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Archive for the ‘Sewing’ Category


I’ve got some time off work at the moment, so I had a little book-shopping-binge (my favourite kind of binge) and have been catching up on some much-needed reading.

TheAlchemistOfSouls-197x300In the fiction corner we have the first book of Anne Lyle’s Night’s Masque series, The Alchemist of Souls.  Historical fantasy with grit and wit, set in a fantasy version of Elizabethan England, what’s not to like?  The touches of humour (this isn’t a Terry Pratchett, all-out comedy fantasy, just to clarify!) and the period are definitely putting me in mind of Black Adder the Second, which is a compliment in my books, since I was raised on Black Adder and it’s still one of my favourite TV shows of all time.  At the same time, Lyle has created something intriguing and unique and it’s got me looking forward to my reading sessions to find out what happens next!  If you’re not sure, you can even get a sample of the first three chapters on Anne Lyle’s website.  What’ve you got to lose?!

OK, if you need any more persuasion, I am seriously crushing on her dark, dashing and dangerous main character, Mal.  A definite ding dong.  Go read it already.

The rest has been non-fiction, which is unusual to me, as usually the weighting of my reading pile is towards novels, but I suppose I’m on research mode.

45 master characters

No prizes for predicting there would be some writing books in my list.  I’ve been dipping into 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn-Schmidt over the past day or so.  I’m very interested in archetypes, which is what she’s based her ‘master characters’ on, so I’ve been interested in this book for a while.  There’s some good stuff in here, but as always I’d warn against wholesale acceptance of anyone’s advice (mine included!), be it on writing or anything else.  I’d like to speak about this one in more depth, so that’s for another post.  (Also, I’d like to wait until I’ve read it all, before I really comment on it.)

 

20 master plots

I’ve been pondering plot, as A Thief & A Gentlewoman follows quite a complex one and that makes me worry whether the structure works.  For now, I think it’s best to wait until I’ve written it to really see whether my plans were off the mark or not, but that hasn’t stopped me reading up on the subject.  The Writer’s Journey is a well-known book on the subject, which I’ve had on my shelves for a while now, waiting to be read.  Vogler also draws on archetype, using stories ranging back to myth and legend to the present to help formulate his theories.  I’ve just started this one, so further thoughts to come on another day.  Similarly, 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them is another book I’ve been dipping into, but haven’t yet finished.  More when I do!

colour on clothI’ve got it into my head that I want to try dyeing fabric.  (I blame my friend Karen who was foolish enough to let me touch some amazing sandwashed silk satin she had bought and dyed.  Seriously, I was sat there stroking this stuff for at least half and hour – it feels like peach-skin, but softer and silkier and lovelier and just … swoon!  It’s cheaper and easier to get hold of in its loomstate (undyed) form, so, hence the need for dye.)  Anyway, being a bibliophile (like you hadn’t realised), I needed a book, so I ‘invested’ (ahem) in Ruth Isset’s Colour on Cloth, which is full of pretty colour and instructions on how to use it to make fabric and/or paper even more fabulous.  There are some amazing techniques you can try, which I didn’t even have any idea of, so I’m itching to have a go at this.  Some bits are a bit complicated-sounding, but I’ve been using the internet alongside this book, which has helped me find some simplified and adjusted ways of doing things.

My mind was blown by Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques.  It’s a real eye-opener to not only how to use couture methods, but also the real (massive) difference between couture clothing and ready-to-wear.  There are things in this book that I really had no idea were even things.  And I’m so wowed by it that I can’t even put it any more elegantly!

I have a new appreciation for the kind of work that goes into a garment like this.  Alexander McQueen, 2008, haute couture.

I have a new appreciation for the kind of work that goes into a garment like this. Alexander McQueen, 2008, haute couture.

Shaeffer’s book is a classic for stitchers going beyond the basics and my next book is a classic for those whose stitching strays into corset construction territory.  Corsets: Historic Patterns and Techniques contains patterns and colour photos, together with notes, for 24 corsets (and stays*) from the 1750s to WWI.  This is a great way of getting a range of patterns (though they would need enlarging and checking against your measurements, so this isn’t a task for the beginner) for corsetry and generally having a good old bit of costume perving at some stunning garments.  The Black Corset with Blue Flossing from 1890 on page 74 is utterly stunning.  I’m feeling a real need to make this pattern.  Bad photo below:

Flossing, cording, boning, oh my!

Flossing and cording and boning, oh my!

I’ve recently finished a City & Guilds qualification in corsetry, so this book is definitely going to be put to good use.

And that’s about it for my recent reading endeavours.  For now, I think I’m due some dinner and another installment of The Alchemist of Souls.

* The term ‘corset’ for an undergarment only really began to be used widely in English in the 19th century, before this they were called ‘stays’ (mostly through the 17th and 18th centuries) or ‘bodies’ or ‘a pair of bodies’ (with various spellings, mainly in the 16th century).  The latter being where the word ‘bodice’ comes from.

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Remember this?

And this?

Well, I’m sorry it’s taken so long, but here – at last – is the full apron:

I love this pattern!  And I love those spring colours!

Being a bit of a worrier (understatement!), I was concerned about getting any horrible stains on this apron since, you could reasonably argue, getting dirty is the purpose of an apron.  Sooo, I sprayed it with that stuff you get to protect suede shoes and it seems to be working well so far.

Things I learned:

  • Shoe protector spray works fine on cotton and may well be a good idea for protecting aprons and the like.
  • I like the look of bias binding, but not the application!  I never want to see the stuff again (or at least not for the next couple of months!).

I hope you like it – there was a lot of love for this pattern in the comments, so I hope I’ve done it justice!  And, if you love the Petal Apron pattern, I am very pleased to announce that I have plans to make up one or two for a GIVEAWAY!  Yep, giveaway goodness for you, my lovely readers!  Just give me a little while to make them and I will come back to you with more details – stay tuned for this and those other plans for the blog.

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Remember Dolly?

Well, she’s gone through puberty rather rapidly:

That’s kinda balanced out those hips a bit, but her shape does look rather ridiculous!  (Well, I suppose, my shape does look rather ridiculous!)

I’m quite happy with her shape and size now, though I probably need to put a little padding on the hips (they’re the right size, but mine aren’t as smooth – they need to start sticking out a bit higher up) – at the moment it doesn’t matter too much as my current plans are for blouses and full-skirted dresses.

Anyway, working with Dolly has taught me a few things, so here’s how I did it:

1) The form doesn’t come with much in the way of instructions for adjustment, by chance, I checked the Adjustoform website – that has the information we need to adjust our form!

2) The Diana has numbered dials that are supposed to show the circumference in centimetres.  They’re not entirely accurate, so don’t rely on them!  I measured me, I measured Dolly, I adjusted, I re-measured Dolly, I checked my measurements, I adjusted again, I measured again … and so on until I was happy.

Not 100% accurate!

3) That chest area.  Yeah, so.  I thought it wouldn’t work, but I wanted to check what the under-bust measurement would be if the full-bust measurement was correct – I was right, the under-bust was far too big.  I think that, like most patterns, dress forms tend to be made to a B cup.  I wasn’t made to a B cup!

The solution …  I adjusted Dolly so the under-bust measurement matched mine.  I then measured from the base of my neck at the front (roughly at the hollow between the collarbone) to the botton of my bra band (centre front) to check where that should sit and marked that measurement on Dolly with a pin.  When I put the bra on Dolly, I made sure it lined up with that pin.

Then I got out the stuffing!  This was the filling of an old pillow that had already been pulled apart.  Instead of pulling out a single wad, I took out small handfuls at a time and gradually built up the padding inside the bra, shaping it and trying to make it a smooth, realistic shape all the time, until it felt about full.  This essentially means groping the filled bra repeatedly!  Feel free to film this stage and watch it any time you need a laugh.  I measured Dolly’s assets and filled a bit more, measured and filled until she was just right.

Of course, the flaw with this way of working is that you end up with boobs that only go as far as the top of the bra cup – and boobs don’t tend to do that!  It’s a good idea to check the high bust measurement in comparison with your own.  With the tape measure taught across the bra straps, Dolly’s is the same as mine, but there is a gap between the tape and her body.  I think a temporary solution could be to put a layer (or two) of batting across the upper chest, above the bra cups, which could be tucked under the bra straps.

Please mind the gap.

I’m losing weight at the moment (slowly and steadily, no radical transformations here!), but when I’m fitting back into my old jeans (again, just one size down, nothing radical!), I’m going to try to make a cover for Dolly.  The Party Dress has a guide to draping a simple body block, so I’m going to grab some calico, a friend, a long zip and some padding and get personalising Dolly.  In the meantime, though, she’ll be fine as she is.

And the first bit of fitting will be …

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Owl Cushion Cover – Finished!


Little Horace is finished!

He’s got button eyes to see in the dark and a ruffly feather confetti applique chest:

Yay for the scalloped stitching setting – I think it’s my favourite setting on my sewing machine!

And from the back:

Spotty fabric, detailed with velvet ribbon and ric-rac (who doesn’t love ric-rac!?) … and that button!

Well, not a button – a buckle decoration from an old pair of shoes.  When the shoes wore out, I couldn’t bare to part with the owls, so I cut them off and kept them for the perfect purpose … which has finally come!  I’ve attached it using ric-rac, which may have been a mistake as it’s a little wobbly, but it’s cute, so nevermind!

The main problem – I need to get a new cushion pad as this one has lost its shape and I can’t get it right (it is very cheap and quite old, so that’s to be expected).

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So, for today, here’s the rest of that haul!  Two more patterns and some more fabric.

So, that fabric – this was a purchase of love:

Again, I couldn’t get the colour quite right in the photo, but it’s a soft mauve-grey – this tiny picture shows the colours a bit better:

Those flowers – it’s like some sort of sea-urchin blossom tree!  So cute.

I have a metre of this fabric, but I can’t decide what to make with it – I could go for another blouse from that Maudella pattern I mentioned in Part 1 or I could go for something in Sew a Metre (AKA One Yard Wonders), which I bought the other day:

I just can’t decide!  I really want to show off this pretty fabric, but I’m not sure what the best way would be – any thoughts?

As for the patterns – here’s one:

Another Ebay bargain (£4!).  It is missing the trouser pattern pieces, but that length and width of leg does nothing for me, so no great loss!  I mostly got it for that hooded top – it’s too cute!  Perfect for a breezy spring day or a summer’s evening.  Lush!

And the final pattern, which I instantly fell in love with – there’s something just so pretty and simple about it:

Luckily, I only had to pay £6.70 to win the auction (wewt!) – another bargain pattern!  I love the two envelope pictures – that cerulean blue is just gorgeous and I love the idea of the contrasting fabric in the inverted pleats.  I think I’ll need to do a little re-sizing as it’s a teen pattern, but it should be quite close – plus I now have Dolly to help out.

And thus concludes that haul – I also got some other bits and pieces, like curved needles, stick-on Thimble Pads (which just seem to fall off my finger after a little while – is that just me??) and large cover buttons to make a cushion like this one from Marks & Spencer (with that velvet that I mentioned the other day):

(One of the main reasons I bought Sew a Metre is because it has a pattern for a smocked cushion in the round very much like this!  Huzzah!)

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Woot-woot-woot!  Free patterns!  All month!  I know!  The very kind Kathleen of Grosgrain is hosting a whole month of free patterns with tutorials from their creators – that’s a new pattern each day.  It’s like it’s your birthday every day!  Here are the patterns so far – I can’t wait for the rest.

As for me – I’ve just welcomed a new addition to the family …

Her name’s Dolly and I’m very proud of her (hahaha!).  She’s already been measured up and adjusted, though she needs a bra full of padding and a little re-shaping on the hips, but I’m very happy with her so far.  I’ve been watching what I eat (not a diet, just being more healthy – lots of fruit and veg!) and I should have time to go back to the gym soon, so over the next few months, I’m hoping I’ll be able to start narrowing that big gap in the hips (can you tell that’s where I put on all my weight?).

In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to getting some calico and having a go at draping (with hilarious consequences, I don’t doubt!).  If you’re in the UK and looking to get a dress form or a sewing machine, I really recommend Hobkirk: they were really helpful and nice on the phone, they had the best price I could find for this model (Dolly’s a Diana by Adjustoform and she was £104, including P&P) and I ordered her at 9pm on Wednesday, she was dispatched on Thursday and she arrived this morning by courier.  This is how online shopping should always be!  Well done and thank you, Hobkirk!

(And no, I don’t work for them or have any affiliation, I just happened to have found them and bought from them online – and I’m glad I did!)

And finally, it was craft class today – yay!  In the free fabric bins I found this fabric, which is very similar to a Marks & Spencer cushion I like:

It’s actually a little more green than it looks in the picture – more like the folded over part in the top left.  Here’s that cushion:

But I didn’t just spend the lesson rummaging in fabric bins (honest!): I started making a cushion cover – sorry, that is an owl cushion cover!

I got my inspiration from this little fella:

I need to do some more sewing and I think I’m going to try some confetti applique on his chest to get a ruffly-feather effect (hopefully!), then it all gets stitched together into an envelope-style cushion cover.

Oh, and his name’s Horace.  🙂

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Well, this might not quite qualify as a haul, as these things were bought a bit at a time over the past week or two, but I thought I’d share them with you all together.

I’ve had my beady little eye on Ebay lately, specifically on bargain vintage patterns.  I have a couple of simple rules for myself when buying vintage patterns:

  1. Only buy it if you love it.
  2. Only buy it if it’s cheaper than or the same price as a modern pattern.  (Unless it’s super, super special.)
  3. Only buy it if you’ll wear what you make with it!

And I only tend to look at 50s and 60s patterns, since I just love the styles of that era (I don’t watch Mad Men, but I would happily raid their early 60s wardrobes!).

I’ve mentioned my baking a few times recently and the other week I made a batch of cupcakes for my friend’s birthday (lightly spiced cakes with lime and coconut icing – NOM!), which invariably ends with me wearing as much flour and icing sugar as the recipe contains.  I’m also a fan of chilli and various tomato-based pasta sauces.  There’s no escaping it, these things require an apron!  Which brings me to my first pattern:

It’s Marian Martin 9091, which the seller said was from the 40s or 50s.  More importantly, it’s just so pretty.  As soon as I saw it, I had instant pattern lust.  But, according to my rules above, I wouldn’t day any more than £10, including postage.  It was lucky I got it for £9 including P&P, then!  Phew!

Remember my teaser from the other day?  Yep, that’s the full-length version made up already.  I’m feeling too ill to pose in it, so pictures soon, I promise!  It’s a simple pattern, so it came together really easily.  Look how simple the pattern pieces are:

The only down side of the pattern was all the bias binding.  I had a bit of a brain malfunction when cutting bias strips, so they were too narrow to use in my bias binding maker, so I had to hand-fold something stupid like 7 yards of the stuff (meh!).  Then came the attaching.  Those scallops!  They’re pretty, but a pain to stitch bias binding to, especially as I basically made up how to join the ends of the bias – I’m sure there’s an easier way, but for some reason I thought I’d make it up instead of looking it up!  Still, it looks OK:

Do you have any suggestions for a different way to finish the edges?  I was considering just hemming them instead, but then I’d have to ease the curves in and I’m not sure that would look very neat.  I’d really like to make these as gifts for people, but the bias is a massive pain in the arse and I’m really not sure what to try next time!  I’m also planning to make the half-apron version for sewing (maybe I’ll add some extra pockets, too).

Anyway, on to the next pattern:

Maudella 4378 – a super-simple blouse.  This was an uber-bargain – £1.84 including postage!  Wewt and huzzah, I say!  The thing I love about this pattern is that it looks really versatile – I can picture it made up in so many different ways – and I can picture it tucked into any of my high-waisted skirts.  Very wearable!  Here’s a bit more detail:

And I’ve already got some plans for this blouse using this super-cute cotton print (sorry, I’ve washed it, but haven’t ironed it yet!):

I couldn’t get very good light for a great photo, I’m afraid, but the background is off white and the spots are dark blue.  And I’m hoping that the red anchors will be set off nicely by these buttons:

I have to admit, I have a real soft spot for sailor style, so I can’t wait to make this one!  There were some gorgeous little anchor buttons in white, blue or red as well, but they were £1 each.  £1 each!!  They would have looked fabulous, but I really can’t justify paying £1 per button rather than 10p per button, however pretty the buttons (and especially on a pattern than appears to use 10 of them!).

The other pattern I got was for this fun dress, which again looks pretty simple:

I’m not usually into later 60s styles, but the A-line skirt with that inverted box pleat just called to me (perhaps becauses of how flattering A-line skirts are).  And considering I got it for £3.25, it was a good deal!  I’m also thinking that I could make this up as a skirt, too, and those long sleeves have me thinking about nice woolen winter dresses – all my dresses seem to be summery, so they would be a great addition to my wardrobe!  Actually, another possibility would be lowering the neckline slightly and making a sleeveless woolen version to wear over sleeved shirts.  In a dream world, something like these (very expensive!) wool pinstripes from MacCullock and Wallis would be great:

Hmm, so many ideas for this one!

There’s one more pattern and a couple more fabrics, but as this post is pretty long, I’ll be back with them in part 2!

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