Saturday, 28 June 2014

Oops! Owning up to sewing mistakes

Image courtesy of kjnnt /
I interrupt the normal blogging service of showing finished items to talk about another side of the construction process. All too often, I make mistakes when sewing. Most are ridiculously silly and many times I don’t want to share them with you. Hands up if you feel the same. Yes, I thought I wasn't alone! I’ll often include a few small mistakes in a post but that’s as far as I have gone, until now! Last weekend I had an epic fail and while I can’t bear to bring you the details in all its glory, I thought it would be fun to share some of my mistakes and invite you to tell me your stories. 

So deep breath and here goes. My mistakes include (please don’t judge me too harshly):
  • Bravely stitched over pins and then heard a loud crunch. I wasted 30 minutes taking my machine apart to dig out the broken pin pieces. Have I learnt my lesson? No, I still stitch over pins!
  • Spent ages carefully hand stitching bias finishing on a neckline and arm completely forgetting to clip the curves and thus forcing unpicking and more hand stitching.
  • For a dress, I spent time getting the toile to fit well but a “in progress” fit revealed it wouldn't do up. For hours I couldn't figure out why until I eventually spotted a giant (we’re talking 5cm) accidental tuck in the waistband.
  • Traced a pattern carefully and then found I had traced the wrong size for the sleeves and only found out when I stitched the top. As the top was loose fitting, I didn't bother with a toile!
  • Chose to move the zip from the centre back of a dress to the side and then didn't add it in. No wonder it wouldn't go over my chest!
  • Lost track of how many times I have stitched the right side to the wrong side. It's more embarrassing when most of them are with the darts on the outside!
  • Took my eyes off of my overlocker for a second and found the blade had cut the fabric well over the seam line.
 And the worst?
  • Merrily cut out perfectly and stitched up the item, only to find on step 20 (or whatever) that I didn't have all of the pieces. Not only that, I didn't have enough fabric to complete the item. To add insult to injury, the store is sold out of that particular fabric! Seeing the look on your boyfriend’s face when you admit what you have done is an interesting experience...

I should say that tiredness and alcohol played a very small part in the above. I learnt my lesson quickly when I looked at my stitching following three glasses of wine... Hangs head in shame.

Your turn now! Please tell me I’m not alone in making (big) mistakes when stitching.Go on, don’t be shy - be brave and think of this as some form of group therapy until it is all swept under the carpet again.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Notionally Speaking: "Indie" - Jo, The Amazing Adventures of Taracat

The latest instalment of Notionally Speaking is from Jo at The Amazing Adventures of Taracat. Jo randomly picked "Indie" as her word from my list of sewing related words, and it was the perfect match. Along with pictures of Jo dancing in her recent makes, she is also known for her love of Indie patterns. Read on to find out why.

Notionally Speaking
Yay! I am so happy to get the chance to contribute to Notionally Speaking. I picked number four and was delighted to get 'Indie' as my word. Indie can be applied to sewing shops, fabric designers, in fact anything related to sewing that doesn't come from big companies, but when I think of Indie I think of patterns. I am not alone in my love for independent patterns. May was Sewing Indie Month, organised by Mari of Seamster Patterns, with loads of participants, while June is Indie pattern month over at the Monthly Stitch. 

A quick scan of my me-made wardrobe showed that over eighty per cent of my makes are from Indie patterns. Among these that get the most wear are my Deer and Doe Belladone, my Colette Laurel dresses, my Seamster Patterns Dandelion dresses and my Christine Haynes Nautical Emery. 

Clockwise from top left: Seamster Dandelion; Sewaholic Cambi/BHL Elisalex pattern hack; BHL Flora; Grainline Scout Woven Tee; Christine Haynes Emery; Deer and Doe Belladone; BHL Anna; Colette Laurel. Centre: Seamster Patterns Dandelion. 

I am drawn to Indie patterns for a number of reasons:

1. Attention to detail

taracat 2

While this is a generalisation, I find that Indie patterns do have more of those little touches that lift a pattern from 'meh' to 'mmmm'. Details like the vertical tucks on Tilly's Mathilde blouse, the piping o Colette's Rooibos dress or the shoulder gathers on Deer and Doe's Reglisse (pictured). There is more than a bit of inspiration from vintage eras when those extra details were more common, but unlike vintage patterns the Indies actually explain how to do it too. Which brings me to number two.

2. Instructions

taracat 3

Apart from a couple of disastrous textiles lessons at secondary school, I am pretty much self taught, so comprehensive well laid out instructions with pictures are a must. The first garments I ever made were from free downloadable Burdastyle patterns. I loved the styles and I got there in the end but those instructions nearly put me off sewing for life. So when I attempted my first Indie pattern. Colette's Rooibos, it was a revelation. A little book of instructions, explanations of techniques, and like many Indies they even had a Sewalong on their blog with photos for each step. Colette are not along in offering this kind of help. If you get really stuck I have found Indie designers more than happy to answer questions through their blogs, email or Twitter. I don't know if you would get that kind of support from the big pattern companies, actually it has never occurred to me to approach them.

3. Supporting real people

taracat 4

Yes, I know the big companies are made up of real people too but there is something really gratifying about knowing you are helping someone to build their business and realise their dreams. And every time I have had contact with the people behind these patterns I have been blown away by how nice, helpful and supportive they are. They make the effort to meet their customers and find out what we want, at meets up for example, and you do feel like you can approach them without them rolling their eyes and thinking 'God, what now?' Of course they might be thinking that but I didn't get that impression. 

4. Packaging and presentation

taracat 5

The rustle of tissue paper, that new smell, the artwork...I get a real buzz when I get a new Indie pattern through the post. Care has been taken over everything from the design to the materials used, and you can tell. Deer and Doe, for example, use proper recycles paper instead of easy to rip tissue, while BHL patterns even include a label to sew into your finished garment. Little details that make a new Indie pattern a real treat and a pleasure to work with.

At the other end of the spectrum, Indie patterns are more likely to be available as instant downloads to print, stick together and make immediately. I know some people hat e this way of doing it but I love it. In fact, my last few Colette patterns were bought as tile and stick downloads because I am impatient and couldn't wait to get started on them straight away. 

5. Fit and Fitting

Some people have bodies that fit certain patterns straight off. Most people do not. Then again, that also applies to ready to wear clothes. I find that Indie patterns fit my shape better but I do sometimes need to make adjustments. In fact the only pattern I have ever found that fit me pretty much straight out of the packet is Christine Haynes' Emery dress. 

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However,if it hadn't fitted perfectly I would have been able to go to the Sewalong round up for how to do an FBA, a narrow shoulder adjustment or any other help I needed with fitting. Most of the Indie patterns I have made have had accompanying sewalongs or posts on how to make adjustments, and the designers are usually pretty approachable if you need extra help. Again I haven't seen that kind of support from the bigger pattern companies. 

If you need any more evidence of my love of Indie here is a small selection of the Indie patterns I own and plan to make or remake soon. Should be enough to keep me going for a while:

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For a list of Indie pattern companies, check out Sew Independent's list or Fiona's comprehensive list

And thank you Claire for inviting me, it's been really fun. 

Thank you, Jo! I agree with many of your points here and it's no wonder the majority of my patterns are Indie's too. Do you share Jo's love of Indies for the same reasons? 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Giveaway: Sewing Patterns

This weekend I was lucky enough to be gifted an enormous bag of fabric, some sewing books and a lot of patterns. They came from someone I don't know, but Adam's mum caught them for me. I'm still sorting through the fabric and books but have looked at the patterns. The majority seem to be from around the 1970s, not my era at all, but there are a few that I will keep:


There is a chance that I will create the blouse and skirts. I'm intrigued by the trousers. Although the styling of the mens pattern is absolutely appalling, the line drawings for the shirt suggests it has promise.

However, there are many more that I just won't use. The deal for taking this treasure trove of sewing related goodies was anything I don't want must be given away and not end up in the bin/recycling. So, I'm offering you the chance to snap up some of the other patterns. You should know I have only quickly checked the patterns. They all have the original instruction sheets and seem to be complete but I cannot guarantee this. The majority of the patterns seem to have been cut. 

If there is a pattern that you like, leave me a comment below with a contact email so I can get your address. Patterns will be given away on a first comment, first served basis and I'll happily throw in the postage. Anything not snapped by the end of the of the month will go to a charity shop. 

Vogue Patterns 8928, Maternity dress, Size 14 (36-28-38)

Burda 7391, Jacket and Trousers, Size: 8-16, cut at 16

New Look 6280, Jacket and Skirt, Sizes 12-18, cut at 18

Style 2360, Misses' set of blouses, Size 10 (32.5 - 25 - 34.5)

Butterick 3794, Misses' Dress, Size 14 (36-28-38)

Butterick 4644, Jacket, Culottes and Blouse, Size 8 (Bust 31.5)

Style 1497, Lined Wedding or Bridesmaid Dress, Size 16 (38-30-40)

Simplicity 9505, Brides' and Bridesmaids' Dress, Size 16-22, cut at 18 (40-32-42)

Vogue Patterns 1706, Coat, Shorts, Trousers and Top, Size 12 (34-26.5-36)

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Pattern Hack: The Allie top

It is no secret that us sewing bloggers are busy people, especially those who have taken the plunge and released patterns. I have enjoying watching the all the recent new ones. Today I want to talk about one in particular: the Allie dress from Hannah at Made With Hugs and Kisses. Inspired by the Notebook, Hannah created Allie and being the generous soul she is, she has made her freely available for anyone to sew! Now, we all love free patterns don't we?!

Allie Top

Before we get onto my version (which the eagled eyed will notice is not a dress!), I need to start with a confession. When I first saw Allie I was delighted for Hannah and thought the dress was extremely cute and full of lovely details - shirring at the back, halter neck, gathering at the front of the bodice, patch pockets for the skirt and no end of potential colour combinations. And there's where my interest stopped. While this dress would be fun to plan and make, I just couldn't think of a time when I would wear it as it isn't my style. My interest was piqued again when Hannah contacted me to see if I would be interested in sewing the dress. I downloaded the pattern to take a look at the pieces. The gathering at the front really appealed to me and before I knew it, a summer top had formed in my mind. I asked Hannah if she would mind a pattern hack and was told to "go wild". Wild this may not be, but here is my Allie top. 

Allie Top

Starting with a toile of the original bodice, I realised I needed to make a few changes. Luckily it fitted perfectly at the bust. I removed a centimetre from the front waistband before extending it to finish at my hips. On the back, I removed about 5cm from the shirring panel and extended the waistband to finish at the same length as the front. Determined to practice some of my newly learnt pattern cutting skills, I drafted a front and back yoke. The back was relatively simple with the main decisions being how wide I wanted the shoulder seam to be and how low the neckline should be. The front took a little longer to draft and I discovered that I shouldn't try pattern drafting when very tired as I make the same silly mistakes over and over again especially over the shape of the neckline and where to place the centre front. However, I eventually got there and remembered to start the centre front of the yoke at the top notch marking the gathering on the bodice. I even remembered to true my seam lines before cutting out.

Allie Top

As this top is meant to fill a gap in my summer wardrobe, I chose a cotton batik and a poly sheer fabric, both from A One Fabrics on Goldhawk Road. I love the moody background of the batik and the contrast of the bright pattern which repeats throughout. I decided to go with a sheer fabric for the yoke to break up the mass of colour - even using a solid colour would have been too much. The sheer fabric is a bit of a surprise. It is very forgiving with snags disappearing almost as quickly as they were pulled.  

Allie Top

The construction of the bodice is quick and simple. Hannah's instructions for the dress are clear and follow a logical order. Obviously I didn't include the shirring which will add some time and I can't speak for attaching the skirt but I'm sure the process is just as simple and clear. I took my time attaching the front yoke to the gathers as it gets a little tricky here - it is too easy to end up with a gap in your stitches and that is not a flattering look! The majority of seams are overlocked, except the shoulders which are French seams. Can we talk about baby hems for a moment please? I was stumped for a while on how to finish the neckline and arm holes in this sheer fabric. After some quick research I decided on baby hems. I used a very narrow zigzag stitch (width: 2, length: 0.7) on my machine as I haven't fully worked out how to use my overlocker for hemming. I folded the fabric at the stitching line and then put it slowly through the machine to ensure an even hem. This took forever but it was worth it. I love how neat and delicate they look. Trimming the excess fabric very close to the stitching is slightly terrifying though! I took a short cut on the narrow 6mm hem, deciding to machine stitch it. 

Allie Top

I'm pretty pleased with how this tops fits, it is easy to pull on and off without the need for any closures. However, I haven't quite got the front yoke right. There is a little too much fabric there and it ripples obviously at times. If I decide to make this top again, I'll need to revisit that part. The baby hems are a little rough on the skin but a couple of washes should soften them.

This is my first real attempt at a pattern hack and I enjoyed the process. I've already been looking for others that I can tweak. Do you often see the potential for a pattern hack? And have you popped over to Hannah's blog to take a more in depth look at Allie as she was originally designed? 


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