Monday, 30 December 2013

Top Five of 2013: hits for the kids

Hello and belated Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/etc! I hope you've all had a good one and are now safely recovered from overeating or whatever other seasonal excesses you may have indulged in (your extended family?)  We're in the middle of a 10-day stay at my parents', which is wonderful but busy - between us all there are 9 adults and 4 children, in a house designed for significantly fewer people. We all need our tactics to escape the mayhem every now and again, and I'm having my moment to do a little blog catch-up. Sewing as refuge, even when I'm not doing it :-)

Anyway, on with the Top Fives! I've been considering not doing a Top Five Kid Hits after all, but it makes up such a big and enjoyable part of my sewing life that it'd be remiss of me not to include them. However, I'll be moving on quickly tomorrow to the year's Top Five Fails, which as far as I'm concerned are among the most interesting of everyone's lists - it's fascinating to see what didn't work, when so much of our blogs' focus tends to be on things that did work, or the process of getting them to turn out well.  So, here we go! If you want to see the original posts, click on the photos...

1) Skater dresses

This one's my favourite of the Kitschycoo skater dresses I made my daughter this spring. They've both been worn almost to death (demonstrating in the process why the serger should be used for finishing seams, not necessarily attaching them) and she's now much taller than she was - time for some winter versions in the new year!

2) Popover sundress hacks

The free popover sundress pattern by Oliver & S is a hit on it's own, but this summer I had great fun messing around with it too. The big twirly maxi version above is fantastic on very hot days, and I've seen quite a few other versions crop up both online and in real life, which is extremely gratifying :-)  (If you'd like your own, the picture links to a tutorial).  The pompom trimmed dress below has a crossover back, and is still in heavy wardrobe rotation despite now being on the small side.

3) The Primus tee

I have to include this because it's just so cool. It's made using the sleeveless kid skater bodice, upcycled out of a promotional t-shirt from one of Belgium's biggest breweries. I've lost track of the number of times people have commented that they didn't know they made children's t-shirts too, and asked where I got it.  If only I had more of the original tees, I could go into production.  Plus, look at my little rock star :-)

4) Birthday crowns

Pretty self-explanatory! This year I upped my game from the quick and dirty felt versions I used to do, and very pleasing it was too.

5) Sandwich wrappers

And finally, a hit for the kids that I suspect I appreciate much more than they do (though who am I kidding, that probably applies to all of them). It gives me a small but important sense of satisfaction to wrap their packed lunches up in these every schoolday - and those little impacts are, for me, just what home sewing should be about. Unfortunately, on the very last day of term T forgot his school bag on the bus, meaning that a replacement is due before next week - I might just make an upgrade for my old one while I'm at it. Kicking off 2014 in style!

And there you have it, 2013's hits for the kids. See you tomorrow with 2013's misses!


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The sewcialists do Green December and all I make is this (un)wearable muslin

So I was hoping this would be a wearable muslin, and it nearly was, and actually I thought it was, but then in the end it isn't.  But I don't really care because I have STRETCH VELVET for my next version. And if I'm very lucky/organised/neglectful of my children, said next version might even get done by Christmas*, which would be great because after that and New Year there aren't that many opportunities to wear all-over velvet.  Or are there? Yes, maybe there are.  Party dresses All The Time!

* at time of writing Christmas is still 3 whole days away. By the time you're reading this, I will know whether or not I've managed it. Can you stand the suspense??!

The pattern is the Lady Skater by Kitschycoo, made with 2 metres of bottle green shimmer jersey from Minerva Fabrics. The shimmer is subtle and got a lot more so after washing, and the fabric's actually pretty thin.  I wouldn't be able to wear this without an underlayer. None of this is a complaint - it's not exactly bad for £2.99 a metre! This just wasn't the right project for the fabric (a Renfrew would have been good, now I think of it. Oh well).

I cut a size 4 on the shoulders, with a 'fake FBA' by extending to size 5 at the underarm. Then I graded out to a 6 at the waist. (Basically, all changes I ever make to patterns involve turning the waist curves into rectangles or something). And it's testimony to a great pattern that when I first put it on, I was immediately, overwhelmingly gobsmacked by how darn good it looked. This despite the above fabric issues, and a couple of stupid mistakes which became clear once the fabulousness fell from my eyes and I was able to actually see what I'd sewn.

As you can see, I wasn't paying attention when I put the neckband on (because that's just the place to stop concentrating) and as a consequence it is uneven as sh*t. Plus I stretched the neckline wildly and it gapes.  Then, I made a very misguided attempt to 'fix' the gape:

Yes that's some darts. The kind of darts like, oh I'll just sew this here and see what happens. I doubt those ever work out well, do they?

Pre-darts, this dress hung in the wearable-unwearble balance, but they finally sealed its fate. However , it prettys up my dress form, so I'll take that and call it a win.

Also, in a coincidental (or not?) random act of idiocy, I managed while sewing this to machine stitch into my finger. I've always wondered how people did that, and to be honest I still don't know.  It hurt, but disappointingly it hardly bled and therefore even my children didn't appreciate the injury. In an interesting twist, I have yet to find the remaining third of the needle that broke. Where did it go? Could it still be in my finger??

Anyway, that's my underwhelming go at Green December sewing. But: velvet!! Coming up soon...


Friday, 20 December 2013

Top Five Hits of 2013: me me me!

Are you ready?? Yep, I had so much fun reading everyone's Top Five posts last year that this year I am totally in!

I'll be doing 2013's sewing Hits (me), Hits (the kids/others), Misses, Reflections and Goals. You want my inspirations? They're basically this: sewing bloggers, sewing bloggers, sewing bloggers, Pinterest (usually a sewing blogger), and H&M (as in: hey, that looks like something I saw on a sewing blog! Now I get it!)

So, with no further ado (and because this is by far the easiest post to write), let's start with the hits I made for myself. If you want to see the original post, just click on the pictures! In strictly chronological order, we have...

1) Polka dot New Look 6000

I made this for February's Polka Dot Frock Fest hosted by Scruffy Badger. It was a lot of firsts: first sheath dress, first underlining, first back vent, and the first time I have ever worn polka dots (before or since). I loved it when I finished it and, although the fit issues annoy me just slightly more every time I wear it, I have NEVER had so many compliments on my clothes as I have when wearing this (which I do regularly). Hit!

2) Floral voile Scout dress

This is Grainline's Scout tee, lengthened. The fabric is some gorgeously swishy voile I had in my stash just waiting for the perfect project, which this pretty much was. It got a lot of wear with leggings in the summer, as it works brilliantly both at and out of work. And the fabric is just so SOFT. I sort of feel like I've kind of gone off tunic-style dresses in the meantime, but I'm pretty sure this is nonetheless going to come into it's own again next spring & summer. Hit!

3) Knit Tania culottes

I can't say much more about these than I said in the original post, except that the knit version got a hell of a lot more wear while it was still warm enough than my woven version did. Make them in something drapey and swish around for the utmost comfort and style in summer casualwear. Hit! (But, I haven't got on at all wearing them with tights. I just don't like it).

4) Darling Ranges dress

Marathon fitting issues aside, I LOVE this dress. It is so comfortable and so flattering, and I wear it at least once a week, at work and for play. I can't wait to have another go in the new year - this time hopefully getting those final bodice issues sorted once and for all. Which would be a Hit! x2.

2) Colette Zinnia skirt and Sewaholic Renfrew

OK I'm cheating here, because this is three hits in one.  But it was the making of the outfit as a whole (Hit!) that won me over to both patterns (Hit! Hit!). I wear these together All. The. Time.  Which has been a slight surprise to me, because I've never before been quite so in love with wearing something on my natural waist, I've always been a hipster kinda girl. It's just the way those pleats skim the stomach, and the cropped top sits so perfectly above them. Both the top and the skirt are in really nice-to-wear fabrics too, and I'm so glad I bothered to do the skirt zip so well because it makes me feel all pleased with myself every time I think about it. I'm going to be making both these patterns up again (in fact, I've already made another Renfrew, but you'll be seeing that one with my list of fails...). I have one more of each planned for asap after Christmas, and they're both great staple patterns to have on hand. Hit, Hit and Hit!!

And finally ...

5) Knitting

I can hardly believe that this project is almost complete (yes really!) After a couple of littler knits with cheap yarn earlier in the year, this is my first ever 'serious' attempt at knitting something (it's a cardigan, if you can't be bothered to click through). And I really love it. This is the project that's made me feel like a real knitter, and I don't think I'll ever again be without a portable project on the go. It's a great counterweight to the whole sewing process of tracing-cutting-sitting at a machine - I love how it just sort of grows organically in your hands.  Obviously the whole matter of matching yarn to pattern, and pattern to fit and wearing style is something pretty much unknown to me at the moment. But right now I don't care that much whether my cardigan turns out wearable or not. If not, I'll just keep it next to the sofa for whenever I need to cuddle something and think, I made this myself and learned a whole new skill while doing so.So yes, knitting is definitely a Hit.

And that wraps up my Top Five Hits for me me me! I'm now into my last 5 minutes in the office (yes, it's a slow day), and our home internet connection has just gone on the blink so I'm not sure when I'll get to post next. I hope it won't be long, because as of this afternoon I'm officially on holiday, and very glad of it too. I'm very much looking forward to reading your Top Fives - or whatever, or not at all because you're busy doing other things.

For now, and with great enthusiasm, I'm outta here :-)


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Spendy superior Sewaholic PJs


Extra long pattern pieces, five yards of piping and Anna Maria Horner flannel: it can only mean one thing... it's the most expensive item of clothing I've ever made*!!
Would you use your most spendy fabric on something you'd only wear in bed? No? I totally recommend it. After all, one wears one's sleep-clothes a LOT, and let's face it, who honestly treats themselves on their nightwear? Wearing the luxury softness (or slinkiness, or just plain prettiness) instead of an old t-shirt is basically like giving yourself a big sewing cuddle every night (no? yes!), and as you probably won't wear them out of the house much (will you?) there's great scope for print madness that you might not otherwise feel you can allow.
As for the pattern, well with all that piping it could only be the Sewaholic Tofino. I actually didn't see the appeal much at first, when there are so many free PJ pants patterns out there which will do, y'know. Obviously, my eyes have now been opened to how much more fabulous the PJs are when they do more than just do. I bought the pattern on a sudden summer whim because I was grabbed by the idea of joining in Karen's Pyjama Party. Then other things happened, and that idea departed as swiftly as it had arrived, and I felt spendy pattern guilt about not doing it. But hey, it all turned out right in the end! Because if I had made the pyjamas then, maybe I wouldn't have made them now, considering the pattern done and not sewing myself some warm wintery flannel.
And that would have been a terrible, horrible shame. Because these PJs are absolutely, utterly superior. No going back. All the pyjamas from now on will be Tofinos, and they will all be in fabulous fabrics. Spendy sleepwear, I don't care!

I do like to hang out drinking tea in my pyjamas. And reading books (more John Irving).

And I guess I like doing acrobatics in them too.

But I think it goes without saying that I wouldn't mind doing quite a lot more of this.

Ha. Like that's going to happen.

* yes really. I am that cheap.

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What's the most expensive thing you've ever made? Did you luxuriate in the extravagance of it while sewing, or berate yourself for risking to cut into the precious fabric in the first place? Were you immediately converted to spendy fabric once and for all, or was it a one-off?

As for me - I've already ordered more not-cheap flannel to make holiday nightgowns for the kids. I'm telling myself that once I've done those, I'm done and back to the bargain bin.  But then again, maybe I'll just put off that line of thought until after the January sales. Yes.


Friday, 6 December 2013

A new project: Seamstress sans frontières

Friends, I think it's time to tell you about a new little thing I've got going on. And I do mean little - this is strictly a cottage-industry-style venture, which in no way should impinge on my important business of selfish and child-related garment sewing :-)

But, it was time to move beyond the end of my own nose. And I therefore present (drum roll please!) the founding of...

The seamstress sans frontières!  Who is to be found on Facebook here, with a linked JustGiving page here.

So, what's it all about?

Well, you may remember that I recently made a number of baby/child gifts, and I mentioned in that post that it'd got me thinking about how much I like to make these little things for other people. It was the germination of a whole thought process which included things like:
  • Why aren't there more babies to sew for?
  • And on the other hand, isn't it a bit pointless to sew things for the same friends and friends' children over and over again?
  • And actually, can I even know if these things are really wanted and welcomed?? (Because my friends are all truly lovely and polite, and would never actually tell me they didn't really use that 500th bib I gave them).
  • And while I'm at it, if I want to do more unselfish sewing, isn't there a way to be even more unselfish about it than that?


And thus was born the idea of custom sewing orders for charity. I'll 'sell' in exchange for a donation, matching the cost of materials, to the Charlotte Wilson Memorial Fund via JustGiving.  Hey presto - I get sewing variety, making things that I know are wanted, all along with a great feeling of virtuousness, while customers get their goods made to order at a reasonable price.Win win!

I wanted to fundraise for a charity supporting small projects in Africa - for a variety of personal reasons, but most importantly because I think it's the small organisations who most often need the help. Also, I have to admit, I really don't intend this to be a big thing - maybe family and friends, and perhaps colleagues or other locals - think global, act local, right? And I still need to fit in the rest of my life. I just kind of wanted to support something that matched the scale of what I'm able to do, too. I hope that makes sense :-)

Of course, when I decided to start small, I hadn't reckoned with my friend Toby's big plans. Plans not only to be the biggest fundraiser for Movember Belgium, but also to win Best Mo in a Costume at the Gala even last week.

Sadly, he came second for the fourth year in a row on the fundraising. But the costume - no competition!

Toby does a fantastic job raising money every Movember, as well as heroically encouraging others. Not only that, but he managed to push me well beyond my sewing boundaries with that costume! I'm already finding that taking on other people's ideas instead of my own is opening up whole new worlds of sewing fun...

And tremendous fun it is. I honestly never thought I'd see myself either costume making or quilting, but here I am and enjoying both enormously.  Sewists of the world, break out of your boxes - you have nothing to lose but your ingrained habits! (To send Karl Marx spinning in his grave).

:: :: ::

Well anyway, in my little time away from this blog (only two weeks, but I missed it!) I've read plenty of other northern-hemisphere bloggers complain about the dark days that allow for so few photos - and pretty much all of us, everywhere are heading into the pre-holiday rush. Yep, me too (but I'm not going to add my apologies :-). But I also realised that I so like dropping in here, and so enjoy that exchange of ideas and makes and, y'know, goodwill and stuff, and, well, I dunno. I suppose I'm trying to say: I'm gonna blog more! and better!

But without actually making any rash promises :-)

Till soon my lovelies...