Feelgood Hits of 2013

After a rate of almost a garment a week in 2012, this was a quieter and less impulsive year of sewing.  I made outfits for others and invested time in picking up tailoring techniques (canvasing up, making pockets and bound buttonholes).  

But as I still  don’t seem to have the right thing to wear half the time, I’m glad I’ve added the following mini-gems to the wardrobe.  Here’s the countdown with the most favourite at number 1 (click the pics for links):

5. Two Peas in a Pod

Pattern Magic that’s wearable?! How novel!  I didn’t think I’d get much out of a T-shirt that makes me look like I’ve swallowed someone.  But for a one-day job – half of it spent at the photocopier – this shrink pattern/enlarge pattern experiment paid off.

I’d file this under “Barmy, but works for me“!

 

4. Anna

May 2014 bring me a small castle in which to wear this medieval princess number.   Actually forget that.  I just need lots of long days of summer.

There’s a subtext to this Anna project as I was persuaded to make it by a very good friend who’s also really caught the sewing bug.  One of the highlights of the year have been our fabric-acquisition expeditions to Goldhawk Road and Walthamstow!

That’s right, readers: one more woman with a stash problem!

3. Cactus

Not as prickly as I’d feared!


2. Teal Isn’t Just For Ducks, You Know

I attempted to design an interesting pattern and though it needs tweaking, this muslin is so vibrant and mood enhancing that I want to wear it all the time.

Shame then that it’s too draughty!

And finally…

1. Zen Charmer
The Alexander Henry print steals the show here; the pattern is the simple Laurel.  But I’m quite proud of having matched the two to make a dress that plays with the idea of a Chongsam without being so enclosing around the neck as a traditional Chinese dress.  I’ve not had one bad day in this dress. It must be magic or something…

Anyway, thank you all for reading my blog this year.  It was great to steadily increase readership and I’m always encouraged along by your feedback and comments.   Stick around in 2014: we’re going places!

Mx

P.S.  Here’s another list of good things that happened (it’s actually just an excuse to sneak in a picture of Blogstalker!).

5. Best car song: Counting Stars, One Republic

4. Favourite album: Like Clockwork, QOTSA

3. Best Book: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (reread after 27 years)

2. Best cinema trip: Life of Pi

And …

1. The hot summer of 2013! I finally got to wear the summer dresses I made last year…

Sew Long, 2013

Where did the year go?!  Oh yeah…

2013: THE MISSES (click on picture to link to original post).

1. Amy Butler Lotus

I have proof that this dress looks great on others.  When I wear it, I feel like I’m trying to impersonate someone…

 

2. Sonny Boy’s Present
I made this cushion as a  present for a friend of my daughter’s.  He’s 9 and I figured at his age, he’s thoroughly sick of being bestowed with a mountain of plastic clutter every birthday.  Well, I misjudged.  His comment on receiving this personalised, handcrafted bit of uniquity?  I quote:

That’s not even a present!‘ 

🙄 🙂

3. Lipstick Bleed Skeletons
After watching the Great British Sewing Bee, I quickly and manically used some remnants to made my daughter this skirt.  At the first wash, the skellies’ mouths bled so badly, their faces are now pink!

 

4. Surely a hundred sewing bloggers cannot be wrong

I get the impression that every blogger has sewn the Vogue 1247 skirt thrice.  Much as I loved the soft pinstripe fabric and the finish of this skirt, it’s too exacting a fit around the waist. I made it a year ago yet by mid April, when it had finally thawed and carbo-loading was no longer a strategy for daily survival, it was too big and the waistband now stands up bulkily. 

 

5. Turtle Neck

I put on this wrinkled-collar Renfrew whenever I want a reminder of what my neck will increasingly look like as I age. I cannot believe I took the trouble to sew something this boring. Why didn’t I at least make it in black-boring so it would at least be sexy in a jewel-thief-cliché sort of way?!

My aim for 2014 is to sew stunning!

 

6. So Bad I Didn’t Even Blog It

Thanks to Jane for inventing a whole new category!  The biggest skeleton of this year secret cupboard was undoubtedly my failed pair of Colette Pattern’s Clover.  The toile was so revoltingly unsuited to me that I vowed to never wear, nay, not even try on trousers again!

Christmas Pressie 1: Silk Scarf

This is a labour of love, not only in terms of the time the project takes but also the cost of the silk.  Ideally, you should only make this for your mum or yourself 🙂  You don’t actually need a lot of silk but do ensure that what you buy is fine and feels sumptuous!

A rectangle of pure silk is first hand-rolled then beaded around the edge.  I estimate this would take an intermediate sewist some 10 hours, including the essential 2 hours of practice that I really recommend you do on a patch of your silk if you haven’t hand-rolled before.  Without a bit of ‘previous experience’, your hem is in danger of looking more professional the further you progress around the scarf.

You will need:

1. A piece of soft silk measuring about 75cm x 55cm.  This amount wouldn’t be enough to wrap around the neck if it was fleece but silk has this way of elongating as if by magic if you turn it on the bias.

2. Thread in as close a match to the fabric as possible (very important).

3. Matching beads.  If you leave gaps of two ‘invisible’ beads between each one, you can use the perimeter of your scarf to estimate the number of beads required.  E.g. in my case:  (75+75+55+55) / 3 = 87.

4. Small scissors.

5. A fine needles.

How to:

Part 1: Hemming

I couldn’t show you hand-rolling better than Ami does in this brill You tube demo.  It’s one of my all-time favourite sewing tutorials. (And Ami, I don’t at all mind you being left-handed; I relish the intellectual challenge of mirroring your actions!)  The video quality and tuition are top notch but Ami also has a calming, gentle manner that had me immediately reaching for needle and thread as if hypnotized.

Be sure to watch to the end to find out how to do corners.  If you want a sample of what I’m on but don’t want to watch the whole thing, skip to minutes 6:00 – 7:00


Part 2: Beading
 

Sew on with a running stitch, making sure you backstitch every 5 beads or so.  That way, if one bead snags, it doesn’t drag its friends down with it.

Tips:

1. Have plenty of light.

2. It helps to keep sections you’re working on flat and taught.  To do so, I sat with my knees up wearing tightish jeans and pinned the fabric to myself.  Er, to my jeans, not thighs!  But you can also put a firm pillow on your lap and pin to that! .

3. The video recommends a product called Thread Heaven with which to coat the thread and prevent slipknots.  I used beeswax instead thinking it would do the same: not a good shortcut as it really made knotting worse.  After one of your reader comments below, I’ll really give Thread Heaven a try.  It might even speed things up.

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Do you have a sewing video to recommend?  Have you worked with silk?  Are you mad and making any presents??  Tell all.

Next time: something much quicker and mum-friendly

A Client

Here’s why I’ve been a bit quiet lately.

A couple of months ago, just as I was thinking it was time I accelerated the learning process by sewing for other people, a call comes out of the blue.  An acquaintance needs a dress for a very special occasion.  She kind of knows what she wants: a dress version of the blouses she wears to work, but in finer fabrics.  She rarely finds clothes that fit her well and has given up looking for what probably doesn’t exist.  Can I make it perhaps?

I say “Yeah!”  Then my heart totally sinks when we rummage through the client’s wardrobe and all her favourite tops turn out to be made from chiffon.  Everything looks floaty and delicate.  Nothing like what I sew!

I think back to my only encounter with chiffon, years before, when my old Singer brutishly shredded it and in utter disgust I bundled the remains into the wheelie bin!  😯

One beautifully sunny Thursday at the end of October, I take the client shopping in Goldhawk Road and we find exactly what she’d hoped for.  For the upper bodice and the sleeves: deep red corded lace.  For the main bodice and skirt: deep red silk chiffon.  For the underdress (- very important as the dress will be sheer), we buy a bright red silk satin.  On the train home, I make a mental note not to leave this haul behind!

There’s a hitch during half term!  My work area becomes a 24-hour children’s canteen – or so it seems – and I can’t work.  I do however spend hours on research, reading all your tips for sewing delicates.  Just as well I’ve been saving packing paper from internet shopping!  When pressed flat and glued into large sheets, it makes a perfect sandwich in which to cut the chiffon.  It’s a club sandwich: pattern, paper, single layer fabric, paper.

I buy the finest needles, though not the recommended Schmetz Microtex which no one in real-life shops appears to stock. (Oi!  Get with the programme!).  My tailoring class, who always ask for weekly progress updates, give great suggestions and my tutor’s idea to tease out threads along the grain and crossways to make visible cutting guidelines proves very valuable when I practise on snippets.  Nevertheless, I spend a sleepless night thinking of all the different things that could go wrong.  Will the fabric behave?  With my design  work in practical terms?  And if it does, will the end result flatter?!  Will the client be happy?

There’s a book about couture that my little brother gave me which I keep by my bed and sometimes refer to for inspiration.  I look at the pics inside, trying not to get awed, telling myself that at the end of the day, it’s only some fabric and stitches!

Half term over and it’s game on.  Two weeks fly by in a mix of nervousness, frustration, good vibes and winging it.  I use loads of paper and calico.  Do you like my new way of storing patterns: punch and hang!

Two things really help the project go smoothly.  Firstly, my Elna stitches perfectly.  No problems with tension, no need for an expensive straight-stitch needle plate.  And the other thing is: the client is great!  Not only is she lovely (I’d have to be completely feckless to make her look unattractive), she’s very considerate and always relaxed!  Had I asked her if she wanted to appear in my blog wearing her dress, she’d have probably said yes, but I thought better not.  I was too intensely focused on the design and the sewing to think of photography.  I can give you some idea of what the dress looked like though as there’s a lot of similar stuff going on in the shops this party season.  My version has more volume with a pleated neckline and a looser, dropped waist silhouette.

I’m a total convert to chiffon and floaty fabrics now.  (Soon as I finished, I bought the charity shop skirt to turn into a blouse).  And the silk satin I used for the underdress (I did get a piccie of that, on right) was a revelation too: it has nothing of the cold sliminess of polysatin.

But boy, now it’s over and the client is happy, how I miss the adrenaline!!  Better get another job soon or else I’m getting that motorbike?!