Saturday, 29 October 2011

Fabric Fabric Everywhere ...

Some may acquire fame overnight.  When I worked in London some used to say their salary doubled overnight.  I acquired an out of control fabric stash overnight.

I was happy trundling by with no more than 4 plastic crates of fabric.   An out of control stash would never happen to me I thought.    But then this happened on 17 July and my front room was transformed into this:

How did that happen?  The morning started like any other Sunday.   I was happily browsing sewing blogs / Burdastyle / on-line news websites.   My chap was browsing Ebay at the same time.  He's always on the look out for sewing related bargains for me to look at.   He's come up trumps before - see my sewing room table.   He then showed me an Ebay sale that was due to end that evening.  A lady who ran a business making Western wear was closing down and selling her fabric.  All in one go.  There were no bids and the starting bid was £300.

She had put one terrible photo on Ebay.  It looked like it had been taken in a dark basement.  You couldn't see any of the fabric properly, save for making out the odd stripe, plaid or bright colour.  I was unsure but my chap insisted it was a bargain.  Being an accountant he made me work out how much I spent on fabric etc and then said it would be worth it even if I made only a few things with it.  The rest he would put on Ebay and get the money back and anyway he would buy it for me!

We then called her and made our way to the lady's house.  It was only about 30 minutes away.   She lived in a lovely big house.  A widow so she lived on her own.  It was really interesting to hear her story about how she got into the business.  She was doing something totally non-creative (I don't think she said what) and had no sewing experience.  In around 1982 she saw a gap in the market for making Western wear.   Line dancing was starting to appear in the UK.  (I seem to remember line dancing become more popular in the early 90's with that Billy Ray Cyrus record).

She learned how to sew and she soon moved into sewing for theatre.  She showed me a couple of photos of actors wearing the clothes she had sewn.   She would also be asked to sew clothes for weddings and special occasion.    She would set up a stall, for example at a country and western fair, which would generate loads of business.  She said she would cut out the fabric and then employ seamstresses to sew them up.  She absolutely loved the business and in particular the social side and seeing people in the things she made.  She said she would still love to be doing it but she couldn't now.  She didn't say why but she was quite old and her hands were shaky.  I doubt she was able to sew.

She then asked if I had my own business.  Oh no, I said.  This is just a hobby.  She looked a bit confused.  She was probably not expecting someone to buy her entire fabric stock just for fun.

All her fabric and costumes were in a back bedroom. There was fabric everywhere and a rail along one wall with the things she had made and her costumes.  I wondered if she had just moved out of a shop as there was no order in the room and everything looked as though it had been dumped there.   I don't think so.  I got the impression it had always been like this and added to over the years.

Anyway, we were left alone with the fabric for about 10 minutes to assess what was there.  I decided there were enough decent fabrics there to justify the price tag.  If we could sell the rest we could make money.   We then talked about money.  We offered £300.  Comically she said she wanted £400 even though her starting price was £300 and she had no bids.   We got it for £300.

We then set about bringing all the fabric downstairs and loading the car.  We thought we would need to make two trips but we managed to fit it all in somehow.  There was one a funny moment as we were loading the car when she bent down to pick up a green stripy fabric.   She said she would like to hold onto this one!  She used it to make a waistcoat.   I didn't know what to say.  My chap re-appeared just as she was moving the fabric to one side.  He frowned at me but I didn't want to say anything.  He said that wouldn't have happened if he had been there!

When we got home we sorted the fabric into three piles - yes, no and maybe.  If I hesitated it was thrown into the maybe pile and we went through that pile again last.  We had a laugh at some of the "no" fabrics.   Here is a picture of the "no" pile.   Check out that lovely browny gold fabric on top and the cowboy hat and boots print underneath.  There's also a print with lots of American flags on!


Here are some finished projects using the fabric.

Angela Kane Shift Dress

Burda T-Shirt

Collar on my Peter Pan Collar Dress

Red Hoody Top

I would not have chosen any of the fabrics myself.  The fabrics are on the whole man-made and not luscious by any means.    None of the fabrics crease no matter how hard you scrunch them.  She knew what fabric worked for her business - practical, hard wearing and non-creasing.   I have made countless muslins with her fabric.  There are three rolls of white sheeting / calico.  When that runs out I can move onto other fabric.  I will never be short of fabric for muslins.

The amount of fabric was a bit overwhelming for some weeks afterwards.  I have now moved one half of the yes fabric into the cupboard in the spare room and the other half still sits in the corner of the living room. It is a fairly neat pile and luckily that corner of the living room didn't have anything there before!    The rolls and cardboard that the fabrics are wrapped around do take up a lot of room.  In some cases there was not that much fabric on the rolls so I discarded the roll and transferred to a crate.  It is nice having the fabric on the rolls however as it is easier to move about.

I am working on a skirt at the moment using more of the fabric which I am hoping to finish this weekend.

Happy sewing.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Someone killed Kenny ....

The character from South Park came to mind when I finished my latest project.  Here are the pictures.

I used the hoody top pattern from Papercut patterns.   I haven't owned a hoody top for around 7 years.  I'm not sure why I bought the pattern as I'm not a tracksuit wearing sporty type.   I think I was attracted to the luscious merino grey wool version on the pattern picture and thought it would be something nice and warm to wear in winter.

This may look like a quick and simple garment to make but I had major problems with the fit.  I ended up making three muslins.   On the first try I made the medium with no adjustments.  It came out as a huge shapeless top.  Not quite what I was after.  I pinched in I can't remember how many inches at the sides and sleeves.  I transferred the adjustments onto my pattern pieces, unpicked the muslin and used the same fabric to cut out the smaller pattern pieces.  I reduced the length substantially - around 6 inches. I like a more fitted top and a shorter length as it is easier to wear with skirts, which I tend to wear a lot.   

On the second fitting I wasn't happy with the design of the raglan sleeves.  It just seemed wrong.  The top of the raglan sleeve, where it meets the neck edge, seemed too narrow.  The underarm seemed to finish way down my arm, which was wrong with the more snug fit I was after.  I also thought it was wrong for the seam that joins the front and back panels to the sleeves to be dead straight.  I didn't know how to go about doing such major adjustments.  I didn't want to give up so I decided to have a go at trying to alter the design of the sleeves.

So I traced off new pieces and made adjustments.  I can't remember which order I did them in.  I made the top of the sleeves wider and removed from the front and back panels an equivalent amount.  I then made the seams that join the sleeves to the front and back panels more curved, like an "S" shape.  Not a drastic curve or anything.  I then managed to work out how to alter the corresponding part of the sleeve.  This is where it would have been a good idea to actually write down and photograph exactly what I did as I am struggling to remember now.  

I then made a final muslin.  I wasn't completely happy with the shape but it was a marked improvement.   It took me some time to re-design the sleeves and so I was not about to make further adjustments.   I lengthened the hood by around 1.5 inches. On my muslin I added the front pocket piece.  I really liked this but it didn't work on the drastically short length that I made.   The top of the pocket practically finished at the bust.  I decided against doing the pockets.  

I then cut into my fabric.  I'm not sure what the fabric is but I think it's a man-made knit of some sort.   I'm quite familiar with sewing with knits so it was pretty much plain sailing from here.  I used a stretch stitch, trimmed the seams to around 0.5 cm and then finished with a zig zag stitch.  

The hood was a bit tricky.  The instructions were wholly adequate.   The hood is fully lined and the instructions told you to just "attach the hood".   I couldn't find that many hood tutorials on-line.  A lot of the tutorials were for unlined hoods.   One tutorial referred to an option of attaching a bias strip.  It didn't tell you exactly how to do it but having a bit more experience under my belt now I managed to work this out.  

I decided to attach some twill tape to the neck seam allowance at the front of the neck after I had attached the outside part of the hood.  This was to strengthen that area a bit as it is likely to get a lot of pull from the hood.  

Now that it's finished I'm really pleased with it.  I can see me reaching for this a lot in the colder months ahead.  It looks better than my final muslin.  The sleeves are a bit wrinkly still but I think all sleeves are wrinkly.  I tried on one of my ready to wear raglan sleeved sweatshirts and this was wrinkly at the sleeves as well.  This made me feel a lot better.   I'm now half way through making another top in black.

The alterations were a bit of a pain to do but I am pleased with my achievement - my first time altering the design of a sleeve.  Tops and dresses always seem to need adjusting for my figure.   My Crescent skirt and Miss Chalmers skirt needed no alterations.  This could put me off making skirts and tops as I'll be thinking that they will require a lot of ground work and adjustment.  The upside to making adjustments is that once you have made up one or more muslins, the final garment is a breeze to sew.  I hardly needed to follow the instructions after the first muslin.

I now have a whole week off work so I'm looking forward to lots of extra sewing time.

Happy sewing.  

Saturday, 15 October 2011

My Fabric Friday for October

Time to update my progress on My Fabric Friday for October.  This is where I wear at least one hand stitched item to work on dress down Friday which happens once a month.   I have no photographic evidence of what I wore last Friday.   I took photos of my Pink Sailboat top when I got in and didn't have the energy to photograph what I wore as well.

As usual I wore my jeans.  Yes I might get around to wearing something other than jeans on these days.  It's funny because I hardly ever wear jeans at the weekends so if it weren't for dress down Friday they would hardly get worn!  I wore my fabulous Here Comes The Sun top underneath a navy blue quite fitted jumper.   It was a sort of layering look, with the blouse untucked and showing below the jumper.  I first wore this combination a few months back and have worn it a few times.   I like it.  I will probably wear it again so it's likely I'll post a picture of it at some point.

Onto other sewing related news.  Last weekend I went to see my parents in the South East.  On the way back I stopped at Ikea at Lakeside.   I bought some curtains for my sewing room and a curtain rail.  I realise I can and probably should make curtains. However I haven't made curtains before so I'm not sure how long they take.  Making curtains would also cut into valuable clothes sewing time.   I'd rather spend the precious little free time I have sewing clothes and so this has taken priority.

Anyway look what else I got for my sewing room.

A swivel chair!  It's so comfortable.  I used to have a hefty dining chair which was always hurting my legs because it was so heavy to move around and had sharp edges.  No more!   My carpet won't like those wheels but you can't have everything.

I asked my mother if she still had any of her old sewing patterns.  She went to have a look back and came back with all her knitting patterns.  My goodness it was strange looking at things that I can remember from years and years ago!  There were a few 80s knitting patterns that I picked for my mother to make me.  I'll have to photograph them next time I'm there.

Anyway in among the knitting patterns was one sewing pattern:

I couldn't remember this at all and I asked my mother if she made this for someone else.  She said she wouldn't have been sewing it for anyone else!  It's strange because now that I've seen the pattern I think I can remember it - in green fabric, just like in the pattern picture!

We then got talking about photos of the things my mother made for me.  There aren't many kiddie photos of me but I think there should be some of me in mum-made clothes.  If I can't find any others, then I have at least one such photo:

This photo cube is in my living room.  I got the cube for my 6th birthday and it still has the same photos that my mum put in when I got it. One of those photos happens to be a picture of me and my younger brother.  I'm wearing a long party dress my mum made me.  I forgot that it had Pendrell-style ruffle sleeves!  It also had a big patch pocket on the front with a red felt apple!  I tried to open the box to remove the photo but I couldn't do it.  I decided not to risk breaking it just for the blog!

Happy sewing.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Pink Sail Boat Top

Here's a quick and easy project I've finished.  

This is my third make of this pattern, after my "I Am Sailing" top here and my "Take Two" top here.  I used pattern 106B from the February 2011 issue of Burda.  A straightforward jersey top.  I actually finished this at the beginning of September when I had two weeks' holiday from work.  I wanted something easy to do having just finished the challenging Peter Pan Collar Shift Dress.

This light pink colour is not something I would normally go for.  As a 12 year old girl I loved this colour, as did all my 12 year old friends.  I can't remember the last time I wore this colour, apart from pyjamas.  It's possible I haven't worn anything in this colour since I was 12.

So why did I buy the fabric now?  When I made my Velour T-Shirt in white  I had a bee in my bonnet about wanting to make one in light pink velour.  I couldn't find any velour so I consoled myself with buying some stretch jersey to make something pink.   I made this top so that I could have more tops to wear with jeans and my denim skirts.  As the summer was nearly at an end I decided to make a long sleeved top using a tried and tested pattern.

I used Vilene bias tape on the shoulder and arm seams for extra reinforcement.  I was going to leave it plain but decided to sew on a motif.  I bought the same sail boat motifs that I used for my "I Am Sailing" top.  I wasn't sure if they would go with pink but I think it works.  I like it anyway.  It is quite a thin jersey so it's a little bit like pyjamas.  I will be wearing it as a very casual top to throw on.

I'm working on a casual hoody top at the moment.  I'm not sure how much sewing I'll get done this weekend but I might head upstairs soon.

Happy sewing.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Zippers and Welt Pockets

As I mentioned in my Blue Denim Miss Chalmers Skirt post here I used a couple of techniques that turned out brilliantly for me.  I thought I would chat about them a bit more here so that I can link everything up to my Techniques page.


First up the zipper/facings method.  Here's what I wrote in my last post about this and if you scroll down there's a picture of my test piece.

"I used this method from Kathleen Fansella's Fashion Incubator site to attach the ordinary zipper to the skirt and facings.  As I have mentioned before I have never been happy with my zips.  I have always wondered what I'm doing wrong.  I decided to do Kathleen's tutorial and downloaded her small pattern pieces for the test.   My test came out brilliantly.  I now realise what I was doing wrong.  I have been folding back the zip wrong before stitching the top edge.   Kathleen's facing pieces are slightly smaller than the main pattern pieces at the shoulder.  You sew the zip to the main pattern piece at the centre back and then sew the facing on at the centre back.  You then fold back the zip towards the facing but pulling out the facing piece so it now lines up with the shoulder.  You then sew the top edge.  Another revelation is that the centre back edge above the zip should overhang the edge below the zip.  The stitching line below the zip is not supposed to meet the stitching line above the zip.  In future I will adapt my centre back pattern pieces to do this."

My test:

Zipper Test

I meant to take a photo of the back as well but forgot!  There's not much to say except I really love how neat it is.  I'm loathe to rip the zipper out and spoil it!  In fact my test came out better than the actual denim skirt.  That's probably because the denim was thick and so unwieldy to fold back and sew.   I also love this fabric and the combination with the red zip!  I don't know what fabric it is but it is lovely and soft.  I just wish I had enough of it to make a skirt or dress.   I don't remember buying the red zip.  I have no red fabric so I'm not sure why I bought it!

Update: Thanks to one of my readers I've been alerted to this tutorial on Pattern Review.  It's basically the same as Kathleen's method but uses an invisible zipper.  It also shows how you can "over hang" the lining / facing when sewing it to the zipper to get very much the same result as Kathleen's method but without having to cut the facings / lining out smaller. Check it out - there are photos on the Pattern Review tutorial but you need to click on them.  Check out the comments to this post for more information. 

Update: 29/12/13 - Here is another link to a step by step tutorial using this method. It uses a facing but the same principles apply to lining.  Read my post here about how I finish off the the lining into a triangular shape so it lays flap against the bottom of the zipper tape. 

Welt Pocket

Next up the welt pocket.   Here's wrote I wrote about this in my last post.  If you scroll down there are some pictures of my test piece and the final pockets.  

"I made up one practice pocket on the muslin and was so pleased that it looked good.  I was on a bit of a pocket roll and decided to add a welt pocket at the back.  The back of the skirt has no gathers and apart from the waistband is a bit bland.  I thought the welt pocket would add interest.   This was with some trepidation given my last experience with welt pockets on my Forever Skirt.   I made a test using the same method as last time, where you cut out a separate welt strip, sew that on first and then add the pocket pieces.  My test did not come out brilliantly because the welt strip came out too big for the gap in the skirt.  I did not want to ruin my skirt in this way but was sold on the idea of welt pockets.  I then looked at the tutorial on Burdastyle by the member wzrdreams.  There is something wrong with the Burda site at the moment so this link is to my Forever Skirt on Burdastyle where I have linked wzrdreams' welt pocket tutorial.  This tutorial uses the same strip of fabric to make the welt and the pocket.  I followed through the tutorial on another test and it worked perfectly.  

I have used quite a heavyweight denim and so it is quite bulky having the pocket pieces all in the same fabric (but not bulky enough to make it a problem).  I'm sure the tutorial can be adapted to have the pocket bag area in a slightly lighter fabric, such as batiste or even lining material.   Instead of having one piece of same fabric for the welt and bag, you can work out how much shell fabric you will need for the exposed welt plus seam allowance and then cut out this and then attach the remaining lining sections.   I may try this in future.    I am also pretty sure the same tutorial and principles can be used to make a more vertical welt pocket for the front of the garment. Something I may also try in the future.  Having found this method I would not want to go back to the other method of sewing the strip separately."

Here are my test pieces and pictures of the final pocket:

Test Welt Pocket - Front View

Test Welt Pocket - Back View

Final Skirt - Front View

Final Skirt - Back View
Again there's nothing very much to add.  As I mentioned this method uses one piece of fabric which is effectively folded in a particular way to make the pocket.  In my test piece I did a double layer of topstitching all around the welt.  In the final version I did a single layer.  The topstitching was fiddly to do on the machine.  I couldn't get into all the corners and so had to join them by hand.  I was going to put a double layer of topstitching along the bottom of the pocket and join it up at the ends but was nervous about going any further and ruining it!

I had visions of my seam binding looking really neat and proudly showing off pictures.  As I mentioned in my last post it was difficult to sew it around where there were 4 layers.  As you can see it hasn't attached around the pocket area!   I debated whether to show this picture as it doesn't look great but I decided to show it.  This is a warts and all blog (sometimes).  

Other news - we are finally having some great weather here.  It has been the hottest end of September here in the UK since 1895 and more weather records are set to be broken today, on the first day of October.  I am wearing my Blue Polka Dot Crescent Skirt with my Velour T-shirt as I write and we are making plans to go to the beach today!  

I bought this book on Monday:

New Sewing Book

I now have several sewing books that I very rarely read.   What I decided to do with this one is leave it in work and read it at lunchtimes.   The book is very well written.  There are two sections, the first is a history of haute couture, what it is etc and the second section focuses on the sewing techniques.  I'm being good and reading the book from the beginning instead of just heading straight for the sewing bits.    I think it's nice to read around your hobby a bit. I've surprised myself by finding the background and history to haute couture a fascinating read.  I've picked up on some design ideas that are interesting and may develop further.   I don't know if I could be one of the "premiere mains" in a couture house (I think that's the expression - the book's at work so I can't check - the head sewist).   There seems to be way too much hand sewing involved in haute couture for my liking.   I presently fall into the "why sew by hand if you can sew by machine" category but you never know I may be won over by the end of the book.  

We had glorious weather last week as well and I found this great place to read my book near work.  It's a little children's playing area with benches practically in the middle of Norwich but with no-one around!  Here it is:

Place to read on sunny days
The red tape - I haven't stepped into a crime scene - it was cordoning off the children's climbing frame as it was under repair.  

Finally I opened the lounge door today and next door's cat peered in.  He's so cute.   The step is quite high so when I walked into the room all I could see was his face and eyes looking up at me.   I grabbed my camera and took these photos of him:


Dante looking cute

Happy sewing and enjoy the sunny weather.