Sunday, 29 July 2012

A two-skirt weekend

Pattern: Tiered maxi skirt from Make It and Love It (via Delia Creates)

Fabric: Ditsy cotton and plain cotton from Mason's

Size: Me!

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend about how we want to start dressing as the 30-something girls we are - a bit more grown-up and sophisticated. So I made a skirt most 5-year-olds would love to wear to a party with jelly and ice cream. Ah well, that's just my style!

The tutorial is for a maxi skirt for a child, but the measurements are so simple that with a bit of maths even I could cope with, I changed it to a knee-length skirt for an adult. Magic!

I am particularly pleased with this project as it meant resurrecting fabric that I thought I had killed. Before the items on this blog began, I made an attempt at following a tutorial for a simple skirt with a smocked waistband. The tutorial assured me that the fabric would shrink by half once the smocking was done. Either they lied or I did something very wrong because I ended up with a skirt I could share with a number of friends, simultaneously. I made a couple of hacked attempts to save it but the result was just a pile of useless fabric pieces. I felt very annoyed that I had wasted perfectly good, and very pretty fabric, so made some bunting to make myself feel better.

As it has been gloriously sunny recently, my wardrobe thoughts turned to gypsy skirts and so I sought out a tutorial. I thought it would be fun to do a striped one, and through the conservatory doors, I saw the scraps of fabric waving at me. I made my measurements and did lots of cutting out and sewing bits together to create the strips. The beauty is that as the skirt is so froofy, the joins get lost in the folds of fabric. A bit of elastic, and some pretty lace edging later, and my beautiful fabric has a life!!

I am also very pleased as there was a certain amount of freestyling with this, working out lengths of panels, where to put the lace, and how to attach, etc. I'm always in awe of Elena at Tea for Two Diary and her ability to just make stuff up as she goes along, so I'm chuffed to be even part way on the journey to being that clever!

Yet again, you're going to have to suffer some awful self-takes, and a couple of quickly-done close-ups of the fabric. This has to be the most fun item I own right now I think. It makes me glad just looking at it and that can't be bad!

That's my bike, Troy, photobombing me on the first shot.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Actually the easiest skirt in the world!

Pattern: Tutorial from iCandy

Fabric: Jersey from Mason's

Size: Mine!

I had a lovely day today - a bit of a lie-in, a walk with Little Minx, then a trip to Mason's fabric shop (few things fill me with greater joy!), and a fabulous lunch and much-needed catch-up with a friend. I bought some jersey fabric with the intention of making a start on the Hopscotch skirt, and a couple of hours later it was all done and dusted!
This is the first thing I've made from a tutorial and it was brilliant! So simple, and the instructions were clearly explained, as well as well photographed.
I did find that I needed to make the waistband quite a bit smaller than I measured, but that may have been me measuring badly. I wanted the skirt to sit on my hips so went for 36", but ended up decreasing it by quite a lot so it was probably 33 - 34" by the end.
I also wasn't happy with the look of my gathering - it looked cheap. So i unpicked and put in pleats instead. I confess these aren't very even and I could have done a better job had I measured them properly, but I don't think it ruins the skirt.
I love this - it fits, looks reasonably smart, yet feels as comfy as slouchies. And no zip or buttons required!
Mama Earthly laughed at me the other day saying that I always say I'm going to make ten of everything, but I actually might with this!

Big Minx is away this week with work so you'll have to excuse my awful 'taken in the mirror' photos, but I was excited so wanted to share! :-)

By the way, has everyone listened to the second installment of the excellent Action Science Theatre? If not, get over there for some science-based laughs.

Monday, 23 July 2012

"The easiest dress in the world" AKA a lesson in humility

"Know your colours and know your fabrics...that's what I tell all my little girls."
- Mermaids

Pattern: Butterick 5456


Fabric: Jersey from Ebay

Size: 12 (slowly edging my way down sizes. I could even have made a 10 for this one, I think).

When I mentioned I was going to tackle a jersey dress next there were many intakes of breath and a chorus of "you're brave" even from my experienced sewing friends. You've probably sussed by now that I'm being a bit gung-ho in my attitude to trying new things in sewing, so I wasn't put off.
I bought some beautiful brown, teal, and turquoise fabric off Ebay and intended to pair it with a teal or turquoise for the contrast. You would not believe how hard, nay impossible, it was to find something in a sympathetic colour! I trawled the internet and searched my local fabric shop and in the end had to plump for brown!

A lesson to be learned here about fabric sourcing. I ended up with a lightweight jersey for the patterned fabric in a 4-way stretch, and a thicker jersey in the brown with a 2-way stretch. Not only was this a bit unfortunate, it made life REALLY difficult when constructing the dress, as I was also using the brown for lining the top. In future I think I will only buy jerseys from a shop so i can feel the weight and stretch, or if I must buy online I will ask plenty of questions before purchasing!

So, I set about making the dress and declared "HA! This is going to be the easiest dress ever and I'm going to make about 10 of them!" as I sped along sewing pieces together. Of course as soon as those ridiculous words escaped my mouth, I regretted it. We all knew from that point on it would be anything but simple. All sorts of things went wrong: I tried being clever and lining the skirt for fear it might be a bit see-through, only to realise it added way too much bulk at the waistband, so had to unpick LOADS. I then also realised that I had cut the front lining with the stretch in the wrong direction and as a result it was pulling, leaving massive armholes which looked, quite frankly, ridiculous. More unpicking and I was practically back to square one.

At this point I had to leave it for a few days as i knew the frustration would result in silly mistakes. I am quite pleased with that reaction, seeing as I'm the world's least patient person (verified by Big Minx on at least a weekly basis). Today I got back on the horse, however, and cut a new piece of front lining and sew sew sewed. I now have a dress. I modelled it for Big Minx before putting on the bottom band and his comment was "it's lovely, but wa-hay-hay too short!" Tee hee.

I think I'm going to be lazy and leave the bottom unhemmed. After all, that's the plus side of jersey, it doesn't fray. This does rely on me being able to cut it neatly though as at the moment it's a bit uneven.

I'm reasonably pleased with how this turned out but would definitely like to make another one with better-matched fabrics that will turn out (hopefully) a lot neater. I think I shall try wearing it to work and hope that the skirt is not that see-through.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

A Jacket, or 'HOW many new techniques?!'

Pattern: Butterick 5568

Fabric: Grey twill suiting from

Size: 14 (think I need to start making smaller size, but unfortunately 14 was the smallest size.

I knew a jacket would be tricky for a novice like me, but with encouragement from many friends and a 'why not?' attitude, I set about trying one.

I loved the fabric - really thick and sturdy and fun to cut out. Big Minx was not so keen on all the shedding it did all over the sewing room carpet. A lot of hoovering took place during the making of this garment.

I sped along, feeling really rather cocky about how much my cutting had improved, how beautiful it felt to have medium weight interfacing on a thick fabric, how very much it was looking like a jacket and in hardly no time!

And then came the lining.

Of all the new things I've tried (buttonholes, zips, pockets...) I did not expect lining to be my nemesis. After all, it's just sewing the jacket over again, right? Kinda. Trouble is, my machine hated the lining fabric and decided to rip it and then try to consume it in one big bunch. It was like cookie monster had descended. After ruining one front piece I sent a desperate BBM to my sewing expert friend Whim Wham (make a note of her, she's gonna be a big name one day) who made some excellent suggestions about using a smaller needle and adjusting the tension. This stopped my machine eating the fabric and off I went.
Throughout the whole lining process however, a really annoying phenomenon occurred, whereby I would merrily sew for a few inches and then the top thread would snap off. I adjusted the tension a million times and nothing seemed to really solve the problem, so I ended up with lots and lots of short rows of sewing, and lots and lots of rethreading of a small needle. On hearing me cry "I HATE YOU!" at the sewing machine, Big Minx had to physically remove me from the sewing room at one point and stroke my hair until I calmed down.
I genuinely thought I was going to have to give up, but, like a beautiful dawn after a stormy night, I realised that I had a fairly satisfactory piece of lining and that project jacket was back on!

It all went quite well for a bit until that annoying stage, where it's tantalisingly close to the end, but all the finishing still needs doing. The pattern suggested hand stitching a blind hem but I'm a bit too lazy for that so decided to embark on learning how to do it on the machine. Actually, the theory is quite simple but again, the machine gremlins came to play and I was soon embroiled in my own private nightmare of snapping threads and bunching threads, and a general refusal to sew in a dignified manner! We wrestled, I sought advice on Facebook, and eventually tried the old favourites of twiddling a few knobs and rethreading. It was still a fairly painful process, but eventually I had myself a blind hem. As is my mantra, it's far from perfect but still pretty cool.

I left out the shoulder pads as I didn't want to look too 'power dresser' although in retrospect they might have been a good idea to give more structure. If I made it again, I think I would lengthen the waist as it sits a bit high on me (a lesson that doesn't seem to sink in, annoyingly!). And, as Whim Wham so wisely suggested - make a toile next time! It's definitely not perfect but it's growing on me. Perhaps it'll see the light of day.

Anyway, here is the evidence: