Monday, 19 January 2015

Two capes

My last couple of makes of 2014 were selfless sews and my first makes of 2015 are also selfless.

Firstly this, which was actually a Christmas present that never made it on time, so I figured I had better prioritise it. A while back, Small Boy casually asked "Mummy, can you sew me a superhero cape? And goggles?" To be fair, I never mentioned to him I was planning to make it as a Christmas present, so he doesn't know it's late, but he had been asking quite a bit, and I had the fabric to make it, so I had no excuses.

I found this tutorial for the cape, which was really straightforward. It literally took less than an hour and a half from start to finish; I fitted both this and breakfast into Baby Boy's morning nap. The trickiest part was sewing round those tight curves at the neck, combined with the lightweight fabric that my machine wanted to chew. I ended up doing one stitch, then pivoting a small degree, one stitch, pivot... and even then it's still not particularly curved, or neat!

The fabric is pongee lining in blue and red. In fact the same blue pongee I used for his Wise Man headdress. At something like £2.99 a metre, it's great stuff for fancy dress! It's a bit easier to sew with than regular poly lining as, due to the fact that it's not shiny, it doesn't slip around too much. It also doesn't fray as much.

On to the "goggles". I'm not exactly sure what he had in mind initially. He still quite often, rather endearingly, gets words confused: recent examples include confusing "awesome" for "moss" (as in "mummy, there is awesome on the ground"), and calling courgettes (zucchini) "tagine". Luckily, regardless of what he had in mind, I managed to persuade him that an Incredibles style mask was what he needed. One quick Google later, and we rustled these up from black felt and 1/4 inch elastic.

The cape was an immediate hit. He wore it into town, under his coat, the day I made it. The mask is less successful. He has super long eyelashes (like, ridiculously long), and I think they kind of get in the way of having things close to his eyes.

Cape in action
We *may* have also dressed Baby Boy in the cape to make Superbaby, and made him fly round the livingroom, but there is no photographic proof of that.

I liked the idea of making the cape double sided, so he could choose which side to wear. I also, somewhat naively thought that the blue side would double as an Elsa cloak (no gender stereotyping around here!), but I was told in no uncertain terms that it was too short for an Elsa cape. Luckily there was a plan in place for that.

He has had this length of blue and white striped linen in his room for ages. It's leftover from a top I made for MMM13, and have since binned. He wanted it to use as the sea when playing one day and it's just stayed in his room ever since. Recently it has been resurrected as an Elsa cloak: he drapes it round his shoulders and holds it in place with one hand while the other hand builds imaginary ice palaces. At the moment he likes to watch Frozen with it wrapped around him and when it gets to the Let It Go bit, he jumps off the couch, stands in front of the TV and basically copies Elsa move for move - including throwing off the cloak, when she throws off her purple one, and putting it back on when she changes her outfit, just in time to complete the dramatic, final "cold never bothered me anyway" flounce.*

He's really happy with the fabric, so I offered to just neaten it up a bit. I overlocked the raw edges, and cut a circular shape out of one short end (kind of similar to the cape) to allow for his neck. I added a small square of velcro and we were done!

Small Boy is delighted with both "costumes" and is a very happy boy!

"Cold never bothered me, anyway!"

*If you are lucky enough to have never watched Frozen, then apologies - absolutely none of that will have made sense to you!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Scrubs and a skirt fit for diving

I did some major power sewing through December. I got a bit carried away with plans, as I am wont to do, but this time I kind of had to deliver due to various deadlines! I've covered the Birthday Dress and the Nativity costume - next this True Bias Sutton blouse!

I did like this pattern when it was first released, but it only became high priority when I saw Caroline from Blackbird/Sewaholic's makewhich I absolutely loved and which became my inspiration.

My version is made from a poly crepe (this) and this lace, both from The Cloth Shop in Edinburgh, which is part of Remnant Kings. Yes, I know! I bought polyester!!! It was the colour that sold it. Recently I have, rather usually for me, been drawn to monochromatic and darker colours, and this just felt like such a happy antidote to that. It actually made me smile when I was sewing! Love it!!! I couldn't get an exact colour match for the lace, but love the contrast this provides.

The Sutton is a really simple, straightforward and quick make. Unless you stupidly French seam the back bodice piece on backwards. Harrumph. Well I figure there's got to be at least one stupid mistake per make as far as I'm concerned. Anyway. My first True Bias pattern. I like Kelli's attention to detail on finishing details. The side slits at the hem are finished so nicely and neatly, which I find really pleasing, as I do the French seams, and the method she uses to attach the bias facing.

Weird neck/face thing going on here, but you can see the sleeve and kind of see the hi-lo hemline.
It was my first time sewing with lace, other than a previous fancy dress outfit (not real sewing!). I made absolutely no attempt to do any research on it and jumped right in. The lace has a lovely scalloped selvedge that I hoped to use as the sleeve hem, but the back yoke is cut in one piece, which would have meant piecing the lace. I did do some reading on that, but quickly realised that the repeat was not exactly the same on each selvedge. And to be honest, I really didn't have the time, so I let myself off the hook, cut the yoke as directed and it seemed to work out ok. I think it might have stretched out a bit, so next time I might stay stitch all cut edges, but otherwise it was fine. I think the blouse took me a few days to make, but my sewing time is in fits and bursts - an hour or 2, here and there during nap times and in the evenings. And then there was that back on wrong side out incident to correct.

The colour is way off on this and the subsequent photos. The earlier photos are closer to the real colour.
The crepe is lovely and drapey, but it isn't particularly lightweight, so it's probably not ideal for the top. This is probably the main reason that I am actually a bit meh about the make. I don't know why. I love the colours, like the shape, but I am just not that excited about it on me. If I'm totally honest, it actually reminds me of scrubs, albeit posh ones. Just as well it's not blue!!! I don't think that about anyone else's version, just mine, so either it's the fabric, or the v neck, which is a shape I don't often wear.

Side slit finish - whoops wonky hem stitching there too!

Bias facing on the neckline. My V wasn't perfectly matched, but not bad. With a lighter weight fabric this would be easier.

Back pleat
The side seams can't be french seamed due to the slits at the bottom, so I used the overcast stitch on my sewing machine. I wasn't happy with the finish so turned and stitched as well. 
Anyway, my husband convinced me it was nice, and to be honest, I had a night out and nothing else to wear! But my friends all loved it too, so I am going with popular consensus that it's actually OK. Do you ever get that? You don't love an item of clothing but others talk you in to it? I'm still undecided, but will wear it because I love the colour, and it's nice and easy to wear with jeans - and with a cardigan hiding the lace, it dresses it down a bit for daytime. Not that you can't wear lace in the day, but small fingers like to pull and small teeth like to bite! 

With jeans
And what did I wear the Sutton with on my night out? Well, halfway through making it, I realised I didn't have anything that wasn't jeans that would go. So I made a skirt. In an evening. The inspiration for this came from the RK blog, via Hazel. I was convinced scuba wasn't for me, until she showed me the tutorial. It obviously stuck in my head because when I was deliberating on what I could wear with the blouse, this was what I thought of first. I didn't actually follow the tutorial. Instead I used the Colette Mabel skirt - the short version, as that was what I had printed - which I lengthened. I can't remember by how much, as this was very much fitted on the hoof. I cut the back on the fold instead of cutting 2 pieces because I didn't read the pattern pieces (told you: one stupid mistake per make), so they then ended up too big, as there was seam allowance included that I didn't need, but I just removed that as I fitted it. I have small hips relevant to my waist measurement, so even though I graded down a size at the hips, I still had to take quite a it more there too. I think about 4cm through the waist and hips.

It was all sewn on my sewing machine using the lightening bolt zig zag. Raw edges are unfinished. The hem is twin needled.

The waistband is faced with a much lighter weight jersey, to reduce bulk, but it's too lightweight for the scuba and has a much higher stretch percentage, so it doesn't work well. 

Inside waistband and side seam.

I think in retrospect I could have done with taking it in slightly more at the waist/hips. It was fine for dinner with the girls on Friday night, but at my Mother In Law's 60th birthday party the following night, it didn't quite pass the Mr Brightside dancing test*.

Selfie taken in the toilets at my MIL's party! RTW top
But OH MY GOD, scuba is THE most comfortable fabric ever! It is thick enough to cover all lumps and bumps, but stretchy enough to permit walking and dancing and eating. I even wore it on Christmas day.

So, there you go - a Christmas outfit, sewn in a week!

Mr Brightside by The Killers - the only acceptable dance to this is to jump up and down like a lunatic, punching the air where appropriate, for as much of the song as your fitness levels permit. Clothes therefore need to be able to stay in place without adjustment.

Friday, 9 January 2015

A handmade gift for a little star

This year, I made my 3 year old niece (who I shall henceforce refer to as the Little Star) a Christmas present. She is really into bags, and has quite a few shoppers, but I thought she might like more of a handbag style bag. I did a bit of Googling, and a bit of Pinterest surfing and found this tutorial, which fit the bill perfectly.

I have a bit of an aversion to the "pinkification" of wee girls, so I have to admit I do go out of my way to avoid pink when I buy anything for the Little Star, hence the fabric choice. Luckily she is OK with this, so far.

The bag was really straightforward to put together, although it took considerably longer than the hour suggested in the tutorial. I think it took one hour to cut and prep the fabric, and then a full second evening to do the sewing. But, I have said before, that I am not the speediest of sewists.

The tutorial calls for you to interface the fabric, but instead I decided to use batting. My mum actually gave me this really cool iron on batting. No idea what it's called or where she got it, and she only had a scraps left, but it was enough. I didn't quilt the bag, but I like the additional structure that the batting gives it.

Contrast lining

The bag closes with a fabric loop (a chunky rouleax), which loops round a button. Both fabrics are from Remnant Kings, as is the button. I know the orange button is a bit random, but I couldn't find a green or blue button that matched, and actually I quite like the pop of the orange. I also just really wanted to buy that button.

As you can tell from the photo, I didn't waste too much energy on pattern matching or placement. I did manage to get the horizontals matched at the side (no photographic proof) but that was about it. I don't think the Little Star minds too much.

A better pic of the lining fabric. I love that scallop print!
There really isn't an awful lot to say about this pattern. It was a straightforward sew and the instructions are clear, logical and give good, well finished results. If I was being picky, I'd say that it's a little bit annoying that the lining is the same size as the outer, as it just doesn't sit inside neatly, but that's an easy fix if I ever make another.

I decided the Little Star might want a grown up bag a bit like Mummy's, so I filled it with a few bits and pieces.

Hair brush and comb, key ring complete with house key and purse

 Miraculously, on Christmas day, I got a compact mirror in my cracker, and so gave that to the Little Star for her bag as well.

The bag was a huge hit. It's meant to be a shoulder bag, but my Dad didn't realise that and so put it on her cross body style, and there is stayed. She pretty much wore it all day, and spent a good chunk of the evening brushing and combing everyone's hair!

I asked for a photo, and she obliged...

Happy girl!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

A sewing Christmas

I was lucky enough to receive a few sewing related gifts this Christmas, that I thought I would share with you.

First up was this, which was actually a birthday present from my sister. 

This little jar of pins is really cute, and immediately made me think of Roisin, as it's from Berylune, although I presume my sister bought it in Edinburgh somewhere.

I had this on my wishlist, and my mum very generously bought it for me. If you're a long time reader you'll know that I often lament my lack of knowledge when it comes to fabric types, so this is perfect. There are a quite a few reviews of this book out there (Oonaballoona and Ginger spring to mind), and it really is as great as they say, with decent sized swatches covering most fabric types I can think of (finally I get all the fuss about silk charmeuse), as well as interesting information about how fabrics are created, and what makes them what they are. If anyone is interested in knowing more about the book, let me know and I'll do a separate post.

Another request, this time fulfilled by my husband - subscription to Seamwork. I did deliberate over this, as you can read the mag for free and I don't always love Colette patterns, but I likes the look of the first patterns. I haven't actually had time to read the first edition yet - something I will have to rectify soon. 

Another gift from my husband - a gift voucher for The Village Haberdashery. They always have really lovely fabrics, so I am looking forward to spending this.

Finally, this wasn't actually a gift for me, but for Baby Boy and made by my mum. It's a bag for storing his toys in. The fabrics she chose are adorable and she hand quilted round some of the little dinosaurs. Isn't that cute? Love the expression on that green dinosaur's face!

Did you receive any sewing related gifts this year?

Welcome, 2015!

Happy New Year, everyone! Finally I'm back. It wasn't enough that December was super busy, and expensive, but then our laptop packed in completely. It's currently in PC World, having all the files, photos etc taken off it (£80 for the privilege of getting our own stuff back - and so far that's taken 2 weeks and counting), but we decided just to replace it. So, today, we got our new one. With fancy Windows 8.1 which neither of us know how to use...

I have a few half written, or fully written but no-photos-taken posts in draft currently. The laptop issue actually has nothing to do with lack of photos - blame the appalling weather for that one - but, as I've moaned about mentioned before, I cannot fully write a post from my iPad as I can't add links, formatting etc on the Blogger App. Really? Still?!

Anyway, its that time of year when everyone writes their review of 2014/plans for 2015 posts. I wasn't planning on doing that. 2014 wasn't a "typical" sewing year for me (whatever that is), as I had large periods of no sewing (pregnancy tiredness, working full time, new baby), followed by short bursts of intensive sewing (start of mat leave pre-baby, December craziness), and I never really set any goals for the year anyway for exactly that reason.

A few of my favourite makes from 2014. Second from right is as yet unblogged (skirt)
Furthermore, 2015 will throw up some further challenges, and I have no idea how that will affect my sewing time. In May I will go back to work. I don't yet know if that will be full or part time. In August, Small Boy will start school, meaning a whole new episode of our lives and different childcare, thus I will be dropping off/collecting 2 children from 2 different places every working day. In June this year my husband started a new job where he works remotely, and spends a lot of time travelling. He's been away pretty much 5 days a week, every week for the past 3 months. So, it's odds on that I'll be doing all of the above myself. I'm not sure how much time that's going to leave for sewing. Still, I remain optimistic. I might need the sewing to save my sanity!

Considering all of this, I feel there is little point setting myself goals. I know I enjoy sewing best when I am free of constraints and deadlines, so why stress myself further? I have sewing goals that I would like to achieve AT SOME POINT, but I have plenty of time for them.

Instead, for 2015, I'd like to focus on creating space, both literally and mentally. Finishing all the WIPs, mending jobs and promised but not yet fulfilled projects. I'd like to spend some time clearing out my sewing storage space (bit of the hall cupboard), getting things in order and establishing what exactly I have - and then to try to use up my stash where possible. I can't afford the luxury (financially or spacially) of a large stash, and to be honest, I just find it a bit stifling, so I think it would do me good to clear as much as possible: to give my sewing and my creativity room to breathe and develop.

Our hall cupboard - AKA my sewing storage, I am ashamed to admit!
For my recent birthday, I received money, which I plan to spend on a new camera. Our current camera is about 8 years old, and the photo quality is pretty poor. I've recently taken to using my phone for blog photos as the quality is much better. So my last aim for 2015 is to get round to choosing and buying a new camera, and then learning to use it. I think I want a bridge camera - a step up from a point and click, but easier to lug around and to use than a DSLR (I am not a photographer, but I'd like to learn a bit more), and it seems that a bridge would give that. If any of you have any recommendations or suggestions, feel free to let me know in the comments. What camera do you use? (I also asked this recently on Instagram, so apologies for the repetition if you already saw that there).

So, that's me. I am enjoying reading all about what everyone else is planning for 2015 and can't wait to see what progress everyone makes. Good luck to us all!

Monday, 29 December 2014

The Activity Play

Merry Christmas! I hope you had a lovely time! :)

I've done a fair bit of sewing recently, but haven't managed to blog any of it. December seems to have passed in a whirlwind of sewing, birthdays, a holiday, illness and a broken laptop. Not to mention Christmas, itself!

I will get round to blogging my makes, and thought I'd start with the most Christmassy first, seeing as you'll not want to read about that mid Jan. Small Boy's nursery decided to do a Nativity this year (or "Activity Play", as he insists on calling it). He was cast as one of the wise men. Nursery asked parents if they could supply the costumes. Most parents did the normal thing, and went to Tesco. But my sister and I are not normal (my niece was to be a star), and were raised on a diet of Jane Asher inspired homemade Halloween costumes, so it was homemade all the way for us.

I decided to use my Liberty Kimono pattern as a starting point, and I used a blue poly cotton from IKEA, that I already had. The blue felt quite regal, but it needed a bit of blinging up (they are kings after all), so I paired it with a gold poly lining from Remnant Kings. I mentioned when I first made my kimono that it wasn't particularly large. Tellingly I did not size the pattern down for Small Boy, merely shortening the length and slightly raising the v of the neckline. I bought some gold braid to use as a tie belt.

There's not much to say about the construction. Seam allowances are overlocked. The bindings are machine stitched in place. The binding around the neck/edges is appallingly applied. It somehow got twisted, and so doesn't lie flat, but meh - it's a single wear kids costume. I left it as is.

I was a bit stuck about what to put on his head. I did consider a cardboard crown, but decided to go for more (very unauthentic) Arabic feel. I have no idea what you would call this style of headwear, but I can tell you it's made of a blue pongee (I love that word!) lining, tied in place with more of the gold braid. Both were from RK. I had all sorts of grand plans to use my overlocker to do a rolled hem on the pongee, but in the end time constraints dictated that I simply pink the edges.

The piece de resistance though was the beard. I have to admit that initially I had to google "wise man" to get an idea of what he should wear, and when I did so, I found this template for a felt beard, which I just had to make. It's made from brown felt and 1/4 inch elastic (again from RK). I am so pleased with it, and I feel it really made the costume, but sadly on the day, Small Boy refused to wear the beard on stage. It was a shame, but I wasn't going to push him into it. He was already nervous enough. He did amazingly well though, and said his one line really clearly.


I was really pleased with this make, especially when the Nursery manager didn't realise it was homemade, but the icing on the cake was that it won Remnant King's Merry Stitchmas Christmas competion, winning me £50 of vouchers for the shop!!! I am so pleased, but convinced that Small Boy's cuteness was what swung it! 

I'll leave you with a (blurry) photo of the wise man sans beard, with his younger cousin, a little star through and through!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Fabulous Forty... and the blogger's not looking too bad either!

Today is my 40th birthday. Happy Birthday me! I'm actually currently on holiday. Nowhere exotic, just the East Neuk of Fife, but it's a holiday! In the meantime, though, I wanted to share a special birthday make, so this is a scheduled post.

I haven't sewn myself a birthday outfit before. No real reason other than there is usually quite a lot going on in December already thank you very much, but this year I decided to something a little different. The idea started when I saw one of Kerry's recent makes, and clocked the year her pattern was printed. An idea grew... why not make something from a pattern that was the same age as me? I'm not a huge fan of 70's fashion, but I did really like Kerry's dress and I figured I could probably find something similarly simple, not too "70's fancy dress" and make it wearable.

Easier said than done, particularly since I didn't have a lot of time to play with. I needed to find a pattern that was a style I liked and was wearable, was my size (no time, energy or inclination for grading) and was in the UK (no time for postage from the US). Oh, and it had to have been printed in 1974!

A trawl of Etsy and Ebay eventually led to this dress pattern.

The dress has a slightly bloused bodice with gathers at the waist on both bodice and skirt (reminiscent of the gathers on the Colette Peony). The bodice has a stand up collar and an all in one facing at the neckline. The skirt has 4 gores and is A line in shape.

I wanted to make the dress in a modern fabric, and recently fell in love with this viscose from Atelier Brunette that I had spotted on their Instagram feed and which I bought from Guthrie and Ghani.

I made view 2, but with the short sleeves from view 1. View 1 is kind of cool with the quilting on the hem, collar and sleeves, but with such a busy pattern, I though it would get lost.

I muslined the bodice which fitted fine - a wee bit big, but definitely wearable as is. I initially thought the neckline was super low - indecently so - but when I went to make the change I wanted to the pattern piece, I realised I'd just sewn to the wrong marking!!! Luckily that was the only daft mistake I made as I was really up against it time-wise to make this. I only had a week, which for me, is not that long. I finished the hemming (machine sewn - no time to hand sew) at 10.30pm the night before the day I wanted to wear it!

Where I originally thought the neckline sat!

In terms of construction, I followed the pattern, only making the following changes:
  • invisible zip instead of standard zip
  • I didn't make the tie belt
  • I omitted the decorative buttons on the front
  • I took 1 cm off the skirt pattern piece when cutting, due to fabric limitations (I managed to get this out of 2m of fabric), and then took a further inch off the length when hemming.
  • Insides are finished with French seams where possible, and the rest are overlocked.
  • Added pockets
  • Used a strip of fabric, rather than the seam binding that was called for, for the waist stay.
Invisible zip with perfectly matched waist seam. Win!
I'm really happy with the dress. The facings at the neckline are a bit annoying and flappy - I've had to tack them down with invisible stitches to stop them flipping out. They are not interfaced, which I think doesn't help, as the collar is interfaced and they don't have enough structure to support the weight of the collar. If I was to make this again, I'd try to do something different there.

Weird selfies so you can see the collar and neckline better.

Actually, I've just remembered I made a second daft mistake - I borrowed my pocket pattern pieces from Simplicity 2360 which has the top of the pockets caught into the waist seam. No problem, I could do the same here, only I managed to catch them into the back skirt pieces rather than the front ones - so the pockets were backwards! I only realised after I'd French seamed the waist. I didn't want to have to unpick the whole thing, so I have to say I hacked it a bit - I unpicked the second stage of the french seam, just at the pockets, and then cut them. I then flipped them forward and sewed them in place over the top of the french seam. My insides are now a bit messy, but I'm not too bothered.

The fabric is lovely. Soft with a beautiful drape. Really nice to sew with and to wear, although it does crease quite easily. All in all it's what I wanted: a really wearable, comfortable dress with a nod to the past, that is special to me.

I am not pregnant again, despite the fact I look it here!

I actually wore the dress over a week ago - as part of my birthday celebrations, my mum treated my sister and I to afternoon tea at The Balmoral Hotel, which is an iconic, old hotel in the centre of Edinburgh (where JK Rowling finished the last Harry Potter book). It was a lovely afternoon and the dress was perfect for the occasion- sorry I didn't take any photos while we were there, but suffice to say there was plenty of sandwiches, tea and cakes in beautiful surroundings!!

Palm Court - where we had afternoon tea!

Right, I am off to spend my 40th freezing on a Scottish beach, eating fish and chips in the local pub, and drinking champagne!  

ETA: forgot to add that I will be adding this to A Stitching Odysey's #vintagepledge