Tuesday 23 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

To everybody who has left comments on my blog this year, followed me on social media, offered sewing advice and tips, extended compliments, sent me emails, sewn alongside me or met up for the odd coffee or cocktail …..THANK YOU!! I'm so incredibly grateful for the support and friendship of my readers this year, I really am. 

To all those who celebrate Christmas, have a wonderful festive time and I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2015! xx

Sunday 21 December 2014

A tie for a gentleman

My husband is not a tie-wearing man. In over twenty years, the only times I've ever seen him wear a tie have been at weddings and funerals, so why would I ever make him one?! Well it sort of happened by accident... A few weeks ago I was invited to a sewing afternoon to celebrate the opening of the new Sew Over It shop in Islington. My youngest had been struck down with a sick bug the whole weekend, so by the time Sunday afternoon came around I totally forget to bring a project to work on. Lisa kindly suggested a few quick makes, one of which was making a tie. I had some vague idea that I could give it to my father-in-law or my son's teacher and set to work. I used the Sew Over It Tie Making Kit which I recently featured in my xmas gift round-up.  The kit includes pattern pieces for the front, back and lining as well as separate pattern pieces for the domette, which is the fleece-like interfacing used in ties (no, I didn't know that's what it was called either!)  The domette fabric is also included in the kit. 

I chose a navy polka dot cotton for the main tie (naturally), and a light blue polka dot cotton for the lining. As the tie pieces are cut on the bias, polka dots probably weren't the wisest choice as they're now all in straight lines rather than at an angle! The front and back sections are attached together and lining sections added. This is all done by machine and takes no time at all. The domette pieces are then positioned down the centre of the tie and the sides pressed inwards. The long seam is then slip stitched and that's it! I didn't slip stitch mine during the sewing afternoon as I was too busy chatting - I finished it at home that night and even though I hate hand sewing, it was a strangely satisfying job!

There is a degree of accuracy involved in pressing the sides inwards and getting a nice sharp edge at the tip of the tie. I'm sure if the Tie Police saw my sorry effort they'd lock me up and throw away the key, but I'm pretty pleased with it! Look, you can barely tell the difference between my tie and a posh silk one from Paul Smith….

Ties separated at birth:

Paul Smith polka dot tie….

Handmade Jane polka dot tie….

When I showed the tie to Jon and asked who we could give it to for Christmas, he immediately pounced on it for himself. Who'd have thought it eh?! I agreed he could have it for Christmas on one condition….. that he model it for the blog. Well, that was like a red rag to a bull, he insisted on 'modelling' it complete with pipe!

I can honestly say I haven't laughed so much in years as I did taking these photos! My (pretend) pipe-smoking, tie-wearing husband is in good company though, a quick online search provided him with plenty of famous role models: 

Gregory Peck

Cary Grant


Clark Gable

And, because it's Christmas, Clark Gable again, with pipe... but no tie! Have a great Sunday everybody!  x

Monday 15 December 2014

Vintage style Bonnie Sweater

Sometimes a pattern comes along that just seems to click. It looks exactly as you imagined, the fit is good and it blends in seamlessly with the rest of your wardrobe. That's just happened to me with my first make of the Bluegingerdoll Bonnie Sweater!! It's a vintage-inspired sweater for knit fabrics and comes in three variations with lots of mix and match options. 

I bought it mid-way through reading Handmade by Heather B's review as I was so impressed with how it looked on her. At that point, it was a new release and only available as a PDF, which just goes to show how keen I was to make it! (I loathe PDFs). For those of you with similar anti-PDF tendencies, you'll be pleased to hear it's now available as a paper pattern (available here in the UK). To be fair, it didn't take that long to tile it together and I only made minimal fitting changes, so I barely felt any pain.

Anyway, back to Bonnie. I made View A (the cropped version with the crew neck) with long sleeves and following Heather's example, I lowered the neckline by an inch (adding half an inch to each end of the neckband to make it fit). I also shortened the arms by an inch as I am in fact descended from a T-Rex. Based on the finished measurements, I cut a size 12 at the bust, grading to a 10 at the waist and hips and this was almost a perfect fit. The shoulders seem a tiny bit wide, so I may narrow them to a 10 on my next version, but other than that I didn't make any other fitting adjustments. The cropped bodice section did look pretty short when I was making it, especially before the waistband was added, but I'm glad I didn't make any panic stricken changes as the finished length is really flattering. The side seams narrow at exactly the right place and by some kind of sewing sorcery, make your waist appear tiny.

The design has slightly gathered sleeves which was the only thing about the pattern I was sceptical about, but now I've made it, I think they're lovely.

You can see the gathered sleeves more in this picture
They're very subtle and pretty and hardly even look gathered most of the time, just when I'm striking poses or putting my hands in my pockets.

For fabric I used a grey poly/wool jersey blend, with cream polka dots, which I picked up from Katie in a sewing swap. It only just had enough stretch to be suitable for this pattern, but I'm so pleased it worked because it's very cosy to wear. Once the pattern pieces are cut out, it doesn't take much more than an hour to put together, it's definitely a quick, easy make. I made it during a sewing afternoon with a few pals and even with constant chat and distractions I still whipped it up in no time. The overlocker was already threaded up with red thread, so I did my usual lazy party trick of just changing the left needle thread. Magic! The seams are grey, but the insides are all red and pretty!

I'm currently on the hunt for some good quality wool jerseys or sweater knits to make a few more. I'll probably try the Goldhawk Road first, but if anybody has any online recommendations, please let me know.  

There are several great knit top patterns out in the wild, but the reason I like this one is because all the details work for me and my own personal style. I love the vintage look, the neat fit and the fact that I'm now the owner of a polka dot sweater! It adds a bit of pizzazz to a pair of jeans and works perfectly with skirts and high waisted 1940's strides, I couldn't be happier! x

Monday 8 December 2014

Christmas gift ideas for stitchers

Need a present for a stitchy pal? Or just want a few ideas to put on your own Christmas list? Then look no further as I've put together a small selection of my favourites to kick start your present buying. They mostly focus on sewing, with a couple of wild cards thrown in for good measure.

My first choice is rather unusual - two illustrations by artist Anneke CaraminAnneke created several designs as part of her Masters degree project, but the two below are the ones that really captured my imagination. They tell the story of Josephine, a seamstress, and have a wonderful, old fashioned feel to them - l love the simple style. the muted colours and even the clothes Josephine wears!

The illustrations are reproduced onto postcards and I think they would look beautiful framed and hung in a sewing room, which is exactly what I'm going to do with the two I've just ordered. The rest of the designs in the collection can be found on this post and you can email Anneke here to order them.

On with the list… Well designed dressmaking tools often go down a treat and I'm always on the hunt for good scissors. These steel scissors from Italy definitely look the business AND they have red handles! The 20cm Soft Touch Shears are particularly appealing because they seem light to use - good if you've got rubbishy weak wrists like me!

I was introduced to this little Pattern Notcher tool on my Pattern Cutting Course and it went straight onto my Christmas list. No more fiddling about snipping or marking notches.

What could be more impressive than making your own leather bag??!! Not much, quite frankly, apart from maybe cobbling your own shoes! These special leather bag making kits are from Fabric Godmother and are perfect either as a gift for yourself or to make up and give to a friend. You don't need to be an accomplished seamstress to make one, or even own a machine, as the kit comes with the pieces ready cut out, full instructions and a special needle and thread. There are a few different sizes and colours of kit to choose from, but my personal favourite is the navy satchel with lipstick trim (soooo stylish!) 

Whilst we're on the subject of sewing kits, the Tie Making Kit from Sew Over It could come in useful for whipping up presents for the men in your life. I tried one out recently and it worked! You'll need to do a mixture of machine sewing and hand sewing to make the tie and the result is seriously impressive - look out for a blog post on it soon!
Or if you just want a satisfying fabric fix, nothing beats Liberty fabric in my opinion, especially Tana Lawn. How wonderful would a dress made from this Queue for the Zoo fabric look?!

And finally, nothing to do with sewing but I had to put it on this list because I love mine so much - a super-fancy umbrella from Love Umbrellas. I won my red one with black flowers in a very generous giveaway by Vicki Kate Makes (thank you again Vicki!) As well as looking divine, it's actually the best performing umbrella I've ever had. Janene from ooobop has the same one, so I'm using her photos to illustrate it as they're much better than the ones on the website! 

I hope you find something to inspire you amongst this little lot. If you have anything special on your own present list that I should know about, please do share in the comments! Happy shopping!

Monday 1 December 2014

Herringbone Kelly skirt

I was decidedly on the fence when I made my first Kelly skirt, but it's since become one of my most worn me-made separates. Who'd have thought it?! In fact I like it so much, it was the starting point for my latest skirt. I say 'starting point' because it veered totally off piste during its creation, but the bare bones are definitely from the Kelly pattern, so the name stays.

A lot of the changes were purely down to necessity because of my fabric choice. Well, not necessarily my fabric choice, more my lack of yardage. I bought a metre of this Organic Cotton Herringbone from Ray Stitch during my pattern cutting weekend thinking it would be perfect for a simple A-line skirt. However, between buying it and gearing myself up to cut into it, I changed my mind and decided it had to be a Kelly skirt. The trouble is, the Kelly skirt pieces are quite wide because of the pleats, and the pattern requires slightly more than a metre. I managed to cut my first version out of a metre by placing some of the pattern pieces upside down, but the herringbone design is directional, so that wasn't an option.

In the end, I decided to keep the pleats in the front of the skirt, but not in the back. I also couldn't be bothered with all the buttons and buttonholes, so decided to lose the button placket and add a central back zip instead. To do this, I followed Busy Lizzie in Brizzy's tips from this post. I cut the front piece on the fold, using the buttonhole markings as the centre front seam and the back as two separate pieces, adding a seam allowance to the fold line for the zip. Behold, no buttons or placket!

I didn't have room to cut the pocket facings in the same direction as the rest of the skirt, so they face the opposite way. I'm calling it a design feature.

I even managed to include some scraps from my Chambray Bow Blouse for the pockets, yay!

The herringbone fabric is pretty heavyweight, which is great for holding a pleat, but also means it's quite scratchy against the skin, so a lining was needed. I used navy satin left over from my Lace Laurel top for the lining using this tutorial. When adding a full lining, you can often get away with not finishing seams as they're all hidden away, but not in this case! Both fabrics frayed terribly, so all seams were overlocked to within an inch of their lives.  

I did make quite a major error at the cutting out stage - I folded the pleats in on the the back pattern piece, but really should have added more width for my backside. The back is now very slim fitting across the bum - almost like a pencil skirt. In fact, the finished skirt looks more like Simplicity 2451 than a Kelly skirt - the A-line shape has totally disappeared!

Back view…ahem
Because of this, it's not quite the skirt I was hoping for, mainly because it's so tight fitting across the bum, but that's my own fault for lack of foresight. It's not a total win, but definitely not a fail either. It's still a lovely, cosy skirt for winter and the blue and cream colourway seems to go with every conceivable top and cardigan in my wardrobe.

I did try to get some shots of me without my hands in my pockets but was continually photo bombed. Ah well, Happy Monday! x

I couldn't resist him, he's too cute! 

Monday 24 November 2014

Introducing Badger and Earl

As somebody who loves sewing, I'm very lucky to live in West London. The Goldhawk Road is only a short bus ride away (or car journey if I'm feeling incredibly lazy), so I can overindulge on fabric to my heart's content and am always covered for any sewing emergencies. The one thing West London has always lacked though is a contemporary fabric shop or sewing cafe. Places like Ray Stitch, The Village Haberdashery and Sew Over It are not situated in my manor so require planning on a military scale to sort out childcare and organise a visit. Wouldn't it be great to have something similar within spitting distance?

Well my wish has been granted as Badger & Earl sewing and craft cafe opened its doors in Chiswick last month. It's a coffee shop, haberdashery and workshop, all rolled in to one and what's more, it's in Chiswick!!! Just down the road!!! Hoorah!!! In their own words"Badger & Earl is a new, more social way to sew and craft. Whether you are a seasoned enthusiast or a complete beginner, we are the place to come and enjoy needlecraft, great coffee and beautiful fabrics in lovely, friendly surroundings."

Owner Charlotte Pendred opened just in time for half term in October and had a busy week of children's classes making pom poms, button pictures, felt brooches and hair clips. She's slowly building the classes and workshops list for both children and adults. The current class list includes several Learn to Sew classes aimed at beginners (make a cushion cover, Christmas stocking or Christmas table runner) and an introductory dressmaking class run by Zoe, teaching you how to make a pair of kid's PJ bottoms! There are plans to introduce more dressmaking classes and workshops very soon - so watch this space!

I popped over to visit Badger & Earl shortly after it opened. It's a lovely, bright space - sewing workshops/classes are taught at the back of the shop where the machines are set up, and more informal sewing/knitting groups can congregate on cosy sofas at the front. There's also a further room at the back with a high table for cutting out. 

In the shop section, there's a good range of pretty quilting cottons, a small, but growing range of dressmaking fabrics and a well stocked haberdashery section. I don't know anything about knitting, but the yarn section looked good too. 

Whilst I was there, one of the knitting and embroidery tutors had just finished making this: a badger with a cup of Earl Grey tea! Badger & Earl, Geddit?!!

bought a few haberdashery essentials, downed a delicious coffee and even left with two vintage patterns that Charlotte kindly let me borrow! None of my friends who live locally are interested in sewing, so I'll be mounting my own private campaign to get them over there to discover it for themselves. If that doesn't work, I'm hoping I can meet a few new, local sewing buddies through Badger & Earl. I really hope Charlotte's venture is a success and look forward to seeing it go from strength to strength.  If you're in the area, don't forget to pay a visit, they're open seven days a week (10-4 on Mondays, 9-6 Tuesday to Saturday and 11-5 on Sundays). 

Happy Monday! x

Friday 21 November 2014

Vintage red dress

After a mini splurge at EmSewCrazy recently, this vintage beauty fell into my hands. It's Butterick 8629 from 1959 - a simple sheath dress with 'figure following lines' (love that description) and kimono sleeves. I was inspired to make a red version of view B after seeing Kathryn's beautiful red Annalotte dress. The bodice section on the Butterick pattern is a little like the By Hand London Anna pattern (minus the tucks), so this seemed to be a sign for me to blatantly copy her.

The pattern is a vintage size 16, which sometimes fits me, it all depends on the year. In this case the bust was fine (36) but the waist and hips needed a lot taking off. Working on this dress was the first chance I've had to use the skills I learnt at the Pattern Drafting weekend and it was a success of sorts! I laid my block on top of the pattern and shaped it to match up with the Butterick pattern. Straight away, I could see that my main adjustments would be to shorten the bodice by an inch, and to take a whopping seven inches off the length of the skirt section! I also changed the darts to match the darts on my bodice block, which wasn't quite so successful. In fact the bust darts are still wonky - I gave up after about 20 attempts to get them right - I'll have to come back to them in a few days time! It isn't perfect and I did need to make quite a few on-the-spot fitting adjustments after the initial muslin. but I'm quite pleased with it for a first attempt.

Once I was happy with the fit, the dress was 'Quick 'N Easy' to make, just like it says on the packet! The fabric I used is a crepe-backed satin kindly supplied by Minerva Crafts as part of their Blogger Network. Now I'd read lots of great reviews about this fabric, but annoyingly in this case, I ordered the wrong one. The fabric I ordered is from their general crepe-backed satin range, which is perfectly fine, but the fabric everybody has been raving about is their Prada self-lined crepe. DOH! Despite this, the fabric I used is ideal for a party dress, although the crepe side probably has more of a sheen to it than I was expecting. It also sheds fibres faster than the speed of light, so be prepared for lots of sweeping up if you use it! The most fortuitous thing about it though is that it has a slight stretch, which means I can just about get the dress on WITHOUT A ZIP!! Talk about a result! Getting it over the chest area is a bit of a tight squeeze, but the built-in satin lining actually aids this process.

I dispensed with facings and made self-binding instead, using the sating side so the binding matched up with the inside 'lining' of the dress. I actually cut the binding strips on the straight grain rather than the bias - the slight stretch of the fabric means it's still able to curve around the neckline but it doesn't stretch out too much, which was my worry. It seemed to work anyway!

Inside view: neckline finished with satin binding
This is a beaut of a vintage pattern - simple and elegant with that unmistakable late 1950's look I love. Once I've nailed the fit on those pesky darts, I can definitely see myself making it again.

My impression of the lady on the pattern envelope...

Talking of vintage patterns, this is my third and final make for my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, hosted by Marie at A Stitching Odyssey. I pledged to sew three vintage patterns in 2014 and that's what I've done! The other two are my raincoat from 1973 and my white 1950's sleeveless blouse, so I now have a vintage trio for 2014 of red, white and blue. Purely unintentional I swear!

Have a good weekend! x

The kit was given to me free of charge as part of the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network. All views my own.


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