Saturday, 27 September 2014

Notionally Speaking: Stash

It's time again for Notionally Speaking where a blogger selects a sewing related word and writes about that word. This month's post come from Lynne of Ozzy Blackbeard. Lynne randomly selected "stash" and has some wise words on how to handle the fabric that enters your home. I wish I was this organised with my fabric! How about you - are you as organised as Lynne? 

Notionally Speaking

I was delighted when Claire asked me to take part in Notionally Speaking. I picked number 14, and my word is “stash”.

Fig 1

If we craft, we have stash, it’s that simple. Where it gets complicated is the amount. I like to think that I have a relatively small fabric stash, for the simple reason that there aren’t many fabric shops where I live, so temptation doesn’t fall in my way too often; although the internet sales are hard to resist! I can appreciate how overwhelming it must be to have bags and bags of fabric. The pressure to use it must be awful.

But is stash just fabric? I don’t think so. What about all the other stuff that sewing requires – buttons, thread, zips, interfacing, bias tape, ribbons, patterns, books etc? All stash my friends!

The secret to stash control is organisation. I know that’s really boring, and takes up valuable crafting time, but it’s worth it. Then there’s no more time wasted searching for that elusive zip that you know you have, and is just the perfect colour for the garment that you’re making.

Here’s how I do it. As soon as a piece of fabric comes into my house, it gets washed, and then put in the fabric bag. By that time I will probably have an idea of what I want to make with it (if I haven’t bought it for a specific pattern), so I pin a piece of paper to it with the fabric length and width and what I want to make.

Fig 2

I got this bag on Amazon, and try to operate a strict “one piece of fabric in, one piece of fabric out” policy. It doesn’t work, and I consider it a win if I can get the zip closed. This bag lives under a bed. There are also two bags in the roof space, but in fairness what’s in them mostly came from my Granny.

Fig 3

I also have a notebook which is my stash organising saviour. I cut a little bit of fabric from the corner, staple it into the book, and note where I bought it, the price, length and width, and ideas about what I want to make.

Fig 4

This has proved to be invaluable. I can make notes about what else I need, thread, zip etc – I sometimes even include really bad drawings! It’s so handy just to lift the book to take to the shops for colour matching thread. Also it serves as a fabric guide, as I have different types of fabric in there, so now I know what they are like if I want to buy more.

Fig 5

I keep all my other stash items in various tins and boxes. For example, my zips and bias tape are in these Marks and Spencer biscuit tins, which were far too nice to throw out once I had eaten the delicious shortbread that was in them.

Fig 6

The boxes that washing liquid capsules come in are very handy too, but sadly are not so glamorous. I have found that they are the perfect size for four overlocker cones – no more hunting around for the last cone in the colour I want!

Fig 7

I am lucky enough to have a dedicated sewing table with drawers and shelves, so most of these things can be stored there.

All my patterns are stored in a big box under a bed. The coloured plastic folders came from the pound shop. Unfortunately I haven't been able to get any of the A3 size for a while.

Fig 8

But what if you’re not just a sewist? I also knit and crochet so then there’s the yarn, needles and hooks stash. There was a time, before I started sewing, when there was so much yarn in my house. Again, in fairness, most of it came from my Granny. I used some of it, and sold the rest to fund my overlocker, but I thought I’d leave you with a photo of my Granny's yarn on the day I sorted it all out.

Fig 9

Feel free to show this to members of your household if they say your stash is out of control.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Fitting the Nicola dress

I've been steadily making progress with my Nicola dress from Victory Patterns. I say steadily as I have to make three toiles of the bodice to make sure it fit. Wrap dresses are notorious for not fitting well due to the cross over of fabric and I anticipated making some changes but not three test runs!

After reading up on the pattern I definitely knew that I would have to make some changes. The cross over of the wrap and the height of the armhols seem to be common issues. I also anticipated making changes to the front of the pattern where I generally need a little extra fabric. I started by cutting a 10 at the bust, graded up to a 12 at the waist and then back down to a 10 at the hips, which gave me this:

Nicola fitting v1 front

Nicola fitting v1 back

The good parts: 

  • The bodice and skirt length are perfect and the sleeves didn't need any alterations.
  • The armholes are a tad higher than normal but it isn't annoying and therefore I didn't bother to make any alterations here. 
Changes needed: 

  • The dress didn't fit around my waist properly. It closed about 2-2.5cm away from where it should. The dress should close where the final pleat is and it clearly isn't in the top photo - only just reaching the second.
  • The cross over is indecently low - totally revealing low! I also had drag lines on the back of the bodice meaning a full bust adjustment (FBA) was needed. I later found out that Victory draft for a B cup and I'm quite a few cups bigger. 

Second fitting

Nicola v2 front 

Nicola v2 side

Changes made:

  • A 2.5cm FBA. It took a while to figure out how to do this on a bodice that contains three pleats at the bottom and no side dart. In the end I followed the normal process for a FBA, creating the side dart. I then rotated the side dart to the bottom ensuring that it was evenly divided between the three pleats. Does that make sense? I'm happy to share how I did it if that would be helpful. 


  • Perfect fit around the waist -  the dress closed at the third pleat. 
  • The neckline isn't so revealing although still a little low.
  • Large amount of gaping in the neckline as the unintended but not expected consequence of the FBA. 

Third fitting

Apologies for the state of my hair in this photo - this is how it looks when I let it fall naturally!

Nicola bodice v3

Changes made:

  • Neckline raised by 1cm in the middle, tapering to nothing at the shoulders and waist, as I only needed the extra cover across my bust. 
  • Pinched out about 2.5-3cm from the neckline, tapering to nothing inside the bodice, to solve the gaping. It isn't perfect but adding some twill tape to stabilise the neckline should help it lay flat in my finished version. 
Now I just hope it all translates properly to my fabric which has been waiting patiently to be transformed...

Saturday, 13 September 2014

As thoughts turn to Autumn

What is your favourite season? It is a difficult decision for me but there is something about Autumn. Mainly because lower temperatures, tights, boots, and stews are early indicators for the excitement that the last few month of the year bring - our anniversary, birthdays (me and my best friend are five days apart) and, of course, Christmas. However this year, I wasn't looking as forward to as normal. 

There's only one reason - my autumnal wardrobe is dull. And I mean dull - duller than dish water. For work I have the choice of black, brown or dark blue skirts and trousers and a small number of colourful tops. Not inspiring - not at all. In fact, it needs a complete overhaul but my thoughts have been complete chaos. Enter the Fall Essentials Sew-Along hosted by Sarah and Lisette to provide a little structure. I love it when, as if by magic, other sewists come to the rescue. 

The sew-along has seven categories and you can pick and choose which ones to participate in. My first thought was I'll make everything! And then reality set in. September to December is my busiest time of year and I doubt it will be possible for me to cover all the categories. I don't want to put pressure on myself with self-imposed deadlines and over ambitious plans - that just sucks the fun out of sewing. So below is my wish-list for a few of the categories and we'll see how I get on. If I make one, then great! If it is more, bonus! 

Fashionable Foundations for Frosty Weather: "Anything that keeps your lower portion fashionably cozy fits perfectly here!" 

Just the one pattern here: the Juniper trousers. I need to replace my black work trousers and I desperately need trousers for home. Time to stop thinking about these and get on with them. 

Juniper Trousers
Chic Chemises for Cool Climates: "Blouses, tops, vests, cardigans, and sweaters! These wardrobe essentials can carry you from day to night, not to mention provide necessary layering to keep out the chill." 

Two patterns are screaming for my attention at the moment. The White Russian sweater by Capital Chic. Apart from university hoodies I don't have a sweater that I like to wear. I picked up some beautiful green fabric from the swap at the Leeds meet recently that will work perfectly. The second pattern is the Bruyere shirt from Deer and Doe. Words fail me - I honestly cannot tell you how much I love this pattern and how much it needs to be in my wardrobe now. Trouble is, I can't buy either yet. I've just signed up for a 5k and both patterns are rewards for sticking to my training schedule. Mean but effective! 

White Russian                                                                                         Bruyere
Oh, and I need some white blouses at some point. Perhaps one will be my first self drafted pattern. 

Fabulous Frocks: I don't need to explain this one, do I? I'm currently working on perfecting the fit for the Nicola dress by Victory Patterns. The bodice needs a little more tweaking and then I'm away. I'm also seriously tempted by By Hand London's Georgia but again, she's part of my fitness regime so who knows what will happen! 

Nicola                                                                                            Georgia
Those Cozy Nights: you got it, sleep wear of any type.

I don't have any particular patterns in mind here. Ideally I would complete a pair of pyjamas and a silky dressing robe to get my through until it is time for my fleecy one. Any suggestions for patterns? 

So tell me, what are you planning for autumn?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

My first adventure making bed linen

On Monday I made reference to a duvet cover I was making my mum for her birthday. Well, here it is, complete with pillow cases and a peak of my bedroom. Well, I had to check it fitted!

Bed linen

My brief was pastel colours and little flowers. I started looking for extra wide fabric as this is a king size cover. Somehow, none of the fabrics seemed quite right so I moved back to normal width cottons. I came across this beautiful floral print at Croft Mill and decided to match it with a cream cotton. You may notice from the photos that this cover isn't cream but a pale green. I had a slight accident when pre-washing them - a small, cheap blue scarf was hiding in the machine and I didn't spot it until I pulled the fabric out. It was quite a surprise but I rolled with it as luckily mum loves green! 

Bed linen

To create the panels, I cut the newly green fabric in half and keep the floral as it came. Unfortunately the green shrank by a couple of centimetres meaning I needed to make full use of the selvages and reduce the seam allowances to 5mm. All the seams are overlocked for a nice finish. A pale purple ribbon, attached with a narrow zig zag stitch, finishes the cover nicely as well as hiding the seam lines. 

Bed linen

I had planned a cream back to the cover. However, this looked odd with the green. I opted for a dark purple sheet from Dunelm Mill instead. It felt a bit weird buying a new sheet just to chop it up but I'm pleased I did. The pillow cases follow the same pattern but the under side is green. 

Bed linen

As you would expect, this was a simple project although it did take longer than I expected. I figured that long straight lines would be quick but the volume of fabric slows you down a bit. I can't say I'm a convert to sewing my own bed linen but it is nice to have options and know that I can create something if I can't find it in the shops. 

Bed linen

Have you ever sewed bed linen? 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Blog Hop

I’m guessing many of you will have seen that recent Blog Hop that is, um, hopping around our part of the internet. I’ve really enjoyed reading those that I have come across (especially Louise’s and Amy’s – so much truth in both of them), and was thrilled when Lynne from Ozzy Blackbeard nominated me to take part. Before I let you know who I have nominated, my answers to the four questions are below.

Why do I write?

If my educational choices are anything to go by (history at university), the fact that I like to write would be the quick answer. The real answer is a little more complex. Like many, I originally started my blog as a way for me to track my progress. I thought if I poured my thoughts into a post it would save Adam from no end of sewing related chatter.

Late to the Party Anna Dress

However, as time has gone on I’ve realised that writing fulfils a number of my core values. Now this might sound cheesy, and some of you might be rolling your eyes here, but that’s how it is. I started my blog at a time when I was struggling. I had lost connection with many things – work, friends, hobbies, etc. I also didn’t feel I was learning and achieving much. Creating my little blog was part of getting me back on track. As a post needs content, I was more mindful about what I learnt while creating an item and took pride in what I achieved. And then strangers started to read and comment. I suddenly had a connection to a community that was likeminded, passionate and open to talking all things fabric. All of these reasons still stand. I genuinely love talking to fellow sewists – comments, tweets, emails and meet ups make me feel warm and fuzzy. I hope that feeling never goes.

And Adam? Sadly for him the talk continues, and has probably increased, but at least now it is structured and I have the chance to give him a break by going for a drink with Oxford sewists. He still hasn’t escaped taking my photos though…

What am I working on?

I normally have a couple of projects on the go. At the moment the projects are selfless ones: a duvet cover for my mum’s birthday this week (don’t worry, she knows what is coming!), planning a long sleeved polo shirt for dad’d birthday this month (his request). For me, I’m making a scrap bag out of my scraps. I’ll make sure I share all of them with you.


In addition, I’m starting to plan my autumnal work wardrobe but I haven’t yet made any firm decisions. Sorry for the lack of details – I’m working out what is missing but I can tell you it is in desperate need of a colour injection and I hope it includes my first self-drafted pattern that I complete on my own. 

Oh, and I’m about to crack open the Juniper trousers to try and break my jeans habit while at home.

How does your blog differ from others of its genre?

Hmmm, tricky as most sewing blogs have the same theme running through them!

While this is an almost exclusively sewing blog, you will find variety in the content. You’ll see finished skirts, tops, dresses, jackets, coats and even trousers. I’ve dabbled with tutorials – items that would be useful around the house, ways to use up scraps and sewing techniques.

Dolly Clackett Emery

I’m pretty proud of the Notionally Speaking series as I've yet to see anything that is similar. I also want to give a shout out for Oxford – it is a wonderful place to take photos and adds an interesting edge to my photos.

How does your writing process work?

I’m a drafter. During, or immediately after completing, a project I make bullet point notes in Evernote to ensure I keep track of the points I want to make, alterations etc. When it comes to actually writing the posts (which can be at any point), I will just write – even if it is complete rubbish. Following a break, I’ll come back and tweak or completely redraft. The latter is not uncommon as I normally don’t like the flow or I’ve missed an essential point that changes the direction of the post. Every now and then I will write a commentary piece. These take a lot longer as it takes me time to work out how to say what I want. The process for writing them is still the same though.

Floral Gabriola

If I’m not happy with a post, it doesn’t go live. Simple as that. I have no idea who will come across my work and I want to make sure they leave with a good impression! I have changed the go live dates of posts to give me extra time to ensure I'm happy the end result. I like to post once a week (discipline and routine are good for me), and mostly on a Saturday although that isn’t set in stone - that type of rule would take away some of the fun for me.

So who is going to write the next chapters of this Hop?

Jodie from Jodie’s Adventures in Sewingland. I first came across Jodie on Twitter and then had the pleasure of meeting her in person. I’ve been swooning over Jodie’s recent makes – particularly her teal Ceylon and mint Truffle.  

Sam from Stitched Up by Samantha. I’ve been following Sam for quite a while and have always been amazed at her skill with free motion embroidery. Check out her stripy bag as part of the Minerva Blogger Network – amazing! I’m also lucky enough to have this piece by her in my lounge.

Make sure you look out for their posts next Monday.


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