Reunited with my winter wardrobe!

I’m back! And about my handmade capsule wardrobe

Hello from the country!  I have now moved into my cosy cottage and have broadband (it felt like an eternity without it, I’m telling you!).  From now I am back to being able to respond to comments more quickly….and blogging more frequently again.  Hurrah! But I am keen to remember how I made do with just a limited wardrobe – an enforced capsule wardrobe as it were…whilst I was waiting for my house purchase to come through and living with my sons in their spare room. (What a lovely time that was too!)

So as I write from my new abode I can report that my sewing room is just about operational if still a lot to do in it.  The sewing room/ office is understandably the penultimate room to order as it became THE dumping ground for everything (by virtue of it being such a small house) PLUS I had so much sewing related *stuff* that belongs here too.   Bit by bit the clutter in this room is thinning down, shelves are being populated, most of the boxes are being unpacked.  I am now waiting for some shelves to become fixed to the wall before I can unpack the last boxes & establish more rationale to where I put things.  But the good news?  The sewing machines came out yesterday for a spell of boxer short making.  Being reunited with my overlocker was supreme.  I sew boxer shorts with french seams on the whole, but boy did I love the first bit of edge finishing along the fly front a la serger.

The view from hereThis is what my sewing table looks like *right now*.  The time of year means you can’t see the view over the garden, the time of evening means that the neighbours have not yet turned their garden Christmas lights on yet.  You can still see the clustering of *importantpapers* yet to be dealt with & most certainly not to get lost in the ongoing sorting through of everything,

Incidentally the final room to organise & plan furniture placement is the dining room/ hall since I do not have furniture, and all of the other rooms need a proper going through to rationalise where I stuffed things.  I have some proper fun coming in the sales to buy dining furniture and lounge furniture too.  Excellent!

Anyway, that was my update from the country.  I thought it would be interesting to do a kind of spin on ‘Me Made May’ showing that I survived 16 weeks with a limited wardrobe that was:

  • Minimum iron & easy care, non hanging
  • Suitable for work and leisure
  • As mixable as possible to optimise outfit options.

Now sorry to disappoint you if you are expecting to see photos of outfits in use, I can’t / haven’t done that, but next best thing, here are the clothes I packed & wore.  I also had PJs (homemade) and a big baggy grey jumper I bought as well as a massive hoodie I bought from a charity shop to cosy up in during the chillier evenings.  And it’s hard to remember but I moved out at the end of September during a heatwave!    I did pack a couple of short sleeve t-shirts that I didn’t wear once autumn hit us very soon after, so haven’t bothered to record them here.

Onto the clothes then with a report on their impact.

Dresses:

It is safe to say that my teal Moneta dress was worn weekly as a work staple- comfy, stylish, easy to care for, no iron.  Perfect for the time of year also.

My Dolores floral dress was most definitely working at home / cosy weekend wear with tights & my purple cardigan below.

Cardigans:

Both of these – my Jenna cardigan and my Oslo cardigan were real wardrobe workhorses & were combined with everything – the two different styles meant that if a cropped fitted cardigan wasn’t quite right, then you can bet the longer length Oslo would do the trick- even with my Hudson pants!

Skirts:

Two of the skirts I had at my disposal were made during my stay so I started by packing just a skirt for work – the Champagne skirt.  My autumn floral pencil skirt was one of those skirts that was brilliant for work and for feeling a little more together on days off work.  It looked great with a neutral top or even my black tops (both the fleece Renfrew and the plain black batwing top I haven’t photographed here).  And the Lindy Petal skirt  was just a working at home godsend – what a treat to wear something so comfy that looked way better than it should have for the comfort it offers :-)

Trousers:

I lived in my Ginger jeans– honestly they were my easy choice – obviously not for work, but any other time I should say they were the single item of clothing I wore the most.  Brilliant worn with a jumper, with any of the tops below & when I had made my Bellatrix blazer, what an outfit for gig going!

I haven’t blogged about my polka dot leggings but they are quite a good mixer with my Lindy petal skirt for example.  Kept me feeling warm & casual.

And my custom block houndstooth trousers even if the fit is not quite there yet & is more ‘vintage 40s’ than I ultimately want, were a great work basic for autumn worn with a plain long sleeved tshirt &  a colourful scarf knotted at my neck

Tops:

When ironing is not going to happen, what can be better than an array of knit tops?  I have to say I wore all of these on a regular rotation- aiming for a weekly wash meant that I needed a good 7+ tops  and they were all pretty interchangeable with most of my other clothes:

Grey Renfrew

Black fleece Renfrew (really worn a lot as it was like a jumper

Sew Over it Pussy Bow blouse – mainly worn with my champagne skirt as a work outfit

Dolores stripe top– nothing as staple as a striped top!  Looks so great with jeans or my denimlook Lindy skirt.

Dolores floral top

Coco Breton top– as above, there is no other top I would claim as my best ever top than this Breton top- even when I have other choices, this is my go to weekend/ holiday top all year round.

Carey top– a new top, made ‘camping sewing’ and also so good as a slouchy top – with the added bonus that it is a cute ditsy floral.

Bronte top– a good mixer, I tended to wear it with my autumn floral pencil skirt.

Jackets

Bellatrix blazer

Bellatrix blazer

I made this Bellatrix blazer whilst ‘camping sewing’ as well.  Not a perfect fit but as mentioned above, something for those rock chick days….

Not shown but worn lots:

Anise jacket, Arctic Hudson pants , black batwing top and a royal blue Agnes top not yet blogged about .  I also took a few running things but did not run that much, once the marathon was over, as I was in recovery & work had amped up & was sucking all of my energy.

Reunited with my winter wardrobe!

Reunited with my winter wardrobe!

But being reunited with my winter wardrobe was so lovely.  The first thing I wore was for a posh dinner out- my little black dress (Laurel) with my feather edged velvet bolero.  Special!

That’s it for now….back soon & have a good one :-)

 

A year’s supply of sewing patterns

Hello friends! I wrote this post to be published while I am moving house (because that is like happening today!!!) but have to add in before this post starts how overwhelmed I am with all of your wonderful warm good wishes after my last post.  You are all so lovely for sending me such luck & support for treading my new path.  It has been amazing reading them and I have felt so reassured by those of you who have done the same thing and have no regrets!  I haven’t been able to reply to them (busy getting move & work business sorted) but wanted to say a huge big thank you – I  read them all & each one has made me smile and feel incredibly lucky- feeling your hugs.  Right gushing with happiness is over….onto what I set out to do with this particular blog post!!!

Remember that my prize for winning the Simplicity Star Sewist blogger competition was a year’s supply of sewing patterns from  Simplicity New Look?  Well I am about reveal my choices and explain my decisions.  It took me forever I have to say- numerous sittings (some very late night) , hundreds of cups of tea (and hot chocolate on the late nights)  & who knows how many custard creams….

I was allowed to choose 12 patterns -what joy!  But I wanted to avoid going for the shiniest patterns that maybe had the most attractive pictures – but turned out to replicate patterns I already have (& let’s be honest, I have so many patterns.  The hard truth was revealed when coming to pack them all away with some form of clear out only to find my ‘don’t need to keep’ pile was too big for a quick ebay session – I would need weeks!)  OK I digress a bit, apologies.  So I looked very carefully at the line drawings of patterns that spiked my interest to ascertain whether they were worthy of being added to my prize.  What could they offer me that i didn’t have already?  Did they bring joy?  Did they bring potential new learning?  Let’s see … in a very random order (except for the last) …

Some of these might surprise you!  First up Simplicity 1502

Why I hear you ask?  Well it’s been one of those patterns that I have kept returning to.  I particularly like the idea of the lace yoke with shorts.  In silk perhaps? Sort of grown up but cute at the same time.  I might also make the nightdress for someone I know ….

Some activewear I thought I could learn from made Simplicity 1111 another pick.

It has a cute racer back top/ dress & is described as having a built in bra which I interests me the most.  I have plenty of leggings/ shorts options already especially Fehr Trade patterns, but sometimes a basic pattern for shorts could come in useful too.

New Look 6351 was another early choice in my deliberating.

OK, I was taken in by the stripey top, that hooked me at first.  I am not often drawn in to drawstring waists (see what i did there?! 😉  )  However I could see wisps of potential in the jacket – a nice casual summer layer (probably with a stripey tshirt it’s true).

A knit shift dress called out to me when I was scrutinising line drawings.  New Look 6298

This is a raglan sleeve shift dress (Easy too !) & just looks such a winter favorite.  i can imagine it in some ponte or something chunky – i really do like the fabric in the photograph- it looks so cosy!

Onto some reproduction vintage patterns now.  I could have gone all out crazy & just stocked up on vintage frocks.  Would you have expected this of me?  Well, I can be sensible sometimes.  And these choices were all joy evoking it is true.  The practicality of halter neck tops ? I think so ( maybe in the summer, not now) – these ‘1970s vintage’ halter tops were just too awesome to ignore & could conceivably get enough use (maybe in my new life of travel) .  Simplicity 1365 it is.

My fave?  View B with the collar.  Talk about sassy.

Another choice from the reproduction vintage line is Simplicity 1197.

Let me explain.  1960s.  That coat.  Need I say more?  (Do I have a thing for raglan sleeves?)

Oh my gosh I am really excited by this next one too.  Yes, a vintage pattern these separates are just too romantic for words.  Simplicity 1166, a 1950s pattern with a flared button up skirt and ‘bra top’ (another one for my exotic travels) plus a blouse –

but look more closely at the line drawing.

I thought it was a batwing however those sleeves are really interesting me …& I can really see me wearing it with that style of skirt.

Here is my most frivolous vintage choice- a 1940s dress with a beautifully gathered central yoke.  I have never sewn anything like this before.  Simplicity 1777 can be made out of all sorts of fabrics but as well as  crepe, satin & velvet you can also make it in ‘matte jersey’.  Hmm I thought.  Very interesting to try this out at some point.

 

This is my final choice from the vintage section & it was because I was a. curious & b. knew that i did not have anything like this already.  from the 1960s then this is a Jiffy pattern with an interesting combination of front gathered yoke and cross over straps.  Simplicity 1101.

Don’t you think it’s cute?

My next choice was a very practical one – more leisure wear, specifically a front zipped hoodie.  I thought it would teach me the best way to insert a centre front zip without me experimenting.

New Look 6142 is his & hers, so maybe, one day, i will make my boys their own hoodies as that is still a key element in their wardrobe, supplemented these days with sweaters I hasten to add.  it’s not all sweatshirting in their repertoire.

Yes, i think I can learn something from the hoodies – the side pockets look interesting too.

And then there are these Amazing fit straight leg trousers, Simplicity 2860.

I know.  How many trouser patterns does a girl need?  I am planning to work on my custom pattern but after my first Perfect Fit trouser experience I thought I could learn more & that I could cross reference to a different cut with the aim of my own trouser block, but with the benefits of these brilliant Perfect Fit & the tips within (will they be the same ‘Perfect Tips as for Simplicity 1696 I wonder?)

But I have saved the equivalent of the catwalk wedding dress as the finale.  Will I ever have a ‘do’ to attend?   Will this style become out of fashion even if an invite does materialise? I don’t know, but I confess this was one of my easiest choices out of the 12.  Simplicity 1099 is a Project Runway pattern & I love its decadence!

Can you imagine making & then wearing a full length full skirt like that royal blue number (all 7m of it oh yes please!) But I also like that it’s separates & that long slim skirt is also pretty awesome with asymmetric pleating.  On the tops i think I would be tempted with the double layers –  transparent upper layer with a slim fitting ‘bra top’ underneath.  Or even one of the 1970s halter necks from Simplicity 1365 up there.  With the collar.  Too much sass for words.

So that was a minor expedition through the Simplicity New Look collection (now in my collection).   Did you enjoy it?   Have I got a good balance between practical and downright once in a blue moon in my dreams?  It has been fun looking at them all again because i can tell you that so far I have not made any of them up.  Which will be the first?  Oh I don’t know!!!

I have used images from Weaver Dee, and even though all these patterns are available in usual outlets, go to Weaver Dee & use the code ‘SCRUFFY and you can get 10% off.   (For info I do not use affiliate links but Weaver Dee is one of my sponsors).  And several times a year Simplicity New Look has half price sales – worth keeping signed up to newsletters from suppliers so that you can get in for some bargains.

Boxes

About to live the dream- & the sewing in it!

Ok so I have been teasing you with the prospect of some epic news, a life change of which I had to bide my time before sharing on this blog.  Not because anything was a secret, but just because I didn’t want to spill the beans until everything was lined up legally, commitments in writing, no going back.  Don’t want to jinx anything afterall.

Intrigued to find out more?  Well here it is.  And i justify writing about it here because it really has made me rethink how & what i sew – more on that later.  Not only am I moving into a new house but I have taken redundancy & as of 2016 will not be in any kind of permanent employment!   BIG NEWS am I right?

Leaving my old house

Leaving my old house

Let’s start with the house … So I am about to move into my new house- finally exchanged the contracts last Friday (after what felt like half a year, but was more like 14 weeks).  I have been living with my family as you know, with my things in storage, & just one sewing machine & a cabin case full of projects with me.  I shall be downsizing – moving from a 3+ bedroom semi with added conservatory to a *cute* 1750s cottage in the country.  (How can you depict how smiley writing that makes me).  I am only moving 10 minutes’ drive away from my old house to a village with a lovely vibrant community & it is located in the most gorgeous countryside – the Somer Valley.  This is where I run with my running friends so i know this part of Somerset pretty well & will be moving closer to these fab friends with country views, walks & runs on my doorstep.  (I looked for images online & there aren’t many of the countryside – I shall have to remedy that!)

Image source

My cottage has just two bedrooms, one of which will of course become the sewing room & double up as a spare room for visitors.  It has a gorgeous garden (great for photos although I am not sure how overlooked it will be yet).  I move in at the end of the week.  I have been listening to party music ever since we exchanged contracts.  One excited badger.  When I moved out of my old house there was a lot of decluttering but I fear there will be even more to come.  Luckily I had already agreed to buy this cottage when I was packing up so i could visualise the small space I would have to house all my belongings which made it easier to be ruthless – except when it came to my sewing stuff.  I fear I have far too many boxes to find homes for, but out of everything, I will enjoy this organisational challenge the most.  But it will take the next level of cold heartedness & refocus any sentimentality that creeps in.  Mari Kondo will inspire me.

And here I can segue neatly into the other subject- with no full time office job to go to I need to be making different things.  And with a smaller house with very much more limited space for storage I need to be making less as well.  I will therefore be concentrating more on quality – both in the fabrics I choose and also the technical skills involved.    I will try to make the time I take to sew projects last longer.  And will of course be making things to suit the jobs that I will be doing & the life I will be living.  So will it be bias cut dinner dresses for gin cocktails on the patio?  Or more tweed ?  I feel a bit of reinvention coming this way!

How will I pay my bills?  To be honest I have no long term plan – I will be doing bits of this & that – contracting, part-time warehouse work but in a way that allows me to be flexible  so that I work to fund my new lifestyle with more FUN –  friends, sewing, running and travel.  I am open to trying different types of work, and who knows what i will find out about myself, and will try to use my sewing skills for one of my ‘bits’ of income generation.  It’s pretty liberating.  I really do feel as if I will be living the dream – my dream. There.  So that is the new chapter in my book.  If you fancy keeping a watch of the journey as it appears through this blog then I’d love you to join me :-)

boxers

Posh boxer shorts- ideal Christmas gift

Well hello!  It’s been a very heavy week for me on the work front and also on ‘life’ – but I shall tell you all about that next time (& it’s all mega exciting!) Today I feel it’s important to get some tips out for any of you who want to make Christmas pressies for your nearest & dearest.  Are you thinking about Christmas yet?  Have you ever made boxer shorts?  Well here are my tips for making boxer shorts out of just 1 metre of fabric which means you could even justify buying a metre of Liberty fabric to make some really special undies for someone deserving & with impeccable taste 😉

marvel boxers

Or Marvel super heroes?

So what’s the deal?  Is it important to minimise yardage required?  Absolutely!  Especially if it enables you to buy more expensive fabric- you see I bought some Liberty lawn from Sewbox with boxer shorts in mind.   Just a metre as it had been a while since I’d last made them (last Christmas perhaps) & I erroneously thought a metre would be adequate.   I use Simplicity 9958 here.

simplicity 9958

and let me show you the Liberty Lawn I bought

Liberty lawn boxers

I bought these beautiful lawns ….really enjoying choosing designs for the individuals.  from the left is Susanna and to be honest i want it for myself!  Amy Hurrell in the middle and then Lagos Laurel.

And you need to know this about me (if you don’t already) – my motivation for sewing has always been to make clothes for less than they would cost if I bought them from a shop- allowing me to have lots more clothes!  So buying a metre of Liberty Lawn was completely opposite to this stance – boxer shorts can easily be bought for under a tenner – but not Liberty Lawn boxers.  My men deserved the best.

So the fabric arrived, I swooned & whooped for joy.  But before cutting into the mega posh cloth thought it best to work up to it using some posh & fun fabric to make the first pairs (and cool enough to be destined as gifts as well)  – Marvel fabric from Plush Addict – cool or what?!  You’ll see more varieties of this through some of these pictures!

marvel boxers

So it was when I came to make the first pair of boxer shorts of the season that I realised my mistake.  Let me describe the issue.  Boxer shorts are made from a single pattern piece – cut twice.  This pattern piece has a curved edge so that it forms the shape in 3D it needs to become in order to fit around half a body & upper thigh (don’t imagine too hard, I am not branching into chick lit!)  The pattern piece is also cut with enough allowance on the upper edge to become folded over to form the tunnel for the elastic.

When I came to cut out my first pair of boxers I cut the fabric in half along its length & placed the two pieces right sides together with the directional print the same way up.  And when putting the pattern on top my heart sank – NOT ENOUGH!  I could not believe it.  I almost cried & my smug organised early buying evaporated into despair (maybe I was going to have to make myself three one metre tops with that Liberty Lawn ! horrors!)  With this metre of fabric cut in half  I could see that the & the total vertical length of the pattern required more than half a metre…

But necessity is the mother of invention, right?  I conspired to find some shop bought boxers to compare final leg length so that I could see how much I could get away with at the hem edge.

boxers

I then also worked up a different way to attach the elastic so that I could also reduce the depth at the top edge previously ear marked to make an elastic channel.

See the pattern shows where the foldline is – all i needed to allow was 1/4″ seam allowance at this foldline.  I then cut out pairs in size small, medium and large.

Boxers 1

It fits in a metre!

Here’s a larger pair I cut – a large out of one metre.  I folded over the pattern where I saved fabric – you can see there isn’t much- but enough to take into the next metre …

boxers

So far I have made one pair in a medium (the finished pair at the beginning of this post).  I’ll show you the outcome & how I handled the elastic.

So instead of making a channel for the elastic, I minimised the depth of fabric needed to attach the elastic more like you would for leggings:

  • Cut the elastic to the length needed & sew into a circle.  Mark half & quarter points.
Elastic sewn in a loop

Elastic sewn in a loop, upper edge pressed over to the inside

  • fold the top edge over to the wrong side by about 1/4″ & mark the quarter points using the back seam & centre front.
Matching the quarter points

Matching the quarter points

  • Pin the elastic at the quarter points & sew with a straight stitch to the upper edge- stretching the elastic in between the pins to fit the fabric underneath.  (It’s a good idea to keep the machine needle down each time you stop.  My machine has a setting that always puts the needle down when you stop).
Sewing the upper edge

Sewing the upper edge

  • Once you have sewn the top line of stitching, make sure the fabric is straight behind the elastic so that you can sew the second row at the lower edge of the elastic.

boxers

Now isn’t that more simple than sewing a channel & threading the elastic through?

So are you going to make posh boxers for gifts?  It really doesn’t take long.  I think I have quite a few in my gift-sewing pipeline….

Bellatrix blazer

Bellatrix blazer

Well hello ! At last I have something to show you which means a winning formula of having completed my sewing plus engineered the opportunity to to take my snaps.  So you saw I have been making the Bellatrix Blazer by Papercut patterns, supplied  very kindly by Susan of Sewbox.   I have been coveting a blazer for some time & when I settled on the Bellatrix I did not appreciate what a lovely design it was until I started sewing, and in my recent post about welt pockets I think I waxed lyrical about how it has been designed brilliantly with a lovely cut that also makes it a great first taste of welt pocket sewing – the shaping is created by princess seams & upper bodice and lower bodice piecing so that the welt pockets are inserted at this waist seam.   Sewing adventures!

Bellatrix blazer

It has a long collar with a curved edge – so special.  To achieve the contrast collar you need to plan your front facing to be cut out of your collar fabric- it is all one piece.

Bellatrix blazer

I was using some reversible fabric which is great because I knew the contrast would work & be the right weight & colour tone.  It meant that I used the reverse side of the fabric for all of the facing pieces so my jacket has a pinkish lining (with polka dot satin) and the grey outer,

Bellatrix blazer

See the princess seams and welt pockets

I am in love with the style – it’s almost got a peplum, but barely.

Bellatrix blazer

Bellatrix blazer

It is a snug fit, mind you.  And I haven’t quite got around to sort the buttons out.  So I am holding the edges together in the first pic with good reason.  I had a slight problem.  The instructions are printed on the paper pattern and you cut them out to make a book –  it comes in a few fold-constructed pieces that should be glued together (but of course I didn’t get around to that).   Because I am camping sewing & have a few bags that I am using to pack away my sewing after each sitting, I seemed to have misplaced the last part of the instructions ….& so felt my way through the last part of making up my jacket (attaching the lining & adding buttonholes).  And when I came to try on, the waist is very small on me- probably quite rightly, but there is no room for your usual overlap that one button and one buttonhole needs.  But I wasnt able to reference the instructions to see if my approach is the right one – I think this needs a double buttonhole approach-barely  joined together so that the fronts meet at the centre- by a pair of buttons attached to each other with some ribbon or some elastic.  I havent bought a pair of buttons to tell you how it works, as I wouldn’t wear it like that.  I wear this unbuttoned.  But do you understand what I mean?

bellatrix blazer

And the welt pockets are a decent size….not purely decorative.

bellatrix blazer

I did make my interior welt pocket and might explain my understanding of welt pockets at some point.  maybe.  It meant that I was able to design & sew my own with a satisfying degree of accuracy.

Bellatrix blazer

That pocket has not been road tested however and I placed it at the widest part of the front facing, however it is just a weeny bit high up the body, but apart from that I’m very pleased.

 

Inside welt pocket

Inside welt pocket

In the end I used Lladybird’s classic welt pocket tutorial to steer my sewing of this welt pocket- it really is so simple, & despite trying to follow the David Coffin article in this month’s Seamwork it acted as inspiration as I work better with step by step photos.  Hurrah!  Let’s see how they perform in the wild as there were so many comments in my last post about why women’s jackets do not always have inside pockets …

Fit?  As already mentioned it is a snug fit- I made the lining up as a toile to gauge what adjustments I needed (decided upon shoulder pads- an optional ).  Considering I have less access to mirrors at the moment, it’s not too bad at the back is it?  OK, not perfect but I am not sure how much I would have detected & been able to change – I find the back such a tricky body part!!  I think if anything I could have taken out a little as a sway back looking at these pics carefully. But when I’m wearing it I can live with it. Incidentally I did lengthen the sleeves as there is nothing I hate more than cold wrists …

bellatrix blazer

I found the instructions I used very easy to follow & the construction went well, with easy to  match princess seams, markings in the right place for sewing the collar/ shoulder. As I couldn’t find the last part of the instructions I remembered that the Spearmint coat sewalong has a great method for bagging the lining and sewing by machine, but the Bellatrix blazer is simpler to line than the Spearmint coat, & didn’t need all the steps, however it was the video on three dresses blog explaining the steps for sewing the sleeve linings by machine that was invaluable, avoiding Gordian knots of sleeves & linings…

Bellatrix blazer

The worst thing is that I have hardly anything with me at the moment to wear this jacket with –  the few skirts & trousers I have with me  just don’t work with it so it is currently awaiting a jeans-out night.  That I think is all that I have –  I can’t wait to see what it’ll look good with from my wider winter wardrobe when it comes out of storage.

Bellatrix blazer

You see this is a warmish jacket – the fabric has some wool/ acrylic content & with all pieces (except the satin lining) being interfaced, it has some weight to it.   It has potential to be worn a lot this time of the year …..

Thank you for reading x

Learning by video, musings

So I am curious to know what you think about learning with video?  It seems to be a growth area with both Tilly and the Buttons and Sew Over It embracing this more interactive approach for learning in their business offer.   While video is still a bit of a novelty in sewing blogs, who can bypass Karen’s Christmas message , and recently I have enjoyed Lisa’s Vlog (Behind the Seams) tremendously- you just know she is having so much fun behind that camera!  Rachel, our resident sewing muse, supports us bloggers with ‘posing tips‘ right here.

YouTube Preview Image

There is also the recent foray into video that Colette Patterns have introduced with Sarai’s video guides – here’s a link to the film  helping with buying knits  .  Don’t you love hearing the real voice of the blogger, and being surprised and knowing at the same time? Karen I think speaks as she writes- optimal word usage, with precision, style and always there’s a twinkling of amusement.  It should not have surprised me that Sarai’s got the most dulcet honeyed tones but being British I would have read the words from the blog in my own English voice , so delight in hearing her authentic Portland accent. And Rachel, the exotic enthusiastic warm hearted Brazilian, her vlogs bring bursts of sunshine.

So video is definitely a curiosity as a blogging medium, especially for me when it adds another dimension to what you think you know about the blogger.  But for learning, with Tilly’s online sewing class and now Lisa’s (Sew Over It) does this herald a swell in online learning ?

Craftsy of course have hours of friendly footage with teachers covering so many different crafts- some free, but most is paid.  If you do invest make sure to wait for the crazy deals in the sales that come around fairly frequently.  yes,  if you do invest, the Craftsy platform app is now even better with the ability to download for offline viewing which I really appreciate, frequently finding myself with dodgy wifi .  And the ability for replaying a 30 second loop when trying to understand and master a new step?  Much used in my current knitting project – the Artemesia sweater (more on that another time).

So both Tilly and Sew Over It already offer face to face sewing classes.  Video classes should bridge the gap between   written instructions, or step by step photos and being able to attend a face to face class,    Learn to Sew Jersey tops  by Tilly and the Buttons gives you a live view of what your sewing should be looking like whilst Tilly guides you through every step of the process.  And all the time getting a Tilly fix.  ( I remember hearing Tilly on an American podcast last year and the host being fixated on Tilly’s very English accent.  Plenty of that going if it facilitates your sewing experience- it’s the equivalent to my Portland comment above!!)   I have had a dip into this class, but am not giving a review, but can tell you that The lessons I’ve looked at so far are filmed around the construction process and are very cleanly captured- different angles provide the view that you need all the while Tilly’s demonstrating and providing guidance.  It is aimed to be used with the Agnes top, and you get a digital copy of the sewing pattern included.  But the principles for using a regular machine to sew knit tops can be applied to any standard knit top pattern you already have.  A proper confidence boost I reckon, launching you into making more with knits.  A good pattern / concept to start with?

But what provoked me to muse over video learning was the recent launch of the Grace dress online sewing class from Sew Over It.

Whilst I haven’t seen any of the lessons, the content looks more than just a video showing you how to sew the basic dress- as well as the expected lessons, steps include Lisa’s top tips for sewing an invisible zip and even when and how to do an FBA or an SBA.   Relatively complex procedures, but the things that will make the difference to get a more customised fit and polished finish.  By distance learning!  And judging by the video tutorials on the Vlog, (eg adding a waistband to the Ultimate Trousers) you will be in a pair of very calm, knowledgeable and safe hands.

So I am not reviewing these classes by any means, I’m just curious.    Youtube has so much free content- but I suppose it’s a bit of a lottery finding exactly what you need to know, and then how well the youtuber is explaining and filming it.  No guarantee on a. finding exactly what you need and b. quality.   Making an online video class must take such a lot of time, effort and investment – I hope that these online classes do well, I know how useful i am finding following a video knitting class, as I am such a basic knitter and this covers a whole load of new knitting techniques & I make soooo many mistakes.  I just wish someone else would do the ripping back for me!  What do you  think? Are you a video learner?  Is youtube a frequent port of call & what have your experiences been like?

and no, I am not writing this as any kind of market research.  And no again, I am not planning to stick myself in front of a camera and either make some parody of myself with an overdone Somerset accent or go through that trauma of hearing what you really sound like to other people. Too freaky for me!  I’m just musing …. What do you think?

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Welt pockets!

I can’t believe a whole week has gone by already!  I am not sewing nearly as much as usual, as you know, but just wait until I move into my new (very old) place.  Give me enough time to unpack & I’ll be back to full strength again.  As soon as I have exchanged contracts I will tell you MY NEWS…..

The view Camping sewing

The view Camping sewing

I am currently creating a slower sewing project, the Bellatrix Blazer by Papercut patterns, courtesy of the lovely Susan at Sewbox.   I had been coveting this tuxedo style jacket for some time it has to be said.  Have you seen Rachel’s black Bellatrix?  She has even used a shiny fabric for the collar to give it a real  classy DJ look.   It deserves to be made like this I think.  Looks fab.  As for me I had my own ideas in mind for creating a contrast collar.  I have this fabric from my local fabric shop, the Sewing Studio.  It must have some kind of wool in it but I have no idea what the content really is, I was drawn to its reversible nature – same weave but one side is grey, the other a dull raspberry.  GORGEOUS.  I have decided to make the jacket in grey with a fruity contrast collar.

Sewing the princess seam

Sewing the princess seam

I don’t usually show many ‘in progress ‘ photos, but rather than save them all up for the fait accompli I have enough to show you where I have got to now & to talk about welt pockets!  Oh yes.  This jacket has welt pockets in both versions – the cropped length & the longer length.  Guys if you are at all cautious but curious about welt pockets this could well be the jacket for you!  The pockets are installed in the horizontal seam that joins the jacket’s bodice to its lower half.  This takes away some of the scariest elements of sewing a welt pocket – as you do not need all of the steps associated with creating the ‘window’ for the welt pocket to occupy – the horizontal seam becomes your pocket’s window.

Inside the welt pockets

Inside the welt pockets

I think I may have laughed with joy when I realised how much simpler this made the pocket process.

Welt pocket cuteness

Welt pocket cuteness

And I am pleased with them.  So darling.

In fact so darling are they that when I finished my Saturday sewing I showed them off to my son: ‘Look at my pockets’, I said.  Do you know what came next, after a spot of admiration?  A brilliant idea – from the perspective of a bloke: ‘why don’t you have an inside pocket or even two?  So handy for tickets or keeping things safe’.

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Of course, why do ladies’ jacket sewing patterns rarely have inner pockets?  Not that i have made thousands of jackets, but none of them have interior pockets.  Is this because the content of an inner pocket interferes with how the jacket hangs + boobage?

Designing the inner welt pocket

Preparing for the inner welt pocket

Anyway, I want an inside pocket.  And despite having got away with the simplest welt pockets I have ever sewn in my life, I am now drafting one inner welt pocket, to be constructed the slightly less simple way.  All of my sewing reference books are in storage so I was eternally grateful to see that there is a very comprehensive article on sewing welt pockets in this month’s Seamwork magazine by none other than David Page Coffin.   Hurrah for welt pockets!

Inside view of the Bellatrix blazer in progress

Inside view of the Bellatrix blazer in progress

And if you know whether there is a reason for women’s jacket patterns not having inside pockets it won’t change my decision but I will feel far better informed!  Do please let us know ….(is it the boobs?)

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Trousers, pants, whatever- but from my custom trouser block woo hoo

I am so delighted to have managed to complete my first pair of trousers using my custom trouser block.  See!  These are they!

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I am not saying the fit is perfect yet- but I am getting there.  And sin of sins, the first time I have seen them full length on my body  is through these photographs.  All my fit assessments were made by wearing & looking down …until now!  So don’t be surprised if I make my own discoveries as i write this, about what to tweak next time!  But let’s start at the beginning.

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I went on the trouser block fitting course at Ray Stitch in September with Jane & we both had a thoroughly enjoyable experience (of which I will write more below) & both chose the same fabric to make our first pair out of.  It is a viscose mix ‘puppy tooth’ and it is lovely to wear at this time of the year.    Jane made hers up well before I was ready & thereby warned me about the fabric’s idiosyncrasies enabling my experience to be far less irksome – thanks love! x

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So, back to the workshop.  Alice was our tutor & I found her a brilliant teacher – vast amounts of industry experience & well able to explain the whys & wherefores & keeping our sights on the end goal when there were quite a few steps, measuring, dot joining & line drawing  to get there.  She used a special system with a crazy template to draft our trouser block based on our own measurements, before we whipped up a toile in calico.  It has no waistband & depending on your measurements & proportions, front & back darts.  Tweaking from my first toile resulted in mine having double back darts (four in total).   I wanted to make a straight leg pair of trousers as that was my vision so that I could graduate in time to a length of super 100 wool I have been preserving in tissue paper in my stash for when I am ‘good enough’ & can make the most awesome ‘grown up’ pair of winter trousers ever.  And I will channel Alice- both her relaxed approach & her style- she is such a good ambassador for how to wear a nice pair of trousers…see if you notice as I make more trousers in the future 😉  It may mark me ‘coming of age!’

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The first toile, (calico)  interestingly, did not require vast changes – for me redistribution of the darts (as above, doubling up at the back)  & a bit more room in the ‘trunk’ (I’ll call it my ‘athlete’s bum’- needing a Fat Arse Adjustment).  I transferred these adaptations to the pattern & had to wait to move house before I found the opportunity to bring it all out, excitedly, to finish what I had started.

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I was not going to make another toile, this fabric is a viscose mix & I felt confident that I could make any further tweaks to the pair as I constructed them.  As warned by Jane that it frayed like nobody’s business I painfully  zig zagged all the pattern pieces – pining non stop for my overlocker.

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As per pattern I used a centre back zip which I actually like- as a lapped zipper.  The pattern does not have a waistband but as Alice our teacher showed us in the many examples she brought with her, I used grosgrain ribbon as a facing – this was a smart move when the fabric also has a penchant for a bit of stretch – the ribbon strengthened the waist & kept it at the size intended.  I would use a wider ribbon next time I think, just so that there is more balance.  It doesn’t seem right being this slim along the top of the trousers.    I could do with adding a hook & eye to the top too as I kept feeling in danger of zip slip & by the time I got home after wearing them to work, discovered that there was a small matter of a 2.5″ opening, thankfully hidden by coats & cardigans.

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Boy I loved wearing these trousers all day though.  They felt so comfy, fitting my curves & hanging really nicely without being too tight.  No ‘digging out’ moments at all (if you know what I mean.  And a semi wide-legged trouser experience.

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But looking at the photos the supreme comfort is possibly in part due to there being a little too much room at the centre front .  But this is where the stretch & drape in the fabric does not help & why I cannot diagnose the pattern fit (shoulda done another toile shouldn’t i?!) .  They are roomier & feel like a vintage fit- with darted waist, slightly lower slung crotch and hanging from my curves (eg belly) rather than snugly hugging the undersides of my curves too.  And while I am stationary, looking downwards this seemed OK, but the photos do show there is more work needed before I slice into my Super 100s.  Perhaps shortening the centre front crotch & taking a bit of the excess out in a thin horizontal wedge.  Rest assured I will keep you posted when I do make my next (stable woven) pair.  But this won’t stop me enjoying wearing these now, even if I do end up making the odd tweak.  Any thoughts oh goddesses of the sewing world?

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When I do make my Super 100s up, I want to include back welt pockets & am not sure I have the space at the moment to get drafting.  When I do have space i will think about preserving my block & what to transfer it onto- what do you suggest?  Some kind of card?  or would Swedish Tracing paper be an alternative?  I have never used it so am not really sure.  Thank you for any advice given – it will be most thoughtfully & gratefully received :-)

Ultimate Pencil skirt in autumn florals

I have been captivated by the colours this autumn, even more than usual because my current journey to work involves walking through Royal Victoria Park (aka ‘Vicky Park’ or ‘RVP’ to locals ) whose 57 acres takes you into town under the gaze of the Royal Crescent.  It was actually opened by Queen Victoria herself apparently when she was 11 years old, & is a wonderful mix of formal flowerbeds, (the Parks teams are so talented) a landscaped duck ponds & discrete gardens inside the Park- like the Botanic gardens.  I love it for its abundant trees which are currently on high show & in various breath taking colours.

And of course passing underneath the Royal Crescent is pretty special too.  Oh and counting squirrels to  identify whether I have a ‘two squirrel walk’ or even a ‘four squirrel journey’ – simple pleasures!

I should try to get some blog photos here, shouldn’t I, but guess what?  If I love it so do countless others- visitors and residents alike- & it takes me a supreme effort to pose in public, as you know ….so I didn’t this time …

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Anyway, this fabric is from Fabric Godmother & I only needed a metre to make a pencil skirt.  It’s stretch sateen, called ‘Mandy‘ & I suspect before too long the gold/ black/ blue colourway will be sold out but it is still available in blue.  That’ll be because it is so seasonal, surely, but Fabric Godmother has pages of stretch cottons & sateen …..

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I bought this fabric with a little pencil skirt, above the knee, in mind.  Having a black background it would be a great match with darker winter woollies, & of course black tights.  Choosing the pattern was also a cinch – having made the Ultimate Pencil Skirt by Sew Over It before (my grey lined flannel version here) & it fitting right out of the packet, a second skirt was destined.  Remember this skirt has awesome curves in its design but is also eminently wearable- the style of a wiggle but with room to move.  It’s also an easy to sew skirt – centre back zip (I used a lapped zipper), a faced  high waist, with curvaceous side seams, & I made a kick pleat instead of a vent.  This time I did not line it.

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It took next to no time to make, but that much longer to finish as camping sewing means things like irons & ironing boards are not set up & I am actually using my sleeve board.

ultimate pencil skirt

I’ve been wearing it today & it’s very comfy & totally seasonally appropriate.  The stretch in the sateen has just the right amount of comfort so that it doesn’t really feel like other high waisted pencil skirts can.  Do you join me with a ‘Hurrah’ for autumn dressing?

Full steam ahead?!

I am a steamer dreamer and this is a product review- I was asked if I wanted to try the ‘Tefal Access Steam ‘  in exchange for a review.  Having been told by a sewing instructor way back about steam generating irons & how they allowed you to whizz vertical steam over a dress on a hanger, (thereby avoiding the need for a formal press) I have been wistfully coveting such a device.  I bought an iron that had vertical steam capabilities, but that wasn’t a steam generator.  I was of course disappointed – it did not deliver on the vertical steaming front.  It is not a steam generating iron, how would it?  So the prospect of a hand-held steamer filled me with curiosity.  I looked this hand held gadget up online & saw that it is not as expensive as a steam generating iron, but is more than a regular steam iron.  How would it deliver?

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I put it to the test on some random washing that I brought in from the washing line.  A (100%) cotton top.  But as I am a steamer dreamer as opposed to a steam sophisticate I should have tried something else as my first steam.  Of course cotton tops need the pressure of an iron.  My quest was put on hold whilst I moved house, & as I am living with no hanging wardrobe, I packed clothing that can mainly survive being folded- ie a high proportion of jersey clothing, denim & not much that needed ironing.

But have no fear!  I am not living alone & with my co-conspirator we went hunting for some suitable clothing to steam the heck out of.  Fancy seeing some before & afters?

 

Our conclusions?  Easy see how you would use it to spruce something up to wear just before going out if it came out of the wardrobe a bit crushed.

And was amazed how it perked up some of my son’s cotton shirts that were severely chewed up.  I was expecting minimal impact, but it actually made it wearable for someone who is not too fussy- obviously it would be better ironed & it would take less time, but to avoid setting up the iron & ironing board it’s done an adequate job.  It works best on the deeper crumples when you create a bit of tension with the fabric (eg holding a sleeve out) & smoothing the steamer over it.

On the negative side it can get a bit heavy, and it didn’t work very well with the deeper creases in my polyester pussy bow blouse that has been tumble dried- but ideal I would imagine for things you might dry on a hangar.   I do not usually tumble dry, however, so must have left this blouse in too long!

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Also it is not completely drip free so you would have to be careful using it on the kind of fabric that would water mark.

BUT excellent on silk & fine fabric with gathers – it was a ‘wo!’ moment- it took next to no time to make a big impact- this is arguably where it comes into its own.

OK, so that’s how it works as a general steamer.  I have got a steam fix it has to be said.  What about using it for sewing?  Fiona and Rachel have both written about how they use this handy little gadget for sewing.  Fiona here and Rachel have some great tips.  What can I add to the party?  I could pick out  my favorite things Fiona and Rachel have used theirs for.  Rachel talks about how she has used it for tailoring.  Having sewn just a couple of wool coats in my past I can imagine how this would be an effective way to achieve stretch & shrinking at key parts of the tailoring process – particularly around the sleeve insertion process.  It delivers bursts of steam that are much more directional and consistent than my regular iron & so I can see this working really well.  I love that Fiona has been using hers fora final pre-shrinkage of some merino wool before cutting into it.    But what can I add to the party?  You don’t want lots of repetition.

I know that if I was sewing in my normal set up & with access to all my pretty fabrics I would use it to steam those delicate fabrics, particularly gathers-  in finer fabric.  I could use the steam function on my iron, but it is not so easy to control & I also find that when i have tried to boost steam, the limescale discolours the steam (yuk!) & leaves marks which is not good.  With this hand held steamer, there is a mesh cover that protects clothing & fabric from this limescale fall- out- something that is necessary in the hard water area that I live .

But I think the most useful sewing related activity for me would be using this Tefal hand steamer for steaming elastic just after I have sewn it with a zig zag, stretching it to fit necklines (eg the Maria Denmark Day to Night drape top uses elastic zig zagged & turned to the inside to finish the back neck and arm edges),  the Fehr Trade XYT also uses elastic to finish the neckline and armhole edges- setting stretched elastic with a good boost of steam is good practice.  I think I would also be tempted to boost some steam when adding elastic this way on underwear too- but  I have been too lazy in the past.  Having a gadget like this handy could change my slovenly knicker making practice!

But since testing it, it’s interesting seeing what it would be particularly good for.  I’ve recently bought mcCalls 6605 and know that the hand steamer will love all those gathers ….

A big thank you to the adorable Ellen who was my co-conspirator x