Friday, 28 September 2012

So what's next? Kids' clothes, recycling, tips, tutorials and more!

Well, it's been a month or so since I started this blog, and I feel the need for a pause and a look at what's next. It's been nice to share my spring and summer makes - but there are better conversations to be had than "look at what I made!", no?

Plus, it's the end of September - we're back to school and well into the swing of things!

Kids Clothes Week Challenge is happening from 8-14 October and I'm signed up. Who's with me?

Recykleren (= making stuff out of old clothes, in Dutch) is happening now, but as by far my preferred thing to make from reycled clothes is clothes for children, I'm going to slack off and merge this with my KCWC efforts. I'm already identifying clothes to cull, though!

I've seen a lot of really interesting discussions recently about sewing (women's) clothes. Specifically, the pull between everyday wardrobe sewing, or sewing for the life you want to have (otherwise known as cake vs. frosting). It's struck me that, although I started sewing again out of frustration with the lack of decent "occasion dresses" on the high street, this kind of issue hasn't really been what's preoccupied me as a home sewer of clothes.

For me it's been the more mundane, how do I know that this pattern will work? How is it that yet again I have made a garment, with such high hopes, only to find I hate the result? This applies particularly to clothes for myself, but sometimes also to things I've made for the kids. And it applies whether I'm sewing a dress to wear to a wedding or a t-shirt to wear all the time. It still happens regularly! And I was really hoping it wouldn't once I had a couple of years' trial and error behind me :-)

So, I'm mulling over my ideas to see if I could come up with some Tips for (Successfully) Sewing Clothes - whether you're sewing cake or frosting or something in between. Putting some thought into what's worked and what's not could be helpful for others as well as my little self, right? I would probably include reviews of books or other resources that have been particularly helpful, too. What do you think?

Once I started thinking about it, I realise I have also a ton of little sewing tips I would pass on to friends who sew: all those small but useful ideas you come up with to make life easier and wish you had someone to tell. So I'll start telling you!

Of course, actual sewing is on my to do list too - in fact, it's basically a permament state of affairs. I've already got one or two things on the go, plus there's the usual and ever-changing mountain of things I want to make next, all at once. And I might - just maybe - come up with a tutorial or two. I have an idea for the kids, and an idea for me that would probably make a good Christmas gift too.

Yes, Christmas! Or insert your midwinter holiday of choice. Approaching, more quickly than we think...

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Anyone else taking up the Kids' Clothes Week Challenge? Or making a special recycled-sewing effort?

Who's on top of their Christmas sewing plans already? What have you done, what'll you be doing?

Is permanently sewing (or other crafting) your default setting, too? Surely I'm not alone in occasionally finding my actual life an encumbrance?


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

In the kitchen

Much-loved oven gloves and fast-devoured blackberry coconut squares.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

Simple crochet scarf

I learned how to crochet this summer. 

Nothing too complicated yet, just getting used to the hook in my hand and the wool round my fingers.

I wanted to make, while on the move.

This scarf began in a field at the end of August, when there was just the tiniest hint of autum crispness in the air (and buckets and buckets of late summer downpours).  It's a very long chain and then about 12 rows of half double crochet, with a cheap acrylic yarn from from Zeeman.

I'm stuck as to what to do next. I've hardly mastered the basics and I know granny squares are the thing to try, but I'm not feeling any enthusiasm. Any ideas? (Tips on deciphering 'crochet speak' also welcome!)


Thursday, 20 September 2012

And now for some man sewing: Negroni shirt

To look at it, you'd never guess how many times I unpicked the entire yoke and collar.

Thank the Lord that all the seams are cleverly hidden.

Maybe making my first shirt ever in a lightweight, translucent, asymmetrical check to deadline for G's birthday was not a good idea.

Whatever, he wears it and it looks good.

He'll kill me if he ever sees I put this here.

Geek notes:
  • The pattern the Colette Negroni. My first experience with a Colette pattern, and it was as pleasant and straightforward as I'd been led to believe, i.e., very.
  • It comes with an instruction booklet that has space for notes and a pocket for the pattern pieces. MUCH better than those huge fold-out pages from the big pattern houses.
  • Very clear instructions - despite the serial seam ripping, this pattern basically taught me how to make a shirt with no prior experience (I learn by doing, I just couldn't visualise the sodding thing until it was f***ed up done).
  • The sizing came up a bit large I think - this size M leaves G plenty of room for manoeuvre. He's lost some weight in the meantime so the next (if there is one...) will be a small.


Monday, 17 September 2012

Blank canvas tee #1

My face was not cooperating with photos on 5 hours sleep, so today's pics are all about the outfit.

Forgive the slightly ridiculous pose,
I'm not very good at this yet

Bag & jeans: H&M
Shoes: ZAZ outlet, St Josse
Necklace: from Zimbabwe via Greenbelt festival

T-shirt: why I made it myself, thank you very much.

By rights, however, all thank yous in this post go to Steph of 3 Hours Past, who has drafted and made available for FREE the Blank Canvas Tee pattern.

The pattern is really easy to sew - just four seams (side & shoulders x2 each) and then hemming. It's also very simple to adapt: I used the second smallest shoulder size, with the sleeve length of the largest and tracing in to the waist/hip line of one of the middle sizes. I changed the neckline and bottom shirt edge, tracing both from the Colette Sorbetto top; while I like the shape of the neckline at the front, I should have kept the higher line at the back, because it gapes across the shoulders. Also, I'll be honest, what's gained in armpit modesty with the sleeves is more than lost at the cleavage (um, never mind ;-)

What's very cool though is that Steph did some kind of 'open source' pattern drafting for it, collecting comments and feedback on her blog and coming up with a simple t-shirt that deals with many of the sizing issues people have with standard top patterns (namely, the bust/shoulder proportions).

I guess it's pretty rare for someone to put so much effort into a free pattern (logically, really) and in my opinion you can tell the difference. I have been looking for a basic, comfortable t-shirt pattern that actually fits well and wears nicely, for a long time. I've been reluctant to shell out for an actual pattern because, well, for a t-shirt it just gets a bit expensive. But I also have been reluctant to follow the usual internet route of tracing around a well-fitting shop-bought top, because the problem I am trying to solve is precisely that I don't have any.

So, to say I have been happy to find that this works for me is an understatement.  Thank you Steph! (And good luck with Cake Patterns!)

And, yes there is a blank canvas tee #2 already. No doubt there'll be more too. To be blogged once I get some photos.


Friday, 14 September 2012

Maxi Zsazsa skirt

Just look at that print!

This marvellous fabric was hanging in the window of an innocuous little shop on the bus route to creche. Each day when T and I passed, I would plead telepathically for someone to take it down before those gorgeous colours faded into mediocrity.

Eventually I cracked, and rescued it myself.


The decision to go maxi instead of knee-length was spur of the moment and so unexpectedly inspired, I hardly feel I can take credit for it. I therefore don't feel like I'm bragging too much when I say it was a stroke of genius. It's the skirt that does everything - shady and cool under 38° of French sun, but with just the right level of comforting cover-up back home in milder climes.

I have actually been stopped on the street four times since July by people I don't know, just to talk about how great it is (really! and only one of them was a dodgy bloke trying to chat me up, at 8.15am for goodness' sake).

The notes:
  • A line skirt with yoga-style jersey knit waistband.
  • Pattern: from Mme Zsazsa's Allemaal Rokjes.
  • Fit: perfect. I measured a 40 and it is true to size.
  • Adjustments: extended from knee-length to the floor, with double 3 cm hem for weight.
  • Changes next time? I would make it a few cms shorter, to skim my feet rather than the actual floor.
  • Fabric: African wax print from a chaotic little shop on rue Willems in St Josse.


Monday, 10 September 2012

My sewing space

Thank you for the lovely comments on my tova dress! It's so very encouraging to 'meet' people and have some followers already!

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Nosy sewing room blog posts are one of my favourites. Part pure jealousy, part inspiration and aspiration. Would you like to see mine? Come on in - welcome to my sewing space!

Or, as G would call it, the guest bedroom/office. Technically, only the left hand side is mine, the rest will get a computer if we ever have money again after renovating all this.

That's a sofa bed. And a massive plank of a desk - a custom kitchen work surface in fact, from Ikea, that almost didn't make it into its designated space. G had allowed a scant 1.5 cm breathing space (ease??) on each side, but we got it in there with only two scrapes on the walls, and it's the best solid surface I could ever wish to sew on.

The coffee table is the first piece of furniture I ever bought for myself, on the flea market at Place Jeu de Balle, back when I was cool and lived in a flat in the Marolles with an outdoor toilet. The eagle-eyed will have identified the book (more on what I was doing with it, soon).

Masses of light, so I can finally take blog-worthy photos.

And there in the corner below is a tabletop ironing board. It's genius. (Ikea again, of course).

My machine is a Brother Innovis 150 Special Edition. I can't find a link to the product details any more - I bought it in Espace Machines √† Coudre in Ixelles, who I would highly recommend and from whom I am destined to buy an overlocker at some point too. I would recommend the machine, as well: lots of space, great functions, strong and steady (the clincher for me between this and another, cheaper machine was that the motor will basically cope with whatever you throw at it). I've had it two years and I love it.

And then I have postcards. I have an unintentional tendency to collect them anyway, and had been saving the sewing related ones for this space, since well before it was clear there would be a space at all.

Modes - Dentelles - Tailleur
ta toyota est fantastique - L'orcheste fil-harmonique

So, this is where I sew. Now, it's beautiful. Before, I was failing to maintain the delusion that the dining room table was for dining, and the attic room looked like this:

So, where do you sew? Are you one of the lucky few with a room of your own, or does your family have to scramble to the TV over mountains of fabric and sewing machine cables?


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Tova dress

First ever single-handed photo shoot - mid-conversation with the toddler

I think I must have been the only person on the Wiksten bandwagon this spring who didn't get the cheap(er) download. After mulling it over for ages, I bit the bullet and ordered the expensive paper pattern, about two weeks before the pdf version was launched. How was I to know?? I don't really mind though, because I f*ing hate taping together all that bloody A4 there's something very beautiful about the paper and packaging of it.

Obligatory headless shot

I had been finally lured into getting it by a throwaway comment on a blog somewhere about the "universally flattering Tova". It didn't disappoint - the dress looks great and is incredibly easy to wear. It was easy to sew too, while just stretching my skills slightly with the yoke/placket/collar and sleeves.

The design is lovely, in the way that this dress has something sort of superior and not-homemade about it - immediate compliments were received the first time I wore it to the office, followed by astonished "you made it??" *.  It has been worn a lot since it was finished in April, and there will be an autumn version when I find time to go a fabric shop and actually manage choose something.

And finally of course they muscled in on the action

Geek notes:
  • I made the M, without any of my usual FBA-gaping armhole-small back adjustments, and was relieved to find there's ease enough on the bust (I was worried it would come up small).
  • As can be seen in the above pictures, I've got some armhole gape, but I can live with it - I'm not going to start fiddling around with the yoke too much (a self-imposed sewing rule: know your limits).
  • The fabric is a linen-like natural fibre, which is all the detail I could get from the surly but helpful assistant at the wonderful Berger.

* this is not usually the reaction when I wear homemade clothes to work.


Saturday, 1 September 2012

Rocket dress

But with the name of the pattern and the proportions of the colour blocks, I couldn't get this out of my head:

Add into the mix that L came to the fabric shop with me and, well, I let the loudness take over. It's probably a bit silly but hey, she's only five and the colours are on trend, right? (That's surely why they were in my head in the first place, ahem).  To be honest it's this kind of thing that makes me love having a creative outlet. Once you get to be a grown up, there aren't that many opportunities left to think things like "hey, 'ice cream dress' pattern - I know, let's make a dress THAT LOOKS LIKE AN ICE CREAM."

Anyway, this pattern came together relatively easily but made me feel like I was learning something at the same time. It wasn't particularly quick to do because it's detailed, but Oliver+S has a reputation for clear instructions, and they are. They only real fiddle I had was attaching the yoke to the dress back, and I fudged it a bit and then covered it up with a bar tack to hold everything where it should be.

L loves it. And I almost get teary at these birthday pictures of her wearing it.

At Antwerp zoo

iphone photo by her uncle, my brother in law Kris

Aside: I'm pretty proud of the cake too. She had been requesting a pink strawberry cake since the day after her previous birthday, and, with a bit of help from smitten kitchen, I delivered. Insert smug mum emoticon here.