Making a Win out of a Fail

The Fail – adding to the stash

I fell off the stash wagon at the weekend. I was supposed to not buy any new fabric until I’d used at least 6 pieces from my existing stash. But there was a sale at FC Fabric Studio on Saturday. I’d only used three pieces, though I had cut out a fourth, without having done any sewing on it. Too bad – their prices are really good anyway, but when they are reduced, they’re brilliant. I couldn’t resist.

I went with a plan… I’ve got this new overlocker, and I need to practise using it. I decided to stick to jerseys, with the idea of making some leggings and t-shirts suitable for teaching dance in, because Me-Made May 2017 is coming up and I’ll have four teaching nights where I’ll need to clothe myself. And FC Fabrics have some beautiful jerseys.

I came away with over 8 metres of viscose jersey for only £10. Three of the pieces I found in the £2 remnants box, including a deep royal blue bit that turned out to be over 2½ metres – bargain! I thought I’d be going for their printed jerseys, but maybe because there weren’t so many of them on sale, or because the plains were just calling to me, it was all plains. They all have a bit of elastane, to make them stretchy enough for my dance-practice-wear purposes.

The colours are a bit off, but not too badly

However, I was conscious of my epic failure on the not-buying-new-fabric front.  I was already in deficit to the tune of 3 makes, and the stash has gone up by 4 bits.

The Win – using up the stash and firing up the sew-jo.

This fail galvanised me into action. I had four WIPs- patterns already cut out – and I could jollywell make some of them up, to start meeting that deficit. It helps that Saturday, apart from being Fabric-Buying day was also Me-Made-May-2017-Sign-Up-Going-Live day. As I have mentioned in my post, MMM is usually extremely good for my sew-jo. That, and an overwhelming stashguilt combined to make Sunday a day of sewing.

I sewed up the navy Juliette top that I’d cut out a couple of weeks earlier. I’d cut it before the black Juliette, to test my pattern adjustments, and I’d pinned it all together to test it. I’m not sure that even constitutes a toile! But it was still pinned, so it was good to go. Having made the black one so recently, the instructions were all still fresh in my mind. I didn’t include the waist ties, because I didn’t have enough fabric, so it was even easier/quicker. The longest process was the hand-hemming. I don’t really think there’s much else I can add. I’m impatient to post this and I haven’t photographed it yet, but it’ll feature in a post soon enough, I’m sure, and it’s certain to show up in MMM!

Oh except I sewed in a little charm, into the facing, so I’d know which is back and which is front. I got a load of these at the Knitting and Stitching Show last month.

Cute, eh?

And while I had the overlocker out, and threaded up with black thread, I pulled out a long-standing UFO, to see if I couldn’t have a stab at finishing it in time to wear to work on Monday (spoiler alert – I didn’t!). This was a straight skirt, using my self-drafted pattern. I’d cut it months ago, from 80cms of cotton sateen. The fabric was a tiny smidge too narrow to fit both front and back side by side, so I had to cut it rather more snugly than the pattern dictated, and I was relying on a slight stretch in the sateen and narrow seam allowances to make it work and still be able to sit down in it. This is what I had left:

I don’t like wasting material! 

I needed to cut the facings, and as there wasn’t enough of my main fabric left, I pillaged my scraps and used a bit of purple from the You Mean I’m Wearing Orange?! skirt. I used curved petersham inside the facing, while I was understitching, to make the waist nice and crisp and stable. The technique for that is in my Pink Polka Dots skirt post. In fact I referred to it, to be sure I was doing it correctly!

I sewed all the seams on the overlocker (I love it!) and then I tested my new concealed zip foot – it’s brilliant. Using Julie’s methods have resulted in another seriously invisible zip. I’m so impressed with myself!

Well, I managed to get all the machine sewing done on the Sunday evening, but the remaining hand-sewing of the facing to the zip, and hemming got postponed to Monday evening.

Facing, with charm

But I was wearing it on Tuesday to work.

I should really be getting on with my curriculum planning…

And how invisible is that invisible zip?!

What would I do differently next time? It’s a really good fit, actually, so I’m thinking that my self-drafted pattern may need a bit of width being shaved off it. On reflection, the Pink Polka Dot skirt made last year from the same pattern is also feeling quite loose. Maybe I’ve lost some weight in the bum & tum area. Next time I use the pattern I’ll measure myself and the pattern and see if I need to tweak it.

What do I love about this skirt? This print attracted me right from the start – I love a monochrome, and the pink just makes it pop!

So that was two down from my deficit of three. I’m going to see if there are a couple more quick wins I can get under my belt this week, to try and catch up with myself. Internet accountability is a powerful motivator!

Hurray, hurray for Me-Made May!

MMMay17 logoIt’s that time again! Zoe of ‘So, Zo… What do you know?’ has posted the Sign Up for Me-Made May 2017, in its eighth glorious year.

This will be my fourth year of taking part. My formal pledge remains the same as in the last two years:

I, Béa of Bea’s Sewing Adventures/@missbeacurtis, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’17. I will endeavour to wear Me Made clothing (not including underwear, shoes and tights) each day for the duration of May 2017.

I already wear me-made almost every day anyway, so it’s a case of taking my RTW clothing out of the wardrobe for May and wearing only Me-Made. Beyond that, my personal challenges are:

a) to make sure I photograph my outfit every day and post it on Instagram (I’m @missbeacurtis there). I will post round-ups here. It’s tricky sometimes, as I don’t have a dedicated photography space at home, so be prepared for a load of office selfies.

b) to dress with a bit more care and thoughtfulness, particularly with regard to jewellery and accessories, because I can be very lazy about those.

c) to crack on with some making. Past experience tells me that MMM is a really useful catalyst for completing WIPs and getting on with planned makes, refashions and fix-ups/mending, in the April build-up and during May itself. It’s already started.

Having said all that, May is always a stressful time at work, and I don’t want to make getting dressed in the morning an additional source of stress. So I’m giving myself two Get Out of Jail Free cards (one from Chance, one from Community Chest!). I hope I won’t need them, but they will be there, in case I do.

Fancy taking part yourself? Want more information? Well head on over to Zoe’s sign-up post. It doesn’t need to be a Me-Made-only pledge, it’s entirely personal. That’s what is so great about it, it’s a challenge that works for you, that nudges you to wear and love your handmade clothing more. Everyone needs a different nudge, so you pick one that will be achievable and helpful for you.

I’m starting my preparation. I always need more tops, so I’m going to try and get two or three done as part of the prep, or part of MMM. I’ve tackled two of my WIPs, and an evening of hand-hemming tonight will see them both finished, I reckon. Watch this space!

That Juliette top and MOAR overlocker love!

I made the Juliette top for the Simple Sew blog, and Gabby wanted it sooner rather than later, so I got it finished in super-quick time, and photographed, so that we could post it. But I had a plan for a bit of improvement, that I couldn’t do in time for my Friday after work photo session last week, so technically these photos don’t show a fully completed make. SorryNotSorry.

I was working with a black peachskin fabric, that I’d bought when I went up to Walthamstow last November. It’s a lovely solid weight and it drapes beautifully. It’s got a soft silky sheen to it, and it could easily be mistaken for actual silk, except that it only cost me £3 per metre. It was an ideal choice for this sort of pattern.

The pattern itself, from Simple Sew Patterns, is a piece of cake to sew. It would be an ideal Beginner’s starter project. There are no fastenings to worry about, so apart from the facing it’s just shoulder seams and side seams. The most technical aspect of the sewing was inserting the facing. The most frustrating aspect was turning the waist ties, though!

It’s hard to photograph black! Especially in the setting sun.

That’s a better angle! And it shows off the soft sheen of the fabric.

The rear view with bow

I did a tiny bit of pattern adjustment, to add an FBA. I did it the long way around, but it’s a very easy  pattern to enlarge. I also added a bit of extra length, because I don’t like tops that come untucked easily.  I’ve got the waist ties tied in the back in the photos above. The ties are long enough to wrap around the back and then tie in the front, but I’ve got enough going on in the front! The pattern can just as easily be made without the waist ties, if you haven’t got enough fabric.

I untied the ties, here, to show the natural swing of the body.

The post-photographic improvement was made possible by the aquisition in the week after these photos were taken of some black overlocker thread because…

Dun, dun, DUN!!!

I’ve got myself an overlocker!!!!

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Brand shiny new!

Lidl were having one of their occasional overlocker sales (they happen every year or so), and I got this beauty on the Sunday after the photos, for the princely sum of £119 . Brilliant value! I had to order some black thread online and as soon as it arrived I Had A Go. I confess, I’m a bit daunted by it, but I’m determined to get really familiar with it, and make full use of it. I’ve cheated massively for now, by just tying the black threads to the white ones that were already set up, and I haven’t yet attempted to thread it all by myself. But I’m booked onto a Get to Know Your Overlocker course in June, so I just need to be able to keep tying on new colours as & when needed until then, and hope that none of the threads break!

So instead of zigzagging my seams to neaten, I was waiting to be able to overlock them beautifully. So I’ve now done a bit of unpicking of stitching, so that I could neaten up the facing edge, and the seams and hems. I’m in the course of rehemming, but that won’t take long.

The Juliette top has been a smashing stashbuster and wardrobe builder. It’s getting me through two of my #UseNine fabrics, because I’ve already cut out a navy version, so it’s contributing nicely to my Stashwatch pledge.

And now for the obligatory silly shot – I think I was trying to show off the sleeves, but got my self-timing slightly off!

I’ve gone all Titanic!

Sew Over It Zoë Dress – the bonkers print

I had promised myself, in the new year, that I was going to treat myself to a Sew Over It course. I’ve heard nothing but good about their courses, and I like Lisa Comfort’s aesthetic. So when I saw the list of new courses, and spotted the Zoë Dress, I felt it was meant to be. I signed right up for it.

It was running over three Thursday evenings. The first session consisted mostly of trying on toiles, working on Fit, and getting the pattern pieces cut and marked. I’d notified SOI of my measurements in advance, because I’m a plus size. The teacher, Julie, had graded a pattern for me in readiness, and we spent quite a bit of time on getting it just right. I can’t tell you how nice it is a) to have somebody else do your pattern grading! and b) to have somebody checking your fitting!

We all brought fabric to work with, and in keeping with my Stashwatch commitment, I shopped my stash. There was really only one piece that fitted the bill, a truly bonkers cotton print, with a sort of Paisley design.

The CD is there to demonstrate the scale. The pattern is mahoosive!

It was a fabric that I’d acquired at a fabric swap. I don’t know who contributed it, but Thank You! It’s fab! It’s a good crisp cotton, easy to work with. I’ve seen it on the FC Fabric Studio website, if I’ve sold you on it. I’d already decided that I wasn’t even going to attempt any pattern matching, and Julie suggested embracing that and going for a full-on asymmetric placement, which was a brilliant suggestion. So my main concern when cutting was to avoid massive boob targets.

The second session involved more actual sewing, including fun with overlockers! I love how much more finished they make your garment. There was more fitting, and learning how to put the in-seam pockets. I’ve never been a big one for pockets, I don’t need them to hold stuff, that’s what handbags are for.  I can take ’em or leave ’em. (Does that mean I have to turn in my sewing blogger card?) So I was thinking they were a bit of an unnecessary extra process, but actually I really like them now. I might even put pockets in other things.

In the final session, we set in the sleeves (or rather a sleeve – we didn’t have time to do both) and we learned about concealed zips. I thought I knew how to do them, because of Gail’s instructions, from when I was going to regular sewing lessons. But Julie has totally changed that, I’m a complete convert to her method. This is the most invisible invisible zip I’ve ever done.  OK OK I’ve only done three… But this is far and away the best I’ve done, ever. The trick is to iron the coils, and to use a concealed zip foot. I tell you, I was straight onto Ebay to find myself one of those babies when I got home.

By the end of session 3, there wasn’t too much left for me to do to complete the dress at home. I had to insert the second sleeve, and neaten those seams, stitch the ends of the facing to the zip and add a hook and eye, and hem the sleeves and the skirt. I finished it on Sunday, and was wearing it to work on Tuesday!

Tada! And here it is…

Behold the asymmetric pattern placement. And the pocketses… 

 

And that zip! I do realise you can tell where it is because of the pattern placement, but you’ve got to admit, you can’t see the actual zip. 

By the way, I’m wearing a daffodil brooch made by learners on our Supported Learning Textiles courses, to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

What would I do differently next time? Shave a little bit off the shoulder and sleeve head, as I think it could happily come in a centimetre or so and be less gathered. Move the bust darts out a smidge, as they are slightly on the perky side. And maybe a quieter fabric! I’m very happy with how this one works, but maybe something plainer would make more of the pattern lines.

What do I love about this dress? Well I’ve already banged on about the pattern placement, the zip and the pockets. I love this sleeve length – long enough to cover my elbows, short enough not to make me want to push them up. I don’t like having sleeves that cover my wrists.

This is going to be a brilliant springtime dress!

The Crisis Averted Scarf

Having made the Blanket Coat with the black and white wool bouclé, I found I had enough scraps to make myself another scarf. I went through my list of creative scarf ideas, and settled on edging it with bright pink pompoms. I measured, cut, pinned the pompom trim around the edge, realised there wouldn’t be quite enough, trimmed the scarf to make it narrower, repinned and started sewing the trim on. All was going well.

Or so I thought…

I got towards the end of the last edge, and this is what happened:

Disaster!

Disaster! Something of a miscalculation…

Somehow, I’d been sewing more tightly than I’d pinned. By this stage it was around 2am. What I should have done, is put it away and think about it in the morning. Unfortunately, precisely because it was 2am, I failed to make that sensible decision. Instead my 2am brain made a decision that in order to fix this, I would add a felt flower appliqué. However, I didn’t have any bright pink felt, which is what my 2am plan required. So I went straight onto Ebay and found some felt.

Of course  I could just have unpicked it, and made the scarf a bit narrower. But it was 2am.

Of course I could just have ordered more pompom trim. That thought didn’t occur to me at 2am. Although, at 2.30am, after having ordered the felt, that’s when it occurred to me.

Anyway, the felt arrived a few days later. I’d ordered some pink and some black, so that I’d have Options. In the end, it had to be the pink. I was going up to London yesterday evening, so I thought I could do the appliqué on the train. Unfortunately, because of Storm Doris, the trains were all delayed and cancelled, so I was standing up all the way to London, so there was no chance of sewing then. On the way home, I had a seat with a fold-down table, so I was all set to go.

I cut out a big Mary Quant style flower, in two layers. I added some stamens with French Knots on both layers, then put one layer on each side of the scarf, back to back, making sure I matched the two layers correctly, and that I fully covered the pompom gap. A careful running stitch joined the two layers and attached the appliqués to the scarf, and voilà!

Massive Flower

A massive flower – always a favourite

So all is now well and I have another scarf to add to my collection of me-made accessories.

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Not a Mistake – a Design Feature!

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.