. The lining is a double folded hem and ends higher than the chiffon. The chiffon is finished with a double zig zag stitch. I went all the way round with a zig zag and started again, all the way round, for a second time. Apparently this was one way of finishing a seam before over lockers entered the stage. This hem is small but it feels sturdy and provides a little bit of definition at the bottom. 

Summer cocktail dress: swirling

I learnt a lot throughout this process. I can now draft a basic pattern. I know nifty tricks for gatheringgetting rid of those pesky stitches that are missed and form little loops on your fabric and how to add godets. I know to pull back a little from such a complex idea the next time I do a course although some complexity is good! Fitting during the construction is a very good idea, I just need to remember that for future projects. Silk chiffon is a wonderful fabric but a nightmare to work with. It will be a while before I contemplate using it again. But the biggest thing I have learnt is that patience is your best friend in sewing (although the seam ripper could plausibly argue its worthiness for this prize). There were many times when I wanted to rush forward but I knew it wouldn't look right or it would damage the fabric. I did unpick the pieces I wasn't happy with, I wouldn't have done in many of my previous makes. You also cannot beat being taught by someone with many years experience. Special thanks have to go to Chris for getting me to the finish line. She went above and beyond the boundaries of the course.  

Summer cocktail dress: godet

Overall I am very happy with this dress even though it is very different to what I would normally wear. It is much more feminine than most of my dresses. The colours are not my normal colours and it is taking a while to get used to them. Would I make it again? Yes, but with changes. I would probably change the fabric, and maybe play around with the skirt a little. It is great that I can now take a item and recreate my own version. In case you're wondering, I saved myself over £3000 by making my version! Yet another reason why I love stitching! 


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