Friday, 25 November 2011

Versatile Blogger Award ... and other stuff

I've got a few things to cover today so this post may go on for a bit.

Thank you again to Ginger Makes for tagging me for the Versatile Blogger award.  My first award - how exciting!

A challenge for someone could be to follow the chain back in time to see where the award first came from.  Does anyone know?  If nothing else you're bound to discover some great new blogs.

The rules are:

- Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post;

- Share seven things about yourself on your blog; and

- Pass this award along to recently discovered blogs.

Seven things coming up!

1.  I'm tall.  I always thought I was 5 foot 11 inches but I'm in fact 6 foot and a half inch. I hated it when I was younger but don't mind now. Surprisingly I don't like wearing flats unless they're with jeans or are summer sandals. I usually wear shoes with a heel of around 2 inches but it's hard to find shoes that don't have enormous heels.

2.  I worked in London for 8 years in the 90s. I saw quite a few celebrities of the time including Jason Donavan, Kylie Minogue, Joanna Lumley, Victoria Beckham (in her Spice Girl days) and Belinda Carlisle.   Jason was playing Joseph in the Amazing Techni-coloured Dreamcoat so was still in his extremely good looking phase. Kylie's initial pop career had considerably cooled when I saw her, but she looked very glam and pretty.

3. The most famous person I saw was Princess Diana in 1995 in the strangest of circumstances given who she was.  I was ambling along Burlington Gardens with a friend (in the West End where I worked). The street was not particularly busy. Coming towards us from Bond Street was a woman in a bright pink suit. As she got closer I realised who she was but my friend and I carried on casually walking and talking as we had been. I said: “Is this Lady Di?” and my friend said “Yeah” just as casually. As she walked past I smiled at her and she smiled back out of the corner of her eye with her head down. A man in a suit who I assume was her bodyguard then rushed toward us. It was some time before the man appeared so it was amazing to see her on her own for that short space of time. I looked behind and she went into Cecconi's restaurant in Burlington Gardens with the man following behind. We couldn't believe it!

4.  I worked on the top floor of an office in London which looked onto the rooftop of the old Apple building (the Beatles' record label) in Saville Row. This was where the Beatles did their rooftop concert in 1969.

5.  I fell out of the family car when I was 3 years old and still have the scar on my chin from the stitches I had.  I can still remember it clearly.  Luckily for me it wasn't a busy road and the car wasn't going fast. After that my parents put child locks on the car well into our teens!

6.  I was in the audience for a recording of Top of the Pops in 1991, the music show that started in the 60s and ended a few years ago. Thanks to You Tube I've found some footage of the young me clapping away and dancing like a muppet!

7.   I have quite a few style icons but the most enduring for me have to be Kate Moss and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Here are just some great blogs that I like to read:

Just Skirts and Dresses

Toferet's Empty Bobbin.

Fashion Sewing Blog.

Pattern Junkie. 

Where mean comments go to die 

The hair hall of fame

(I've veered away from sewing with the last two!)

Onto other news and I haven't yet updated my Fabric Friday challenge for November. This is where I wear at least one hand-stitched item to work on dress down Friday which happens monthly. I have in fact already posted what I wore in November -  my black hoody top. I photographed it for this finished project post when I got home.

The next dress down day is next Friday.  However I'm off work that day so my Fabric Friday challenge has officially ended for this year!  My thoughts?  Well, it wasn't exactly a hard challenge.  I've comfortably kept it up.  In fact, although I haven't officially monitored this, I do believe I have worn self-stitched items every weekend this year.  (Apart from gardening of course).  This has also extended to weekdays I've had off work.

Although I've comfortably kept up with the challenge, I haven't ventured far beyond wearing tops with my jeans.  I will definitely keep up the challenge next year but I should try and stretch myself and wear something other than jeans.  I think I'll also start keeping track of what I wear at the weekends or in my own time so see if any patterns emerge in what I like wearing, what's the most comfortable etc.

Finally, Debi over at My Happy Sewing Place is doing a Sew Grateful challenge this week.  I haven't had time to do a project but I can reflect on what I'm grateful for in my first year of sewing.   Firstly, I have a bookmarks folder "Sewing Techniques" which is packed with loads of techniques I've found from the many generous people on the internet.  

Special mention has to go to Angela Kane and her brilliant Make a Dress videos.  Back in the halcyon days of October 2010 before I knew about sewing blogs and Burdastyle, these videos were the first thing I found after making a hash of my first sewing project.  I watched them all the way through way and took notes before making up the Pinafore dress myself.  It's worthwhile taking the time to write notes so you don't miss all the tips being thrown in.  Things like tying all your loose ends up as you go along.  An easy idea and one you wouldn't think was worth mentioning. Nevertheless this was not something I had ever thought of and is something I always do.  Once you've sewn your last seam you're ready to go instead of having to go back and tie a million loose ends!

Special thanks also to Sewaholic for her wonderful sew-a-long posts.   Hers was one of the first blogs I found last year when I started to sew.

Happy sewing.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Bright Blue Miss Chalmers' Skirt

I've just finished my second make of the Miss Chalmers' skirt from Papercut patterns.  Here are the photos.

As with my first make of this skirt in denim  I added slash pockets and a welt pocket at the back.  I used this royal blue fabric that I bought from the retired seamstress.   I don't know what the fabric is.  All I can say is I think it's man made and it's not particularly soft.   This isn't a colour I would normally choose but I really like it.  One good thing about buying a job lot of fabric from a retired seamstress (as you do) is the chance to wear colours you wouldn't normally wear.  

I used a similar coloured topstitching thread and topstitched all the edges including the side seams and the hem edge.  I also lined the skirt as with the first make.  I used a stiffer interfacing on this one which I like because it gives the skirt some structure. I normally use the interfaced part as the facing rather than the front piece but I forgot to do this.  I didn't do a great job with ironing on the interfacing so this shows on the front of the skirt.   I'll have to remember this next time.

The welt pocket has not come out as good as the denim version.  This fabric does not fold and press well and is less pliable than a natural fibre.   Interfacing the welt pocket piece to give it more structure would be a good idea if I do this again.  The topstitching around the welt pocket wasn't good in the top right hand corner and I may unpick this part at some point to re-do.

I french seamed the slash pockets which I always do.  However looking at the close up picture of the side of the skirt you can see that the bottom of the pocket shows through.  A smooth lining fabric for the pocket may be a good idea for this style of skirt so it doesn't show through.  I adapted the pocket pattern for the Crescent skirt to use on this skirt.  The Crescent, unlike this one, is a fuller skirt so the pockets don't show through.

I just zig zagged the other seams.  I didn't bother with the Hong Kong bound finish.  It was a headache on my last make.  This pattern has a 1 cm seam allowance included and I now realise you need at least a 1.5 cm seam allowance to comfortably do a bound seam finish.

As mentioned above the fabric does not cleanly press flat so I decided to interface the hem.    I haven't done this before and it worked like a dream.   I read around a bit before doing this.  I can't find the tutorial I read now but I think it was on Kathleen Fansella's Fashion-Incubator site.   It said that the interfacing should not end where the crease of the hem ends.  It should extend beyond this at least half an inch.  This is what I did and it worked like a dream.  I blind stitched the hem on the machine and zig zagged the edge.

I went a bit wrong with the zipper.  I didn't leave enough of a gap from the top of the zipper teeth to the edge.  I normally leave the seam allowance plus 2 to 3 mm.  I didn't even have enough for the seam allowance!  Apart from this I was pleased with the zipper and one of the few that have come out invisible for me.

Overall I'm really pleased with my skirt and I can't wait to start wearing it.

Happy sewing.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Home Sewing in 1911

I don't usually buy magazines.  Maybe the odd Burda or celebrity gossip magazine if I have a long train journey.  I just had to buy this month's Woman's Weekly though.  It's their centenary issue and they reproduced in full their very first magazine from 1911.  Here is the magazine cover.

It's a fascinating read.  Admittedly I have been most enthralled by the adverts with gems such as this:

There are pages of adverts flogging remedies promising to cure all manner of ills. This one was selling "Antipon" which promised "within a day and night of the first dose" to decrease your weight between 8 oz and 3 lb.    All this from something which contained only "vegetable ingredients of a quite harmless nature".

There's an insight into Britain before the National Health Service and regulation of the sale of medicinal products.   One advert asks if you have "palpitations, shortness of breath, heart skipping a beat, violent starts to your sleep".    Now you'd be told to get to the doctor pretty sharpish.  In 1911 this was an opportunity to sell "Oxien" described as "an almost infallible cure of heart disease and its many complications".

Assuming the women of 1911 were still alive after all this they had plenty of sewing to look forward to.   The magazines promised a set of sewing patterns free with  the magazine.

If Pattern Junkie had been around in 1911 she would have had a field day with the dismembered body parts in the pattern illustrations.

There are plenty of sewing tips and a whole section on "blouse blunders".   It's interesting to see that words such as "nap", "grainline" and "crosswise grain" weren't used.  For example one blunder of the inexperienced was cutting the patterns "on the wrong way of the stuff" instead of running "selvedge way" and "in striped fabrics the error is quickly noticeable".  

My favourite has to be the tip to improve your ironing board.

Yep.  1911 sewers had to make do with balancing a piece of wood on the end of two chairs.   I wouldn't have room to do much else if I had to do this in my sewing room!

Other news now and look what the postman has just delivered.

I can't wait to start reading this and sewing my first ever Colette pattern.

Thank you to Ginger Makes for tagging me for the Versatile Blogger award.  I'll have to start thinking about 7 things to post about!

Happy sewing.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Black Hoody Top

The Eurozone may be staring into the abyss at the moment but the sewing goes on. Here's my second make of the hoody top from Papercut patterns.

Here's my first version in red.   I used my adjusted pattern from the first time around where I shortened the length and slightly changed the position and shape of the raglan sleeves.   I don't know what the black fabric is. It's part of the fabric I bought from the old lady.  It's entirely unsuitable for this type of garment which requires a nice stretch.  It has some stretch but I imagine the lady used it to make theatre costumes with - something that doesn't crease, is hardwearing and has some stretch so it can move around.   You can't tell the fabric is unsuitable from the photos or when you wear it - it just looks like a black hoody top!

I wanted a contrasting hood so I bought some lovely grey and black striped jersey.  I was going to use the stripe as a contrasting lining at first but I decided I liked the stripes on the outside once I'd made up the hood!

The top is incredibly comfortable and flattering.  As the top is quite short (how I wanted it) you need to layer it up.  I may have to make more layering tops to go underneath.

There's not much more to say about the top so I thought I would talk about some of the techniques and tutorials I used so I can link them to my techniques page.


Here are some pictures of the cuffs:

Cuffs are not just for Christmas.  They would add a delightfully professional finish to any jersey top or sweatshirt.  You can even buy some ribbing to match your fabric and have ribbed cuffs.

I'd never done cuffs before and the pattern instructions were not particularly clear. Luckily I found this tutorial on cuffs.   It did take a while for me to figure out which is embarassing now because they're so easy.   I seem to remember unpicking them but that may have been when I was trying to follow the pattern instructions.

So to add a cuff to your sleeve you:

1.  Measure the bottom of your sleeve (the circumference of the cuff) plus seam allowance on either side.

2.  Decide how long you want the cuff, double it and then add seam allowance on both ends.  The design of these cuffs are nice and long which I like.

3.  The cuff pattern piece is a rectangle using: [the measurements at 1 above] x [the measurement at 2 above].

4.  Cut out two pieces of the fabric from your pattern, using the edge of the pattern as a grainline.

5.  Fold the rectangle, right sides together.  In my case the fold was on the long edge.  Pin and stitch so  you have a long tube.  Fold in half so the seam allowances is encased on the inside of the cuff.  (Refer to the linked  tutorial where there's a picture if you can't follow this).

6.  Follow the tutorial instructions from here to stitch the cuff to the sleeve (which already has the side seam stitched).    Finish the seam.

Attaching a lined hood using bias binding

Making up the lined hood was really easy and the pattern instructions were fine.     There are 4 pattern pieces, one for each half of the hood and one for each half of the lining.  They are both the same size.  I lengthened the hood on the pattern piece.  For the first time in my life I have a hood that is comfortable and the right length!  You can also change the design of your hood if you like.  This one is round against the head but you could change it to something more pointy.

You sew the halves of the hood and hood lining together, laying them right sides together and sewing along the line that will run across the centre of your head.  You now have two hood pieces, the outer hood and the lining.  Place the two pieces right sides together and sew along the edge that will frame your face.   You can add optional topstitching to the front edge of the hood.  I did the topstitching on my red top but not the black one.  The black one came out much better.  I found it much easier to attach the hood to the garment using the bias binding when I hadn't topstitched.

My search for on-line tutorials was really so that I could attach the hood to the garment.  The pattern instructions just said something like "attach hood" and had a picture of the outside of the top with the hood attached.  They didn't tell you to use bias tape but I couldn't see how you could attach the hood and have a nice finish on the inside.

I couldn't find many on-line tutorials for hoods.    I found this tutorial for a cute towel for a child with a hood.  (I so want a towel with a hood and I may have to make a big one for me!).   The hood on the towel is lined and was attached without any form of bias tape.  The method looked quite good but I was not convinced I could make it with a neat finish on my hood.  The towelling fabric may be more forgiving with this method.

I then found this rather student-y tutorial for a hooded gown.  This gave me the idea for finishing the inside of the hood with bias tape.  It didn't say how you did it so I figured out a way to do it (which I describe below).  It came out really well on both tops, and gave a great professional finish (apart from not managing to sew the bias strip very straight on the red one).

Here are some close ups of the hood and the bias tape:

Wrong side showing the bias tape finish

Wrong side back view showing bias tape finish
Note the joining seam at the centre back

Right Side

Wrong side front view

Wrong side back view

You can't really see the black ones very well which is why I posted the red ones as they are easier to see.

This is what I did after constructing the hood as noted above.   So you know which side I'm talking about I'll refer to the pieces as the outer hood and the hood lining.  The edge of the hood that is unsewn at this stage I'll call the neck edge of the hood.

1.   Mark with a pin, or snipped notches, on the seam allowance of the neck edge of the garment at these 4 points:  centre front, centre back and the shoulders.  Your shoulder notches can be equal distance from the centre front and centre back.  (Note - if your hood does not reach all the way round to the centre front, instead of marking the centre front mark where each side of the hood will reach up to).

2.  Mark similar notches on your hood on both the outer hood and the hood lining.  In fact you don't need to do a notch for the centre back of the hood as the hood seam marks the centre back.  When you mark the notches on the outer hood and hood lining that will match up to the shoulder notches on the garment you can again mark them equal distance from the front edge of the hood and the centre back seam.

3.  Pin the neck edge of the outer hood to the neck edge of the garment, right sides together.  Start by matching the notches of the outer hood to the corresponding notch on the garment.  On this top there were no marks on the pattern to show where the hood should be attached.  I did it so there is a gap of about 1 cm at the front neck edge between the two front halves of the hood.

4.  I used loads of pins and hand basted as well.  I stitched the outer hood to the garment starting from the centre back seamline of the hood and finished at the centre front.   Now this is where I found it easier on the black top when I hadn't topstitched the front edge of the hood that frames the face.  On the black top when I reached the seamline of the front of the hood that frames the face I stopped sewing.  I was able to sew right up to that points whereas on the red one where I had topstitched I had to stop at the topstitching.   Repeat for the other half of the outer hood.  Trim the seam.

4.  I then attached some stay tape to the seam allowance at the front neck edge for re-inforcement as this part will get a lot of pull with the hood.

5.  Now the hood's in place you need to secure the lining in place with bias binding.  I made some bias binding out of the fabric.  You cut a strip of fabric the length of the neck edge circumference plus seam allowance for each end (plus a bit extra so you know you won't run short).  The strips are chalked on the fabric and cut at a 45 degree angle to the lengthwise grain.  (Pull your fabric diagonally - there is more stretch this way which is what you want when you are laying it round a curved edge).   I think my strip was about 2.5 - 3 cm in depth.

6.  I used Tasia's method for attaching bias binding to the neck edge of the hood lining,  which she used in the Pendrell blouse sew-a-long.   However I made the strip extra long and then used Collette patterns' method for joining the bias strip at the ends after you have attached it.  It is much easier to work out how long your strip will need to be once you have attached it.

7.  With Tasia's method you fold the bias strip in half lengthwise before you start so you have a long folded edge and opposite is the edge which I'll call the "unfolded edge" of the bias strip.   I basted the folded strip so it didn't move about.   I marked the centre of the strip.  Starting from the front neck edge and using the centre mark on the bias strip as a guide I pinned the the bias strip to the right side of the hood lining (the side that will touch your hair), so the unfolded edge of the bias strip meets the neck edge of the hood lining.   Remember that you want the joining seam on the bias strip at the centre back of the neck edge, not the centre front.

8.  Stitch the bias tape all around stopping around 1.5 inches short of each side of the centre back of the neck edge.  This is so you can join the bias tape using Collette's method referred to above and then go back and sew that 1.5 x 2 inches at the centre back.  Trim the seam.

9.  The folded edge of the bias tape at this point faces up towards the hood.  You then fold down the folded edge of the bias tape so that it will encase the seam allowance of the bias tape and hood lining.  You then pin this to the garment, taking in the outer hood and also encasing the neck edge seam allowance of the outer hood. You then edgestitch along the folded edge of the bias strip.  This row of stitching will show on the right side of the neck edge.  Not a problem because it is covered by the hood when it is down anyway.  You could invisible stitch this down but I don't see the point of that as I can't see that it would be secure.

That was a lengthy post so I'll close off now.   I'm nearing the end of a skirt at the moment but I'm going to have to re-do the hem.  More on that another time!

Happy sewing.