The Rainbow Scarf is finished

I finished the embroidered scarf last night.

It's looking quite subtle, isn't it?

It’s looking quite subtle, isn’t it?

One of the things I really love about sewing is that sometimes I’m creating something that’s only ever been in my head before. That’s what this project was like. I’m not saying that I’m the only person who’s ever done a running stitch scarf, because I’d already seen a couple of scarves that were an inspiration towards this one, but this particular scarf came out of my own head, inspired by the materials I had available.

It was a scrapbuster. I had about 50cm of black cotton jersey left over after my first #sewdots dress, and I’d bought some dirt cheap embroidery silks, from Ebay. I mean cheap – I think they cost under £4 for 20 colours.  They weren’t a brand I’ve ever heard of, but they were nice bright colours and it’s always handy to have some embroidery floss to hand, I reckon. So I had a full set of 20 colours, and I arranged them (or rather most of them) into a sort of spectrum.

My chosen technique was to cut the 50cms of jersey into two pieces of 25cm which was now the width of the scarf. The jersey was a good 150cm wide, so that was the length of my scarf. I put the two layers back to back, and starting in the middle, I drew a line along the length of my scarf with my tailor’s chalk wheel. The plan was to do a running stitch along the line, trying to stick to 5mm length stitches. I tried the old embroiderer’s trick of marking the stitch length on my thumb. It kinda sorta worked!

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I was using a totally plain running stitch. Having done one line, I then used that to draw the next line, parallel to it, 5mm away. I used my Janome clear ruler, which made the process very easy.

I was being vaguely influenced by the Sashiko embroidery I’ve seen on my Instagram feed. However, I wouldn’t presume to use the term “Sashiko” for what I’ve done! Mine doesn’t have that beautiful symmetry and perfection. I’ll be honest, my stitching was very far from being precise! But I kept going, and it was pretty much parallel, and I managed to get the same number of stitches in each line. It was a long job, but it wasn’t complicated. It was the sort of work I could do while watching tv of an evening.

I’ve left the sides with about 2.5cm of no embroidery. I haven’t hemmed the sides, I’m leaving the jersey to curl naturally, I didn’t want to put knots into this, so I left the thread ends loose at each end, to act as a fringe.

And this is how it’s ended up…

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It turned out quite colourful!

But I have to say it was not an easy process. Firstly there was the issue of having to thread my needle with a piece of embroidery floss of at least 180cm. My grandmother (and my maiden aunt, Tante Madeleine, who taught me embroidery) always insisted that you should sew with short threads, anything longer than about 30cms was an “aiguillée de paresseuse” – a lazy girl’s needleful. And they instilled this wisdom in me for a very good reason – sewing with long threads is a flipping nightmare! It twists and knots like nobody’s business.

And secondly, the embroidery floss I was using was really low quality. It had been dirt cheap for a reason. It was very “splitty”, and to make matters even worse, some of the colours only had five strands, instead of the usual six. The red only had four. If anyone reading this is moved to try embroidery, my advice is definitely, pay for the good stuff!

To end on a more positive note, I know I’ve complained about the embroidery floss I was using, but it does have a lovely shiny quality, which I think makes it really pretty.

I'm very happy with how it's turned out.

I’m very happy with how it’s turned out.

A Blanket Coat, and a lot of overlocker love

With the hibernating sew-jo mentioned in my last post, I decided to kick-start my dressmaking for 2017 by booking myself on a couple of courses. I find that if I have paid good money for something, I will definitely do it.

So I made a coat...

So I made a coat…

I spotted Sew Me Something’s Blanket Coat workshop on Instagram, and I really liked the look of it. I couldn’t quite believe we could make a coat in just three little hours, but Jules assured me it was possible! Never mind that they’re based in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which is over a hundred miles away from Guildford! My trusty Nissan got me there in good time.

All you needed to bring with you was fabric (although if you didn’t have any, the Sew Me Something Emporium was open to us!). Since I am on a Stash diet, I pulled out the black & white wool-mix bouclé which I’d bought in November from the World Famous Man Outside Sainsburys, in Walthamstow. I’d originally thought I’d use it for a jacket, but when you are shopping from stash, you adapt your plans according to what you’ve got available. The wrong side is lovely and soft, as it’s brushed and smooth, compared to the more textured right side. I hope this photo captures the difference between the two sides.

Can you see the soft fleecy wrong side?

Can you see the soft fleecy wrong side?

The cutting took a little while. I found that my fabric was ever so slightly shorter than I needed, but I shortened the length of the pattern by 5cm to be safe, and all was fine. I have to confess, I hadn’t thought about working with the nap of the wrong side of my fabric, but thankfully the pattern layout is all “one way”, and by merest chance, I managed to align my fabric so that the nap strokes downwards throughout. Next time, I would be more aware of that particular aspect.

The construction was done almost entirely on the overlocker. The collar is ingenious, and when the penny dropped about how it worked, it felt very satisfying. It was astonishing how quickly it all came together, but I guess that’s the joy of overlocking – it’s quick. Also, the edges are all finished on the overlocker and there are no fastenings. I’m toying with the idea of adding a great big statement button at the collar, but I think that would only be if I come across a suitably superb button.

I opted for red thread for the overlocking, as you can see. I do love a dramatic contrast. But also, it’s a kind of an homage to the Sherlock overcoat with its red buttonhole!

So warm and toasty

So warm and toasty!

Things I have learned from this workshop:

  • The overlock stitch has a front and a back, so you need to think about which side you want to sew on. You consequently need to be aware of which side you are pinning on. As well as being very careful to pin well away from anywhere that might come into contact with the needles or the blade.
  • I was feeling quite comfortable when using the overlocker. Obviously the small amount of use I had of the one on the dressmaking evening classes I did last year has given me some confidence.
  • I don’t need an overlocker. I don’t need an overlocker. I don’t need an overlocker. I don’t need an overlocker. I really *want* an overlocker…

One of the reasons I was keen to take this workshop is that outerwear is one of my me-made wardrobe gaps. At last I will have a proper coat to take me into Me Made May. It’s also met one of my personal sewing tick-boxes, and it’s a good starting point to build towards sewing a more structured coat or jacket in the future.

Jules is a fab teacher – she walked the tightrope between making sure each of us knew what we were doing, and allowing us to get on with it. There were six of us and each of us came away with a beautiful coat/jacket. The workshop itself was extremely good value for money and I am more than happy to recommend it. Jules will be running the same workshop again on 22nd March and on 29th April. Go! You’ll have fun and make a well funky coat- what’s not to like?

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Totally loving it!

The Hibernating Sew-jo

I’ve never been very good about wanting to make stuff in the winter months. It’s like my sew-jo goes into hibernation.

But I’m starting to get enthused about my next projects now, and I started one at the tail end of January. It’s a fairly long-term project, so I thought I’d post some In Progress pics, at least. It’s a scarf which I’m embroidering, in vaguely Sashiko-inspired style. The Ex-Gentleman Friend has likened it (I hope in jest) to a dot-matrix advertising hoarding.

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This is how it started…

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A bit further along…

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Now working on the other side

I think I’ve got five more colours to go, maybe six, so the end is in sight. Full deets when it’s all finished.

Joining the Moneta party!

There’s a party planned for February and I’m determined to be there…

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Party Time! Excellent!

One of the things I learned from Me Made May last year was that the Moneta pattern was calling out to me. So I got it, but haven’t got around to doing anything with it so far. So when the Triple Stitchers (Abigail of Sew Abigail, Elle of Sew Positivity and Rachel of Rach Against the Sewing Machine) announced their Moneta Party, I jumped right on that bandwagon. It was meant to be.

I’ve been through the Stash, and there’s only one piece that I can do it with if it’s going to have sleeves (and thereby be suitable for the cold weather) – the massive red floral ponte. It was already on my #2017UseNine list so it’s an all round winner. I’ve got all the other notions I need for it already, so I’m good to go…

Anyone else out there going to be partying with us at the end of February?

#2017usenine

The insta-sphere is great for getting a load of New Year ideas and challenges. I’ve been seeing a lot of #2017makenine posts, inspired by Rochelle of Lucky Lucille with fantastic ideas of patterns and garments that people are planning on making in the year ahead. But the gorgeous and creative Rhiannon of More Blue Fabric has taken it a step further. As soon as I read these words, I knew this was the right approach for me:

“One of the things I am acutely aware of at the moment is that my stash is getting bigger and bigger, and that I keep buying new things with plans to use them, but then a new favourite comes along and pushes it to the side.” 

She’s created the #2017usenine hashtag, and I’m jumping right on board with that. It totally tallies with my Stashwatch plans, and my aims to use my stash before adding any more to it. So here is my collection of nine fabrics I want to get sewn up this year.

#2017usenine

#2017usenine – four plains, five patterned

Let’s start with all those plains. I decided in May last year that I need more plain tops that I can wear with patterned skirts. So I bought a whole load of plain fabric last year, and this year I need to make it up. The white Swiss dot cotton (top left) is already cut out, although I’ve still got to piece a front facing for it to work, and I just need to sew the beggar up. The black peachskin (bottom left) is also going to be a top, but I haven’t decided what kind – possibly a variation on the batwing dresses, but it’s not a knit so I’d have to be more thoughtful about how I make it up. It’s lovely and slinky, but could be a bit of a nightmare to wrangle. The navy (top middle) is also quite slinky and was bought with the notion of making into a shell top, but I might turn it into a Juliette blouse.

But I can’t work purely in plains, I need me some floral print! The red ponte (top right) was supposed to be a Christmas dress, but that didn’t happen. But it will! There are two other floral jerseys there – the pale blue with a pretty meadowflower print, bottom right, and the olive-y pink next to it, which seems much more exotic. They will both be tops. I may need to run up a couple of plain black skirts to wear with them through Me Made May, though!

This black & white & pink sateen has been begging to be made into a skirt since I got it 2½ years ago. It’s cut out, and I’m planning on making it properly lined by way of a little challenge to myself. The bonkers pink and purple scuba (middle row left) will be a simple dress, because there’s no point in trying to use a fancy pattern to try and shout that print down.

And finally the plain white jersey in the middle row right, is going to be at least one scarf, possibly more. I’ve got ideas for at least eight. One of the things I do need more of are interesting accessories, and my selfless sewing of scarves for others has triggered a desire to make some for myself. I probably won’t use it all up, and I doubt I’d use up all my ideas, but I’m going to see how far I can take it.

So, those are my current ideas. I think I’m going to go for the red dress first, because who wouldn’t want a massive floral red dress?!

Stashwatch 2016 – How did I do?

To recap, my goals for 2016 were:
– to catalogue the stash. ✔️
– to use 10 pieces of stash fabric, of which 5 would be used *up*. ✔️
– to fix/mend/refashion 10 items. ✖️ Only 4.
– to not buy any new fabric until I’d used at least 5 stash items. ✔️

So I would say overall I did pretty well. I’m calling 2016 a Stashwin.

Moving forward into 2017, I need to consider new goals.

1. The cataloguing was really beneficial in making me more conscious – about what I buy and what I use. I’m confident that I will keep this up. However, if I’m being brutally honest, I cheated – mea maxima culpa. I only applied this to one of my stashes. Truth is, I’ve got an additional Costume Fabric stash, which contains fabrics for making dance costumes. Plus at least 2 costumes in progress. I ought to investigate whether any of the fabrics in that bag could usefully be transferred to the Real Life Fabric stash. Most of it wouldn’t work, but there’s probably a couple of fabrics that I might be able to get away with for everyday wear. I don’t know when, but I’ll say:
* To catalogue my costume fabric stash and transfer suitable fabrics to my real life fabric stash.

2. The using stash goal is a good one to reprise for next year. I’m happy to work with 1 item per month for now, but with a mid-year review, in case I’ve made it too easy, or in case I’ve built up a bigger stash than I’m feeling comfortable with. This will also tie in with my intended #2017usenine aim. So let’s say:
* To use up 12 items from stash and to review this aim in the summer.

3. I’m thinking more about the refashions and fixes aim. I’m going to separate these two areas, because I do view fixing/mending differently than I view refashions. The fix-ups are chores that aren’t creative or fun. At the moment I’ve only got 3 in the pile, and it’s not worth making this an aim by itself. I’ll get round to them eventually. My refashions are usually quick and easy and they tick all my boxes on making my clothing more personal and unique, so I don’t know why I don’t work on those more. I’ve still got a few plans and ideas for refashions so I do want a goal for these. I want to keep these aims achievable, but also challenging. Based on my refashioning output this year, I’m going to say:
* To refashion 6 garments. 

4. Despite having called Stashwatch 2016 a win at the start of this post, I can’t avoid the fact that I have ended the year with a bigger stash than I started with, which feels like a massive fail, but really isn’t. I’ve used up a lot of long-standing stash items – only 10 items now date back to earlier than the start of 2016, the majority are this year’s acquisitions. I’ve fabric-swapped those items I wasn’t ever realistically going to use. And I’ve attended two fabric swaps and had three fabric splurges, so I reckon my stash ending only 3 items up is pretty good going. It now feels like my stash is more “curated”, it’s fabrics that I love and know will fit in with my wardrobe.
Having morally absolved myself, though, I’m still left with the practical issue that one of my main drivers for starting the Stashwatch in the first place was my lack of storage, and that problem has not gone away. So I’m renewing the no-buying commitment:
* To not buy any new fabric until I’ve used up at least 6 stash items.

5. For a new heading, I want to address the issue of Works In Progress.
My catalogued stash includes a few works in progress which need finishing. I’ll sometimes start a project by cutting the fabric, then fail to do the sewing part. Which is bonkers, because the sewing is the fun part! On the positive side, the WIPs I had at the start of the year did get finished in 2016, and the WIPs I now have are new ones, so that’s quite heartening. But in general, knowing I’ve got WIPs waiting on the shelf, makes me feel stressy and guilt-ridden, so in the interests of my personal wellbeing, I need to get a handle on them:
* To keep WIPs to no more than 3 throughout the year. If I feel like starting a fourth, I need to consider whether I should finish of any of the other three first, or let one of them go. 

I think those are all manageable, and will keep things under control. I’ll update the Stashwatch page shortly. It’s handy to have that Internet accountability! 

I’ll also be posting more about the #2017usenine, when I’ve had a bit of a rummage around the stash and made some decisions about what I’d like to sew. 

Some Selfless Sewing

You all know how rare it is for me to sew anything for anyone else. Tonight this was forced upon me by my lack of planning or organisation. Tomorrow morning at work it’s the last Curriculum Team Meeting of the year, and by tradition there’s a lucky dip Secret Santa. The budget limit is £2, so as to include even the grinches. I’ve done NO shopping for Christmas yet, and I was wondering how I was going to sort this one out, given that I’ve got to put it in the box tomorrow morning at 9.30am.

Inspiration came as a result of remembering a) a conversation I had a couple of weeks back with Claire of Sew, Incidentally about how practical infinity scarves are, and b) one of Claire-Louise Hardy’s Thrifty Stitcher emails linking to an infinity scarf tutorial video.

So this year I’ve gone down the handmade route. The fabric came from a fabric swap, so that’s free, right? All I’ve had to pay for is the pompom trim, which came to about £1.50, so I’m well within the designated budget.

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Things I feel I should point out, for the benefit of future generations:

  1. Pompoms get everywhere – they’re on little threads so that they dangle, which is delightful, but it does mean they need some serious wrangling!
  2. Don’t forget to turn the scarf half right side out in order to sew the short edges. I started off by failing to do this, and ended up with a rather weird object that bore no resemblance to a scarf. Fortunately, this is such a quick sew that even unpicking and re-doing that bit didn’t take long and I soon had it back under control.

I sneakily tried it on, because I had to check it would work.

Yes, it does indeed work, hooray!

Yes, it does indeed work, hooray!

But it’s now all wrapped up, ready for tomorrow morning. I’m banking on the cutesey heart wrapping paper putting off either of the two men on the team from picking it.

I’ve got enough fabric and pompoms left to make another one. In fact I’ve already attached the pompoms in readiness for the sewing. I don’t know yet whether I’ll have to give it away (I’m seriously not organised for Christmas this year). I’m hoping not, because I quite fancy keeping it. Although I wouldn’t be able to wear it at work, on account of outing myself as the Secret Santa!