Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Tiny Cupboard Curtains for my Caravan

At this time of year we usually start to make plans to go away in our caravan, providing that the weather is mild, but this year we have just bought a new car and we are still waiting to have a tow-ball fitted so we had to stay at home over Easter. One of the things I like about having a caravan is that it is just like having a play house, but as an adult. I can express my love of sewing and handicrafts by personalising the interior and the quilts, throws and cushions are all useful on cold evenings. I enjoy my holidays surrounded by things that I have made that remind me of happy times and build new memories year by year.

In an attempt to reduce the weight of our caravan we removed the built-in microwave, which we will never use, and we gained a small cupboard to store the breakfast cereal. This alcove was a bit rough and had no doors so I have made a tiny pair of curtains.

I recycled a pelmet from some very large curtains that hung in our last 2 homes. In our first home they hung over the front door to keep draughts out and in the second house over large french windows. I loved these curtains for almost 30 years until they began to fade, fray and fall apart, but the pelmet was still good and at each end I had enough fabric to cut out these curtains with a lining.

I took the measurements for the alcove and cut the fabric and lining to the height of the space adding 5/8 inch seam allowances. I made the curtains 1 1/2 times the width of the space in total.

Each curtain is 2 inches wider than the lining to allow for an overlap of one inch at each side, but I didn't have enough fabric for a deep hem so I continued the seam along the bottom. Here you can see the curtain fabric and lining sewn together inside out.

I clipped the corners before turning each curtain right sides out.

I salvaged a short length of the original Rufflette tape which I attached to the top of the curtain. If I had been buying new tape then a narrow width would have been quite satisfactory and cheaper.

I pulled up the tape and in no time at all I had a small pair of curtains for my cupboard. I have hung them on curtain wire stretched across the top of the alcove.

This technique will make nice curtains for any small cupboard or shelf, it will keep the dust off and hide the clutter!

A little piece of our family history is now incorporated into our holiday home. My next project is to replace the very boring shower room blind with something on a seaside theme. I have started to knit a little seagull which I will blog later. Dreaming about holidays is the next best thing to actually going away I always think!

Monday, 24 April 2017

My Very First Wrap Top, Simplicity 1916

After making quite a lot of straight shift dresses recently I felt as though I wanted a change of style. Believe it or not I have never made or even owned a wrap dress or top. I know that this is a very popular design and thought it was about time that I found out what I was missing. I found four wrap style patterns in my pattern collection, all slightly different.

I liked the interesting lines of Simplicity 1916 view B so decided to make this version. I had a remnant from Leicester Market, just over 1 metre long, that I thought would suit this pattern. It is quite similar to the fabric used in view D and I know other people have commented that they often choose a fabric which is similar to the pattern illustration. I am sure that we are influenced by these images, what do you think?

I owe a debt to all the bloggers who have made this top before me and found the neckline rather too low cut to wear everyday. I really didn't want a top with a low neckline and since it can get very warm in our office sometimes I didn't want to have to wear a cami underneath. I found the advice from Myra on her blog "Simple Inspirations" very helpful and added an extra 1 1/2 inches to the front neckline.  Here is a link to her instructions. I also transferred all of the pattern markings with tailors tacking as she recommended, which was so helpful in matching up the gathered sections and coping with the stretch in the fabric.

Right Front 
I was very careful to lay the fabric the right way up when I cut out the front sections. I made an asymmetrical blouse once before which ended up with the front pieces the wrong way round and I was determined that this wasn't going to happen to me again. This time I got it right!

The pattern instructions were clear and helpful. Whenever they suggested using a serger, I used the overlock stitch on my sewing machine and otherwise I used a narrow zigzag stitch.
I used a size 70 ballpoint needle throughout.

This has to be the stretchiest, most draping jersey fabric I have ever worked with! I was really worried about stretching out the neck so I stitched it very carefully, fitting it on my dressmaking dummy at every stage. If I make this top again I think that I will use stay tape to stabilise the neck edge and save myself the stress. In the end, the wrap-over turned out well. I am pleased with the way it sits and have just worn my top all day with hardly any gaping issues. I haven't even needed to sew on a press stud to keep the cross-over closed. I really feel quite proud that I actually achieved this.

The corner detail looks complicated but the instructions explained clearly what you had to do and I thought it was surprisingly straight forward.

I do like the centre back seam, which gives extra shaping to the back. I was tempted to leave this out, because there was no way that I could match the pattern when I had such a small piece of fabric, but I am very glad that I followed the instructions because it pulls in the waist nicely and gives the back a flattering shape.

Would I change anything about this pattern?
I am only 5ft 4ins tall (1.62m) and I think this top is just a little bit long on me. I made a size 14 to match my measurements but if I make this again, I may make a slightly smaller size. In such a stretchy fabric it has come out a bit looser that I imagined. I like the sleeve length on this version but when I am busy and push the sleeves up, they quickly fall down again so I would like them to be a bit tighter.

Overall though, I am very pleased with how this top turned out, especially as it is very comfortable to wear.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

A New Dress for Easter, NEW LOOK K6184

Easter is my favourite celebration of the year. Yesterday we enjoyed a family fun day with bouncy castles and an Easter egg hunt and today we have sung our praises to God and had lunch with friends at church. I think that such a great time deserves a new dress!

There are so many things about this dress that I love that I can excuse its imperfections. I wonder whether I would be quite so critical of a RTW dress and I certainly wouldn't have complained if someone else had made this dress for me, I would have been delighted. So I am not going to be too hard on myself.

First of all I just loved the fabric. It makes me think of a greenhouse full of exotic flowers. There was almost 1.5 metres so I took a risk buying it and the style of the dress was dictated in the end by the small amount of fabric that I had. I already had NEW LOOK K6184 in my pattern collection and the narrow skirt version needed 1.2 metres at 150cm wide. I believe that this pattern was given away with the April 2015 issue of Sew Magazine although I bought mine in a batch from eBay. There were several reviews of the pattern on other blogs and the consensus seemed to be that the waist was a bit tight.

I rather rashly made a size 12, thinking that this was a stretch fabric and I wanted a close fitting dress. It is rather tight on the waist, which I really should have expected, but it reminds me that I would like to be slimmer and that a bit more exercise wouldn't do any harm at all.

I used more traditional sewing techniques to make this dress. For the seams I used a small zigzag stitch. This jersey knit is very stable and doesn't need any neatening.
I took up the hem using the blind hem stitch on my machine, I don't know whether you can see the stitches in this picture but the hem is finished with a zigzag while the needle also picks up small, even stitches from the main skirt just like a hand finished hem.

The internal neck facings are interfaced and edged with a simple zigzag stitch. I understitched the facings 2/8 inch from the seam but as this is a rather springy jersey the pleats at the neck still don't lie very flat and the facing is inclined to roll out a bit. I think I just about got away with this but a woven fabric would have suited this design feature better.

I finished the armholes with some commercial satin bias binding that I had left over from a previous project.

I was quite pleased with the invisible zip. It is invisible, but its bulges slightly. This doesn't matter too much, except on very hot days, because I will usually wear a jacket or cardigan with a sleeveless dress and that will cover up the back. I still need to attach a hook and loop at the top of the zip and will do this one evening when I want to stay awake watching TV.

I love a straight skirt with a back vent and this skirt has one.

So here I am wearing my new dress under a flowering cherry and doing my best to blend in

In our front garden admiring the spring flowers

And wearing a denim jacket to keep the cool wind at bay

Hope you have all enjoyed Easter Sunday as much as we have

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Green Tartan Shift Dress, Another Butterick 6258

Signing up last week for Me Made May '17 has given me a boost to try to make a few more things to wear before May. I have had this tartan jersey since the beginning of the year with the intention of making a shift dress but hadn't got round to it yet. I thought​ I had better make it before the weather gets too warm to wear such a dark colour.

I have returned to a pattern that I have used before here. It was my second ever post. I agonised over this dress for several weeks. I loved the fabric and I liked the dress on the hanger, but when I put it on I felt so frumpy! It felt like a Crimplene granny dress from the 1960s and not  my style at all. I had lots of reassuring comments but they didn't help. I still felt about 75 years old whenever​ I wore it. Anyway, I took my courage in both hands and cut another 2 inches off the bottom...  What a transformation! The dress no longer makes me feel old, it makes me feel young! I love,love,love it and am now enjoying wearing it all the time.

I even enjoyed posing in the garden to take these photos, but I thought you should see what a mother of three boys does more usually in the garden. It really is a very versatile dress!

So now I have made another dress for work from the same pattern. It was so easy to make. I cut it out one evening and sewed it up in just 2 hours. I would recommend this pattern for a stretch jersey with a little bit of body.

The tartan fabric is another jersey remnant from Leicester market and I think it is a bit reminiscent of Black watch tartan. It cost £1 per metre so it was also a bargain. It is really soft and warm on the inside and smooth and slightly shiny on the right side.

I took a lot of care to match the checks when I was cutting out which has paid off. I chose the narrow green line and pinned every third stripe carefully before pinning the pattern in place. I also cut the fabric right side out so that I could see the pattern, which is only printed on the right side. There is a really good tutorial on matching plaids on the Sewaholic blog which shows the technique I used. I find matching the sleeve head seams the most difficult, but I am quite pleased with these, even though they aren't quite right.

I used the overlock stitch on my machine for all of the seams. The hems on the bottom, neck and the sleeves were all taken up with the double needle to allow them to stretch.

It is lovely out in the garden today. The spring bulbs and blossom are in bloom and the grass is beginning to grow. I have a week off work for Easter and have lots of sewing projects lined up along with some gardening. I hope that the weather stays mild and you all have a good Easter break.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Self Drafted Peg Apron

The maid was in the garden 
Hanging out the clothes 
When down came a blackbird 
And pecked off her nose.....or his!!

About six months ago my husband retired and went back to work part-time. Since then he has taken on responsibility for the family washing on his days off. This is why I now have time to sew and write this blog. Last week he asked me to make something for him, and how could I refuse?

We have a peg bag which hangs on the washing line and looks like a little dress. I made this about a year ago. However, this really doesn't suit the man in my life. He doesn't like having to walk backwards and forwards to get pegs out and put them back. He asked me for a peg apron that will hold all of the pegs within easy reach. 

I found lots of patterns for peg aprons on line but none that really supported the weight of the pegs. A family of 5 generates a lot of washing and we use a lot of pegs! I have drafted this peg apron from an old cookery apron and put a big pocket on the front to hold the pegs. I cut it much shorter since it doesn't need to protect his clothing from spills. 

I needed a sturdy fabric so I bought one metre of 100% cotton London Street Signs craft fabric from Dunelm, which I thought looked suitably masculine.

For a contrasting binding I used 3 metres of red tape or webbing. I could have cut bias binding instead, the Butchers Apron in my Great British Sewing Bee book from series 1 recommends 3 ½ cm wide bias binding for their apron, but I was worried that bias binding would stretch and not hold its shape for long.

Using the old apron as a pattern I allowed 2cm hems along the top, bottom and sides of the apron. I stitched these straight hems first.

Then I drafted a pattern for a large pocket from newspaper. I knew that the pocket would need support in the centre so I designed it to have two openings and a seam along the centre top. I allowed 1cm seams all around the pocket, which I pressed before top-stitching in place.

Instead of bias binding I bound the openings of the pockets with the red webbing, tacking it first and then top-stitching through all of the layers. This binding seems to have really brought out the red lettering on the fabric, which wasn't very noticeable before. I hope that the webbing will be strong and will stand up to lots of wear and tear getting the pegs in and out of the pocket. Once I had bound the pocket openings I attached the pocket to the main apron. I have double stitched around the edge for extra strength. 

I have created some fullness by attaching the top of the pocket slightly lower so that the openings gape a bit and make it easier to get your hands in and out without looking down.

Last of all I used the rest of the bundle of tape to bind the curved arm hole edges of the apron and to make the neck strap and waist ties all in one piece. I turned back and hemmed the ends of the ties  to stop them from fraying. This apron is made for one person to use so the neck strap doesn't need to be adjustable, But you could add some D rings if you wanted to make a similar apron and couldn't be sure how long the neck strap needed to be. 

There shouldn't be any more frustrating moments, not having a peg to hand when he wants one. And the pegs will be stored in the apron, hanging on a hook by the back door, right by the washing machine.

The added bonus is that I didn't need to use the whole width of the fabric for this apron so now I have enough to make myself a new bag. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Me-Made-May '17

I have just signed up to Me-Made-May 2017. This is the first time that I have joined in with this challenge and I feel really excited to be part of something so big. Here is the challenge that I have set myself

"'I, Rosemary of, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '17. I will endeavour to wear one me-made item each day, including weekends, for the duration of May 2017 and to make my first pair of jeans"

I wear a lot of my own makes to work. Making my own clothes enables me to have lots of different outfits at a small cost and the pleasure of putting something new on in the morning gets me out of bed on a work day. By taking part in the challenge I will need to be a bit more adventurous and not just wear the current favourite over and over again. 

I haven't made a pair of jeans for myself although I have a pattern. My weekend wardrobe is smaller so I am challenging myself to complete a pair of jeans by the end of May

Sunday, 2 April 2017

A Mother's Day Gift and a new sewing project

As I said in my blog last week my son gave me a new book for Mother's Day. He bought me Cath Kidston's Sewing Book published in 2014.

This is a beautiful book and all this week I have been looking forward to making something and waiting patiently for the weekend to find the time. There are so many projects in the book that will make a nice change from making clothes and lots of things that will be lovely to give as presents

The book comes with everything you need to make the pocket sewing kit so I started this morning with this quick project. It reminds me of the small sewing kits known as housewifes of Hussif  which soldiers used to keep in their kits. I found a really interesting article on Soldier's Hussifs written by Nicola Parkman on the blog Hands Across the Sea Samplers which you can read here.

Everything was supplied in the pack and the fabric was already cut out so it has been great just to follow the instructions. The sewing kit came together very quickly. I love the contrast between the little birds fabric and the shocking pink trimmings and altogether it has been a pleasure to make.

What did I enjoy most? I liked making something so small and compact. The instructions advised me to pin and tack everything together before machining and I really enjoyed the hand sewing. The pieces fitted together well and once all the different sections were tacked in place the sewing was easy.

This project reminded me why I like to make my own bias binding. Commercially made binding is so stiff and much more difficult to ease around the curves, but it does look good now.

There are three pockets in the sewing kit and each one is made in a different way which gave this quick project lots of variety. It would make a lovely present for a friend who likes sewing and I would love to make another one in a different fabric.

I altered the pattern slightly when it came to the button loops. I have made buttonholes to replace the cotton loops in the original design. I thought these would be stronger and would stand up better to me filling the sewing kit with lots of useful items, which I am sure that I will be tempted to do.

Spring is coming and the weather is getting slightly warmer here. This always makes me start planning holidays away. We have a touring caravan for family holidays which feels just like having a grown up play house. I like to make things like this to personalise our caravan and I will be filling the sewing kit with useful things so that if anyone tears their clothes or looses a button while we are away I will be able to fix it.