Fabric Splurge and a Tulip Toile

Note to self : always make up a toile when trying out a new pattern, it makes all the difference!  I finished one for the Sew Over It tulip skirt from Simply Sewing magazine on Friday evening and discovered the following :

  • I love the shape of the skirt
  • The shorter length is definitely too short
  • The pockets are far too low down for my (short) arms to reach
  • I do not have the patience to wait for the next issue of the magazine for the rest of the instructions so am just going to get on with it

As a result of these discoveries I raised the pockets by 2.5 inches and added a couple of inches to the length of the skirt.

The pattern instructions are very clear and comprehensive,  although I questioned using the same seam allowance for stitching the pocket pieces to the side seams initially and for the main seam allowance.  I decided to do what I’ve done previously, ⅜ for the initial stitching and ⅝ for the main seam.

On to Saturday morning and a visit to The Eternal Maker, (a) because they are out of town and have their own parking and (b) because they have a very nice coffee bar which is an ideal place for W to sit and read the paper while I shop!

I came away with these three …

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The blue chambray will be used for the Cynthia Rowley jacket.  It is a really nice weight and I think it will work well.

The double-sided (stripes and spots) jersey is seriously lovely.  It is made up of two thin layers joined together and is incredibly soft.  I’ve not decided what to make with it yet but probably a Coco-type top if I can squeeze it out of the amount I’ve bought.

Yes, those are blue starfish and yes I am making the tulip skirt out of this fabric!  W looked decidedly unsure when I showed it to him in the shop but now it is well on the way to being finished I think he is convinced by the choice.  I love it and think this could end up being one of my favourite makes to date.

I made another zipped purse at the weekend from the Simply Sewing pattern, this one was for a birthday present to hold some fancy lip balm and cuticle cream.  I did make a small piece of bias binding from the spotty fabric for the zip pull but the binding was too wide for the tiny hole and ended up in tatters – hence the pink ric-rac.  The binding attempt was another first – following instructions in Simply Sewing (that magazine really has proved worth the investment) and using a tool I bought ages ago and had never even taken out of the packet.  It is SO easy to do I might have a go at making a longer length.

 The floral fabric was left over from this dress.

The big reveal of the starfish skirt will follow soon.

Simply Sewing : a magazine review

I don’t usually buy magazines, sewing or otherwise, although I am lucky enough to get a subscription to Selvedge as a birthday present every year.

However, I am occasionally tempted by a nice cover or a free pattern and I recently spotted a sew along opportunity for a Lisa Comfort (from Sew Over It) skirt in Issue 5 of Simply Sewing magazine.  I really liked the shape of this tulip skirt and as there was also a free kit to make a zipped purse I decided to give it a try.

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I will almost certainly make the skirt, although I’m not sure my usual sewing impatience will allow me to wait until Issue 7 of the magazine to finish it off!  The instructions look really clear and detailed so the project would be ideal for a beginner.   The fabric used for the version in the magazine bears a strong resemblance to something I used for one of my Morsbags.  I’m pleased to see that nautical fabrics are popular given a recent addition to my wardrobe, previously blogged about here.

Onto the free purse kit.  This included fabric, zip, bias binding (for the zip pull and optional decoration) and embroidery thread (also optional).   I’ve never made a zipped purse with a lining before and the instructions were really easy to follow.  There was no mention of using a zipper foot but I used mine anyway.  I didn’t time myself but it can’t have taken much more than half an hour to make.  I traced off the pattern using my fancy new tracing paper which is really nice and crisp and will definitely be useful for non-sewing projects as well.

I’m not a great one for embellishments so I didn’t bother with the suggested embroidery and bias binding flowers.

I realised I had several zips of a similar length which will never get used for dressmaking so I thought I’d make a few more bags.  The second one took a bit longer because I decided to use two different fabrics for each bag piece but it was still a quick make, despite sewing the final seam without realising there was no thread on the bobbin for about 50% of the way round!  I have three more zips and plenty of fabric scraps to use up.

Having singed my fingers a couple of times ironing the pleats in these bags I’ve decided I will be investing in some of those silicone finger guards I mentioned in my last post despite their odd appearance!

The magazine has several other useful projects including some lovely stripy beach-inspired items – deckchair, windbreak and duffel bag, instructions on how to make your own bias binding and articles by Tilly Walnes and Claire-Louise Hardie of The Thrifty Stitcher (and resident expert behind the scenes at The Great British Sewing Bee).  There is also a rather cute toy monkey to make which would make a nice gift.  If I do make the skirt then Simply Sewing will probably have been a good investment and I’ll be recycling it by passing it on to my mother when I’ve finished with it.  NB : These views are entirely my own and I’ve not been commissioned by Simply Sewing to review the magazine!

For a final weekend project I re-covered my vintage sleeve board.  I can’t believe I’ve not been using this more regularly as it really does make ironing sleeves a doddle.  No more creases where you don’t want them.  I used this tutorial from Tilly and the Buttons which was really helpful.  I left the original heat reflecting cover in place because it was very well secured and was holding the padding in place.  I stuck with the instruction to make the cover fabric 5 cms larger than the board itself even though I was working on a smaller scale because the sleeve board is actually pretty much the same depth as my large board.  I used some stripy fabric that I’ve had for a while and seems to be never ending.  It has already been used to make several bags, an apron and re-cover my mother’s wheat bag.

The application of the bias binding was slightly tricky round the curves on the reverse of the fabric and I was worried that the channel would be restricted but the cord I used was quite fine and it went through without any trouble.

I think the outcome was pretty successful and a great improvement on the rather stained original.  I’m not sure I want to tackle a full size board for now although a lovely fabric might make ironing more pleasurable.

Keep cool in this week’s heatwave if you are in the UK!

 

I Made Shoes!

Well, actually I made espadrilles rather than real shoes and I certainly don’t think I’m going to be the next Emma Hope but I’m really pleased with the result.

One of my favourite Ladybird books as a child was The Elves & The Shoemaker and, having made the first espadrille, I rather wished the elves would come and finish off the second one overnight!

I really just wanted an excuse to mention the book because these were fun to make and it was quite exciting to see the shoe shape coming together.

I ordered the soles from Guthrie & Ghani and followed the instructions available online here.  You know how people say “make sure you read the question/recipe/pattern. properly before you start”.  Well I didn’t and so failed to notice the sentence that said “Important: Mirror-invert the front section for the other shoe”.  I didn’t do that but to be honest I don’t think it made too much of a difference in the end.

I also wish I’d read through Lauren’s blog more diligently and noted the reference to inserting elastic at the back.  More about that later.

I used the fabric already mentioned in a previous post and 20cms of each was more than enough.

The paper pattern supplied with the soles only goes down to a Size 3 (36) so I added in an additional line (in red) for the next size down.  If I make another pair I think I will grade down a bit further as they could do with being slightly tighter.

Both fabrics were quite sturdy so I didn’t bother with interfacing but I think I will probably do this next time as it would result in a sturdier finish.

Sewing the pieces together and pinning them to the sole is very straightforward.  I never use these pins for dressmaking but they are ideal for this purpose as they are much easier to push in.  Take Lauren’s advice and make sure the pins go right into the sole and don’t stick out the other side or they will jab you in the hand when you are sewing!

I spent some time identifying a needle that would be strong and sharp enough to go through the sole and the fabric easily.  Lauren recommended a leather needle but the ones I found looked rather small so in the end I bought this set of five craft needles.  I used the one on the far right which I believe is a sail needle and it did the job very well, although I do have slightly sore fingers today from pushing it through.  I didn’t want the blanket stitching to be too obvious so I used an extra strong thread in a light colour rather than the thicker, yarn-like thread that was used in the instructions.

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Everything went together really easily.  I tried the first one on several times during construction and I did have to overlap the front and the back sections more than the 1.5 cms mentioned in the instructions to get a good fit, hence the plan to cut the two sections slightly smaller next time.

Having finished the first espadrille I realised that the insertion of some elastic between the two fabrics at the back would have made all the difference in terms of keeping it on your foot!  In her blog post Lauren inserted this right at the beginning with the sewing machine but I made life difficult for myself by having to unpick the top of the back section after it had already been sewn to the sole and inserting it by hand.  Not a particular neat finish but I knew I would never wear them if they kept falling off .  I used the 9 mm wide elastic shown above.  It was slightly easier for the second espadrille as I added the elastic before I sewed the back to the sole but still after the outer and inner fabrics had already been stitched together.

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And here is the final result!

I’m pretty pleased with these although I don’t think I’d want to walk too far in them.  The third picture looks like I am levitating off the ground but actually I was sitting down with my legs sticking out to get a better view of them!

W thought he might like a pair but I really don’t want to be sewing all the way round the soles for feet that fit a boot this size!

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I’m thinking stripes for the next pair.

Birthday Treats

No sewing this weekend. I had to take my mother to hospital for laser treatment on her eye – very quick and successful – and it was a birthday weekend for her and my sister.

There was lots of present wrapping required which is one of my favourite activities. The yellow fish design paper came from the shop at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester but my favourite was the one featuring the grape hyacinth which my sister bought in Pen to Paper in Brighton. It is gorgeous.

Obviously birthdays mean cake so it was time for another recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days. I cheated with the  Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes by using a ready made fresh vanilla custard rather than making my own because I was short of time but they were really delicious. The centre of each cake conceals a whole raspberry, raspberry jam and a custard/cream combination. More cream mixture and a raspberry decorate the top and I added flaked almonds which I think are an essential part of a raspberry trifle.

Back to the sewing machine tonight.

Blog Envy

I follow quite a few other craft, sewing and food blogs and I often see things that make me realise how limited my skills are! This bag from Trish Stitched is absolutely fabulous. She is so talented. I really love the clock fabric lining.

You should also check out Tilly’s polka dot version of her new Arielle skirt if you haven’t seen it already. I really like the way the lining is incorporated in this pattern.

My new denim skirt is finished and I am wearing it today with this shirt from Topshop. I’m only showing the shirt because looking at its construction has convinced me that I could make something similar from the stretch shirting I bought the other day.  I was disappointed because the concealed zip in the skirt didn’t go in as well as previous ones but it is amazing what some serious pressing and steaming can achieve and hopefully most people don’t study one’s rear end too closely! I was going to line the skirt but decided to try it without as I can always add one later. So far it is proving very comfortable so I think I’ll leave it as it is.

So far I’m ahead of my Me-Made-May pledge as I’ve worn something handmade every day and the above denim skirt is my make for this week. I wore the grey, part cashmere, top yesterday and I am very pleased with it. Another comfortable make.

Grey Top Finished

I also managed to make four more Morsbags on Tuesday evening (and very early morning on Wednesday) so I was able to give them away that day. Only six more to go.  Here’s the latest batch.

Morsbags 11, 12, 13 & 14

All this is really a distraction activity to avoid having to finish the Brighton Pavilion dress ……

Unfinished Dress

I think I might be more inspired if the weather warmed up.

Another Coco, a new skirt and a confession

I have to confess to failing to finish the Brighton Pavilion dress mentioned in my last post. I’m still trying to decide whether to sign up for Me-Made-May before the end of tomorrow and I will need that dress if I’m going to be able to get through a whole month wearing handmade items! If I was Hila over at Saturday Night Stitch with a fabulous new blazer I would be a lot happier.

Whilst sorting through my fabric stash for suitable leftovers for my Morsbag challenge I came across several pieces of dressmaking fabric that had been hanging around for a while. One of them, which I think came from Ditto, is some kind of stretch fabric but not a jersey, it feels a bit more like a thin neoprene to be honest! There wasn’t quite enough for Simplicity 2655 (which is a favourite of mine) so I had to make the facing from a small piece of brown polka dot fabric and my overall pattern matching wasn’t brilliant due partly to the limited amount of fabric and partly to a lack of attention to detail. The overall effect is OK and the design is so bright this will hopefully distract anyone from noticing the pattern matching.

Talking of bright colours, I recently popped into The Cotton Wool Store in Petworth and bought some bright green jersey fabric to make another Coco top. I’m not sure what has come over me recently because I’m not usually seen in bright colours or prints but I seem to have had a complete about turn recently. The top is not yet hemmed but I’ve managed to use another piece of lovely Liberty bias binding for the neckline and I was so pleased with the cuffs on the previous version that I’ve used them again. I think they finish the sleeve off beautifully and they are so simple to do.

On the day I was there The Cotton Wool Store was also holding a sale in the town hall and I just couldn’t resist a visit. I picked up two metres of this amazing silk for £8. It is quite a heavy fabric and the flower pattern looks like it has been printed onto the surface with gold paint. I’m planning a very simple evening skirt.  I think that with the very stiff nature of the fabric a dress or top would make me look like a cardboard cut out!

Fabulous Fabric

On the Morsbags front, the current tally is :

  • Bags made : 10
  • Bags given away : 9
  • Bags still to make : 10

After the trapped pin incident on the first bag I decided to secure the handles in place with a small piece of double sided sticky tape before sewing which was very successful.

All the recipients so far seem to have been delighted and I hope all the bags are being put to good use.

An Unfinished Dress

I’ve been trying to work out just how long ago I started this dress and I think it might be four years! I made an earlier version of it in a floral fabric which turned out beautifully and I have worn it so much. All that needs doing to this one is some slip stitching at the shoulders where I’ve turned the lining through and hemming.  Unfortunately I couldn’t work out how the lining attaches to the main fabric along the hemline split (I was doing a sewing class when I finished the last one so had some help) and as a result it has ended up at the bottom of the pile. I’ve now had another look at it and I think because I didn’t have quite enough of the lining fabric (a lovely fine lawn) I had to cut it rather short which means that I can use this as an excuse not to finish it according to the pattern and just finish the split neatly and hem each layer separately. I did pull a loose thread which unravelled some of the understitching around the neckline.  This obviously hadn’t been finished properly so that will also need to be dealt with. The pattern is a Butterick See & Sew and I’m not sure how the envelope got so battered! The jacket is very definitely not my style but the dress is a lovely shape with princess seams and I adapted the pattern slightly on the hips for a really good fit. The fabric is a bit loud but I rather like it! The images are Brighton Pavilion and the fabric came from Ditto in Kensington Gardens in Brighton which is very appropriate.

I am going to make this a project for the weekend so it is ready to wear for the summer. I have finished my first two Morsbags and will be giving one away to a friend this afternoon. I sewed the label on the plain side of the one with blue boats so it was visible but now I wish I’d put it on the side with the patterned fabric as this is more likely to be on show. The floral/stripy image is the reverse of the first image and was constructed from three different fabrics.

The second one will be handed over tomorrow and I’ll then get on with the rest (eighteen to go).

Morsbag Update

There has been good progress on the Morsbags production front over the weekend. I’ve now cut out 20 bags and the handles are all stitched.

I strayed from the pattern on the website slightly for the construction of the handle and just ironed in a hem along each long edge, folded the handle in half and stitched along each edge. There is a tip in another video on the website to use a postcard to measure in from each side of the bag to position the handles which works really well. I’ve got one bag ready and waiting for the Morsbags labels which will hopefully arrive tomorrow.

I’ve really enjoyed a rather more casual approach to sewing. I usually tend to be a bit too fussy and careful but I’ve thrown caution to the wind and apart from a couple of pins to hold the handles in place there has been no pattern matching, pinning, tacking or unpicking! There has been lots of high speed straight (or reasonably straight) stitching and no worrying if things went a bit wonky. Unfortunately I did forget about the only two pins I did use and ended up trapping them inside the folded over handle. Thankfully I managed to poke them out without having to unpick!

I’m most pleased with the bags where I have used two or more smaller pieces of fabric which I’ve joined together. These pieces would never have been used otherwise and were just taking up space. There will be more photos as the bags come together.

A Morsebag Challenge

I have been looking for a project to motivate me in my creative activities and I noticed when choosing my bedtime listening the other day that there was a Woman’s Hour broadcast entitled “A Celebration of Craft”. One of the items featured Claire Morsman who set up Morsbags to encourage people to make fabric bags and distribute them for free to try and reduce the proliferation of plastic bags.

Claire had completed a challenge to make a bag a day during March so I decided I would challenge myself to sort out all the non-dressmaking fabric lurking under the table in my work room and create some bags. There are full instructions on the website, including a short video.

Where did all this fabric come from? Offcuts from curtains, samples, gifts from people who thought I might be able to “do something with it”, over-enthusiasm at the cutting table when IKEA opened in Southampton and, mainly, leftovers from previous bag and cushion making activities where I have bought far more than was actually required!  Here’s one I prepared earlier.

I also have some offcuts of the reprinted Lucienne Day fabric, Calyx, which I was given. I might use some on one or two Morsbags so whoever gets those will be very lucky! I wish I could wear this fabric.

IMG_1916Perhaps I could make a skirt? What I am really coveting is this fabric used by Trish at Trish Stitched. It is fabulous.

Claire at Morsbags doesn’t make anything out of the project and just asks that makers sew a Morsbags label onto each bag to help spread the word. These only cost 5p each and I have ordered 20 to get me started. They won’t arrive until next week as Claire is currently away. She didn’t know when the programme would be broadcast and has been inundated with enquiries which is great.

I’ve decided to cut out all 20 bags before the labels arrive and last night I did seven. I’m determined to use up some of the smaller pieces of fabric so some time will be taken up joining these together. The bag is a bit larger than I had imagined and will certainly hold plenty of shopping.

Here’s some of the first batch awaiting construction.

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 I’ll let you know how I get on.   Thanks to those of you who liked and commented on my last post. I can’t really get my head round the fact that people actually look at what I write!

 

 

 

 

 

All Wrapped Up

Whilst I tend to avert my eyes to avoid looking at all the early manifestations of Christmas appearing in the shops from September onwards there are some things I love about the festive season, not least wrapping up presents.

Over the years there have been many themes including ‘pink & sparkly’, ‘Bollywood’ and ‘Recycled’, the latter involving lots of homemade papier mâché stars to adorn the parcels.

Last year was glamorous pink and black and the previous year saw a more neutral approach with handmade paper flowers which extended to some homemade crackers.

This year I’ve decided to make use of the bay and rosemary plants in the garden and go for a fresh, green look. Last night I could be found wandering round in the dark taking clippings to make a start on some prototypes. I’m planning to use plain brown paper for the basic wrapping but had none to hand so utilised small brown cardboard boxes left over from some lovely Merchant & Mills haberdashery items given to me by my sister last Christmas.

I’m quite pleased with the results so have now stocked up on green ribbons of various widths and some rustic fabrics and papers.

All I need now is to get on with some Christmas shopping so I’ve got something to wrap up!