Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Christmas Gift Ideas for those who sew

I don't think there's anything more pleasurable than putting together a wish list of sewing goodies. These are my own personal favourites, just in case Father Christmas is reading….

First and foremost and absolutely top of my list are these exquisite Turned Wooden Pincushions from Beyond Measure.

Aren't they just perfect?!
I only recently discovered Grace's online shop and have been blown away by her hand picked selection of 'beautiful things for folks who make'. Confession time, I was so terrified that they would sell out before my husband Father Christmas ordered them, I bought two myself. A large blue one for regular pins and a smaller, red one for fine pins.

I had to physically restrain myself from buying a couple of Leather Pumice Pincushions too.

These are made from bridle leather and hand stitched in Lancashire. You can read more about the process behind the making of them here. They're also filled with pumice powder to keep your pins and needles sharp!

After seeing Karen's video on How to Use a Clapper, I've decided I can't possibly live without one. This tulip wood clapper from English Couture Company comes highly recommended.

Oooh look scissors, in ALL the colours! Co-ordinate your scissors with your outfit with these hand crafted eight-inch dressmaking shears from Ernest Wright and Son. They even offer a re-sharpening facility, hoorah. 

Show the world your passion for stitching with some sewing themed jewellery. I've fallen hard for these vintage fabric button earrings, mounted as sterling silver studs, aren't they darling?! Happily, there's 10% discount off all jewellery purchased from Beyond Measure until 13th December, just use the code Jewel10

Or you could finish off your outfit with a cute scissor badge. Available in green or black perspex or cherry wood veneer.

I've been intrigued by the Now and Then range of vintage-inspired patterns ever since I first read about them. The Clara Bow Blouse is my personal favourite. Just saying.

And finally, a Maker's Workbook to record all your sewing projects, list your fabric stash and note down any pattern adjustments for next time. 

I'll admit, I already have a similar notebook, but I'm totally fickle and this one is easier on the eye! Plus it's A5 size and you can stick it in your bag when you go fabric shopping... It's made by the Swedish Tracing Paper Shop so you can get 10% off with the code JANE. 

I hope this has given you a few gift ideas, either for yourself or if you're buying for others who sew. Right, I'm off to email this list directly to my husband!  Happy Tuesday! x

Friday, 27 November 2015

Liberty Sophia Top

This pattern was a free gift with Love Sewing magazine a couple of issues back (Issue 19 to be precise). I'm dreadful at utilising free patterns from sewing magazines, but this one caught my eye - I liked the shape and it looked like it would work as a smart top to wear with jeans.

The top is a simple design, just front and back pieces cut on the fold with cap sleeves - it looked like it would be a speedy sew. In fairness, the actual sewing of the top didn't take long at all, it was the fitting that seemed to take thousands of years. I lengthened the front and back pieces by 5" as it's more of a cropped style in its original incarnation. Size wise I cut a size 14 at the bust and a size 10 everywhere else. My first muslin (yes, there were more than one!) showed that the front and back necklines were quite baggy and there was a lot of gaping at the armholes, I removed ⅝"from the front neckline and ⅜" from the back neckline which solved the neckline issue but the gaping armholes weren't so easy to remedy.

I tried to make a dart pivot adjustment (explained very clearly here) but just couldn't get it to work. I even cut a size smaller at the bust to see if that made any difference but if anything it seemed to accentuate the problem! In the end I added two armhole darts - not my finest fitting hour, but by this point I was past caring. They blend right into the fabric anyway and you hardly notice them. I got there in the end and I now have a sweet little going-out top, but crikey, what a rigmarole.

Onto the fabric… Will from Abakhan contacted me this week asking if I'd like to make something from one of the new Liberty Lawns they've just started stocking. Liberty Tana Lawn is my absolute favourite fabric to work with, so I gladly accepted his offer. The one I eventually settled on was a bit of a surprising choice for me - A Boy Dreams in green, designed by Graham Coxon from Blur for the Liberty Rocks collection. At first glance it looks like a plain, dark green fabric, but get a bit closer...  look, little kissing faces!

It's very plain and you wouldn't really know it was Liberty fabric unless you were in the know. I do like it though, and as is always the case with me, a plain top provides a perfect backdrop for a big, mad necklace!

...and accompanying big, mad face
The Graham Coxon print seems to have already sold out, but it's still worth hot footing it over to Abakhan to take a peek at the other Tana Lawn Prints in stock. They're currently half price (usual price £22.50), which is the bargain of the century!  Better hurry though, once they're gone, they're gone! Have a great weekend. x

Fabric was given to me free of charge to review. All views my own. 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Swedish Tracing Paper - review and discount

Let's talk about Swedish Tracing Paper! I've heard lots about it but never actually worked with it, so when I was asked if I'd like to review it recently, I was keen as mustard! I know lots of sewists trace patterns as standard to preserve the original, but I'm not one of them. If I'm really not sure of the fit then yes, I'll trace it, but if I can avoid doing so, I will. Which is why I've only just got round to trying it out (it was sent to me in September…)

The company who produce it in the UK - The Swedish Tracing Paper Shop - describe it as 'a soft and translucent paper, resistant to tear but easy to see through, making it ideal for copying the detail from existing patterns.' It's also described as being suitable for making toiles as it's relatively strong and can be sewn. I needed to blend a pattern between sizes and make a toile, so thought I'd put it to the test for both uses.

The appearance of Swedish Tracing Paper is a bit like interfacing, but because it's a paper rather than a fabric its texture is stiffer. It's very easy to draw on and mark with pencil and I could see through it perfectly to trace my pattern.

Even though it comes on a roll, it still lies nice and flat. The pattern I was tracing was a relatively simple design, so I didn't even bother with pattern weights. You might need to weigh it down though if you were tracing a pattern with lots of markings or darts on it.

Later that day I traced a second version of the bodice piece and made a couple of adjustments at the neck and bust. There was a fair bit of sellotape involved and the Swedish Tracing Paper didn't tear once. Impressive!

When I came to sew the pattern pieces together to make my toile, I found its paperiness was a disadvantage. It doesn't have the drape of a fabric (or even an interfacing) so crumpled like mad during its stint at the sewing machine. Here's what it looked like after I'd sewn the front and back together.

It presses well though, I used a low setting on my iron and the creases came out immediately.

The material is strong enough to take stitches, but because it's paper there's absolutely no give. I noticed this particularly when I tried the toile on. The pattern I used wasn't an especially fitted design, but I found it impossible to get it over my head without ripping it. The lack of drape wasn't helpful in determining the fit either. I don't think it's similar enough to fabric to give a true idea of how a finished garment would look.

My toile -  after it was tried on
My conclusion is that for tracing pattern pieces Swedish Tracing Paper is excellent. It has good transparency, lies flat, is easy to draw on and easy to apply tape to - I'm a convert! As a material for making a toile with, not so impressive  - I probably won't use it for that purpose again.  I'm glad I put it to the test though!

If you fancy trying Swedish Tracing Paper out for yourself, you can claim 10% off by using the code JANE here. Happy Sunday! x

A roll of Swedish Tracing Paper was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Faux Fur Scarf Tutorial

For instant warmth and chic, you can't go wrong with a faux fur scarf. They immediately add glamour to an outfit and they keep your neck warm at the same time! They're also super easy to make, so today I've put together a quick tutorial. 

The majority of faux fur scarves in the shops are black or brown, but I decided to go for a silvery grey, with a royal blue satin lining, just to be different. The fur is a lovely neutral shade and will go with everything. Both fabrics are from Weaver Dee, who stock a great selection of colours for each type of fabric (faux fur here and satin here). 

Before we start I should point out two things I discovered whilst working with faux fur.

1. Once you cut it, faux fur goes everywhere, so have a dustpan and brush handy to keep all that fur and fluff under control.

2. The combination of faux fur and satin is hellish in terms of shifting around. I'd highly recommend a walking foot if you have one and use lots and lots of pins! 

Faux Fur Scarf Tutorial
You will need:
½ metre faux fur
½ metre satin for lining

1. Cut two rectangles, one from the faux fur and one from the satin, each measuring 10" wide x 59" long. I based this measurement on the full width of the satin.

2.  Pin the rectangles right sides together. Don't forget to use lots of pins to stop the fabrics shifting.

3. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew all the way round each side, leaving a turning gap of about 6" along one short edge.  

4. Snip the corners diagonally and trim down the seam allowances of the fur by half to reduce bulk.  Your scarf will be looking a bit of a mess at this point, with fur everywhere, but have faith!

5. Turn the scarf the right way round through the turning gap. Poke the corners out gently using the end of a paintbrush or similar.

6. Press carefully using a low heat setting and a pressing cloth if needed. Make sure the seam allowance in the turning gap is pressed under too. 

7. Hand sew the turning gap closed.

Ta-da, you've made a gorgeous faux fur scarf!

I think these scarves would make wonderful Christmas gifts. The satin and faux fur gives them a luxurious feel and there's no tricky fitting - one size fits all!

I hope this tutorial is useful and if anything doesn't make sense, please shout! If you do make your own scarf, I'd love it if you sent me a link. Happy sewing!  x

The fabrics for this tutorial were kindly provided by Weaver Dee

Monday, 9 November 2015

Quilt plans

Despite having made three quilts (here, here and here), I still haven't exactly been bitten by the quilting bug. All three quilts were gifts for family members, so maybe it's because I'm always one step removed from the finished product? I'm not sure. Whatever the reasons, I've decided to give quilt making another go, but this time, the quilt will be for ME!  Call me an old lady, but I like nothing better than to be wrapped in a blanket whilst watching TV or reading on the sofa. The blanket I currently use is a ratty old fleece specimen, so a replacement in the form of a quilt is long overdue. It can serve double duty by brightening up the end of my bed during the day too. 

Colour-wise, I've been inspired by this beautiful baby quilt by Crafty Blossom

A Quilt for Harry by Crafty Blossom
Mustard and grey are two colours that crop up quite a lot in my bedroom furnishings. They feature in this print by Eloise Renouf...

...and in the fabric that covers this chair

My bedroom walls are painted cream and green/blue so I'll be picking out both of these colours too. The fabrics I've chosen are all from M is for Make, with the exception of the Hemingway grid print (RHS in the second picture) which is left over from my 1950's shoulder tie dress. 

As I'm a beginner, my previous quilts have all used the simplest of designs. So this time round, instead of using all squares, I'm going to be using…. rectangles and squares, talk about edgy! For the design, I'll be using the Strawberry Fields Bricks Pattern by Amy Smart for Moda, which seems relatively idiot proof. And because I can't bear the thought of cutting up countless plain, cream squares for the lighter accents, I'll use these pre-cut squares. It may not be strictly ballroom, but do I care? Nope. 

I'm making slow progress so far. I've almost cut out all of the rectangles and I'm hoping I'll soon be able to play with the patchwork pieces on the floor to make a pattern, which is probably my favourite bit! If I get my finger out, I may get this finished by Christmas, as long as there aren't too many party dresses clamouring for my attention in the meantime. The fact that I've outlined my plans on the blog will certainly give me a bit of a kick up the arse anyway.  Anybody else have any mad quilt plans? x

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Walkley in stripes

Behold my latest stripey top, made from the Walkley pattern from Wendy Ward's MIY Collection.

I have to be honest, some of the MIY Collection patterns are a little too unstructured for my taste, but this one caught my eye after seeing Scruffy Badger's deliberately mismatched striped version. I'm not edgy enough to go for mismatched stripes myself, but I liked the fact that the top looked both contemporary and smart, so into the basket it went. 

The Walkley is a very simple pattern for a sleeveless vest or dress. The PDF version tiles together using just eight sheets of A4. And if, like me, you don't go down the different fabrics/colour blocking route, there's only one front and one back piece to cut out, yay! The only thing I was wary of was the boat neck. I can't tolerate very high necks and this one looked a bit borderline. I always seem to end up with gaping too, especially if the boat neck is very wide. I compared the pattern piece to other boat necked patterns I own and it did seem wide, so I removed a 1" wedge from the neckline using this tutorial. That was the only adjustment I made.

The pattern comes in three sizes depending on your bust measurement. My measurements corresponded with the middle size, but I cut the smallest size as I wanted a closer fit. The style is supposed to skim, not be skin tight. The finished vest is quite fitted, but that's the result I was after and I'm pleased. If I was using a lighter, more clingy fabric, or making the dress version, then I'd definitely cut a larger size!

Constructing the top couldn't have been easier, not surprising really as the front and back are cut from the same piece. I sewed the whole thing on my regular sewing machine for a change. I used a jersey needle and sewed the shoulder seams and side seams with a tricot stitch, which is one of the stretch stitch options on my machine. I only discovered this stitch recently when I was looking through my instruction manual for something else and it's great! It has lots of stretch but is very strong. The only downside is that it takes ages to sew. The neckline, armholes and hem were turned under and hemmed with a double needle. These areas are all drafted with additional shaping so that they lie flat when folded, which I thought was a nice touch. 

Part of the general pattern instructions is a Working with Knit Fabrics section which gives some useful tips, including stabilising shoulder seams with tape. A tiny gripe, but I would have preferred this tip to have been in the step-by-step instructions instead - it's the sort of thing that can easily be overlooked in a general section. There was also no instruction to stay stitch or stabilise the neckline, which I think is especially important for a wide boat neck. Having suffered from baggy necklines in the past I wasn't taking any chances and zig-zagged standard stay tape to my neckline, about 1cm from the edge. This, coupled with the wedge I removed from the pattern piece definitely made the neckline feel more stable. Apart from these two points, I found the instructions were well explained with clear illustrations.

The fabric I used was a Kitt waffle knit from Fabric Godmother, which tragically they seem to have sold out of since I bought it. It's a lovely ponte de roma knit with an unusual waffle texture on the right side and a soft, fleecy texture on the inside. It has a decent amount of stretch but is still quite a stable knit - there was no rippling on the hems. I think it works particularly well with this pattern.

I'm pleasantly surprised how much I like the Walkley vest! Although it's simple, it feels like a cut above lots of my other striped tops (of which there are many). I'll almost certainly be making other versions, especially as it's so quick to put together. Happy Tuesday! x

Monday, 26 October 2015

Mademoiselle Privé

It seems fitting that the next blog post after my Little Black Dress post should be about the Chanel exhibition. The Mademoiselle Privé exhibition is now in its final week at the Saatchi Gallery in London, so on Sunday morning I decided to pay a visit. I got there 15 minutes before the gallery opened at 10am, but still had to wait a good hour before I got in - be warned, the queues are very long. The upside of the long wait was that I got to indulge in some top quality people watching. Mostly fashion types checking out bags and giving each other the side eye - highly entertaining!

I'd describe Mademoiselle Privé as a cross between a fashion exhibition and an art installation. It's described as "a journey through the origins of CHANEL's creations, capturing the charismatic personality and irreverent spirit of Mademoiselle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld." But despite being spread over three floors, there was next to no information to read - it was very much a visual experience. 

An illustrated version of Chanel herself appears amongst the displays in the first couple of rooms as moving footage (see below), which was quite charming.

These rooms also focus on Chanel's early stint as a milliner and her visits to Scotland where she was inspired to design her jersey sportswear. 

Other rooms focused on her famous perfume and the "Bijou de Diamonds" - Chanel's one and only high jewellery collection which she created in 1932. 

Personally I didn't think there were nearly enough garments on display, and those that were exhibited were in darkened rooms lit up by spotlights. Visitors were herded through the Haute Couture and Jewellery rooms at quite a brisk pace, which was frustrating as I really wanted to spend more time studying the dresses. 

These rooms were also policed by security guards who gave you a good telling off for ventured too closely to the displays. This made it really difficult to see any detail in the garments and almost impossible to see the jewellery. 

At first glance, I thought the criss cross effect on the dress above was a fabric design. It was only when I got closer that I realised the dress was made up of hundreds of tiny ribbons of crepe sewn together. 

It was exquisite and I would have LOVED to have examined it in more detail, sadly it wasn't to be - I got a stern telling off just for standing close enough to take this photo!

One of the highlights of the exhibition for me was a ten minute movie showing the ghost of Chanel (portrayed by Geraldine Chaplin) visiting the modern day Chanel HQ and having a full blown argument with Karl Lagerfeld! It really made me laugh!

The exhibition was free, which I do appreciate, but I would have been equally happy to pay an admission fee and spend a bit more time examining the frocks! Grumbling aside, everything I did see was a feast for the eyes and I'm pleased I went. I was also given a free tote bag and poster, which was very generous! If you're a Chanel fan I do think it's worth making the effort to go and visit.

Mademoiselle Privé is on at the Saatchi Gallery, London, and runs until 1st November. Further details can be found here


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