Saturday 27 February 2010

Just in (bed) time

So my self-imposed Me-Made-March challenge (to only wear clothes I have made myself throughout March) starts on Monday! If I am to not fail on the very first night, self-made pyjamas were something of a priority. Last year I made the Burdastyle Jane pyjamas, but the weather is still way too cold for them. So this week I traced an existing pair of pj bottoms and whipped up these:

'Hmm, there's something familiar about those', you may be thinking. Well aren't you observant today?! They did indeed exist in a previous incarnation as this Anda dress, which I eventually accepted looked pretty stupid so it got unpicked. Seeing as the fabric was initially a charity-shopped bedsheet, it seems somehow fitting that they become sleepwear in the end!

As for the rest of my sleepy-time get-up, the vest was the triumph I blogged about here and the T-shirt was my attempt at the Burdastyle Lydia pattern. I hated the fit of this T-shirt on me (however, there appears to have been many successes on Burdastyle using this pattern) and couldn't work out how to alter it, so I marked it up as a 'learning experience' in how to work with stretch fabric and put a pause on my explorations into the world of stretch. Then the Sew U: Home Stretch book came into my life and I put the Lydia 'incident' behind me (The Lydia Incident would make a great book title wouldn't it?!). I rediscovered the garment whilst clearing out my stash ready for bustin' and it was in line to be turned into pants but last week I realised it will suffice as sleepwear. Phew, pyjama-centric panic over! Or is it? I haven't worked out what I'll do when this set needs a wash. Can I be bothered to repeat and make another set? Clearly this question will now be at the forefront of world-wide discussion, but I'll let you have the scoop here first when I have an answer!

Friday 26 February 2010

Sailor Trousers!

I'm not the first, and I doubt I will be the last: to turn Burdastyle's Ruby shorts pattern into wide-legged trousers. As part of my Stash Bustin' challenge, I chose this project to tackle some of the vast quantity of navy stretch twill I inexplicably have in my possession. This was a great project to do so as these trousers are FAT and took an epic amount of fabric to create. In fact, I initially drafted the legs even wider, but upon fitting I decided to skim some off.

I applied simple patch pockets to the butt, and missed out the front welt pocket and belt detail which appear on the Ruby pattern, just as I did for the two pairs of Ruby shorts I made at the tail-end of last summer. The buttons used are vintage pearl ones from my button stash, I was lucky to find eight of the same in there.

I'm glad I have these trousers ready for my Me-Made-March challenge which starts on Monday! I've come to accept the Treggings are too small, now I'm back drinking booze and put a bit of weight back on, so the only other pair of successful Me-Made trousers I currently have are my Jeggings. I wear trousers almost all the time so I'm sure these sailor trousers will get alot of wear. Sorry there are no pics of these trousers being modelled here, but I'll be documenting each day's Me-Made outfit on this blog, so I'm sure you'll be sick of the sight of them by April.

I'm massively in love with these Tara Starlet sailor slacks pictured above and one day, when I've got a bit more time, I'll figure out a way to create a more accurate version. Until then, these Ruby sailor trousers should suffice.

Thursday 25 February 2010

At Colette Patterns: 'Internal Contrasts'

If your fabric stash is anything like mine, a good percentage of it is made up of less-than-a-metre pieces and big scraps that are super nice but difficult to make anything from aside from bag linings. Well, I've been getting my thinking cap on and have been coming up with some ideas of how they can be worked into a garment making project. I plan to write a series of posts for the Colette Patterns blog on this matter, the first of which covers the idea of using cute contrasting fabric for internal details like pocket bags and skirt facings. Ch-ch-ch-check it out!

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Fabric Swap: Alteration Announcement!

Hi lovely potential fabric swappers! I have an announcement regarding the set-up of the International Fabric Swap. I've decided to make each piece of fabric up for grabs for ONE WEEK, rather than a day. So the beautiful fabric/ribbon combo offered up yesterday will be available until midnight Sunday 28th.

Basically I think I over-estimated the momentum this beta-swap could attain. I got too excited and have realised it needs to run slower to give people the chance to become aware of it and participate. Sorry for the confusion folks!

If you would like to give this fabric a home, then you can enter by emailing me at with your name, email address, postal address, a picture of the piece of stash fabric you are offering up and a short description of that fabric (width and length of fabric and fibre content if known will suffice). Mark the subject of your email 'FABRIC SWAP 2'. I'll select a recipient at midnight Sunday using a random number generator and inform them Monday morning, and post the next piece of fabric.

I really want this fabric swap to work as I think it'll be a lot of fun for many people, as well as helping people get fabric that inspires them and weeding out the not so inspirational pieces from their stash. If you are interested in getting it off the ground, please show your support!

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Fabric Swap: Day 2. 23rd February

Good morning (afternoon/evening/night) Fabric Swappers! The recipient, as chosen by random number generator for Day 1 of the 'International Stash Bustin' Fabric Swap' (beta version)'s piece of fabric was Sarah. Congrats to her! Sorry to the lovely swappers that didn't get their entry selected, please do resend your entry when another piece of fabric up for grabs catches your eye.

So, onto today's piece of fabric offered by Sarah. And as you can see from the image above, what a beaut it is! Here is her description:

'100% cotton, I'd say mid-weight, perhaps a quilting weight? Not very drapey. 1 yd, 45" wide. Well, technically it's a yard, but I pre-shrink all cotton when I buy it, and it's actually 88cm long. So, I'm throwing in this ribbon from farbenmix that coordinates! 1yd on the ribbon.'

If you would like to give this fabric a home, then you can enter by emailing me at with your name, email address, postal address, a picture of the piece of stash fabric you are offering up and a short description of that fabric (width and length of fabric and fibre content if known will suffice). Mark the subject of your email with today’s date. Same as before, I'll select a recipient at midnight tonight using a random number generator and inform them tomorrow, and obviously forward their name, address and email address to Sarah so she can send on this fabric.

Let Round 2 commence! Ding ding!

Monday 22 February 2010

Fabric Swap: Day 1. 22nd February

Hi everyone! Exciting day: Day 1 of the International Stash Bustin' Fabric Swap (beta version). So, first offering up this week is a piece from my stash (see above). It is 100% cotton, a really nice quality lightweight piece produced in Indian that I got after a clothing company was clearing out some of their bulk samples. It looks a little less purple and a little more aubergine in real life. It has a width of 1 metre (39 inches) and a length of 1 metre 6cms (42 inches). It would be lovely turned into a summer top and perfect for the Colette Patterns' Madeleine Mini Bloomers!

If you would like to give this a new home, then as described in my last post, you can can enter by emailing me at with your name, email address, postal address, a picture of the piece of stash fabric you are offering up and a short description of that fabric (width and length of fabric and fibre content if known will suffice). Mark the subject of your email with the day’s date. See my last post for more details if you haven't already.

I will check my inbox at midnight tonight (Spanish mainland time) and select a recipient using a random number generator and notify them tomorrow morning. If you are unlucky, make sure you visit back tomorrow as there will be the next piece of fabric being offered up. Good luck peops!

Friday 19 February 2010

Stash Bustin' Fabric Swap!!!!

Right listen up peops, I have something to announce. For one week starting Monday 22nd February I will be hosting a fabric swap here on this blog. This event has been inspired by a couple of comments on my Stash Bustin’ post on the Colette Patterns blog this week. Unless this is your first visit to my blog (oh, hi!), you will no doubt be aware that I am encouraging fellow sewers to join me in the Stash Bustin’ challenge to make the most of the fabrics they already have, rather than purchasing new pieces for their forthcoming sewing projects. However, there are probably a multitude of reasons why these pieces have laid untouched in your stash for so long, maybe some of the pieces in there just don’t ignite your creativity. They are perfectly good which is probably why you have kept hold of them, but the inspiration that you hoped would present itself just refuses to avail itself. Well, why don’t you take this opportunity to choose one such piece to off-load to a grateful seam-ster in return for a new (to you) piece?!

Ok, the small print:

  • To be in the running for a free piece of fabric you have to have a piece you in turn are prepared to send to someone.
  • Pieces of stash fabric offered must be a minimum of 90 cms/1 yard in length.
  • This swap is open to anyone in the world with postal and email addresses (sorry carbon-footprint, at least we are hopefully helping to alleviate the production of new fabric!). Equally, you must be prepared to send your piece of fabric anywhere in the world.
  • This is a swap, no money will be exchanged.
  • To function properly it will rely on the honesty of those who participate. This blog is hosting this swap but takes no responsibility for a piece of fabric not reaching its intended destination, either because of dishonesty, the postal system or any other reason.
  • All communications and imparted details will be handled discretely by myself, and only passed on to the necessary persons (i.e. the sender needs to know the name and address of the recipient, plus their email addresses will be swapped for communication regarding the ‘transaction’).

Here’s how it’ll work:

  • On the first day I will kick off proceedings by offering up a piece from my stash by posting a picture and short description of it at about 11am in the morning, Spanish mainland time.
  • If you decide you would like to be in the running for it, you can enter by emailing me at with your name, email address, postal address, a picture of the piece of stash fabric you are offering up and a short description of that fabric (width and length of fabric and fibre content if known will suffice). Mark the subject of your email with the day’s date.
  • At midnight (Spanish mainland time) that same day I will pick a recipient using a random number generator.
  • At 11am the next morning I will notify that person that they have been picked and I then post the photo of the piece of fabric they are offering up with description. I will then head off to the post office and send them my piece of stash fabric.
  • If you fancy that second piece of fabric, to enter repeat as before by emailing me at with your name, email address, postal address, a picture of the piece of stash fabric you are offering up and a short description of that fabric. (Don’t forget to include the day’s date as the subject of your email to avoid being in the running for the wrong piece of fabric). At midnight I will pick the next recipient using a random generator.
  • The following morning at 11am I will notify the next recipient, and forward the name and address to the first person so they can send the fabric. I will THEN post the picture and description of the third piece of fabric owned by the second recipient etc etc etc. Get it?
  • On the last day, Sunday 28th, the final recipient will be chosen at midnight and they will send their piece of fabric to me to make a complete circle. Fair?
  • Please send only one email per piece of fabric you want, but feel free to enter as many days as you. However, entries that are sent BEFORE the fabric has been posted will be deemed an invalid entry.

I apologise for any difficulties the timing may present you if you live in an opposing time zone, and if this seems overly confusing.

If this goes well, or a version of this looks like it may go well, I will make hosting a fabric giveaway more frequent. Let’s think of this as a beta! If you have a better idea of how it could work, then either please let me know so I can make a future model more efficient, or try starting your own swap!

Ok, lovely stash busters, may I suggest you go and locate a piece of unwanted stash fabric in preparation for the onset of this exciting fabric swapping event?!

Thursday 18 February 2010

At Colette Patterns: 'Stash Bustin''

You know, the more I think about it, the more I think I'm right. I was pretty sure I was right about this before, but each time I consider it, my certainty is cranked up a notch. This may, in part, be linked to the book I am currently reading (the incredibly well researched and therefore terrifying 'Confessions of an Eco Sinner: Travels to Find Where My Stuff Comes from' by Fred Pearce,) which has raised my panic level that we must do something NOW about the way our consumption is effecting this planet. But don't let my mania spoil your day.

Simply put, I'm convinced that Stash Bustin' is the only answer for the eco-conscious seamstress who is (metaphorically) sitting on a pile of unused fabric. If you want to witness my shameless attempt to bring in new participants, then check out my post over at the Colette Patterns blog this week.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

100th Post and Some Thoughts on Sewing

Happy 100th post! At the moment I'm busy preparing my wardrobe for my self-imposed Me-Made-March challenge with four projects on the go. Also, I am generally disinclined to show uncompleted creations, I thought I'd spew a post's-worth of my recent thoughts on sewing clothing.

Sewing clothes from scratch, refashioning existing garments and buying second-hand items means that you are free from the clutches of the clothing industry. You are not responsible for the inhumane working conditions of the thousands of sweatshops and factories, or for the waste and damage caused by clothing production and transportation. I know that is quite a simplified statement, and that undeniably we are all responsible for the mal-treatment of other people and the world which we share, but I'm pretty convinced that removing my role in a particularly damaging and exploitative manufacturing industry I am not making it any worse (incidentally, this is why I gave up my 'career' in the clothing industry). From this 'vantage' point, I can research into the practices of this industry easier without being compromised by personally being part of it's chain.

Another related realisation came to me yesterday. All the thousands (millions?) of euros/pounds/dollars what-have-you that are spent every year on advertising clothing brands and retailers? To me and other committed sewers and refashioners: irrelevant. Nothing more than pretty, or often boring, pictures. I haven't touched a fashion magazine in weeks, but when I do chose to, the most that can happen is that I'll be inspired by the silhouette or detail of a garment that I may try to sew in the future. I cannot be pursuaded to part with my cash in any particular store on any particular aspirational line of clothing. To the ad-man, I may as well not exist. That's quite liberating.

I hope the Me-Made-March challenge, like the Makeshift project that inspired it, will encourage sewers and refashioners to rely on their creations to perform the function they are intended for: to clothe you. You know that rush that you get when someone compliments you on something you're wearing that you happened to have made yourself? Well, what if you gave yourself the chance to experience that everyday? I'm not saying it's going to be easy: I might fail or resort to wearing the same three things for a month when the rest falls apart, but I think it's an endeavour worth attempting. Oh, and to celebrate the Me-Made-March challenge, I will be having a Me-Made/sewing based giveaway each week throughout March, so make sure you pop back during that time.

Seeing as I don't have any new completed garment at the moment to show you, I have illustrated this post with recent uploadeds to Burdastyle that I have found particularly inspirational. Click on each image to see the full garment, details and talented creator.

Friday 12 February 2010

Bustin' the Navy and Gold Stretch

Last week I set about bustin' some stash. I chose the piece of stretch fabric with navy and gold stripes, half of which I had previously deployed in the creation of my comfy dress. As you can see from the pic above, a fair sized piece still remained, and I was determined to be left with nothing but little scraps.

With my homegirl Harriet's birthday close, a gift for her was my priority. Harriet also follows the Wardrobe Refashion rules but is a super-busy teacher/poet lady who is presently too busy to get much sewing done. Therefore, I thought a nice new handmade top would be nice for her. So using the pattern I developed for my blue and white striped top, I made her this:

Harriet was a big fan of the original's puffy sleeves. For the neck line, instead of zigzagging some regular elastic around the neckhole on the wrong side, I used some navy satin-y fold over elastic (FOE) that was part of my recent eBay haul. Although FOE is generally used for underwear, it creates such a nice clean finish, I wanted to try it on this top. I think it works ok, particularly because the sparkly fabric lends something of a disco vibe anyway!

I was hoping to squeeze out a vest and pants set from the remnants, but the remains were odd shapes that prevented a vest. So instead I eeked out as much pant-age as I could:

The top pair in this pic are cut on the straight of grain, but then the strange shaped remains got even stranger and less accommodating, so I drafted half pattern pieces so I could cut more on the cross-grain and form chevron effects. I used the rest of the navy FOE and some scalloped edge navy underwear elastic, using different combinations and techniques on each of the pairs as practice. One of these will remain mine, two will become gifts. I think there are only so many pairs of disco pants it is necessary for one girl to own!

Well, my target was met. Nothing but small and unusable scraps left. This fabric has been thoroughly BUSTED!

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Underwear Update

Peops who are sweet enough to check my blog regularly may remember the pants and vest that I made in preparation of my Me-Made-March challenge. To recap, I plan to only wear items of clothing I have made myself (excluding bras, socks, tights and footwear) for the duration of march, in a bid to learn about the relationship I have with my creations and to better appreciate what I have and what I can produce. In reality the challenge has already begun as, since I came up with it, I have been attempting to plan and produce the items that I will need and currently do not have. Pant and vests were one of the main hurdles to overcome as I had not previously attempted to sew either garment.

Both the pants and vest were, thankfully, a success. But to think I've been sitting on my laurels after the initial success would be wrong! I have been experimenting further with some of the other types of underwear elastic I purchased on eBay and cranking out more which I would like to unveil to you now (fear not, there are no pics of said garments modelled by me!).

Almost immediately after making my own first pants and vest set, I made a virtually identical set to send to my best mate Vic along with the Bedsheet Dress. The success of comfy homemade pants wasn't something I felt I could keep to myself! The only difference with this set is that the pants are made with one technique of elastic application, rather than the two I used for my first pants (see that post for detailed description of the methods I figured out).

Once again using only one elastic technique (the easy one which attaches the elastic in one process rather than two), I swiftly knocked out another pair of pants for myself using the remnant from this stretch top. This fabric is pretty slinky and these are a joy to wear! This pair used up the last of the satin-edge red elastic. I applied a pre-made bow from here:

I got these pre-made bow sample cards a decade ago (I knew they would come in handy if I keep hold of them for long enough!) when a factory close to my university in Nottingham closed down and brought us heaps of samples and notions for the students to raid. There were whole massive tables full. That was an exciting day! I wish I could go back and snare a load of the underwear elastic I overlooked at the time!

Next up was another vest which was more of a refashion. You may recall the boat-neck stretch top from my initial advances into the world of stretch? Well, in hindsight it wasn't such a successful garment, the neck was too wide and the whole thing a little tight over the hips. Using a scallop-edge pink underwear elastic that top became this vest, which will be perfect for sleeping in. I created a little bust 'pinch' (not sure of the official term) by zigzagging a piece of elastic to the reverse whilst pulling it tight, so when released it pulls the fabric. I really like this technique on some mass-manufactured garments I've seen, and particularly like it applied to striped fabric as it distorts the lines of the stripes slightly. Oh, and I made matching pants from the remnant of this fabric and the same elastic, but didn't really warrant a photo.

Using more of the pink scallop-edge elastic I turned part of an unwanted T-shirt previously belonging to my boyfriend into these. This time I only used the two-step elastic application method (to summarise, you stitch the elastic to the raw edge of the fabric with a zigzag stitch right sides together down the centre of the elastic. You then flip the elastic over to the otherside, positioning it all so that just the cute scallop-edge is visable at the edge and top-stitch close to the edge trapping it all position. I would recommend a three-step zigzag for the topstitching if your machine does it. I've chosen to use a contrast thread, but of course I could have used black thread on these making the stitching less visable). This particular elastic has a fuzzy 'plush' backing, making it very nice against the skin and perfect for pants. I wanted to utilise that property so I chose the two-step technique. The one-step technique which results in the elastic laying on the outside of the fabric edge means the fuzziness isn't really in contact with the skin. Note: not all underwear elastic has a fuzzy/plush backing. If you're buying it from eBay like I did, check the description if it's a property you want. Another bow from the ex-factory score.

Hopefully this closeup will give you an idea of the method I'm attempting to describe.

The above pair of pants (front and back views!) are made from the remaining section of the same black T-shirt. It's fun to use the graphics from an old T-shirt and incorporate it into your new item. Well, for this pair I used a whole different type of elastic: FOE (fold over elastic). This stuff comes flat with a groove down the centre. You fold the elastic along this groove, trapping the edge of the fabric inside, and stitch over the top (once again I would recommend a three-stage zigzag). To get an idea of how the hell to approach this new type of elastic once I had my mits on it, I checked out this tutorial by Angry Chicken. In the tutorial, she is using woven fabric rather than stretch/knit. Whilst she is attaching the FOE to the woven fabric, she is pulling the elastic so the result is a gathered fabric look. You don't really do that when you are using stretch/knit fabric, but I would recommend giving it a little pull as you apply it to create a snug-ish fitting pair of pants, though it's not essential. This FOE I purchased has a satin finish, however some are matt, and some FOE's even have a fuzzy/plush backing for super-comfy pants.

So there you go peops, just wanted to share with you the journey to date that my undies making mission has taken. This is far from the end of the road, there will be more presented to you very soon. However, I think I've now got a handle on the different types of elastics for underwear on the market. The only thing I feel I have left to try is a vest made with the FOE. Agh! MORE challenges I'm setting myself! Have you tried making underwear? Did you discover anything you think I've failed to mention? Happy pant-making!

Saturday 6 February 2010

Chicken Dress RIP, Welcome Bedsheet Dress

I must share with you a tale that contains within a greater truth. (Sitting comfortably? There are highs and lows in this story so you need to be correctly positioned). You may or may not be familiar with the awesomeness that is known to it's friends as 'The Chicken Dress'. To summarise, The Chicken Dress was created by myself for my best mate Vic to keep her suitably clothed during her expedition to foreign lands (Thailand and Oz). These photos are of the time both Vic and The Chicken Dress spent in Thailand (look at the scene behind Vic's shoulder in the pic below! AMAZING!).

In fact, one of Vic's first emails she sent upon arrival in Thailand was to let me know that the hotel they were staying in had it's own chicken coop! Attempts were made to capture the dress with a real life chicken tableux behind, be alas it was not to be.

Ok, this is the bit when you need to be comfortable, not holding hot liquids precariously close to a laptop or such. A couple of weeks ago I received word from Vic (who by this point was staying with friends in Brisbane) of a very sad nature. She was barely able to type the words, so filled with sorrow was she, to explain the terrible hot iron related event that caused the death of The Chicken Dress. Tragic times.

In fact, a similar fate befell the top I'm wearing in the picture above. Yeah that's right, that's me and Vic in 1999! (Don't ask about the fringe.) Anyway. What Vic and I have garnered from this tale is thus: The star that shines twice as bright, shines half as long. A sad truth.

But wait. There is another. Well, not another as such, lightning never strikes twice. However, whilst this melancholy news was being transmitted to me, I was actually in the process of cutting out another Anda dress for Vic from her old bedsheet. May I present:

Clearly, this new Bedsheet Dress is by no means meant as a replacement to The Chicken Dress. But let's hope it goes some way towards easing the pain of loss.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

At Colette Patterns: 'Make Do and Mend: Darning'

When one of my favourite pairs of socks developed a hole last week, I felt it was a timely reminder to learn a skill of my fore-mothers: darning! Having previously waxed lyrical about the importance to carrying these skills on to preserve our existing wardrobes, I could hardly shy away from the challenge. So I cranked open my Make Do and Mend book and got to work. The full instructions I used, the outcome plus some fantastic advice in the comments section can all be seen here at the Colette Patterns blog.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

My Stash

I am very excited to report that many fantastic sewer/bloggers have already agreed to join me in the Stash Bustin' campaign! Hopefully many more will follow as the word spreads about our pledge to work through our existing fabric collections and avoid heading to the fabric shop where possible.

Some Stash Busters (including EmilyKate and Welmode) have sighted the desire to save some pennies as their principle motivation, others ( like Amy and Cisa) fear drowning in a sea of fabric as their stash grows increasingly unwieldy. The desire to refrain from unnecessary consumption of new stuff is certainly felt by some sewers also. However, I felt it necessary to explain a little further my personal reasons for Stash Bustin' at this time, aside from those listed above.

For some reason that I am unable to define, I have been holding back on discussing openly my plans for this year. Ok, I'm just going to say it. I am moving back to UK in August. There. Said it. Perhaps it is the admission that this chapter in my life will soon be drawing to a close, perhaps it's not wanting to field any more 'but why?!' enquiries than I already have done (I'm pretty over justifying my decisions on this). Well, anyhow, whittling down my possessions AND saving money are efforts I must firmly keep in my eyeline from now until August.

So, as Minnado has acknowledged, the process of Stash Bustin' is probably best initiated by uncovering the stash itself. A couple of days ago, I did the very same. I dragged out my fabric from it's various hiding places, then folded and organised it into sections:

This is my heavy-medium weight pile. It doesn't look very big in this pic, but trust me it's HUGE. There is masses of navy stretch twill and black stretch sateen in particular. Coats, jackets, trousers and skirts will hopefully worm their way out of this pile of potential.

This is the light-medium weight pile. These pieces are destined for light dresses and tops. Some of these bits are pretty small, so I'm going to have to apply some cunning and genius to 'make it work'!

The stretch and knit section!

There is also a section of clothes to be altered or picked apart for the fabric, but I'm pretty sure you can imagine what a messy pile of badly folded clothes looks like if you really put your mind to it! Of course, as soon as I'd put the stash all away neatly, I uncovered a heap more fabric that didn't make it into the photo shoot! I've got a lot of work to do to make my wardrobe ready for my Me-Made-March challenge, so it's good to see what I've actually got to work with. In fact, I'm not sure I really needed another challenge on top of the Me-Made-March one, but hell, let's go balls deep! (as my boy would say). Happy Bustin' peops!

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