The Language of Sewing

Sew magazine featureIt’s been a busy week or so, doing a lot of talking about sewing. I’ve been lucky enough to be featured in this month’s Sew magazine, highlighted as Blog of the month. When asked why I started a blog I replied, ‘Because I wanted to engage more actively in the conversation.’ I had the opportunity to do just that when I joined a bunch of sewing friends at Tilly Towers.

Sewing at Tilly Towers

Tilly Towers

Being a contrary soul, I sat there knitting. Ooobop and I had a very entertaining conversation about how we were both taught you should never, on pain of death, abandon knitting mid-row. I then promptly abandoned knitting mid-row in order to open some champagne.

Knitting at Tilly TowersThis week, I also ordered a copy of the now out-of-print The Gentle Art of Domesticity from Jane Brocket. Published in 2007, it still sells for quite a lot second hand, even though at the time of publication I believe there was some stir about it being anti-feminist. I certainly paused at the photos of aproned Jane pinning out a man’s office shirts on a washing line. Still, Jane is eloquent and clever and makes a valid point that being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t knit, sew or embroider. I see her book as a landmark in the trajectory of craft publishing, and a very thought-provoking one at that.

Gentle Art of Domesticity

This all led me to think about the words we choose to use. Some people throw their hands up in horror at the term Sewist. I quite like it. It has a sparkiness to it. Other people would die rather than call themselves Seamstress, but I like that word too. There’s an echo of elegant timelessness. Though some people would only hear the ring of ‘old fashioned’ or ‘downtrodden’. Words are such very powerful tools, especially in this digital age. We should use them with care and kindness.

What do you call yourself? Would you rather die than be a Seamstress? And why does it matter?

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Dolores Batwing Top

Dolores Batwing TopWhen So Zo invited me to pattern test the Dolores Batwing Top (launched today, people!), I was like a greyhound out of a trap. Yes, please!

This PDF pattern for a simple batwing top/tunic/dress prints out on only 12 sheets of A4. To tape together and trace the pattern only took up 30 minutes of an evening.

Dolores CollageBy 10.30am the next morning, I had made and photographed the top and sent my feedback to Zoe. By lunchtime, I’d made myself a matching skater skirt out of the remains of the jersey…

Dolores Batwing & Skater Skirt

Any construction tips? All seams were completed on the overlocker. I used Steam-A-Seam tape to stabilise hems before stitching with a wide and deep zig zag on my sewing machine. I loosened the tension on my sewing machine bobbin. I used a walking foot. That’s about it!

I really love this pattern and it’s a great stash buster for any drapey jerseys taking up space in your fabric storage. Thanks, Zoe, for allowing me to test!

Do you think you’ll make this top?

 

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Polka Dots and Pattern Trails

Coco Dress SixThis is my sixth Coco dress, so I’ll keep it brief! The polka dot ponte is from Stone Fabrics. It’s fairly coarse in texture, I don’t think it’s my favourite ponte ever, but I’ll still wear this dress to death. The awesome pocket fabric was a gift from DIY Couture when she was having a clear out. Thanks, Rosie!

Pocket detail Coco

It’s such fascinating fabric! I had to use a press cloth to get the iron over those raised polka dots. I don’t think this is really made for dressmaking. I’d use it for accessories, cushion covers or outerwear. Any suggestions? I have a load of this stuff.

In other news, my non-too-subtle hints prompted Cat to track down three more patterns on the Pattern Trail. She may have had to negotiate cobwebs!

pattern trailThis means that there are just two patterns left (Pattern Two and Pattern Six), hiding in nooks and crannies on the Isle of Wight. Will they ever be transformed into outfits, or shall they become nests for mice? It’s up to you, readers!

Pocket Detail Coco ii

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Debbie Bliss’s Woolly Woofers – A Dog Blog Review

Ella Reviews Woolly WoofersHello, readers. Consider yourselves honoured. After months of persuasion and the multiple signing of Non Disclosure Agreements, a very special presence in the blogosphere has agreed to write a guest post.

She’s infamous for her love of velvety coats (that only need grooming every six weeks), her fondness for fake fur (especially when it comes in the shape of a duck and makes a honking noise) and her ability to strike just the right pose for a blog post.

Quadrille Crafts offered their latest book, Woolly Woofers, for Ella to review. The author, knitting legend Debbie Bliss, lives in our locale, Walthamstow. So needless to say, Ella took her new blogging responsibilities very seriously…

Ella ReadingElla: The first thing you need to know about this book is that there are a lot of dogs. There’s Brian and Ernie the pugs, Carmel Corn the Teacup Yorkie, Dexter the French Bulldog, Millie the English Springer Spaniel…

Ed: Um, the knitting. We want to know about the knitting.

Ella: Knitting?

Ed: The outfits all those dogs are wearing.

Ella: You mean the outfits those dogs are enduring. Yeah, 22 whole outfits that a human can inflict on an innocent dog. Feel proud of yourselves, guys! Are these the faces of happy woofers?

Do These Dogs Look HappyEd: Oh, come on! You’re just bitter you weren’t in the photo shoot.

Ella: I don’t want to talk about that.

Ed: I’m sorry, readers. We should explain. Ella was invited to be in the photo shoot for this book but because her owner had prior commitments (a day job) Ella had to regretfully decline. There’s still a certain amount of sulking at Didyoumakethat Towers.

Ella: Er, did you read the NDA? Keep that to yourself! Let’s talk about the stuff that humans can make with wooden sticks and wool. Like, they’re so clever. Mod Dog looks quite cool…

Mod Dog

And I’ll admit there’s a certain je ne sais quoi here…

Le Chien A La Mode

Maybe this cowboy would let me borrow his neckerchief?

Cowboy Bandana

Ed: In short, would you recommend this book?

Ella: To dogs? No. You’re totally being exploited. To humans? Absolutely. You need something to keep your tiny brains occupied, and another activity that persuades you to put us top of the pack can only be a good thing. Next time? Just don’t force a dog to dress like a bee. Know what I’m saying?

dog beeWoolly Woofers by Debbie Bliss (published 11 September) is one of the best knitting books to ever come into my possession. It’s fun, it’s joyous and it’s inimitably innovative. Debbie Bliss and Quadrille should be extremely proud of themselves. I sooooo wish I’d been at the photo shoot!

Disclaimer: Ella would like to point out that she received no compensation for writing this blog post (not even dog treats) and all scathing opinions are her own.

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How To Add Metal Buttons To Dungarees

Equipment for attaching metal buttons

Welcome to my step-by-step guide to adding two metal buttons to your Pauline Alice Turia dungarees. (And thanks for everyone’s lovely comments on my pair! To the readers who think dungarees are the devil’s work: thanks for your entertaining comments, too!)

THE EQUIPMENT YOU’LL NEED

  • Three metal buttons – one for your practice go, two for the final make.
  • A scrap of the same fabric you’re using on your final make.
  • A hammer or mallet.
  • An awl and piece of wood.
  • A Youtube video from Vince. Skip to 7 minutes in.

There are 44 steps in the instructions for these dungarees. Adding metal buttons to the bib comes at step 39. Which means you’d better be confident! Trouble is, there’s not much guidance out there.

Eventually, I stumbled upon Vince’s Youtube video. Vince is the Great Uncle I never had. In my imagination, he lives somewhere in the midwest of America, works the land and is a direct blood descendant of the father in Little House On The Prairie. He has hangnails and cracked skin on his hands. He definitely wears dungarees.

Anyway, Vince was a big help. I watched a short bit of his extensive Youtube video and ran to gather my equipment for a practice go.

1. Pierce a hole in your fabric with an awl, and a piece of wood to take the point. If you don’t have an awl, dig out a kebab skewer or something from the kitchen. The main priority is not to stretch and distort your fabric by forcing a blunt instrument through it.

Step one Collage

2. Push your button tack through the hole you’ve created.

3. Slip the shank of your metal button over the point of your tack.

4. Flip fabric and button over so that the tack head is face up.

Step two Collage

5. Find a surface with absolutely no give in it. A wobbly table didn’t meet my requirements, so I went outside to the back garden and a crumbly concrete back path.

6. Hammer away on the back of your button tack! Four or five good whacks should do it. Button attached! (You might want to ensure that easily scared pet dogs are far away and feeling safe. Otherwise, you’ll find them hiding in a corner of the garden, trembling.)

Step three CollageI have a few other construction tips for the Turia dungarees:

Use fabric with a bit of stretch in it. You’re going to be making some rigorous demands on these dungarees, especially when you make a sudden lunge. (I like to work a sudden lunge into most days, don’t you?)

Which brings me to…

Torn seam

I over zealously trimmed my seams at the point where the pinafore back met the shoulder straps. Then I tightened my dungarees extra specially tight for neat blog photos. Then I went into one of my sudden lunges. The horror! A seam popped.

This was easy peasy to fix (thank goodness) but my advice would be:

a) Don’t trim the seam at step 21 of this pattern.

b) You might want to add some top stitching to this detail for extra stability.

c) Desist from sudden lunges. Even if a chocolate eclair is passing under your nose.

d) Desist from eating chocolate eclairs. Unless you’re pregnant. Then you can eat whatever you like.

I also added strips of fusible interfacing to the zip insertion, to prevent the fabric from rippling.

You definitely don’t need to add a zip on each side seam, as the pattern suggests. One zip on one side will do the job. The beauty is, you can choose which side to suit your right or left handedness.

If you don’t like a cropped leg, add length to the legs when cutting out.

I cut true to bust and hip size. I ignored waist size, which would have meant grading up at this point. Why bother? These are dungarees!

If you’re sewing with corduroy, you will need a press cloth. Remember my Fabric Focus on corduroy!

That’s everything, I think. I’ve probably forgotten something. Let me know if you have any questions! Are you one of the people planning a new pair of dungarees? I’m already dreaming about my second pair.

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Pauline Alice Turia Dungarees

Pauline Alice DungareesThis is the latest sewing pattern from Pauline Alice. Is it possible to love a person you’ve never met simply because of their smile? Pauline Alice’s happy face makes me want to spoon cream onto strawberries and roll on clouds, chuckling like a cherub. She just has that effect on me!

As soon as I saw her dungarees I was charmed. Plus, I wanted to learn how to make them. I ordered the pattern, snapped up some cheap stretch needle corduroy from TMOS, bought buttons and buckles, ordered some topstitching thread and needles… Yes, you’ll need to gather your arsenal for a make such as this. But what fun!

Topstitching & ButtonI absolutely love the pattern – the artwork is delightful, instructions come in three – three! – different languages (Spanish, French and English) and are easy to follow. The only point at which I became tremulous was attaching the buttons, so I took lots of photos and will share those very soon.

If you’re a fan of pockets there are five – count em – on these dungarees. Perfect for listening to the radio on your iPhone during a dog walk. Yes, that it is a Mickey Mouse patch.

dungaree pockets

There are lots of flat felled seams. You’ll definitely know how to make those after this make. I kept my contrast top stitching to an absolute minimum, on the bib section only, and very glad I am too. It’s great for detail, but my goodness, you had better be accurate – which I definitely wasn’t in certain sections (cough-crotch-cough). Below, you can see how thick topstitching thread is compared to some silk thread.

Topstitching thread

Last time I blogged a make a reader left a comment. ‘The dress is fine, Karen, but where’s Ella?’ So for that reader and others, here’s Ella. There has been a certain amount of rigorous telling off this week. She’s been alarming grown men and children with her barking, a consequence of twilight dog walks when anyone approaching us is spotted as a potential attacker. It’s fine, Ella. The kid on the tricycle isn’t going to mug your owner and when the man in running shorts bursts into tears, that’s when you need to feel guilty. (I’m kidding. Just.)

Dungarees and Ella

Trouser hemsThese dungarees are designed to have a cropped ankle. It’s worth bearing this in mind if you prefer a longer length. But if you like the cropped look you have lots of opportunity to share fun socks with the world.

I’m really happy with my Turia dungarees. They’re fun to wear and comfie. I wanted the perfect dog walking outfit, and I think I’ve found it! Plus, now I know how to sew dungarees. Would you wear a pair?

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Trekking The Pattern Trail – A Sole Explorer

image

Remember how I planted six patterns in secret locations around the Isle of Wight, in the Pattern Trail? I thought it was time for an update!

A couple of hours after the blog post went live I received an email from a reader with the subject line ‘Found one!’ I could hardly believe it. This had been one of my most hidden patterns – I wasn’t even sure anyone would track it down at the Botanical Gardens.

Cath had. Kudos for determination (and interrupting her holiday). She was now the proud owner of the Ultimate Shift Dress pattern from Sew Over It. Above, you can see her with the pattern and her beautiful children. They’re all wearing hand sewn items!

Since then? Thundering silence. Nada. Zilch. Does this mean that five other sewing patterns have been left to gather dust and damp? Or has someone else found stitching treasure?

Do you know or are you a successful trekker of the Pattern Trail? Let’s spread the word, people! If you’ve randomly discovered a sewing pattern hidden on the Isle of Wight, let me know. You’d make my day!

boats

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Learn To Sew With Lauren

Learn To Sew With LaurenThis is the debut sewing book from Lauren Guthrie. Maybe you remember her from the first series of The Great British Sewing Bee? That seems a lifetime ago now. Back then, we had no idea if the series would be any good, what or whom it might feature. Little did we know that an institution and new careers were in the making!

I vividly remember Lauren’s dedication to a clean and pretty aesthetic, executed to a high standard, and you’ll definitely see those principles reproduced in this book for beginners. Crisp lawns and cottons abound, along with pretty bias tape and liberty print details. Lauren is a woman of taste and her aesthetic is arguably one of the main reasons for buying this book over others aimed at beginners.

Learn To Sew With Lauren iThere’s a range of techniques and projects, aimed at steering a beginner through makes, from bow belts and scarves (above) to skirts and dresses and children’s outfits. It’s not all dressmaking. There are bags and quilts and roman blinds, something I’m desperate to make!

Roman blinds

These PJ bottoms are cute, aren’t they?

Pyjamas

Four books have emerged from The Great British Sewing Bee so far, priced between £20-£25. (Not that many of us pay the full cover price, or have for a long time now.) I’m sure more are in the pipeline and wonder how many sewing books can or will be published on the back of this massively successful programme. Not forgetting that the US version hasn’t even gone live yet!

My palate is starting to crave something aimed at people who may have been sewing for a few more years, or someone who wants to aspire through their reading. One day I might be able to do that, too! That’s what started me sewing and I’d happily pay £25 for a book by Beth or Ann. Beginner Sewists won’t stay novices for ever and will want something for the next step in their sewing careers. (And their loved ones will want more ideas for Christmas gifts!) I hope publishers are already drawing up their grand plans, because I don’t think the sewing craze is going away.

Good luck to Lauren and her book! She seems lovely and has clearly worked like a trojan. She deserves success.

What do you look for in a sewing book?

This post was written as part of a book blog tour organised by Octopus Books.

 

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Lucy Sparrow’s Cornershop of Felt

Corner Shop ii CollageAt the weekend, I managed to visit an exhibition that’s become legendary in its own London lifetime – which ended yesterday (sorry). It’s Lucy Sparrow’s corner shop made of felt! Entirely made of felt. In spitting distance of Columbia Road – always well worth a visit – it was absolutely intriguing, and people were queueing up to take in the treats.

Felt Shop CollageVisitors weren’t allowed to touch the items, which though understandable, felt slightly contradictory. If you can’t squish a felt box of tampax, what can you do! Though I was allowed to take Ella into the shop.

P1090903The shop is such a great conceit, using fun felt to allow people to laugh at the taboo. Still, I have no idea where makers found the patience to create these 4000 items. The only thing I’m likely to make out of felt is a companion for Ella.

We bid farewell to the corner shop and went for a wander through Bethnal Green, Hackney and Victoria Park, where Ella decided to become her own art installation. Honestly, all this blog exposure is starting to go to her head.

P1090921Did you visit the corner shop? What is the most ridiculous thing you’d make out of felt?

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The Crazy Dress Woman

Coco-In-Bloom-Lloyd-Park

This is my, um, fifth Coco dress from Tilly and the Buttons. What can I tell you, with the right fabric, I love this pattern for a comfortable make that can still look pretty dramatic.

Coco-In-BloomI made this from two metres of quilted something at £2.50 a yard from The Textile Centre, a shop on Walthamstow market. The fabric is super-crazy and I wasn’t entirely convinced that I had the chutzpa to wear this. I was wrong. I have no qualms in wearing this dress!

Quilt Fabric Detail

I adore how the zig zag stitch works with the quilted texture. Isn’t it fun?

I went for a short sleeved make as a transitional piece for bidding farewell to summer. I’ve actually wondered if this would be a great dress for industry fairs. Easy to pack, wouldn’t need ironing, and people would definitely remember me amongst the sea of corporate black, navy, grey and beige. I’m lucky, I work in a creative industry so eccentric attire is happily indulged. Plus, I’ve noticed that some of the most successful individuals in my industry brand themselves. The red bow tie. Neon doc martens. Masses of silver jewellery. Fedoras. Maybe I can be the Crazy Dress Woman!

Would you brand yourself or do you consider such concepts anathema?

Crazy-Dress-Woman

 

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