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!

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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

Making a Customised Dress Form

Last May I was on my way home from the supermarket, passing a vintage charity shop, when I spotted some dress forms on the pavement. They were on sale for £10 each. Wow! Bargain!

a

 

I put my shopping bags and investigated. The shop had rearranged their displays and so had some extra mannequins they no longer needed, so wanted to get rid of them. I picked the lightest adjustable form, it was wrapped in a bin bag to protect it from the rain, and I took it home.

Once home I measured it and it was rather different from my measurements. By 7 or so inches at the full bust. Luckily Threads magazine (issue 161) had a great tutorial from Kenneth D. King about making covers for dress forms – in some theatres they make covers to match the actors’ measurements, which can be added to just a couple of dress forms, allowing for precise fitting and saving storage.

b

I draped a muslin cover for the form (on its largest setting) and added a zipper at the back, in case I wanted to remove it for any reason. Then I started padding it out. I wrapped it up in thick batting until it approximately matched my waist measurements. I put an old bra on it and kept padding it out. The original plan was to baste all the layers of batting together and to the muslin inner layer, but it soon became apparent that this would be a lot of effort; am I really going to remove my cover that often.

c

I used a fitting-shell pattern I had worked on a few years ago to create a skin-tight bodice and upper-skirt (and amazingly the shell pattern was still a perfect fit), adding armhole and neck covers. I tried the cover and needed more wadding to fill it out, so had a break until I could get a second third fourth bagful of batting. Fully fitting the form was a challenge, especially on my wrists due to the pressure needed to get a firmly stuffed body, so this was done over a long period of time. I stuffed and stuffed, then checked my measurements, then stuffed some more, until the form was close enough to me (I think it is an inch too small around the full bust, but I never wear skin-tight over-fitted garments so it shouldn’t be a problem).

Finally I fused some ribbon to the form to mark the centre front, bust and waist lines. If they look a bit wonky, it must be the shape of my body as they are level in real life! Maybe there is a way to quilt all the layers together, but for the moment it is fine the way it is.

dressform

The form didn’t have a stand, so I made a few trips to my local hardware store. I bought a 1m chrome tube and a handful of rubber washers. I attached the tube, using the washers, to the inside of the form, where there was already a larger tube (lots of measuring was involved). At first I put the tube inside an old tripod base (the top had broken as it was fairly cheap) but this wobbled and was very unsteady. I went back to the hardware store and got some heavy weights (for window cords?) and made little pouches to tie these to the tripod legs. This didn’t work either 😦 Then I remembered I had a fan under my bed from a heatwave a few years ago; we had bought a big fan during the heatwave, but it was so strong and noisy we could hardly use it. It has been gathering dust, so I took the base and put the dress form on top. This was so much more stable and sturdy, due to the heavy, heavy, round base.

£10 for dress form
£5 for hardware
£12 for fabric
£ lost count for batting
=£40-50 for a personalised dress form to help fit and drape custom-fit garments. Quite a bargain in my books.

 

Anna Dress FBA – changing the gathers to flatter a fuller bust

I am so glad you liked my FBA tutorial for the Anna dress 🙂 (And I am glad you realised how much effort it was; I took photos as I went along, but it wasn’t until I was editting them that I realised how many steps there were!)

I have sewn my bodice muslin (well in a cheap fabric that I will use for first wearable test version) and realised the gathers I have are a bit too big to be flattering. Do you remember my Cambie dresses? I had the same problem there; with a full bust, the size of darts/gathers is big, so the darts begin to make a pointy corner. And how did I solve that problem? I changed the darts from one to three, so each dart was slightly smaller and less pointy!

Here is a quick diagram to show the extremely scientific method I used to adjust the gathers on my Anna (after unpicking the first set). Following my FBA tutorial, work your way to step 20, and stop there.

Anna FBA part 3

Changing gathers is easier than changing darts, as you don’t have to worry about the pointy dart ends. For my measurements I narrowed each pleat by about an inch (technically it was a thumbnail length). I then created a new pleat in between (green lines), making sure it was the same size as the amount I removed (2 red lines below). This gave me 3 approximately equal pleats, but you could measure them and do some maths (if you haven’t spent all day teaching 4 year olds how to sit quietly! this method is good enough for me!)

pleatsAnd here is how the pleats now look in real life:
pleat

Dodgy camera-phone shots in the mirror, but I think you can see the effect. I have pinned and re-sewn the pleats more than my fabric could cope with, so I need to cut out a new bodice before I can carry on with the sewalong. Who else is sewing along? How is it going?

 

Anna Dress FBA – how to use your high bust for a great fit

Warning: This is a long post, full of pictures, but only because you requested fitting tutorials!

I am definitely on the By Hand London bandwagon and love the drafting of their patterns, however I was a little disappointed by the FBA (full bust adjustment) advice in the Anna dress Sewalong. The method is fine if you just have a tiny bit to add, but I have read lots of people saying they had big or gaping necklines on their Anna dresses; the method they show will cause/add to this problem, so here is how I did my FBA (using the Y-Method for adding more than 1.5″).

Before we start I’m going to explain why I am using my high-bust measurement instead of my full-bust. Hopefully these pictures will make sense to you, but let me know if you have any questions.

Why you need to use high bust

Patterns are graded to fit different sizes, but the shape of the garment usually remains the same or similar proportions (a). Most commercial patterns are drafted for a B or C cup, and if you are much bigger than this then your proportions will be different (b). Someone with a full bust measurement of X could either have a full-frame and wear a B-cup (c – outer black line), or have a smaller frame and wear a GG-cup (c – red line); your high-bust measurement is a better indicator of your overall frame. When choosing your size (d) it is better to fit to your high-bust and adjust, otherwise you will have extra fabric above and below your bust (e); it is easier to fit the waist with darts/gathers but a baggy/gaping neckline is harder to fix.

Does that make sense? I hope so! So now you need to measure your high-bust and full bust, and we can get started…

Anna FBA part 1

  1. Get your resources and tools ready. You will need your pattern, tape-measure, ruler, pencil and pens, sticky-tape and tissue paper (I like to use multiple colours to see the changes I have made).
  2. Some patterns include high-bust measurements, but today we have to do some maths. Take your high bust and add ease (I added an inch for this pattern). Divide by 4 and then add seam-allowance to get X. Take your tape measure to the pattern and measure to find the size that matches X at the underarm, going up a size if you fall between sizes. I am ignoring my waist measurement at the moment, as the FBA will add extra at the waist.
  3. Place tissue paper over the pattern and hold it in place with weights or tape. Trace the size you have just chosen.
  4. Use a ruler to trace grainline markings and darts to ensure they are nice and straight.
  5. Mark the stitching lines. This is SUPER important so don’t skip this step! Use your ruler or tape-measure to make marks 5/8″ or 1.5cm inside the pattern, and join them up with a ruler/french-curve or freehand.
  6. Cut out your traced pattern.
  7. Pin the shoulder and side-seams together, and darts/gathers at the seam allowance. Now you need to carefully try it on and measure how much you need to add at the bust.

    Anna FBA part 2

  8. While you are wearing the tissue bodice you need to mark your bust point; this is the fullest part of your bust/nipple area.
  9. Before we can do the FBA, we need to get rid of the sleeve. Draw a line from the side-seam (before it curves out) straight up to the shoulder. Cut along the line and put this piece in a safe place.
  10. With a ruler draw some lines from the bust point to
    a) the waist seam (parallel to the centre-front fold). I made sure mine was in between the two gathers.
    b) the shoulder seam
    c) two-thirds up from the underarm (armhole)
    d) just under the underarm
  11. Cut along these lines, stopping at the stitching line you drew in step 5. This keeps the stitching line of the shoulder the same length so it will still match the back shoulders. (I left the underarm line intact for a few steps)
  12. Place some tissue paper under the pattern and start to spread the slashes.
  13. Do you remember how much you needed to add? Spread the shoulder slash until it is half this distance away from the bust point, and tape in place.
  14. Now spread the armhole slash the rest of the distance and tape down onto the tissue paper.
  15. Now cut the underarm line and slash until the pattern lies parallel with the centre-front piece. Slash the centre front piece horizontally and spread down until the waistlines line up.

    If you want to sew up a side dart, you can tape everything down and skip ahead to part 4. I didn’t want to spoil the lines of the bodice with a side dart, so I rotated the dart out into the waist gathers.

    Anna FBA part 3

  16. Before we can rotate the dart, we need to move the gather/pleat to underneath the bust point. Cut a box around the pleat and move it across.
  17. Position the pleat so the bust point is directly above the centre of the pleat. Tape in place and fill in the gap with tissue.
  18. Cut up the pleat to the bust point (following the original cut lines). Spread this cut and half close the underarm dart (we are going to share the fullness between both pleats). Tape extra tissue in place.
  19. Cut along the top of the underarm dart, extending to above the second pleat, and then down between the pleat markings.
  20. Fully close the underarm dart and tape tissue in place.
  21. Now draw on the cutting and stitching lines to fill the gaps on the added tissue.
  22. When you get to the pleats, fold the pleats together and mark the lines on the under layers at the fold. Use a pen for this as you need the marks to bleed through the tissue.
  23. Join the dots using a ruler.

    Nearly there…

    Anna FBA part 4

  24. The FBA is now done. Make sure all the layers are taped down securely. You might want to trim away the excess tissue paper layers on the back.
  25. Now we need to add the sleeve piece we removed in step 9. Carefully join the stitching lines (in red) and tape in place.
  26. Fill in the hole with more tissue and tape. There! We have finished the adjustments!
  27. Check the fit by pinning the front and back bodice pieces, making sure you have pinned the pleats and darts closed. My waist was a bit snug so I redrew the pleat markings a little closer together. If your waist is too big, you could easily extend the pleats to nip in the waist some more.

And we are done! It sounds like a lot of stages, but it really does make difference to the fit around the neckline and shoulders. Before you cut into your yummy fabric, it is a great idea to make a muslin in cheap cotton (or similar weight to your fashion fabric). My fabric for the sew-along was only £1.50pm (it has a tiny fault every 75cm) and I got plenty so I am going to make a wearable muslin of the whole dress.

I really hope this is useful. If there are any questions or if anything isn’t clear, please ask in the comments below and I can try and explain.