Monday, 30 December 2013

Top 5 Hits and Misses of 2013

Oh look! What's that? Why, I do believe it's a bandwagon. Wait, while I jump on!

I was trying to hold off doing this, but my Bloglovin blog-roll is bursting at the seams with Top 5 Hits and Misses, and I've been persuaded to join in the fun! I feel a bit cheeky seeing as I've never read the blogger who kicked this off, Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow, but I'm sure she won't mind.

I probably won't do this properly. For obvious reasons (pregnancy) there is little point in doing the goals and inspirations for next year, as I will be unable to fulfil many sewing goals that I currently harbour (sewing trousers for example), and inspiration will mostly be based upon whatever is most comfortable, but I will do a separate post about my maternity sewing plans. But for the time being, here is my roundup of 2013.

The Hits
(Fortunately, I guess), it is really difficult to chose only 5 makes, so instead here are 5 things I am particularly proud of, in no particular order:

1. Grainline Scouts!
By far and away my favourite discovery of 2013. It might be a bit of a cop out, as this is a very easy pattern to make, but I did still need to do some fitting work to get it right. All 3 have been worn loads (well, the sequin one has been worn as often as a sequin top can realistically be worn), and there are definitely more variations in the pipeline. Love it!

2. Me Made May
I enjoyed MMM13 so much. Yes it was challenging, but it was fun, and it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. It became apparent through the month that I need to make more (some) trousers/jeans, for an entirely me made wardrobe to properly work, but as I don't sew to replace RTW, it hasn't concerned me too much that I haven't yet managed that.

3. Small Girl Dress
I was really happy with this make. Making something small was interesting, but fun, and nice to deal with only small bits of fabric! My sister and my niece love it, which is the most important thing. Lessons learnt from this? Don't just save your best sewing for others. You deserve it yourself! Something I have been trying to put into practise since.

4. Floral Charlotte Skirt
This was a great save of a real miss (see details below). The waist is (was) still a little big, but it didn't stop me wearing this to death this summer and early autumn. I love the fabric and I particularly love the fact that I was able to make something that I love from an unwearable mess! Hurrah for saves!

5. Graphic Green Peony
I had this dress in mind for a while and was glad I finally managed to make it. Technically it's a fail because the fit was terrible, but again, I managed to perform a decent save (IMO) on it, making it a really comfortable wearable dress. My only regret is that I didn't make it earlier in the summer to get more wear out of it. Never mind, I'm sure it'll fit in Summer 2015!

The Misses
Let's start with the most obvious (hint: see no. 4 above).

1. Mad Men Elisalotte
The fit on this was just wrong, wrong wrong! To be fair, my head wasn't in the right place when I made it, and I made the dress in a stretch fabric when it's meant to be non-stretch with negative ease, so this was entirely my fault. I never once wore it in it's original form, but at least I was able to turn it around and make it wearable as a skirt!

2. Fall for Cotton blouse
This wasn't a huge miss, but it was a rush job and as a result the finish is pretty poor. Also, since it was a rush job, I didn't bother with a muslin to my cost. It's too short and as a result it is not a length I feel comfortable wearing. I did wear it once or twice, but never felt fully happy with it. Shame because I like the style and I love the fabric.

3. Spring Mathilde
I enjoyed making this. I'm happy with the fit and the fabric, but I just don't really wear it and I think that's because it's not me. I don't know why. I love it on everyone else. Maybe I need to try it in a different fabric, with a short sleeve? I don't know. I'm disappointed that I don't like this more.

That's it! Not too many fails then, which is good news! As ever, there are still things that I think I can improve on, and even when I'm happy with a finished garment, I'm never, truly 100% happy but with perseverance and attention to detail (and forcing myself to unpick something rather than say "it'll do") I feel I am getting better.

So, in summary, I made 14 garments for myself this year, 1 garment for another person (my niece) and made 3 craft items, of which 2 were for others (bunting for Small Boy and nautical craft swap). OK, so nowhere near the 50 or 60 garments of some people, but I am really happy with my output. I was surprised it had been that many when I counted them up. Next year perhaps a bit more selfless sewing? Well, as I said above, my next post will cover my maternity sewing plans, so maybe!

I know I've said this before, but my next post will most definitely be once we are into 2014, so Happy New Year, whatever your plans! X

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Last Minute Christmas Crafting

Hi! A just-in-the-nick-of-time pre-Christmas post to share some last minute crafting that's been going on around here. I decided we needed some Christmas tree bunting, as generally our Christmas decorations are the tree and... well, that's it. With a Small Boy in the house, I am trying to branch out more, and bunting seemed just the ticket. This was a quick and relatively easy make across 2 evenings although it could easily have been one, if I hadn't decided to make 2 at once.

I free handed a Christmas tree shape on paper, traced it onto the back of a cereal packet, cut it out and then drew round it onto my fabric. The fabric was all from my stash - well, some of it was purpose bought about 2 or 3 years ago, but because I didn't make the bunting then, it became part of the stash. The rest was scraps and an old RTW blouse that shrank some time ago.

The only the I had to buy was the green thread! I was in town on Saturday to get my hair cut, so popped into John Lewis to get the that, and while there, the little star shaped buttons caught my eye. It was nearly £6 for the pack, but I think they really make the bunting!
I cut the fabric using pinking shears, placed them wrong sides together and sewed around them. The shape was a bit tricky to sew around, as my machine has a tendency to chew up fabric when I sew very close to the edge, and some of the lighter fabrics suffered more from this than the others. As a result the seam allowance is a bit wobbly and inconsistent to say the least! But I say just don't look too closely! I originally cut 9 trees for each string of bunting, as I like odd numbers, but I didn't have enough bias binding, so this was reduced to 8. Luckily I only had 8 different fabrics so was going to repeat one, so no fabric was made to feel left out!

The second strand was a present for my sister and her family. it's exactly the same as this one, but the trees are in a different order. They recently completed an extension to the back of their house, so it was a Christmas themed extension warming present! One which she will probably not want to put up because she won't want pin marks in her freshly plastered and painted walls!

I love ours. It honestly gives me real pleasure every time I see it! Daft, but true! That's Christmas for you!

The fireplace, "dressed" for Christmas. All artwork by Small Boy. The thing that looks like a tissue is actually the reindeer dust (see below). The random jar on the mantelpiece is a home made snow globe. 

So I think we are now all organised for Christmas. The Small Boy has done his shouting up the chimney (a family tradition from our side - you shout up the chimney, rather than write a letter, to ask Santa to bring you what you want), we've sprinkled "reindeer dust" (a nursery invension: oats mixed with glitter) on the fireplace and in the garden, where it will surely have blown away already, and the mince pie and brandy (lucky Santa Claus) and carrot have been left out! All that is left is for me to post this, finish making the truffles that are currently cooling in the fridge, wrap one more present and then chill!

Shouting up the chimney

Snacks for Santa and Rudolf 
This will probably be my last post for a couple of weeks, so I'll take the opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, when it comes! Have a good one! X

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Completed: Sequin Scout

Generally this is how Christmas pans out for me. October: “too early for Christmas”. November: “ too early for Christmas”. December: PANIC! I have nothing bought. No cards, no presents, no paper, no advent calendar, no ribbons, no tree, no party outfit… For some reason this year I was quite organised on the paper, cards, advent calendar and even some of the presents. Not so on the party outfit. Particularly given my Xmas nights out this year are early – 5th and 7th! And this year was made doubly hard in that I can’t just rely on some old thing to wear, because it will not fit me! I’m now in that hinterland of looking like I’ve eaten a few too many pies. That stage where people are scared to ask, for fear of offending! Not big enough to justify maternity wear, just big enough to have outgrown “normal” clothes. My original plan of a chiffon zinnia went out the window a long time ago.
I have been mildly obsessed with sequin tees (and skirts and even trousers) since last Christmas, when I saw one (I think, in Topshop), didn’t buy it, then couldn’t find it when I decided it might be nice after all. I did a bit of searching around, at the time, but then decided on some other party outfit. But since then I’ve been collecting sequin images on Pinterest. I wasn't going to, and couldn't afford to spend around £70 to £100 plus on one, so making one seemed the obvious solution!
I couldn’t get the fabric I really wanted in a local shop and I didn’t have time to shop around, or to order online (although I did come across this website, which might prove useful in future). What I really wanted was what Danielle just used for her sequin skirt. A fabric well-covered in matt sequins in either a copper colour, or navy. Particular inspiration was these:
The Cloth Shop only had black, which I didn’t want. John Lewis only had the fabric that I bought. It was labelled as gold, but it looks more silver. The sequins themselves are small and quite sparse – they don’t overlap at all. I thought this might work in my favour in terms of ease of sewing, and I was probably right, however in the cold light of day and now made up, it does look quite cheap. Which is annoying considering it cost me £23 for 1.3 metres!  

I didn’t have much to go on for working with this fabric. The lady in John Lewis told me that might break my machine and that I should hand sew it all. And obviously not to go near it with an iron. It wasn’t the normal JL lady that I know and trust, so I chose to ignore her advice and went with machine stitching, very slowly, with a longer stitch (3.5, the default is 2.5) and a very sharp needle. This worked a treat. I got a small amount of puckering on the side seams, but this pressed out OK. Yes, I pressed it! I used my iron’s lowest possible setting, and in lieu of a organza pressing cloth, used an old baby’s muslin. I also only pressed the wrong side, just in case. The sequins are sewn onto a poly chiffon, which gives the fabric a lovely drape, but the sequins themselves add body, making it relatively easy to handle and sew. What was particularly nice was that with right sides together, the sequins provided traction, meaning the 2 layers didn’t slip about at all. Particularly handy since pins refused to stay in place!
I went with the Grainline Studios’ Scout as I know it and like it and it has so few seams. I thought the fewer seams the better. I used a silvery-grey poly lining fabric scrap from my stash, in place of self-bias binding, and at the last minute decided to show the bias, rather than only using it as a facing. This works reasonably well, but if I’d thought about it in advance I would have bought something of better quality, and would have made the bias binding wider. Still, it gives a nice subtle contrast. I had wanted to raise the neckline on this version, but I forgot when cutting it out, so it remains loyal to the pattern. Although bizarrely it seems to sit lower and wider than my previous Scouts. I left the pattern as is - without removing any width - to accommodate the small bump. Again in hindsight, I should have added some length, but it works fine as is. And here it is:

I did read Heather Lou from Closet Case Files’ recent post on sewing with sequins. Her advice was to remove sleeve ease, because gathered sequins look like “disco barf”. Having no great desire to find out what “disco barf” looks like, I followed her advice, and the tutorial she used. This worked well. I am always scared of any pattern alterations as it involves maths and rulers and looks too complicated. But this took me 20 mins tops! Super easy. It was still a little big, but again, I followed her instructions to remove the remaining excess, which also worked fine.
The sleeve and bodice hem are sewn by hand, as was the bias binding. I didn't remove any sequins in the seam allowance, but the seams sit just fine, albeit they are a little bulky. A blessing again of the sparsity of the sequins. The insides were finished by overlocker. Wait? What? Oh, yes, I forgot to tell some of you that Santa has been early to my house, via Lidl, and I am now the proud possessor of a Singer 14SH754 overlocker! It’s good. I like it, but am still getting used to it. It took me an hour to change thread colour to make this blouse! But I will write another post on this at a later date.
Some more photos:

Excuse the background, which is dead herbs against our neighbour's extension wall. My usual garden backdrop wasn't an option because our fence blew down in the gales last week. I hope my poor climbing rose has survived!
The blouse wasn't finished on time for Thursday, but, after frantically handsewing the hem at 6pm on Saturday night, it was for my night out then: dinner at Harvey Nichols with my antenatal group. I wore it with maternity leggings (thick, ponte ones) and gold heels. My friend, Jo, something of a fashion expert and a very classy dresser, proclaimed that my top looked like it was "from French Connection and cost £100". That made me very happy! :) Clearly it does not actually look cheap!
In other news, it was my birthday on Monday. I turned 39! I have been reading with some interest, Roobedoo's "49 before 50" series of posts, as she has recently entered her 50th year. I vaguely toyed with the idea of something similar, before realising that pregnancy, recruiting my mat cover, giving birth, breast feeding, coping with no sleep, juggling a baby and a toddler and finally weaning, was probably enough to be getting on with for next year!  Although to them, I might add: becoming less scared of proficient on my overlocker, continuing to sew as often as possible, and attending my first blogger meet up (February, in Glasgow. Sooo excited!).
I received some lovely gifts including a gift voucher for one of my favourite independent Edinburgh shops, Curiouser & Curiouser from P, The Great British Sewing Bee book from my sister and Megan Nielsen's Ruched Maternity Tee pattern from my mum. The GBSB book has some lovely patterns, and I can see myself making a few of them further down the line. I don't see the point in going crazy for specific maternity patterns - the finished makes have too short a shelf life - but I thought this would be a good basic shape on which to base a few mods. It will also give me good practise on knits and the overlocker!
So that's me for now. Are any of you sewing Christmas party outfits? If so, what are you sewing? 
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