Made by Me: Maven Patterns Rochester Top

Apparently the last time I showed you an item of clothing I made was some time in April!

I have been making clothing since then, but it's either been stuff I haven't been that fussed about - making things just for the sake of making things - or I haven't got round to taking photographs.  Our house is quite dark and it's hard to find decent locations around it to take modelled photographs, but I can just about find a suitable location for my tailors dummy (Rosie) to model things for me. 

I bought the pattern for this top (it also includes a dress variation as well) the day it was released. 

I saw it on Instagram I think, and instantly fell in love with it.  I needed some new tops that weren't simple jersey t-shirts and haven't been that keen on shirts or button front tops.  The Rochester top by Maven Patterns seemed to be the very thing I was looking for.  I must admit I was also slightly swayed by the gorgeous green fabric the sample was made up in - but I love my versions even though they're not in that fabric!

I say "versions" because I've made two. 

The first was from some chambray I had in my stash, which I made almost immediately I'd purchased the pattern. 

I made a size 14;it fits me well with the exception of the sleeves being a smidge tight.  It's wearable, but I find they tend to ride up my biceps and get stuck there as I move, I have to keep tugging them down.  I keep meaning to go back and take a slightly narrower seam on the sleeve to counteract this, but the seam allowance is only 1cm so I don't have huge amounts to play with. 

This was my first time using a Maven Patterns pattern and I really enjoyed the experience.  The pdf fitted together nicely and it came with two sets of instructions - a full, detailed set and another which was more of a basic outline of the steps.  I used a combination of the two - the outline steps for most of it, but I referred to the full instructions for the hem facing.

I made a couple of changes; the pattern includes a deep pleat at the back which I originally cut in my chambray but it stuck out quite a bit when I tried it on, so I went back and took it out, by sewing down the centre back below the pleat stitching at the top.  I also used two narrow pieces of elastic to gather the neck, rather than one wider piece as the pattern suggests.  I found that the wider piece didn't lay very flat.

Other than that I made my first version as per the pattern.  You get a template included for the topstitching for the hem facing, which I pinned onto the top and followed around with my machine foot.  This worked out really well and I think looks nice in a contrast thread against the chambray. 

This weekend just gone I went on a sewing day with some friends and needed a project to take along, so I cut out another Rochester top, this time from a small piece of (I think) Liberty cotton.  I had one metre to play with and just squeezed the top out.  I had to use bias strips to finish the hem rather than the hem bands, but managed to get everything out.

This time I cut the sleeves slightly wider - adding about 3/4 of an inch I think in total - and they feel a lot more comfortable.  I also decided to add an opening to the back neck, with a little button and loop.  I can get the chambray one on and off without an opening, but it's a little tight.

With this version I echoed the three lines of stitching around the neck for the elastic casing on the sleeve hems.  I think it's quite a nice touch. 

At some stage I'd like to make the dress, I'm just on the look out for the right fabric now!

Made by Me: David and Debbie

Wow, it's over 2 months since I've visited my own little corner of the internet.  Did you wonder if I was ever coming back?  I did!

I've been doing quite a bit of free motion embroidery recently as I find it really relaxing and I've started doing a few portraits. 

I have David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust guise and Debbie Harry to share with you today.

I actually did this a few months ago and have used some of my precious Liberty print scraps for the coloured areas.  I was lucky enough to find a scrap of the perfect "hair" fabric in my stash. 

This has been framed and will hang on the wall in our newly decorated lounge, I'll be making a couple more Bowie pictures to hang alongside it.

Just over a week ago I taught a free motion embroidery class at my friend Angela's shop - Crafty Angel Sewing Studio.  We spent the morning experimenting with free motion embroidery and the afternoon turning our creations into a tote bag.  Normally I don't make a project along with the class, but this time I decided to.

I did a portrait of Debbie Harry on a denim background for my sample.

Here she is on the finished bag, which is lined with the same fabric I made her top out of.

And in case you were wondering, the two badges on the bag are also Debbie and David. 

I've got ideas for a few more portraits, including one I've just started for my friends birthday.  I can't share it yet though in case she sees it here, but I think it's going to look amazing!

Why I'm Not Scared of Sewing With Knits...

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who read and commented on my last post.  When I wrote it, it felt kind of self indulgent, so it was especially good to read that others feel / have felt the same, and know where I'm coming from.

Today I'm going to show you some old photos which might help to illustrate why I'm not scared of sewing with knit fabrics.  Or they might just give you a good laugh!

When I first started reading sewing blogs I saw post after post about how people were scared of sewing knit / stretch fabrics, and I really couldn't understand why.  I'd been sewing with knits for years and never knew you were supposed to be scared of them!

My first experiences of sewing with stretch fabrics came when my sister and I used to do artistic roller skating (think Torvill and Dean on wheels) in our teens.  We entered competitions all over the country and of course had to have fancy outfits to compete in.  I made most of them, on a standard, quite basic home sewing machine with a zigzag stitch.  I'd never even heard of an overlocker. Despite this and the fact that they were incredibly close fitting outfits that were subjected to a lot of movement and stress I never had a single popped seam or stitch.

I also sewed hundreds, and sometimes thousands of sequins on them. 


(I apologise for the poor quality of the photos, they're scans of very old pictures.  I had some even better ones with fancier costumes but the quality was just too poor).

The first three are me (don't laugh too hard!) and the last couple are my sister and her skating partner. 

On Why I Haven't Been Blogging...

I'm unsure about this post.  It feels self indulgent, but I also feel like I need to write it down.  I might take it down in a few days.

If you've come here expecting to see a new post about something new I've made, then I'm really sorry to disappoint you.  Today's blog post is more about what I haven't been sewing... and why.

I have made a couple of things recently, some Named Clothing Jamie jeans that I was quite pleased with, a Simplicity 1366 top (am I the last person in the world to make this pattern?) and a dress I hacked from a top pattern (I can't remember what it's called and can't be bothered to go and look), but nothing that really floats my boat. 

To be honest, none of my clothes - me made or ready to wear - float my boat right now and that is purely because I don't float my own boat right now.  I don't want to make (or buy) clothes that fit me now, because I don't like how my body looks and feels at the moment. 

I've got lots of plans for things I want to make;

New Look 6459 Cropped Trousers

Closet Case Patterns Kalle shirt - cropped version

Tessuti Fabrics Bella dress

It's no secret that I suffer with anxiety and depression and one of the ways I try to deal (almost always unsuccessfully) with this is to comfort eat.   I have never once eaten something to make myself feel better and then actually felt better... I don't know why I continue to feel it will work!

I also snack in the car when I'm bored, and I spend a lot of time in the car! I do a lot of driving for work and sometimes spend up to 7 hours a day behind the wheel (I was going to say driving, but often I'm sat in a queue of traffic, going nowhere).  Foods which should only be eaten occasionally as a treat become an everyday indulgence and healthy eating in the form of preparing fresh food with lots of fruit and veg goes out of the window.  I eat crap and I'm sure that ends up making me feel more crap than I did already.  Consequently, since the beginning of the year I've put on about a stone in weight. 

My clothes still fit but most don't feel good and I don't want to make/buy things that do feel more comfortable because I don't want to accept that this is me now.  I'm not massively overweight, if I lost the stone I've put on I'd be okay, and if I lost a stone and a half, then that would be wonderful.  I know I'm never going to get back the figure I had in my early twenties however much I'd love to.  At that stage of my life I was into artistic roller skating and trained 5 times a week... I could eat pretty much what I liked then. 

And I'm not of the mindset that if I was thin my life would be perfect.  I know that's not true, and I know that way lies madness of a different kind.   What I do know is that I don't particularly like myself at the moment and I think that eating more healthily and taking care of myself a bit better would benefit me physically and mentally.   

The stupid thing is I know exactly what I need to do, I've got books on healthy eating coming out of my ears, too many probably.  And I actually love cooking, I love planning weekly menus and trying new recipes .  I just need to click my brain into the right place to actually do something about it.

So starting this week I'm going to try.  I've got food in the fridge that needs using up rather than throwing away, but from Wednesday I'm going the healthy route again.  I'm not going to go mad (I could never give up chocolate completely) but I'm going to do my best to loose this unwanted extra bit of me. 

If you've read this far, thank you.  If you're now thinking I'm a complete crackpot then I don't blame you, I think that about myself on pretty much a daily basis.  And I haven't written this in the hope of people complimenting me and telling me I don't need to lose weight.  I don't particularly care what other people think, I know I need to do it for myself.  It's not the answer to all my issues, but it's one less thing to beat myself up about.

As I said, I might take this post down in a few days, but I just needed to get it off my chest.  Hopefully I'll be back with some actual sewing and less whinging before too long.  I have the perfect fabric for that Kalle shirt in my stash, and for the Bella dress come to think of it!  I guess the Bella dress might be a good place to start, it's shape means it should fit whatever happens. 

Meanwhile, if anyone has suggestions of things I can sew now that I might be happy with, I'm all ears. 

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.