Guest post by Kirsty: Fitting sewing into your everyday life

Hi I’m Kirsty all the way from Top Notch. Big thanks to Claire who asked me to do a guest post on fitting sewing into our everyday life.

How do you fit it in? I’ve got a clock! Yep, a clock with a timer. That’s how I fit sewing into my life. Well it’s not the whole story but it sure goes a long way to explaining a big part of it. I asked for it for my birthday last year after I realised that my ‘5 more minutes’ was turning into a whole lot more and I needed a solution. The one more seam, one more button was taking over ... I have a family, other things and work that knocks a lot on my email after hours, so I have other things to do,  I can’t just go into a sewing bubble. Oh, the clock  isn’t just for me. Sometimes I use it for the kids when they are playing, but it’s mainly for me. The timer is set and when the buzzer goes, it’s down tools. For all of us!

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I bought an entry level Pfaff about 4 years ago, when Elliot was about one and I started reading blogs and having to prepare costumes for Oliver for 3 and 4 year old birthday parties. I started sewing basic things for them, moved onto making simple clothes for me from Japanese sewing books and then onto other patterns. I started my blog about a year ago to help document Me Made May 2012. It’s funny to me that I started sewing right about the time that I had less time on my hands. I probably have even less time on my hands now than I did back then, but probably sew more. Not an usual story I know, most of you are the same.  

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I rarely make because I’m obligated to make. In fact, I hate obligation sewing. Time is precious and there are enough obligations. I make and prioritise the time to sew, usually because I’m in love with a project. I love clothes and fashion and style and therefore I sew when and because I’m inspired. I sew a lot with Liberty of London fabric because I love the narratives around their seasonal prints which now form part of my style and my me made wardrobe. Finding time to make and improve and learn new techniques isn’t easy and there are always going to be times when it is just plain impossible to make.   

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What works for me, is that we live in a small house. I have my sewing machines set up in the main area of the house and thanks to a present from my sister last year, I now have my current project stored ready to go in a basket. I’m still around for the kids, but I can be my own little sewing island in a sea of legos and batman and superman and noise. Of course I dream of having my own room but for now, with the boys at the age they are, it helps to stay connected with what they are doing. I think that it’s also really good for them to see me making and creating.  

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I don’t have a set timetable for sewing. It depends on what I’m sewing as to when I can sew. I don’t always use the clock of course! I can’t sew so much during the week, but if I’m really excited about a project, sometimes I sneak time in the evening when the kids are playing (this is definitely clock time otherwise nothing else would get done!) or some hand stitching while supervising homework or tape up patterns while watching TV. I usually try to fit in a few hours over the weekend after sport and chores and sometimes late at night when everyone else is in bed.

Do you have a special time when you sew, or are you like me and squeeze in time and steal little snippets when you can? What helps you find time for your projects and to stay focussed, but not at the expense of everything else in your life?

Guest post by Hazel: Demystifying the envelope back

Hey :)  I'm Hazel and I was fortunate to be paired with Claire as a part of Kerry's Spring Sewing Swap.  Claire asked me if I would mind guest-posting whist she was on holiday and there was no way I was saying no.  Claire mentioned that maybe I could post about fabrics or something like that as I work in a fabric shop and as I got thinking about it, I decided that I would start with patterns as we're commonly asked the same questions about what the various parts of the back of a pattern envelope mean.  So I'm going to try and demystify this a little.

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Orange Section - Line Drawing

The first thing I advise looking at on both the front and back of pattern envelopes are the line drawings.  Using the line drawings allows you to look beyond the (sometimes questionable) fabrics and styling used by pattern companies.  These line drawings will also give you and indication of what's involved in the construction of the pattern, clearly showing gathering, darts, zips etc.

Green Sections - Sizing

We all know how frustrating choosing a pattern size can be, and I'm sure everyone is aware of the numerous debates online as to how to go about choosing your size.  This is why I've grouped these two sections together.  The first is body measurements and the second is finished garment measurements.  Somewhere between both these figures is the best fit.  All patterns are designed with a certain amount of ease.  This means that for a close fitting garment, it can be best to go with finished measurements and for looser items go by body measurements.  Personally, I usually go by the finished garment measurements as I feel this works best for me, but it's taken me over 3 years to work this out.  I would suggest, as I would to customers, to make a toile first to see what fitting adjustments and pattern size would suit them best.  Another note on sizing is that patterns are usually designed for someone of 5'5" in mind, this means that depending on your height, you waist may not be where they think it is.  Take this into account when determining size and remember there are lengthen/shorten lines on the tissue.

Yellow, Purple & Pink Sections - Fabric yardages

Ever wonder why there are two sides to the pattern back?  Well the English side is for the American market which is why it is in yards as they are still imperial.  The French section is for the European market which is now metric.  We always advise customers to use the French side as we sell in metres.  I know it can seem confusing to work this way, but use the American side to identify your size and garment then trace across to the European side to work out what you need.  You can also use the headings on the American side to help identify those on the European side.  The other thing to bear in mind when using these yardage requirements is that they tend to over estimate.  This is due to the pattern piece layout.  Often you can use the layout to determine how much less or more you can get away with.  I often advise customers who want to buy more fabric just in case to do so logically.  Often taking an extra half metre will not be enough to cover mistakes due to the length of the pattern pieces.  Look at the layout to work out how best to go about this.

Blue Section - Notions

This section simply states the extras you need to make the pattern, zips, threads, buttons etc.  Again with this section, the recommended sizes can be adjusted, buttons don't have to be a certain width as you're making your own button holes, as long as you don't use massive buttons on shirt front, or small buttons on a coat, you're good to go!  The same applies to zips, if you can only get longer zips (as is sometimes the case with invisible zips) all you do is make the channel longer or keep it the same size and cut it to length and stitch over the teeth.

Red Section - Recommended Fabrics

Now the fun part.  The fabrics suggested by the pattern companies are those that are used to make the garment on the cover.  Some times this scares people as they are expensive or we're unable to get them.  My advice is to use these suggestions to determine weight, drape and type of fabric.  If a pattern suggests chiffon, there's no reason why you can't use a georgette or light crepe.  If it suggests cotton, there's no reason to not use a synthetic.  If it suggests duchess satin, something with body is all that's necessary.  It takes time to get used to this idea, but eventually you'll be able to make these replacements without thinking.  This also stands for interfacing.  Some Vogue patterns require 'fancy' interfacings.  This is only so they can refer to these patterns as advanced or couture, so regular interfacings can be used with care

I often suggest buying a pattern, studying it (and doing some research online) and then coming back to the fabric shop to get fabric.  This will make you better placed to make the right judgement on both the fabric and how much of it you need before spending your money.  This can often make the difference between a good make and a great make! 

Guest post by Katy: where to find inspiration

Hi Everyone. I’m Katy from Sleek Silhouette. Firstly, I want to say thank you to Claire for asking me to write a guest post, I’m so excited to be featured on her blog!! When Claire first contacted me she suggested that I write a post about my inspirations. I was feeling particularly inspired at the time and so was really excited by the idea. But then I tried to write something and didn’t know where to start…

I mean, inspiration is absolutely everywhere! For example, I live in London. At times it’s gritty, sometimes it’s dirty, it’s almost always full of life (it’s awesome).

That has a massive impact on the clothes that I wear.

Sometimes I just want to be gritty, put on my leather jacket and walk out the door. Other days, usually when I go to my home town (soon to be my home town again), I tend to wear something pretty.

Maybe because it’s green, fresh, clean, POLITE! I realised that my style changes by what is going on around me. I realised that I can inspired by anything. My personality is complex, therefore so is my wardrobe. If you look inside it, you’ll find my style choices represent my wandering, changeable style on different days. I like it!

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Learning to sew has allowed me to embrace that more than ever before. Now I get to play with shape and colour exactly how I want to! Recently I’ve been drawn to the vintage inspired designs by Colette, such as the Laurel and the Hawthorn (Mmmm). Hang on! Vintage? I didn’t think that was my style? I was actually a bit surprised to find that I like them.

Then I thought about it a bit more. These are flattering and interesting shapes. Experiment with colour and pattern and I can make them totally up my street! Look anywhere in the shops at the moment and you’ll find 50’s inspired ‘fit and flare’ dresses. The shapes are universal, it’s the fabric choice that makes them special.

So, I guess firstly I’m inspired by the patterns available, mostly by indie designers like ColetteByHand London, and Victory patterns. And secondly, I’m inspired by fabric. Since I started sewing 6 months ago there’s a lot more colour in my wardrobe. It’s allowed me to be a bit braver in my choices. Before I sewed I was a complete shopaholic, I liked to follow the latest fashions and mini fashions.

The things that caught my eye were full of pattern and colour, but when I look into my actual wardrobe few of these clothes seem to have made it in. They seemed a little too risky… Instead my wardrobe was full of boring black and grey and ‘work appropriate’ clothes. Now I figure if I’m putting effort into making clothes they might as well have some imagination! I’m still a shopaholic and into fashion trends, but now when I look at fashion magazines and blogs it only informs my growing fabric addiction. (If you’re looking for any fashion blogs to follow I recommend Atlantic Pacific – that girl has style!) Now I feel I have the chance to make my perfect wardrobe, which reflects my (changeable) personality. Interestingly Collette wrote a similar post on just this point a few weeks ago too. She suggested that it’s easy to be seduced by fabric, I agree. But I think that’s a good thing – maybe it’s the ‘real’ you? Choosing fabric and working out how to show it off to its full potential is the fun part!

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve realised that you don’t have to be inspired by any one particular style or fashion, but that you can draw inspiration from anywhere. Be a style chameleon! Or not If there’s anything the current trend for clashing prints shows, it’s that anything can go with everything! Just look at Rachel's clashing print Laurel, looks amazing right?

If you’re interested in seeing my different inspirations, check out my new feature Recre-Kate! This is basically my chance to show a starting point inspiration, and how that leads to a finished project of mine. You can literally see my inspirations and where it leads me.

Thanks Claire for letting me take over your blog for the day! xx