Stashwatch – Summer Check-in

My stashwatching this year has been very feast-and-famine! Months of self-restraint followed by indulgence days. Let’s look at the goals:

1.  To catalogue my costume fabric stash and transfer suitable fabrics to my real life fabric stash.

Hasn’t happened yet. I’ve started, but there’s still a binbag-ful to go through!

2.  To use up 12 items from stash and to review this aim in the summer.

I’ve used up 12 items so far, and I’ve got another 3 works in progress, to be finished on my holidays, which should take it up to 15. So I feel I’m doing quite well this year. I’m updating this goal to: using up 21 items from stash by the end of this year.

3. To refashion 6 garments. 

Nothing so far. Must do better.

I started beading a t-shirt, and I’m hoping to get it finished on holiday. That’s a start.

4. To not buy any new fabric until I’ve used up at least 6 stash items.

I failed on this, but I did make sure that I caught up with myself within a couple of days, by way of compensation. So although it was a technical fail, it was a moral win.

Having caught up, and sewn three more stash pieces up, I felt I could happily go on a fabric buying trip to Walthamstow Market, at the end of May, which added 7 more bits of fabric to the pile. A declutter also added to the stash, because I came across bits and bobs of fabric that I’d forgotten all about. And when I get around to cataloguing the costume stash, that may also add to the pile. At the moment the stash is standing at around 26 items; I’d like to see it coming down to 20 or so.

So I’m updating this goal to: not buying any new fabric until the end of the year. I’ve got plenty of ideas for the material that I’ve got. I will allow myself fabric swaps (but trying to keep it stash-neutral), and I’ll accept gifts of fabric if offered (because it’s churlish to refuse), but I won’t buy any more, nor enter competitions, prize draws or giveaways, just in case I win them.:

5. 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.

So far, so good. I sewed up two of my start of year WIPs, and was ahead of myself for a while, but in readiness for holiday sewing, I’m building up a set of things that just need a bit of hand-sewing to finish, so I’m currently at 4 WIPs, and hoping to make it a couple more by Thursday morning! But by the end of the hols, I should be back to only one WIP.

It’s been interesting to reflect on my year’s progress so far, and although it doesn’t feel like I’m bringing my stash levels down, I realise I’ve been quite productive and done quite a lot towards using the fabrics I’ve got in the way I originally intended, or sometimes, changing my ideas around and making something different that I hadn’t expected.

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Creating a holiday wardrobe

I’m off to France for 2½ weeks next Thursday – I can’t wait! I’m trying to plan for two things, firstly I want to take a capsule-ish wardrobe, and secondly I want to take some sewing/knitting to be done there.

The holiday wardrobe doesn’t need to cover formal events, it’s going to be seaside and family visits. I’ll have access to a washing machine, so I can happily repeat wears. I’m a shocker for over-packing, so I’m trying to limit myself to 4 skirts, 5 tops and 3 dresses. I’m going for a blue based colour scheme, because this year I seem to be drawn to blues. However, in order to take the garments that I want to take, I do need to get down and make some of them. That’s ok, I’ve got a week, right? And any hand finishing can be a holiday craft project.

What I want to take

Skirts: grey birds, royal blue jersey, paisley leftovers, black denim
Tops: white dot shell top, watercolour floral shell top, mournful leopard, blue-grey t-shirt, black lace top
Dresses: Teal dress, royal blue & mint lace t-shirt dress, denim/lace jersey dress

Making stuff to take

I started last night with a royal blue jersey pull on skirt. I was using the lovely soft viscose jersey I got from FC Fabric Studio back in April.  This is another of my self-drafted numbers, mostly done on the overlocker, nothing special about it. I took trouble to make the elastic waistband nice and I used the mock-bank hem finish with my overlocker. And it’s got a lovely little “Handmade” charm inside the waistband to show me which is front & which is back.

A straightforward tube skirt

I’ll be honest, this project took considerably longer than it needed to, because the overlocker took a bit of umbrage about something, I don’t know what, and decided to break threads for no readily discernible reason. This meant proper re-threading from scratch. Which is fine, I totally know how to do that now, but it was a bit of a faff. And then it decided to break a needle. This was rather more of a learning experience. I had a spare, so no problems there, but this was a new thing to learn how to do, and for a while I got all fingers-and-thumbsy and couldn’t hold the needle *and* tighten the little screw both at the same time. But again it’s all fine, it got done, it was just time consuming. Incidentally, the broken needle pinged off quite a distance! I’m glad I wear glasses – if I didn’t I might be looking to invest in safety goggles!
I’ve got enough of this jersey left over, to make the dress I’ve got on the list.

While I was in the groove, I even got around to sewing a buttonhole and a button on the Grey Birds skirt waistband, last night, to replace the hook & bar that I first put in. This is something I’d been meaning to do for ages. So that’s another easy win. 

This means the skirts are all done! Hooray!

For the tops, I’ve got a lot to do if I’m going to take all the tops I want to take.

The Watercolour Floral top is under way. It’s nearly finished except for the hemming, which I will do by hand as a holiday project.

I’ve got a t-shirt to make, and I’m going to be using the Simple Sew Shannon Collection pattern for that. I’ve also got all the doings for a lace back top. I don’t have a pattern for this, although I think I’m going to use my shell top pattern as a starting point. I can’t use that exact technique, though, because of the lace element. It’s going to require a bit of thought and research. I’m quite excited to see how far I can take it!

And finally, the dresses… I need to make all of them! They will all be partially made, to be finished by hand while I’m away. The teal one is all ready with only sewing bias facings to be done on my hols. The other two will probably end up being self-drafted, on the fly!

I’ve also got to spend a bit of time this weekend on my next Simple Sew Blog Make, because I want it to be done before I go away. But I think I’ve got time for everything I’ve got planned, particularly as I’m leaving all the hand finishing as Holiday Sewing Projects. Which leads me to…

Holiday Sewing Projects

I know I’m lining up a fair bit of hand finishing for myself, but it will get done pretty quickly, I reckon, so I need more projects to work on. I’m going to take some knitting, but I suspect that will be the last thing I pick up, because sewing is much more my default crafting activity! Knitting is too slow.

I will take a couple of my plain t-shirts to embellish, for example there’s one that I started a while ago, that would handily fit well into my holiday capsule wardrobe, so it would make sense to take that one and get it finished.

I’ve also been researching a few haberdasheries, to do a bit of sewing sightseeing, especially for those days that aren’t so hot and sunshiny.

So that’s my plans for the next few weeks. Happy holidays! 

Not quite a UFO

I’ve been trying to de-clutter my flat. It’s too small for All The Stuff. This has meant re-discovering things. I genuinely thought I’d thrown out this leopard print chiffon and the bits of top that I’d started to make from it in 2014, but as it turns out, I’d just put it all in a bag and forgotten about it.

When I did come across it, I realised I didn’t want to make that top any more, so this is not really a UFO, because the original make from this chiffon is now gone. I was happily throwing it into the fabric scraps bag, when I realised that there was quite a big chunk of fabric left over, and I could make my now go-to shell top from it, if I cut it on the cross grain. Actually that worked a lot better with the print, which would thereby run vertically rather than across me.

Presenting the Mournful Leopard Top*

The fabric is really slippery, and I mostly resolved the cutting and sewing problems that generates by a heavy use of pins. I sewed everything on my overlocker, because I love how it sews and neatens at the same time, and because I was aiming for speed and wasn’t going to faff about with French seams.

I’ve added a purely decorative button and loop closure at the back. I don’t need it for access, because I can get the top on fine without it, I just wanted something a little different, and as I mostly wear my hair up, I thought it would add a nice bit of detail. The button is actually one of the table sprinkles from the Dressmakers’ Ball – I’d picked a few of these up as a souvenir (because the goody bag wasn’t enough!) and although they aren’t really good enough to be used as buttons normally, because they are quite lightweight they worked well with this fabric. I’m not going to be using the button much (at all), so the lack of quality isn’t going to have any significant impact.

The other change I made was to lengthen the top by 10cms, and I’m really happy with how that came out. It’s long enough to tuck in, if I want to, but also it’s a good length to have loose.

Cool for the Summer

The fabric is very lightweight – I can scrunch this top down and hold it all in my fist – and it’s going to be great for hot summer days, both in the office and on my holidays. I’m off to France and I’m currently planning my packing, as well as my sewing/crafting projects while I’m there.

* This top’s name comes from the fact that back in 2014, the original top was all cut out and sat on top of my sewing machine, for a considerable time, waiting for me to get on and just sew it. I mentioned to someone that it kept looking at me mournfully, and from then on in my head it was the Mournful Leopard. I know it’s not the same top, but the name has stuck.

Goals

One of my sewing goals for the foreseeable future was to make something with buttons, well buttonholes really, and I’m a firm believer in using courses, to push me out of my comfort zone and try something new in a controlled environment with an expert teacher on hand to rescue me if I cock things up. So when I saw that Sew Over It were running a course to make the Alex shirt/shirtdress from Lisa’s My Capsule Wardrobe: City Break e-book, I booked myself onto it without delay.

I was shopping my stash, and picked this chambray to work with.

Beautiful chambray with little red green and yellow dots woven in.

This had been hanging around in the stash for far too long. I’d won it in a giveaway three years ago, and in my head it was always going to be a shirt, so it finally had the chance to fulfil its destiny! I wasn’t sure there would be quite enough to make the shirt dress, but I reckoned I could cut it as long as my fabric would allow, and see how it went.

I was at the Clapham shop this time round, and it was a different teacher, Dominique. The course was over two Monday evenings, and as anticipated, the first class was mostly concerned with the preparation, choosing the right size pattern to use, and cutting out. We got going on the first bits of the sewing, and I managed to get as far as having the fronts and back sewn into the yoke, by the end of the first session. The second session whizzed through, with the collar, side seams, sleeves and sleeve insertion, and finally buttonholes. I was really happy that this class gave me the chance to practise using the buttonhole foot, and to work out how to space the buttonholes correctly. I do feel a lot more confident on this now.

The class was really good fun, and it’s always lovely to see how six people can make six very different garments, even though you’re all working on the same pattern.

The only thing I had to do to finish the shirt at home was to slip-stitch the collar down, hem the sleeves and the bottom, and sew on the buttons.

Before doing all that, I had to decide whether it was worth the candle. I had my doubts about the grading of the shoulders and/or sleeve head. Dominique had assured me that this is a drop shoulder shirt, and the yoke extension over my shoulder was right. But I wasn’t convinced. When I got home, I took a few pics to check, and whatever the pattern is *meant* to be, I personally feel like the sleeves bouffe out too much at bicep level, making me look like I’ve got massive man-shoulders. Or at least that I’m boyfriending the shirt of a man with massive man-shoulders.

It wasn’t so bad if I had my arms down, but as soon as I lifted my elbows, I looked like I had huge eighties shoulder pads.

I COULD have undone all my sleeve sewing and redone them, but as I didn’t have enough fabric to recut the sleeves, it would have meant shaving only a tiny bit off to reduce the ease, which wasn’t going to help a great deal. I decided “stuff it!” and kept them as they are, with the proviso that this shirt wasn’t going to be something I wear outside the house. It is therefore now officially a nightshirt, which is good actually, because it’ll come in handy for my summer holiday. It also resolved the issue of whether I would need to shorten it to more of a shirt length, because it’s definitely too short to wear as a dress, but it’s the perfect length for a nightshirt.

Having decided that, I went ahead with the rest of the finishing off work. I had already decided that the buttons were going to be red, green and yellow to match the woven accents in the chambray. Rather than trying to find buttons that would match in style and come in the three different colours I decided to go random, and bought three bags of colour matched buttons in various sizes from Ebay. I picked out eight that were about 12mm across, and sewed them on.

Tada!!!

And since I’ve got three bagfuls of buttons left over, I decided to string the yellow ones together to make a bonus necklace.

I might do the same with the red and green ones now

Fabric buying

I mentioned in my last Me Made May post going on a fabric buying trip. This was a last minute get-together of some sewing bloggers at Walthamstow market. Some I knew already, some was meeting for the first time. I totally failed to get any photos (I’m a terrible blogger, I hang my head in shame) but at least I can share a picture of my haul.

There’s a theme here, isn’t there?

From top left going clockwise:
* a beautiful silk jersey with amazing drape. I’m calling this colour heliotrope. It’s quite a pinkish purple and there should be enough for a top. From the world famous Man Outside Sainsbury’s.
* a pale grey Cupro. I only got a metre and I’m starting to regret that. I don’t know what I was thinking – I should have got more. I guess it will be a straight skirt, unless I can find something to pair it with and make it go further. Another TMOS one.
* 2 metres of something white and synthetically silky. From Fabric Store. I might try using it for a summer blouse.
* a dark grey chambray from Saeeds, enough for a top.
* a rather splendid dot and floral print stretch Cotton. I only got enough for a short skirt for the summer. Again from TMOS.
* a hot pink viscose, from the Textile Centre which is an absolutely perfect match for…
* Navy and pink floral viscose, also from the Textile Centre. I got lots of this, because it was ridiculously cheap, so there’s plenty to make a dress.

I have to say, I can shop way way quicker when I’m on my own. I could probably have whizzed through and got all these in under an hour. But it’s a lot more fun to go shopping with a gang of other sewers. Claire of Sew, Incidentally has organised a few meetups ups at Walthamstow and she was talking about making these more regular – some on Saturdays and some on weekdays – so if you’re interested you could do worse than to follow her on Instagram.

I think this is probably enough to cover my summer sewing! 

MMM17 – Week 4½ – The final reckoning

And so we come to the end of May. It’s been a lot easier this year, mostly because I have a larger wardrobe of me-made clothes to play with. Which is great!

My pledge was to wear me-made outfits for the whole of the month, with the exception of undies, tights and shoes. I’m very happy to report that I managed this without any difficulty. My personal challenges were:

  • To make sure I photo-documented each day’s outfits and again I managed this, posting on instagram every day. I was a bit late posting my weekly round ups here, but I suspect that is probably no bad thing.
  • To dress with a bit more care, especially with regard to jewellery and accessories. To be honest, that basically boiled down to handmade jewellery and hair clips. Although I don’t have a lot of handmade jewellery it was enough to keep me going and it encouraged me to start playing with beads again.
  • To get on with some making. That was largely done in advance of May, but I did get a new top finished and I’ve beaded a t-shirt although I didn’t actually wear it. I also started a shirt of which more later.

This felt like a proper summery outfit!

The White Swiss Dot Top
This top was a work in progress that I had started last summer. I had a beautifully light Swiss dot cotton, that I had always intended to make into a Shell top. I wanted to use the pattern from the workshop I did with the Thrifty Stitcher, making the Hong Kong top. I did all the cutting out, but I didn’t have quite enough fabric to cut the front facing on the fold. That’s OK, I told myself, I can easily make the facing from two pieces and sew them together. Unfortunately I wasn’t paying attention when cutting and I totally forgot to add a seam allowance, so was going to need to piece the front facing from three bits, instead of two.

And it didn’t get much further than that…

Until Friday of last week. I was going to a fabric-buying meet-up on the Saturday and I wanted something to wear that would be light and comfortable for a hot day. I pulled out the bag with all the white top pieces and got down to some sewing.

The first thing I did was to piece the front facing to make sure that it was going to work. Once that was done it was a really easy and quick sew. I was having to remember the instructions from two or three years ago, but really this is one of the simplest things that a person can make. I still get very excited by the magic of bagging out!

I wanted to work out what needed to be changed about the pattern. I knew that I needed to adjust the shaping of the sides, under the arms. I’d not made a note of it when I finished the Hong Kong top. So that has now been recorded. I managed to confuse myself with the markings on the side seam, which led to a bigger bust dart than is strictly necessary, and a slightly shorter top. I’ve now corrected the pattern so that I don’t make that mistake again. I also think I need to lengthen the pattern because the top is just a bit too short to tuck in to a skirt, and because it’s a light fabric it’s short enough to get blown up by even a gentle breeze, revealing more than anybody really needs to see. I’m not going to worry about that too much for now, but my plan is to keep an eye out for a suitable cotton that I can use for a border to extend the top a little further.

Anyway, that’s the story of the White Swiss Dot Top

Back to MMM musings and reflection. I wanted to consider which items I didn’t wear this month, to see if there’s any reason why not. When I checked, I found there were three skirts that didn’t make the rotation, one of them because I need to fix the waistband and the other two because I didn’t have the right top to go with them at the time. There was also one dress that I didn’t wear because it wasn’t really weather-appropriate. I’m pretty happy with that – I think it means my handmade wardrobe is flexible enough.

I did find I was using my refashioned and embellished t-shirts quite a bit. I wore eight of them, a couple of them twice in the month. I would like to think that when it comes to me made May next year I will have a few more handmade tops that I can use. I could make a distinction between t-shirts where I have genuinely carried out some refashioning, usually to rework the neckline to make it more comfortable, and t-shirts where I’ve simply added some decoration, without actually changing the shape or structure of the garment.

So now on to the last of the photo compilations:

Day 22 – Treble pink! The Watermelon Belcarra blouse with the self-drafted pink polka dots skirt, and baby pink pearl earrings & bracelet set.
Day 23 – The aforementioned Hong Kong top, with the unremarkable black pull-on skirt. I’ll be honest, that skirt was made almost entirely so that I could have more than one option to wear with this top. The jump ring earrings completed the outfit. The Tuesday Teaching Twofer was all repeats : the crystal embellished t-shirt with the black self drafted cropped leggings and the pink moustache skirt.
Day 24 – I was wearing repeats but in a different combination. It was the navy Juliette blouse with the giant floral half circle skirt, accessorised with the jump ring earrings and the seaside bracelet.
Day 25 – The NotSkater dress along with the earrings from the Little Fishies set.

Day 26 – Back in the Bonkers Zoë Dress, because it’s nice cool cotton. Accessorised with the iridescent blue earrings.
Day 27 – This was the meetup day and the debut of the White Swiss Dot Top. I wore it with the Paisley Leftovers skirt, which I’d  had to fix, because its exposed lace zip was proving to be a bit dodgy. I decided to replace it with a safer concealed zip. Also the Little Fishies jewellery and a me-made flower hair clip.
Day 28 – The Dress of Many Colours with the lemons bracelet and a pink flower hair clip.
Day 29 – The blue roses dress, worn with the iridescent blue glass earrings
Day 30 – A home kind of outfit, as I took today off work. It was the imperfect polka dots belcarra (with the imperfect dots on show) with the unremarkable black skirt.
Day 31 – And finally… the Hong Kong top again, and the counterintuitive black birds skirt, accessorised with the jump ring earrings and the seaside bracelet.

I’ve been totally happy with my wardrobe choices for the month. I don’t have any wardrobe orphans or major gaps so I’m counting this as a successful Me Made May. I was a bit sad as it came to an end because I love being part of this worldwide challenge and I’ll miss seeing everybody’s daily contributions, but I’ve got a whole load of new Instagram friends to follow and it makes life a bit easier to open up my rtw wardrobe again.

As always, my thanks go out to the lovely Zoe of So Zo, for creating this wonderful challenge that brings so many sewers together each year.

Roll on May 2018!