Sunday, 30 January 2011

Colette Rooibos - done!

This weekend I finally finished my first proper garment of the year - the Colette Rooibos! Check me out, looking all smug!


looking suspicious!

These photos are taken with my iPhone (so I hope you can see ok - my proper camera is...somewhere) on the rooftop outside my flat. I can tell you I felt UBER glam clambering out the window in my sparkly shoes. It's the first time I've been out there since about September so it's looking particularly unkempt and all my plants to be. Oops. 

Now. The Rooibos. I loved this pattern. It was a total dream to sew. And I love the finished result. So. What did I learn?

After all my musings on muslins, I didn't make one because I am lazy. Having measured myself and finding myself between sizes, I erred on the side of caution (as advised in the pattern) and cut a size up. Tilly's just put up a really interesting post about how to cut the right size pattern, I'll definitely be referring to her tips when cutting out my next project. I fitted the bodice as I went along, adjusting any darts as necessary to ensure a good fit around the bust. With the rest of the pieces I just sewed them up normally, figuring I could take them in if necessary at the end. Which I had to do. I think if I made it again I will cut a size smaller. To resize the side hems, I put it on inside out, pinned it in and drew the stitching line on with white pen. During this process I got thoroughly stuck in the dress - unfortunately this was while Matt was in the shower so I had to wait (rigidly in a dress full of pins) until he got out to free me! At this point I also shortened the zipper so that it zips from the waistline up (it was originally a 16" zipper) as I thought it sat better that way. 

Pattern cutting
For the first time ever, I traced around my pattern pieces with chalk before cutting. I cannot believe the difference it made, the cutting and sewing up was just so much easier. It's definitely worth the extra time it takes. Also it's the first time I've used proper dressmaking scissors - can you believe it? What was I thinking before, trying to cut out fabric with paper scissors! Numpty. 

As I just mentioned, I shortened the zipper in the end, and I think it looks better on me. However I finally had the guts to try the zipper foot on my machine and it was a revelation. A revelation. Gone are the days when I chicken out of using it and sit like a mug hand sewing in my zips! Unfortunately I was so preoccupied with my success at attaching the zipper foot that I sewed the zip on inside out the first time. However this was quickly rectified thanks to my trusty seam ripper! I'm still not terribly good at the old zips, but I'm getting better. 

Well. You see the little collar? This is where I learnt the lesson that clipping your curves is essential. I stitched carefully around the neckline (quite tricky - lots of pointy bits) thinking I am awesome, this looks perfect. Impatiently turned it inside out to see what it looked like (I didn't want to clip until I'd checked the outside) - and my heart sank. It was puckered and looked awful. I presumed the problem was with my stitching and sat at it for ages, hand sewing, picking out stitches, swearing...until finally it clicked - the problem hadn't been with my stitching at all, it was just that I hadn't clipped around the curves/corners. I unpicked and resewed it exactly the same way as I had the first time, clipped, et voila. Perfect. Now, I would have clipped the seams eventually, I do know that much, but I just hadn't realised how much difference it would make and thought I'd made a massive error. Lesson learnt? Have more self confidence and less impatience!

I did intend to pipe the pockets and neckline (this is optional in the pattern) but I chickened out at the last minute. I will attempt the piping another time!

It took me ages to find the right material for this project - I knew I wanted a heavy-ish material, but I didn't know enough about different sorts of fabrics to confidently buy online, and John Lewis just didn't have what I wanted. Eventually I found this navy polka dot material in Rolls and Rems on Seven Sisters Road (recommended - cheap as chips, some of the fabrics are a bit cheap and see through, but there are some gems). It's quite heavy with a little bit of a stretch in it. The lining material is a silver fabric I had in my stash. I wanted white originally but again John Lewis didn't have a plain white cotton so I had to improvise. I had the brainwave of using one of Matt's old shirts for the lining fabric - however I wrote an email to remind me to hunt the shirts out when I got home, and instead of sending it to myself, sent it to Matt by mistake, who promptly vetoed the idea. I think it worked out for the best though, the silver looks much better!

I have a confession. You see these pretty buttons?

Well, they're actually a pair of earrings. I didn't originally intend to put buttons on the front, but when the dress was all sewn up the front looked like it needed an extra something. I experimented with all my brooches, my button stash, and nothing looked right. Then I caught sight of my ears in the mirror and it clicked - the earrings! Perfect! I love them as buttons on this dress, so I'll either have to find buttons like them or else figure out a way of converting the earrings so I don't get jabbed in the chest by the posts! If anyone's seen buttons like these I'd appreciate a heads up. 

I learned loads while making this pattern - I would say that although the pattern is reasonably straightforward, it's not one for beginners - for example it just says 'insert invisible zipper' with no pictures or further instruction. I guessed my way through it and it seems to have worked, but a bit more guidance might have been useful for a novice such as myself. I was also thoroughly confuddled by one of the instructions which requires you to roll up the shoulders and "flip" the garment. It ends up looking like this: 

This is the whole bodice all rolled up! I was not at all sure I was doing it correctly, but I thought I wouldn't know until I'd tried so I crossed my fingers and sewed the seam....and thank goodness I'd got it right! Again this may be an obvious method if you're a more experienced seamstress, but for me it took a leap of faith.

All in all, I think this is a fabulous pattern - I will almost definitely make it again, perhaps in a more summery colour. I'm tempted to go pattern crazy on it using two different florals, but perhaps this is going a bit far. Matt told me yesterday that my leopard print coat and sequinned hat/glove combo makes me look like I'm off out collecting cat skulls - perhaps that's a sign I should step away from the patterns?? Or maybe it would look cute with a peter pan style collar?? Possibilities possibilities!

I can't wait to try another Colette pattern, perhaps the Macaron?

I hope you've all had lovely weekends, Matt and I took a walk to Stoke Newington yesterday and had a plunder around the vintage shops then came home and ate dee-lish fresh tuna and beans while watching Harry Potter. Perfect!


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Best online fabric shops (unofficial!)

When I posted asking for recommendations for online fabric shops based in UK, a few of you commented that you'd be checking back to see the suggestions. As I am an uber-helpful little soul, I thought I'd do a special post on the subject, listing all the recommendations I received and adding a few of my own. The following are from Tilly, Stevie, Karen and Jane, so a big thank you to them. You can see who recommended what on my original post.

I will be browsing this lot thoroughly in my lunch hour...

I have not yet bought fabric online - I don't feel confident enough yet in my fabric knowledge to be sure I am buying the right thing. Plus I work right opposite the Oxford Street John Lewis (and 5 mins from Liberty) so I'm rather fortunate in my fabric-buying options. However over the past few months I have stumbled across some fabric sites that have had me drooling. I'll share them here, but I can't personally vouch for their quality/service! They are:
  • Gaga fabrics - they have some really fun, retro inspired fabrics, I love browsing their site.
  • The Cotton Spool - recommended to me as a local (North London) company. I've fallen in love with this duck print!
  • Fabric Inspirations - they have a big selection of retro inspired fabrics, fun to browse.
  • Spinster's Emporium - I've only recently discovered this site but they have a lovely selection of fabrics, buttons and trims.
  • Vintage Pretty - this ebay shop has an eclectic selection - some very odd fabrics, for example this scary kitten one! Might be useful if you're looking for something unusual.
  • The Vintage Fabric Market - they don't have a massive selection but worth keeping an eye on for vintage buttons and fabrics.

Now, someone hide my wallet.....

What fabric shops do you have bookmarked? Am I missing any gems? Leave me a comment and I'll add your suggestion to this post.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Lovely stuff...(and a birthday treat)

Hello, happy Friday everyone! It's been a cracking week in the blogosphere, with lots of lovely stuff being posted. Here are some of the best things I've bookmarked this week:

This sewing box from Cath Kidston is just adorable. I do hope my own sewing box doesn't meet with any unfortunate accidents anytime soon....*whistles* *looks shifty*

image courtesy of Cath Kidston 

Talking of sewing boxes - check out what Nette's doing! She's only making her own Cath Kidston inspired one! Truly inspiring.

Tilly and Karen write two of my favourite blogs - they've had a sewing Q&A, read it here. My favourite thing about this post is getting to have a nosey around someone else's sewing space (part of the job description when you become a librarian is to be a bit of a nosey parker - I prefer to call it 'curiosity'). While we're on the subject of sewing spaces, Tilly and Jane have both given us a peek into theirs this week too. Lovely stuff!

How fantastic are these fabric flowers? Jessica at How About Orange has posted a fab tutorial - I can't wait to try it. They'd look fantastic as embellishments for a dress/brooch/headpiece/shoe clip/other...

image courtesy of How About Orange

Jacki at Modern Twist posted this fantastic piece on the vintage details that can really make your creations stand out from the crowd. The pictures she's used are really inspirational and I've bookmarked them for future reference. I can't wait to become competent enough that I can adapt or even create my own patterns. (I came across this via someone else's blog, but I've forgotten whose - if it was you let me know and I'll credit you)

Kate and Wills plates:

image courtesy of Domestic Sluttery

This wedding memorabilia from KK Outlet made me laugh. I wouldn't mind Oxfordshire. Or perhaps a small island. (via Domestic Sluttery)

Have a fantastic weekend everyone - I know I will as it's my 29th birthday on Saturday and my lovely boyfriend has apparently planned a day of surprises! I can't wait! My wonderful colleagues have already spoiled me with lots of cake, HOT SAUCE (in-joke) and a terrorist tea pot (I'm Northern Irish). What a lucky lady I am!


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Love your library - a crafter's perspective

Image courtesy of Phil Bradley

Now. You may not know this about me, but I am a librarian in The Real Life. Not a lot of people know much about what librarians do, but we are highly qualified (you need an undergrad and a postgrad to become one), passionate about knowledge, about our local community and about equality of access to information. And we don't just read and stamp books all day. I don't personally work in a public library, but I feel strongly about them, and the cuts brought in by the Tories Coalition Government are hitting them hard. There is lots of debate going on but I'm not going to go into any of that here. Google it if you're interested. But there are some truly uplifting stories about communities coming together to save their local library, for example in Stony Stratford where the local community checked out all the library's books in protest at the library closures. That's right. Every. Last. One. Fantastic support. Although I wouldn't want to be on shelving duty when they all come back in...!

A crafter's perspective
You may now be asking yourself 'why is she posting this here, it's a craft blog'. Well. Aside from all the other reasons to love your local library, it will most likely have a craft section. Yep. Free (FREE) books on crochet, knitting, sewing, macrame (if that's your thing), card-making, interior design...etcetera. What's not to like? Particularly if (like me) you're a dabbler, i.e. you like to try lots of different crafty endeavours, then the library is your friend. Why spend ages trawling the web for free patterns or tutorials? Why spend money buying craft books that you may only use once then tire of the craft? Obviously once you know and love a craft you may want to own the books yourself, but for a quick intro or a specific pattern, borrowing is perfect. If your library doesn't have the book you'd like, check out its inter-library loan system, they may be able to get it for you.

Anyway, I'm not here to preach. But please, support your local public library! Perhaps some of you already do. If you are already a library advocate then show your support. We need you!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Matou en Peluche

I've recently come across the delightful illustrations of Matou en Peluche (thanks Tilly) and couldn't resist sharing them with you. 

so stylish - makes me want to chop my hair into a 20s bob

foxy, love the hair and the hat

I love this bird motif - it would look lovely worked up into a pattern. 

And this fan shaped dress is probably one of my favourite illustrations

cute as a button!

all images courtesy of Matou en Peluche shop and blog

Aren't they gorgeous? It's my birthday this month so I shall be dropping some heavy hints to my nearest and dearest. In the meantime I've got my sketchbook and an old copy of Vogue...let's see if inspiration strikes!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sewing space: a room of one's own

Where do you sew? Do you have a dedicated sewing space? Or do you have to make do with a kitchen table? Or even a coffee table? I have been thinking about my sewing space a lot since hearing about Jane's sewing room and seeing Tilly's new sewing space, and have decided to give it an overhaul.

I have been using a desk in the corner of our bedroom for my sewing, but I really hate it. It's too big for our tiny flat, and it's just plain ugly. Look:

However! Today I sold this ugly piece of furniture, and I am now deskless. So now I get to choose myself something much more suitable. We are limited on space so I want something small. I'm currently dithering between these two Ikea numbers:

The one on the left is cheap and small, but it's also pretty ugly. The one below is bigger and a lot more expensive but it's so much prettier and I can just close up the lid and hide all my mess when I'm done sewing. But I'm a bit worried the worktop might be a little restrictive because of the raised sides. I just can't decide which one will work best in my little space.

Hmm I'm going to have to have a think about it. The most important thing is a good surface to work on, right? And space for bits and bobs.

I'll be back to update when I've got it done. In the meantime I will mostly be googling sewing spaces for inspiration!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Cute as a button vintage clutch

Hello! How is everyone coping in this cold, dark January? If you're anything like me you're ensconced on the sofa in your jammies, with red wine/tea/cake/carbs and refusing to move. Do you find it more difficult to be creative? I certainly do.

In my last post I was moaning that I was lacking in motivation and energy to get any kind of creative activity happening. Life was just work, eat, telly, sleep. Not very inspiring! Well, it's still a bit like that to be honest, maybe I need more fresh air, a long walk and an iron supplement! But, also in my last post I set myself two goals in an attempt to drag myself out of my lethargy and I'm happy to say you don't have to shout at me (yet) because I have now completed one of them:

tah dah!

This is the 'cute as a button vintage clutch' from Pip Lincolne's book Meet me at Mikes. It was easy peasy to make, I faffed around quite a bit but I reckon you could do it from start to finish in about 30 minutes.

Pip suggested you make it out of a vintage teatowel for the outer purse body and a vintage pillow case for the inner, and throughout the instructions she refers to the fabric pieces as teatowel or pillow case. I just used some stash material, so I kept getting confused and having to check back whether the instructions referred to the inner or the outer pieces, in the end I had to go through the pattern and pencil it in. Apart from that I found the instructions easy to follow. The only difficulty I had was stitching a smooth curve around the purse flap - you can see I haven't quite managed it on the right hand side of the above picture! I had improved by the time I got to the other side, so my next attempt will be much better I'm sure. That will teach me to rush things at 11.30pm after a glass of wine! Have a look at Marie's versions, she has made a much better job of it than me. It's a fantastic little bag for make up, I'm not sure I would use it as a 'clutch' - maybe I'm just not a clutch kinda gal! I'd like to experiment, maybe scaling up the pattern a little bit to make it bigger and adding a shoulder strap. The pattern is very simple as you can see in the photo below:

only 3 pattern pieces
So, now at least I have created something this week. I also bought some material for the Rooibos (finally), so I'm hoping to cut that out this week.

Have a lovely weekend.


Monday, 10 January 2011

Because I'm lacking in motivation...

...I don't know what's happened to me recently - since I had the flu before Christmas my energy levels have been zero. Creativity levels: zilch. I know it's meant to take you out for a good few weeks after symptoms disappear, but this is getting ridiculous. To spur myself on I'm going to set myself two little goals to finish by the end of January. I have no excuses as I have the materials in my stash, and the patterns are either online or in books I already own. If you don't see the results by the 31st please bully me or....worse...unfollow! No please, I jest, don't unfollow I love all your comments.

Ok, so by the end of January I will have completed:

Tilly's bow belt - thanks to Tilly for posting this cute tutorial, it's been in the back of my mind for a few months now and I was reminded about it today by Hayley. By January 31st a bow belt shall be mine!

Image from Tilly and the Buttons

Pip from Meet Me at Mike's "cute as a button vintage clutch".

Blog updates to follow, or you are permitted to shout abuse! Now I've put it in writing here it has to happen.


Friday, 7 January 2011

Lovely stuff

Hello, happy Friday everyone. Did the first week back after the holidays absolutely drag? I know it did for me, I feel like time has ceased to function properly in 2011.

To cheer me up, I've had a trawl through all my blogs and picked my favourite discoveries to share with you. Maybe 'Lovely stuff' will even become a Friday regular.

Creatively lovely stuff:

Project Restyle - another gem from the creative minds of Elsie and Rachel. They are going to create lovely stuff out of damaged or unwanted goods, alongside weekly projects to give life to used items. You can join in yourself via their Flickr group. Inspirational!

Learning to sew: part 1 - Tilly from Tilly and the Buttons has posted this really useful introduction to sewing, answering some of the most common questions she gets asked. Lots of tips on getting started if you're new to sewing.

An extremely enviable sewing chest - lucky Nette! My sewing stuff is currently stored in an Ikea bedside table, an archive box and a couple of baskets. Not quite so stylish. Although I am lucky enough to have a very prety Cath Kidston sewing box.

Image courtesy of Nette

Other lovely stuff...

Shannon Eileen over at Happiness is has been posting lots of lovely stuff this week, not least this vintage suitcase storage. How gorgeous! I'd love one of these to store all my sewing supplies. I do like these ones from Liberty, but having felt them up in real life, I feel they're a bit flimsy for the price.

image courtesy of 'Happiness is'

 She also linked to these teacups... 

image courtesy of Me and Alice

...I can't decide if they're cute or a bit creepy? What about you? I think I would like one. It would also be quite funny to give someone tea in, but not warn them...

How to do customer service:

Spending Christmas Eve travelling can't be nice, so what better to spread a little Christmas cheer than a lovely random act of kindness from Spanair? The cynic in me keeps reminding me it's also fantastic publicity for the company, but you can't deny it's heartwarming.

Hope you've enjoyed these links as much as I have. Happy Friday everyone, I hope you have lovely weekends. I am planning a quiet one, preparing for a job interview on Monday - eek!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Dummies and online fabric retailers

Isn't she pretty? I have named her Mildred. I have the lovely Handmade Jane to thank for this latest acquisition, she posted a giveaway and I was the lucky winner. So a big thank you to Jane! I'm very much looking forward to getting stuck into the dressmaking this year and Mildred will be a huge help. Matt (other half) is rather amused and keeps teasing me about my "giant dolly" - sigh.

Oh and by the way, Jane's got another generous giveaway on her blog, so swing by before 8th January to take a look.

In sewing news, I am keen to get started on the Rooibos, but I'm having trouble finding the right fabric. Someone who works in central London shouldn't say that, but I am a bit of a wuss when it comes to sales crowds so I've been avoiding the main thoroughfares! Karen from Did You Make That has arranged a visit to Walthamstow Market in February, so I will hopefully snap up a few bargains there, but I can't possibly wait that long to get started! If any of you have recommendations for an online fabric retailer (UK) I'd love to hear them.