Monday, January 31, 2011

Swing Dress Sewalong # 1 - ePattern fun

I've officially decided to go with my last fabric option for this sewalong. It's by far the nicest and fits in with the colour palette I've chosen for the Colette Patterns Spring Palette Challenge.  It's quite flimsy though so I'm going to underline the bodice I think, and cut a lining for the skirt. I've never done either of these before but Gertie has a really good tutorial for underlining which looks pretty manageable, and I don't anticipate cutting a lining to be an issue at all. Famous last words, ha, ha!!

On the pattern front, due to no stock of paper patterns being available in the UK, I ordered the e pattern, with no small degree of trepidation I might add! I needn't have worried because it was pretty straightforward to construct, if a little time consuming. It took me a couple of hours from start to finish...

I found the best approach to be to lay everything out first. The pattern comes off the printer in the correct order, so as long as you keep things in this order it's pretty straight forward. I decided it would be easier to work on one pattern piece at a time rather than a whole sheet. So I'd seperate all the bits I needed for say, the sleeve, and work on that on it's own.

I used a craft knife to trim off any excess so that the lines on the pieces "butted" up to eachother exactly. I'd stick the pices in place at strategic points until I was happy overall and then I'd stick down properly. (I'd get some low tack tape next time as I think it would be better for adjusting and lining up the pieces.) As I completed each piece I'd cut it out properly, set it to one side and work my way through the next pattern piece, until I'd done them all. Woo hoo!

Next dilemma? Which size to trace off?  I'll probably end up transitioning between sizes. But the problem is, my measurements are all over the chart, AND judging by the experiences of those who are already at the muslin stage of this dress, it comes up big...
My bust and hips are both 40". My waist is 35" and falls between a 20 & a 22.  So I'll call it a 21 for arguments sake. But if the bodice comes up as big as it seems to, then ignoring any other factors I'd cut it at a 16. But that would mean transitioning 2.5 sizes up from the bust to the waist, and then transitioning back down 2.5 sizes from the waist to the hip. That would just be daft wouldn't it?? Anyone got any ideas? Should I just go for an 18 at the bust and hip and transition to a 20 at the waist. Then once I've cut the pattern, slash and spread to add in a little extra at the waist, and deal with any extra fabric in the bodice after that? Hmmmmm...think I need input....

Tired Tornado...

My Little Tornado has been a bit of a poorly puppy these last few days. So we cuddled on the sofa alot and watched kids TV....
 ...one minute he was chattering away, the next....

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sewing Basics # 6 - Anatomy of a Sewing Machine

This is my sewing machine. I love my sewing machine, I really do. We are officially a pair. But our relationship wasn't (still isn't) always plain sailing. I had to learn to love my machine, because when I first started sewing there were so many times I hated it. I mean really hated  it, and felt like locking it away and throwing away the key, in a frustrated strop (a little insight into my personality there, lol!). These days we get on pretty well. Our relationship is based on a growing understanding of how she ticks (It's a pretty one way relationship here because I don't think she's put any effort into understanding how I tick..). Once I'd worked this out, things got alot calmer and more productive between us. So I thought I'd share a little tour of my sewing machine and what I've learnt about her....

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Colette Spring Palette Challenge # 2 - The Plan is...

So this is a rough plan of what I'm hoping to sew as part of my Spring wardrobe...

Tops:  Hoping to sew at least 2 or 3 tops. in a simple cami style and perhaps a Sencha. I've been pondering the Sencha for a while. I wasn't sure about the darts at the waistline for me (and my Mum Tum more specifically!) But I'm confident with what I've learnt recently I should be able to make it work for me.

Skirts: I have rediscovered my skirt mojo this year and am hoping to sew a couple for my Spring wardrobe. Softly gathered, midi length and drapey like in the photo, and maybe a dirndle skirt in a bolder print.

Trousers:  The 2 fashion photos are from Primarks's season preview (via Calivintage). I a-d-o-r-e those wide leg trousers and they are a must sew, as far as my Spring wardrobe is concerned. Again, in a nice lightweight drapey fabric.

Dresses: Apart from the aformentioned wardrobe basics I am aiming for 2 dresses. I am participating in Casey's swing dress sewalong and the fabric I'm using is the light grey one at the bottom of the palette.
I'm also very close to finishing the drafting process on my "Go To" dress. (That's the sketch in the photo) So hope to make one out of the pale grey "basket weave" vintage fabric that I thrifted recently (pictured with the navy fabric).

Phew! I make that 7-10 items. Am I giving myself too much to do?? Probably, but I always seem to. Having said that the 2 more complex projects (ie the dresses) are already underway and the rest are pretty straightforward "short term" projects. I figure one a week is achieveable...We'll see. Aim high, that's what I say!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Anyone Fancy a Knitalong.....

Tasha of By Gum, By Golly! has very kindly allowed me to join a vintage knitalong that she is hosting over on her blog. It's not actually starting until the 1st March which gives me plenty of time to finish some of my many "current" projects. Tasha herself is just too cool, and an experienced knitter who I'm confident will be able to offer fantastic advice and support along the way. (I'll probably need it!)

At the moment Tasha and her fellow knitters are debating which of these 6 gorgeous patterns to choose...

If you fancy joining or want to know more, just pop over to Tasha's blog and say hi!

Colette Patterns Spring Palette Challenge # 1

Is anyone else doing the Colette Patterns Spring Pallette Challenge??? I though it would be the ideal opportunity for me to plan my sewing projects in a slightly more targetted way! Coral and salmon tones have been making me drool recently and my new hair colour just seems to make the colour pop really nicely. It teams beautifully with my penchant for neutrals like grey and french navy AND will be a nice twist on a nautical theme (since I now live in a boating obsessed community I should fit right in!) which I absolutely love.

Anyway, this is what's been inspiring me recently...

and the colours I shall be combining into my wardrobe via sewing projects and my thrifting adventures...

The fabric I'll be using in Casey's Swing Dress Sewalong is a beautiful silver grey. I have a lovely cotton mix fabric in a French navy colour to use up for another sewing project, and thrifting finds recently have included a coral silk top and vintage sailors buttons.....hmmm, it's all coming together....

Picture sources: CrochetieAsos, Missymellie,  Dewitt & CoSmartShopBuy, Sara Gilbane, Sterling Keeper, Lauren Maurer, Olive Singley, natzfirefly,   Curve Artcardcowshopgeorgiamiss, Vinyl45s, JB Quilting, Love-WornWestend.Cats,   ShopFrolick.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Restyle # 3 - Vintage Plaid Dress

I was pleased enough with this particular restyle to have my photo taken in it, and I HATE  having my photo taken,ha!

Here's how it started life..£4.50 from a charity shop. Sleeveless, ankle length vintage Monsoon dress...
Sorry about the colour variance in the photos!  Anyhow, this is how it ended up (aaaand it has roomy pockets hidden in the side seams, yay!)...

Basically I shortened and hemmed it, then used the left over fabric to (crudely!) draft some sleeves. I really like the length of the sleeves so shall be repeating that particular aspect with a bit more attention to detail ( a longer sleeve head according to my tutor!). Overall though, I am sooo excited with this restyle. Think I may change the buttons and try it with a belt/cardigan/shirt. But I do officially like it. Wow! Progress is being made...

Sewing Basics # 5 - Quick overcast hem

Whilst restyling one of my recent thrifting finds I thought I'd seize the opportunity to take a few photos in case any non sewers want to know just how quick and easy it is to hem a garment! (Hey if I can do it!!)  Just shortening skirts and dresses can change the look dramatically and make a charity shop shocker into something supremely wearable. So if you have such a "I keep meaning to do it" project stashed at the back of your wardrobe, dig it out now and check this out...

Cut your hem about 1cm longer than you want the finished length to be. Then "finish" the raw edge. You can use an overlocker/serger if you have access to one. You can use the overcast foot with a zig zag stitch on a regular sewing machine (this is the method I've used here). Or you can overcast stitch the raw edge by hand. This is to stop the raw edge fraying.
Next, fold the 1cm hem allowance over and press so you have a crisp folded edge...
Work your way all along the hem like this, pinning in place as you go...
I tend to pin the hem at my intersecting side seams first to help keep things even all the way round...
(my zig zagging went a bit wobbly here because I was sewing over bulk)...
This is a good illustration of why I used this hem finish instead of a neater, turned under finish. If I had turned the hem under twice before stitching, the bulk at this corner would have been ridiculous and looked awful. That part of the garment was a double layer of fabric to start with. Once I'd turned and pressed the 1cm hem allowance there were 4 layers of fabric. To turn the hem under again would mean sewing through six layers of fabric. Since this is a restyle, I had to compromise on finish and work round existing seams and bulk. If you're making garments from scratch, then it's a different matter...
Periodiacally check the amount you're turning over and pressing is the same all the way round, just to keep things nice and even. You can use a seam gauge, tape measure of ruler...
Once you've pressed and pinned all the way round, run a line of stitching close to the zig zagged edge. Keep your line of stitching a consistent distance from the folded edge all the way round. It's this consistency that will show on the right side and determine whether your finished hemming looks wobbly or straight. This is how it will look from the wrong side...(you can see that the stitching line runs very slightly away from the zig agged edge but remains at an even distance from the folded edge all the way along).
And from the right side...
And there you have it. Simples!! (Will be posting full photos from this restyle very shortly...)


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Giveaway Winners.....

Thanks for all your lovely comments, and for taking an interest in my random posts on sewing, thrifting, and my Little Tornado....Onto the giveaway...
 Well done to Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons fame (necklace on left) and Izzy of Strawberry Moth (necklace on right). If you message me your details I'll get them right out to you. Sorry to everyone else! I'll be doing more of these from time to time. Thanks again. :)

Oh, I've got a couple of restyles coming in the next day or so that I'm really chuffed with, progress on my "Go To" dress, more sewing basics and the start of my muslin for Casey's Swing Dress sewalong. Plus some more thrifty finds. Phew!! So watch this space...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Check this out # 3 - Hacked off with tissue patterns???

Ever have one of those days when you just want to screw up your sewing project and tear up your stupid pattern?? Ok, that's just me then!! But take a look at these tutorials. Gorgeous ideas for alternative uses for your old tissue patterns if you've had enough of sewing with them...!


Do you aver recycle old paper into pretty things??

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sewing Basics # 4- Decoding Pattern Envelopes

Looking over a pattern envelope for the first time can be pretty overwhelming from a beginner's perspective. I had no notion what a "notion" was and why on earth my size 14 figure was a rather depressing size 18-20 as far as the pattern makers were concerned (thanks a bunch!). So here's what I've learnt about what on earth they're going on about...

The Front
Apart from being the side with all the pretty pictures on (I'm a total sucker for those!) the front of the pattern envelope also contains some important basic information...

It shows an artists impression (or sometimes a photograph) of what the finished garment should roughly resemble, along with the different style variations included in the pattern (View A, View B). There will usually be a manufacturers name (McCalls) a style code (5782) and the sizes (Size 13) included in the pattern. Sometimes along with the relevant body measurement(s) for that particular size (Bust 33).

The Back
This is definately the "business" side of the envelope. ALOT of important info here...
1: Pattern Code: Manufacturers unique code identifying that specific pattern. This is quite handy to use as a search criteria if you're looking for a specific pattern on ebay. Etsy or the wider internet


2: Fabric Requirements: This will tell you what length (yardage) of fabric you'll need. Fabrics come in different widths. If your fabric is 45" wide let's say, you'll need more yardage than if it were 60" wide. So it's important to know how wide your fabric is before you can work out the length you need. With/without nap requirements will also be stated on most envelopes. "Nap" is where a fabric has a texture/pile (velvet) or pattern/design that has to flow in the same direction on all parts of the garment when cut. This can limit the efficient use of fabric when laying your pattern pieces out. So yardage requirements for "with nap" fabrics will be higher than for those without a nap. This section will also detail how much lining or interfacing you might need.

3: Body Measurements: Ahh, my nemesis! This is really important. Take your own measurements, (Usuall bust, waist and hip is sufficient) and compare them to the measurements in the chart. Select the size that your measurements match up to on the chart. You may be a dress size 12 in the shops, but your measurements will put you around a 14/16 in pattern terms. If they're mixed like mine; for instance if your bust measurement comes out as a 16, your waist a 14 and your hips an 18; then the size you select will depend on the style of the garment and how many alterations you are prepared to make. If you fall in between sizes on the chart, then you can select the size either side and make the necessary alterations up or down. Again, this will depend upon the style of the garment.

4: Fabric Suggestions: Take note of these! I have ignored these in the past and it has rarely turned out well. It's fine to be imaginative with fabric I think, but starting out I find it easier to stick within the general parameters of fabric weight and drape that the pattern suggests.Worth spending some time "fondling" the fabrics in your local haberdashery, getting to know what the different fabrics look, drape and feel like.

5: Notions(!): These are all the other bits you'll need. Zips, thread, shoulder pads (ok maybe not shoulder pads!) bias tape etc

6: Garment Description: A brief written description of the garment and any specific construction details.

7: Back view: Usually a line drawing showing the back of the garment (sometimes the front again too) in a more simplistic and technical way. Detailing where the seams are, fastenings etc.

8: Pattern Pieces: A scale drawing of the pattern pieces included in the pattern

The information on the back of the envelope will vary between manufacturers and depending on the age of the pattern. Some will be omitted, and some envelopes will have extra information not mentioned here. But the pattern envelope pictured is a good example and covers all the key info that is on pretty much every pattern. Hope it's of help to someone...

Check this out # 2 . . . . fancy a quickie ;)

I don't know about you, but every now and then I just need a quick fix of something creative. Nothing fancy. Sometimes, I just wanna make something. There's something uniquely encouraging about being able to run something up in a couple of hours. It always reminds me that I can sew, when more challenging projects are making me doubt my abilities! When I first started sewing, I was always in a rush to get to the finished product. (These days I seem to enjoy the process as much as the outcome). When you're getting bogged down in the details, it can make progress frustratingly slow. Sometimes it's good to remember that sewing doesn't have to be complicated. The simplest shapes are often just as fabulous as complicated couture!
So here are some excellent "quickie" tutorials (none of which require patterns) that I've come across on my travels around the blogosphere. Guaranteed to show you you can actually sew pretty darn well!!

For a real quickie you can make a skirt in 20 minutes using this tutorial over on  Grosgrain. It doesn't get much simpler than this.

Just as simple, and still a quickie (but not as quick as 20mins!), is this fab Party Skirt Tutorial by Nayantara over on BurdaStyle

and if you're feeling you want something a little more, this gathered dress turorial from Very Purple Person is fabulously straightforward







I'd love to hear how you get on if you try any of these out!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thrifty Finds # 8 and a Giveaway (NOW CLOSED)

I realised this morning that I've passed a bit of a blogging milestone! We're up to (and past) 50 blogosphere friends.  I promised some photos of yesterday's thrifting. Well here's a peak...
By way of celebration of the 50+ milestone, I'm offering both these little vintage beauties up for grabs, as a hello, welcome, and thank you to you all. To enter just leave me a comment to this post before Monday midnight, (GMT) and state which one you'd like to be entered into the giveaway for. ;) NOW CLOSED. THANKYOU. :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

A day of firsts....

We had an afternoon out & about today. We thought Elliott deserved a few treats after he passed his 2 year development review with flying colours this morning (largely by charming the pants off his Health Visitor!). So we had lot's of mildly naughty stuff......


Somehow it's turned out to be a bit of a day of mini milestones. Apart from his 2 year review, he's had his first big boy haircut at the barbers with Daddy. His first "Babyccino" bought for him by Mummy. (Daddy actually thought Mummy had bought caffeine for the Little Tornado. Sheesh!)
He looked so grown up and serious in the other photos. This one encompasses why my Little Tornado just cracks me up pretty much ALL the time......

Oh, and some SERIOUS thrifting went on today. Photos to follow...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Swing Dress Sewalong - Another Fabric Option

Ok so most people liked the darker fabric of the 2 in my previous post. I'm inclined to agree, BUT, I had this niggling doubt about the fabric being too Winter when I was really wanting something a little more Spring. Then I found this in the stash at college on Wednesday...
I think this may be IT. What do you think? I'm terrible at identifying fabrics but it's very soft, smooth and drapey. (Crepe? Crepe de Chine?) Probably a challenge to sew. Probably need underlining. But the colour...and those sweet floral motifs...

Restyles - Up next....

I've started a restyle on this linen La Redoute wrap dress. It's actually a nice enough dress. It just makes me look like a sackof potatoes when I wear it, so I never have (not in public at least!). Which is a bit of a waste really...

The early signs are that this could be a good one (let's just hope I don't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory)...


Drafting my "Go To" Dress( # 6) - Nearly there....

Since my last "Go To" post I have sewn the alterations to the 2nd muslin, so thought it would be a good opportunity to compare and contrast...

The Front...

Done:  Since the first draft, the side seams and shoulder seams have been let out twice. Bust darts have been added from the armholes and a graduated tuck taken from the centre front.

To Do: Transfer the dart markings to the paper pattern and reshape the armholes. Take the CF tuck from the paper pattern and reshape the neckline.


The Back...

Done:  Since the first draft, the side seams and shoulder seams have been let out twice. A sway back adjustment to remove excess fabric around the lower back

To Do: Adjust the back hem so it sits parallel to the floor.

What I've learnt...

1) The second muslin differs in that I left the seam allowances off the hem, armholes and neckline. The only purpose they served was to add length where it wasn't needed and contribute to distorting the fit. Especially at the armholes and waist, where the extra seam allowance meant the hem sat past my natural waistline. On the 2nd muslin I only added seam allowances where I had seams. Namely the shoulders and the side seams.

2) The fabric will tell you what it wants to do. This was so clearly illustrated for me by the set of pictures in my previous post. The bust darts and CF tuck basically formed themselves. I didn't have to do any complicated assessments of the fit, just look at what the fabric was doing for itself. The angles of the creases the fabric was forming around the bust and centre front, are pretty much identical to those of the final darts.

3) It is sooooo worth making the effort to make a muslin when you make a garment for the first time. I am chuffed to pieces with  the fit I've managed to achieve so far. I can't imagine I'd have been quite as chuffed if I'd used my favourite fabric and ended up with a fit like the first muslin!!

Click to read post one, two, three, four or five of the "Go To" drafting process.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sewing Basics # 3 - How to Make a Tailor's Ham

I don't know about you but there are some seams that I find tricky to press on a flat surface. (Some darts, curved seams etc) This is where a tailor's ham comes in. They're not essential but they are pretty handy. You can find out more about them here. We made some at college today so thought I'd share a quick tutorial for anyone interested in making one...


1) Sketch an elongated egg shape onto some pattern paper. (Mine was approximately 30cm in length). You'll need a scrap of calico or other pure medium weight cotton fabric, and a scrap of suiting wool or similar. Again this needs to be pure wool. Layer one on top of the other and pin your ham pattern to it.
2) Once you've cut out, you'll end up with something like this (you can now discard your paper pattern):
3) Sew all around the edges leaving a 2" opening. It's a good idea to do a double row of stitching one ontop of the other as the seams need to be pretty strong:
 4) Trim the excess seam allowances....
 5) Turn the right way out and stuff with clean sawdust/wood shavings (available from any pet store) using a wide necked funnel or a cone made out of  strong card. Keep stuffing (a bit laborious but hang in there!) and compacting it down (really pack it good and tight) using a knitting needle or similar until it is a very solid smooth "ham" shape :
6) Hand stitch the opening closed:













7) And there you have it!: