Retrospective: My First Dressmaking Course

Fabric Galore!

Back at the end of August, I decided to take the plunge with taking my sewing skills to the next level and signed myself up for a dressmaking course. For those of you who don’t stop by the blog often, up until now I have been completely self (youtube and blog) taught and have been surprisingly pleased with how much you can learn if you just give stuff a go. However, I thought it would be good to take the opportunity to see how the professionals do it, and also to make sure I am not picking up too many bad habits along the way. For me, the main objective was to learn more about fitting. I have had some success at making clothes, but have always steered clear of things with a fitted bodice due to my bust size. As a result, I decided to take on the Collette patterns Moneta dress so that I could learn some more about bodice fitting. So, now that class is over, I wanted to take some time to reflect – here’s a quick retrospective!

Here are some things that I loved about my sewing class:

  • I did indeed learn how to do better bodice fitting and have a finished make that I am delighted with and super proud of (watch out for a Moneta post soon when I manage to get some photos taken in daylight!)
  • I met some really nice people who share a love for what I do
  • I got to see what projects other people are tackling, which gave me the confidence to give some different styles a go. One lady was making a trench coat, and another a winter coat out of cashmere – this gave me something to aspire to!
  • Sewing in a sewing shop is great because you never have to worry about not having everything you need!
  • Pure uninterrupted sewing time
  • Cutting on the big sewing table – how much difference it makes to your back and it makes it so much easier to cut and adjust a pattern accurately when you don’t have to keep shifting fabric around
  • Learning some new techniques
  • Discovering that once you know some things about sewing, it’s ok to not always follow the pattern exactly – sometimes you might know a better way to do something!

Here are some of the things I didn’t love about sewing class:

  • The cost. Sewing in a sewing shop with a “tab” system where you are only allowed to use materials from the shop is perilously dangerous for your bank account. Things can add up quite easily! Thinking back and realising that I could have bought the overlock machine I’ve been coveting for what I’ve spent between the course fee and materials was a bit sobering.
  • Transporting my sewing machine and all my stuff to class on the train. I did not buy my Pfaff with transport in mind and she is HEAVY.
  • Getting home very late on a Tuesday evening.
  • My sewing teacher not really appreciating my “new-fangled Indie sewing patterns”
  • Learning to sew in German

That said, much of that doesn’t have much to do with the course itself, and has much more to do with personal preference. I really do feel like I learnt a lot, which I think justifies the expense and the carrying and the late evenings. Now, I am going to share my new found wisdom with you (I’m sure you all probably knew these things already, but I’m excited!)

  • The end of a tape measure has that little gold tab on it, not just to help you find the right end, but for you to use as a little ruler when you are making fabric markings with chalk/a dressmaker’s pencil! (I’m not sure why, but this particular fact seems to have excited me!)
  • My bust fitting issues can sometimes be fitted with some well-placed bust darts, and now I know where and how to add them.
  • Sometimes it is more important to be able to iron a seam allowance open than it is to use an overlocker (for example when adding side seam pockets)
  • I learnt that if a garment doesn’t look quite right once it is finished, it is worth going back and making that little extra adjustment – it can make the difference between wearing a garment and not wearing a garment
  • I can now draft a neckline facing all by myself (my sewing teacher did not approve of “just  hemming the raw edges of the neckline because that’s what it says in the pattern”
  • I now know how to add seam allowances precisely to a pattern which does not include them
  • I now know how to transfer pattern markings using thread markers
  • I now know you should always snip the centre of your pieces with a little mark – it might help you later
  • Always write down the adjustments you made on a slip of paper in the pattern envelope so you remember them next time
  • I also now know how to use the finished garment measurements on a pattern packet to stop me sewing up something that won’t fit me in the end (I’m looking at you chubby bingo wings and sleeve pattern pieces which are always too tight once sewn up!)

So all in all I think I learned a lot which will help me when sewing in the future, and I’m glad I went. I think I’m going to take a break from the evening classes for a while and maybe the next time I go to a class look for something on the weekend. This will eliminate much of my late evening, sewing machine carrying grumpiness. It would be so lovely to make some sewing friends here in Frankfurt, I think it’s worth it for that alone! So that’s my sewing class retrospective wrapped up – more on the actual garment and sewing process next time! How about you, have you visited a sewing class? Do you love sewing in the comfort of your own home, or getting out and about?


Trying Out New Materials: Leather

After an unsuccessful trip to the high street this afternoon (somehow since I have been sewing my own clothes, I never want to buy any clothes on the high street any more!) I popped in to Karstadt to have a peruse. I came across something I’d never seen before – a medium sized bag of Nappa leather scraps, for the bargain price of EUR 5,95. I really love leather, its soft and supple feeling and the way it smells. I think it’s my years and years of childhood spent around horses, cleaning and caring for leather and using it in the day today which has given me a real appreciation for it. I also appreciate that it is not the most animal friendly of materials – which for me makes it even more important to use every last scrap!  So anyway, ode to leather over, check out what I got in my scrap bag!

Scrap Leather Treasure!

I love the variety of colours and the fact that some of it is super soft and supple which is great for purses and elbow patches, where other pieces are more robust which will be good for things like notebook covers, brooches and appliqué. The majority of the pieces are of a really good size, so I think I’m going to be able to use most of it. The piece that attracted me most to buy the scrap bag was that big black piece at the front. If I’d have been on the high street and seen a purse or bag made of that I would have been all over it! As a result, I decided that a super soft coin and credit card purse would have to be my first leather make.

I cut out two squares from the black scraps, measuring 6 1/2 ” x 4 1/2″. I also chose this  cool grey geometric print fat quarter from my stash for the lining, which I also cut at 6 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ and a nice chunky gold 6″ zipper in the hope of adding a bit of glam!

Could this be a match made in heaven?

My first step was to stitch in one of my super cool new Make Amy Make labels to the lining. I’m now slightly wishing that I’d gotten them printed black text on white labels, for makes just like this, but at the time the blue seemed cool! You live and learn! After testing out the leather needle I’d inserted in my machine on a tiny left over scrap, I braved attaching the leather and lining to the zipper using Debby from Sew Sew Easy’s Cosmetic Bag tutorial as a reminder! I was super pleased with the zip insertion at this point and was surprisingly pleased with how my machine was coping with sewing on leather.

So far so good …

At this point I was really pleased with my choice of zipper as well! I think the chunky bling adds a little something!

Zipper goodness!

I then proceeded to top stitch along the leather to hold the lining in place. Throughout the zip insertion process I was helped along considerably by my favourite little helpers – wonder clips! As leather doesn’t like to be pinned (those nasty pins leave a mark which will stay forever!) these little clips were really handy for keeping the zipper in place and “pinning” wrong sides together etc.

I only really ran in to trouble at the point where I needed to sew from the lining up and over the zipper tapes. My machine did not like having to deal with sewing leather plus the zipper tapes, leather seam allowance from the zip insertion and lining fabric all at once. The feed dogs also struggled throughout and I’m thinking I should maybe have adjusted my presser foot pressure (I should really learn how and when to do that!) Together, we found a way though, and we got there in the end!

Here’s the finished product being modelled by a friend of mine … can you tell I like Dachshunds?!

The corners are a little squiffy and the zipper sure ain’t perfect where I sewed those zipper tapes in, but all in all I am so happy with my first foray in to sewing with leather! When I think that I’ve now got a completely useable real leather purse for a total cost of about 3 euros (the majority of which is the zipper), I feel pretty pleased with myself! I will definitely be using this one in my handbag come Monday morning!

Now I just need to think what else I could do with my leather scraps … I’ve been doing some research and have come up with this little list:

  • Leather Bow hair clip
  • Leather Bow Brooch
  • Necklace pendant
  • Notebook covers for my mini notebooks
  • Tassles (who doesn’t want to adorn things with tassles?!)
  • Fringing (see above – fringing is in right now right?!)
  • Elbow patches for my McCall’s M6992
  • Tote Bag Straps
  • Applique shapes
  • Credit card wallet
  • Travel Card Holder
  • Luggage Tags
  • Flower Brooches/Hairclips
  • Mobile phone envelope cover
  • Pouch/drawstring bag for holding jewellery
  • Tie Belt

So yeah – lots of things to practice my leather sewing skills on with these scraps! Maybe one day I will be brave enough to make a proper bag – a big tote seems a good place to start! Have any of you ever sewn with leather? Any top tips or project ideas for me?

Fabric Market Shopping List

Today is the last day of September, which is both a little bit scary that this year has flown by so fast, but also exciting as one of my favourite events is coming up super soon! 4 times per year, the Dutch Fabric Market (Stoffmarktholland) comes to Frankfurt for one day of stash expansion crafty joy! I am extra excited this time around as I unfortunately missed the market’s last visit as I was away on holiday … so I have waited a whole six months for this one! As we don’t have a huge selection of places to go fabric shopping in Frankfurt, it’s great to just have a splurge at very reasonable prices and to feel the lovely crafty vibe of all the other excited shoppers.

The last time I went to the fabric market, I learnt two key things:

  1. Thou shalt not visit the fabric market without a giant blue Ikea shopping bag to hold your swag
  2. Thou shalt always write a shopping list in advance, or thou will be mighty overwhelmed

So, heeding these two important commandments, my Ikea bags are at the ready, and today, I set about writing my shopping list. To create my shopping list, I decided to delve back through all of my scribbles and notes and have a look at what patterns I still plan to buy in the near future and which projects I would like to tackle next. I came up with the following:

Phew – and that’s the consolidated list! I definitely won’t end up buying something for all of those, but it’s just good to keep in mind what you want to make so that the fabric has some sort of purpose! As you can see, my sewing is looking pretty jersey heavy right now, so I may also look out for some more jersey sewing machine needles.

As a result my shopping list looks something like this:

  • Nice black jersey knit
  • Soft t-shirt jersey in stripes
  • Sweatshirt fabric (one for the Burda, one for the track pants, one for the McCalls)
  • Felted wool
  • Plain jersey in jewel colours for Moneta
  • Thick striped jersey for Coco
  • Cute print fabric for PJ trousers
  • Funky Buttons
  • Backing fabric for my Mum’s Quilt
  • Thread rolls

What I am not allowed to buy is zippers or any more fat quarters! I am drowning in them as I can’t resist a cute print or two … I’m sure I’ll end up with a couple and maybe some mystery fabric too! That’s the joy of the fabric market, you never know what you might find!

I can’t wait to show you what I come home with in a couple of weeks … in the meantime there seems to be a few babies on the way around here so I am going to set about sewing an army of Ernest elephants!

MIY Collection Brightside Shrug

When I saw the Brightside Shrug Pattern from Miy Collection on R3DRobinsnest’s Fall/Winter Wardrobe Planning Post I was so keen to get hold of the pattern! I used to wear a lot of shrugs back when I was at uni, but they don’t seem to have been so hip since then so I haven’t seen many in stores. I love a shrug cardigan for my shape, and this one had the coolest flared sleeves!

As this pattern is only available as a PDF, I set about printing and sellotaping (which I loathe), however I did realise in the process that I could just cut out the pattern and no tracing would be required which made me feel quite cheerful. The next day I set about cutting out – at a mere 3 pattern pieces it doesn’t come much quicker and easier than this!

The fabric I used for the shrug was a ridiculously expensive dogtooth knit which I bought about this time last year. I had bought it to make a dress, and then promptly realised I required more than the 2 metres I had bought so was a bit disappointed. At one point I made a pencil tube skirt out of some of it, which wasn’t a very successful make, so I was just left with a sad little remnant which I didn’t know what to do with to show for my expensive purchase. I cannot tell you how smug and delighted I was when I realised that my sad little remnant was the perfect amount to make this shrug!

The fabric itself is sort of slippery, so was a bit of a pain to pin and cut, but was lovely to sew with and has this lovely weightiness to it which means it falls beautifully. I sewed it with my newly discovered Overlock Stitch on my Pfaff which is a real treat. It means that I feel more confident that things will stand up to the washing machine and will look good on both the outside and the inside! As I’ve done a LOT of sewing with jersey recently, I felt like this top came together super fast. I feel like I’m becoming a bit of a pro at attaching sleeve bands and neckbands which is a great feeling. The Simple Sew Jersey Top really stood me in good stead! 

Overall, the Brightside Shrug felt like a great and easy sew. So much so, that my mum and I have both ordered a copy of MIY Collection’s Wendy Ward’s book, The Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking. I have really high hopes for it as every pattern of Wendy’s I’ve seen so far seems to be right up my street style-wise. I’m sure in addition to the patterns from her book there will be at least another two or three Brightside Shrugs. I wore this one to work and it’s so easy to just throw on and feel good in!

Do you have any patterns or pattern designers that you would return to time and again?  Or a favourite project you managed to squeeze from a remnant? I’d love to hear from you!

Simple Sew Jersey Top in Mustard

I enjoyed making the Simple Sew Patterns Jersey Top so much the first time round, that I decided to come back for more. This time I chose a mustard yellow jersey which I bought at the Karstadt haberdashery. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that it was a bargain EUR 6/m and I absolutely love mustard as a colour for autumn, so I nabbed a couple of metres and thought I was bound to make something with it.

I actually made this top a couple of weeks ago when my brother and sister in law were here to visit. As having visitors doesn’t leave much time for sewing, I was looking for something quick and simple to make with fabric from my stash and this pattern was just the job. I haven’t blogged the finished result until now as I really wasn’t sure if I liked it or not yet. What surprised me most about this project was how different the top came out when using a different fabric. Compared to the relatively stiff jacquard jersey which I used for my previous Simple Sew Jersey Top, this knitted jersey had so much more drape. So much so that I think I would have been better off going down a size, but you live and learn! Next time I make this I will also be taking out a bit of the fullness across the back, maybe a couple of inches, as I feel like it makes me look a bit boxier than I really am. When I did the Jacquard Jersey version, I’d also added about an inch and a half to the length. For the double knit version this really wasn’t necessary – it just seems to add more fullness.

Anyway, in spite of my whinges and moans, I’ve decided that I actually really quite like this top now and I really love the colour! I’ve worn it to work a couple of times with black skinny trousers and a blazer which was nice and comfortable. I’m also thinking it will look cute with my tan boots in winter, with maybe a long sleeved black t-shirt underneath.

I’ve also got quite a good chunk of the fabric left over. I was thinking maybe a mustard pencil skirt? Or a sort of mini circle skirt? What do you think? Any ideas of what else I could make with this fabric much appreciated!

Foxy Drawstring Pouch

For my birthday last year, my wonderful girl friends bought me this awesome book, Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross. What I like about this book is the fact that it is not only interspersed with projects that I would love to make and wear, but it also features lovely pages with things like recipes for Pumpkin Soup or sewing soundtrack recommendations. It really focuses on sewing on the weekend as an experience, rather than just as the individual garments or projects to make. For all you knitters out there, I hear there is also a Weekend Knitting version, which looks rather lovely!

The book also features absolutely gorgeous hand drawn illustrations as tutorials, which are surprisingly clear and easy to use, as well as being really easy on the eye!

Anyway, this blog post wasn’t meant to turn in to a book review, just a short introduction to a speedy make I did tonight as preparation for starting my new sewing class tomorrow (eeeeekkkk exciting!)  Remember this super cute Foxy Print from the Millets Craft Shack stash expansion bonanza?

Ooo Foxy …

I finally found the perfect use for it by making Heather Ross’ super sweet drawstring bags. The book features three sizes of bag – tonight I only had time to make the smallest pouch, but I will definitely be coming back for more of the larger sizes. As it stands though, the small pouch is exactly what I was after for tomorrow night. I need to take all my little bits and bobs along to sewing class (tape measure, pins, snippers, seam ripper, bobbin box, dressmaker’s pencil). This little pouch was the perfect size to tuck them all in together and stop them shaking about in my tote. Here’s my tied up little bag, looking foxy!

And here are its contents!

I absolutely loved making this little bag, it’s such a simple sew and a great way to use up fat quarters or smaller pieces of fabric! They’re a really good excuse to make use of fabrics with cute and cheerful prints which you’re otherwise not quite sure what to do with. I think they would also make sweet gifts and I plan to sew up a couple more for hand luggage to transport laundry home from trips away. No one need know I have owl print laundry bags while I’m pretending to be an important business lady right?!

Now I have this Foxy little bag, I don’t feel quite as nervous about meeting all my other classmates, who I’m sure are all pro sewers! I hope I can befriend them with my Foxy ways and they might lend me a pin or two. I may also have packed Dave the Dachshund in my bag for luck …

What about you? Do you have any sewing lucky charms? Or a favourite book to sew from?

Sewing Space Organisation

As some of you may know, I don’t really have a proper sewing space yet, and am already developing master plans of amazing sewing spaces for when we move in to our new flat! In the meantime I have to satisfy myself with making little tweaks to the little table that sits in our lounge where my sewing machine lives. Tweak of the week was my discovery of these super cute Mason Jars.

I normally use Mason Jars to put salads in for my lunch at work, but when I discovered these with ceramic geometric design lids, I thought they would be great for holding sewing notions. I like the way that they almost make a feature of all the bits and bobs that come with sewing!

The jars of bits and bobbins currently sit on top of a slightly boring looking little Ikea organiser. It’s actually really helpful though for holding all sorts of sewing related little things.


Boring but useful …

I’m planning on jazzing up this little box with Washi tape, as per this tutorial I found online. Any tutorial called “how to unboring-ize a desk organiser” has to be a winner! I might see if I can find some Washi tape today in some cool colours, so check back later to see if I have any success!

The last thing I wanted to share with you is my absolute favourite part of my mini sewing corner – my Ikea Raskog trolley. These trolleys are well blogged about by sewers across the internet, and they really aren’t wrong. What is particularly helpful for me is that I can wheel it out to my dining table, so it’s like having a portable sewing room! It can get a little messy sometimes (this is the tidy version!), but it usually only takes 5 minutes to get it back in order. Dave the Dachshund now proudly rides around in the trolley and keeps my sewing cheery!

Dave’s Chariot

How do you organise your sewing space? Do you have any inspiration for me for when I move to my new home?