Sunday, 18 January 2015

How I Stared with a Mabel and Ended with A Gertie! (Plus My Plans for Wardrobe Architect 2015).

Hi Everyone, well yesterday was a bit of a wash-out sewing-wise although I did trace out two patterns which will be going head-to-head in my knit pencil skirt challenge. Sprogzilla and I got down late to the Studio yesterday (I have no sewing machines at home now) partly because we had to go do some food shopping but also because Sprogzilla introduced me to "Attack on Titan", a Japanese anime and we watched a few episodes in the morning. It's great and very addictive! 

This is a  91cm/150cm-wide ponte knit remnant that I bought from The Textile Centre on eBay to make a test run of my Mabel pattern. When I saw the fabric though I thought that it might be better as the pencil skirt version 3# so I quickly traced it out completely as drafted. No length changes at all as I wanted to see how it sewed up and if it was a bit above the knee then that was okay, it was a wearable muslin. I cut it out, put a new needle back into my overlocker to make it back into a 4-thread and then discovered that I had no navy blue thread. I never even thought to check before I started cutting. I have 100's of threads in every colour apart from navy blue it seems. Typical! The photo really makes this look very dark but it is closer to Monaco Blue.

So what to do, I was all fired up to do some sewing? I bought the new "Gertie Sews Vintage Casual" this week which I will review when I have some time. 

Not the high-point of my book collection I have to say but it did include the knit pencil skirt pattern above so I quickly traced it out. One pattern piece! My kind of pattern. It was just straight up and down though and to be honest I thought that would be a bit frumpy so I pegged it by about 1.5cm at the bottom and cut it out. Anyway, I had just overlocked the raw edges top and bottom before I sewed up the side seams when I was called away to do something and didn't get back to it before I got picked up to go home. Boo! I used another ponte knit from The Textile Centre for this skirt. This is a bit heavier weight than the butterflies but there is not much between them. They are both lovely fabrics and I will seriously be buying more of the snakeskin. They both have great stretch.

The plus point of both these patterns is that they are so economical. You could have cut out both these skirts from way less than a metre respectively. Out of the fabric bits that are left over there are some good sized scraps which could probably make some short raglan sleeves and a binding for a knit top  (a plan emerges). I can't comment on the fit yet but as these are all good to go then I should get them sewn up next weekend.

Talking of plans I will also be posting next weekend about my plans for Wardrobe Architect as I am taking part this year.  January is all about finding your core style and exploring shapes so I have scoured the interwebs to completely rip off   review the options for assessing your own body shape using photography to make a croquis  (a little line drawing of your figure used as a template for design) and using the low-tech paper and pen to find out your own proportions. Be warned though. It won't be for the faint of heart as I will be seen in something tight so you can see all the undisguised lumpy bits in their full glory. The things I do for sewing!

Anyway, enough waffling for today. If you have got this far thanks for reading and please tune in next weekend for the full horror!

Later lovely people! K xx

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Vintage Pattern Sewing Pledge 2015

Do you sew vintage patterns? Or are a fan of vintage styles and fancy putting a toe in the water with some vintage repros? Then you might be interested in "The Vintage Pattern Pledge" being hosted by Marie from A Stitching Odyssey, ably assisted by Kerry from Kestrel Makes.

Simplicity 5519, Vogue 5827 and Simplicity 7716

As you may know, or have realized by now I am an avid pattern buyer and I have bags of vintage patterns kicking about. Unfortunately, not many in my size but I do have some vintage repros which are, plus a couple of true vintage plus-sized gems.

McCall's 7456, Butterick 4708 and Simplicity 7583.

One of my goals for this year was to actually do some sewing and make myself some garments so when this came up I was pleased as I had been following the proceedings last year.

Vogue 5956, Simplicity 6808 and McCall's 7230

So I, Kelly of Mother of Invention do solemnly swear that I will actually put my needles where my mouth is and stitch up at least three of my vintage patterns in 2015.


Think that I should manage three in a whole year! I hope that they allow patterns taken from vintage examples. I don't know if they will as I have to draft it up myself so it is a "new" pattern really but I'll have a go anyway. I love redrafting and making these patterns up, like this 1930's girdle from the the "Vintage Lingerie" book by Jill Salen. The style lines on this are beautiful, it looks really Art Deco.

I have still got to finish the binding properly, add front closures and put some suspenders on the front but I hope that you get the general idea. Apologies for the dodgy phone pics but I forgot to take these in daylight today. This looks really gorgeous on. I made it up exactly as drafted and it fits a neat UK size 8. I used cotton coutil, a specialty corset fabric with a tight weave, for the strength layer the same as the original but I used a silk dupion outer and lined it with coordinating quilting cotton. Don't think that this would have been too comfy to wear in real life but it gives a smashing shape. Would certainly have kept you in a svelte, slinky shape perfect for all those bias-cut gowns.

Hope that I have added enough length.

Well that is enough of me waffling on. I had to do some work today and still have to pre-wash all my new fabrics. I have drawn out my "Mabel" pattern. Boy, is she short. I held up the pattern to get an idea of the length on me and it *just* came to the bottom of my bottom! Eek! So I added three inches to the length. I am far too old to have all my giblets on display. Really looking forward to making this  though as it is nice and pegged, just the way I like it.

Have a great week and stay warm (or cool if you are in the Southern Hemisphere) !


Sunday, 4 January 2015

Cool for Cats

So I have a little time today procrastinating while I am supposed to be writing things to tell you about a super-fast project that I sewed up for my Mum's moggy, Millie - the cat who has everything.

Cat Dream by Andover Fabrics.It is really a dark green.

I was in John Lewis having a look at the quilting fabrics and found this one, "Cat Dream" from Andover Fabrics, and instantly fell in love. Being the crazy cat lady that I am I pounced on it thinking that it would make the best blouse ever. To my dismay, only half a metre remained but I decided to buy it anyway and use it in a little cat quilt to put on Mum's sofa.

This is possibly the easiest project I made last year. There are only four components: 
the top fabric, a half metre remnant of poly quilt batting, the same of some coordinating fleece and 4 metres of matching bias binding. The only thing that I needed to buy was the bias binding, I had the rest in my stash. I pre-washed all the fabrics.

I cut off about 20cm of the top fabric on either side at the same point in the pattern to make it a better shape. I placed the fleece remnant wrong side up on a table, smoothing it out. Then I added the batting layer and finally the top fabric. This was pinned together at strategic points using quilters safety pins, which are those ones where the bottom bar is sort of banana-shaped. The fleece and the batting were roughly trimmed round the outside leaving about a 4cm overlap round the top fabric. I then basted all three layers together around the edge being careful to smooth out everything from the middle to the outside to avoid any bunched fabric on the back. I also curved the corners using a French curve to get a nice even sweep which makes them easier to bind.

I used 20mm single-fold bias tape which I just opened out and lined up with the edge, stitching along the fold.

Once this was stitched I trimmed away the excess batting close to the stitching, being careful not to cut away the top fabric or the fleece.  This will get a bit messy with little bits of batting everywhere (as you can see). Because I hand stitch everything to keep it from shifting, I folded the binding over the raw edge keeping it nice and tight and basted it down so that the folded edge on the back was a bit lower than the stitch line at the front. You could just fold it over but the seams were thick and I didn't want to risk not catching the fabric in the back. I did use quite lofty batting as I wanted it to be really comfy.

I then "stitched in the ditch" which is just basically sewing in the join between binding and the top fabric. This takes some hand-eye co-ordination I can tell you but you don't get any visible stitching on the top. Yay!
Please ignore my big pink stitches but you can see that I made sure the binding edge was a good few millimetres over where the stitching line would be.

When it was finished I gave it a quick iron on the top just to finish of the binding. Please don't do this on the fleece side or you will end up with a big melted mess.

I think that it turned out quite nicely. It is folded in half over the chair here so that it could be photographed. Mum was chuffed to bits with it and has appropriated it for herself so I will be making another one soon. I think that this also makes a good lap quilt as it is quite warm and surprisingly heavy.

This was a very fast project. In all it took me about 5 hours but most of this was either unpicking stitches from where I had tried to quilt it as per my original idea and it got eaten up by two of my machines, plus all the hand sewing and unpicking that I did as I always baste everything. It takes time but makes the sewing a lot easier. I am so old school.

Do you have a cat in your life? Or dog even?  Have you ever made them anything?

Have a great week!


Saturday, 3 January 2015

2014: A Year in Review

Hi All, well I suppose that I am fashionably late to the party but am going to wish you a "Happy New Year" anyway!

Today I am going to reflect on my "Top 5's" of last year as hosted by Crafting a Rainbow except that they will probably just be top 1's (doesn't it feel really odd saying "last year"?). 

So here goes, this is going to be a kind of combined everything as, to be honest, I didn't really have an awful lot of time for sewing in 2014 with the day job being so busy and with travelling more than 60,000 miles last year  a lot for work! I did get to visit some countries I had never been to before (Finland - great wool shops/Spain) and to visit a lot of places I know already even if I only got to stare at the fabric shops from a cab to the airport. :)

However, I did finally kick the butt of FBA's after a lot of years of making things that were HUGE or that didn't meet in the middle. No stopping me now. Actually, things are still huge but those puppies are COVERED! 
The best highlights for me was definitely getting to interact with the sewing community through this blog (thanks guys!), by teaching the girls from work how to dressmake and how to knit, winning a pattern giveaway through the fab Pendle Stitches blog for a much needed (but still to be sewn) bag and by taking part in the Curvy Sewing Collective holiday swap. I now have knit fabric, an overlocker that does what it's supposed to and as soon as I have got some free time then I am making a Mabel and a bag!

More hand finishing in these than a pair of shorts has a right to!

The biggest miss for me last year was not being involved in Newcastle Fashion Week. I have shown there for the two years previous with my own stuff and was totally gutted not to have the time to do it last year. I only had time to make one pair of shorts in specially woven fabric by Bayly.  These were fun I can tell you, being hand woven and fraying at the least touch. Pattern pieces needed to be thread traced first then stabilized along the stitching line with fusible interfacing before they were cut out with 2-inch seam allowances, but at least I remembered all my old tailoring hand stitches  so that was a plus.

Fingers crossed that they will have me back with my corsets and stuff for next year. 
The photo above is one of a few I have lurking that you haven't seen yet and was a collaboration with the amazing Scottish milliner, Mairi Brunning, She used one of the Fashion Week corsets from a couple of years ago. I really love this shot and she makes fabulous hats.

So on reflection 2014 was a year where I had no time. I did manage to make the odd thing (a quilt-ette for my Mum's cat - still to be blogged) but on the whole life just got in the way. I managed to sneak some knitting in on the train and do a little informal teaching but that was it.

So what are my goals for 2015? Well I have some stuff in the pipeline: a super sneaky project that I didn't have time to do; sew with knits; teach at least one corsetry workshop (hopefully in March); and to take at least one day a week me-time for some sewing. I really would like to make at least a few things from my vintage pattern stash out of my (vintage) fabric stash before I am buried alive under it like the crazy hoarder cat lady that I am, plus sew from all the teetering mounds of Burda mags that I have. Also I would like to share more stuff on this blog but only time (or the lack of it) will tell.

So enough of me wittering on. What are your goals for 2015? Do you even have any?

Thanks for reading and commenting last year. It was really appreciated.


I will be linking in this post to Crafting a Rainbow. 
Oh and if you haven't come across Gillian's blog before then it really is worth adding to your blogroll, especially the posts on sewing knits and about colour palettes. 

Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Curvy Sewing Collective Holiday Swap!

Hi Everyone and a very Merry Christmas to you all! Or if you don't celebrate Christmas then I hope you have the opportunity to take a nice break with family and friends.

Today I want to write about the kindness of strangers, and some curvy sewing of course.
I recently took part in the Curvy Sewing Collective Holiday Swap. This was where you gave your details on the Curvy Sewing Collective website and were partnered with another member of the online sewing community. The idea was to send a pattern, and perhaps a few notions, to your swap partner. I thought that this was a lovely idea so signed myself up.

I was partnered with Friedericke, who has a terrific blog at Naehenisttherapie (Sewing is Therapy). If you haven't read her blog before you should really give it a read. I was blown away by her chic, modern style and her sewing skills. I mean look at this amazing coat.


And this fabulous Washi dress looks effortlessly stylish.

Chic, modern and stylish are three words that would never ever come up if you were asked to describe me so I was really intrigued to what pattern Friedericke would choose as our styles couldn't have been more opposite if we tried. 

Anyway, a couple of days ago I received my parcel and I couldn't have been more delighted with my present. I was really touched by the thoughtful pattern choice as when we had written to each other about what we liked or disliked I had mentioned that I was frightened of sewing knits. I received a Mabel sewing pattern from Colette Patterns with some stretch needles and a twin needle! How great is that! I have been looking for a twin needle for ages and thought that I might have to order one online.

Look at this bad girl! That skirt is smokin' hot (as they say. Definitely not down with the kids here). The Mabel is a skirt pattern designed for stretch fabrics and comes in sizes from XS to 3XL. 

It also comes in three styles. One of them a bit longer than the other two. I have to say that this is completely out of my comfort zone but in a very good way, I think that that is great and one of the things that makes these swaps so much fun. We can get stuck in a style rut and the Mabel has such great instructions and reviews that I am sure I will be whipping one up in no time. I have even bought fabric, a heavy grey ponte knit with textured black flowers on it. I can't wait to give it a go.

So yet again I have been touched by the kindness of strangers, thanks Friedericke, and just how much the online sewing community is just that, a community. Thanks go to Tanya too for organizing the swap. 
Friedericke, if you are reading this I really hope you liked your parcel!

Finally, if you haven't yet visited the CSC you really should give it a look. It is a great resource for anyone that sews but has a definite focus on us more *ahem* generously proportioned sewers.

So just closing off with some festive best wishes for you all and a classic (non-festive) tune!

K xx

Edited to say that my brother's rugby game got put off due to the weather so they are not going out until January now. Typical after all that rushing!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Book Review: The Overlocker Technique Manual

Do you sew with knit fabrics? I never do as I am a bit scared of working with them. I have had an overlocker (serger) for about the past 10 years which I used to use for finishing the insides of Sprogzilla's dresses when she was small. I stopped using it, forgot everything and now I have lost my confidence. So, after a few abortive attempts to get my machine threaded up, with much added swears,  I decided to cut my losses and give it up for a dead loss. However, part of me REALLY wants to sew with knits again. I used to run up leggings and sew skirts from stretch fabrics with ease and have a lot of great knit fabrics kicking about growing old.

So I do what I always do when I need to learn something? Buy a book! I had a good look on Amazon and this one seemed to get the best reviews. The book in question is " The Overlocker Technique Manual" by Julia Hincks, published this year and in paperback. The cover price was £12.99 but it was on offer for less than £10. The  contents are divided into three main sections: Chapter 1 - Overlocker Basics; Chapter 2 - Techniques and Chapter 3 - Quick Constructions.

One of the things that I love about this book is that it is chock full of photos (good for a visual learner like me ) that is balanced out with the informative text. This makes it so easy to see where your stitches are going wrong and how they should look, Plus, it gives you the confidence to fiddle with all the little dials and knobs as now you know what they do. Guess who forgot to take any book photos? Yep, so you will have to take my word for it.

It looks awful but I was delighted that it was actually stitching

However glossy a sewing book it still needs to live up to its hype so I dusted down the machine and fired it up. Threading took me about 20 minutes and I could see from the start that the tension was a bit wonky and that the stitch width was probably off (thanks to the book).

Different fabric but looks SO much better (I used 3 different coloured threads)

After 5 minutes of fiddling I had another go and now it was stitching perfectly. (it looks like the fabric is rolled but it is just the stripes, it was dead flat). I only had three threads on my 4-thread machine as I couldn't find the box with all the spare feet, needles and stuff but will be converting this back to a 4-thread as soon as possible and changing the needles to ballpoints or stretches so I can sew knits. I have the Cake Patterns "Tiramisu" and the Holy Grail of knit dress patterns, the Palmer/Pletsch  "Perfect Knit Dress" from McCalls (M5974) waiting to be made up. I have pre-washed fabric and everything.

So am I glad that I bought this book? A big, fat resounding yes! I have conquered my fear, actually threaded my machine properly, can pinpoint where I was and am going wrong, and am now looking forward to the holidays so that I can get some knit sewing done. The only thing that would have improved this book for me was a spiral-binding so that I could have it open flat next to my machine when I was working through. 

I would heartily recommend this book to anyone with an overlocker, especially if you are thinking about buying one and would like a book to hold your hand through the learning process. I know that I am going to refer to it a lot.

Anyway, that was the sum of my productive output yesterday and I couldn't be more chuffed. I am off on my travels again tomorrow and have a couple of hours spare so will try to find fabric shops new.

Have a great week!


Sunday, 30 November 2014

A Dress for My Brother Pt 1.

Ha, that got you looking! Well this weekend I have actually almost finished a dress for my brother who is 6' 8" and built like the proverbial brick outside toilet. Just to satisfy your curiosity he is going on a night out with the rugby club that he plays for and they are all going dressed as women. What are they like? Why do big burly blokes feel the need to don ladies attire at the least opportunity for such events?  
As an aside and before I am flamed to death, don't get me wrong I think that anyone can wear anything that they damn well like and as a corset maker have made many garments for people of both genders in all manner of silhouettes. Just commenting on this, especially in a traditionally very masculine sport like rugby. I see this as a kind of pantomime with humorous elements, there is after all a lot of good precedents in the theatre: pantomime dames and men playing women in traditions like Kabuki, etc.. As a Scot, our national dress, the Kilt could be construed as a skirt too but only if you are a) a very good runner and b) probably not English.  I have been told it is very comfy. 

I wonder when/why dress became so prescribed according to gender? Many cultures have, what appears to be, unisex *styles* of garments like robes and kaftans. Anyway enough, I am digressing from the subject as usual. So finally as you can imagine he would have found it quite hard getting something to fit him so he asked me to make him a dress.

The pattern that I chose to start with was Burda 6947, a plus-sized dress pattern for a dress in two lengths and a matching bolero. I made the long version in a size 30 (to fit a 54 chest). I cut the pattern apart in the middle of the armhole and added 3cm, tapering to 2cm at the front and 3 cm on the back piece. I also added 2.5 inches at each of the two other lengthen/shorten points on the pattern. Yes, I am terrible for mixing metric and imperial on a whim but hey, that's just how I roll.

 Don't get me wrong, this dress was plenty long to begin with. I am almost 6" in my socks and when I held the unaltered pattern up to me it was pretty close to the floor, so if you are shorter then please bear this in mind.

I had to lay out the fabric on the (8ft) print table in the Print Room at the studios. I did smooth out all the pattern wrinkles, honest. Apologies for the mess but I was not precious about this fabric as this dress is one-wear only and the crushed velvet that I used was only about £3-4 a metre. Luckily, I had about 10 metres of this in black that I had bought in for making Halloween costumes a few years ago. Appropriate as this stuff is the Devil's own to work with. It is slippery, it rolls, it won't lay flat without wrinkles and it looks awful. Still a million hot, sweaty and statically-charged goths can't be wrong.

Poor defenseless hydrocarbons died for this stuff! (Photo nicked from here)

I did not cut out the facings. I used 1" black bias cotton binding and sewed one edge down on the outside, turned it, basted it flat (haha) and stitched it down. It looks okay from a distance. I didn't bother with any of the darts, smoothed out a little of the curve on the front pattern piece as it looked a bit strange without the dart there, made the front a bit more of a pronounced sweetheart which I then gathered by zig-zagging over a piece of 1" elastic to ruche it. Then I ran out of thread!  I started with a big spool from Gutterman that was half full and also used two bobbins full. This dress is a thread hungry beast. Probably because I used a fine zig-zag to stitch each seam then used that stitch that looks like an overlocker stitch, just in case of self-destruction.

Anyway, since I ran out of thread Part II will have to wait until later in the week. I have to still attach some sparkles and some feather trim so watch this space.

Before I go though, I have to say that the pattern was very easy to put together and that everything fitted beautifully. As a general rule I really like Burda patterns and this is no exception. I can't comment on the sizing or the fit though. 

Have a great week!