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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 :-)

Postmodern Scrunchie

DonutsDo you remember when Carrie Bradshaw determined that a woman wearing a scrunchie in her hair was either:

a) washing her face, or

b) a scrubbed-cheeked hillbilly from Hickville?

1 The NieceWell, no more.  A recent discussion panel on Radio 4′s Woman’s Hour (a programme where they normally tackle such weighty issues as gender pay inequality) suggested the Scrunchie is back and with a vengeance.  No longer an apologetic substitute for a decent hairstyle, the Scrunchie worn ironically is the hairstyle.

Make one that’s a bit out of the ordinary for your daughter or fashionista niece so that she can wear it with a donut: use the scrunchie instead of pins to tuck in hair. Or, as the Radio 4 programme suggests, make it enormous and out of Dutch Wax cloth like a youngster’s version of a traditional headdress. Or use Day-Glo neoprene or paper silk.  Make it from the leg of some old jeans (especially if they’re leather!).  Liberty fabric leftovers make a good choice too and striped shirting is good for tomboys.  Just don’t underestimate the amount of material this will require: the postmodern Scrunchie is a monster.

How to sew a ScrunchieNon-Metal Hair Ties

You will need:

a) One of these metal-free hair ties.  These vary in quality so make sure they’ll last by giving them a reasonable stretch before committing to purchase.  If they snap, walk off nonchalantly!

1 70 cm by 10 cm rectangleb) A rectangle of fabric some 70cm x 12cm for a smallish scrunchie or 90cm x 15cm for a jumbo.  If using jersey, the end result will look even bigger.

If possible, cut with pinking shears.

Step 11 Press under 1cm on short ends to wrong side

Press under 1cm on each short end of the fabric.

Step 21 Insert Hair Bands

With right sides together, fold the folded corners together over the centre of the hair tie.

Step 3 Stitch

Stitch the long side with a 1cm seam allowance, keeping the hair tie stretched out of the way.  When you get to the end, leave long strands of thread hanging.

1 Inside out scrunchie
Step 4

1 Feed to right side

Feed to the right side.  I use a safety pin.

Step 5

1 Slipstich the opening

Use one of the long thread ends to slipstitch the opening closed.

Scrunchie

And no, you won’t catch me wearing one of these but then I live in England and my ears are usually cold ;-)

Are you a (closet) scrunchie wearer?  Any interesting fabric suggestions?

Isabella Blow

I didn’t think I’d like Isabella Blow, whose collection of designer dresses and hats is currently at Somerset House.  There’d been nothing to warm me in the portraits I’d seen, most showing her expressionless if not rather po-faced, and usually wearing one of her antelope-spike hats.  I admit I have an aversion to fashion, seeing it as a preoccupation of the rich who dress eccentrically to detract from an inner vacuum, with followers who seemingly dress identically when they should be making their own!

So did I have my prejudices overturned? :-)

Not initially.  In the first display room, a familiar sight of a mismatched zip (ooh, at least  5mm, girls) spotted on the back of a lace Alexander McQueen skirt had me feeling rather smug.  “Blimey, he must have done that before he had people to do it for him,” I thought.  Even less impressive was a fashion feature in The Face showing a child clad in nowt but glittery Agent Provocateur knickers.  Clearly, we’d travelled into the past: a suspicion confirmed when one of the displayed documents turned out to be a fax (I’d forgotten they existed) which referred to the rather mundane  but very relevant matter of Blow’s expenses.

Amber Anderson photographed by Nick KnightHowever, you soon start to feel luck at being able to circle, and study closely, such giants of design as you see here.  I would have loved to touch some of the exhibits (like the fluffiest collar ever, on right) but I’d been warned off by repeated signs.  “No Photography” either, sadly.  As there wasn’t a catalogue of the exhibition on sale, here are some personal highlights which I’m trying to entrust to memory:

- One Philip Treacy hat, or ‘head sculpture’ if you will: a scarlet velvet number worthy of a female cardinal (if there was such a thing).  All parallel pintucks curling up in a sphere.  In a video clip, Blow very sweetly offers the theory that such hats “lift” faces like hers.  “Anyone can find a husband if they wear a Philip Treacy hat!”.

- An ice-smooth, silver shift dress, matched with a two-pronged headdress and the most pointed ever silver trident.  A she-Neptune outfit perhaps?

- A McQueen python-skin suit: a pointy-shouldered jacket and pencil skirt.

And if you think I’m just some sucker for power dressing, how about:

- The Jun Takahashi shocking-pink Burka printed with skewered-headed teddy bears (see it here)?  Very low Taliban-approval rating but Lady Gaga also gave it a go.

Looking around, I did in fact start to wonder if I haven’t lived when I haven’t partied  in frocks like these!

The exhibition veils over the ending of Blow’s and McQueen’s symbiotic relationship and you wouldn’t guess by the triumphant catwalk-show ending that Blow’s last years were ruined by depression, money worries and disappointment at her infertility and divorce.  I think this is deliberate.  We have to let this collection celebrate Isabella Blow and use our imagination to wonder at the rest of the story.

If you can, do go.  Till 2nd March.

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!‘ 

:roll: :-)

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.

.  

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!  8O

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?!

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!

 

Curtain Training

You’ve heard of lion-taming, right?  And you must have heard of dragon-slaying.  But have you heard of curtain training!  I’m not lying: the man in the John Lewis curtain department told me that’s what you have to do for weeks after hanging up your new curtains.  Every time you open them, fold into identical pleats then tie them gently together.  In time they should assume this shape automatically.

Curtain training!  Honestly… It’s a good job there was a pile of rugs in the John Lewis furnishings department so I didn’t have to roll on the floor laughing.

But apart from the ludicrous name, I confess that’s what I did every morning for at least a week after making these curtains for my daughter’s room. I lovingly 8O pressed the plump folds into a concertina-like position(tying them seemed a step too far.).  These picture show what they look like after  I abandoned the regime and went back to my usual routine of a rushing thug.  What can I say:  life takes over.

In making them, I followed all the good advice you gave me after I posted pictures of my bicycle curtains:

  • I cut off the selvedges.  Also I pulled at lengths of thread, both crosswise and vertically, to establish the true grain of fabric.  Last time I sewed patterned curtains, I relied on the graphics instead and it didn’t produce a good enough hang.
  • I forked out for a walking (even feed) foot.  This really saved me time when matching up the pattern horizontally.  I still had to use my seam ripper when I made vertical mismatches.  With a pattern like this, a millimetre off the seam line and I risked the curtain opening out to reveal mutant three-eyed kitties!
  • I used bump.  Actually, I used Synthetic Interlining.  Bump is a word I like the correct term for expensive cotton interlining.  But even so, these curtains feel very luxurious and are actually a pleasure to be near!  My best curtains so far and I don’t think these photos do them justice but it’s a small bay window that I can’t stand in front of because of a high sleeper bunk in the way!

Giveaway

A chance to get one leftover Fat Quarter (18″ by 22″) with one Regular Quarter (9″ by 44″) of the fabric: a lovely cream cotton called ’Cocoland Musical’.  It’s a  Kokka Japan  bought from Frumble.  (Not sure what a FQ is?  All explained here.)  It won’t get you curtains but plenty for a peg bag,  a pencil case or a  door stop.  To go into the draw, leave me a silly comment below and one winner will be drawn on Friday 30th.  Make sure you can be contacted.  

So, tell me about your curtain taming!   Er, training!