Monday, 29 May 2017

A Bevvy of Bags and a Book Cover

Over the bank holiday weekend I have been doing some simple bag sewing and making more quick projects for myself and for others. It has been great fun using firm cottons instead of jerseys and sheers. I have been indulging myself making some of the projects in my Cath Kidston Sewing Book that I was given for Mother's Day.

This all started because the Bible my son was given by his junior church group started to fall apart. It is a nice book but I think it was made as a gift for children rather than being made to be used by children. The binding was split and falling apart and it wasn't going to be long before all of the pages fell out completely.

The first task was to put the book back together with packing tape. A few strong lengths of tape later and the book was back in one piece, but it looked terrible!

Cath Kidston has instructions in her Sewing Book for a fabric book cover. Using an off-cut from some pirate curtains I cut out the rectangles according to her instructions. She gives all of the dimensions and seam allowances so that the cover will fit the book snugly. I particularly like the pocket inside the front cover for keeping useful notes and bits and pieces.

I use a length of ribbon to make a bookmark, which I stitched to the cover at the top of the spine. One of the features of Cath Kidston's book that I really like is that it has two ribbon bookmarks. I think that I might add a second bookmark to this cover, it is so useful to be able to keep track of two places in a book at the same time.

I have reinforced my cover with a strap around the middle of the book that closes with a button and buttonhole. I hope that this will stop the book from coming under the same strains in future. The strap holds the book together when it is not being used and also works well as a carrying handle.
The owner of this book was very pleased with his new cover.

My next project was a present for a friend. Pam gave me a lot of dress making patterns recently and I wanted a way to say thank you. I had seen her struggling the other day  to carry bags, coats and toys belonging to her family and I thought she could do with a useful bag. Anyway can anyone ever have too many nice bags?
I bought this fabric from Dunelm when I went to buy material to make a peg apron here and have wanted to use it ever since.

When I bought the fabric I had the Tote Bag in Cath Kidston's book in mind. I also bought shocking pink polyester cotton to use as a lining in contrast to the pale blue of the bag.

The bag has an internal pocket, which will be useful for storing car keys or a mobile phone so that they don't get lost at the bottom.

This is a lovely bag pattern. It is the most complicated tote bag that I have ever made though. All of the vertical seams are top stitched to give the bag structure. In order to make sure that the lining didn't slip out of place I needed to tack down the seam lines and then tack the fold down before machining along the edge. This worked very well. The hardest part was actually removing the tacking stitches once the top stitching was completed.

I was pleased with the finished bag and may well use this pattern again.

By now I was on a roll!. I had one more piece of fabric that I had bought to make a bag because it reminded me of a bag in this book. This time it was something for me. I use a hand made shoulder bag every day and it needs a wash from time to time, which is a problem. I thought that if I made the rose handbag in Cath Kidston's book it would be a useful standby and I could put my trusty shoulder bag in the washing. This was a quick project and quite simple to make.

I think this is so pretty and I love the shape! I altered the design by adding an internal pocket just like the tote bag. I seem to spend so much time rummaging about in the bottom of my bags looking for small things, don't you?

There is very little top stitching in this bag so it is soft and doesn't have much structure. I have used it today as a trial and have found it a nuisance that I couldn't put the bag over my shoulder to leave my hands free. This handbag won't be taking over full time from my old shoulder bag but it was quick and easy to make and will be a useful extra bag. I have some small pieces of fabric left over in both prints and have plans to make a pencil case and some other accessories in these pretty colours.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Me Made May, Week Four

This week we have had a complete change in the weather and I have gone all the way from woolly tights  to bare legs overnight. I have found it much more difficult to put outfits together using my me mades this week and have focused on separates which is more challenging for me. I am really a dress girl I think

Monday, 22nd May
Calvin Klein cotton lawn blouse, Vogue 1878
RTW jeans
Charity shop leather belt
RTW navy cardigan

Not very smart but this blouse was so comfortable to wear for a hot day of housework and tidying up.

Tuesday, 23rd May
Purple wiggle skirt, Simple Sew, Two in one skirt collection
Asymmetric Blouse, Burda Style 5/2013, 107

Wednesday, 24th May
Purple wiggle skirt again
Burda Style 6/2013 118 pussy bow pattern hack worn in week 2

Thursday, 25th May
Sorbetto top in African wax print coming round again.
Denim skirt.

I have had this skirt for a long time. Originally it was calf length with a slit at the back. I have shortened it and perhaps I need to shorten it some more. I would welcome your advice. Who needs a charity shop find when you can keep on refashioning your own wardrobe?

Friday, 26th May
Today the weather has been so hot and I have spent a lot of time in a hot car!

I love, love, love this dress! It has been so comfortable to wear in the heat. I got out of the car at my destination and it didn't have a crease. I would almost go as far as to say I don't care what I looked like - I was comfortable. An added bonus is that the wrap top stays in place without any effort.

Saturday, 27th May
A return of my green, ditsy print Sorbetto top with the gathered neckline.
RTW denim shorts
RTW cardigan
RTW flip flops
Lily white legs - the model's own!!

Sunday, 28th May
New shift dress, New Look 6145

What have I learnt this week?
This week has been the most challenging so far for me. I wanted to try out as many Me Mades as possible and not keep going back to the favourites but this has meant turning to items that have not had so much wear, and perhaps there is a reason why these have been sitting in the cupboard. All the colours have been a bit muted haven't they?
I need to make some more fitted tops and some new skirts. It has been good to see my outfits photographed. Things look different in a photograph from how they look in the mirror and I think I would look smarter with more fitted styles instead of loose blouses. Overall I think this week's outfits have been a bit frumpy. I hoped that the wiggle skirt would look more contemporary but perhaps I haven't teamed it up with the right things. (I will be blogging this skirt next week).

Only three more days of May to go now. I am sure that my photographer will be very relieved!!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Me Made May, Week Three.

Week three of Me Made May sees my first duplicate hand made item, although I have been wearing the same RTW over and over, especially cardigans and tights to cope with the cold wet weather.

Monday, 15th May
My second Sorbetto top in African wax cotton
RTW jeans
RTW navy cardigan
Umbrella, given to me by a stranger in the rain

Tuesday, 16th May
This is the dress that started off this me made wardrobe. I watched the Great British Sewing Bee and bought the book for Series One. The first thing I made was the Basic Dress in this lilac and grey plaid.
Matched with an M&S leather jacket from the local hospice shop.

Wednesday, 17th May
Pencil Skirt from GBSB book Series One
RTW grey sweater, Sweater Shop
Pink Gillet
Grey opaque tights

Thursday, 18th May
Jersey dress with raglan sleeves, New Look K6144
RTW black cardigan

Friday, 19th May
My navy star dress, New Look 6145
black opaque tights
Didn't it rain today!!

Saturday, 20th May
Zigzag Jacket designed by Kaffe Fassett and knitted by me about 20 years ago. Another pattern from his book Glorious Knitting.
Pink top, New Look 6127
RTW jeans
Navy and white patterned canvas pumps

I like this jacket so much that I had to put two photos in. Show off or what?

Sunday, 21st May
Sheath dress, New Look K6184
Denim jacket

Looking back, this seems to have been my own personal vintage week. I have delved back in my wardrobe and worn some tried and tested items. Almost all of my Me Mades this week date back to before I started to blog, although that isn't very long ago. Some items are very old and have stood the test of time. I think it is really worth while making spectacular knits because they do last and last. They need to be garments that don't need too much washing though.
Alongside  these old favourites are my leather jacket from the local hospice shop and a lovely umbrella that was given to me by a stranger during a rain storm last summer. I was sheltering in a shop doorway in a heavy downpour. He passed by and just before going indoors looked around for someone who needed an umbrella. The first person he offered it to declined and then he offered it to me. It was my lucky day. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Sewing for friends x2

Most of my sewing recently has been for me but this week there were two alteration projects that I had promised for other people. It is nice to have new clothes but it is also nice to bless other people with our skills, so here are the two challenges. They are both things I have tried for the first time.

A T-shirt alteration for my youngest son

Last Summer my brother took his motorbike on a holiday/expedition to Iceland. He has been before when he took my sister with him to the arctic circle. In my view, he should be old enough to know better, but he enjoys the challenge. He very kindly bought a T-shirt back as a present for his youngest nephew. Either the children in Iceland are truly enormous or the sizing was wrong because this shirt was an ideal fit for me but on my son it looked like a dress - not a popular style amongst 8 year old boys.

Since finding the over-lock stitch on my sewing machine my confidence sewing jersey fabrics has increased a lot. I thought I would have a go at making a smaller T-shirt. After all if youngest son was going to wait to grow into this shirt he would have to wait a long time...

First of all I chose a t-shirt that fitted well with some growing room. As luck would have it this was a gift from his aunty in Australia. I laid the orange Australian T-shirt on top of the black Icelandic one to compare the fit.

The neck was too large but to unpick the ribbing seemed too much for my current skill level and also not really worth the time. Instead I cut out a back and front from the large shirt leaving the binding on at the neck. I have ended up with side seams in the binding but the fabric is soft and this doesn't seem to be a problem when it is on.

Then I cut sleeves using the orange T-shirt sleeves as a guide for the size. I kept the original hems to save work later.

I ended up with 4 pieces to sew together - One front with neck binding, one back with neck binding and 2 sleeves already hemmed.

First I over-locked the shoulder seams starting at the neck edge to be sure that the rib sections would line up well.

Next I sewed in the sleeves still using the over-lock stitch.

I ran one long seam down the sleeves and side seam all in one and again I started at the sleeve end to make sure that the hems would be even all around the sleeve.

Last of all I used a twin needle to hem the bottom of the shirt.

By making something from a ready to wear garment I learnt a few things. RTW is not necessarily well made. This T-shirt was cut across the grain and would have twisted badly in the wash, It is a bit better now. Worst of all the logo wasn't printed in the centre. This is more noticeable now that I have made the shirt smaller, but I think it is hard to see while the shirt is being worn and is moving about.

Ta-da! A lovely new t-shirt that fits well and one very pleased son

If anyone from Iceland reads this perhaps you could let me know whether your children are really so big and strong. I have heard that the climate is bracing, the air is fresh and the food is healthy.

Helping a work colleague by sharing our skills

Leicester is the most multi-cultural city in the UK and also has a proud textiles tradition. This is great if you like fabrics and offers lots of opportunities to learn about how different cultures make and construct their clothes. Just such an opportunity came up when my colleague Sheila asked me if I knew how to set in sleeves. It seems that when you buy a Salwar Kameez or Punjabi Suit it often comes with a sleeveless tunic and optional sleeves already cut out and ready to sew. You can choose whether to have the sleeves added and may have to pay a seamstress to add these if you don't have the skills yourself.
Sheila had bought a new tunic with optional short sleeves. It was quite easy to make up the sleeves and sew them in, but there were no markings or instructions to follow so unless you had sewn sleeves before it would seem daunting.
Unfortunately I didn't think to take any photographs of the dress before I attached the sleeves. The black piping was already sewn in place so I constructed the sleeves, ran an easing stitch along the top edge, tacked the sleeves in place and then stitched in the ditch beside the piping to sew them in from the right side. I removed the top stitching, neatened all of the layers of the armhole seams and last of all put the top stitching back. I was really pleased with how neatly everything came together.

The beading and embroidery on this top is beautiful.

The tunic had a very interesting hemline. This photo is a bit blurred but it does show the dipped hem with its wavy edge.

The skirt is cut on the bias and the hem is finished with a serger over the top of a nylon line, rather like course fishing line. A small piece was sticking out at the join which would need cutting off but made it easy to see how the hem had been constructed. The wave in the hem is created by pulling the fabric as it is hemmed.

I haven't made anything for myself this week but I have been able to use my sewing skills for others and both Shelia and my son were very pleased with what I made for them. I have learnt more about how our clothes are made and increased my skills. Since I started my blog I have sewn more regularly and tried new things and I am sure that all this practice is making me better and more accurate in my sewing and more than anything I am having fun.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Me Made May, Week Two

Monday, 8th May
It was a challenge to find something me-made and casual to wear with jeans today. This is:
My first Sorbetto top from Collette patterns
RTW jeans
RTW navy cardigan.

Tuesday, 9th May
My navy blue, shimmery shift dress. Burda style 6/2013 Pattern 117.
This is a sombre office dress with a hidden secret. It shimmers and sparkles in the light and I love it. I wore it all day but took photos in the evening to show off the shimmer. I had never blogged this dress but I will now that I have the photos here. Me Made May has really done me a favour by bringing this dress out from the back of the wardrobe where it was in danger of being forgotten.

Wednesday, 10th May
Pussy bow blouse, based on Burda style 6/2013 pattern 118
RTW trousers

Thursday, 11th May
Brightly patterned tunic dress, Kwik Sew 3691
Black opaque tights

Friday, 12th May
After a short burst of warm weather it was really wet today so out came a standard, comfortable, work dress and more warm tights
Tartan shift dress, Butterick 6258
Green opaque tights

Saturday, 13th May
Long sleeved T-shirt, Butterick 6258
RTW jeans
walking boots

Ideal for lunch out and an afternoon's walk in Derbyshire with friends'

Sunday, 14th May
Wrap dress, Simplicity 2369
This dress has made it's debut out of the house today. I try out a lot of my new makes at church, where I know I am among friends, before I launch them into the wide world.

So this is week 2 - and what have I learned this week?

I have plenty of things to choose from on work days but am going to struggle to find enough Me-Mades at weekends. I tend to wear the same old comfy clothes to relax in week after week.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Panelled Shift Dress with Blue Sparkles, Burda Style 6/2013, 117

Taking part in Me Made May 2017 prompted me to take photos of this dress and reminded me how much I like it so I thought I would share it with you in this post. I think this is a very nice design and I haven't found many examples of it out there (in fact only one, here!)

Most of my dressmaking is inspired by finding a piece of fabric that I like and looking at it until I have decided what I want to make out of it. It is almost as though the garment has been in there all the time and I just need to find it. This time I also had a pattern that I really wanted to make so I can't say which idea came first. 
The fabric is black, knitted jersey and it is covered with tiny blue sparkles. I guess that it was really intended for a party dress, perhaps with a net skirt or some beading. Something to wear at Christmas or for a special occasion. But, I don't need a dress like that.
The pattern that also inspired me was Burda 6/2013 pattern 117. I was intrigued by the unusual seams to the front and back. 

The jersey fabric was very stable and easy to work with. I used a medium ballpoint needle and stitched all of the seams with a narrow zigzag rather than an overlock stitch, because this gave a better finish on the outside. The fabric doesn't fray so I haven't neatened any of the seams because they were inclined to get bulky.

Burda patterns are challenging to cut out from the multiple pattern sheet but there weren't too many pieces in this dress. Burda instructions are always quite brief and assume that you know how to carry out the basic techniques. There was a useful "handy tips" box with instructions for putting in an invisible zip, but I would recommend looking at a U-Tube video if you haven't done this before. You can stop the video at every stage to catch up, which is almost as good as having a teacher at your side.

This pattern was rated intermediate or for advanced learners, which I think is accurate. For example, the first step was to insert the side sections and there are no instructions about how to turn the right angle corner or clip the seams. Burda magazines do not include many diagrams with the instructions so may not be so good for visual learners. 

Having said this the dress came together quite easily and there are lots of features that I really like.

The invisible size zip feels very professional. As you can see it really is invisible but makes the dress very easy to get in and out of. The back of the dress is lovely and flat because it doesn't need a centre back seam.

I love the way that the seams on the side pieces sweep straight around your body.

The neck and armhole facings are in one piece which means that they stay in place and create a nice flat finish. I think this is much better than separate facings, which always seem to want to pop out while you are wearing the dress. The instructions for putting all of the facings together were clear and straightforward but included some hand sewing at the shoulder seams.

I like the boat shaped neckline. It is modest for a work dress and more attractive than a simple round neck.

I am very pleased with the fit of the dress and it is very comfortable.

However, the best thing of all about this dress is the sparkle!! I wear this dress to work because it is sensible, navy and suitable for chairing meetings. But, every time I look down it makes me smile. The folds of the dress catch the light and are covered with tiny stars.

At night or in a low light the sparkles really come to life.

We learn in science lessons that we are all made of star dust. In this dress I feel as though this is really true.