Sunday, 31 January 2016

2016 Sewing Budget: January

I mentioned in this post that I was going to keep track of what I spent on both sewing stuff and RTW clothes. At the time I had no intention of sharing this information, but since I am so appalled at how much I spent this month (on sewing stuff) - a month when I felt I didn't really need much, I have decided I will share it. If you feel this type of post is boring, please feel free to skip it.

Spend is all relative. What I spend in one month might be a drop in the ocean for some, while it might be 6 month's budget for others. I usually have a rough budget of around £50 per month for sewing related paraphenalia, which is based on absolutely nothing, and is completely made up. However, this weekend I read this post (and the follow up), and it got me thinking. Do I actually even need to spend £50 a month? Again, it's all relative, but I have a fairly sizable stash of both fabric and patterns. I have a few zips, some elastic and quite a bit of thread. What exactly is it that I think I need to buy?

So, along with recording my spending, I have decided to set myself a few other rules. This is for the foreseeable future. It might not be all year, but I'm starting with 3 months, and then I'll see how I go.
1. Plan. I always have a million sewing plans floating around my head and I don't document them (other than occasionally on here). I like to keep things fluid because needs change, and I never manage to sew all the things I intend to, however I'd like to plan at least the next 3 garments to keep my focus.

2. Sew from the stash. It's kind of a duh one, but while I have quite a bit of fabric that's seasonally inappropriate/I've gone off/I can't decide what to make with, I also have jersey and denim, and quite a few pieces that I bought with firm ideas that still hold. Where I have fabric, do I also have co-ordinating thread? Elastic? Interfacing? Zips? Let's check those things BEFORE I nip to the shops.

3. Buy only what I need. So, for example, I could really do with more trousers for work. I have no trouser appropriate fabric, so I am permitted to buy that, but only that. No sneaking other (non-essential) things into my basket.

4. Don't compromise on quality, but keep it realistic. For example, I want to make a shirt. I have buttons that are just OK, but I'm not 100% sold on them. I don't want to spend time making an item I'm not happy with, so I'm not going to force myself to use the buttons. I will buy nicer buttons. But if the buttons are pretty decent, and I like them and they'd make a nice garment, but I've seen really nice ones in John Lewis that are £2 each, I will stick with the buttons I have. And if I do buy them, I will have to own up to you! And do 100 press ups.

That's it. I'm keen to keep it simple. To be clear, this is not a spending ban, rather a plan to use what I already have, where possible. Because, what else is it for?

Right. On to January's spend, which went something like this:

I lumped the new blog template in there, which wasn't truly sewing related, however if I didn't sew, I wouldn't have the blog, so it does kind of fit! Also, note me justifying to myself that the Camas blouse was on sale!!! :)

On the plus side, I have already sewn up the Lizzy House/ponte into pyjamas that are still to be blogged (but have been Instagrammed), and my next project is a shirt dress, based on this with the navy/white viscose. The haby was replenishing stocks.

Let's see what February brings!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Tutorial: How to change your favicon

How to change your what?!

As part of my recent blog renovation, I got a bit obsessed about having my own favicon. A favicon is the little symbol that appears at the beginning of the tab, before the name of a website. You've probably seen them before, but if not, see the photo below.

Of course before I started, I had no idea what this was called, but Google is a wonderful thing. So, favicon apparently means "favourite icon" and it basically acts as an identifier, drawing the internet surfer's eye to the tab containing your website or blog. You will already have one, but it will be Blogger's favicon - that white and orange B you can see above. Actually creating your own in Blogger is quite straightforward. In case you are interested, I thought I'd write a little tutorial. Sorry I can't help out the Wordpress or self-hosted users, but as I said before, Google is a wonderful thing, and at least you now know what to search for. :)

First up, you need to create your image. I chose to use letters for mine. You can use an image, but bear in mind it's going to end up very small, so I'd choose something very simple and clear. The image also needs to be square. I used Picmonkey, a free online photo editing tool, to create my image. Open up Picmonkey and select Design from the top of the page.

This will bring up a square blank page. If it gives you a different shape, don't panic, you'll need to crop your image anyway.

If you want to create an image using letters, select Text from the menu on the left hand side (it's the Tt), then click on Add Text.

This will bring up a text box. Type your text (remember: keep it simple! I'd say 1-2 letters at the most!), and then play around with colours and fonts to get the look you like. I chose a green colour and the font Didact Gothic, as it mirrored the font on my blog theme.

This next step might not be necessary, as you are going to crop the image anyway, but I then made the letters as large as Picmonkey would let me.

If you want to use a photo, or similar image you can still select Design and then just upload your photo/image. The following steps will still apply.

Now crop the image. Go back to the left hand menu and select the Basic Edits (the top one) and then crop. Go to the drop down that says "No fixed proportions", and select "Square", then crop the image as much as possible. You want your letters/picture to fill the image as much as possible.

Once you are happy, click Apply and save the file to your computer.

Now that you have your image, you need to convert this to a favicon file - a .ico file. You can do this through a favicon generator. There are loads online. I used

Select Choose File and then find and select your image. You can select your Favicon size, but I have to confess that I don't really know what size is best. I selected 16 x 16, but not really for any particular reason.

Then click Generate Favicon. Once it's generated, it will give you a preview. If you are happy, download the .ico file and save it to your computer.

Now that you have created your favicon, you need to upload it to your blog!

Open Blogger and go to Layout. You will see there is a box called Favicon at the top left of the page.

Click Edit, then Choose File and upload your favicon. It will display your image. Click Save, then Save Arrangement.

If you now open your blog, you should see the Favicon, and I did read that it can take a while to update, but after a couple of days mine still hadn't uploaded (I didn't intend to leave it that long - I was just busy!). Further Googling revealed this final stage.

Have your blog open. Open another browser page and type the following into the address bar: http://[your blog url]/favicon.ico. Refresh the page and the favicon on this page should update to your image. Return to the your blog and refresh. Your blog should now have your favicon!

Hopefully this will work for you too! Do let me know if you give it a try!


Monday, 25 January 2016

New Year: New Look!

Unknowingly, my last post was published exactly 3 years after my first. Happy Blogiversary to me. To celebrate, and because I've been thinking of this for a while, I treated the blog to a bit of redecoration.

What do you think?

My previous template was something I created myself, when I first started the blog 3 years ago. It was fine, I still liked it and I had been really proud of it initially, but it had started to look cluttered and just a little bit, dare I say it, handmade! In line with my current preference for making more modern items of clothing, I wanted the blog to reflect that feel, with something cleaner, brighter and crucially, simpler. Arguably I've ended up with a fairly generic modern blog format, so I might get bored of it fairly quickly, but I like it for now. 

I didn't do much in the way of research around this. I remembered Bonjour Blogger had featured a couple of posts on companies that create templates, and very quickly picked Pipdig as the company, and Nineteen as my template of choice. I changed the colour scheme from pink to green, because obviously. I had had vague thoughts of having a bespoke template created, but the pre-made templates were offering pretty much what I wanted, so I thought it would be a good place to start. And for around £30, it was affordable. 

I still like the idea of some sort of logo (I'm thinking along the lines of Portia's, Franca's or Charlotte's). I have zero art or design skills though, so unless some arty friend takes pity on me, I'll need to pay someone for that. One day! :)

I still need to do a bit more tinkering, so a few things may change here and there. But so far I'm really liking it. It's like a new haircut though - I need to run my fingers through it, shake it up and give it a try. At least I don't need to attempt to blowdry it myself!

I hope you like it!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Reflection: 2015

A bit late to be reviewing last year, when we are more than halfway into January, but never mind. I like reading these types of posts, as I always think its interesting to see beyond the initial blog photos. So I'm sharing mine on that basis.

22 makes! 22! I didn't believe it myself, so I created this collage to prove it to myself and to you! Of course I didn't actually sew 22 things, but I created 22 things, which is good enough. Edit: I've realised I actually made more. Not featured here are 2 lots of cushion covers, plus a t-shirt that never got blogged. So, 25 in total?
So what worked? Well, I'm defining success by counting the things I wear all the time. In no particular order:

  Love love love this dress. It's perfect for work, and also worked for Christmas day. It's comfy and elegant at the same time. I wear it all the time.

 Love love love this dress too! Again, it's comfy and elegant and again it's gone from work to nights out to casual weekend wear. I need more so I don't wear this one out.

 OK, I've only worn this twice, but it's not exactly everyday wear. And it makes me feel fabulous when I do wear it. And I made a jumpsuit!!!!

 This hasn't been worn so much recently but that's down to weather and the fact that I don't own a cardigan that goes with it satisfactorily. This top makes me feel really cool and the fabric is lush. It was worn weekly before it got cold.

 My first Linden wasn't a complete success fit-wise, and the fabric has pilled, but I still wear this regularly, especially now the weather is colder again.

 My gold Linden. I love this so much it hurts. It's comfy and casual but makes me feel really cool and "put together". Sadly it's been worn so much that the gold foil has started to wear away. But that's OK because I have enough of the gold fabric left to make another! Just need to get more plain grey mark french terry.
This probably hasn't seen quite as much wear as my other favourites, but I do love it. The fabric and the colour are glorious, and it's very easy to wear. I'm looking forward to spring so I can break it out again.

What didn't work so well?

 I did love this tshirt, but I didn't pre-wash it. What became evident though was that if I had it wouldn't have made much difference as it continued to shrink further with every wash. It went into textile recycling. I must make another though.

 My first trousers, and I was so proud, but sadly the fabric let me down. It bags out hugely when wearing, so by mid morning I have a saggy bum, and they look terrible. I will revisit this pattern though with a better fabric this year.

 I do wear this tee, but only when I have nothing else clean. The shoulder seams bug me and the neckline doesn't sit quite right.

I've worn this once. I like it in the pictures, so I will persevere with it this summer however I think the elastic waist is always going to be a problem.

I like this dress but I don't love it and I'm not wearing it. Maybe that's because I think it looks dorky with a cardigan? Maybe it's because it is a little snug at the hips? Maybe it's the fabric. Again, I'll give it this summer - I might prefer it with bare legs and clogs.

I never blogged this, but it was a Linden in a drapey jersey. The idea was OK, but the execution was pretty terrible. I messed the neck binding up twice, and in unpicking, tore a hole. I also made it too short and so had to add a band to lengthen it (actually, this worked OK. I did a single layer band and left the hem raw). It got quite a bit of wear during MMM15, and it worked well under my Linden sweatshirts, however it got the chop during a cull in the summer. I can make a better black t-shirt than that.

So, what are my plans for 2016? To keep sewing. More specifically, to keep sewing items that I need and want to wear. I don't want to get too specific with my plans as I'd like to keep them fairly fluid. I'm currently making pyjamas for the boys, which are turning out very well. After that I plan to make an Archer shirt dress with some striped viscose that arrived just today! Beyond that? I don't know. At some point this year I'd like to make jeans. I'd also really, really like to finish the coat WIP that I've been harping on about for a couple of years now. More clothes for the boys in my life would be nice too.

Reducing my spend, and therefore my stash is a must. My 2015 goal was to use as much of my stash as I could. I can count 12 posts about items I made from my stash (with the tag: 2015 goals), however I counted stash as anything that hadn't been immediately sewn, so this does include fabric I bought during the year. I did implement a rule whereby I could only buy fabric if I had at least one firm plan (preferably with an alternative or 2) of what I would make with it. But as we all know, that doesn't necessarily mean the item is actually sewn. This year I'd like to work through some of that backlog and the WIPs. If I no longer like the fabric or want to make the pattern, I want to be pretty ruthless and get rid.

To support this, I've decided to track my spending through the year on both fabric and RTW. Nothing fancy, I just plan to record what I've spent, on what and when on Evernote on my phone. I like to think I don't spend much, but writing it down will hopefully make me think twice before parting with cash.

Outside of sewing, we'd like to build an extension to our kitchen this year. We actually have no idea how much this will cost, or how we will fund it, but being cautious with my spending will probably be a habit I'll need to get used to, so may as well start now!

What about you? If you haven't already posted your plans, please share!

Sorry - I haven't linked any of the above garments to the original posts - too tired now. But if you head to my Made By Me page, you will find all the links there. 


Friday, 8 January 2016

Completed: Alexandria Trousers

I actually made these back in October, and wrote this post around then, but, as with the jumpsuit, it's taken ages to get round to taking photos. It was also the first Named pattern I made, hence my detail over the pattern layout, instructions etc. Can't be bothered to re-write this though.

I had planned on making these trousers for ages. I bought both the fabric and the pattern back in the summer and just never quite got round to them. I've seen so many versions of both this and similar patterns, and they just look so cool and easy to wear. I also thought they'd be easier to fit, since they have an elasticated waist and are meant to be oversized.

But being totally honest, now I've made them, I just don't know. They do look cool on other people, but on me, I'm not so sure. It might just be that basically I made summer trousers in October. It might be that I have no idea what to wear them with. It also might be because I normally live in skinny jeans and skinny/fitted trousers, so this is just so different it feels odd.

But lets start with the positives, shall we? I love the fabric, which is a polyester from John Lewis (I think it was this). It is drapey but with a lovely weight and the colour is a rich navy with a slight sheen. It is a bit staticky, but it's otherwise a good choice for this style. It wasn't too slippery to cut or sew, but it did fray badly.

The pattern too, was a good experience. This is the Named Alexandria Peg Trousers. I bought the PDF, so seam allowances were included (they aren't on the printed versions). The pattern includes trouser and shorts versions and if you wanted to make both, you would need to trace them, or print twice but I have no intentions of making the shorts, so just cut straight into the PDF. Only 2 sizes are nested on the PDF - there are about 4 PDFs in total covering all the sizes. This was fine, but they weren't nested in such a way that I could cut between sizes. I wanted to cut the 38 based on my waist measurement, however I could have done with sizing down to the 36 at the hips - but the 36 was nested outside, not inside the 38, so it wasn't possible. I opted to cut the 38, figuring I could always take in the hips if necessary. The 36 would have been fine, but I was nervous that the tapered legs would be too narrow, and I was correct. Even with the 38, I had to decrease the SA from the knee to ankle to about 0.5cm (the given SA is 1cm, or 3/8").

The pattern went together no problem. It's beautifully drafted, even including things like tapering out the hem at the ankle, to account for the fact that the leg is tapered in. This means the hem circumference is the same size as the leg piece you are sewing it to (I haven't described that well at all, sorry!). The instructions are concise but thorough. There's not a huge amount of hand holding, but it explains each step adequately.

The pattern comes with patch pockets for the back, and also instructs you to sew in a drawstring. I omitted both of these.

You can see quite a lot of fabric at the front here. I look pregnant!
The pleats. I love the pleats, in theory at least. As I was sewing them, they looked so pretty and luscious in the sheeny navy polyester. Even hanging up, on the finished garment I love those pleats.

The back view. It's actually not nearly as unflattering as I was expecting!!! :)

And so to the negatives. Although I love the pleats, they do create a lot of volume. And I mean a lot. When I sit down, there is just SO. MUCH. FABRIC. I did plan to take the trousers in at the hips, but the excess fabric is at the front, not the sides, and I just don't know how to remove it from there. Really, I should have cut the 36 and just graded out from the knees. I should have made a muslin.

Elastic waists. There have been 2 things I've made this year that I didn't love. These trousers and the Ilsley skirt. What do they both have in common? Elasticated waists. I've never had a problem with gathering at my waist, so I didn't really worry too much about the elastic, but I'm thinking gathering with a fixed waistband is different. With the elastic, it never seems to sit quite in the right place on my waist. With the skirt, it's not too much of an issue, but with trousers, it obviously affects the crotch. Lower on my waist seems more flattering, but then I have a kind of harem pants thing going on. Higher makes the crotch much more flattering, but not the waist.

I do wonder if with a "proper" waistband, and the removal of the gathers, the pleats might work better? Even a half fixed, elasticated at the back? But I have no idea how to reduce the volume in the front of the trousers to do this. I guess I could slash and overlap the pattern in a few places? In truth thought, that's probably a pattern adjustment too far for me, from a confidence, ability and time point of view. It would be simpler to just buy another pattern.

Really then, the positives outweigh the negatives, in volume at least. However, it is telling that I haven't yet worn these. I am the sort of person who makes/buys something and wears it as soon as is humanely possible. If I don't do that (and it's not because it's just not appropriate e.g. a ball gown), it's usually because I'm not that certain about it. I'm just not sure I feel confident enough to pull them off.

What's interesting though, is that I think in these photos they look great. I feel uncomfortable wearing them, but even as I was shooting the photos I was thinking how they looked quite nice. I had to struggle to find a photo that sufficiently captured the excess fabric. And they look OK with this top and these ankle boots too, although Small Boy did ask where my socks were. As an aside, I asked him his opinion on the trousers. He said "Good, but they don't go all the way down"!

I did see these recently, which are very similar, and which look nice, although I haven't tried them on. I also like the name! :)

Helena Crepe Trouser by Whistles

What do you think? Would you wear these? Do you think they are just too summery? What would you wear them with?

Monday, 4 January 2016

Completed: A Christmas Jumpsuit!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! Apologies for the radio silence. I hadn't intended to disappear for a bit, but I was busy sewing, and once that was done, I needed to take a break to get organised for Christmas, and then it was Christmas. Well, you know how it goes.

I have been meaning to blog my latest make since I made it, but I just never managed to prioritise the time for photos. I finally managed that today, so here we go.

I decided that I wanted to make something to wear to my work’s Christmas Night Out. I always have time restrictions (as most of us do) at this time of year, so my initial vague plan of culottes/midi skirt plus matching cropped top were quickly dismissed as being too much work. I did think another Inari (quick and easy sew) in a flashier fabric like sequins, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to cope with sequins. So, I decided on a jumpsuit. Go figure as they say!

This is the Named Ailakki Jumpsuit, one of their patterns from a couple of years ago. I couldn’t actually find that many versions out there, but these versions by Sew Dixie Lou and Jolie Bobbins really sold it to me. Really, is there a pattern that Jolie Bobbins hasn’t made? I wasn’t sure I could totally pull it off, but I did fall in love the cross front bodice, so vowed that if the trouser part was horrific, that I’d use the bodice and make a dress (lovely examples here and here).

I decided to muslin it before even buying the main fabric, as I knew I’d want a different fabric if I ended up making a dress version. I actually made 2 muslins. The first muslin was in size 38 (my “true” size, according to my measurements). The bodice was OK, with a little excess at the sides and shoulders, but the trousers were huge, although the waistband was spot on. I then made a 36, but with the 38 waistband. The bodice was still a little strange fitting. It’s a difficult style to fit. The cross over part isn’t fixed, so it moves around, which was really making me worried about overfitting. And the trousers still didn’t look quite right.

In the end I went with the following:

Size 38 bodice, with 3cm removed at the shoulders (a bit too much in hindsight) and 2cm removed at the underarm, tapering to nothing at the waist.
Size 38 waistband, no adjustments. This give a nice but not overly snug fit, which is very comfortable.
Size 36 trouser, widened at the sides to fit the 38 at the waist. With a whopping 8cm off the length: 4cm taken off the crotch length, and a further 4cm out of the leg length, which gave me a slightly cropped/ankle length leg once hemmed.
Changed the exposed zip for a concealed. Just my preference.
Omitted the pockets because I messed them up and ran out of time to redo them.

First time I've ever seen my own back. How weird is that?!
The fit is still far from perfect. With hindsight I probably took a little too much out of the shoulders and/or the crotch length, however it’s fine to sit and stand in, and doesn't want to cut me in half unless I crouch right down. How do I know? I tried painting my toenails whilst wearing it! I also think that on the final version, I stretched out the bodice sections as I have quite a bit of gaping right above my right boob (for lack of a better description), which wasn’t there on the muslin. If you make this, stay-stitch those edges!

But, do I care, about these issues? Not one fig!!! I love it (me and my huge hair!)

The fabric decision was pretty easy. I wanted to make it in black or a dark colour. A cross front jumpsuit is a big enough statement for me, without throwing pattern and colour into the mix. I ordered a few swatches from The Splendid Stitch, a relatively new to me Glasgow based online shop, and finally decided on their Sybille poly crepe (currently out of stock). For a polyester, this is a lovely fabric, with a good weight for this type of project, and lots of drape. It was a little shifty during cutting, but was nice and easy to sew. Pressing was a little tricky due to the polyester, and I did scorch it a few times, but mostly on the inside, so that’s good. I also managed to snag it in the Black Friday sale, which wasn’t intentional, but was a happy result of delaying my order. I also ordered a metre of their basic polyesterantistatic lining for the bodice, but once it arrived I realised I didn’t like the feel against my skin, so instead used some remaining John Kaldor polyester left over from my Seachange top. I had forgotten that this fabric is very shifty and hard to sew, plus it frays like mad, so it added a bit of challenge, but it is much nicer to wear and prettier to look at.

So, in terms of construction, I printed, stuck and traced the pattern, made the first muslin, ordered the fabric, printed, stuck and traced* another size to make a panicky second muslin, spent several evenings debating over fit, before finally committing to how I wanted to make it. By this stage, I had less than a week before my night out. So I made this in 4 nights, not getting to bed until after 11.30 each night. And one of those evenings was my birthday! I changed the order of construction a bit on the final garment, starting with the trousers. I fully made the pockets, but then sewed them on so the raw edges were on the outside. I didn’t have time to unpick and redo them, so I just cut them off. That was annoying because I then had no pockets, but also because I’d wasted a good portion of one evening putting them together. That was my only major mishap though, and the rest went together without issue. Having made it twice already (in muslin form) definitely helped. The bodice is a real head scratcher to put together, but the instructions and accompanying illustrations are very clear.

This was the completed bodice before attaching to the waistband.
*I ran out of tracing paper halfway through, so cut some pieces out and traced the rest. By the end, I think I probably printed and stuck together 3 or 4 versions of this pattern. As it’s an earlier Named pattern, most of the pieces overlap.

My only issue with the pattern is that it doesn’t allow for turn of cloth in the bodice. So you cut the same pattern piece for both main and lining fabric, but you then understitch, so that the main fabric rolls to the inside slightly on both sides of the straps. This then means that the lining piece becomes too big. It was something I thought about from the start, but wasn’t sure how much to reduce the lining piece by, and I didn’t have the luxury of time to experiment. Since my lining is not black, it does show a bit.

Photobombing thumb from my director of photography, which led to...

But as I said, I love it. I love the cross over bodice, which makes me feel fabulous. I love that I can just pull it on, and I'm ready to go out. I love that it's so comfortable to wear - no fiddling required at any point! I love the low-ish back and the square armholes. I even love the trousers part, which makes it my first successful pair of trousers.

It is so different to anything else I own or have made, and my colleagues could not believe that I made it myself. Some of them are still going on about it! It performed admirably on the night, standing up to dancing, eating and some Rockaoke (karaoke with a band – apparently my 40’s are all about the karaoke. Who’d have thought?!). Although the cross over isn’t fixed, it stays in place no problem, and the little key hole at the front is not too scary. It also worked for a (dressed up) dinner at a friend's house!

And, because I am always curious about these things, I’ll let you know that I did wear a bra underneath. One of these. The back isn’t super low, but it would show a bra strap. I could have raised the back to cover it,  but my friend talked me into buying and wearing one of these, and it was great. And now I can make and wear all the backless styles!!!

I'll finish with a standard Xmas night out bathroom selfie. I think my smile says it all! :)

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