Made by Me!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Year That Was....A Look Back At 2014

So I guess you have all had enough of the 'look back' posts popping up all over the place but I hope you don't mind one more! I think it's a nice thing to take stock and look back at what you have achieved and to then look forward to a new year with some fresh inspiration.

For me the last year has been an interesting one. I started writing this blog in early January so its been almost a full 12 months online!! I can't quite believe it. Like many other bloggers I felt that I wanted a platform to showcase the sewing projects I make, hoping that I would be able to share my passion for sewing with like minded people, whilst also using it as a means to push myself to sew more and challenge myself to learn new skills and take more classes. The need to regularly post something is a wonderful kick up the butt to get your creative juices going!! And as you will see from the pictures throughout this post I really think that I have progressed in my attempts at sewing my own clothes and am steadily attempting more complicated items. I do need to ramp up the output though! I realised I have only made 15 items this year which seems in retrospect very tardy!

                                                                                                                                   The blog has been a learning curve for me and I have definitely had my ups and downs with it.  It is an understatement to say that it is hard to put yourself out there in the first place. It is daunting to think about people reading what you write, looking at what you make and generally making opinions about you, good or bad. I have had moments at the beginning of my blog journey where I found it really stressful to post regularly because like most bloggers we have a life and busy job to deal with at the same time and you need to find the correct balance. I had read so many bloggers say a regular post date is enormously important for keeping readers coming back for more and although I wasn't sure people were actually reading what I was writing at the start, let alone coming back again and again, I felt a huge pressure to produce something - by which I mean its easy to put something out there that can be seen as half hearted in an attempt to fill space and that's not what I wanted to do.  I took some time off of the blog in the summer to gather my thoughts, not because I didn't want to write it but because I needed to make sure I was doing it because I enjoyed it rather than it somehow taking over my life and becoming a burden - and if it feels like that then whats the point right? When I came back to it I had renewed interest and I wrote when I felt I had something to say or a sewing project to share with you all. So it may not be completely regular but I enjoy writing it now. Personally I don't think you need to post on a specific day each week to make sure people look at your blog as long as you do post at least once a week but it is something I would like to be better at. It would be interesting to know if a specific publish day for posts is important to you or not? If you are anything like me you may not read blogs in that regular fashion and just pick and choose what you are looking for based on what you are making - so maybe for advice and how to's - or for a break from work, life, on a commute or to pass the time for a few minutes so not necessarily when every post is published. We are much more piecemeal with our information download now. Not to say I don't like to keep up with my favourite bloggers but I don't necessarily read their posts on the day they are published or in chronological order.

              

This year has been a great opportunity to shape and mould my blog slowly over time. I have loved seeing my readership gradually increase bit by bit and yelped for joy when someone commented for the the first time! It may sound silly but it was just great to know someone thought enough about what you wrote to share their thoughts with you.

One major change for me and this blog is that what I wrote about at the start of this journey is different to what I write about now (its still about sewing though obviously!!). I thought I may want to pass on techniques and how to's to others but I realise at present that this isn't what I should focus on - others do it much better than I can and I think until I have something unique to offer then there is not much point in me doing it unless its linked specifically to something I have learnt on a project. I prefer to talk about my projects, any classes I have taken and doing book reviews. It seems you love reviews too as they seem to be one of the most popular blog posts. I think this year my emphasis will change again slowly and by the end of next year the blog will most likely look very different to how it does now (including style wise as I am changing the chaotic background soon to something much simpler so watch this space!). I am definitely enjoying constantly evolving and finding my feet with this blog. Trying to learn what works and what doesn't on this platform is something that has taken a little while for me but I hope to produce something more streamlined in the next year.

                           

It is also nice to be involved in the sewing blog world and now that I feel a little more comfortable with the platform I really want to get to know other bloggers out there as it is after all a huge part of why I started writing my blog. This year has been more about creating a space I feel happy to share and getting used to being in the blogshere. To expand my sewing circle of friends would be fantastic. I have found that my friends in general are not very interested in my passion for sewing other than to applaud the fact I can make something and to say that its lovely, but it doesn't satisfy the need to be around others that really get what you love. In an attempt to branch out and meet more like minded people I have joined a London dressmakers group and although I have only been to one meeting so far it was a really welcoming environment and I hope to get to know some of the members better over time. This year I will also become involved in the blog wide sewing challenges and sew-alongs that help create the community that we all love.

            

Lastly I wanted to reflect on the pieces I have made and what I have loved, disliked and what I will do differently next year.

I have loved wearing my Miette skirt from Tilly and the Buttons, my Raspberry Mohair Coat, Liesl + Co Cape and my Capital Chic sweatshirt the most I think. They have fitted so well in to my existing wardrobe without me even trying. The item I have to admit to never wearing past photographing it is the Megan dress - I love it but I realise its too tight fitting and I think that's my fault, the Cynthia Rowley trousers were a one time wear due to the really high waist - it just doesn't feel quite my style which I am gutted about as I envisaged them so differently, and then there is the Burda folk skirt - an epic fail of mammoth proportions! It cost loads and due to rushing it its a mess!!

                    

This year I think I made some inroads into my 2014 sewing resolutions. I definitely did a number of courses to help further my sewing skills and have also used my stash a lot more! I am still attempting to work my way towards thoroughly thinking out my wardrobe before putting scissors to cloth and plan to be much better at it in the future. This year thinking before sewing will be my new mantra! My sewing and blog resolutions below highlight what I want to focus on during this coming year whilst in turn hopefully making this blog more organised and more thematic.


1 - Resolution one is to make more use of the pattern cutting blocks I made this year and attempt to make more of my own patterns. I think I got a little scared I wasn't good enough to do this and have shied away from it this year but I realise my sewing has come a long way since the beginning of the year and I am more ready to attempt self drafting a few things. I just have to push myself a little harder and not be put off if things don't work out first time. So expect a blog post every other month about me self drafting patterns - whether they go right or wrong!!

2 - Resolution two is to try and make more high street copies of things I like with readily available sewing patterns. I realise I don't take enough inspiration from the high street and I should go window shopping more often to get more inspiration. If you have seen my recent coat blog you will know I have already started down this route! Maybe this can become a more regular type of post.

3 - Resolution three is to take part in more sewing activities in the blogosphere like Me Made May, Sew September and Indie Sewing Month as well as partaking in more sew-alongs. As I mentioned before I really want to get more involved and participating in these things is a great way to get yourself out there and to get to know other people in the blogsphere.

4 - Resolution four is a list of sewing techniques I want to achieve and specific garments or fabrics that I want to try my hand at this year. I got inspiration to hone my skills in this way after reading a techniques check list by Fiona from Diary of a Chainstitcher who has done a brilliant tick list on her blog. I think it will be a great way to help keep check of whether I am learning new skills and constantly progressing with my sewing.

Bound Buttonholes
Welt pockets
A fly zip
A lapped zip
A rolled hem
Sewing my man a shirt which includes the need to sew plackets
Piping
Tackling vintage patterns - I recently purchased my first one so hope to sew this up soon.
Sewing velvet
Sewing silk
Sewing with lace
Sewing chiffon
Sewing leather - I plan on making some clutch bags in the New Year
Sewing an underwired bra and knickers
Sewing swimwear
Sewing my first pair of jeans - I have my eye on Closet Case Files lovely skinnies...

5 - Resolution five is simple....to service my poor overworked machine. It's just so hard as I always want to use it!!


What are your resolutions and are you planning to start a blog this year? If you do let me know it would be great to see your work online.

I also wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been reading this blog during the past year. I hope to get to know some of you over time so please do feel free to make a comment or make suggestions on my posts as its a great way to share.

Happy New Year to you all!! And most importantly Happy Sewing!! 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Happy Christmas!!

Hello everyone - just a very quick post to all of you out there to say have a fab Christmas. I will be posting intermittently in the holidays so wanted to wish you all a lovely day before I sign off for now to relax with some mulled wine and a lovely mince pie!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

I Want That Coat!!

I have been completely lusting over this coat for the last week. Its from Miss Selfridge and looks so lovely on. The actual shape is straight up and down - misleadingly it looks a little pulled in around the waist here. The fur collar is also super warm and soft against the skin, the colour is really beautiful and it looks really elegant on. Its only £89 but I cant really afford it so it got me thinking about a cheaper self made option. This is something I definitely want to do more of in the future - getting more inspiration from items I love on the high street to help me plan my wardrobe better.

Miss Selfridge website
I have so far found a pattern, very easy Vogue V8754, given to me in a fabric and pattern swap at the most recent meeting of the London Dressmakers Club. I had tried the Miss Selfridge coat on in the afternoon before the meeting so made a beeline for the pattern because I think I can make something similar in style from it. I haven't made a Vogue pattern before so thought that it would be nice to try another commerical pattern company. I don't know why but Vogue patterns have always slightly intimidated me if I'm honest.


I willl probably have to make a couple of alterations to the collar to make it fit with a fluffy fur and I think I would change the pockets slighty too. I do want to have ones on the outside rather than in seam. One additional thing is that I will do bound buttonholes. You can't see it too clearly on the picture but the Miss Selfridge coat does have them - which I think is pretty high spec for a high street coat.

I have sourced a few different wools to try from Etsy for the outer shell - I couldn't find a soft baby blue I liked but have found various wools that I think could work. The first is a wool with a mixture of pinks and blues. It is a polyester and wool mix and medium weight. Its labelled as Kawaii fabric which means cute in Japanese...and isn't it just?!

HeyFabrics - Etsy
The second is a wool coating that has a chevron weave on it. There is a pink, black and navy wool to choose from. I think the navy is nice, especially as I already own a pink coat!

HeyFabrics - Etsy
As you will know from previous posts my favourite place so far to get hold of fabric - and in this case wool - has been to go online to Etsy as the choice is immense and you get the option of buying from all over the world. This can sometimes mean you pay a little extra in postage - and of course you have to be wary of the annoying custom charges - but I find that quite often I can find something a little different for a not too hefty price tag. I have listed a few of my favourite shops to look around - although I haven't bought from all of them so I can't guarantee the quality of the goods but the reviews are generally very good.


I have also been looking at fur for the collar. The collar of this coat is fur on both the upper and lower collar pieces and so I wanted to go for the same look if possible but I didn't want really cheap looking faux fur. Not having ever bought it before I wasn't really sure where to go to get the good stuff and so it really is going to be a bit of trial and error. The pattern piece for the collar on my pattern is also 20cms wide and a lot of trims I found were much smaller than this. Admittedly I may end up making it smaller when I do  toile of the coat but I figure its best to have options. MacCulloch and Wallis have a great selection of amazing looking trims but their largest white fur was only 14cms wide. Minerva Crafts also has a large range and then I found a brilliant website called fabric online that stocks loads of different variations. I also did the obligatory sweep through Etsy and found some brilliant vintage pieces of real fur from the 1930's and 40's as well as a lovely looking faux fur which is basically what I have gone for from Bodikian Textiles. They cut to the width needed which is great and its not overly expensive. Its always a bit daunting buying online though so fingers crossed that it will be ok when I get it through the post. As mentioned there were lots of vintage pieces of real fur available and some amazing fluffy collars to buy but I feel wrong purchasing real fur, even if it is vintage. In the end I thought going faux is definitely the way forward as its such good quality nowadays, so I opted for this instead.

Bodikian Textiles - Etsy
I am also keeping my options open to put on a detachable fur collar to have a bit of variety in my wardrobe and have found a couple of blog tutorials about how to do this below-

Coletterie - Removable custom faux fur collar for your coat
A Beautiful Mess - Detachable faux fur coat collar DIY

Now to decide which wool to go for....mmm decisions, decisions... which do you think would be best? I think this will be a lovely post Christmas sewing project. Now to get on with the next part of my winter wardrobe - the wrap dress from Gertie's book 'Gerite Sews Vintage Casual' which I reviewed here. Happy sewing everyone!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Very Capable Cape

After my last project I went straight on to another outwear garment as its getting so cold here all I can think about are coats and capes and basically anything to keep the cold off. I chose a cute cape pattern from Liesl + Co. I hadn't come across this pattern company before but when I saw it in Love Sewing magazine I thought the shape was so lovely and simple that it would be really easy to fit into my wardrobe. A lovely classic staple. Admittedly the one thing that makes it slightly unwearable in the current climate is that it doesn't cover you up completely and there are no pockets. Now after wearing my lovely raspberry wool coat for the last few weeks I can tell you categorically that no pockets is no fun!! Even with gloves on its cold on the outside! So even though the cape is lovely I wont wear it until it gets a little warmer or I have super thermals on to protect me from the chill!!


The construction of this cape is amazingly easy. Its three pieces of fabric for the outer shell and four pieces for the lining. The fabric I chose was a lucky find on Etsy - I LOVE ETSY!! I spend hours perusing the various fabric stores. It was labelled as a novelty wool coating and 2.8 yards only cost me £19. A bargain!! I chose a black polyester crepe backed satin for the lining and some black buttons to go with it. I quite fancied maybe getting some with some pink in there somewhere but I couldn't find something that worked (or weren't meant to be sewn on to kids clothing) so stuck with the black. I think a more sophisticated choice in the end.


Sewing together the garment was a pleasure and so, so simple. I applied some fusible interfacing on the front sections where the button and buttonholes are placed and on the neck panel at the back, then you attach the lining and coat fabric together and turn the lining out through a little hole left open when you machine stitch the lining together. I did some top stitching on the cape which helped the fabric stabilise, it would keep rolling out otherwise. I then added the buttonholes and buttons. I kind of hate doing buttonholes. It's great to have a machine that does them automatically but I find whenever I have gone through the practise stage, checking the machine is happy with the fabric and the button hole function works ok, that the machine always manages to sabotage me in the middle of sewing. It generally does it on practically every item I have made and its the only time I curse my machine under my breathe. I did consider trying out a bound buttonhole but the fabric is of a loose weave and I realised after reading a few how to's that the fabric would be unfit for it and that it would unravel so there was little point trying it. They are such a beautiful addition to a garment and I am desperate to give them a go. Next time!! Anyway I have to say that EVERY SINGLE BUTTONHOLE managed to go wrong. The first two somehow I managed to do wonky which was my fault and so I carefully unpicked them, slightly fluffing up the second one along the way. Not only is the fabric a pain to unpick but the lining wants to run and I cant see a thing with black thread against black lining - my eyes are definitely getting older. Twenty minutes later after carefully squinting at it I had unpicked them and realigned the markings ready to have another go.


The first one was perfect then the next one stopped half way towards finishing the buttonhole. After cursing at my machine I checked everything was in place, re-threaded, turned the machine on and off and then did another practise one. That one was fine....but when I did the next one it just did just the same thing. Rather than unpick the half done buttonhole I started sewing it from the unfinished side. This sewed up the end of the buttonhole well but for some reason he machine didn't like this either and left a small gap for me to sew by hand. If you imagine repeating this procedure with the rest of the buttonholes you will see my frustration with the machine. Deep breathe!!
                                    
                                                                                                                   
   
I finally managed with bated breath to complete the buttonholes and tidy them up by hand. I decided to open them up another day to avoid further disaster. Sometimes when you start sewing nothing goes right so I thought it was best to leave it until I could count on some better luck!!


But now after carefully slicing through the buttonholes and sewing on the buttons it is finally done! What do you think? I have to say I really like it. There are some really cute versions on the web for inspiration and I would totally recommend getting your hands on the pattern and giving it a go. Maybe wait for the spring though!

Monday, 15 December 2014

'Famous Frocks - The Little Black Dress' - A New Sewing Book For the Party Season!

If you have read this blog for a while then you will know that I love a good sewing book - well who doesn't really right!? So when I was looking online for Christmassy presents for family I came across this book by Dolin Bliss O'Shea - 'Famous Frocks - The Little Black Dress'. I thought a little present for myself cant hurt can it??


The book walks you through making frocks inspired by famous icons - Coco Chanel, Ava Gardner and Kate Moss to name a few. I love the idea of the book. Before each pattern the author quotes the actress featured, gives a little bit of history about the person who wore the dress and what era it was from. You then get the copy of the dress and a variation of the dress to try as well. So in all there are 20 patterns in this book which makes it a bargain buy at £10 - which is what its currently priced on Amazon at the moment. There is also the obligatory instruction manual at the start to reference sewing terms etc.... and it covers a reasonable amount - although in all honesty it covers what most other books do so if you already own another garment pattern book from say Tilly, Colette Patterns or Gertie then the likelihood is that this information will be replicated in both.


There are some items in the book that I don't like or wont make up but that is what happens with most of my books - you either dont like all the patterns or some items wont suit your style or shape. So its pick, choose and modify to make them work. The one thing that does work against this book - and this has been said about the first book in this series - is that it really does rely on the owner wanting several different styles in their wardrobe - so dressing as Kate Moss from the 1990's or Audrey Heburn from the 1950's. Not everyone has a wide ranging style base so it may not appeal to everyone but I like being able to pick and choose from different era's.

In general the variations are very easy or boring and don't appear to have been given much thought. A number of them are a skirt made from a dress or a top made by taking the bodice from a dress - the two skirt variations are shown below.

They lack imagination to me and I think Dolin misses a trick here. But there are some nice ones which I have noted below. I just feel that most of the variations bring it down to a real novice sewing pattern book and I think this book actually lends itself to being more advanced. Or at least it would be better in my opinion if it had been aimed at that market. I do realise however that books aimed at beginners are more likely to sell. It just seems the market is saturated with them right now.

In general the book is a lovely glossy purchase and I am glad I can add it to my collection. I would like to think I can motivate myself to make a dress for the New Year celebrations from here... Lets see what Dolin has to offer us to party the night away in!

One of my favourite patterns from the book is the Audrey Hepburn black dress from Sabrina. I think I prefer the pencil skirt variation rather than the original full skirt but its more to do with my personal style than the look of the dress.


I like the simplicity of the Coco Chanel dress although I am not sure whether I would just look frumpy if I wore this.


My favourite dress by far is the Joan Crawford dress with its sequinned mid section. I think I will be making this one up for sure, although most likely in a more colourful fabric than black. Maybe this should be my New Year creation!?


The Liza Minelli and Mary Quant variations are nicer than the originals in my opinion. The 60's Mary Quant dress isn't really for me and I thought the main dress didn't look that nicely put together. 


The Liza Minella wrap dress was nice but I prefered it with sleeves. I don't like the ghastly green jersey fabric in the variation pattern but you can see past that.


The Angelica Houston dress is too boxy for me but the top variation is something I could see making up. It is a pretty basic top with a slight cowl neck. I can see this being a useful staple with jeans and a jumper during the winter months. It reminds me of the Colette Patterns Mrytle dress top.


I do like the Kate Moss dress but honestly I can't see myself wearing this. My stomach isn't flat enough!! It is cute though and a few years ago I would have given it a go.


The one for me that most lacks any imagination is the Princess Diana dress. Its just a simple sheath dress. Not only that but they have the model dressed up in an awful blonde wig which looks like it was purchased from a pound shop.... The variation is a bit boring, a button back top which looks like a lot of other patterns out there at the moment. I really think Diana wore loads of more interesting dresses than this. Admittedly this was a staple shape but its so dull and  been done a million times before.

Overall I really like the book and would recommend it. I would like to see whether other people have bought and made up anything from this book. Does this sneak peak inside make you want to buy it and try something out or does it make you think that it's not for you? Anything catch your attention? It would be lovely to hear your thoughts....Happy sewing!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Deer and Doe Anemone Skirt and the Harrogate Stitching and Knitting Show

Last week was an exciting week of sewing related goodness. I have spent the early part of the week making up the lovely Deer and Doe Anemone Skirt and then went up to Harrogate in Yorkshire for a lovely few days away - handmade Raspberry wool coat and Anemone skirt in hand. I met up with a good friend (the only one who really understands my crafting obsession!) and we went to the Stitching and Knitting show to partake in classes and to have a general mooch around for bargains and bits and bobs that take our fancy. But more of that later!

The Anemone skirt was a pleasure to make and is flattering to wear. Its easy to construct, it has no waistband and only requires various panels to be sewn together for the outer section, peplum and lining I think it would be very easy for a beginner to complete as the only tricky bit is the concealed zip. I managed to sew this up in an afternoon and really enjoyed it. The Deer and Doe patterns are so easy to follow and the instructions for this skirt are only about 3 or 4 pages long so there is not too much to do before you have a lovely finished skirt.


I made some minor alterations to the pattern. The material that I used was very thin and needed to be underlined to bulk it up a little bit and make it suitable for purpose. It was a lovely piece of bluey, black spotted chambray from Robert Kaufman.


I cut out the exact pattern pieces twice, once in the main fabric and once in black poplin, serged the pieces together and sewed the two pieces as one as per the instructions of the pattern. I didn't want to add a lining as I thought this would add too much bulk so I made facings for the top of the skirt and reinforced the facing by stitching in the ditch of the seams of the skirt, which stops the waistband rolling up. Sorry about the awful photo, the light and weather is so awful today I couldn't seem to take a good one.


The main thing I like about this skirt is whilst the design is relatively simple the peplum sides make it look quite quirky. Its a very wearable style.


I have been looking at other peoples versions of the skirt and there are so many lovely examples out there. I think I would like to make the other version which is slightly longer and omits the peplum sides. Its very cute! The picture below is from the Deer and Doe website.


So on to Harrogate. Its such a lovely small spa town and I enjoyed spending some time up there. The one thing you have to do when you go is to spend some time at the Harrogate Turkish Baths. It was renovated about 14 years ago and the interiors are original from over a hundred years ago which is pretty awesome. Its nice to know you are somewhere that hasn't changed for over a century. And its so beautiful. Just take a look at these pictures and the beautiful tiles on the wall and floors.




We spent a couple of hours in the steam room, sauna rooms and plunge pool before a lovely luxuriant spa treatment; exfoliation, massage and facial. Bliss. I totally recommend it to anyone going to Harrogate.

The spa set us up for a lovely time at the Stitching and Knitting show the following day. I missed the one in London as by the time I had got myself round to booking tickets the classes had all sold out, and to be honest its the reason you go as the rest of it is stalls upon stalls of people selling stuff. Don't get me wrong I enjoy shopping as much as the next person but the stalls are generally aimed at knitters or quilters of which I am neither. I did however find a few good things and am very happy with my purchases!

It was a couple of weeks after the London show that my friend invited me to the Harrogate one as she had won complimentary tickets. I booked myself on to a couple of classes - 'making a scarf with dispersable dyes' and 'lovely lacy knickers'. The thing I liked about the show was that you could try out all sorts of different crafts which you have never done before and then excitedly buy all the tools to do it at home from within the show itself. The first class wasn't really my thing - it was essentially using dyes painted on paper and then ironing the paper on to polyester. I didn't really get into it but you can see from the picture below the type of effects people got from it and some really do look pretty interesting.


During the second class I learnt how to sew a pair of lacy knickers which was amazingly easy and quite satisfying. I have to admit to then going upstairs to the merchandise stalls and buying a load of stretchy lace from a Dutch man who had such beautiful items on sale. I also bought some non stretch lace to make a bra. I tried this a long time ago and liked doing it but didn't see it through to the end. I think I would like to perfect my lingerie skills and start making my own. The lace was unbelievably cheap for what you get and I could knock out about 4 or 5 knickers an hour its that quick to do.


Whilst at the show I also bought myself a vintage shirt pattern - a beautiful Butterick wrap shirt shown below.

I also found an online fabric shop that sells beautiful vintage inspired fabrics and silks and actual vintage fabrics and bits and bobs like belt buckles etc.... - Til The Sun Goes Down. I spent so long ogling the fabrics and totally recommend having a look at the online shop. They all look amazing quality and they are just a little bit different - I will be placing an order as soon as I can!!

I am now back home with my feet up in front of the fire thinking about my next sewing project!