Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Just in time! The Stockholm Challenge Tee!

Hi guys!

An update on The Stockholm Challenge for you today. Seems apt considering we just got back...*ahem*...

You remember I went to Berlin in January? And came back with a challenge to sew before heading to Stockholm at Easter? Well it got done and has been VERY well worn since being handed over to the lucky recipient.

It's a modified Thread Theory Newcastle Cardigan, into a Henley tee. Why do this when Thread Theory have a perectly lovely Henley Tee pattern anyway?

Because then it wouldn't be a challenge. Duh.

I kid you not. This shirt is exactly the same...
...as this one.
Luckily, we knew they already liked the fit of the Newcastle I just wanted to modify the neckline, keeping the other elements. I drafted a neckline placket using this video but would probably modify it in the future for the placket to be one piece, not two.

Loads of RTW t-shirts seem to be binding/stabilising the shoulders and neckline with a srip of self fabric at the moment. Take a moment to root through your t-shirts and have a look, spotted it? Naturally, I blatantly ripped it off and copied it. You can see it in the picture above. What do you think? Nifty, eh?

All the seams are flat-felled again, which gives it a bit of a nicer finish and should make it a lot more durable too!

Until I can grab a live-action shot of the top, you'll need to make do with these.

Front. Shoulders don't really fit on a female form...
Back. Obvs.

This top has garnered far more comments and compliments than anything else I've ever made. I don't know whether to be proud or offended ;)


Standby for another Stockholm post soon...

Stay safe,

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The 'Oh yeah, that one!' tee

"Do you remember that crazy step from tap today?"
"Errr, no...what are you on about?"
"You know, that one from the combo we did?"
"The one to Kanye West?"
"No, to Al Green, with the weird body percussion thing"
"Do you remember any of the combo?"
"Okay, well it starts like ****, and then something else happens... but I don't remember the next bit...do you?"
"Are you sure we didn't do it last week instead?"
"Maybe, we definitely did it today though"
"Mm. Can you count it?"
"Can you remember anything about it?"
"You start facing the front, then you go over there, and then over there, and then sideways and then I think you pickup, step, heel, three times and then there's a turn..."
"It's a bit twisty...looks like you're skipping over your own legs..."
"it goes dededede, dededede, dededede-yatayatata"
"Oh yeah! That one!"

Looking pretty straight...
A little bit back to front, a little bit twisty, a little bit confusing....

Such is a common conversation in the pub post-tap. Everyone has different ways of remembering the combos and techniques, but trying to write it down or explain it to someone else is pretty much impossible. Then you start miming, counting, signing, gesturing odd directions to try to jog the other person's memory. Sometimes it feels like you live in this Fry & Laurie sketch.


So that's the deal. If you see this top in person and ask nicely, I could show you the crazy step it's actually named for (provided I don't fall over or get embarassed or both). But here in blogland it will forever be known as the 'Oh yeah, that one!' top.

It's the newest part of the Spring Race Challenge. It's my 3rd Twist & Drape Blouse from Natsuno Hiraiwa's Shape Shape book. This one is made from jersey, I eliminated the CF closures and modified the sleeves a bit (a lot). I love the drape of the top, but neither England nor Stockholm in the spring really allow for a drapey vest top, so sleeves were duly added!

Loose definition of the term "backwards"

Because I actually think this is backwards...
but can't really remember...

The fabric is from Girl Charlee, and some scraps of perma-crinkle jersey I got from Strasbourg. All in all, it's nice and bright. Plus, I can wear it backwards!

I stabilised the neckline using twill tape too, and the flat-fells are looking bloody lovely. The hems are left as raw edges.

I'm yet to decide if this is actually going to be good exercise wear.
Easy to clean/care for? Check.
Colourful? Check.
Comfy and easy to move? Check.
Aerated? Check.
Shifty and bouncy? Errr...

Anyway, no credit for guessing what we're moving on to next. After a tip top tap top, it's gotta be tap trousers!


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

My head's going a mile a minute...


Did you see the telly last Tuesday?! I completely lost my shit seeing that two of my absolute favourite things on earth were being covered by BBC2 in one night. This will NEVER happen again.

So we all know the Great British Sewing Bee is really getting intense now. I am astounded by the creativity and precision of the remaining sewists. What on earth can they be planning for the final challenges? (my money's on a lace wedding dress, or a full tux, anyone got other ideas?)

But the important thing today is what came after the Sewing Bee last week: tap. I adore tap. You should too.

The all-round entertainer always tops off their act with a spot of tap. If they're really good, they'll do something crazy like tap dancing on roller skates. Why? Because screw you, that's why.

But then there's a whole other world, of people who actually have their own signatures and styles, from super-girly, to stupidly complex, to grimey-funk. These guys are cool.

So with that introduction out of the way, I'm going to tell you now that my next few projects will all be named for something to do with tap dancing. This is partly because Melissa has launched the Spring Race Challenge (and tap is duly allowed!), and partly because I desperately need some appropriate exercise gear for Stockholm.

Here's the secret, the Stockholm trip is actually Stockholm Tap Festival. Europe's biggest and most established tap festival. We will sweat, we will ache, we will develop blisters in places you didn't know you could get blisters. That definitely counts as a challenge.

Spring Race Challenge

So without much more ado, meet The BS Hoodie.

Named for the BS Chorus, which is a classic bit of choreography no tap dancer should live without. Much like a TNT (tried and true) t-shirt pattern really.

The  fabric is a light (read: transparent) jersey from Girl Charlee, but only the blue/yellow colourway is still available. The pattern was traced from my favourite t-shirt, I lengthened the sleeves and added a lined hood. The seams are flat-felled for durability, and most of the detail topstitching is a zigzag (lazy, but consistent).

All the zigzags and topstitching
Flat fells and a teeny-tiny coverup. Spotted it?
I love flat-felling jersey, it just falls over itself and curls up so nicely. Yes, it makes hemming quite tough, but the seams all look good. Plus the guts look good too.

Stay tuned for more exercise-wear, and yet more obscure tap references.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Money Saving Tips for the Frugal Stitcher (2/7) - Look After Your Tools

Okay everyone, today we're going to talk about your toolkit. If you look after your tools, you probably look after your projects, which means everything lasts longer and you'll probably end up with a better finished project. 

1. Good things come to those who wait
Hold on, as always. do you need to buy that brand new gadget right now?

With classic tools in particular, it's likely that if you wait long enough, somehow you'll find it for free or at a supreme discount. Why? Because dressmakers have been using pattern tracers for decades and tailors have been using shears for even longer. You know those Singers everyone loves? One day All Saints will go bust and *BAM*, free antique Singer machines all over the place.

Example? I've been hankering for pinking shears for quite some time. Look what turned up at a recent family house clearance:

Not only are they free, but I'm going to do everything possible to never buy another pair.

2. Maintain your tools
Clean your machine, get it serviced. It's much cheaper than repairs or new machines. Make sure your threads are dust-free, look after your pens and rulers, don't get interfacing glue on your iron...look after your cutting equipment.

Let's talk scissors and shears: keep them clean, keep them sharp. I'm using this tutorial on Instructables, repainting the handles and sending the shears off to be sharpened. Yes, £20 to be sharpened professionally, but £30 brand new. Come hell or high water, these will last.

3. Look after your materials
Part of me thinks this goes without saying: don't let your stash rot, bleach, dusty, get ripped up. Store sensibly and check it regularly (hey, you might get some inspiration). There is no greater waste of money than letting your stash get ruined without ever touching it.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Long Way Back Home Messenger

Guys, another messenger bag for you. This one is mine :)

Mamma's got a brand new bag

I was dithering over a name. It was going to be The Money Saving Messenger because it's made entirely of scrap fabric and it saved me a lot of money, but then I went out and spent £7 on webbing at Ray-Stitch. So that name went out the window.

In the end, we've got a new one for the Barenaked Collection. I'm calling it the Long Way Back Home Bag. Why? Perhaps it's a kick-ass song, perhaps it's because the bag is blue, perhaps it's because the bag is just big enough to help me skip the country should the occasion arise*. Perhaps because it's just right to hold everything I call home.
See? Holds all of the important things

It's a bag from travels, meant for travels. The design is taken from a wrecked bag I had as a teen that has journeyed around Europe, the components are from 5 different places I've called home and hopefully the bag will be trekking a lot again this year.

Incidentally, do you know where I was last week? Here's a clue:
Spot the bag...
I've decided to road test it properly on a whirlwind trip to NYC, and am glad to say it took some abuse and fared really well! 

I somehow managed to cram in a flying visit to Mood (realising on 34st I'd never actually looked up the address), and came away with two beautiful silks. I was overwhelmed the first time I visited Goldhawk Road, but man, Mood is something else! That place is crazy! 
Concerned about the organised chaos
Anyway, back to the bag. I used Simplicity 2358 as a base again, but made some very heavy functional modifications. I demand a lot from a bag so I took features from all the bags I like and have tried to remake them. Mostly this includes a hell of a lot of extra pockets. The one on the back from my other version is there again, I added 3 in the main compartment, a hidden zippered pocket between the main compartment and the flap facing, and a whole new compartment in the front of the bag.

Concealed pocket between main compartment and flap facing

The new compartment is a basic zippered addition, with a few extra pockets in it. Can you tell I'm a fan of pockets?

The new compartment and its interior pockets
One other functional addition before looking at design features. Check this out, IT'S ONLY A BLOODY BUILT-IN RAIN COVER!


Check it out!
I had some spare rip-stop and elastic (fugly knicker elastic in case you were wondering) that needed using, so I made a rain cover. Boom.
Cut out a square and sew a  casing around the edge
Feeding fugly knicker elastic through...

So, I really wanted to take some time over the design aspects too. The colours are largely RGB (what else?) and most of the colour coordination has been consistent. The topstitching is a brightish blue, and complements the bright red strap. I had some spare cotton sateen ribbon so added that to the front compartment too. 

Okay, the strap is a little dodgy. These striped bag straps are absolutely everywhere at the moment and Raystich has an excellent selection of colourways for them. I'm absolutely in love with them. However, finding the correct size hardware in London is impossible (38mm), I hate it. In the end, the best fudge-solution was a backpack slider and a spare 50mm d-ring. Not ideal, definitely looks a little fudged but it does the job. 

The D-ring in action

My favourite design feature is the piecing (cough, fudge fix, cough) in the main compartment, which is finished with some golden topstitching. I really wanted to use the kelsch in this project and am so glad it was possible, if only just.

All of the components laid out in construction order
Reduced to two separate pieces
Construction was a BIG headscratching moment as there were a lot of pieces to fit together in the right order. I spent many hours staring at it all laid out, just trying to visualise how it would work. In the end, I pulled the whole bag inside out through the front compartment. It was a difficult birth.

Big bag, tiny hole

The bag is settling in well to its new life. In the spirit of showing that it's actually being used, here's a picture of it in action after we discovered a topiary elephant in North London last week.

Topiary elephant. Casual.

That's it for now! See ya!


*turns out the airport authorities might be a bit suspicious of baggage you make yourself. It may lead to your precious me-makes getting swabbed, and generally getting held up at every opportunity.

PS. Many thanks to Katrina from Muffin Top Vintage for some of the lining fabric, it's a vintage curtain, she made an awesome dress from it an kindly donated some yardage to the epic swap last year. Thank you! It's gone to good use!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Checking-in, Motivation and The Stockholm Challenge

Hey guys,

How are we all doing? 

Here at Culture Capital things have been busy. Things are still busy, and I haven't really been able to sit down and work on projects from start to finish for about a month. That doesn't mean there's no news, just riding out a lull and am getting ready to hit the foot pedal again when the time is right. Hopefully soon. 

Until then, I've been working on small things and getting the next projects ready. I've started cutting squares for a scrap quilt. My scraps pile is now big enough and diverse enough to start one and it would be nice to have a quilt to keep cosy. The plan is to have a mix of full squares and ones pieced from smaller strips, trying to keep colours close together. A bit like this one:

Project Boring Office Sewing has come on a few steps, with an Anna dress cut out and ready to go. There are also preliminary patterns for a few tops too.

I've been working on a design for the Burdastyle Crossover Blazer, which will end up being a very cool Desigual rip-off. Think green. Think confusing buttons.

I've just finished drafting a pattern for some leggings using this tutorial on One Little Minute and this one on So Sew Easy. They're yet to be toiled, but hopefully they'll end up okay as I've got a couple of designs to build with them. They're going to be cool.

The other big thing is The Stockholm Challenge.

This all started on a trip to Berlin at the end of January. A couple of hours before my flight home, with limited time, money and concentration I made a mad dash to Frau Tulpe for some speedy souvenirs. I came back with two, with a view to keeping one and passing one on to a friend.

This counts as proof, right?
 A thought came to make this more interesting: instead of simply handing something over, we could allocate the souvenir on a random draw, then make something with the offending item. We're both heading to a festival in Stockholm over Easter, so that's our deadline.

Secret Souveniers
I have have my plan, the pattern and the pieces cut out, now we just need to sew. Wish us luck.


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Money Saving Tips for the Frugal Stitcher (part 1 of 7)

Hi guys, sorry but no new projects for you this week. There's one finished thingy that needs to wait two weeks (two weeks!) before I can show you. Other than that, I have a lot of partially worked-on projects dotted around. I've not been in a stitching mood recently but more cutting, drafting and sorting. In the meantime, I've been thinking about how to save money for a trip to Stockholm at Easter...

So what are your plans for 2014? Perhaps you'd like to get your finances in order, perhaps you'd like to recover from the Christmas spending splurge or perhaps you'd like to start saving for that special stitchers' gadget. 

As a sewers we hear stories all the time how it can save us money, how you can make a dress from a $2 bedsheet or how you can stop buying RTW entirely. Great, but that's only part of the story. If you're a cash-strapped sewist, there are a few things you need to consider to keep the costs of this great pursuit under control.

First up: working out your costs and priorities

1. Decide where and when to make an investment
 This is the big stuff. You need a sewing machine, you need tools. But what is actually appropriate for your current situation? What will you need immediately or in the near future? What can wait? You don't need that lovely Bernina immediately, you don't need a K&L dummy immediately. You may never need them. But that's okay.

After months of debate and saving, I just invested in this ironing board. Previously I was using a towel on a plank on a table. The working height, durability and long product guarantee should make this a very easy tool to work with for a very long time. That much I can justify.


2. Know what you make
Let's think generally. Do you still plan to buy clothing, or can you realistically make it all yourself? Do you make full, exquisite evening gowns and cocktail dresses, do you make casual everyday items, do you focus on tailoring? Do you shop at thrift stores/charity shops, online or in person? Do you want natural fibres for everything, or do are you happy  to use synthetics and blends?

Each of these habits means the costs of sewing will be different for you. You don't need to thrift shop any more than you need shop at Joel & Son. Similarly, the value of your finished products will be different depending on what sort of use they will get.

3. What kind of stitcher are you? 
Do you sew for yourself or for others? Do you sew out of necessity or as pure leisure? Do you sew to clothe your family in all circumstances or just a few? Do you want this to become professional or to remain a hobby? Is sewing your only hobby, your main interest or one of many? Do your other interests complement sewing or are they totally unrelated?

I think these questions are very important. You might sew because you like fashion, vintage things, historical costuming, cosplay or other textile art. You might sew because you just like the process of making things. You might sew in conjunction with sailing, astronomy or baking. You might sew because you need to repair things. You might sew because you just want to sew. 

Whatever your answers, you need to decide if you can combine costs and benefits. This is particularly important for your investment spending: justifying an expensive ironing board is very different from justifying a dress form or a pattern cutting course.

4. Be practical. Decide what you can afford.
Let's face it, when you learn to sew there's a moment when you realise "OMG, I can make anything I want!". It's an amazing moment, but you need to know: you can make anything, but you can't make everything.

To sew something you don't often just buy fabric and end up with the finished project. You have thread, notions, patterns, utilities, you may have failed projects, you may have Craftsy courses. You have a stash.

None of us can escape the stash and it's an incredibly useful resource but if you're in a penny-pinching situation, you shouldn't be buying to solely feed your stash. There will be some tips soon on stash management, but at the moment with all the fabric sales going on you need to be careful. Can you actually use the fabric you're buying? Will you actually use it soon?

So know that we know what we want to make, what we will actually make and how we will make it, we can look at the next steps. Like any budget, managing your sewing costs is an exercise in personal priorities and it's unlikely your plan will look like anyone else's. 

People debate a lot whether you do save money by sewing, but it's definitely possible. You can save money on the clothing or homewares or gifts you would otherwise be buying. But you also need to look at how to manage the costs of actually sewing too. That's when the real figures start adding up.

I've got oodles of this stuff lined up, but need to get some resources  and examples together for you all. Stay tuned for a few more practical pointers (and some finished projects) soon!