Tuesday, 27 January 2015

2015 Inspiration and Design Challenge - February

If you have looked at the 2015 Sewing Design / Inspiration Challenge page, you will have seen that February's challenge is about shape.

The Brief:
Play with Shapes – explore silhouette and make a garment with a different shape to your usual choices. OR for quilters, try working with a different shaped block as a basic shape.

Due Date:
In the interests of allowing as much time as possible, the due date is Wednesday 25th February. I will post Thursday morning (my time). You do not need to complete an entire project to submit it - photos of any sketches, research, comments are all fine. The idea is to inspire you to think differently about your projects. 

What is silhouette? 
In fashion terms, a silhouette is an over-all shape of a garment. There are loose shapes and fitted shapes, skirts of all kinds of lengths and shapes, dramatic collars and sleeves. Trousers with skinny legs or wide legs - these are all examples of differing silhouettes.

Here we have a range of different shaped dresses. This is an A line, and reminiscent of 60's style. 

 With its full skirt and defined waist, this is more of a 50's shape.
 This is a costume from the early 1900's. The waistline is higher and the lines are soft.

 This is a bit more of a modern 'fit and flair' style.

Silhouettes change dramatically with fashion, and there is such a thing as a 'fashionable body shape' at any given point. Frequently with no reference to actual body shapes! If you are thinking of submitting sketches for this project, you might consider studying a particular style or time in history. Pointy bullet bras are the tip of the iceberg (hehe, sorry). Throughout history, women's undergarments mess with silhouette like nobody's business! 

If you want a practical rather than research project, examine styles taking note of the overall shapes of garments. Try making something that takes you just a bit outside your comfort zone. Maybe a bit more drape than usual, or a dramatic hemline...

Non-Garment Sewsters.

If you are more of a patchworker, look at the shapes which make up your projects. Frequently quilts are made with square or rectangular blocks. But this is not the only way! Investigate another basic shape - look at assembling quilts with strips or hexagons, or spirals. Find examples of others who have taken a different approach and share your findings.

PS. Bonus puzzle. Each of the above technical illustrations is from Simplicity's website. Can you find them? 

Monday, 26 January 2015

January Challenge - The Reveal!

Ohh exciting times! It has been lovely to have so many people interested in the challenge. So without further ado...

Here are the January Challenge boards and makings! (Click on the pictures for a closer view. )

April created a pinterest board, focused on gold and silver, and lovely lace and rose details. This is just a snapshot of her pinterest board. See more of it here.

More images of her final garment are also on the board - this pretty upcycled gown in a gold colour.
 Check out these details!

Time was tight, as we all know. Ivory didn't complete her garment, but has captured a dramatic and fiercely shapely design concept on her pinterest board here. (Again, this image is just a snapshot)

This board from Daria at MotherTeacherScatterbrain.
Reflecting retro silhouettes with lovely swirly full skirts, and an autumn colour scheme. 

And this from Estella, who is collecting costume research for a play. This is a representation of styles from the 1860's. These things have serious engineering. So very much a technical board. Full collection here.

Jennifer knew exactly what she was trying to achieve. She produced a cohesive collection of images featuring sunflowers and citrus colours for her kitchen decor. Check it out in it's entirety on her pinterest board.

With such a clear concept in mind, its not surprising that each of the things she made would look right at home in that collection. See, Jennifer did not stop with just one...
Mixer cover.

Her brother is teaching her how to crochet!

Franziska from Adventures of my Sewing Needle explored log cabin quilt blocks. Her mood board took on a different shape to most.
 Her final design reflecting that exploration:

These traditional colours have a really cozy, reassuring feeling. It's an ambitious project for a one month period, so not surprising its a work in progress. Keep up with Franziska's log cabin quilt here

Helen from Cut It Out, Stitch It Up wanted to create something which captured the style of Mrs Brown from the Paddington movie.

In keeping with her usual refined and precise style, she made this pussy-bow blouse. Classy!
Helen's stuff is always as pretty on the inside as the outside too.

And me. You've seen my board already...
So I created a long cardigan, and a shoulder princess line dress. I planned another 5-6 projects, but still only 24 hours in a day. Bummer that.

I'm really impressed by the huge variety of styles and ideas people came up with. For my part (confession time) I have to admit that prior do doing this, I'd often considered the mood board a bit of a 'flighty' and procrastinatory design tool. BUT when I did this challenge, I found it really made my focus clear, and allowed me to build a complete idea of what I was aiming for. Looking at these boards, they all show a concept which would be difficult to communicate without imagery, but I expect others could pick up a board and create something from it, reflecting the ideas of the original designer.

That was fun!

Hope you're ready for February.... Which is all about SHAPE.

PS. Please do take a moment to visit people's blogs and say Hi. Bloggers are generally social media tarts, and we love when people pay attention to us. So be sure to follow the links, introduce yourself and tell them how cool their creations are!

PPS. If I missed your pictures, or spelled your name incorrectly or anything like that, please let me know and I will update this post!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

A Not-So Minimalist Perspective on Wardrobe Planning

There are quite a few people in the sewing community taking on the challenge of not purchasing anything from the high street clothing stores during 2015. It’s not a new concept, and plenty of people have done it before. Even so, I think it’s a really good exercise – to examine our habits, to consider the efforts which go into making our clothing and question their market value, and to encourage ourselves so consume more mindfully.

I’ve been reading around these ideas, and the idea of wardrobe planning seems pretty topical. There are a lot of blogs and posts around capsule wardrobes, and minimalist wardrobes. There are people who have taken on extreme wardrobe limitations as challenges for a given time frame, and indeed extreme limitations on their every possession. Go you, you crazy experimental blogger types. I've employed such an approach when travelling, and it has its benefits and its frustrations.

I have to admit, the idea of a sleek, streamlined collection of clothing really appeals to me. (I am well past it at the moment). But there seem a lot of practical considerations overlooked, and some generalised advice for capsule wardrobes that should probably be disregarded. So here I’m looking at some of them, and putting forth my thoughts. This is not to say I’d reject the whole idea entirely – it is a useful starting point for examining the way we do what we do and why. The idea of having less stuff, but good stuff, is a jolly good one. Certainly if you’re making your own clothes, you can improve that quality, and you want the investment of time to pay off.

But it doesn’t need to be, and shouldn’t be, presented as a dichotomy situation. That is, you either have more stuff than you can possibly handle, and keep shopping with crazy recklessness, or you live with no possessions other than a single fork and a versatile (but beige) multi-use cardigan, which looks awkward no matter which of the 25 different configurations you decide to wear.

I would rather have 25 different items which served their one purpose really well. But if I didn’t need all 25, I would only want the 5 that I needed. And they should look breathtakingly good on me. And they shouldn’t be white, or beige.


If there’s anything off-putting about an extreme minimalist wardrobe, it’s the restriction of colour.
I know that there are some people who thrive within that simplicity. Who take delight in the infinite shades of white and like to talk about textures. And I do understand that that is a minimalist aesthetic.

I just don’t fancy limiting myself to black and white, with the tiniest spot of navy blue thrown in for excitement. Nor do I fancy wearing a coat with no detail other than an artsy funnel neck and a single button. It’s just not me. And I doubt many would be able to throw off their existing habits and embrace that extreme.

Capsule wardrobes often suffer from a similar monochromatic aesthetic, where everything goes with everything, only everything is black, white and hot pink (or one other colour) – every day.
While black is always cited as the colour that ‘goes with everything’, I would say that black may well go with everything except me. I just look tired when I wear it. And plenty of others would probably find that too. When I wear light marl grey, concerned friends ask me if I’m feeling ok. I wish I was exaggerating.

Plenty of capsule wardrobe / wardrobe planning advice will extol the virtues of monochrome and tell you to get a white t-shirt and a black t-shirt. I don’t consider a white shirt an ‘essential’ item, particularly as white, stone and beige give my skin a ‘zombie’ tint.

My take on such advice is this: You need to work with colours that suit you. Ideally, everything you add to your wardrobe should be in a colour that looks good on you, in its own right. Not always possible, but you will get more wear out of, and feel much better in, stuff that makes you look heathy. So filter stuff on that criteria before bringing it home. If you choose *tones* that suit you, they will frequently be in harmony with each other as well. It does help to choose a base colour to use as a starting point, and I don’t think it needs to be black.


When planning your wardrobe, what you do is pretty darn important. Where do you spend your time? If you work in a workplace which has a corporate dress code and party hard every weekend, your wardrobe will have very different requirements to someone who works from home or somewhere with a casual dress code, and enjoys outdoorsy weekends and evenings in with a good book. A lot of ‘essentials’ lists overlook the fact that your lifestyle may never require a pair of patent black stilettos.

The best advice I’ve seen so far, is to look at how you spend your time over a month and plan it out. Make sure you can create sufficient outfits for all requirements, keeping in mind that plenty of things will cross over into different categories.

My life currently requires:
·         Daily smart-casual clothing (work / shopping / time with friends).
·         Appropriate stuff for going to the gym
·         Loungewear (book reading type right here.)
·         Clothing for going out of an evening every other week or thereabouts.

Take into account weekends as well as work days. I tend to think of weekends as ‘jeans days’ which I wouldn’t wear to work, and that’s enough of a mix for me. Plenty of minimalist wardrobes overlook entire sectors of your life. You’re probably not wise to wear your fancy stuff you wear to dinner to the dog park. You’ll have to bleach the shower from time to time.  Appropriate clothing is not always Pinterest-worthy clothing, but a functional wardrobe needs such things, in moderated quantities.


It also goes without saying that you need to take into account the climate in which you live. Again, general advice will tell you ‘every woman should own a trench coat’ and other such rot which only applies in some climates.

At the moment, since it is winter and I live in the UK, I have 3 coats in constant rotation. One of these is considerably warmer than the other two for very cold days. I only need one lighter coat, but bought one while waiting to finish making the other (such are the perils of DIY). As the seasons transition, I will put the thicker one away and bring out a lighter weight option. Summer coats are a thing here.

By contrast - I never required a coat at all when I was living in India. But everything was single wear only. You could not get away with wearing trousers twice. This meant an ‘outfit’ approach rather than mix and match worked really well in that context.

When I lived in the cooler parts of Australia, I tended to wear more layers. The variation in temperatures during a day was much more obvious, and the buildings don’t have the same enthusiastic heating as here – they’re not built for the cold months as they have to contend with warmer summers as well. I had tops with different sleeve lengths rather than coats, to be taken off and put back on during the course of a day. All of this matters when building a wardrobe.


When super-enthusiastic fans of minimalism propose the 10 item wardrobe, all I can think is ‘yeah but I don’t want to hand wash my stuff every night’. It’s all well and good to say you can create 16 different outfits with 6 pieces, but if you’re relying on one t-shirt for most of those options, you’re either constantly washing, or you’re going to smell a bit by the middle of the week. So to my mind, when planning your wardrobe, you really need to think about how often you wash, whether you hand wash, and what washes together. Washing less than a load at a time is going to have a greater environmental impact than washing full loads.

Also, washing takes its toll on clothes. So while you can keep wearing the same 3 t-shirts over and over, they will age quickly. That’s not to say they’re aging with fewer wears than otherwise, just that it will be more noticeable.

So my thoughts on laundry factors to consider.
1.     Look at how often you wash, and make sure you have enough to make a decent load (+ a bit) as your barest minimum. If you’re in a family and bundle stuff together, you will need fewer of your own things than if you are single to make a whole load.

2.       Some stuff needs washing every time you wear it. Some stuff doesn’t. So you might need to have 5 tee shirts to one pair of jeans to make a reasonable load of washing. Some will point out mathematically that 5 t-shirts and 1 jeans = 5 outfits, whereas 3 t-shirts and 3 bottoms = 9 possible outfits with the same number of items. True. But there are 3 washes in that same equation, instead of 1 wash as in the first. You could have 7 tops, 3 bottoms = 21 possible outfits and 1 load of washing a week instead if you like. It’s not as ‘minimal’ by count but it is more practical in terms of maintenance.

3.       Be prepared to replace certain items in your smaller wardrobe more often. Jackets and jeans will go on and on, t-shirts, socks and undies have a limited term of presentable service. Whether you want to start out with more items (and greater variety) and wear your way through them equally, or regularly replace them is a matter of choice.

4.       Consider the separation of loads as well as just the bulk. Since I wear mostly dark colours but prefer flesh-toned underwear and white sports socks, I need a single week of dark stuff to make a load, but I either need a couple of weeks of unmentionables to make a load, or I need to hand wash them. Others who prefer lighter coloured tops (for example) would not have this difficulty. Looking after things and washing them according to instructions really does make a huge difference to their lifespans. Stock your wardrobe in a way that makes this easy to do.

5.       Take washing instructions into account when you add a garment to your wardrobe. Stuff that’s easy to wash will get more wear. If it’s dry clean only, think about whether it’s worth it.

What do you already wear / what do you like to wear?

This might be really obvious but you already know what you like to wear. Look at the things which get the most use and plan around those items. If you like wearing jeans, plan around jeans. If you like a jumper for its colour, look for or make items which are that colour, or have that colour in a print. If you’ve got 15 skirts that you never wear, maybe you don’t like skirts. Stop buying them. Do you have 15 skirts and 5 of them are in the wash basket because you wore them this week? Skirts are your thing. Roll with that. Do you have 3 white blouses that have been in the wash basket for a WHOLE month? You like them, but you don’t like washing them. Consider an alternative. Your existing habits will offer insight into which clothing purchases or makes are wise investments (of time and/or money).

Hypothetical Experiments to help figure out what you actually wear, and streamline your stuff / direct your sewing projects:

If you suddenly had to evacuate without an expectation you would be able to return to your home for a year, what clothing would you pack in your one suitcase? (You have 30 minutes. Go pack).

If someone robbed your house, and took all your clothing except the things you are currently wearing, (weird, but whatever) what would you need to go and buy right now, to get you through the next month?  Write a list. [PS, If you are sitting here in your onesie reading this, take a moment to reflect on how silly you might feel going to the shop in said onesie.]

Looking at the stuff you have, look at each item and ask yourself - would you buy it again for £1? (Or $1.) If not, you probably don’t need it.

So there you have it. 

My thoughts on a not-so-minimalist, but useful wardrobe.

What do you think? Do you have any advice you live by, or ways of balancing your new garments to best effect? Do you practice a one-in-one out rule? Or do you just make / buy stuff and see what happens? And most importantly, how do you choose your next practical project?

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Basic T-shirt (tank) Dress - Creating Vertical Front Darts

A lot of off the rack 'body con' dresses are made without any darts at all, depending on the stretch in the fabric to create the contours.

That's all fine and dandy if you're dealing with a firm body without too many extreme curves, but if you're particularly curvaceous or even the littlest bit squidgy, you do run the risk of either losing definition by going too loose, or looking like you've wrapped yourself unflatteringly in some kind of clingfilm. By adding darts, you can get a nice shape around the best bits, without too much squeeze on the huggable bits.

So for this post, I am taking the Basic Tank Dress (or t-shirt dress) and adding vertical darts to the front. I've already illustrated including bust darts and back darts in earlier posts.

This is super easy, and makes for a more fitted shape under the bust. Since this is stretch fabric, the dart is not as deep as it would be on a woven fabric. This drafting is for stretch fabric only.

Yay darts. Have I told you how much I like darts? I really like darts.

Built on this pattern.
The Basic Tank Dress or T -shirt Dress was built on the darted tank top, already includes back darts. You will need the bust point, under bust line and waist line marked on the pattern.

Using the bust point as a guide, draw a vertical line down the body, extending from the bust point to just below the  fulness of the hips.

This creates two intersections.
I mark a point 3cm below the bust point.

 For many of us, the thinnest part of the body is under the bust. I found from my previous makings of the tank dress, I want to bring the dart in 2cm under the bust, and about 1.5 cm at the waist.

This is easy to test, you put your tank dress on, and pinch and pin to make sure you've got the right amount. It makes a funny shaped dart, but a lot of the waist shaping is already in the pattern piece.

I mark in those points on the intersections.

I draw in the dart according to the points.

It might look a little wonky, but it does make a great shape.
If that bothers you, you can extend the waistline out by the difference and redraw the side seam to even it out.

The first time you make the pattern with the front darts, you may want to baste them first and test the fit.

You may find the front hem lifts a little because of the contour, in which case curve the front hem line to be about 1cm lower directly under the bust points, rather than completely straight across.

These are a couple of quick dresses I whipped up to show the front darts. I've put sleeves on the darker dress as the weather is cooling off. The pattern for the sleeve is copied off the original t-shirt pattern and then extended.

Looking at the darted version alongside a similar dress with no dart:

You can see the difference in the contour here. (I'm trying to find a dignified way to say 'look at my bust' but it's hard). The t-shirt dress without a dart doesn't hug as closely. Both are perfectly wearable, but in terms of building other designs, the closer fit is very useful. The Cerise Snake dress has a shaped band under the bust which needs to sit closely, and I did effectively put this dart in there, albeit in a different way.

ANyway. It's been fab. Catch you soon!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Can You Fix My Bear?

It seems not a lot of people out there sew. So if you tell people you sew, in their eyes, you are some kind of miracle worker.

This is Donald. He is loved, but oh my.

I did start pulling one of the footpads off before I took the photo. I wanted to know how easily they would come off, and the answer was 'quite'.

This footpad is completely untouched, as it arrived in my hands.

Here it is, carefully unpicked.
Not much left of it! The bear is made of a faux fur fabric, but the footpads are made of felt. Felt is not a particularly durable fabric, and this poor little bear has worn his out.

There's probably a children's story in that, if you are so inclined. But for now, I am just going to switch out his poor paws (Haha!) for a polar-fleece ones instead. Polar fleece is a lot tougher than felt, and I'm a big fan of it for use in toymaking. I placed the unpicked pad onto a piece of polar-fleece and cut it out. In both cases, I had to use the left side patch, as clearly Donald is right-handed, and the right patches were in worse condition than the left.

Because he was already made, I had to carefully hand-stitch his paws in by hand, using a running stitch on one side, and then invisible stitch as the gap closed.

He needed new toes too.

And a new ribbon. Doesn't he look soo much better!
I suppose with his new paw pads, he's part polar-bear. And I do feel a bit like a miracle worker.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Decisions Decisions...

For anyone doing the 2015 Sewing Design/Inspiration Challenge, the January Challenge is to make a mood board, and then something from it. This is my board:

So I have been gathering bits to go with this scheme. Honestly, I have been collecting this colour scheme for a little while. And Christmas was good to me. So there's more here than I could possibly use. I've put links here if you are shopping in the UK and want to go find them. (Not sponsored).

1. Loose knit fabric, www.fabricland.co.uk (If you click on this, brace yourself)
2. Wool Jersey, http://www.minervacrafts.com/
3. Terracotta Broderie Anglaise, http://www.minervacrafts.com/
4. Black Bronze Patterned Double Jersey, http://www.minervacrafts.com/
5. Quilting fabric, from my local fabric store, www.sewcreative.co.uk
6. 'Spiral out of Control' warm jersey, which is pretty much what your eyes will do if you go to www.fabricland.co.uk
7. Stretch cotton, from stash.
8. As for #1.

I also gathered up some beads.
1(&4). From a $2.00 shop in Australia.
2. Salvaged from a charity store necklace.
3. From Dunelm.

The mood board experience has really helped me focus, and re-think things I already have. I would also suggest it is important to think about search terms. So although I was thinking 'terracotta', I also searched for 'bronze', 'rust', 'orange', and 'burnt orange' in order to find resources around my colour scheme. Similarly, I searched for 'blue', 'indigo', 'navy' to find things in the blue spectrum.

I am anticipating making things from this colour scheme long after January, but for now, I need to make a decision about where to start!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year!

I haven't been sewing today. I've been knitting.

You know what's really good about knitting?

Other than the fact that you might just end up with a new cardigan, you can knit sitting on the sofa, with comfy socks on and a blanket over your legs. 

So on the 1st of January, after dragging yourself out of bed in the early afternoon, it is completely ok to make a sofa nest, put on a DVD and chill out with your knitting. And at the end of it, you can still rightly point out that your day was productive. Probably more productive than a lot of other people.


Happy New Year everyone! Don't bust your gut trying to get it all done at once.