Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Coat for Winter 2012 - A UFO triumph.

It was Douglas Adams who once said 'I like deadlines. I like the whooshing sound as they go by.'


This is my coat, which I am making for the Winter of 2012. I have finished it just in time for New Years 2015. It has become a running joke.

It was a bit of a UFO record holder. For the uninitiated, A UFO, in the sewing / crafting world stands for an Un Finished Object.

Tempted as I am to talk about the coat (Simplicity 2311 if you're interested), I'm going to veer off on a tangent and talk about UFOs instead. It's fittingly 'New Year's Resolution-y'.

Why do we burden ourselves with UFOs? 

I think some of the causes are a bit 'general procrastination' stuff, and others are creative specific. Here are my top reasons for so many of the O's being all UF'ed.

1. Getting Bored With The Project
Sometimes a project takes so long, I just get sick of looking at the fabric. It seemed perfect in the shop, but now I'm over it. Or I have made so many drafts (toiles/muslins) I feel like I should be finished by now. Hurry up and be finished, stupid thing! Both problems applied to this coat.

2. Finding Fault With The Project
The creative process is one of constant evaluation. Which is a good thing, because it enables improvement. However, sometimes those faults become apparent a bit early in the piece (as in, before the daft thing is finished) and those faults turn to disillusionment. Maybe I stuffed up somewhere, and now I am cross about it. Experiments don't quite work, little tweaks would have made it much better.

Sometimes I just have to put a project in the naughty corner for a while, so I can get past the frustration. And then I can pull it out and say, ok, it's not as bad as I remember... and carry on.

3. The Flow is Broken
On occasion I get into an amazing state of flow. I'm powering along like a machine, and I am going to get this project finished by noon tomorrow because it's all going so smoothly. Everything is breezing along....

And then I run out of thread. Since that requires going to the shop, and it's now 6:00pm, I have to put it down. Picking it up becomes a struggle. I've found something else to do and the magic of the moment has passed...

4. Something Else Takes My Fancy
I don't want to admit to having the attention span of a goldfish, but -  Ohh look - shiny things!

The imagining (and I daresay shopping) stage of making stuff is a heck of a lot of fun, and a lot more failsafe than the end bit where you're finishing it up neatly (and impatiently). Plus whilst plugging through a project, more ideas happen. And I want to start all of them *right now*. It's easy to get sidelined and have too many things on the go. Particularly hazardous is when I decide to 'store' a project in a bag somewhere and then lose track of it completely.

5. I Miss A Deadline.
I'm making a coat and suddenly Spring has arrived. Or I was making this for Christmas but missed that boat and bought a gift instead. So it gets put on a backburner. The project is now filled with guilt. Bonus points if other people know you're making it, and rib you about it (Hot tip - don't tell people what you are making - wait and show them what you have made).

6. I Don't Really Want to Do It
Hello minor repairs and alterations for friends and family! Some stuff sits there for ever because frankly it isn't that interesting. Not that I don't want to do a friend a favour, but when I'm looking at those trousers waiting to be taken up, I suddenly remember to check my email. This also applies to repairing my own stuff. Because making a whole new dress is way more fun than fixing one.

So What Do We Do About It?

I'm not going to pretend I have solved this problem completely. I have defeated this UFO, but have no less than 4 other UFO's lurking in my shelves being all dusty and judgemental. Still, I like to think I have picked up a few strategies for taking those suckers on. 

1. Forgive yourself. < Big One.
Whether it's for not quite nailing the collar or not getting it done on time, let it go. Take a deep breath, pick it up and look at it from a fresh perspective.

2. Pick one UFO to tackle, and put it somewhere convenient.
If you have one project out on your table where you can see it, and everything is to hand (threads and notions etc) it will be much easier to pick it up and work on it. If you are hand sewing or knitting, put it in a basket next to the sofa for TV time. I was amazed how quickly I got the lining of my coat stitched when I hung it over the back of a chair in the living room. Work those lazy habits!

3. Just get a bit done today.
If it's been sitting there for 3 months, it's ok to just do 15 minutes and then stop. If you make a deal with yourself to try and get 15 minutes done 3 times a week, you might just get back into it.

4. Tidy up when you finish something - as in, that day.
Because nothing takes the fun out like having to tidy up after something you did a week ago, before you kick off on today's task. 

5. Find a manageable balance for the number of projects you have at any one time.
Some awesomely organised people can do one thing at a time and finish it before they start the next. I'm not a one project kind of person at all. Because I get bored easily, and because there are usually some things in the naughty corner at any given time, it helps to have different things to rotate between - at least something for hand-sewing and something for machine sewing. The key is to keep going back to them!

6. Keep a notice board of things that you are currently doing.
I have developed a wall with my current projects on it. Sometimes I just have a single post-it note with a swatch and a word to remind me what I am already doing - so I don't lose it in the pile. I try to consult the board whenever I have time to sew, and before I cut stuff out for the next project. Or shop for it! You would not believe how satisfying it is to take the post it notes down when something makes it to the finish line.

7. It's ok not to hoard something strictly for the original purpose you had in mind.
If you've seen a nice piece of fabric, and thought 'that would make a nice skirt' it can sometimes block you from permitting yourself to use it for a bag instead. This can mean buying more stuff and getting even more overwhelmed. Did you have the perfect ribbon to finish something, but you were saving it for something else so nothing got finished? If you release the original stashed stuff, it stops being a (sort of) UFO, and you can run with the new inspiration instead. Phew!

8. Keep a notebook of things you want to make. 
Do the fun designing / imagining part in a notebook. Make notes, sketch or collect images, but try to stop short of purchasing fabric (or failing that, don't cut the fabric) until you have finished something else you already have on the go. Forgetting about something you've planned out in a notebook is much less frustrating than forgetting about stuff you have cut out and only just started. It also saves money.

9. It's OK to let some things go.
Some screw ups are beyond repair. Sometimes tastes change between start and finish. While it's not advisable to give up on everything, occasionally it's helpful to throw the fail out and forget about it.

So that's my thoughts on taking on UFO's. What about you, lovely readers? What trips you up, and how do you get past it?  And if you are a super organised one-project at a timer, tell me your secrets...

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Some Lovely Little Christmas Gifts

For Christmas, I made a Go Everywhere Bag (direct link for free pattern in google drive here, and original post about bag pattern here) for my mother in law. But I made it a bit special. Of course, I couldn't show you before in case she saw!

I worked an assortment of beads over the print. Most of them are beads I've gathered along the way, and have pulled out of my collection. Some of the green ones are from Mogo in New South Wales (Australia) others from Tasmania (Australia), and the red ones are from a necklace I bought in Cambridge (UK). The bead work took ages, but was just soo pretty!

The completed bag.

It was well received, and I was very pleased with it. Even if I did leave putting the handle on to Christmas eve.

Of course, as much as it is better to give than receive, receiving isn't all that bad either.

This kit is rather impractically made entirely out of chocolate. What a shame!

And this. Which made me laugh out loud, but elicited a tolerant and knowing sigh from my dearly beloved. (I also received a voucher. I don't mean to brag, but I've spent it already...)

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

2015 Inspiration and Design Challenge - January

I'm rather excited to be hosting the 2015 Sewing Design / Inspiration Challenge.
It is a series of challenges to apply to your sewing to push yourself to try something new. You're all invited, so check it out if you haven't already.

January's Design Topic is to - 
Create a mood board to refine a look, concept or colour scheme you would like to use in your work. Make something from the mood board. This could even be assembling an outfit from things you already have (hopefully something you made) or creating a patchwork project which suits a particular decorating scheme.

So to get you started, I thought I'd show you my mood board.

A mood board, (aka concept board or inspiration board) is a collection of pictures or objects that work together to define a style or concept. They're used a lot in fashion, design, decorating etc. You can include anything you like in it, as long as it is meaningful to you. Some people include quotes or words, you might include pictures which capture an essence of an idea (so for example a building which has graphic lines).

It can take whatever form you like too. Pinterest boards are fine - and that's where my collection started. But I also had a look around for fabric samples and things which added a tactile element. You can use magazine clippings, photos, cards, whatever catches your eye.

My mood board focuses on colour, because I have a habit of always heading towards the same colour. I have created this 'terracotta and indigo' concept to push myself to work outside my usual, comfortable parameters (by which I mean green). Previously I've created boards that featured a particular design element I wanted to explore (like hoods). Mine are fairly literal, - I have seen others who take a more poetic approach, like 'A walk on the beach' or themed boards like 'the city' with graphic lines and steely colours.

Now that I have my board, I need to get cracking on making something from it. :) Note that the thing you make doesn't have to be on the board. It just needs to look like it would fit in with the pictures you have.

DUE DATE: Please submit your photos (+ links) of your mood board and inspired object/outfit via the contact form (lefthand column of the blog), or facebook group by the 26th of January 2015. You are more than welcome to add photos earlier than that as well. If you find useful links or resources, share those too - you can pop them in the comments section under this post.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

December - Alice in Wonderland Dress

This Christmas, we were invited to an Alice in Wonderland themed dinner. 

So I made a blue dress.

With an enormous bow on the bottom.
And got a bit silly.

The bow is completely integrated into the skirt.

I did a bit of research and explored some drafting diagrams to find out how to go about this. Truth be told I have been obsessing over bottom bows for quite some time, and trying to figure out how to do it without it being out of place. Uh, hello fancy dress!

This is from pinterest and leads either to a dead end, or a blocked site.  But the idea is there in the diagram, and that's enough for me.

I cracked out the brown paper and did a little origami.

Eventually creating a shape I was happy with. The skirt is all built into the central panel of the dress. The dress is the same pattern as the bacon dress, (with a scooped neckline) and I pulled the sleeve out of another dress pattern and then spread and puffed the pattern to make it fuller.

Here's a few snaps from making the bow:

 Neat huh?

I'll try and get a few sketches up to explain it in more detail in a following post.

Happy Sewing!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Creating a Cuff on a Simple Stretch Sleeve

I recently made this dress.

It's another t-shirt dress, with optional extras. In this case, a funnel cowl neckline and a cuff on the sleeve. You make this with a basic t-shirt (or t-shirt dress) pattern which includes a long sleeve.

[Other tutorials on this blog that will get you there from scratch - How to make a t-shirt pattern from an existing t-shirt - How to use that t-shirt to create a tank dress or maxi dress - How to make a long sleeve pattern from a short sleeve.]

Today I want to talk about how to put a cuff on a sleeve. It's a cute finish, and all of the stitching is hidden within the sleeve, which helps make it really tidy. (These instructions are only for stretch fabric).

In this case, I went for a 3/4 sleeve. The same principles can be used for a full length sleeve,

Looking at the original long t-shirt sleeve.

The first thing I need to do is figure out where I want my cuff.
I measure from the shoulder, and draw on the lines for where I would like my cuff to sit.

At this point I am drawing the finished lines. I don't need to include a hem.

The shaded portion will be left off.

I then trace out my pattern pieces. The top is the same, plus a seam allowance.
The cuff is 2x the height, plus 2 seam allowances.

The cuff should be slightly narrower. With the purple dress, I used a soft fabric with a fair bit of stretch, and the sleeve fit closely already. The cuff is made of the same fabric, but with the wrong side showing. I made this cuff just 1cm smaller so it would be a little firmer, but not pulling.

If you are working with something less stretchy, like a warm fleece, you would be working with a looser sleeve pattern, and the cuff would need to be made of a ribbing fabric (think tracksuits / fleece pullovers). The ribbing would be made much shorter to bring the fleece in closely.

The two pieces are cut x2 each, and the main body of the sleeve is assembled as usual.

The cuff is assembled like so:
Stitch up the outer edge with the right sides together.

Press outwards and fold over. You quarter the cuff by folding, and placing a pin at each quarter. Start with one pin in the seam, lay flat and find the opposite side. Pin it. Then put those two pins together and lay flat and pin the half way marks.
Here the seam allowance is towards us, and the top edges open.

The sleeve is also quartered in the same way.

Keeping the seams aligned, Insert the cuff and join those points together on the sleeve.
All of the raw edges should be facing outwards.

Sew around the top edge. Place the foot inside the tube of the sleeve to make it easier to manipulate.

Once that is sewn, turn it the right way out.

And you have a cuff! Press the seam up into the sleeve.

If in doubt about the size of your cuff, start bigger and baste the cuff on before properly securing it. You can always take it off and bring it in a little if you find it too loose (not so easy to add on).

Too easy!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Funnel Cowl


I've been making more cowls. Because... well... I think I am in love with them. They are so interesting and variable!

And cuddly. 

This time I've made a deeper, open shape. 

Good for hiding chunky necklaces in, I think.

Unlike the last cowl I made, which was a tube shape, this cowl is like a funnel.

What's not to love?

I made one version in green which is built on a t-shirt with long sleeves, and a one on a t-shirt dress which has 3/4 sleeves with a cuff. Instructions below assume you have an existing basic t-shirt to work off.

Drafting Instructions

Most of this drafting is exactly the same as the banded cowl. So if you're reading it and you find yourself experiencing some deja vu, that's because I've copied and pasted most of these instructions. 

In any case, we're starting with a regular t-shirt or t-shirt dress.
Standard tee - Oh yeah!
To prepare your existing shirt pattern, you need to draw in the neckline. Because the cowl is going to add extra fabric bulk, it will bring the neckline up quite a bit. So you need the neckline on your original shirt to be on the deeper side.
Old line crossed out, new line drawn in underneath.
Your pattern may or may not have darts for the bust (mine does, but it isn't necessary). Make sure the new line creates a right angle where it meets the midline. I only needed to alter the front of my pattern.

From there, you measure the neckline you have created on the stitching line. That means whatever seam allowance your pattern states, you measure that far in from the edge.  Measure front and back, not including the shoulder seam allowances. We are working on the half pattern, so we only need the half measurements. (Shown in red here)
Add those measurements together, and that's your neckline measurement.

Moving on to creating the actual cowl.
The cowl has 2 lines of symmetry, one of which will be on the fold of the fabric, and the other will be created by working on a folded piece of paper. I am working on brown paper, and I fold a length down like so.

Enter diagrams:
From here, mark in the depth for front and back. I mark the front right on the edge of the paper. My front depth was 25cm, and my back depth was 22cm (Roughly 10" and 8 1/2"). I marked that further out along the paper.
I also made sure I included my seam allowances. I work in metric, and I pretty much always use 1cm. You can use any seam allowance you're comfortable with. So if you use 5/8" most of the time, chuck that on, under the first set of lines.
 The next step is to create the curve, and mark in the length. Place the tape measure along the paper in a curve which joins the front level to the back level like this.
 Mark the length. I worked out this length by the length of the neckline on the shirt pattern (in my case 34.5 cm) minus about 2.5cm (1"). I did that so the neckline would sit firmly around the neck without being too tight. Different fabrics will behave differently. If in doubt, you can baste it together in the construction stage, and if it's too loose take it in at the back.
 Here is a photograph. The diagram is exaggerated compared to the actual curve. I place the tape measure so that it measures the required distance. I need to mark where the tape ends, and then sketch in that curve.
 I also draw in a perpendicular line. That line used to be the centre back seam.


For this style, want the outer edge of my cowl to be longer, so it can fall and make an open shape. But I don't want the inner edge (where it joins to the neckline) any larger. The top line is the upper edge, and the bottom line will be the seam.

I can't add anything to the left side, because it needs to sit on the fold. I don't want to create a seam down the center front of my cowl!

I need to extend that top line towards the right.
Measure out 10cm (4") to the right. Join the bottom corner and this new point.

 I don't want a point at the back of my neck, so I create an open dart. To do this, I drop down about 5cm (2") and put a mark at right angles to the line.

I curve that back to the original line, making sure I keep the right angle on the edge.

I also need to sort out the point at the bottom of the cowl. I create a right angle at the bottom intersection and blend that into the  existing line. (Dual lines shown here indicate seam allowance.)

For the green cowl, I created that line pretty much inside the existing space.
 For the purple one, I dropped it down about 2.5cm (1").

At this point, as before, you cut out both layers and unfold the pattern piece.

So this is what it looks like in real life. 

Mark 'place on fold' on the long edge so you don't forget!

Cut it out on the fold:
Before joining the centre back seam, close the dart at the top edge.

Press that out, and then join the centre back seam.
Press outwards, and fold down to get your cowl shape, with the seam at the centre back.

From this point, just as for the banded cowl I made before, it is inserted into the shirt just like a regular ribbed neckline. I also topstitched over the seam with a zigzag stitch. The rest of the dress or t-shirt is put together like a regular t-shirt. Check out flat method construction.

And we're done!