Vintage Pledge 2016

Are you familiar with the Vintage Pledge challenge hosted by A Stitching Odyssey and Kestrel Makes?

It's now in it's third year and Marie of A Stitching Odyssey started it in 2014 when she realised that she was hoarding vintage patterns faster than she could sew them.  She invited the sewing community to start using vintage patterns more regularly and the rest is history!

I haven't joined in before, but have followed along with interest.  The reason I haven't followed along is that I don't really think I suit vintage clothing.  I know 1940's and 50's styles are popular with many people who sew vintage, but while I can admire them on others, I can never imagine myself wearing them.  1960's styles are a bit more me... I can do a shift dress or something similar and do actually own a few vintage patterns from that era (none of which I've ever made). 

However I recently saw a picture of this cape on Instagram and immediately fell in love. 

It's a Decades of Style pattern from the 1930's.  Isn't it gorgeous?  I can see it being perfect for Spring/Summer when you just need a little something to cover your arms, but don't require a full jacket or coat.  I think it looks great with jeans and is actually quite a modern looking style.  I love the velveteen fabric it's made in here, but think it would look equally good in a lightweight wool or tweed - maybe a light grey for Spring?

So, for the first year I've decided to join in with the Vintage Pattern Pledge, I'm taking it quite easy and have just pledged to make two garments from vintage or reproduction patterns.  This will definitely be one of them.  I'm not sure what the other will be yet.  There are a couple of other 1930's patterns on the Decades of Style website I like the look of, the Salon trousers and the Kitchenette pyjamas.

I'm not sure quite how flattering either garment would be though, and I do already have a jumpsuit pattern that I haven't made and had planned to this year.  (If I was to make the Kitchenette pyjamas they would be a solid colour and for daytime wear as a jumpsuit).  I'll have a look through my small stash of vintage patterns and see what else I can come up with before I splash my cash on any more.

Are you a fan of vintage patterns, or like me have you shied away from them until now?

Made by Me: Sew Over It Pussybow Blouse

Well, it's Friday again, and it's another wet one!  It's nowhere near as cold as it was earlier in the week, but it's wet and grey.  I'd rather have cold and bright any day.  I love a good frosty bright winter morning.

I'm back today with some actual dressmaking, something I haven't shared here in a while.  This is the Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse, and I made it before Christmas. 

Apologies in advance for no modelled photos, it's too wet and grey to go outside for photos and too dark inside in any of the spots I would chose to take modelled photos. 

As I said, I made this before Christmas and I do have one photo of me wearing it, taken by my husband on a day he took me out to lunch to cheer me up.  It certainly worked, the place he took me was lovely and we had a delicious lunch.

I bought the pattern and fabric at the Knitting and Stitching Show last October, and the fabric was always destined to become a Pussy Bow blouse.  It's a polyester/viscose blend I think and is lovely and soft and drapy.  I bought it from Stitch Fabrics, and I seem to remember it was £6.00 a metre. Sadly it's not on their website, but it was several months ago I bought it.

Pattern wise I made a standard UK size 12 with no alterations, which would be my normal RTW size.   I was a bit worried about it being tight over the bust as there are no darts, but it's fine there.  However the upper arms are slightly restrictive and so is the upper back; not so much that it's unwearable, but I can feel it pulling slightly when I move my arms forwards.   Next time I think I'd keep the front as it is and add a little bit of width to the upper back and sleeves.

This was my second time using a Sew Over It pattern and I thought the instructions were very good.  I would change the construction order a little though, as once I'd attached the neckband/tie I found I had a little V of fabric at the base of the neckline that wasn't finished.  I would therefore attach the tie before I sewed the front seam as I think that would make it easier to finish this little gap nicely.  It wasn't impossible to do, and it's not too important as the bow covers it, but it's not the neatest finish ever. 

On the cuffs I used self covered buttons and rouleau loops as per the instructions, which I think give a nice professional finish. 

I also took my time matching the pattern across the centre front seam, as although the seam itself is largely hidden by the bow my fabric has such an obvious pattern that any mismatch would have looked awful.  I think if you were using a randomly patterned fabric with no obvious repeat you could get away without pattern matching here.

Despite the slight fit issues I'm really happy with this and have worn it several times, both with a skirt to work and casually with jeans.  Next on my list is a chambray one.

Free Motion on Friday

Hello there my lovelies.  It's Friday again, I can't believe how the weeks fly by.  And what a week it's been, I can't not mention the sad and untimely deaths this week of two men I greatly admired.  First the world was shocked on Monday morning by the announcement of the sad death of David Bowie, only a couple of days after his 69th birthday and the release of his latest, and now final, album Blackstar.

Bowie was one of those artists who has been there throughout my life.  One of my earliest vivid memories is of sitting on the lounge floor watching Space Oddity on Top of the Pops.  I think that must have been on it's re-release in 1975 - I would have been 5 years old.  I've loved his music ever since then. 

Then yesterday we heard the news that Alan Rickman had also passed away at the same age.  He was one of my favourite actors, versatile, believable and eminently watchable.  Who can forget his wonderful portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, where as far as I am concerned he acted Kevin Costner off the screen?  I really fell in love with Alan when he played Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, which is still one of my favourite films.  Of course to many younger people he will be best known as Professor Snape from Harry Potter, more brilliant, over the top yet restrained performances.

Both these wonderful men will be sadly missed.

I didn't actually intend to write that much about this weeks sad events, I intended to show you some free motion embroidery pieces I've made recently.  They're all little bits and pieces for myself, and a bit of an experiment. 

Firstly I made a little wallet to pop into my handbag and carry my herbal teabags around in.  So much prettier than the plastic pot I was using, and takes up far less space too. 

I used a tutorial I found on line for a business card wallet, I think it was this one.  I just had to make it a little bit wider to fit the teabags in.  Of course I had to embroider a cup and saucer on the front. 

Then I made a case for my new Kindle Fire.  This one I made up as I went along, and probably made things far more complicated than they needed to be.  I used some heavy-ish wool fabric for the outside and lined it with fleece and some quilting cotton.  Again, I couldn't resist doing some free motion embroidery on the front.

Finally I decided to try my hand at something slightly different with free motion embroidery and did a portrait. 

Here are the steps I went through to get to the end result. 

As you can see I traced the main elements onto thin tracing paper and stitched through the drawing onto the backing fabric.  Once I'd got an outline in place I tore away the paper and added more stitching and details by following a photograph and the outlines I'd already sewn. 

Here's the final result mounted on a canvas.

And here's the original photo I was working from.

Comparing the two now I can see I haven't got it quite right, the angle of the head is wrong.  I think my technique needs refining a bit, but for a first attempt I'm pretty pleased with it. 

I'm teaching a free motion embroidery class tomorrow morning at Fabric HQ and I can't wait!  It's my favourite class to teach, everyone always loves it and leaves with something amazing they've created.

My plans for 2016...

After reviewing 2015 in my last post I thought I'd share some of my plans/goals/ideas for 2016. 

I've broken them down into creative/sewing and non creative, which is mainly health and wellbeing.

First my sewing plans for this year.

Gain new skills / improve existing skills

I've never really had a sewing lesson in my life - other than quilt making - and I decided it was about time I upped my skills a bit.  I've been lucky enough to be able to book on two of Alison Smith's workshops at her School of Sewing that I'll be attending this year.  I've booked the Tailored Jacket workshop and the Couture Dress one, and I'm really excited about both of them. 

I'm also hoping to do some more pattern drafting workshops at Fabric HQ to expand my (currently limited) skills in that area. 

Also in this area I'd like to experiment more with free motion embroidery, either finding new ways of using it, or adding more textures/layers and detail to the projects I make. 

Consider what I'm sewing

I wasn't sure how to word this, or completely what I mean if I'm honest.  I want to end up with a more coordinated wardrobe of lovely items that sit well together, rather than my current mish-mash of things I've made just because I love the fabric/pattern/felt like making it. 

I've got a little list of things I'd like to make this year, which includes some jeans, either the Closet Case Files Ginger jeans or Baste + Gather Birkin flares, I'm not sure which yet.  Ideally I would do both as they'd fill different gaps in my wardrobe.  I'd also like to make the Style Arc Carly jumpsuit I was planning on making last year and never got round to, a denim or chambray Pussy Bow blouse and the Oki Style Salt jacket.

I'm not going to set myself any more specific sewing plans, as I've done that before and I always end up changing my mind part way through the year.  I'm going to try not to get too side tracked by the "new and shiny" this year, but my magpie brain finds it very hard not to get distracted from any plans I make.

My non-sewing plans, as I mentioned above, are all health or wellbeing related. 

The main one is to improve my mental health.  I was struggling a bit towards the end of last year, and a combination of medication and cognitive behaviour therapy seems to be helping.  I had a CBT session last night and actually had a major breakthrough, when suddenly the reasons for me feeling the way I do all seemed to become clear in an instant.  I'm not going to share the reasons here, but I'm sure you can imagine that it was quite an emotional experience.  I still feel quite emotional about it today, but I also feel good that I seem to have found the root cause and can work on it.

Anyway, that was a bit of a diversion, what I want to do this year is to challenge negative thinking, find something positive about each day and to accept myself for who I am.  I have a habit of comparing myself to others, and I want to try to stop doing this.  Truly Myrtle's post yesterday The Comparison Game really resonated with me. 

My other wellbeing goals are to try to eat more healthily - I am erratic with my healthy eating at the moment - to drink more water and to try and find a form of exercise I don't hate.  This will be a hard one for me because exercise and me are not natural friends.  I enjoyed running a few years ago but stopped because I had a problem with my hip.  I'm thinking I might give it another go. 

Do you have any plans whether sewing related or not for this year?  Can you recommend a form of exercise you love?

As always, thank you for reading.  I really will be back soon with some sewing to share with you. 

2015 - A year in review

Happy 2016! I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year.  We had a quiet family Christmas and New Year's Eve we didn't even go out.  It was what I needed though, I feel like I've recharged my batteries a bit and am looking forward to starting 2016 more positively than I ended 2015. 

One thing I've realised over the last few months is that I need to be kind to myself, not to constantly compare myself to other bloggers and beat myself up if I haven't made at least one garment every week or if I'm not blogging as often as some. 

I am terrible for comparing myself to others, and of course, always come out at the end of the comparison feeling inadequate!  I'm sure I'm not alone in this.  But then I'm not comparing myself to the "real" person am I?  I only know whatever the blogger decides to share with their readers, I don't know what their home life, or job, is like, I don't know what they're not doing in order to be making things week after week. 

What I want to do today is share some of the things I've done last year, as much to remind myself what I have done and achieved as anything else.

One of the things I enjoyed most last year was teaching classes at Fabric HQ.  I'm not sure how many classes I ended up teaching, but each one was great fun.  I had some fantastic students and it's wonderful to see them learning new skills and gaining confidence.  My favourite class to teach is definitely free motion embroidery - everyone comes along feeling slightly apprehensive and ends up having fun and leaving with a unique picture they've created.

Some of my students work. 

I took a couple of classes at Fabric HQ myself; a pattern drafting class where I learned to draft my own skirt block, and a quilting class where I made my first ever quilt. 

The pattern drafting class was a bit of a dream come true; I've mentioned here several times that I wanted to study fashion design when I left school and for various reasons wasn't able to, so being able to do this I felt that at last I was getting a little taste of what it would be like to be a real life fashion designer.  Since the class I've used my block to draft and make a couple of skirts.  This year I'll be doing more pattern drafting classes and I can't wait!

My first self-drafted skirt

Self drafted Vivienne Westwood style skirt

The quilting class was also a first for me, despite sewing for more than 30 years I'd never made a quilt.  It was a strange experience, going into the class I felt like a complete beginner as I really didn't have a clue what I was supposed to be doing.  I actually hated the first class, but enjoyed the second and third parts far more, and I love my finished quilt.  I'm not sure that I'd become a regular quilter, but I'm pleased I've done it. 

My first quilt

One of the total highlights of the year for me was the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A.  Six months after I saw it I'm still blown away by the beauty and creativity of his designs; everything was so inspiring that it was almost overwhelming. 

Alexander McQueen Widows of Culloden at Savage Beauty

Cabinet of Curiosities at Savage Beauty

Plato's Atlantis at Savage Beauty
I'm not going to record my sewing hits and misses for 2015, or how many projects I completed, but I'll finish with the project I'm most happy with for the year - my vintage cape. I loved making this, I altered the pattern slightly, using a collar from a Burdastyle coat, and took my time matching the checks in the fabric.   I'm still impressed with how I matched the pattern on the back of the collar!

I'll be back soon with some of my plans for 2016 - and maybe even something I've sewn!