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?  
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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?
 
 
 
 

 
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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.
 
 
Back:
 



Front:


 
 
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.  
 
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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!
 
 
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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!

 
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Thursday, 7 August 2014

My sewing corner

Hello there. 
 
I did try to write this post yesterday, but Blogger didn't want me to for some reason!  Never mind, here we are today instead.
 
I haven't got any sewing to show you today I'm afraid.  I have been sewing, but it's been alterations for other people - apparently I know a lot of short people who like wearing maxi dresses, because all I seem to have been doing is turning up maxi dresses!
 
I don't like doing alterations, but there are a few people I find it hard to say no to.
 
In lieu of sharing a newly completed sewing project with you, I thought I'd instead show you where I sew.  I'm lucky enough to have a dedicated sewing space, a corner of the larger of our 2 spare bedrooms.  (The smaller of our 2 spare rooms is my office, as I work from home).  My poor husband says he feels like I've taken over the house - I think he's joking!  Anyway it was his idea that we created my sewing corner.
 


 

As you can see, I have quite a bit of space.  My table/desk/whatever you like to call it is made up of two 4 cube Ikea Expedit units, with a length of shelving board across the top.  This isn't fixed down, so I can move it forward to put the cables of my sewing machine down behind it.  I don't move my machine that often - probably only to go to a monthly "sewcial", but it's handy to be able to move it easily if I need to.
 
My overlocker fits perfectly into one of the cubby holes in the unit - it's in the top right cubby hole of the left hand unit.  I keep sewing books in the bottom left of the same unit, and have 2-drawer inserts in the other 2 spaces.  The ones under the overlocker are filled with overlocker threads, instructions for both the overlocker and my regular machine, and the power cable and other overlocker bits when they're not in use.
 
 
 
The other Expedit unit has 2 baskets at present - I think I've got a couple more somewhere.  One holds fabric that I intend to use in the not too distant future, and the other holds PDF patterns and other patterns that are too big to go in my pattern boxes. 
 
The small white filing cabinet is also from Ikea and holds general sewing notions, zips, bias binding, interfacing and various other bits and pieces.
 
 


The majority of my patterns are in boxes on the shelf above my sewing area, categorised into "dresses", "separates", "vintage" and "other".  The "dresses" box is full to overflowing, whereas the "other" box only has one pattern in at the moment.  As you can see, there are a few that need filing away again!
 
On this shelf I also have a couple of boxes of fat quarters and other scraps that I use for my machine embroideries and a couple of boxes of knitting yarn. 
 
In between the shelf and the desk I have a couple of picture shelves - Ikea again!  When I bought them they were going to have pots of pens, scissors, etc on them, but they're not quite deep enough.  Instead I use them for notebooks and pictures, like this Becka Griffin Alphabet of Sewing print and an all important clock!
 


 
I love seeing where other people sew, so I hope you've enjoyed this little tour round my sewing space. 
 
I realise I'm very lucky to have a dedicated area for sewing.  It's wonderful to be able to walk away and leave everything out, rather than have to waste time putting my things away then getting them out before I want to sew again.
 
Do you have a dedicated sewing space?

 
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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Bluebell & Brook

Have you heard of Bluebell & Brook?
 
I hadn't either until last week.  I was spending a random evening browsing the web - I can't even remember exactly what I'd been looking for - when I stumbled upon their website.
 
They are a small family run company specialising in a selection of fabrics, haberdashery and indie patterns. 
 
The fabrics in particular attracted my attention, they have some very pretty fabrics in designs I hadn't seen elsewhere, at very reasonable prices. 
 
Of course, some of it was begging to join my stash.  I was quite restrained and only bought 2 metres of this lovely songbird print satin
 
 
 
and 2 metres of this geometric print jersey, both from the "soft and drapey" section of the website. 
 
 
 
One thing I really like is that they sell fabric by 1/2metre increments, which a lot of online retailers don't do.  I know I ended up with whole metres in this purchase, but sometimes I don't want to have to buy that extra half metre, particularly if the fabric is pricy.  These were very reasonable, and in this case I did want 2 metres of each, but its great to know I can buy by the half metre if I want to.
 
My order was dispatched really quickly and arrived well packaged, with even a little notecard from Judith, the owner, thanking me for my purchases.  The fabrics themselves are lovely.  Both are very soft and drapey as expected, and the jersey in particular has a wonderful feel to it.  It's going to be delicious made up into a dress for winter.
 
I'll definitely be shopping with Bluebell & Brook again, there are more fabrics I have my eye on, including this green dogtooth check and this Amy Butler babycord.  Wouldn't they both be great for winter skirts?  I can't believe I'm even thinking about winter when it's as hot as it has been here the last couple of weeks.  Never hurts to be thinking ahead though!
 
 
Disclaimer: I received no compensation, financial or otherwise, for this review.  It was written purely because I was impressed with the quality of the service and the fabrics that Bluebell & Brook provided me with.
 

 
 
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