30 December 2010

New year re-sew-lutions!

2011 is set to be an exciting year for me. I won't bore you with the details but I'm lucky enough to be part of a fellowship scheme which will allow me to take a few months off work to go on an amazing secondment, to attend workshops and to write research papers. I'm so excited - particularly about the secondment (will I resist the urge to tell you where I'll be working? Probably not!) - that I keep doing little jigs on the spot. I'm determined not to let my sewing suffer though, as in the last year it has brought me pleasure, perspective and confidence in my own creativity. So to keep me focused over the next few months, here are my new year resolutions - or re-sew-lutions, if you will - for 2011. Any excuse to write a list!

1. Ease off on the deadlines
I have a habit of turning any activity into a chore, but next year more than ever I will need relaxing hobbies to get me into the zone and to give my brain a rest. So no more sewing deadlines for me. I will slow it down and take pleasure in a leisurely pace, rather than always trying to get one project finished so I can tick it off my list.

2. Make clothes I can wear every day
I love 1950s full skirted dresses, but I rarely wear them. I want to stitch some staple garments for my wardrobe that I'll wear again and again. First on the list is a corduroy button-down skirt. I've bought some soft yellow needlecord that might make a nice Beignet with wooden buttons.

3. Start embroidery
I love drawing and I love sewing. Combining the two sounds heavenly! I devoured Sublime Stitching in about five minutes and can't wait for my next trip to John Lewis to stock up on supplies. I'm thinking of starting with a tote bag and progressing to embellished cardigans. Grandma and proud!

4. Expand my fabric repertory
Sewing with anything other than cotton, gabardine or denim is something I've been rubbish at so far, through a combination of ignorance and fear. I'm hoping that this fabric guide will give me the confidence to branch out, but it's sold out in the UK so I'll have to wait a little longer. If you know of any other fabric swatch books, I'd love to hear about them!

5. Sew trousers
Remember these?

They're festering atop my sewing shelves. I dived in with too much confidence and no thought for trouser-specific measurements like the "back crotch curve" and other unmentionables. Oh Sew Brixton run a promising-sounding 'Trousers that fit' workshop which I'm planning to take when I have a bit more free time. I'm also keeping an eye on The Cupcake Goddess trouser sewalong and might even join in retrospectively.

6. Serge!

Taking it out of the box will be a step in the right direction.

7. Learn the fundamentals of pattern drafting
I'm enrolled on a weekend course to master the basics, which I'm really excited about. I'd love to have the skills and confidence to design my own patterns some day... a five year goal, perhaps!

That's enough for goals me. What about you? Do you have any new year re-sew-lutions?

[Soundtrack: 'Futile Devices' by Sufjan Stevens -
"And when you crochet
I feel mesmerized and proud"]

29 December 2010

Handmade Christmas round up

In case you never made it over to Crafty Christmas Club (where were you?!), here's a quick round up in pictures of the things I made. 

- Handbag from Buttercup Bag pattern
- Zippered make up bags adapted from the same pattern
- Felt rose brooches made using Marie's tutorial
- Poppy beaded necklace made under instruction from my friend Anna
- Chocolate orange and hazelnut biscotti made under instruction from Anna
- Lebkuchen made using this recipe
- Felt stuck willy nilly all over wrapped prezzies - yay!

I won't say it wasn't hard work making lots of Christmas prezzies myself, and there were definitely times when I felt like jacking it in going down Pound Land, but it was definitely worth it to avoid the soul-sapping routine of racing round John Lewis ticking people's names off a list. The recipients seemed grateful that I spent time and thought hand making their gifts, although I did make the mistake of telling my brother not to examine the stitching on the baby quilt right after I'd given him a USB microscope (didn't make that myself - maybe next year). The rest of my family seemed to find it screamingly funny as he uploaded the magnified images of my wonky stitching onto the laptop, but personally I couldn't see the funny side. I threatened to sew him something next year instead of buying him a gadget as his punishment - ha! That'll teach him!

[Soundtrack: 'Breakfast in Bed' by Dusty Springfield]

28 December 2010

Lovely prezzies!

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. We spent a busy few days cooking, hosting, visiting various family groups and eating lots of scrummy food. Today we're doing bits and bobs around the house and ticking things off our never ending to do list. But before I get back to it, do indulge me for a minute while I show off some of the lovely prezzies I received...

My brother and sister-in-law got me this adorable Cath Kidston sewing box. I went extremely high pitched while examining its features, which include cute little felt apple trees and a pin cushion chimney!

My step-sister gave me these incredible vintage swim suits. Can't wait for the lido to reopen so I can get posing!

My mum got me this wonderful book on Edith Head, and my boyfriend's parents got me this delightful Sublime Stitching book, which I've already read from cover to cover.

I now know what it's like to be on the receiving end of a homemade gift - wonderful! My sister-in-law's mum knitted me these fingerless mittens. I feel so honoured that she spent all that time creating something lovely especially for me.

And finally, my dad got me an overlocker as a joint Christmas and birthday prezzie (birthday in a few days' time). Yay! Although I haven't quite mustered the courage to take it out of the box yet. I think I'll wait until my brain has woken up after the post-Christmas slump.

What a lucky lady I am!

24 December 2010

Friday Finds no.2

I hope you're all having a lovely time winding down for the holidays. I'm suffering from a cold :( so trying to balance rest and recuperation with preparing to host my first Christmas lunch! Luckily I've finished crafting and wrapping gifts, just need to muster the strength to clean the flat and bake some last minute goodies for various family friends we'll be seeing over the next few days.

Convalescence may not be compatible with a flat full of family, but it is compatible with lazing about reading blogs - hurrah! Here are some of the lovely things I've found this week:

- Mena (above) made this adorable dress out of a vintage poinsettia tablecloth

- Keeping on the poinsettia theme, Kate showed us how to make a stunning felt poinsettia wrapping embellishment

- Stitchybritt crocheted a too-cute-for-words beer tree ornament for her boyfriend

- Zoe added some lace cuffs and hem to an A-line dress to get that vintage look

- In other news, Christine from What's Up Cupcake? interviewed me for her blog.

Hope you all have a delightful Christmas, full of the taste of sherry, the smell of cinnamon and the sound of Darlene Love. Enjoy!

[Soundtrack: 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' by Darlene Love]

21 December 2010

In the Blue Room

Images from Woman's Journal 1927, found in my boyfriend's great auntie's attic.

19 December 2010

Stash Amnesty! featuring Casey's Elegant Musings

In this month's Stash Amnesty! post, I interview the adorable Casey from Elegant Musings. I'm so excited about this as Casey was the very first sewing blog I ever found, and this fortuitous discovery was one of the catalysts that prompted me to take up sewing. And blogging. I'm always excited when a post by Casey pops up in my blog reader - her blog is beautifully designed and her handmade, vintage-style clothes are always so swoonsome. If, for some bizarre reason, you haven't come across Casey's blog before, go and make yourself a cup of tea, put your pyjamas on, and prepare to be sucked in for hours... But first! The interview...

How is your sewing stash organised?

Casey: "Up until the past year things were pretty spread out and disorganized - I admit I am not the most organized seamstress in the world! My personality is such that I like a little bit of creative chaos. Though complete and total mess is more discouraging to creativity. lol.

I generally keep my patterns divided among three boxes: modern/self drafted, pre-1950 and pre-1990. I also have been scanning in all my pattern covers to a file folder on my computer so I can digitally browse them and not have to pull the boxes out each time the sewing urge hits!

Keeping my fabric neat is a bit harder - right now I have about half my stash on the shelves and the other half in two boxes. The boxes generally hold the smaller pieces, things that are too bulky to keep on the shelves, and scraps. I also keep all my interfacings, laces and tapes in boxes on the shelves for ease of accessibility.

As far as notions go, those are something I'm still working on devising a streamlined system for; they're pretty much divided between the Ikea mini-drawer unit on my sewing desk (marking/cutting tools, pins, hand sewing needles, thread), boxes on the shelves (serger supplies), and the drawers in the treadle machine base (miscellaneous bits). I have all my buttons in a plastic hardware storage unit that I got years ago, divided by color. But I really want to find a prettier way to store those - and possibly sort and organize them even further!"

Please talk us through some of your favourite things in your stash...

Casey: "Oh golly... this feels a bit like asking a mother to choose her favorite child! I think perhaps my most prized patterns would be my box of pre-1950 ones; especially my collection of Dubarry and Hollywood patterns. I just love the designs so much and they're becoming harder to find. I find so much inspiration in flipping through those and sewing with them!

Fabric wise, right now my favorite pieces are a light silk print that I thrifted and a length of a kitschy tropical print linen I bought last year. The silk is such a tiny piece; I'm still looking for the right project to use it as an accent on - a blouse perhaps? Or maybe constrast collar and pockets on a dress? Knowing me I'll probably hang on to it for a couple years before I decide to cut it up! The linen was supposed to be a playsuit or dress this past summer, but I never could decide on which I wanted to use it for, so I'm saving it for my spring sewing in 2011. It'll probably become a little 40s dress... or not! (Yes, I can be horridly indecisive about sewing projects!)

Favorite notions would have to be my beloved Ginger dressmaking shears (I bought those when I was 18/19 and it was a revelation getting good quality shears!), the vintage Dritz bound buttonhole tool (makes bound buttonholes a breeze) and the vintage "Tack It" marking tool I picked up over the summer (no more pesky tailors tacks!)."

How long has your fabric stash been accumulating? Are you a hoarder or do you tend to use fabric up quite quickly?

Casey: "I've been 'stashing' since I was a teenager - and maybe even before! Between the prospect of moving around a lot (my husband is in the US Navy) and being overwhelmed easily, having a smallish stash is key. I can't just acquire loads of fabric with no set plan - oddly enough having too much fabric makes me cranky and feel like my stuff is starting to own me - not the other way around! However, I do have a stash of sorts - but it's mostly fabrics that either I got for such a good price I couldn't pass them up or for future projects. So in other words, I try not to buy just for the sake of buying. I will definitely not even place in the 'she who dies with the most fabric wins' contest. lol. But I do admire seasmtresses who have vast stashes to pull from - one bad side to not having a lot of fabric on hand is that if I want to make something particular, I have to hunt it down in the shops or online!"

Do you have a system for matching up patterns, fabrics and project ideas?

Casey: "Not really... Sometimes I make up a little spreadsheet of seasonal sewing projects I'd like to accomplish. It usually includes pattern information, fabric I want to use (and if it needs to be purchased), fitting notes, design changes to be made, notions to be bought, and listed by priority. Now sticking with that is a totally different matter! Otherwise things tend to be a happy accident of having a pattern that inspires me to find or use fabric, or more often than not a sketch in my sketchbook gets me going on a certain project and things go from there!"

What are your favourite places for sourcing fabric?

Casey: "Locally things aren't that great, although there are a couple local shops that are nice, they just don't have a huge selection and more often then not don't have enough of what I need in stock! When I lived in Virginia my favorite fabric store was GStreet Fabrics - talk about sewing heaven. Otherwise I do a lot of fabric shopping online: Denver Fabrics, Fabric.com and FabricMart Fabrics are jumping off places. Occasionally I'll thrift something too, although this is totally hit or miss and can't be counted on! Though I do prefer doing that - I like to recycle and reuse old textiles when possible!"

You're an expert seamstress, but are there any advanced sewing techniques you're itching to learn?

Casey: "Aw, thank you! I have to admit, I don't consider myself an expert at all--sewing is one of those skills you never stop learning new things or refining your techniques. Why, just last week I learned a new (and frankly brilliant) way to bag line a vented pencil skirt - it totally revolutionized how I look at lining skirts, I have to admit! I've been tinkering with tailoring lately, thanks to Gertie's sew-along for the Lady Grey pattern (which yes, I'm still working on - it's a project that I'm taking my time with!), and am mesmerized by that and would love to learn more.

Leather work, as odd as it sounds, is an aspect of sewing I'd like to delve more into. Learning how to sew with leather and work with it would open up a lot of creative possibilities for accessory - making as well as eventually making my dream jacket (based on a 40s bomber style jacket).

I think I'd also like to learn more about pattern making and fitting - one of my dreams is to one day take one of Susan Khalje's couture classes that she holds in Baltimore, MD. To learn from someone whose books I've read and talents I admire, as well as learn a bunch of new techniques, would be amazing!"

Can you tell us about any future projects (whether impending or dream!) that you have lined up?

Casey: "Oh golly... You've caught me right at a time when I'm scheming my winter sewing! This past fall was pretty sparse as far as sewing accomplishments went, mostly due to a lot of personal projects. So I'm looking forward to some new sewing come January! Definitely finishing up my Lady Grey jacket is top on the list. Other than that, I'd like to make some late 40s/early 50s jeans. Those have long been on my list, and is now at a point where I have to replace my old, store bought jeans. Lauren of Wearing History made jeans last year and I've been itching to do this ever since! I also would like to make a jacket from her recently released hooded jacket pattern - have I ever mentioned on my blog I have a thing for jackets? lol. Other than that, I have a few surprise projects of a sewing nature in the works, as well as some "everyday" type sewing to replace some skirts and dresses in my wardrobe. I definitely want to start using more of my pattern stash; that is one stash that I can't say no to adding new things to -especially when I find a bargain on Ebay or Etsy!"

Thanks, Casey, and I can't wait to see your surprise sewing projects!

Previous Stash Amnesty interviews can be found here

Readers, are you as disciplined as Casey when it comes to fabric stashing? Or do you need to 'fess up?!

17 December 2010

Friday Finds no.1

How much time do you spend browsing blogs each week? For me it can be up to 10 hours. I know! And when you find something great that you don't want to forget, what do you do with it? If it's a gorgeous sewing project that sparks off ideas in my head, I bookmark it in my 'ideas and inspiration' folder. When I read a post that I know is going to help me later, I bookmark it in my 'sewing tips' folder. But I've realised that this process goes against the spirit of sharing that we're so lucky to have in the sewing blog community (love you guys), hence the reason some bloggers have a "weekly inspiration" series. So I'm going to follow suit and start a regular post linking to some of the things I've bookmarked recently, in the hope that they might prove inspiring or useful to you too.

To kick things off...

- Sherry has written a comprehensive post on adjusting patterns for a sway back

- Natasha made a beautiful variation of Macaron, in a sheer fabric with A-line skirt and button-down back (pic above!)

- Lizajane shows us how to make sweet little fabric origami gift boxes

- How to be a Retronaut posted some striking colour photos of Nazi-occupied Paris, many of which use glamorous ladies for propaganda purposes

- Miss P made some teacup candles, you know, the kind they sell in Liberty for £40.

What interesting and lovely things have you found this week?

12 December 2010

Christmas crafting

Hello friends, I hope you're having a good weekend. Today I made a Christmas present, but as you know you'll have to jump over to Crafty Christmas Club to see the finished project - BUT if you're expecting a prezzie from me, stop right there!!! The photo above gives you a sneaky peek in any case.

Right, better go, I'm off to Croatia tomorrow for some work meetings so I'd better pack (anyone know any good fabric shops in Zagreb, by any chance?!). So long!

[Soundtrack: 'Country Pie' by Bob Dylan]

11 December 2010

René Gruau fashion drawings

I spent last Sunday swooning over fashion illustration exhibitions with my mum. First stop was Drawing Fashion at the Design Museum, a whistlestop tour through a range of work, beginning with shy and precise pencil sketches by Erté from 1915, right through to present day with Aurore de la Morinerie's impressionistic silhouettes. I was disappointed that the exhibition panels didn't give more pointers on the differences in drawing style, yet it was well worth a visit for the range of gorgeous works on view.

The highlight of the exhibition for me was the work of René Gruau in the 1950s and 1960s, the artist responsible for the images in this post. Bizarrely, however, the second exhibition we went to - Dior Illustrated at Somerset House - was entirely dedicated to Gruau, yet as far as I could tell there was no cooperation or cross-promotion between the two venues, which seemed like a wasted opportunity. The second exhibition gave visitors much more comprehensive information, yet suffered from Dior perfume promotion overkill. Nonetheless, it was a great opportunity to admire a range of work by a bold artist with a knack for capturing a moment or a gesture in a few sweeping lines.