The best laid plans…

…can easily be derailed by the arrival of some new treasures. I had previously scheduled all my sewing projects into a nice well-ordered list. But these little beauties are just crying out for some attention and threaten to disrupt ‘the list’. Oh well, never mind. But look at the shiny new things!

Striped seersucker

I went for an innocent browse in The Cloth House in Berwick Street last week and ended up coming home with two metres of this charming striped seersucker. Isn’t it just so Missoni? I love the colours – they’re unusual together and the texture of the fabric is so tactile. I keep stroking and scrunching it. I’m so enamoured with the vintage pattern I used for the Mad Men dress challenge (Simplicity 5961) I’m considering making another version using the seersucker almost straight away. Speaking of the Mad Men dress – here’s a better quality sneaky peek than the one I put up last week. You can tell I’m dying to reveal it can’t you?

Mad Men dress

I also received a couple of delightful vintage patterns in the post last week:

Simplicity 6535

This is such a sweet little A-line dress, especially with view 2′s neckline. I’m thinking of using this wonderful Japanese cotton that was donated to me by a lovely lady named Cassy. Possibly with a cream/ivory contrast neckline.

Japanese cotton

I’ve been searching for a pattern to recreate this blouse. It’s a vintage blouse from either China or Japan and it’s got the most beautiful ruffled neck which is one of my favourite looks.  Sadly the arms are a bit tight and the fabric is becoming a bit bobbly in certain places so it’s time to try and recreate the magic! A good look at the design reveals it’s actually just a simple low collared shirt with ruffles attached.

Vintage blouse

and here’s the pattern to (hopefully) do it:

Vintage Vogue pattern

What about you? Do you find your plans are constantly being reprioritised depending on what pretty new thing has caught your eye?

Mad Men dress challenge – a wee tiny peek

I know I’ve been very quiet this last week but it’s not for want of sewing to talk about! I’ve been uber-busy on my Mad Men dress (part of Julia Bobbin’s Mad Men challenge). I made massive leaps and strides over the weekend and the first part of the week. I danced on the heads of pins, leapt gazelle-like into the gaping maws of the zipper and skipped my way to the hem-finishing-line… then I got a tummy bug.

So it slowed down a bit. But wanna see a sneaky peek? I just have to hem it now and all is done! Apologies for crappy mobile phone pic but it is a peek after all :)

I mustn’t reveal the finished item until Julia says it’s OK. Then I shall pirouette across the interwebs in it. Can’t wait to see all the other Mad Men dresses busily under construction out there – can you?

What a to do list! Sewing projects to see me through… well quite a long time actually…

First off, thank you so much for all the lovely comments on the March Minoru. It’s really encouraged me to stretch myself a bit more and try more complicated patterns! I’ve worn it out and about already and the high collar has protected me from all these nasty gusts of cold wind and rain in London. Plus I can pretend I’m Wilfred from the Bash Street Kids:

Source

And with that in mind (well maybe not the Wilfred bit – delete that), onto my next couple of sewing projects:

1. One pattern, one week

The inimitable Tilly has come up with a great challenge for stitchers everywhere with OWOP. The idea is to work a week’s worth of styling around your favourite pattern, whether that means making multiple versions or just trying to style one garment in a different way each day. I’ve chosen the Colette Violet for my week; I already have two versions here and here and I plan to make a third in time for the challenge. In the spirit of ‘trying new things’ I’m going to follow these excellent Colette tutorials on adding a lace collar, tucks and button loops – all to the same blouse!

Here’s the fabric and lace I’m using – do you think they work together? I think they do but in a really sweet old fashioned way.

Lace for violet

If you’d like to sign up to the challenge there’s still plenty of time. Head over to Tilly’s site for more details.

2. Mad Men Sewing Challenge

The super-gorgeous Julia Bobbin has unleashed a deadly combination of sewing and Mad Men obsession on us all: make your favourite Mad Men dress… by the end of March. Pinterest has been buzzing with inspirational pictures and (almost) audible gasps of delight since then. I’ve now got my vintage pattern, fabric and notions. I just have to do a quick muslin to check fit and we’re off. Here are the bits:

Mad Men

3. Nette’s Autumn Love dress pattern

I downloaded this free dress from Nette waaaay back last year and have been meaning to get stuck in for ages. Check out her version here – it’s adorable. I may have to grade up the pattern though (as she’s a little ickle) so it’s on with a muslin (post Mad Men of course!) and then I’ll be using the leftover grey corduroy from the March Minoru.

4. Ginger skirt, shortened

I love all the Gingers I’ve seen out there so far but I fancy shortening my version so it’s just above the knee. If I have enough of this gorgeous teal corduroy left then we’re on!

Ginger

5. Sewaholic’s Renfrew

On a day trip to Brighton recently I bought this fabulous black and white stripey knit from Fabric Land. It’ll be perfect for Renfrew and I’ll be committing to memory Lauren’s Conquering Knits guide beforehand.

Renfrew

6. Finally! Finally! I get to work on the Hazel which I bought last year. I already have all the fabric ready to go. This will be a perfect spring dress – love the colour combination of grey and pink.

7. More granny squares!

I’ve got about 30 or so made up so far but I reckon I need about 200 to make a substantial blanket. This is gonna take a while…

8. Ooof and I almost forgot the Negroni for my homie

Yes my first venture into sewing for men (and sewing for someone other than myself for that matter) will take place later this year. We have the pattern, we just need material. Maybe a nice plaid for the wearable muslin and then whatever he wants for the main event. I think he’s torn between fifties prints and space robots at the moment…

There are more on the list: the Colette Truffle from the Sewing Handbook, a new Peony with lining… but this is quite enough to get my juices flowing thank you very much. So that’s pretty much spring sorted for me. How about you?

Minoru in progress

As I declared on Friday, over the weekend I THREW myself into catching up on the Minoru sewalong with Tasia. After two hours on Sat and about five on Sun, I’m almost up to date. Tonight I’ll be finishing off the lining and putting it into the coat. My new sewing room is a joy to work in! Here’s a few pics from the work in progress.

I knew I would like the combo of grey corduroy and electric blue polkadot lining but I didn’t know I would FALL IN LOVE with it.

Here’s another pop of colour in da hood. Yes that’s right – da hood. Don’t judge me.

I used Amy’s excellent tutorial to install side pockets using leftover lining material.

By the way, have you seen Karen’s Minoru? It’s adorable. I love the front pockets she’s added.

Anyone else doing the sewalong? Have you experienced any tricky bits? I’m not sure my ‘concealed’ zipper in the hood has come out too well but I’m thinking I’ll have it out most of the time anyway. :)

Completed project: New Look 6000 – The Holloway

It defied a lapped zipper, it balked at a lining, it tried to do a vanishing act before my very eyes! But I defeated it! Ladies and gents… introducing… The Holloway, brought to you in association with New Look 6000 frock fest.

Inspired by Scruffy’s fabulous Pan Am photoshoot I’ve tried and failed to recreate a sixties office in North London, so instead here is Joanie (aka Joann-ie) at home, dusting and whatnot, as ladies in the sixties were wont to do. Thankfully we now live in more enlightened times and take husbands to do much of that for us.

Out with the old and in with the new as Joannie takes down the Christmas tree…

Holloway at the Christmas tree

Who wants a Dark and Stormy? (some odd creasing going on there around the bust – think I just need to pull the dress down a bit there. Plus I see my eager ironing of the bias bound hem has resulted in a visible border around the hem! Ack!)

Who wants a dark and stormy?

I subscribe to the Dean Martin school of drinking: “I’d hate to be a teetotaler. Imagine getting up in the morning and knowing that’s as good as you’re going to feel all day.”

Drink for one

Tidying up the armoire…

Dusting the armoire New Look 6000

And now for the infamous Joanie shot. Will it hold? Will it???!!!!

The Holloway shot

Jeez Louise… just about… hooray!

This year I will be trying to add more thoughts about the patterns I attempt, not just to give more info to anyone who might be thinking of trying it out but also for my own (entirely selfish reasons) use when I revisit.

Pattern review: New Look 6000 (View C with gathered waist)

Difficulty rating for StitchandWitter: 2.5/5

Fabric used: 2m of golden brown tweedy woven wool(?) that frayed VERY easily once cut (yikes) and some spare teal corduroy-covered buttons from making the Betty Blue Beignet, plus a 22 inch all purpose zipper and interfacing. Fabric was a couple of quid a metre from Walthamstow market.

Total cost of dress (not including pattern): Approx £6 (pattern was £12.72 including shipping from US)

Fitting issues: Well I was a little optimistic with my sizing, after all those Christmas feasts. I looked at the finished garment measurements and cut out an 8, which was a smidgeon too small in the waist and butt in my muslin (thank god I did a muslin). I had already cut out the pattern (instead of tracing it as I normally do on to swiss tracing paper – the impatient me was dying to get on with it) so I just sellotaped on a bit more paper around that problem area on the back piece and added about a centimetre to the outer edge. I also scooped out some width across the back with a crazy dart in the pattern piece, removing about 4 centimetres in total which on reflection might have been too much (not to mention probably the wrong way to remove width in that area) but hey ho.

Making issues: The pleated waist and the cutting of the front on the bias was a new thing for me and a little daunting, but it all made sense when you gathered up one side. My lapped zipper totally and utterly failed and just looks like a normal zipper. Must go back to lapped zipper school…

Skills learned: Adding a vent, adding a cuff with a kick, pleating, cutting on the bias. NOT a lapped zipper. Adding bias binding to finish the hem.

Anything to add? I really really wanted to add a lining to this dress but when it came to the crunch I was just a little too scared by the prospect, having not lined a dress before. I’ll revisit once I have more skills under my belt. I also wanted to finish the inside seams better than they currently are, but at the rate the fabric was fraying it was all I could do to add a zigzag stitch before they disappeared! As a result I’m not sure how long this dress will last or whether it will hold up to serious wear or whether I will be able to stand the scratchiness of the inside (so that’s what hair shirts feel like – I see!). But for now, it’s all mine…

Will I make again? Hell yeah – love this style. It’s so flattering and grown up. Better get me some kind of serious job just so I can wear it to work now…

Dusting

Here’s to 2011 sewing (and a sneaky peek at 2012)

What a year it’s been my fellow stitchers. After an action-packed first half of 2011 (I got married which is more than enough action for anyone, trust me!) I started this blog back in July with no idea as to whether I’d keep it up, or whether anyone would even be remotely interested in my witterings on re-learning to sew and the projects I’d work on. It’s been a total eye-opener, a huge learning curve and a downright chuckle too. But enough of the cliches. Here’s what I made this year:

The year in pics

Phew. I seriously am astonished at how much I’ve got through :) This is what I wrote in my first blog post:

“I want to get good at sewing. I want to improve on my very basic skills and be able to approach a new project with a good dose of confidence. I want to make cute buttonholes, sexy zips… I want to set sleeves dammit. I want to make trousers! Yes! Trousers!”

Trousers aside, I’m so SO incredibly delighted and I can’t wait for 2012. However I do know that I need to work on my techniques, finishing garments correctly, not taking shortcuts, reading pattern instructions BEFORE I start, reading them properly DURING the process, etc etc… basically all that fundamental stuff you guys do so well…

Here are the projects to help:

2012 sewing plans:

  • Having recently discovered Victory patterns I’m going to try out the Hazel dress. It’s too cute for words… so just look at the pics and I’ll shuttup…
  • The love affair with Colette continues. In 2012 I’ll be trying my hand at the Violet, the Ginger and the Negroni, as well as all those patterns from the Colette Sewing Handbook when time allows. Plus I’ll probably revisit the Peony.
  • My first sewalong with Sewaholic will commence in January with the Minoru jacket (as long as I get the right fabric in time)
  • I have yet to make New Look 6000  for Scruffy Badger’s fest but that’s something I’ll turn my attention to between Xmas and New Year – the perfect January dress.
  • I have a bunch of vintage patterns I want to do, including this adorable Simplicity 7845 (middle view and also a Scruffy Badger steal) and this Le-Roy 3133 (view A).
Vintage patterns
2012 sewing aspirations:
Less about specific projects – more about expanding my repertoire and developing my creativity…
  • I’d like to make some trousers: Specifically a pair with a high waist and a pair of pedal pushers.
  • I’d like to make a frothy romantic summer dress, gauzy and light with chiffon and satin and lace and something else gauzy and light but I don’t know my fabrics well enough to say what it is.
  • I’d like to get to know my fabrics better.
  • I’d like to get to know my body better and perhaps make a sloper or two that’s a perfect fit for me.
  • I’d like to draft an item all by myself using my new sloper.
  • I’d like to get into Pinterest a bit more. I signed up but haven’t really used it so much yet.
  • I’d like to really sort out my sewing room so it feels less like a cupboard I struggle to keep the cats out of and more like somewhere to dream/create/get inspired. (Who am I kidding – it’ll still be a mess and the cats will still get in…)

Lastly but most importantly, I’d like to meet (in person) some of you AMAZING women that have made this last six months such a fantastic time.  You are all awesome. Here’s to you <pops cork, clinks glasses>.  Have a blooming lovely Chrimbo and a very debaucherous NY. See you on the other side. Joanne xxx

A cocktail and a beignet

The perils of online shopping

Much as I love browsing through real-life fabric stores and stalls, I simply haven’t got the time to hoof it round to Walthamstow Market or Goldhawk Road every weekend (oh how I wish I lived near there). And the fabric shops near my place of work are generally pretty expensive (Berwick Street being the closest and very prohibitively priced).  So I tend to rely a lot on online shopping. Much of the time I’m pretty pleased with what I receive; the service is generally excellent and the fabric is of good quality. But occasionally online shopping results in a fail. A big fat fail. Not because of any lapse in quality, but because what you see on your monitor doesn’t necessarily tally with what gets delivered. And because the fabric is already cut from the bolt – most places won’t give you a  refund.

I bought 3 metres of ‘silver’ corduroy recently from an online fabric shop. Instead of an image of the corduroy there was just a colour chart. I should have asked for a swatch to be sent through in advance but I was so excited.  I was thinking a lovely soft grey (the colour in the image was definitely soft grey, trust me) would be delivered. At £13.00 a metre it wasn’t cheap either. This is what was sent yesterday:

'Silver' corduroy

Now that’s not grey. It’s not even ‘silver’ is it? To my eye – that’s just plain off-white. Hmpf. Definitely not suitable for my Minoru jacket. Waaaah.

A previous fail was of my own doing. I bought what I thought was a bottle green corduroy and when it arrived I found I had two metres of bottle green cotton canvas. Neither use nor ornament! When I looked back at my order I realised my mistake. I don’t have much luck with corduroys do I?

The lesson dear friends? Think twice, read the product description carefully (unlike me) and if in doubt of the colour, ask for swatches before you order. I for one will be doing this in future. A £39 mistake is too expensive to just dismiss.

But now onto the positives – what could I use this fabric for? I think this colour next to my skin will just wash me out so I’m thinking judicious use on accessories. What about hot water bottle covers? Or a shoulder bag with a bright neon lining? Or could I use snippets of it as trims and cuffs for future projects? Over to you for ideas!

Works in progress

Updates from the sewing room

Hallo peeps – how is your run up to Christmas going? Is it the calm before the storm, are you in a whirlwind of frenetic sewing and buying and cooking, or have you finished all your preparations to the festive season and popped your slippered feet up for a well-deserved rest? Me? I’m somewhere in between. I’m pretty sure I’ve bought everything I need to with the exception of one present. The turkey and the sausage meat is ordered and the wine is in. So it’s time for some bonus sewing!

With the exception of Ann and Dale’s dressing gowns I hadn’t planned to give any handmade gifts this year. For one, I didn’t think I’d be able to do something so well that the recipient would love it and forsake a store-bought version for it, and for another – I don’t know that many people who would like handmade gifts to be honest. Maybe as bonus gifts to the real thing…

Which is what I’m doing! Over the weekend I did a bit of stash-busting. I have so many fat quarters (oi! oi! stop that sniggering at the back) I don’t know what to do with them and quite a lot of leftover fabric from other home-type projects like cushions etc.  This tutorial for making a double oven glove is brilliant. It’s so incredibly easy. I bought a couple of metres of Insul Bright filler from Doughty’s (think it was Handmade Jane that provided the link in one of her blog posts) and got to work. It only took a couple of hours – and here it is.

Oven mitts

There’s just one thing stopping me from giving this away as a gift. My bias binding was a little slim which meant there’s a teeny bit where it’s not quite pulled under one of the pouches. Try as I might to unpick and redo this bit it just kept slipping free so I’m going to fix it with a few hand stitches and keep it for myself. I’ve ordered  a bunch of wider bias binding so once that’s arrived I’ll get on with knocking out a few more.

Simplicity 3835

I’ve cut out my pieces for Simplicity 3835 (mini dress view) in a lovely seersucker teal cotton. I’m quite excited about this one. I’m hoping it will be a nice simple project to get on with while I wait (and wait and wait…) for New Look 6000 to land on my doormat. Why won’t the internet elves hurry up? You’d think they had something better to be getting on with. Hmph.  Want to join Scruffy Badger’s sewalong. Although it’s great seeing posts as they come in as I’m getting loads of tips on underlining and fitting before I even start.

I’m on the lookout for fabric now for the Minoru jacket sewalong starting in January. I’m thinking a soft grey corduroy outer shell with a teal/polka dot lining. What do you think? Any good tips for quality (but affordable) corduroy? I’ve just read that Suzy is doing the same sewalong, and I’m pretty certain Karen is which is ace. Anyone else?

Finally I have a UFO lurking in my sewing room. The Trudy-tribute coat is gathering dust motes at the moment. I’m not quite sure if I can return to it yet. I’m not quite sure that it can still be termed the Trudy-tribute coat either to be honest – I think it will be very different. But that’s cool – it could wait until spring as it would be too light to wear over winter anyway.

So that’s me. What about you? Are you itching to get on with a project pour toi and cursing all those evil lifelong friends and family for making you do selfless sewing? Or is it actually quite nice to have a change?

Oh, before you go, here’s a pic of Keef ‘n’ Gracie doing their seasonal Nativity play. Keef wanted to play Mary… again…

Cat nativity

Pay day sewing treats for me

Ooh isn’t it nice when you can treat yourself to a few wee knick knacks  you desperately want need? I paid a little trip to John Lewis at lunchtime today (oh WHY have they put the haberdashery beside the children’s toys, WHY?) to pick up some sewing fripperies essentials. I just thought I’d share them with you:

Gadgets 'n' gizmos

Item 1: A seam gauge

I’ve wanted one of these for ages. What can I use it for? I don’t know yet but I’m going to find out. Doesn’t it look immensely anachronistic? It’s practically surgical!

Item 2: Proper hooks and eyes

Because I’m sick of bending the rubbish pound shop ones I currently have when I rip them out of their string-tied packet, and because I currently appear to have two eyes for every hook. I think the cats have developed a taste for them. They sure love those glass-headed pins…

Item 3: Rivets/grommets/eyelets

What the heck do you call these little fellas? In any case I’m going to make some fabulous belts next year (hopefully) so I’ll need me some reinforced holes to poke the thingy through.

Item 4: Button box

This rather ugly little compartmentalised box is going to transform my ragbag of thrifted and gifted buttons into a colour-coded haven of orderliness. That is the hope, dear readers. The reality will be three colour coded buttons in each bit and an overflowing ‘spare’ bit. But we dream.

Tonight I’ll be working on the second of my mystery Xmas presents. After wrestling with the first one, punching the wall, re-reading the instructions 100 times and then working it out myself (note to Butterick – please make your ‘easy’ patterns easy to understand for beginners?) the second is proving a cinch. Hope to share the results with you next week after I present them to the unsuspecting recipients.

I’ll also be wearing mostly leggings tonight as I make my first ever croqui, as recommended by the Colette Sewing Handbook which I’m steadily working my way through. (I keep re-reading bits as it’s so.damn.good.) You wear tight fitting clothes like leggings and a vest top, take a picture and then trace around your outline so you get a realistic view of your body. You then use it as a template for designs and inspiration. Ali from Wardrobe Reimagined has just done it and it looks like such a good way of working out whether you’ll suit a particular style or just coming up with ideas and sketches for future projects. I may share, if the results aren’t truly dreadful…

What are you up to this week? And have you treated yourself to any new sewing gadgets or gizmos. Ooh do share – I love a gizmo.

Paying my dues to the pattern blues

Faced with the self-realisation that I am a sewing slattern, brought on by last week’s tussling with a certain Peony we shall not mention, I decided to turn over a new leaf this week and make a bladdy muslin.

It was inevitable really, since I wanted to adapt the pattern anyway. I’m hoping to transform Simplicity 4082…

Simplicity 4082

…into something resembling Trudy’s elegant jacket in Mad Men. Given that I’ve never adapted a pattern before I’m pretty circumspect about the whole thing. But if we don’t try children, how can we ever lean how to f@$! things up as adults, huh?

I started by checking out the back of the pattern to work out which size to cut. According to that I needed to cut out a size 12. But when I looked at the pattern pieces it was obvious even to my untrained eye that these pieces were humungous. Come on Simplicity – at this rate you’d have me in a deflated beach ball. So I chanced my arm and cut out a 6 which looked way better, although even still slightly billowy and boxy.

Simplicity 4082 - before the chop

I wanted to create that nice curved edge that Trudy has on her jacket opening, as well as reduce some of the extra roominess under the arms and around the shoulders. So I got my pencil and my scisssors out – and this is where I’m at for now.

Simplicity 4082 - after the chop

Simplicity 4082 back pleat

I think there’s a lot more still to do if I want to try and copy Trudy’s jacket. Mine is still very roomy, and those shoulders (is that a raglan sleeve?) don’t fit the Trudy brief, nor does the pleat at the back. Or the high neckline. Hmpf! I’m slightly worried about veering too far off-pattern though. What do you think? Should I ‘channel’ Trudy rather than try and copy whole-sale? Does that way madness lie?