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Saturday, 26 August 2017

Bank holiday sewing plans

Happy bank holiday, everyone! To celebrate, I have knocked £20 off the price of my Complete Beginners' Sewing Course that starts in September. A very nice way to perk up a Monday night, if I do say so myself....

My sewing mojo is back. It all began with a sociable evening of sewing with a couple of friends - gin and tonics, chocolate and a new pattern - the Arielle skirt - to get to grips with. Admittedly, I didn't get past the cutting out stage that night, but it spurred me on to sew some more.

I'm vaguely trying to sew a few plainer things, ready for work mainly, so I have things to go with all the many patterns already taking residence in my wardrobe. The Arielle skirt is a big hit with me - I have got a couple more versions waiting to be made now, just as soon as I work out what sort of buttons I am after for them (probably matching or self-covered, so they go with as many tops as possible).

My current work in progress is my second version of the Butterick 6333 shirt dress. After making the first version - as an intentionally shortened top to be a wearable toile in a basic black broiderie anglaise from my local fabric shop, I am on to the one I have been dreaming of making. I got the inspiration from flicking through the Boden catalogue, and had one of those moments of being able to picture a couple of fabrics I'd recently bought coming together to make my own version.

Jenna Shirt Dress

The false piping is all done - just down the button bands and round the collar. It was one of those things that needed a bit of care - I even abandoned my slap dash ways and did some hand tacking and put in a temporary stitch line to act as a guide for lining up the piping to the main fabric. I'll go into all that in the course, if people want to add this detail in.

With no big plans for the bank holiday, I'm hoping to squeeze in a few hours of sewing, as I'm really enjoying making this version of the shirt dress. The first had been okay, but there is always the slight worry that a new make won't quite work the way you're hoping with the fit. That, and the fact the cheaper fabric I had chosen was a total pain to iron, with the embroidered details wanting to melt themselves to the iron at every stage. The Liberty tana lawn is a joy as ever to work with - easy to iron and sew, and the details of the design delight me, I have to say - I know I will smile when I put this on to wear for work. I got this piece at a half price bargain, making it slightly less wince inducing expensive. The dangerous thing is though, that my logic still considers the over all make very good value (even if the Liberty was full price) when compared to the Boden dress. Sewing your own clothes doesn't always save you money, but it can certainly give you a lot of pleasure, both in the making and the wearing.


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

New Sewing Courses

Lately, I've been in a bit of a sewing slump.

There has been some sewing going on - but it has been what I'd consider to be utility sewing - such as play costumes for my children and fixing things (most recently, a couple of items our newest family member has chewed). Satisfying as it is to be able to engage my skills for others (when they are grateful - the dog couldn't care less) or to save money (on buying another new bed for said dog), this is not the kind of sewing that makes my heart sing. Nothing has grabbed my attention and inspired me to want to spend the evening sewing for myself, and so I have just got on with Other Things.

This is all fine. The great thing about sewing for a hobby is it can be on your terms. I know it won't be long before my mojo returns - probably in the form of an enticing new pattern or some must have fabric that just has to be made into whatever garment it causes me to imagine it as. I've been taking my time to ponder over what I want to make, and, teach, in the term ahead, and I think I am finally there. 

There are a couple of brand new courses for next term, plus the popular Complete Beginners' Sewing Course is making a comeback.

If you are brand new to sewing, and want to learn how to use a sewing machine, then Complete Beginners' is for you. Even if you have a little sewing experience under your belt, but aren't really confident with your machine yet, then we can tailor the same course to make it a bit more of a challenge (adding in a few applique details to the cushion covers, or learning how to put a zipped pocket into the simple bag) so that you still come away with a sense of satisfaction from improving your skills.

In a change from the past, I'm including all the materials and bits and bobs you need for the course - this is why the course fee is a bit higher than the other more advanced courses.

What we will make on the Complete Beginners' Course:
- a cushion (with or without applique, depending on experience)
- a large tote bag (with or without a zipped pocket, depending on experience)
- a framed purse or a zipped make up bag
- plus an extra kit of your choice for you to take home

Classes are small (maximum of six), so that I can give people all the help they need to make something they feel really proud of. You can bring your own sewing machine or use one of mine. 

Each course runs for 4 weeks, and there will be plenty of tea and yummy homemade cake to fuel your sewing adventures.

The other two courses build on skills taught on the Complete Beginners' Course and are aimed at more experienced sewists. There's one with a shirt dress, and another with a tailored jacket. The dates for all these are below, and there will be updates on the blog with the samples I am making for the courses. I. Can't Wait.

Complete Beginners' Course - Mondays, starting 11th September - £90
Butterick B6333 Shirt Dress Course - Mondays, starting 9th October - £70 (excluding 23rd October for half term)
Alice Tailored Jacket Course - Mondays, starting 13th November - £70

Booking is now open!


Image result for butterick B6333

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Ten Yards From Over The Pond

We all know internet can be a dangerous for your wallet.

One depressingly cold afternoon in January, whilst avoiding doing whatever it was I was meant to be doing, and reading a sewing blog instead, one thing led to another. Before my cup of tea had gone cold, I'd ordered myself some fabric. Not just any fabric - but fabric that took a bit of searching for, and, ended up being ordered from the States. Still, I thought, when you take into account the cheaper yardage, the postage kind of balances out. Until you get stung for customs, before being allowed to be united with your parcel of joy. Oops.

All in, I spent about £100 - call it £120 with customs and zips and buttons and stuff - and I got four dresses for my spend. I've been wearing them all lots over the last few weeks, and so the impulse spending spree doesn't feel too bad a thing to have done now I have made use of all the fabric. Here's a quick run down, left to right:

A Paris themed Lilou dress; a Sew Over It Vintage Shirt dress; and, a couple of Betty dresses.

The Lilou dress is probably the best fit so far on this pattern - partly down to a slight SBA (sob!). The blue dress had to be a contrast top and bottom, as the shop only had a yard of the beach umbrellas - the bottom is a nice navy suiting I bought along with the buttons in my local fabric shop. You can't really see the buttons very well in the photo, but I like the way the paler blue outline ties the whole dress together. The Betty dresses are fun - the sunflower one has the full circle skirt as per the pattern, and the green meadow one has a half circle skirt, which I kind of winged, so I am pleased with how well it worked out. The biggest clanger of a mistake across these makes came on the sunflowers. I underestimated how much fabric a circle skirt would demolish - jumped straight in and cut the skirt, and then didn't have enough to cut the front bodice. After some careful pattern matching, I think I have got away with the unintended front seam. Just goes to show, you never stop making mistakes and learning from them.

On that note, I have started writing about the political stuff that is going on. Nothing particularly insightful, but a way for me to clear my own head after last Thursday. I'd been involved in trying to get my friend re-elected as an MP. He lost his seat. Regardless of your political persuasion, I'm sure you can agree with me that it takes courage to put yourself forward for politics. I'm sad for him on a personal level, and sad for my town, too - I think our result was more down to the national mood than anything lacking in our guy. In fact, going along to the local BBC hustings the week before convinced me of this. Losing feels worse when you don't think the replacement is an improvement. I get that people are angry, and I get that democracy is brutal at times. I know we have it good in this country, and life moves on. Most people aren't that interested in politics outside of election times, which is why I'll keep the politics chat in a separate place, as I know I don't want to read about someone's politics when I have stopped by to look at their awesome handmade dresses. I have had enough of the aggressive hashtags from all sides, and will welcome social media moving on. I'm all for free speech, but you can't unread things - seeing people I follow and admire for their sewing skills joining in with the whole #f***theTories theme lowered my opinion of them and made me feel alienated (I am soft, I know) and so I decided to stay off social media for a bit. I think we can all be polite and do our best not to isolate each other with our politics, no? Rant over. Normal sewing chat will resume in the next post.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Vintage Shirt Dress

Hurrah for Friday! Another busy week has passed, and I'm really happy that we've got a three day weekend ahead of us to enjoy. My girls are just about in bed, my husband is crashed out, too (having nobly survived a week in which he has in fact been terribly ill, but has soldiered on), and so I have a joyous evening of guilt free sewing in front of me. Tonight, for the first time in a decade, I went back to my old running club, and took part in a speed session. High on the fact I met my target of not being the slowest person there, and, having had a very good time in the process, I am going to try and hold off the biscuits this evening. (Perhaps limit it to single figures...)

A couple of annoying things happened last weekend. Daughter Number Two accidentally broke the prized Harry Potter wand belonging to Daughter Number One. And, our garage was raided, and my lovely mint green bike that I used for getting to work was among the things taken. Things are in perspective again now - the girls are just about back on good terms (until the next disaster), and, although an unwanted expense I could have done without, the new identical twin of the old bike is much shinier.

I've declared that sandals season has started. This means bare legs from now until the end of summer, and no random drops in temperature will hinder me. However chilly my toes may feel, I will not under any circumstances admit to that being the case. As ever, the small things in life delight me, such as a new bottle of nail polish in just the right shade of red, and, the wearing of a dress that has bicycles on it when riding a beautiful bicycle.

I made myself this dress a few weeks ago, on a rare morning at home on my own. It is Liberty lawn (again), fully lined with some cute white cotton with tiny pale blue and turquoise stars on it, to give it the structure I wanted. The main part of the making went smoothly, and I enjoyed my first time with this pattern. I like the way the front bodice is gathered at the shoulders, as I think this looks flattering on. The sizing is a bit generous in my opinion, and I'm glad I veered towards a smaller size than the measurements might have led me to. I went for the sleeveless option and hand finished the bias binding on the inside, and am very pleased with the result. I can definitely imagine making another, but with sleeves, and maybe out of a needlecord or something warmer, for the autumn.

With my time running out, I made the stupid mistake of rushing to finish, and made a couple of silly mistakes - namely, ripping through too far on a buttonhole, and also, I now realise (it took me a while!) that I put the buttons on the wrong side. I'm not that bothered by either - the button hole has been carefully hand stitched back up, and is now hidden by a button anyway, and no one else will notice or care about the buttons being on the wrong way. The dress itself strikes me as very fresh and summery with the white background. I might have a look for a nice red belt to go with it now.

My next dress is cut out and ready to sew, so I'll sign off now and make the most of some free time.

Fancy Bakery on Roff Avenue, Bedford
BOOK HERE for this coming Thursday, 7.30-10pm
If any readers are local to Bedford, you might be interested to know there's a second Sewing Club night happening this coming week at Fancy. It's a casual affair - sewing, cake and chat - you can follow us on Facebook for more updates.

Happy sewing, everyone.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Dress making season is here

Hello readers.

I snapped this picture a couple of weeks ago to capture a memory of a happy mood, as I set off on the train to Brighton, ready to take part in the marathon there with my friend, Gis. We seem to be a bit unlucky with our marathon weather, as, for the second year running, we found ourselves going the distance on the hottest day of the year so far. Yikes. Anyhow, we did it - thanks to sheer bloody-mindedness, and, the thought of posh cocktails at The Grand. 

I've been on a dress making spree over the last month or so, and I still have a couple more planned in my head. I know I'm not alone in associating the spring with a strong desire to sew dresses ready for the warmer weather that is about to follow. This Betty dress has become my favourite - I absolutely love the fabric. It is a border print that I bought from a stall at a sewing show with Mum - I had already spent the budget I had mentally allocated for the day, and then, well, this beauty caught my eye.

Term has started back again, and my spare time has vanished with it. But, I have a plan. With the announcement of another election, I think I have found the push I need to quit social media until after it is done. That should take away one distraction, and free up some time for dress making and other lovely stuff.

Happy weekend, one and all. I hope you manage to squeeze in some sewing time.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Liberty knicker making workshops

`I'd like a pair with dinosaurs on, please.' So said the youngest girl, as she watched me make these Liberty knickers. `Er, I'll see what I can do,' was my reply to my Pin Cushion Girl. She sits at my side sometimes, rearranging my pins into colour themed patterns.  

Two years have passed since I first started making my own undies, and I haven't looked back. I've tried various patterns, in jerseys and woven. The Liberty ones are my favourites - the fine tana lawn feels wonderful, and for me, the array of colour in the designs beats boring black pants any day of the week.

I made a couple of pairs this afternoon, and then realised what I was sewing coordinated quite nicely with the new dress I was wearing. Ha! I haven't photographed it yet, but it is my first go at a Sew Over It Betty Dress, using some to die for Japanese border print I bought with my mum a couple of weekends ago. Watch this space for more dresses, as the spring has got me right in the mood for sewing dresses.

I'll have to resist the temptation to put these latest knickers in my undies drawer just yet, as they are samples for my next workshops. This coming Friday is a double whammy for knicker making - I'm holding an afternoon session and an evening one. The evening has been full for a while now, but there are a couple of spaces left for the afternoon one, should you fancy some sewing escapism, with something pretty to wear for your efforts. And, as part of my campaign to banish boring pants, I'm putting on another set of knicker making workshops next month. They cost £25, and this includes all materials, and copious amounts of tea and cake. You can book here.


There's one more thing I'm excited to tell you about. Sewing Club!

I've been thinking about doing this for ages, and the first one is on Thursday 30th March. We'll be meeting at Fancy (otherwise known as the best place to enjoy cake in Bedford), and it's a turn up and sew and chat kind of thing. It'll be not for profit - a £5 to cover the cost of hiring the venue for the evening, and, anything leftover will in time go towards kitting out the club with useful little things like extension cables and irons. Places will need to be limited, so do book if you want to come.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Making a Harry Potter Robe

When I first started sewing, most of the things I made were either for my children, or, for other people's children. The balance of what I sew has shifted away from that, because I now get a lot of enjoyment from making clothes for myself. But, from time to time, I indulge my children and sew them something they have asked for. It is generally quite gratifying to do this (if you ignore the times when they change the design brief half way through me making it). Part of me hopes that directing my sewing super powers at them makes some amends for my super shouting ability that I direct at them on a regular basis. Time will tell!

When I made my 8 year old a Harry Potter robe for Christmas, it was so admired by my 10 year old, that I promised her I'd make her one too. Give the girl her due, she knows me well, and has been patient about waiting for me to come good on the robe. During that time, she and her sister have sort of bonded over all things Potter. This, I should say, has been a welcome change to normal. They usually drive me to distraction with their capacity for arguing and winding each other up by looking at each other the wrong way, or making stupid noises that are aimed at annoying the other one into an eruption resulting in trouble. Thank you JK Rowling - you seem to have caused a cease fire in this household. World Book day this Thursday seemed like a reasonable deadline for my eldest Harry Potter fan to be able to wear her long awaited robe.

 The robe came together in under a couple of hours - I am sure I could have made it a bit more perfect (such as including a hood), but, well, I take a `good enough' approach when it comes to sewing things like this. There are limits to my devotion.

One addition I made second time round, at the request of the 8 year old, was a wand pocket. She thought it should be on the left hand inside part of the robe, and so I duly obeyed. Adding her one after the robe was finished has meant it is literally just a patch pocket, and the stitching shows through on the right side, but, meh - since having the new pocket, she has been too busy grabbing her wand and thrusting it in her sisters' faces whilst yelling something in Latin to care about those details.

If you have a young Harry Potter fan in your life, that you feel inclined to indulge with a robe, it may be useful to know you can buy the house badges very easily from Ebay. I am hoping the postman will deliver my Ravenclaw one in time for the biggest girl's robe to be completed for Thursday.

Here is a rough outline of how I made the robes:

1. Start with 1.5 metres of 150 cm wide black drill, and also, the same amount of lining in whatever colour cotton is appropriate for the house you are making.
2. Cut across the width a length that is 110 cm (or whatever height you decide - I was making this for a 10 year old girl).
3. From that piece, cut two long strips each 40 cm for the fronts.
4. Pin them onto the remaining back piece, to make very basic shoulders.
5. Drape this over the shoulders of your Harry Potter fan, and start pinning the whole thing into pleats, until you are left with something that fits.

6. Shape the shoulders at angles, so they are less boxy.

7. With the remaining piece of fabric, make your sleeves. First measure how long they need to be, double over your fabric, and cut shapes that are angled into wizard like sleeves (see below).

8. Assemble the robe. The lining (if you decide to do one) is made by treating the outer and the lining as one, until you get to the point of inserting sleeves and doing side seams. So, pin the lining pleats with the outer ones. Baste them all into place, sew the shoulder seams, and then get on and insert the sleeves. I use a very simple method of inserting the sleeves as you would a t-shirt - sew the shoulder section and then sew the under arms. Once the sleeves are in, flap the lining back, and sew the sleeve under arm seams and go right down to the side seams. Then pull back the lining, and stitch those side seams, so that all the raw edges are hidden.

9. Finish all the edges! If you are putting in a wand pocket (and let's face it, the girls really like this part of their robes), it will look neater to put this in before folding the vertical outer front hems over the lining - hopefully that makes sense. Most of my edges are just finished a bit like curtains. I must admit, I machine stitched the second robe, as I couldn't be bothered to hand stitch everything second time round.

10. A hood? I have had requests for a hood, and may try and add this on. Not sure about the exact shape to get the right look, but I will share this method with you if I do it. The general impression is there without the hood, so perhaps I won't worry about it too much if I don't get round to it!

I hope that all made sense. Do you sew dressing up things for children? I'd love to hear about them.