Lessons from my sewcation

For the past week, I have been at home merrily stitching my way through my plans for a summer wardrobe while watching a lot of Wimbledon. The sewcation was strategically planned, allowing me enough time to go and buy items for my upcoming holiday if I didn't have time to complete these items. I did well though - seven items will be completed by the end of tomorrow evening. The Vintage Shirt Dress has already made its way here and I'll get the others all up as soon as I can but here's a photo to keep you going.

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To make up for the lack of photos of a shiny new item, I thought I would share some observations, lessons learnt or reconfirmed over the past few days:

  1. Always buy more black and white thread that you think you need. You will run out of both at the most inconvenient moments.
  2. It is always the right decision to buy zips of a single colour in multiple lengths. 
  3. You may need to actively remind yourself to eat and drink. 
  4. Fray stopper will transform your button holes.
  5. Your machine will become fussy. Feed it good thread, especially for button holes.
  6. Button holes are so much easier when you grade your seam allowances properly.
  7. Use a bright coloured thread where possible to baste so you can see them. It makes it easier to remove them or reminds you to do this step. 
  8. Do as many steps as you can at once before moving. E.g., pin as much before stitching, stitch as much before pressing....
  9. Your blind hem foot works beautifully as a guide for edge stitching/ top stitching.
  10. Always buy 8 or more buttons. I never have enough, or any spare in case some come off.
  11. It is far too easy to still be in your pyjamas at 11am for a couple of days in row.
  12. If you don't tidy as you go along, your sewing space will look an absolute tip and will make visitor's eyes widen when they walk in to deliver a large bag of items for some unselfish wedding related sewing. 

I'm sure I've forgotten many more points that should be included. Are there any points you would add from your experience of sewing for a full day or more?

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?

Gathering tip

One of the most common skills in sewing is knowing how to make even gathers. I love gathers but getting them to look even can be a challenge. Last night I discovered a neat trick to make this process easier. I'm going to start at the beginning in case there are people reading this who haven't gathered before. You should have marked your fabric with the gathering marks when you transferred the markings from your pattern where the area to be gathered is often marked by circles. They are the black x's on my fabric. 

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Next stitch between these marks. You need to use a long stitch length (I used 4 here) and sew two lines - one at 1/4" and one 3/8" in from the edge of your fabric. Make sure you leave long tails at both ends otherwise you won't be able to pull the fabric together. 

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Keeping the tails free, pin your pieces of fabric together at the ends. Next, gather the excess fabric by pulling gently on the tails, one end at a time. You'll see the fabric gather among the stitches. 

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Now for the tip. Place a pin where the tails begin (the red pins) and wrap the tail threads around them in a figure of eight. 

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This will hold them neatly and securely while you move the excess fabric among the stitches until they are even. 

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Continue to sew in your preferred manner by basting the gathers in place and then machine stitching or just machine stitch.

I'll definitely be using this every time I have to gather!