Patchwork progress…

In February OH and I booked a long weekend in Cornwall for the summer, one of the objectives being for me to stop off for a visit to Truro Fabrics. I saved up for the visit and was pleased to get to the till with my haul, just inside my budget I hoped.

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Some maroon loop backed sweat shirting, some random print jersey for a Lady Skater dress, spotty denim, grey double voile cheesecloth, oatmeal jersey, some GORGEOUS heavyweight checked linen and some bits and bobs. Just then OH returned from being outside, presumably to tell me hurry up and said he would pay for the lot. Thank you very much !!

In previous posts I have been using up scraps making a patchwork bedcover, according to the pattern I had finished making it as it is an unquilted item, but I have had a couple of comments to say it will look lovely when its finished (what do you mean it will look lovely when its finished !? It IS finished)

Anyway I have just been on a one day patchwork course at the local adult education centre and as part of that there was a brief demonstration of ‘free motion quilting’ which I had never heard of before. The instructor said that only way to be able to do it was to practice a lot and showed us some essential patchwork feet for sewing machines.

Having not spent my intended fabric budget I rather rashly invested in a free motion foot for my machine and realising that people might be thinking my bedcover is not finished because its not quilted I started to practice on that. This is definitely a case of ‘ignorance is bliss’. My very random bed cover is now in the process of becoming a quilting sampler, but oh my word its such fun.

I have realised that I am completely insane for starting to practice this new skill on such a huge item and the work is really very physical but incredibly involving. It doesn’t matter at all to me that its all wonky and am enjoying the process immensely.

Here are some of my quilting experiments

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Its going to take ages to do the whole cover, by which time my I hope technique might have improved a bit.

 

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The week I tried patchwork

I love reading other people’s blog posts and a few weeks ago I came across this post from mensew with this really sweet patchwork quilt he has made for a nephew.

I really like the look of patchwork and inspired by this post and by the ever mounting bin bags and laundry baskets of leftover scraps from various dressmaking projects I decided to have a go myself. I bought an instruction book from a local shop, the selling point being that it claimed to be ‘…for the complete beginner’.

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The book advises that the beginner should start with a small project such as a lavender ball, but looking at my vast pile of offcuts I knew I would have to go for something a bit bigger. I therefore chose the last project in the book, a double bedcover. The individual patches are large varying from 13cm square to 33cm  square which I knew would make more inroads to my leftovers. These are the templates I made from a cardboard box.

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It took two whole days to go through and iron all the pieces and assemble the necessary piles of patches, but eventually I ended up with the right number of squares and rectangles and was able to start sewing (having reduced my scrap mountain to one bulging bin bag of pieces all less that 5″ x 5″).

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The project caused a lot of hilarity among the ladies on my pattern cutting course who also do quilting….’You’re making a what…?…’ ‘Are you sure …..?’ ‘HOW big….?’

Undeterred, I started anyway. The instructions in the book are really clear and although you are supposed to develop techniques by working your way through the projects in the book from the lavender ball to the bed cover it’s still easy enough to go backwards and forwards to refer to the bits you need.

Blocks began to appear…..the corners were in the right places and I was beginning to feel quite pleased with myself.

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Then came joining the blocks together, and before I knew it I had enough for my hallway, or a single bed !

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Another day’s work and it was too big for the hall so here is my double bed cover in the garden, it measures 240cm x 180cm.

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I think it’s lovely ! The beginning of the book advises choosing a base fabric with at least six colours and picking fabrics of those six colours to complete the rest of the cover. As you can see I’ve obviously had a theme going on for the last few years as these random scraps are all from the same colour palette although once I had started sewing I deliberately removed all my blue pieces. I am slightly disturbed by the two pickle jar pieces next to each other on different grains and may remove one of them.

Anyway I am very excited by progress so far. I know the difficult bit is going to be putting a back on it but I WILL get there ! I might even get the opportunity to use the quilting table attachment which came with my sewing machine but which is still in its box and being used as a footrest.

I have also signed up for a patchwork course at the local adult education centre so maybe they will give me some pointers…. I may be some time……..

 

 

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Designin’ December Part 2…The Dress

Well at the end of Designin’ December Part 1. The pattern….I noted that I had not sewn with velvet before and now that I have I won’t be rushing to do it again in a hurry…

To recap, I decided to take part in Linda Maki’s Designin’ December, the point of which is to ‘copy’ a designer garment that you like but wouldn’t actually buy for whatever reason. In my case the price tag of this dress at £500 is the line in the sand that I cannot cross..

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I purchased 4 metres of woven viscose velvet in a colour called Bordeaux from Stof and Stil and after much research I also ordered 100 silky tassels from a Chinese website on eBay as ordering them in the UK would have meant that just the cost of the tassels would have been over £100 as against Chinese price of under £20.

The fabric arrived pretty quickly and once I had got the pattern sorted out (see previous post) I was able to cut out the dress body from M6959 and my self drafted raglan sleeve amendment. I also lengthened the skirt and flared it out slightly at the bottom.

I had read quite a lot about sewing with velvet before I started and used my walking foot together with lots of pins in the seam allowances but the fabric STILL slipped all over the place, how is that even possible ? I also hated not being able to press the seams. I hadn’t realised quite how much I use the iron for pressing my projects. Steaming and finger pressing the seams just doesn’t cut it for me.

I also took advice from The Closet Case on wrap dress construction and added 2 poppers on the wrap section of the top for modesty. I also lined the skirt to give it some weight although with the tassels on the hem this probably wasn’t necessary.

After a month the tassels hadn’t turned up so I researched an alternative trim which was a feathery lace and was resigned to using that when LO ! A  small parcel arrived from China, surely it didn’t contain the 100 tassels I had ordered ? but actually yes, they were all present and correct. Each tassel is enclosed in its own little tube and expands massively once released. They are nice and silky and actually exceeded expectations.

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I then started attaching them to the dress, it quickly became apparent that I couldn’t get them to lie in the orientation of my inspiration picture as they have a natural inclination to hang downwards which I guess is gravity doing its work. I decided not to try and defy gravity and instead attach them the way they wanted to hang.

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I din’t quite need all 100 that I had estimated but only used 63, each attached with a french tack stitch to keep them mobile.

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So this is the finished garment. I think it’s not far off the designer original I set out to copy. However with me not being 5’9″ and tiny size the worn effect on me is rather more Oscar Wilde Dowager but that’s fine. I shall sit in the corner at the works party tsking at the antics of the younger generation occasionally saying….A HA..NDBAG ?!?! What larks !

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge, researching patterns, selecting the fabric, sourcing the tassels, adapting the sleeve pattern, but will probably avoid sewing with viscose velvet for….forever !!

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Christmas Jumpers

This week I have been forging ahead with my Christmas gifts and making jumpers for Christmas gifts.

The first one is a Schnittchen patterns Catrin which I have made twice before and with which I have really struggled to get the loose fit shown on the pattern sleeve. However forewarned is forearmed and this time I made the hem band REALLY big and hoorah ! I have now got it looking just like the pattern picture. If anyone else wants to give this a go you need to make the hem band pattern piece at least 8cm longer than whatever size you are making. I am making a size 36 and had to make a band longer than that for a size 44.

Anyway as it is supposed to be a Christmas surprise here it is on my dress form

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The cute doggie fabric is from Stoff and Stil

The second one I’ve made is a Bethouia from Elle Puls this is a pattern I’ve used 5 times before so I am really familiar with it and it takes less than an hour to make. This one is in gorgeously vibrant mustard wool boucle from Stone Fabrics unfortunately the picture doesn’t really do this fabric justice as its much brighter in real life

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and then, as I had the pattern out I made myself a Bethiouia too. This time I altered the neck to make it warmer

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The fabric is a toasty quilted sweatshirting also from Stone Fabrics and I have been wearing this one a LOT. That’s 7 Bethiouias so far and I have one more to make for my boss…better be extra careful with that one…

 

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Designin’ December Part 1. The pattern….

Designin’ December…sounded like such fun when I saw it on Linda of Nice Dress Thanks I made it site. Find a designer garment that you like but wouldn’t buy and COPY IT !!

Well I quite quickly found a dress on Matches Fashion that I really liked, the Jagger tassel trimmed dress

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What I particularly liked about this dress was the raglan sleeves, the wrap front, the velvet, the tassels and the general bathrobe glamour, but at £500, way out of my league.

So, how to set about it. The style looks quite straightforward so I thought it would be easy to find a pattern to use to make my copy. Well, no….There are lots of patterns out there with one or more elements but none with all of them. I even made a spreadsheet…IMG_8604

But nothing ticked all the boxes. In the end I decided to use two patterns, McCall’s 6959 for the fact that it is a true wrap dress and it’s fitted into the waist

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..and V8825 for the raglan and balloon sleeves

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I was pretty pleased with myself and this pattern combination until I came to cut out the Vogue pattern. The sleeve is actually a two part sleeve with the front being raglan and the back being a wide kimono. I really don’t think this would work with my velvet as the nap on the back sleeve would be running in two different directions and additionally I do not want a seam running the length of the sleeve. Very disappointing. I should have examined the back of the pattern envelope a bit more carefully but even then I’m not sure I would have spotted these specific problems.

Back to the drawing board quite literally. Taking the straight sleeve from the McCall’s  pattern as a block and Winifred Aldrich’s metric pattern cutting book for direction I made a single piece raglan sleeve adaptation.

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So now I had a narrow raglan sleeve. Again using the same book I followed the instructions for widening the sleeve and came up with this..

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..which I made a pattern piece from and then made toile of the bodice. Unfortunately this method of spreading the sleeve resulted in there being too much fabric at the shoulder making me look like Superman. I have reverted to the original narrow raglan sleeve but just widened it by 8cm either side of the bottom of the sleeve and drawing a straight line from there to the armpit which has resulted in a silhouette much nearer to that of the original Jagger dress.

So I am now ready to cut out my velvet. I haven’t sewn with velvet before so I have been watching lots of tutorials and gleaning tips where I can. My tassels are still in transit from China. 1 month and counting so I may have to go with a plan B on those.

Wish me luck !

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Great Granny’s Skirt

When I first met OH way back in 1980 I also met his grandmother Gladys, who, as we became parents became known simply as Great Granny. She was born in 1900 so was elderly even when I first met her although she was very lively, loved a half pint of bitter and had to have her bicycle confiscated when she insisted on cycling to the shops via the route she had always used even though the road had become an extremely busy dual carriageway. She always wore carefully matched ensembles which invariably included a perfectly colour coordinated hat. When she finally had to go into sheltered accommodation in 1996 my father-in-law gave me a cardboard box of ‘stuff’ from her house clearance that he thought might be of interest to me. Having several very young children at the time I put the box to one side and didn’t really pay it much attention and it was only several years later that I investigated and found some of her school books and sewing practice pieces.

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Buttonhole practice, pin tucking, hand smocking, drawn thread work…They don’t make many teenagers do homework like this now !

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Anyway to get to the point, there was also a bit of fabric in the box, 93 cms ( 1yard !) of blanket weight wool, camel coloured with a check pattern. I’ve known it was there for ages but today I decided to actually USE it. With such a small piece of fabric I decided to make a little straight skirt.

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I’ve used this pattern before and like the yoke waistband and the fact that there is a nice little pleat at the back and a side zip. (None of which is immediately obvious from the pattern envelope)

I tried quite hard to match the checks when I was cutting out but didn’t factor in the curves of the waistband and sideseams of which more later.

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The checks match up quite well between the skirt front and the yoke.

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..but not so well on the back as I had forgotten to take the back darts into account.

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This is the nice back pleat and I have also fully lined the skirt.

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Its turned out really nicely and I think Great Granny would have been happy that the fabric has been put to good use.

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The Woollen trousers

Eldest daughter has a beloved pair of jeans, bought from a charity shop that are at the end of their life, the original fabric having worn through on the seat and crotch. She asked whether I had the skills to replicate the jeans as they are a very particular shape, think 1980’s Duran Duran, high waisted, pleated front, wide in the hip with a tapered leg. Such an optimist my daughter !

Well I do like a challenge and am always willing to have a go, regardless of my actual skill level.

First of all I drew around the original jeans, adding width to take account of the front pleats and ended up with some very strange shaped pattern pieces. My tutor Gail at Topstitchwas able to advise ways of ‘normalising’ these (Mainly straightening out the waist which had become very curved with use), she also advised on cutting the pockets which sit behind the front pleats so do not conventionally mirror the front fabric pieces.

I then made up a pair of trousers using pieces of a wool crepe left over from a previous project (when I say pieces I really do mean pieces, each leg being made of 4 separate fabric scraps) and sent them off to her. Surprisingly they fitted, I am never quite sure with her living a long way away and not being able to fit to her in person. She asked that the pockets be made wider and deeper and the hem taken in a little but that’s it. Go me..

I then received a parcel in the post from Merchant and Mills with 1.5m of soft, leaf green lightweight woven wool which daughter wanted a proper pair of trousers made out of.

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The first issue I could see with this is that the fabric, whilst lovely, is not robust enough to make trousers with, not without some sort of lining or reinforcement anyway. As the fabric had been quite costly for her I offered some potential lining fabrics from my stash and she chose the fine cotton/silk I bought in Spring 2016 from Ditto Fabrics that I had used previously to line my Dropje vest.

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Now, making your own trouser pattern is all very well but when you come to make then up there are no instructions for the construction stages ! I couldn’t work out in my head how to attach a lining around the zip so decided to sew the lining to the front and back fabric leg pieces and then make up the trousers as if I were using  a single layer of fabric. I’m not sure whether this is an actual proper way to do things and it certainly wouldn’t work with thicker fabrics but with these two fabrics it was fine.  I constructed the pockets and the front pleats first before attaching the fabric and lining together so the pockets are completely invisible from inside the garment.

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Sewing the lining and fabric pieces together by overlocking them has resulted in very neat seams inside the trousers and the trousers now feel robust and warm.

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As the wool fabric has the potential to be quite itchy I made the waistband with the green wool on the outside and the cotton lining on the inside to avoid any discomfort during wear.

I think they LOOK nice and are definitely the same shape as the jeans. I have despatched them to daughter and wait to see what she says. Fingers crossed…

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..and just as I was hand sewing the hems the repairers rang to say that my sewing machine was now fixed and is on its way back to me. I’ve got quite used to the basic Janome now and it’s buttonhole function is certainly much better than the Husky so I’ll probably use the two in tandem from now on.

I have also cobbled together a repair for the original jeans by sewing giant floral patches inside and out to reinforce the elderly fabric but don’t hold out much hope for their continued longevity.

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The winter coat

So, at the GBSB live show I bought too much fabric but some of it I just couldn’t resist. Take this wool/silk mix from Fabworks Mill with flecks of all my favourite colours. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it but the queues at the stand were so long and the staff so stressed that I gave up after 15 mins. I had second thoughts just as we were due to leave the show and rushed back and it was still there. I took this as an omen that it was meant for me and bought 3 metres.


What to do with it ? I thought about making a coat but dismissed that as being too difficult, then, on one of those evenings looking at patterns on The FoldLine I found this Butterick 6385

The Funnel necked version is very similar to a RTW coat that I already own but which has seen better days and I thought I would give this a go with my green flecked fabric and make a replacement.

So many pattern pieces for the coat and lining although the garment looks quite simple.  Going by the pattern packet I cut size 16 with a cup size A and this turned out to be pretty much perfect fit wise with no alterations needed.

The pattern calls for the front sections only to be interfaced but due to the silk in this fabric it was really drapey so I decided to interface all the pattern pieces except the front facings (although I subsequently decided to interface a strip down the front for the button attachments)  in order to get the structure of the coat.

The whole coat is lined and I used this brocadey fabric from Minerva Crafts

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One of the early instructions relates to the sewing of the pocket flaps and here disaster stuck. My sewing machine broke, properly, and has had to be sent for repair with no timescale for its return…

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After a few mopey days OH suggested getting a back up machine so I now have a basic, heavy duty Janome to complement my more advanced Husky when it comes back. As it turns out this was a good move as the Janome is much better at getting through the thicker fabric layers.

The instructions are quite good with this pattern and I didn’t really have any difficulty with the basic construction but the devil, as always, is in the detail. I read through to the end before I started and noticed that the very last instruction was the buttons and ordinary buttonholes, but thinking about it I decided that I would like to have a go at doing bound buttonholes, which I had never attempted before, and which required quite a lot of planning as to which stage would be the best to insert them (before attaching the lining and facing) I was really pleased with the outcome , thanks to a very clear free tutorial from Craftsy (see first pic of the fabric, you can’t even see the buttonhole unless you know it’s there !) Emboldened by this unexpected success I also made an internal pocket in the facing for my phone using the same technique

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Another ‘new to me’ technique was french tacks to hold the lining in place at the hem

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After having looked at this picture I realised how awful the overlocked coat fabric edge looked so I have gone back and finished it properly with some bias tape.

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I finished the garment with the 5th iteration of possible buttons that I chose and rejected so I now have loads of spare greenish buttons, including a set of self fabric covered buttons that took me ages ! These ones which made it to the finished garment came from Ribbon Moon

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I have been out and about in my new garment and feel quite amazed that I managed to make an actual wearable coat.

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The best laid plans….

I usually have one day a week on which I am able to sew and I guard that day jealously, trying very hard not to let other tasks eat into my ‘me’ time. However over the last month I have had to give up ‘my’ day on 4 consecutive weeks due to things cropping up that I have HAD to do and where sewing was not a legitimate excuse to back out. I have been trying to do the odd half hour here and there but its not the same as having an uninterrupted sewfest.

This week I have managed to regain control over my life and was really quite excitedly looking forward to a whole uninterrupted day with my sewing machine and Radio 4. I had cut out a new and ambitious coat project, threaded up my overlocker and sewing machine and was all ready to go.

Then OH said he was taking the day off to stay at home and wait for TV repair man, this was not good news because much as I love OH it’s very difficult not to be distracted when he is at home. Firstly he can’t stand having the radio on in the study and my sewing space is a corner of the study…secondly I am expected to take a break in the middle of the day for lunch…thirdly, whatever he wants to do is automatically more important and urgent than anything I am doing. I was quite firm and said I had been looking forward to a whole sewing day and that while I was prepared to concede to having the radio off I was NOT going to be lured into any alternative plans, so we had a deal.

After an hour of happy sewing I had to change the needle on the machine to do some topstitching. Gaaaah…! It turned out that the needle holder was broken due to a stripped thread and I couldn’t get any needle to stay in the machine. That was the end of my carefully planned sewing day.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, 4″ topstitching..

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The upside is that this is apparently a known problem and as I had uncharacteristically had the foresight to take out an extended warranty it will be fixed at no charge.

I quickly made an alternative plan and tidied up my sewing corner. I also got two new projects cut out and ready to go which should keep me out of mischief for the next few weeks.

Sadly, despite having been notified that TV repair man would arrive in the morning he didn’t turn up until 7.45 pm ! So OH has completely needlessly used up a day of holiday, and it turns out the TV is unrepairable….

Ho hum. Next week is another week…

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