Went to Dorset, all I brought back was…

Tonsillitis. I have tonsillitis and a ton of penicillin.

This week I was off work and went to Dorset camping with my mum and brother for a few days by the seaside. We had meant to be at Glastonbury Festival but due to circumstances, plans just didn’t come together. However we still had a lovely time and it was nice to have a break away!

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While we were away I had my first experience of Fabricland ! There isn’t a branch locally to me so I was excited to see what was in store. I fell in love with a gorgeous crepe de chine in a daisy print, but there was barely a metre on the roll left and it had a massive hole in the middle! Disaster! I had earmarked it for a By Hand London Victoria Blazer (paper pattern currently half price!) with a purple polycotton lining, so I’m going to try to order some this week. If you’ve never viewed the Fabricland website, I’ll tell you now that it is pretty rubbish, but they do take phone orders and their postage is apparently pretty reasonable.

No more news today – I’ve been in my pjs since 2pm and plan on an early night. I think that due to being so ill *cough* I might order the Belcarra Blouse pattern from Sewaholic. You know, for medicinal purposes…

Sorbetto hack #1, or the Buffalo hack

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It’s almost a shame you can’t see this on the outside!

As you may remember from a post or so ago, I had a complete fail trying to draft a version of a summer top I had found on shopping trip. You may also remember that my recent polka dot Sorbetto from the weekend had been a bit of a minor success for me. Spurred on by this success, I decided I was going to hack the pattern until it looked a bit like the one in store.

When in Birmingham in May I had picked up another £1 p/m bargain on the market, a kind of polyester crepe deal with little animals on it. Can’t really tell if they are dogs or buffalo, so I’m just going to go with buffalo for now – much more cool.

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Hacked pattern – no alteration to armhole – I just chopped straight across

I began by tracing the Sorbetto pattern I’d created at the weekend, and made some minor adjustments all over to make it a little smaller. And then the hacking began… I wasn’t making a really drastic change to the basic tank shape, just chopping off the top third of the back piece and reshaping it so that the top edge crossed over, leaving a cut-out section at the centre. Not too complicated, and it only took about 45 minutes for it to look right on paper. Feeling pretty confident about fit, I didn’t muslin this one as I’d only just finished the polka dot version and knew I wouldn’t have changed shape much in 2 days. I did notice that carbon paper and chalk didn’t seem to mark the fabric, so there are lots of different lines all over the fabric as I struggled to mark it accurately! It’s all on the inside and thankfully will wash off – at RADA I sometimes used to use a Biro (not a good idea, if you’re wondering).

I also wanted to have a very neat finish o2n the inside – the extra sections on the top mean the edges are more visible, so I used bias tape to make them tidy. It looks so cool on the inside – I used bright orange-red to match the print so there’s a really cool pop of colour. I constructed the crossover panels first including neatening the edge, and the joined this to the bottom section of the back piece. But my markings didn’t quote match up. I’m not quite sure what went wrong there but I just jigged it along a bit and made the cut-out section a bit smaller which seems to work just as well. I’ll have another go at hacking to see if I can get to match up correctly next time.

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Sorry about the myspace angles here

I then bound the joined edge to neaten this off before moving on to  construct the tank. Again I just used neat and simple French seams for both side seams and shoulders and finished the bottom edge off using a zigzag stitch and then folding over. Sewing over several layers of bias binding at the join of the shoulders on the back piece was a bit tricky due to the bulk but it looks neat!

The biggest fit issue with this is the fabric pooling at the back – I had chosen not to put darts in this top either as I wanted it to fit quite loosely, but as it doesn’t look any worse than a RTW item I’m not concerned. The cross-over section doesn’t lie as flat a I’d like but it’s so hard to fit on yourself, especially when the bit you need to tweak is behind you! Sometimes I wish I was an octopus! I also noticed once I had finished the Buffalo tank that there is actually a repeat pattern for the print, running vertically. It’s hard to spot so the pattern is completely off centre but I’m hoping it takes other people as long to notice as it took me!

Total cost – £1.60. I had to buy some bias binding from my local market, grand total of 60p. Awesome.

Dotty about Sorbetto

I love polka dots. A lot. I don’t have enough of them in my life. I also love buying fabric. A lot. But I am pretty much out of room for storing more stash, so something simply had to give!

After my recent trip to Birmingham, I decided the best way to stash bust as well as tart up my wardrobe a bit was to start with the newest fabric and work my way down into the depths of time (and the bottom of my storage boxes…). The navy and white polka dot was destined to be the first project – I had initially thought this was cotton but I now think this is a viscose blend. It’s very soft and light, with lovely movement and drape. Not bad for £1!

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So satisfying when it’s all stuck together!

As someone who has up until recently had lost all love for sewing, I knew I needed to start with something and build up to more complex projects in time. I am by no means a complete novice as I have studied dressmaking, textiles and costume construction for several years, but I was off my game for a while so I’m taking baby steps, starting with a simple sleeveless tank. I wear a lot of RTW tanks to work so I knew it would be something I would get use out of – I have a tendency to make clothes I never wear (dresses, mainly dresses… I don’t even wear skirts normally so why do I keep doing it?!). It’s also the wrong end of the month financially so I wanted to spend as little money as possible, so I had a potter about online until I came across the Sorbetto tank by Colette Patterns. I used this pattern several years ago for a tank in a gorgeous silk so I knew what I was getting into, plus it being totally free is an added bonus!

Now I’m probably a bit mad but I quite like putting together PDF patterns, even though its more labour intensive than a printed copy, but as this pattern is only 2 pieces, it didn’t take long to stick it all together. I even decided to do the sensible thing and trace the pattern first and make a muslin to check fit, as when I had made it previously it had come out too small all over. In hindsight this may have been down to not printing the pattern at the correct scale, but I had double checked this time so I knew that shouldn’t be an issue this time.

Based on measurements, I’m just shy of a 12 on top and almost a 16 at the hips, so I graded out to the larger size to account for my pearshapedness. But when I made the muslin up, the top half was enormous! I took out 2 inches in total from around the bust and it still ended up being a little on the roomy side when finished. I also altered the shoulder seams slightly as they just slipped off my shoulders. I lengthened the back piece a little as I prefer tops to end under my hip boneimages – I don’t normally have to worry with RTW items as I’m not very tall! Once this had all been transferred to the pattern I felt quite accomplished. No botch jobs for me this time!

When cutting I really wanted to have a line of polka dots running centrally down the centre-front and centre-back so I placed the pattern pieces accordingly, but the fabric is very slippery so it’s a little wonky! I think unless you’re really looking you won;t see it, which is good enough for me.

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Instagram makes me look like I know what I’m doing

I don’t own an overlocker yet and the fabric is quite fine so I decided to French seam. So simple to do and it looks so neat. This went together really quickly, which is great. But it all went a bit downhill from there. I wanted to make bias binding from the same material, so I made around 4 metres of bias tape ready to pull through the bias maker. However the fabric was just too slippery, and after almost all of the tape and 2 steam burns later (ouch) it just didn’t play ball – the tape kept twisting and folding inside the tape maker so when I was pressing it, it just would not fold into bias binding. But did I give up at this point? No, although this was definitely the point where I should have done because it just went more wrong from there. I persisted with the crappy bias binding, and then started to attached to the neckline of the tank. Trying to be clever I decided to sew it on the wrong side first with the intention of folding the other edge and top-stitching on the right side of the fabric. It looked rubbish, but by the time I ha1d realised how terrible it looked I’d sewn up most of the neckline. Whoops. I had gone too far. Couldn’t face unpicking, so I took the lazy way out and just cut it straight off. Problem solved! In the end I used white binding from my stash to neaten the neckline and imagearmholes, and it actually looks better than my original vision. The neckline has stretched a little from being handled so much, but it’s still completely wearable. I didn’t want to lose too much length when hemming so I zigzagged the bottom edge to catch up any frays and then just folded over once to reduce bulk, and it looks surprisingly neat!

It’s so comfy and light, hopefully when the weather picks up a bit it’ll be nice for summer. I still have the pooling problem at the back but I didn’t want to add darts as I wanted quite a loose fit. It’s no worse than a RTW top so I’ll live with it!

Total cost – £1. Winning.

Guthrie & Ghani

During my recent northern excursion my mum and I decided to pay a visit to the small town of Moseley near Birmingham in order to visit Guthrie & Ghani. Run and owned by Lauren Guthrie, 2013 contestant on the first series of BBC 2’s Great British Sewing Bee, it started out as an online business with a physical premises for both the shop and school opening in 2013. In a gorgeous converted Victorian house in Moseley, Guthrie & Ghani is a fabulous little sewing paradise in a bustling little Midlands town. 3

The staff were lovely and attentive and clearly passionate about what they do and the product they sell, and the range of both fabrics and haberdashery in store is great – I fell in love with a teal silk but after spending too much money at Birmingham Rag Market I sadly had to leave it. It is however sold online although is a deeper teal colour in real life than shows in their online store. Who knows when that might accidentally find its way into my stash?…

My mum bought some lovely mocha coloured jersey as well as a magenta dalmatian print jersey to make a couple of Bronte tops, as featured in this post. She also picked up the 1940’s Tea Dress pattern from Sew Over it and I found the Alpi chino pattern on sale as seen in my previous post here so that was ‘accidentally’ purchased… Whoops!

The space itself downstairs is lovely and light, with a huge window facing onto the street. One day, if I ever have my own fabric and haberdashery shop I hope mine is half as light and pretty as Guthrie & Ghani! Along side the shop downstairs, they also have an upstairs space for running workshops and classes. The classes cover both clothing and home furnishings and are really reasonably priced. I can imagine places book up very quickly so I would suggest making sure to book well in advance. And if none of this has made you want to visit, there is a rather nice pub a little further up the street… I left feeling inspired and am seriously considering investigating how I might set up a haberdashery shop. That’s a long way off in the future, but I shall keep you updated when plans begin to form. Maybe a shop by the sea…

Swayback when…

Today was a disaster. A complete fail. After almost 4 years of not properly drafting a pattern (don’t judge, no sew mojo remember?) I discovered today that I really need to read a few books before I start drafting from scratch.

Yesterday morning I met up with an old work colleague for coffee and catch-up, and we ended up pottering around the shops for a little bit before she had to head off. Whilst window shopping, I saw a sweet sleeveless top in with a sort of cut-out back, with the pieces crossing over at the back neck. I thought to myself, I could make that. The navy polka dot I bought in the Rag Market would be perfect for it as it’s a similar weight to the one used for the summer top in the shop. Seemed pretty simple too – no fastenings, no facings, no sleeves – an afternoons work at most.1

How wrong I was.

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I should probably draft some of these in the right size…

It all started pretty well. I found a RTW top I’ve had for about a year that’s a similar shape and style to the one I had seen and started tracing the pieces to then draft a pattern from there. The RTW top only has 2 pieces with 2 bust darts and although the fit isn’t perfect, I figured I could just adjust that for my pattern. But this didn’t work – I couldn’t get the pieces to lie correctly to be able to trace them properly, and I had forgotten about the dart. Oops! So I bailed on that idea, made a cuppa, ate a flapjack, prepared some more paper and dug out my pattern blocks that I’d drafted several years ago whilst at RADA. After tracing these I set to work making the adjustments I needed – shortening the shoulders, the crossed over cut-out section at the back, rounded and lowered neckline. I moved the dart to a better position on the bust. I even used my bargain new French curve set to redraw the armscye!  All pretty easy and straightforward so far, although it took a lot longer that anticipated as I was watching and singing along to Pitch Perfect… I am a procrastinator. That’s probably why it’s taken me so long to start sewing again…

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How do you even use a French curve anyway??
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The cross over worked surprisingly well first time!

I dug out some horrible brown lining from the stash to make up a toile. It’s a similar weight to the polka dots and odds are I am never going to need faded brown lining. I cut out my pieces, giving 2 cm seam allowance ready for adjustments. It went together quickly, and the cut-out section worked first time – not bad for something I’d drawn by eye! It was all going swimmingly until I tried it on. A teeny bit snug across the chest but nothing that couldn’t be fixed by adjusting the width at the seams. But the waist was sagging, and there was a lot of pooling fabric at the back waist. I looked like I was wearing a brown bin bag. Not a good look. After consulting the Winifred Aldrich pattern cutting book and the Readers Digest guide as well as a few articles/blogs online, I found that the best way to get rid of the excess was to create a tuck, and then transfer it to the pattern. All guides seem to show that this would be pretty simple, so tuck I did. Except my tuck meant I was taking out nearly an inch and half at the centre-back waist. I also made some adjustments on the side seam to try to take out some of the bagginess all over.

I redrew the pattern pieces, unpicked the toile (joy) and started again. I thought it was going to be fine until I tried it on again… Still the same amount of pooling! How could this happen?!

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Tuck tuck tuckity tuck… Ignore the mess in the background please!

Turns out I have what is known as a swayback. Except mine is quite pronounced, at least in comparison to the tutorials I’d found online anyway. As far as I can make out, the only way I will be able to stop the sagginess is to add darts to help create the right shape. after spending almost 7 hours working on my first self-drafted pattern in 4 year, I am so disappointed that I didn’t get a project finished today. But I learned a lot too. First, I am not as good at pattern drafting as I had remembered. Secondly, there is an actual name for my curvy back – I thought I was just a bit weird. Thirdly, I really need to finish rearranging my sewing room as there is paper everywhere. And finally, the simple things normally tend to be the most complicated. What should have taken only a few hours at most to draft, fit and make up just didn’t work. I don’t have any pictures of quite how bad it was as I am not an octopus and just couldn’t reach to get one!

So it’s back to the drawing board. I am going to trawl the internet to see if I can find a pattern that is similar to what I have in mind. It seems almost a little strange to think that after years of putting up with ill-fitting tops off the peg, maybe the reason they don’t fit is because of my body shape and not poor construction and ridiculous ideals set by people about women’s bodies. Maybe I should just put up with it and get used to looking like I’m wearing a sack from behind… I don’t know. I feel a bit demotivated right now about my polka dots. I will keep hunting to see if the internet brings up anything good – I may just stick to the Colette Patterns Sorbetto top and hack it. I may just have to learn to accept the baggy back in things I make. Who knows. Maybe a back brace would help?? When I do draft/buy/find a pattern that would work with a swayback adjustment I will let you all know in case you need it too! In the meantime, if any of you have any tips or tricks on how to deal with swaybacks, or any pattern suggestions for simple hackable tanks, please leave a comment.

Accidental Indie patterns

During Saturdays excursion up north to Birmingham and Moseley, Mum and I both purchased hard copy versions of 2 patterns from 2 great independent pattern companies.

Mum bought the 1940’s Tea Dress pattern by Sew Over It. I have seen this pattern before several times, although I hav1e not yet seen it made up. However a quick Google search shows this dress is very sweet and also flattering too – a win-win! Sew Over It first opened in 2011 with the aim to teach the seemingly lost art of dressmaking. According to their website they have since taught over 5000 people! As well as classes at their two London venues, they also sell a range of patterns and fabrics both in-store and online. Mum nearly bought the Betty Dress but their new Vintage Shirt Dress pattern looks like it would be a great staple summer dress in anyone’s collection. They sell both paper and PDF patterns which is great if you don’t have access to a printer or the time to sit and glue dozens of pieces of paper together.

I bought the Alpi Chino pattern from Named Clothing. Named Clothing is a Finnish brand that I hadn’t come across before, however their range of patterns have “…Scandinavianwpid-20150606_192606.jpg clean-lined simplicity and interesting details” and the Alpi is from their SS14 All Things Nice collection. I only have one pair of jeans that I pretty much live in and would really like to sew a few more pairs of comfy casual trousers, and the Alpi seems like a great pattern – simple but a classic shape. I had initially planned on purchasing this as a PDF directly from the website, however when Mum and I visited Guthrie & Ghani I found a printed copy on sale – another win! My printer is bust so this was a bit of a score! Also im a bit rubbishbat sticking all those pieces togetger! When looking online I particularly liked the Tyler Shirt – it is unusual to see raglan sleeves but I think it’s a nice detail. Named Clothing have also made their patterns available in both paper and PDF format, and are also available in English and Finnish.  When I start making up a pair I will share them on here for you to see how I go!

Unfortunately I can’t find the list I was looking at when I came across Named Clothing as this was a few nights ago on a failed hunt for Indian print cotton, however this extensive list should point you in the right direction for more independent pattern brands. If there are any not listed on here that you thing are great, please let me know in the comments!

Treasure!

As promised, this post is about all my lovely new treasure from the Rag Market! I love buying fabric and planning all the things I’m going to do with my purchases. However my ever growing stash is pretty much begging me to stop… Thing is, I’m really quite good at buying fabric, I’m just not so great at the whole ‘making something with it’ thing…

After several months (years) of no sewing mojo after graduating from RADA, I think Stella might actually have her groove back. I’ll keep you posted!

If you love a bargain, (let’s face it, who doesn’t?!) Birmingham is the place to go! I only took £20 in cash plus whatever shrapnel I had in my purse as I knew I didn’t really have anything specific in mind, yet I still came away with 9 metres of fabric, 6 metres of curtain tape, a bag of curtain hooks, 2 bundles of 1″ elastic, a sheet of press studs AND a punnet of strawberries all for the grand total of… £20.73!!!

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My mum spent a bit more money but I don’t think she spent more than about £35 in the markets. We both bought more treasure in Guthrie & Ghani later that day, but more on that later…

We both bought the graphic powder blue and the crepe back fabric with the little red and cream dogs – very cute! The only issue with buying fabrics from market stalls is that things aren’t labelled with the fibre content – I suspect the navy polka dot is cotton and the rest are probably all synthetics but it’s stab in the dark. Does anybody have any suggestions for patterns? Ideally I’m after simple tops and blouses.

Mum, unlike me, had gone with a plan in mind of what she was hunting for, and managed to buy pretty much her to entire list. The red ditsy flowers is especially sweet, and destined to be pyjama bottoms. She even managed to buy something in2 her current favourite colour-way of red, black and cream!

The only things pictured here that were not bought from the market but from elsewhere were the Indian print cotton in the top picture and the lavender polka dot below, both from The Fancy Silk Store . I had seen a girl at work in a cropped sleeveless shirt in an Indian style print and hunted online without success for something like it, but then all of a sudden this was right there, right in front of me when I rounded a corner on one of their many floors! Of course this came home too – too perfect and pretty to leave! In the bottom picture, Mum also bought the mocha coloured jersey and the magenta Dalmatians from Guthrie & Ghani.

I have a few more things from the weekend I want to share with you but for now, please leave any recommendations for nice top or blouse patterns in the comments.

Birmingham Rag Market

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I regret not buying the floral coral coloured jersey that’s hanging up in this picture now!

This weekend my parents, Hayden and I went up to Birmingham on a fabric hunting adventure. Our usual haunt is Goldhawk Road, but due to the planned redevelopment of the Shepherds Bush Market area, my mum and I are preparing to make alternative arrangements for when our stashes feel a bit low, or if we feel like treating ourselves. As usual when we go fabric slutting (see previous post) I had no real plan for what I hoped to find when I got there, yet I still came away with bags bulging with new treasure! I had heard several good things from my mum and other people online, but I was not prepared for just how much choice there was going to be!

The Rag Market is an indoor market just outside of the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham city centre, and is packed with pretty much everything you can thing of, ranging from the absurd (holographic booty shorts) to the entirely practical (dog food). There has been a market on the site in varying forms for almost 1000 years, and it is clear why it has survived and thrived for so long. There are hundreds of stalls selling a diverse range of product and is clearly well-utilised by both locals and city visitors. Birmingham is a vibrant multi-cultural metropolis so it is easy to see why. On a sunny Saturday I was really surprised by the buzz – my local market is small, dark and dingy, with just one fabric stall and one haberdashery stall. My town market is clearly lacking a lot in comparison!

2b I was very impressed by the range available for both haberdashery and fabric in the market, as well as how reasonable the prices were. I deliberately only took out £20 in cash to avoid overspending and I still managed to leave the market with change in my purse! Hayden and my dad were not so keen on being dragged from stall to stall, so thank you both for being patient with me and mum while we browsed, but even they agreed that it is a great place for shopping for fabric as well as fresh food – both of the other sections of the market indoor and outdoors were packed with a wide variety of fresh produce, some of which we had no idea how to use (what exactly do you do with an individual aloe vera leaf?!)

Directly opposite the market is The Fancy Silk Store, the only fabric shop we found in the area that was not in the market. They too have an impressive range of fabrics, although we felt their pricing was a little off for some things. There were several things we knew we could find in London fabric stores for less than half the price, but other things were very reasonable. However Birmingham stitchers are incredibly lucky to have such a great availability of fabric outlets in such a small space and I am very jealous. Despite the issue with pricing, their range is seriously good and with 3 floors stuffed with goodies I am sure you won’t leave empty handed – we didn’t!

For those who haven’t been to Birmingham for the markets yet, I seriously recommend making the effort to go because it really is worth it. I’m sure there are plenty more fabric shops dotted around the city that we didn’t make it to yesterday, so it’s well worth making a day of it. Mum and I are already planning on another trip in the near future.

I’ll shortly be writing a separate post about our purchases so come back soon to see our new treasures!

Wild Friday nights

This evening I have been searching wordpress and following lots of great sewing blogs for inspiration – if any of you have found your way here, hello, nice to meet you, do you want a cuppa, excuse the mess! If you think I should be following a stitcher and I might have missed them, please leave your recommendations in comments.

However, not much to say on this warm sunny evening, so here is a peek at my sewing room from a few months ago – there’s been a bit of a change since then and it’s a tiny bit tidier, but the light is lovely to work in. I’ll post a more recent picture once I have got a bit more organised!

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(Edit: I am never tidy)

I am having samosas and a coffee magnum for tea, and then off to Birmingham tomorrow with my mum for what we like to call ‘fabric slutting’ (also referred to as ‘accidentally buying more fabric than you really should have done with no idea what you intend to use it for’, I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept) so I will post next week about the goodies I bring home!

Confessions of a beginner blogger

When I started this blog a few days ago I thought to myself ‘this should be relatively simple, it’s just rambling on the Internet and picking a nice theme, right?’.

Wrong.

I’ve been doing a some research into the best way to blog, the best way to drive traffic to your site, best topics… I have so much to learn…

As you will probably realise if you stick around on this potentially shortlived experiment into the blogosphere, I have no idea what I’m doing. With no specific theme that I want to stick to, prepare yourself for ramblings of the rambliest kind. I love sewing, food (eating and cooking) travel, shoes and University Challenge so for now this blog will be a bit of a muddle until it hopefully works it’s way into its own little happy blogger corner.

But for now, if there are any tips you have for a noob, please leave a comment below and stick around to watch the madness