Friday, 22 January 2010

two great things for the sewing obsessed

It has been a year since my sewing obsession took a real hold on me - I posted my first ever review on Pattern Review on 20 January 2009. So, to mark my first year of serious sewing I treated myself to a couple of things that I have been yearning for.

Firstly, this DVD Rom

This DVD puts the entire Threads magazine archive from 1985 to 2009 on to your very own computer. That’s 146 issues and you can read every page of every issue “faithfully reproduced and in its entirety” (I quote here from the box). It shows you thumbnails of all the covers, which you can click on to open them up and browse through the pages, or you can use the search facility that allows you to quickly find any particular subject or article that you’re interested in. You can then zoom in and read it in detail or you can easily print it out. It costs $149.95 (they ship to the UK), which is quite an investment but I really do LOVE it and so, for me, it’s been money well spent.

My second indulgence was this book

I have to confess that I do already have a lot of sewing reference books (how many would be too many, I wonder?) but this one really is wonderful and has taken over as my ‘go to’ book. It has had some glowing reviews on the U.S. Amazon website (click here if you want to read them) and I can see why.

It’s a very comprehensive guide (560 pages) to sewing the professional way but if you are a home sewist (like me), don’t think it’s not for you. It is written in easy to understand language and has very clear illustrations. I have taken a picture, at random, of a couple of pages to give you a ‘sneak peak’ at what it looks like inside.

I love it because it takes a fresh and modern approach, both in its style and in the advice it gives.

There is, of course, one drawback with my new purchases – too much reading about sewing and not enough actual sewing! Do you have this problem, or is it just me?

Sunday, 17 January 2010

a simple shift from Simplicity

Well, I’ve finished the shift dress that I wrote about in my last post, made from Simplicity 2798, and I’m quite pleased with it. It hasn’t got the same kind of ‘va va voom’ as some of my earlier dresses – it’s a neat little shift, a bit demure and, especially as it’s grey, it is rather sober looking. However, I do think that there’s a place in my wardrobe for a dress like this – there are occasions when a winter day dress doesn't need to dazzle. It looks good with flat boots or dressed up with heels and the colour goes with lots of things. Anyway, let me allow you to see for yourselves –

Of course, I would normally be wearing it with a cardi or jacket - I definitely wouldn’t be standing around in the snow wearing only a sleeveless dress. As you can imagine, the picture was taken in double quick time – there is only so much suffering I am prepared to endure!

I liked that this dress has princess seams which were easy to fit (helped, of course, by the fact that this pattern gives separate pieces for A/B, C and D cups). When it came to pressing the seams my new pressing mitt (that I showed you in a previous post) was invaluable – I really do recommend getting one of these if you are going to be constructing a princess seam garment. It allows you to shape the curved seams really nicely.

As this is a ‘Project Runway’ inspired pattern, there are various options for ‘designer additions’. I used the front placket and the side tabs and added topstitching. Here is a close up of the yoke

I used a heavy black silk thread for the topstitching – it doesn’t show up from a distance but, close-up, I think it gives the dress a ‘finished’ look.

The pattern doesn’t give instructions for lining but I did fully line it, which is pretty easy to do. I cut the lining by using the pattern pieces for the Front, Back and Yoke as they were. I pinned together the pieces for the Upper Side Front and the Lower Side Front (overlapping them and folding in the horizontal ease on the lower piece) so that the pocket was no longer there and cut them out as one piece, like this -

As this is a winter dress, made in wool crepe, it definitely needed to be lined but for summer I’m planning an unlined version in linen or cotton – I think it will make a nice, easy to wear (and make) dress. But before I get around to that I’ve got a few more winter garments in the planning stage ….

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

I've had a little make-over .....

..... well, no not me personally (though, goodness knows, I’m sure I could do with one) but here, on my blog! If you look up you will see that I’m trying out a new banner. Yes, I know, it’s a little dazzling, rather colourful – but I thought I’d have some creative fun with my camera and the paint program on my computer. I’m quite surprised what can be done, even by someone, like me, who knows next to nothing about these things!

You might be interested to know that the background I used when taking my picture was some lovely fabric that I am going to be using for the lining of a jacket I am planning. Here’s a closer look

I bought it from Gorgeous Fabrics and isn’t it, well, gorgeous? I just love shopping from Gorgeous Fabrics, I’m always so thrilled when my package arrives. At the moment my jacket is still very much in the research and development phase. I have some nice wool in ‘winter white’ (which has been in my stash for a while) that I am going to use as the outer fabric but I haven’t finally decided on the pattern. I have been looking through my huge pile of Burda magazines, because they have some really nice jacket designs, but I can’t make my mind up. I want something that’s easy to make but looks very chic and interesting. The holy grail of patterns - I don’t want much do I?

In the meantime, I am finishing off my Simplicity shift dress and will be posting pictures of that very soon.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Snow means sewing!

A lot of snow has fallen on us here in the United Kingdom, so, naturally, everything in London has ground to a halt. Nobody’s going anywhere unless they have to so, happy me, I’m actually getting some sewing done. Let me show you my pattern pick

It's Simplicity 2798. To be truthful, it came out of my pattern drawer as a kind of lucky dip – I was looking for another one and this one got pulled out. I had forgotten all about it and was going to put it to one side when I took another look and thought …… why not? There are a lot of things I like about it – not least that it is one of those ones that has separate pieces for B, C and D cup sizes (I’ve had some good experiences with those). This will be the first dress I have made that has princess seams so I thought it would be good not to have to do an fba. I also like the shift style, and the yoke and pockets add some interest.

The fabric I’ve chosen is the dark grey wool crepe that I bought during my recent trip to New York. Now, here I have to tell you that I am feeling at least a little justified in having built up a large stash of different fabrics. The weather may have prevented me getting to fabric stores, or deliveries arriving at my door, but I still have plenty of fabrics to choose from!

I’m making the sleeveless version and, as it’s a Project Runway pattern, there are quite a lot of ‘designer additions’ you can choose from. I’m going to use the neck placket with three buttons and the side tabs, also with buttons and I’m going to add some topstitching. I’m aiming for a kind of neat, tailored look. At least, that’s the plan.

When I first looked at the picture on the envelope I thought, “oh it’s a shift dress by one of the Big 4 Companies, it will probably be HUGE”. However, when I got my tape measure to check the pattern pieces for the size I usually pick it didn’t seem to have excessive ease – in fact I added a little extra from the bust downwards just for insurance.

So, my muslin is, finally, in good shape - I hope my pattern lucky dip turns out to be a good choice!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

2009 - what worked and what didn't!

It’s that time of the year when we reflect on our achievements and failures of the last year and I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed, and learnt a lot from, reading blog posts from fellow Sewists about their ‘year in review’. So I thought I had better get a move on (before 2010 is over!) and have a good think about my own sewing year.

So, what have I made in 2009?

13 Dresses (I clearly love dresses and want to make lots more!)
9 Tops (I always find it very difficult to find RTW tops to fit, so I’m not surprised there’s quite a lot of these – I intend to make many more in 2010)
3 Skirts (A few more skirts in 2010 would be good)
1 Pair of pants (these were the simplest pair of pants possible, drawstring waist, very dull – must learn to make a proper pair in 2010)
1 Coat (I’m pleased enough with this but it was one of my early makes and, looking at it now, I think it could have been better made – try again in 2010!)
1 Jacket (I like this a lot and would like to make more jackets)
1 Vest/jacket thing (see below about this one)

That’s 29 garments, which is a total I’m quite pleased with. It’s not nearly as many as some of the other wonderfully expert Sewists out there but, as this is my first year of taking up sewing after a break of many years (decades, actually), it’s not a bad count. Plus I’ve made two muslins that never made the grade - they turned out to be too hideous to contemplate making up (so I’ve learnt the value of muslin making!).

Although it’s not necessarily my absolute favourite, most loved, garment, this is the one that I wore the most

It’s BWOF Magazine July, 2007, No. 119. Throughout the summer it was an easy to wear top that was great to wear with jeans or skirts and I loved the brightly coloured soft cotton fabric.

However, rather dwell on the successes I’m going to focus on what didn’t work and why. I made one garment that I’ve never worn at all, not once! It’s this one

Which is from BWOF Magazine, May 2009, No. 108. I’m happy with the way I’ve constructed it, and it fits ok, but what’s wrong is that it doesn’t go with anything else in my wardrobe – the combination of the style and fabric just doesn’t seem to work for me. It doesn’t work as a practical item because it doesn’t keep me warm and if it’s really hot I don’t particularly want another layer. It might have worked as a decorative garment to put over a skimpy evening frock if I had made it in a glitzier fabric but this cheap, rather rough, hessian type fabric has the effect of dressing everything down and fighting with what I’m wearing underneath. I picked the pattern because I thought it would be interesting to make – and it was and it looks nice on the hanger – but as something to actually wear it seems to be a total failure.

So what can I learn from this? Before I make anything I should reflect very carefully on the following. Do I really love the style – can I see myself wearing it and will it go with other things in my wardrobe. Do I love the fabric and is it right for the style?

2009 was the year I started my blog. I love how it helps focus and motivate my sewing efforts (I want to be able to show you nice things!) but the best thing about it is that I’ve now joined such a wonderful community of Sewists. I am inspired daily by the talent, kindness and encouragement of everyone out there. I love reading everyone’s blogs and feel honoured by those of you that visit mine. Thank you to everyone who has commented on my blog, I truly appreciate it.
A Very Happy New Year to You All
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