Saturday, 30 March 2013

Shopping Spree!

Thanks to my very generous mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, I got some vouchers to spend at Minerva Crafts for my recent birthday. So of course I blew it all on fabric (and a few buttons.)

I took the opportunity to get a mix of things I really needed for specific projects I had in mind, and to try a few things I might not normally buy. This resulted in a certain amount of hit and miss, but more hit than miss. In fact, only one of the fabrics was a let down, which is good innings when you're buying fabric blind online!

First, I got some excellent quality wine coloured corduroy, to turn into the Kelly skirt. Yes, I may be shamelessly copying one of the photos on the pattern page, but when I was a teen, I searched endlessly for a cord skirt in this colour that wasn't mini. Needless to say I never found it. So now's my chance to make that dream come true! (It looks more red in this photo, but it is definitely wine.)

Next is some black broderie anglaise (which looks grey here, but isn't) for my second picnic blanket skirt, now that I've made my peace with the first one and realised that a less generous waist measurement will work better. The holes are quite large in this, so I'll probably wear a slip with it. In fact, I'm considering making several simple slips in basic colours to wear with my skirts, rather than lining each one individually. It just seems easier. I had originally intended to get red buttons for this skirt, but I figured it'd be much more versatile with white. Unfortunately, the buttons haven't arrived yet as they weren't in stock, so I'll share those when they get here.

 I also got this vintage print cotton, which I'm hoping to use for my first Wiksten Tova. I'm not 100% set on this, as I worry about the drape a bit, but I'll give it a go and see how I get on. I just think it's the kind of print that would look lovely with jeans.

 The second printed cotton I went for was a bit of a surprise. I expected it to have a white or cream background, going from the photos on the website, but as you can see below, it's actually more beige. I have yet to decide what to use this for, but have some ideas brewing. Ideally, I think it would be better used together with a plain colour in a top. I was thinking of maybe Deer and Doe's new top pattern, the Datura, with the yoke with cut outs in turquoise cotton and the bottom of the blouse in this print. Or vice versa. Again, though, that'd be something I'd have to give some more thought.

I also bought some plain white cotton lawn for lining, that really isn't worth photographing. Similarly the button I bought to replace the one my cat chewed on my first picnic blanket skirt.

And so we come to the disappointing purchase. I got this green sheer voile, with an eye to make another Mathilde blouse with sheer sleeves and a lined bodice. Unfortunately, this fabric looked much more delicate on the website than it is in reality. It's quite coarse and the floral pattern has a raised scratchy feel of acrylic paint. To be honest, from a distance, it looks okay, but close up, it's just not something I can imagine wearing, at least not as a blouse. It was in the clearance section, so it wasn't very expensive, and I don't mind adding it to my stash until inspiration hits. Maybe it'll be good for costuming. Or maybe someone can give me some suggestions?

It's much greener than it appears in this photo btw. Apparently my comeuppance for bad mouthing my other half's camera skills is the inability to take a halfway decent picture myself.

So while I'm eager to get cracking on, maybe with the Tova or a new skirt, I have to set all this aside for the time being. School holidays mean I wouldn't get much sewing done anyway, but I'm now in full pre packing mode (which is, as the title suggests, preparing to pack, by doing mountains of laundry!) But I'll have something to look forward to when I get back. I also plan to make Pattern Runway's gathered sundress, and have already printed, taped and adjusted the pattern and made a wearable muslin, of sorts - shock! So maybe I'll have that to share if I find the time in the next few days.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Spur Of The Moment Sewing

So today, I was writing lists. I like lists. A lot. And since in about 2 weeks we'll be packing up our car with kids and crafts and wedding clothes, I need a lot of lists. Today's list was a detailed shopping list. Usually I don't take a list to the supermarket, I just note down a few keys things that we've run out of on my phone, and buy the usual quantities of everything else. But I thought this would be a good opportunity to use up a lot of the things in our cupboards and freezer before we go to Belfast, and I plan only to buy essentials. Hence the list.

This particular shopping trip also includes things I don't usually buy but need for wedding purposes - like a decent nail file, and insoles and a garment bag for my other half's suit. So I found myself checking through my make-up, to see if I needed anything, and despairing over my lack of a large enough make up bag. I have several tiny ones, which makes it hard to keep track of everything. But I could do with a big one to keep all the important wedding day cosmetics in one place and thus reducing the chances of a pre-wedding rage meltdown when I can't find the mascara. 'I'll add that to the list,' I thought. And then I realised, 'Hang on, I can just make one for free.' Which is what I did.

I had some grey patterned linen in my stash that I got in a remnant bundle a few years back, and liked, but couldn't decide on a project to use it in. This seemed like the perfect fit. I also rustled up just enough waterproof lining fabric and a black zipper and got to work. The interesting thing about this linen, which I got from Seamstar, was that it appeared to have the Virgin Mary on it. On my remnant, she was only visible at the edges, so it's just speculation (maybe Catholic school makes you see religious imagery everywhere) but it sure looks an awful lot like her, or is at least reminiscent of her. This isn't something I've seen before on fabric in any of the stores I usually buy from, and Seamstar didn't have any more of it listed, so I've no way of checking. It just struck me as odd.

It took me about an hour to put this together. I contemplated adding a cotton lining with the waterproof layer sandwiched in between, but I figured it'd be much easier to wipe down the waterproof fabric if something spills, so I didn't bother in the end. I used an A4 piece of card as a template, and added 1/2 inch on each side for seams. Then it was just a matter of inserting the zip at the top, stitching around all the edges and turning. Not sophisticated, but plenty good enough for my needs.

One side (excuse my manky ironing board)
The other side

Simple waterproof lining

Big enough to hold everything I could ever need!
This is why I love learning to sew. Today I would have spent money on a make-up bag without thinking about it, but thanks to my sewing machine, I was able to save myself a little bit of money, while also enjoying the satisfaction of creating something that I truly needed.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Picnic Blanket Skirt Refined

So after my recent post about my picnic blanket skirt woes, I set it aside for a bit, feeling disheartened. But today I set about fixing it so I feel more comfortable wearing it in the future, and I think I've succeeded.

Sorry about the headless picture, but I'm not looking great today! Also, you can't really get a sense of length in this shot, because my other half has literally no idea how to take a photo and doesn't take direction well. The waistband meets up more evenly than it looks in the picture, I just hadn't adjusted it properly. I feel I've made my peace with the gathers, and have accepted that my arse looks wide in everything, because it is! I didn't dare take a photo from behind though, so you can judge for yourselves. Sorry about that too. The fact remains, however, that I will be leaning towards patterns with little or no gathers in future.

I was relieved to hear that I'm not the only person who had the problem of gaping between the top two buttons. Kerry from Kestrel Finds and Makes mentioned that she solved the problem with a popper, but I didn't have any to hand, so I used a hook and eye to stop the gaping. It works rather well. In the end, I didn't move the top button to tighten the waistband, as I felt in the long run, I'd be more grateful for having a little breathing room (and room for big dinners!)

The skirt did have a bit of a mishap though. Whilst lying forlorn on the spare bed, my cat Ivy took to sleeping on it, and, unbeknownst to me, had a good chew on the fifth button down. I think you can just make out in this picture how it's slightly lighter than the rest. She did away with the shiny finish on the wood completely and now it's all rough to the touch. I didn't have more of these buttons to hand, but when I'm ordering fabric next, I'll probably replace it. It didn't seem to do the cat any harm, thankfully!

I thought I would style this skirt with white t-shirts or blouses, but in reality, it felt a little too reminiscent of the colourful plaid based school uniforms that were so familiar while growing up in Belfast. This may be a personal association, and I'm not sure if it would look like a school uniform to the casual observer, but for now, I think I'll be sticking to other colours. If spring ever arrives, my trusty brown wedges will look great with this skirt, but until the snow goes, it'll have to live in the wardrobe!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Follow my blog on Bloglovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

It seems all the cool kids are at it - switching from Google Reader (out of necessity) to Bloglovin. I've decided to join too so as I don't miss any posts from the many, many blogs I've got linked to in my favourites bar. It just makes more sense. So why not follow me too - click the link above!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Picnic Blanket Skirt Problems

Although I've been itching to get on with garment sewing, and have quite a few projects planned, wedding prep is taking priority for the next few weeks, so I haven't got much time for selfish sewing. I did, however, manage to finish a picnic blanket skirt. I don't have any photos of me wearing it just yet, just this one, badly taken, shot of it hanging up.

As much as I love the style of this skirt, and was eager to finish and wear it, I have to admit, I'm not in love with it. I chose a dark checked cotton from Ditto fabrics simply because I prefer dark colours on my lower half. It's beautifully light and soft enough to be comfortable in spring and summer, but paired with my trusty Pretty Polly thermals and boots, it can do double duty as a wool look skirt in winter. So far, so good.

But it's not perfect. First, the fit is a bit off. I used the ever fabulous Tilly's guidelines for self drafting the very easy pattern for the skirt. And while I carefully cut everything so as the lines of the checks would be even all the way around (therefore making it a snap to hem, in theory) in reality, as is so often the case with me, there was a mishap, and the fabric slipped while I cut it when it was folded. So no nice symmetry. I can live with that though. The waistband is a bit loose too. I think I placed the waistband button incorrectly. It's too far to the left (as we look at it in the photo) and it's causing some unpleasant gaping between the next button down. I'm hoping moving the button will fix it, and also make it feel more snug on.

I've worn this skirt out, though on that particular day we were running rather late and I ended up shoving my bare legs into black ankle boots on my way out the door. Not my best look. Maybe that contributes to me not quite feeling the skirt. The other thing is, that while this type of skirt, with a fitted waist and loose around the hips, is my go to style, there's something about this skirt (and, for that matter, Sewaholic's crescent skirt) that just isn't working for me. The Hollyburn skirt works so well though, and is similarly fit only in the waist. I think the difference is the gathers, which do nothing for my Kardashian proportioned rear and make me look as though I'm wearing a bustle. The guidelines for making the skirt actually allow you to increase or decrease the amount of volume, but I went with what worked for Tilly, and effectively, the skirt is twice my hip measurement, which I'm learning is too much for my build. I think the combinations of nipped in waist and generous gathers exaggerates my hips and bum more than I'd like

I'll hopefully get a few photos of me in the skirt soon, and you can give me your opinion. I hope fixing the waist and styling it more carefully will help allay my misgivings, because I do love the fabric and the style. I was planning to make it again, in black broderie anglaise with red buttons. Next time though, I may only make it 1.5 times my waist, if not less.

I'm reluctant to talk about the cost of this skirt, since it may end up not working. I suppose though, if I'm still not feeling it, it would be simple enough to remove some of the volume.

Pattern: free!
Fabric: £15 in total.
Buttons: £1.60
Thread & interfacing: stash
Total: £16.60

I'm hapy with the cost here, as it could be a very wearable skirt. And if nothing else, it has taught me once and for all that waist gathers are not my friend!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

In Which I Avoid Being A 'Bad Mummy™'

If you are the kind of person (let's say, for instance, a librarian, or a mum with kids who have been in school for several years) you may be aware that it's World Book Day tomorrow, and that this now includes dressing up. When I was in school (and I only left school ten years ago, so not exactly the mists of time) you got a £1 book token and that was that. Now, though, you have to dress up as your favourite character, and seeing as my sons are only in their second year of their school career, I was completely unprepared. Just like last year, really. Last year though, they already had green dragon costumes and I managed to convince them that Zog the Dragon really was their favourite book (we fudged the bit about Zog being an orange dragon.) This year, I've been a bit bogged down in wedding planning, and wasn't prepared to pay a fortune for Gruffalo costumes, but luckily, their Dad has been reading the first Harry Potter book to them at bedtime, and I had a plan. And a sewing machine.

I started with two black men's t-shirts from the basics range in Tesco, which set me back £2.50 each. I cut them down the middle front, seamed the edges quickly, and checked if they needed taking up. Then I found an image of the Hogwarts crest online (I actually used a photo of an embroidered patch and used that, to give my cheat versions a realistic look) and printed it onto some iron on transfer paper we had lying around the house. Then I simply ironed it onto the t-shirt robes. I also picked up a pair of reading glasses with a roundish frame from Poundland, and popped out the glass for Jake (on the left) who doesn't wear glasses.

As for the wands, I had some coloured construction paper left over from wedding crafting, but alas! Only one sheet of brown! I used one brown and one orange, rolled them tightly and secured with a little bit of tape. The kids don't seem to mind, and they're safer than them using actual sticks from the garden. A bit of eyeliner for the scar, and we're all set!

They seem really chuffed with their costumes. Last time I made them costumes, for their first Halloween party in nursery (they went as Thor) I felt that I'd somehow let them down, since they were the only homemade costumes in an entire class full of shop bought Spidermen and Disney princesses. I have to learn to step up and be proud of my little costumes. After all, I only had 24 hours notice!

So in total, it cost me £6 to make two costumes in next to no time. This could possibly be my bargain make of the year!

PS: I have previous form in the area of ad hoc Harry Potter costumes. Back in the day, when I was about 17 and my brothers were 10ish, they had no costumes for Halloween. I made them Harry Potter costumes out of artfully cut bin bags (this was when it was still acceptable to wear bin bags at Halloween), our collection of Harry Potter stickers (for the crests) and cardboard glasses. If you ever meet my brother Daniel, you should ask him about them - he still thinks it was the most awesome thing ever. If only I had a photo :(

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Is my Mathilde a winner?

I entered my recent Mathilde blouse into a competition on the Facebook page of a local fabric store, Mandors. The idea is that customers submitted photos of items they'd made with purchases from the store, and Mandors was where I got my cotton for my Mathilde. The photo with the most likes wins, so I'd be forever grateful if you could all hop over there and 'like' my entry!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Linen Hollyburn Skirt

I think I've probably mentioned before how much I love Tasia's patterns - I mean, they're just perfect for my body shape and her instructions are always super easy to follow. So of course it was a no brainer that I picked up the Hollyburn skirt pattern. Skirts that fit at the waist and flare at the hips are the ample bottomed girl's best friend!

So here it is in all it's wrinkly crinkly linen glory! It was a breeze to put together. I cut a 14, which is my usual size in Sewaholic patterns and it need no adjustments at all. I was originally going to cut view A, which is a shorter skirt, but I've been feeling recently that knee length is more my style, so in the end I went for B, which includes super cute tab and button detailing at the waist. (It actually sits just at the bottom of my knee.)

Things went a bit wrong at the waistband. When I folded over the facing to the inside, it wasn't quite as long as the outer waistband, so I had to stitch further up to keep it in place. You can kind of see the row of stitching in the photo below, but in reality, the stitching and fabric match so well that you'd never notice. It is the kind of niggling little thing that I wish I'd taken more time to do properly, instead of being lazy and impatient. Something to take on board for next time.

Apologies for the poor photography. I thought my skills with the camera were rock bottom, but Mister Beardface, my soon to be hubby, manages to sink a little deeper than that.

Once again, I got to indulge in some pretty buttons, though these are purely for show and don't actually work.

So, am I happy with it? I'd love to say 100% yes, and in most of the ways that matter (fit, construction) I'm really pleased. The thing that lets this little skirt down though is the fabric. I didn't realise until I started working with it that this is the kind of fabric which simply attracts dust and fluff. It doesn't feel static-y to wear, it just seems to collect all the cat hair and carpet fluff lurking around my house. Investing in a lint roller will fix that though. It fits perfectly and it goes with most things in my wardrobe, so on that front, it's a success.

Would I make it again? Most definitely yes. I might take a stab at the short length, but this length works so well for me, I can see myself making a few more in different fabrics and prints. I'm also planning to use the belt loop detail from the longer view on a future skirt.

How much did it cost? Well, a little more than most of my recent projects, but a lot less than buying a similar skirt in a shop which I'd probably have to compromise on in regards to fit and length.

Pattern - £12.95 (I'd like to leave out this cost, since it will go down with repeated use, but there it is for now)
Fabric - £19.98
Thread and interfacing came from my stash, as always.
Buttons - £2 (pricey for two buttons, but so pretty!)
Total - 34.93

I know that seems pretty high, but if you take off the cost of the pattern, which I'm always tempted to do, it's actually quite reasonable for what will surely be a wardrobe staple.