27 February 2011

Work in progress... and my first sewing accident

Today is not my day. I've got the sore throat from hell. Honestly, I never knew sore throats could be this painful. I've been mainlining linctus and frantically squirting anaesthetic into my mouth in an effort to breathe. I was in no fit state to attempt to attach the lining to my third (yes, third!) Beignet skirt, but attempt I did, and this was the result:

"Where's the needle gone?" you may be asking yourself. Well, half of it went AWOL and the other half landed in my cheek. That's right, I was using the zigzag foot with the straight stitch. Luckily it's only a little scratch. I'm so thankful it didn't go in my eye! I have learnt my lesson. No more sewing until I am well. Boo.

Go on then, cheer me up - what's the worst sewing accident you've ever had?

[Soundtrack: 'Hero' by Regina Spektor]

25 February 2011

Friday Finds no.10

Image courtesy of Amy

Happy Friday, y'all! Phew! Another pretty manic week, but I have managed to sneak some sewing into the mix - hopefully I'll have something to show you soon. It's also been a week of meeting other bloggers - not only at Karen's Walthamstow fabric shopping frenzy, but I also had the pleasure of lunching with lovely Michelle from Naughty Little Epoch in the V&A staff canteen the other day. And last night I enjoyed stitching-related live art, with my friend Angie's sewing machine racing game at the ICA - awesome. Okay, so on to what's tickled my fancy on the blogosphere this week...

- Amy of Diana and Me (part of the Walthamstow meet-up massive) Franken-stitched together two dresses she never wore to make this pretty frock above. Genius!

- Take a look at how Karyn stitched a contrast fabric on the back of this scalloped hem - so cute!

- Ali compiled a fascinating list of how her readers use up their leftover fabric scraps

- Deborah made an oh so pretty felt flower garland

- Patty wrote a very detailed post on the process of upcycling that went into this stunning cardigan

Bon weekend, tout le monde!

23 February 2011

A long trek and a little bag

The other day my man and I made a pilgrimage to Ikea to choose a sofa bed. As if going to Ikea isn't enough of a hassle in itself, we don't have a car, so had to take public transport. We took a bus, a train and a tram, until we reached what can only be described as the end of time - the bleakest retail park you've ever seen. We trekked through the back end of an industrial estate, past random gas canisters and (what I'm sure were) nuclear bunkers, until we finally got to gorge on Dime bar cakes and chips. A lifetime later, loaded up with random bits of crap we never knew we needed, we embarked on the trek back to the tram station. We were laughing about close our feet were to dropping off and how we couldn't wait to be home, when we spotted a recently built, expensive looking block of flats:

"Just look at those flats! Who would live there?! Imagine being shown round the penthouse and being told, 'From here, you have a lovely view of Maplins, Tesco and... and... Hobbycraft. [Dramatic pause.] HOBBYCRAFT!!!!!!"

I have the best boyfriend in the world. Even though we were about to die of exhaustion, he agreed to trek onwards towards the oasis of hobbies and craft. Despite its stupid name.

And this is how I ended up with some wooden bag handles, with which I whipped up this bag at Craft Club the other day. You like?

[Soundtrack: 'Whole Lotta Lovin' by Fats Domino]

20 February 2011

Walthamstow Fabric-Shopping-Blogger-Meet-Up Frenzy!

Yesterday morning I traversed the entire length of the Victoria tube line to make the pilgrimage to Walthamstow for the fabric shopping blogger meet up organised by Karen of Did You Make That? fame. Twelve keen seamstresses from London, Kent, even as far as Bath, made the journey, undeterred by the grizzly weather, so strong was the pull of rock bottom prices!

The market did not disappoint. If anything, it sent me into a brief panic at how exciting it was. Everything was basically either £1 or £2/metre, unless it was real wool (supposedly end-of-the-line Hobbs), in which case it was £5/metre.

Karen did a marvellous job of organising the event. Oh yes, it really was an event! The day began with a speech outlining the itinerary, before we were issued with hand-drawn maps and branded badges. She'd even pre-arranged discounts with some of the vendors! I love that lady :)

It was great to meet some other bloggers too - a lovely bunch of people. The outing ended with fish and chips in the pub (because that's what British people do) and, of course, a debrief and nosey about each other's purchases. There were quite a few purchase overlaps so we'll be comparing notes on potential projects. This is what I bought...

Chocolate brown, silky-light fabric of some kind, plus some vintage-looking buttons - a Sencha button-back dress, perhaps...

Some kind of cotton blend with a nice drape, for a tea dress or maybe the Swing dress...

A soft poly wool blend for my first proper attempt at trousers (more on that in a later post!), plus some red buttons for something or other...

Not quite sure what this fabric is - maybe a stretch cotton sateen? Whatever it is, it'll make a lovely cheongsam (I love The Sew Convert's).

All in all, a lovely day and a pretty good haul!

18 February 2011

Friday Finds no.9

Tulle Era Dress

Phew! I didn't think I'd make it but I finally managed to pull together the hits for this post. Hope you've been having a good week. I have had another weird and wonderful week, facing immense hurdles but also meeting some incredibly inspiring people. Speaking of which...

- Hearts are a flutter and proposals are being demanded after Anthropologie launched its sister wedding dress shop. I'll have this one above, please.

- Jennifer embellished a thrifted cardigan with felt flowers, making it bloomin' marvellous (sorry)

- Jacki wrote a great post sharing some vintage sleeve style inspiration

- Colette Patterns does it again, with a tutorial on embellishing a top with a pretty lace yoke

- Nette made an adorable owl pin cushion

- Lots of upcycling inspiration over at Wardrobe Refashion's successor, Refashion Co-op.

Off to Karen's Walthamstow blogger meet-up tomorrow. Are any of you going?

15 February 2011

Joanie in Black dress

Finished! Vogue 8413 in black double knit.

This was the first time I've sewn with knitted fabrics and the first time I've sewn with a serger. Nonetheless, the hardest aspect of this project by far was the colour! Sewing black is so frustrating - it's really difficult to see where the stitches are going, so intricate parts like pleats or even just pulling out basting stitches are a nightmare. In fact, I felt like I was in one of my recurring dreams where my eyes go all foggy and I can't see what I'm doing.

But it's done now, and I'm pleased with it. A random stranger came up to me in the V&A today and told me I looked nice, proof that this dress is the business! On a more practical note, it's reeeeally comfortable. The stretchiness meant that I could forego inserting a zipper - it slips on quite easily.

By the way, I checked and found at least two instances of Joan Holloway wearing black:

But enough of that old frump, back to meee...

I've adjusted the exposure setting on this one so you can (hopefully) see the cowl neck.

I'm now contemplating making one of these in every colour!

[Soundtrack: 'I Just Don't Understand' by Ann-Margret]

13 February 2011

Stash Amnesty! featuring Handmade Jane

DIY disasters mean that I haven't quite finished the dress I wanted to show you, but I do have a Stash Amnesty! interview for you. I first "met" Jane (online, that is) last Summer when she emailed me a photo of the green polka dot Sencha blouse she'd made. She started her blog, Handmade Jane, soon afterwards, charming readers instantly with her colourful and stylish self-stitched wardrobe. Let's find out more about her and take a sneaky peak at her sewing stash...

When and how did you decide to take up sewing?

Jane: "Like a lot of other sewists, I was taught to sew at school by two very critical, impatient teachers who almost put me off for life. I’ve always loved clothes and fashion and was increasingly frustrated at clothes not fitting properly, so learning to sew has been on my wish-list for years.

Then, three years ago, my younger son was diagnosed as autistic. After a very stressful year waiting for his special needs statement, we eventually got him into an amazing school where he’s coming on in leaps and bounds. When he happily started school, it felt like an enormous boulder had been lifted off my shoulders. With that worry lifted, I realized I needed to focus on something different, something that I would really enjoy. So, in September 2009, I signed up for a beginners class in clothes making in Shepherd’s Bush.

I loved it from the very first class. I was all set to take on a complicated wrap dress but my mum wisely advised me to start with a simple A-line skirt to build up my confidence and skills. I made my skirt from a plain, grey wool mix (grey and navy crop up a lot in my sewing) and I’ve worn it to death (good advice mum!). I only intended to do one term, but I stayed for the whole year, during which time I also discovered and became completely addicted to sewing blogs (yours being the very first one I discovered!). Come the following September I decided I’d learnt enough to start making my own clothes and to start my own sewing blog, where I’ve been documenting everything I make."

Talk us through some of your favourite things in your stash

Jane: "I haven’t got a big stash of patterns at all (which is something I need to address!) and I’ve only got four vintage patterns. I’ve got a soft spot for my 1930s blouse pattern, which I won in a giveaway from Debi at My Happy Sewing Place. I love the fact that it’s so old the tissue pieces are unprinted. I also really like sewing with Colette Patterns and the new Sewaholic patterns.

I absolutely love patterned fabric, especially vintage style florals, polka dots and Scandinavian influenced prints. I tend to be drawn straight to a pattern so have had to make a concerted effort to sew the occasional item in a plain colour (usually navy). My current favourites are two double gauze fabrics I bought from a Japanese website. One will be used for the 1930s blouse and I think one will become a dress.

Notion-wise I can’t be without my tailor’s ham and seam roll set and I’ve just started collecting vintage buttons."

Do you tend to hoard fabric or use it up quickly?

Jane: "When I first started sewing I just bought what I needed for the garment I was making and that was it. That kind of restraint didn’t last long. Although, with dressmaking fabric, I tend to have a particular garment in mind when I buy it so I haven’t actually got an enormous stash. At the moment I’ve got plans for all but two fabrics in my stash. Quilting cottons, on the other hand, are another matter! They’re so pretty and you can buy them in smaller quantities so I like piling them up for inspiration. I also make bags, purses and cushions to sell at craft fairs and for that, I do try to use as much as I can from my stash. It’s interesting to see which fabrics are more popular than others with buyers.

Apart from smaller quilting cottons, which I like to look at above my work desk, all my fabric fits into boxes under the bed. I’ve categorized them so it’s easy to find what I want - dressmaking fabric; fabric for craft fair items; plain fabrics; polka dots and ginghams; thick, upholstery-weight fabrics and linings/interfacings etc. I’m not a hoarder anyway, so I doubt whether my stash will become much bigger than this (famous last words)."

What are your favourite places for buying fabric?

Jane: "There are two basic fabric shops near where I live in West London that I tend to get all my day to day fabric from, but if I need a proper fix, then I’ll head to the Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush. There are probably 10-15 fabric shops in the same block, all selling amazing fabrics at rock bottom prices. It’s enough to make you pass out with excitement.

I’ve also bought some lovely fabric from eBay sellers, in particular the beautiful flowered cotton lawn I used to make my Crepe dress, which was a great find. The fabric sites I tend to go back to again and again, mainly because they have a steady stream of beautiful and interesting fabrics are misformake and Ray Stitch. For quilting cottons, I use Fabric Rehab, Saints and Pinners and Seamstar."

Tell us about your lovely new sewing area...

Jane: "I’m lucky enough to have my own dedicated sewing area, which is part of our converted loft. As well as doubling up as a guest room, there’s still plenty of space for a sewing nook for me. My husband is super-handy and made me some bespoke shelves for all my sewing bits and pieces. There are a couple of shelves for quilting cottons, one for buttons in jars and some longer shelves for patterns and smaller sewing books. The bottom shelves hold my sewing box, threads, bobbins, scissors etc plus there’s a little Perspex drawer that holds zips, vintage button packs and nametapes. My sewing space is still quite new so it’s all beautifully organized! I still have to use the kitchen table for cutting out but that’s no problem.

It’s great having everything to hand, right where I can see it, and the room itself is lovely and light. My sewing area is my oasis away from all the testosterone in the house, it’s my opportunity to indulge my girly side! I can potter away, sewing and listening to the radio and when I’m doing that, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be, I absolutely love it."

What sewing projects have you got lined up for the future?

Jane: "I’m currently participating in Casey’s Swing Dress sewalong, making a 1940s style dress in red wool crepe. My next project after that will be making a vintage blouse from the1930s pattern using one of my double gauze fabrics. I might then try my hand at sewing from a Japanese pattern book. I’ve just bought my first one and have spent hours slowly turning the pages and sighing at the beautiful, simple garments. I think I’ll start with a skirt, as I’ve got a feeling my sizing doesn’t run along Japanese lines (at least the top half anyway). I’ve also got plans for another Pendrell blouse or two, perhaps interspersed with a few plain coloured items. Enough to keep me busy anyway."

Thank you, Jane - looking forward to seeing your next projects! Readers, don't forget to check out Jane's lovely blog.

11 February 2011

Friday Finds no.8

Image courtesy of Pampula

Happy nearly-weekend! I hope you're having a good week. Mine has been inspiring and bizarre in equal measure, perhaps peaking at the point when I was at a Natural History Museum party to launch their animal sex exhibition, along with Ronnie Wood and some models whose legs were longer than my entire bodyn. My boyfriend wasn't at all impressed by this celeb spot however, only getting excited when I mentioned that Tony Robinson was also in attendance. Haha! Moving on swiftly, here's my pick of the week:

- Pampula stitched this adorable pixie dress (above). Oh for snow like that!

- Zoe launched the much awaited Me Made March for seamsters wanting to make the most of their handmade wardrobe

- Miss P shows us how to make our own pressing tools, including a tailor's ham and pressing mitt

- Angie performed another inspiring upcycling job on a thrift store find, producing this Anthropologie worthy dress

- Sarah focused the spotlight on the intricate couture techniques of Charles James - a skill level to aspire to, perhaps!

Bon weekend, tout le monde!

9 February 2011

Vogue Covers Archive

Have you seen the Vogue magazine covers archive? Now, I should explain that I don't read Vogue. I don't read any fashion magazines, in fact. But for vintage fans like moi who just don't understand comtemporary fashion, this archive is a veritable treasure trove of loveliness. Behold!

December 1917
December 1917

October 1918
October 1918

November 1920
November 1920

May 1929
May 1929

February 1933
February 1933

August 1938
August 1938

August 1943
August 1943

April 1948
April 1948

November 1949
November 1949

January 1950
January 1950

August 1957
August 1957

December 1960
December 1960

February 1961
February 1961

March 1970
March 1970

May 1975
May 1975

Which is your favourite?

6 February 2011

Treasures from Aunt Bea

Being the fabric junkie that I am, when Aunt Bea asked me if I'd sew something with fabric from their collection, how could I resist? I picked this Nani Iro Fuccra double gauze, not only for its gorgeous print and dreamy colours but because I've heard such great things about sewing with this soft textured type of fabric.

I'm planning to make the middle view of this pattern from 1976. I like the contrast cuffs, collar and bow in the image, but I might just keep it simple and stick to the same fabric. What do you think?

Unfortunately after I received my fabric I heard that Aunt Bea is closing up shop. This is a sad loss for fabric addicts. But, as I've mentioned before, their closing down sale is amazing. I couldn't resist stocking up on some lovely things for my Spring wardrobe...

... some more Nani Iro Fuccra double gauze in a different print, which will probably become a smock dress...

... Blue Bell lawn by Alexander Henry, for a blouse...

... and this Yuwa cotton which will probably become a bag. It's yellow, it's French, it's Victorian, it's sewing themed - heaven!

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend. I made significant progress on the Joan Holloway dress - hopefully I'll have an outfit shot for you soon. Actually, since I decided to make it in black (I couldn't find a green or aubergine double knit that I liked enough), am I still allowed to name it after Joanie? Does she wear black? Hmm...

[Soundtrack: 'Belle' by Al Green]