29 October 2011

Pattern Cutting: Book Review

I've been heartily enjoying reading Pattern Cutting by Dennic Chunman Lo, a new book released this month which I'd been sent to review. This really was perfect timing, as I needed a refresher before I start my advanced pattern cutting course at London College of Fashion in a couple of weeks. As it happens, the author teaches at LCF, and the text reads like a finely tuned version of what I was taught on the introductory course.

The book is about flat pattern cutting (as opposed to draping on the stand) and clearly outlines how to draft the basic blocks (for bodice, sleeve, dress and trousers) and how to convert those blocks into different pattern designs. It also demonstrates how to draft patterns for a few modern (almost avant garde) designs - not my style, but inspirational nonetheless. Before you get to this stage, there is a lot on preparation and tools, including handy diagrams demonstrating how to use a pattern master and other instruments. Since it is aimed at students planning a career as a pattern cutter, the book also includes information on how the industry works, how to annotate your patterns with codes to communicate information to the manufacturer, and how to use CAD (Computer Aided Design) software - not essential knowledge for the home stitcher but sections I was curious to read anyway.

While other pattern drafting books that I've dipped in to adopt either a didactic or chatty tone, this book comes somewhere in between. The information is presented clearly and concisely, and while the language is fairly dry it includes lots of interesting points and food for thought. It's perfect for reflector types like me who don't appreciate being told what to do without being able to probe the underlying reasons - not simply an instruction manual, the author explains why certain things are standard practice, and encourages readers to take an experimental approach to design, style and fit.

Visually the book is very appealing and easy to read. While packed full of useful information, it avoids overcrowding each page. There is lots of white space around the words, and the text is illustrated with simple line diagrams as well as colour photos helpfully showing what something should look like in real life, making it easy on the eye and much less daunting to read than some other pattern cutting tomes. While I can see myself pulling this book out a lot as a reference manual, it also makes for an enjoyable read while lying on the sofa with a mug of coffee. I'd go as far as saying that it's quite the page turner! I found it hard to put down and got through the whole thing in two or three sittings.

The book doesn't assume much prior knowledge, so would make a good introduction to the subject or refresher for people who have done some pattern drafting before. It is practical, inspiring, and offers clear explanations of various concepts or practices, such as how to decide what grain lines to cut different pieces on, or what kind of suppressions (eg. darts) you might choose and why.

My one criticism is that, while it explains most things in just the right amount of detail, it glosses over the processes of pivoting and slash 'n' spread required to convert blocks into different designs. If you've never done it before and were teaching yourself from home, I think you could be left a little confused or at least not certain that you were doing it right. So if you're a beginner, you might want to find a demonstration of this part of the process elsewhere.

Overall, however, I would highly recommend Pattern Cutting for beginners, intermediates, or possibly even more advanced home pattern drafters who are interested in a fresh take on the subject. I was surprised at how quickly I raced through reading it and will definitely keep it within easy reach when I'm creating patterns in future.

[Soundtrack: 'Hello Goodbye' by The Beatles]

28 October 2011

A Fashionable Stitch Giveaway Winner

Oh my, Sunni's belt kit was popular! I really enjoyed reading the entries about what sewing projects you're working on and discovered some lovely new (to me) blogs in the process. I'll definitely use that question again!

The lucky winner of the giveaway is...

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Jenny Wren! Woooooo!

Thank you so much to Sunni for donating the prize.

Bon weekend, tout le monde!

26 October 2011

Autumn Maples Skirt

Ahhh... Autumn! How dreamy is this fabric? It's Autumn Medley Maples by Martha Negley and the pattern is BurdaStyle's Jenny skirt. There was only 90cm of the fabric left in the shop, so I made the waistband half the size it's supposed to be. As much as I like high waisted skirts, I actually prefer it this width as it's much more wearable on a little person like me.

This project ended up taking a LOT longer than I'd planned because of the lining. The lazy lady in me was planning on using up the mint green lining leftover from the Betty Draper Suit, but I thought twice and made the effort to source a lining in mustard yellow to match the occasional yellow leaf. Stitching and finishing the seams on the lining was the most time-consuming part of the process... so you can imagine my rage when, after attaching the lining to the facing, I discovered that the lining was mysteriously much smaller than the shell of the skirt, meaning that I couldn't sit down in it. Grrrrrr!

This is the kind of hitch that can lead you to chuck a project on the UFO pile. But I calmly (okay, so not so calmly) considered my options and, after a couple of days reflection, I rejected the "rip it out and wear the ruddy thing unlined" option, and instead painstakingly unpicked the lining from the waistband, made a THIRD trip to John Lewis for more lining fabric, took a squillion hours checking and rechecking the sizing, and stitched it all again. I got there eventually and am very glad I made the effort to do it properly, as the golden loveliness of the inside is a beauty to behold and feels so lovely when I slip it on. If you're going to make the effort to make something, you may as well make it gorgeous, non?

Speaking of gorgeous, I hand picked the zipper. I didn't want lines of machine stitching spoiling the beautiful print - with a hand picked zipper, you only see little dots of thread on the outside if you look closely. I followed Tasia's extremely good and detailed tutorial, although I found it easier to line the two sides up by keeping the skirt zipped up when stitching.

Quite a bit of work, but I really love this skirt!

[Soundtrack: 'Little Bird' by The White Stripes]

23 October 2011

A Fashionable Stitch Giveaway!


Did you enjoy reading about how Sunni spends her average day? Wanna get your mitts on some really useful bits and bobs from her shop? You do? Well, you're in luck! Sunni is offering one of my readers a belt and buckle kit of their choice plus an eyelet tool to go with it.

To be in with a chance of winning, leave a comment below telling us what sewing project you're working on at the moment if any (just because I'm nosey). The giveaway is open internationally, with shipping included. The deadline to enter is Thursday 27th October at midnight GMT and the winner will be picked by random number generator on Friday. Please leave your email if it's not attached to your blogger profile so I can contact you if you win.

Good luck!

21 October 2011

A Day in the Life of Sunni Standing - A Fashionable Stitch

Earlier this year, Sunni took the bold decision to quit her secretarial job to focus on her own business - sourcing hard-to-find dressmaking notions and making lovely supplies of her own, sold through A Fashionable Stitch. The perfect interviewee for A Day in the Life, Sunni tells us all about her routine in her new life. "Pray tell, does she write a 'to do' list to keep on top of everything?" I hear you inquire. Read on...


"I start my day by arousing at around 5:30am to take my husband to the train so that he can go to work. It's a very early start, I'll admit, and by no means am I happy to be awake at that time of day, but it gets me up and going for the most part. I get dressed every week day - Monday thru Friday - at which point in time I head out the door to work a short part-time gig that I picked up to help out with bills and such so that all the revenue for this first year of my shop opening goes back into my shop. What they say about never really making money in the first official year of opening your business is true. My "shop day" begins around 12:30pm everyday. The day of the week decides what I work on. Tuesdays and Fridays are set aside for shipping and mailing out orders. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are for building up the product that I hand make, keeping tabs on my inventory and doing research for new products coming to the shop.

I run my business out of my home. This can be hard because sticking to a schedule of working rather than pitter-pattering around the house is hard for me. But I love the fact that I can go to my machine and still sew for fun instead of for business which is one of the bigger reasons keeping me from looking into office space at this point. My love for sewing is why I've built this shop, so I think its good for me to continue to sew for pleasure too. My working spaces are scattered throughout our apartment - which actually will be changing soon when we move! Hip Hip Hooray! I sew and create in one room and do business items, like prepare shipments and answer emails in another room and for now, my stock is stored in a closet. It is a little crazy and I'm definitely looking forward to localizing my shop to one room.

When I hone in to work on the shop, I begin by writing down goals for the week and then sort those goals into days. I have to be really careful not to plan too much for each day, which I'm still not very good at, but this helps me to focus as my brain tends to get scattered in so many directions all the time. For example, at this moment in time, I'm working on rounding out the different sections in my shop. More specifically I'm working on my beltmaking section. I start by researching products, getting a handle on who carries what, cost, shipping cost and making a goal for when I want those items to be in stock. At the same time, I have to juggle keeping up on shipping orders - which my wonderful husband helps me with - which also entails that I have a small stock of shipping supplies on hand. I also have to keep tabs on the inventory of the shop and making the handmade supplies I create for the shop as well. It's a big job, but one I love, truly.

For the most part, I get to deal with my clients (whom I love!) and suppliers, which are usually large warehouse types of companies that sell a menagerie of different kinds of sewing supplies - though alot of what I sell is hard to find even for me and so I end up usually having to source items individually from several different small companies. My clients are wonderful people and I love working with them and addressing their concerns, so that can be easy and very rewarding. Dealing with suppliers can be a different story. I've had my run-ins with several already, but you just have to forget about it and move on. I've learned, and am still learning, not to take anything personally.

I try to end everyday by working on something for myself. Giving myself a pat on the back for working hard and rewarding myself with work on my next sewing project. Let's see, it's time to start a wrap coat next. I've got the pattern and the outer cloth all picked out. It's cashmere too and so luscious that I know I'll just want to pet myself all the time after its finished. It's going to work itself back into my shop too as I keep building up my dressmaker's tailoring section because this coat will be fully tailored. I'm definitely proud to say that when a product hits the shop, I've actually used it myself. So you'll be seeing more on that front in the upcoming month.

I'll admit that this career path is not the easiest one, but its very rewarding for me. I love sewing! And I especially love sewing my own clothes. I began to see that there has been a steady decline in the quality of sewing supplies at big box sewing chains and that those hard to find items really are, hard to find even on the internet. Call me crazy, but I like sewing with quality materials and I know that others do too, otherwise I wouldn't be steadily growing this small business of mine. Though you won't find everything I ever want in my shop just yet, I plan to be a big player in sourcing hard to find items and putting them all in one place. Overall this means, less in shipping costs and that an item becomes easier to find in general. I try to take it even one step further than that by making these hard to find items even better. My belt and buckle kits are a smash because I've researched methods and materials to make them even better than you remember them. You just can't buy that kind of satisfaction. This is so rewarding to me! I love giving people a product that I would want to buy myself and better yet, that I would be satisfied with myself too.

To finish my day, I'll start to turn into a pumpkin around 9:30pm. I know! I'm such an old lady! Sometimes it's even just a little earlier, but judging from the time I get up everyday, it seems pretty normal. I'm one of those people that requires a lot of sleep and so if I don't get a full night's rest, I have to make it up somewhere along the way. Naps are a must around here, especially on weekends. I will tell you one thing though. I might be nuts or maybe I just finally found my true passion in life, but typically every night just before falling asleep, I'm thinking about sewing, my shop and ideas for improvement and such. In fact, the idea to create my own tailor's hams and seam rolls cam to me right at this time. Just kind of hit me like a bolt of lightning. Wrote that down immediately, and that's when this whole journey began. That's a day in my life, friends. Thank you Tilly, for letting me blather on about what I do and how I do it! Talking and writing about me and my shop gets me really excited! Now, I'm off to cut out my coat muslin. Ciao!"


Thank you, Sunni, and best of luck with your brilliant shop! Right, I don't know about you, dear reader, but I'm off to write a daily goals list of my own...

19 October 2011

Pillowcase Dress Challenge Meet-Up!

What are you doing on the evening of Tuesday 6th December? Do you fancy sewing some stuff for a good cause in a lovely venue while chatting to other sewing bloggers and drinking cocktails with names such as 'Mrs Pepper Pot'? Erm, yes please!

Alison from Peggy's Pickles got in touch to tell me about a great initiative she is involved with. She's set herself the challenge of making 52 dresses out of pillowcases to send to little girls in countries such as Malawi and Kenya who don't own any dresses themselves. She's doing it for Dress a Girl Around the World campaign run by Hope 4 Women International - you can read about her motivation here.


On 6th December from 6.30pm, you can come to Drink Shop & Do in London and embellish some of these dresses that Alison has made - bring along ribbons and other bits and bobs to prettify them with. Or you can make a dress or two yourself using this tutorial.

Plus you get to drink one of these...

If that isn't motivation enough, allow me to indulge in some false advertising - I have no idea if Karen or Carly are planning to attend, but here is a reprise of a lovely photo of them making stuff at Drink Shop & Do. This could be you:

Hope to see you there!

15 October 2011

Getting Organised for Pattern Drafting

The other day I decided to get all my pattern drafting stuff organised. Long term readers will know I struggle with sewing productivity, so predictably enough I haven't got round to making many patterns (only two or three) since doing my course at London College of Fashion in August. I'm starting the advanced course soon so really need to get a move on! I was struggling to find the right bits and pieces amongst a huge pile of papers, to recall what I'd already done, and I could never for the life of me remember where I'd written down my measurements. So I decided to sort everything out to clear my space and my head...

After twenty minutes of rummaging, I found where I'd noted down my body measurements (on this chart downloaded from Portia's blog) and stuck it on my wall - now I'll never lose it again.

Did I mention I invested in a dress form? Here it is! Yes, it's an "it" - I refuse to follow the convention of personifying it with a name like Gladys or something, which I find a little... erm... creepy [shudder]. I mean, it might come alive in the night and start murdering people and framing me for it (have I watched too many horror movies?!). Anyway, it's a Lady Valet, as recommended to me by Handmade Jane. I'm really pleased with the choice - it is adjustable, pinnable, swivelable, and its cream cover and wooden stand look quite nice in my sitting room. I'd been procrastinating about adjusting it to my size as I'd read horror stories about the process taking hours and hours, so I was pleasantly surprised that, when I finally got round to it, it only actually took about five minutes. Another thing ticked off my list!

I went through my massive pile of papers, sorting them into blocks, experimentations for future reference, and fully drafted pattern pieces. The latter I sorted into labelled transparent files organised by pattern so when I make them up again I have all the pieces to hand.

Tidying these up allowed me to locate the bodice block I'd drafted to my size for my upcycled lace button back blouse. I made up the the block pieces in calico to double check the fit, which was perfect. Then I glued the paper pieces onto card to help them last a bit longer and so I can draw around them when drafting patterns. I also ordered a load of calico (which isn't cheap at the moment as cotton prices have soared, apparently) for making toiles.

Now I feel much better! I've got a notebook full of sketches of designs I want to try making up, so I can get on with doing that now. Tell me, if you draft your own patterns, do you have a system for staying organised?

[Soundtrack: 'The Light' by Jill Scott]

12 October 2011

Crafty Christmas Club 2011!

Are you thinking of making your own Christmas prezzies this year? Well, you'll be excited to hear that Crafty Christmas Club is back!

What is it?

A group blog for people making their own Christmas prezzies. A hub to discuss your crafty plans with likeminded people, gain inspiration from other craftsters, share tips and tutorials, and show off your finished goodies without spoiling the surprise to family and friends who might be reading your own blog.

Why would you spend time making presents? Isn't it easier just to buy them?

Well yes, it is easier to buy them. But I know I'm not the only one who feels a little nauseous at the thought of all the frenzied consumerism that goes on during the festive season. Who wants to spend the whole of December battling the crowds in the shopping centre? I'd rather sit at home crafting a little something by hand, investing that extra bit of love and care into it. Stock up on fabric and glitter, invite some friends over to join in the fun, load up your favourite music, pour out the sherry, warm up the mince pies... bliss!

What kinds of crafts does it cover?

Sewing, knitting, paper crafts, crafty food gifts, jewellery, decorations, fancy wrapping, cards... and lots of other craftiness.

Sounds like a genius idea! How can I be part of the fun?

Why thank you, kind sir! Read the blog and follow our progress at craftychristmasclub.blogspot.com. If you want to post to the blog, you can become a member by emailing craftychristmasclub at g mail dot com and I'll set you up as an author. If you've got your own blog, send me the link and I'll add it to the list of members. Ooh and help spread the good tidings by adding the button to your blog:

I don't celebrate Christmas - can I still join?

But of course! If you're making Hanukkah prezzies, Winter Solstice prezzies, or any other winter season prezzies for that matter, do join us!

I'm expecting a Chrimble prezzie from Tilly this year. I'll just hop on over and have a look...

Woah! Stop right there! The point of having a separate blog is not to spoil the surprise. No peeking!

Join us... join us... join us...

9 October 2011

More Bow Belts Made by You!

Since my last post about bow belts, yet more people have got in touch to tell me they've made their own following my tutorial. Check out how lovely these are...

How gorgeous is this wool version made by Liz for her Lady Grey coat?

I sense a theme with the red and navy combo... this lovely crisp belt was made by Sarah

Miss Katie made a bow belt for this awesome refashioned a thrifted dress - read about how she added the piping

Megan made this colourful belt out of leftover quilting fabric

Mimmi has made three of them, no less!

Fancy a quick and easy Sunday project? Here's the tutorial.

Bon dimanche!

[Soundtrack: 'Fine and Mellow' by Billie Holiday]

6 October 2011

Fancy Moon Fabric Winner!

One of my guilty pleasures is to sneak a peek over the shoulder of the person ahead of me in the supermarket queue to see what groceries they've chosen. So reading about which fabric you'd all choose if you won the Fancy Moon giveaway was hours of fun! But, as they say, there can only be one winner...

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jadestar said...
I love the sewing room in purple and pink. I don't know what I'd do with it, it was just love at first sight!

Congratulations Jadestar! Wooooooooooop!

And thank you to Fancy Moon for the fabulous giveaway!

PS. RIP Steve Jobs :(

4 October 2011

What's On My Sewing Table...

Last week I was hunting fabric stores for some plain red oilcloth soft enough to make a Don't Look Now-inspired raincoat. Totally failed on that mission (any leads?) but I couldn't resist snatching up the last 90cm of this stunning Martha Negley cotton, Autumn Medley Maples. Stitching the leaf print design feels like a great way to welcome in the new season, and the colour palette is just soooooo gorgeous. I'm squeezing a pencil skirt out of it, using Burda Style's Jenny pattern. There isn't quite enough fabric for a high waistband so I'm making adjustments here and there. Hopefully I'll have a finished project to show you soon...

(PS. Don't forget to enter the fabric giveaway...)

[Sountrack: 'Harvest Moon' by Neil Young]

1 October 2011

Fancy Moon Fabric Giveaway!

Fancy Moon have just relaunched their website and to celebrate they're offering one reader of my blog the opportunity to win two metres of fabric of their choice. Yay! I've always loved Fancy Moon's website - they have such a swoonsome selection of hundreds of fabrics in delightful prints. Not only quilting weight cottons, but also lawns, double gauze and linen blends, so great for dressmakers. With their improved site, you have the option to order either by the metre or in fat quarters - very handy for crafters.

Here's my pick of their amazing fabric selection...

Imperial Kiku Red would make a beautiful drindl skirt

Love this saucy ladies print - pyjamas or a cushion for the boudoir?

This cotton lawn would make a pretty blouse

I'd love some napkins made from this teacups and teapots cotton-linen blend

Ooh! How about a slinky kitty print pencil skirt?

Or a wrap skirt in this stunning chrysanthemums cotton-linen mix

This delicate design has gone straight onto my wish list for cushions for my sofa

And last but by no means least - wow!

To enter the giveaway, take a look at the Fancy Moon website and leave a comment below saying which fabric you'd choose and, if you like, what you'd make with it. The closing date is Wednesday 5th October at midnight GMT and the winner will picked at random. The giveaway is open internationally. Don't forget to leave your email if it's not attached to your blogger profile so I can contact you if you win.

Good luck!

[Soundtrack: 'Penny's Farm' by The Bently Boys]