Friday 25 November 2011

Sewing conversations...

Earlier this week I weaved my way across London to visit the lovely, shiny new Ray Stitch shop.

After reading two great reviews of the shop here and here, I was desperate for a visit, so on the tube I hopped.  Straight away, I realised to my horror that I'd forgotten my book, so resorted to reading the instructions from a sewing pattern I just happened to have in my bag (Vogue 8409 if you're interested). This is not an unusual occurrence for me as I love reading sewing patterns. What was interesting though was the reaction of the two women sitting opposite me.  They stopped their conversation and watched me greedily as I worked my way through the instruction sheet.  Within minutes, we'd all started chatting and were soon swapping notes on fabric (of course), sewing machines and their respective feet, and the trials and errors of sewing on the bias.  We even managed to swing the conversation round to who we thought would win Strictly Come Dancing (Jason Donovan for me, Harry from McFly for my new pals).  When it was time for them to disembark, I bid them a cheery goodbye, along with detailed directions on how to get to the Goldhawk Road.

Now, I've lived in London since 1994 and not once, in all that time, have I ever had a conversation with a stranger on a tube before.  It could be any number of reasons but I like to think it was a mutual liking for sewing which brought about this happy exchange.  I've always found it pretty easy to chat to people, but I've noticed that having a passion for a hobby has made me even more likely to witter on.  By and large people seem to enjoy hearing about it too - if you're passionate about your subject, it makes for a more interesting conversation.  How about you?  Has your love of sewing opened up new friendships.  Is sewing like dog walking, in that it allows you to start up conversations with complete strangers?  I'd love to hear your views.

And what of Ray Stitch?  Well, after a quick coffee with Karen, who'd very generously used up her lunch hour to come and meet me, my purchases were remarkably restrained.  In a nutshell, Ray Stitch is a fine little hidden gem and I'll definitely be visiting again.  This is what I restricted myself to:

Pins for fine fabric, pricey but worth it to avoid unsightly holes on occasion.

A sewing gauge - I've wanted one of these for ages.

Colette patterns Peony.  How could I resist with so many gorgeous versions doing the rounds?

And a metre of this lovely print which I have plans for.....

Have a great weekend everybody. x

Sunday 20 November 2011

Apple Print Ginger

Let's talk about the Colette patterns Ginger skirt.  I love the shape of this skirt: it's simple but so flattering, definitely a cut above your usual A-line.  I made my first one back in the summer and it was an instant winner - a good fit, ridiculously easy to make and denim.  What's not to like about a denim skirt?  I've worn it to death, and when it finally falls to pieces, I'll have to make an exact replica.  To avoid this sad occurrence, I thought I'd better make a second one, as contingency.

I made my second one from an apple print needle cord which I managed to nab when Kitschy Coo was selling off some of her stash.  Kitschy Coo makes children's clothes and I think the fabric was originally used for that purpose.  Now, the thought of a 42 year old woman dressed in children's clothes does conjure up images of horror, but the muted colours and Orla Kiely-esque print made me think I could just about get away with making it into a skirt.

Spot the deliberate mistake...
The only slight problem with the fabric was the lack of it: I had barely a yard.  By this point though, I'd absolutely set my heart on an apple print Ginger so there was no going back.  Thanks to some extremely cunning pattern placement, I just about managed to cut out all the pieces, but some apples are (ahem) facing the wrong direction....

The needle cord is quite thin and I was concerned about it riding up when wearing tights, so a lining was required.  I just happened to have some left over from my jacket that was the perfect colour - yay.

Lining it was pretty simple, thanks to Scruffy Badger who gave me the idea.  I made an exact copy of the skirt with lining fabric, but didn't sew up the centre back seam.

I then followed the directions in the pattern for attaching the inside facing, simply continuing to sew down to the end of the invisible zip on both sides.

I then sewed up the centre back seam.  Because there was a full lining rather than just a facing, I omitted the step which attached the back facing to the front.  I'm glad I made the effort: it's much slinkier to wear with a lining and I managed to stash bust at the same time - hooray.

The light is shocking at the moment for photographing garments, but the background of the fabric is actually a dark chocolatey brown.  So I can wear it with brown tights and boots.  And a big, mad necklace….

...and if I want to show off the high waistband, I can wear it with my 1930's blouse.

Another thumbs up for the Ginger, it's a great addition to my autumn wardrobe.  Next up I'm going to tackle the Jasmine blouse.  Happy Sunday. x

Saturday 19 November 2011

Snood winner...!!!

And the winner of the beautiful snood, hand knitted by my lovely mum's fair hands is..... Stitch and Witter!

Hooray, hooray, Stitch and Witter has a fab blog: she makes some gorgeous clothes and, like me, is a bit obsessed by polka dots, hooray again!  E-mail me your address Joanne and I'll get it in the post to you.

Thank you so much to everybody who entered the giveaway and for the very kind comments about my mum - I've passed them on and she's brimming with pride! Right, off to try and get some shots of my new Ginger skirt whilst there's a tiny bit of light.  x

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Kid's Wash Bag Tutorial

Afternoon all.  Today I thought I'd share my tutorial for kid's wash bags with you. 

I've been selling these wash bags at craft fairs for the past six months and they've proved very popular, I think because they're small and cute!  Once you've cut the fabric out, they probably take no more than an hour to make, so they're relatively easy too.  Here goes...

You will need:

2 x outer fabric (quilting weight is good) each piece measuring 32cm long by 27cm wide
2 x waterproof fabric* each piece measuring the same size as above

1 x length of piping cord or similar, minimum 60cm long
*I get my waterproof fabric from here and it's always been good quality and good value.  I use white as it goes with everything but there are lots of other colours available.

1) Pin together one of the outer fabric pieces and one of the waterproof pieces, wrong sides together.  If you're not sure about the waterproof fabric, the right side is shiny and slippery and the wrong side is very slightly tacky.  Do the same with the remaining two pieces.

2) I make my wash bags using French seams so they're enclosed.  To do this, pin the two double sided pieces wrong sides together so you have the two waterproof layers facing each other and the two pieces of printed fabric on the outside.  Make two marks on one long side, one about 5cm from the top and one 1.5 cm from the top.

3) Using a narrow seam allowance (about the width of your presser foot is fine), start at one top corner and sew down that long edge, along the bottom edge and up the other side, stopping at the first mark.  Backstitch a few times. Continue from the 1.5cm mark to the top of the fabric, backstitching again. 

You should have a small gap of about 3.5cm at the top of one long side

4) Cut all threads and trim seam allowances right down.  Cut corners on a  diagonal.Turn the bag inside out and poke the bottom edges with a paintbrush or similar, so they're nice and pointy. Press (the waterproof fabric is fine to press on a low heat setting but if you're worried, use a cloth).

5) Now we're going to do exactly the same on the inside of the bag. 

Using a large enough seam allowance to encase the first seam, sew along the folded edges of the fabric, starting and finishing at the same places.  That's your French seam!

Look, no unfinished seams wafting about

6) Now the next bit looks a bit unorthodox, but it will really help when you come to thread the cord through.  Trim the two top edge seams down to where the line of sewing starts again.

7) Press under 1.5cm of the top raw edge all the way around. 
Top edge (about 1.5cm) folded over and pressed

8) Then press under the remaining 3.5cm.

Top edge hem
You should now have a nifty little hole for your cord.

9) If you want to add your own label, now is a good time so that the stitching doesn't show through on the outside.  Unfold the top hem and sew on your label about midway across.

10) Fold under again and sew all the way around the top edge, starting and finishing at the hole you've created.  Backstitch a few times by the entry hole for extra strength.  Press.

Now for the fun part.... 

11) Piping cord tends to unravel at the ends so I wrap a small bit of sellotape to each end to stop this.  Secure a safety pin to one end of the cord and feed through the hole until it emerges at the other end. 

Ensure both ends are of equal length then tie a knot near the cord ends.  And that's it!  You have yourself a very professional looking waterproof wash bag. 

Obviously play with size if you want it to hold more or want to make one for adults.  Or you could substitute the waterproof fabric for cotton to make a handy little drawstring bag (endlessly useful). The size in this tutorial is roomy enough for a child's toothbrush, toothpaste and flannel. 

If you're making one with a baby in mind then it's also the right size to hold a couple of nappies and a pack of wipes.

I hope this tutorial is useful, if anything doesn't make sense, please shout.  And if anybody makes one, I'd love it if you sent me a link.  x

Monday 14 November 2011

Snood giveaway

If you read my earlier snood post, you'll know that I cunningly got my mitts on one by roping my mum in to help (well, knit the whole thing actually).  But, as other snood makers have noticed, the finished snood only requires about half the amount of wool specified in the pattern, so there was 100g of very nice wool left with my mum.  As her hopeless, non-knitting daughter had no further need of it, my lovely mum Lily quickly whipped up another one and sent it to me "in case one of your friends would like it".  Isn't she just the best?

I'm aware that half the sewing/knitting population now has a snood, thanks to Karen, but if you don't yet have one, read on.  I'm doing just as my mum suggested and offering a beautiful teal coloured, hand knitted snood to one of my readers. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post.  The giveaway is open worldwide until midnight GMT on Friday 18th November.  The winner will be chosen at random after this date and notified by e-mail.

Happy Monday everybody. x

Friday 11 November 2011

Vintage style jacket

Here it is, here it is!! My first ever jacket!

I'm pretty proud of myself with this make.  After two muslins (my maximum number I'll ever have the patience to make, I've now decided) the fit is nice and slim and the length is just right.  Having arms about the same length as a T-Rex, being able to get the arm length spot on is very satisfying.

Ah, satisfaction
The pattern came from the Built By Wendy Coats and Jackets book and whilst the basic shape of the pattern is fine, I did have to make quite a few alterations to get it to fit me.  I deliberately used a book, rather than a commercial pattern, as I wanted to try to learn as much as I could about jacket construction before attempting a commercial jacket pattern.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book to absolute beginners though - even though there's a good amount of detail on making and adjusting your pattern, once you start constructing your jacket, the instructions are pretty sparse.

Although there are lots of jacket making skills I still need to learn, there are a fair few I can now tick off my list.  I feel like I have at least a basic understanding of jackets, which will give me a bit more confidence when I venture down this path again, perhaps trying my hand at this elegant beauty….?

So, on to the jacket itself.  The main fabric is a reasonably heavyweight wool I found by some miracle in my local charity shop.  The buttons are plain, 1940's utility buttons from eBay and I lined it with a teal/duck egg satin lining.  As documented here, I loathe and detest slippery lining fabric, but this one didn't behave too badly (it wouldn't dare, the look I gave it whilst I was cutting it out was terrifying).

I improvised with the collar as there wasn't a pattern for the shape I wanted - the result isn't bad, just a bit bulky under the top edge.

I made my own facings and after a few false starts, managed to create a successful three way party between jacket, facing and lining. Hoorah.

Behold my beautiful lining
Despite my surliness towards the lining, I loved the feeling of first trying on the jacket and sliding my arms in.  It felt so luxurious and professional, I just had to repeat it a few times (make that 20).

The bottom edge of the lining fabric was very prone to fraying, so I attached it to the main jacket with bias tape.

I did the same thing with the sleeve lining too.

Because the fabric was such a bargain (£3 for three yards of the grey wool and £1 a metre for the lining in a closing down sale), I did initially view the whole project as a practice, but once the lining was in, I realised that this was a jacket I could easily wear out and about.  And being grey with a light blue lining, it will go with most of my handmade clothes.  A pretty good result for five pounds I think. Have a lovely weekend. x

Wednesday 2 November 2011

How to get yourself a snood if you can't knit....

When I first saw Did You Make That's gorgeous hand knitted chunky wool snood, I knew it was the missing link in my autumnal neck gear.  Taking only an evening or two to whip up, it seemed like the perfect project for a knitter to get their teeth into.  Only one problem - I can't knit.

I've tried and failed at knitting (well, once, about 30 years ago), so what methods could I use to get my hands on one?  Firstly, I entered Karen's giveaway to win an identical one, but the lucky winner that time was Scruffy Badger, and very gorgeous she looks in hers too.  Then I watched the screen, open-mouthed, whilst reading this post from Pincushion Treats.  Very, very admirably, Melizza taught herself to knit and made herself a gorgeous pink version as her first knitting project. Feeling suitably humbled, I took the only option now left.  I phoned my mum and asked her to knit me one....

I used the same wool Karen recommended.  Sorry, that should read, my lovely mum, Lily, used the same wool Karen recommended - Sirdar Big Softie in Boho.  A day later, this arrived through the post:

It was perfect!  I've never worn a snood before but I'm now a convert.  It's so cosy and elegant and I love the chunky look of the stitches.

Looking slightly deranged, wearing a snood and short sleeves but I don't care

You're never too old to have something hand knitted for you by your mum. Thanks mum!  And thanks Karen for the original inspiration, I think you may have started a snood frenzy. x


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