The Traditional Christmas Video Message – 2014 stylee!

I’ve made another of my festive video greetings. Watch me forget the word ‘presents’! Happy festive holidays, one and all.

I am sooooo getting my hair chopped when I get back to London. Assuming these ferocious winds die down and the ferries are running.

Do you have any thoughts on sewing blogging in 2014? And what’s to come?

Posted in Uncategorized | 56 Comments

Sewing A Silk Blouse

Pussy Bow BlouseThis is the Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse. If you want to bring out your inner vixen, buy this pattern. It’s gorgeous! And doesn’t it go well with their Ultimate Trousers? It should go just as well with Sewaholic’s Hollyburn Skirt. If I was looking for a definitive capsule wardrobe, I’d use these three patterns on regular rotation.

Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse iiI used the same silk I used on my recent kimono make. (The kimono has seen lots of wear at home – just don’t march past a door with a large handle, when those voluminous sleeves are floating around. Yank!)

In my kimono post, I asked readers what the print was on this silk. Amoeba? I knew that Another Sewing Scientist wouldn’t let me down. She left a comment informing me that these are actually paramecia. And you think you come here for the sewing!

Pussy Bow Blouse ButtonsThe details on this blouse are to die for. The cuffs that have a button and loop. The bow tie, obviously. The teeny tiny gathers at the shoulder. (Possibly too teeny tiny for my taste – a devil to make my gathers look like more than an unfortunate mistake setting in a sleeve. Not sure I succeeded.)

A word on the sleeves: they’re designed to pool around the wrist, which I think is a gorgeous look. This does mean you should carefully measure your sleeve length against your arms. There’s a fine line between delicate pooling at the wrist and Help, I can’t find my hands! I’d also urge you to baste in the sleeves before sewing. I always baste my sleeves in first, these days. The seam ripper will mostly be part of this process – why make it more difficult than it needs to be?

Any other hints and tips? You need to work with a light fabric with lots of drape. This can make cutting out a challenge. I’d set aside an evening just for the cutting. Don’t rush. Pin your selvages together. You might choose to pin fabric between sheets of paper. I didn’t, but I did use my micro-serrated scissors. (If you like to geek out on scissors, check out my post here.)

I don’t think you necessarily need to use expensive fabrics on this make. I think a great fabric that you could pull out of the washing machine and air dry would make this pattern a real workhorse. We may be talking polyester, people!

What do you think? Can you imagine making this blouse? And do you need to be a fabric snob to indulge your inner vixen?

Pussy Bow Blouse Collage

Posted in sewing, sewing and knitting | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Learn To Tailor – Some Resources

Burda-7020A few people asked me for learning resources for beginner tailoring after I posted about my Burda jacket. So, here’s a run down of what I’ve gathered over the past few years – in no particular order, and with no particular expert insight. All you can take for granted is that there’s no school, book, resource or teacher here that I (or my immediate family!) haven’t personally engaged with.

BOOKS

Readers Digest Beginner’s Guide To Sewing

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I still think this is the most comprehensive paper and ink resource out there. I refer to it maybe once a year, but it’s hardly ever let me down. It came in particularly useful when I was trying to hem my Vogue 8548 winter coat. Don’t do what I once did and walk past the copy in a charity shop window.

Couture Sewing Techniques, Revised and Updated by Claire Shaeffer

Even more rarified than the above, I refer to this – ooh! – once about every two years. But I think it’s one of those books worth getting out of the library or having on your shelf. I’m a big believer in a range of reference. When I was a voracious child reader, I ranged from Enid Blyton to A Pilgrim’s Progress. Why should it be any different in my sewing career? This book was recently really interesting on the topic of fusible interfacing in tailoring. You might not want to block fuse your fabric if you want fluid movement at the waist. (And if you don’t know what block fusing is, you can read this!)

Conclusion: online resources are comprehensive, but a well curated library is no bad thing either. Don’t forget your public libraries. They need our support.

CLASSES

toile2

I did some of my first formal learning at Morley College. (That’s me in a toile, tutor in the background, nearly four years ago. Check out that excessive ease. Jayzus!) The college is subsidised adult higher education, which means resources are pared to the bone. You ain’t gonna be getting a slice of cake and colour coordinated pins with your sewing! I seem to recall you need to put down a 50p deposit for your bobbin. What it does have are affordable classes and experienced teachers. I’ve studied twice here and am thinking of returning. The quiet word on the street is that these classes are killer – shame they’re midweek when I work full-time. I am very tempted by the tailoring classes, such as this.

English Couture also tempt me with their classes. I’ve never attended (deep though my desire is) but my mum has! Wrong part of the country for me and wrong time of day, but I was very jealous of my mum’s learning and the samples she brought away. Check out her guest class review here. Guys, you receive a Certificate of Excellence! Maybe these classes are for you, if you’re in the north of England?

mum-e1328955699732

Craftsy has become a by-word for online classes – and sales of online classes. Therein lies the ironic rub. I have signed up to several, yet fully completed only one. I still need to finish my Susan Khalje Couture Dress class, despite it being a … I was going to say fast route, but that’s wrong. Susan’s particular class is an intentionally slow and careful route to intense learning with a highly respected teacher. So what are the issues here? Why can’t I complete a class? Too quick to hit the Buy button, videos freezing on my laptop, solitary learning … and, dare I suggest, perceived value. So many classes, access to some of the best teachers out there … lots of them on sale, a lot of the time. Constantly available. That special moment with special teachers suddenly feels diminished.

Conclusion: specialised real time learning seems hard to come by if you have a full-time job or other daytime commitments. Opinions, anyone?

BLOGS

A couple here, for my money.

First of all, I’d highly recommend reading all the back catalogue of Sunny Gal Studios. What this woman doesn’t know about home tailoring probably isn’t worth knowing. Beth is also appealingly honest about her own shortcomings  (including how tiresome tutorials are to write!) and will happily admit to running out of steam on a project or just choosing the wrong pattern. Then, in the next post, she’ll knock it out of the park with a perfectly fitted dress or give you all the insight you need for lapel perfection.

Fashion Incubator strikes me as one of the most comprehensive blogs out there. It’s intense, but don’t let that put you off. You wanted to learn!

Conclusion: thank goodness for blogs. Your search engine can be your friend.

YOUR READERS

Never underestimate the power of the reader. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and experts might be reading – all you have to do is ask the right question. Make it clear you’re open to polite and constructive feedback, and I bet there’s someone scrolling through your blog who has decades of sewing knowledge and a diplomatic way with words. My favourite is Maryanne, the queen of constructive and cheerful feedback. (My equal favourite is Kenneth D King who has forgiven me for the time I accosted him in the street and has been generous enough to leave comments.) Reach out to your online friends!

Conclusion: expertise is everywhere.

Okay, guys. I hope that helps! I’m off to do some sewing. Let me know if you have any recommendations of your own. Not just for the sake of my readers – for me, too.

Sewing at Tilly TowersUPDATE The Thrifty Stitcher has just Twitter recommended Richard James Weldon for tailoring supplies.

Posted in sewing, sewing and knitting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Ultimate Trousers En Rouge

Ultimate Trousers Red iiThis is a second version of the Sew Over It Ultimate Trouser pattern, made in a red triple wool crepe. Evening One: cut out pieces and overlock seams. Evening Two: make trousers.

It was that simple. Once you get the fit right on these babies, you’re off and running. Regarding fit: when making a toile, make sure you sit down in them to test any potential strain. These are made from woven fabrics.

I thought these photos would give you a bit more insight into the pattern and construction.

Ultimate Trousers Side On

Ultimate Trouser Collage

  • I added strips of lightweight fusible interfacing to the seams at the invisible zip placement, to give more stability.
  • I sewed two lines of stitching at the centre seams. These are slim fitting trousers in woven fabric. I don’t want strained seams splitting when I sit down!
  • I keep the trouser hems very slender and hand stitch with a loose catch stitch.

A soft crepe wool makes for the perfect pair of winter trousers. Admittedly, trousers that will need to go to the dry cleaners. But worth it, I think. Are you convinced by this pattern yet? I am!

Ultimate Trouser Collage ii

Posted in sewing, sewing and knitting, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 34 Comments

Sewing a Jacket – Burda 7020

Natural-Portrait-London-photographer_0123

I’ve made a winter jacket, from the Burda 7020 pattern!

I have plans to make a coat, but thought I’d make it up as a jacket first. Just, you know, to check fit and process. I was going to make a toile, but then thought, Oh, I have that wool taking up space in my stash. Why not just have a practice run through? Toiles are so very dull, aren’t they?

I chose this pattern because I wanted something really simple that just did the job it was meant to. Nice, big, cosy collar to keep off cold winds, buttoning up to the chin, pockets… Really didn’t need or want any more than that! And this jacket is soooo cosy, made from 100 per cent wool. When was the last time you checked the fibre content in a high street coat or jacket? Go on, have a look.

Natural-Portrait-London-photographer_0120

There was a lot of work that went into this make not covered in the pattern instructions. The pattern would say, ‘Make buttonholes’ or suggest sleeve insertion with no mention of shoulder pads. For a truly successful make, you need a little more than that. Thank goodness for the Internet.

Construction Collage

Clockwise from top left: adding heavy weight fusible interfacing to facing and inside front of jacket, marking buttonhole placement with chalk; opening up rear of bound buttonholes;thread tracing placement of buttonholes and sewing closed the lips of final buttonholes; adding back stay

The fabric was kindly gifted to me by Tilly and the Buttons. It’s a really lovely wool with quite a loose weave, a navy base and a raised black diagonal stripe. I am a big fan of the combination of navy and black when it can be made to work. Warmer than a straight black, and so adaptable.

Burda 2070

I used my e-book to make the button holes, making sure to follow my own orders to have a practice go first. How glad I am! Practice button holes, first to last, in order of construction from left to right:

Practice Button holes

Part of the reason it’s so important to practice first – other than to familiarise yourself with technique and order of construction – is to understand how your fabric behaves. This wool frayed like a Big Fraying Monster and I had to significantly adjust my button hole welts to accommodate. This is not a lesson you want to learn on your jacket piece.

Bound-button-hole-ii

As well as the techniques mentioned above, I also added shoulder pads and sleeve head rolls, bought from English Couture. I really recommend these for any shoulder head that needs a bit of support. Who wants saggy shoulders?

Shoulder pads

I really enjoy my forays into tailoring. I might look into more lessons. My only issue with this practice go is that it’s slightly bled the energy from my coat make. Can I be bothered to make a second version? Time and persistence will tell!

Burda-7020With thanks to my lovely sister for taking the photos, on the way home from the pub!

Posted in sewing, sewing and knitting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 58 Comments

Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers & Tips For Sewing Classes

Ultimate Trousers ii

Hey, meet my Ultimate Trousers pattern from Sew Over It! I’m really pleased with these. They take up a ridiculously small amount of fabric with only four pattern pieces. If you don’t have quite the two metres of fabric recommended by the pattern, don’t worry – you could almost certainly squeeze these out of 1.5 metres.

Laying out Ultimate TrousersI made my trousers in a day course at Sew Over It Islington. I really enjoyed being back in a learning environment. Arguably, my skill set didn’t need a class to make these trousers, but I love a) the help with fitting and b) being around other Sewists and c) a great teacher. Can’t beat a great teacher. Even if you think you know everything, you don’t. I was able to observe and learn as significant amends were made to pattern pieces all around me and I don’t think there’s any over stating the tips you pick up just from other voices chatting as you stand at the ironing board.

Trying on toileThe class provides a set of calicos in a variety of sizes. At the start of the day, you try on a toile in your given size and see what adjustments need to be made. My measurements had me down as a 14, but looking at the toiles I immediately grabbed a 16. The fit was pretty spot on, apart from some excess pinned out at the side seam legs and raising the waistline.

Any tips for taking a class? Take slippers! I learnt that a long time ago, during long evenings on my feet at Morley College. Can you spot the bent pin in this picture?

Slippers

I’d also suggest wearing decent underwear and clothes that are easy to slip on and off. (For me, a jumper dress and leggings.) I must have climbed in and out of clothes half a dozen times during the class – and you do all end up flashing your knickers. In fact, we became pretty shameless in front of the class’s bay window!

These trousers were way easier to make than I expected, and surprisingly comfortable to wear when you consider that they’re made from woven fabric. This could become a real go-to pattern, but I’d expect to tweak the fit with every single make, because fabric choice makes such a difference. In the class I saw seven wildly different sets of fitting issues, because of different-shaped bodies and different fabric choices. The eternal fascination of sewing!

Where will my trouser making journey take me next? Do you have any tips of your own for sewing classes?

Ultimate Trousers iii

Posted in sewing, sewing and knitting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 32 Comments

Santa Fabric Winner…

fabric-detail… is Caitlyn M.! Congratulations, Caitlyn – and thanks to everyone else who came up with such great festive suggestions for a party hat. Lots of Christmas inspiration!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Lure Of The Empty Page

Empty Notepad ii

Ah, the lure of the empty page. All that potential. A story waiting to be scribed onto virgin paper, that will make your fortune and bring you lifelong applause.

Can you guess? I’m crowbarring in another of my sewing analogies. But bear with me, I think there’s real substance to this one! I have a theory, you see. That there’s a reason people around the world have cupboards brimming with fabric and drawers stuffed with patterns. It’s the potential, the fantasy sewing of the future, unsullied by mistakes and ripped out stitches. A clean page.

This shall be the dress to top all dresses! With my new pattern, I’ll finally sew the perfect outfit. Surely no one could go wrong with zebra print fleece! I’ll buy five metres to be on the safe side. Just in case the first version goes wrong. 

Sound familiar? Do you spend all your hard earned wages on fabric and patterns because of the lure of creations that exist only in your head – that you may or may not get around to sewing?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. It just makes me roll my eyes slightly when I stumble across the neon pink silk twill that was definitely going to become a rad outfit. Or the Egyptian sphynx sequins that I’d transform into the best dress ever, even buying a pattern to use – see below. Lots of hopes. Lots of dreams. Lots of fabric!

Maybe one day, I’ll get round to sewing all those outfits. Maybe I won’t. I’m not going to stop dreaming. Maybe I just lock up my purse instead? Any tips for an eternal optimist?

Empty Notepad

Posted in sewing, sewing and knitting, Uncategorized | 35 Comments

Santa Fabric Giveaway – Sew Your Own Festive PJs!

2014 christmasAnyone remember the Christmas PJs I made a year ago? I’ve been wearing these through the seasons… I’m not ashamed to sport half clad Santas in the height of summer! This Alexander Henry fabric can go through the washing machine again and again – and, believe me, it has.

Which is why you need some of this in your life. I have 2.6 metres to give away – which is as much as you’ll need to make a pair of your own pyjama bottoms.

Lost for patterns to choose from? Let me recommend some…

This is a free download from Simplicity and a pattern I’ve taught classes from. Super simple, you could run these up in an afternoon – once you’ve downloaded and printed off and taped together the pattern… But heck, it’s simple and it’s free. Not much to argue with there.

I’m a big fan of Sewaholic’s Tofino pants and I’ve written a host of free sewalong tutorials specific to this pattern. The pants are drafted to give you ultimate coverage across your derriere, rising higher at the back – good times. It might be a shame to break up the Santa print with this pattern’s piping; equally it might be a great opportunity to add extra festive details.

Tilly and the Buttons has a Margot pyjama pattern in her book, Love At First Stitch. I haven’t made these myself, but they’re Beginner – or Tired Sewist – friendly.

Any other tips from me?

  • Remember that this print is directional – don’t cut out pieces on the fold. No upside down Santas here, please!
  • I recommend adding a tab to the back seam to remind you which way to put your PJs on. Trust me, when you’re tired, or full of turkey, this is one decision too many.
  • Add a back pocket! I drafted one just the right size for my iPhone and it kills me to admit quite how useful this has been for a social media addict such as myself.

pj-detailsSo, 2.6 metres at 108cm wide. This should be enough for a pair of pyjama bottoms or whatever else you want to use this fabric for. All I ask is that you leave a comment below, making suggestions for festive head gear. A friend is going to a Christmas party and she needs to make something to wear between her ears. I’ve suggested she construct something that makes her the middle king in the Three Kings – but I’m sure you have better ideas. Leave them below!

I’m going to keep this giveaway short and sweet, to get this fabric in the post for Christmas. The giveaway will end midnight GMT on Friday 5 December. It’s open worldwide – of course! – and I look forward to reading your creative Christmas suggestions for variations on a paper crown. Cheers!

fabric-detail

Posted in sewing, sewing and knitting | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 126 Comments

Knitting Gifts With Super Chunky Wool

Scarf

Looking for a simple scarf to make as a gift? I have just the pattern for you! This is the Embraceable Cowl pattern from Phydeaux Designs. I made a 56-inch length scarf version with 10mm needles and two balls of Debbie Bliss Roma in Blaze. This wool comes in some fantastically intense colours. I’m very tempted by the Hot Pink.

This is a super-fast and easy make. It took one weekend to knit the below and I wasn’t even applying myself:

Scarf knittingThis scarf is a gift for a fellow Londoner who kindly walks Ella. She worships him. I mean, worships. A girl could get offended, know what I’m saying?

I wanted a scarf pattern that a man would be happy to wear. I think this ticks that box. I’m not sure every bloke would embrace my chosen colour, but I’m working on the assumption that if Ella’s dog walker doesn’t like this shade, he’ll have someone he can share the knitting love with.

The good news is that I bought four balls of this wool, so I can make a second scarf in plenty of time for Christmas. If Ella will let me give the next one away.

Are you planning to make any Christmas gifts this year?

Ella and scarf

Posted in knitting, sewing and knitting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments