Wednesday 30 September 2015

Pants Self-Sufficiency

Before I could crack on with any of my proposed nippy weather sewing projects, I needed to take care of my foundations! I didn't have quite enough pairs in rotation, and regularly ended up wearing my least favourite pairs. Also, if I were to achieve a goal of mine (pants self-sufficiency) I had to make some more pairs so I could finally get rid of my final three pairs of shop-bought pants. I now only own self-made pants! 


It may not surprise you to learn that these, and all the other pairs I own, were made using my free downloadable pants/undies/knickers pattern. What can I say?! It's exactly what I want from a knickers pattern: low-rise with good bum coverage. This pattern has been downloaded over 34,000 times now! I chose to release the pattern as a free one rather to be paid for because I really want to encourage sewers to try making their own undies, and I know that a download doesn't equate a use, but I'm really happy with that amount of initial interest at least. 

If you visit my 'Free Sewing Patterns' page you will see that I have included an easy way to show your appreciation by buying me a coffee via paypal. Out of interest, do you want to know how many people out of that 34,000 have done that so far? 31! Obviously, I didn't release either of the free patterns in the pursuit to make money, but I do really appreciate it when a user of the pattern decides to acknowledge the time that went into producing them by fuelling me with caffeine!  

Fabric and Elastic:

I have made MANY pairs of pants from this pattern now, and by now I've got a pretty good idea of what type of knit I feel will work best. I like a medium-weight cotton jersey with a decent elastane content, the type that is suitable for form fitting T-shirts. So I raided my knit-fabric-scraps bin for suitable pieces left over from previous projects. Plus, all the elastic was from my stash, so I had no immediate outlay for this little lot. 

The cream coloured floral pair aside, they were all made using FOE (fold over elastic) that came from a variety of sources (mostly eBay). Right now, my blog's sponsor The Village Haberdashery, has a lovely range of FOE in stock, including the awesome neon orange that I used on the cream floral pair pictured above. If you would like some tips on how to use FOE, check out the blog post I wrote for The Daily Stitch which published this week.  

The only other type of elastic I used this time round was some of the gorgeous cotton elastic from my other sponsor, Textile Garden. It's the delicate lilac and duck-egg scalloped stuff that you can see in the picture below. I wrote more about her cotton elastic selection in this blog post around this time last year. 


I've been aiming to eliminate all the shop-bought pants from my undies drawer for years and it feels fantastic to have finally made the leap! Maybe one day I'll get to a similar position with bras, then Marks & Spencer really will have seen the last of me.... Oh wait, there's still tights. Anyways, these pants are fun and comfy, just what I was hoping for. If you'd like to see examples of how other people have used my free patterns, check out this Pinterest board. And if you've used either of the free patterns and you feel like sharing the results, I'd love to see so pleassseeeeee send me a pic or a link. 

Monday 28 September 2015

Nippy Weather Sewing Plans

(image source: Oliver + S)

I usually love the gradual creeping in of Autumn, with a little nip in the air and the beautiful changes of colour all around. However, right now in South East UK the summer has definitely sodded off and Autumn has crept in with a damp, soggy, lack of ceremony. Still, we can always cheer ourselves up by making a fabulous, useful new handmade garment! Today I'd like to share with you what I intend to rustle up over the next few months.

The reason I haven't called this post 'Autumn/Winter Sewing Plans', is that I expect all these garments will see wear throughout the year, not just in A/W. All the pieces I'm planning should be layer-able and  to be worn in a variety of outfit combos. I'm all about maximum wardrobe versatility! Plus, if you're not from or living in the UK, I'll let you into a little secret: the weather here isn't really that bad. The reason why British people are known for moaning so much about it is its unpredictability. MI5 may well be onto me now.... Most other parts of the globe get way more extreme weather of some form or another, but generally most places know what to expect for their season or climate. Here, you can plan a BBQ in July and have it ruined by rain, or you can plan a Novembers day at the indoor soft-play or cinema and find it deserted because it's suddenly turned bright and lovely outside. Generally, the rule of thumb is: if it's nice GET THE HELL OUTSIDE, it may cloud over by the afternoon. 

When it comes to sewing, I am reluctant to state my intended projects as I hate to be tied to my plans, even if it's only myself who will be holding me to account. However, I'm super excited (at the moment) about each of the following, perhaps even enough to see them all through to completion! I'm keeping my sewing projects for Dolores completely spontaneous and commitment-free, so hopefully I can it both ways (planned and unplanned) for a while. Here's what I've been cooking up...


(image source: Wiksten)

This will be my third attempt at the Wiksten Tova Top/Dress pattern. I wear my grey dress (now worn as a tunic) regularly, and I'd love to have another shorter and lighter weight version. I've got some gorgeously soft light-weight denim/cotton from the Fabric Godmother lined up and I'm going to aim for a super neat finish as I want this garment to be something I keep for years and years that improves with wear. Alright, this won't be a nippy weather garment exactly, but layered with a vest or jersey top underneath and a cardi on top, it'll still count! 

I still love my 1960's Breton top (pictured above) sooo much, it's almost weird. It's super comfy, but also feels fairly stylish. I plan to push this magic combo further still by making an even more casual version with some stripy French terry that I was kindly given by the Fabric Godmother. 


(image source: MIY Collection)

Having recently started teaching at Wendy Ward's MIY Workshop in Brighton, I'm becoming better acquainted with her products and I really fancy having a bash at the MIY Collection Brightside Shrug. This is a similar shape to a lovely emerald knit shrug that I scored in a charity shop that I wear quite a lot, and something similar in a different colour would be really useful.


My first and second versions of Gertie's easy knit skirt pattern have been real successes, and I like wearing both more than any other skirt I have ever owned. I'm hoping I've got some more suitable knit fabric lurking in my stash for another (hopefully black...).  


(image source: Oliver + S)

I've had the Liesl + Co Woodland Stroll Cape (pictured above and at the top of this post) Pinned on my 'Sewing Patterns I Want' Pinterest board for yonks. A while back I was looking at a subsection of my fabric stash that I usually pretend does't exist when I realised that a length of check wool in there might just be big enough for this cute cape. I've had the pattern printed and cut out for months, time to attack!

(image source: Papercut Patterns)

The Papercut Patterns Waver Jacket is the most recent addition to my sewing plans. I think this pattern is hasn't been out for long, and when I saw it, I knew it was the pattern I had been waiting for to make a much-needed and longed for rain jacket. Thanks to my sponsor, a copy is winging its way to me as I type. I cannot wait to get cracking on this one, and show you the amazing fabric I have in store for it! Until it's finished, I'm going to keep it a secret....

What about you? Do you have a few plans in the pipeline? Do you feel like me, in that you are often reluctant to share your plans 'out loud' in case you change your mind? 

Monday 21 September 2015

Charity Shop Scores: West Hampstead, Hastings, Lewes and Darlington. PLUS: A Decision

The haul I have to share with you today isn't as enormous as my last instalment of Charity Shop Scores. That's mainly because my last instalment wasn't that long ago, but also because I've been doing some thinking, which I'll get to in a minute. First...

Weird Sock-Shoes, £2.99
Dinosaur Wellies, £2 

Let's just take a closer look at these crazy sock-shoes! Call me sheltered, but I've never seen anything like them. They were brand new still in their packaging, so I could see that they were made in France but bought in Germany (the original price tag is on the back). Are they made for outside use?! I have no idea. Although they do proclaim to be machine washable, which you'd hope they would be considering they are mainly fabric. 

Jazzy Clarks trainers, £1

When shoes are barely worn and this cheap, I can't help but snaffle them up, even if I've already got a few pairs in the same size already in the bank. You never know which are going to be 'hits' and which will be 'misses', especially now Dolores is developing an opinion about what she wears, and helpfully becomes increasingly vocal about what feels comfy and what doesn't.  

Colour block cardigan, £3
Spotty bolero cardigan, £2.99

My mum is a fabulous knitter and makes Dolores wonderful, cosy cardigans. But the finer knit variety like these are often useful for layering, particularly in warmer months.

So on to my decision. It was a tough one to make, but I need to stop charity shopping. Not for ever, but for the foreseeable future. It's one of my favourite activities, but I can't escape two truths: 1) charity shopping is still a form of shopping, and 2) we've got enough stuff. What I mean by the first one is that, even though the money I'm handing over often goes to support awesome causes, it's money I need to channel elsewhere at the moment. Pat and I want to make some changes to our lives, and those changes are going to cost money, so I need to limit/stop unnecessary spending where I can.

And as for the other point, thanks to previous charity shopping successes, as well as some lovely hand-me-downs and my own sewing skillz, Dolores has enough suitably sized clothing and footwear in storage to see her through the next year or two. Plus, something I derive great pleasure from is sewing clothing for her, but there's no point in doing that with so much stuff already in our possession. I've finally figured out that I need to leave stuff in the charity shops for other people's kids, so I can make things for my daughter that will actually see a decent amount of use. And you don't even want to see how many secondhand toys are already knocking around our house.... I've actually removed about a third of her toys from sight with the intension of rotating them, but it hardly looks like anything happened and she certainly hasn't noticed.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Small World Louisa Dress. Plus: Zip Query

A child's garment in my mind should be a relatively quick undertaking. This one was not. My goodness, this dress felt like a long time coming. From printing out the pattern to finishing the final seam probably took about four months, with other projects working alongside it, of course. But! How cute! Let's discuss...


I was waiting for a good excuse to buy the Louisa dress pattern by Compagnie M, and then Anna from Paunnet blog offered up a discount code as part of a blog tour for this very pattern, so what was a girl to do? I've seen about three thousand amazing versions of this pattern on the interwebs (and pinned most of them), in fact I'm not sure it's possible to make a rubbish, or even a 'meh', one. If I were to dissect what I like about this pattern, I would have to say that it's the following elements: simple A-line silhouette, feature buttons, piping and the possibilities for contrast fabrics. 

Having made it, I am still in love with all these elements. However, what I wasn't expecting is just how many damn pieces it requires! The PDF format results in a sizeable layout (for a children's garment) which requires some hefty taping together. And then you have to trace each piece out as they are overlapping each other on the layout, I guess to prevent using up a whole forest each time a copy gets sold. I must admit, I stalled on that part a bit as my limited evening-time energy could only take me so far.   

Having made it, I would argue that the Louisa dress is a deceptively simple garment. It involved a lot of construction steps, not least because I made the fully lined version. If I'd picked the panelled or split back options, it would have involved even more pattern pieces and construction steps. But that's just me having a moan. It was a fun project, but I would advise anyone going into it not to expect a completed garment after four hours of making it for the first time. Unless you are a sewing ninja.

I made the size 2, expecting that it'd fit Dolores this Autumn (she's 2 in a couple of weeks, WHAT?). However, it's come up considerably bigger. I'm not sure she'll be wearing it much before her third birthday, which is a shame because now that she is able to name almost every picture on it, she's currently very entertained by the fabric. Speaking of which... 


I was kindly given a metre (could have been 1.5 metres now I think about it) of this amazing organic corduroy by my blog sponsor The Village Haberdashery, where I also teach. The design is called Small World, and is one of the designs by amazing sewing lady Rae Hoekstra that is part of a collection which is also called Small World. The fabric is produced by Cloud9 Fabrics, and if you want to buy new fabric, I'd recommend their wares as all their fabrics are 100% certified organic and they have high ethical standards of social as well as environmental practices. 

Previously, the only organic cotton fabrics I'd sewn with were interlock knit and quilting-type wovens. I was excited to give sewing with this fabric a whirl, because organic corduroy doesn't seem to be common place. It didn't disappoint. It's such a lovely, soft, fine, needle cord, perfect for children's wear and really easy to sew with. 

I used some turquoise habotai silk for the lining from my stash, where the red piping and red buttons also came from. The only thing I bought for this project (aside from the pattern), was the zip. Boom.


The cuteness levels of this dress are high. Although sadly, as much as I love the style and its potential for different variations, I think this pattern is a bit too involved for me to use over and over again. But having traced all those pieces in the size 2, I may make another at some point next year to have made the investment of money and time spent taping and tracing worth while. Next time, I'll probably make a summer version and draft a neck facing, omitting the need for lining which should speed things up a bit. 

Now here's my query: how do I avoid this crinkled effect around my invisible zip? Any ideas why this  happens sometimes? I'm sure I'm not alone in ending up with this effect on occasion. Would using a lightweight zip eliminate the crinkling? A good steaming with my iron did nothing to help. I'm not too bothered about it with this particular dress, because I doubt Dolores will stand still long enough for it to be very noticeable, but I'd like to avoid it going forward... Thoughts please!!!!!

Wednesday 9 September 2015

The Best Denim Skirt Ever (Made by Me)

First there was my 'Comfiest Skirt Ever', and now it's the 'Best Denim Skirt Ever'. These are bold claims, are they not? Of course, I'm open to finding a comfier skirt or a better denim skirt, but at the time of writing, both these statements are holding true for me. 


When I blogged about the Ponte de Roma version, I told you there'd be more knit pencil skirts on the horizon. My intention was to dig about in my stash for something suitable, but before I had a chance to do so, another piece of fabric that is perfect for this pattern turned up instead. This faux-denim knit fabric was spotted on the shelves at the recent Fabric Godmother open day. The owner, Josie, kindly allowed me to choose some fabric as a thank you for me helping out, and this is one of the pieces I took away with me. I saw something similar in a different fabric shop years ago but didn't get any, and I've kicked myself on several occasions since when I remembered it. 

Lemme tell you about this stuff. The right side has a indigo-denimy look, and back is cream. The dye transferred something chronic so I washed it at 60 degrees as soon as I got it home. The fabric came out a slightly lighter shade but the washing had stopped the transferring. The listing for the fabric says 100% cotton, but I'd be surprised if there is no elastane/lycra content as this stuff has an amazing 4-way stretch and recovery. It has a much chunkier feel to it than the Ponte de Roma, so I was keen to find out what kind of look it would bring to the pencil skirt pattern...


Just to back up a sec: the pattern I'm talking about is the knit pencil skirt pattern from the Gertie Sew Vintage Casual book. It consists of just one pattern piece that you cut twice on the fold, and has an elasticated waistband. My first attempt making this pattern helped me to determine that I should lower the waistline by 3cm and raise the hemline also by 3cm. I made one final adjustment by making the waistline slightly curved rather than straight, which would help the waistline sit correctly at the lower position.

When I had a fitting of my Ponte de Roma version, I found I needed to remove 4cm of the total circumference. I'm glad I didn't make that a permanent adjustment on my the pattern piece because this time round, I found the fit to be perfect with no alteration of width required. I think I did slightly straighten the side seam from around the knee level to the hem though. For this denim version, I finished the waistband as the pattern instructions suggested, which gives a really clean finish with no visible anything (see above). 

The only other thing I can think to note is the topstitched hem. It's a total hot mess because I used an 80/12 thickness needle with chunky top-stitching thread, a combination that my machine HATED. It made awful clunking noises at regular points, but I refused to halt this project long enough to buy a proper, thicker twin needle. I had to stop and restart stitching several times so there are sections where there's overlaps of stitching, and parts where the needle refused to pierce the fabric (see above) and the back has heaps of birds nests (see below). But I'm pretty sure that the messiness is only noticeable up close. At some point I may uptick the whole hem and redo it, but it certainly hasn't stopped me wearing it yet. 


Perhaps I should qualify this title with 'yet' at the end of it, although I already think the title is long enough! The only niggle I have with this skirt (aside from the messy hem, which really doesn't bother me) is that this skirt does start to migrate up a little bit, for some unknown reason. But generally it stays in place far better than pretty much any skirt I've ever worn, so I can forgive it this one misdemeanour. Maybe if I took more off the top and added it back to the length, then the curve of the side seam would match the curve of my hips more accurately, or something. I may try that next time...

Even as it stands, this is by far the nicest denim(esque) skirt that I own. Now that I own this, I'm seriously thinking of donating my denim high waist bow skirt to the charity shop because I have worn it exactly twice since I made it three years ago, and both those times did not feel very relaxing. What's the best denim skirt you've ever owned? Was it self-made?

Wednesday 2 September 2015

New Classes at MIY Workshop, Brighton

About a month ago, we had a couple of friends come to visit from Spain, and one of them gave Pat and me a tarot reading. Now, I'm not at all new-agey, but I freaking loves me some tarot. If done by someone who knows what they are doing (or at least can pretend that they do), then it is a lot of fun. And my mate Lee really knows what he's doing, plus he is selfless enough to help his friends delve into their problems for hours on end. On this occasion, we wanted to know what is going on with us, work-wise. There's uncertainty in our future as Pat's current job is coming to an end in a few weeks, with nothing else currently on the horizon. I won't bore you with the whole spread, but I have to say that Lee predicted that my work opportunities will be expanding, and in the direction of Brighton (I have no idea which specific card means 'more work in Brighton'!).

(image source: Wendy Ward via Makery blog)

I shit you not, less than a week later I was helping out at the Fabric Godmother's awesome open day (massive hello's to everyone I met or caught up with there) and got the chance to chat with Wendy Ward, who asked if I would like to teach at her MIY Workshop (which is in Brighton)! A briefly backstory and explanation: I was lucky enough to meet Wendy two years ago when she kindly accepted our request to talk at the Craftaganza Live talks (now defunct), which were a spin off of my semi-regular craft market, Brighton Craftaganza (resting, but not defunct). Wendy is an insanely talented pattern cutter, designer, writer and teacher who sells her own patterns and sewing related products, AND wrote a beautiful, recently released sewing book. She recently contributed not one but TWO incredible refashions as part of Portia/Makery blog's The Refashioners 2015 challenge (see above). Good work, Tarot.

(image source: MIY Workshop)

I'm so excited to be teaching at the MIY Workshop for so many reasons. Wendy is a really cool lady who I hope to learn from, and her workshop space (see above) looks lovely and super inspiring. She seems to have a bunch of loyal, regular students who attend her classes (many of whom have been asking for Saturday classes, which is what I'll be teaching) and I can't wait to meet some of them. These classes are for anyone interested in doing some sewing, no matter what their existing skill level. Students work on whatever projects they fancy at their own pace, and I'll be there to assist in any way I can. Initially, I'll be teaching there on 19th September and 24th October, and if those book up well, then every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month going forwards. If you would like to know more or to book a class, please visit here for Wendy's contact information. Please don't hesitate! Or the tarot will be proved a liar, and Lee will have to find a new hobby.

To clarify, I will be teaching at the MIY Workshop in addition to my other fabulous teaching gigs: Tilly and the Buttons HQ and The Village Haberdashery. I bloody love my job!

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