Safari Adventures

There has been a bit of silence round these parts as I have been away on safari! Well, not quite as exotic as that sounds, but I needed a safari suit for a murder mystery dinner party in the depths of West London.

Apologies to my Australian readers, but my character was a loud and brash Aussie businessman who wears a safari outfit, and this was my me-made short-notice costume. I got the invite with costume details while on a Spoolette shopping trip to Goldhawk Road and was rather disappointed to discover I wasn’t going to have the chance to drape myself in Oriental silks (the mystery was set in China), but I had just bought some calico for muslins/toiling.

safari b

I made the long shorts using my self-drafted/traced pj pattern, adding a few extra inches of ease all around. Luckily it was winter and I had to wear tights underneath, as the calico was a little too see-through to wear in public. I found some home-decor weight fabric (a remnant I got thinking I’d use it to make tote bags) that was just big enough to fit the By Hand London Victoria blazer on. I lined it with scraps of rusty red and leopard print I had (I was just a bit too late for Jungle January) since this was fancy dress, but I quite like the mix-and-match lining.

The first Victoria blazer I made fitted amazingly in the stretch twill I used, but it was lucky I made this “wearable muslin” as this stable fabric was a touch too snug around the arms. Wearable for an evening, but good to know for a future everyday version.

safari a

No Australian outfit would be complete without a cork hat. I joked that as a non-drinker I should use milk bottle tops instead of corks, but then I found these cut little wooden spools! I borrowed a hat from a friend and sewed them in place, but they got very tangled during wearing. Strewth! Finally I used a scrap of faux fur to make a moustache (not pictured here) to complete my outfit.safari c

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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

Autumn Sewing Plans

sewing plans

I have a couple of finished garments to show you, but before I show you all my sewing I though I should share my plans for autumn back-to-school sewing. At the beginning of the summer, while bored from my break from sewing (saw the physio this week and the rest has helped) I decided to draw all the things I was planning to make. Last year I made a personalised croquis* using the instructions in the Colette Sewing Handbook and I printed some out to doodle my wardrobe plans. I’m not normally one for planning my sewing, as you’ve probably worked out by now, but I was preparing for a blogging meet-up shopping-trip and had time on my hands.

blazer

  • A By Hand London Victoria Blazer. I have already shown you the blazer I made, which turned out pretty similar to the original idea; plain dark jacket with contrast (spotty) lapels.
  • A dark grey or black Hummingbird skirt. Last autumn/winter I lived in my black cord skirt, so another plain dark skirt is a basic wardrobe necessity.
  • A “plain” t-shirt to go with my patterned skirts. This was the plainest jersey I could buy; I am attracted to fun prints in fabric shops, but there is a space in my me-made wardrobe for plainer tops to wear with the snazzy prints! I’ll use my jersey t-shirt block for this, with self drafted cap-sleeves.

aubergine skirt

  • Last year I bought LOTS of aubergine-coloured corduroy and I haven’t made any clothes with it yet! I love cord skirts in winter, so am going to use it to make a Hummingbird skirt.
  • My wardrobe needs a plain navy top or t-shirt to match with my navy skirts. Still haven’t bought fabric for it yet.

hawthorn

  • I love the new Colette Patterns Hawthorn shirt dress; it is cute without being too vintage or girly looking. In my head I imagined a dark purple fabric with a subtle print, with a plain collar and cuffs. Whether this fabric exists in real life is still under investigation…

blouse

  • I’m pretty sure there will have to be a few adjustments made, plus my first time making sleeve plackets, so I thought I should plan to make a wearable muslin of the Hawthorn blouse; If it is in a busy print it should disguise any mistakes I make.

elisalex

  • I got this turquoise dotty fabric from Paris as a birthday present, and thought it could be a great first go at an Elisalex dress bodice, with a Cambie-style gathered skirt. I have seen so many lovely Elisalexes and variations, that I had to give in and get the pattern too.

tiramisu

  • I love my Tiramisu dresses and really want a long-sleeved cosy one for the winter, in a heavy ponté jersey. Not black, so maybe dark purple/plum or maybe a deep red or pink…

peplum

  • When fabric shopping with Jo from SewLittleTime I bought some pink polka-dot jersey that we thought would be great for a Hummingbird peplum top. I didn’t even own the pattern, but Jo had the measurements written down so I bought some fabric in the hope of owning the pattern.
  • My second self-drafted pair of jeans were a much better fit, but the knees are already starting to fade from so much wear. Time for a new pair of jeans, in a dark almost-black colour.

So those were my plans at the beginning of the summer – stay tuned to see which plans stayed the same and which ones changed! Is anybody else getting excited about autumn sewing (despite it still being summer!)? What are you planning to sew?

 

*The croquis was made by taking an accurate (and unflattering) photo of myself in underwear and then tracing over it, to get an accurate outline of my body. I used an edge-detector tool on the computer to generate my outline and printed it in pale grey. The final image shows what I actually look like, and not what I think I look like, so my sketches of my designs look more realistic.

 

 

By Hand London Victoria Blazer

victoria

So I finally jumped on the By Hand London bandwagon, and can’t believe I didn’t do so sooner. I’ve met the By Hand girls on a couple of blogger meet-ups and they are so tall, slim and stylish I just didn’t think I would suit their patterns. Then at a Spoolette gathering at SewDixieLou’s house we all played dress-up in her Victoria Blazer and I was convinced (despite Claire’s version being many sizes smaller than mine would be). One birthday wishlist later and here I am, a By Hand London convert (garment number two is in production as we speak!)

blazer

My version is made in some lovely stretch black “posh cotton coat” that I got from another Claire at the latest Goldhawk Road meet-up and with black and white star cotton lining/cuffs/collar. I followed the pattern instructions as written (adding french seams to the sleeves) and used a left-over scrap of stripy bias-binding to finish the arm-hole seam. When finished I hand-sewed the lining armhole to the outer-jacket (on the train at 8am, getting very funny looks from other travellers).
blazer details

I was on the train to visit a friend in Newcastle. One of our day trips was to the beach and a paddle in the refreshing North Sea. I was excited to have a real photographer and a proper location to get photos and I gave her instructions of the look I was after: SewBusyLizzy style gazing into the distance at the beach (see her first 2 versions of ByHandLondon’s Anna dress).

So there is Lizzy in WINTER (photo from her super blog) and here is me in SUMMER…

blazer back

Hmmm… despite being the middle of August, the North Sea doesn’t look quite as lovely as the Australian beach does it? It was definitely weather for sleeves (over another unblogged self-drafted tee).

blazer front

I must make sure I thank my friend H and her little 3 month old assistant.

baby toes

My wishlist

A little bird may have told you that it is someone’s birthday at the end of the month, and by pure coincidence here is a selection of things I have had my eye on lately.

wishlist

  1. Cake Hummingbird Pattern (skirt as seen in real life on SewLittleTime)
  2. Sewaholic Robson Trench Coat Pattern
  3. Colette Hawthorn Shirt-dress Pattern
  4. Cute Birdhouse Sewing Box
  5. Wooden Cantilever Sewing Box
  6. Birdie Embroidery Kit
  7. By Hand London Victoria Blazer Pattern (as sewn by everyone! I tried on SewDixieLou’s version and the style was great, not sure I’ll make mine tropical)
  8. Free & Easy Stitch Style (or similar free machine embroidery book)
  9. Storyland Cross Stitch
  10. Claire Schaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques

What exciting crafty goodies have you got your eye on at the moment?

A Beginner’s Guide to Couture Techniques

couture jacket 268bWhile working on my jacket I have used lots of tips and tutorials online (and in print). Here is my list of the best resources for learning to sew couture techniques.

  • Susan Khalje’s Craftsy Couture Dress course. I made my Peacock Dress using this course, and used lots of the techniques again for this jacket. I would definitely recommend the course as it is full of lots of tips that can be applied to most projects; eg. use the stitch-lines not cutting lines for accuracy when sewing, and never baste in space (keep work flat so layers stay together and don’t bubble)underlining
  • Kenneth D King’s Couture Techniques. I borrowed this from the library but will buy my own copy when I have to return it. He covers lots of techniques and tips and has a great approach to sewing; save your perfectionism for when/where it counts (said much more eloquently  on this podcast)
  • Gertie (blog and book) cover lots of classic techniques in an accessible way.details
  • Seamstress: PoppyKettle I was googling for sleeve-head tips and discovered this new-to-me blog and ended up staying and reading lots of other posts.
  • BurdaStyle has a great article about making a couture Chanel jacket, and the discussions make an interesting read.
  • Linking from BurdaStyle is Frabjous Couture’s day-by-day account of her couture jacket course with Susan Khalje. The course sounds amazing, and again I kept clicking through to different posts on her blog.welt pockets b
  • Welt-pockets – Lastwear tutorial
  • Welt-pockets – Colletterie’s Sew-Along post
  • My archive of Threads magazines always has useful tips and tricks. The recent special issue about fitting has been referred to a lot over the past few weeks. I can’t work out whether my subscription entitles me to free Insider access or not.couture
  • Finally, it isn’t specifically a couture book but if one of the marks of a great couture garment is a great fit then I have to include the brilliant Fit for Real People.

Have you sewn using couture techniques? If so, what tips and resources do you recommend? If you haven’t, I hope these books and blogs give you some inspiration.

FO: BurdaStyle Turquoise Couture Jacket

Two months after planning and deliberating and after three solid weeks of sewing and construction, I have finally finished my BurdaStyle spring jacket, using couture techniques! This has been a bit of a marathon project, but in line with my sewlution I was determined to make it as good as I could. So here it is, my couture Chanel-esque jacket…


couture jacket 203b

I took lots of pictures now that I have a fresh battery for my remote-controlled clicker-thingy and had a bit of a photo-shoot (complete with outfit changes) in my building’s hallway. I suppose if I was doing it properly I would have painted my chipped-nails, however I have been putting off a good tidy-up until the jacket was finished (the bouclé makes SO much mess, there was no point vacuuming before it was completed) and I always make the mistake of doing my nails before I do a job that ruins them!

PicMonkey Collage

I love the colour of the jacket with navy and white – perfect for summer – but will have to see what other outfits it works with. There are a couple of tweaks I had to make (poppers aren’t as strong as pins over a large moving bust, so I ended up having a lower v-neck than planned…) and a few adjustments I am going to make after seeing it in pictures; I added weights at the front but the jacket really needs a chain-weight to pull the back down as well, and the sleeve lining is a touch too long.

couture jacket 132b

You can see lots of the couture details (welt pockets, hand-stitching, etc) in my previous post but here are a few details I am rather proud of; the hand set-in sleeve head (done on the first attempt), the covered poppers/press-studs, and the invisible hand-stitching.

details

The images of the jacket in the magazine (and on the website) didn’t inspire me much, but I loved the front cover styling. Here is my version – can I pull off the stylish model pose?!

inspiration

I originally planned to get this made before Me Made May started (I didn’t quite realise the time this would take!) and have only just managed to complete it before the end of the month. I wonder if the weather will let me wear it before the month is over? Now if you’ll excuse me, after all that concentration, I’m off to whip up some 1-hour jersey tops!

*****
Turquoise Couture Jacket

Pattern: BurdaStyle 02/2013 #106
Modifications: serious FBA, modified neckline due to popper-pressure over bust!

Fabric: Laurent Garigue cotton bouclé in turquoise and white, multi-coloured dot viscose lining, all from Stone Fabrics; underlined and interfaced in silk-organza from John Lewis.
Notions: 3/4 press-studs/poppers (will add chain weight)
Approximate spend: £65

Time taken: 2 weeks fitting, 3 weeks constructing (including 3 days of half-term holiday)

Constructing a couture-style jacket

You may remember that one of my Sewlutions this year, inspired by the lovely Karen, was

I am going to try to make less but make those things better (with more focus on fitting, finishing and doing things properly).

Well I think my next almost-finished garment should certainly meet the goal; my Burda Style jacket has taken almost 3 months to plan and make, so I hope all the extra time invested has made it a better make. Since the jacket will be fully-lined, I remembered to take some pictures of the couture style techniques I have been using, before they get hidden from sight. You might call it a behind the seams (geddit?!) look at my most recent sewing project.

I spent a few weeks making a muslin of the pattern, doing a Full Bust Adjustment on the princess seams, and then used the muslin as my pattern. I underlined the whole piece in silk organza (to give the loosely-woven cotton bouclé some structure), so transferred all the markings onto the organza before using this to cut out the main fabric. All the pattern pieces were then hand-basted along the stitching lines before I then hand-basted them together.

organza b

Despite having made a muslin I was happy with, the fit around the bust took a lot of tweaking to get right. I remember spending 2-3hours one night unpicking and re-basting the same 4″ of seam to get it right, and it took a week from cutting before I felt confident to sew on my machine.seams b

One of the main benefits of using a silk organza underlining is that it is so easy to catch-stitch the seam allowances to it, without touching the main fashion fabric at all. All the seams (I mean ALL, not just the important ones) were pressed flat then open, over a rolled up towel (my makeshift tailor’s ham) where necessary. Seams were clipped or notched before I sewed them flat against the jacket.

Once I had sewn the jacket together I had the next panic – welt pockets. Having never made them before, I did a practise on some scraps and found it wasn’t as tricky as I imagined. I measured the markings a million times before I sewed the welts in place, and then sat staring at the pockets for ages before I was brave enough to cut holes in my jacket. I finished the welts by hand, and fortunately the texture of the bouclé camouflaged any minor imperfections.
welt pockets bI read that a couture jacket takes 70-80 hours to construct, including 17 hours to set-in the sleeves by hand, so the sleeves went in surprisingly smoothly. I basted the underarm and fitted the sleeve cap (must remember, fit left sleeve if right-handed!) in the mirror, before transferring the markings to the other sleeve. I took a bit off the height of the sleeve cap, which meant it fitted well with just a little easing by hand needed. I added a sleeve head after sewing the seam to be sure of the seam accuracy; the sleeve head made such a difference to my lumpy shoulders and I almost considered omitting the shoulder pads, but decided they gave a slightly better silhouette. The shoulder pads are raglan pads and were pad-stitched in place, again just to the underlining of the jacket.shoulders bWith the shoulders in place I could add the lining. The lining was cut the same as the jacket, except with an extra couple of inches at the centre back for movement ease and slightly lowered shoulders/sleeve cap to accommodate the shoulder pads. It is joined to the jacket at the contrast band; first I hand basted the lining in place to the jacket seam allowances, then I pressed and stitched the band over the lining.
hand sewing b

This has been a lot of work, more than I would normally go into, but the jacket should hopefully be worn for many years. I got rather frustrated with the time needed to hand-baste the seams and hand sew all the seam-allowances, but yesterday I was rather glad of the hand-sewing as it meant I could work on my jacket AND enjoy the rare sunshine. I took my jacket and a sewing kit to the park near my house and sat sewing while tourists wandered past. It was a much nicer environment than my living room, which is currently covered in a million little threads; if you haven’t used it before, I should warn you that bouclé can fray.pros and cons b

All that is left to do is decide on the sleeve length and finish the sleeve/lining hems, and attach the poppers/press-studs. Hopefully there will be a finished outfit post before the week is over…