Sister Salamanca

1 Sister SalamancaThe shops are full of cowboy-style shirts with pearl stud openings and breast pockets, usually in denim or check.  For months I’ve been meaning to make my own version; one that’s a bit badass, like something  the Salamanca cousins would wear with their skull-tipped boots while on a (probably murderous) Saturday night out.

1 Guess whatCue experimentation with designing a cheerful, kitschy sugar skull motif.  I made a copy of the yoke in a pearly-silver fabric and sandwiched it between the yoke and the shirt back (which is in a fine Italian needlecord from Fabric House, again).  The skull and the flowers are cut away from the yoke which is zigzag-stitched to the foil.

1 Salamanca shirt yokeThe sparkly pink and magenta bits used to be the fabric wings of my daughter’s Barbie Mariposa doll: yes, I’m mean!!  The green, sew-on jewels were from one of the haberdashers alongside Walthamstow market and I also used some Gutermann metallic thread.

1 Close up

The inspiration for the design of the actual shirt came from an altogether different telly source: Madonna!  Remember her super video for the equally excellent Don’t Tell Me?  I’m not talking of the check shirt she wears at the start but the clingy  leather (or probably even  latex) number she wears just over half-way through, during the line dancing routine.  Click hereMadonna Don't Tell Me.

Oi, eyes off the cowboys!  You’re supposed to be looking at Madge’s shirt.

Oh I see…. You were admiring the dancing.

Me too :-)

1 PipingFor the body of the shirt, I used an old Butterick 4607 pattern, which I have some reservations about as it’s way oversized (I’m a 12 but made an 8) and a bit on the dowdy side – Madge would not approve.  I changed the bottom edge of the yoke and gave the collar a 70s look.  The sleeves are completely different to the original.  I made them leg of mutton (I wonder if Madge, like me, winces at the mention of the word!), kept the width but then put 5 equally spaced pleats between the bicep and the elbow so that they’re narrowed before widening out again.  I’m particularly pleased to have worked out how to make piped cuff plackets - that was a brain-draining afternoon or two, I can tell you.  1 Cuff

The pearl press studs match the piping and the foil.  To finish off the project, I took a trip to Soho and had the studs inserted professionally at  a cost of £4.40 for 11 by DM Buttonholes.  Much better than hammering them in myself on the chopping board using the steak tenderizer!

Whatcha think?!  If you were a cowgirl broken bad, how would yours look?

1 Reculver Cowgirl

Location: Reculver

Admin

Draft 2 Slashes Sleeve TopHere’s the second draft of my slashed sleeve top.  I improved on one feature: the cuffs; but I worsened two!  The sleeve head now hasn’t enough fullness and the bodice is too long.

I like to think that learning to draft is like learning to drive.  The mistakes and the failures make you better and more knowledgeable than someone who struck lucky the first time around.  I hope to find that thought a comfort when I begin draft three. :roll:

Now for the admin.  I’ll be celebrating my blog’s second birthday by smartening up this site.  The idea is that by making sew2pro more marketable, it’ll hopefully be a little less overlooked.  It won’t be an overnight change because I’m a Luddite who constantly alienates her IT staff by being destructive and unintuitive with the ways of … (*spits on floor*) technology!

So, while I knuckle down, will you please let me know by comment or email if:

- you want your blog included in my list of links on bottom right

- you recommend any sewing or drafting blogs or how-to websites for me to add to my reading list.  My blogroll is currently in the doldrums and a couple of favourites haven’t been updated in months.  Ideally I need tutorials with good visuals, or book reviews (like Pella‘s series on pattern drafting books), or guides on turning clothes-making into a profession.

Thanks :-)

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.

.  

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

Thrift Shop Genie

I’ve been rather teal-curious lately!  So when I spotted this £3 skirt in a Barnardos charity shop (in Bromley), I snapped it up in the hope that there’d be enough fabric to make a toile for a pattern I’ve been designing. 

The skirt is of mysterious origin with the labels cut away.  The original wearer must have been tall with a 24″ inch waist.  A child on stilts?  A member of the Na’vi race maybe?  The fabric is a cheap polyester chiffon but crisp and ultra-clean.  By cutting corners on some of the seam allowances on my pattern, I manage to eke out enough to make the skirt into a generously-sleeved blouse, slashed from centre of the sleeve heads to the cuffs.  The skirt lining was used to block the sheer bodice and both layers were gathered together under the waist in a kind of bubble hem.  

I can think of several things I’d like to change to perfect this wearable muslin but the colour is not one of them.  Ironically, the £14 a metre shot silk in lime green that I bought for the real thing will be more luxurious but not half as vibrant and I suspect won’t give me anything like the oomph I get wearing this lucky-find genie!

Oh, and congratulations to Julie Starr, the winner of the Cocoland Musical giveaway.  I’ll be in touch!

 

Horror Time

I find the most beautiful wool ever woven.  My favourite blues are all there with a dash of fresh, stripy lime.  I want this wool for a dress, a coat – nay, curtains and a carpet even, that’s how lovely it is - but there’s only a metre left so I clutch my remnant preciously and take it home planning its perfect future.  Something that will do it justice


Like a pencil skirt!


What could possibly go wrong…?

I  design from my Basic Skirt Block which I’ve used a good dozen times before.
At least I know it’ll fit me! 

The skirt must be lined as it’s for winter.  I find wonderfully matching sapphire blue acetate and  I imagine admiring this secret, deep colour every time I slip in and out of the skirt.

I narrow the block at the hem by 6cm all around.  I know the hem must be narrower than the hip because I have been stalking Boden again and studying the ‘garment measurements’ like those of the pencil skirt here.

I have enough experience now to know how to accurately align the design across the centre back.

I know to put in a kick pleat so I can stomp about when I wear the skirt.  I know how to line a kick pleat ’cause I damn well wrote that tutorial, didn’t I, so we’re all set to go but then, wait…  what?  Oh no….  

“Go directly to Jail.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect £200!  And if anyone asks, tell them you bought it in Primark!”

Gis a Flat White!

This brown number started off looking very different.  The fabric was the pale colour and softness of chamois leather (superfine needlecord from Fabric House) which I’d picked out to make an improved version of my Anna Hack, this time without the waist seam.  The pattern-drafting worked out ok but I was then visited by the Muse of Shite  who inspired me “to add interest to the design” by putting brown contrasting bands onto the sleeves.   

And as my project neared completion, I kept wondering why it was giving off such bad vibrations…  Was it that my dress-to-be looked like a cleaning lady’s overall?!  

:x


No, I realised I’d made myself a coffee-shop uniform!  Luckily, I had some brown left in my cupboard-of-dye and so quickly drowned my shame till it came out kind of neutralised? 

But I still wear this, hearing voices in my head:

“Oi!  Ba-RISTAH!!”

Back in Black, Anna Hack

I didn’t mean to hack.  My focus was on designing a pencil skirt but after some experimenting, I made myself a rather likeable muslin from some utility cotton leftovers and it seemed a shame to throw it away. 

So I Frankensteined it. 

To an Anna bodice. 

The whole thing is, like Dr Frankenstein’s  creation, rather crudely stitched.  Check out that  ugly waist seam, sooo mismatched at the back!  (Click on right image to enlarge for full gore.)  See the holes where the original pencil skirt darts had to be unpicked and repositioned to match the bodice pleats? 

Luckily, one dye-job later into my all-time favourite colour and all is forgiven, particularly with the addition of a waist-concealing cinch belt.  A very useful hack, though a size bigger would have been more wearable still and could have been lined.  

BTW, check out the giant pencils of the Battersea Power Station!  This weekend is London Open House and if you’re curious to see the interior of this enormous brick structure, tomorrow is your last chance before the building undergoes lengthy, long 0verdue regeneration.  You’ll have to get there hours before opening time though, and join a queue of hundreds of architecture students, photography enthusiasts, Pink Floyd fans, phallic symbol admirers, not to mention the usual scourge of tweeters and bloggers!

Bubble and Squeak

A new baby should be a cause for great joy and celebration,  especially when that baby is of the fur variety!  Meet Django, a Hungarian Vizsla!  Before meeting our friends’ new pup for the first time, dear daughter insisted on using her pocket money to buy him a toy.  And while this rope of tasteful, plastic sausages certainly seemed to delight him, Django seemed equally enticed by the dangly hems of our dresses which he kept jumping up to bite.  And there’s a lot of hem to bite on a Bubble Dress!

This is my second attempt at Akiko Mano’s cover pattern, made exactly a year after the first.  I decided to lengthen the size 8 by a whole 7cm (no change to the width) which required a lot more fabric for the tent-like pattern.  Would you believe this dress needed 3 metres, with nothing but some triangular scraps left over?!  But at £3.50 a metre (from Rolls and Rems) for a cool seersucker in colours of flowers and pistachio ice-cream, it’s a bargain I think!  

And what do you reckon Mika, the family cat, made of Django’s antics?! 

Quilting Cotton Curtains

So, you think you can sew and are wondering if it’s a good idea to try making curtains out of quilting cotton?  Well if you ask me, based on my hair-raising experience of doing just that, I’d give you my typical sit-on-the-fence rounded answer: yes and no.

Yes, it’s a good idea if you’re

a) young, or

b) strapped for cash, or

c) unsure of how long you’re going to be staying in your current place.  Made-to-measure curtain don’t travel well, though you can take them with you and re-use the fabric for other projects.

d) Or if despite your advancing years you find that your taste in furnishings definitely isn’t turning towards the traditional as everyone said that it would.  A year ago, when I started looking for curtain fabric, I told a friend I had trouble finding something for my bedroom that I liked  She directed me towards Laura Ashley saying, ”It’s not as bad as you think, you’ll be surprised!”  So I listened, popped in and ran out moments later, screaming and waving hands in the air. 

It wasn’t difficult to find lovely, expensive fabric.  Furnishings shops had books and books of samples and very boring it was too flipping through them :roll:  When I picked a few favourites, like the Designers Guild sample on the right, they varied in price range from £36 a metre to over £100 per metre.  We needed 13….   

So, we turned to quilting cotton, searching online from the comfort of having bums on the sofa and the telly on.  Bliss!  We wanted a fabric that  matched the love-at-first-sight bedroom lampshade we’ve had for years (from Lush).  It also had to be cheerful and not block out the morning sunshine on our south-east facing window.  Finally, we both had to like it…. (We didn’t dare ask the kids for their opinion!)  Here to There in Blue from Frumble Fabrics matched the criteria and was within budget.

While making the curtains, I did have moments of wonder about whether or not I was actually going mad….  It was hard: making the panels with a vertical as well as a horizontal repeat, and all without a walking foot (never again).  I had to trim off lots: these aren’t quite fat quarters but seem too nice throw away.  Any ideas what to do with them?  They’re on the grain or crossgrain but too small for bias.  

I bought cheap curtain lining from Rolls and Rems and added little parcels of curtain weights wrapped in fabric, which look like ravioli, to the inside of hems at the corners and where the panels join.  And I bought “curtain tidies”: it’s not a good idea to cut off the surplus cord in case you have to ungather the curtain for adjustments (please, NO! Not again..). 

Total cost: well under £200.

But do the curtains “hang beautifully”? 

Er, they’re alright.  Not great.  The right side is better.  That could be due either to my relative inexperience in making curtains or maybe the fault is in the grain of the cheaper fabric, which admittedly appeared ok. 

No, it’s me. 

Or, is the reason why furnishing fabric is so expensive because it’s perfect and other fabrics often aren’t?  Let me know if you have experience of this.  I’ll be making more curtains soon.

In the meantime, I’ll be using this gem of a tip a friend gave me for sorting out those sides when they’re looking a bit …. er, wavy: