30 March 2011

Sewing mantras... and giveaway winner!

Woah, the Beignet pattern giveaway was popular! Moreover, what I wise lot you are with your sewing mantras. I really enjoyed reading all the entries and had to pick out a few of my favourites to highlight here:

"Make a mock up, not a cock up!"

"When in doubt, add pleats"

"Try, cry, then try again"

"Just keep stitching, even only if it's a little at a time"

"It's not a mistake, it's a design element"

"Would I skip this bit if I was making it for someone else?"

"I could definitely make that!"

"Oh sod it, just give it a go"

"It doesn't count unless you finish it"

"It's not a stash, it's a queue!"

"If the mistake doesn't show, you got away with it"

"It's a hobby, take the time to enjoy it"

"Get off of the sewing blogs and do your own sewing!"

"Better to have sewn and lost than never to have sewn at all"

"When you start gibbering, it's time to stop"

Okay, so on to the winner of the Beignet pattern, which I had to pick by random number generator as the entries were all too good. And the winner is...

True Random Number Generator  49Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Gina, aka Vintage Girl! Wooooooo! Well done, Gina, and many thanks to Colette Patterns for donating the prize.

I'll leave you all with Gina's sewing mantra:

"DREAM, READ instructions, FIT it, CAREFULLY sew, and IRON!"

27 March 2011

Fabric as far as the eye can see...

The never ending fabric shop! Believe it or not this photo was actually taken in the middle of the store, looking in one direction - it was, in fact, double this size. Before British readers get excited, no, this isn't Brixton - this is America. Falls Church, Virginia, to be precise. Casey gave me some great tips on fabric shopping in her former stomping ground while I was in Washington, and textile enthusiast friend Karen was more than up for driving me - hurrah!

G Street Fabrics' range was actually a bit overwhelming. I just walked around in circles for a while, in a total daze and unable to focus. In the end I was very sensible and only came away with this beautifully soft grey fabric to make some trousers with - in the cut offs pile at only $3 per metre!

"I just picked these up at Jo-Ann's." I've always wanted to say that. I can't be the only non-American who is envious of the ease at which things seem to be able to be picked up at Jo-Ann's. The crafting revolution is only just starting to emerge in the UK so we'll have to wait a bit longer before you can find belting solutions and embroidery floss at $4 for a pack of 36 skeins in every town.

Oh the variety! Casey also recommended I visit the exhibition of First Lady dresses at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Museum + historical dresses = I'm there. Here are my favourites:

Mary Lincoln's dress

Helen Taft's dress

Eleanor Roosevelt's dress

Michelle Obama's dress

Last but not least, I can't write about Washington without sharing these snaps:


Vice President Joe Biden! Nooooo, not in Jo-Ann's, in the Capitol building, silly.

[Soundtrack: 'I Walked' by Sufjan Stevens]

25 March 2011

Beignet pattern giveaway!


Friends, I bring good tidings! As a follow up to my week of wearing Beignet skirts, the wonderful Colette Patterns are offering one of my readers a Beignet pattern of their own. To be in with a chance of winning, pray tell - what is your sewing mantra? I think mine might be, "She who bears a seam ripper fears nothing". The giveaway is open until Tuesday 29th March at midnight GMT. Don't forget to leave your email with the comment if it's not linked to your blogger profile so I can contact you if you win. Good luck!

20 March 2011

One week, one skirt pattern

Have I mentioned how much I love the Beignet skirt from Colette Patterns? I love it so much, in fact, that I wore it - well, three versions of it to be precise - all last week. A homage to the more hardcore Me-Made-March troops, if you will. Plus, I went to Washington DC, so what better way to pack light than limit my wardrobe options to three skirts? (The photo in my last post was of Eleanor Roosevelt's dress at the National Museum of American History, by the way.)

Day 1 - Capitol Hill 

Day 2 - boyfriend's office in the Library of Congress

Day 3 - sipping on a margarita

Day 4 - cheesy chips at Ben's Chili Bowl 

Day 5 - Supreme Court

Day 6 - fabric shopping - more on that later, promise!

Day 7 - National Gallery of Art

The skirt proved yet again to be versatile, practical, comfortable (even on an overnight flight) and rather stylish too, if I do say so myself!

18 March 2011

Friday Finds no.13

Happy Friday, everyone! Ten points if you can guess where I went this week based on this photo. Great dress, isn't it? I'll reveal all in due course, once I've recovered from all the walking. Of course I've squeezed in some time to look at blogs - here's my round up of what I've enjoyed reading this week:

- Casey shows us how to make fabric covered belts

- M is for Make is talking readers through using Japanese pattern books in their sewalong

- Sarai from Colette Patterns wrote a beautiful post on what our Nanas can teach us about style

- Two incredible playsuits from Molly and Bex

- Lots of lovely dresses to admire this week - entries to the EvaDress competition and the results of the Swing Dress Sewalong (scroll to the bottom of that page for links)

Bon weekend!

16 March 2011

Stash Amnesty! featuring Crochetie

This month's Stash Amnesty! interview is bitter sweet. I interviewed one of my favourite bloggers, the amazing Ophelia, aka Crochetie (aka Kayo, aka Etsy seller emorie tokyo). Since receiving Ophelia's responses, the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, where she lives. Ophelia and her loved ones are well, but as you know thousands are homeless, missing or dead. I hope you will read this interview, admire Ophelia's gorgeous creations and unique style, and then pop over to her blog where she plans to start selling second hand craft books to raise some money in aid of quake victims.

How long have you been sewing? How did you learn?

Ophelia: "I have been crazy about sewing for a year and two months by now. I mostly learned how to sew by Japanese sewing book which had step by step instruction with pictures. Also watching Threads DVD and YouTube videos helped me a lot. When I go shopping, I sneakily look at wrong side of garment and see how retail clothing were finished."

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

Ophelia: "I actually have several fabrics to die for, and these floral fabrics and laces are some of them. It's all done already, I mean without doing anything, they are just beautiful sitting there. But I have a mission to make them look 'more' amazing, and can't wait for working on it :)"

How is your sewing stash organized?

Ophelia: "I have a three story drawer cart near my sewing table. All my tools and threads are in there. The great part is it's roll-around, so I can have it wherever I need. When I draft a pattern or cut fabric, I move it beside a cutting table and scales, scissors, pencils and everything are ready there for me. Isn't it great?"

Do you buy fabric with sewing projects in mind or do you buy whatever takes your fancy?

Ophelia: "Most of time, I only have my color palette and material in mind. Getting solid fabric is usually as planned, but printed fabric ... oh I don't know how much I spent for them over my budget...

I often play with photoshop to see what color would work together. It's so fun, and you can try different combination without buying any fabric, so if you have a chance, try it out ;)"

When you design your clothes, where do you look for inspiration?

Ophelia: "I have variety of books and magazines to look and also visit some vintage shops online like persephone vintage, tumblr, and flickr. My most recent favorite tumblr page is Fuck Yeah 60's Fashion, it's just gorgeous.

Also watching movies is great inspiration. I often watch these movies during sewing: The Secret Life of Bees, The Notebook, How to Make an American Quilt, Catch Me If You Can, The Bridges of Madison County, Coco Before Chanel, Julie and Julia."

What projects are you planning for the future?

Ophelia: "Well, right now, I'm kind of middle of spring and summer project. But I am looking for making some cotton dresses with different type of collars."

Thank you, Ophelia, you are amazing. Readers, please remember to visit Ophelia's blog and consider buying a book in aid of the Japan earthquake relief effort.

13 March 2011

Trousers that Fit

'Trousers that Fit' is the name of the class I've been attending at Oh Sew Brixton for the past four Wednesday evenings (well, three, as I missed one when I was poorly). Remember my ill-fated attempt at pedal pushers? That's when I realised that fitting trousers involves intricate work and intimate measurements, and that I needed to invest proper time in planning before trying again. So this course has been just the ticket.

The tutor took about 20 measurements from each of us - the standard ones and then some dimensions I never knew existed (I now know my, ahem, crotch length for instance). She entered the figures into her computer using Bernina's 'My Label' programme and printed out bespoke patterns for each of us. We made these up in calico to test the fitting. Some people's fitted perfectly. Mine turned out quite baggy so needed tweaking at the side seams and the hem, but nothing too complicated.

It's been lovely stitching in the company of other ladies (one of whom reads my blog - hello Susan!). It's also been great having a knowledgeable tutor to help out with the trickier aspects of trousers, such as constructing the flies.

I'm now making them up in a dark grey poly-wool blend I got for £2/metre at Walthamstow market - nothing expensive for my first try! The pattern style wouldn't be my first choice either - low-ish waisted flares with flap pockets - but my main concern at the moment is getting the fit right at my hips. Now that's done, I can adapt the pattern or transfer the lines onto a more interesting style in future. One of the teachers talked us through ideas for adapting the basic pattern, including adding ease, extra darts or box pleats, and trying out different styles such as tapered or culottes. She was so inspiring, urging us all to play around and experiment to find interesting styles and the fit that we like.

I like Vogue 8604 as made by Stitchywitch and Simplicity 2654 as modelled by this lady. Do you have a favourite trouser pattern you could recommend?

[Soundtrack: 'All the King's Men' by Wild Beasts]

11 March 2011

Friday Finds no.12

Spring is near! Daffodils on the table, blossom on the trees outside, and light when I wake up in the morning. It's still unbelievably cold (there is talk of snow) but at least that means I have some time to plan my S/S ' 11 wardrobe. Onwards!

- Amy Jeanne shared some delightful pictures of nautical chic from as early as 1915

- Check out this adorable embroidery animation by Holly from Unfurled (who is also hosting a Sencha pattern giveaway)

- Tasia has been a busy bee, launching her latest pattern and writing a post on tracing unprinted patterns. Such an inspiring lady!

- Colette Patterns have started a series of posts on different kinds of fabric. Hurrah!

- Plenty of Me-Made-March action all over the blogosphere but centralised on Flickr if you want a quick fix of self-stitched style

I've got a pretty exciting week coming up which I'll tell you about soon. Until then, bon weekend!

9 March 2011

Prezzies from Japan

Look at these lovely goodies that arrived in my postbox all the way from Tokyo! A few weeks ago the lovely and talented Ophelia let me know that we'd both started sewing in January 2010 and that our sewing-o-versary was coming up. To celebrate, we decided to send each other a little surprise parcel by snail mail. What a delight to open this package! A little button-themed notepad, a homemade wrapping bag garnished with a pretty silk rose, and best of all a Japanese pattern book, something that regular readers will know I have been coveting for ages.

Which dress to make first? I might try this last one with the pleats. Right, I'll just read the instructions...


Luckily the lovely and thoughtful Ophelia has dotted little notes over the book translating important information like pattern numbers and sizing. Thanks Ophelia!

6 March 2011

Banana Sweetie Skirt

Here is my third version of Beignet, which for some reason reminds me of foam bananas, my favourite sweeties (yum yum). I used a soft and relatively lightweight corduroy for the shell, the last scraps of my very first fabric purchase for the facings, and a shiny poly-something-or-other for the lining. I got the buttons from Walthamstow market, I think they were 20p each.

The skirt is nice and snuggly for the freezing weather we're having in London but bright enough for the onset of Spring (whenever it decides to grace us with its presence).

I now have a version of this skirt in all three primary colours:


version 3

I won't go on again about how much I love this pattern, but I would like to reiterate how little fabric it requires. The instructions say that, with 150 cm width fabric, you'll need 2.5 yards / 230 cm for the shell, but I only used 65 cm! Bear in mind I used a different fabric for the facings, but not very much of that either.

Alright, I'll give this pattern a rest for a while and make something different next. But be warned, it won't be the last you see of it!

[Soundtrack: 'Norwegian Wood' by The Beatles]