Sunday, 29 December 2013

20:20 Challenge complete and year in review

2013 is drawing to a close and it seems only right to reflect on a year's worth of sewing. 

Let's start with the crazy 20:20 challenge I set myself back in March. Create 20 individual items from 20 different patterns between March and December. Well, I did it! It was tight, I have only just finished the final button hole on my Ceylon dress and I'll get photos up as soon as I can. There were times when I didn't think I would complete the challenge. I was very behind in September and it took some creative thinking and a few simpler patterns to get me back on track. I won't show pictures of all of them here - you can find the posts in the list at the bottom if you would like to browse, but I will share the six I have worn the most. 

Six most worn

While all of the above are worn frequently, the Cami dress has to be my favourite make this year. I love the bright colours, it makes me smile and it is worn nearly every week. My Newsboy cap isn't far behind but only because it is winter here! The Alma is a favourite for work as well as the Beehive Victoria Blazer, which seems to go with so much. The Tova is a wonderful top for staying at home and I wore the Reglisse a lot during the summer months. 

As with most people, there are some misses. I haven't worn the Laurel once and the Simplicity 2541 skirt just hangs in my wardrobe as it is too tight across my hips despite fitting well in the toile. I haven't worn the Anise much and think it is because it feels a little short - I should have added an inch to two to the length. 

Top misses

I originally said that only 10 of the 20 items could be pink, blue or black and I made 11. However, I did introduce more purple and green. Green is the real surprise, I've never considered it as an option for me but I actually feel very comfortable wearing it. 

This challenge has made me realise that I am rather competitive with myself and that I don't like to be beaten when I have announced an objective publicly. I have learnt new techniques from pattern cutting to fabric covered buttons, French seams to creating my own bias binding, how to do a FBA and sew with a variety of fabrics. I have got over my fear of wearing hats, top stitching, working with silk and chiffon (especially together), and fitting shorts. I've learnt to tackle large projects a step at a time, to enjoy the process of creating and that my hands are not immune to pin scratches. 

In addition to what I have made for me, I have sewn a Cooper bag, a dressing gown, a garment bag, seven other Newsboy caps, a quilt, a quilted mat for my sewing machine, some heat pads, four cushions, needle cases, a baby's dress, made an ironing board cover, replaced the lining of my coat and created three outfits from scratch for the magpie photo shoot. I make that just over 50 items since March - phew! I'm pretty pleased with that level of output. 

Other makes

I haven't made any firm plans for the next year but I can guarantee that I won't be setting myself a challenge now, or midway through. I'll probably focus on learning new techniques and improving others. What are your sewing plans for 2014?

20:20 Challenge:

Anise jacket
Ceylon dress (yet to be blogged)
Miette skirt (yet to be blogged)
Peony skirt (yet to be blogged)

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Completed: Cooper bag

I hope you all had a good Christmas Day with some sewing related surprises. My last week as been a blur of seeing friends, getting ready for Christmas and some frantic sewing to ensure I actually made handmade presents this year. I really wanted to make something for my immediate family and wondered what on earth I could make my brother? I dwelled on this question for a long time and then Colette released the Cooper pattern. Hooray! 

Colette Cooper

I loved this pattern as soon as I saw it. In addition to the three styles that are included, there seems to be endless opportunities to tweak the pattern and you are limited only by your imagination on the fabric choices and colours. For this bag, I decided to follow the advice of Colette and chose cotton canvas for the outer fabric. I bought dark olive and khaki from Croft Mill. This fabric is absolutely delightful, so much so I actually considered keeping it for me but realised that might be a bit mean! It is very soft (one side feels a little like brushed cotton) but strong and survives ripping out seams well (more on that later) as well as pressing on a high heat. 

Colette Cooper

Given the weather we've been experiencing, I wanted the bag to be waterproof. I struggled to find a waterproof fabric that would match and ended up getting a light green and white check oilcloth. I'll admit it looks a little like a tablecloth but at least it matches! I had trouble stitching the lining as it stuck to my machine but sewing between tracing paper soon got me back on track. I wasn't sure about pressing oilcloth (I didn't research how to work with this stuff) so pressed it lightly under a clean tea towel, which doubles as a pressing cloth. It certainly softened under a little heat and made it easier to work with. 

Colette Cooper

The construction is quite easy, as long as you take notice of the markings on each piece and read which sides need to go together. I must have ripped out the bottom gusset and side seams three or four times as I kept making the same silly mistake. The canvas stood up to this unpicking very well. It was my first time working with magnetic snaps (they go in quite easily) and using jiffy rivets. I was excited about using a hammer in sewing but it turns out our tent mallet is a little too big for the job. I had to use the side of my shears instead. 

Colette Cooper

There is a lot of edge stitching and top stitching involved and I've finally gotten over my fear of both, although my edge stitching still isn't as close to the edge as it should be... The strap was made from the leftover khaki canvas. It is very easy to assemble and stitch in place but I did use the tutorial to double check that I was working with the correct side. The slide and square loop were recycled from another bag. 

Colette Cooper

I am really pleased with how this turned out and even better, my brother loved it!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Ever shared your sewing at work?

I did yesterday. It was a first for me. We had our School wide Christmas party and before the festivities began in full force, we held our first creative fair. It turns out that there a lot of creatives among the staff, both administrators and faculty, and we got together to exhibit what we create and/or sell items if we wanted to. 

Creative fair tables

I originally signed up a few months ago to show the outfits I made for the photo shoot. I wasn't sure about selling and decided that making connections and sharing my creations would be enough. Who am I kidding? Of course, I made items to sell as well. I thought I would give it a go to see what happens. You can see my stall in the above photo - the one with the clothes hanging above it! 

I made a few needle cases. I have needed one for a while and was playing around with how to sew cardboard into it. I wanted a hard backed case as it is sturdy and will survive my clumsiness. I finally worked out how and thought they might make some nice stocking fillers. I also made hats. I got a lot of nice comments and interest about my hat that it seemed worthwhile. 

Needle case outside

Needle case inner

The making was the easy part. I could select the colours, fabric and techniques with relative ease. What wasn't easy was the branding, pricing (just how much should you charge?!), and the confidence to stand behind the table while people browsed. What if people didn't like what I had made? It would be time wasted when I could have been sewing my Christmas gifts. What if they weren't interested in my hobby? 

Handmade Hats

Life was made a little easier though. I also solde the products of another member of our community. Monica, from Made by Moni, makes crochet bags and bowls as well as some interesting earrings. I love her products! 

I did manage to sell a few items - I couldn't believe people would pay for what I made! I was pleased with my work and never think twice about giving items I have made as gifts but for some reason I was shocked, and excited, that people would part with their hard earned cash. I would definitely try this again and hope that we will have another fair at work. Oh, and the party afterwards was great! 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Completed: Tova blouse

Ooh, I'm getting close to the completion of my 20:20 challenge. Item 18 is Wiksten's Tova. I have seen a few versions around the blogsphere and thought it would make a great casual top for pottering around the house (I potter a lot!) These photos are taken in front of my lounge window. I had planned to take them outside to show off the real colour of the fabric but Christmas shopping got in the way! 

Wiksten Tova

I downloaded the pdf version as, sadly, I didn't have time to wait for a paper copy to arrive on the door mat. I did have some problems putting the pages together, with many of them not matching up by about five millimetres. I did use a different printer for this pattern so I may have had the settings slightly off but the test square was the correct size. After a bit of tinkering once the pieces had been roughly cut away from each other, they sat much better. 

Wiksten Tova

The fabric is cotton and the print is Crosshatch. I got it from the Village Haberdashery about six months ago. Like most cottons, it was a dream to work with and pressed very easily. I kept thinking that it was a little stiff until I realised, after I had cut every piece out, that I hadn't actually prewashed the fabric. Oops! I'm not normally that disorganised and the tell tale sign of no folded over edges should have set alarm bells ringing. Hopefully it won't shrink too much during its first wash. 

Wiksten Tova

The pattern goes together very easily. You need to remember throughout that it only allows for 3/4" seam allowance. You have plenty of opportunities to practice top stitching while constructing the front inset. Both plackets need top stitching as does the inset. I did find positioning the inset the trickiest part of the construction. I just couldn't get the bottom corners to work but after a lot of pinning and repinning, I finally stitched it in place. This is one area that I would recommend basting the pieces together before stitching. The collar and cuffs were very simple to put in. I did add an extra line of top stitching to the collar as it looked a little odd with just the top line. All of seam allowances are overlocked and I'm really pleased with how neat it looks on the inside.

Wiksten Tova

Over the last couple of years I have leaned towards more fitted clothing and was a little worried about the loose style of this pattern. When I first put it on, I wasn't sure but I have worn it a couple of time since completing it and I've completely changed my mind. I love the length of the top. The sleeves also hit at the right spot as I'm always guilty of rolling up my sleeves. I've grown quite fond of it and can see it being a go-to piece for weekends or evenings that call out for comfy clothing. There is the potential for a smarter version for work and I have this planned to sew in the new year. 

Wiksten Tova

How about you, are you planning next year's sewing yet?

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Newsboy cap

Two things happened this week. First, I want to be a turtle became a .com! I bought the domain name a few months ago and it seemed silly not to use it.

Second, I decided to make a hat. I've mentioned elsewhere how this is a big thing for me as I don't normally like wearing hats. However the cold weather is kicking in meaning my ears are getting very cold on the walk to work and the wind and moisture levels in the air give me frizzy hair. A hat seemed the obvious solution. 

Newsboy cap

I knew I wanted a cap of some sort and looked around for a decent newsboy pattern. I came across this one on Craftsy. It is fully reversible although you can't really use two thick fabrics because of the bulk at the seams. My hat is completely made from scraps. The wool is leftover from my Lady Grey coat and the lining from my Beehive Victoria Blazer. You need lightweight interfacing for the cap and heavyweight for the brim. I didn't have any heavyweight so settled for a thick cotton.

Newsboy cap

The pieces are all sewn using a 1/4" seam. The cap is made from six pieces and each seam is topstitched. The band attaches easily, in the same way you would finish bias binding. The trickiest part is placing the brim properly but that can easily be taken care of with a tiny notch in the band once it is attached. The bottom rim is topstitched in place stopping just alongside of the brim. 

Newsboy cap

It is such a simple project, taking about 90 minutes from cutting out to completion at a leisurely pace. I love the fit. I have worn it a few times now and I'm feeling much less self-conscious in it, plus my ears are staying warm! I've already got plans to make a few more.

Newsboy cap

This project takes me within touching distance of my 20:20 challenge - just three more to go before the new year. That's doable right?


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