Saturday, 22 February 2014

Notionally Speaking: Alteration

Welcome back to Notionally Speaking where a fellow blogger writes a post based on a single word sewing related that they randomly selected from a list. That's it, no other guidance - they can take the post in whatever direction they like. This month's post comes from Hannah from Made with Hugs And Kisses who is tackling "alteration". Which direction will she take? Read on to find out and I doubt many of you will disagree...

Notionally Speaking

Who here originally bought their sewing machine with a small, starter project in mind, most likely an alterations project? Perhaps you intended to hem a pair of trousers, take up a dress a few inches or to make a skirt fit a little better?!

Oh I see a few hands go up in the back.

Ok, so perhaps not everyone bought their sewing machine with alterations in mind, but I am pretty darn sure almost everyone has, since purchasing said machine, come across a garment in need of altering. Agreed?


Now my big question is... have you done it yet? Did you ever get around to those pesky trouser hems that scrape along the ground? Did you ever pull that dress out from the back of the wardrobe that you just know will be your go-to dress that you will wear all the time, if only you let out the seams an inch or two?! What about that zip that broke, but you just couldn't bare to throw the garment away because you knew replacing the zip would be a quick and simple job... if only you ever got around to it!

Ahhh, I see a few guilty faces averting eye contact now... just as I thought!

If you are anything like me, you have a rapidly growing pile of projects that will be forever lucky to see the light of day. We all have a fabric pile, and most of us will most likely have a scrap fabric pile... but who here has an alterations pile? Mine is scrunched up behind an old armchair, hidden to the naked eye. But it is still there, forever waiting, forever hoping to be tackled one day!

2014-02-16 23.35.31 2014-02-16 23.35.39

Can you spot it? Behind the big penguin... that black binbag - well it is FULL of alteration projects. And behind that bin bag, well there is another one, equally as big and equally as full!

So, in my moment of honesty, and I am sure you have already come to realise this, I feel relieved to announce that I do not enjoy doing alterations.

Yet people continue to be astounded by my disheartened sigh of frustration whenever they discover that I, in fact, find alterations difficult, disastrous and dull! I much prefer the challenge of a 'make it from scratch' project and find this much more enjoyable and rewarding.

'But you sew?! Of course you won't mind altering all of my clothes for me whenever I ask and in a moments notice!'

Don't comments like this annoy you. I feel like leading them up to my sewing room, showing them the binbags hidden behind the penguin and saying something along the lines of: 'I don't do my own alterations, do you really think I am going to do yours???'


The way I see it... you have several options:

1. Just say no - rude yes, but sometimes people need to be told!
2. Do it, but complete the task so slowly and poorly that word will get round not to bother asking you again! Of course, this is likely to negatively impact your reputation as a credible seamstress, which we don't want.
3. Do it, do it well and come to terms with the fact you are going to be asked to do more... many more!
or my favourite ...
4. Display the following sign for all to see.

seamstress printable aqua

This way if they still insist on asking you then you know they either A. they do not value Michelangelo's work, or B. they clearly don't understand how much you dislike alterations ... in which case both are an abomination and so you have every right to turn them away!

Problem solved :D

But let's think about this rationally, is not wanting to do alterations really a bad thing?

We have taken the time to learn and perfect an impressive skill that allows us to showcase our creativity on daily basis. So why feel guilty that you do not want to take up what little time you manage to get infront of the sewing machine, what with general life being so hectic, fixing a garment that has been mass produced, when you could be creating a masterpiece of your own. After all, at the end of the day, alterations don't quite quench your thirst for sewing now, do they?


Sunday, 16 February 2014

Completed: Vintage inspired Mae blouse

I've mentioned before that I often stand in front of my wardrobe each morning and ask what I am going to wear that day when it looks full. For work I have enough trousers and skirts but I'm lacking in tops to pair them with. The beautiful Mae blouse by Abby at bluegingerdoll kept whispering that it was part of the solution and I bought the pattern with some of my Christmas money. 

Mae blouse

I chose to focus on the fit for this project. I made my first toile after grading the pattern out one size between the bust and the waist. As I had hoped the front fitted well, straight out of the packet. This pattern is designed for us girls with a slightly larger cup size meaning I didn't need to worry about an FBA. What I didn't expect was the size of the back bodice. It just wouldn't do up after the second button. I slashed the toile in a straight line just away from the dart on each side and, ably assisted by Adam, worked out how much extra I needed - 7cm on each side at my hips! I transferred this to the paper pattern and then tried a second toile. This one revealed there was too much length in the back bodice and I removed about 2cm. I promise that the top fits better than it looks in the photos. I thought I had pulled it down enough before taking the photos but clearly I hadn't. The neckline does sit smoothly and there isn't that much excess fabric at the back. 

Mae blouse

Alterations completed I cut into this gorgeous blue cotton at Darn It and Stitch when I popped in to stock up on seam rippers. I just couldn't resist it and knew immediately that it would work perfectly as a Mae. For the buttons I wanted some that wouldn't detract from the pattern but compliment it and chose plain white ones with a little shine. 

Mae blouse

Constructing the top is straightforward. I decided to finish the facings by using white bias tape, which I also added to the side seams. I love little details on the inside! Normally I don't like facings but these are different. They are a little wider than you normally find and I think this makes a big difference. They sit nicely around the neckline and the armsyce and don't pop up when you put on a jacket (a reoccurring problem for me). My facings are interfaced with a lightweight white cotton as try as I might, I couldn't find my fusible interfacing anywhere. 

Mae blouse

Creating scallops was new to me. The finished look of scallops made me think they were tricky but some careful cutting, slower sewing and this tutorial from Abby revealed that they can be simple. It was great to see the curve take shape when ironing out the seam line. I was surprised at how smooth the curves are on my first attempt. 

Mae blouse

Even more surprisingly the button holes were a breeze and worked first time on all of them! I slip stitched the hem in place and I'm glad I took the time to do this as the stitches are practically invisible. I chose not to hem at the recommended 1" as I prefer my tops to be longer so settled on 5/8". 

Mae blouse

Overall I really like this top. It feels fitted but not constricting. The neckline feels as elegant on as it looks in print and I love the kimono sleeves. However, they finish a little too low at the sides and I would raise this for the next make. It looks great tucked into a skirt. It will also work untucked with a pair of trousers without a belt that makes me look pregnant. I'm not - it is the knot of the Miette skirt belt! I can't wait to brighten up my dark coloured skirts and trousers for the office this week. 

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

I joined Spread Your Wings and Craft!

So have you seen the brand new crafting community that went live on Monday? If not, you're missing out! 

Contribute SYWAC

Spread Your Wings and Craft is the latest brilliant idea from Hannah at Made With Hugs and Kisses. The site has a lot of potential and you will find how to's and tutorials daily on a wide range of crafts. 

I'm super excited as Hannah asked me to be one of the contributors to the platform. Each month I'll share something a little different that I have created and not all will be sewing related (eek!). Don't worry, I will keep this separate to I Want To Be A Turtle but I will probably add short posts on here to let you know my latest make is live. 

If you haven't popped over to the site yet, please do visit and see who my fellow contributors are as well as the first couple of posts. Perhaps you will be inspired enough to submit content too. There are many ways to follow us - on Bloglovin, Twitter and Facebook as well as by email. 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Completed: Dark denim Miette

2014 has been a little slow to start in terms of sewing but I'm pleased to say I have completed an item. At the beginning of the year I knew that I needed a more coordinated wardrobe and that a few basics would go a long way in helping achieve this. What better way to start than with a dark denim Miette wrap skirt?

Miette skirt

As I was tidying up my stash over Christmas, I pulled out the Ralph Lauren medium-weight denim I picked up in Mood when I visited last November. I originally fell in love with the colour. I love dark denim and have often found it hard to find the right shade in RTW items which meant I couldn't pass this up. I debated for a while whether this would become a Kelly skirt or a Miette - both would look great but the Miette won. Only because I had the pattern and I was feeling impatient for a quick project.

Miette skirt

Others have waxed lyrical about this pattern and I can see why. It is a very simple pattern that delivers a great result and would be absolutely perfect for beginners. I whipped up the skirt in a couple of hours of leisurely sewing. There are no complicated pieces to cut out or attach, everything is in a straight line. The trickiest bit was turning the ties through and that's because the fabric is quite thick. Tilly helpfully warns you not to use too thick fabric at the beginning for this very reason. I had to seriously grade the ties to make them lay flat once they had been turned.

Miette skirt

I chose to add the pockets. This is an unusual step for me as I tend to shy away from pockets in skirts and dresses. I don't know why and hope that those of you who add pockets to everything won't hold it against me. They were straightforward to assemble and they match up well at the centre seam. There is a small area in the centre seam, just underneath the pockets, where it looks like the fabric is under a bit of stress due to the thickness of six layers of fabric. I reinforced the seam and it seems to be holding up well. 

Miette skirt

The seams are a mix. Most are overlocked but the side seams are flat felled. I couldn't resist the idea of using flat felled seams with denim and I wanted to add some top stitching details along the side. I chose a bright aqua green for the top stitching and then went a little mad! The pockets, side seams and the ties are all top stitched. I had thought about using the green on the hem but realised that would be a little too much. Instead I used a navy blue which you can't see at all. It honestly looks like invisible thread and I was relieved that none of it needed unpicking.  

Miette skirt

One of the things this skirt is known for is the fact that the wrap at the back doesn't come apart enough for you to lose your dignity and I have again proved it. I wore this skirt while travelling for work to Switzerland and it survived moving luggage from trains and walking up outdoor stairs to an airplane. Neither piece moved and it kept me warm! (I realise I don't look warm in the photos though - it was rather windy in Oxford today even in the relative shelter of the gardens in Merton College.) I also realised the value of the size of the pockets - they are big enough to hold your passport, boarding pass, keys and phone without any chance of them falling out. 

Miette skirt

I love this skirt and have worn it many times since I finished it. It definitely is a wardrobe staple and will be constantly in rotation. It works with causal tops for the weekend and could be dressed up for an evening - perfect day to night wear! Somehow I don't think this will be the last Miette to cross my sewing table. 

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