28 March 2013

Pressing Your Sewing Projects


First up, a massive THANK YOU for your lovely comments on my last post. I'm getting soooo nervous now but it feels so good to have your support! Right, on with the post...

Thought using the iron was boring? Think again, my friend!

Call me a total saddo, but I find a bit of hot iron action really satisfying when I need to add shape to my projects. Pressing is a crucial part of sewing. It can make your project look miles better by flattening seams, adding definition to stitching lines, shaping darts elegantly, and generally making everything look much neater and more gorgeous. In this post I'll offer some tips on when to press, what to press and how to press...

When to press


Before you cut out your fabric, give it a press to smooth it out – this will help you get more accurately shaped pieces. If your pattern is creased, give that a press too on a low, dry setting (check the ink doesn’t run first!).


If you’re folding over the edge of the fabric to stitch it as a hem, for example, give it a press before stitching to flatten and neaten it.

Press each seam after stitching it and before stitching across it. You don’t literally have to get up after sewing every seam and go over to the ironing board – you can “save up” a few bits that need pressing and do them in one go, as long as the iron gets to them before you stitch over that part of the garment.

What to press


Press seams either open or towards the back of the garment.

Press darts towards one side (horizontal darts usually go downwards).

Avoid pressing gathers, for example on the head of a set-in sleeve, as it may ruin the lovely fullness you’ve created with your stitching.


If you're pressing a small tricky part such as a collar, you can hang the rest of the garment off the end of your ironing board so it doesn't get under the iron.

How to press

First, test your iron setting on a small swatch of your fabric. Different fabrics can tolerate different amounts of heat and steam – too high and they may become marked or even melt!

You can help avoid damaging your fabric by laying a pressing cloth over it to protect it from the direct heat of the iron. A piece of muslin, cotton or even a tea towel will do just fine.

When ironing your pre-made clothes, you usually move the iron back and forth to smooth out the creases. When pressing, on the other hand, you’re placing the iron onto the fabric, holding it static for a few seconds, then lifting it up and placing it on another part of the fabric.


Don’t be afraid of a bit of steam. As long as your fabric can take it, steam will soften your fabric and help you mould and manipulate it into the shape you want it to be. For instance, it can help you roll a facing to the inside of the garment, or it can make a pointy bust dart look a little more curved and a lot less rude.


Press on both wrong and right sides of the fabric to get a neat finish.

If you’re really fancy, you can use a tailor’s ham and seam roll (aka sausage). These are specially shaped dedicated pressing devices which look like cushions but are deceptively firm. A tailor’s ham will help you press curved parts of a garment such as darts or collars; a seam roll is a cylindrical shape which lets you press just the middle of a seam without creating a ridge on the seam edges. If you don’t want to buy them, you can make your own or roll up a towel tightly as a make-shift alternative.

And finally, at the risk of sounding like your mother, turn the iron off when you’re not using it, won’t you? Not only will conserving the energy help save the planet (sort of), but if you knock it over and burn yourself you'll probably be so absorbed in your sewing that you don't notice until the next day, by which time you have a massive scar. Or that's what I do, in any case!

Still awake?! Do you have any pressing tips of your own to share?

26 March 2013

Tilly on the Telly!


Soooo… have you heard about the forthcoming BBC2 TV show about sewing from the makers of Bake Off? Well… ooh… eep… arrgghh… yikes… [deep breath] I’m a contestant!!!

If you’ve seen the baking version or one its international equivalents, you’ll know what to expect. A diverse group of amateur sewists are put through a series of sewing challenges, under hot lights, high pressure and crazy timeframes. Their work is scrutinised by expert judges and their spirits boosted by a down-to-earth presenter. Contestants are eliminated each week until one is accorded the title “Britain’s best amateur sewer”. Mercifully, viewers are spared the unsavoury aspects so often associated with reality shows – no sob stories, no divas, no backstabbing, just normal people struggling to sew a dress in 20 minutes while talking to the cameras at the same time, with plenty of good humour and comedy errors.

Thank you so much to the lovely readers who encouraged me to enter the contest in the first place! I felt like I was representing the wonderful sewing bloggers of this community, so I've been bursting to tell you about it for months and months. I’m not the kind of person who dreams of being on the telly (okay, despite spending my childhood rehearsing for a career as a Blue Peter presenter), but we work so hard to spread the sewing bug across the interwebs that the opportunity to share the sewing love with the unconverted via primetime TV is just a dream. If the show can convince a few more people to try their hand at sewing for the first time, to slow down their fast fashion consumption, to experience the pleasure of making, to feel empowered by taking control of what they wear, then that will be a wonderful thing. Plus it’ll just be hilarious TV gold!

No, I can’t believe I got picked. Yes, it was crazy pressure. No, there will be no spoilers here! (Although I will be posting and tweeting after the episodes' first airings, so close you're eyes if you're waiting to catch up on iPlayer/YouTube.) And yes, I will be watching from behind a very large glass of vino... The finished show will be (almost) as much of a surprise for me as it is for you, as I have no idea how it’s been edited. But what I do know is that it's gonna be awesome! Everyone involved in the show is absolutely lovely - not to mention super talented - and we had sooooo much fun filming. I just know you’re gonna love it!

22 March 2013

Pattern Hack! Mathilde Blouse Without Tucks



Want to remove the tucks from your Mathilde Blouse? Easy peasy!


You will need:
- Mathilde Blouse bodice pattern piece
- paper scissors
- glue




1) Cut along the left-hand line of each of the three tucks.




2) Apply glue to the whole of each tuck and overlap the pattern pieces.

Err... and that's it! This is your new pattern piece without tucks. You can trace it off if you like or just use it as it is to create your elegant tuck-less Mathilde Blouse.

Want more Mathilde pattern hacks? Check out this gathered version, short sleeve version and Mathilde dress!

20 March 2013

A Day in the Life of Deer and Doe

Mes amis, aujourd'hui nous allons en France to be a fly on the wall in A Day in the Life of Eléonore Klein. Her lovely Parisian business Deer&Doe produces beautiful sewing patterns, a massive hit with French stitchers and now available in English too! What's a typical day like at Deer&Doe HQ? Let's find out...

******


"I usually get up around 9am. I have always been a heavy sleeper and I find that this extra hour of sleep helps me to feel more productive and happy all day long!

As soon as I wake up, I grab a cup of coffee, a bowl of cereals, and go to my computer to sort my e-mails, read my RSS and Twitter feeds, and keep up with what have happened throughout the night (working with American and Australian customers means there’s often interesting things happening while I’m sleeping).

When I have few emails I like to answer immediately, but most of the time I just sort the emails in order to treat them later. When I’m done, I take a quick shower, dress up in something comfortable (usually a nice dress, leggings and slippers) and move on to my work day.



I am incredibly lucky to be able to work from home. I know some people find it difficult to work at their place, but I’ve always loved it. When I was an engineer, I used to work from home from time to time and I’ve never been more efficient! I have a very small but cute apartment in the heart of Paris, in a very calm neighborhood. I work in my living room, at a large desk where I set up my computer and my sewing machine.

I begin with all the emails I sorted earlier (client emails, stockists, comments on the blog and on Facebook...). It can take several hours, but I always try to finish the day with an empty inbox, as things can quickly become out of control! When I’m finished, if I still have time left before lunch, I love to use this spare time to sketch new ideas, work on new patterns, sew muslins, or to take pictures for the blog. At the moment, I am sewing all the patterns from the new Spring/Summer collection for the upcoming photo shoot! My days can quickly become very busy, so I learned to use my time wisely - 5 minutes are better employed to sew a sleeve than to watch this funny video on YouTube... ;)


I take a break around 1-2pm for lunch. When I launched Deer&Doe, I used to eat at my desk (when I took the time to eat properly), but lately I’m trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and it means a real lunch break! However, I’ve never been a great housewife : I usually microwave a bowl of soup and watch an episode of Futurama.

After lunch, it’s time to pack the daily orders! As I ship daily, it’s a routine I cannot pass on ;). Depending on the amount of orders, I spend 1 to 3 hours preparing the patterns (all the pattern envelopes are shipped to me flat, so I need to fold them, fill them with the booklets and the pattern sheet and close each of them by hand). Then, I prepare the orders and put them in my awesome bright pink cart.


I then take a walk to the post office, and usually do my grocery shopping on the way back. When I come back home, around 5pm, I like to take an hour to think about my current projects (craft fairs, collaborations, advertising, sew-alongs) or to do my accounting. I also like to schedule my meetings when I have some at this time of the day. Then, I work again on everything computer-related: I write my blog posts, I answer technical questions (and new emails!), and I search for awesome new Deer&Doe projects to feature!

I finish my work day at about 8pm, when my man comes back from work. I usually relax while he prepares dinner, and we spend an hour of quality time together (at the moment, we are on a Buffy marathon!). Then, from 10 to 12pm I go back to my computer to manage Thread&Needles, the sewing community I created 3 years ago (I work with a small team of 10 volunteers and I need to proofread, illustrate and schedule daily articles for the blog). We then go to bed and I relax on Pinterest or Reddit until 1am!


I started to think seriously about Deer&Doe in April 2012. At the time, I was working in a web agency and had little time left for sewing, not talking about creating a business! I was coming back home late, and used all my free time to search for potential printers and writing my business plan.

When I felt ready, I negociated my leave with my employer, and dived into the project! I had a lot of all-nighters, and worked without counting the hours (ok, maybe it’s still the case, all-nighters apart). Now I feel like I start to get a nice routine, and I hope I will be able to find a balance between work and rest!

The part of my job I definitely enjoy the most is the communication with my customers! I receive so many nice messages thanking me for the patterns! When I wake up sick or tired and I read such messages, I cannot help but smile all day long :) I also love the creative part, when I get to sketch new collections, style photo shoots, sew and adjust muslins... if only I could do this all year long!



I think there’s no "hardest" part to the job... but I could definitely do without my daily trips to the post office! I’m thinking about hiring somebody part-time to help me with this task, if the spring-summer collection does well enough :D

In the future, I’d love to produce more patterns of course, and also to work more with British, American and Australian shops now that the patterns are bilingual! As I said, I’m also thinking about hiring somebody part-time (being overworked is always a good sign!), and maybe in a few years renting my own little workshop!

I’m still very new to the pattern-making world, but for the moment if I had to give one piece of advice to other emerging sewing businesses, it would be, "Work hard, stay humble". Launching a business is a LOT of work, even if people don’t see it from the outside, but don’t be so caught in your work that you brag about your products or disrespect your customers. Stay humble and nice with your clients and your work partners, and always focus on making better products and services!"


******

Merci Eléonore! The Pavot jacket is already in my sewing queue and I'm super excited to see the new patterns...

17 March 2013

Sneaky Peek of My New Pattern!


Hey guess what? I'm working on another sewing pattern to share with you!

Before I tell you a little bit about that, I just wanted to say a huge thank you for your support with the Mathilde Blouse sewing pattern. Producing the downloadable version and putting it out into the world for stitchers' scrutiny was - I admit - totally nerve racking. What if my testers and I had all missed a glaringly obvious mistake? What if, after all those months of work, no one wanted the pattern? My stomach full of butterflies, I very nearly chickened out pressing "publish" at the last minute. But I took a deep breath and did it. Two minutes later, when the orders started coming in, I was jumping round my flat doing a little dance of joy. Okay, so what I really mean is, I was doing a MASSIVE SHAMELESS DAD DANCE with tears of joy streaming down my face! So yeah, that's a bit embarrassing, but the point is that those of you buying the pattern are making me a very happy lady indeed :)


And now I'm putting myself through it all again to make a second one! This time round is soooo much easier, but still a heck of a lot of work. But it will be worth it - I'd been dreaming about this design for about two years and can't WAIT to share it with you! Not only is the new pattern super cute, but I've designed it to be super easy for beginners. I can't stop wearing the versions I've made for myself, I love it so. The pattern is with the testers right now (who all have different styles and different levels of sewing experience) and, fingers crossed, if there are no major issues, I'm hoping to share it with you in about 3 weeks' time. If you want to be the first to hear when it's released, sign up for my super special email alerts.

In the meantime, I'm preparing some more Mathilde Blouse Pattern Hack tutorials to share with you, a couple of variations which make the blouse easier to sew and one which makes it ready for Summer. Have you checked out the Maker Gallery lately? Some seriously gorgeous blouses being made across the globe! If you're making one, please do share your photos, I'd LOVE to see!

And in other news, I've got some new dates for teaching workshops at Ray Stitch:
Make Your Own Pattern & Skirt - Saturday 20th April (only 2 places left so book soon)
- Mathilde Blouse - Saturday 25th to Sunday 26th May
- Make Your Own Pattern & Skirt - Saturday 1st June

Exciting! Now then - any suggestions for names for the new pattern? I want it to sound like a cross-between a 1960s French movie star and a Victorian music hall performer. I've got a favourite in mind, but I'd love to hear your ideas...

[Soundtrack: 'Hospital' by Jesca Hoop]

15 March 2013

Vintage & Repro Sewing Pattern Haul










Recently, my dad's partner invited me to raid her vast collection of vintage and repro sewing patterns and borrow a few pieces. Well, it would have been rude if I'd declined, non? :) And before you ask, yes, 80s is vintage!!

In other news, have you heard that Google Reader is closing? I don't actually use it anymore, I much prefer Bloglovin - this is me if you want to keep following me. Oh and while we're at it, I'm also on Facebook if you'd like to like me (being British, that's so hard to type), PLUS I've started a mailing list for very occasional super duper special announcements - sign up here!

[Soundtrack: 'Take Yo' Praise' by Camille Yarbrough]

12 March 2013

Knickers!



There comes a point in every sewing blogger's posting career when they publish a picture of their unmentionables online. To be honest, I'm surprised it took me this long. Here they are, my first pair of handmade frillies. Oooooooh aren't they lurrrrvely? Yes, I'm asking if you like my knickers. (Rude.)

This is a buttery soft Liberty tana lawn, gifted by Sewbox - check it out, they have quite a few lovely Liberty prints at reduced prices. I've cut out another Mathilde Blouse in this fabric and made these knickers from what was left over. The pattern actually came as part of a sewing kit that I bought from Liberty itself one day when I was feeling so blue I needed an indulgence to cheer myself up. It was a cute kit, but the fabric that came with it was too small for even the smallest pattern size! So I used this instead and am delighted with the result.





I'm now brimming full of ideas for future smalls, including ribbon ties, cut out backs, lace panels... Plus I've got my eye on Mrs Depew's French knickers pattern. I can see this becoming an obsession. I've got undies on the brain, I tell you!

[Soundtrack: 'All Night Long' by Mary Jane Girls]

8 March 2013

To the Wonderful Women of the Sewing Community


In honour of International Women's Day, please enjoy the newly made-over A Day in the Life contents page, showcasing some of the wonderful women who work hard to produce and share with us their fabric designs, patterns, teaching, writing and handmade clothing. These women inspire me every day with their vision, creativity, thoughtfulness and hard work. You can take a sneaky peek into their daily lives here.

More great Day in the Life interviews are coming soon. If there is someone you admire who has turned their love of stitching into a career, please let me know and I'll see if I can feature them in a future month...

PS. Sew Over It, featured in the series and where So Zo now works, has just launched some great-looking new workshops, including this vintage shirt dress class.

5 March 2013

Finishing Seams: Zigzag Stitch


The zigzag stitch on your sewing machine can neaten the seams on your sewing projects and help prevent the fabric from fraying. It's a great option for beginners as it's relatively simple to do and particularly useful if you don't own an overlocker. It's how I was first taught to finish my seams and is a technique I used all the time before I began overlocking.


I would recommend getting an overlock foot for your sewing machine. They have a little flap of metal which helps guide the raw edge of the fabric and makes it easier to get the stitching in the right position.

Here's how to zigzag finish your seams:


1) Stitch your seams as normal, then trim them down by a few mm (don't go crazy here, you need some width to accommodate the zigzags).


2) Set your machine to the zigzag stitch setting. Put your overlock foot on your machine. Test the width and tension of your stitch on a scrap of fabric and adjust if necessary (it's different for different machines, your manual will tell you how).


3) With the raw edge of the fabric touching the little flap of metal on the overlock foot, stitch along one of the seams. If you're using lightweight or sheer fabric, you may want to stitch both seams together as one, otherwise you can do each seam separately. The right-hand point of each zigzag should just reach the edge of your fabric. Don't back tack at either end - instead...


4) Tie the loose threads at either end in a double knot to secure them, and trim.


5) Press the seams either open or to one side (depending on whether you stitched them separately or as one).


And that's it! A simple way to finish your seams.

1 March 2013

Pattern Hack! Mathilde Dress Variation

Have you seen Katy's amazing Mathilde Dress? Yes - dress!



Isn't it gorgeous? The perfect opportunity to introduce a new feature - Pattern Hack! I love the idea that makers of the Mathilde Blouse feel free to adapt the pattern, build upon it and create the garment just as they like it. For me, the DIY revolution, of which the resurgence of sewing is a part, only goes so far if we feel we're restricted by the patterns we use. The Mathilde Blouse is my design, but it's also a canvas for you to add your own design flourishes and make something that's really you. A collaborative effort, if you will. So please - play with it! Puffed sleeves not your thing? Change the sleeves! Fancy adding a collar? Do it! Slash and spread. Embellish and experiment. And then please share with us how you did it!

Righto, that's enough philosophising - let's get on with Pattern Hack! and find out how Katy adapted the blouse into a dress...

Katy, what was the inspiration behind your Mathilde Dress design?

"I think the Mathilde blouse pattern has the potential to be so romantic, with those sleeves and those gorgeous tucks *swoon*. Once I had finished my blouse version I had a burning desire to make a 60s inspired dress version, and wanted to include sheer sleeves à la Marie of A Stitching Odyssey."

How did you adapt the pattern?


"Changing the pattern was really easy! I essentially just lengthened it. Before starting I measured how long I wanted the dress to be. I wanted it to hit just above the knee and know that this is about 37 inches for me - I am very tall though, so that's likely to be a bit long for most people. I added the hem allowance to this measurement (if following Tilly's tutorials add 3.2cm/1 1/4 inch hem allowance) and noted this down. 

"I stuck to the pattern size I had used before and knew fit me, and graded it out to a larger size round the hips (I graded out from a size 3 to a size 5). This may not have been necessary but as I have large hips I wanted to make sure that there was enough room to move easily. Seeing as it's 60s inspired I want to be able to have a boogie! 


"I then traced this onto pattern paper, taking care to transfer every mark from the pattern to the pattern paper. Using a ruler I continued the graded line until I hit my desired length (luckily for me, this was the length of my pattern paper).

"I followed these steps again for the back bodice pattern piece, making sure to continue the lines marking the placement of the buttons. And that was it! I didn't change the pattern any further as I wanted to maintain that 60s shift dress shape. It was so easy, and as the pattern has only been lengthened and not changed hugely you can still follow Tilly's tutorials to help when sewing it together.


"I made my dress in a sheer material which meant I need a lining too. This was also super easy to draft a pattern for: I just folded the pattern pieces for the dress along the tuck lines as I would when making the dress - in order to take out the excess fabric - and then traced the folded pattern piece onto some more pattern paper. Super easy!"

Is there anything in particular we should bear in mind when adapting the blouse into a dress?

"I think it's important to think about what sort of buttons you are going to use for the back. You're going to be sitting on those buttons so it's best to make sure that they are not going to dig into you! I was careful to buy flat buttons for this reason. Other than that it's really easy, I love my dress!"

We love it too, Katy! I can't wait to make one for myself for the Spring.

Have you hacked the Mathilde Blouse pattern or are you thinking of doing so? I'd love to see! Watch out for more Pattern Hack! variations coming soon...