Sunday, 28 July 2013

Trial quilt block

So much fabric, so little time.  I need to make inroads into my stash.

I keep pulling out fabrics to try and decide which other fabric they go with.  I decided I might as well indulge in my usual process: just get started and see where it leads me.  So much more organic, isn't it!

Oh okay, I admit it: I suffer from startitis and an inability to finish (most) things.  But if I try something out then I know if I'll like it, and if I want to carry on with it? Don't I.  But if I don't give something a trial run, then I won't know.

So I pulled out these three fabrics, all from the same range (darned if I remember which one, or where I got it from) - so at least I can be assured that they do indeed go with each other.  Great.

I've been obsessive in looking at quilt block patterns recently.  I couldn't stop!

I found one that I very much like, so I gave that a go.  Here it is:

One block made up of four of these units, with some sashing in the same black fabric.  I find the layout very pleasing and love the way it looks.

But do you know?  I didn't actually enjoy making this particular block pattern.  I'm not sure quite sure why that is.  I just couldn't get the points to come out at a quarter inch from the edges. 

The outside edges of this will unfortunately have to be sewn very skinny.  It ran into that problem from the very start.  I did okay with the first side-by-side triangle units, the navy and black fabric.  But they came out smaller than I wanted (I keep doing that), so I cut the light blue fabric rhomboids very generously to make sure that I wouldn't run into problems there as well.

I had to trim them down a lot, but the navy/black triangles were a right pain to sew onto the second side of the rhomboids: they ended up in the wrong place horizontally.  I had to rip and re-do so many times that I lost all patience. 

I am definitely not going to sew this one again.  This block will remain a one-off!  So there.

If I ever make a big quilt with this block, it will have to be a sampler type quilt with all sorts of different blocks.  I think that I might combine these three colours with grey and also a couple of suitable pinks.

But I am still pretty annoyed with how difficult this was to put together.  It was probably not a good idea to do pretty skinny seams because they must have made the problem worse with each new seam.

Next time I need to make a template to measure the completed units against.  Or do this paper pieced and not the traditional assembly way.  That might save me a whole lot of cursing.

x - x - x

There was one good thing about sewing this block: I figured out how to cut the squares the easiest way.

Initially I cut the assembly-line pieced squares through the centre of the two seams, like you would do for half square triangles (HSTs) before cutting the other way.  Doing that unfortunately makes it necessary to lay the triangle just so, so you can cut into two equal pieces: you can't aim for the other corner because that side is obviously already been cut away.  Duh.

Lots of faffing around.  Too annoying for words.

Instead I first cut the diagonal without the seams.  I hope the two seams (horizontal orientation) aren't too difficult to see:

It is then much easier to just slice through the centre of the parallel seams - no faffing around needed.  I will remember that next time!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Grey striped skirt muslin

I would like to make a skirt in a fabric with a bold pattern - a sort of statement fabric. Something big, bright, oomphy.

I am using Simplicity/New Look 6053, view E: the shorter A-line version.  I reckon it should be quick and easy, and contribute an item to my wardrobe that is desperately missing: I don't have a skirt that you could call bold, beautiful and out there. A definite gap.  In fact, I'm beginning to think that my clothes might be a little on the boring side.  Dressmaking to the rescue!

I'm using an old fabric to make a muslin, also called a toile.  That's a first draft version of a pattern, in fabric.  If you use calico or a fabric you wouldn't dream of wearing then you can drawn on the fabric to note any changes you plan to make, take it apart, and sew it up again.  If you make a muslin that you want to wear, it's a wearable muslin.  That's what this is, thankfully.

I'm glad I'm trying the fabric out as well, I had those five meters for yonks and only find out now that it isn't great to sew with at all. It is made of thickish white and black threads and if you pierce one the wrong way near the edge you might pop that end out of the fabric.  I no longer plan of doing 'proper' sewing with it - maybe I can use the rest to make the muslin of a coat, or something. I guess I now know why it was so cheap.

I want to transfer the pattern pieces onto lining paper so I can keep this to hand as a template. In aid of that I plonked a sheet of tissue paper on top of the commercial pattern and redrew the pieces.  Good idea right?  It might have been if I had kept my lines in the right place.

Having found that their measurement was narrower than my waist, I added an inch to the front piece. I knew that this would add two inches because you cut the front on the fold.  I really did know that and remembered it in my calculation. I really did.

So imagine my surprise when I tried the raw skirt on after I sewed the side seam. Yep, waaaayyy too big.
And I mean way.  Not just by two inches, but five?  What the hell happened there?

I think I must have cut that new tissue paper way too big, followed the wrong line.  Or something.

I had already overlocked all the edges and seeing as that uses up so much thread I really didn't fancy cutting the pieces narrower and starting over.  Instead I pinched off the excess material at the centre front and made it into an inverted pleat.  I reckon it looks quite good.

Isn't that what they mean by serendipity?  

I did cut the front facing to the actual width - more bulk is definitely not required near my tummy, no thanks. 

I sewed the centre back seam shut with a long stitch and attached the zip by sewing through all layers.  Then I ripped the seam back open.  It worked really well due to the thickness of this fabric. I tried this before on a much thinner fabric and ended up with wavy edges.

My pattern drawing and cutting skills were really not up to scratch: I also ended up with very uneven and skewy bottom edges.  I measured the same distance of 58cm from the top edge all the way round and overlocked this again.  Such a supremely useful thing that an overlocker cuts at the same time.

Then I used that trusty trick of sewing an edge stitch about 1.5cm from the edge in a slightly longer stitch length. Folded and pressed at that stitch line and literally only sewed along the edge again through both layers, this time at just over a centimeter.  That worked really well too: I am really pleased that I kept this stitch line at a very even distance from the bottom hem - I had not been able to be this exact before and the result is beautiful: really neat.  No mark of home-sewn, at least on the outside.

I had the most trouble attaching the side edges of the inner back facing to the zip.  There was too much bulk from the top seam and the overlocked edges.  I ended up cutting a corner off to reduce bulk.  Then I finger pressed the facing side edges, pinned and sewed them down to the zip sides by hand.


It took me about three weeks because I didn't muster a huge amount of enthusiasm.  When you're not all that keen on a fabric then you are not going to feel too inspired about getting it to the wearable stage. But I was so buoyed up by my previous project, the pink top, that I carried on with this and got it done in the same weekend. Happiness is when something works out.

I wore it to work today.  And would you believe it: it is still too loose!  It tends to slip slowly but surely and the front edge ends up below my tummy.  Not a great look.  When it comes to making this in a better fabric I will take it in by another inch or just under.  Good thing I am discovering this from wearing the muslin - if I hadn't I would only figure this out once I wear the finished article.  Then I'd have to redo something to rectify the problem with expensive fabric, and I would find that really depressing and discouraging.  I'm not sure if I'd feel as enthusiastic about sewing more clothes in future.

I reckon that going to the effort of making a muslin might just give you that extra motivation to keep going in a quest to learn and develop technical sewing skills.  It might feel like too much work to make a fabric draft version but when you get a second skirt out of it, it ain't too bad!

Now what sort of fabric shall I use for the 'real' skirt? Hmm...

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A small dent in my stash

This really was a great project to do - not just in terms of how quickly I was able to put it together but also with regards to how much of the fabric I could use up.

Just look at how very little there is left over!

I might be able to get a very small unit (block) of a scrappy quilt out of this.  I like the fabric so much that I will keep these bits for that purpose.  What can I say, I am a terrible hoarder.  Hopefully only of things that are still beautiful and useful.  Thankfully I am able to chuck stuff away that has seen its best or was never that great to begin with. You need to know when to cut your losses: there is nothing worse than keeping something around with the vague hope of a future use - only to find that when you eventually try to use it (as the only item out of goodness only knows how many) - that finally shows up that it is no longer fit for purpose.  Some of the time I just kept stuff because I own in, for no other reason.  Fed up with that.

My main reason for posting this photo is actually not so much the blog post itself.  I want to post this photo on the website My Sewing Circle but it won't allow posts in comments by uploading directly from your computer, you need a URL.  Well, I can give it a URL, no problem.

I like My Sewing Circle: it is an online sewing community.  Like Ravelry (the online community for people who knit or crochet) but obviously for people who sew instead.

They just added new functionality to allow users to put up or download free digital patterns on the pattern pages. Cool.

So here goes: a successful project in how much fabric I could use, how quickly I made it and that I was able to complete it in the first place!

Where the completion of sewing projects is concerned, I wonder if I'm over the mental block... (let's not jinx it)

Saturday, 13 July 2013

I sewed something! A pink pieced summer top

I hate when people start posts by saying sorry about not updating for so long, - and now I'm about to do that myself  smacks forehead

Several reasons: + there's so much stuff to have fun with and so little time. + I haven't felt very bloggish (if that's a word). + I can no longer access Blogger at work (those Internet filters, tss). + And I suppose to some small degree I don't feel that this blog is being read. Probably coz there are hardly any comments - but at least I get to show my family the pictures of the stuff I made, so that's definitely worth it!

And now I made something I'm beyond proud of and really chuffed with. I did some dressmaking! Yay, yay, yay!  I can't even begin to say how happy that makes me. I keep thinking about and incessantly talking about making stuff to wear, something that's me, something that's fun and individual and stylish... and then I just don't. Setting expectations too high?  In any case that lack of follow-through is getting seriously on my nerves.

What happened was that earlier this week I had this sudden overwhelming urge to rush home and get stuck in to try and make a top, any top, in any fabric I've got, any pattern - as quickly as possible - to try and stoke that sewing mojo.

Boy did that work!  Okay, so it took me four days to really get started. Getting a phone call that ends up in a long chatty conversation isn't exactly conducive to a sewing blitz. Still, I did pick the fabric. And so pretty it is too!

I went to my trusty 'two-piece inclusive of sleeves' pattern (can't remember what the original commercial pattern was, I'll post once I find it again - I made this twice before: Grey damask top and Black and white linen tunic) and started today, intention: just cut out the back. I didn't stop there, I carried on!

I didn't have a lot of fabric so the front couldn't be cut in one piece. Thank goodness for my patchwork skills from making quilts: I pieced the front by slashing it both vertically and horizontally.

I inserted a strip at the waist and then I had to piece another strip for the centre front. It's a bit patchworky but I reckon that gives it its own charm.  I did baby seams for the neckline and sleeve hems, and I used a technique I saw on Google+ for the hem itself: using a longer stitch length sew a straight line along the bottom edge (my thread blends very well with the fabric).

This stitch line ends up as the turning "ridge" so it needs to be at that sort of distance from the edge.  I had already overlocked all my raw edges so I only turned up the hem once at that turning ridge stitchline and pressed, then I stitched it down about 1.5cm from that topstitched line.  You can use this for hems of very full skirts, like circular skirts.  Just adjust the topstitching tension to a little tighter and press the upturned fabric with plenty of steam to shrink it a bit.  I didn't do that here because my bottom edge is dead straight.

I really like that the top irons fantastically well.  It's just a shame that it is a bit short, but hey: it's for summer, so who cares.

I did it! I made a top in a day!*

I am so, so, so happy. Well done me.

(*: It was only in one day because I have the pattern cut out on lining paper (the stuff you use when wallpapering), and I know it fits due to adapting it between the two versions I made before. So one day from cutting out the fabric and not counting all the work you normally do to get to that stage)