Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Fashion Revolution Day



Like many people, part of the reason I choose to make my own clothing is because fast fashion leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It just feels wrong to wear something against my skin when I don't know who made it, I don't know how much they were paid to make it, or whether they were treated fairly and humanely in the process. Of course I do still occasionally buy clothes from the shops, and when I do, I feel guilty about it. Wouldn't it be great if there were more transparency about the origins of our clothing, and if more fashion brands took ethical clothing production seriously?

On 24th April 2013, 1,133 garment workers were killed when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Bangladesh. On 24th April 2014, the inaugural Fashion Revolution Day is asking us draw attention to the uncertain - and potentially unethical - origins of our clothing. How? By wearing an item of clothing inside out, taking a photo, and contacting the brand where it was from - on Twitter, Instagram or otherwise - to ask "Who made my clothes?", using the hashtags #insideout and #FashionRevolutionDay. I think this is such a brilliant way of getting people involved and letting the fashion industry know that we care about where our clothes come from.

Maybe there's more we can to contribute to Fashion Revolution Day as makers. Perhaps we can all make a concerted effort to encourage more people to learn to make their own clothes, in order to foster understanding of the work involved in the production process (it takes aaaages to make a dress, why oh why does it cost £10 from Primark??), to slow down our collective fashion consumption, and encourage everyone to treasure what's already in their wardrobe.

You in?

Photo credits: Photographer: Keiron O'Connor / Model: Sienna Somers, Profile / Denim Dress: Komodo / Stylist: Stevie Westgarth / Make-up: Jo Frost / Hair: Eliot Bsilla

Friday, 11 April 2014

Make the Brigitte Scarf + Come to My Online Book Launch!


Exciting stuff today! With less than a month to go until my book is released (eek!), you, my dear readers, get a sneaky peek at the content with a project extract - the Brigitte scarf. Aaaaaand you're all invited to my online book launch party - woop!

Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking takes you from the absolute basics of threading a sewing machine through to creating a wardrobe full of gorgeous garments you can be proud to say you made yourself. As the best way to learn a skill is to get stuck in as soon as possible, each chapter gets you making a project - and variations on that project - while teaching you just enough techniques so you can make the project without feeling overwhelmed. The projects in each chapter build up in complexity until by the end you've learnt a whole loads of new skills, made loads of lovely clothes, and had a ton of fun at the same time!

The Brigitte scarf is the very first project in the book, designed to put basic sewing machine skills into practice. It's super simple, easy enough to be the very first thing someone makes on a sewing machine in fact, and an enjoyable speedy project for more experienced stichers too. The Brigitte scarf is inspired by Miss Bardot, bien sûr, and is a great way to add a touch of Riviera chic to your handmade wardrobe - I've just started a Pinterest board with inspiration for how to wear it.

I'll tell you more about the party at the end of the post, but first here's how to make the Brigitte scarf...
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MAKE THE BRIGITTE SCARF

SUPPLIES
  • At least 15 x 150cm (6 x 60in) fabric
  • Thread (to match fabric colour)
  • Large sheet of paper
  • Optional: Contrast colour thread for topstitching

FABRIC SUGGESTIONS
Choose a fabric that is lightweight and drapey, such as cotton lawn, voile or shirting. Lightweight silks, polyesters and blends will make a beautiful scarf, but their slipperiness can make them tricky to work with if you’re just starting to sew – test sew them first if you’re unsure. Mediumweight cottons will also work well.

TO MAKE THE SCARF

1. Make a paper pattern. Draw a rectangle onto paper, 65cm (25 ½ in) long by 15cm (6in) wide and cut it out with paper scissors (remember, don't use your fabric scissors on paper). Fold your fabric in half widthways and pin the paper pattern to the fabric so that one short edge is lined up with the fold – cutting the fabric on the fold like this will result in a piece double the length of the pattern. Avoid pinning the pattern to the woven edges of the fabric (AKA the 'selvedges') – you don’t want to use those in your scarf as they are woven slightly differently to the rest of the fabric.

DIFFERENT SCARF SHAPES
You can adjust the shape and size of the scarf to your preference. Try making a cute little neck tie by cutting your paper pattern 40cm (16in) long x 15cm (6in) wide.


2. Cut out the fabric around the paper pattern.


3. Fold the fabric piece in half lengthways. Have the side that you want showing on the outside of the scarf (AKA the 'right side' of the fabric) on the inside of the fold. Press along the fold line. If you want diagonal ends on your scarf, cut them now. Pin together the raw edges. We’re going to leave a gap in the stitching so we can turn the scarf right sides out later; make two small markings towards the middle of the long raw edge, about 8–10cm (3–4in) apart. You can mark with a chalk pencil, washable pen or a tiny snip into the edge of the fabric.


4. Sew the scarf. Using a 1.5cm (5/8 in) seam allowance, start sewing from one short end, backtacking (sewing two or three reverse stitches) to secure the stitches. Pivot at the corner, and sew along the long raw edge until you reach the first marking. Backtack to secure and trim the threads. Start sewing again from the second marking, backtacking to secure, pivoting again at the corner, sewing down the other short edge, and backtacking to secure the end. Trim the threads.


5. Trim the scarf seam allowances. Trim them down to about half their current width. Snip diagonally across the corners, about 3mm (1/8 in) from the stitching and being careful not to cut through the stitches. These steps will help make the seams less bulky.


6. Turn the scarf right sides out. Turn it through the gap in the stitching, then use a pin to gently pull each corner out into a point.


7. Press the seams with your iron to neaten them. At the gap, turn the raw edges to the inside of the scarf and press the folds.


8. Sew up the gap. Sew a line of stitches close to the edge along the gap to seal it, backtacking at either end.

Ooh là là! You made a scarf!


EMBELLISH WITH TOPSTITCHING

These days even the most basic sewing machine usually comes with a number of fancy stitch settings. While some of these stitches are functional, many are purely decorative – from geometric patterns to flowers. Try adding a pretty stitch design to the edge of your scarf for an extra-special touch.

Use a contrast colour thread so your stitching shows up against the fabric. Regular thread will work fine for topstitching lightweight to mediumweight fabrics, or you could try special topstitching thread, which is thicker and more noticeable – use it on the spool only, with regular thread in the bobbin.

Test your stitches on a doubled scrap of fabric before you begin, adjusting the thread tension if necessary until the stitches lay nicely without bunching up the fabric. Steam pressing before and after stitching will help keep the stitches nice and smooth.

When you’re ready to sew, try to keep the line of stitching at an equal distance from the edge of the fabric, sewing as slowly as you need to and using the seam allowance guide to help you. Begin and end the decorative topstitching by backtacking with a straight stitch to secure it.


LOVE AT FIRST STITCH by TILLY WALNES, published by Quadrille (£20)
Photos © ELLIE SMITH & ARIELLE GAMBLE

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Did someone mention a party? Partaaaaaaay!!! My blog readers are such a lovely, fun bunch of people, I'd love you to be part of the book launch celebrations. While it'd be pretty unfeasible for all of you to physically come together in one room, we can DEFINITELY take over the internet on the day my book is released - Thursday 8th May 2014. So how can you join in the fun? 

  • Make a Brigitte scarf of your own following the tutorial
  • Take a photo of how you wear it - will you wear it tied round your head, as a neck tie, a belt, under a collar, on your bag...?
  • Post your photo to your blog / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest on 8th May using the hashtag #LoveAtFirstStitch
  • Tweet me or leave a link on my blog so I can see your scarf and I'll add as many as I can to the Brigitte scarf gallery
  • Search for other party guests using the hashtag #LoveAtFirstStitch, meet new sewing friends and get chatting!

It'd be soooo great if you could help me spread the word about the #LoveAtFirstStitch online book launch party, including to people who have never sewn before. It's not a competition as such (no pressure, just fun!), buuut I will pick two people with stand-out photos to each win a £50 voucher to Fabric Rehab, courtesy of Quadrille. You gonna be there?

Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking is released in the UK on 8th May 2014 (and in the US in October). You can pre-order your copy on Amazon now, or if you'd like to get a signed copy from yours truly, sign up to my newsletter (occasional special news, no spam) to be the first to know as soon as it's available to buy from my shop. Thank you so much for your support!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sixties Stripe Coco


Yes, it's another one (sigh). The Coco sewing pattern bien sûr, this time I made the top version with funnel neck and small patch pockets with stripes in a contrasting direction.

I'd been dreaming and scheming about creating a striped funnel neck top since seeing this Boden top and, if you follow me on Instagram (I'm on Instagram!), you'll know I started this top quite a while ago. A "while ago" in Coco terms, that is, it's usually a one-sitting make. Unfortunately over the last few weeks I've been recovering from what was supposed to be minor surgery on my foot but turned into a rather grizzly saga - I'll spare you the gory details in case you're eating your lunch - and it got worse over the last couple of weeks so I couldn't even sit up straight, let alone sew. Luckily it's starting to heal now so I can at least sit at my sewing table (and stand on one foot for these pictures) - hooray!



You may recognise the fabric from my Coco dress with yellow pockets - it's the very same, bought from The Cloth House. I bought up quite a bit of this fabric seeing as it is, quite frankly, perfect. There are plenty of other options online if you're after something similar, including from Dragonfly Fabrics and The Fabric Godmother - see also my post on where to buy knit fabrics.



Now I'm dreaming of a sleeveless version like Audrey's. Mmm... I promise I'll make something different soon though!

What's on your sewing table, please?

[Soundtrack: 'Leader of the Pack' by The Shangri-Las]

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee Book 2


Have you been watching the second series of the Great British Sewing Bee? I can't believe it's only a few days until the final - the last seven weeks seem to have gone by in a flash! It's interesting to see how the concept of the show has been developed this time around - there have been some really great challenges this year [SPOILER ALERT], such as drafting your own patterns, making a waterproof anorak and sewing on a vintage machine. Much more fun to watch when you're not in it, I tell ye!


And have you seen the book which accompanies the second series - The Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe? It's really great! While it may not be the best introduction to dressmaking - simply because of course there's a book coming out in just a few weeks' time which is the best introduction to dressmaking book ever if I do say so myself why thank you - it's full of some really nice-looking patterns. This time the patterns are all included on full scale sheets in a nice little pattern pack that comes with the book, so you don't need to faff around with the photocopier, just trace them off onto paper (or straight onto the fabric). The womenswear patterns come in either six sizes, from 8 to 18, or four sizes from XS to L. They're targeting a wide demographic - from grandmas to hipsters - so they may not all appeal, but there's definitely something for everyone. Here are my picks...


This 1930s blouse pattern is climbing to the top of my "to sew" list. It's got some really pretty details, such as the shirred neckline, peplum and teardrop sleeve. This was the garment the contestants were challenged to make from an unprinted 1930s pattern. You can read more about the history of 1930s dressmaking patterns in a guest post by fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart.


If I remember correctly, this is the pinafore that lovely Lynda made out of a man's suit? A homage to Jenni, non? I'm quite tempted to make this - no, not just because it's shown with stripes! But yes, I do plan to wear it with stripes!


Remember the beautiful yellow coat that Tamara made? Yes, the contestants had to make a lined, tailored coat in six hours, as you do. Well this is in there. It's such a lovely, classic design - can't go wrong, really. (Well, I mean you can't go wrong wearing it, although you could go wrong sewing it, but at least you'll have more than six hours in which to do so!)


There's plenty of menswear patterns included too, such as this hipster shirt and anorak. I'm surprised nobody made a Ryan-Gosling-in-Drive version in silver with a scorpion hand-embroidered on the back. C'mon guys, you can do that in five minutes, surely?


There's also some snazzy leggings. I don't think my Polish potato farmer-inherited knees would get away with having a crazy print clinging to them, but I'm definitely going to make these in classic black. I'm embarrassed that I still sneak into H&M occasionally to stock up on basic stuff like leggings and vests, I deffo need to get my act together and start making them. Have you made leggings before?

It's a shame there isn't more Chinelo-made stuff in here (my idol), but I guess that's because she makes all her garments up as she goes along! There is a page talking about sewing without a pattern though, and some brief instructions on draping a dress, which I guess is the nod to the talented lady herself.

The book is available to buy now and, at the time of writing, it's only £12 on Amazon. Definitely worth it for these patterns alone, I reckon. Go get!

So who's excited about the final? I feel so nervous for the contestants! Wishing them all huge congratulations for winning a place on the show in the first place. Enjoy the final, y'all!