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All Kinds of Randomness

This post title could quite accurately describe what's going on in my head most of the time!

However, it's actually a collection of little bits and pieces that I've been thinking about or have to show you.

Firstly, thank you so much for all your comments and responses on my last post.  Sorry it's taken me a while to formulate a response here.  All your comments and survey responses were great and very positive, which made me feel a lot better about my little space here.  It's great to know that you're not bothered about how regularly I post, or whether (on the whole) my photos are brilliant quality and "magazine" styled.  I still need to work on a method/type of photograph I'm happy with - and that may end up being only shots of garments on my mannequin for the time being - but it's given me confidence to continue.

Secondly, I thought I'd show you how I've been occupying my evenings recently.  I always used to knit in the evening, but lost my knitting mojo some time ago.  I think I made two or three things I wasn't totally happy with and had my confidence in choosing a project I liked knocked somewhat.  (What is it with me and confidence?  Obviously something I need to work on!)  Anyway, I've turned to embroidery.  I've done odd bits on and off for years, and have recently started following loads of amazing embroidery Instagrammers - Tessa Perlow is one of my favourites. 

Inspired by this image (which I'm also getting tattooed on my back next month) I decided to embellish my denim jacket.  

I posted quite a few progress shots on my Instagram, so I'll just share the finished piece with you here.

And a close up...

The jacket itself is ancient, one of those pieces that gets dragged out every summer.  I love wearing it over a maxi dress.  The front currently features my two favourite pins/badges - a Poppy Treffry free motion embroidered sewing machine and a ceramic "I love tea" speech bubble.  Both were bought in Cornwall on last years summer holiday. 

Finally, I bought this amazing fabric at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Olympia a couple of weeks ago. 

It's a black linen base with the design kind of felted into the surface.  I'm going to make a jacket with it, but can't decide whether it needs to be a classic collarless Chanel-ish style, or a biker-ish style.  What do you think?

Your Opinion Matters

Anyone else find this blogging lark hard sometimes, or is it just me?

I've been blogging for getting on for 5 years now and have had periods when I've had blog posts coming out of my ears and other periods when it's been a month or more between posts.  During my first (obviously eager) six months of blogging I posted more than I did in the whole of last year. 

My original blog name and header!

The main reason for my lack of posts during the first half of last year was struggles with my mental health. It was too hard to get excited about making anything sometimes, let alone getting dressed up in it and taking photos once I'd made it and then writing about it and sharing the photos.  Things got better around the end of summer though and I started to get enthusiastic about blogging again.

My first Stitched Up by Samantha header.
I made myself a plan; I gave the look of the blog a little makeover, I was going to post every Friday, and I'd have a different topic every week, so people knew what to expect when.  I wanted to try and make things appear more professional as my aim was to build up a business teaching sewing that I could hopefully turn into my main source of income over the next few years.  The dream was to give up the day job! 

One of my favourite free motion embroideries.
Things went well for a while, I posted regularly and I was busy teaching sewing at weekends and taking on additional projects.  I got too busy though, and at the beginning of December had a major anxiety meltdown, wanted to cancel class I was due to teach, every project I'd committed to, I even debated not going on the workshop I'd booked with Alison Smith, which would have meant the loss of the several hundred pounds I'd paid for it.   I didn't though, I did everything I'd already committed to, although I did cancel a few projects that were just in the discussion stages.  People were really nice about it, which made me feel better, however it seemed - and still does - like my dream of turning this little corner of the internet into my livelihood is just a dream.  Apparently my brain needs downtime; it can't cope with working all week and weekends as well. 

Since Christmas I've actively pencilled in "me time" and am not committing to anything like the number of projects and classes I was towards the end of last year.  In fact the thought of doing as much as I was scares me now because I know how awful it made me feel, even though I thought I was doing something I loved and wanted to do. 

Students amazing free motion embroidery pieces.

All this makes me wonder where to go from here, with this blog.  As I said at the start, I find this blogging lark hard.  I do enjoy it, but it's difficult as well.  I hate taking photos for the posts.  I envy those bloggers who's photos look like they've been pulled from the pages of a high fashion magazine, when mine are taken in the corner of the spare bedroom against a woodchip wall on a camera with a self timer. 

What I'm really getting to is a favour.  I'd love your opinion on what I do, what I write, what I share and so I'm asking you - ever so nicely I hope - if you have a couple of minutes to spare taking this survey

If you'd rather not do the survey, I'd love it if you'd leave me a comment below telling me what you'd like to see more of here... 

Thank you ever so much.  As the post title says, your opinion is important!

Made by Me: Fancy Tiger Crafts Fen Dress

This is one of those patterns I've been meaning to make every since it was released, and I've finally got round to it, prompted by the fact that I'm going to be teaching a class on it soon.

I know it's not essential, but I always like to make up a pattern I'm going to be teaching just to see if there are any quirks or any parts of the construction I would do differently.

The "quirk" if you like with this pattern is the neck binding.  It's done in a way I'd never seen before in a pattern for wovens and looks something like the finish on many jersey t-shirts.  It's hard to see in the photo below unfortunately due to the patterned fabric.

I like the look of it, but goodness, it took me 4 attempts to get the binding on and laying flat.  I actually ended up cutting it off after 2 attempts and starting again with a new binding.  My neckline is therefore very slightly wider and lower than intended.

That was the only problem I had with the pattern, the rest of it went together beautifully.   I love the pockets - who doesn't love a dress with pockets!

Even the gathering on the skirt went smoothly, helped by the fact that the fabric actually gathered itself almost exactly the right amount as I was machining the two rows of gathering stitches!  It's not actually as gathered as I was expecting, I was quite surprised when I cut it out that the skirt pieces weren't wider.

The only change I made was to cut the back skirt in two pieces, adding a seam allowance so I could do a centre back seam.  This allowed me to use much less fabric than recommended in the pattern and I think I've got enough left for a top. 

I used French seams throughout, except when attaching the gathered skirt to the bodice - yes, I even French seamed the pockets and the side seams.  You can do it on lightweight fabrics if you cut the seam allowance on the first seam down as small as possible and use a small seam allowance on the second seam. 

To keep things neat inside I finished the sleeves and hem with bias tape. 

Speaking of the hem, I went for the high-low option.  I know some people don't like high-low hems but I think they're pretty nice on the whole.  The difference in length on this one isn't too great, just enough to add a bit of interest.  I debated whether to do the shirt tail hem, but thought I'd save that detail for the next time I make this pattern.

I'm looking forward to wearing this when the weather gets a bit warmer.  The fabric - a lovely drapy viscose - is a little lightweight to wear at the moment.  First of all though, it needs to go to Fabric HQ so they can display it to advertise the class!

More Bags

I don't know about you, but there are times when I get obsessed with a certain thing, be it making something in particular, eating a certain type of food, listening to a certain CD over and over again...

I'm currently obsessed with making clutch bags.

I showed you the free motion embroidered faux leather one the other week and over the weekend I made two more with fabrics from my stash.  Both were slightly experimental but I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out.

The first is made from some leopard print furnishing fabric I picked up at our local hospice charity shop.  In addition to their normal high street shop they have a warehouse outlet where they sell furniture, curtains and fabric remnants among other things.  When I bought this piece I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but it was too nice not to buy, and was pretty cheap.

I used a chunky navy zip from my stash, I'd have preferred a metal one, but I didn't have a long enough one. 

The back has a zipped pocket on the outside this time, as on my previous clutch bag the internal zipped pocket is quite tricky to reach.

The lining is a remnant of floral cotton lawn that's been in my stash for about 3 years.  There wasn't enough left to make a garment of any sort but I thought it too nice to get rid of.   It coordinates pretty well with the tones of the outer fabric.

That was Saturday afternoon's project.  Yesterday I was in a free motion embroidery mood, so after completing a sample for a potential new class I rummaged through the stash again.  This time I came up with a remnant of camel wool coating (actually from the same charity shop) and some Art Gallery fabric quilting cotton that coordinated well.  I also had a couple of metal zips the right colour.

This time I started by fussy cutting some floral motifs from the cotton which I appliqued onto the wool fabric.

I used the same fabric for the lining. 

I adore this combination and as soon as I'd finished it I started hunting online for some more of the quilting cotton so I can make myself a larger bag.  It seems to be discontinued, but I managed to find a piece on Etsy which is now on it's way to me.  I'm thinking of drafting my own tote bag pattern for this, but if anyone has a recommendation of a good one, then please let me know in the comments. 

My intention is to make a number of clutch bags in differing styles and using different methods with two aims; firstly to teach a class or two and secondly to (hopefully) sell some.