Monday, 30 November 2015

November Challenge - Reveal!

The challenge for November was to write a tutorial.

Lovena emailed me with her tutorial, and when I went to her site I momentarily thought 'Oh, I must be in the wrong place.' This woman, and her blog are built for action and adventure!

She has created a tutorial for a stuff sack, as pictured above. Seriously practical and water resistant to boot - check it out (and browse her blog) starting here:

I was genuinely delighted at this - I've never worked with a material like ripstop so it showed me a different perspective on sewing.

So why this challenge? 

If you really want to learn something, teach it to someone else. 

The process of writing a tutorial or blog can be time consuming, but well worth while. Lovena notes it took her longer to write the tutorial than make the stuff sack, and I know that I have tens if not hundreds of photos from 'waiting to be written up' blog posts. But the process of laying your steps out clearly clarifies things in your own mind, and it also creates the opportunity to interact with others who share your interests and hobbies. The more 'niche' your interests, the harder it  can be to find others who can help or offer new challenges. Writing about your interests online gives you the opportunity to participate with people you wouldn't otherwise meet.

That's enough from me for now. Take care! 

Friday, 2 October 2015

October Challenge

October is the Costume Challenge - make an item based on a character from a movie / book / TV show. It can be completely crazy, or a subtle nod. 

This challenge, while it fits with seasonal demand for halloween costumes, is not intended to be limited to such ideas. Recognisable character costumes are fine, but its also worth considering researching a costume designer and looking at elements employed in film and theatre.

You might also consider developing a character inspired item which to wear normally. A modified approach, if you don't fancy a full commitment to costume, or if you've ever watched a show and genuinely wanted to dress like a character on screen! (Emma Pillsbury from Glee?)

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

September Challenge - The Reveal!

Here is my project, inspired by Mexican Embroidery.

I was quite pleased with this. I created a pinterest board for reference, and then designed the bag and the embroidery myself, mostly by borrowing motifs from other designs.

To be entirely honest, I'm not sure how Mexican inspired it really looks, although it is certainly very much a folk art effect. I may have held back a little too much! I have always enjoyed the constructive aspects of sewing more than the decorative, and I wanted to get the whole thing done in the time I had.

But even saying that, I surprised myself with this one. I was surprised at how quickly and easily I managed to get the embroidery completed (Only 2 days...). My hand stitching is better than I realised. And I've started another little embroidery piece as well. 

Most of the work is stem stitch or satin stitch. The fabric is leftover muslin, and I am still looking for a strap I like!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Fashion on the Ration

Earlier this month I had to make a trip into London to renew my passport. So Jon and I made the most of it, and visited the Imperial War Museum. I was incredibly excited about this as they had an exhibition 'Fashion on the Ration', which I had been desperate to see.

The exhibition looked at the impact of war rationing and austerity on people's everyday clothing. 

For complete beginners, During World War 2, there were shortages of goods, including textiles in Great Britain, (not just Great Britain but the museum is in London). The government issued coupon books, and people could only buy new clothes if they had enough coupons to submit with payment at the point of purchase. This severely restricted the number of garments people could buy. 'Make do and Mend' came about as a slogan during this time. There were rules about the features that new garments could have as well  - limiting the number of buttons and prohibiting turn ups on trousers in an effort to reduce the amount of materials used. The number of pleats in skirts were restricted, as were the number of pockets on shirts. Dressmaking patterns were stamped according to whether the styles conformed to regulation or not. 

In addition to that, there was a strong military influence in the styles people wore.  The exhibition focused on those influences and changes which have had a lasting impact on clothing, both then and now. In some ways, that influence was surprising. 

In introducing 'Utility clothing', which guaranteed a level of quality whilst still conforming to regulations, established designers were employed by the government to create functional garments that were also appealing.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of this design is that much of it would still look appropriate in a modern context.

Coat from the CC41 label. (Photo from IWM website). You could easily wear this today.

I was so excited, and having done lots of reading around the topic, when people standing next to me were pondering aspects of the exhibition in conversation with each other, I may have had to jump in and excitedly tell them things (not very British thing to do)!

My big revelation for the day was this - the production of 'utility clothing' developed some methods which are still used in mass production today. Ironically, the clothing worn in times of 'Austerity', which we view with nostalgia as a time of thrift and resourcefulness, laid a foundation for modern 'fast fashion'.

Stopped in the bookshop for books and CDs. I wanted to buy ALL OF THEM. Except the ones I already had. I left with just a few, and some things to go on the Christmas wish list.

For a wonderful overview of the many of the impacts of rationing on fashion, please click here for the Imperial War Museum article link.

Friday, 4 September 2015

One Dress - Three Different Fabrics

Some years ago I made a favourite pattern out of three different fabrics. 

It was a really interesting experience and taught me a lot about how fabrics differ from each other. So this year I repeated that experiment.

I made the same dress (New Look 6184. I made this for the first time a couple of years ago) three times, using a polycotton, lace and polyester satin, and a ponti.

Each style hangs and moves a little differently, and requires different treatment in construction.

First the Polycotton.

 Polycotton is soo easy to work with. It's crisp and easy to stitch as it doesn't distort much as you work with it, so ideal for beginners. The tucks at the neckline are crisp in this fabric. The downside is it does need ironing and creases a lot when you wear it. I feel the flimsiness of the fabric means it's only really suitable for really warm weather. But I did feel rather pretty in it. ;)

Next up, ponti de roma. I left the belt off for this one. Does look good with a chunky belt too.

I inverted the pleats at the neckline on this one. Initially I was thinking of putting some beading in the front, but ultimately liked how it worked with this necklace so left it off.

Because ponti is a stretch fabric, its not really advisable to use it for a pattern like this. I had to take each side seam in around 1.5cm, which is why the neckline is so wide. Generally a pattern like this would be drafted for 90% of the width of the same style in a non stretch. I had to adapt it a bit as I went. It's also quite thick and can get bulky at the seam junctions. 

That being said, I love this dress. It feels incredibly comfortable. I can move, and I'm not worried about creasing! I could omit the vent as there is enough stretch to walk in the fabric itself. This is an ideal work-wear dress, and reminds me why I'm so fond of stretch fabric. I think I might see if I can adapt the pattern slightly and make this version again.

Finally, the lace! You've seen this one before.

This dress is exactly the same except that I borrowed a sleeve pattern from elsewhere. 


The cutting for this pattern is a bit different. There are two layers. The lining layer is cut as usual, but the lace layer has to be cut with the scallops on the hem line, rather than the edge of the pattern. Consideration also has to be made for how the scallops join at the seams as well. The lace skirt is separate from the lining.

I love this dress, but I wouldn't regard it as the most comfortable garment! Definitely for formal occasions, not for sofa wear. 

Each dress really does look quite different. I know with increased sewing experience I see the similarities between clothing much more readily than others. I'll frequently spot when new season stuff is exactly the same as last years - but in a different colour. Other people don't notice that though.  No-one has *ever* commented on any of my dresses being the same style as one I've worn previously. If you want to create a varied all occasion collection, you need less patterns than you might initially think. Good news for those of us who are difficult to fit.

So dear readers, what about you? Do you have a favourite pattern you've tried in different fabrics? Were you pleasantly surprised or disappointed with the results? Do you have fabrics you love or hate using?

Monday, 31 August 2015

How To - French Seams

Today I thought I'd do a bit of a tutorial on French seams. Plenty of people find them a bit intimidating, but they don't need to be. You do require accuracy though, so it helps to be able to sew straight.

Essentially, a French seam is two straight seams where the first seam is folded into the second. It works well on lightweight fabrics, particularly those which have a degree of transparency and need to look neat inside and out.

To begin, and to learn the particulars of your own machine, you need a ruler, pen, scissors and calico or muslin. Cut two rectangles to sew together. This is a practice piece only, once you know how to line it up you will not be drawing lines on your sewing.

When you use a French seam, you start with the wrong sides together. This is the opposite of other seams so keep it in mind.

Generally, a seam allowance is about 1.5cm or 5/8". It doesn't matter which you use (here's me with a metric ruler and an imperial mat!), the important part is to see how to get there in two steps. Draw the seam line on your top scrap of fabric.

Then draw another line halfway between the seam line and the edge.

This is where you get to know your machine. You want your first line of stitching to fall exactly on that middle line. So you need to find the position where that works. In all likelihood, this will be only a fraction to the side of the edge of the foot. You may find it works just on the edge of the foot!

Many modern machines allow you to adjust the position of the needle in a straight stitch using the width dial. Check your manual to see if this is the case with yours.
 If I put the dial on a 6, 

The needle will come down to the right of the centre line.
 I find with my machine, if I put the dial on '2' and line the fabric up with the edge of the foot, it will fall exactly where I want it to.
 Your machine may be slightly different, but once you figure it out, it will save lots of time and make French seams easier. 

After a bit of testing, I can easily sew accurately down that first line.

 I then trim half of that seam allowance off.
 And press it outwards.
 Fold it back and press it again. You should now have the right side together.

Sew the next seam with the edge of the fold in exactly the same position as you had the raw edge last time.

 Press it to the side.

 Turn it over and press down.
 If you have it in *exactly* the right position, your original pen line will be *just* on that stitching line. I can see my pen line just here.

 Now that I'm confident I can get the seams in the right position, I can try a test swatch on my real fabric. I used French seams on my lace dress. This works well for light weight all over lace. Having said that, it can sometimes distort a little because of the variation in bulk, so take care. It's *always* worth doing a test swatch.

I start with right sides facing outwards (wrong sides together). 

 And I sew down with needle and fabric in the same position as before.

 Snip off half off the seam allowance.

 Press outwards.
 Fold over and press again.
 And then sew again with needle and fabric in the same position.

 Press to the side.
 And there you have it.

As featured on this dress. Looks pretty neat huh?

So to answer the next question, can you use a French seam on a curve, like an armhole or a princess seam? 

Essentially yes. When you press the first time you need to take care to ensure it presses as neatly as possible and doesn't pucker. You may need to use a little steam to shape it. Some tight curves may pucker a little no matter what you do, so if in doubt do a test swatch first. If you find they do buckle, you could consider an alternative such as binding your seams for an equally neat finish.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

July Challenge - the Reveal!

Ok. It is August and I am just now putting my July challenge up. I know. 

Truthfully, I did actually get this done weeks ago. I just didn't get it photographed. It has a lot to do with this:

Which is another story for another day.

In any case, I chose to work with lace, as I hadn't worked with lace before. Rather, I haven't worked with non-stretch, all over lace. Which is on trend at the moment, it seems. So it was time.

I chose a beige corded lace and a bronze-gold polyester satin to go underneath it. The lace is a lot more beige but the flash made it appear almost white here.
I did a bit of research on it before I cut, although it was all pretty much what I expected. I used French seams on the side seams, and of course had to take the utmost care in cutting the skirt so that the scallops were in the right position.

Side Seam:

Vent. I was so proud of this. 

 And the dress!

The pattern is It is New Look 6184, which I've made before with the fuller skirt. 

I made it with a friends wedding in mind, and clipped the last threads about 40 minutes before departure. It was a bit close! But given the huge number of things on the go at the moment, completing a dress was such a boost. It made life feel a bit more normal!