Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A look back on my sewing year

After going through a few of my posts for this year it became clear that my sewing output for myself has not been as good as previous years. There have been quite a few alterations for others that have not been logged here and also the usual bits and bobs for home that sometimes seem to mundane to write about.  on the whole though I feel I need to get back into the spirit of making more of what I wear day to day.

Today saw a bit of a clear out of some of my wardrobe but I even drag my heals doing that as I always look at things and think maybe I could make something else with that.  This is not productive to moving forward and getting organised for the new year.
Still I managed to fill a bag and take it down to the charity shop after looking at items I really hadn't worn for maybe two years,  they were never going to be worn again and if I had intended to use the fabric I would probably have done it by now.
This will be a work in progress as I am sure there is more that doesn't need to stay but I am pretty good at wearing a selection of my clothes and swapping them around so maybe just a move to the back for now.
My favourite item that I made this year was my black denim jacket...
When things come out so well it is so satisfying that you enjoy wearing the clothes more, it probably cost more to make than what I could have paid at a cheap clothing store, but I wouldn't have got to choose the buttons or the lining, the quality of fabric wouldn't have been so good. Of course the main thing being if I had bought the item I would not have had the pleasure of making it.

My least favourite item of the year was the cowl neck dress...
This still has not been worn! That neck caused me nothing but hassle and once it was finished I looked at it and though but I don't like that neck style any way.  I did it as I have never done one before, but duh! Maybe I haven't done one as I don't like it!  Also the fabric has a little too much spandex in it, so I don't like the feel.  The colours are great though.

So here is the plan,  it nearly went in the charity bag earlier but then I thought I like the pattern and I wear lots of long sleeve T shirts under things at this time of year. So I am going to cut a new top from the bottom of the skirt with a neck I like, unpick the sleeves and redo them. Hopefully then it will become a much worn item and not a disaster I will share when it gets worn.
I will be spending part of the evening cutting out my next blouse from Basic Black, I have just realised the fabric is yet more chiffon, but a little heavier, don't know what I was thinking buying all lightweight fabric it is December after all.  I will hopefully have it made up tomorrow to get a good start to the new year.
I hope everyone enjoys New Years Eve and let the year ahead be a good one.

Monday, 29 December 2014

First Blouse from Basic Black

The first thing I have to mention is that the fabric that I ordered thinking it was black because it was in the black section is in fact navy blue!  I had intended on using some black lace that I already had on this project but when I put it beside it, it became very clear that it was in fact navy blue. The second thing to note is that I chose a chiffon and if you are new to sewing maybe don't use this as it is not forgiving to unpicking and so on.  It also will not have any stability at the neck unless you improvise like I did below.
First I cut out the pieces after tracing them on grease proof paper.

You have to allow 1cm seam allowance when you cut out on your fabric as it is not allowed on the pattern.

As I did not have the correct colour lace now and the fabric being so flimsy I had to come with something new for the front of my blouse.  I cut out two rectangles in the fabric and two in black lining fabric and pleated them.  After much ironing it was certain these were not going to hold for long on their own so I stitched horizontally across them with a decorative stitch to keep them in place.  I then attached  these to my front yoke pieces.
You get the idea here. It certainly would have been too flimsy without this reinforcement.

I cut out all my pieces slightly more than 1cm, I have to say I am always cautious but when it was all assembled I did need to take some out of the sides as it was roomy but the sleeves were perfect so I would cut the same again. You can always take out but you can't add once you have cut!
As I was not doing the lace detail at the bottom of the sleeve I just faced it in the same way with the folded chiffon just like at the neck and added a few little pleats, I just made sure the length I cut would slide over my hands then I pleated the bottom of the sleeve to it, turned it over folded it and hand stitched it down.
I did a lot of hand stitching on this as the neck was all hand stitched but I find this peaceful.
 I will make this in white for the summer I think, next time with the lace.

As you can see the style is very loose, and I did take a bit more off the sides after trying on but it supposed to be like that. A bit of a cool iron and it will be good.
Daylight pictures are much better. It was dark at 3, sorry for the blurry image!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Basic Black Book Review and Thoughts on Saving in 2015

As promised I have taken a few photos of the book Basic Black which I bought for my birthday last month.  I have looked at buying one of these Japanese sewing books a couple of times but never took the plunge as the comments are always so varied.  Some people say the sizing is too small, others say it is just right, well I don't know as yet as I haven't used it I had other bits to finish up and lots going on for the Christmas season.

I will be starting on one of the patterns after lunch but I will say this I will not be relying too heavily on the sizing being spot on, I will bring down a top that I know fits me across with no stretch and lay it against the cut pattern pieces to be sure that it will fit before I cut it out on good fabric.  Anybody using a new pattern for the first time I would say do this, they are not all the same and fabric is not cheap any more so you don't want to be disappointed.

Here are some pictures from inside the book...
I love this dress with the detail stitching and will be making this at some point.
Nice coat just not sure if I'd wear it much.

I like both of these and I'm sure they would get lots of use.

Again I like the dress but I would maybe alter length and fit (one on the left)

I will make both of these as I think they would go with anything.

These two are not really to my taste but it just shows the book has lots of styles for different tastes.

There are also a few more coats and jackets.

I like the book it is visually good to look at and gives you lots of ideas of clothes to make even if you didn't use the patterns ( which is usually my way) the instructions look clear...

These are the instructions from the first blouse I'm going to make.

In this fabric...
I already have a change in mind, I'm not going to do the sheering half way up the sleeves as I know it will irritate my arms so I am going to gather in the fullness of the sleeve at the wrist.  We don't always have to follow things exactly do we?

I also think a downside to the book is going to be the amount of time that it will take to trace off the patterns. There is grease proof paper et the ready to do this as wasn't paying for the expensive dressmakers paper, but looking at the mass of lines on the large pattern sheet it will be a puzzle.  I may just get the general idea then wing it?? No I will have to do it properly or I won't be able to tell you if the fit was accurate or not.
Here is what the pattern sheet looks like...
So yes don't be fooled by the fact that it says you get 26 patterns, you get a large sheet and you have to trace off your own 26 patterns. I wouldn't go buying the fancy paper and tracing wheels and stuff or you will end having spent more than if you had just bought your patterns separately. I will let you know if this all turns out to be more trouble than it's worth.

Now as it's getting to the end of the year I like to think ahead and what I will do different, I am not going to make resolutions as I just break them at some point and then feel bad!  I will have goals which are much more friendly as you don't feel like you have blown it just because you have a bad week. last year I said I wouldn't drink for the whole of the year! Well I lasted five months then we went to Italy and to not have a glass of wine there just felt wrong, Ha! I kept my others to a certain degree, although things didn't always happen daily (exercise) I did feel I made lots of progress in many areas and that is the main thing I think.

Saving wise I feel we had an expensive year with travel, car maintenance and just just generally not being as mindful. However it has never been my intention to save to be a very wealthy corpse! I like to save where I can so that we can enjoy our lives in the areas we like.  I see no point in vowing to stop eating out as we enjoy this (occasionally) find the best offer I say.  Socialising may cost money sometimes but I like other people so what the hell.  I read other peoples money saving blogs with interest, and I am completely respectful of how other people choose to live their lives, but I would rather not go to bed as soon as I get home just to keep warm or turn down every social invitation for the rest of my days just to save a few pounds.  It is important to control your finances but never doing anything as it might cost money is just a step too far I think.
To anyone out there who has debt and problems of that nature my heart goes out to you and of course you must get this under control, however if you have been out and had a drink with a friend (not ten!) this Christmas and that has put a smile on your face don't feel guilty. Just try and have a better year but don't let anybody or anything you read make you feel bad for enjoying life a little.
I'm going to try to put together a list of goals for 2015 some will involve saving but a lot will involve doing.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Fix It!

So pleased today as I have managed to get my overlocker working (serger, if you are from the U.S)
I have not used it for some time as I tried to repair the tension and replace a blade about two years ago and it was not working, I got very annoyed with it and put it away.
However after a conversation with someone yesterday explaining how to sew the seams on jersey without the overlocker I decided to get mine out and have another bash at it.
I has a look online first for tips and stuff but could not find anything helpful. One tutorial on how to service your overlocker made me laugh it said to turn off your machine, clean it, oil it, replace needles and blades if required.  That was it! Obvious but not helpful!
What I did was play around with the tension for a bit and adjust the position of the bottom blade which I think was the problem all along.  Maybe the reason that I got it working today was that I didn't feel any urgency to fix it as I have made do so long without it, it is now just a bonus that if I want to I can finish knits and Jersey fabrics on there. It just goes to show you though that if I had called someone out to fix it he/she would probably have just tried things out the way I did but then presented me with a nice big bill.
If anyone is interested there are overlockers brand new for sale as little as £179.00, mine was £250.00 when I bought it sixteen years ago. Alternatively you could try and get a used one but you may have to replace blades.
Now that I am off work I will take a few photos from my new book that has arrived Basic Black to share, you have to trace off the patterns from a big sheet.

 I looked at buying dressmakers tracing paper but it is so expensive so forget that!  I got some grease proof paper form the super market earlier for £1.50 and I will be using that and taping it together.  Hopefully some new items to share form it over the  next couple of weeks.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Machine Dye versus Hand Dye

I have had a go at dyeing  clothes before not always with great success but I have come to the conclusion that the machine dyes are better, more expensive but better.  I tried earlier in the year to completely change the colour of a T shirt using a hand dye but the results were uneven and it was demoted to an under shirt!
Probably the reason for the irregularity was the fact that you are supposed to keep swishing it around in the dyeing vessel and I obviously didn't do it often enough.    The machine dye has the washing machine to keep everything moving so better success.
The packet one I bought does not need you to add salt but some of them do so please check. This varies between the Dylon ones also as one packet said add salt but the packet I picked up said 'improved' and you did not need it.  The image above also varies slightly from my packet (I forgot to take photos)

It was £5.99 and has brought up the colour of the jacket by quite a few shades, a lot cheaper than buying a new jacket and as it was a favourite what would have been the point.   I will definitely try some other colours now when I have something that needs a boost but I would stick to the machine option.
A couple of things to mention, there was a lot of dye collected in the rubber of the machine after I had finished. I had to give it a really good wipe out despite the fact that I had run a cycle to wash the jacket after the first dyeing wash.  I then put in a full load of dark clothes to wash just to make sure I had got rid of any more residual dye.
There is also a limit to what you can dye with one packet and that will vary in your colour result also.  Here I just did one jacket but it was quite heavy, a few t shirts, some underwear and a light dress could probably have been done with the same packet but again if you are changing the colour completely shades will vary. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Party Dress and Christmas Spirit

Last night was our Christmas outing from work, a bit early but it was the only time when everyone could get. It was good because we just went to an Italian restaurant where you could take your own wine, great because a bottle of wine from the Aldi is just £3.99 so we only had a food bill.
I made a dress for the occasion using some of the fabric that arrived a couple of days ago, it is chiffon with an overlay of chiffon strips stitched onto it and was only £3.50 for the metre I bought.
Underneath it I had to make a basic straight jersey dress with thin straps and I used fabric I already had for that,  the dress would have been see through without that!

Due to the nature of the fabric the hem would not seem to go right  each time I cut the hem straight it seemed to be wavy when I looked at it. When I thought it was straight I hemmed it but it still looked weird so I added a lace border with lace I had left over  from altering a dress for a friend. The extra weight seemed to do the trick and the hem looks better now.

I also added a basic belt that I made from a piece of ribbon from a Thornton's chocolate box. I  always save bits of ribbon and this came in useful, wouldn't normally put brown with black but it seemed to look right.  it was only just long enough so I added three hook and eyes to fasten it with a bit of satin behind them .

So in all it only cost £3.50 for the fabric as I already had everything else, it's a bit different and I liked it once I was dressed with shoes and tights but my husband doesn't like it.

I put the tree up last weekend and I am feeling more relaxed as Christmas draws closer and I know I will be getting a break. Most people seem in a good mood also but it gets a bit annoying hearing people say they will be glad when it's all over because of the stress.  This is sad that it has become a time which people associate with stress.

 I know there are some people who are alone or sick at Christmas, some have lost loved ones. These are valid reasons to not be feeling like celebrating, however not being able to afford all the latest toys shouldn't be cause for stress.

If you have particular financial hardship that causes you difficulty in day to day living then this is a different matter. I pray that your circumstances change soon and that you get all the support you need. 
Certainly there are a lot of people who simply go over the top with everything from food to gifts regardless of the expense and then worry about it later, there needs to be more education on money management in schools. ( or should I say some!)

  If you are finding Christmas stressful then maybe you are spending too much, inviting too many people for lunch or just just generally over committing yourself to too many things.  
  I enjoy the Christmas decorations, music, going to Mass, films on T.V, having a bit of time off work and being with my family none of that cost money as I get the same decorations out every year.  We may have a couple extra for dinner on Christmas day and the children get gifts but they are paid for in cash. I would never put anything for Christmas on a credit card, if we couldn't afford it we wouldn't buy it. (we certainly don't compete with anyone.) 

So to anyone who finds it stressful around Christmas please have a think if there is anything you can do to remove that stress and have a nice rest. If there is anyone in your family or someone you know who is having difficulties maybe you could invite them round.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Birthday Treats and York Christmas Market

We have had a busy week around here, it didn't start too well either with two children sick but it picked up towards the end. We had tickets booked to see the Nut Cracker Ballet for my birthday luckily everyone was on the mend by then so we could still go.
We went to the Penistone Paramount and it's the first time I've been there, it was lovely and like stepping back in time (in a good way).  The lady still comes out at the interval with ice creams in the box hung around her neck like they used to at the cinema when I was little.
It has been there 100 years this year so it is lovely that it still used by the community.

The company that did the performance were the Vienna Ballet and they are coming back in March.  When we got home my husband booked tickets for us to go again so he must have enjoyed it.
This is the one we are to see in March.

Yesterday we visited York, this was my idea thinking it would be lovely to see the Christmas Market and have a wander around.  My husband said it would be packed, he was right!  I only got a peak in a couple of the little Christmas stall huts as it was so crowded it made me feel ill.  We managed to get out of the thick of it and walk around the streets where the usual shops are but it was still hectic. 

Still it was lovely to get out, the lights were on later and there were some street musicians playing.  My son said he doesn't ever want to go there on a Saturday again, I agree!  I came home with my birthday money intact, just paid for parking and lunch.  
Which leads me to my wonderful birthday present from my husband that I wasn't expecting. I  have complained that my mannequin is a bit bigger than me but would not have bought a proper adjustable dummy. Look here...
I was very excited when I opened it. It has a  hem guide and a place for your pins at the neck.

Continuing with the sewing theme my lovely friend got me these cute sewing storage tins complete with accessories inside.
Thank you buddy. you know me so well.

Also on order is a book (you guessed it, on sewing) called Basic Black, it has patterns and different shapes to tailor and customise .  I will take photos and share more on that when it arrives later in the week. All in all quite an extravagant week but all planned for well in advance. Any purchases were made from  gifts from my parents with the strict instructions it was to go on me and not into my purse for food shopping!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Easy Frill T shirt

Looking through my fabric box I found a piece of jersey about three quarters of a metre, I made a simple T shirt with it just using one of my existing ones.
I wanted to do something a little different around the neck otherwise they all tend to look the same.  The good thing is they do come in handy when it's cold for layering up with other things.

The fabric is navy blue although it looks quite dark on here. I got the idea for the collar from Tea Rose Home so thank you Sachiko for the inspiration.  On her blog she uses two T shirts and puts ruffles all over the front and on one shirt she also puts them at the bottom.  I have made this shirt and just added one frill at the neck but you could use Sachiko's idea and revamp some of your existing tops maybe by doing a ruffle in a different colour.

I just cut a long straight strip, left it raw at the edges and I pleated it on once I had faced my neckline. It instructed you to gather on the Tea Rose Home blog but I prefer it quite neat so I often do little pleats when I am instructed to gather!
There are some more bits of jersey I have left over from other things but they might not be quite big enough to do long sleeves, there may be a few more variations made up with short sleeves.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Maxi Skirt Refashion

This was a pretty basic refashion, the skirt I bought form the charity shop yesterday had quite a good shape at the top. It was cut on the bias and was an A-line almost to the floor.  I unpicked the lining from the waistband at the top and chopped off quite a chunk at the bottom so it would sit above the knee.
I took it in down one side only, lining also and then re-attached it to the waist.  It was quite quick as I mirrored the other side of the skirt.
I zig zag stitched the bottom and did a tiny hem, I didn't want anything bulky as with it being bias cut they sometimes hang funny.

Here is the size 8 above the knee straight skirt.

This was the size 14 maxi skirt.

It would have cost me far more to make this skirt from start to finish what with lining, fabric and zip.  It is good quality as it was a Per una skirt (Marks & Spencer) I decided against doing anything fancy with the hem as when I tried it on my husband said it was nice as it was.  Sometimes less is more.

A bonus is that I have a big piece of fabric left over measuring 91cm by 50cm on the fold and the same in lining.  If anyone has any ideas for using that up I would love to hear them.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Charity Shop Finds

Had a little peak in our local St Luke's charity shop today and came away with a couple of  bargains. I went in with the intention of looking for fabric, so not necessarily just looking on rails of clothes that fit me. I think this is important if you sew as you can get much better bargains and more fabric for your money if you look on rails of different sizes.  You have more to play with in terms of revamping an item, also if you keep a look out for sheets, pillowcases and curtains you can get a large amount of fabric that way for other projects.
I found this size 14 skirt in a lovely tweed, it is almost to the floor...
It is a dark picture so it is hard to see but it is pale blue and grey with a blue lining.

I intend on remaking this tomorrow, it will become a much shorter skirt (above the knee) sized down to an eight.  I may do a straight hem or a bit of a layer/ ruffle, I'm not sure yet.  Either way there will be lots of fabric left for a bag or something else.  It cost just £3.00.

While I was looking my husband picked up this cute little teapot...
It has a cup at the bottom and is for tea for one.
It still had the original stickers on the bottom and appears brand new. It was £1.50, I have seen these before but I never thought they were worth the usual price, this one is ideal it even says Earl Grey on one side which is what I drink. 

I then had a visit to the library to pick up a book on order and return a few. Here is what I ordered...
I will see how this goes, none of the books I have read recently have been very gripping and as this was the winner of  The Man Booker Prize lets hope it proves worthy!  It doesn't always work that way though does it?  Sometimes films win loads of awards and then they are just plain dull.  It is sometimes the lesser known books or films that leave an impression on you, and of course it is a matter of personal taste.

Later in the day I visited my favourite sewing shop and also bought new fabric for a shirt I'm going to make for me. (I know I said I wouldn't buy any new for a while but it wasn't expensive and I had the need to make a shirt)  I wanted to make one for my husband but he said there is no need as they are cheap enough to buy! Really they don't get it, they are cheap as they are mass produced over seas.  My son did however say he would like a jacket as he has seen nothing he wants in the shops.  We are going to have a look one week so I can make one for him.  
Quite excited by this as many of you with girls probably get to sew for them all the time but with boys usually never once they are older.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Pattern Free Cowl Neck Dress

Well I finished my dress this morning so I finally feel like I've accomplished something this week other than work! I made it all pattern free which is what I prefer, some how it is always quicker and things fit better.
Here it is below, I will go through what I did  step by step.

Saturday evening I cut out the pieces for my cowl neck dress, I used a tunic dress that I already have for the shape but I had to fold in the bottom at the sides as I cut it as it was an A-line and I wanted this dress straight.
I also wanted long fitted sleeves so I used a long sleeved T shirt that fits me well to get an idea for the sleeves.
In the picture you can see pins I trace the shape of the neck line by feeling through the original garment and putting pins in place, after I am certain it is correct I cut close to the pins.  I also do this if I need darts or other markings sometimes. no darts in this one as it is so stretchy.

Here I laid on my t shirt with the top of the sleeve to the fold of the fabric, then feel through again and mark with pins the curved shape of the sleeve at the arm hole. Cut around the rest allowing for sleeve hem.  When you have done one place it on the fold of the fabric again and just cut around to get your second sleeve.

Right sides together I cut out the shape for the cowl neck the tunic I used had quite a big cowl but as this is a smart dress I made this smaller. I stitched them down both sides then fold it out so it is the right way, but folded over.

Sew all pieces together, notch sleeve pieces at the top on the fold so you can pin at the shoulder before you sew, if you are using stretchy jersey it is very forgiving when you set in your sleeves any way.
When I sewed in the cowl  I put right side of cowl to right side of dress sewed all around then folded it over to the inside then sewed it there, but you have to do half way around, pull through and do the other half. You  have to leave a little gap for pulling through and finish that bit by hand. ( Sounds confusing but if you have sewn linings in jackets you will get what I mean.)

Here the neck is ok on the dummy but I found when I tried it on it hung funny unless you arrange it as the fabric is quite heavy. I put a jacket on and took it off to test it and the neck was all over the place again. Now you don't want to go out and be faffing around with your collar when you take off your jacket. I knew that would drive me crazy! So I decided I would stitch it invisibly in place catching only the under layer of the cowl. That way if I take off my jacket my collar should survive!  I also did a little stitched fold at the back of the neck as that was the area that was annoying me  the most.

Here it is with a pin in  it while I tested, maybe more of a back v but the messy look was not doing it for me.

Here the neckline had pins in while I hand stitched it on the inside to keep that collar where I wanted it. I think maybe it would have hung better with a different fabric, something more floaty as this fabric stood out quite stiff once it was doubled so maybe that was why I didn't like the effect when it was loose. I will definitely try this neck again but in a different fabric.

Below is the original dress that gave me the idea, I have noticed that on that one the cowl doesn't continue at the back of the neck also the neck shape was more of a square with a bigger cowl hanging down at the front.  Something for me to try next time.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Frugal Crafting

 I read a few  blogs about sewing and crafts and I am often amazed at the amount of fabric some of you have out there. I too love good fabric and gaze at what is on offer at sites like fabric rehab but often only buy a small amount as it is just so expensive.

The same can be said of wool, embroidery threads and card making supplies.  I tend to try and recycle as much as I can and liven things up with bits of newness. This is always easier of course with small projects not so easy with large clothing unless your into patchwork although I did see this fabulous dress at Crab &Bee  she has used up her scraps to make a dress what a super idea.

I was looking through some bits and found this lot...
Here we have some Christmas stickers that came with a magazine last year, ribbons from chocolate boxes, a bit of posh wrapping paper that was around a gift I was given and some card toppers that were on sale for pennies last January.  So some card making in the next couple of days I think.

I also found these papers/vinyl I'm not sure what they are exactly but they were samples that someone gave me and I have used in the past but I have loads left. It is very thick, but they were throwing them out and there is such a collection of designs, just think what people pay for craft papers for scrap booking.

Finally there are a couple of craft magazines that I had bought for me that I have kept, I came across these in my desk and looking at them now I have some renewed inspiration from them.

 I think saving these sorts of bits and pieces can really save you money. I am not suggesting you hoard everything but visiting craft stores can be expensive and when you look at some of the items they sell you are just paying to have things pre-cut.

There was lady demonstrating this fantastic machine that cut papers into all sorts of intricate designs the last time I visited. It was very expensive and on top of the machine you had to buy all the stencils separately, I was quite shocked how many were selling. 

 There are a few bits of sewing that need finishing off this week plus stuff for other people, it is hard to get on when we only have slots of time here and there but hopefully all will be done for the weekend. I am going to have a look on the library website now and see if there are any Christmas craft books I can order to further use up some of my bits and pieces. 

Friday, 31 October 2014

Large Autumn Tote Bag

I finished this bag yesterday and I have been undecided whether or not to keep it or list it.  It is not a fancy  going out bag but rather a large functional bag for work.  That is what I intended to make so that I could fit all my folders and lunch and everything in.  I then thought is it too much like a bag for a nanan?
Well anyway I'm keeping it as that was the original intention and it certainly has room for everything.
I used the fleece fabric that came last week but I had to back it with a recycled sheet first as it was just too stretchy. I also used some old grey jeans that no longer fit my sons to make the straps and flower.  I also had some little samples that came with some fabric from Moda a while ago. These came in quite useful as there were quite a few colours there that would have gone with the flower. I'm sure they will come in handy for other little bits of embellishment as well.

 The buttons were from a bag I got from the works book shop, they were with all the card making stuff and were only £1.99 about a month ago, when you think what you pay for buttons they are quite a find, they also had them in black and white. 
I'm sure I will get lots of use from these.

Another Shift Dress

The dress I made today is from the free New Look pattern I got with Sew magazine last month. It is very similar to the scuba dress I made bu...