Is it too early...

... to be thinking about Christmas?  Sorry, I know that's a dreadful thought!

Most years I wouldn't even be mentioning the "C word" for another month or so, but this year I'm going to be teaching a few Christmas related sewing classes so I've had to make samples so the classes can be advertised.

I'm really excited about the classes, so I thought I'd tell you a little bit about them and show you what I've made, just in case you're mad enough to be getting started early on your Christmas sewing.

At Fabric HQ I'm going to be teaching a Party Frock class.  Over 4 Saturday afternoons we'll use the Alison Glass Woven Essentials pattern to make a party dress.  We've chosen this pattern because you can mix and match sleeve styles and different skirts to come up with a variety of different looks.  I've made two samples for this class, and they couldn't be more different. 

I made this dress first.  I used Michael Miller's Holiday Hostess fabric for this, and took the 3/4 sleeve option and the gathered skirt.  I actually ended up loosely pleating the skirt instead of gathering it as it looked far nicer that way. 

Given my obsession with piping, I couldn't resist adding green piping to the neckline and waist to pick out the green in the fabrics print. 

My husband hates this dress!  When he saw it hanging up in the bedroom his first words were "You're not going to wear that are you?"

However, he loves the second sample I made.

For this one I picked the short sleeves - shortening them even more than the pattern - and the A-line skirt options.  The fabric is dark navy satin with a black lace overlay.  I also made a belt from navy velvet ribbon.

This picture shows the navy under layer much better.  As you can see I used the lace on it's own for the sleeves. 

I think this will be a really fun class, and I can't wait to see how many different dresses we get from the one pattern.  I've used this pattern once before I made these two dresses and I know I'll use it again.  I've got plenty of hacks up my sleeve!

I'm also going to be teaching some Christmas themed free motion embroidery classes, specifically making this Christmas wreath.  I'm teaching this class in several places, Fabric HQ, Crafty Angel Sewing Studio and Niko Brown gallery on various dates in November and early December. 

For these classes, we'll be providing all materials needed, so all you have to do is come along with your sewing machine and have fun!  You can choose to make either a holly or a mistletoe wreath.  I love them both. 

Now I've got the Christmas word out there in the open, tell me, have you started making things for Christmas yet?  Are you going to?  I'd love to know what you're making. 

Thread - A Festival of Textiles

I've started to try and get into the habit of blogging once a week - on a Friday - but I thought I'd throw in an extra post this week and tell you about a lovely day out I had on Saturday.

I went to Thread, a festival of textiles, at Farnham Maltings in Surrey.  I only found out about it a couple of weeks ago when I was talking to my lovely, talented knitter friend, Sue Stratford.  Not having anything on I decided to pop along and see what it was like. 

I have to say, it was lovely.  Small, by a lot of standards, certainly nothing to compare to the Knitting and Stitching Show or the Handmade Fair, but really lovely.  Because it was smaller, there were fewer visitors and it had a much more relaxed feel to it.  I was there quite early, but even when I left just before lunchtime there was still plenty of room to walk about and look at the stands, talk to the exhibitors and fellow visitors. 


The exhibitors were mainly companies/people I hadn't seen elsewhere which was really nice.  There were a few stands selling the usual fat quarters and haberdashery but there were also quite a few local makers. 

One of my favourites was Rebecca Honey, a woven textile designer from Farnham.   Rebecca creates lovely woven pictures and jewellery. 

This picture was one of my favourites, and I did buy a necklace which I'll show you in a bit.

So, did I find plenty of things to spend my money on?  Of course I did!   My first purchase was the aforementioned necklace from Rebecca Honey.

Then I bought some fabric that I thought would be perfect for free motion embroidery. 

The fabric is vintage feed sacks.  I'd never heard of this type of fabric before, but was really interested to hear about it from the stall holder.  Unfortunately I can't remember who she was.   The panel below gives an overview of the fabrics origins and history, and you can read the full piece here.

My final purchases of the day were fabric printing blocks and paints from The Arty Crafty Place.  I've never tried fabric printing before but have often fallen in love with the beautiful Indian hand carved wooden printing blocks.  I've been wanting to experiment with using free motion embroidery in different ways and wondered if I could use fabric I've printed myself as a base for embroidery.  I decided to treat myself to two kits.  The first is a full starter kit, including two items to print onto.  I chose the block below and these two paints.

Then I decided to treat myself to another little kit as well.  This one is destined to be used for Christmas cards. 

As well as the exhibitors stands there were various other exhibitions around the building, some of work by A Level students from the local college.  These three pieces were beautiful.

If you've never been to Thread before I can highly recommend it for a slightly different take on a textile festival.  It was certainly far more relaxed and a much more pleasant experience than some of the larger shows.  Perfect if, like me, you're not great with crowds. 

I'll definitely be looking out for it next year. 

Recreating Ready to Wear: Plaid Shirt Dress

As part of my Recreating Ready to Wear series I have been lucky enough to team up with the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network for a few posts.  The first of my projects went live on their site earlier this week, and is a recreation of this dress from Next. 

Using Vogue DKNY V1488 (now sadly out of print due to licencing changes) and some lovely cotton and viscose fabric I created my own version.

You can read all about what I did and how I did it here on the Minerva Crafts website. 

I might be slightly biased, but I prefer my version to the original!

Made by Me: The Refashioners 2016

It's unusual for me to take part in online competitions/sew alongs etc, but when I saw the gorgeous and amazing projects that were being shared on Makery as part of The Refashioners 2016 and then found a few pairs of my husbands old jeans on the chair in our spare bedroom I knew I had to join in.

I decided I wanted to make a jacket, I thought kind of biker style originally, although it has evolved into something a bit different. 

I spent a bit of time browsing patterns and came across Lekala 4530:

I chose this mainly for the cross over front, and originally decided I was going to fasten it with a couple of snap fastenings rather than the zip.   I've used a few Lekala patterns now and have always been really impressed with the fit of the finished garment.  I actually ended up cutting the neckline down a bit as the back was quite high and stiff in the denim. 

Once the pattern was printed out and taped together I started the job of harvesting as much fabric as I could from the two pairs of jeans that matched most closely.  I did have another pair at my disposal, but they were much darker in colour and I wanted to keep everything as uniform as possible.

I ended up having to crop the jacket a bit, although it is still plenty long enough for me, and I had to completely disregard grainlines.  By doing this I just managed to get all the pattern pieces out of the two pairs of jeans. 

I'm not sure where the idea for embroidery on the collar came from, but I have to say I totally enjoyed doing it.  So much so that I couldn't stop and ended up hurting my wrist from gripping the denim so tightly as I sewed!

The construction of the jacket was pretty straightforward.  I omitted the lining and used bias tape to finish all the body seams, which were then topstitched.  All the other seams were finished on the overlocker. 

I played about a bit with pocket placement, as you can see from the progress photo above the pockets ended up at a different angle on the finished jacket. I actually considered putting a pocket somewhere on the back just for a bit of visual interest, but it just looked ridiculous so the back is currently plain.  I may go back and add some embroidery on the back once my wrist is better!

As you can see, I ended up closing the jacket in a completely different way to how I'd originally imagined, with a single jeans button at the waist.  This seemed to suit the finished garment more than and of course, shows off the embroidery to its full advantage. 

I wasn't sure how to finish the hems as I had a few areas where the fabric was pretty thick.  I was just going to overlock them then turn a single hem and topstitch, but in the end I sewed a line of topstitching about 10mm from the edge and left the fabric to fray.  How much that will annoy me as time goes on remains to be seen!

This is a really different project for me - I'm not really into refashioning or recycling clothes - but I really enjoyed it.  I love denim jackets, particularly when they start getting a bit worn and faded, so this one is perfect.  I really like the faded patches on each upper arm which came from the knees of one pair of jeans. 

I also really love the shape of this jacket and I think I'll probably make it again sometime in "proper" fabric. 

Made by Me: Sew Wardrobe Elsa Trousers

A while ago Alison Smith contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in testing one of the kits for her new Sew Wardrobe sewing patterns.  I gladly accepted and she sent me a kit for the Elsa trousers.

I now have a quick apology to make to Alison that it's taken me so long to get these trousers made and written about!

When the kit arrived I was excited to open it and I wasn't disappointed in any way.  It contained everything I needed to make the trousers, bar the tools.  Alison had thought of everything; the kit contained the fashion fabric, some printed cotton for the waist band facing, interfacing, satin bias tape to finish the edge of the waist band facing, thread and even two sew in labels - one a "Sew Wardrobe" label and the other with fabric care instructions.

The pattern comes gorgeously packaged in a sturdy cardboard box, a bit like a gift box.  I loved this, it means that once you've traced the pattern off you've got plenty of room to store your traced pieces in the box without having to cram everything in.  So many times I end up with a squashed and creased mess, but not this time. 

The pattern itself is printed on sturdy brown paper.  The box also includes an instruction leaflet, a little card explaining how to narrow the legs of the trousers from a classic straight legged style and a sheet of pattern tips that covers taking your measurements and some useful information about the patterns in general. 

The instructions themselves are not the most detailed I have seen, they do assume a certain amount of sewing knowledge.  I would expect this though, Alison's classes are not for complete beginners and therefore I wouldn't expect her sewing patterns to be either.  There are plenty of beginner friendly patterns out there, so it's nice that Alison has gone a different route.  Having said that, the trousers are not complicated to make, an intermediate sewer or even an adventurous beginner would be able to make them, particularly if they have made trousers before.  The hardest part is inserting the invisible zip.  I always think trousers are not difficult to make, it's the fitting that's the hard part. 

And that's where I fell down a bit - the fitting. 

I was very good and made myself a toile which didn't actually fit too badly.  I went by my hip size and pretty much the only alteration I needed to make was to bring the waist in, particularly at the centre back.  This is a typical alteration for me - my waist is a good size, if not more, smaller than my hips and I have terrible trouble finding trousers in RTW because of this. 

I made the changes to my traced pattern and then cut out my fashion fabric.  With hindsight I probably should have made another toile, because I now have some weird issues in the front crotch area (goodness, that sounds worrying!).  There is some excess fabric that wasn't there on my toile and I'm not sure how that's appeared. 

Having spoken to Alison she tells me that it looks as if the front crotch curve needs to be deeper.  I haven't had chance to try this yet, but I will and will report back on how that affects the fit. 

The fit elsewhere is pretty good, certainly better than I'd get in RTW and I think once I've sorted out the front issue this pattern will be a great wardrobe staple.  I love the slim fit over the waist and hips and the straight legs, although I'd love to try narrowing the legs on another pair. 

I'd totally recommend this pattern if you want some classic, simple trousers, and if you want to go all out and treat yourself to a kit, then I would say go for it.  I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

Disclaimer:  The pattern and kit were kindly provided to me for review purposes, however all views are my own (including those of my poor fitting skills). 

Thanks also to Alison for her suggestions on how to remedy the fit. 

Free Motion Friday*

* Yes, I know it's Saturday, but Free Motion Saturday doesn't sound right and I did mean to post this yesterday.

I'd like to make Free Motion Friday a regular monthly feature here - I've done a couple of odd ones here and there so far - and today I'd like to tell you a bit about the free motion embroidery classes I teach, and what to expect from them.

Firstly, I have to share this:

My first time in a sewing magazine!  It's only a tiny piece but I've very excited.  This is the September issue of Make It Today Dressmaker, a UK publication. 

Sadly the class that's mentioned here is already fully booked, but we WILL be adding more dates soon.  It's a really popular class at Fabric HQ and always sells out really quickly.  You can check the Workshops/Classes page of my blog for more information, or join Fabric HQ's mailing list here.

So what can you expect if you come on one of my free motion embroidery workshops?

  • Firstly, and most importantly I think, I'd hope you would have fun.  This is my favourite class to teach and that's largely because everyone seems to enjoy it so much.  I often get students who are a bit scared to begin with, never having done anything like this before, and I don't think I've ever had one person who hasn't loved it by the end of the class... normally by halfway through!

  • That brings me on to my second point.  You might be a bit nervous.  Some people are, and I was when I first started free motion embroidery.  It's a very different experience to "normal" sewing.  Once the feed dogs are lowered on the sewing machine you, the stitcher, have complete and total control over where and how the fabric moves under the needle.  If you don't move it, it's going nowhere!  We always start off with a practice piece of fabric where I encourage you to doodle, write your name, draw a little picture; a house or a flower for example and after a few awkward moments you'll find it clicks into place quite quickly (I hope!).

  • You can expect to unleash some creativity you didn't know you had!  (Or maybe you did).  Time and again I've had students tell me they're not artistic, then go on to produce amazing pieces.   And don't worry if you can't draw with a pencil and paper; you don't need to be able to unless you want to.  We normally use sample pictures which we trace or cut up as the basis for our designs, so not being able to draw is not an issue in the slightest.  But by the end of the class you'll be able to draw with a sewing machine - how cool is that?!

  • You'll go home with a lovely, unique sewn image created by you, which we can mount before you leave if you wish, and hopefully a new hobby and plenty of ideas for more pictures you'd like to create. 

The images in the two collages above are all pieces that have been created by students who had never done free motion embroidery before the class, so as you can see, it's possible to achieve something fantastic in just a few hours.

Please ask in the comments below if there's anything else you'd like to know about my classes, or send me an email if you prefer, using the link in the sidebar.