Monday, 6 February 2017

Felting Workshop

Hello. It's cold and foggy here, so I have been staying in and reading lots of Australian sewing blogs, warming myself up looking at all their sunny pictures! But today I braved the cold, and went out to do a felting workshop at Hove Museum. When I arrived, all the materials were out on display and looking better than sweets in a sweet shop!

So many nice goodies. Nadya, our teacher, demoed a basic technique whilst we had coffee and croissants! Bliss. There seem to be two main ways to felt: needle felting with a hooked needle with which to interlock the fibres, or smooching them together with soap and water. The latter seemed more fun and hands on, so I went for that.

Demonstrating rolling felt beads

A fellow student needle felting

Some of my fellow crafters made felt beads, one made a felt bowl, another a flower,  and one a really cute little bee!

Needle felted bee, made by another student

First step is to choose your wool and colours. I tried to keep my colour palette simple, so I could embellish with glitter and small beads (which you can trap in the felt between the fibres).

Light and fluffy before felting

We worked on a rattan table mat, and trapped our wool between some netting to create a felting sandwich. After rubbing the soapy wool for five minutes, we washed the soap out and dried our pieces on the radiators.

My work drying on the radiators!

A versatile craft and one I really enjoyed. But will I be rushing out to buy felting wool?  Probably not. It's not an expensive craft; Nadya explained you could buy a mixed bag of wool for £10, and we found that a little went a long way.  So possibly in the future it would be fun to dabble and make a no-seam bag or hat. But for now I have to get my thinking cap on and decide how I am going to use my finished pieces!

Pinks and purples

Felted sausage

Reminiscent of grass or meadows, actually looks much nicer in real life!

I'm thinking of making a couple of brooches and a bracelet, but any other ideas would be welcomed.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sewing Cleo

Greetings friends. I am a lot more upbeat than I was in my last post! Thank you all for your nice comments both here and on IG. To know so many of you have had similar experiences and persevered has been inspiring and reassuring, so many thanks.

Today I am going to share my latest make: Cleo, the newish pattern by Tilly and the Buttons. I made two versions, one too big and one too small, but luckily I've been able to rescue them.

My first version was a toile, to check the fit using the cheapy cord left over from my trousers. Even though I cut this version out at the size that corresponded to my measurements, I couldn't even get it on. Then, my friend Jenny (Silverbellsandcockleshells on IG) suggested unpicking and using smaller seam allowance and that's what I did. It's not roomy, as I think dungarees should be, but it's wearable.

So, having learnt my lesson, I then got my nice fabric out. Although I kept the bib the same for the side seams, I cut out the next one a size up. And would you believe it but it was huge and gapey!! Much cursing ensued, then unpicking and increasing the seam allowance this time!

I love the style, I think the aesthetic suits me. It is also a happy, easy shape to wear, flattering and loose around the tum, perfect for eating in!

The fabric is a sparkly denim with stretch, and perhaps the stretch was why it was too big for me. The sparkles catch the light and shine in the sun, which is fun. I still don't feel I have nailed the fit, and I am going to have one more go in due course, with some gorgeous gold denim from my stash. I fear the green version will not keep its place in my wardrobe, but the denim is a keeper!

If you have made Cleo how did you get on with fit/gaping?
Lou xx

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Hello 2017

Hope everyone has had a great Christmas and New Year. We had a fab time here, but once 2017 hit, so did illness. Feverish and sick is not the best way to be to usher in a new year. But the family are now finally surfacing from the arena of the unwell.

Have you made any New Year's resolutions? I need something to change in my life. My number one priority is to get some purpose. Those of you who know me personally will know I do a great deal of voluntary work, and obviously I also do and enjoy the sewing intern work too. However, making the jump from voluntary to paid work in my chosen sphere (public sector) has eluded me. Over the past three years I have applied for more jobs than I can remember, each application taking days to fill in. I am not even getting close; not even an interview in three years. Feedback is always the same: you are a strong candidate with good experience, but we were inundated and can take our pick.

To say it gets me down is an understatement. I have given up a large portion of my adult working life to raise my beautiful babies, but they have all started school now, and I need to do something challenging. But here's the rub... I need it to be part-time.

So, why am I writing about this on a sewing blog? Sorry folks, I just needed to say it 'out loud' to hear myself think, and this is a space I feel safe in. The sewing won't stop, I love it, but I need to acknowledge that life cannot carry on like this. So what next?  Short term, more voluntary work with different charities to gain more skills. Long term... I don't know; back to university, maybe? Expensive, but possibly worth it if I finally get to use my brain again.

Well thanks for reading if you got this far. I just needed to put it out there to make myself realise that I need to find a solution.  Come on 2017, reveal your secrets.  Louise xx

P.S. As far as sewing resolutions go, mine is to sew what I enjoy, plus to try hard to use up the fabric I already own before buying more!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Sheath Dress, by The Avid Seamstress

Greetings Stitchers. Today, I want to share with you a very wearable toile.

This, as the title says, is the sheath dress by The Avid Seamstress. It looks similar in style to Tilly and the Buttons's Bettine dress.  At first I wasn't desperately drawn to it, until I saw it on Josie aka The Fabric Godmother, and then I thought... I NEED that dress!

The sheath dress

The pattern envelope says it needs 2.5 metres of fabric; this was a stumbling block, as I didn't have anything appropriate in that length. Luckily, wise counsel from sewists advised: "trace it out, and I bet it doesn't need that much".  And indeed they were right! I got this out of 1.5 metres, though I did shorten the pattern piece, as I am tiny (5ft, FYI) in height. The sleeves are one piece with the bodice, kimono style; it creates a bat-wing effect and drape under the arm.

Excuse odd facial expressions, but this pic shows the almost bat-wing sleeve shape.

I wanted to make a toile to check out the fit/shape/feel of this dress. Clearly I have chosen not to include the waist elastic, but I may do in the future: I love the silhouette anyway. The toile feels comfy and looks stylish.  I feel this dress is crying out for a big broach or colourful necklace to make it sing (so I am hoping for the perfect big necklace for Christmas!).

The pattern includes in-seam pockets, but I chose to remove them from this version as they were distorting the side seams. Perhaps I did them wrong?  I will try again on my next version as they would be good to have. I also ballsed up the hem.  I always stabilise the hem before sewing with knit tape and always have great results. With this make, I couldn't find the tape, but carried on regardless. Wavy hems ahoy - lesson learnt.
Think I need a sway back adjustment here to get rid of pooling fabric.
I left out the back zip, as the dress is roomy and the neckline big enough that it's not needed. I love the feel of this dress, classy but also cosy.  To amp up the comfort factor, I plan to make my next version in fleece-backed sweatshirting for a real winter dress. I also have a great Ikat woven fabric that I think will look good with the cinched-in middle. A lovely pattern, and I look forward to making more!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A tale of three toiles, one of them wearable!

Hello Sewing buddies.  A little while ago I decided to try making some trousers. I have made elastic waist trousers in the past, and wear them happily; but, I wanted to try a pair of proper fitted high-waisted trews. Out came the old paint splattered bed-sheets - it was toile time!

Looks okay standing very still, but lots of extra fabric at the front.

This pattern is Simplicity K1699 and it's very straightforward: no pockets, no fly zip - so I could just focus on getting it to fit me!  Toile number one was baggy in the front crotch, as if my front rise was drastically shorter than the pattern.

After sewing this toile, I have noticed bagginess on many old RTW trousers that I'd never noticed before! This actually made me feel better; although I should try and get them to fit the best I can, I shouldn't get too hung up on being a perfectionist with fit, as most flaws we don't even notice day to day. That realisation gave me the confidence just to have a go with fitting.

The seam on the front is where I have taken out a triangular wedge of excess fabric.

For toile number two, I have pinched out the front excess on the crotch, and it fits me much better. I also added back to the top what height I'd pinched from the crotch curve, so that the front and back of the trousers were still level. At the back, I took a small slice out under the bum to get rid of the bagging.

I am really pleased with both of these adjustments, and was keen to next try out on fabric I could wear out of the house. I believe the test of a garment's fit is only complete once you've worn it all day.

Drag lines at the back- too much fabric.

Wearable toile number three is from some cheap jumbo cord. The material, although a nice colour, has a high acrylic content; it was, though, very cheap and has a similar weight to my fashion fabric. For this version, I kept the previous adjustments and tried to tackle the bagging at of the back just under the bum. For this, I created a new seam line on the back pattern pieces, losing a good inch on both sides but keeping the front pieces as they were.

I have taken them out for a spin. Conclusions: They are comfy. They hit my waist, which is how I like to wear my trousers. I could pinch a little more out of the front crotch, they are still a little baggy - although I only really see that in the photos and don't scrutinise my clothes that deeply in real life.

You can see in this photo that there is still too much fabric at the front crotch.

Whats next?  I am not sure. I have bought the most gorgeous wool/viscose blend in dark grey suiting from Ditto Fabrics to make my final version, but I feel I should get the fit better before cracking open the lovely fabric. I may have one more toile in me; perhaps I will play with adding the bib of a dungaree pattern on my next go, just to keep the project fun and appealing. Time will tell!

Even with a less than perfect fit, they are still perfectly wearable! Ha-Yah - take that fit issues!

What do you do when you have nice fabric you are aching to use?

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Being a Sewing Intern

Hi friends; today, I want to let you know what I've been up to recently. Since September, I have been working as a sewing Intern for Sew -in -Brighton

It came about following a chat to the lovely Kat Neeser, the owner, at the Summer Sewmance, and then another at the Brighton Sewcial.  Kat Frequently advertises for interns. but with the little kiddos around I had no way of doing it before. However, school started for my youngest in September; with all of them out of the house in the daytime, I grabbed my chance.

Having been a stay-at-home mum, raising my three lovelies, anyone who knows me will know that my confidence has plummeted during this time. I saw this internship as a way to boost my self-esteem, and get used to working and interacting with adults again! Whatever my reasons, though, I have to say I LOVE it.

All the students have such a nice time in class: it's a light and bright studio, and stitchers are so friendly (we all know that) with everyone chatting away happily. If you are in the Brighton and Hove area, and thinking about learning to sew - or wanting help with fit - I would really recommend the Sewing Lounge.

On a typical stitch class, I might show a student how to put in a zip, how to measure themselves to decide on pattern size, or how to "rub off" RTW clothes to make a dressmaking pattern. I didn't realise how much I knew about sewing until I started here! I found I am reasonably quick at threading an overlocker, and able to troubleshoot tension problems!

Here you can see a student is using her leggings as a template for a new pattern, She now needs to add seam allowance and notches and then will be ready to go.

The best bit about being an Intern is learning from Kat. At first, I would just watch when she helped students with fit issues, but I am gaining confidence in how alterations are achieved myself now. It's not just full bust adjustments, there is trouser fitting and shirts too. It's really fun.

This student has made a copy of a RTW child's dress out of an old dress of hers. Excellent refashioning.

Tissue fitting and doing flat pattern adjustments before cutting out in fabric.

In addition to the stitch classes, Sew-in-Brighton offer more structured courses, for example on Tailoring or Pattern cutting.  These sound really amazing.

I help out in the weekly stitch class in the morning, and in the afternoons I sew up samples for Kat or draft out patterns for students to use within the stitch classes. For example, I have made a pattern from an old oven glove!

It will then be made up to test the pattern to make sure it works before releasing it for students to try. This will hopefully be one of the patterns available on the Christmas present making class, alongside hot water bottle covers and lots of other perfect presents. Details here if you are interested.

After each session I come home so eager to sew for myself after what I've seen in class. So that is my latest news - I am enjoying feeling useful and having fun with sewing.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Vintage A-line

Hello sewing friends, I have recently bought some coloured tights. Which is a tenuous justification for needing a new skirt - or skirts plural - to go with them! Do you ever feel the need to have an excuse for your makes?

Here are a couple of short A-line shaped skirts I liked in the shops, two corduroy, one brushed velvet. I then went through my pattern stash to see if I had any likely candidates.


On these RTW skirts, I liked the fly zip or exposed zip the best. I also knew I had a deep plummy-purple denim (from Ditto fabrics) in the stash which would work well as an A-line. I found a great 1970s A-line pattern that I got in a charity shop eons ago, and thought would be perfect. It has a longer length, but I felt confident it would look just as good. I did actually lop off a good 5 and a half inches from the length of the pattern and it still hits my knee.

I've a considerably larger waist than the pattern's 24 inches. I enlarged it by slashing and spreading. I have no idea if this is the right way to do it, but it seemed an intuitive way to go. It's also worked out well.

All went swimmingly with the construction; amazingly, the fly zip was a doodle. However, I came unstuck at the waistband: my machine just did not want to sew through all those layers, and top-stitching was tedious and slow. I unpicked frequently, as the machine jammed and wobbled.

So, the top-stitching is not my finest sewing hour, but I am going to ignore it - not only can I not face unpicking it yet again, I have also over-trimmed, so I think this is the best it's going to look anyway. It would be churlish to spurn this skirt just because of the waistband, and most of my tops will hide the worst of its sins anyway. In hindsight, I should have used my Nan's 1970s Elna to top-stitch - remember next time, Lou of the Future!

I am very pleased with the skirt; adding those four inches to the waist has worked well, and this deep colour will go with all my new tights! I foresee a mini-skirt version of this in the not too distant future.

Lots of love sewing pals. Next time, I am going to tell you my exciting news about working as a sewing intern for the Sew-in Brighton Sewing school.

Lou xx