2015 Retrospective and 2016 Sewing Goals

1670_1_wandtattoo_happy_new_year

I may be a little late with the New Year’s greetings, but better late than never ‘ey?! There are a lot of retrospectives at the moment about hits and misses of 2015 on blogs … I too have had my hits and misses of the year – I guiltily confess that I am a more zealous poster of hits than I am of misses!

Despite me thinking that all of my makes when they are finished are my best make yet, there are certainly some that have worked out better than others. For me, hit criteria include anything from having had lots of wear, to being practical, from being beautiful, or to simply bringing me joy. With these criteria in mind, here are my hits:

My Mum’s Quilt: This quilt was a true labour of love, but I love everything about it now it’s finished. I’d learned a lot from my first few quilts and enjoyed having the opportunity to put this in to practice. I love to think of my mum enjoying this quilt and I hope it stays in our family for years to come!

Collette Patterns Moneta: Moneta was the output of my first dressmaking course, so not only is she an incredibly practical garment to wear, but she also holds sentimental value of nights spent at sewing school with Christine. I learnt a lot making this dress, especially about altering a pattern. I’m almost too scared to try and make another, as I don’t think any will be as good as the first!

Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress: Everything about making this dress was a joy. The fabric choice was perfect, it was my first time using faux leather, I love wearing it, it’s cosy and warm, chic and comfortable … the list of reasons why this dress is a hit is endless! Ironically though, this pattern also contributes to my misses. I tried to make a second version in black, with a boat neckline rather than the cowl neckline and it was a disaster. The fit was bad, I tried to rush it, the boat neckline flashed my bra straps in a really unflattering way … the list of reasons it was a miss is endless. In the end I didn’t even salvage the fabric I am embarrassed to say!

Espadrilles: I love these because they were something totally new to try! The pattern is a great way to use scraps and I found them so comfortable. They were also a good opportunity to practice hand sewing. I really enjoyed wearing them on holiday in Asia, and shall look forward to wearing them all next spring and summer!

Scrappy Leather Coin Purse: This was a totally spontaneous make and it must be a hit because I’ve used it every day since I made it! I’ve become really attached to it. I never thought of myself as a small purse person before, but somehow it really works for me. It’s simple, soft, classic, and I got to try out sewing leather with my machine while I made it. Awesome!

McCall’s M6992 in florals: This is definitely one of my most worn makes. I love the colours, the fabric and the construction was a joy (apart from that incident with the two left sleeves which we shan’t mention again!). Interestingly though this is a second pattern where I had a miss second time around. I made this pattern in black lace covered jersey with solid black sleeves – exactly the same size, similar fabric, but it just didn’t come together that well. If I’m honest with myself, I think I thought the first one was so great I’d just whip up a second one in no time, and I wasn’t as careful as I could have been. It’s not unwearable, so not a total miss, but certainly not my favourite.

Burda Sweatshirt 6718: I made this sweatshirt for my boyfriend and he wears it a lot, so I think that counts as a hit! I also made a second one for my dad for Christmas, and although I am yet to see evidence of him wearing it, it does fit him and the construction was great. The second one I made was also my first full project with my new serger, so it’s a hit in terms of symbolising Serge and I finally becoming friends.

I also have an as yet unblogged hit … the Brooklyn Skirt from Seamwork. This one has been a total hit for me, from construction, to fit, to practical use! Coming to a blog post soon!

So that was 2015 … what about 2016 I hear you ask?

This year I’d love to take it up a notch … there’s a few things that I’ve not ventured towards and I’m thinking now might be the time!

  1. Buttonholes – for someone with a button collection as large as mine (I just LOVE buttons), I really do need to make more garments with buttons and buttonholes. I’ve had a very jersey focused year this year, as I love the comfort and easy care factor, but I think it’s time my buttonhole foot and I really got to know each other. I’ve never even tried one!
  2. Lining – I am yet to line a garment … I’ve always found the concept a little scary. I know however I need to master this if I would ever like to conquer my coat aspirations. I have my eye on making a Brooklyn Skirt in a wool brocade with an exposed zip which would be crying out for a lovely navy blue lining. Let’s see if I brave it!
  3. Serge – I want to spend more time learning how to optimally use my serger. I was lucky to get an amazing overlocker book for Christmas, so I think I’ll be spending a lot of time with that first!
  4. Homeware – as we are moving house this year, I’d love to try making blinds and curtains, which I’ve never done before. I think this could be a really useful skill for the future, and could also save us some money, so definitely worth a go, any tips much appreciated!
  5. Full Bust Adjustment – To be honest it’s amazing I’ve gotten away with not doing one for so long. However I’ve really come to realise that just cutting a bigger size and grading down at the waist and hips doesn’t always cut it in terms of a professional looking fit.

So that seems like plenty for me to be getting on with! I will keep you updated on my progress! Wishing you all a happy and crafty 2016!

Woman_sewing_with_a_Singer_sewing_machine

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My New Toy

Today I thought I would introduce you to someone special – my new toy – Serge! Serge is a Toyota SLR4D Overlocker (serger) and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have been gifted it for my birthday by the lovely PB! Here’s a shot of me when I’d just opened the box – you can see that I was one happy lady!

One happy lady!

I’d been considering purchasing an overlocker for the last few months. With making pretty much all of my clothes now, it seemed like a sound investment, and you can’t argue with the professional finish it gives to seams. However, I didn’t really feel justified in biting the bullet, what with saving up for our new house, so I really did feel extra lucky to receive one as a gift. I’d been looking at a couple of models, however the ones with the best reviews in my price range had really only been the Toyota and the ever popular Brother 1034D. PB had cheekily asked me one night to show him what I was looking at (little did I know he was scoping me out for gifts!) and I happened to see that the Toyota was on flash sale … I still couldn’t justify the price though and spent the next few weeks telling PB what a great purchase it would have been. Little did I know he had sneakily gone and bought it for me!

Serge fresh from the box

Serge and I are still very much getting to know each other. I’d used an overlocker before at my sewing class – and I am so glad I had at least had a few tips to get started. I had heard real horror stories of 3 hours + to learn to thread it so I was quite worried. Although mine had come pre-threaded, something had gotten tangled, so I had to start from scratch. Although not easy, I would say the threading wasn’t too bad. Maybe 45 minutes for the first go? I learnt one key thing: it’s the order you do the threading that counts.

  1. Lower Looper
  2. Upper Looper
  3. Right Needle
  4. Left Needle

Amazingly this makes all the difference! Feeling triumphant that I had threaded the serger, I thought I’d dive in to a project. This was a huge mistake – I think I picked a bit of a tough fabric with a lot of stretch and I just could not get the tension right. After that I packed Serge away again (not in a huff, honest!) until I had some more time to fiddle with the dials … it is all in the thread tension and understanding which thread on your fabric comes from which cone of thread. To help me with this, I found some great online resources which I wanted to share with you:

SewMcCool’s The Anatomy of Perfect Serger Tension has some fantastic colour coded photographs which help you identify which thread is which – I’ve referred back to this one a lot already!

Sew Quick and Easy’s Youtube video on Basic Serging:Tips and Tricks is also great. All I can say is I wish I’d listened to Susan and spent time making a fabric chart of all my thread tensions. It would have saved me lots of trouble!

Serge and I are getting along much better now, although I certainly still don’t feel confident with him. I did some quilting on my beloved Pfaff today and felt so comfortable and at home. I just have to remind myself that once upon a time I used to feel nervous with my sewing machine too! It’s all just a learning curve! This evening I re-threaded Serge in some navy blue thread – I have three Navy projects to work on in the future so it seemed well worth it. Project one involves sweatshirt fabric, project two a low stretch navy woven and project three a crepe georgette. All of them will offer some good opportunities for Serge and I to cement our friendship! I will let you know how it goes!

Serge in Blue

Reversible Baby Skirt

If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you will know that I love fat quarters! I love their prints and how cute they are – the colours and the different patterns. I love the cute animals and the comical ones – basically all the ones you buy when you have no idea what exactly you are going to make with them! I’ve been having a bit of a tidy up of my craft stash of late (trying to make space for my new serger on my tiny Ikea table!) and I realised that I really do need to do something about my fat quarter stash!

I saw a little Ra Ra skirt recently to purchase for soon-to-be-here niece and thought they are a great choice for new babies, but you had to be able to sew them yourself in some cute prints. Luckily this amazing free pattern and tutorial for a reversible baby skirt crossed my path and answered my baby ra-ra-skirt and fat quarter stash dreams. I loved how simple it is and the different effects you can get by combining prints and decided I had to give it a go!

While tidying out my stash, I picked out these two cute prints along with some contrast bias binding I had been gifted and had waited to find the right project for. This project seemed just the one!

I purchased the fat quarters during Tschibo craft week and have been super positively surprised by the quality of the cotton. I love the contrasting prints! So perfect for a newborn baby girl gift! Hearts and polka dots, what’s not to love?

This pattern is ridiculously simple – I didn’t even print the free pattern as it was a bit of a spontaneous make this evening, so I just improvised by drawing round a plate to get a good curve on the waist. You pin the two donuts of fabric right sides together and stitch the inner circle and you are already on your way to skirt cuteness!

After that you turn them the right way out and sew around the circle again to create a channel for the elastic. Once the elastic is in, all you have left to do is bind. The binding is a little fiddly and seems to go on forever (but aren’t all circle skirt hems that way?!) However, it was good practice for me on using bias tape, so that was good. I was proud that I just worked out by myself how to attach it.

Overall I am delighted with my finished make. There is nothing on it I would change for once! I can’t believe it only took me an hour from start to finish – such a great project for when you have an itch to stitch but you don’t want to start anything major. Now I am ready to make a whole package of these to gift to friends and relatives. I can picture a matching set of three in a little gift box tied with a cute ribbon. What do you think? What a great way to use a fat quarter!

Oh also, I forgot to mention the best bit, the skirt is reversible! Two skirts for the price of one!

Unfortunately I don’t have a baby to help me model this skirt in all its cuteness, so I called in a friend to help …. meet Dave, our friendly household Minion!

Dave and I wish you a great rest of the week filled with stitching and crafting!

Grainline Studios Morris Blazer 

I’ve seen a lot of Morris Blazers out and about on the web, and couldn’t help but want to get my mitts on the pattern. It’s one of those patterns that just seems super versatile for an array of fabrics and colours, offering a finished garment that would be suitable for all shapes and would enhance any wardrobe. The shape of the blazer also seems to be bang on trend right now, with similar blazer styles to be found in all the high street stores. However, as I didn’t want one I could find on the high street, I set about making my own! 

  
I had planned to make my Morris in a sensible black jersey and create a wardrobe staple that I could chuck on over a variety of work and weekend outfits. However, while I was at fabric market I discovered this shimmery jersey somewhere between olive green and grey. As it was a good price and I find sewing black garments a bit boring, I thought why not just give it a go?! 

I cut the Morris pattern straight from the tissue *insert theatrical gasp here*. The more I sew the more I loose patience for tracing, but also the more I realize that if I am likely to make another version of a garment, it will probably be smaller, and therefore I can always trace off a small version later if I want to reuse the pattern. I cut a size 16 based on my bust measurement, thinking I would take it in on the side seams at the waist later as I do with a lot of my dresses. As it happens, I later realized that once you’ve sewn on the myriad of facings, changing the side seams becomes more difficult, so that’s something I’ve definitely learnt for next time. 

If I’m honest I found the construction of some of the parts of this jacket a bit of a challenge. I couldn’t quite get my head around how the collar would work, and I was certainly not helped by having chosen a fabric that was an absolute horror to press. I had to use lots of steam and a pressing cloth as otherwise that lovely shimmery finish just started melting. If I have one tip for fabric choice for this jacket it is to choose a fabric which presses well! You will thank yourself for it in the end! 

The first part of the jacket comes together really fast – I was sat there thinking ‘oh I’m so clever, I’ll be wearing this jacket by tea time’.

  
Not so. Then comes the more challenging part – gathered sleeves and the shawl collar. The sleeve gathering was really not bad at all, however next time I want to make sure that the gathers are really concentrated at the top point of the shoulder and don’t slip down the sides. The shawl collar was also ok – just pressing intensive which wasn’t great for the fabric. I was greatly helped by the official Morris Sew Along blog posts as well as Sew Busy Lizzy’s post on the Morris, which helped me through the perplexing step 15 which involves attaching the hem facing. 

  
This was my jacket pre top-stitching. I tried it on at this point and it looked quite puffy and weird – I was convinced I’d chosen the wrong fabric and it was all going horribly wrong. I then left it alone for a couple of days and came back with an iron fully ready to steam the hell out of it, and it actually turned out surprisingly well! Once I’d given it a really good press, I managed to get all the top stitching done which made such a difference. The seams all just looked much crisper and the points were much more even. I even decided in the end that I liked the jacket enough to wear it out for my birthday dinner on Saturday: 

  

It’s certainly not perfect – I have a selection of fitting adjustments to make for next time. 

  1. Reduce the distance between the collar and the shoulder seams – it turns out I have narrow shoulders
  2. Grade between a 16 and a 12 between bust and hips
  3. Narrow the sleeves on the lower arms 

It may not be perfect, but I love my Morris Blazer. I learnt so much while I was making it. A shawl collar and gathered sleeves were new, along with all the fun facings. I’d never made a jacket before as I was always scared of fitting my bust, and now I know what I will want to do on round two to help with that. I’m also super proud of my top stitching – when I think back to a year ago I would have been happy to follow a circular line drawn on a piece of fabric, and now I am top stitching a shawl collar! All in all it was a project with a bit of a new challenge and I’m pleased with the results! Roll on Morris Nr.2 – I have promised myself that the next one will be sensible and for work – although in Navy blue (not black!) 

How about you? Have you had any projects that were a bumpy ride but you loved them in the end?