I Reveal My Inner Magpie

pattern sheets Just a quick one today, everyone! I’ve had a few readers contact me about the patterns in The Great British Sewing Bee Fashion For Fabric book, and how to find them. Keep your eyes peeled for those handy little boxes in the top right of each folded pattern sheet. They’ll tell you exactly where everything is! I’m head down on one of the busiest weeks in the children’s publishing calendar. I’m soon to go to Bologna Book Fair and already tearful at the prospect of being apart from Ella for a week. I am distracting myself by going through my stash. I’m quite impressed at my collection of interfacings. I have a thing about quality interfacing so always pick it up when I can. But, still. That’s a lot… Is there something that brings out your magpie tendencies? Something more interesting than fusible interfacing?! interfacing collection

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Ginger Jeans – Done!

Ginger Jeans Collage

My Ginger jeans are done! The final stages made me feel physically ill. Would I ruin everything with a badly placed belt loop, a smashed up rivet or a bar tack gone wrong? In fact, I abandoned bar tacks early on in this process. My machine was not happy making them.

As soon as the jeans had been completed they were dragged on and Ella and I flung ourselves out of the front door for a walk. These babies stand up to multiple bending over to retrieve a ball abandoned for something more exciting. Oh, look – a squirrel! Oh, look – a goose! Oh, look – a pair of jeans!

Ginger Jeans By Didyoumakethat

Ella thinks she’s about to get a treat. Ella is wrong.

William Morris GalleryObviously, the best way to photograph a recently completed sewing project is by accessorising with Victorian kitchen maids. You don’t need me to tell you that.

So, how do I feel on completion of these babies?

Relieved. I was really anxious about something going wrong, after so much work.

Thrilled. They’re fantastic! The high waisted version really suits my body shape and I very much appreciate the opportunity to tweak fit, especially around the waist. Gaping jeans at the back waist, be gone!

Exhilarated. I made jeans. An actual pair of jeans. An actual pair of jeans that fit!

Improved. I learnt something new and I was prepared to share that every step of the way. To truly embrace creativity you need to be prepared to fail and you need to be braced for making a fool of yourself. That’s why I think most genuine creatives are the bravest people I know. It takes guts to make something and share it.

Not There Yet. These are far from perfect. The topstitching was a killer, even with my workhorse Bernina. But hey, really not gonna beat myself up too much.

top stitching

Will I rush to make a second version? Not quite yet. I need a palate cleanser. I also need to find just the right denim. But, yay! I made jeans! Would you make some? And why aren’t there more Victorian kitchen maids in sewing blogs?

Kitchen Maids ii

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Fabric Fondler Or Public Nuisance?

feeling fabric

There I was, stood on the escalator, going home at the end of a long day. The woman in front of me was wearing a lime green wool coat of some extreme fabulosity. That was a great coat. Had she made it? What was the texture of the fabric? I reached out to stroke the hem … and my hand froze in mid air.

The rules of polite society, I told myself, are that you don’t go around stroking strangers clothes.

I shoved my fist into my pocket and bowed my head in shame. Just because I sew doesn’t mean that I can’t behave like a functioning member of society. That’s the theory, anyway.

I have so many sewing friends now, and so many other people who know that I sew. Everyone’s got used to a bit of man handling. A fond greeting in my world is a kiss, a hug, and a fondle of a collar. Ooh, poplin! That’s how you say hello, right? Or wrong?

Am I a hopeless case or does this happen to you, too?

didyoumakethat-sew-busy-lizzie

Hugging Lizzie or checking out her tweed?

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Ginger Jeans Next Steps

Ginger Jeans In Progress

And yay, the angels of heaven wept tears of joy because … there had been Ginger Jean sewing!

Not enough to share a finished project, but progress is progress. Even when it is grabbed in ten-minute windows around life and the day job. Finally, at the weekend I managed to get my head down and crack on.

There has been top stitching. There has been ripped out top stitching.

pocket top stitching

There has been zip insertion, practice bar tacks and – yes! – use of the John Lewis mini sewing machine.

Jeans Collage

There has also been basting. A lot of basting. A lot, a lot of basting. I basted the back crotch seam and leg side seams together to judge fit. Then I basted again to tweak fit. Then I ripped out the basting so that I could sew, overlock and top stitch the crotch seams. Then I sewed the inside leg seams. Then I basted the outer leg seams for a final check on fit. All worth it (I hope!) and all curiously satisfying.

One tip from my work so far: I snipped into the seam allowance on the inside curve of the crotch seam to release the fabric and allow easier stitching around this bend. Below, you can see my adjusted seam line marked. You can also see the inch-long row of stitches I’ve used to fix seam line matching prior to sewing the entire seam.

snipped seam

So, that’s where I am so far. Fingers crossed, my next Ginger Jeans blog post will be called ‘Final Steps’. Rather than ‘Finally Lost It’.

What have you been sewing?

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The Challenges Of Choice

patterns

Something interesting happened this week. I noticed three blog posts in my reader, each celebrating the launch of three different new patterns.

Sheesh, I thought. I can hardly keep up!

I didn’t read the blog posts at the time, but later that day thought I’d check out these new patterns. I tried to remember their names and who they were from. Hadn’t a clue. Couldn’t remember. Poof! They’d disappeared in the ether and I wasn’t quite curious enough to start Googling new sewing patterns. After all, I already own a lot of patterns.

Some sewing friends and I were reminiscing recently, over 5+ years of blogging. ‘Remember when it was the Big Four and Colette?’ one of us asked. We nodded sagely, in the way people do when someone mentions the heatwave of 76. (I can still vividly picture the melting tarmac on our street!)

Choice is a wonderful thing. But I feel a bit like the sewing fanatic who wanders into a huge fabric store and leaves empty handed because I’m overwhelmed by options. I need help, and so do those designers. When you launch a new business or new range and four hours later a potential customer can’t recall your name – I’d say that’s a problem.

Books have publishers, physical stores and online shops who all help the reader find what they’re looking for. What Other Customers Are Looking At Right Now … Inspired By Your Browsing History... Museums have curators who select what to put in front of the viewing public. There are always more artefacts in the bowels of a museum than ever sit in glass cabinets.

Do we have anything comparable? Knitters have the peer reviews of Ravelry. Sewists have Pattern Review, but have you visited that site lately? Me neither. Last year, Abby Glassenberg wrote a really interesting article about Why Isn’t There A Site Like Ravelry For Sewing? A lot of the points she made still stand true.

Interesting times, but I can’t help feeling that there’s a way forwards for both designers and home sewists. We all want to play together. We just need to work out what the rules of the game are, as more and more people join in.

Do my experiences and feelings chime with you? And do you have any answers?!

vintage patterns

Which pattern qualifies as vintage?

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Rules To Ignore – Sewing Over Pins

Sewing Over Pins

Long ago I read that the way to master a craft is to learn the rule book – and then throw it out! I’m all for that, when the occasion demands.

One of the rules I often bend is:

Thou shalt not sew over pins.

Yeah, whatevs. After I saw Susan Khalje sewing over pins in her Craftsy class, my own dirty secret came out into the open. I sew over pins, too!

Here are some of the times I’ll sew over a pin:

  • Sewing a gathered seam.
  • Basting in sleeves. (One rule I will follow religiously is to always baste a sleeve in first. It’s guaranteed tears and a seam ripper otherwise.)
  • Any section of sewing where accurate seam placement is an issue ie where seam lines meet.
  • Any sewing at all where accuracy is needed.

The combination of pins and a walking foot, as above, means that fabric has less desire to shift out of position. I’m all for it.

Tips for sewing over pins:

  • Use long, fine pins if you have them.
  • Insert pins horizontally.
  • Slow down. This isn’t the Grand Prix.
  • When you arrive at a pin you could take your foot off the pedal and turn the needle by hand. (I don’t.)
  • Be prepared for blunt or broken needles. Yes, this activity comes with risks. Meh. Ain’t lost an eye yet!

Most of the time, I avoid sewing over pins. But sometimes I purposefully leave them in when it suits the needs of construction. There’s a logic there, I promise. And when you see me wearing an eye patch in blog photos, I’ll swear that eye patches are the new Hasbeens. (Seriously. There are a lot of Hasbeens out in the sewing blogosphere right now!)

Is there a rule you are happy to break for a good reason?

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Ginger Jeans First Steps

Ginger Jeans Equipment Collage

I’ve started sewing my first pair of jeans. This has involved dragging out, cleaning and prepping every piece of equipment I own! I have three machines lined up:

Can I complete a pair of jeans, using a machine that cost £52? Let’s find out! Why am I even attempting this? Because I can’t face changing thread and stitch length again and again and again every time I need to topstitch – which will be a lot. So, two sewing machines it is.

JL Mini sewing machine

I’ve decided to use affordable denim for my first attempt at the Ginger Jeans. The fabric has a lovely brushed texture. I couldn’t see the point in testing fit with anything other than denim. At best, this will be a wearable toile. At worst, a learning curve. Can’t argue with that!

The PDF pattern is a surprisingly small 28 pages. The instructions are brilliantly clear and comprehensive – I’d recommend printing out in colour if you can. So far, I’ve found these jeans a very satisfying exercise in small, achievable tasks that can be broken down into time-friendly steps:

  • Tape together and trace pattern
  • Cut out fabric
  • Prep equipment
  • Sew pockets, coin pocket, and facings

Ginger Jean Pieces

Nothing scary there. Quite the opposite – downright enjoyable. Of course, we haven’t arrived at fitting yet. Shudder. I keep reading talk of flat bottom adjustments, crotch whiskers and waist gapes.

This project still has the potential to go horribly wrong…

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An End And A Beginning

polly and the puffin

With over 200 entries, my Polly and the Puffin giveaway comes to an end. The winner is Jackie with her story of a volcano, a whale and an ugly chick:

In September 2001 I flew in a tiny plane across a very turbulent North Sea to the volcanic island of Heimay to see Neil & his friends – but all the puffins had gone to sea for the winter. So I occupied myself walking up the still warm volcano, visiting a garden made in the lava by a couple, who everyday took bags of soil to the lava sea & planted seeds; & watched the whale from ‘Free Willy’ being fed by the US navy whilst he lived in luxury in an island harbour. At the end of the day the coach driver came to where I was sitting with a shoe box. Inside was the ugliest chick I had ever seen! He had been left behind on the school football pitch & the driver was raising him by hand until his family & friends returned the next Spring. Was Neil one of those puffins who went to sea, leaving behind a chick?

Well done, Jackie, and thanks for the surreal and entertaining true story! I’ll be in touch for a postal address.

And there’s a beginning at Didyoumakethat Towers. Where will it all end? In tears or laughter – or both? Any tips, let me know.

Ginger Jeans

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Blog Writing Tips 3 – Discipline

proofreading mark

So, is everyone feeling creatively inspired in their blog writing? We’ve embraced the power of story – and seen some lovely blog posts. I shared the joy of conversation – yay, for a good chat! But today I’m going to introduce the dreaded D word. Discipline.

The above is a proofreading mark. If a writer sees this in the margin of their text, it means ‘delete and close up’. Less is more, and this is particularly true for blog writing. Here are a few reasons why:

  • People are reading on screens and their eyes get tired.
  • People are reading on small screens – increasingly on their phones or other portable devices.
  • People are reading on small screens in weird places – on packed trains, in airports, during an ad break, sat on the loo (yes, they do, why do you think the waterproof phone has been invented?). Their attention span is being challenged all the time.
  • People have approximately one gazillion other blog posts they could be reading. If you don’t capture their attention quickly and make it easy for them to continue giving you attention, they’ll move on.

phone

So, that all sounds a bit intimidating, doesn’t it? But there are other good reasons to learn the art of discipline in your writing. It will make it easier and quicker to write blog posts. You’ll be flexing a muscle that makes you a stronger writer. Readers’ faith in you will grow, as will your faith in yourself. Hey, you might discover a real love of writing and enter a short story writing competition or something crazy! It’s all good, people.

Here are some tips for discipline:

Keep paragraphs short. A long, rambling paragraph is heavy on the eye.

Keep sentences short for the same reasons.

Really keep an eye on adverbs and adjectives. These can become clutter.

Here is one of my favourite self-editing techniques: before hitting ‘publish’ re-read your blog post and ask, What can I lose without losing the essence of my story? This is a brilliant way of cutting. I always do this. I’ll give you an example. As I wrote my opening paragraph to this blog post I said, ‘But today I’m going to turn all school ma’am and introduce the dreaded D word.’ I decided to lose the school ma’am analogy. Yeah, it was cute but it wasn’t really adding anything. Delete!

Here’s another tip I really like: imagine you are writing for an audience of 8-year-old children. If a child can understand, we can all understand. If not, you need to cut back and clarify. People often make the mistake of thinking that clarity can come if you just explain a bit more, add another sentence, really lay it on thick, underline what you’re saying… Hey, what was I saying?

Here is today’s PRACTICAL EXERCISE. Write a blog post that is between 300-1000 words long. No more. There shan’t be a paragraph that is longer than six lines and there shouldn’t be a sentence that carries over more than three lines. My recent blog post on thread came in at a paltry 264 words, yet it received nearly 40 comments. Learn that skill and you get great engagement without having to slave blood, sweat and tears composing a dissertation every time you write a blog post.

Less is more, people, less is…

tartt

You’re a Steinbeck, not a Tartt!

 

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The Great British Sewing Bee Fashion With Fabric – Buy It!

GBSB stripey knit dress collage

The Great British Sewing Bee Fashion With Fabric is a stonking book. STONKING. Here’s the skinnie:

  • It’s written by a real expert, The Thrifty Stitcher.
  • Patterns have been tested by some of the best Sewists out there, including Fehr Trade.
  • The book is arranged according to fabric challenge – cottons, animal fibres, stretch and luxury fabrics –  which means it covers a whole swathe of projects from chiffon pussy bow blouses (eek!) to leather skirts and jackets to tartan kilts. This ain’t no beginner-friendly yawn fest.
  • There are over 30 projects and a whole separate slipcase of four sheets of full-size patterns to be traced. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.
  • I found some great tips, especially for equipment – recommendations increase as the book delves further into project complexity.

Fashion With Fabric

No doubt about it, this is definitely the best book to have come out of The Great British Sewing Bee. It has loads of patterns that I actually want to make. As soon as I eyeballed the drapey knit dress, I launched straight in.

GBSB stripey knit dress

Fehr Trade reckons the book is worth buying for this pattern alone. I’m not arguing! It is the most delicious piece of fabric origami. Cutting out the pattern pieces, I was scratching my head. How would these go together? Such fun!

origami piece

If you recognise the fabric, that’s because I’ve used it before on my latest Coco top. The ponte knit is nice and stable and of such a great quality. You can buy it for £3.50 a metre from Saeed Fabrics in Walthamstow, still in stock last time I visited. I love the grey/black combo – it’s much warmer than white and black.

If you’re making this dress, please pay attention to the finished measurements guide on page 145. I didn’t, cut out a large, and ended up taking the dress in a lot at the side seams.

I love that this knit pattern has a neck facing. No annoying turning under of a raw hem and hoping for the best. Facing, interfacing and top stitching – that’s what I like! I wouldn’t bother trying to do any stripe matching on dress seams. (I didn’t.) The construction is so unusual that you’ll just drive yourself mad with very little good effect.

This was my first make from Fashion With Fabric. I doubt it will be my last. This isn’t a good book. It’s a STONKING book. Did I say that already?

With thanks to Quadrille, who sent me a copy to review.

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