Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A project for every occasion...

There was a time in the past when it seemed sensible to have a new project (usually a pretty dress) for every single occasion. That worked fine when it was a couple of times a term at university. Now? Well now occasions are pretty much twice a week so I'm going to have to admit it's just not going to work. My newest project is a project to cover two weddings, the Edinburgh Fringe, August's London Tap Jam, a glorious return to stitchery after The Dry Months and a 4-year sewiversary.

Meet my Nani Iro Herringbone blazer. It's my second attempt at Burda's Hip Length blazer. I stand by Burda producing some really interesting jacket patterns but am sad to see they're so rarely made by users. Perhaps it's a photography thing. Who really needs a pastel boxy trouser suit?

ANYWAY, I first made this pattern about a year ago in Nani Iro double gauze and was bloody convinced it was a great idea. I made some mistakes, cut without seam allowance because there wasn't enough fabric and made a hash of the back. Serious hash. You remember, right?

Still, I like it. It's relaxed a bit and seemed to suit that odd sea of kimonos and mad jersey jackets in London.

But let's get back to the project I finished 3 months ago, not the one I finished 12 months ago...

For this version I really wanted to make good use of the stripes so used them on the cuffs and pocket welts. The fabric was so narrow that the stripes showed up on some of the taller pieces unintentionally. I like how the (unavoidable) stripe on the inside matches the height of the stripe on the cuffs though. It's a nice touch.

I also added a breast pocket to hold my Ironic Sunglasses (and theatre tickets)

Just to prove something to you: the sleeve vents were functional at one point. No longer. I don't think they would ever get opened, so I just sewed it shut when adding the lining. There's also some snazzy topstitching and buttonholes in bright blue.

There were plans for a front closure but I decided I was too lazy and discovered that the black pen used to mark the button/buttonhole wouldn't wash out I liked the sketchy fabric print and the markings were a fun design element for a sketchy jacket. Otherwise, I've added a tag and tried to add some pretty topstitching on the inside.

I didn't expect the jacket to be this big, it's quite huge. It also doesn't quite go with anything. So naturally I wear it with everything.


(Thank you to George and B for letting me steal their photos)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Dress Form Product Review: Nine Months On

This is not how I imagined using my dress form when I bought it:

Mind you, it's pretty useful for scaring the neighbours too:

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

We like 'em fast n' dirty*

*Blog posts and projects, not street fights or mealtimes


My laziness and reluctance to stand still long enough to take pictures is showing through again.

Sometimes you find yourself in the mood to sew, to write, to take pictures, to edit...rarely do all of them collide except for that massive sense of guilt that comes with 15 drafts in the wings, 10 projects waiting to be made, only 3 that actually fall in to both categories and 4 unblogged finished projects. And no photos for any of it.

Get on with it! Finish something!

Anyway. I made a fast and dirty project recently, which really deserves a fast and dirty post to go with it.

Bam. Black skirt for the office. I think it looks a little pious. Not sure what to make of it.

(Incidentally, the top is Burda 09/2012 Side Gather Top #130 one of my favourites) 

The fabric is some sort of spongy suiting. I don't like it that much because it frays like a bother and doesn't press well. But it's hard-wearing and has a little bit of give. I used it in some office trousers and they hold up fairly well after hundred of washes.

This was originally a dress that I had sewn up in a one-evening frenzy (don't get enough of those anymore) and had finished the innards nicely, and all by machine (an actual first!)

The deal is that I finished it and made it look nice, and having made a different version of the same pattern before, thought it would be a pretty simple make. Technically that was right. I mean look:

Also, I bought a deckchair, expect to see more of it

Except, this is what it actually looked like:

Not sure whose cans and shoulders that pattern was catering for, but they were definitely nothing like mine. So I sliced it up, salvaged my precious notions, chucked the bodice in the bin and made a skirt.

It is the least-fancy skirt you my ever see, there's an elastic waistband sewn directly to the top of it. No closures or anything like that. Job done. I was not about to waste more energy on either the fabric or the pattern.

 I think it worked out pretty well...


*Also, I swear that one day I'll get over this phobia of flash photography and post clearer pictures...maybe...*

*Also, it's Open House this weekend all across London. Hundreds of buildings are having open days and it's great to have a snoop in some hugely important buildings. If you live in Europe then it's Journees de la Patrimoine all-round, and I'd like to think it's a massive deal to celebrate our European heritage with days like these. Check it out.*

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Money Saving Tips for the Frugal Stitcher (4/7) - Manage your stash

Hey guys!

How are we all doing?

Today we're going to talk about stash management! What is this? I guess it's a way of looking at your store-cupboard for cooking up something crafty. There's stuff you need all the time, there are ingredients you need once in a blue moon and there's only so much you can actually deal with in the pantry. If you take care here, you'll save money, reduce waste and have everything you need within easy reach.

Do it right and you won't end  like me, with unusable Octopodae (octopuses)
See? Unusable octopus...

Let's break it down into a few stages

I'm not talking about discounts, coupons and freebies here (oh no, that comes later!), but more the questions and points you need to be thinking about when you're buying/inheriting/stealing fabric.

Here are some good ones to think about:
+ How does this fit in with the rest of my stash and projects? - Okay, so if your stash is all identical, you've got a problem. If your stash is all totally unrelated, clashing and mismatched, you've got an equally bad issue. If the bulk of your stash coordinates in terms of colour, hue, print, texture, weight etc, there's a much higher chance you'll find a way to use more of it, avoid duplicates and buy less.
+ Can I use this? - Are you grabbing it simply because it's beautiful? Can you think of anything to do with it? I've already said that a cash-strapped stitcher shouldn't be buying fabric heading straight to the stash. If you have nothing planned immediately, it's probably going straight to the back of the that packet of reindeer meat...
+ Do I need this now? - Pick an arbitrary deadline. One year is good. Let's call that your stash turnover. Think about your other projects, plans, obligations and your skill level. Can you feasibly use this fabric within that time? Can you manage a bouclé cocoon coat when you already bought the fabric for that twill trench?
+ How much do I need? - Don't bring home a bolt if you can't use a bolt, don't buy a metre when you know ideally need two, don't buy enough of a fabric for 4 projects when you know you'll only be able to make one. At the same time, it pays to know roughly how much fabric it'll take for you to make certain garments. If you're petite and slim, you'll obviously take less fabric than a tall, plus-size. Bear this in mind because those tiny pennies and half-metres will add up.

Going back to the idea of a stash turnover. I'd say the bulk of your fabric should be used within the turnover time. Yes, there are a few pieces that'll go back to the 1970s and you'll have no idea how you got them, or what you were drinking when you did, but the majority of fabric should be used before the deadline. Storage costs money, maintenance costs money, unused fabric costs money.

If you aim for something like this, you will think more critically about what/when you buy but also if you buy at all. You'll also probably be more focused and more versatile when making things too. 
This is my stash...

Of course, a lot of your stash should be going towards finished, usable objects and finished projects. When you're making things  and trying to save money there are two important things you need to consider: is this essential to the project? (Do I need to do this?) How can I do this using what I already have?

Once again, this is likely to get you thinking a little more creatively about what you're making. Here are a few options that could help:
Make your own shoulder pads
Swap out one fastening for another
Stabilise facings with scraps, finish facings with scraps, make facings with scraps!
Salvage failed projects for yardage and notions
Make your own stay tape and tie interfacing
Substitute chest pieces and thermal interlinings
Create your own rope bridge / escape cord
Piecing and design details
Built-in bra, anyone?

Getting rid of it
I probably should have said first, but the term "use" could probably do with being a bit broader. It's not just about the finished object. Think of it in terms of these options: stuffing, muslin, experiment, lining, swap, giveaway, gifting, shred/burn (for the anarchists), repurpose, recycle, sell (useful if you've got big yardage), teaching know, use as in "get rid of"...

Keep this in mind, any of these options are possible and will definitely help you manage your turnover time and the cost of your stash.

That's it today. Do you have any nifty ideas for stash management? 

Ciao for now,

Monday, 4 August 2014

Blogged down

Why do we do it?

Things recently got a bit out of hand and I stopped reading all the blogs I regularly follow. I opened up Bloglovin' one day to find 120 unread posts and an ominous dread that I would need to wade through all of these and need to be complimentary about each and every one. I'm currently at the Edinburgh Fringe and am struck with the same dread that a whole new mound will be there to greet me upon my return.

In truth, in these situations culling dull posts is quite easy when you know there are 5 more by the same author further down the line. The same goes for unfollowing the blogs you regularly skip over.

There are millions of people around the world making things for millions of different reasons. there are probably just a many millions of reasons to put a picture of it on the web and shout to the world "Look! I made a thing!".

That being said, blogging is largely about baring a tiny piece of our souls to the world. It's a risky business when your skill, taste, intelligence, integrity and body are all on show for some strangers to oggle and scrutinise. So it seems natural that when a particular community starts questioning the regular unwavering praise offered by readers, it would be a direct and personal affront to everything an individual within that community would stand for.

Grayson Perry regularly argues that we're all anxious to show off our cultual/social/intellectual capital to justify ourselves in the face of our peers. Perhaps it's  even more acute when you live your life just outside of the cultural norms set our by your society.You feel you need to fight your corner just a little harder.

We are proud of our makes. We don't need a blog to prove that. We're proud of our makes because we choose to wear them everyday, we offer them as gifts (or charge for our services), or give them pride of place in our homes.

Alexandra Schulman said fairly recently that writing about clothes is a lot easier than making them. But writing about clothes we have made? That's tough.

Perhaps in writing we expect to find a level of clarity, wit and precision in the way we communicate. Perhaps we automatically assume it will magically appear as we scrawl small, deliberate pieces on our creations. There's a hope that we can capture the emotional, spiritual and intellectual complexity of producing something with our hands and trying to show the world that this object doesn't exist in a vaccuum, and ultimately does not exist in a world of jargon, exclusivity and technical wizardy.

But we are clumsy and can end up with the reader screaming "stop bloody whining! You made a pretty dress! Be happy! Not everyone else can do that! Just stop being bloody miserable with it!"

I have a theory that what you make is a reflection of your state of mind at the time. Evidently how you write about that particular project will be a reflection of your state of mind too. Perhaps that's why so many bloggers feel they must blog projects in order.

Perhaps it's the tiny, fraught, emotional posts that get published, the ones which are embarassing later in life and appear petty/whinging to the reader, that are the most valuable. Yes they might annoy readers, they may lose you followers, they may spark a panoply of followup posts lambasting or defending you. You can't opt out of conflict. Apprently you can't opt out of accidentally poersonally and grossly offending people on the internet either (what's new?).

Why am I saying this? Because it's hard to discuss the merits/worth of some blogs over others publicly, without making some personally offensive comments about the ones you don't enjoy. But there is a big difference between the blogs you follow loyally and everything else avilable out there.

It inevitably forces you to think about the worth of your own blog too.


Sunday, 27 July 2014


I am totally baffled that it's July already.The back end of July too. Nothing has stopped or slowed down or relented since February and you, dear readers, have gone through so long without some interesting projects!

Truth be told, it's not happening at the moment. After the manic stitch-fest of April I had to swear off 'fun sewing' for May and June. I think it shows. The stash has doubled in size and once again those breezy summer fabrics may go another year unused.

With two weddings, the Edinburgh Fringe and a PhD graduation coming up, I'm forbidden from making any more pretty dresses. But even if the backlog of wishful projects is growing, I have managed to finish this:


I like my highland cow. Actually, it's not just a cow. It's a cow cosy. A tea cosy but big enough to be a kettle cosy should the need arise.

Squatting on a kettle, dangling toes

This guy is a belated birthday present for my grandparents. It's one thing to make a gift for someone else, but when it's for your grandparents you know you've got to get everything spot on.

Of course, with such high stakes (steaks? - beef joke? - no?)I found a model to copy. And then took a teeny bit of artistic licence.


 I drafted out a pattern with all of the detail that needed to be included. The useful thing about cosies, much like bags is that the pattern is simple. Just a bunch of different rectangles, wooo.

Most of his guts were nabbed from my stash, but the outer fabric had to be perfect. I was so lucky to find this boucle hidden in the back of the coatings in John Lewis Oxford Circus. £26/m. Yowch. Still, I only needed half a metre. Oh, but he will be such a pretty cow! I sighed

I couldn't not buy it.

The boucle is underlined with some cotton flannel, and there are two layers of batting before you get to the lining. The lining was a gift from JustSewJenna, thank you!

The construction took a whole weekend, and a huuuuuge thank you is due to B's family for letting me annex their sewing dining sewing room. They even let me get my hands on a Bernina for the first time!

The face was the only bit I hadn't planned in detail. Eyes are tough, they can make or break a character like this and it took 4 attempts to get them right. I handstitched all the face, definitely worth it, but still very difficult to get right. Everyone who's seen this guy has immediately cracked a big grin so I think he must be good enough ;)

I chose to leave a gap at the top of the lining and pull the whole thing through, just to keep everything as tidy as possible.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Oh, I'll admit it's predictable...


Let's start today with a quiz:

You are in Stockholm Arlanda Airport, you and your accomplice  need to buy dinner. You go to a Cafe Ritazza and order two teas and two sandwich baguettes. How much does that cost you in total?

Twenty. Three. Quid.

Thanks Sweden, I was worried I'd be stuck with a bunch of unspent SEK at the end of the trip!


Travel. There are few things better in life than a good bit of travel.

If you spend your time in a new town hunting for fabric shops and haberdasheries, chances are you're much happier to go off the beaten track, go where the locals go and see a lot more of the actual town than the standard attractions. You can just take an hour though it's normally the home of the friendly, talkative people who will show off their own projects to you. The latter will obviously take a lot longer. The other advantage is the lack of queues, touts and other foreigners in your way ;)

There are also some good recommendations for Stockholm here on Artisan Square and Tripadvisor  though I'm not sure how outdated they are now.

With that in mind, we found a few good stores in Stockholm that are well worth a visit.

First Stop: Yarn Shop
We had an hour to spare, so went hunting (in completely the wrong direction) for a fabric shop and stumbled across Ekens Garn instead. B, being the Crochet Kid, was very keen to take a look. He assures the quality and variety in here is absolutely excellent. I just like the pretty colours.

The owners are absolutely lovely, one is Swedish and the other is South African and is very keen to show off his sample garments and impressive projects. One was a crochet v-neck jumper that is totally reversible and has a different pattern on each side. Impressive does not cover it.

Ekens Garn, Ringvägen 64, 118 61 Stockholm. Tel. +46 (0) 8/642 00 13

The closest underground stop was Skanstulls, but there are buses and trams nearby too. You can follow the shop on Twitter and Facebook too.

We bashfully admitted to the owners that we had no clue where we were going and asked if they knew of any good fabric shops nearby. They in turn asked the other customers in the shop. Boy did they recommend a good'un. And they drew all the directions out on a map so we didn't get lost either, lovely!

Fabric Shops in Stockholm

I. Tygverket
This place is tough to find. Famously described as having an entrance that 'looks like a cave', we nearly gave up hope and missed it.

Don't miss it. The design on the sign looks like a tape measure. You'll spot it.

The shop has damn near everything under the sun. I can only imagine it's the fabric Mecca of Stockholm.

The garment fabrics take up the main area, then upholstery arount the edges and there's a corner dedicated to quilting at the back too. You will find the standard garment fabrics, but a lot of bold in uncommon weaves and textures too. It's fairly easily organised by fabric type, but it does pay to hunt around too. A word of warning: it's quite pricey. It's very nice stuff, possibly even designer ends, but you'll pay accordingly.

Sankt Paulsgatan 19, 118 46 Stockholm. Tel. +46 8 714 99 11
The closest underground stop was Slussen, their website is here but their full range isn't available online.

II. Tygverket Number 2
I didn't get a chance to head in here, but it's stocked to the nines with beautiful Liberty fabrics and fancy notions. Everything is beautifully organised and there may be extra space at the back for garments to be displayed too. I think I caught a glimpse of a few indie patterns through the doors too.

Sankt Paulsgatan 3,  Stockholm

Here's the thing, this shop is either vey new or a branch of Tygverket above. Having tried to find it on Google, it's in the location of the old Crumpler Shop.

The closest stop was also Slussen, this one is handily somewhere between the station and the shop above.

If anyone visits, let me know what you think!

III. Finally, Karmosin
An odd little shop, you'll spot it because of the remnant bins outside. All handily priced at 39SEK/m (the measures are not cut squarely into 1m so the price will vary). The owner, I think also makes custom pieces and there are a few beautiful projects on display. The man is up for a chat, and very keen on having a glass of wine on his balcony.

Östgötagatan 83, 116 64 Stockholm, Sweden

The nearest tube stop is Skanstulls as well, I walked away with some summery cottons you'll see soon, and you can see what to expect from Karmosin on its website.

So those are the ones we passed and managed to get to. There might be department stors around too, but if you have limited time in the city these are definitely worth a look!

The Next Challenge
I'll admit Tygverket was a bit overwhelming. Having just completed Q2's fabric stock-up, and knowing we were on a crazy time limit (15 mins), the thought of trawling through Tygverket's whole stock wasn't very inspiring. I really could not be fudged.

And so The Next Challenge was born. 

B and I would choose 1.5m fabric for each other to sew up. Feels a bit like Project Runway.

He's just started sewing, I didn't want to push him totally beyond his budding skillset, so I chose something quirky but fairly easy to handle. This is a soft, pure linen which would be great for tops and summer shorts/trousers. So 1.5m for B!

Of course, my comfort zone can take a bit of bashing and so B has the luxury of throwing anything at me. I was itching to see what was waiting in my bag...

A stripey velvet. OH HELL NO.

I'd better get know...slowly...