Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Charity Shop Scores in Rayleigh and Hastings.


You can't keep a good woman down. Or away from charity shops it would seem. Or maybe that should be *this* woman... Anyways. I'd like to share with you a couple of recent hauls that I snaffled for Baby Girl (who is almost a toddler now, what?!). Everything here probably won't fit her for a long time, at least six months time I'm guessing, but it's good to have some nice bits in the 'bank'. 

Above: 
Mustard and navy striped t-shirt, £1.49
Grey hoodie, £1.49
Grey and neon trainers, £3
Pink and fawn Clarks trainers, £3

Below:
Clarks wellies, £3


I understand that buying children's' shoes second-hand would make many parent's eye twitch. Personally, if I see shoes that have no or next-to-no visible wear, particularly if they are from excellent brands, them I'm going to get them. If they are the type of shoes that has a width fitting as well a general size, I'll of course make sure it's the same as she wears and I'll get her feet measured again before putting her in them when it's time. 

Good children's shoes are crazy-expensive, and having these lined up for when her feet inevitably get to that size is a relief because I'm not sure we could afford to bust out £30+ for something that she may only wear for a month or so. Even though these wellies are half a size too big for her currently, she loves to play dress-up with them around the lounge:  


Below:
M&S coat, £2.99
Stripy wool cardigan, £1.99

These scores very nearly didn't happen at all. I saw the coat in my local Barnardo's just before closing one afternoon, and although it was well made and in excellent condition and water proof and fleece-lined, I put it back because it's sized 4-5 years. My little girl isn't even 18 months yet so I thought it might be a squirrelling/hoarding step too far to buy this coat. However, I thought about it and decided it was a bargain too good to pass up and luckily it was still there when I went back the following morning. I'm probably never going to make her a water proof coat, and if she's anything like her dad, as soon as she starts school she'll lose them at a rate of one per term! 


Whilst I was there sheltering from the rain, I found this lovely little cardigan in the boys section. Normally I overlook the knitwear in charity shops (for Dolores) because Nanna-knits are always going to be cosier and made with more love, but for this I made an exception. I love it's vibrant-but-not-too-childish colours and it feels amazingly soft with some angora content, so that got snapped up too.  



I shouldn't have worried if it was a bad choice to buy this coat or not. As soon as I got it out to show Pat she demanded to put it on to play in!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Refashion Friday Announcement: Kid's Clothes Week Upcycling Sewalong!


I'm so flipping excited right now. Not only is the next edition of the awesome Kid's Clothing Week sewalong just round the corner (2nd - 8th February 2015), but it's about upcycling/refashioning/reworking old clothes!!! Literally my favourite things in the world right now (aside from hanging with my fam, drinking margaritas and eating) is making children's clothes and reusing unwanted textiles. Niche, I grant you, but it massively floats my boat. 


I'm sure that this season's KCW challenge will encourage participants who have never reused old clothes to realise the wealth of hidden potential that already lies in their wardrobes or local charity shops. Plus I'm guessing that it'll encourage participants who do already upcycle/refashion to think of new and exciting ways to do so. I, for one, cannot wait to see the results. If you are interested in learning more, check out the excellent KCW blog. There are some fabulous posts up there providing inspiration for reusing clothes like men's button up shirtsadults t-shirts and jeans which are well worth a look. Plus there are heaps of awesome refashioning/upcycling clothes into children's wear ideas on my Refashioning Project Ideas Pinterest board.

(image source: here via here)

Obvs reusing adult clothing to make children's clothing is nothing new. Cavemen were probably cutting down their old animal hides when they got a bit shabby for their little ones! However it was during the Second World War when most consumables were being rationed in the UK that a lot of literature was published to help mothers be resourceful by reworking theirs' and their husbands' clothing into items for their children. I'm very much aware that life during the Second World War must have often been horrendous, both for those fighting and those trying to get by in the UK, and it must have been very stressful trying to provide for your family with such limited resources.

However, the inventiveness, creativity and techniques that many would have needed to deploy as represented in the vintage images in this post are things we as sewers today can study, celebrate and be inspired by. Plus I very much feel that treating textiles as a valuable commodity, worth reusing rather than discarding, is a lesson that should be learnt by us all, and quickly. Fabric production, processing and transportation is very damaging to the environment in many ways. I really hope that those of us in the West start trying to get the most from existing textiles rather than constantly buying new and therefore creating demand for more and more fabric production. And if those of us who sew as a form of creative expression and to clothe ourselves and our families begin to reuse unwanted clothing for many more of our projects, then that will surely go at least a tiny way towards limiting that demand for fabric production. Not to mention that we will be contributing towards a sea change that will hopefully, finally, make limiting environmental damage a priority.

(image published in this book)

But back to this challenge.... I am planning to work on a variety of projects during this KCW. My aim is to upcycle/refashion/rework a variety of different garments, plus treat one/some of them purely as a source of fabric whilst with another/others I'll try to use or incorporate features from the original garment. I really want to make the most of this challenge as it inspires me so much, so I've already started some of the 'boring' tasks like tracing patterns and buying elastic in preparation so that I can spend more of the challenge week on the construction part of the process. 

What about you? Does this kind of challenge interest you? Are you planning on taking part in this season's KCW?  If so, any ideas so far?

Saturday, 17 January 2015

New Year: New Pants


I spent a lot of the festive season staying with relatives (i.e. away from my sewing machine) so when we finally returned I was itching to attack some projects. What are the two most satisfyingly quick sewing projects known to man? Baby/toddler leggings and undies!!! So in under a week I managed to crank out eight pairs of baby/toddler leggings using the Playful Kitty leggings pattern I used previously and the four pairs of pants/knickers/undies (pictured above). A super-productive first week of 2015 that I have no intention of trying to replicate going forwards! But it felt great to get those all much-needed items under my proverbial (and in case of the pants - literal) belt.


What better way to welcome in the new year than to remove from your undies drawer the ropey old pants that make you feel less than attractive, and whip up some new ones?! If there is one, then I can't think of it. It probably won't shock to you learn that the pattern I used for these is my own self-drafted one which is available for free download here. BTW, I just checked and the pattern has been downloaded over 22,000 times! How mental is that?!


These were also a great project for skint-January as I was able to construct them entirely from pieces of jersey and elastic I already owned. When that happens, no matter if I bought the fabric and notions myself at some earlier point, I always feel like it's somehow free! For example, both the leopard print fabrics have been used for a couple of other projects apiece previously, including these epic leopard print baby trousers. The blue leopard print fabric is very synthetic, so I used a frilly/lacy style of elastic round the waist of that pair to try and soften the look and avoid them appearing too much like swimwear or dance wear. 


The floral pair were made from leftovers from the toddler leggings I made for our niece for the Christmas before last (during times I really should have been napping). The cotton lace elastic came in the batch sent to me to make undies samples with by my blog sponsor Maggie at Textile Garden, and you can buy it here. The nautical pair are made with remnants from the short-sleeved dress version of my Dolores batwing pattern.

These are too hot-off-the-press for me to have had a chance to try them all out and determine a favourite, but on visuals alone I think the leopard print ones have stolen my heart!   

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Stripy Mabel Skirt


I ran out of time to blog my final creation of 2014, so here she is paired with a black Dolores batwing top and The Mustard Cardigan That Will Not Die (despite near-continuous use for the last four years). 

Well, I'm not going to lie, I can be a lazy cow when it comes to sewing and pattern cutting. I could have drafted a simple knit skirt pattern myself if I had been arsed, but I couldn't so I bought the Mabel pattern by Colette patterns. I enjoy how neat and lady like I feel when wearing skirts and dresses, but rarely do so because I just don't find them as comfortable as jeans or trousers. So I thought a knit skirt might bridge the gap somehow, and I might trick myself into wearing more skirts if they are as comfy as wearing a t-shirt round my thighs!  



Pattern:

I'm not sure if I've written this 'out loud' before, but generally I'm not a massive fan of Colette patterns. I think they are beautifully designed and the packaging, website etc. is very pretty, but whenever I've actually made one I've found elements of the drafting that have annoyed me so I have steered clear of them for a long while. But a pattern as simple as this? What is there to annoy me?!  

Not much! Hurrah! I really like this pattern and its options. I basically made Version 1 but lengthened considerably. I could have blended Versions 1 and 3, but I didn't feel it was necessary and I wanted to avoid that stupid back vent detail on the longer version. That is the one sticking point for me with this particularly pattern, why make a back vent for a skirt made from stretchy knit?! The vent is unlikely to ever sit flat (in fact I saw a version that was made in double knit that was display on a dress form and the vent had to be pinned down because it wouldn't sit right), and surely the stretchiness would negate the need anyhow?

Anywayyyyy... I cut the medium size and it's almost perfect. However, in this fabric I think I'd have been better off adding an each 1 cm to each side seam around the thigh to give me an extra 4 cms in total. Plus I think I may have made it too long. I was aiming for knee length but I didn't bank on it sitting as low as it does so it's it feels kind of grannyish (no offence, grannies).  


Fabric:

This weird synthetic double knit has been in my stash for years and is from an unremembered source, perhaps from when I worked at TRAID. I think it may be the same stuff, or very similar, to the fabric I used for the top part of this dress I made three years ago. Actually, remind me to dig out that dress and cut it down to make a top. 

This fabric is very solid and a joy to cut and sew. There's a good stretch content, but equally good recovery, hence I'm feeling the lack of those 4 cms round the thighs where a 'looser', more forgiving knit might not highlight it so much!


Thoughts:

Hmm, this was always going to be a wearable toile, but how wearable is it in its current state? I need to wear it again for a full day to decide if it's comfortable enough to bother re-hemming it about 4 cms or so shorter, or if the fabric should be transformed into baby/toddler leggings. If I choose the latter, I actually have enough of this fabric left to squeeze out one more attempt. 

Does anyone else feel the same as me about wearing skirts and dresses? Do you have a way of tricking yourself into wearing them? I think one of the problems I have is that I rarely find tights that I like the fit of and I can wear all day. Maybe I'll try making my own tights this year to spec and alleviate one of the main discomforts of skirts and dresses when worn not at the height of summer. 

Thursday, 8 January 2015

My Sewing Library: Part 3

Today's post is the final in my little series of sewing-related book reviews. If you didn't see the other two and are interested, Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.




What is it and who is it aimed at?

I wrote a fuller review of this hard-back title back in March, but in short this book is aimed at everyone aside from the super-super-skilled seamster by guiding them through a multitude of garment sewing projects. It is very detailed and I'd be surprised if most people who like sewing couldn't find something to interest them and help improve their skills in this book.

Why have I got it?

I was offered a copy to review, and like a good girl I actually did write my honest and unbiased review within a reasonable time frame of receiving it. 


Does it include patterns?

Hell yes it includes patterns. Squillions of them, for women, men and children. So many that I'm not exactly sure how many, and I don't have the book with me at the moment to count them. As I mentioned in my full review of this book, it'd be unlikely that you couldn't find at least one of the patterns worth a bash. I'd recommend doing some internet research before you embark on making any of them though, as I've read a few people's comments stating they found flaws in the sizing or fit this or that pattern from this book. 

Have I used it and would I recommend it?

Nup, I haven't used it. I really should give it some attention one of these days because I'm sure I could learn a thing or two from it, but I must admit that none of the patterns appeal to me that much so I haven't scrabbled to make anything from it. It does look a thorough and detailed tome though. So if you are just getting into sewing and looking for a book to really get your teeth into, this could be a really good buy. Plus with sooo many patterns included, if you like a lot of them, it could work out great value for those alone.



by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto

What is it and who is it aimed at?

This paper-back is all about creating well-fitting clothing by tissue-fitting your pattern and making any necessary alterations before cutting into your fabric. It is only concerned with this method of fitting, but covers pretty much every figure 'quirk' you can think of. So unless your proportions miraculously match those of the Big-Four pattern companies, you're likely to find at least a small part of it useful. It also includes quite a bit of history into sewing patterns, sizing and more, so if you are sewing geek on any level, you're likely to find it interesting.

Why have I got it?

I bought it with my hard-earned pennies because I know very little about the fitting stage of sewing clothes, aside from blending between sizes and pinching excess out of the side seams.  


Does it include patterns?

No, but it will help you look at all sewing patterns with a renewed sense of potential!

Have I used it and would I recommend it?

I must admit that I owned this book for an embarrassingly long time before even opening it up. However, one of my sewing aims for 2015 is to make well-fitting garments. Since my opportunities for sewing have diminished, I'm aiming for quality rather than quantity when it comes to making myself garments. So I've cracked this book out and am currently reading it more or less from cover to cover. I'm skim-reading the parts that really don't relate to me, but still absorbing information from those sections to have a better understanding of fit in general.

But hot damn this is an ugly book! Aside from the fact that all the garments that are being made look like something worn by audience members from early episodes of Oprah, the quality of photography is not great and there's a weird mix of styles when illustration is deployed. I'd actually prefer it if this book was almost entirely illustrated, I think the techniques would be easier to decipher.

But it's not just the clothing styles and book production that looks dated, it also shows how much our funny old pastime has changed in recent years by the fact that this book deals exclusively with the Big Four pattern companies' products. With the blossoming of independent sewing pattern availability, which are often available as PDFs or in different grades of paper, I wonder how relevant the tissue-fitting method this book exclusively deals with will be going forwards. That said, these authors are incredibly knowledgeable and experienced, and anyone who takes sewing their own clothes seriously should probably own or borrow this book at some point as it includes so much useful info on how to alter patterns to correct figure 'quirks'. 




What is it and who is it aimed at?

This sizeable paper-back is another that I have previously reviewed more fully, however, in-brief: it is aimed at beginner and 'lower-intermediate' (if such a thing exists, although generally I hate categorising people who enjoy sewing in this way) sewers, but really anyone who appreciates a friendly, technical-jargon-free approach and a beautifully designed book. I feel that this book has probably permanently altered what many of us will come to expect from a sewing book, in terms of both the stylishness of the projects and the design of the book itself. 

Why have I got it?

I was luck enough to be sent a copy by the publishers to review on my blog. 

  
Does it include patterns?

Indeed it does! And if you are into Tilly's aesthetic, then it's wonderful to have a collection of cute and wearable patterns to bust out with crystal clear instructions and photos to hold your hand through the construction. Like all good sewing books that include patterns, the projects start at a relatively easy level and get progressively more challenging as your skills and confidence improve.   

Have I used it and would I recommend it?

I have very much enjoyed reading chunks of it before bed and stroking the beautiful pages! I will definitely be deploying the Margot pyjama bottoms and Mimi blouse patterns before 2015 is out. The others are sweet styles but either not my aesthetic or not suitable for my current lifestyle. If cocktails begin to feature more frequently in my life again, the Lilou may happen too at some stage! 

The author, Tilly, is my friend and effectively my boss since I teach workshops at her studio space. But I hope you trust that I'm not being biased when I say that if you dig the look of the clothes in this book, you'd be crazy not to put 'Love at First Stitch' on your birthday wish-list. 


So if you made it to the end of these review posts, thank you for taking the time to read them! I'll be reviewing more books in the near-ish future as I received Gertie's latest book for Christmas and was sent a lingerie sewing book at the end of the year that I haven't had a chance to look at yet. If you have any other sewing-related books that I haven't written about but would recommend, please leave a comment...

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Goodbye 2014. Hello 2015!!!


I ain't going lie, 2014 has been a hell of a year for me personally. It was my first full year of being a mum, a status that I'm still getting my head around and still trying to successfully combine with the other facets of my life. I moved to a new town, a change which hasn't proved as positive as I hoped. And arranging both of our working lives around child care is still far from sorted. But let's talk about sewing...

Longer term readers of my blog will no doubt have noticed that it's obviously been a less productive year than previous ones. But sewing still played a major role in my life in 2014, and I feel that in some ways it's become more important to me than ever before. I've always felt that sewing connects me to the  women in my family: my mum, grandmothers and great aunts. Now I have a little daughter and I've found that providing for her by making her clothes has deepened and enriched that connection further.

My Sewing-Related Highlights of 2014:

  • Releasing my Dolores Batwing sewing pattern. After A LOT of work over A LONG period time, my self-drafted pattern was finally born! I couldn't have done it without the massive important contribution made by Claire, and I'd also like to thank again the wonderful pattern testers and pattern reviewers who gave up precious time and fabric to help get this 'out there'. 
  • Hosting Me-Made-May'14. MMM is always a high point in my year, and this year's was as awesome as ever. The Flickr group and Pinterest board were/are a hot bed of sewing inspiration and seeing so many wonderfully creative and talented people proudly wearing their creations makes me feel really emotional. Thanks so much to everyone who took part this year.
  • Taking part in Kid's Clothing Week. This simple sew-along, to sew kid's clothing for at least one hour a day for a week, brought me a lot of joy. Before signing up to take part in KCW, I don't think I'd realised how far sewing was getting pushed down my list of priorities. This week honestly opened my eyes to how much I need it to be a regular part of my life, and how much fun making clothing for Dolores is in particular. 
  • Taking part in OWOP. Thanks to lovely Handmade Jane, OWOP was back in 2014. Like MMM, I find OWOP so useful because it highlights the possibility of a genuinely wearable handmade wardrobe. Seeing multiple versions of other peoples' favourite patterns is also super fun and great for getting ideas for future projects. 
  • Taking part in the Perfect Pattern Parcel blog tours. I was lucky enough to be involved in four PPP's promotional blog tours during 2014, making the September dressStaple dress, Bronte top and Daphne bag. The Staple dress in particular has become one of my favourite garments to wear EVER and I never would have thought to make it if it had not been receiving those sewing patterns to try. The Donors Choice charity they support really is a great cause as well, and I'm more than a little excited to find out what parcels they come up with next year...


Favourite Makes of 2014:

Sewing for myself took a bit of a back seat in 2014 as my body shape and it's 'uses' changed somewhat. With a lot more of my time spent in playgroups and crawling around the floor, I didn't have much use for lovely new clothes anyway. Plus when I did make something for myself, the results were often flawed or impractical and have seen little to no subsequent wear (e.g. the denim sweet shorts, Holly playsuit and Hudson pants). The major exception is my navy Bronte Top (pictured above) that I made whilst testing the pattern. It has been in constant rotation since the weather cooled off enough to wear it after the summer.

It probably won't surprise you to learn that my faves were all things I've made for Dolores. The refashioned men's shirt to baby blouse (pictured below) was a real success for stylistic and ethical reasons IMO, and the results from taking part in Kid's Clothing Week also came out really well.



Plans for 2015:

I love the end of a year and start of a new one as an opportunity for reflection and refocusing.

  • Sewing-wise, my most important aim for 2015 is to simply make time to do it. I've realised that sadly no-one is going to hand me great swathes of delicious sewing time on a platter! Sewing is good for my mental and emotional wellbeing, but I'm the one that has figure out how to fit it into my days, even if it's just for 15-30 mins a few evenings a week. 
  • Host Me-Made-May'15. As long as there are members of the sewing community who enjoy and get a lot from taking part, then I'll keep hosting them! Sign ups will start on 1st April 2015. Personally, I've already been thinking about what pledge will be a useful one for me this time round, and I've got a few ideas...
  • A recommitment to stash-busting. I unveiled the extent of my stash almost two years ago, and I must confess that it doesn't look much different today! A lot of it has been used, particularly the jersey and knit selection, but there's been quite a few additions in the form of gifts and garments that could be re-made. My stash is now spread over two locations: the shelves and two big bags reside in my daughter's bedroom, and boxes of small pieces and scraps live under my sewing table in the corner of our kitchen. My feelings on the importance of refashioning existing garments and sewing from stash rather than buying new fabric remain the same. So I wish to continue to make lovely garments for Dolores, her friends and for myself from a lot of what I already own.
  • Make wearable, useful clothes. With limited sewing time and storage space, anything I make has to be something that will get worn regularly by whoever it's for. I love that challenge and think I'm getting fairly good at figuring out what styles will fit with my lifestyle and existing clothing selection, however I need to spend more time on getting a good fit, and that may include making more of the dreaded toiles! I've got some great patterns and fabulous fabric pieces lined up, I can't wait to get cracking. 
Thank you all so much for taking time to read this blog. It means so much to me to have this space to share my thoughts and creations, and although I regret that I don't get as much time as I'd like for reading and commenting on others' blogs, I really appreciate every single comment that you leave here so much. I wish you all a thoroughly wonderful New Year!  

Saturday, 20 December 2014

My Sewing Library: Part 2

Thanks so much to those who commented for the positive response to Part 1 of this little book review feature. It's great to hear that it's helped and inspired those who were looking to expand their sewing resources. So, onward...



Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich

What is it and who is it aimed at?

This hard-back book is all about pattern cutting, and literally nothing else. Whether you're a fashion student or a home-seamster wanting a deeper knowledge on the anatomy of a garment pattern, this is widely accepted to be the very best place to start. Aldrich takes you through drafting basic pattern blocks from scratch based on specific measurements, as well as how to adapt those blocks and how to draft pretty much every type of design feature (like sleeves, collars, cuffs etc) known to man. If you're willing to put the time in, this book gives you the building blocks to make your clothing designs a reality. However, as cute as the little illustrations are, a pretty coffee-table book this is NOT! 

Why have I got it?

This book was on the reading list to buy when I started my Fashion Design degree back in 1999! Yup, I was at uni in the 90's, *feels seriously old*! This wasn't the only pattern cutting title I bought that was on that list, but it's the only one I still own, which I feel says a lot. 


Does it include patterns?

No, but it does contain the very DNA of patterns! This book will make you the mother of patterns. Which is kind of better than including patterns, don't you think?

Have I used it and would I recommend it?

So freaking much: that's how much I've used it. I've used it to draft blocks, I've used it to figure out how to make a puff sleeve, I've used it to grade patterns into different sizes, I've used it to balance my plate on whilst I eat dinner... If pattern cutting interests you at all, then it simply must be owned. 



Built By Wendy Dresses by Wendy Mullin and Eviana Hartman

What is it and who is it aimed at?

This book is very much in the vein of Wendy Mullin's two SEW U books, however it manages to avoid repeating the content of those others. Focusing on dresses made from woven fabric, this book assumes you know the basics of how to sew and instead helps you explore your hidden designer. It covers topics like picking a garment style to flatter your body shape, how to apply print and colour to good effect and different neckline options, as well as sections you'd expect from a sewing book like picking suitable fabric types. 

Why have I got it?

After buying and loving her first two books, I flipped out with excitement when I found Mullin had written another. Then I bought it. 


Does it include patterns?

YES!!! Like the other two, this includes three multi-sized garment patterns. The three dress patterns have interesting features that makes them ripe for customisation. Inside the book are detailed instructions on how to adapt those three basics to make twenty five different styles, plus it would only take the application of a little bit of imagination to come up with quite a few more by applying her lessons in design that feature towards the beginning of the book. 

Have I used it and would I recommend it?

To be honest, no I haven't used it save for reading bits of it here and there. By the time I bought this book, I had become pretty obsessed with sewing from vintage patterns to create a rockabilly-esque style. The aesthetic of the garment styles in this book are really cute, but didn't gel with me at that time particularly, and are possibly a bit young for someone in their thirties I felt. 

However, having gone back to it recently to refresh my memory for this post, I do feel it has a lot to offer. I'm actually interested in giving a least one of the patterns a whirl, and I may make that a priority early 2015. 




What is it and who is it aimed at?

For a slightly longer review of this book, check out this previous blog post. In short, this book is aimed at beginners with a creative bent who appreciate a feminine, retro-y style. With lots of ideas for customising and up-cycling projects as well as very basic dressmaking projects, this little hard-back written by my former boss shows how to make a great impact in just an afternoon. 

Why have I got it?

I was given a free copy at the launch party. 


Does it include patterns?

Nup. The closest this book gets to patterns is showing you how to draft very basic elasticated or gathered waist skirts using your measurements. 

Have I used it and would I recommend it?

I haven't used it but then I didn't expect to because I'm not really its target readership. No doubt there are some things in here I could learn, but there are other books that appeal to me more aesthetically, both in terms of the projects and overall design of the publication. So I'm more likely to choose those when perusing my collection looking for some bedtime reading. That said, if you have a girly friend who wants to get into sewing, this would make a lovely gift. 
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