Friday, 28 June 2013

Tilly's picnic blanket skirt - on my sewing table

I needed something a bit different to sew and this little beauty caught my eye way back when I first started looking at sewing blogs. (The skirt that is, rather than Tilly, because whilst she is very pretty I'm not that weird.)

I stole this photo from Tilly's blog

I've cut it out in a lovely soft denim type material which I bought from the very same man at the market who claimed that thick cotton was lawn, so I shan't pretend I know what this is. I would stop buying things from him, but he's so cheap and apparently so am I. Besides, sometimes a surprise works out just fine and I do like to live on the edge (this is a lie).
Anyhoo, it's drapey and pale blue and rather summery. This weekend I'm off to a family do, undoubtedly in the rain, but next week I hope to be merrily sewing button holes and because I live in the dark ages they'll all be sewn by hand. Excities eh?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

D&D Datura - The wearable muslin

Well. To be honest, I'm not that keen. It looks really homemade instead of handmade.

Lots of that might be to do with the fabric. It's too stiff for a top like this really. And I hate it a little bit. You might be able to tell by the right grump I have on in the picture above, that was probably down to noticing it had creased whilst I bent down to fasten my shoes.

But I've also had sizing issues. I made a size 40, but I then cut a lot out round the hips and waist to avoid huge flappy empty bits which has led to some oddness at the back (above). And I reckon the shoulders are too wide. So should I cut a size 38 or 36 and do an FBA? (I would actually need to find out what one of those was).

However, it's not all bad, it looks quite acceptable with a jacket. So I'm keeping it.

(Apologies to my lovely housemate/photographer who was trying to learn about diabetes in pregnancy when I hauled her off to take these at 10pm last night.) 

Whilst I'm not that keen on the finished garment, I can't be rude about the pattern. It is a beautiful thing and it does say it's not for beginners, I just chose not to listen. Some of the instructions had me scratching my head for a while and it doesn't hold your hand through every step. So common sense/imagination or experience is necessary.
The way the yokes are joined together at the shoulders was a bit of a surprise. I can't even think of a sensible way to describe it, however, once I'd worked out what they meant I did think it was rather clever.

So, will I be cutting into my beautiful liberty tana lawn that I've earmarked for a 'proper' version? Eventually yes. I just think maybe I need to get a bit better first, at pretty much everything.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

D&D Datura - on my sewing table

Taken from

I've mentioned it before, but I really love Deer & Doe's Datura blouse.

I was bought the pattern from the lovely ray-stitch in London town when I was down for my birthday along with many many other things. I was spoilt and I just don't care what anyone thinks.

So far I have
  1. carefully traced all the pattern pieces onto pattern paper 
  2. ummed and ahhed over what kind of muslin/mock up to make
  3. washed and ironed my mock up fabric
  4. lost one of my pattern pieces
  5. found it in the bin
  6. cut out all my fabric
  7. made some bias binding
  8. started joining bits together
  9. been very confused
I will have a finished item to show fairly soon I think. Mind you it will be made in fabric sent by the devil himself. This fabric is awful. It hates being pressed. It hates being sewn. Every pin prick or misplaced stitch leaves a hole. It hates being bias binding. However, at least it doesn't fray.
The man who sold it to me claimed it was a lovely cotton lawn. I think he lied. Firstly as I've mentioned, it isn't lovely. Secondly it isn't much like lawn. Its thick, opaque and not very soft at all. This is what happens when newbies buy fabric from markets, you don't come away with what you expect. Meh.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Commitment and a fish slice

So far I've done a bit of sewing on my bedroom floor and a bit of sewing on the dining table and spread a lot of thread EVERYWHERE. This caused me to misplace quite a few important bits and pieces, like the tape measure, needles, bobbins and at times, my sanity.

So it seemed like time to commit and make myself a proper sewing area.

I picked up a table for the princely sum of £6.50 from a charity warehouse and I spent a weekend or two doing it up.

First I had to scrape off the papier mache. Somebody had covered the tiled top and the legs in wrapping paper and then drawn and written all over bits of it in biro. Actually this bit was very soothing, nothing like destroying hours of somebody elses artistic vision with a fish slice. That sounds a bit odd, but I have a very limited tool box.

Excuse the poor photography, I was overexcited.

I sanded and painted and sanded and painted and sanded and painted.
All I will say is that one coat paint is a LIE.

But it looks a whole lot better. Look!

And now I have somewhere to sew! More on that later. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Pattern lust - Butterick B5920

Well. I'm a bit in love with this. 

Not the styling. Or the look of pained concentration on the models face. She kind of looks disappointed with herself, or possibly the hairstylist. 

The skirt needs to be shorter and the belt a different colour. And I will just mention the hair again as a no.

But I said I loved this and I really do. I love the collar and the lace and the shirty-ness of it.

I will make this!

Once I have mastered button holes. And interfacing. And lace.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Italian Coffee and Markets

You might have noticed that the photos in my last post were not taken in Yorkshire, I went all the way to Italy to give my polka dot dress a worthy first outing. Specifically we went to a walled city called Urbino and it was lovely. I drank quite a lot of wine.
I also discovered coffee. I had tried a mocha once before but it made me dizzy and gave me a headache, so usually I stay far away from coffee. However everyone else on our holiday drank several cups a day and it's just not acceptable to drink moscato in the morning. So I had a latte. Which was de-licious. Then we hit the market and I had a WILDLY OVEREXCITED AND BRILLIANT (if slightly jittery) time.
There was a lot of cheese and fried fish and spit roast wild boar. There was also a very cute haberdashery stall the likes of which Leeds Market could only dream of.

Note the crazy Italians in actual coats, in May. There was definitely no need for a padded gilet.

I wasn't really concentrating properly after the coffee, I kept flitting round the stand looking at new reels of things whilst my lovely boyfriend patiently looked on. I did eventually manage to buy something, I bought these bits of lace stupidly cheaply, I think I got 7 metres of lace and a big reel of thread for under 7 euros.

Now that I'm home and sworn off coffee again (there was a second latte and it didn't end well) I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to use it for. But I have some ideas...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Butterick 5317 - The Finished Article

*Trumpet fan fare*

The dress is finished! And I got to wear it last week in Italy!!

I didn't make it with pockets - or else my hands would be firmly stuck in them in the photo above. I read other reviews that said to leave out the pocket on the side with the zip to reduce bulk. Only one pocket? What's the point?

The back of the bodice is the only place I made any alterations and I think they worked well. I redrafted the pattern reducing the width of the scoop back and trimming some excess from each of the edges after looking at how a muslin mock up looked on me. 

The only downside? It crumples a bit. The photo above was taken straight after breakfast and just look at the skirt. Hmmmmm.
However, I love it sooo much that I shall forgive it. I might make it a little less low cut if I make it again though. I felt a bit busty all day, however nobody complained.
All in all a massive success for dress number one.
What next?...

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Butterick 5317 - Seams

In many ways my fabric choice was perfect. It is navy, but it's also polka dot - I don't like my clothes to take themselves too seriously, after all I don't. Its a lovely heavy cotton which holds a crease and hangs beautifully, great for the more tailored aspects of this dress. It was less than £8 a metre and did I mention the polka dots?
However. It's a bit unstable, if you look at it the wrong way it slowly starts to unravel. Which was a pain and a half, especially when you consider I don't have a serger/overlocker and my lovely old machine has no attachment to allow zig zag stitch.
So I turned to the sewing bible (and google) and discovered all sorts of alternatives.

  • Pinking shears! Apparently finishing an edge with tiny little zig zags reduces the amount a fabric can fray. However, it's not really extreme enough for really self destructive fabrics like mine. Didn't stop me trying though.
  • Mock french seams. They look like french seams, but they aren't. Neither are they easy to explain with words, I would show you a picture of my attempt, but I'm a bit ashamed of it's wonkyness, so look at this. My fabric was really too bulky for these though, which then rulled out lots of other seam finishes.

So instead I tried binding. By encasing the naughty edges in another layer of fabric the fraying is limited. I bought some cotton bias binding, but I may also be buying some rayon seam binding which is thinner and so better for areas that shouldn't be bulky. I used this for seams and also for hemming.

And this is how I did my hems; first I stitched the binding onto the cut edge of the fabric (1), then I folded the fabric to the correct length and did a line of stitching close to the fold (2) and then I stitched down the binding (3) which encased the unraveling edge in-between two rows of stitching and underneath a layer of bias binding. Hopefully indestructible!

I also did a bit of hand stitching using overcast stitch, which is just a little diagonal stitch over the edge of the fabric which catches the unraveling edge and stops it getting worse. It's almost invisible on my fabric so a photo is next to pointless.
Actually there's a whole host of potential seam finishes suitable for different fabrics. If you look on blogs lots of people seem to only mention sergers/overlockers. Apparently they are both fast and easy. They trim the fabric and neatly encase edges all in one. Well, I laugh in the face of such time saving methods, mainly because I can't afford them. If you can't afford them either don't worry, find yourself a nice big book and find a fancy seam you like the look of. It'll only cost you thread and an extra evening or two.

Lessons learned:

1. I must not kid myself that it's ok to buy cheap fabric because I'm "still learning", I'm going to be learning for a real long time and I will go mad if all my clothes fall apart after one wash when they've taken two weeks to make.
2. Seams take a realllllllllly long time. But, I'm a very happy camper with a needle in my hand, so it doesn't matter too much. (p.s. not actually IN my hand)