Thursday, 25 June 2015

I've been mending things!

Guys, guys, guys! I've just broken a six-week stint of not buying any sewing stuff! I'm pretty proud of this, and had to finally break the fast for new needles and thread. I have some gift sewing due as well, for which I'm missing some fabric. Off to Raystitch...

Anyway, the breaking of this fabric fast has been a good time to round up some mending and reworking I've been doing over the past few months. It's an odd conflict between the refashioning/alterations world and the make-from-scratch world. I personally still think refashioning is an alien concept, and am sure I'm not alone in prefering to make new things from a rectangle of fabric. I like my new pristine fabric and my carefully chosen matching, functional notions.

Generally in the RTW world, there's a bit of a stigma around repairs and mending. When something's broken, you believe it's unfixable and you throw it away. There's an interesting segment on an old episode of The Forum, the Sixty-Second Idea to make mending an artform,which sticks in my head. Namely for how this idea translates into the self-sewn world: why repair my project when I can make it anew?

Actually, it's almost like a time capsule. You see whether you were thinking straight, whether you were in a rush, what types of materials you liked, the colours of threads you used.

I have been repairing and remaking a few things recently. B's bag was showing some stress on the edges so they got reinforced.

I lengthened my black zig-zag trousers and had to totally reopen my green trousers to make more room for my backside. Yes, I actually went back and fixed them and now have a wearable pair of trousers! And the button doesn't pop off!

The no-face policy in these pctures is because there's a towel on my head...

My Long Way Back Home messenger bag fell apart quite quickly once it was made. The outer fabric was a medium-weight dress linen. It couldn't stand up to daily abuse, despite interfacing etc. So I finally took the whole thing apart and replaced the outer fabric. To be honest, it was a real chore. Repairing something you've made is fine enough, particularly if you did a shoddy job in the first place, but because the textiles aged unexpectedly? That's heartbreaking. (In good faith I did everything right the first time!) But it's fixed and I still don't like the new version as much as the old one. Ah well.

Anyway,I have oodles of projects and drafts to be getting on with. I may even share the results of breaking my fabric fast with you. It's shameful, but hey...we all like pretty fabric don't we?

Stay safe,

Wednesday, 3 June 2015


On 22 Feb 2015 I ate Nutella for the first time.

Why am I telling you this?

You know, I'm not really sure. I reopened this draft today (after a 6 week bout of laziness) and found the confession above. At some point there must have been a drastically serious reason to tell you about this. It might have something to do with childhood...

You know what else has to do with childhood? Dinosaur hoodies.


And increasingly, a lot of adults seem to need one. At least, from the number of requests that have come in since I've been showing off this beauty.

Mccalls 6782

Mccalls 6782

The pattern is McCall's 6782, the fabric is sweater knit (probably poly), spoonflower jersey and felt. The crest and cuffs are my own design, the horns/spikes are based on the many inspiring dinosaur hoodies already floating around the internet.

The backstory is that a very dear friend, T.Rex, wanted a birthday present made for a kiddo. A dinosaur hoodie, it had to be a triceratops, it needed a pocket on the front. That's all. No sweat.

Not knowing the size of the kiddo, I guestimated something suitable from the pattern. After cutting out the pieces I was adamant there was no way this would fit anyone. It was way too small!

Mccalls 6782

The hoodie is made straight from the packet with a few design alterations. First, I added spikes down the back (not totally true triceratops) and modified the cuffs for claws that fit over the ends of your fingers like mittens. They can also be folded back out of the way.

Second, I lined the hood with ceanirminger's Oh No, Tokyo! jersey and drafted an extra piece on the front to slightly cover the face. This was a good spot to put the centre-front horn, and also should help to keep the hood up when worn. That's because the best addition is pretty heavy.

Look at the crest! Isn't it brilliant?!

I traced the curve of the hood and drew in a suitable size/number of points, cut 1x sweater knit, 1x in felt and 1x thick wadding. I sewed them right sides together at the lower edge, then flat sewed this to the hood after finding the right placement. This method means you don't need to cut a new seam into the hood, which I'm hoping is a bit more stable and secure. The wadding is secured to the felt with several rows of (graded sizes) zig-zag stitching. The crest is closed with a few rows of zig zags on the top edge.

I love this hoodie. It's just great.


P.S. The request from T.Rex was that kiddo remain anonymous, so please forgive the dodgy face covering and my poor picture editing skills.

P.P.S. I've been losing it over this tumblr it's just hillarious

Thursday, 14 May 2015

This ain't your momma's sewing!

With the advent of video tutorials, blog sewalongs and a whole world of speciality fabrics open to the world of sewers, companies are finally beginning to realise that a new generation of makers are taking on the reins of the industry.

And they do things differently.

Shape Shape 11 Apron Skirt

Is the Millenial sewing boom going to change the world? Studies show that millenials (those born between 1980-1995) are more educated, globally mobile, socially conscious, proactive and less materialistic than their parents. They are more independent, but more likely to live with their parents until well into their 40s. Generation rent are living in an age of social hyper-connectivity, getting realtime Instagram feedback on everything from fabric and fit to styling and notions.

These millemials are breaking the mold by making wrap skirts with asymmetric hems. They have shummed the advice of their forbears by adding vintage buttons and bias binding to the hem. This ain't your momma's sewing.

Shape Shape 11 Apron Skirt

The millenial sewer is the NextGen, looking to blend the values of their generation with that of their parents. They make a skirt, they share it on the internet (of things). Look internet! I made a thing! They talk to their housemate, who talks to the fridge, who tells them they forgot to buy milk again. You can spot a millenial sewer by a few key features:
  • They are more likely to buy their patterns and fabric from a company who claim to be ethical and conscious of its social impact on the community
  • Short of cash due to high cost of living, wage freezes and zero-hour contracts, they look to buy their supplies from the cheapest possible supplier
  • Conscious to assert their individuality and support their community, they buy their supplies from a network of trusted micro-businesses
Shape Shape 11 Apron Skirt

Millenial sewers are going to shake things up over the next few years as peopple who make stuff change generation. Compared to baby boomers, they use more modern machines, they learn interactively, they use more technical textiles, they create new avant garde looks using hand embroidery and lace trim. It's up to the businesses of today to wake up and take notice.

Shape Shape 11 Apron Skirt

In the age of iPads and selfie sticks, the millenial sewer is keen to express their individuality and the full range of complex facets of their daily lives: holding down 3 jobs as arialists, office workers and low-level standup comedians. The millenial will show they've made an outfit for any occasion by buying the pattern of the moment and making it up in a Liberty Tana Lawn, adding subtle quirks to broadly recognisable RTW trends.

About the Skirt
Pattern: Shape Shape #11 Apron Wrap Skirt
Size: S/M, no fitting adjustments
Design: Wrap skirt with asymmetric hem. I removed the waist ties, added a facing and added some invisible buttons
Fabric: Red twill from John Lewis (leftover from B's birthday trousers)

I'm exposed to crappy articles all day every day: work, social media, leisure. This is partly an exercise in how easy it is to spew out a few hundred words on millenials. It's partly therapy and venting frustration at these kinds of articles. It's partly a jibe against how tough it is to spot genuine articles amongst advertorials or repurposed marketing texts. 

It's also partly venting at not being able to say the right things. I can't say the right things independently, but I am a pretty good mimic. In the absence of thinking and writing independently - coming up with some mindful and considered points in beautifully constructed prose - I can plagiarise. I can rehack and plagiarise and steal an article that's been written a thousand times before by a thousand generic sources. And somehow it's new.

I've got 600 new words on the screen. So I hit 'Publish'.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Things I wish I knew when I started sewing - 5 years down the line

I feel this needs to be posted before the polls open - When I started sewing, the results from the 2010 election were slowly rolling in over the airwaves.

Right now I'm going through a whole period of Autodidact's Lament (reflecting on all of the stuff I wish I knew when I started sewing that no one told me), most of which would have apparently made my life easier or immeasurably richer.

For the benefit of any budding makers out there, here are my Top 5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Sewing:

1. Seam Rippers Have Blades
The crook of the seam ripper? Yeah, that's sharp. That'll cut thread. You don't need use the hook to yank stitches out of the cloth.

2. There is an Easier Way to Thread Your Sewing Machine
My first machine only had an arm and a hole here. I had been sewing on my Janome 7025 for 2+ years before B showed me you don't need to actually thread through the hole, just bring the thread around the back of the arm. Duh.

3. Pinterest is Lying to You
Top tips and glorious gaments on Pinterest are normally doomed or cursed. Gadgets and absurd fixes are exactly that.

4. The Shop of Cursed Fabric
Behold, there is a shop on Goldhawk Road filled with cursed fabric. My yardage from this shop has always been a blowout: dud projects, unused and donated, catastrophic sewing errors and long-term dye bleeding. Yet it is arranged so prettily. Forevermore: The Shop of Cursed Fabric.

NB: This is Cloth House, NOT TSOCF

5. Some Things Never Change - And That's Okay
You will always be stabbed with pins. No matter how many you think you've picked up.

So there you go.


Monday, 6 April 2015

Lizzie (or how I realised this one might be a step too far)

Ladies and gents, I present the Lizzie dress.

Long ago in school when we were learning about the Tudors (every Brit will have studied the Tudors on an annual basis between the ages of 4 and 18), a kindly teacher showed us The Ditchley Portrait. "That's a nice dress." I said "I'd like to have a dress like that."

I'd also like to rule over all of Europe

So I made one. (The ruling over Europe bit is taking a bit longer to organise)

Admittedly, I knew then that getting hold of a dress based off Queen Elizabeth I's most famous apparel would be costly. Very costly. I lamented the potential process of acquiring and subsequently spending my life's fortune on such an exquisite creation. Seemed like a lot of effort when (frankly) there would be slim occasion to wear it without looking like a crazy lady.

So this fabric appeared on my doorstep and the Angels of Artistic Licence sang out from the heavens. A symbol of mercy for every penniless creative with lofty ambitions!

Using the mod dress pattern again, I traced a lining pattern and an outer pattern for a vaguely normal dress. The two are connected at the neck and shoulders, but nowhere else. They are different sizes/shapes and the outer has no fastenings, while the lining has a zip in the side seam.

You know, so the outer looks all floaty and theatrical

The lining fabric is butter muslin, so I'm sorted if I ever find myself needing to drain soft cheese (win!). B patiently cut the hems and he has also counseled in favour of wearing spangly tights.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Come on now, pull up your socks and concentrate

I'm snatching a quick blog at my desk, during a snatched lunch - at a point when managing my time starts fundamentally with managing my motivation to do anything. Breaking with the habit of posting up to 5 months behind the real world: I'm going to tell you what's actually going on.

Stockholm Tap Festival is coming up, birthdays and impending births abound, a wedding on the horizon again, curtains that still haven't been made, wishful (hopeful!) Liberty trousers patiently wait in my stash.

I've recently finished a project that could possibly be the Be All And End All of my sewing career. Time to hang up the needles? It is a beautiful jacket though. It'll show up eventually.

But my mind is on Stockholm - I could be learning about the teachers, brushing up on my paddles, shuffles, pullbacks and thirds. Instead I'm idling. At the end of last year I'd vowed I would level up for 2015, then I would sort out my wings or double pullbacks, then I would at least crack a basic polyrhythm, then I would complete the Stockholm Challenge, then I had an excellent idea for the cabaret showcase, then I wanted to make a dress for the Easter party.

With a week to go, none of this is likely to happen. B might have a new pair of shorts...hopefully...if I get on the hem pretty quickly...

Having bought the fabric and settled on a design for the Easter party, my focus and enthusiasm finds itself waning. This weekend could save the day. It's not like I need a new dress, there's one in the cupboard that'll do. But there's no fun in that.

Stay tuned, it could all change this weekend.


Saturday, 14 March 2015

Jusqu'ici tout va bien...jusqu'ici tout va bien...jusqu'ici tout va bien...

Did you hear the one about the man who jumped off the top of a block of flats?

Of course you've heard it.

The MW dress is over. Having worked on the dress for a year and a half, literally hundreds of hours, it is finally complete.

It isn't perfect. Every step of designing, fit and construction was new to me or pushed my existing knowledge to its limits.  Every stage that got ticked off I'd say "so far so good" and move on. Perhaps this wasn't the most forgiving dress for its imperfections. If one seam is slightly off in the pattern, it will show. If the fabric is damaged, it will show. If the fit is off, it will show. If the construction is sloppy, it will show. And the whole of its imperfections will appear greater than the sum of their parts. Truly.

Perhaps now that it's done it feels a bit like I've hit the pavement.

I have a philosphy that whatever you make tends to subconsiously reflect your state of mind at the time. This dress has gone from whimsical and ambitious to exhausting and disheartening. The fact it took two years to complete means that every step is the best of what I could do at the time. Not now.

I don't know what the dress was ever meant for. It was beautiful and needed to be made. It was a cocktail, birthday, wedding guest etc dress. I think I said at one point that I wanted to wear it on my 25th birthday, and again on my 50th. That obviously didn't happen.

In its final unfinished hours it found its purpose as a work dress.

Now let me explain.

I have somehow fallen into a profession where we organise and host fancy-dancy events for fancy-dancy bigwigs. Just as gents need a suit for this kind of thing, I need an Event Dress. The old one had served me well, but at the beginning of 2014 I looked at it for what it was: a stinking, overworked, RTW polyester dress from 2006. It had served its time. Moreover I felt like a fraud talking to fancy-dancy bigwigs in this dress and a faded, ill-fitting, shoddy Zara suit jacket. It was cheap. It was awkward.

So I threw it out.

And the MW dress has taken over. People sometimes wax poetic about the power of clothing. I recognise it's not a perfect dress. I recognise people probably don't consciously care what other people wear. But in a room full of fancy-dancy bigwigs, I'm bringing something to the table that's totally unique. I am proud of this dress. You don't need to know I made it. It doesn't matter to me whether you know or not. It's not perfect, but what were you expecting? You need to know that this dress is a promise: look at it now and if you decide to buckle up for the long haul, you're in for something spectacular.

So I've jumped and hit the pavement. I've gotten back up and walked away. Now it's time to dust off my (shop-bought) jeans and move on to the next project...