Monday, 28 April 2014

Sewing 101 & The Belated Great British Sewing Bee Book Review

OK, I have got to admit it twee though it was, I had a bit of a soft spot for TGBSB. I liked the gentle humour, the interesting challenges, seeing what the contestants made and eyeballing all the gorgeous fabric in their sewing studio. We were all watching the last series at work (it is the only thing I watch on TV apart from Gardener's World) and to cut a long story short I was press-ganged gently persuaded to have a sewing day with three of the girls from work at F6 Studios on Saturday. No one could decide on a dress pattern so when I knew we were going to do some sewing I went out and bought TGBSB book "Sew Your Own Wardrobe" thinking that it should be nice and simple for new sewintists. The girls bought all their fabric and notions and we were all set. We bought lots of cake.

We didn't eat it all, honest.

We started the day by taking measurements and tracing out the right sized patterns and learning how to do simple adjustments. Because I wanted everyone to start off on the right foot I made them make muslins.  I am Horrible I know but we had to do some pattern adjustments and I didn't want anyone being put off sewing forever by making something and it not fitting (more on that later). I never used to but got a bit fed up of making things for me that were huge or too tight for me so I am now a muslin convert. No more lazy sewing for me (don't hold me to that one, please). I asked everyone to wash and press their fabric before they came. Talk about being prepared.

3m of pressing. I am rotten.

Now, I have loads and loads of sewing books. I buy them every time I see them and pick them up on eBay and Amazon all the time. I read sewing books like people would read novels (and patterns too, even on the train, but that is another story). I love sewing books but for me there are several small things that let this volume down. Before anyone accuses me of dissing "the Bee" let me just say that this program has done so much to revive interest in sewing that the producers should be knighted. What was once considered as a pastime for old ladies (and us crazy sewing people) has now become slightly more popular, even hip.

Lovely candy stripe cotton fabric.

Two people chose the skater style flared dress pattern and one chose the 1930's style blouse.  We had some issues with both of these patterns from the outset. There were crucial symbols missing from the pattern pieces that would have definitely put off a novice sewer as they would probably have put it down to their inexperience rather than pattern mistakes. The worst offender though was the blouse pattern fit. We had made some pretty simple adjustments on the flat pattern as dictated by the maker's measurements but even with these it was too horrible to make up in the final fabric. I don't know if it was me or what went wrong but I felt really, really terrible as the lovely lady who was going to make the blouse ended up with a horrible muslin and not a lot else. Thank God, she hadn't cut into her beautiful cotton lawn. On the other hand, both the dresses came out really well and look lovely on. They will be great when they are finished. I think we have three new sewing converts though so that is good. I am a bit sad about the blouse as that is the reason that I bought the book.

No work, No cake!

The blouse brings me to another BIG gripe! Sewing Bee people get you act together. The patterns are only up to a 40 bust. While I am aware that the size increments in RTW can change after a size 18, patterns are a bugger to grade up. Why not use the same increments and just go up more? No one cares what their number is, just having a pattern in the right ball park would be nice. If the girls from work had not been going to use the patterns from this book I would have taken it back in a big huff. I have seen lots of comments on the same theme in the Amazon reviews. If the "Gertie" book and the "Colette" one can do it, so can you. Go on, bite the bullet for us chubs, there are a lot of us about.

Overall, it is a nice tie-in with the series but I would hesitate to give it to someone who didn't sew already. I am going to give the bowling shirt a go for Sprogzilla as I have Pikachu fabric for it but the reviews have not been great. I see another muslin coming on..........

Have a lovely week!
K xx



Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Reflections on Collaboration Part One.

Excuse me not posting but this week has been a bit frantic already. Sprogzilla's dad went in for another op yesterday so I am home from work for the week. We knew he was going in but has had complications so was back in theatre today. We have been at the Hospital for hours and are feeling a bit frazzled.

Mum was also here Monday/Tuesday so I spent most of the weekend cleaning. Understandably, none of the planned sewing has been done but I did get a bit of time tidying up in the garden, glamorously assisted by my Mum and painted the bathroom (French navy since you're asking). The weather has been glorious. Mum, Sprogzilla and I had a wander round the shops and went out for a pub lunch on Monday.

The folly of a monster lunch.

So today I would like to reflect on collaborations past and future and share a very small selection of my favourite photos. It is quite late and I have collaborated a lot so I will keep this as a first post with more to follow. There are lots and lots of pics and I don't want to miss anyone out.

What got me thinking was that I have been very lucky to be asked again to take part in Newcastle Fashion Week. This will be the third year running and this time it will be in collaboration with the lovely directors of F6 Studios, Helen Rafferty and Lydia Bayley. Both Helen and Lydia are textile designers who produce exquisite work and I only hope that my sewing skills will do justice to their beautiful designs. More on that later this week.

We found this fabulously arty graffiti up a lane.

Being a completely self-taught sew-intist I always feel like a total bit of a fraud around "proper" designers when I am making stuff and consider myself very blessed and lucky in who I have worked with. In recent years I have met the most amazing designers, photographers, models and all round superbly talented people.

Images are in no particular order, just as I come across them on my hard-drive.


This is one from 2012 and is modeled by the beautiful burlesque performer, Lilly La Rousse. The shot is by Jade Photography. The corset is a very simple triple layer, silver dupion outer with silk piping and an insert panel of Zoffany home decor fabric. I only had a tiny bit or I would have added more. Isn't the fabric beautiful? This was inspired by armour.  For such a small corset it is pretty heavily boned with a concealed full-boned panel under the front. It is tiny. I could probably get it round my thigh *sigh*.

Joan of Arc by Ingres

Next up is another corset from 2012. The image is from a shoot with milliner Mairi Brunning and styled by the amazing Laura Villanueva. She is such a talented milliner and images from this shoot were featured in Core Magazine. I wish I could have gone to this shoot. I love horses and Friesians are my favourite breed.


The most recent collaboration was a few months ago with accessories designer, Melanie Kyles and photographer Michael McGuire. We had such a fun day ablely assisted by fellow photographer, Lucie Cox and model Millie Parker. The corset and headwear thingie is from last year's Fashion Week and the collar and cuffs are by Melanie. I was inspired by some deco dresses on Pinterest and the headwear incorporates a vintage beaded necklace, Swarovski crystals & vintage glass beads and the belt buckle is original Art Deco Diamante. It is piped as well. I like a challenge.

Well, I am now feeling very sleepy. Hope this week is great for you all and that you are enjoying the nice weather wherever you are.

One last thing, today I was a showcased blogger on the fabulous "Rhonda's Creative Life" blog. If you sew or craft you should really add her to your blogroll. Her sleeves drafting how-tos are completely amazing and there is always so much that informs and inspires me. I am really very touched and it totally brightened up what was a pretty miserable day.

Later lovelies, K xx







Sunday, 6 April 2014

Hubble Bubble, Toile and Trouble

Yay!, It is that time of the week again and I have been creating. I was home alone last night so I stayed up until 3am catching up on Gardener's World and knitting. Did I just say that? I did. No more Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle in this house I tell ya. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Even the cat that's not ours didn't want to keep me company.


Granny pic nicked from Google and doctored by me.

I finished the little neck warmer for Sprogzilla and I quite like it. Actually I like the way the wool looks the wrong way round better. Still got to give it a wash and sew the ends in.

Yet another neck warmer. Oh, dear.


Bored, I found a lone ball of Noro Kogarashi wool/silk mix. I had bought a skein to put I my brother's fiancée's Christmas present and it literally fell apart when I picked it up to wrap it. It coiled itself into a huge tangle so I had to keep it *mwah, ha, ha*. I eventually got in into a ball but it took about 3 hours and much swearing.  Not using a pattern just the inspiration from the "Present" one I used at first. The textured shape is good but it really is too high for me as I have no neck. Not too sure (again) of the colours for me either but it will be a change from black.

Knitting Japanese, I think I'm knitting Japanese. I really think so!

Today I went down to the studio and sewed up a muslin for Simplicity 2339, the pattern that I had made all the changes to. I cut it out with about an inch extra on the side seams as a kind of fit insurance then sewed it up on the original cutting line. It was a bit too roomy even for me. Got a bit of a shot-putter shoulder thing going on.

Version 1: A tad on the roomy side even over my voluminous T-shirt. What is my hair doing?

I went back and sewed it up again on the proper stitch line. Much better. The bust darts could probably use being dropped a little and I know that I sewed up the one on the left a little wonkily as I was trying to do it in a hurry but overall I can live with the fit. I am going to put the darts in the back though to give it a little bit more fit.

V2: The button placket still needs to go on the front.


So, now that I see Version 2 I am not so sure that I needed to 2-inch broad back adjustment on the yoke piece as the shoulders look too big. I will have to make this up in less precious fabric to try it out. I always make things far too big for me. Probably a consequence of being skinny then being fat with nothing much in between. Makes it hard to gauge your own size.  I can see me taking out a couple of centimetres as the yoke being that sloppy looking will just annoy me. It is at the back though and I am appreciating the room under the arms. Maybe I should just take in the yoke to its original size, keep the width in the body and add a small box pleat at the centre yoke back? Hmmm, think that would solve it though?

Anyway, I am off to find something that fits me to wear for work tomorrow. Least I can finish my scarf on the train.

Have a great week!
K xx

P.S. I bought "The Great British Sewing Bee - Sew Your Own Wardrobe" book on Monday. Might review it during the week. If you have it what do you think?