When I’m busy at work, it’s so tricky to find sewing time or the energy sew when I get home! But it’s imperative that I fit some in at least, or I start to feel resentful about my day job and that’s a bit pointless because, hey… I need to pay the bills so I can at the very least keep a roof over my sewing table!
And so bunting was last week’s fix. One for baby Maddie and the other for her big brother, Charlie:
Bunting in itself isn’t very taxing to make: With right sides together, I sew the two diagonal sides of each triangle set, leaving the top edge open for turning; trim, turn right-sides out, and press. Once I have as many as I need, I pin and sew to a length of bias binding, allowing enough for ties at the ends.
But in order to personalise ones bunting it pays to have some double sided Bondaweb to hand. And do not sew the triangles together until you’ve appliquéd the letters.
I traced the individual letters from a printout onto the peel-off paper side of the Bondaweb – making sure the letters were first reversed. If you don’t do this the letters will read back to front!
I then ironed the tacky side to the reverse side of the fabric and cut out the letter shapes. You can then peel off the backing and iron the letter to the front side of the bunting to keep the letter shapes perfectly in position as you sew them on.
I happen to have a cool appliqué stitch on my sewing machine but a zigzag stitch is perfectly good enough. Just keep it nice and slow and pivot around any corners and curves.
It’s also a good idea to tack the open top edges together before you pin and sew to the bias binding strip. Just keeps them nicely in position and stops any pesky puckers!
I find it strangely satisfying to have a pile of appliquéd bunting triangles on my table and admit to just sitting and admiring before I launch into attaching the bias binding!
I just love browsing for fabrics that coordinate together. And if you happen to love them it makes sewing the bunting so much more satisfying. But it does make the giving-away part of it more difficult. Lucky it is personalised!
So there you go. The joys of bunting. A mood-boosting, sewing fix of a lovely gift. What’s not to love?!
How do you cope when you are short on sewing time? Do you just accept the break or do you find smaller fixes too?
I have just recently returned from the most exciting and inspiring 4 days away at the most amazing festival, ever – The Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall, UK.
Lucky old me was asked to join the Pencil Team to fuel the 80s theme and bash out some rara skirts for lots of festival goers who would then participate in the fashion show finale at the end of the week. It all seemed a little bit daunting at first, not least of all because raras aren’t the quickest things to whip up and with minimal resources and in a tent!
But we did have leccy and we did have good fabric. Boy did we have a substantial stash! Sponsored by Chloe no less. No expense spared for our budding fashionistas!
So the afternoon before the first session we arrived at a prototype. For Paul! A willing and most encouraging volunteer who was delighted to be my model and first happy customer!
The order of the day was raw and ready! Overlockers didn’t get a look in and hey, who needs a hem anyway?! We had 2 shifts a day–one for each rara–at the very least, times 7 sewists: 4 fashion students from the Glasgow Clyde college; 1 amazing consultant stylist; one very wonderful experienced seamstress/mother/grandma to everyone… and me!
To emphasise the ‘raw’, we barely used scissors, save to snip the ends of the fabric before ripping near-as-dammit lengths for main skirt and flounce sections. I accounted for double waist measurement for the width and measured just above the knee for length. The measurements for the layers were guessed… and hoped!
So we started flat, gathering the flounces from bottom to top. But not a gathering thread in sight. Way too much faffing! We just pinched and manipulated those strips under foot and zigzagged into position, covering each layer of stitching with the next flounce above.
When sufficient layering was complete, we stretched and sewed the waist elastic (measured comfortably stretched against the body) to the top edge of the skirt using a wide zigzag stitch – making a casing was taking too much time. If there was any excess fabric beyond the end of the elastic, it was simply trimmed off. Then there was just one back seam to stitch up.
Each skirt took about an hour and a half on the whole, including a lot of chatting and demonstrating and getting the children to have a go. Some were willing. Some were quite happy to sit and chat and have a bespoke skirt made before their very eyes. I know I would be!
Little Miss O was in charge of printing the designer labels!
Every customer had their own ideas. How many flounces, what fabric combo and whether or not there were additional ribbons and bows. In fact it seemed the younger the customer the more determined they were to inject their own creativity. However much we tried to push the gold mesh it often got declined! They wanted pinks and blues and yellows. And oh the relief when only one frill was requested!
I can, hand on heart, say that the most amazing music to my ears was hearing that most of the pre-teen children I sat with knew how, or regularly operated a sewing machine. Mostly of their own! How refreshing is that. No surprise that it wasn’t from the teaching of schools or after-school clubs, but by the willingness of their fabulous grandmas. It really was so encouraging to hear. Sewing isn’t disappearing anytime soon, fellow sewingistas! There are grannies out there championing this all-important and special skill that so needs to be nurtured and that makes me sooooo happy.
These twin sisters were a prime example. They love making their own dolls clothes and hope to make their own clothes one day. Fashion student, Megan made the skirt on the left and I made the one on the right, independently, guided by each allocated twin.
And the results were fascinatingly, coordinated!
The sewing sessions were fast and furious but no less creative and fun. So much so that immediately after each one we stayed behind when everyone had left to make use of the fabric and whip up our own outfits.
It was such a delight to meet these Scottish student beauties. So much energy and passion for sewing and fashion. And so much fun to have around.
Whilst rara skirts flew off the sewing machines at one end of the tent, hand-painted slogan T-shirts were being pegged up at a rate of knots! A massive resurgence of 80s brilliance.
And then, when the last session finished, and the chilled dandelion and burdock tins where handed out (ok, so maybe there was an odd swig of the strong stuff!) then it was time for the fashion show. Paints were cleared, and in their place, a spray of silk flowers were jiggled into a jug, and the models were prepped by Jenny, Ruler of Pencil!
Just check out these amazing head-dresses made at one of Piers Atkinsons workshops! The single only downer for working at the festival was that I didn’t get to make one due to clashing of classes!
They were all so excited. rehearsing their moves: A flick of the hair, crossed arms, over the shoulder attitude, pouts galore, working those raras and T’s!
Hay bales outlined the catwalk and the music began. It was simply brilliant!
I felt a wave of emotion once the children danced off. And moreso when one came back to hug me and thank me and tell me it was her most favourite skirt in the whole world. I properly cried!
But moods surged the next day whilst taking photos at the Rubbish Olympics. Another amazing concept drummed up by Jenny! Human dressage, Egg and spoon race without said egg and spoon, pencil tossing, Zoolander musical statues and more. Quite difficult to photograph when you are splitting your sides laughing but here is one of my faves. They were ‘Best in Show’ of course!
Such a glorious place, such amazing creative people, such talents and inspiration. Port Eliot is such a magical place. I truly hope it returns next year. And I think you should all come too.
This is my new half circle skirt. Self-drafted and made in a cobalt blue poly crepe.
Sounds pretty simple hey? Well to be honest, in principle it was. And it would have been a swifty project if I’d have remembered a couple of simple things.
ALWAYS MARK YOUR SELF-DRAFTED PATTERN PIECES AS SOON AS YOU’VE DRAWN THEM
Why? Well in my case, I have a fair few circle and half-circle skirt pieces that I’ve not only drafted for myself, but for others too. And in my haste I’d just labelled them ‘skirt front’ or ‘full circle’ and one just said ‘circle skirt piece no SA’. The latter was helpful, at least to know that I needed to add a seam allowance but none were any help at all to know if it was the right waist measurement, the right length, a full or half circle etc. What a twit!
So first job was to redraft another, to my size. And second job was to ensure all that info was written bold and clear on the pattern piece for future use.
I’d already prewashed my fabric, so that was a win. The number of times I’ve been fired up to sew and didn’t have prepared fabric to hand is way too many to count. But swifty projects aren’t very swifty at all if you haven’t factored in to…
ALLOW A CIRCLE SKIRT TO HANG AT LEAST OVERNIGHT BEFORE HEMMING
Sewing a circle or half circle really doesn’t take that long but don’t bank on whipping one up, hours before a party because it has to hang at least overnight to allow the weight of the bias fabric to drop. This will almost definitely result in an uneven hem and will need levelling before hemming. I put mine on a dressmakers dummy but I’m sure if it was hung evenly on a pegged coathanger, you would achieve the same result.
So next there’s the levelling. I put the dressmakers dummy, wearing the skirt, on a table so that the hem is at eye-level. I use a metal rule from table top to my desired length and then mark all round with chalk or pins, rotating the whole dummy rather than spinning it (that’s another long story). I then go round a 2nd time to double check the measurements.
Once trimmed I sewed a quarter inch line of stitches from the edge and pressed up a hem. I stitched and in this case didn’t need to turn over again. But that might be necessary if fabric is more fraying.
The lining of course needs the same treatment.
I rarely hate on any aspect of sewing, but I discovered this morning that I truly hate levelling, trimming and narrow-hemming lining fabric for a circle skirt, like massively!
It appears I’ve only made one other half circle skirt before, but it was so long ago, it’s well and truly worn out! So as much as I love this colour blue – quite unusual for me actually, don’t you think?! – I feel I must make a replacement black one too. And maybe a red as well!
I must at this point just big up my 12 year-old daughter who took these lovely photos for me. It was a very impromtu shoot as I was doing some shots of my eldest daughter who was face-painting in the park. Little Miss O brought her own camera along for some practice and certainly did me proud. Look out dad, someone’s hot on your heels!
I gave up Flamenco dancing when I was 7 months pregnant with son. My teacher told me that if there was an ounce of gypsy blood in me I would continue dancing right up until the baby was born. Clearly my o-neg wasn’t cutting it. Lord knows how any amount of footwork is achieved when one is the size of a whale!
Anyhoos, just 4 years of practice and 17 years later there is still undeniable evidence of gypsy in me. Even if I’m not a real one. The dancing, the music, the earrings, the roses . . . the dresses. I think I’m just going to have to grab that bull by the horns and start over again.
But before I drift back to when I had time on my hands, lets talk about this outfit. It’s not a dress. It’s a top and a skirt. Separates, like!
I literally snatched the fabric out of the hands of the shopkeeper when he showed me some precuts on the counter. Just how hard is it to find border print these days? I knew it was going to be a skirt already but I had enough to make a top and my lightbulb moment was realising I had the perfect pattern in Butterick B4685. I’ve made it a few times before and blogged one of them here. Another version even served to complete Dorothy’s World Book Day costume! But this is the first time I’ve included the flounce on version C. And this fabric was perfect for the job.
I do have an issue with the fabric though. Mostly I find the shop keepers in the Goldhawk Road honest about the content. At least where they are informed themselves. And some even do an on the spot burn test for me if I ask. But this one (who shall remain nameless) confidently told me it was linen lawn. I had no reason to disagree. After all I’ve never purchased linen lawn before. But it sounded good and most importantly, implied of natural fibre. It is lovely and soft and lightweight. Perfect for keeping gathering bulk to a min. But I got that suspicious sweet smelling odour that hit my nose when I ironed it and felt compelled to do a burn test myself.
Surprise, surprise. Not an ounce of natural fibre to write home about. Well maybe one fibre in a million. It did crumble a bit betwixt forefinger and thumb so not 100 per cent plastic. Gah!! I hate the dishonesty. I probably would have still bought it with a bit of a haggle attached. But why glam it up when its so easily sussed?
I’m not too cross because I’m very happy with the outcome. I’m just cross with the bull****!
So the skirt is just a self-drafted gathered rectangle on a waistband with an invisible zip in the side. Unlined and therefore so quick to run up. Though I did hand-sew the hem because it pleases me!
Dan took these photos in and around the grounds of Fulham Palace, London. Such a beautiful and understated palace which is openly used as a museum and wedding venue and picnic grounds! The gardens are so immaculately kept. And the perfume from the wisteria was gorgeous!
And as has become the norm, we had some more interest from the local residents. Clearly cleaning up from the picnics!
And once again outposing me on the log shot! I’m sure Mr O does this on purpose. It had bugs and cobwebs and everything on it. Eeeewwww! Can I just say out loud. I hate sitting on logs!!
I love this outfit, not only because it brings out my inner gypsy, not even just because I made it (well that as well!) but because its a style that never goes away. I’m as happy wearing this kind of dress now as I was in the 90s and the 80s and I’m pretty sure there’s photographic evidence of me wearing a dress very similar in the 70s! Or maybe I’m just plain old fashioned. Who knows. Who cares. I’ll make more anyway!!
Welcome to life in the slow lane and my first toile for Mr O’s #Blazerof2016. As anticipated in my last update, the instructions were indeed minimal, which is ok if you’ve done this kind of thing before but I haven’t! When I look at the finished toile I’m wondering what I found so difficult – time is a healer I guess!
It was wholly necessary to make a toile. I already knew the largest size of the pattern wouldn’t be big enough but there was a method in my madness. I wanted to test the construction more than anything and didn’t want to waste time making any preliminary changes to the pattern. Now that it’s made and the process understood I can see exactly what I need to do. I can also see some issues that will need further investigation.
First thing I will need to do is to grade it up a whole size. I will use the traditional cut and spread method. The sleeves need some extra room at the bicep (That news was met with a wry smile!) and I may also need to lengthen the sleeves but that will be confirmed once the 2nd toile is made and the shoulder pads are factored in.
The thing that surprised me most about this design was the lining. Fundamentally, there isn’t much of one but it is a summer blazer so it can be forgiven for half measures! there is a kind of butterfly section that overlaps on the inside back, joining the front facings around the armholes, if that makes sense.
A fine excuse to choose some fun lining fabric I think. The sleeves will be fully lined and the remaining exposed seams finished with binding. Might be nice to make some custom binding to match the butterfly lining. I’m not sure that’s what it’s technically called by the way!
I was a bit concerned about the sleeve caps. There seemed to be more gathering and less ease involved here. Then I read Male Devon Sewing’s post on setting in sleeves where he advises to steam-shrink the eased area of the sleeve caps before sewing in. That will help on the real deal, I’m sure. I’ll see what happens 2nd time round before I properly address this but I may also need to start and finish the ease stitches slightly further apart.
The assembly of the collar and collar stand properly had me confused. I really couldn’t make sense of sewing two concave seams together. But it makes sense now that it adds the roundy shape. The black stitching is where the pressed open joining seam will be topstitched.
The topstitching wont be seen in any case once the collar is folded down. Thinking I should use some red melton or similar for the collar stand. It seems to be a feature on some of Mr O’s other jackets. That wont be seen much of either of course. But the joy of knowing it is under there excites me a little bit already!
The one construction instruction that still didn’t translate was attaching the collar to the lapel. The instructions said to sew all round the edge of the collar to a point, trim and turn right side out. It allows nothing to sink into the top of the lapel seam so unless I find instructions somewhere else, I’m going to stop the stitching further back so I can insert the whole 1.5cm seam allowance of the collar, snuggly in place. You can see in the picture below where I’ve unpicked the stitches already to see if that would work.
Burda gives no clue as to how I line the vents on the sleeve cuffs but luckily I read up about ‘fake’ vents on sleeves and so there’ll be no unnecessary fiddlesome lining going on here, hooray!
I’ve enjoyed the process of making a toile, especially getting to write notes all over it so I know what to change and what to remember next time. And I’ve learned so much already, before I’ve even started on the real thing!
So now I’m all set to do some cutting and spreading and will be back with a 2nd toile soon.
While you’re waiting for me, do hop over to see some of Male Devon Sewing‘s amazingly detailed posts for #Blazerof2016. They really are very helpful.
It was launched just last week as a fun way to raise some awareness and some funds for a worthwhile cause – The Eve Appeal Charity: to date, the only cancer research charity focussed on improving detection, risk prediciton and prevention of all five gynaecological cancers.
From March to October this year, sewists from across the UK will be encouraged to sew one of the featured vintage dressmaking patterns, ranging from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. Money raised from the sale of each pattern will go to the The Eve Appeal Charity. The selection is amazing, but then I’m hugely biased – I’m a sucker for a vintage pattern! You can browse and purchase yours by clicking on the images below or from the official website:www.vintagesewalong.co.uk
And there will be plenty of opportunity to share your finished garments and follow others using hashtag #bvsewalong and copying in @McCallpatternUK on Twitter or @McCallpatternUK on Instagram.
To support the campaign there’ll be vintage workshops, events in store, a vintage tea party, a special supplement in Love Sewing Magazine and a blogger tour. That’s where I come in – scheduled for June 24th, to reveal my chosen vintage garment from the selection above. Can’t let the cat out of the bag just yet but I can reveal that it will come hand in hand with a giveaway of the self same pattern so be sure to keep tuned for details, because it’s a goodie!!
This skirt wasn’t on a list. Moreover it jumped to the top of the queue once I’d seen the fabric and decided I had to have a quilted skirt. I knew too that it would be a perfect pairing for my Sarah Shirt that I tested for By Hand London.
When I stumbled across the quilty roll of fabulousness in A-One, Goldhawk Road, I had a flashback to some seriously stored inspiration: I fell in love with Marie’s quilted pleather skirt 2 years ago and clearly it didn’t leave my head. But I also saw Paloma Faith sporting a pink pvc quilted skirt on The Voice a couple of weeks ago (can’t find visual ref, sorry) which clearly gave a nudge to dislodge to said stored inspiration.
It’s not A-line, like Marie’s or Paloma’s though it would have been good to eliminate the darts. I figured that Sarah needed to do all the hollering and she needed a small straight skirt to wear underneath. It probably could have been more understated but I wasn’t up for sewing something so boring!
I used an existing self-drafted skirt pattern and shortened it. The poomfy fabric is totally unsuitable for a waistband so I faced it with some leftover heavyweight polyester satin. No interfacing needed. In fact no more bulk whatsoever needed! I did understitch and pressed with a cloth on a low heat but with all my might to get the waist seam vaguely flat!
I haven’t lined it yet. Still pondering whether to or not. There are no messy edges inside, the quilty fabric doesn’t fray, but it does rustle when I walk! Might be a bit irritating for my work colleagues when I trot back and forth to the kitchen to make a cuppa. Will road-test it next week and test for ‘tuts’!
No fancy shoot this week (save the glimpses of it on the Sarah Shirt post). Mr O is away gigging with The Redfords, at a wedding fair, and I’m desperately trying to save some time so that I can get on with his #Blazerof2016 blazer toile!
So please forgive me as I bugger off to defluff the table and get cutting into that calico.
This is By Hand London‘s latest lady, Sarah. Released just last week. A classy swingy shirt to interpret any way you fancy. She’s a dress up or down kinda girl with gorgeous sleeves so I snatched that offer of pattern-testing and got straight on it.
The sleeves are what I love most about this shirt. Nicely full but not so much that they’d trail in your soup. And with a subtle puff on the shoulder, it makes for a great shape. But there’s an alternative short sleeve design with a cuffed hem, if you’d prefer.
The Peter Pan collar has a roundy and a pointy option too. I went for sharp corners because, well, that’s just the way I was rolling that day. But the roundy collar looks just as good on all the others I’ve seen.
Sarah calls for a light to medium weight fabric and I do believe I hit the nail on the head with this black cotton silk. I’ll never get away with not ironing it but it doesn’t crease to madly, even when I’ve left it on ‘one of the piles’. Of course that meant French seams all the way, but that’s ok because it looks dead neat inside and out. the only seams I had to trim and serge were the armholes. The yoke is designed in such a way that it encloses all seams too and with some tiny hand-stitchery to the undercollar, it’s beautifully neat all round. Note that I chickened out of any top-stitching, though!
I used poppers/press-studs for the cuffs though I was very tempted to extend the cuff beyond the sleeve end to make for faux cufflinks or maybe even real ones. There’s always a next time!
Theres a lot of button holes to sew down the front placket. Instructions call for 10-15 and mine has 12. But they are necessary to get that neat flat finish. My buttonhole action decided to wreak havoc and I ended up having to redo 2 of them. One for bad positioning and one that was just an oversewn mess. Out came a brand new scalpel blade. I wasn’t going to loose a fight over a final detail. Took a lot of patience to unpick but successfully managed to create new ones and dead chuffed I was about that too!
I love the pleats on the front yokes and at the centre back but I was quite surprised at how much swing was involved. It’s not normally a silhouette that I’d go for. I’m usually a ‘tucker-in’ of blouses, but once I saw how it looked, when I wore it loose for the photos I really liked it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that!
This isn’t a quick one to run up. But it’s none too taxing either. I’d say the only difficulty with this pattern lies with however challenging your fabric is. Mine required a bit of careful handling and I imagine chiffon or the likes would need a bit of a talking to but a more stable cotton would have been much easier and quicker to work with, I think.
If, like me, you’re sold on Sarah, she’s up for grabs over at By Hand London.
Photography: Daniel Selway Shirt: BHL Sarah Skirt: handmade (yet to be blogged) Tights: M&S (I think!) Boots: Irregular Choice
Handbag: Fara charity shop, Ealing
Sunglasses: Retro Peepers
So this week, I finally chose what pattern to use for #Blazeof2016. I’ve decided to make it extra difficult for myself by going for the minimal instructions of the Burda Style magazine pattern from February 2016 issue, and I’ve just got as far as tracing the pieces. It took most of Saturday afternoon but that’s ok because I had an empty house save Phryne Fisher and Jack Robinson to keep me company!
The tracing took longer than usual not just because of all the pieces but because I was aware of how easy it would be to miss a notch or a mark of instruction. So I was like a detective myself, scanning the spaghetti lines with eagle eyes! I want this jacket to work so I need to make sure every detail is attended to. It didn’t help that the red lines on the pattern sheet I was following clashed with the red pattern pieces of the featured ladies blouse. This could wind up a very interesting hybrid ‘blouzer’, but let’s hope not!
For anyone who’s daunted by the tracing of Burda patterns – and let’s face it, that’s most of us – the following might be of help:
Top tips for tracing Burda patterns
Work on a large clean flat area
Use pattern weights or similar to hold your papers in place as you trace
Refer to the Pattern Overview to ensure you capture every notch, seam number, slit mark and grainline arrow
Tick off each piece in the list as you go
Label all of your pieces with Model No., size and piece description / number
Remember seam allowances are not included so write that clearly on your pattern pieces too OR add them to your pieces and mark that they are included*
Photocopy the image to file with your pattern envelope if storing separately
*I will be making size adjustments to the pattern so I have left the seam allowance off. It’s way easier to play around with minus SA. And then I will either add it at the end or mark it directly onto the fabric when the pattern is pinned on.
Incidentally, the fabric we’ve decided on is a gorgeous traditional boating stripe from Yorkshire Fabrics. 100% wool, made in England which raises a little smile every time I see that selvedge! Doesn’t come cheap so I’ve wrapped it up like a precious swaddled baby and put it away for safe keeping until the calico version is made good. No chances being taken here!
I really am in the slow lane here but there is a distinct advantage to this. Have you seen how MaleDevonSewing is steaming ahead with his amazing tailoring skills? For anyone else who is pootling along like me, he has posted some cool construction photos and instructions. Most of which I’ve never heard of. All of which I will be employing!
Di Kendall has shared the progress of the lovely striped blazer on her blog and it’s great to see lots more activity from other participants of #Blazerof2016 on Twitter too. Keep posting your progress… I need all the help I can get!! 😉
Thank you so much to everyone for your lovely words of support for #Blazerof2016 and especially to those who have signed up. And for anyone who’s teetering on the edge of joining in there’s still bags of time!
Typically my working-week has been busier than expected and there’s been no room for sewing but I did manage a little recce of potential sewing patterns that I’d like to share with you. Don’t hold your breath though. It won’t take long!
This little scout round the web – and to be fair, it was a little scout – has had some surprising results. When MaleDevonSewing suggested that menswear only represented 6% of sewing patterns, he wasn’t exaggerating!
Searching through the contemporary and classics of the Big 4‘s, this is all I came up with:
Of course there are only so many variations a man’s jacket might display, for example: the pockets, the lapel shape, the vent, if any, button cuffs or not, lined or not etc. No Westwood meeting McQueen with crazy shoulder shapes and asymmetric cross body lapels but that’s ok. We’ll make it interesting in our own way, right?!
So Burda gets the prize not just for the most patterns found but also for their jacket patterns featured in this month’s Burda Style magazine. What were the chances of that?
How are you getting on with your pattern searching? Have you found any designs by independent sewing pattern companies or have you gone vintage? There certainly seems to be more of those floating around. However, Mr O has a broader chest than most of those 50’s men it seems, hence my Big4 search. But to be fair, to find anything larger than a 44 chest in a modern day pattern is pretty rare too, it seems. Unfairly represented in more ways than one, then!
I think I’ll be going with the pattern on the left hand page of Burda Style magazine. I’m a bit nervous of the minimal instructions but I’ll be calling Jamie to the rescue if I get stuck! So calico at the ready I hope to be tracing and toiling sometime soon.