Charity Shop Finds & a Vivienne Westwood Giveaway!

I had a really successful tour of Chichester’s charity shops last week.  The first discovery was a boiled wool cardigan/jacket by Edina Ronay from the Cat Protection League.  I managed to see past the hideous (in my view) embroidered butterfly in the front executed in thick black wool.  I forgot to take a photograph I was so keen to unpick it!  Thankfully the holes left behind disappeared when it was washed.

image

Next up was a Ralph Lauren cotton cable knit from Oxfam.  According to the ticket this was shortly destined for their textile recycling centre and I’m assuming this was because the sleeve seam on one arm had come apart.  It took a couple of minutes to fix!

The final find was in the Cancer Research shop.  I was pretty sure from the start that this wasn’t going to fit me but I just couldn’t leave it behind!  It’s a (hopefully genuine) Vivienne Westwood Anglomania blouse in a crisp striped cotton with a nice collar and an interesting sleeve construction with ties.  It has washed and pressed nicely.  The size appears to have been cut out of it but I guess it’s an 8.  The top half fits me but once we get down to the fifth button it is somewhat corset-like making breathing/eating/sitting out of the question.  If I had a rib or two removed it would be fine!  I’d love it to go to a good home so if it would fit you or someone you know just leave a comment below by midnight on Wednesday 3 February and the winner will be picked out of the hat on Thursday morning.

Rain Stops Play

My sewing activity has been somewhat curtailed due to the horrendous rain we had recently.  Our conservatory sprang a leak and before I realised it the long (and thankfully cheap and cheerful) table that I use for cutting out fabric was completely soaked.  It is now drying out but sadly the laminate finish is peeling off.   The table is currently lying on its side and there is a bucket in its place waiting for the next downpour.  Discussions are in hand as to where to go from here (I’m hoping major improvements!) but in the meantime the conservatory is a chilly, damp and slightly mouldy place that isn’t conducive to creative activities.  I’m not posting a photograph as it’s a rather depressing sight!

As a result I’ve been sticking to smaller projects that I can cut out on my sewing table without having to move everything off it.  I’d been wanting to make another Anya Bag, this time for me, with the leftovers from my mustard denim Brumby Skirt.  There was JUST enough fabric, although I had to adapt the straps slightly.  The instructions are to fold the fabric strip into the centre along the long edges and then fold in half again before stitching along each side.  I just folded in the edges about 1cm and then folded in half but the fabric is sufficiently robust for this not to be an issue.

I had hoped to line the bag with the lovely fabric that was part of my #stitchingsanta gift but there wasn’t quite enough.

image

As an alternative I used some fabric my mother gave me during a recent clear out.  It was originally used years ago to make a dress for a rag doll and I think it works quite well here.  I love making this bag.

I was going to use the bag today but I decided that matching your bag to your skirt was probably going a bit too far!

I’ve recently started following Jen from My Make Do and Mend Life.  Jen’s journey began when she decided that she and her family would spend a year buying nothing new and she is now committed to lessening their impact on the planet.  Having recently watched Trust Me I’m a Doctor and heard about the scary chemicals that lurk in off-the-shelf cleaning products (including some eco ones) I’ve been researching the possibility of making my own and Jen is something of an expert.  She’s even made her own dishwasher tablets!  I’ve also been trying to further reduce waste in our house since watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programmes.  I was horrified to see what some people chuck out!

Where is this leading ….?   I’ve managed to avoid buying new RTW clothing for quite a while now but one thing I’ve missed is knitwear.  I can knit but I always struggle when it comes to following patterns, shaping and anything fiddly.  There is a half finished cardigan hidden in my sewing room that is testament to this.

I decided to combine two projects, reducing waste and kick-starting my knitting, by making a dishcloth!  I found a sweet pattern on Ericka Eckles blog and produced this.

I’ve now sewn the ends in and just have to bring myself to ditch the disposable blue cloths and actually use it!  I bought two balls of cotton yarn so I’m now working on another pattern I found here.

 

I’m really enjoying it and it is a lovely cosy thing to do on chilly evenings.  My mother is always horrified when she sees me knit because I don’t hold the needles properly and she is determined to change this.  Previous attempts have resulted in me wailing in despair because I just can’t get it right but perhaps now is the time to try a bit harder!

Associated with reducing waste I also did a spot of refashioning.  For several years I’ve had a favourite striped dress from a well-known online retailer which had gradually shrunk until it was no longer wearable!  I love the fabric so decided to chop off the restricting top half and turn it into a skirt with an elasticated waist.  I looked up various tutorials for adding the elastic but when I tried this I just couldn’t get this wide elastic to stretch as I sewed.  In the end I just joined the elastic in a loop, gathered the cut edge of the fabric using the dental floss trick and sewed the elastic on with the join at the back.  It was already hemmed so this was a very quick project.   I’ve worn it a couple of times and it seems to have worked.  It is SO comfortable!  Not sure what I can do with the leftover top half?

I will get that Moss Skirt cut out eventually but in the meantime at least I’m not sitting idle.  Mention of the Moss Skirt has reminded me that as a result of my following Jen on IG – @makeandmendlife – I connected with @vintage_charity and we met for lunch this week.  It was just lovely.  We had already discovered so much in common (including these shoes) and then she mentioned that her next sewing project was this very skirt!  At the rate I’m going I think she’ll get there first.

image

 

 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

It has been a slow start to serious sewing in 2016 for several reasons not least because (a) I have a horrible cold which is making my head pound, (b) I have a new boss so my mind has been extra focused on work and (c) David Bowie died.  He was there throughout my formative teenage years in the 70s and as pictures of him were plastered all over my bedroom wall he was the first thing I saw every morning.  Somehow his death has made me reflect on life – especially the rapid passing of time – which has been rather distracting.

hunky dory

I’ve not been entirely idle and as we finally have some colder weather I decided to get on with shortening the sleeves on two winter coats I found in charity shops.  Alterations like this are something I would never have tackled in the past but I now feel much more confident, which is helpful when you have rather short arms.  As I’m talking about alterations I thought I could get away with the title of this post to fit with the Bowie theme!

The first coat was brand new from a high street chain with the tags still on it.  It wasn’t an amazing bargain but I really like to support the Chestnut Tree which is a local children’s hospice.  I’m already wearing this one and really like the fabric, although I have an aversion to the very large shiny button and need to find something more matt and vintage-looking to replace it.

Next up is a black wool coat I found in Barnardos a while ago.  It is by Cerruti 1881 and made from some seriously lovely wool fabric.  I decided to use the first coat as a practice run as I was more nervous about this one.  I paid £14.95 for it.  I can only find men’s coats by Cerruti online but they are certainly a luxury item at £700+!   I had it dry cleaned straightaway as it looked decidedly grubby but it came up beautifully.

I picked up a few tips to assist with these alterations :

  • Before doing anything run a line of basting stitches around the sleeve (including the lining) at about elbow level.  This will stop the lining twisting inside the sleeve when you are working on it.
  • Work on one sleeve at a time so that you can refer back to the original finish to make sure you match it as far as possible.
  • Keep trying on the garment to be sure that the length is (a) right and (b) the two sleeves match!

I rarely buy ‘proper’ coats and I’ve certainly never had two smart ones at the same time!  I’m properly set up for whatever the rest of this winter throws at us.

Another alteration on the pile is for my mother “as you’ve got your sewing machine out all the time”. We’re back to the 70s theme with these flares! Amazingly she had some almost perfectly matching thread in her collection.  Given how many things she’s sewn/knitted/altered for me over the years I reckon I owe her one.

image

This weekend I’m hoping to make a start on my Moss Skirt in the very special selvedge denim I bought from the Fabric Godmother.  I had originally intended to try and utilise the selvedge in some visible way but the colour ran slightly into the white stripe when I washed it so that plan has been shelved.  It is still looking pristine in this photo.

image

I’ve been very good and read through the pattern twice (bit like reading exam questions properly before you launch into answering them) so I’m reasonably clear on what I’m doing and I’m also studying the Colette tutorial (with photographs) on inserting the fly zip.  I think I’ll do a quick toile because I want to get the size right before I cut into the denim.  I have high hopes for this pattern so I hope it works out according to plan.

 

Double Denim

Happy New Year!  I can’t believe I’m back at work and Christmas is all over and done with.  I’ve already written about the lovely #stitchingsanta gifts I received and on the sewing front I was also lucky enough to be given :

  • A one day overlocker course at The Fabric Godmother – I know this is the only way I am ever going to make the best use of mine.
  • A walking foot for my sewing machine.
  • A bumper box of assorted pins from Merchant & Mills
  • Lotte Jansdotter’s book, Everyday Style, which I’d heard about from Su over at butterflies and lemon drops.  The book comes with a set of paper patterns and the Esme dress will almost certainly be the first one I try.
  • A post-Christmas present from Gill over at vintagerockchick who sent me a lovely handmade zipped bag, needle case and brooch as a thank you for winning my book giveaway!

book

I’ve done almost no sewing over the Christmas break apart from a less than successful top from some rather extravagant silk jersey which I will gloss over for the time being.

Two rather more successful makes were completed in the nick of time to wear on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  I was hemming both of them on Christmas morning!

First up is a third version of the Colette Laurel Dress in a lovely purple stretch denim which I bought from Ditto Fabrics when the Sew Bees visited Brighton on their inaugural meet up.  I washed the fabric twice before I used it (as advised) but I don’t think there was any shrinkage – although the colour does run.  This is quite a ‘springy’ and dense fabric and I found it slightly tricky to get a good finish on the points of the darts.  I unpicked one of the bust darts several times before I decided enough was enough!  The fabric didn’t like being unpicked and I ended up with a couple of white marks on the surface.  In the spirit of Karen’s recent post I am not going to Ablogogise about any shortcomings in my handmade clothes, at least during January, but she does say that it is OK to

share less than glowing details if they will help a reader with a construction, pattern or salutary lesson

I know at least two other people who read this blog bought the same fabric it was acceptable to mention that unpicking is better avoided or at least undertaken with more caution than I exercised!  Thankfully the minor problem was largely resolved when I washed the finished dress because the colour was still running slightly which helped blend in the tiny white marks.

I hadn’t planned to add the cuffs to this version but rather to cut the sleeves slightly longer as I’m not that keen on where the length sits on my arm.  Unfortunately I forgot all about this at the cutting out stage so then had to go with the cuffs.  I did find it quite difficult to pull the gathering threads in the sleeve head and the cuff.  I think they may have become emeshed in whatever provides the stretch in the fabric?  The result was rather uneven gathering on the cuffs but I decided against making a second attempt – I was running out of time and they are perfectly acceptable.

Despite these two issues I really love the fabric and it is a fabulous colour which is hard to appreciate from my photo of the finished dress.  Here it is before it was made up.

image

In the end I think the cuffs add a dressier look which was just right for Christmas Day.  This is a REALLY comfortable dress to wear and the fabric feels lovely on, very soft and flexible, and it doesn’t crease.  I could have got away with a smaller size (which I did for my silk party version) but I wanted something suitable for lounging around in (and eating!).  I’ve already worn it three times so this Laurel is definitely a winner.

image

The Boxing Day outfit was a second Brumby Skirt made from a mustard denim purchased at The Fabric Godmother’s open day.  I made the first one for Karen’s Made Up Initiative and whilst I loved the shape the fabric I used was just a bit too stiff and I felt like I was wearing a cardboard skirt!

I started the latest version some while ago but due to another cutting out error it had been abandoned until I could face putting it right.  I failed to decipher the notes I had made on my traced out pattern to remind me that I needed to extend the waistband slightly whilst keeping the rest of the skirt the original size – which is what I’d done the first time round!

Before discovering this I had come up with two pretty good (but almost certainly not original) ideas.

  • I’m not great at topstitching and this skirt has two lines of it right down the front.  I used two strips of masking tape to mark the stitching line and off I went, ending up with two pretty perfect lines of topstitching.
  • If you are using denim or other thicker fabric the pattern instructions recommend using fine cord which you zig zag to the fabric and then pull to create the gathers at the waistline.  This worked well with my previous Brumby but I discovered I had no cord to hand.  You need something fairly strong which will not snap so I decided to try dental floss!  It worked a treat and made it really easy to pull the gathers along.

These are not great photos but they give the general idea.  You can see that my presser foot is still stained pink from its recent encounter with some boiled wool!

The waistband went on beautifully the first time round, I pulled out the dental floss (which came out much more easily than cord) and I went to pin the skirt on Doris to see how it was shaping up.  I thought she’d put on weight but it was at this point I realised I’d cut the waistband too short.  Things went a bit downhill after this.  Unpicking, trimming, re-gathering, re-attaching the waistband, taking it off again because it didn’t look right, sewing it on again.  I think all this comes under the salutary lesson referred to above and I would also add that I will use a more substantial interfacing in the waistband if I make this skirt again because it doesn’t stand up well to a day’s wear – unlike the cardboard version which remains completely rigid regardless!

What I love most about this skirt is the pockets which are just fabulous!  I think it is essential to follow the suggestion to stitch a short way along the pocket edge by the seam to reinforce it, especially if you have a tendency to shove your hands in pockets like I do.

Here’s the finished article and it is another really comfortable wear with plenty of room for festive eating.  This photo is actually from the second wearing for a trip to London on Saturday.

image

I think it goes very nicely with my fox brooch from Tatty Devine.  The top I’m wearing with the Brumby is this one on which I spent hours getting the curved hem band right and then never wore because it was too long and didn’t really work for me.  I took the bull by the horns, chopped off all that hard work, re-hemmed it (without the band) and now it is just right.

image

I read recently about a blogger’s husband who spends up to 40 minutes taking lovely photographs for her.  Ha! This doesn’t happen chez JaneMakes I’m afraid which is why my photographs are taken in front of the mirror with my phone!  I definitely need to up my game somewhat and to that end I’ve ordered a tripod and remote control thingy to experiment with.

Apart from this I’ve not really made any specific sewing resolutions or plans as I’m not that good at sticking to them and once you’ve gone into print there is more of an expectation to achieve!  However, I am determined to continue with limiting/avoiding the purchase of new RTW clothing and, as a result of the cutting out errors documented above, I am going to try and take a more focused approach to my projects!  To assist with this I have a late Christmas present heading my way, the Maker’s Workbook from The Swedish Tracing Paper Shop.

Workbook

I’ve just bought the Grainline Moss Skirt pattern and the new Colette Phoebe from Guthrie & Ghani so hopefully one or both of these will be appearing here soon.  The fly zip insertion in the Moss will be a first for me so I hope I can master that!