Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Sew Grateful - Sharing Resources Day

I don't have any tutorials or patterns of my own to give you today, so thought I would go with sharing some tutorials that I have found online. All of these have a theme, which I appreciate is quite niche, but hopefully some people might find inspirational and useful. I certainly have, in my current state. The theme is maternity! 

Kestrel Makes - maternity denim skirt (presume you could apply the same logic to jeans or trousers)

Megan Nielsen - 2 seam dress is a blog run by Megan Nielsen, which is quite seperate to her Megan Nielsen Design Diary. As you would expect from the title, it focuses on a maternity wardrobe and is mostly refashions. It's a great resource, although new posts are sporadic. She has guest bloggers on there a lot - a must, I suppose, unless she intends on being permanently pregnant! I have not made anything from this site yet, but a few that stand out for me are:

Megan Nielsen - gathered skirt
Of all the above, the only one I have tried is the 2 seam dress, which I can fully recommend, but if I have time, I do plan to try some of the others. I hope someone finds these useful! 

Tomorrow is Sew Grateful Sewing Project Day. Somewhat paradoxically, I haven't had any time to sew this week because I've either been writing about sewing, or watching sewing on TV. I will try to get some done tonight, but it's unlikely I will manage a finished garment, fully photographed and written about, so I will probably be missing out on tomorrow's link party. However, I hope to have a finished garment to blog about at the weekend at the latest. Something to look forward to!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Sew Grateful: Reflections Day

With all the round up posts going on recently at the beginning of the year, this is a difficult post to write, without feeling like I am repeating myself.

Who am I grateful to for supporting and encouraging my sewing obsession?

The most obvious is the ever patient husband, P.

P, last summer.
I have no dedicated sewing space, so he happily puts up with me sewing in the same room as he is watching TV. Generally the set up is this: P, perched on one side of the sofa, feet up off the floor, whilst the other 1.5 sofas, plus the table, plus the floor (if I am cutting out) are littered with fabric, patterns, machines, iPad and sewing paraphernalia. He didn't mind that i bought an overlocker then told him he was to give me it for Christmas. He is mostly tolerant of finding pins in the sofa. He is happy with me spending money on fabric that then sits in our (VERY) limited storage space for months (years) on end. He puts up with 2 sewing machines and an overlocker (again, see comment about limited storage space). He persuaded me to take my sewing machine on holiday and then didn't complain when I didn't actually do any sewing, even though he had to battle to fit it in the car. He only complains occasionally about the fact that I have never made him anything. He is my ever patient photographer. He even (occasionally) reads my blog, even though he hasn't the first idea what I'm talking about! He really is the best!

Next up, my mum. It was her that introduced me to craft and sewing as a child, and who taught me the basics. When I returned to sewing later in life, I had a lot to learn, but thanks to my mum I knew how to operate a sewing machine, how to hand baste, how to slipstich, how to press, how to take up the bottom of my jeans: the fundamentals. She helped me make made (and I assisted) my Graduation Ball gown. I still have the "12 days of Christmas" baubles that we made together when I was young, and hang them on my tree every year. She used to buy Clothkits kits (the first time around) and together we would make clothes and dolls. She gave me my first and second sewing machines and contributed towards the cost of my current one. And she helped me make 2 pairs of curtains when I was heavily pregnant with Small Boy. Without her, I doubt I would ever had got into sewing. Thank you, mum!

Embarrassing 90's photo: my graduation ball dress, made by Mum
Now to my sewing teacher. I got back into sewing as an adult, by attending a dressmaking evening course, which I went to for 2 terms before I had to stop to have Small Boy. The teacher there was a superb dressmaker, but not a brilliant teacher. I made 2 garments during her classes, but never felt like I learned much - I always had to go back to her for guidance on the next step. After Small Boy was born and big enough to leave in the evenings, I went back to evening classes, but had to change the evening to fit with P's work and childcare and so discovered my new teacher Pam. Pam is not a dressmaker by trade - her thing is actually machine embroidery, but like most "crafty" people, she does a bit of everything. She also works in Mandors in Edinburgh. Pam is not necessarily an expert, but is happy to admit it. She is approachable and explains things in such a way that you learn and retain the information. She is a lovely lady who is so supportive and although she teaches a beginners class, is happy for me to return term after term, to her class, because I like it! This term I have decided not to go back, at least until after the baby is born. The term was running into May, when I am due, but I also need to take my own machine and I knew it would be too much to carry it the long walk from car to class, with a giant bump in tow. I am missing her this term! And the chat from the other girls in the class!

And lastly the online sewing community. I've said so much about this in my blog already but I can't not mention you guys. I discovered the online community and Pam within about 6 months of each other, so it's hard to credit what I learned from where, and where to attribute the beginnings of this obsession. In the past year, I have discovered so many more blogs, found the world of Indie Pattern makers (from which I will never look back - honestly, how many big 4 patterns have you known me to make?), physically met actual bloggers (you guys exist in real life too?), and discovered that a lot of you like what I sew, and write! I now have friends in Australia and America, as well as all over the UK, and we share something really special: a passion for our hobby that surpasses anything else.

Real life Bloggers
I also have to make special mention to Danielle, who sent me the fabric I'd been trying to track down, for free, from Australia, because I'd had a bit of a run of bad luck last year and she felt that I needed cheering up. I have real, physical friends that have never done anything so generous in spirit. Thank you, Danielle. Big virtual hug for you! That still brings tears to my eyes, and I promise that I will make that Archer, just as soon as I get my body back to myself! x

Gingham courtesy of Danielle at One Small Stitch
So that's me. For someone who was struggling with this, I seem to have written rather a lot. This would beat most BAFTA acceptance speeches! By now you are probably all at the bar, talking amongst yourselves and wondering when I'm going to stop the histrionics and let the next person on. You've heard it might be Brad or George on next...


Monday, 24 February 2014

Sew Grateful 2014: Giveaway Day ***GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED***


So! The week starts with Giveaway Day! How exciting!

When I was on holiday at the beginning of Feb, we visited the Borders Textile Towerhouse, which I have yet to post about. This is a fantastic museum, particularly if you are a fabric geek, based in Hawick in the Scottish Borders. The museum itself is based on the history of the Borders textile industry, which produced knitwear and tweed for over a century. It is also interactive, so brilliantly hands on and good for entertaining a 3 year old. There are buttons to press! And signs saying “Please Touch”!

After our visit I had a quick scoot around the shop, while the boys found a picnic spot outside, and I uncovered this.

I bought it thinking it would be perfect as a giveaway on my blog at some point, and then I came home to discover that I would have the opportunity sooner than I expected!

Side note regarding the picnic: Yes, this is Scotland in February. I am convinced my son will grow up with his abiding memory of holidays and family outings being sandwiches, crisps and fruit on a bench in the cold. But it is so much cheaper than buying lunch for 3 every day, and we've never done it in the rain or snow. Yet.  I am aware there is a certain irony in making my own flesh and blood eat sandwiches in the freezing cold to save money, so I can then spend money on something I will give to a complete stranger. Let’s just hope the authorities aren’t reading this. And I did make it up to Small Boy later with hot chocolate and some cake!

So, this is a little pin, or badge made by a company called Buttonsy, featuring a picture of a vintage sewing machine, and the words: "I think, therefore I sew".

This in itself is not enough to give away, so it is being partnered with these lovely woven labels, designed to be sewn into your handmade garments! I think they are really cute and I hope you do too!

In the past year, I have done rather well out of giveaways, for which I am extremely grateful! So, definitely time again for me to give something back!

To win both of these, please leave me a comment below, and for fun please let me know what is the most ridiculous, embarrassing or silly thing you have done in a bid to save money. If you have forced your family to join in, so much the better! :) Closing date is midnight (GMT) Sunday 2nd March. Giveaway open internationally, and to bloggers and non-bloggers alike. Winner will be pulled at random from a glass bowl. 

Good luck! ***GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED***

Friday, 21 February 2014

Sew Grateful Week 2014

Firstly, I wanted to say thank you for the lovely, supportive comments on my last post. Goodness, you lot know how to flatter a pregnant lady, and make her feel good about herself! Just what the doctor ordered! :)

Secondly, although I am feeling particularly giant, and some colleagues seem to delight in regularly exclaiming "you weren't this big last time around!", and NO ONE has called me "neat" thus far (it was word of the year last time), I saw the midwife today and am measuring spot on for 28 weeks and 5 days! Last time I also consistently measured correctly. So I am officially no bigger. It just seems like it...

Thirdly, I wanted to make a confession: I've been a bit daft. Shall we agree to just call it baby brain? It seems my sewing machine does actually have a stretch stitch... I just never realised it was called that! For some reason, I thought a stretch stitch was some magical stitch. But no. Turns out it's that lightening shaped zigzag one. Duh! Actually, it seems I also have a triple stretch stitch. I was a bit perplexed but a bit of digging online came up with this rather excellent explanation, and some really good pointers. But then since you've all made Lady Skaters you probably know this already! :)

And so to the main point of this post. I am joining in with Debi at My Happy Sewing Place's Sew Grateful week next week. After meeting the lady, herself recently, I couldn't not. Could I?

This was one of the first blogland events I took part in last year, as a baby blogger and it was great fun! Even as a very new blogger, I still felt I had things to share. This year I won't be taking part every day, due to other commitments and pregnancy shattered-ness. Most some nights I just need a really early night! But I will join in as often as I am able, and look forward to seeing what everyone writes/contributes. The format this year is as follows:

Monday the 24th February: Giveaway Day.  Host a giveaway on your blog or other social media platform to give something back to the sewing community.
Tuesday the 25th February: Reflections Day. This is the day to reflect on the role sewing has played in our lives, reflecting on those who have been supportive in our journey and reflecting on what the online community means to us!  What are you sew grateful for? 
Wednesday the 26th February: Sharing Resources Day. Share a free pattern, share some vintage sewing resources, share a tutorial or share some great sewing resource links!
Thursday the 27th February: Sew Grateful Sewing Project Day.  Showcase your latest sewing project. Whether it's a project using up that pattern that was a present from someone or that you won in a giveaway or using a tutorial someone has prepared, or even a project inspired by someone in the sewing community... the possibilities are nearly endless!
Friday the 28th to Sunday the 2nd: I'll post a series of round-up posts of some of the Sew Grateful Highlights from the week.

*Spoiler alert* I will be taking part in Monday's link party...

Are you taking part?

Monday, 17 February 2014

Completed: Two seam tunic

Here is my second maternity make. This wasn't in my sewing plans, but Megan Nielsen posted the tutorial a couple of weeks ago. I was struggling with finishing my Anda, and as much as I prefer to finish one project before starting another, sometimes I find a quick, easy make rekindles my sewjo and gets me back on the horse. I also had 3 metres of this dark red jersey in my stash, pleading to be used, so this turned out to be a stashbusting project too!

I followed the tutorial to the letter, but opted to go for a straight hem, rather than Megan's cool hem line. Although I followed her measurement guidelines, my dress feels a lot less looser than Megan's looks. The neckline is also a lot lower than hers looks. I was a bit concerned it was too low. Normally I'm fairly comfortable with a bit of bra strap peeking out, in the right context, and providing it's a pretty bra (no grey from too many washes bras please!), but with the maternity and non-underwired bras I'm wearing currently, I feel really self-conscious about showing any bra whatsoever. Maybe it's the fact that the straps are so close together or that the cups come up so much further (I prefer a balcony style normally, which has fairly wide spaced straps - sorry if that's TMI), or maybe it's the fact that the straps themselves are about 2 inches wide. Either way, I want them kept well under wraps. Luckily, the fact that the dress is tighter than I expected means that the bodice is inclined to stay put and the neckline is just about as low as I'd feel comfortable going.

Just in case you were in any doubt about the size of my bump!
I was also concerned, once I put this together, that it was too lightweight for winter. The style naturally lends itself to wafting about in summer (a la Megan), but actually I've worn it twice now - once with thermal black opaques and once with leggings (as worn in these photos) and I think it looks fine. Looking at the above picture makes me realise that leggings might be the best option in future - as the bump grows the dress is going to become shorter!

Obviously, I actually have a face IRL!
It is remarkably comfortable. I wear it with an elasticated belt I did have to remove towards the end of the day (and during a one to one with one of my team, the day I wore it to work - but she didn't mind!), but otherwise it was comfortable. Without the belt, it's like wearing a nightdress - both in terms of comfort, but sadly also in terms of looks - so not really an option for being out and about. Having said that, a shorter t-shirt length would probably work well.

The whole thing took me an hour and a half to put together. And about 50% of that time was probably devoted to rethreading my overlocker. This is the part of the dress I am less keen on. I still only have black and white overlocker thread, so made this up using the black. It worked out fine until I pressed the seams, and now the black thread shows. I did consider adding some detailing to the front to hide this, but I have obviously cut slightly off grain, as the front seam is not 100% straight. It's not that noticeable as is but it would be more obvious if I highlighted it (obviously!). What is the answer to this? Should I be buying overlocker thread to match every project? Or at least the projects I intend to make in a knit, where I won't be using my sewing machine? I just feel this could end up being both costly and wasteful, as I'm not sure I would get that much use out of the rest of the 4 thread cones. I did ask Hazel about this in Mandors - she said she uses a stretch stitch on her sewing machine, then overlocks in black or white - but my sewing machine doesn't have a stretch stitch. I could zig zag it on my sewing machine but then am left wondering about the purpose of the overlocker. Since a knit fabric doesn't fray, why bother? What do you do?

Just in case you are under any illusions about how lovely and sunny and warm Scotland looks in February, let me prove otherwise. These photos were taken between rain showers, in about 5 mins of very low, very bright sun. Here is how I actually looked for the rest of the day:


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Completed: Maternity Anda

Hurrah! Here it is, my first official maternity make - and my first make of 2014. You actually got a sneak preview of this in my last post, as I wore this to the Blogger meet up:

 Here is a proper look:

OK, it's perhaps not the most flattering across the bust, but it's comfy and I actually like it. I think the problem in the bodice is twofold: there is a lot of ease, perhaps too much and I am now in maternity and non-underwired bras, which completely changes the shape of the bust, and not (in my opinion) for the better. Actually, it's threefold (is that a word?): my empire line is a bit low, and it rides up over the bump, giving a more bloused effect than I would have liked. All 3 conspire to give me a bit of a "uni-boob" look. A lower neckline might have distracted from this, a bit.

The dress is the Burdastyle Anda. My first Burda pattern. I can see what people mean when they are disparaging of Burda's instructions. This is a Beginnners pattern, and with the right instructions would be perfect. With the existing instructions, however, I'm not so sure.

I really am getting big. And only 26 weeks here!
The pattern comes as one front and one back piece, with a couple of other pieces for the casing and tie which I didn't use. I actually cut the front and back piece into two to create a seperate bodice and skirt, which with hindsight, wasn't necessary. My thinking behind this was that I might want to cut a wider skirt piece to accommodate the bump, and this is actually what I did do, but there is such a ridiculous amount off ease in this pattern, that it would have been fine if I'd left it as is. I measured a RTW maternity dress to determine where to cut the pattern pieces, so not sure why the waist now sits lower on this dress.

I simply sewed side and shoulder seams together on the bodice, and side seams on the skirt. I then gathered the skirt to fit the bodice, sewed them together. I didn't want the detail of a tie and a casing, so instead attached elastic to the waist seam with a 3 step zigzag stitch. I thought the elastic was a bit loose on first wear, but I may have just overstretched it whilst sewing, because after a wash and a press it now fits perfectly.

I mentioned ease in this pattern. I initially cut the bodice to fit a 37" bust, which is what I have become (yikes! normally a 34" - i did actually get P to measure me twice and then did it myself again because i didn't believe him!), but the pattern pieces looked HUGE! I measured the pattern pieces and decided that actually this would fit fine with my normal pre-pregnancy measurements. So, this is made with a bodice to fit a 34" bust, and I still think it's big! Something to consider if you fancy making this.

The fabric is a viscose from Mandors in Glasgow. It's the first time I've sewn with viscose. The drape is ideal for this dress, but it was a pain to cut and sew. Although not as bad as polyester or silk, it does slip around quite a lot. I should have basted seams but couldn't be bothered. I do love the fabric though and would choose to work with viscose again. The handle is lovely.

The sun is shining right in my eyes, hence the squint!
There were quite a few stupid mistakes I made with this dress. Baby brain is a thing! The fabric slipped while sewing (see above comment about basting), meaning I had a few seams to unpick and re-sew. I did French seams on the side seams of the skirt, but accidentally sewed the first line of stitches with too large a seam allowance. I couldn't be bothered to unpick it, and decided I could afford to lose a bit of the fabric, so trimmed the seam allowance, and in doing so, managed to cut a hole in my fabric! Luckily the hole was fairly close to the seam, so I ended up losing a bit more of the skirt to an even larger seam allowance! I sewed the bias binding at the neck on the wrong way - I usually stitch it to the wrong side first, folding it over to the right side and topstitching in place. This time, for some reason I sewed it to the right side first, meaning I then needed to topstitch the wrong side. Fine in principal, but my bias binding is not that neat so the topstitching on the right side is all over the place! Obviously I could unpick it and handsew it, but I won't! Finally, I didn't notice until sewing the skirt together, that my fabric was actually directional. As a result, on the front the print faces up and on the back it faces down! Luckily it's such a small print that it's really not that noticeable!!!

These photos were taken in the garden of our holiday cottage. It was freezing, but a nice day and I was keen to get photos outside.

So, not perhaps as flattering as I would have preferred, but I really like this dress and already have worn it several times, and actually have had some compliments about it. I probably won't make another, but I may make a non-maternity version at some point in the future.

I have another finished maternity make to show you, which I will cover in a seperate post!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Blogger meet up success (no jitters were required)!

I think I have missed the boat on this. With being away, all the other girls have beaten me to it, and I'm pretty sure that most of you who read this, will also follow some of the lovely ladies I met up with on the 1st February and so will know all about it already!

L-R: me, Debi, Nessa, Elaine, Alison, Katy, Elise, Katy, Kerry (and Franca - not pictured - took the photo). Photo courtesy of Kerry. I forgot my camera.
Nessa of Nessa's Place
Elise of Foof & Faff
Kerry of Kestrel Makes
Franca of Oranges & Apples

I was a bit late in meeting the others. I was in a bit of a panic about that because when I entered the shop, there wasn't an obvious crowd of bloggers to head towards. Luckily I had met Hazel once before, so I spotted her and she was able to point me in the direction of Kerry, who had organised the day. It was a bizarre shopping experience, with me trying to suss out who was part of our group and who wasn't, whilst trying to look at the huge selection of fabrics, but I recognised Debi, Nessa and Alison pretty easily and managed to introduce myself and chat a bit. I had intended to arrive with a plan, but time had got away from me that week, so I did a bit of running round the shop thinking "must buy something, anything!". Eventually I calmed down enough to make some pretty sane and hopefully useful choices.

The Butterfly and Pig. This and following 2 photos courtesy of Nessa.
Kerry and Franca
Cake! - Photo courtesy of Franca
We were lucky enough to be served by the lovely and knowledgeable Hazel. The girl really does know a lot about sewing and fabrics. I was pretty awed. Sadly Hazel had to work, so couldn't join us for lunch, but we were able to have a bit of a chat in the store, while she cut fabric and served us.

My purchases for the day were a rich purple Ponte Roma, with which I intend to make a maternity dress, most probably based on the Lady Skater Dress; a black and white spotty woven polyester (yes, I bought polyester) and some black jersey. My plan is for another dress (maternity, if I make it soon enough) with the polyester skirt and a plain black jersey bodice. Failing that, the spotty poly might just become a skirt.

My purple ponte. Photo courtesy of Franca.

After Mandors, we headed to the Butterfly and Pig, a lovely vintage style cafe, with gorgeous surroundings, fantastic food and amazing cakes (the biggest slice of cake I have ever eaten, I think!). After food, we did a Show and Tell of the items we'd bought (head over to Nessa's Place for a run down of what everyone chose, and to see photos, have a look at Franca's blog), and then a very civilised but quick swap. I had taken along some fabric, and was pleased that most of it was snapped up. And here comes a confession. You may remember that some time ago, I won some Waxed Cotton in a giveaway run by the Amazing Taracat. I really entered for the pattern, although I thought the fabric was pretty cool too. But the more I looked at it sitting in my stash, the less convinced I became that it was "me". I felt bad about giving this away, but I felt worse at the thought of this lovely fabric sitting in my cupboard never to see the light of day. So I took it along. And Kerry took it - and made me feel infinitely better by telling me she had also entered the competition! So, I hope that Jo doesn't mind, but as it turns out there were 2 winners to that competition in the end!

Swap in progress - photo courtesy of Nessa (and the one below).

Photo courtesy of Franca

I came away with a length of vintage fabric (polyester, which I normally dislike but I think this will make a cool skirt) from Debi and a few vintage patterns, including one maternity one!

After that we went our separate ways. I headed to John Lewis for some skincare bits and bobs, but thought I'd take a quick look at their haberdashery department while I waited for P, and whaddaya know, I bought more fabric! This is a quilting cotton in a bright grass green with white spots. It's a bit summery, but i want to make a gathered maternity skirt (that, hopefully, I can re-purpose as a "normal" skirt at some point) and I figure it will probably look OK with tights and a dark top now, and with lighter tops in the summer.

IRL the green is brighter than it appears here.
This proves that I can wear this in winter, as pointed out by the JL sales assistant!
Thank you Kerry for organising such a fantastic day. The weather may not have been on our side, but that didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves. It was such good fun meeting people who's blogs' I have followed for ages as well as new-to-me bloggers, chatting sewing and blogging and eating cake! I can't wait for the next one!
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