Thursday, 14 November 2013

Two Zinnias

I will openly admit that I am a girl of very few colours. About 80% of my wardrobe is grey, black or navy, with a spot of red thrown in for good measure.

I'm working on this!

Not quite yet though, as here we have two new skirts, both Colette Zinnia, one navy polka  dot (shocker!) and one a lovely deep red. I will put up a little defence in that I am rebuilding my wardrobe away from inappropriately short skirts to skirts of a modest length, and considering the current palette these are both very much wardrobe staples.

So, onto the pattern.... I LOVE this skirt!!

A few first times for me here, first pleats, first lined skirt, first time having to hem things that actually change shape/length since cutting (a bloody nightmare I tell you!!! Possibly my least favourite sewing task yet, perhaps more so than concealed zippers).

The red skirt is version 2, without the belt loops, though I added a couple inches to the hem. The dotty skirt is a version 3, cut to the same length as I found worked well for the red one.

Following one of Sarai's blog posts about her black version 1 Zinnia, I'm inspired to make one of those also, which should get me well on the way to full wardrobe staple skirt perfection.

So, here are just a few reasons why this skirt is awesome...

1. It's a quick make, even for me. I finished the red skirt less than a week after the pattern release!
2. You don't have to make a muslin - as long as you have the waist measurement right, the rest falls into place.
3. It's super comfortable, it just hangs off your waist and feels so freeeee!
4. You can cycle in it, and not worry it being so short that it rides up and flashes people, nor so long that it gets dirty on your chain/wheels. It's the goldilocks length for cyclists.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The First Jumper!

So I just have to share these photos because I'm very excited about this project!
I bought the yarn, and cast on just 10 days ago and I'm really happy with the progress I've made already. Sadly the sewing has fallen to the side while I get more and more obsessed with this, but I consider it time well spent.
The yarn is a beautifully soft alpaca / wool blend which is so soft and I imagine will be lovely and warm. And it only cost £1.70 a ball. Amazing! This means I can do the whole project for £20 which is fine with me!
I've just finished one full round of the cable pattern and I love the way it's turning out, it's just so pleasing to watch those little cables grow!
I literally cannot wait to wear this jumper and have taken the knitting everywhere with me, I've been knitting in the pub, on the train, in the train station, and at my friends house whilst I wait for everyone else to wake up!
So yeah, here are a few snaps of the project so far, kindly modelled by my cat, Taz.

Bella's Mittens

I have another finished project to share - woo!

So I recently decided to branch out a little with my handmade wardrobe making, and have rekindled my forgotten ability to knit. 
Previous to this project I've only ever made scarves and a really boring blanket which took far too long to finish (and I still can't be bothered to finish piecing it). 
So, keen for a bit of challenge I was looking out for something small and quick where I could learn a handful of new skills in a short space of time, without worrying about fit. And I found these loverly cabled mittens, which is a free download on Ravelry. Perfect!

25 or so YouTube tutorials later, I've learned the long tail cast on, the magic loop, cables, new ways of increasing/decreasing and the importance of getting the right sized needles. (I had bought the wrong ones, thanks to a dodgy conversion chart in my local wool shop). 

It was lucky really that I didn't care about fit, as these are rather huge due to my wrong sized needles, but thankfully I have a friend at craft club who said "What do you mean, these fit fine" to which I replied "would you like to keep them when they're finished?".

So, here is the lovely Fran, showing off her lovely new mittens! Mmmmm snug!

Here is the link to my Ravelry project page, if you're interested.

I've now started on another knitting project, and going for gold this time with a jumper - a super soft, snuggly, cabled, fitted jumper. Of course, many things could go wrong with this, but it's looking good so far (9 inches in) and I'm very excited to wear it! Plus, did I mention that I love a challenge? :)

Sunday, 22 September 2013


Recently I've found myself becoming increasingly aware of the length of my skirts and dresses, coming to the conclusion that the majority of them are too short (especially now I have gained another year and reached the grand old age of, erm, 26). What may have been cute when I was a student just feels embarrassingly inappropriate now, so the natural thing to do to resolve this issue is obviously to Make. More. Skirts.


So, on my to do list was shopping for a suitable skirt pattern. I knew that Colette patterns had a new launch this week and was really hoping for the perfect dignity restoring skirt. And they have TOTALLY delivered with Zinnia. I mean it's basically amazing.

Like quite a few others, judging by the first comments, I'm not really mad about the gathered version 1. It's very similar to Tillys picnic blanket skirt which I made recently, which was an easy make, but not exactly a wardrobe staple.

I need something I can wear to work, to the pub, on a sunny autumn walk... Basically I need something I can wear to death!

I already have the fabric ready for the until recently "unknown skirt" : a gorgeous red wine coloured something I grabbed at Birmingham rag market. The man kept shouting £1.50 a metre at me, what was I supposed to do!? (answer: buy three metres and worry about what to do with it later!).

So I've purchased, downloaded, printed, cut, masking taped, traced and cut my pattern pieces. A quick fabric wash and a trip to the haberdashery for thread and a zip and we're ready to go!

I've decided to make a hybrid of versions 2 and 3. I have no idea on the content of the fabric (assume polyester), I'm not even sure what we would call the fabric, but it's smooth, drapey, opaque and generally lovely, so I'll follow the instructions for version 2, including the pockets and belt loops, but cut the length for version three just for that guaranteed modesty fix I so desperately need.

My only wish now is for a skirt that looks half as beautiful as the ones modelled in the launch photos. If the wine skirt goes well, I could well be making an exact replica of their version 3.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Picnic Blanket Skirt

Remember these delicious handmade buttons I found a while ago?

Well, I was checking out the fabric shops in Leamington Spa when I came across the perfect fabric. Literally, perfect! See?
I wasn't planning to go so matchy matchy but it just seemed too much of a coincidence. It's a lightweight cotton, perhaps not quite as drapey as I'd like it to be for this skirt, but it's okay.

I decided to try out Tilly's Picnic Blanket Skirt, as it looked very simple and I've not done much gathering before so thought it would be a good little lesson in that respect. It also gave me a chance to practise some button holes, as I've only done a few before and struggled with placement, i.e. where the needle starts compared to where the buttonhole ends up! Think I nailed it though....

My lovely friend Ellen took this photo for me on a hay bale. As you do.
If you like the pattern, you can download it for FREE at Tilly's blog - it's not a pattern per se as the pieces are all rectangles, you just need to do a little measuring. 

Here it is:

I do find though that there is quite a lot of strain on the top button, which causes the two sides of the skirt tend to move into a V shape sometimes rather than sitting horizontally, so I'm planning to add another little secret button on the inside to try to keep it in place.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Gatsby Dress - Part 2

I am very proud to share with you (my current average 2 viewers, whoever you are) my finished Gatsby Dress!

It turns out that the fraying did cost a little more than I thought, and by the time I'd finished French seaming the sides I could barely get it on or off. However, I COULD get it on and off (just) which is the important thing, right?

So, here are some photos of me in my shiny new dress:

Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of the back, but I found this one on Facebook (gotta love Facebook) and stole it. As you can see, the dress was a little tight just below the bust, causing the back to warp outwards, but I was told it wasn't too noticeable. 

The event itself was a wonderful evening - an award ceremony for a series of short films, adverts, window displays and seasonal menus all put together by local businesses in Warwick. Everyone made a real effort to dress up which was obviously fabulous - one lovely lady even wore her grandmothers original 1920's fringed dress and many more wore vintage brooches, shrugs or purses.

The best part of the evening though, was how many people complimented me on the dress, not knowing that I had made it myself. There is nothing in this world that makes me feel as good as answering that magic question "I love your dress, where did you get it?" with "Well actually I made this myself". I hope I never get bored of that feeling!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Gatsby Dress - Part 1

Something very exciting happened to me last week!

Next week here in Warwick is the first Food and Film Festival, which is very exciting in it's own right as it features a drive-in screening of Grease, as well as Cool Runnings served with jerk chicken and rum in coconuts, both of which I shall certainly be attending. Before it all kicks off on the weekend the organisers are hosting a special event at Warwick Castle. Which looks like this, by the way:

I know, right?

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what the event involves, but I'm led to believe it's a way to say thank you to the various sponsors/supporters/volunteers who have made the festival happen. 
Anyway, a friend of a friend is one of the organisers, and I've been invited to attend. And it's Gatsby themed. And it's in a castle. Obviously, I HAD to make a dress :D

I should point out at this stage that I have made a total of 2 dresses and 2 skirts (of which I will blog about shortly) previous to this project, so I am hardly an experienced seamstress. I've also never tried to drastically alter a pattern before but followed the instructions like a good little girl, learning new tricks along the way. So I thought, "hey, not only will I attempt to make a dress in under 2 weeks, but I think I'll design it from scratch too".

The whole reason I started sewing, like many people, was because I had ideas for clothes that no amount of shopping would ever find me. I want it in that colour, that length, with that type of sleeve and that kind of pattern, and I knew the only way to achieve that was to go DIY. So I did, and here we are, prematurely designing dresses before I know nearly enough about designing dresses!

But I can report that so far, it's going to plan!! :D

Here is the little sketch that I made within minutes of receiving the invite:

And amazingly, I've stuck to it perfectly. I wanted to make sure that the design was as simple as possible. I think I achieved this as I am making the dress in just two pieces. Boom!
Being a bit hasty I didn't think to look up how I should go about drafting a pattern, so I found a close fitting, non stretchy t-shirt without darts or princess seams or anything other than an untouched front and back piece. That went on the mannequin, the baking paper and the pins came out, I measured the length I wanted as well as my hips, and the next thing I knew I had a pattern draft. 

2 muslins later and a lot of tentatively cutting the back lower inch by inch I was happy with the dress and made the adjustments onto a paper pattern.

Saturday took me to Birmingham, where I knew I could pick up just about anything (cheaply) at the Rag Market. Which I'm pleased to say was a huge success, even though the staff at one of the stalls were useless and rather rude, they decided to accidentally give me half of my shopping for free, and since they were such a pain in my arse I decided to not correct them. Cheers guys! Another man was convinced that I couldn't make anything other than frilly knickers, let alone a dress, from 1m of fabric, but I told him I had done my measurements and I knew what I needed. (I was right, by the way ;) ) 

So I came home with this, and come Sunday I was ready to start! I decided that since the low back sits quite far from my actual back (I have that thing I think they call a sway back?) and because my lining is cheap and shiny, it might be a good idea to add a facing to the back section so that the cheap lining won't be too visible if the fabric turns outwards when it falls. This was a great idea in theory, but I forgot how see through my chiffon was, so actually it looks like this:

It doesn't bother me too much, but should I make the dress again I would try to find a way around it. Maybe I should also point out that previous to this project, I have never ever worked with chiffon before. Holy cow, is it difficult!? I have learned that pins are better than pattern weights baked beans tins. I have learnt that even then, somehow it still moves. And I've learned that it frays like CRAZY!!! 

So much so that having finally got the neckline and armholes finished, the side seams were so frayed I've lost over an inch on each side. This is not good. I don't have excess fabric. The dress needs to be worn in 3 days. What the hell do I do?

Well, I decided to baste the sides anyway, and try to get it over my head, then cry when it doesn't go over and start online shopping for a tacky flapper dress from River Island that I'd never be happy in .

People, it was a miracle. The dress just slipped gracefully over my head, and other than a little looseness under the arms (an easy fix) it fit perfectly, with a good amount of ease to spare. I don't know how this happened since I clearly lost so much to the fraying. I can only imagine all the mistakes I've made so far have warped the fabric a little looser! Anyway, I am not complaining. I am, however, SO relieved that I'm actually a little emotional about it. I genuinely thought that all my hard work so far would be thrown to the scrap fabric bag and I'd turn up in the same last minute shop bought dress as someone else (ugh!).

So that's it for tonight, I need to come away, calm down, and continue (and hopefully complete) tomorrow. 

Bonus photos:

Sorry Taz, is something else getting my attention?

Monday, 27 May 2013

Sweet Little Buttons

So a couple of weeks back I was at the Redland May Fayre in Bristol where I found the cutest stall of handmade things, including these darling buttons:
They're handmade and hand painted, and as you can see totally gorgeous! I hesitated in buying them to begin with, as I didn't know what I use them for, but after some thinking I've decided they would look really good on this Blanket Skirt by Tilly and the Buttons.
The seller assured me that they're very durable, but I'd be happier using them on something like a skirt where they are more decorative than functional, just in case.
Now to find the perfect fabric....

Tutorial - Earring holder

For about a year I have had this vague idea, and this weekend I've finally pulled out my finger and put those ideas to use!

I don't know about everyone else, but I have always kept my stud earrings in a little box and wondered if there was a better way of 
a) seeing what I have to choose from
b) finding a matching pair 

I am now very pleased to present to the world, my new shiny Earring Holder!

I started with an old frame where I'd broken the glass during a house move - sad times.

But, it's what finally spurred me to make this, so it's not all bad news, right? Also, it was very very easy to make.

I started by cutting the fabric pieces like so, about 8cm tall and as long as the frame widths plus about another 6cm to allow room to wrap it around the back. I used some leftover wadding to make "sausages". These started out the width of the frame (as you don't want this to be in the way of the wrapping, only inside the frame) by about 25cm. This length made the fatter sausages, and about 15cm will give you skinnier sausages.
Simple roll the wadding into a little sausage....

Then pin, and sew as close to the edge of the sausage as you can get. I found it easier to do this with the zipper foot.

Start arranging your sausages within the frame, to get an idea of how many you need. As you can see, once you pull them up to one end you can fit a lot more in! You want to get in as many as you can easily get in after pushing them all to one end, as you need them to hug your earring snugly in place.

I didn't take any pictures of the final stage, but I cut a piece of thin card the same size as the frame back and placed over the ends of the sausages which wrapped behind the card, and then replaced the frame back. You might like to glue the fabric ends down, but I didn't feel like I needed to.

A few minutes later and I went from this...

To this...

Much better, yes?

Down the rabbit hole?

So, this is the first post of my first blog. I decided it was enough silently watching the rest of the sewing community proudly showcasing their tremendous efforts and wishing I also had something to contribute, so here we go I guess!