Plans and goals for 2013 – A Review

Do you remember Karen started the sewlution jar in January? Well I threw my name into the jar with this main goal: I am going to make less but what I make will be better. Lets see how I did…

couture couture jacket liberty hawthorn Floral Cambie

I learnt some more couture techniques from reading and online tutorials, which I used to make my turquoise couture jacket; The majority of this was finished by hand, which took lots of time, but was to a finish I’m really proud of. I took my time making dresses this year, using higher quality fabrics, and spending much more time on the muslin process and using better pressing techniques to get a better finished garment. I’m not sure if I have really made less, but most of what I have made will be worn for years to come. I’ve made more classic quality pieces and less impulsive fast fashion garments, so I think I can say my Sewlution was achieved, oh Mistress of the Jar!

Other goals I set were:

  • I will not need to be so sentimental and protective of my creations.
    Did you see the giant bag of clothes I took to the charity shops at the end of Me-Made-May? It included many me-made garments that just weren’t getting worn. A couple of garments were kept for recycling, but these are still in the to-sew pile.
  • donationsI will finish what I have started (or get rid of it/recycle it). Errr… not as much success for this. When I moved house I did get rid of loads of scraps and pieces, but I also had to buy more storage for my stash :-S oops.
  • I will do some of the Craftsy courses I have signed up for! I have used the Block of the Month and Free Motion Quilting courses to make my Black and White and Red All Over quilt,  and I’ve been watching knitting classes to learn how to get a better fit in knitting garments (finished cardigan is still drying, must turn heating up!).
  • I really want to make bunting! I made some bunting for the Crafty magazine fox competition, but sadly I didn’t win (I think my tutorial was much too long for a magazine). But that means that I can now share my super cute tutorial with you all instead!
  • I am going to learn to take better pictures. I have a tripod and a remote control, and have been taking hundreds of pictures to get 5 decent ones for the blog. I set up a proper background to take photos of my girly cupcakes.
  • girly cupcakesI am going to be a better blog-reader. I am better at commenting using twitter, but there is still the issue of getting past comment validation systems on a phone. Still a point to work on as I have loved all the great comments I’ve recieved this week.

retro recipes

  • I am going to explore new recipes. I only made 5 recipes as part of my retro recipe plan, but they were all great dishes that I know I will return to. I will carry on trying the classic recipes, but found it tricky this year with my wrists bandaged up.

I think I had a pretty good go at those plans, but the main change has been my attitude to my crafting; more planning and precision has led to more successes. If you want to read my plans for 2014 you can see them here.

Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading and commenting this year 🙂 Hope you have a fantastic new year and I’ll see you in 2014!

Top 5 of 2013

 

It is time for my Top 5 of 2013 (as organised by the lovely Gillian. I can’t believe this time last year I didn’t know her!). I have to review my Sewlutions tomorrow for the Mistress of the Jar, so I’m going to pack a lot in this post…

Lets start with the misses2013 misses

  • I learned so much making my Couture Jacket and am really pleased with the construction and techniques I used. But I’ve only worn it a couple of times. I’m hoping it is because the typical British spring went from freezing to boiling in a week, so fingers-crossed I enjoy wearing it this spring.
  • My Dotty Dolly Cambie dress remains unblogged 😦 I was so excited making it – polka dots, a Cambie dress, ric-rac…. all the ingredients for a perfect dress. But wearing it didn’t feel perfect. I think I prefer the gathered skirt to the a-line version I did here, and the fabric for my floral Cambie flows better. Again. I will try it again in spring as it was finished just as the heatwave started, and all the lining was a bit too sticky.
  • Inspired by meetings with Charity Shop Chic I got some items to refashion. Have you seen them yet? Nope. Because there was a lot of brain power involved in fitting my pattern pieces onto refashioned parts of garments. I will definitely put these to the top of my to-sew pile as one is fuscia silk and the other is red wool.
  • My red Basic Bella cardigan has been worn frequently these past few months and is a great chunky cardigan for a chilly day. But it is chunky. The cotton blend yarn stretches (not enough research done) and I made it fit my measurements, not incorporating negative/zero ease for a close fit (beginner knitter’s mistake) so overall it is rather baggy and can look a bit sloppy. It is still great to wear, but it has to go in the miss category since it was one of the causes of my bad wrists 😦
  • Finally my first Anna dress. Its not a total disaster, and most of the lovely comments suggested chopping the sleeves off (a job that can wait until it gets a bit warmer!), but I felt disappointed with it after all the Anna love around the blogosphere.

Hits 2013

 

 

I had a lot of trouble choosing my hits as I’ve made so many nice things this year; I feel my sewing has improved and I have a better sense of what suits me now, so there were less disasters.

  • I love my stripy Tiramisu dress and it was a great introduction to Cake Patterns. Steph’s drafting and custom fit instructions are great, and so it was easy to get a fit and finish I was happy with. I wore this loads over the summer – perfect for pulling on with sandals – even though it is still un-hemmed! oops! I made a long sleeve version which was also great, so this pattern will be staying in my collection.
  • My Polka-dot Portrait Blouse was a simple cotton tee but it was perfect over the summer. Loose enough to stay cool, but with enough subtle shaping. I lived in this with my cropped jeans, which was quite a revelation for a stretch t-shirt girl.
  • I made a quilt!! What more do I need to say?! I learned so much, caught the patchwork and quilting bug, and now can stay cozy while lounging on the sofa.
  • My floral Cambie was another great dress that worked for all occasions; school, weddings and lazy weekends. I feel so good in it as there is the right balance between style and comfort, the fabric is soft and scrummy, and I did some good pattern alterations to get the perfect fit (and at a meet-up someone was wearing a Cambie they had altered using my tutorial!)
  • Finally, since it is the only garment in season at the moment, is my Liberty Hawthorn. I wasn’t convinced about the pattern until I saw all the versions popping up on people’s blogs. This is the fourth fabric version of this, after lots of muslin-ing to get the bodice darts to fit once I’d done a big FBA, so I’m proud of all the work that went into making it. Again, I feel really good in it – not showy, but just quietly confident, like a stylish grown-up in it.

Reflections:

  • Do you notice anything about all my hit garments? A Cake pattern, a Gertie pattern, a Sewaholic pattern and a Colette pattern. I didn’t realise until writing this, but all my hits have been from independent pattern designers (my By Hand London blazer was almost in the top 5). This isn’t deliberate but I think it reflects my sewing process. Since blogging and reading other bloggers I have discovered new companies I’d never heard of. And since these companies all blog, I get to see inside the patterns and get more inspiration than is on the pattern envelope. To be honest, I’m not sure what the last Big 4 pattern I used was…
  • Three out of four hit garments are dresses! I feel good when I’m wearing a well fitted dress, and it is less hassle getting dressed in the morning. Yet I feel like dresses are impractical and don’t sew that many. This must change!
  • I like learning and I want to expand my skills. This year I learned some couture skills, I learned to patchwork blocks and how to free-motion quilt, I learnt how to add darts to knitting (yes, bust darts on my knitted cardigan coming soon once it is dried. Blocking takes so long in winter!) and I learnt more about photography and taking better pictures. As we say in school, I have a growth mind-set towards my sewing learning.
  • Sewing is more fun when you can share with people who understand you. I love, love, LOVE my new Sewcialist and Spoolette friends here on the blog, on twitter and instagram and now in real life thanks to lots of meet-ups 🙂 It is so great having people who understand your passion for creating and who can offer advice from experience, but most of the time we meet we don’t talk about sewing; there is almost an unspoken attitude towards life that we all share, despite being totally different and having different other interests, which means we can get on so well.
  • I’m pretty awesome. This isn’t said in an arrogant way, but in a “I have previously had such low self-confidence but I’m actually starting to believe I’m good” sort of way.
  • I need to craft; it is not just a hobby anymore, it is part of my life. When my wrists were bad and I had to rest, I had no idea what to do with myself. I felt twitchy and on edge for weeks as I hadn’t made anything for ages, and this in turn made me feel really low (in combination with the pain and frustration).

Inspirations:

  • All my sewing and crafting inspiration comes from the sewcialists and spoolettes and all the great blogs I read. If I had to pick my main inspirations, they would be:
    Jo  (Sew Little Time) because I think we sew quite a lot of similar things and are similar height so I can trust her makes will also look good on me.
    Struggle Sews A Straight Seam because her blog makes me smile so much, and she has a great approach to sewing wearable garments.
    Gillian (Crafting A Rainbow) because we are like the same person on different continents; both teach little kiddies, both love bright colours and sewing wearable jersey. And Gillian is always behind a twitter plan!
    Amy (Almond Rock) as she makes such cute tops with great fabric. And she turned her blog into self-hosted (I may need her help soon since I’ve nearly reached my storage limit on wordpress, eek!)
    Roisin (Dolly Clackett) for all her amazing and FUN dresses (and she is such a lovely friend).

Goals:

  • Make more dresses. I feel great in dresses, so I should make more.
  • Wear an entirely me-made outfit at least once. The only RTW items I have to buy at the moment are bras and socks. I have some sock-weight yarn and I’ve signed up to a bra-making course at Morley College (its not for a style I really wear, since that sold out last term, but should teach me the fundamental aspects I hope)
  • Keep improving and learning new techniques, and keep challenging myself in my crafting. (Was that in school speak too much?!)
  • Make more effort to join in online; open-ended sew-alongs, challenges, commenting on blogs and sharing reviews and projects online.
  • Most importantly, I will enjoy my crafting and take my time to savour all the details. I rushed my knitting and learnt the hard way that I need to enjoy crafting in (slight) moderation, otherwise I may not be able to craft at all.

As a thank you for reading all that reflection, here are some pictures of some of my projects that didn’t make the top 5 hits… To see them in more detail, click on the newly organised pages at the top of the blog 🙂

2013

Liberty Wool Hawthorn (aka. My New Favourite Dress)

liberty 8

This is the most recently completed garment from my epic photo-shoot (just one more garment to show you!) but it is also the most worn item. I took my time making this version of the Hawthorn dress so I would do the fabric justice – introducing my first Liberty dress! The fabric is a lovely printed wool blend from Classic Textiles in Goldhawk Road (£12 or 15 per metre!) and is lined in fuscia silk-cotton (again from Classic Textiles for an amazing £4 per metre – I’m never buying pricey poly-linings again!) so at over £40 for the dress this is one of my pricier makes (luckily I found some cheapish buttons I liked, instead of spending £2 a button on the super fancy ones!).

liberty 1

liberty 2The bodice looks a little odd here, but it is a great fit in real life since this is the fourth real-fabric version of I have made now. It is slim fitting around the waist but there is enough comfort ease to feel great wearing it. Construction was pretty similar to the dotty version, except I lined the bodice and sleeves which eliminated some of the facings. You can just see a bit of pink showing through, but I promise I did hand-stitch the lining down around the collar.

liberty 5People in real life commented that the dotty dress was a bit loose around the waist (before blog photos) so on this version I took the side seams in on the bodice. I forgot to allow for this on the skirt pieces, so I just made a little pleat centre back, which I quite like.

liberty 3It took me ages to choose buttons that would compliment the luxurious Liberty wool but that were affordable to buy 15 of! In the end I chose these clover-shaped pearl-effect buttons – they are a little bit more interesting than regular round “pearl” buttons, but I think they work well with the print and dress design.

liberty 6

I added two buttonholes to the sleeve cuffs (have I mentioned how much I LOVE the sleeve placket instructions? So effective and so neat!) for a bit of extra flair. My only big “mistake” making this was sewing the plackets on the sleeves flat (as in instructions) and then inserting the lining once the shell and lining were complete; this meant I had to hand sew the sleeve lining right next to the placket. It looks good but I wish I had worked how to do this by machine (treat the sleeves as underlining for this step?). I also sewed half the skirt sides up before I remembered I was adding pockets, which added some extra time, but definitely worth it for a winter dress with pockets for tissues and lipbalm.

liberty 7

Finally, I hand-sewed the hem. Yup, I sewed a full skirt by hand over a few hours instead of doing damage by machine (just like fixing the bodice lining to the main dress). I don’t have pictures but should also add that the entire dress is French seamed (except for parts hidden by lining). Karen’s Mistress of the Jar will be proud!liberty 4

The extra time (and money) spent on this dress was definitely worth it; I feel so great wearing it 🙂 It is flattering, comfy and cosy, with enough pattern to make it exciting but subtle enough for everyday. It is definitely going on my Top 5 Hit list tomorrow!

Onesie + Fleecy = Cosy!

Happy Boxing Day everyone! I hope you all had a lovely day full of family and friends and yummy food. I had a good day at my parents with all the family eating too many roast potatoes, and today we all feel like a lazy sofa day. Luckily I made just the thing in November that is perfect for chilly days on the sofa; a fleecy onesie! onesie 2

Before I continue this post I will clarify that I originally made this for Children in Need pyjama day at school. As an early years teacher I need to show enthusiasm for these things so decided to whip up a onesie as I have plenty of pjs already. I started making this the weekend that I moved, as a crafty project to recover from a hectic weekend of moving; only my machine was unpacked, so I used regular scissors to cut the fleece from the market.

I used my trusty pj bottom pattern (traced from an old but comfy M&S pair) and used the bodice and sleeves of the Hawthorn blouse, cutting both parts with generous ease and seam allowances. the hood was made from two quarter circles cut as big as the left over fabric would allow. This was very much a trial-and-error/fancy dress costume make – extremely rough and ready on the inside and there was lots of best-fit fitting going on. But the result is SO cosy I’ve had to keep it and wear it more (especially at my dad’s big old house).onesie 3I added way too much ease when I first sewed it together and had to take out a lot before it became suitable to wear in public, but I made sure it has enough ease for snuggling on the sofa comfortably. It is badly finished on the inside so I think I will take my pinking shears to the seams to neaten them up so I can get more wear out of it without feeling too embarrassed about my handiwork. This was my first lapped zipper and it wasn’t so bad, so I may try a lapped zipper again on a more serious make!

onesie 1I couldn’t create a plain blue garment so I jazzed it up with some white pom-pom trim around the hood and a giant pom-pom trimmed initial on the back (I told the kids at school it was A for awesome and amazing). Annoyingly my pj pattern is one piece for each leg, so no seams for side pockets, so I added a little patch pocket with more pom-poms to hold my phone or tissues.onesie 4This might be one of the silliest things I’ve made all year, but it is definitely one of the cosiest! Of course I am joining the onesie-trend with a sense of irony, but actually I can now understand the appeal. I’m not sure I’ll wear it out of the house though. Well not yet!

Ambivalent about Anna

Thanks for all the lovely comments about my dotty Hawthorn dress 🙂 As soon as I tried on my first shirt muslin I knew I loved the pattern; I didn’t get that feeling with this Anna dress. (The picture below could be interpreted as a look of uncertainty, but actually I was eating a mint. Yup, that’s how comfortable I am about photos of myself on this blog now, I’ll even take photos while I’m eating!)

anna 2

I’m not sure whether I dislike the pattern on my body, or whether it just didn’t live up to the hype and adulation of millions of other bloggers (I’m looking at you Dolly Clackett!). This is why I refuse to get into popular shows or books until many years after the hype has eased off; If I watch something expecting to love it and I only really like it, the expectation and pressure to enjoy something takes away from my actual enjoyment. I think that is what happened with Anna. I expected so much from this little pattern, maybe more than a pattern can deliver, so when I tried it on during making I was underwhelmed and left it in my to-do pile for a quite a few weeks.

anna 4

I made this version in a cheap light-weight cotton (it had some slight flaws every 50cm or so, but I love the print so I got loads) with a plan to be a wearable muslin before using some fancy fabric for a winter dress. I did a Full Bust Adjustment (you have seen this already in my tutorials here and here) and followed the sew-along instructions to add sleeves to the bodice. The sleeves were initially 3/4 length but they were too snug to move, so I just hemmed them at the point where they fit.anna 1I much prefer the dress when worn with a cardigan, as I think it is the kimono sleeves that are the part I’m not so keen on. I’m not small round the chest, so the extra fabric from the kimono sleeves adds a bit more than I feel confident with. Maybe a summer Anna with no sleeves might feel better. The neckline here was a rush job, as I wasn’t feeling the love for this dress and just wanted it finished. As lots of people found, I was able to pull this over my head without undoing the zipper.anna 3There are some good things about this dress, but the hype was too much for it to live up to. My cousin saw these pictures and liked the dress, so I think I am being a bit picky, but after years of sewing I guess I am at the stage where I don’t put up with less than almost perfect. I am currently at my parents for Christmas, with ALL the cousins (for the first time in four or five years!) which is super exciting, but I have a couple more garments to show you when I have some quiet time.

 

Parisian Polka-dot Hawthorn

Hello my lovely readers! You are in for a treat this week; I was at home during the day at the weekend and got my tripod and camera out and took not one set of blog photos, but five! Yup, I had a big photo shoot session and finally got pictures of some past makes.

I am really desperate to show you my New Favourite Dress, however I’ll start in chronological order with my first Hawthorn dress.dotty 4

The pattern and fabric were both birthday presents in the summer; the fabric came from Paris via my step-mum and is a gorgeous turquoise covered with polka-dots. I had originally thought I’d make an Elisalex dress with it, but when I struggled to find a zipper that came close to matching, it became destined to be a Hawthorn shirt dress.

dotty 1

I made a blouse and my bowling shirt before making this which gave me time to sort out the fitting and finishing details. I did my usual FBA, changing the dart into diagonal French darts, and got rid of some of the facings in favour of using bias binding. During my first wearing I realised there was a tad too much waist ease, so I took in the side seams a bit; it’s not a perfect adjustment but it’ll do.

dotty 2

This would have become a favourite dress if it wasn’t for the dye. I pre-washed the fabric before sewing, and have washed it a few times, but the turquoise is a really strong colour and keeps rubbing off on everything! My sewing machine turned blue during sewing, and when I wore it my arms and my slip underneath turned turquoise. Eek. After more washing, the colour transfer isn’t as bad, but you can see under the arms where the white spots have turned blue.

I was trying to get festive with some Christmas tunes while taking all these photos so here is a dancing-twirly picture.

dotty 3

Keeping Count

I am making good progress on my cardigan, and hope with the holidays fast approaching it will be finished before the new year (but I am pacing myself and not rushing!).

I’m at the waist shaping and having to keep track of what row I’m on, and was wondering how you keep track of your knitting. I have a Clover clicker that makes such a satisfying click sound, however it only tells you what row you are on, so you have to number all the rows in the pattern to know what you are doing next.

PicMonkey Collage The County Plus app on my android phone lets you count in sections (eg. counting 1-8, then 1-8, while showing you how many repeats you have done) which is great for following a repeated chart or a sequence of instructions. However, having your row counter on your phone can cause problems when you receive a message you want to read, or when you think you have lost your phone, only to discover it is in your knitting bag!

How do you keep track of your knitting?

 

What’s on my needles.

image

Here is a sneaky peek of my current knitting project. I started it before I moved when my sewing machine was packed away and have been working on it since.  Lots of progress has been happening at knitting night (Thursdays at the Village Haberdashery) and it is starting to look like a cardigan!

For the first time in what feels like ages I don’t have Saturday night plans so am looking forward to doing some serious knitting in front of the tv.

What are your weekend plans?