FO: Lady Skater

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Another UFO in the bag, this time a wearable muslin. For my dummy run of the Lady Skater pattern I used some navy ponte I bought from Goldhawk Road. I found it in a remnant bin and paid the princely sum of £4 for 1.5 metres! I cut size 4 but made a few changes. The front bodice side seam is graded up to size 5 at the waist line. I then cut size 5 for the skirt front to match the bodice. The back bodice and skirt stayed a 4. I shortened the bodice so that the waistline sits where it should.

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When I tried it on I realised I should have done a FBA for knits and extended the side seam by one size. The seams and waistline didn’t sit right. I don’t have any pictures but I think the side seams were pulling forward and the back waistline was sagging. I decided to rescue it and unpicked the side and waistline seams. I then sewed the seams again with a scant seam allowance and took a wedge out of the back bodice. Not prizes for guessing the guts of my dress look horrendous.

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I’m a bit meh about the finished results. I was after a smart work dress and the cap sleeves and shortness of the skirt make it look casual. I forgot to compensate for the length taken out of the bodice. The skirt sits higher up on my very short torso, so is little too short.

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I think I’ll re-visit the pattern at some point. I’ll lengthen the sleeves and skirt and might try a facing on neckline. The band makes it look a bit t-shirty. If you want to sew the Lady Skater, fitting tips can be found here from Kitschy Coo. It’s an easy to sew pattern and perfect for someone starting out with knits.

I knew I wouldn’t wear my ‘wearable’ muslin so I gave first refusal to my sister. She was delighted to be the recipient of a hand made dress and I’m chuffed it went to a good home.

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FO: Vintage red wrap skirt

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Here’s another UFO in the bag. The pattern is from Style, sew simple 2003.

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I was making it for last years Vintage Pattern pledge but progress stopped when The Coat started and sucked up all my sewing energy. I’m aiming for 3 patterns again this year, though I do have an ambitious To-Sew list, so it’ll be a challenge.

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There’s not much to say about this except it’s super easy to make as there aren’t any zips involved. I like that it wraps at the back and it feels quite secure, so no wardrobe malfunctions. Red is a departure from my usual colour palette and I love it. The skirt looks great with my Breton plantain top. Note to self, must sew more solids! The fabric is a cheap as chips twill I bought from one of the shops in Walthamstow market. I hemmed the skirt with some bias binding in my stash. It looks cute peeking out from the back skirt panel.

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Anyone else on a mission to sort out their UFO’s? It’s a bit like having a sewing spring clean.

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FO: From sofa throw to Simplicity 2451

SAM_5389I’m on a mission to tackle all the UFO’s in my sewing corner. 2014 was a productive year sewing wise but spending more time sewing has resulted in lots of half-finished projects cluttering up my sewing space. So one of my re-sewlutions is to finish my UFO’s before I start anything new. Hopefully I’ll get to sew something new at some point.

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First up is this skirt made from the infamous Simplicity’s 2451 pattern. You probably know already this pattern is awesome. I previously made view C here but I like my latest version better as it’s closer to the pattern.  I lowered the waistband of my first iteration but decided the skirt looks better sitting nearer my natural waist as per the pattern.

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I love the fabric of this skirt, the floral print is so happy and vibrant. I love it even more as the fabric had a former life as a sofa throw. I found it in a charity shop and paid a bargainous 4 quid for it. As I picked it up, I realised it was not a mound of material but a very large rectangle of upholstery cotton, edged on one side with a flounce. It looked homemade and was in good condition so I bagged it.

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As there was tons of fabric, I thought about making a dress but my sister talked me out of it as she reckoned  ‘top to toe sofa’ would be too much. I’m glad I went with the skirt option as it’ll definitely get more wear than a dress. I lined it so I can wear it in winter too over thick tights. It’ll look great with coloured tights.

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I made view D which is the same as view C but with a longer skirt and a kick pleat at the back. I tapered the skirt at the side seams by 1.5cms at the hem, tapering to nothing at the bottom of the pocket for a more fitted look.  I lengthened the yoke slightly to fit my waist which resulted in the skirt having two front pleats at the yoke rather than four. I’d like to put the missing pleats back in next time I make it this, just need to work out how.

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I took up the hem by 5cms but should have shortened the pattern. The kick pleat is a bit mean now so I’ll make adjustments to the pattern next time. I could’ve sewn it up as I can walk ok without it but I liked this little detail.

As the skirt is very simple to sew up I thought I’d practise a few techniques, so I inserted my second lapped zipper. I’m finding them ok to insert but I’m not sure I like the look of them. They aren’t as well hidden as concealed zips and mine gape open a little at the top of the waistband.

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I decided use a blind stitch foot on the hem. I confess I’m terrible for exploring the other features of my sewing machine. It’s taken me 8 years to try out the buttonhole feature and as well at the blind stitch foot. I played around on a scrap of fabric first before sewing my hem and the results are amazing. Lots of tiny prick stitches, which look so professional. This foot is my favourite ‘new’ bit of kit as it’ll save me from lots of hand sewing.

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I’m so pleased I rescued this from my UFO pile. I think the skirt has a hint of Boden about it with the crispness of the fabric and loud print. This pattern is definitely a TNT skirt pattern for me. Here’s to finishing UFOs.

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FO: The three year scarf

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What to do next after making a coat. Finish a scarf that’s been lying around for 3 years. One of my re-sewlutions is to finish UFOs which are cluttering up my sewing space. I unearthed this project whilst sorting out my sewing stuff at the beginning of the year. I’m not sure why I stopped as it was near enough finished. It took just two evenings in front of the telly to finish.

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I used 2 skeins of Araucania Tepa which is a blend of wool, mohair and silk. I remember falling in love with the beautiful colours of this hand dyed yarn and I was physically unable to leave without buying it. It’s quite pricey at £13.50 a skein but I just had to have it. I didn’t even have a project in mind when I bought it.

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I don’t knit much but might get into it again. My knitting skills are pretty basic and hats and scarves are my level. I’d love to be able to knit something like the Miette cardi one day. I’m pleased I finished it as it looks lovely all knitted up.

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FO: Introducing the Gerard coat

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After almost a month of toiling away I have a coat. Yes, that’s right, my first ever handmade coat. It’s a notched collar, interlined, bound buttonhole beauty and I absolutely love it. Warning, this is a wordy, picture heavy post but there’s a lot to say about making a coat!

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I had earmarked Gerard from Republique du Chiffon as the pattern for my first coat project. The boyfriend style with dropped shoulders is perfect for someone new to coat making – a forgiving fit and no complex shoulder tailoring. I also had this rust wool in my stash ready to go. It’s got all the colours of autumn in it.

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Sewing a coat was one of my sewing goals for 2014 so I got there in the end, albeit a month late. I began sewing like a dervish after seeing Sonja’s luscious fuchsia Gerard in late December, so I have her to thank for having a new coat this winter.

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I toiled the pattern out of an old sheet to check the fit. I knew the coat was a relaxed fit and wanted to avoid the ‘picked up someone else’s coat’ look. To cut corners I left out the collar and just sewed up the body and one sleeve. I normally fit size 10-12 and the medium was perfect.

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Although Gerard is a great pattern for an intermediate sewer, you have to psych yourself up for it as it’s a marathon sewing project. The pattern comes as a pdf download with no seam allowances. Although the coat is a fairly simple design, there are 18 pattern pieces – fashion fabric, lining and interfacing. The pattern making stage took me about two days. The instructions, despite being translated into English, are basic. There are more detailed instructions in French but my boyfriend’s translation skills didn’t stretch to sewing vocab. I confess I hardly referred to them, using books and on-line resources instead.

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I pre-shrank my wool in a tumble dryer with a wet towel using this method from Off the Cuff. After that I cut out my fabric and ironed on the interfacing which was a mammoth job due to the number of pieces. There’s a lot of prep which needs to be done before you even start sewing.  Once I got going, I found some pattern pieces didn’t quite match up and had to be eased in. The pattern is hand drafted and not digitised so there might be a few errors, as my piecing together and tracing were pretty accurate. However it’s nothing major and the pattern does come together.

Lining and domette interlining

Lining and domette interlining

I wanted to interline the coat as I’m always cold. I did a bit of research into suitable interlining fabric and used domette bought from McCulloch and Wallis. I was advised by the shop assistant to interline the coat, but I read it’s better to add the interlining to the lining if it’s a loose fit style, so that’s what I did. I only lined the body, as I didn’t want the coat to be too bulky and the finished coat hangs nicely.

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I had considered machine-made button holes but my poor machine could not cope with the wool. So bound button holes it was. Placing the button holes and the patch pockets was a faff as there aren’t any markings provided on the pattern. I ended up sewing them towards the end to make sure they were in the right place. Normally you’d add them at the beginning when there aren’t any facings to get in the way. 

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Extra interfacing on wrong side of front for pockets

My pockets are placed 11 cms up from the hem and 9.5 cms from the front opening if that’s of any help to anyone. I left out the seam allowances on the pockets as I wanted them to be smaller. I added some interfacing to the top of the pockets and to the wrong side of the front of the coat to stabilise that area.

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Front facing with twill tape and pad stitching

To get the lapel to sit nicely I added twill tape along the roll line and pad stitched the facing to add structure. The iron-on interfacing was coming away from the wool so this secured it. I made some prick stitches on the back of the lapel, to prevent the fabric from rolling to the front and added some twill tape on the shoulder seams to strengthen them, a tip I picked up here from Bedlam + bird.

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I whip stitched all my seam allowances, as the wool kept fraying the more I worked with it. I wished I’d overlocked before sewing as this would have saved some time. However I did remember to do this for my lining. I catch stitched my back seam allowances to the back but it produced an unsightly bump along the seam, so I unpicked this. To help the cuff and hems fold up, I made anchoring stitches along the seam allowances.

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Coat hook made from Liberty bias tape

Making the coat wasn’t without mishap. I practised my bound buttonholes as this technique was new to me. However, when it came to cutting the slit for the buttonhole, I was a bit trigger happy and cut beyond my tailor tacks by about half a centimetre. I fixed it with a bit of darning. Luckily the thread is a good match and it’s hidden by the button when the coat is fastened. My other accident was burning my lining. Fortunately I hadn’t sewed it in and I had some extra lining to replace the burnt section.

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The trickiest head-scratching part was the collar. I’d never sewn a notched collar before and the video mentioned on Ginger’s blog is invaluable. The resources I used are listed below.

Readers Digest complete guide to sewing book – tailoring and construction techniques

The Sewtionary book  – bound button holes

Threads Magazine – interlining

Michelle Blazer tutorial – in French but lots of photos on jacket construction. Very useful for sewing lining at hem and front facing – see photo below.

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Grainline studio – bagging out a jacket lining

Sewhopeful – buttonhole facings

Angela Wolf – attaching twill tape to lapel

Video – Sewing a lined jacket – just watch the beginning to see how a collar is sewn

To achieve a good finish when it came to the final pressing, I used the closest object I could find to a clapper – an untreated wooden chopping board. It did a good job of absorbing the excess moisture and my lapels are nice and flat. I also used a tailors ham,  my favourite new sewing tool. The wool was a joy to work with and behaved when pressed.

It’s been an enjoyable journey and I loved making my Gerard coat so much I was almost sad to see it over. I learnt lots of new techniques including notched collars, patch pockets, edge stitching, bound buttonholes, tailoring and interlining. I sewed slower as I had to research unfamiliar techniques along the way and found I enjoyed the process of sewing even more. There was a lot of hand stitching too which I like to zen out to. Maybe I should challenge myself to sew patterns that involve learning new skills more often.

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Making a coat is a great investment as you are likely to get a lot of wear out of it. It’s also addictive as you get a buzz from having accomplished a sewing milestone. I was thinking about more coat making in the middle of making my Gerard. I love the new Cascade duffle coat from Grainline, it’s so cute.  Maybe something for autumn….

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I’m so happy with my new coat and wore it to the park at the weekend. The weather was particularly cold and the padded lining felt luxurious as well as snug. The coat fits really well and is comfy to wear. It also matches my new scarf. Anyone coat sewing at the moment? What are you making?

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Liebster award!

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Earlier this year I was nominated for a Liebster award by Crafty Little Bugger and more recently by Sewcoordinated.  Thanks guys, I’ve been blogging for over a year now and it’s wonderful to get a bit of recognition for my random musings about sewing.

As part of the nomination you answer a few questions set by your nominator. I’ve gone with those set by Crafty Little Bugger. Sorry for the late response!

•Why do you sew and when did you start?

I bought a sewing machine to turn up trousers about 8 years ago. I’m 5′ 3” and RTW trousers are always way too long. I decided on a whim to take a beginners sewing class at Morley College and was hooked. I went on to do two more years of intermediate classes and have been sewing ever since. I’ve always liked making things with my hands and loved doing needlework classes. I hand-sewed a pyjama case, bag and apron in primary school. However my burgeoning sewing skills stopped when I went to secondary school, where the focus was on woodwork, lathes and drills in the brand new CDT room.

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Pyjama case made at school

I love the creativity I get from sewing and being able to make what I want to wear rather than relying on what’s in the high street. We’ve evolved into unthinking consumers and it’s so rewarding to have a skill that enables you to make something. I’m also a fussy shopper. I often won’t buy something simply because of a small detail, like a naff button or embellishment. I like having input into every detail of a garment.

•How do you get yourself out of a sewing rut?

I hit a long sewing rut after I stopped taking evening classes at Morley college. My sewing productivity hit a wall and I didn’t go near my machine for about 2 years. But then I discovered sewing blogs and they inspired me to start sewing again. Thank you Karen from ‘Did you make that’ for giving me my sewjo back. Nowadays I never make myself sew if I’m not in the mood as it’s a hobby and I want it to be enjoyable. I usually pick it up again soon enough.

•What’s your favourite make that you made for someone else?

I seldom sew clothes for other people, though I once made a silk Sorbetto for my sister. I do make lots of crafty presents for babies and my favourite make has to be the Itty Bitty baby dress. Not only is it incredibly cute, I made it from fabric in my stash and the prints came together perfectly.

•Where do you get your inspiration?

Mainly from other sewing blogs. I often see a finished garment and find myself clicking buy for a pattern that I once thought was meh. I don’t follow trends, so don’t bother with fashion magazines or blogs.

•What do you do if you get stuck in your making?

There’s so much advice out there in the sewing community with bloggers generously sharing their tips on construction and fit. If I do get stuck I do a bit of internet research. I’m in the middle of making my first coat and I’m googling ALOT. I also find indie patterns often have a sew-a-long or online tutorial on fit which gives you an big reason to go for them over the big 4 pattern companies.

•Are you a planner or do you just wing it?

Depends on what I’m making. If I think there might be an issue with the fit, I make a toile first. However if I see a short cut, I’ll take it. Sometimes it’s good to wing it. I made my jersey Disco Inferno top using a woven pattern and it turned out great.

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Studio 54, I’m ready for you!

•What’s your favourite fabric to sew with?

I guess it’s cotton with a nice print as that’s what I home in on when fabric shopping. I’m quite partial to Liberty Tana lawn, I can’t get enough of it. One day I’ll splurge out and make an entire dress out of tana lawn. I adore the queue for the zoo print.

•What do you do for fun besides making beautiful things?

Singing gives me a buzz. I also like trying out new restaurants and visiting exhibitions. I’m a Londoner so am spoilt for choice. It seems there’s a new restaurant opening every week. I’m looking forward to the Barbara Hepworth and Alexander McQueen exhibitions this year.

•Why did you start blogging?

I don’t know anyone who sews, so it’s great to way to engage with others who share my passion and show off what I’ve made.

•If you were an animal (other than a human), what animal would you be?

A cat. They’ve got it sussed.

I now nominate others for a Liebster. My nominations are, in no particular order:

Stitched up from the start

Sew South London

JoJoCoconut

Wear the ducky tie

Saturday night stitch

And your questions are:

1. Who or what got you into sewing?

2. Where do you buy most of your fabric?

3. What is your top sewing goal for 2015?

4. Name your favourite sewing blog

5. Why do you blog?

6. What’s your favourite sewing book?

7. Favourite place in the world

8. What are your other hobbies?

9. Sweet or savoury

10. Town or country

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Reflections on 2014 and goals

Aztec print plantain

Aztec print plantain

I had a productive sewing year with 18 makes. That’s 11 tops, 2 skirts, 1 jacket, 1 dress and 3 other items (a cushion, baby dress and hat). Phew! I think this was down to finally getting an overlocker and sewing knits (8 in total). To put this in perspective, I made 10 items last year. My top pattern of the year was the Plantain with 4 iterations.

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I also had my 1st Blogiversary in August 2014. I forgot to mention it on my blog as I was having an impromptu blogging break at the time. I see sewing and blogging as going together hand in hand and I’ll keep up with it. I also got nominated for two Liebster awards which was very exciting. The Q&A bit is on my to do list!

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NYLon 2014 – Getting ready for the official photo

I took part in two challenges, Me-Made-May 2014 and Marie’s Vintage Pattern Pledge. I completed the former, wearing handmade every day in May but was one short on my quota for the pattern pledge. I also went to two meet ups, NYLON and SewBrum. Both meet ups were a blast, it’s always fun meeting other sewists. I met a few international sewers at NYLON and finally made it beyond the dungeon that is the Birmingham NEC at SewBrum. I’ve been to Birmingham for work but have never seen the city itself. We ended the day at Guthrie and Ghani where I met Lauren from the Sewing Bee!

I achieved some of the goals I set for myself last year. I conquered my fear of sewing knits with Plantain and Renfrew sewing patterns. I used a lot of fabric from my stash, including this little number which is one of my favourite makes of last year.

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Itty bitty dress

I also revisited a few patterns, making this white seersucker top (Simplicity 2931) and this plaid Portfolio top from patterns I’d used before.

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I didn’t quite achieve my goal of only buying new fabric after sewing 2 garments and added to my stash big time. I’m not kicking myself too much as some fabric buying opportunities are too good to pass by. However, I am running out of storage space so need to curb how much I buy.

My final goal was a biggie and it was to make a coat. I’ve been wanting to make the Gerard coat by RDC for ages. It’s a great first coat pattern. However, I didn’t think I’d start a coat in 2014 as I’d left it too late what with it being December. But after seeing Ginger Makes’ gorgeous version, I got the sellotape out and began sticking together the pdf pattern. That was Christmas week. I’ve been beavering away and now have this.

Gerard Coat - wip

Gerard Coat – wip

It’s not finished, but I will, fingers crossed have a coat for this winter, what with the English winter being never ending. So that’s very exciting.

My goals for 2015:

1. Sew a pair of trousers – if I can sew a coat, I can handle trousers right?

2. Sew a shift dress – a glaring omission in my wardrobe. I love wearing them, so why not sew one.

3. Tackle UFO’s – that includes a scarf that is taking 4 years+ to knit.

4. Sew a few smart tops – cos I need some.

5. Ration fabric purchases. If I see something reeaalllly nice, then I’ll make an exception and buy it but my mantra will be – if I’ve not got a specific project in mind, I need to step AWAY from the fabric.

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