Lovely Linen Laurel

After spending ages convincing myself I wasn't going to buy Colette's new Laurel dress pattern I totally caved and bought it!  Must have been the lure of the fabulous prizes in their contest (not that I expect to win for one minute!)

I had some navy viscose/linen in my stash that I bought quite recently to make another dress with and when it arrived (I bought it online) it didn't feel right for the other dress.  However it was perfect for Laurel.

This is what I did with it.

I  couldn't be bothered to make a muslin, so I used my NL6000 pattern (which fits perfectly) to make a few minor adjustments, but after that I went my own way completely. 

I drafted some little pockets, which I think you can just about see have a little pleat at the top.  The bias tape edging the neck and pockets is self made (my first time at making bias tape - managed to burn my fingers several times!) and I used the scallops from the bottom of Colette's Meringue skirt pattern.

Inside, the side seams, shoulder seams and sleeve seams are French seams (my favourite seam finish), the armhole/sleeve seams are bound with bias tape (my second favourite seam finish) and the edge of the hem facing is covered with bias tape and hand finished.  I thought I'd got photos of them but it appears I've deleted them by mistake.  Ooops!

Anyway, I love it.  I think it will (weather permitting) make a great addition to my Me Made May wardrobe, and I've entered it into the "Details" section of Colette's Laurel contest. 

I'm currently halfway through making a stripy top from the jersey Rosy sent me as part of my Nautical gift exchange, then it's on to unselfish sewing!

Last night I took delivery of £400 worth of embroidered silk dupion and satin back crepe to make a "Mother of the Groom" outfit for a friend of ours.  I'm absolutely terrified about cutting the silk up, it cost £85 a metre!   First job is to grade up the pattern slightly and make a muslin!

Silver Dream Machine

No not this one!

(Although I have to say I loved a bit of David Essex when I was young!)

This one:

How gorgeous is that!?

My friend Sarah designs and makes silver jewellery.  Inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee she's been making sewing machine and scissor pendants.

Mine is customised with the etching detail and the pearl on the chain and I got it in the post this morning.  Isn't it lovely?

If you're interested, you can find Sarah's designs here on Folksy: Sarah Brooks Jewellery.

Sewn Images Tutorial - part 1

Over the weekend I made another of my machine embroidered/appliqu├ęd pictures for a friend’s birthday present.  As I had a bit of time, I decided to document the process and put together a little tutorial for anyone who might be interested.

So here goes – warning, there are lots of photos!

You will need:
  • Background fabric – this is what your picture will be stitched onto, so you need to choose something relatively thick and stable.  In this example I used Lenda 100% cotton fabric from Ikea, but you could use any firm fabric.  I’ve also used linen, and denim would be good.
  • Small pieces of coloured/patterned fabric to make your picture.  You could use pretty much anything, offcuts of quilting cotton, dress fabric, even textured fabrics.  Here I’ve used small scraps of Liberty Tana lawn, which I bought from Very Berry Fabrics on Folksy.
  • Iron on embroidery backing or iron on interfacing.  You will need this on the back of your background fabric to provide stability to your sewn image.  Janome Iron On Stabilizer was recommended to me,  but it's really hard to find.  A decent medium weight iron on interfacing works just as well.
  • Bondaweb.
  • Tissue paper.
  • A darning or embroidery foot for your sewing machine.
First, choose an image that you would like to recreate in fabric.  It can be anything you like!  Sometimes I’ve traced things from books or photographs, but this time I’m using a hand drawn image of a cupcake.
Keep things fairly simple initially until you get the hang of the technique, then you can let your imagination run riot.
Cut a piece of your background fabric at least 2 inches bigger than you want the finished picture to be (to allow for framing etc).
Then cut a piece of iron on embroidery backing or interfacing a little bigger than your chosen image and iron it onto the back of your background fabric. 
Cut the drawing/tracing of your image up into sections – each section will use a different fabric.   Once you’ve chosen the fabrics you want to use for the image, turn them face down, lay the section of your picture you want to copy face down on top and draw round them.  Drawing round a face down image on the back of your fabric ensures that it's the right way round when you turn the fabric over.  

Do this will all your pieces, then cut them out.  If you’ve got quite a few pieces you might want to number them in some way, so you can remember which piece goes where!

The next step is to iron your cut pieces onto the Bondaweb.  Lay them out and cover them with a piece of tissue paper before you iron them, to avoid getting the glue from the Bondaweb on your iron (ask me how I know this is important!)
After ironing, remove the tissue paper and it should look like this.

Carefully peel the pieces off the Bondaweb – be careful with any areas that could tear or break - and position them onto your background fabric. It's worth spending a bit of time on this stage, to make sure everything is positioned exactly as you want, while there's still time to change your mind!
Don’t worry about the tufts of glue around the edges, they will disappear when you iron the pieces onto the background.  Lay another piece of tissue paper over this image and press again.
Carefully peel back the tissue after pressing, and you should be left with something like this.  The tufts of glue have disappeared.
Now it’s time to start sewing. 
Attach the darning/embroidery foot to your sewing machine and lower the feed dogs.  This step is important to allow you to move the fabric in any direction you like under the needle.
Position your image under the needle.  I find it easiest to start in one “corner” and I always lower the needle into the fabric by hand before I start sewing.
Carefully stitch round each piece of your image separately.  I like to go round twice, to form a more solid outline, but you can experiment to see what works for you.

You can see that it’s virtually impossible to get your two lines of stitching exactly on top of each other, but I think the uneven nature adds to the charm!  Once you’ve gone round the edges you can really start to have fun, adding as much or as little detail as you like.

I added swirls to the icing, and lines for the folds in the cupcake case, as well as a bit more detail on the flower.
I still thought it was a bit plain though, so I added some squiggles around the base.  These are really fun to do, just move the fabric any way you like under the needle!  It’s a strange sensation at first, but once you get used to it, it’s great fun.

And here’s the finished picture in its frame.  I gave it to my friend last night and she loved it!
A few tips:
  • Practice on some scrap fabric first and try doodling with your sewing machine.  It takes a little while to get used to the feeling of not having to sew in straight lines.
  • The more slowly you move the fabric under the needle the smaller the stitches will be. 
  • Use whatever colour thread you like.  I tend to use black, but a colour that coordinates with your fabric can look nice, although will be less noticeable.  It just depends on the look you’re going for.
  • You can add any kind of embellishment you like.  Beads, sequins, hand embroidery, even paint!  I often paint highlights and shadows onto my pictures to give them more dimension.
  • If you have lots of pieces in your image you might want to use a tracing of the picture as a guide when assembling the image.  I’ll do a separate tutorial on this, as you can then use the tracing as a sewing guide as well. 
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, and found it helpful.  Please don’t hesitate to ask if there’s anything else you’d like to know!

Sewultion Success!


I Have Made Trousers And They Fit!

At the beginning of the year, like many others, I signed up to Karen at Did You Make That's Sewultions.   We all made our pledges stating what we wanted to achieve sewing-wise this year - our sewing resolutions.

Mine was to make a pair of trousers that fit me properly.  And by jove, I think I've done it!

I've been humm-ing and ha-ing for ages about which trousers to make.  I'd even bought a pattern for a slim legged pair (McCalls 6707), but I wasn't sure about them.

Then on impulse last week I bought Simplicity 2562 - one of their Amazing Fit patterns.  This is completely the opposite of the McCalls pattern I was originally going to make, the legs are VERY wide. 

But let me tell you, it is aptly named!  The fit is simply amazing!

I opted to make them without pockets or turn-ups (basically because I didn't have enough fabric), and based on my measurements decided I needed to use the pattern pieces for the curvy fit.    And do you know what, they fit almost perfectly , with no alterations at all!

(warning...... these aren't the worlds greatest photos!  And the do show wrinkling that isn't there in real life - how does that work?!?)

I haven't finished the hems yet, they're just tacked up waiting hubby's confirmation that I've got them the right length.   I will try and get a couple of better pictures once they are completely finished.

I can't believe how straightforward these were.  Even the fly front (which I've never made before) worked perfectly.  It really was a case of "follow the instructions and hope for the best".

As I don't have an overlocker, I finished all the exposed edges with bias tape.  The fly and crotch seam in navy, and the legs in pink, because the shop didn't have any more navy. 

My husband commented last night that they look "very professional". 

When I make these again (and I definitely will) I'll make a few changes, but only small ones.  They are very high waisted, which I don't mind, but I'd probably take about 1/2 an inch off the top of the "body" part before adding the waistband.   I'd also make the legs slightly narrower because they are very wide. 

I'm thinking of a red pair - would that be too much?!

Oooh, on another note - I've signed up to Me Made May!

It will be my first time participating, and I'm very excited.  As this is my first go, I wasn't sure that I could commit to wearing me made clothes every day, so I've pledged to wear me made items at least 3 times a week.  I am hoping I can do better than this though!

Nautical Niceties

First of all, thank you to everyone who commented on my last post, whether to offer advice or sympathy.  The general consensus seems to be that the whole pattern is too big for me!  Unfortunately Style Arc patterns come as individual sizes, so I shall have to do some grading before I can proceed.  I'll keep you updated on my progress. 

Tuesday was not a good crafting day for me, as after the jacket disaster I discovered the sleeve of a cardigan I'm knitting was too tight, so I had to rip out all 94 rows I'd done!

As you can imagine I was feeling slightly demoralised, so it was lovely to get home from work yesterday, to a big parcel all the way from Spain. 

It was my gift from Rosy of SewingAdicta, who I was paired with in House of Pinheiro's International Craft Swap.

I'd already seen on Rosy's blog what she was sending me, so I was very excited to see the gorgeous goodies in real life.  And gorgeous they are!

Rosy has been incredibly generous.  The brief was to make an item of your choice on a nautical theme, or using the colours red, white and blue, and to include a small gift to the value of £3.00.

Well, Rosy has made me this gorgeous zipped purse.  She's even handpainted the anchor motif herself! 

In addition to this, Rosy sent me 3 balls of cotton yarn, in navy, white and red and some red, white and blue striped jersey fabric.  I'm not sure yet what I'm going to make with the yarn, but I'm pretty sure I'll make the jersey into a top.
Thank you Rosy, your gift was amazingly kind and generous.
Now, I expect you'd like to see what I made Rosy.
I also made a bag/purse, using this tutorial.  I went for the red, white and blue theme and used red cotton for the outside and a print featuring all things British on the inside.

For the additional gift I send Rosy a pretty necklace with a vintage looking flower pendant on it.  Unfortunately I forgot to photograph that!
It was great to take part in the swap organised by Rachel, and I've discovered several new and exciting blogs as a result.

Fitting Frustrations


You might remember some weeks ago that I was wittering on about jackets, having found the gorgeous Julia jacket from Style Arc Patterns.  After much umm-ing and ahh-ing (mainly over the postage costs) I decided to order it. 

It came a week or so ago, and now I've finished altering the bridesmaids dresses I decided to start making my muslin. 

That is where the  Aaarrrgggh! at the start of this post comes in!

OH MY GOODNESS, I've never had anything fit so badly, or so wrong in so many places. 

I don't have a photo of how it initially fit, but the back looked as if it was made for someone about twice my size!  I really didn't know what to do, but I started off by pinching about 2 inches out across the top of the back, then another couple of inches down the centre back seam.  Here's Rosie modelling the changes:

The next photos are scary, so if you're of a nervous disposition you might want to stop reading now!

I tried it on again, thinking things would be much better... and they were a tiny bit better.  Except I've now got these weird curved bits of excess fabric at the sides, kind of below the level of my boobs. 

And it still looks like it's too big at the back of the shoulders.  And there's a massive bit of excess fabric at the FRONT of my shoulder now, vertically.  I think that might be eliminated to a certain extent by narrowing the shoulder seam which is too wide. 

I'm assuming that the waterfall collar and peplum would pull it down a bit, as would the proper weight fabric.  But to be honest, I have no idea what to do.   I can't pin it when I've got it on, and it sits differently on Rosie, so she's not much help.

I'm not normally one to admit defeat, particularly this early on in the process, but I'm seriously tempted to look for another pattern, cos I can't see this one working for me.

Any advice, or expressions of sympathy, gratefully received! 

I'd like to thank...

... Jacq, from A Good Talking To... for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog and Very Inspiring Blogger awards.

Thank you so much Jacq, its no secret that I sometimes find blogging hard, so its lovely to know that there people out there who enjoy my ramblings!

Like most things, there are a few rules attached, and the rules of this award are:

Thank the person who nominated you. 
Add the One Lovely Blog Award/Very Inspiring Blogger Award to your post.
Share 7 things about yourself.
Pass the award on to 10 nominees.
Include this set of rules. 
Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs. 

I've thanked Jacq and added the awards to this post, so my next step must be to share 7 things about myself.  Hmm......

  1. I have a younger sister who is adopted.  We look nothing alike, but its amazing how many people commented when we were growing up how similar we looked.  Maybe it was something to do with the matching dresses my mum used to make us wear?
  2. I love a glass (or two) of wine, but I could give up drinking alcohol tomorrow.  However if you told me I could never have another cup of tea I'd be devastated!
  3. In my teens (early 80's) I was a mad Duran Duran fan.  I met them once when I was 13 and was too scared to speak to any of them!
  4. One of my greatest pleasures is a soak in a deep, hot bath with a good book and a cup of tea.
  5. I love peace and quiet, and could happily spend a day at home on my own sewing or knitting without the need for television, radio or music in the background.
  6. I can't understand the attraction of making your own underwear when Marks and Spencer do it so well (no offence to those who do make their own!).
  7. I can't whistle!

Now, the most difficult bit, choosing 10 bloggers to pass this award on to.  Difficult, because there are loads I'd love to choose.  I'd love to give this award back to Jacq, but as I can't, I would like to nominate the following blogs, in no particular order:

Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn.  Not only has she  pledged to wear only clothes handmade by herself this year, but she is also drawing her outfits each week!

Judith at Made by J.  I've only discovered Judith's blog quite recently, and she mine, but her support has been amazing. And she's been making some gorgeous wrap tops, which are a favourite of mine.

Rosy at Sewingadicta.  I was lucky enough to be paired with Rosy in House of Pinheiro's International Craft Swap and fell in love with her gorgeous handmade clothes.  Just look at this coat and this dress.

Gail at Today's Agenda.  She makes gorgeous clothes for herself, a perfect white shirt for her hubby, and she shares my love of Kim Hargreaves knitting patterns!  Need I say more.

I only discovered Truly Myrtle's blog recently, but have already found it incredibly inspiring.  I love her plan to make a full outfit each month, and I love the three outfits she's made so far this year!

Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow. Gillian is passionate about the Cake Tiramisu dress pattern - she's made 8! including one for her mum and one for her sister

Anne, of AnnieBeeKnits is Gillian's sister.  What a talented family!  She knits some gorgeous things, and her recent blog series on colour has been both inspiring and interesting.

I'm sure she's been nominated heaps of times before, but I'm going to have to nominate Tilly, from Tilly and the Buttons, who I'm sure you all know!  Her Learn to Sew series is beautifully photographed and beautifully explained, she's been published  AND she's on the telly!  You can't get much more inspiring than that, can you?!

I'm in awe of the knits that Julie at Knitted Bliss produces.  They are always perfectly finished and perfectly photographed, and her own designs are gorgeous.  Velvet Morning makes me want to master colourwork!

And last but by no means least, Karen at Did You Make That? who is someone I know Jacq wanted to nominate, if she'd had more than 10 picks!  Karen's blog is one of the first I found, and it helped rekindle my interest in and love of sewing.  Every one of her finished projects looks pretty much perfect!

Twice as Nice! New Look 6000 as a top (or 2)

One thing my wardrobe lacks is tops.  I have hardly any blouses, and only a few long sleeved t-shirts that I wear over and over again.   Gets kind of boring!

Two things inspired me to make these 2 tops I'm posting today.  One was the release of Colette Patterns new Laurel shift dress/top.  The second was reading Faye's Sewing Adventures post about her 2013 Essential Top Sewalong

I was originally going to purchase the Laurel pattern, but realised that it is pretty similar to the plainest version of New Look 6000, which I already own and know fits me well. 

I decided to take this version, shorten it to "top" length and omit the front darts.  I had some flowery poly/viscose in my stash, so decided to make a muslin, which is surprisingly wearable (I have it on now!).

The hem is a little uneven, as the fabric was shifting all over the place, but it actually forms a curved hem that looks OK.  I used French seams throughout except for the armholes, where I used false French seams.  The neck is finished with self made bias binding.  I've made it slightly too long, so it does stand away from my shoulders slightly, but not enough to make me want to take it off and re-do it!

Once I knew my plan worked, I decided to make another using that gorgeous 70's floral print viscose I bought recently.

I made a few alterations on this one.  I wanted it to be slightly A line, so I placed the pattern pieces slightly at an angle on the fold of fabric.  The neckline edge I placed against the fold, and angled it so the hem edge was about 3/4 inch away from the fold.  It's given just the right amount of flare.

Again I used French seams thoughout (even on the armholes this time, although I know you're not supposed to on curved seams).  I think they work OK though as the fabric is so soft and fluid.  I took much greater care pinning this one out as well, because it would be so obvious if the pattern wasn't placed evenly. 

The neckline on this is faced.  I don't really like using facings, as I find they have a tendency to flip out, and I did have to top stitch it down.  I'm happy with the result though.

I really love this version.  Hubby and I are going out to dinner with some friends tomorrow night, and  I'll be wearing this!

I can see me making more of these over the coming months.  I've got that gorgeous beige and black silk I bought recently, that I think would look fantastic made up in this style, and I'd also like a couple of short sleeved ones incase we should ever get some warm weather!

But first, I have 3 bridesmaids dresses to alter!

How Skilled Are You?

Or rather, how skilled do you think you are?  
A post on Jacq’s blog today got me thinking about this, not least because I’m mentioned in it. (By the way, pop over and wish Jacq a Happy Birthday!)
Is there a difference between how we view our own skills and how others view them? I’m not talking about how those that don’t sew, knit, crochet, etc… see us (my decidedly non-crafty sister thinks sewing on a button is amazingly clever!), but how others practicing the same crafts as us view our skills.
As you will see from Jacq’s post, we both started our blogs at around the same time. I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting Jacq once (she’s as lovely as she sounds on her blog), talking to her on the phone and emailing in addition to us commenting on each others blogs. 
When I discovered it was her birthday today, I wanted to send her a little gift. I decided to make one of my machine applique pictures, as she had admired the ones I’d posted here and after a bit of deliberation I decided it should be a sewing machine. 
In her post today, Jacq comments that I am more skilled than she is. That’s the bit that got me thinking, because I don’t think I am very skilled. Yes, I’ve been sewing a long time (30+ years) and I knit and crochet as well. (I’d also really like to make jewellery, but I think my husband would throw me out if I bought even more craft items into the house!)
When I look at the things I’ve made, they have definitely improved, even in the last year or so, but they’re not the best or most well made items by any stretch of the imagination. I suppose we are all more critical of ourselves and our achievements than other people are, and we probably see the flaws and mistakes that others don’t.
When I look at the coat I made, I tend to skip over the bound button holes (which are actually pretty good for a first attempt) and focus on the fact that the neckline doesn’t sit right because I used rubbish interfacing that bubbled and wrinkled and had to be cut out after the coat was completed. 
What do you think? Do you view your own skills more critically than you should? I wonder if it’s a case of that we all know just how much we don’t know, or how much more we can learn!
I think Jacq certainly sells herself short - she made this gorgeous cape, and she has started a crochet club at work, and is teaching her colleagues to crochet in their lunchbreaks.  She has far more patience than I do!