Made by Me: Embroidery and Statement Sleeves

Hello there.  Just a quick post from me today, to let you know that I have a project up on the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network.

As you probably know, I've been slightly obsessed with hand embroidery recently, so for my latest project I decided to combine some embroidery - which is currently right on trend - with another current trend, the statement sleeve.

You can find my project here.  Please pop over and take a look!

Made by Me: Heavenly Helmi

If you've been reading this blog a while you'll probably know that I've mentioned several times that I don't like shirt dresses.  On me, that is; I love them on other people.

Why then, was I compelled to make one recently?

I don't know, but I have to say I love it. 

This dress came about when I was randomly browsing the Minerva Crafts website as you do.  Some gorgeous black and white star print fabric came up in their new in section and before I knew it 2 metres had jumped into my basket.  When it arrived I wasn't sure what to do with it, I knew I wanted to make a dress - I always want to make a dress - but I wasn't sure what style.

Then all of a sudden I had the idea of a shirt dress in mind.  Not just any shirt dress though, it had to be the Named Clothing Helmi tunic dress.  I ordered the printed pattern and as soon as it arrived I started making a muslin, fully prepared to hate it. 

But I loved it!  Completely and utterly.  I've been trying to work out why, because I don't like things with collars normally, but the collar on this is small and curvy and neat.  It's not big and pointy and flappy like some collars are; I think big pointed flappy collars remind me of school uniform.  

I made a couple of changes to the pattern before I cut this out:
  • Shortened the bodice by about an inch and lengthened the skirt by the same amount.  The dress remains the same overall length, but the waist seam is now slightly higher.
  • Added darts to the back waist.  I realise that this is supposed to be a loose fitting design, but it was just that little bit too loose on me and sat weirdly at the back.  I think that's down to the fact that I have quite a pronounced swayback.

  • I omitted the concealed placket as I'd found some lovely glittery star shaped buttons and I didn't want them hidden.

  • Lengthened the sleeves by around 6 inches and made the additional length into turn back cuffs with buttoned loops to hold them in place.  Is there a proper name for the loops?  If so I can't think of it!

This dress feels so nice to wear, the fabric is lovely and soft and drapy, but not too lightweight so it hangs beautifully and I absolutely love the way the collar fits and sits.  I think I'm going to make a shirt version next to wear with jeans and possibly at least one more dress. 

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. 

Style Over Substance?

Have you heard of Suzy Magazine?  I saw a post about it on Instagram just after Christmas and was intrigued; I love sewing and I love magazines, but what really got me interested was it's claim that it was for the "Fashion Forward Sewist".  Despite the £10.00 cover price (and £2.00 delivery) I ordered myself a copy.

The magazine took a while to be delivered and I'd almost forgotten about it when a padded envelope popped through my letterbox last week.  Once I realised what it was I was excited, couldn't wait to see what this new sewing magazine had in store for us fashion forward sewists!

Sadly my excitement was short lived.  Once I'd flicked through the - admittedly very pretty - pages, I felt very let down, particularly for the £10.00 price. 

The good parts are that it is very pretty and it's printed on lovely quality paper.

The bad parts are that the content is very lacking - in my opinion.  There seemed to be lots of pages filled with not very much at all, and what there was didn't seem to be anything new to me. 

When something is billed as "fashion forward" I wouldn't expect to see the same patterns and ideas that have been seen time and time again in other sewing magazines, I'd expect something a little bit new and different.  Maybe something reflecting what is going on in the world of designer fashion - catwalk trends, something like that.  Not 6 pages on Tilly and The Buttons Cleo dress 5 ways.  Which actually wasn't 5 ways - it was just the pattern made up in 5 different fabrics. 

There are 6 pages on bomber jackets, which probably are slightly more fashion forward, but those 6 pages contained next to no information at all. 

There were a few random pages dotted throughout, a sewing playlist, some strange doodles and a double page at the back of outline drawings to colour in. 

The final section was 17 pages containing photographs of 7 outfits.  I get what they'd tried to do - to recreate a fashion story from a high fashion magazine - but to my mind it didn't work at all.  And again, there was nothing different or new, or fashion forward. 

Elsewhere there are a few pages of "Sewing Stories" - interviews with different sewing bloggers - and an interview with the By Hand London ladies. 

I really think that the Suzy Magazine team have missed a trick with this.  They could have produced something really new and exciting, showcasing independent pattern companies producing something a little bit different from the standard cute dress but they didn't.  If you like ditzy prints and Tilly and The Buttons you might love it.  Sadly I don't, I didn't and I wouldn't buy another issue. 

I've now passed my copy on to Frankie of Knit Wits Owls, who I think is going to do a review of her own.  I'll be interested to read her thoughts. 

And I'd love to hear what "fashion forward" means to you.

Made by Me: Faux Leather Fold Over Clutch Bag

I've been getting lots of love on Instagram this week for this little project, so I thought I'd share it here as well.

I turned the embroidered butterfly on faux leather that I blogged about last week in the tutorial into a clutch bag.

I started with two panels of faux leather approx. 12" wide and 14" tall.  Once I'd embroidered the butterfly on the bottom corner of one I worked out where I wanted my fold to be and marked the position for a couple of magnetic bag fasteners, as these needed to be inserted at an early stage.

I love funky linings, and when I was at Fabric HQ last weekend I picked up a remnant of some great Cotton & Steel fabric that I thought would be perfect.

I added a zip pocket in the lining, using a method almost identical to this tutorial.  If I made a bag like this again though, I'd put the pocket on the outside of the bag, as the pocket is a little hard to access because it's quite low down due to the fold over. 

The back of this bag is plain, but I think it would look nice with a chunky metal zipped pocket in the back.  Something to remember for next time!

The bag itself was very simple, just Google zipper pouch tutorial, and you'll find loads of ideas.   Once I'd made the pocket, construction of the bag itself was less than half an hour. 

As I was making the bag I had a few things on my worktable (as always) one of which was a selection of coloured felted balls.  Three of the colours matched the embroidery perfectly, so I added them to the zip pull.

I might have bought some silver faux leather yesterday for another one...

Free Motion Friday : Sewn Images Tutorial

A week or so ago I posted an image of a butterfly I'd embroidered onto faux leather on Instagram and a couple of people expressed interest in a tutorial, so I've created one for you.

You will need:
  • Some fabric to use as a base - I've used faux leather in this tutorial as I'm going to turn the finished piece into a clutch bag, but any firmly woven, stable fabric works well.
  • Medium weight iron on interfacing.
  • An image to copy/use for inspiration.
  • Lightweight tracing paper or tissue paper.
  • Thread that matches your base fabric.
  • A selection of coloured and/or metallic threads.  I've used silk/rayon embroidery threads that I bought on eBay.
  • A darning or embroidery foot for your sewing machine.

First, apply a piece of iron on interfacing to the reverse of the fabric in the area you are going to stitch your image. 

Then choose your image and trace it onto thin tracing paper or tissue paper. 

Pin or clip your traced image onto the base fabric in the position you want the embroidery.   As I'm using faux leather I've used quilt binding clips, but on woven fabric I would use pins.

Put a darning or embroidery foot on your sewing machine and lower the feed dogs.  Stitch the outline of your design following your traced lines. 

Lowering your machines feed dogs gives you control over the movement of the fabric under the needle and enables you to stitch in any direction you desire.  Be aware however that the machine will not move the fabric at all, it's all down to you!

At the start and end of each piece of stitching, sew up and down on the spot a few times to secure the threads. 

Don't add too much detail at this stage, just define the areas you want to fill in later. 

Carefully remove the tissue paper.  You may need to use tweezers or a stitch unpicker to get some of the tiny scraps of paper out from under the stitches. 


Once you have removed all the tissue paper you can start filling in the image.  I've used a combination of straight lines of stitching, following the black outline (you can see this around the edge of the wings) and swirls of stitching, filling in selected areas, such as the body. 

Add more colours to different areas as you go.  Stitching in different directions and in straight or curved lines will give slightly different textures. 


Due to the density of the stitching, you may experience some puckering around the edge of the image.  This can be pressed out once the stitching is complete. 

Here's my completed butterfly, which is now going to be turned into a clutch bag.  I'll hopefully show you this next week. 

I hope you've found this mini tutorial useful.  If you've got any questions, please ask in the comments below, and if you try the technique for yourself, please let me know how you get on. 

If you're on Instagram you can tag me @stitchedupsam or use the hashtag #stitchedupsam so I can find your projects. 

Sewing without a plan

It's that time of year again.  The internet is alive with sewing bloggers making plans and setting goals for things they want to achieve over the coming year.

#2017makenine is very popular this year with at the time of writing this 699 public posts on Instagram featuring the hashtag.  The concept, as I'm sure you're aware (started, I think, by Lucky Lucille) is to post nine sewing patterns or goals you wish to make/sew/achieve during 2017 and then to actually make those! 

I thought about taking part and then I thought again.  I'm not very good at following through with plans, when sewing related at least.  I'm good at making them, but over the last couple of years when I've tried to do something similar I've failed.  Pretty quickly.  Last year I'm not sure I actually made anything I'd said I wanted to. 

Failing to meet my goals or stick to my plans kind of makes me anxious, and added anxiety is definitely something I can do without. 

It's weird, in other areas of my life I like plans.  I like knowing what I'm doing and when I'm doing it.  I'm not very good at being spontaneous - spontaneity also makes me anxious. And I've often wondered why, when I like knowing what I'm doing when, I fail to meet sewing goals I set myself.

Sew Busy Lizzy's blog post today has given me the answer.  She talks about why she hasn't set herself sewing goals and as I read her post a light bulb went on in my mind. 

She says:

Perhaps this is because my motivation to sew isn't often practical.  I sew when a fabric inspires me... I am hit by the urge to try a pattern... I am suddenly obsessed with having a specific garment... all of these things and more.  My motivation is primarily creative - not practical. 

As I read her post I realised that I feel exactly the same.  Unlike some people, I rarely sew to fill a gap in my wardrobe that needs filling, or even to learn a specific skill. 

My urge to sew comes from creating things that excite me, things that no one else has.  I might see a designer dress or a coat in a magazine and decide that I want to try and recreate it.  I might suddenly have a desire to make a denim skirt out of the fabric I bought to make jeans with.  Not having a plan enables me to do this. 

Sewing - as well as other creative pursuits - helps me feel calm and eases my anxiety.  Having set plans that "must" be followed stifles this and actually has the opposite effect.  Of course, there are exceptions; sometimes I have to follow through on a plan, but overall the flexibility to sew what I want, when I want and not beat myself up if I don't achieve a self imposed goal is what's important.   

I have vague ideas of things that I might like to make this year.  I will try and make use of some of the patterns I already own, rather than buy too many new ones, but I am a sucker for the "new and shiny".  Likewise with fabric and I may well have a destash at some stage, as having too much fabric that maybe I'm not totally in love with anymore also makes me anxious.  Sadly, that doesn't stop me buying more! 

I'm going to a wedding in April, so it's likely I'll make myself an outfit for that, but if I don't and I end up buying something instead, then who really cares?  All I know is that I'm giving myself the flexibility to sew what I want, when I want. 

I'm declaring 2017 the year of sewing without a plan.  Anyone care to join me?