For the last few months, I've been working my way through a collection of patterns that I've acquired; some were free in magazines, others in my fave shop in Chepstow 'Serendipity' so I hadn't spent loads and I always enjoy trying to match something in my existing fabric stash to one of these patterns. A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to collect many many big bags of vintage dress-making fabric courtesy of the friendliest estate agent in Bath, what a coup! I rummaged through and whilst it was was all lovely, mostly plain cottons, corduroys and some viscose, there wasn't anything particularly hippyish or what I was hoping for from those crazy days. However, when I spotted this gorgeous white fabric with cute lemon and blue flowers I knew I'd found my treasure. It's super thin, so I'm not sure what it was intended for but I used it on Simplicity 1609 as it has a retro look to it and I knew the style would set the border off well. It was a straightforward pattern and apart from lengthening the front facing to protect my modesty I love the dress!! It's a very fitted shape, with 2 pairs of front darts and a long rear zip. I had to purchase an M&S full length slip to go underneath, you know, like your mum used to wear, but I have to say, it's one of the most comfy pieces of lingerie I've ever owned!! Who'd have thunk it?! Please excuse the criminal photo below…
For this dress I was mostly listening to: Burning by The War On Drugs
Somewhat belatedly, I've got a moment to jot down my latest sewing antics. We've been away to Kent for the weekend, so no chance to 'get my blog on' there, although it was lovely and I may well share a few photos later on.
I had a good time last week making things for the boys in my life, namely Roan my son and Matt my current husband (!!). A few months back I bought some bi-plane fabric on ebay and had it earmarked for pyjamas, but with this sudden blast of summer, it's far too hot at night for that, so in half an hour I quickly knocked together a pair of shorts (using same Sewing for Dummies pattern of last week). Honestly, they're so easy and Roan was able to put them on just half an hour after he'd selected fabric. Now THAT's my kind of sewing! I've made a few pairs of trousers in the past, so the structure was straightforward and of course given only half the material, they whizzed through my machine with no drama. Only problem now is trying to wrench them off him to put them in the wash!
So on to the next TGBSB pattern, the Men's Waistcoat, which looked so stylish and simple. I used a navy pinstripe wool mix for the outer fabric and lined it with a cotton twill as that was all that was available to me at the time. Again it was a simple pattern to follow, with darted front and 3 back panels. I hand-sewed the lining openings but even that hasn't ruined it! Unfortunately though, the sizes they use in the book are supposedly standard sizing but their Large is not the same as my husband's so it's a tight, almost risque look for Mr T and I'll have to find one of his smaller, skinnier mates to offer it on to. Still, project ticked off and I'm happy with the results, especially some lovely huge vintage buttons that finished it off. Nancy looks good in it, hey?
As promised, after the Tea Dress I said I'd have a go at invisible zips and the Girl's Dress in TGBSB looked so pretty I rummaged around and made it up using some leftover Ikea fabric & some stripes for the bodice. A splash of ribbon here and there with a vintage ribbon gathered trim seemed to work ok BUT my zip is not invisible and my school report on this would definitely read 'must try harder'. I've actually used this method of zip insertion when making cushions, purely by fluke though, so even though I don't have an invisible zip foot, as they recommend in the book, I'm sure I could get closer next time.
Old bag hiding sadly behind new bag
For my Maggie Moo brand, I almost always come back to making bags. I do lots of other things too, but there's something very satisfying about bags. I think you're either a shoe girl or a bag… lady, and I fall into the latter. Can't be bothered with stilettos and peep toes, but come over all of a quiver if I see a snazzy clutch purse or an oh so functional messenger with just the right number of compartments! Most of my range is made of oilcloth, because having mastered how to sew it, I really enjoy using such a sturdy and practical material. Anyhoooo, back to bags, because they're such a personal item, when you find one that you like, you can use and abuse it until one day it may well, give one last breath and say ENOUGH already! That's what happened to Jan's bag. It was well loved alright, but could no longer reciprocate and she brought it to me to clone. This is the result, she was bold in her choice of fabric, this Ikea design is one of my faves, and hopefully theirs will be a partnership that will go on and on… Now you can't always say that about some killer heels that almost killed you at the end of the party and end up tossed to the back of the wardrobe in disgust...
One of the nicest things about crafting is sharing ideas with like minded people and seeing where the creative juices flow. Since I tend to work alone, (quite happily) in my shed, these interactions are really important to me and it always encourages me to get on and finish things or make something completely different.
Where I live, there are plenty of opportunities to take up new hobbies or join in groups and one of those is the Transition Keynsham Stitch 'n' Bitch (http://keynshamt.wordpress.com/stitch-and-bitch/), that I've been going to for a couple of years now. It's run by the lovely Erica who has a wealth of experience in sewing, knitting and crochet and she has helped me untangle small disasters on many occasions. This group opens up a new world to me within a small town and I love that this is something unique to us. It's not about being R&M's mummy or Mrs T, but just a love of making that brings us together from all our different backgrounds.
It was just a matter of time before a few friends and I suggested getting together for a similar purpose, to share skills and have fun creating and making. So far, I've learned how to make (& eat!) delicious curries and perfect my granny squares. It was my turn to host this week and I have to say I don't think my shed has ever been so hot - it must have been all the nimble fingers sewing and the flushed G&T tickled cheeks! Snap purses are BIG right now, I see them at all the fairs, so I thought we'd have a go at them. In true Blue Peter fashion, I did have 'a couple I'd made earlier' and we were all really pleased with our results.
Lorraine kindly passed on a girl's pattern & I've made Maggie a little nightie for these warm nights we're finally getting. Hoorah, it looks like summer out there!
Oooh, yeah, mustn't forget to share my top tips this week! My little scissors were getting blunt and I read somewhere that you could use foil to sharpen them - well it only bleedin' works,doesn't it! Just fold up a small piece of foil several times until it's about 8 sheets thick and cut it with the blunt scissors. After a few goes it starts to sharpen - MAGIC!
AND I've discovered spray painting, a bit late I realise as someone has already gone crazy in Bristol using it, but my needs were a little more domestic… I picked up a cheap wicker basket recently but didn't like it that much. A few wafts of spray paint though and I love it now!
This week I got down and dirty with jersey. Yep, and I can fairly safely say I will not be doing that again! I found this gorgeous brown/pink/orange jersey fabric recently and when I saw The Great British Sewing Bee's (TGBSB) pattern for a tea dress, I though they would make a perfect combo. Cutting out was ok using a rotary cutter, but sewing was, well, not without frustration. I'd read up on tips on how to sew jersey and I thought that having mastered oilcloth, I'd get a handle on this stuff easily enough. Using my ball-point needle and walker foot I began cautiously in the appropriate stretch stitch and whilst some of it went ok, most of it was very messy indeed and prompted rather a lot of swear words that filled the shed. I carried on regardless, desperately not wanting to add to my pile of ufos and actually, in the end, not peeking at inside seams at all, it has turned out fine and only took about an hour and a half to put together as it has only a few pieces (front, back, facings and sleeves). It fits, it's comfortable and I still LOVE the fabric. This is Nancy showing it off above, named by my daughter and I think it suits her. Said daughter is a little perturbed by her not having a head and begs me to give her the blue one that lives in my shed… relax it's polystyrene and generally just looks dandy sporting a venetian mask as I don't find myself at many fiestas around here.
Anyway, I digress… someone very kindly gave me an overlocker last year but I haven't yet tried it out; I'm sure that would have whipped through jersey without a hiccup, but I haven't yet plucked up the courage to use it. The GBSB pattern instructions were very clear but since I made the dress from jersey I avoided the need for an invisible zip, so I'll tackle that with my next project. Job done!
I also made these in the week, they're my hi-top bags in matt black oilcloth with deckchair and pink geo linings.
So for ages now, I've been thinking of writing a blog, to keep tabs on what I'm making and what things work and those that don't. There's always an excuse not to start writing - the children need feeding, the house is a mess, husband wants to chat etc. etc. but alas, today this all ends and my blog begins. Yay, bring it on and … YIKES!
Over the past few years I've renewed my pleasures of sewing, mainly through trial and error, but also following youtube clips and reading loads of magazines and books for inspiration. It's been great fun and I also manage to make some pocket money from the stuff I make, but ultimately it's all about me (ME ME ME!) having fun and sharing the joy of playing. Play should never be under-rated and I have the luxury of a shed to dabble in (steady on now, this isn't THAT kind of a blog) and since my youngest is starting school in September I figure I may as well carry on what I'm doing and see if I can take it to the next level, mostly in order to avoid getting a 'proper' job!
Here are some photos of the things I've made this month, starting with the Amy Butler Liverpool Shirt Dress I finally got around to making on Wednesday. I'd put off starting this for months because I had this gorgeous Amy Butler fabric (nanna chic) and was terrified that I'd cut it wrong and ruin it before it had even been near a needle. However, I'm glad to report that there was no swearing in the shed and the project was very straightforward. My spritely 80 year old mum came down to hold my hand as I made a calico toile (first time I've done that!) and she has lost none of her sewing know-how, just showing that the make do and mend mentality can survive! The dress took me about 4 hours to make as I was trying very hard not to cock up and I'm thrilled with the results and even wore it out on Friday. Responding to compliments with the 'I made it myself' line is always gratifying but I'm most pleased to have nailed some key dress-making techniques, like plackets (wonderful word, that), collar stands and darts.
To summarise the Liverpool review, I found the instructions to be really useful, breaking things down at every stage. Like others, I found the sleeve lengths to be better suited to apes, as the ¾ sleeve is a full sleeve on me. I heard the pattern was a little tight on the chest so instead of cutting 2 parts for the back I cut mine on the fold, giving me an extra cm or so to play with and keeping the lovely pattern unbroken. This worked well and I fumbled a dart mid-back to allow the collar to still fit. Anyway, here's the finished product, please be gentle with me, it's my first adult clothing I've made since those shocking jumpsuits I adored in my teens…
This blog should nudge me to continue documenting my efforts & after being hooked on the recent Great British Sewing Bee on BBC2, I thought a good challenge would be to work my way through each of the projects detailed in the book. There, I've said it out loud so now I'll have to do it!
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