Sunday, 7 January 2018

Sultry stash buster

Happy New Year! I've finally been able to make the most of sewing time over the holidays. I've completed one project start to finish and completed another, not to mention the work on my costume for the upcoming pantomime that I'm in at the end of January.

So for my complete make! - Another party dress - as if I need any more - this one was a stash buster and used some fabric that has been in the stash for at least 4 years just waiting for me to decide what to do with it.

The Fabric is a stunning shocking pink and gold Chinese brocade that my hubby brought back from China a few years ago. It was a narrow piece about 1m wide, but about 2.5m long. I overlocked the ends and washed it, which softened the fabric a bit. I knew it was going to fray like mad so sewing had to be planned to handle it as little as possible. It was also very synthetic, which meant careful pressing was in order. Once washed and dried, the bodice pieces were cut out and neck and armholes stay stitched twice to help protect against fraying. The sides were overlocked. The skirt was cut in one piece in the cross grain - I say cut, it was just the width of the fabric. I kept the seam at centre back and used pleats to shape the fabric to match the bodice. with this sort of fabric the least you cut it the more likely it is to stay together. All pressing was done with a cool iron and a scrap of tana lawn as a press cloth - which worked beautifully.

On to the pattern - the bodice is from the sultry sheath dress from Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing. I made a muslin in size 6 to check the fit. The fit was ok, but I do wish I'd have pinched out a bit at the neckline to make it hug a bit better. I lowered the armholes by 1cm and the back by about 3 cm, just for personal preference.

The bodice has 4 waist darts on the front and two on the back, plus bust darts, this gives a good amount of shaping. I did not use the pencil skirt from the book, although I do love the pencil skirt I knew that the fabric needed special care and I wanted to keep construction as simple as possible. the skirt is a simple rectangle using the remaining fabric and pleated at the front and the back to match the darts. It's not particularly full, but the structure of the fabric gives some nice shaping.

As the fabric is scratchy I decided to fully line the dress. I used a purple fabric with a soft handle for the skirt, but I didn't have enough for the bodice so I used some tana lawn which was left over from my last project. The lawn is lovely and cool and perfect to line the dress. The bodice seams are fully enclosed, which should also help with reduction of fraying. the skirt seams are all overlocked and the hem makes use of the selvedge edge and was hand stitched.

This dress was ready for NYE, but we ended up staying home, so it got it's first outing at the Church meal yesterday. My hubby also wore the shirt I made him for Christmas - more on that another time.

Monday, 1 January 2018

5 ways to boost creativity... my guide to a creative new year.

A rare opportunity to have a full day printmaking at home
 I'm well aware that as a blogger I'm inconsistent. It takes time to write good posts and when time is short I don't write so many, I really enjoy reading blog posts of those who have something to say so I stay engaged with the creative blogosphere even when I'm not writing my own.

This used to worry me a bit. How would people know what I'd made? Would they be interested in what I had to say? where would I get a response to the creative things I do? Is blogging stuff more important than making stuff? Hence my guide to boost creativity - this is sort of a new year resolution, but also a letter to myself and to you if you find this as challenging as I do.

Quick studies - A few minutes a day experimenting with hand embroidery

1. Little and often
Whatever you do, make it part of your daily routine, or something you can do in short bursts. It's really tempting to just want to spend a whole day being creative - I love doing this, but in the reality of life it just doesn't happen as often as I'd like. Can you find 5 or 10 or 15 minutes to do something creative. Carry a pen/ pencil and sketch on your bus/ train commute. Knit or Crochet while waiting for the kettle to boil or the spuds to cook. 10 minutes at the sewing machine as soon as you get in? A few photographs taken on a walk during lunch break or while walking the dog?

Experiments in texture - the bag the oranges came in and a bit of ink
 2. Stop caring what other people think about your art/ makes.
I used to worry that my art was not commercial enough. In fact I changed my style a lot to try to make it appeal to others. While I Like doing a bit of observational painting/ drawing now and again - I get bored of it very quickly. When I make art to please others, when I blog to please others, when I try to fit in the things I make with those things that are 'on trend' on other blogs, websites I find I lose myself a little. In honesty I'm always happiest with my work when I don't care what others think. when it doesn't need to be good, when it's just me trying something out, when I mix and match ideas to suit my own tastes - in other words when I stop trying to be something I'm not!

Gelli Plate prints - first attempt - not quite sure what was going to happen
3. Play and have fun
Always be willing to try something new. Learn a new skill, read a book or watch a video about a technique that you've never used. Try a new idea. This could be as simple as changing the surface you draw on, or what you draw with. It could be a whole new medium or technique. It could be drafting your own sewing patterns, trying to write a poem in a different form, using a different sized needle to hand stitch a design. If you feel the need go on a course it could open up a whole new world!

Learning how to make 3D wet felted forms

Crafternoon - Craft & Chat - a great way to make friends
4. Collaborate
Work with other people. Making things together is often one of the most creative outlets. Sometimes just seeing how someone else tackles a technique or skill and open up a whole new way of doing something. Its a way of learning and sharing. Join a craft group or art class. Could you teach someone how to do something? Could you make something together for a community group, school, church etc.

Demonstrating a skill to others

A selection of prints from my full day printing day a few weeks ago.
5. Value your craft/ art
I'm not talking about money here. Value the time it gives you. Personally time creating functions in many ways for me. I know that it helps me unwind from the work day and helps my well being. It gives me a sense of purpose and self esteem. I am more confident than I was before. My creativity is an expression of my faith and world view. some people use it as a meditative practice, for me it helps me pray and reflect on God's provision for my life.

So as we start 2018 I won't be creating a Resewlution list, or a #Makenine2018. Hey I hope I'll make more than 9. I won't promise to blog often but i will continue to create - It might not be very regular, I might not create any finished works or items of clothing worthy of recognition. but I will make and I will be creative - it's a part of who I am, who God has made me and that's the way I like it!
If you'd like to keep more up to date with what I do, join me on instagram.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

DP studio Aysmmetric dress

This make was inspired by fellow blogger Shauni, who blogs over at A Magnificent Thread, when I saw her version of this awesome asymmetric knit dress by DP studio. I'd never heard of this pattern company before but looked them up after seeing Shauni's post.

Shauni's version
They are a French company, but their patterns also come with English instructions, although the illustrations alone would have been enough to be able to make this dress, they are brief and do presuppose some sewing knowledge. My hubby bought me the pattern back in April and I've been on the lookout for some inexpensive fabric to make a wearable toile ever since. A couple of weeks ago I picked up a navy knitted rib. it was only 1m wide, so I bought 3m - which was more than enough and I might even scrape a top out of the remnant.

The pattern comes in an A4 sized box and is printed on thick sturdy paper. At first, I thought there were lots of pattern pieces but discovered that there are only 8, but they are BIG! as all pieces are cut from a single layer of fabric.

I bought some tissue paper and traced my size. Based on my measurements I cut a 40 for the top, grading to a 42 at the hip. The drafting on this pattern is excellent. I could take in the waist a little bit, but it's not overly big. What I am really impressed with, is the drafting at the shoulders and arms. A lot of patterns I have made recently have been way too narrow at the shoulder, and the armsyce has been really small (Gertie patterns). This was a pleasant change and I made no adjustments to these areas at all. the dress is a very comfy fit and I may use this as a baseline for all other knit patterns.

The dress came together easily and is suitable for a confident beginner to sew. An overlocker really does help and it would have been a super quick make, but I ended up using the overlock stitch on my regular Janome machine as my overlocker was playing up badly and I spent an age trying to get it to work. It really needs to go and be serviced. I also used the twin needle for hem and sleeve finishes - a first for me!

I found the fit great and had lots of compliments when I wore it today. I do think the split is a little high and I will probably add to the length at the hip to make this a bit more modest, The model version on the website seems to be much longer.

This would be a really stunning dress in a sparkly knit or scuba fabric. It would also work well in a Ponte de Roma fabric (and probably show fewer lumps and bumps). I can see this being a staple of my winter wardrobe and I might even use the top part of the pattern to make a couple of tops to wear with jeans or under my pinafore dress. 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Vintage Casual my way

Gertie Trousers. I've had the cigarette trousers from Gertie Sews VinatgeCasual on my radar to sew for some time. I traced the pattern ages ago but lost confidence after trying another pants pattern and having to start from scratch to get anything even close to wearable.
However, some super stretchy woven cotton made it way into my stash (birthday pressie from my mum). I decided to take another look at the pattern and thought I'd give it a go.
The pattern was remarkably close to my own draft - just a bit narrower on the hips, and since making jeans from my pattern in the summer I needed to reduce the width here anyway. However, I didn't want trousers with a back zip - it's just not me.

Changes to the pattern:-
I kept the silhouette the same but used the waistband facing as a template for the waistband.
The back waistband was kept the same, but as the front waistband is usually cut on the fold I added seam allowances and extra to account for the fly front. I also added 1.5cm seam allowance to the bottom edge of the facing pieces.
The front, back and pocket pieces were adapted by tracing the facing pieces and then adding 1.5 seam allowances to the top edge.
The fly front was added and I used the Ginger Jeans sew along method for sewing this. I'd found it really helpful when making my jeans in the summer.

All my changes meant that the pattern finished at the same point on the waist, but the design lines were altered a little. I should have made the pockets deeper really, but I think they'll be ok for this fabric.
The stretch in the fabric meant that these are super comfy and have a good recovery, they looked good all day when wearing them.

I would highly recommend using fabric with a good amount of stretch. It aids comfort and can help with minor fitting issues. I would lengthen these just a bit as I had to sew really tiny hems.

A great basic pattern and plenty of options for customising the design lines of this style.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Tilly & Gertie

Just before my summer holidays I made the Cleo pinafore dress by Tilly and the Buttons but had to order buckles as the ones I could get in the local shops were too big.
It's a perfect dress to wear in the autumn and winter as you can layer it, and on those last few summer days, a t-shirt looks brilliant.

I made this with charcoal denim which has a little bit of stretch. I had just about 1m left after making my first ever pair of jeans. I bought the fabric at B&M in Leeds at the Sew up North event back in June. I had the buttons in my stash.

I'd made a wearable muslin of this dress back in January in a thick green cord - but it's not really my type of fabric or colour. I graded up a size at the hip but found my first version tricky to get on due to the small waist. I'd decided that a zip or fastening at the side seam was needed. I drafted a button fly and used some of my jeans buttons. It makes getting this dress on so much easier.

I've also been working on a dress from Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book. I'm making the surplice dress with sleeves. I haven't decided which skirt pattern to use yet as I'm just at the muslin stage. (not great photos I'm afraid)

I'm so glad I made a muslin as there are a number of changes I need to make.

The armscye is tiny and needs lowering by about 1.5cm. The sleeve is also minute and I could see it would be an issue once I'd set it in. I had to cut it so I could move my arm.
The back is pretty much ok.

I need to widen the shoulders just a touch - I'm finding I have to do this a lot; especially with Gertie's patterns.
I need to lengthen the midriff pieces by about 1 inch at the front, grading to nothing at the back - that accounts for my swayback.

There are then a couple of adjustments to the bodice front. Pinching out along the neckline and removing some fullness - nothing too major. Then it will be on with muslin no.2.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

You must try this dying technique - Amazing results!

Last week I was fortunate to take part in a local youth camp called Staying Alive. It's organised by the Church of England but brings together leaders and youth from a range of Christian backgrounds. I was helping lead a group but had also been asked to run an "EXTREME" craft workshop, as the theme was NO FEAR.

Now my mind ran to the most extreme crafts I could do with a bunch of teenagers - I could have started hacking at chunks of wood or brick or making extreme clay work - like raku firing. However, the safety and time limitations meant something a little tamer, but still amazing! So I opted for space tie dye. The results were sooooooo good that I thought I'd share my method here.

You will need:
Washing soda (soda crystals - without bleach)
Elastic bands or strong string
A bucket
Plastic bags
Procion dye in a range of colours (Dylon cold dye works well)
Bottles with a nozzle or Jars with lids and pipettes.
Pre-washed cotton fabric/ t shirts etc.

1. Prepare the dye.
I like to do this in a jar and use pipettes to put the dye in the fabric (but you could do just as well with a squeezy bottle with a nozzle). Put about 1 tsp of dye in a jar and dissolve in a small amount of hot (but not boiling) water. Make your dye up to about 100-150ml.

2. Prepare the Soda solution.
Dissolve about 200g of the washing soda in about 1 litre of hot water, when dissolved add more cold water to about 2/3 litres.

3. Prepare the fabric.
Tie the fabric tightly with string or elastic bands. there are many ways you can tie fabric in order to dye it. It's worth experimenting with bands of colour, circles, spirals etc.There are some great ways to tie your fabric here. Once the fabric is tied you need to soak it in the soda solution until it's soaking wet. then wring out as much of the liquid as you can - you could use a spin cycle on the washing machine for this if you wish.

4. Dying the fabric
On a waterproof surface place your pre soaked fabric. using pipette add dye to the fabric. you can be quite random, or more planned in the layout of colours. you do need to think about colour theory. Harmonious colours will work best and you should avoid just using everything as you can end up with a mush!

5. Leave to dye
Once you have covered all of the fabric with dye. pop it into a plastic bag and leave for at least an hour or overnight.

6. Rinse
Rinse the fabric in cold water to get rid of the excess dye. Then remove the bands/ string and rinse again. It's worth rinsing in warm water and spinning before hanging up to dry.

7. Admire
Admire your EXTREME tie dye. The results are super and impressive - and anyone can do this!
Remember when you first wash your tie dyed items to wash them separately as there can still be
some excess dye.

Monday, 7 August 2017

How to hack a basic bodice into a halter style top - tutorial

A few people have asked how I created the bodice for my maxi halter dress. - it's relatively easy.

You will need:
A basic bodice pattern.
ruler/ french curve.

I used the basic bodice from Gertie's ultimate dress book but any basic bodice will do. Make sure it fits you well before beginning -make a toile.

I have drawn out the steps on regular paper with sharpie as you could not see the changes to my actual pattern as I'd used a thin light pencil and tissue paper. However the steps below should give you the right idea.

1. Trace your basic block, front and back onto the paper you are going to use and mark in the seam lines. I would also measure the neck edge before you start adapting the pattern. If you are going to make a collar piece this will make this step easier. (you could also apply a bias binding to the finished edge.

2. On the shoulder seams mark your new seam length. I made mine 1.5cm. Don't forget to allow for seam allowance on the neck edge.

3. Draw new cut away armhole to your new marked seams from the underarm.

4. Add seam allowance (1-1.5cm)

5. Cut away the excess paper from the shoulder area. The back piece should be finished now.

6. On the front cut up one leg of each dart.

7. Tape the darts closed. You will end up with a curved or pointy piece of paper. (you can also do this with patterns that only have one dart. the principle is the same)

8. Cut a straight line from the neck edge through the point of the bust dart, and one through the waist dart. The closer you are to the dart point the flatter your paper will lie.

9. Tape paper behind your pattern, spreading the neckline edge open - it will look quite wide.

10. Join the neck edge seam line with a smooth curve from the shoulder to the centre front - use a french curve to help - then add your seam allowance.

11. This is the edge that will be gathered into the collar or neck binding. My collar piece was approx 22cm (folded in half) before I added the seam allowances.
To gather the neckline either sew two rows of basting stitched into the seam allowances and pull the ends of the thread up to ease into the collar or sew a zigzag over dental floss or cord and pull that up to gather the neckline.

Order of construction:
Sew darts in back bodice and press towards centre back. Sew shoulder and side seams together, press. Gather neckline and sew into collar. Sew collar facing and finish CB seam. Buttons, a tie, or zip work well.


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