Saturday, 31 January 2015

Star gazing Bruyere

Did this project start with the pattern or the fabric? I'm not really sure but I knew that they were a perfect match. Perhaps it is because most of the Bruyere shirts I love seem to be or feature blue? Some of my favourites: the original by Deer and Doe, Tilly, Anna, and Lauren. I adore the feminine feel of this pattern - the box pleats and the gentle gathering at the cuffs. 

Bruyere shirt

My feelings toward this project have been mixed. It started out with excitement as my toile revealed I needed only one minor change - removing 1.5cm from the bottom skirt. This shirt is seriously long! As construction progressed I feel out of love - symptomatic of the way I was feeling in December and going on several dates with my seam ripper didn't help. However, that is all forgotten and after a couple of wears, I'm rather pleased with the way it came out. 

Bruyere shirt

The fabric is a quality cotton and I was drawn to the little stars and dots. I think it was Victoria who brought it to the Sew Brum swap and I snapped it up as soon as I saw it. As you would expect, it was very easy to work with. It's reasonably soft but still has some crispness to it which makes it delightful to wear. Sadly I didn't have enough to cut the facings which are a pale pink cotton from my stash. I quite like the subtle pop of colour around the front neckline. 

Bruyere shirt

This pattern is marked as advanced and I think that is because there are a couple of tricky techniques but with some patience and careful stitching most people will be able to complete this. Creating the sleeve plackets was a new experience for me. They have come out ok but I would suggest a practice run if you've not done them before so you can get a feel for the precision needed. I was convinced that my stitching was dramatically off, but it turns out its not so bad. I love the way the button plackets and facings are finished - it looks so neat and clean. I found the pictures a little confusing but got there with the help of the sewalong. Essentially, the placket is pressed in half, opened and then the raw edges taken into the centre so they are encased. The facings are placed under the placket before being stitched down.

Bruyere shirt inside

A nice design detail of this pattern is the top stitching. I struggled to find a thread that worked well as white was too stark for the amount needed. In the end I went without and hand stitched the button plackets in place. The buttons are those I saved from Adam's old work shirts and I added two smaller ones to each cuff.

Bruyere shirt

I'm rather pleased with how this shirt fits. Generally I have a hate relationship with rtw shirts as I always get the dreaded gaps between buttons. Not on this shirt and hopefully never again! I don't think this shirt is quite right though. You'll notice that I have the bottom button undone and this is because the shirt feels too tight across my legs if it is done it. This suggests the shirt is still too long and I'm very tempted to take it up and lose the bottom button hole. What do you think? Should I add this to my small list of items to take up? 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Self drafted pencil skirt

I recently stated that I hoped pattern drafting would feature more this year. Well, there's nothing like starting as you mean to go on! Here's my first completely self drafted item. I drafted my cocktail dress on a course but this was completed without any guidance from a teacher. 

Self drafted pencil skirt

I decided to start simply and tackle the pencil skirt that I wanted to create from the leftover fabric from my jewel jacket. Buoyed by the strong support for it, I pulled out Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich to create my skirt block. I was given the book about six months ago but it's the first time I've really looked at it. I've seen this book referenced quite a lot recently and it seems a good one to start your pattern drafting journey. 

The block was quite quick to create. I think it took me about 90 minutes with a quick toile to check the fit. Thankfully it fitted very well and I didn't need to make any alterations. 

Self drafted pencil skirt

This pattern is a very simple one. It is essentially the block with a waistband and a vent. Keeping it simple was a good idea as it not only led to a quick win, therefore boosting my drafting confidence, but also gave me the classic style pencil skirt for the office that I had been wanting. I adore the shape of pencil skirts but struggled with RTW ones as fabric pools around my narrow hips. It feels great to have a one that fits very well. 

Self drafted pencil skirt

The waistband was easy to draft. I traced off the top 5cm from the front and back blocks with the darts closed, creating three pieces that join together. Tracing from the top of the block ensured that the skirt sat at my natural waistline. Adding the vent to the shell was also fairly simple. I extended the hem line of the back block out by about 3cm and then drew a line up to where I wanted the vent to stop, allowing for a 45 degree line to join them. 

Self drafted pencil skirt back

I wanted to try a new technique and decided to create a lined vent. I used this tutorial by Sunni to draft the lining. I didn't get this quite right as there is some bulk at the top of the vent. It doesn't add strain to the seam line and I can sit comfortably so I'm not too bothered. I worried about using an invisible zip as I thought the fabric might be too thick but it has worked ok.

Self drafted pencil skirt inside

While it isn't perfect, I love this skirt. This is mainly because it fits so well. It is also extremely comfortable when I'm sitting which is a major bonus. The one thing I would change is my choice of lining fabric which I picked up at the Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham. While it is soft, has a good drape and is quite easy to handle, it is also incredibly static and sticks to my tights a little thus moving the vent into an odd shape at times. Annoying as static is, it won't stop me wearing this skirt and I suspect it will be in rotation fairly frequently but I will need to find some more tops to wear with it - it's a wardrobe orphan at the moment. I'll have to make sure I prioritise the tops over the other skirt ideas that are circulating in my mind now.  

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Stash Star Fabric app: a review

Could you tell me what's in your stash? How about how much of each piece? Nope, me neither. Organisation of all sewing related items has been a persistent problem for me and only gets worse as my fabric (and pattern) stash grows. Is this a familiar problem?

I needed to find a solution to recording my fabric stash and as I was browsing the Apple App Store, I came across a free app called Stash Star Fabric. I've included a number of photos so you can get a feel for the app. 

Fabric app

The app is rather basic and consists of two pages. The home page details your stash in photos. The other pages are for each individual piece of fabric. The fabric specific page allows you to record the name, colour, pattern size, fabric measurements in metric and imperial, fiber content, the details of where you purchased it, designer and manufacturer details, where it is stored and any notes you want to include. 

Fabric app

Fabric app

You can add a photo at the top which is displayed in the home page. If you find that the fiber, type of fabric, or measurement, is missing from the list provided, you can add it. You can choose your favourite or most regularly used fabric widths and fiber on the menus. 

Fabric app

Fabric app

Adding the details in the fabric pages allows you to group your fabrics. This is useful if you want to know only the cottons in your collection, or those that are 140cm wide. The location box is especially useful as my stash is split across a couple of wooden storage boxes and I can never remember which one to look in. The layout is pretty clean and uncluttered with the information in two columns. 

Fabric app

There's a small number of issues with this app though. It has constant adverts at the bottom - this is annoying but to be expected with a free app. I can generally ignore them and haven't yet accidentally clicked on them. It also doesn't remember what measurement type you use to record the length of the fabric. I've listed my fabric in metric and have to choose this option every time I add a fabric but still, it isn't too bad and doesn't take much time to hit 'm' instead of 'yds'! It is also only available on Apple. 

My entire stash has been added and it is so much easier to plan projects now. I will no longer be found pulling out fabric only to find that I can't fit all the pattern pieces on it! While it is a very basic app, it has everything I need. I now add new fabrics as they arrive and before they go into washing basket with a note that it hasn't yet been pre washed. I can see myself continuing to use this for some time. 

I'm always interested in new options for staying organised so please do share your preferred way of keeping track of your stash. 

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Hungry Caterpillar quilt

I’ve made another quilt. This is the final baby project that I worked on the back end of last year. I came across the Hungry Caterpillar fabrics by Eric Carle, produced by Andover, a while ago and knew that I wanted to create something with them. I snatched up a fat quarter pack and set about finding a good quilt pattern.

Hungry Caterpillar quilt

I found this fantastic I-spy quilt, made from a disappearing nine square block. I loved the neat lines and bright colours - it seemed perfect. There is a lot of cutting involved to create the top: 88 centre squares, 88 black squares, 22 turquoise squares, 22 black rectangles and 20 small turquoise squares. I managed to cut them out in a couple of hours with some music on. Once you get in the zone, it is amazing how quickly the piles of cut fabric mount up. I deliberated for quite a bit whether using black was a good idea. I needed a colour that would make the caterpillar material pop and from all of the cotton in my stash, the black was the only one that seemed to work. The turquoise is the left overs from the baby kimonos

Hungry Caterpillar quilt - squares

Stitching the squares was easy, although a little repetitive as I worked in assembly mode. Every piece that needed to be stitched was pinned before it went through the machine to make sure I lined up the seams well. I used the chain stitch method, where you leave a few stitches between each piece instead of cutting the threads, as it is a great time saver. The pinning probably doubled the time I spent of the top but it was worth it. I’m rather pleased with how well the seams line up on the majority of squares - they aren’t perfect but you can’t see any that are very noticeably off. This also means that my cutting was pretty accurate. Accuracy is key to patchwork I've discovered, and definitely worth spending time on. 
I made sure that I didn’t rush the section where you slice your nine square blocks through the middle, both horizontally and vertically, to create four new pieces. It was slightly nerve racking as I was out of black cotton by this point but thankfully the inside seams were level enough to produce a good result.

Hungry Caterpillar quilt - backing

Hungry Caterpillar quilt - edge stitching

The backing is a recycled beige duvet cover. Pinning the batting and the backing wasn’t as hard as my first quilt attempt. I laid all of the layers over the ironing board and worked line by line. I found it much easier to smooth out the fabric this way than placing the whole thing on the floor. I wanted to keep the quilting pattern simple. I stitched around each square. Yep, all 88 of them. Tedious doesn’t even cover it! And that doesn't take into account the unpicking of many wonky seams. I was very glad to finish the final square. The quilt is bound with bought bias tape as I had run out of turquoise fabric and honestly couldn’t face making 5m of binding after all that quilting. The colour isn’t a perfect match but it is close enough to some of the blues in the squares. I used my blind hem foot to help give an even edge stitch throughout. 

Hungry Caterpillar quilt

The quilt was a surprise gift for our friends who have recently had a little boy. It's now making its way to them but I'm still a little unsure about the black! 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed the festive season if you celebrate Christmas, had some well deserved rest and a good evening yesterday. I can't believe we've reached 2015! 

It's traditional at this time of year to review how the last one went. I've had a number of highlights - taking on a line management role at work, three very relaxing holidays to Prague, Barcelona and Paris, taking up running. Sewing has also been a success - I made 22 items for me, four baby outfits (one to be blogged as soon as the little one makes an appearance), three selfless makes (bedlinen and two to follow as soon as I can get the photos), some Christmas themed cushions for a close friend and nine fabric baubles as stocking fillers (sadly no photos). I couldn't resist the call of the collage maker to share my top makes:

2014 best makes

And for the items that I said goodbye to:

2014 goodbyes

Yet, even with these highlights I can't shake the feeling that 2014 was a bit of "meh" year for me and I would like 2015 to be a little different. The back end of last year saw me spend most of my time battling with my head again and it wasn't easy. I'm not sure I'm fully out of that patch yet but I'm definitely getting back into the swing of things. 

Which means goals and plans right? Absolutely! I'm still working on my sewing plans for the year. I'm hoping that pattern drafting will feature more and I'm planning an exciting winter project. I'm also taking a hard look at my stash to work out what is in there. However, my focus recently has been on how to better manage my moods, thoughts and actions so most of my goals are around these and I hope you don't mind if I share three with you. 

  • RunningI have a feeling that exercise will be key so I've set a challenging, but achievable, target of running 750km over the year. I even received new running kit for Christmas so there's no excuse now! 
  • Eating wellanother essential component. I love cooking but have got into a rut this year despite having a number of decent cook books. I plan to use them once a week to bring a bit of variety to the dinner table instead of relying on well tested dishes.
  • Picking up an old hobbyneglected but loved past time of mine is reading. I've failed miserably at slowing down and picking up a book over the last couple of years so this year I will find the time. I plan to read a minimum of ten books over the year - they can be on any subject, any length, any format.

I'm hoping that these goals will help provide a little more structure in case there is a time over the coming year when I feel I can't keep up. I might post updates every few months and hope that you'll indulge me if I do.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to say thanks for following my adventures over the last year either here, on Twitter or in real life - your comments and encouragement are truly appreciated. I've said it before but the interaction with the sewing community is genuinely one of the best parts of this blogging lark. And now onto a lighter note - what are your plans (sewing or not) for the forthcoming year?


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