Friday, 21 August 2015

Craft Group

So, I mentioned previously that I had offered to teach my friend's craft group to sew a skirt. After I had offered, I became full of self doubt and nervousness. What would they ask me? What if I didn't know the answer? What if they made a mistake and I didn't know how to fix it? What if they hated their skirts?!

Of course, in the end it was fine. In fact, it was more than fine. It was fun! Although I did have a wobble when someone (jokingly, I think) asked "so, at what point does this become fun?"!

Can you feel the concentration?
There were 6 in the group in total, although 2 ladies decided to do their own thing, and one of them knew what she was doing and just ploughed on. The other just needed help with an invisible zip, which I was able to do. Phew!

The other 4 ladies made the Ilsley skirt. They had all used a sewing machine previously, which was great, but only one, Jen, had ever made clothes (not successfully though, according to her). What I found interesting was that my friend Lorna, who has been making curtains, cushions and other soft furnishings professionally for a few years, found it quite difficult. The others were just baffled. But they were all keen!

We ended up doing it over 2 sessions. On the first night, it was fun but very hectic. We had limited space for cutting out, so everyone was at different stages, and most constantly needed my help. Fortunately I was able to explain everything fairly clearly and was able to answer all questions. Jen in particular had some issues with her pockets which took me a LOT of brain power to figure out. It was constant though, I literally had to explain every step and often hand hold while they were doing it (but I made them do it - even threading the machines!) and by the time I went home, I was hoarse from talking and my brain would not switch off. I lay in bed awake for about an hour and once I did fall asleep I dreamed about skirts!!!

With hindsight, this pattern probably wasn't the easiest for a beginner, as the very first step is that curved hem, but we conquered it, and went on to do pockets and even French seams. I'm not sure that seam allowances were necessarily adhered to, but with a loose fit and an elasticated waist, it didn't matter too much.

On the second evening, a week later, there were only 3 ladies. One had finished her skirt at home and the 2 who had done their own thing had also finished. Everyone was also up to the same stage by that point, so I had a much easier evening. Thankfully, they all finished on the second evening, minus a little bit of handsewing for some.

None were up for getting their legs out and modelling their skirts properly (can't say I blame them), but they all graciously allowed me to take their photo while they pretended.

Lorna, with her beautiful Liberty-esque cotton poplin.

Katie, with her pretty leaf print cotton.

Gail, with what I think was Robert Kaufman dot chambray. Gorgeous!
The verdict was good. They were all delighted with their skirts and were pretty confident that they would wear them if the sun ever shines again. However, I get the impression that none of them will be rushing to make another one any time soon. I had fun though, and it was nice to share my knowledge and help them achieve what they set out to do.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Completed: Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt

Edit: I wrote this post back in June, but never got round to taking the photos.

So, after writing in my MMM round up that I had zero desire to wear skirts, and bearing in mind that our summer thus far has consisted of about 4 days in April (seriously, it's blowing a gale outside and temps are hovering around 12°C (about 50°F)), it seemed the obvious choice to make a summer skirt.

Let me back up a little. About a month ago, my friend Lorna contacted me. She attends a craft group with some of her friends, and one of them had suggested their next project be dressmaking, specifically an easy skirt. We quickly ruled out the standard dirndl style skirt, that is often a beginners project, as Lorna herself doesn't wear that kind of thing (benefit of being the organiser/communicator with the "expert"!!), plus they were keen to avoid zips. I had a think, and while browsing online, stumbled across a Cath Kidston skirt which reminded me of Marilla Walker's Ilsley skirt. It is gathered, but not full, it has an interesting hem and crucially, an elastic waistband, so no closures. Win!!! I obviously also offered my services for the evening to help them.

Then it occurred to me that I really ought to make the skirt first, so it sounded like I vaguely knew what I was talking about and to allow me to anticipate any problems or tricky bits. By this time confidence had deserted me, and I was feeling like a fraud (what do I know about sewing?), with the weighty responsibility of ensuring the ladies hadn't wasted their time and money.

The fabric is vintage and was from my stash. I won it a while back in a giveaway hosted by Ruth from The Polished Button. She described it as a "chambray like cotton", but it is unlike any cotton I have come across before. It is super drapey, and frays like mad. It also, after washed, kind of wrinkled up, a bit like seersucker, on the stripes, although it wasn't like that before prewashing, so I'm unsure if it's meant to be like that or not. I chose to iron out the wrinkles, but it wasn't easy. It could take a medium hot iron, so it's clearly not all synthetic. Maybe a mix? It also gives off a musty vintage smell when pressed, despite being washed. The skirt took less than a metre, so I have another metre left for another project.

The stripes run vertically down the length of fabric. I did consider cutting on the cross grain, but after my striped tee and my polka dot trousers, I was keen to avoid stripe matching. Of course, I then realised I'd still have to match the pocket and the waistband, so I opted to cut  them on the cross grain, but then I realised I'd still need to stripe match the front and back waistband pieces. Sigh. This was meant to be a simple project. Anyway, it all worked out OK, although my stripes at the pocket could probably have been better placed. Never mind.

The skirt is a free pattern, although Marilla asks for a donation to a Breast Cancer charity, which I gladly gave. As it's free, the instructions are complete, but brief, with no diagrams or photos. As a visual person, this is not my preference. Getting a neat finish on the curved hem is quite difficult, and I kind of failed here. Mine is a bit of a mess. I am blaming the fabric. The rest of the skirt is very straightforward and is a nice simple sew.

The verdict? Meh. I wasn't feeling it. I think it's probably the fabric, which, with the vertical stripes, reminds me of pyjama bottoms, and the length is kind of awkward on me. Plus I thought I didn't have anything to wear it with, although having teamed it with this Primark tee for the photos, I'm coming round.

And the craft night? I'll save that for another post! :)

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Completed: Letter Cushions

If you blog, do you post everything you sew? I usually do. There have been very few exceptions where good intentions have fallen by the wayside, but I have pretty much blogged everything single thing I have sewn since I started Grosgrain Green, 2.5 years ago. Sometimes I wonder if you are interested in every little thing, but I still feel obliged – like somehow to not blog something is dishonest. But, as I’m sure you know, writing posts, taking and editing photos: it’s all quite time consuming and labour intensive, particularly as when I write I tend to divulge every single thought and every single stage of the process. I waffle. I do it in real life too. Believe me, the posts you are reading are the edited version.
So, I thought I’d try something new. For some posts, where really not much narration is involved, I’ll keep the chat to a minimum and let the photos do the talking. I think this will be particularly useful when I post my 104th Scout Tee. And for projects like this one.

Although, having said that, there is a back story to this project. So, errr, I haven't done a very good job of keeping this one short, after all!

My mum sewed initial shaped cushions for my sister and I when we were kids. They were pink, with darker pink hearts. We shared a pink Laura Ashley bedroom, it was the 80’s and we were girly girls. Earlier this year, my sister decorated her daughter’s bedroom, and as my sister and my niece have the same first initial, my sis asked our mum if she still had the cushions kicking about. She didn’t, but it led to a conversation between my mum and I on how we could replicate the cushions, because of course, then I wanted to make them for the boys. A quick Google later, and we found McCall's 3274, which we are pretty confident is the same pattern. My mum bought it and lent it to me.
Baby Boy’s is the F, which is made in Small World by Made by Rae, from Cloud 9. It’s organic baby cord, and is lovely stuff. I bought it in John Lewis.

Small Boy’s is the letter E. He chose the Dr Seuss fabric in Remnant Kings (general link to shop -can't see it on their website, sorry), and it says on the selvedge that it’s Robert Kaufman.

I did consider pattern placement for the Dr Seuss version, only because Small Boy is only familiar with a few of characters/books so I wanted to feature those. I had the stuffing left over from Kit the Doll. I still have tons left, so if anyone wants some, let me know!
Oh My God, it was an ordeal getting these photos. I thought it would be cute to get the 2 of them together holding the cushions, but they did not like it, not one little bit (wink). What follows is the best of a bad lot. Still, it's pretty cute!
"Don't want to hold the stupid cushion".

"I'd rather hold this plastic jug. Far superior toy."
"Is she still there?"
Nice interaction. Zero product placement.

Me: "Turn them round, they are back to front". Him, looking at them from his side: "No they're not!"

On a completely unrelated note, Small Boy starts school tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Completed: Felt Tip Emmeline

There hasn't been much sewing progress here recently. I'm finding it difficult to find the energy and time. P works away 3 days a week, which equated to sewing time when I was on Mat leave. But now I'm back at work, I'm getting home, feeding, bathing and putting to bed the boys, and then making and eating my dinner (the boys are fed their main meal at lunchtime at nursery, so only need a snack when they get home, so we don't eat together. Which I miss) before tidying up, doing chores etc. Often I'm not done til 8/8.30, which just feels too late to be pulling all the stuff out the cupboard. Particularly when I need to go to bed at a reasonable time as I'm up again at 6.30 the next morning.

I have just been going with it, but after a few weeks I'm finding myself feeling frustrated. I had planned a sewing day at The Stitchery in with Jen at the beginning of July, but The Stitchery had to cancel and I wasn't able to do any of their alternative dates. Sigh!

In an effort to free up some more time, I am collecting recipes that take 15 mins or less to prepare, preferably only use one pot and are healthy. I am eating a lot of salads. But toast for dinner one night a week, to allow me to get on with some sewing wouldn't be too bad, would it?

Anyway, here is something I did manage to make fairly recently, just before I went to London where it made it's debut. I had intended to get proper photos in London, but I was just having too good a time and I forgot!

The pattern is the Emmeline Tee again, and to be honest, I didn't change a single thing from my last version. The double gauze version is being worn to death, so I just went with what I knew and liked.

The fabric... now that's something else. This is Liberty Tana Crepe. Yep. Cotton crepe. Nope, I didn't know it existed either. I bought this last summer in Mandors Edinburgh's closing down sale. I had been alerted to the fact that all fabrics were 50% off, so I nipped in one afternoon. I had Baby Boy with me (who was about 6 weeks old at the time), and only paid for half an hour's parking, so I was up against it in terms of what to pick. I wasn't sewing at that time, so had no plans or lists in my head, so obviously I did what anyone would do and made some random grabs at the Liberty stand. I should explain that Mandors sold old season Liberty, so it was already about £14/m at full price. Even so, I somehow managed to buy 3 lengths of fabric for about £20. I'm not sure how that happened. Maybe Baby Boy's cuteness dazzled the staff, or maybe they just did me a favour. Anyway, I got a bargain. It wasn't until I got home that I realised the fabric wasn't Tana Lawn, but I had no clue what it was.
The 3 Tana Crepes I bought that day
But actually the best was yet to come. The fabric has languished in my stash since then, because Liberty = too valuable to cut into, even when it's cheap. But when I did dig it out to prewash it to make this top, I realised that I hadn't bought the 1.5m of each that I thought I had. I had more than 2m of each - of the paisley one I nearly have 2.5m. I know I definitely didn't ask for more than 2m, so some generous cutting was going on there. Maybe it was the end of the bale. I don't really remember. I just thought "wow" and then "god, this is too much fabric to waste on a top".

Some further deliberating happened, but ultimately I knew I would never wear this fabric as a dress. It's too light in colour, and I have children, and am clumsy enough myself. Furthermore, it would be a very summery dress and I live in Scotland where there are maybe 3 hot days a year. So, back to being an Emmeline Tee it was. Because it couldn't really be anything else, could it?

It was a nice straightforward sew again. Because the crepe is cotton, it behaved itself well, sewed nicely and pressed well, although it creases easily. I would describe it as drapier than Tana lawn, but with a bit more body than poly or silk crepe. It really is lovely stuff. There is a bit of order to the seemingly random print, so I bore that in mind when cutting, meaning I was a little more wasteful that I would otherwise have been, but I still have a decent length of fabric left.

I had to do some Googling to find out about this fabric, and the print, which is called Milla A and was based on felt tip marks, which makes me love it even more. It is one of those prints that looks better close up than from a distance, but when I wear it, I am looking at it close up, so that's OK. And lots of colours means it goes with lots of things. Win!

Much neater binding than last time, and again I got that pleasing diagonal print on there.

As much as I love wearing this, and my other Emmeline and Scouts, I do feel the need to up my sewing game a little. Not ideal when pushed for both time and energy, but I can feel the need for variety.

What are you sewing right now? Are you content keeping it simple, or are you challenging yourself with something new?


Monday, 3 August 2015

Completed: Hi Vis Geometry Top

I'm writing this post with at least 3 unpublished posts sat waiting patiently to see the light of day. I just need to get photos, which I've not had time to do. I can't even blame the lack of daylight hours, although I could blame the weather.

Anyway, it seems this has won, and been published first!

On to what I'm here to talk about today. This is the Geometry Top by Katy & Laney, which was released last October. I'm surprised this pattern doesn't seem to have seen much love within the blogosphere, particularly since their first pattern, the Tap Pants was all over the place last summer. I think the only versions I've seen have been made by Busy Lizzie. That said, I only just got round to buying the pattern last week. I loved it when it was released, but didn't buy it as it was approaching winter, and this felt like a summer top. No point creating something with clever angled panels and lovely colour blocking and then covering it all up with a cardigan!

The fabric is Cotton + Steel rayon, and I've had this particular top in mind for a very long time. My issue was always what to use for the contrast panel. I knew I wanted yellow, but I also knew it was going to be difficult to find something in the right weight, and shade, and I put off buying it for this reason. I eventually bought the last metre of the rayon from Miss Matatabi, thinking that if I couldn't find a good contrast I could at least make another Scout/Eucalypt/Emmeline. But really, I knew that wasn't what this fabric wanted to be.

I eventually settled on this bargainous £3/m neon (and it really is hi-vis day-glo) yellow polyester, which I bought from Edinburgh Fabrics at the excellent meet up last week end. (If you are interested, both Kerry and Debi have written posts about the meet up, which you can find here, and here). The neon is considerably brighter than the yellow in the rayon, but it tones OK, I think. I did almost immediately regret buying it though when, as soon as I left the shop, we passed a bin man wearing the exact same shade in the form of a hi vis vest...

In the end, I figured go with it, and if it's awful, I'll just need to keep looking for something else, but, luckily, I really like the end result. It also got a fair bit of IG love. Yes, it's very bright (Small Boy does call it my hi-vis top, but he is obsessed with hi-vis for some probably boy-related transport-related reason), but I kept the neon to a one small section, and as far away from my face as was possible. I think it provides enough contrast without taking over the garment, and without making me look like I work in a warehouse. Not that there's anything wrong with working in a warehouse, obviously, but it's not my casual evening/daytime look of choice. I find a forklift a difficult accessory to style.

The Geometry Top is a lovely pattern. It comes with 3 different variations, which I'd like to make in future. It is quite a paper-hungry PDF though. The version I made is 48 pages, which initially I put down to bad design, but actually both the front and back pattern pieces are asymmetric, which of course means they have to be full sized and cut flat, rather than cut on the fold. Add an impressive size range, and the uncut pattern pieces become pretty large. What is brilliant is that the pieces that can be used for more than one version are marked accordingly, for example the contrast triangle and the sleeves in my version ares the same pattern pieces as those used for View A, so if I wanted to now make View A, I would only need to print the pattern pieces I didn't already have.

The process of making the top was pretty straightforward. I did struggle a bit with notches matching up, but I'd put that down to my sloppy cutting out, rather than any drafting issue. The pattern suggests French seams, which I used across the board - even on the sleeves. I cut the size 4, based on my measurements but this pattern contains a LOT of ease. I tried it on after the first pass on the French seams, and it felt too big, so I increased the seam allowance for the second pass. I like how it now fits, although it still feels bigger than it looks on both Katy and Laney, so I think next time I'll cut a 2.

I really love the shape of the hem from this side
I read through the instructions at the start, but didn't really follow them after that. It's pretty intuitive to put together. When it came to hemming, I had a dilemma. I used a pale grey thread for construction, which matches the background colour of the rayon perfectly, but I didn't want to use that for the yellow section of the hem, and funnily enough I had no neon yellow thread in the stash. I considered hand sewing the hem, but wondered if that would look off balance, since the sleeve and bias faced neckline were topstitched (overthink things much?). In the end I machined the hem using the grey for the grey section, and a charteuse green for the yellow section. It's not a perfect match, but it tones reasonably. However since it's really visible, I had to up my topstitching game, and actually unpicked and redid a section. Annoyingly the polyester laddered in a couple of places while hemming (that's £3/m fabric for you), but really to the naked eye/non sewer/sewer who isn't under my armpit inspecting my handiwork, it's not that visible.

I'm a bit uncertain on the sleeves. I really like it without the sleeves (see above IG photo), and I notice that's how Lizzie made hers. I did consider leaving them off, but they were already cut out, so I went ahead with them, but I'm unsure. I think I prefer the kimono sleeve effect that leaving them off gives. I like the idea of the dropped shoulder with the sleeves, but in reality they feel kind of flappy and superfluous.

Another variation I'd like to make is to change the neckline. It's nice as is, but I think a wider, higher neckline - a kind of slash/boat neck - would look amazing with this shape.

I'm definitely planning more versions of this pattern. My issue will always be finding contrasting/co-ordinating fabrics in similar weights, but there are ways around this. I think this would look lovely in one fabric with some flat piping to define the angled seams. Or you could use a fabric with an interesting wrong side and use both. You could play with texture, or even mix wovens and knits. It definitely needs to be made in a drapey, fluid fabric, but since I seem to be falling in love with rayons and viscose, I won't find that a problem!

What do you think of this pattern? Have you seen it made up anywhere? If so, be sure to let me know!

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