Wednesday, 10 April 2013

How to get my sewing mojo back?

I've lost my sewing mojo or is that a sew-jo?  Sorry, terrible joke alert.

Anyhow, ever since my bad sewing week I just can't summon up any enthusiasm to get back to work.  This happens to me from time to time and has even lasted weeks, I know I'm not alone because my mother in law says the same thing happens to her.  You know that once you start you're going to really enjoy yourself, but for some reason you can't make the first move.

Maybe it's the terrible weather we've been having in the UK, I'm fed up of wearing winter clothes, but it's not warm enough for spring fashion.  Hmm, not sure how to break the spell, but I'll work on it.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Having A Bad Sewing Week

I'm not having a good time, my bottom lip is all wobbly and I want to throw all my toys out of my pram.

I got all excited by the launch of the new Colette pattern, Laurel this week,  I've never entered a sewing competition but I couldn't resist this one so I downloaded the pattern and got to work.  I decided that I'd attempt to make a few Laurels in a multi generational way, a top for my Mum a dress for me and also one each for my daughters each garment to reflect the style of the individual.

Mum lives 200 miles away in London but was arriving this week for a brief stay to collect the children for Easter, so I had to get on with Mum's top before she arrived. I made some adaptations, a tunic style opening, a bit of length to the hem and an increase to the bust dart.  There were just twenty minutes before she was due to arrive and I was just finishing off the bias binding on the hem when my bobbin thread ran out.  So I wound a new bobbin only to find that the bobbin winding icon on my Janome stayed on the LED screen even after I'd finished.  I tried turning the machine off and on again, flicking the bobbin thread spool backwards and forwards and nothing changed.  The machine wasn't going to sew anything, it was determined to stay in bobbin winding mode.  Argh, so frustrating and as the children were off to the Grandparents my plan was to do lots of sewing over the long weekend.

Anyway Mum arrived and tried the top on in it's almost finished state only to find it doesn't fit at all right.  Yet again I was too impatient and instead of making up a muslin I made it in the fashion fabric, it honestly didn't even cross my mind not to do this I really do wonder about myself sometimes.  At this point I was ready to throw the top away and sulk.

Mum (with offending Janome in the background)
In the meantime children and grandparents have headed down south and I worked out that if I stick my finger in the gap in my machine where the bobbin thread spool is I can get the bobbin winding icon to disappear and the machine to work.  Clearly I can't sew with my finger stuck in the top of my machine, but hooray I've fixed it with a lump of blutack, so that's that solved (temporarily).  Now all I have to do is see if this Laurel top is fixable.

I'm not sure if it's clear to see here, but there was some excess fabric around the bust darts, which I have pinned for reference.  I had already increased the bust dart a bit, but clearly not enough.  What I think is clear to see is that it's too tight across the chest, which was made worse when she moved her arms.  Do you think this is salvageable, or am I going to have to throw it in the bin afterall?  I'm wondering if I need to make the arm opening wider at this chest point and then remake the sleeves I do have enough fabric left for sleeves.  Although I'm not too sure on how to redraft the sleeve pattern, I might have to dust off my pattern cutting books.  Hmm, I'm not sure if I should just give up - help!

Friday, 22 March 2013

What do you listen to while you sew?

For me my time sewing is an audio visual experience, the visual part is the challenge and the audio part is my treat.

I mostly sew while my children are at school and my husband is at work, so apart from the dog and the guinea pig it's just me.  Now I'm ok with silence, it used to be a scarce resource when the children were younger, but now they're often all plugged into something or another so I don't need to grab every moment of peace.  What I love to do more than anything in the world is listen to BBC Radio 4.  Thank goodness for BBC I-player.  If I'm a bit fed up I'll choose a comedy I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue is guaranteed to make me laugh out loud and the dog to give me 'what on earth is she doing' looks.

Dobby the Dog
Most of the time though I'll listen to a drama or play, this week it's been the totally brilliant No1 Ladies Detective Agency.  Being the BBC there are brilliant period dramas, contemporary plays and some really surreal programmes, it's like having an amazing actor sitting next to you reading a bedtime story - what's not to love?

I've never tried listening to music while sewing, somehow I think it would feel disjointed if the rhythm of the music was at odds with the rhythm of your sewing, but as I haven't tried it maybe I'm wrong.  As I'm fortunate enough to have an i-pad (very handy with the online Craftsy class) I have been known to 'watch' a tv programme at the same time as sewing.  By which I don't really mean watch, more like listen so it needs to be something you're not really all that bothered about.  I've found this is perfect for those guilty pleasure programmes especially the ones the husband can't stand.  Think Real Housewives of Wherever or The Only Way Is Essex (if you're not in the UK, it's ghastly but irresistible).

So, I wonder what you listen to while you sew?  Music? Silence? or are you literally on the kitchen table with all family life going on around you, I'd love to know.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013


I am going to show you a couple of frocks, but before I do in case you've been following my shirtmaking journey here's a picture of my headless husband wearing his finished shirt.  I would wholeheartedly recommend the classic tailored shirt class to anyone who wants to learn how to professionally construct a shirt, it's so well taught by Pam Howard that even a slapdash sewer like me managed to produce something wearable.  I really hope that Craftsy will offer some more Pam in the future.

Now onto the frocks.  A while ago I pinned this Brora dress onto my Pinterest page.  I particularly like the neckline with the collar, at the time I looked online and in my own stash of patterns but couldn't find anything similar.

Then a couple of months ago I spotted this dress in the February edition of BurdaStyle magazine

                                                             BurdaStyle Boucle Dress Pattern

I prefer the shape of the skirt on this pattern to the Brora dress as full skirts never look good on me, so I decided to give it a go.  As I was under the misapprehension that spring was on it's way I decided not to use a boucle like the photograph (although I do think it looks fab) and opted to use up some fabric I had in my 'not sure what I'll use this for' pile.  So here I am in my frock.

Now I hadn't done my shirt class at this point and I couldn't get my head around the collar instructions at all, so I drafted a flat peter pan collar and went with that.  I think it came out ok, but the neckline is way too low to wear alone and it's a bit baggy around the waist.  Anyway I've worn it and that's probably the biggest test.

So then I decided to make another - it really is a very easy dress to make (did I mention no dreaded zip?)  This time I added a waist dart at the front (there is one already in the back) and opted not to include a collar.  I dug out some fine needlecord fabric in black and came up with this.

I did reduce the length of the neckline, but still not enough to wear without flashing.  It's a shame because it's a bit spoilt by having a cami underneath although it probably would look better with a black  one rather than blue - hey ho.

I'm pleased with the overall outcome, the fabric in particular.  It looks a bit like velvet from a distance, but being needlecord is a lot more wearable.  Whilst the new front darts have given it a bit of shape, I don't think I got them right and should have given them a longer taper.  Well I think that's what the problem is.

I'd love to know what you think about these two frocks, I'm tempted to make a third to try and get the neckline right and use my new collar knowledge to make a 'proper' collar.  I'll add it onto the to do list.  In the meantime I'm off before I change my mind about posting photographs of myself - I hate having my photo taken (gulp).

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

In Between Days

I have finally completed my classic tailored shirt, but I have no 'model' to photograph it on as my husband is in London for a couple of days so I'll post it shortly.

In the mean time I'm having an in between day, one project is finished and I haven't decided what to start next. I have so many things that I want to make when it comes to deciding it feels a bit overwhelming.

Here are the contenders for next project

                                                   BurdaStyle Asymmetric Zip Jacket from 03/2012

                                                                         Inspired by this

                                                          White Company Jersey Biker Jacket

I haven't see the White Company jacket in real life, but it looks like a sweatshirt type jersey fabric which I think will be too challenging for me.  What fabric to use though?  I'm hanging on to the hope that spring is coming soon (no snow today) so I'm having to fight my instinctive desire to choose a tweed or boucle.  I don't want to choose a linen partly as I've just used linen, but also I think the crumpled effect you get with it wouldn't be right with this kind of jacket.  

My reservation is that I could be biting off more than I can chew with this pattern, I haven't worked with a separating zip so this is completely out of my comfort zone.  However it is my plan to tackle some of my sewing fears and this could be an opportunity to do just that.

Alternatively I do love a shirt dress and having just finished the shirt I could use my new skills to make myself one.  

                                                                    Lisette Traveler Pattern

I was thinking of doing a classic denim shirt dress or see if I can find a great print.  Fit and flare styles don't do anything for me, so I'd probably go for a straight skirt like the model in the pattern here.

Hmm, not sure which way to go, what do you think? My three children are all off school ill today so I won't be heading off to buy fabrics anyway, perhaps I'll spend some time looking for separating zip tutorials.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Elvis has left the building

I've spent today warm and snuggly indoors - can you believe it's been snowing in England today?  It's supposed to be spring!  I've been immersed in changing the collar on the shirt I made my husband following his comment yesterday that it was 'a tad Elvis'.  Using one of his many linen shirts as a guide for size I redrafted the collar piece and set about remaking the collar, although I wouldn't have chosen to remake the collar the new one has accidently turned out better.  When I started on this project I bought some light woven interfacing specifically for the shirt as I thought it would give a little more body to my linen which has a fairly open weave.  However after interfacing my collar stand this (third!) time I realised there just wasn't enough left for the collar piece, so I looked to see if I had any more in my stash to find that I did.  However this wasn't a woven interfacing and was much more lightweight, being that I didn't want to leave the house I used it and it has given a much better finish for this particular fabric.  The woven interfacing had been used on the 'Elvis' collar and it did look a little stiff considering that a linen shirt is inevitably casual in style, this lighterweight interfacing is more appropriate and has given a more relaxed finish.  What great about this is not only that it's a better finish, but also I never really got the point of different types of interfacing and now I do.

The second happy accident with the collar is that when my husband tried it on yesterday we found that it was too tight to ever be buttoned at the top, now neither of us were too bothered by this as again the shirt is casual and will always be worn with the top button open.  However, it's nice to get it right.  As I had already trimmed the seam down to 1cm where the shirt joins the collar stand I decided that rather than doing the same to the collar stand piece I would continue as usual with a 1.5cm seam allowance.  This way the collar is a tiny bit looser, but just enough so that it can be button comfortably.  They say that you learn best from your mistakes and today has been one of those days.

I have now finished the shirt except for the buttons, our local town has a small fabric shop with a limited selection of button but Tuesday is market day and there is a regular stall with a larger selection of buttons so I thought I'd wait until tomorrow.

In the meantime have a look at the work in progress, I'd love to know what you think.

This is the 'Elvis' collar version, not particularly massive, but I want this shirt to be worn and it wasn't going to be.

Redrafted collar piece, I chose not to bother with separate upper and under collar pieces and just used the iron to ensure that the seam fell to the under collar.

Elvis has left the building - the new smaller collar

                      Just the buttons left to do, I might make the sleeves a bit narrower next time.

I'm pleased with how the cuffs turned out, I made a bit of a mistake with the placket and made it too  long but I think I can get away with it.