Monday, 8 September 2014

Hopping Around

If you read as many sewing blogs as I do you've probably seen at least some of the Blog Hop posts that have been popping up over the last few weeks.
I've really enjoyed reading them and finding out a bit more about what makes my favourite sewing bloggers tick.  I was very flattered when I received an email from Claire at I Want to be a Turtle asking me if I would take part.
So here goes:
Why do I write?
Good question!  I really had to think about this, why do I write?  Is it to entertain, inform, keep a record, learn? 
Really a bit of each of those things.
When I started blogging in the summer of 2012 I'd been reading sewing blogs for a couple of years, commenting on a few sporadically and learning lots.  Slowly the thought came into my mind that if all these people out there in the world were sharing their sewing and other skills online, then why shouldn't I?  It seemed to me - rightly or wrongly - that if I wanted to learn more and improve my sewing then I needed to be able to take a more active roll in the online sewing community than merely commenting on other peoples blogs.
Like many others taking part in this blog hop have noted, my blog largely forms a place for me to keep records of what I've done, alterations I've made to patterns, things I'd like to try differently next time. 
I hope that my writing is entertaining or at least interesting.  I have to say that creative writing was never my strong point - I'm much more of a "why use 200 words when 20 will do" type of writer so I do worry sometimes that my posts are a bit abrupt, but then other times I can waffle on indefinitely.
My blog is mainly about sharing what I'm working on or what I've just finished, with a few tutorial type posts thrown in along the way.  I see some bloggers writing detailed and obviously well researched posts on social issues, but I have to say that's not my thing!  That's not to say that I'm not interested in these issues, just that I don't want to write about them.  I'd rather keep things more light hearted here.
What am I working on?
Well, like most people I normally have several projects on the go.  Currently I'm working on my Alabama Chanin skirt, which I posted about last week.  As that is handsewn it's taking time, but it's a thoroughly enjoyable project.
I'm also working on my next Minerva Crafts Network project, which I can't share with you right now, but will be revealed next week.
Towards the end of the month I'm planning on starting my big project of the year, a winter coat.  I'll be making this Burdastyle one, the pattern is cut out and ready to go as I intended to make it last year and never got round to it!
I'm also working my way through the Craftsy Pattern Making Basics - The Skirt Sloper course.  I've wanted to learn pattern making for ages and my lovely hubby got me this course, and the bodice sloper one for my birthday. 
How does your blog differ from others of it's genre?
My initial reaction to this question was "I don't know"!   I suppose to a certain extent most sewing blogs are the same, we all make things, we all share them with our readers.
I think where my blog differs from some others is that I don't really have a defined style.  There are a lot of bloggers out there that have a very defined style, be it vintage garments, certain colour schemes, prints, whatever.  I'm much more eclectic with my choices (and always have been with clothes) and tend to make whatever takes my fancy.  I do love dresses though...
... except shirt dresses.  The sewing blogger community seems to LOVE shirt dresses, and I definitely differ in that respect because I hate them!  (On me, that is.  I love a good shirt dress on other people!)  I won't say you'll never see a shirt dress on this blog, but it's highly unlikely.
How does your writing process work?
I tend to write a post and then publish it almost immediately, usually within a few days of finishing the item if I'm sharing a finished project.  As I mentioned earlier, creative writing was never my strong point and there's only so long I can fiddle with posts before I hit publish.   I'm lucky in that I work from home at least part of the week, so I can normally find time during the day to write a post if I want to.  I'm not as restricted as some bloggers in having to find time at weekends to write posts which will then go live during the week. 
Having said that, if I'm feeling particularly inspired I will occasionally write two or three posts in a day and schedule them over the course of a week.

I had to choose two bloggers to take over this blog hop from me, and I've nominated Maria from How Good is That?  and Lucie from Love, Lucie, both of whom who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Minerva Crafts meet up earlier this year. 
You can read their answers to these same questions next Monday 15th September.

 photo Samsignature.png

Friday, 5 September 2014

Friday Fancies


I always mean to do these posts far more regularly, but anyway, here's another in my occasional "Friday Fancies" series.

Here are a few things that have caught my eye recently.

Papercut Patterns Clover dress.  It's quite unusual for me to buy a pattern as soon as it's released, but I did with this one.   My pattern arrived from New Zealand last Saturday and I went out for dinner in the completed dress the following day.  I made a couple of changes to it, but it's a fabulous design.  It will be blogged about as soon as I can get some decent photos.


Another new dress pattern, this time with a skirt option as well.  The Dalloway dress and skirt from Jennifer Lauren Vintage .  This one will have to wait until next Spring, but I can definitely see myself making this.  So pretty.


This Prewrapped Wrap from The Purl Bee looks as though it would be a really useful and cosy garment to snuggle up in over the coming colder months. 


This postcard cushion by nanaCompany is so beautiful.  I'd love to make one myself.


And finally, something to eat.  I was given a bag of courgettes (zucchini) last week and wanted to do something other than put them in ratatouille.  This recipe was so easy and very delicious.  Garlic, lemon and parmesan courgettes by Cooking Classy.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Alabama Stitching

If you follow me on Instagram (which you can do here) you'll probably have seen my first steps into sewing the Alabama Chanin way.  

You may not have heard of Alabama Chanin - I hadn't until Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn wrote this post last year.   I was immediately intrigued, the book she wrote about looked beautiful, as did the stitching itself. I immediately jumped on Amazon and ordered a copy for myself.  (By the way, Carolyn has made some AMAZING Alabama Chanin projects, as has her mum!  A very talented family!).
When the book arrived I devoured it and ooh-ed and aah-ed over every gorgeous photograph, then put it on my bookshelf.  It wasn't until a conversation with Gail from Today's Agenda a couple of months ago that I seriously considered actually making something using this method.  Gail was preparing a project she could take on holiday with her, and I decided to work along side her.  She's a bit ahead of me, but then she got organised far quicker than I did!
I decided to make a skirt - the book comes with several traceable patterns for simple tops, skirts and dresses - and settled on dark grey with a black underlayer.  However, when I went to order my fabric the black jersey was out of stock, so I got dark and light grey.  I ordered my jersey here.
The next step was to decide on which stencil to use. You can buy the stencils ready cut from the Alabama Chanin website, but they're expensive.  You can also download (for free) pdf documents of the stencils, which you then tape together and cut yourself.  I decided to go this route, and after a lot of prevarication decided on the Angie's Fall Placement design.   
I have to say, cutting it was not easy, there are some small details that I could not control my craft knife well enough to cut from the plastic sheet, so I'm going to draw those in free hand.  
I was a bit worried about getting in a mess with applying fabric paint to the stencil, and while browsing my local art and craft shop, found a gel roller ball pen especially for use on fabric.  This was perfect, as I'd already decided I didn't really want any of the painted areas to remain after I'd finished stitching.  I was able to draw the outlines of each shape neatly onto the fabric and cut these lines completely away as I've progressed. 
You'll notice my under layer is indeed black not light grey - when I did my test piece (in the first picture) I didn't like the light grey, but luckily remembered I had a piece of black jersey in my stash from a previous project.  There was just enough to cut the skirt from, and I'm much happier with the darker underlayer.    
Here you can see one of the flowers in progress.  I like cutting away the centre of the stitched sections once I've done a few so I can see the design developing. 
Above is an almost completed flower - there are small comma-like additions to go between each petal, which will be drawn on free hand later and then stitched.
I'm absolutely loving doing this.  I'm finding it both relaxing and rewarding and cannot wait to see the finished skirt.  It's wonderful to see each flower develop and I'd forgotten how much I like hand sewing.
I'll definitely be sharing my progress on this skirt, and I'm sure there will be other Alabama Chanin inspired projects in my future.  A maxi dress for next summer seems likely...
Do you enjoy handsewing?  Would you take on a project like this?  
 photo Samsignature.png


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Autumn Sewing Plans

Autumn appears to be arriving in the UK (although we are promised another spell of warmer weather next week) and my thoughts are turning towards what I want to sew for this Autumn/Winter.
I have to say I love Autumn, I think its my favourite time of year.  I love being snuggled up in dresses and cosy cardi's, with some thick tights and boots.  Autumn clothing just feels so much more "me" than summer clothes.
So what am I planning on making?
First up, I think it will be another version of Butterick 5246, which is now sadly out of print. 
I made version A pre-blog, soon after I got back into sewing after a few years break, and I've worn my first one to death.  So much so that I'm getting bored of it.  My new one will use this lovely geometric jersey I bought recently from Bluebell and Brook.
I think this is going to be pretty much the perfect Autumn/Winter dress.  Cosy but still stylish.
Next will be Papercut Patterns new Clover dress.  Have you seen this one?  Do you love it?
I'll be making mine longer, and possibly lengthening the sleeves too.  I think I might make this in some black ditsy printed chiffon, from White Tree Fabrics.  The fabric has strips of lace sewn onto it, then the print is applied on top of that.  Depending on the pattern pieces (I didn't buy the pdf pattern, but the printed version - so I'm still waiting for it to arrive) I'm wondering if I can unpick one of the lace strips and use that for the bodice insert.
I also want to draft myself a dress.  I tried on this gorgeous Ghost dress today, but the neckline was indecently low. 
It's a fairly simple drop waisted style, with the "drop" being lower at the back than the front.  I'm thinking it would be fairly simple to draft myself?
My major project this year is going to be a coat.  I downloaded this Burdastyle pattern last year.  
I got as far as printing out and taping together the pdf, and even bought some fabric to make it with.  This year I'm definitely going to make it.
Apart from these that I've already identified I need some separates, particularly trousers.  I like slim legged styles, preferably with a side zip, but am finding it a bit difficult to find a pattern that works well for pear shapes.  I do have a Simplicity one that I've muslined once, made some alterations to and am soon to muslin again.
I also need tops, but haven't identified any patterns for those yet!  I suppose I've got more than enough to think about with my dresses and coat.
Have you made any plans for Autumn sewing yet (or Spring sewing if you're in the Southern Hemisphere)?  What's your favourite season?

 photo Samsignature.png

Friday, 22 August 2014

I Made This: Polly Top

Happy Friday everyone!  I'm working from home today, and having a nice relaxing time too.
I have a new top to share with you today.  It's the Polly top from By Hand London and is highly recommended by me.
I initially downloaded this free pattern as I was looking for potential patterns to use for a class I'm hoping to teach.  I wasn't sure if this would be a good one to use, or if Colette's Sorbetto would be better.  Having made both patterns now, my preference is definitely the Polly top.  I'll tell you why shortly.
As you can see I've made mine from a single fabric, rather than having a contrast panel in the front.  You can still see that there is a panel there, it's just a lot more subtle.
There are no darts on this pattern, instead the curves of the front panel provide all the shaping at the front, while the back is just a gentle A-line. 
The pattern itself went together very easily - once I'd taped together the 30 sheets of the pdf download.  That's my only gripe with this pattern - there were pretty large borders around the sheets, it could definitely be made to fit onto fewer pages.
I used French seams for the shoulders and side seams, and for the front panel I used a standard seam, trimmed the seam allowance down and finished it with a small zigzag stitch.   I was a bit worried about how easily the curved front seams would fit together, but with plenty of pins they matched up perfectly.
I then topstitched my front seam, both to make the seam allowance lay flat, and to make it stand out a little bit more.

I wanted this top to be work appropriate so I made some changes to the neckline.  As drawn, the front and back necklines are rather low, and the armholes cut in somewhat. 
As we are not allowed to wear sleeveless or revealing garments in the office, I raised the front neckline by just over an inch and the back neckline by a good couple of inches.  I also widened the shoulders so the armholes aren't too revealing.
Below are photos of the pattern pieces as I altered them.  The green highlighted lines show where I should have cut for my size.


So why do I prefer this pattern to the Sorbetto?  Well, mainly the shaping.  I know many people love the Sorbetto, but I find it too boxy on me.  Polly seems to be drafted for my shape and I think it's generally a "cooler" style than the Sorbetto. 
I think you do need to use a nice drapy fabric for this pattern.  I used a heavy-ish polyester georgette which worked really well.  I'm not sure I would like it as much in a cotton lawn or quilting cotton, but then I'm not a great lover of cotton fabrics for anything to be honest!   I much prefer the drape of a crepe de chine (whether synthetic or natural fibres) or a viscose.
I'll definitely be making more Pollys.  I have some gorgeous ivory silk with random black splodges on that I think would work really well, and I also have enough of my Oonapalooza fabric left over for a top.  I may well use one of those fabrics to make the pattern as intended with the lower neckline and armholes, as neither of them are fabrics I would wear to work.   I'm not sure I can see myself making this with 2 contrasting fabrics though.  Perhaps if I found just the right ones... never say never!
Have you made this pattern?  Do you think you'd prefer this or the Sorbetto?  I'd be interested to find out.  
 photo Samsignature.png

Monday, 18 August 2014

Minerva Blogger Network - Charlotte Skirt

For my Minerva project this month I decided I’d start looking towards the cooler weather a bit and also try to fill a gap in my wardrobe.  Up until now I didn’t have a black skirt... now I do.
I decided to use the By Hand London Charlotte skirt pattern, and make the plain version without peplum or hem frill so it would be useful for work.

The pattern description on the By Hand London website says that “this skirt has been designed with an hourglass figure in mind, allowing a generous amount of ease at the hips”, so I being generous around the hips myself I thought the shaping would be perfect.
And it was.
(I really need to get my photographer better trained so we don’t have garden hoses and watering cans in the background!)
As I’ve found with other By Hand London patterns, everything went together very well.  The double darts in both front and back give a lovely shape, and accommodate the large difference between my waist and hip measurements perfectly.
I only made one change, and that was to the hem.  The muslin I made was way too long – so I chopped 4 inches off the length.  I then realised that because the skirt is so tapered, when I turned the hem up there was no way I was going to be able to sew it without it puckering.
I toyed with the idea of making a separate hem facing, but changed my mind and cut it in with the main skirt pieces.  The little sketch below will hopefully give you some idea of what I did.
After deciding how deep I wanted the hem – 2 inches – I measured this amount below the finished length and drew diagonal lines reflecting the taper of the skirt.  When folded under the hem matches the taper perfectly and I was able to hand sew the hem without it showing at all.
To add a bit of secret interest I finished all the seam allowances with bright pink bias tape so the inside looks nice and pretty.
The fabric I used was black stretch cotton sateen which is perfect for this pattern as it is nice and firm with just a small amount of stretch.   The kit includes 1.5 metres of this fabric (in case you want to add the peplum or hem frill), the Charlotte skirt pattern and an invisible zip.
Excuse the wrinkles, I'd been wearing it to work!
 photo Samsignature.png

Monday, 11 August 2014

Learn to sew with me

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll probably have guessed that one of my favourite patterns is the By Hand London Anna dress. 
To date I've made 4 versions of it: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Now I'm very excited to announce that I will be teaching a class on how to make your own Anna.
A few months ago I was asked by Rae at Fabric HQ if I would be interested in teaching this class (she knows how many times I've made the pattern!) and I was thrilled to be able to say yes, I'd love to!   After some discussions over dates we've settled on a three part workshop in September and October, which will be held at Fabric HQ's lovely new premises in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire.   You can see more pictures of their new place on their Facebook page.
I know that not many of my readers are local enough to be able to attend, but if you are interested (or know someone who might be) you can read more about the workshop here.
I'll also be teaching a freemotion machine embroidery class in November and Rae and I are cooking up plans for an Introduction to Dressmaking class. Details of these workshops are yet to be finalised, so aren't yet on the Fabric HQ website, but I'll let you know when they are.
I'm both very excited and a little nervous about teaching this class. 
I'd better go and make myself another Anna and actually follow the instructions rather than go off on my own route, so I know what I'm supposed to be teaching!

 photo Samsignature.png