Friday, 27 January 2017

Another thought on why I build up a stash

I am using some stash fabric in making a new quilt, that is the patchwork for its top. I don't intend to get this done any time soon, I just wanted to see what the blocks look like.

I saw this intriguing tutorial about sewing four strips together and cutting four triangles from each square. It does make a lovely pattern:

The busy looking navy is a cheap fabric I got from a Shephard's Bush shop several years ago for the purpose of mixing it with other navy fabrics for quilts. The assembly of this pattern was intriguing, I wanted to see for myself how this would turn out. I literally started without a plan. Can always make a baby quilt, right?

So of course I like this so much that I would love to make this into a big quilt and of course I am running out of these fabrics! That was kind of obvious, wasn'n it?  I like this patterned blue fabric so much that I want to run back to Shephard's Bush to check if there's more and then buy loads!

I think I may have had another insight on why I build up a stash and then have huge trouble to dip into it and use stuff up: when I sew with a fabric like this one, that I had been looking forward to using, only I had no idea on what yet... means that I need to let go of something that seemed to have a lot of promise. I could maybe even make a top with it if the mood strikes! I'll make lovely quilts! I'll do this, I'll do that!

I am finding it so hard to use stash material because I might 'waste' it on something that won't look great (like it does in my head when I think about the potential) - it's like some fabrics are my favourites and it feels painful to see them graduate (to become part of a project), grow up (move from 'possibility' to 'actually being used') and then leave home (i.e. leave my stash).

I bought a great FQ once at Alexandra Palace (I used some of it for my Steampunk vibe skirt) - the seller said something like she was letting one of her kids go: because it was the last one of this pattern, and that she knows all her fat quarters so well that it feels like a loss when she sells some of them.

I finally know what she meant because I am experiencing it, just by putting the darn thing to the use it is intended for. I had some fabrics so long, they feel like part of the family now! Ach...

I really need to get over this. If I want to keep admiring fabrics then I should hang them on the wall like it's artwork. But I can't just keep them around in case I want to pull something out and sigh over it! I mean, come on!? That's beyond silly.

The issue with this specific fabric is also that it felt like a very versatile fabric: the pattern can be mixed with anything: similar navy shades or contrast colours. I feel a bit desolate that I narrowed it down to this one choice, and therefore it is 'versatile' no longer.

So looking at the whole thing from another angle: does that mean that most of my fabrics are not versatile enough to be easily applied to a pattern? Did I buy a lot of fabrics only because I liked them but they may be too difficult to use?  Is that another reason why I have so much stash?

I do find that it can be really difficult to try and find a suitable fabric when I want to start a project. I often wish I could go and buy new so I get to pick weight, colour, pattern and fibre in special dedication to the particular item. But when I did try and buy new for e.g. my waterfall collar jacket [I'll insert a link once I do post about it] I couldn't find a single thing I really liked - "making do" with something from my stash did then let me go ahead and start.

I may have to let some of my old fabrics go. To lighten the load. Or start with a fabric and decide on a project, that might work better. Oh crikey...

Sneak peak of the waterfall jacket (it needs a lot of fitting and adjustment work):

Monday, 23 January 2017

An interesting vintage pattern

I really like the new blog called Catherine's Patterns.  She is talking about vintage patterns and showing very beautiful examples. She will also introduce some of her own designs in the future. I am looking forward to that.

She showed a really lovely floaty number from the Jazz Age exhibition and a 1920s pattern from her own collection - both dresses have the bodice wrap around towards the back.  A really fascinating detail!

I must say that I didn't used to be that keen on vintage patterns because most of them look best on figures that are very different to my measurements so I feel that most vintage garments would not be ideal for me.

What I love about them is that many patterns show details and design features that you can't find in modern patterns. Take the side seam that Catherine wrote about: how lovely is that?  Have you ever seen a sewing pattern with this kind of side seam?  I don't think I have.

The follow-on thing from the above that I like about vintage patterns is that you can find very intriguing design ideas and if it is possible to isolate them from the rest of the pattern, then they might be a fantastic source of inspiration for copying to your own sewing projects.

Reading Catherine's blog made me think about what vintage patterns had found their way into my pattern stash (why does a stash feel like the Star Trek episode with 'The Tribbles'? They seem to multiply when I'm not looking).

And see, I had bought several!  Oh boy.

But most of them have some kind of detail that I really like and hope to use by Frankenpatterning the vintage element with a modern pattern that will fit me.  Not that I have already developed a template block pattern that fits me really well just yet, but I fully intend to get there one beautiful day.

Here is one I just had to get because of the collar, - well, the front view of the collar:

Vogue 9083. I believe this is a reprint so you can still buy this pattern

Just look how gorgeous this looks both as part of the dress and under a jacket too!  I just love it.

It is this kind of structural looking design element that appeals to me.  Having said that, the skirt is not at all bad either.  In fact I really like the pocket placement at the bottom of the side panel seam.  I wonder how difficult that is to sew?  It is probably a good idea to strengthen the corner of the centre front piece with a little bit of interfacing...

Never mind, back to the collar.

It tunrs out that it is not part of the dress.  The dress in fact is shoulder and strap less. The bodice part is a bustier shape with a horizontal seam across under the arms, and parallel to the ground all the way around. Who'd have thought.

The collar then buttons onto that bustier in four places on the front, the back of the collar hangs down and is not attached.

When I looked at the collar before I could study the pattern pieces, I had intended to make the back of the collar a very different shape to this sailor's collar rectangle. Perhaps a gentle curve across, or some more shaping to this curve.

I still want to go with a design change like that but I may have to make a top or dress that does have shoulders.  A collar that's much less high at the centre back could flip up in windy weather.  I am also thinking of sewing this to my top or dress (made from a pattern that fits me well) as if the back of the collar is a back yoke instead.

It would also make it easier to slip into a jacket without getting the back all squashed up.

What do you think of the idea?

White jacket project

I think I only just figured out that you can't sew the lining to the sleeve hems unless the lining armhole seam has not been done yet. Or perhaps the side seams?

Because of how you have to encase the outer sleeve with the lining sleeve, that's why. Duh!

I really thought I'd be able to sew this with only the jacket hem still to be sewn - I didn't realise that the machine needle and foot has to go somewhere and the more sleeve hem you sew the less space you leave for the machine parts as named.


Well, I'm glad I learnt this today - you live and you learn. So I am hand sewing the lining to the sleeves - I also attached the lining to the jacket bottom, after ripping open some of the lining side seam. Gotta turn it inside out at the end!

I am making more progress: I cannot begin to express how wonderful a feeling this is.  To have picked up an old WIP and to get somewhere with it.  Despite discarding most of the design features that make this design. Oh well, it's better to do than to hesitate and ponder and to then put it all off again...

In other news: it feels like I will never have to buy more white sewing thread, I have tons of it.  I will need more once this lots becomes old and brittle, but we're not there yet.  Black thread on the other hand I seem to misplace and search for all the time. I obviously don't have enough of that.

But then again I have about seven measure tapes and can often find just the one, if I'm lucky. I started leaving one in a specific spot on my sewing table - but I do lug it around quite a bit so that spot doesn't always yield a tape.

Friday, 13 January 2017

UFO progress!

I am delighted. I was able to pick up The White Jacket again which had been a most aggravating unfinished object for several years.  I started numbering my projects when I began to seriously sew again a few years back.  This is project number S9!  That's how long ago this is.

This is how far I got today after some pressing and general fiddling about:

I 'only' need to do body and sleeve hems now

The photo below showed (half of) the stage I was at which gave me so much trouble.  I had followed the pattern quite faithfully and found that the shoulders are much too wide on me.  I thought it was going to be such a long-winded and time-consuming endeavour to unpick the sleeveheads and move them inwards by a good centimeter.

Until I started the first one. I took the shoulder on the left in and the right shoulder is the 'before' picture. Isn't that a huge difference?  The sleeve just dips off the shoulder on the right and makes the jacket look very home made. That one centimeter (or so) pulls the whole jacket off whack.

I literally cannot believe how little time it took to remedy the situation.  That should be a lesson to me to stop putting things off for so very long!

I had some other concerns that caused the delay. The jacket was supposed to have a lovely contrast material overlay of lace or similar on the lapels. See pattern:

I had decided against the mock pocket opening fairly early on - I didn't think that they would look good on my bigger figure and wouldn't add that much anyway.

But I was quite keen on those lapels.  They are the reason why I picked this pattern.  Even though I didn't want to include the other design feature (those black pocket borders) and also lengthened the sleeves.  These three quarter sleeves just look odd to me.

I had such a tough time trying to decide what contrast material to use.  None of the lace I either had or looked to buy was right.  Then I considered various ribbons and braids, some of these I bought (see the photo above), I just couldn't get all that enthusiastic about any of them.

I think I wanted a lace very close to that on the pattern envelope (how unimaginative is that?) but couldn't find it.

Encouraged by our upcoming UFO planning sewalong I was thinking about the whole project early in the morning when I had lots of time and no pressure to be anywhere.  It's very freeing: you know that you don't have to jump up and act on any sewing decision then and there, and it's just a lovely, relaxing time to think things through.

Not for the first time, this turned out to be a very useful exercise for me.  I visualised the steps I would carry out to get the lapels looking the way I want: to cut the lower layer smaller than the upper so the stitching line would not show up. Same thing for attaching the lapels to the front side seams: I would need to pay attention to the turn of cloth space needed and it all felt like a lot of fiddling around.

Plus I hadn't even washed my sample with the ribbon sewn on!  I would have been extremely annoyed with myself if any of the black colour had come off onto the lovely white jacket if I hadn't washed it.

So I finally had a very clear thought: I have masses of sewing projects that I started, it will feel incredibly good to get some of them completed and I have to admit to myself that I will not be able to finish this jacket any time soon if I have to faff about with it for much longer.  Plus: how much do I like these lapels when I think about the bother of getting them done?

Answer: not all that much.

So leave them off.  What a relief!  It was the best decision I could have made.  If I do ever want a jacket that has lapel lace overlays then I can start another project as soon as I have a lace I want to use.  And then maybe I won't use this odd pattern that has lapels as separate pieces.

I might write about this element of the pattern another time because it seems odd to me for lapels to be separate to the front jacket pieces. The whole stitching technique described in the instructions doesn't feel very promising - there is a lot that could go wrong.  But as I said I might write about this another time and can then include a photo of the instructions that make it clearer what they are asking for.

In danger of this post becoming too long yet again.  I can't help myself, I just attached straps to a tote bag that is taking much, much longer than I had hoped.  Here it is:

I "just" need to add lining to the inside so the black bottom doesn't catch too much dust and debris. The corner seams would just be dust traps.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

What about this UFO?

Do you want to join a virtual sew-along?  (January 2017)

I am planning a virtual "Sew-along" with my sewing group: look over unfinished objects (UFOs), otherwise known as WIPs (Works in Progress) - and consider whether to chuck, alter or finish.

And oh boy! Do I have a lot of material to work with on this one!  It's downright embarrassing to be honest.

I already posted about a couple of projects on the group's website ( - London Dressmakers). I've since remembered a lot more, or found them when I looked through a basket I've long left alone.  Oh my word, it's horrifying.

I would start projects, run into some kind of issue with it (or maybe just get bored?), decide that I'd work on it again when I am in the right 'head space'... forget all about it... Pick it back up for a look and then promptly lay it aside again.

That's what I kept doing.  Did I mention it's horrifying?

I desperately need this virtual event to motivate myself into looking into the recesses harbouring long forgotten items that I probably don't even want to think of again.  I don't know if I find it reassuring that one of the sewalong's options is to chuck anything that I don't want to carry on with?  Or does the thought make me feel anxious: I would also be throwing away my hopes and dreams and aspirations wrapped up in that never realised item?

I need to get over that, I cannot just let things lie around and become oppressive, I really can't.  That's not good for your soul, let alone your sewing mojo.

I must say though that I started to think about some sewing WIPs in the morning before I need to go and do anything else: I think through what my next step on a project is or if there is some kind of difficulty.  Because I know that I don't have to get up and tackle that challenge right then and there, my early morning thinking time is quite pleasant and more productive: no pressure.

I have actually had an idea or two of how to tackle a UFO that may even help, we'll see (this is about the White Jacket, which I have now posted about).

For now I will identify those projects that I want to include in our sewalong (I can't do them all) and maybe plan a couple more blog posts around them. I already blogged about my tunic with the clever pockets.

Do you want to join in virtually? (Time of writing: Jan 2017)  Click through and describe your UFO/s in the comments and let us know what your thoughts are about it - the sewalong is on for two weeks, and can easily be extended.  There is a photo album to post pictures (close-up shots of details are particularly useful). If you need advice then the others might be able to come up with something, so use the comments to ask!

It'll be fascinating to see if we can get some of those old projects kick-started again. Happy thinking, planning and sewing!

Monday, 9 January 2017

My sewing threads

I bought a wonderfully big rack that holds 105 spools of sewing thread.  I am incredibly lucky to be able to hang this up so I have all sorts of colours available whenever I need, and within easy reach. That's particularly useful because I swap and change between projects a lot.

I have this rack hanging next to the window that is in the perfect spot for matching fabric to thread colour.  At least in daylight hours so I need to plan a bit in winter.

I took the photo for the project, but at least it shows the rack

I used to have a lot of different colours and have since either given away or used up some that I don't need. I kept mainly those colours that I want to wear so there are no muddy greens or orange hues left now. I still have a spool or two that I use for basting, but that's it.

Because I have this much space and only those colours that I use, I often find that I already have the right colour that I need for a new project.  I can't even begin to say what an advantage and sheer relief it is not to have to pop out and buy the blasted thing before I can throw myself into the next project. Having to go on a shopping expedition would smother my sewing mojo even more, I'd much rather have more thread than I know what to do with.

I have run into the issue of trying to use a thread though that had gotten too old and brittle: it shredded like mad at the needle and even a new needle wouldn't remedy it (always worth a try: re-thread or use a new needle. Will solve the issue 99% of the time). I tried another thread: problem solved and promptly chucked the offending article. What a relief. I just have to keep it in mind that this can happen.

So for reasons of nurturing my sewing mojo as much as I can and not quench the precious and delicate flame, I like to stock up on threads when I see that I am running low.  Which recently happened with light silvery grey, dark grey and a dark blue.

The greys turned out to be easy buys: look at all the G├╝termann greys, find the correct shade number, done.

The dark blue was rather annoying: despite dozens of dark blues in the G├╝termann range, none of them was the perfect match to the Coats yarn I was running out of. Can you believe that I now have four shades of dark blue that are not the exact same?

All pretty close, but no cigar
See: different shade numbers!

I suppose the Coats dark blue is somewhere in between the middle two shades.  It won't matter all that much because it won't be obvious. To keep top-stitching uniform, I'll have to pick and stick with a single shade, preferably one of the new ones, - but it'll be fine for seam stitching.  You won't spot it when you gallop past it!  As they say in quilting circles.

I am also lucky to have quite a lot of bobbins and that I can keep them with their threads by use of something that calls itself 'bobbin mates'.  Yah.  Okay then.  But they are very useful!

Here's a photo:

The short, fatter end gets shoved into the sewing thread spool, and then you have space for two bobbins on the longer end.  For the most usual colours (white, black, grey and whatever else I use a lot) I fill up bobbins: then they're handy to be used without having to fiddle about.  The bobbins for some of the other colours I don't fill to the fullest extent because I want to make sure not to use up more than half the thread, which would be a bit pointless.

All this makes me really happy, and it gives my sewing a much appreciated boost!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Project massive blouse 6 January 2017

Even more progress.  I closed most seams though I feel a bit weird saying this, surely these aren't all the seams just yet?  I'll have to check but I do think so.

More photos:

Burda 6230 muslin, in muslin

This shows how thin the fabric is. The back
You can also see the seams on the other side. Cuff in place

Slightly better details

I "just" need to do the buttonholes and sew on buttons.  Once I know what buttons I want to use.  On the other hand I don't have a lot of sewing thread left, do I perhaps want some kind of snap or other closure instead?  I'll need to think that over a bit first.

The other thing I'll have to do before thinking about the proper project is to get photos of me wearing this.  I'll be able to tell how much shorter I want the white blouse to be.

I have the white fabric right here to use but I'm reluctant to jump into carrying on.  I feel that I need to take a little time to consider how I want the white blouse to be. The sleeves do drag a bit funny and seem to twist a little, luckily they are about the right length.  The cuffs fold back on top of them instead of lengthening the sleeves as I thought, but they're still a good length on me.

The cuved baby hems turned out really well, I'm happy I did them.  I also really enjoy how much I could practice my 'accurate' sewing. Looking quite good in most places!

The standing up collar seems a bit tall - it comes up too high and that make me feel a bit 'wedged in', like the collar is some kind of restraining device framing my head.

Problem: I'm not sure that I've got the collar right - it doesn't at all extend to the button bands. That's the complete opposite of the photo on the pattern envelope: the collar extends all the way to their edge at centre front.  How very odd.

There are no notches on the collar to show where it is supposed to hit any specific points, like the shoulder, so no help there.  I did sew the buttonbands on correctly: the instructions show a normal seam allowance, it's not like they mean for you to completely encase the front edges.  The width across also works on the finished article but for some reason the neckline seams too big for the length of the collar.  I might just redraft it and stop worrying about it.  But it is odd when something like that happens.

This is an old Burda pattern where you have to add seam allowance, the pattern pieces do not include them.  I realised when double-checking the pattern pieces: they needed to butt up against each other to fit.  I consulted the instructions (and highlighted that bit!) to make sure.  Newer Burda patterns follow industry standard of including the allowance, but they didn't used to.

I even went a step further than just highlighting the instructions - I even scrawled 'Add Seam Allowance!' in big, fat marker on a few of the bigger pieces so I'd remember when I use this pattern again.  I know how easy it is to forget and just cut out as normal.

I am please with how far I've got.  Now I need photos of me modelling it because the mirror only shows a static view and restricted angles.  Then I'll do some more thinking.

I will want to do more sewing now, to keep my momentum going, who knows I might just carry on with WIP!  Wouldn't that be a novel thing?

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Day 4 on Project No 1!

Oh yes! This is brilliant: I made more progress sewing my first project of the year, a muslin of Burda 6230.  This is consecutively the fourth day that I've been sewing and even on the same project - I am making real progress.

I am so pleased about that. Perseverance has never exactly been a strength of mine.

I will update this post with a photo because it looks like I'm making a dress rather than a big blouse!  I am posting this without photo for now because I want to 'document' the date, just for my own satisfaction.  I can't quite believe I am keeping going on this.

Here are the photos:

Massive, isn't it?
Shows the seam and cuff details well

The back is also pieced together like the front

Not a huge lot each day, but enough.  I must say I've been almost anxious about the amount of sewing I have to do on this blouse, which is weird, right?  I mean if it gets too much then I'll just stop automatically, won't I?  It's not like the stitching is going to bite me for being a lot.

There are a few seams and I also have to do them twice: I am using welt seams (yay, first time!) on the piecing together seams, and French seams for the silhouette seams (don't know if they're called that: I mean the top seam from shoulder into top of the sleeve, and also the side seams).  The seams at button bands and collar get caught up so they are the normal thing.

I did overlock the bottom edge because it is a huge curve that won't come out right with either bias binding or double-folding over.  Bias binding would make it way too stiff, and a double folder over curved hem only becomes a mess of puckering.  And also being too stiff.  I'm back to my old favourite: baby hems.  Overlock, fold over once, edge stitch, done.

The black overlocking thread will be visible but this is only a muslin - I want to use white on the real thing.

I guess the amount of sewing felt a bit overwhelming.  Like I didn't really have a good idea of the big picture in terms of how far I got and was feeling adrift instead.  That does have the advantage that you feel like you got quite far all of a sudden, but it's a bit stressful when you're treading water, so to speak.

My anxiety also came from the fear that it wouldn't go well, that I would start messing up and then not be able to regroup enough to get back to a half way acceptable sewing standard.  I wouldn't mind on a toile but a) I want to practice becoming a more accurate sewer, and b) sewing very much stops being fun when it goes messy and wrong and doesn't seem to get back on an even keel.  That would just make me feel even more anxious. A point c) would be that this would reinforce old fears that I really want to get away from: I can improve a skill and I don't have to stick with make-do and oh-well-better-luck-next-time.  I am just so fed up with that.

Which means that I really appreciate and enjoy my progress. A few things could have gone a touch better (I'll know for the actual project: the sleeve pieces apparently not being quite long enough because they wouldn't meet everywhere exactly) but in a blouse this big the corrections of trimming won't be obvious at all.

I mean look at the dimensions: this is not a big blouse but a huge dress. It'll probably end somewhere below my knees!  I'll be able to chop off quite a lot for the sort of blouse that will look okay on me.  I also don't want to sit on the too long back and then have trouble getting back onto my feet.  I mean, come on.

Progress!  Job satisfaction!  Learning is being done!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New year, new project

I am incredibly pleased that I started to cut out my first project of the new year on the second day of the year.  That's an auspicious start of something I want to do a lot of: to sew and use up more of my fabrics.

I hadn't made up my mind yet about which size I was going to use, the largest might be something like XXXL (size 52).  For some reason I had left all the different sizes on the paper pieces but then didn't notice.  So I needed to change the sleeve curves that had come out a bit too 'curvy'.  It worked though.

The following day I cut out some more pieces and did a first few seams.

The pattern is one that I had to buy again because I cannot lay my hands on the tissue pattern, I have only the photo and instructions left in the envelope.  I checked in currently available patterns (as many as I could bear to look through) but I couldn't find a similar style: Burda 6230 is a very loose shirt, or what I call an 'over blouse' - a shirt you can wear over a heck of a lot because it is so over-sized.

What I like about it is that you piece together the front and the back: there is a horizontal seam line from the yoke that extends into the cut-on sleeves, and they have a diagonal seamline between the lower sleeve and the front/back so you don't have to use extra wide fabric.  See the black and white drawing on the pattern envelope shown above.

The yoke piece that extends into the sleeves ends near the cuffs in a sharp point. I thought that looked very clever.  Not so great for shortening the sleeves: I can't wear the oringal length sleeves, they're 10 cm too long!

My first 2017 project is a muslin of this pattern because I want to check that I shortened the sleeves correctly (that yoke piece needs to be sewn to the united front/back piece and the lower sleeve piece. I can't know if it's right until I've sewn that seam). And I also want to see what the length is like on me. It'll probably drown me!

But seeing how long this is as an actual garment is better for deciding how much I want to shorten it by once I use my actual fabric.  I want to use a white fabric with white machine stitching on it that I bought in a shop clearance sale just before Atlantic Silk in Electric Avenue, Brixton closed its doors for good. Shame, this was a good fabric shop, particularly the back area.  At least Simply Fabrics is still around.

I don't want to cut into this beautiful fabric and mess it up.  I have not seen another fabric like it in all the years in which I amassed my fabric stash - so I've seen a few.  It is pretty thin and looks quite crisp but I haven't washed it yet. It's just so much easier to sew with a fabric that still has that sizing layer on it and I reckon the pattern is loose enough that it can't shrink too much if it even does.

I still haven't decided if size 52 is right for me.  I didn't exactly chose to use that size because I blindly followed the outlines. Oh oops.

But I am sewing! And that's the main thing.  Very pleased.

PS: On the third day of sewing (4 January) I've assembled the front and the back and sewed them together at the shoulder/top of sleeve seams. The button bands are not attached on the inside yet but they are on the outside. I cut and interfaced the colour and will probably attach it next.

PS: I forgot that I blogged twice about this pattern, both in July 2016: That 'over blouse' pattern I've long been looking for and also: What did I do today?