Friday, 20 November 2015

When All Is Quiet...

... or Creativity is Good For You!

I've been debating whether to write this post or not... and even now I've written it I'm not sure about it.  I don't want it to come across as all "woe is me" and I'm not the most eloquent of writers, but it's a subject that really interests me, although I'm sure other people have written far more insightfully on it. 

What really prompted me to go ahead and write was one of the daily themes from Bimble + Pimble's #BPsewvember over on Instagram.  I'm taking part (although I've missed a couple of days) and thoroughly enjoying seeing how other people interpret the themes and connecting with new to me Instagrammers and bloggers. 

The theme that prompted my ramblings today was the one entitled "Why Sew?"

I sew for a number of reasons; because I love wearing clothes that no one else has (I've mentioned here several times that I wanted to study fashion design when I left school, but wasn't able to); because I love the creative and intellectual challenges sewing presents and because it helps enormously when things get too much and my head feels like it's about to explode.

Picture credit: @marnie_makes on Instagram
Picture credit: @marnie_makes on Instagram

For the past few months I've been posting here less regularly than usual because although I've still been sewing, I'd been finding it increasingly difficult sometimes to summon up the energy to photograph and write about what I'd been making.  I've felt tired all the time and often can't be bothered to get myself dressed up and find a decent spot for photographs.  It turns out that this isn't just down to me being lazy, but actually due to (thankfully, fairly mild) depression and anxiety. 

I've had depression before, some years ago, and at that time I wasn't sewing or doing any creative hobbies really.  My main source of enjoyment then was reading, but I found it so hard to concentrate on even the simplest book when I was feeling low.  My mind would race all over the place and I wouldn't even take in half of what I was reading.  This time around however, I've found that sewing has helped me stay calm when anxiety and confused thoughts threaten to overwhelm me.   

And there are lots of other people taking part in Bimble + Pimble's Instagram challenge that seem to feel the same way.  People with varying degrees of mental health issues posted variations on my feelings that being creative helps them to stay positive and feel better.  There's something about sewing that means you have to concentrate in a completely different way, focussing purely on what you're doing at the time - or that's the way it works for me anyway.

Sewing also reminds me that I am good at something when my brain is telling me I'm rubbish at everything.   I just wish my sewing machine was quieter so that I could sew when I'm awake at 4am without disturbing my husband!

So what's the purpose of this post?  I suppose it's twofold really; firstly to let you know that even if I'm not here posting I am sewing and I will catch up eventually; and secondly to say that if you're feeling low and as if you're rubbish at everything, you're not (rubbish at everything).  Get a project out and sew, or knit, or whatever takes your fancy - even if it's something really simple - I'm sure it will help. 

By the way, I'm still posting progress shots and completed project photos along with various other rubbish on Instagram, so if you don't already follow me there, come over and see what I'm up to. 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Vintage Cape of Awesomeness

I'll start off by saying this is a picture heavy post because I'm rather pleased with this project.

Excuse the stupid claw-like hand - no idea what that's about!

The project started with the fabric, some gorgeous wool blend coating fabric from Fabric HQ.   They also have the same fabric in a navy check.  You might know that I teach a few different sewing classes at Fabric HQ so I'm often there, admiring their new arrivals.  This one arrived the other week and Rae asked me if I'd like to make something from it for them to display in the shop.  Of course I said yes, and then set about hunting for a suitable pattern. 

I wanted something quite simple so that I didn't have to do too much pattern matching.  None of the coat or jacket patterns in my stash were quite right, and then I came across this vintage cape pattern. 

I bought it a couple of summers ago at - would you believe - a funny little shop at the Bletchley Park code breakers museum.  They had a small selection of vintage patterns in amongst other antique "junk" and I think it cost me £1.00. 

I wasn't keen on the collar though, so I decided to mash it up with the collar from the Burdastyle Kim coat. 


This meant extending the fronts a little, which I did by tracing the front sections for the cape then laying them over the front sections for the coat and tracing the neckline curve and additional section I needed.  This kept the shoulder seam correct for the cape and gave me a neckline that matched the collar.   I'm really glad I did this, because the collar feels very cosy and luxurious.

I think I spent a whole evening matching the checks and cutting this out, but once I'd done the cutting out things went together pretty quickly.  The cape has princess seams on the front and back, and a long seam over each shoulder and down the side.  The front princess seams are supposed to contain the arm slits, but I moved mine to the side seams.  I tried them in the front seams on my muslin but could barely move my arms.  I knew if the cape was going to be worn at all they'd have to be moved.

I did four bound buttonholes, centring them in the middle of one of the squares created by the checks.  This was a great help in getting them level and the fabric behaved itself beautifully.  I think I must have used a different tutorial to the last time I did bound buttonholes because I found them much easier than previously.

The time I spent matching the checks at the cutting out stage paid off, because look at the pattern matching on the back of the collar!  I'm definitely proud of that.  This was the first time I'd really done any major pattern matching and while it takes time, it's definitely worth putting the effort in at the preparation stage.

I lined the cape with some paisley jacquard lining from a local fabric shop, and flat piped the seam between the facings and the lining with some bias binding.  This could have been slightly neater - it's not all exactly the same width - but I'm pleased with the effect nonetheless.  

I bagged the lining, using the armhole slit on one side to turn the cape the right way out once the two pieces had been joined together.   I then hand sewed the lining to the fashion fabric around the arm slits.

I think the only thing I'd change about this is that I wish I'd added pockets into the front princess seams, but I'm not going to start taking it apart and adding them.

Thank you very much to Rae and Jacqui at Fabric HQ for providing the fabric for this project.  It's currently on display in their shop, but I can't wait for the opportunity to wear it.  The fabric was wonderful to work with and is cosy but not heavy. 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Lexi in Red

I've only made one Named Patterns pattern before - the Jamie jeans - but when they released their latest collection - New Black - I knew I had to make the Lexi dress.  From the line drawing it looked as if it would be right up my street, and it is.

Named describe this as an A line dress with a loose fit, boat neck and long bust darts at the front.  It has a lowered waistline and an above knee length skirt, with two pleats in the front and back of the skirt.

Here's my finished version.

I used some red polyester crepe I've had in stash for a good couple of years, I'm normally drawn to patterned fabrics but I wanted to use something plain for this to show off the long darts and pleats in the skirt.  Having said that, you can't really see them that well in this photo.  Red is so hard to photograph.

I was going to tell you what size I made but I can't remember.  I printed and cut the pdf pattern out a few weeks before I actually made the dress and I don't have a record of which size I actually used in the end.  I'm naughty - I don't trace pdf patterns - I just cut them out, working on the principle that I can print them again if I need to.   I'd actually rather spend time sticking the sheets together than tracing!

Anyway, I'm happy with the fit across the shoulders and bust, but I'd probably go down one size in the waist and hips another time.  It's meant to be a loose dress but this one is very loose on me.  I do like the shape though, but feel I can only get away with it because it's above knee length. 

I made a few changes along the way as I normally do, nothing major this time though because I love the dress as it is.   The pattern calls for the dress to be lined, but I didn't have any suitable lining so I didn't.  I just used the facing pieces for the top pattern (which is also included when you buy the dress) to finish the neckline.  I used to hate neck facings but I'm coming round to the idea of them again.

I also omitted the back zip, because I only had a standard red zip in the right length and I only like invisible zips in the back of dresses.  It really doesn't need the zip though, I can get it on and off easily.  I think even if I went down a size I wouldn't need a zip in it.

I cut the dress to the length given on the pattern, but then did a much deeper hem - 4 inches instead of the recommended inch and a quarter.  I think this is the perfect length for me - I'm 5' 3" - any longer and it would look like a shapeless, frumpy sack.   I love the way it's slightly longer at the back.

I'll definitely make this again, I have some black and ivory houndstooth fabric in my stash that might work for it, although it's a heavier weight than this crepe.  I think that might work if I go down a size, so that it's not quite so loose.  I think it would also work in a ponte knit and would be so comfortable. 

In the meantime I think I'm going to wear this version to my parent's 50th wedding anniversary party a week on Saturday. 

Friday, 23 October 2015

A Christmas Village

If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen my Tweet earlier in the week about a Christmas sewing tutorial I've been working on. 


I know it's a bit early for most people, myself included, but it was for the 12 Makes of Christmas series of blog posts that my lovely friends at Fabric HQ do every year.   They aim to post one Christmas sewing/crafty related tutorial a week during the 12 weeks leading up to Christmas, hence the early start.

Anyway, my tutorial for a free motion embroidered village is now live on the Fabric HQ blog, so pop over and have a look.  While you're there, have a look at their gorgeous selection of Christmas fabrics, and their lovely fabrics in general.

I'm thinking of doing smaller versions of this for my Christmas cards this year.  Are you planning any Christmas sewing?  Have you started it yet?