30 November 2010

Dear Santa

I have been a very good seamstress all year and would love to find these goodies in my stocking...

I'm planning a trip to America next year and embroidery would be a perfect travelling hobby. I am an old grandma at heart and just love embroidered cardigans, bags, napkins... you name it!

Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts!: Woolly Embroidery: Crewelwork, Stump Work, Canvas Work, and More!
Cute Japanese woolly embroidery? Yes please!

Brother 1034D 3/4 Lay-In Thread Serger
Brother 1034D Serger
A serger. An object of mystery to me, invoked breathlessly by successful seamstresses who swear by its power to... erm... serge. I want in.

Tailor's Ham and Seam Roll Set
The Cupcake Goddess tailor's ham and seam roll
A year into my sewing lifestyle, having pressed my fair share of darts on a regular ironing board, I think I finally understand what a tailor's ham is for. And if Karen ("I cut out patterns while lying on the sofa") needs one, then so do I.

Fiskars 95217097 45 mm Rotary Cutter
Rotary Cutter
Ooh this looks fun...

Majestic Oak sunglow
Joel Dewberry Majestic Oak Sunglow

Swoon! Imagine this beauty as a huge skirt, or maybe a handbag with round wooden handles... mmm...

Echino Birdsong Panel Pink 1/2m

Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer

That'll be all!

[Soundtrack: 'Papa Ain't No Santa Claus, Mama Ain't No Christmas Tree' by Butterbeans and Susie]

29 November 2010

Jenny skirt for Betty jacket

A bit late, but here it is, the Jenny skirt I made to go with the Betty Draper jacket. I thought this would be a super quick project, but it ended up taking aaaaaaages. I've been really busy, so have been snatching 20 minutes here and there to get it done in time for my cousin's bar mitzvah. I was still stitching the hem the night before. When will I learn?!

The fitting took quite a while. I created a muslin in Swedish tracing paper which I thought would be useful for future iterations of a versatile pattern. But once I'd spent an age tweaking that, the real version still ended up too big so I had to fiddle around with that one too... and then couldn't be bothered to repeat those on the muslin, thus rendering it ruddy useless! The problem was balancing up the fitted look with the ability to sit down in it. This may just be an issue for those of us with an ample derrière, but if you know any tricks for adding roomage in the back, do share!

And here's the finished suit. I doubt I'll have many more opportunities to wear it together, but as separates it's very wearable.

[Soundtrack: 'Love's Mood' by Django Reinhardt]

20 November 2010

Too. Excited. About. This. Pattern.

Have you ever bought a pattern that keeps you awake at night dreaming about the possibilities of what it could become? Well have you? Of course you have. V8413 is that pattern for me. Every so often a wave of excitement comes over me and I find myself sprinting into the room where my patterns are kept* to... well... just stare at it.

And as with most of the big brand patterns, the illustrations and photos aren't particularly appealing, but just imagine this in a Joan Holloway jewel-toned double knit (thanks Gertie!) with a brooch at the neckline...

Swoon! The middle one with the cowl neckline is actually the exact same design as a cream crepe dress I bought from H&M a few years ago which I absolutely adore, but can't quite squeeze into anymore. But here's visual evidence of me in it a few years ago at a Hitchcock-themed party to celebrate the end of my MA course (I'll leave you to guess who I'm supposed to be. And yes, that is a wig.)...

I've got some other projects lined up ahead of this, but I'm hoping this will be a nice Christmas project to work on. Now all that's left is to decide is what colour to make it in. Bottle green? Aubergine? Mustard yellow? Chocolate brown? Jet black? Help!

* I feel I should clarify that this room has other functions, it is not purely a for storing patterns... although I won't judge you if you do have such a room. I'll just be jealous.

[Soundtrack: 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy' - Elvis version]

16 November 2010

My mum's fashion drawings from the seventies

As the cold weather sets in, I thought you might like to see some of my mum's knitwear designs from the 1970s. After a fair amount of hassling from yours truly, she finally dug this folder of treasures out of the attic. Some of these are from her days at art college, others are from her time working for Knitmaster producing designs for their Modern Knitting magazine, and some designs were sold to boutiques and to high street store Miss Selfridge. Wanna take a peek?

Okay, so the last one clearly isn't knitwear design, but I love it so!

[Soundtrack: 'Les Fleurs' by Minnie Riperton]

13 November 2010

Stash Amnesty! featuring So Zo...

In this month's Stash Amnesty, I talk to the marvellous Zoe of So Zo What Do You Know. Pioneer of Me-Made-March and Self-Stitched-September, her blog strikes the perfect balance between the importance of leading a more self-sufficient lifestyle and a great sense of humour. She has a similar style to me - stripes, pencil skirts, red or mustard yellow - but manages to stick to that style very well in whatever she sews. She's just moved back to the UK from Barcelona so I can't wait to meet her at Karen's meet-up! But for now, let's talk by the magic of the computer...

How is your sewing stash organised?

Zoe: "‘How is your sewing stash spread?’ would probably be a more appropriate question! I recently moved into a tiny studio flat (i.e. basically one room) that I share with my boyfriend, so I don’t have enough space to have everything with me right now. I have selected the sewing patterns and pieces of fabric I thought I might use before Christmas to bring with me here to Brighton, plus I brought most of my notions, both my flatlock and overlock machines and enough pattern cutting paper to keep me out of mischief for the foreseeable future. It’s all crammed into these drawers and affiliated bags in the corner of the room. I managed to bag the area with the only natural light by the only window in the whole flat so I consider myself lucky! The rest of my sewing stash is in boxes under the bed in the spare room of my long-suffering parents’ house. My plan is to use up the fabric I have with me, then pick up more pieces to use each time I return to visit them. There is a lot so that may take decades unless we move into a bigger place soon, which I desperately hope to do!"

You're the brains behind "Stash Bustin", and you recently did a big fabric and pattern cull in preparation for your move from Barcelona to the UK. What's your de-stashing strategy?

Zoe: "I won’t lie to you, the cull which occurred in that last couple of weeks was intense. I sneaked as much of my beautiful fabric back as I could, using it to protect computers being packed into boxes and the like! Basically, if I couldn’t envisage a direct use for the piece of fabric, it was gone.  The smaller pieces I gave to a friend who works with children to use for craft projects; the larger pieces, my Burda sewing mags and thread were donated to a lovely girl I met through the Barcelona Burdastyle sewing group who was just starting out sewing. De-stashing is easier and more meaningful if you have grateful recipients who you know will make good use of it. I never found any means to recycle unwanted textiles whilst I was in barcelona, I can’t abide the thought of sending fabric to the landfill."

How did it feel to do such a big cull? Is there anything you wish you'd saved, or are you happy with your lighter stash?

Zoe: "At the time it felt very brutal, because at the same time as culling my stash, I was culling my wardrobe and saying goodbye to close friends and my adopted home. Upon reflection, I am very pleased with my edited stash, plus rediscovering the fabric and patterns that I’d left at my folks whilst I was in Spain was a joy when I returned!  I kind of wish I could of hung on to the black sateen and navy twill that I had metres and metres of which I gave away, but it was just too heavy and bulky. I also wish I could of hung on to my epic haul of sewing thread cones, as the discovery of them one night whilst walking with some friends felt so serendipitous!  But on the whole, no regrets!"

What survived the cull? Do show us some of your favourite things in your stash...

Zoe: "I’ll confess, I’ve not been able to kick my pattern buying addiction, so that area of my stash is repopulating itself with disturbing speed! I’ve got some vintage beauts that I can’t wait to make once some sensibly winter-appropriate garments and obligation projects are out of the way. I’ve also bought some new fabric since I returned to UK, but only with an immediate project in mind. My button stash is also very close to my heart. I can spend hours sorting through them all!"

Are there big differences between fabric shopping in Spain and the UK?

Zoe: "This post I wrote for the Colette Patterns blog sums up the differences pretty well. To massively generalise, shopping for fabric and notions in Spain is like heading back to the 1940s."

When did you first start sewing and how did you learn?

Zoe: "Like many stitchin’ ladies, I watched my mum and nan sew from an early age which encouraged me to try my hand at making dolls clothes and stuff. Both of them sewed as their main source of income at some point in their lives. I studied Fashion Design at university which obviously taught me a lot. Since then, I’ve worked in various roles in a few clothing companies and always kept my eyes open, which allowed me to pick up a few tricks. I sew all the time, but I don’t read as much about techniques as I probably should."

What are you planning to sew next?

Zoe: "Currently, I’m working on a (hopefully) warm wool coat using a vintage Vogue pattern to protect me from the impending UK winter. Some crazy shirts for my boyfriend are on their way. Some new work appropriate pieces for my best mate and then hopefully some tasty vintage inspired garments for me!"

Thank you Zoe, you are an inspiration! How about you, readers? Have you got any top tips for destashing? Or are you swimming in a sea of fabric and patterns and notions? Do share!

Previous Stash Amnesty interviews - Rachel Boo Dogg, Rachel Red Lips and Jen Pretty Little Pictures.

9 November 2010

The Betty Draper Suit - finished jacket!

Finiiiiiiished! The jacket, that is - I couldn't wait for the skirt to show you the fruits of my labour.



A reminder of the original pattern...

... and Betty Draper wearing her version.

Clearly I haven't spent as much (any) time on my hair, but here I am in my version. So as not to look like a footballer's wife, I went for a more sober aubergine colour.


I just love those scallops! Tutorial here in case you missed it.

I even attached shoulder pads! Because I'm an eighties power woman. Got some funny looks at work today.

Like the lining, sir? This is the pièce de résistance!

My first attempt at lining anything, and there was no lining pattern so I had to draft one, but it was surprisingly easy following Tasia's wonderful tutorial. When I'd stitched the lining to the shell, turned it right sides out and saw that it had actually worked - that it really looked like a lined jacket - I nearly cried, I was so happy!

I have to admit that before I began sewing I'd never thought about linings or knew what they were for. So I did a bit of research, and to spell it out for anyone else who has never pondered this earth-shattering question, linings exist to:

1) Hide the construction inside a garment - especially useful for complicated pieces like jackets
2) Add a comfortable layer to stiff fabrics, or add weight to lighter fabrics
3) Lubricate (ahem) - provide a slippery layer to reduce wear and tear to the garment shell
4) Make the process of pulling a garment on and off easier (okay, so this one is a bit tenuous)
5) Make the garment look pretty and feel lovely and to make the seamstress feel all smug and professional!

My smug face.

I did have some trouble sourcing interesting linings though. I got this one from some random website, but ideally I'd like to stock up on some polka dot linings or some other slightly more interesting patterns. Does anyone have any recommendations of places to get them (preferably in the UK)?

And finally, check out my new labels! Everyone over at Crafty Christmas Club has their own labels, don't you know.

Hope you like it! Skirt up next. I've cut out the Jenny skirt from Burda, just need to find some time to make it up...

[Soundtrack: 'Sorrow' by David Bowie - no sorrow here though!]

2 November 2010

Two or three things I know about sculpting scallops...

The best feature of The Betty Draper Suit is, of course, the scallops. Altogether now - swoon...! It took me a while to work out how to make them, using a combination of the (very vague) instructions in the original 1967 pattern, a sprinkling of tips from Threads magazine, plus a large dash of trial and error. But now I know what worked for me, I thought I'd share what I learnt. You should be able to add scallops to your own sewing projects - jackets, skirts, collars... - pretty easily following these instructions...

Scallops are formed by stitching curved seam lines when you attach a facing (or back piece of a collar). In the image above you'll see the two facing options that came with my pattern - the one on the left is if you want a straight jacket front and the one on the right is if you want a scalloped jacket front. So it's pretty simple to convert your pattern piece a scalloped one - just draw the curved lines onto it (or straight onto the fabric if you're feeling confident). You could use a tin lid or something else with a curve as a template. Don't forget to leave a seam allowance around the curve. You may need to create extra seam allowances to accommodate your scalloped edges, as the inner corners of the scallops are going to be further in than the outer edge - for example, if you don't want to make your skirt too short!

Pin the facing and garment piece right sides together.

To sew them together, set your machine to a very small stitch, sewing slowwwly and smoooothly along the curved lines. I'd recommend practising on a scrap first. It helps if you use fabric that isn't going to slide around on your machine. Once you've sewn all along the line, stitch back over the inner corners of the scallops to reinforce them.

Next, trim your seam allowance down to about 1/4", then clip the curves, being careful to cut as close as you can to the stitching without cutting through the thread (as I did - oops!).

Now comes the ironing stage, which took me the best part of an afternoon (I'm not kidding). With right sides still together, press between the layers, running the point of your iron right up and along the stitching line. Then turn the layers right sides out, and do the same thing with the point of the iron, running along the inside of the scallops.

Then press from the top through both layers to smooth down the line. I discovered that a good way of making the curve more defined is to run a butter knife along the inside of the curve while pressing. It's fiddly, but worth the effort to make your curves more curvy. It helps to work on one scallop at a time, coaxing the curve using a triple-pronged attack while the fabric is malleable, using the point of the iron inside, then pressing from the outside while running the knife along the inside of the curve.

Et voilà! Curvaceous scallops. Excuse the unfinished-ness of the rest of the jacket - sleeves up next.

Hope you found this useful. This was of course just what worked for me. If you've tried making scallops and have your own tips, do share!

[Soundtrack: 'Heartbreaker' by The Crystals]