Saturday, 24 December 2011

Farewell 2011

Hi everyone,

I'm not going to do a year in review / round-up post becuase quite frankly my sewing achievements are petty paultry compared with a lot of other bloggers out there.  Sewing hasn't come easily to me, and I have strugged so much with fitting that it has put me off even attempting to make a lot of the things I've really wanted to.  However I do get a lot of satisfaction from sewing, in both the process and the completion of a project, and I do want to do a lot more of it next year. 

With that in mind I do have some serious sewing plans for the new year.  I have already started sewing my peony dress,  I’ve also ordered the fab Darling Ranges dress from Megan Nielsen’s website (then saw you can buy it in the UK at Backstitch, d'oh!), having seen awesome versions by Mary at Idle Fancy and Paunnet.  Not forgetting that I have an altered Rooibos pattern just sitting there begging to be used, so I have three dresses now in progress or being planned in my head.  Hopefully I will finish one of them in time to wear for my birthday on the 14th January.

I have also been doing some Christmas related sewing and embroidery, check out my post over at Tilly’s Crafty Christmas Club for more info on that!

Have great Christmas everyone and see you in 2012!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Rooibos and Peony fabric choice dilemmas!

So my Rooibos and Peony patterns are altered and ready to go.  I had some existing fabric in my stash that I could possibly use, but I also bought some new fabric in a recent splurge in Ditto.

But now I've sat down and looked at the fabrics I am stumped about what to use!  I am totally overwhelmed by fabric, weight, composition, draperyness, it's all so confusing!  I usually just go for cotton poplins or twills when making things as they are so easy to find and don't scare me.  But I really fancied trying something a bit different with these makes.

But onto the actual possible choices.  First up Peony:

I have this lovely cotton sateen in my stash, it's heavy and quite stiff, but still has movement:

It's quite thick though and I wasn't sure it's work with this dress pattern, it feels like it needs something lighter.

I found this lush viscose fabric in Ditto, it is so soft and drapey and lovely I just fell for it.

But this pattern recommends a crisp fabric, and this fabric is anything but crisp!  The pattern actually suggests a poplin, but this is something that Karen at Did you make that, does not recommend.  And she's made up a fab version of this dress, so she should know!  So could I get away with a drapey soft soft fabric rather than something more crisp and stiff?

Is it worth doing a wearable muslin in a poplin to see whether the pattern works better with stiff or drapey?


And then there's my possible choice for Rooibos:

I wanted a nice thick warm fabric and was looking for a gabardine, but have struggled to find any, and anyway is wool gabardine machine washable? If not can you get a cotton/wool mix?? 

I did find this lovely olive green needlecord with orange running through it.  It was so hard to photograph though!.
But now I have it home it seems really drapey and I think drapey is bad with Rooibos, I want stiff right?  Also it is fairly light (for a corduroy) which I think is also bad. 

I did also buy some more needlcord, it's almost velvety, the cording is so fine. 

But it has a pattern on it, and Rooibos has a lot of seams, so I wasn't sure it would work for this make.  I just couldn't pass up this cord, it' so pretty!

Argh maybe I should just buy a cotton twill and be done with it. I so wanted to be more adventurous with my fabric choice though.

I repeat, help!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Pattern fitting class - result!

I finally had my private pattern fitting class, and it was a revelation!

Firstly the teacher took my measurements, she measured pretty much everything you’d need when making a bodice, including my wrist (it's 15cm).

Then we tried on my toiles.  Now I wonder how anyone manages to do adjustments to a toile on their own!  You could just about do the front yourself, but the back!!?? I’m not even sure using a dress form could work unless you’re 100% certain the measurements are exactly the same as yours.  Even if you do one of those gaffer tape dress forms of your own shape, you’ve effectively added a few millimetres to yourself all the way around.  Seriously how do people do fitting on their own?

Now in the end I chose to fit Colette Peony and Colette Rooibos.  Now the size I cut was not the one I probably should have gone for.  Having made the Beignet skirt (which is quite fitted) I knew the size 12 fit me well from the waist down, and rather than start with a bodice too small for my waist and add to it I thought it’d be easier to get a bodice that fitted my waist and take it in in other areas.  My full bust and high bust measurements were 37.5 inches and 35 inches respectively, so if anything I “should” have gone with a size 4 or 8, but I have a 31 inch waist so I knew that even the 8 was never going to fit me, heck I wouldn’t even be able to pin it up.

I admit that the 12 didn’t fit in the shoulders and we had to take it in loads, but we did practically the same adjustments to both the Rooibos and Peony toiles so now I have some standard adjustments for Colette patterns I can use straight away.

So this is what we did:
  • Took in the shoulders by 0.5cm on the front and back (so 1cm in total)
  • Took in the centre back by 2cm
  • Reduced the armhole by 2cm.  Peony: moving the dart to the armhole and increasing this dart by 2cm.  Rooibos: pivoting this amount from the armhole and adding it to the under bust darts
  • Adding a bit more length to the front of the Rooibos under the darts because of the additional dart fullness there.
  • Increasing the length of the back waist dart in the Peony to 13cm, and in the Rooibos by a fair bit too
  • Taking off another 1cm the Peony back by adding it to the upper back/shoulder dart
  • Reducing the length of the centre back of the Peony by 1cm, tapering to nothing at the side seam.
  • Lowering the Peony neckline a little as it was cutting into my neck a bit
Phew, that was a lot of adjustments!  Here are the results
Rooibos front bodice
Rooibos back bodice
Peony front bodice
Peony back bodice
Although I don’t feel confident that I could grab a random pattern and fit it, I have seen the process of fitting close up and now know how to adjust the pattern pieces to take account of toile adjustments.  I have also seen that in a lot of cases it involves just pinching up fabric to increase darts etc.  I also have some standard(ish) adjustments I can now apply to the other Colette patterns I have, and will have confidence that the fit will be good.
Now I just need to sew these babies :o)
Other things I learnt:
  • How to draft facings (and it couldn’t be easier)
  • How to alter a neckline shape (who knew it was literally just a case of redrawing the neckline however you like!)
  • If you are redrawing a dart, how to draw the bottom of it (the other pointy bit that sticks out of the pattern).


Saturday, 12 November 2011

A change of scenery

Do you remember a while back when I posted about my lovely sewing space

Well sadly I have had to vacate it.  Our landlord decided to sell our flat, and it was bought by someone who wanted to keep it as a rental property.  This was great for us as it meant we didn't need to find another place to live.  The downside being the new owner wanted the spare room back to use for storage.  As it has it's own door on the communal hallway, and is separate to the main flat this was something we couldn't really argue with, but we did manage to negotiate keeping half of it.  I made the ultimate sacrifice and gave up my sewing space, because at the end of the day there was no way 3 bikes, 2 surfboards, 2 snowboards, 3 wetsuits and a copious amount of camping gear could have been stored in the flat.

We managed to squeeze in my sewing desk into the bay of our bedroom window

And have moved the big Ikea shelf behind the sofa, so all my sewing patterns and fabric and stored out of sight. 
Yes I have to move the sofa to reach it but it isn't that much of an inconvenience

This turn of events initially seemed like quite a bummer for me, but as it has turned out it was a blessing in disguise.  Having my sewing room away from the flat meant it took more motivation for me to go down there, yes it's only one flight of stairs, but psychologically it did feel like I had to make a concerted effort to go and sew.  I also felt a bit cut off in there because John wouldn't be popping in and out at all.  In fact he used to ring me on my phone if he wanted to talk to me rather than come down and speak to me face to face!!  That may be more of a reflection on him than my sewing space though.  

Also having my sewing stuff far away meant there was nothing around me to remind/inspire me to sew.  Now everyday I see my sewing machine sitting opposite me when I wake up , and I kinda like that.  I have sewed (sewn??) at least every other evening over the past couple of weeks, and I hardly ever used to sew in the evenings, I'd save it all up for weekends.

This new set up clearly works for me, but I am curious about other peoples spaces.  Do you like to have a room whose sole purpose is to be your sewing room, or do you prefer to have your sewing machine in a communal room?  Do you like having your own space away from everything else, or do you feel cut off and lonely??

Saturday, 5 November 2011

No sun on the darkside

So I wanted to take some pretty autumnal pics in my darkside skirt, but the UK weather isn't playing ball, so here's some indoor pics instead.  Also my boyfriend hates being my photographer, and was not taking the process seriously, hence I got a million pics like these:

Anyway you get the idea!

This skirt was so easy to sew, and it has such a nice shape.  Colette patterns seem to fit my lower half really well which is such a relief!!

The invisible zipper insertion was a bit tricky, and it isn't completely invisible.  Not sure what I did wrong there, did I not sew close enough to the teeth?  Also do you press the zipper teeth before sewing the zip in or not?  I didn't as I didn't want to damage the zip so it got stuck or broke or something, and I thought pressing a hot iron onto plastic teeth might muck it up!

I already have my wine coloured corduroy ready to go to sew up another version of this pattern.  I'm going to line that one, I wasn't certain how to do this but now Scruffy Badger has provided me with a quick how-to on her blog I am ready to go!

Friday, 4 November 2011

The darkside skirt aka the which-side-is-the-right-side skirt

I have some fairly heavy weight cotton drill that I’d been planning to use to make a pencil skirt.  Having never got round to that I decided to make use of it and make a Ginger skirt instead. 
At first glance the fabric appeared to have no right or wrong side.  Thinking nothing of it I happily went about cutting up the fabric.  It wasn’t until I went to attach the waistband (which I had already interfaced) to the main skirt, that I realised that oops there was in fact a right and wrong side to this fabric and that I had interfaced the waistband so that the right side of the waistband didn’t match the right side of the main skirt.

As I’d already finished the centre seam on the main skirt with bias binding (the first time I'd tried this technique and it's such a nice neat finish) I decided that re-cutting and interfacing the waistband was the quicker job, so made the call that the right side of the skirt was in fact the correct right side of the fabric.

However I am not certain I made the right call.

The side which became the “right” side of my skirt has a noticeable diagonal weave to it.  My attempt to photograph it looks like this:

The side which became the “wrong” side of my skirt is very flat and it’s hard to see a weave of any kind unless you do an extreme close up, like this:

So I’m curious, which side do you think is the real right side??

Ultimately it doesn’t matter, and unless someone looks at my skirt up close with a magnifying glass I very much doubt I will encounter any public humiliation or shame because of having a the wrong side of my fabric showing.  But for future reference I would quite like to know which side I should be using on fabric like this.

P.S I have finished the darkside skirt, but haven't been at home in daylight to photograph it!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Pattern fitting advice needed

I’ve booked a private sewing lesson in a few weeks to focus solely on my fitting issues on my top half.  The teacher has suggested either making up a couple if muslins in advance using unadjusted pattern pieces and then adjusting them and then making the appropriate changes on the paper pattern, or starting from scratch by adjusting the pattern pieces first then making up a muslin from those.

I prefer the idea of having some muslins ready to go.  I can always take more fabric with me to make new muslins, plus I intend to make copies of the pattern pieces, so I will have unadjusted originals whatever we do.

The class will be 4 hours long so it’s going to be an intense one-on-one class.  My main aim is to be able to look at a muslin and see the fitting issues and know how to adjust them to make the fit better.  But I am unsure on which patterns to use.

I think my options are:

a) Focus on one pattern for an item I am keen to make - in this case it’s the Rooibos dress
Positives: I will have a good-to-go adjusted pattern that I can use straight away
Negatives: I will learn very specific adjustments to a non-standard bodice so I may not be able to apply what I have learnt to other garments

b) Make up a couple of muslins for two basic bodices, I’m thinking a princess seamed bodice and a standard darted bodice, and then work on those

Positives: I will hopefully have the skills to adjust most bodices
Negatives: I may be trying to cram too much in here, 4 hours may not be enough to do two different bodices

c) Pick one basic bodice that I think I can learn the most from and focus on this

Positives: Will have plenty of time to get it right
Negatives: Which type of bodice to pick?? I really struggled fitting a princess seam, but only have two princess seamed patterns and am unsure if learning adjustments on these types of bodice will be that useful to me. I have quite a few gathered bodice patterns, but would rather get the fit a standard darted bodice right as I think these adjustments will be applicable to most bodices as you can always pivot darts into gathers and so on.

d) Same as C but take a Rooibos muslin with me in case we have time to look at that too

Positives: If there is time I will be able to adjust the Rooibos
Negatives: Same as c) – which bodice to pick??

I am erring towards d) – taking a basic darted bodice and a Roobios in case we have time to look at that too, and for the time being avoiding princess seams.

In terms of basic bodice patterns, I had a rummage in my pattern stash and I only own about two top patterns, one is Colette Jasmin, which as it's bias cut is no good for me at this stage.  In my dress pattern stash the only simple darted bodice pattern I could find was this:
Burda Style Danielle
So I was thinking of buying this pattern as it looks pretty good for my purposes:

Colette - Peony
In terms of a princess seam pattern I was thinking of New Look 6457, View A destroyed me but I am thinking view E might be good to try out
New Look 6457
What do you think?  I basically need advice on what bodice to take and whether you think my plan makes sense?  What do you think is realistically achievable in 4 hours?  Do you have any other suggestions for simple bodice patterns I could use?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Finished Beignet, now known as my happy autumn skirt

Yay, I have finally completed my Beignet skirt.

This is a great pattern, it definitely deserves it's intermediate status though, as I found it a quite time consuming and complex project.  I did deliberately take my time with it, as I wanted it to feel solid and well made.  I have to say I love the result. No wonder this pattern is so popular.

I made mine from a medium weight denim for the shell, some polyester anti-static lining fabric for the lining and used a patterned cotton for the facings.

I had a few new sewing experiences with this project, most notably:
  • Sewing buttonholes
My machine has a 4 step buttonhole function, and once I'd had a few practice goes, these were pretty easy to do.  My machine makes them quite neatly I think, but making 12 was pretty stressful!
  • Sewing with polyester lining fabric
All I can say on this subject is argh!  It frays ridiculously, it slips and slides all over the place, it wouldn't hold a crease when I was trying to press the hem and my chalk marks wouldn't even stay on it for more than 5 seconds.
  • Sewing with denim
This fabric was the polar opposite of the lining fabric, it's sturdy, hardly frays at all, chalk loves it and I love it. Would be tempted to make an entire denim wardrobe just because it's so easy to handle.
  • Basting
I am a cheat, if a pattern tells me to pin, then hand baste and then sew, I usually skip the basting.  I mean come on, I have to pin it then sew the thing up a bit rubbishly and then do it again properly, and finally pull out my basting stitches after I'm done.  What's the point.  However on this pattern, those two evil curves on the lining and facing, one concave one convex, well basting twas the only way to go.  And even then I had to unpick and re-sew them because I fudged it up the first time.  Rubbish slippery lining fabric got caught up underneath my needle, grrr.
  • Under stitching
I'd not done this on anything before, but the pattern instructions suggested under-stitching the facing to stop it rolling out to the outside.  I found sewing right into the corners a bit tricky though.  Did anyone else have this problem?

It's such a relief to have a well fitting garment that I have made myself.  After all my fitting issues with the upper half of my body, this skirt has really improved my sewing confidence. 
It's not perfect by any means.  I got bored when sewing the buttons on and Downton Abbey was on the telly and I'd had a glass (or two) of wine by this point, so a few are a bit wonky.  Plus the hem of the lining is dreadful, but it's on the inside so nobody will ever see that it isn't straight.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Sewing plans - and I (really) mean it this time!

Ok ok I admit it, I’m just plain un-motivated when it comes to sewing.  I think my enthusiasm has taken a fair few knocks thanks to my fitting woes and I have been just plain avoiding going anywhere near my sewing machine.  But I have got a fair way through making my Beignet skirt and hope to get most of it done by the end of the weekend (update: not this weekend, the weather is amazing outside so indoor activity is not happening!). 

See I've finished the shell and facings, and lining except for hemming.  Just need to finish the lining hem, sew the facing onto the lining, then onto the shell, hem the shell do the buttonholes and then sew on the buttons.  Oh and add the belt loops - ok maybe there's more to do than I realised!

Unfortunately my bank balance just wouldn’t allow me to sign up for any sewing classes in the end, which I am gutted about.  But I am exploring getting a private lesson or two with someone in the hope they can help me a bit with fitting a couple of bodice patterns, to kinda kick-start me in the right direction there.

In the meantime I have decided to steer clear of dresses and tops for a little while and make a couple more skirts.  Just so I can get a few successful makes under my belt before trying to fit my top half again.

Luckily my bank balance would stretch to a couple of new patterns, so I decided on Colette’s Ginger skirt, and also because it is so darn cute (again I went for a Colette) the Jasmine top.

Yes I realise I said I wasn’t making any tops for a while, but this purchase is totally justified.  Firstly it’s a semi-fitted style so doesn’t need to fit perfectly, second it’s cut on the bias so is designed to stretch and fit round you more easily, lastly I repeat my earlier statement, it’s just so darn cute.

So after I have finished Beignet, I will be making up a Ginger.  I have some black cotton drill so will be making a wearable muslin in that.  I'm also thinking of making one in corduroy, but am unsure if this will work.

images from Croft Mill
What do you think?  Will corduroy work? I like the Navy best, but I always go for blues.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Fun fabric flowers

The lovely ladies who ran the beginners sewing classes I went to way back when, have recently opened a new sewing studio called The Sewing Lounge.  To promote their new classes and workshops they were hosting free workshops this weekend.

I popped along to a fabric flower making workshop and managed to make a cute felt flower

Plus this one (my personal favourite) made from organza.

We were discussing in the group that you could make two of the organza flowers and sew them together back-to-back, with a loop of ribbon in between and it'd make a very cool christmas decoration.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Don't buy cheap interfacing!

You may remember a while back I was cutting out my Beignet and had a strange interfacing-creating-bubbles dilemma.  Well the interfacing I was using was not Vilene which I usually use.  For some reason Fabricland is phasing it out and is now stocking some other interfacing (don't know the brand).  Anyway I went out and bought some Vilene elsewhere and had another go with some freshly cut facing pieces. 

Spot the difference:

Lesson learnt, use decent interfacing.

Right I'm off to start sewing my Beignet, but will leave you with a couple of Corfu piccies.  Twas a lovely hot 35 degrees out there.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Last minute holiday makes (almost complete)

So the last couple of evenings I have been cutting out and sewing, in an attempt to whip up a little buttercup bag and a easy beach dress for my holiday.

Unfortunately only the bag is complete as my machine starting behaving very badly, which slowed me up considerably.  However I'm happy with my little summer holiday bag

I'm a bit bummed I didn't finish the dress.  I still need to finish the sleeve edges, hem the skirt part and insert the elastic, oh and take it in by about 2 inches.  But on the plus side, it fits my boobs!! Never mind, I will have it for my next holiday.

I secretly think I have a dress-making curse on me, as the second I started sewing up the beach dress, the bobbin tension started to go mental and it was making nasty thudding noises.  Turns out I had a tonne of fluff around the bobbin case (bad me for not cleaning it more).  Still it's like something really doesn't want me to sew dresses.

I have a week off work after we get back from our hols, and I plan to make up my Beignet as the pieces are just lying there begging to be sewn together.  However I plan to abandon my frappuccino dress now (autumn is coming so I wouldn't be able to wear it anyway), and instead I will make a Rooibos for work (and maybe one for play), the pattern for which I won on Ashley's giveaway.  As Sarai over at Colette patterns has just done a sew-along on this dress (including how to do an FBA!!!) I am hoping the fitting on this dress will be less of an issue.

Right I'm off to catch a plane.

P.S. is is cliché to take "My family and other animals" as your holiday read if you are going to Corfu?

Monday, 29 August 2011

cute clutch and a rethink

After the stressy rant of my last post, I am pleased to show a completed project.  A cute clutch purse which I have made for a friends birthday.  the pattern I used is by Keyka Lou.  It's really nice and easy and has a cool alternative method for sewing up a purse / bag with a drop in lining.

I have also decided to whip up a little buttercup bag of my own to take on holiday, as well as maybe a quick summer dress for the beach using this pattern Butterick 5216 (view C), and just making it a bit longer so it's a dress rather than a tunic.

It's elasticated so should be an easy fit / sew.

Hopefully this'll make me feel a bit better about my fitting torment and I'll have a couple of me made bits to take on holiday! I'm not sure what to do about getting better at fitting, but thanks for all the supportive comments to my last post!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Fitting, argh!!!!

Warning this is a word heavy post, but please do read it as I am in desperate need of some moral support, help me please!

Every so often I think to myself, “oh Laura, why are you so rubbish at getting your sewing projects underway?” 

Yes I have a bit of a thing against cutting out, all stemming from a childhood inability to follow the dotted line (I couldn’t colour-in very neatly either). But I am tackling that problem and have done ok, for example it only took me a month to get round to cutting out my Beignet.

But yet I avoid starting new projects like a small boy avoids bathtime.  And I had forgotten why, until last weekend when I decided to crack on with fitting the bodice for my frappuccino summer dress (I’ve decided to name it after my favourite summertime drink, plus the polka dot print is a light coffee colour so it ties in nicely).

My biggest fitting problem (figuratively and literally as well I’m afraid) is my boobies.  Previously mentioned here I struggle with full bust adjustments, and yet again the problem has re-emerged. 
The bodice I am fitting can be strapless or has straps that you adjust to fit you, so there’s no shoulder seam to hang the muslin from to gauge what length/width I need to add. 

The dress I am trying to make
 As far as I know you pin the muslin or tissue to the shoulder and the side seams when fitting and work out the extra width you need by measuring the distance from the pattern/muslin centre front to your actual centre front.  This also helps you work out if you need more length.  This is tricky to do with a strapless bodice as I have no clue how high the pattern is supposed to sit.

So I basically put the muslin as high as I wanted it and went from there.  Also I forgot to lower the bust fullness on the princess seam before making the muslin, so worked out where the fullness should be, then calculated the amount needed for the FBA by lowering the actual fullest part of the bodice to the right place, re-pining it there, and working out the distance needed to reach the centre front.

Confused?  I know I am.

Right so after all that I went back to my pattern pieces.  Firstly I moved the fullness down on the pattern piece based on the line I drew on muslin one.

lowering bust fullness
 Then I did an FBA.  I did have a look at the fab tutorial from Sewaholic.  I also referred a lot to Monkeysocks' post on bust fullness and FBA’s on a princess seam.  But these resources couldn’t help me as much as I would have liked.  This is because my princess seam is very much to side, whereas the standard princess seam sits on (or very close to) your apex.  So the standard FBA  is done on the side bodice piece, but my adjustment really needed to be on the front piece as thats where all my bust fullness was.  The main fitting book I use, Fit For Real People said that you can add to the front piece as well as the side if the princess seam is closer to the side.  I’d looked at the fit of my muslin and kinda guessed whether the room was needed at the side or the front.  I went for the front so did a different type of FBA, thankfully my book FFRP explained the process.

 Lastly I added an inch in length to all the bodice pieces as my FBA didn't add any length and muslin number one was too short.

adding length
This is muslin number 2.  Does it look ok?

No it blinking doesn't.  The FBA created a massive amount of excess fabric at the front so this whole top is basically now a shapeless bag!

Not only that but the FBA also added an extra triangle of space near the side seam when doing the whole slash/spread thing.

In the book states that this spread will be minor, and gives no instruction to alter the side piece to account for the extra length in the seam, however on my piece it's almost half an inch longer than before the FBA, so now matching the front seams to the side seams is really hard, hence all the bumpy bits round the bust. 
I have pretty much run out of time to do anything to sort this out and sew up the actual dress before my holiday  so that plan was a big fail.

I’m not experienced at noticing fitting problems when trying on a muslin and have found tissue fitting impossible so have given up on that.  I don’t know how to fix any problems I do spot, and I am constantly confounded because I feel like the problems I have aren’t shown in books or online tutorials.

I am pulling my hair out, not least because as much as I love reading all the other sewing blogs out there it feels like everyone else breezes through these fitting issues and churns out dresses like there's no tomorrow.  Why do I find this process so hard?
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