I know I’ve been talking about my new sewing room for ages (and believe me, it feels like even longer to me!) but I’m finally moved in and so chuffed to finally share it with you!
My new sewing room is very small, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in cool points – who else has a sewing room on a boat, concealed behind a hidden bookcase door, eh??
This is the bit everyone loves – a modified Hemnes bookcase from Ikea, with reinforcements, casters (wheels), and a hidden pull latch to keep it closed. Our joiner is a genius and we’re so lucky to have found him!! The greatest thing about this is that my sewing room is at the very end of the corridor, and the way the various deck heights work means there’s a porthole just above the bookcase. So it really does look convincing, like there’s no boat beyond it!!
Once inside, I’ve put a corkboard on the inside of the door as a place to pin all my magazine clippings, sketches of designs past and present, and general mood-boardy stuff. You can also see how small the room is here – it’s only a little under 2m (6 feet) long by 2m wide at its widest point.
Also take note of the smoked oak parquet floor that I painstakingly cut, laid, sanded, and hand oiled myself. Loooouuuurve my floor! It was expensive, both in cost and effort, but so worth it.
When you enter the room, immediately on your left you’ll find Susan, my dressform (seen here wearing my Laurie King fabric collaboration VNA Top pattern), and my pattern rack, which I’ve had for quite a few years but came from the garment industry supply shop, Morplan. As you can see from the number of patterns on it, I find it unbelievably useful! Also note the cute sewing machine clock my mom sent over to me!read more >>
When I was sewing up my Kimono Sweat samples for myself and my athlete models, I put together a little list of all the great sweatshirt fabric supplies I could find, and then starting thinking about what colours I wanted to play with. Since I made the list for myself, I figured I may as well share it with you, and I’ve added a few US suppliers, too (Aussies and anywhere else, please add your favourites in the comments!).
Clockwise from Top Left: Turquoise Multi Fleck, from Guthrie Ghani, Orange and Pink Star, from Stone Fabrics, Chartreuse Washed Wool & Viscose, from Ditto Fabrics, and Fusion Coral, from Girl Charlee UK
- Guthrie-Ghani – Great colours and prints, including the speckled green I used for my casualwear version (be aware that lengths are in HALF metres, so you need to order “3” for the Kimono Sweat!)
- Dragonfly Fabrics – Limted colours but they’re organic!
- MyFabrics – These guys have a milllllion colours, and ship from Germany, I believe. read more >>
- An amazing, handmade pressing ham and stand from Claire (protip: she’s selling these right now in custom fabrics so get in touch with her!). The ham is a funny shape because she’s cleverly designed it to mimic a crotch curve so you can really get in there and press it well, and the stand essentially acts and a hands-free for it! She also got me some royal blue ponte knit that was just so me that I cut it out the same day (seen in the upper right and below…)
- From my friend Jennie, Liberty gift coins! They’re like gift cards, but because Liberty are so damned classy, you get a gorgeous purple suede bag with special coins instead. Mmmm, shopping!
- From James, a Marfy dress pattern I’ve been lusting after for ages (Marfy 2935)
- From my inlaws, the Style Arc Steffi Jacket (and March freebie pattern, Nancy) and Clover fork pins (which hold silks in place better than anything else, apparently!). I’m particularly pleased with the Steffi jacket as I love the design and it saves me the trouble of drafting it myself!
- From James and my parents, an Eva Dress reproduction of a 1933 Katherine Hepburn jacket that I’ve literally had on my WishList for 3+ years (hurrah!), and a brand new Men’s drafting book that came recommended from Fashion Incubator and has better, modern designs included than anything I’ve seen actual patterns for. So I’ve got high hopes for that, even though it doesn’t contain a tight-fitting stretch block.
- Tissu aka “In Fashion Fabrics” – Supplex in a limited range of colours, but by far the cheapest in the UK
- Rainbow Jersey – Great array of supplex colours, but phone orders only and they’ll only ship within the UK (price is about £12/m with no minimum)
- UK Fabrics – Scruffy Badger has used their “Mock Eyelet” for running gear and recommends it!
- Funki Fabrics – Not wicking, but an unbelievable amount of digitally printed lycras that are suitable for swimming and activewear. They also stock supplex in black and white only (good quality, but twice the price of Tissu)
- Bra Maker Supply (formerly “Sewing Chest”) – stock a wide variety of power net/mesh which I use to line and give support to sports bras.
- Stretch lining for the swirl sheath dress
- Power mesh in black & beige (for both lingerie & activewear linings)
- 2m heavy jersey for a travel skirt
- Audrey jacket, which just looks perfect for Fall to me
- Pamela dress, which would be really great for taking on our big Mexico trip later this year
- Emma dress, which is just way Too Me to pass up!
- and the Freebie for June, Dee Knit Top, which is really cleverly, yet simply drafted
- Black picot edge
- Black ridge edge
- Round stretch cord (white & black)
- Medium grey picot edge
- Alençon (that’s just a display inside a roadside rest pictured above!)
- (Though I swear there were more I just can’t recall right now!)
- Mauve bamboo lycra jersey (2m at £9.99/m) – this coordinates nicely with my dark green stretch lace from Paris so I’m thinking I might use these for that Patrones pleated turtleneck…
- Dark grape lace (1m as a gift) – I’m feeling this is crying out to be a luxe skirt, but I need to find a good, beefy knit to underline it or it’d be very chilly indeed!
- Deep purple ex-Prada wool/poly sweater knit (2m at £8.99/m) – I’m thinking I’ll use this to make the cowl tunic from the Winter MyImage magazine after seeing GlobalMom’s version on PR.
- Grey ex-Versace wool/viscose rib knit (2m at £8.99/m) – James picked this out for some winter pyjama bottoms so he has some to wear that aren’t covered in Christmas Homer Simpson (poor man!)
- Cherry red bamboo lycra jersey (2m as a gift) – so many options for this, so the jury is still out.
You can pretty much assume by this point that if I’ve gone a bit quiet on this site, then it probably means I’ve been sewing up a storm behind the scenes and am just struggling to find the time to tell you all about it! And yes, it’s happened again… So I’ll try and catch you up on a bunch of things at once!
Sewing Indie Month – Pattern Bundle 1
Remember how much fun Sewing Indie Month was last year?? It was a full month full of interviews, great tutorials (like Heather Lou showing you how to turn my XYT Workout Top into a summer maxi dress!), and fabulous Sew Along prizes and it’s back again this September!
But because us pattern designers know how much you all love a bargain, we’ve joined forces to create two pattern bundles in advance of Sewing Indie Month, and the first pattern bundle is on sale now through Wednesday 12 August only.
Click through to see all the included patterns and the different tiers, including some brand new patterns exclusive to this bundle! The cool thing here is that you’re not only buying these patterns for well under the usual price, but 20% of bundle proceeds will be donated to the International Folk Art Alliance, which provides education and exhibition opportunities to folk artists from around the world. So you’re helping out other crafters, too!
I made the Lolita Patterns Sugar Plum dress a few years ago and honestly, it’s one I still wear in regular rotation (and looks so much better than the photos in my post, annoyingly!). The Sugar Plum dress is a knit/woven hybrid, but the patterns in this first bundle are mostly wovens, so the sale timing gives you time to make muslins before the sewalong contest begins in September while supporting small women-owned businesses and raising money for charity. You can see the size range for each of the included patterns here, too.
Aztec Duathlon Shorts
Psychologically, short shorts make me run faster. Well, not really, but I think they do, and that’s all I need! So, a few weeks ago, with the British Transplant Games coming up, I managed to squeeze out a new pair of Duathlon Shorts for the occasion! read more >>
I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about adding your own label into a garment you’ve sewn that just makes it feel 100% more professional. Sometimes it’s practical, too – it’s a lot easier to see a label on a teeshirt or pair of leggings and instantly know that side is the back, but this could also be accomplished by some extra stitching or a bit of folded ribbon, which doesn’t give anywhere near the same finishing touch.
Way back in 2006 I made my own first labels – I’d bought some pale green ribbon and used iron-on inkjet transfer paper to put my logo onto each one. Even back then, I knew it was a pain to print, cut, and iron each one (especially since we were early adopters to laser printing and had to borrow an inkjet printer!), and after repeated wears, the transferred area would wear and look a bit grubby.
I still wear a few items from this era, but couldn’t find any in my summer wardrobe when I went on a hunt to photgraph the changing evolution in my labels, so you’ll have to make do from the above image from 2006. The baby I sewed those trousers for is now nearly 10 years old!
After those ran out (I stupidly printed “2006” on half of them so I couldn’t really use them in 2007! Lesson learnt.) I placed my first order with Cash’s for woven labels. Since they didn’t have mint green, I chose black and silver instead, purely as I thought it’d be the least likely to clash with my fabrics. These were quite narrow and had about four fonts to choose from, and a handful of symbols too (which were all incredibly “happy hands at home” so I opted to have no symbol at all). But their best feature was they were super cheap, so I’d just re-order them when they ran out. At some point they changed their fonts, as you can see in this photo.
I’ve been largely satisfied with these labels, but I’ve been jealous of all the ones I’ve seen from other sewists online with their logo woven inside that look even more professional. I’d even gone and shopped around on a few occasions, but there seemed to be an overwhelming array of label places on Etsy, nearly all shipping from the US or Asia with long turnaround times.
So when the Belgian-based Nominette approached me and asked if I’d like to try out their labels and English-language site, I think I took all of 30 seconds to reply!
They’ve got an online form where you can upload your logo, pick your font, colours and washing care symbols (a bit tricky unless you predominantly sew with the same fabrics – I chose care instructions for lycra, for instance!), and also the orientation of where you want the fold. You also get some space for a custom message so I went with “Designed and sewn on a barge in London”, which I think adds a nice little personal touch for any custom client sewing I may do (not like I’ve had the time to do any since I took my office job in January, though!).read more >>
Remember back in April when I helped Funkifabrics road-test some new technical lycra fabric bases? I had two bases to choose from (onto which they printed my choice of designs), so I went off on some intense runs in warm weather, and ultimately decided on one, which I then went and ran London marathon in!
Post London marathon in my experimental Funkifabric Steeplechase Leggings shorts!
Well, the same tech fabric I ran the marathon in is now available, and in a collection of twelve limited edition prints!
You can read more about their selection process (which involved feedback from their customers) as well as links to buy each pattern in their blog post here (and no, they’re not planning on offering the tech base in solids yet so ignore the sports bras).
They’ve also got a rare 20% off everything sale running until tomorrow night (midnight BST, 10 June) which includes these new bases! I’ve been buying Funki’s regular Flexcite lycra for nearly two years now and this is only the second time I’ve ever seen them do a sale, so if you’ve been waiting, I’d buy now!read more >>
I haven’t got any finished projects or magazines to show you this week, so I thought it’d be a good opportunity to catch you up on all the smaller things I’ve been up to that maybe wouldn’t be enough for their own post…
The New Sewing Room
I know it feels like it’s taking forever (and believe me, it does to me, too!) but my new sewing room in the front of the boat is nearly done, so I’ve been spending a lot of time getting that ready to move into.
Most recently, I’ve been cutting, piecing, gluing and now sanding the beeeeeeeeautiful smoked oak mosaic panel flooring into place, which, while both expensive and time consuming, is something that makes me happy every time I see it.
The final remaining step is to put a few coats of oil on the flooring and tack the edge trim down and I’m ready to move in! And yes, at roughly 2m x 2m, it’s still smaller than most American closets! Our boat is heowge, but this particular room will be small, and hidden away, but it will be mine.
I’ve been a big fan of Seamwork magazine and a subscriber since Day One, and loads of you have written to tell me how much you enjoyed my first article, A Guide to Activewear Fabrics.
This month’s current issue is all about sewing knits (I know, right) and I’ve actually got TWO articles in it!read more >>
James and I have been talking about returning to New York City at some point for a while now. We last visited on our honeymoon back in 2010 and had a fantastic time. We’ve also since acquired a rather expensive immersive theatre habit and really wanted to see Sleep No More before it closes (I’m guessing later this year). We’d seen Punchdrunk’s London show, The Drowned Man 4 and 5 times over the course of a year, and knew that a similar show, based on Macbeth, would be well worth the trip. So James booked the flights for my birthday and tickets to see it twice in that week.
And then we heard about the immersive show Then She Fell (set in a disused hospital in Brooklyn, based on the works of Lewis Carroll, and limited to 15 audience members per showing), so booked that, too. And then ended up seeing Sleep No More for a third time directly after the second showing. Because it’s that good. Frankly, it’s two weeks later and I’m still kinda living in a dream world in the fictional McKittrick Hotel. Snippets of songs get stuck in my head, people say things that trigger a memory from the show, I look down and see a drip of fake blood on my shoe from one of the scenes… that sort of thing. I honestly cannot recommend either show enough. So, so worth the money.
But this isn’t a site about immersive theatre, nor is it about the excessive amount of cocktails and brunch we consumed, nor the sleep we didn’t get, or the great quality time we got to spend with my cousin in Brooklyn or the many friends who’d moved back there. So I’ll stick to the sewing-related highlights or we’ll be here all day!
Of course I couldn’t go to New York and not visit the Garment District, but my fabric stash is looking pretty healthy these days and I didn’t really have an entire day to kill wandering around. So I enlisted the help of some professionals! Oona and Ginger were my fantastic tour guides through Mood, Spandex House, and the myriad little haberdashery shops in the Garment District, but also in choosing a man creche (err, bar) with great cocktails!read more >>
When you run your own business, sometimes you’ve got to work weekends. This past weekend I worked all day on Sunday, so I tried to make a “weekend day” sometime during the week. It all came together yesterday, with the weather forecast set to be 24C and sunny, James at a conference down in Brighton, and me not completely swamped with work for once. So I declared this Wednesday to be a weekend day and grabbed the train down to Brighton for the afternoon!
My first taste of life in the UK was in Brighton, when I spent my study abroad year at Sussex University, and the city still feels like home whenever I visit, which these days is once a year or so. Instead of doing the usual tourist things (I realised after I got home that I didn’t even see the sea, ha!), I headed directly to the North Laines area. I love that there’s a whole area in Brighton where pedestrians rule and all the little shops and cafes are independent, quirky, and great for browsing! There’s really no need to spend any money in a chain store in Brighton.
Of course my first stop was at Ditto Fabrics, which is quite possibly my favourite fabric shop anywhere in the UK, where I had a great chat with the owner Gil and learned all sorts of stories about her buying trips to Italy to get the good designer stuff for us. I went with the aim to buy some coating and lining for the StyleArc Audrey coat, and indeed I did!
I bought some wool/viscose coating in Navy, though they had a bunch of really tempting other colours, like pale purple, pumpkin, camel, off-white, and black, off the top of my head. Ditto only have a fraction of their in-store fabrics listed on their website, but these wool/viscose coats are pretty well represented online, and the colours look pretty true to real life.
And then I discovered the vintage Italian silks upstairs. oh. em. gee.read more >>
Last week saw the end of a very good but busy work project, so what do I do when faced with a bit more time and mental energy than usual? Why, I sew of course!*
Liberty, but not as we know it
I received some lovely Liberty gift coins for my birthday, and because Previous Me knows Future Me so well, I had stashed some extra birthday cash along with it in the suede pouch, knowing I’d forget all about it and be pleasantly surprised. Which is precisely what happened!
So now armed with £60 to play with in Liberty, I decided to take advantage of a rainy day and go shopping. Now, I know loads of you go weak at the knees for anything Liberty, but I don’t. I find most of the traditional Liberty prints to be painfully twee and nothing I’d ever, ever wear. So I was thinking I’d see what was on offer in their jerseys, but first I got waylaid by the remnants table, where I scooped up a vaguely-African print silk twill (1m for £25, seen lower left).
The jersey selection was really small and mostly ditzy print (gag), but I kept being drawn to a dreamy, blurry, triangular print that came in a few shades, but only in Tana Lawn. I finally decided that if I kept coming back to this print then I should buy it and figure out a project later. So 1.5m of the palest colourway came home with me (seen upper left above) and brought my grand total to £58. Now that’s budgeting!
Refashioned suede wristlets
A friend had recently given me two skirts which no longer fit her, a suede one and a silk one, and mentioned that I might want them for the fabric. Of course! So I chopped up the suede one on Sunday, making two of the free Cake mini wristlets.read more >>
I recently placed a small order at Spoonflower for the first time in three years since they now do “performance knit” as a base fabric option! I mostly wanted to see how it compares against other wicking lycras and also FunkiFabrics’ digitally printed (non-wicking) lycra, as it could potentially be a great source of wild running prints for me.
I had stopped ordering from Spoonflower because their international shipping was taking an excessively long amount of time (over a month!!) and getting lost fairly frequently. I also stopped because, at the time, the only knit fabric they had was the organic cotton interlock, which both faded in the first wash and had zero recovery, and was pretty much useless for my purposes. But in the past three years, they’ve added a bunch more knits to their range and sorted out their international shipping, so I tentatively made a small order to try them out again.
I ended up getting three samples and a fat quarter, all of the performance knit (plus a swatch book), and I’m really impressed. Spoonflower’s performance knit is a smooth lycra base with about 40% widthwise stretch and no lengthwise stretch. They print onto white base lycra, and although the weight is thinner than FunkiFabrics’ base lycra (which has four-way stretch), I’d still feel fine using it for actvewear, though you’d want a busy print to distract from any lumps and bumps.
I’m also relieved to report that they’ve sorted out their international shipping – I ordered on 13 March, they shipped it on 17 March, and it arrived on 31 March. Much improved!
Now, the price. I always expect that I’m going to get shafted on shipping fabric from the States (and I’m usually right!), but the shipping on my above order was only $7, which I found wholly reasonable. In fact, I started getting curious so I actually worked out a price comparison for having digitally printed lycra shipped to me in the UK:read more >>
Argh I’ve done that thing again where I get really busy in my sewing cave (and elsewhere!), ignore my laptop altogether, and end up accumulating a full week’s worth of posts that I can’t face writing. This usually bogs me down mentally for a few days until I realise I have to face the laptop at some point, and I work a “computer day” (I much prefer “sewing days”!) to clear the slate.
But a-ha! I gotcha, “internet day”, because I’m going to cram together all the updates I really should write about in one big go. Didn’t see that coming, didja?!? (frollicks off to the sewing cave…)
Thank you again so much for all your compliments on my galaxy print birthday dress last week! I’m not sure what I did right, but I ended up getting an awful lot of lovely sewing gifts this year…
Clockwise from upper left:
(I also got a bunch of books and running stuff, too, but I do attempt to keep this blog on topic!)
On my birthday itself, I decided I wanted to do some “fun sewing” and not “work sewing” (you make this distinction when you start doing this for a living, I’ve found), so I actually ended up cutting out Marfy 2935 in the blue ponte knit – surely a new record for both pattern and fabric to be used in less than 24hrs!
The first snag was that there was no pattern piece included for the horizontal waist drape on the green version – I emailed Marfy saying it was missing, but that I presumed it was just a gathered rectangle and could I please have the dimensions. Several days later, I got a vague and partial reply saying that I was correct and it was important that it’s cut on the bias. That’s it – no “yes, you should’ve received that piece” or “here’s the dimensions”, oddly.
But I had already carried on with my dress using guestimated dimensions for that piece, and got to a try-on stage with basted side seams:read more >>
I’ve come to that point near the end of the year where I want to gather together a bunch of little projects I’ve made recently, but yet didn’t quite seem big enough for their own post… You’ll see my traditional, year-end roundup tomorrow (I hope! I haven’t actually started it yet, eep!), but before then, let’s finish off the last little bits of the year…
The most exciting of these are undoubtably the Cake Patterns Red Velvet Mini Clutches I made for James’s twin, teenaged nieces. They’ve pretty much only wanted cash or gift cards for a few years now, but this year I fancied giving them a little something extra to hold their gift.
The Cake Red Velvet Mini Clutch is a smaller version of the full pattern without the illustrated instructions, but on the plus side it’s free, super cute, and easy to whip up in a few hours with scraps. Here I used satin scraps leftover from my Matthew Williamson birthday dress and my swirl sheath dress and a bit of floral lining leftover from the former, too.
These are big enough to hold your average mobile phone, keys, lippy, and credit card, but not much else, but most of the times I want a little bag to match a dress this is all I really need to carry anyway. These were certainly one of those gifts I’d have liked to have kept for myself, especially since they match my dresses!
Bolster pillow covers
I’m totally less excited by home dec sewing, but we really wanted some bolster pillows for lounging in our big, new bedroom on the boat – now that I’m working from home, I especially need one under my knees while I work on my laptop! When we bought our bedding from IKEA, the duvet cover sets came with four pillowcases, and since we only use one regular pillow each, the others were just sat on a shelf. read more >>
I’m a little ahead of schedule, but the patterns are ready so why wait any longer, eh? I’m stupidly happy to announce that both the XYT Workout Top and the PB Jam Leggings patterns are available to buy right now!!
You can read more about them in my new Shop section (though still not as 100% pretty as I’d like it), or just click through to my Etsy shop who will be handling the direct downloads for the foreseeable future.read more >>
Last week I had the unusual pleasure of meeting not one but two fellow sewists who were visiting London, separately, and on consecutive days!
First the amazing Dilly came to the boat, bring not only cake but this incredibly luscious silk twill!
Silk twill is something that is really difficult to find in London (unless you want it white and/or £50+/m!), and the monochrome nature print is so me, too. This definitely falls into the “too good for linings” category, so I think I’ll need to narrow down some of the amazing blouse patterns Manequim’s been printing and sew this up.
After hours of chatting and showing her around the moorings, I think I left her with a desire to live on a boat, and she left me with a renewed fire to go visit CERN! I’m also very impressed that she’s been keeping up with her own Burda Challenge this year, too!
Then, on Thanksgiving Day I met up with lingerie sewing guru Norma for a visit through the new Isabella Blow exhibit at Somerset House. I always find it’s best to see this sort of thing with someone who can share in your total geekery for seam lines and fine details, and there was plenty to geek out over, too! Really, this was an early Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy exhibit, as those were the majority of the designs. They even opened up the back room upstairs for this, so it was much bigger than the recent Valentino exhibit there.read more >>
I kept it kinda quiet since I wasn’t able to meetup at all, but I was in Virginia last week for some quality family time. I got a good amount of running and working in alongside all the familying, and I also took a trip to the local Hancocks while I was there, too.
The sign outside did not instill much confidence.
I knew I had both limited suitcase space and funds, so I really tried to stick to my list and only buy fabrics I knew I’d use. Thanks to Stacy, I also had the new Vogue Donna Karan leggings pattern waiting for me on my arrival, so I was keen to get some ponte for those, but alas, the pontes in stock were very poor quality!
In terms of fabrics, I picked up two really nice viscose lycra jerseys which had a nice, soft hand and great recovery – one in turquoise blue, and the other with a black, mustard, and orange splatter print. Both ended up being on sale (the blue for about $5/yd and the print for about $7/yd) at the counter, too!read more >>
Wow, what an adventure! We’ve been back home for a few days now and I still haven’t quite processed all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes (oh, the tastes!) we experienced during our nearly 3 week long journey through Mexico. I’m pleased to report that both my travel wardrobe and my last minute travel bag were completely up to the task and all my abuse, and I’m glad I brought my leggings and long sleeves, too, because it was rather chilly in Mexico City and San Cristobal in particular! Detailing the entire trip would take far too long (let’s just say that in my first day there I ate 3 new fruits and vegetables previously unknown to me, and I’d need both hands to count all the amazing places I swam!), so this is just a rundown of the sewing-related highlights of the trip. (For the fitness-related highlights, pop over to RiverRunner!)
I knew at some point I wanted to buy an embroidered blouse, but I really wanted one I could wear in real life that didn’t scream “Mexican holiday”, either. We found a lovely artistanal boutique shop in Oaxaca that had a ton of blouses and dresses that were both modern and contained elements of traditional Mexican embroidery, too. This blouse was in the window, and when I tried it on and it fit, I knew I had to have it. I utterly adore it.
It’s exactly the same in the front and back, and the embroidery is all black, stitched by hand, and with a lot of open cut-work. The fabric of the blouse itself feels like rayon, and it unrolled from my backpack wrinkle-free like it was born to travel!
In San Cristobal de las Casas, we at at a fabulous cafe run by the Zapatistas (now no longer in active combat mode) run as a co-op. Around the edges there were a bunch of little handicraft shops selling goods made by villagers and political prisoners, and I couldn’t resist this little pouch that has “Rebel Women” and a fierce Zapatisa lady (aka “Mexican ninjas”!) embroidered onto it.read more >>
One of my most frequently asked questions is definitely “where can I buy fabric for yoga/running/exercise/etc?”, so I thought it’s high time I make an attempt at something like a global list.
In general, though, the word you should be searching for is “Supplex”. This is a brand name, though, like Lycra (whose generic term is “spandex”), but the generic alternative is something like “wicking spandex”, and generally isn’t used as often as “Supplex” in fabric stores, I’ve found.
If you can buy supplex at a decent price, buy it. It’s soft, has great recovery, wicks away moisture while you’re sweating, and stands up to washing without a ton of pilling. It can be hard to find though, and sometimes only comes in a limited amount of colours, but I wouldn’t hesitate to run a marathon in supplex – it’s great stuff.
If you’re running shorter distances, or in cooler weather, you can get away with exercising in any number of lycra/spandex jerseys, though. These won’t wick sweat away, but they come in a gazillion colours and prints, plus have a multitude of foil and sequin effects, and can be way cheaper, too. Ditto goes for swimsuit fabrics – you can certainly use them for shorter exercise sessions even though they’re not wicking. Personally, I wouldn’t mind running a half marathon on a cool day in lycra leggings, but your mileage may vary (pun intended!).
Know any more UK shops? Tell me in the comments! read more >>
I’m lucky to live in London for a lot of reasons, but one of them is certainly the access to great fabric stores and the frequency of meetups at said stores with other like-minded sewists. They usually occur every few months, but with my crazy social and running events calendar, it’s usually really difficult for me to attend. However, this time around, the meetup coincided with a “stepback week” in my running (a planned lower mileage week to give your body a break) so I only had a one hour run on Saturday morning before the meetup. Yes, I realise the craziness of using “only” in that sentence.
This post is more about my own shopping and acquisitions from the day, and I know from past trips to Goldhawk Road that I really need to be strict with myself or risk returning home broke and dragging binbags full of fabric behind me. So I came prepared with a shopping list and only £50 cash to spend (in the past I’ve actually left all my cards at home, too!).
Things on my shopping list:
Here’s a shot of my total haul. Not only did I get everything on my list, but I stayed within that £50 budget for the day (which included lunch & drinks!).
My first purchase was the power mesh – 1m of both black and beige from A-Z Fabrics for £4.95/m. They had loads of colours, too, and I was glad I bought it there when I saw shortly afterwards that Classic Textiles was asking £10.95/m for theirs! I didn’t buy anything at Classic this time around, but I was tempted by the ponte knits by the door.read more >>
I had the final instalment of my Pattern Magic course at Morley College over the weekend (more on that later this week!), and since the majority of the class is in pattern drafting, it became apparent to me that I’ve got three pattern drafting gadgets in my arsenal that aren’t widely known, but that I consider to be essential!
On the left is the Seam Allowance Guide, little magnets which snap onto the side of your scissors to help you cut an even distance away from your line. I usually use this when cutting my fabric when using patterns that don’t have seam allowances at all, my on my course it was very helpful when cutting out the final pattern when I didn’t want to draw the seam allowances in. I got mine for review a while back but you can buy yours here.
On the bottom – I don’t know the technical name for this, but I call it my “pizza wheel measurer”. It’s a little wheel marked in centimetres which allows you to measure curves really easily. I use it most often when matching up seam lengths between sleeve caps and armscyes, but there are a number of occasions in the Pattern Magic books where you need to ensure two curved seam lines are the same length.Claire posted instructions on how to buy these from Japan a while back.
On the right – The newest member of my pattern drafting team is the SA Curve ruler – a narrow ruler with one straight edge and one curved edge. It comes in two widths – 5/8” (1.5cm) or 3/8” (1cm) and the idea is that you place the ruler along your seam line and then just trace the other side of it, et voilà! Your seam allowance is added on.read more >>
I’ve been ill the past few days with some crappy bug that’s going around, and it appears that the postman has either a) been following me on Twitter and reading all my “bluergh I feel awful” tweets, or b) canoed alongside the boat and has been peeping in our windows watching me. I know I’d definitely prefer a).
But in any case, he definitely knew I needed cheering up, because look what arrived within the span of two days!
That’s right, the June Manequim magazine, the July Burda, and a bunch of StyleArc patterns I ordered a few weeks ago (they’re getting SO much faster at turning these around!!)
You’ll see my reviews of Manequim (awesome!) and Burda (pants!) next week, but the new additions to my growing Style Arc hoard are:
After I completed my world tour, I had four and a half days at home to recuperate, so I of course spent a good portion of that in my sewing cave! The first of my finished garments is this bra, which I’m calling the “Eyelash” one because the layer of black lace on the top just made me think of the bra batting its eyelashes at me!
I used the same self-drafted/traced pattern as my third muslin, but with zero-stretch silk-cotton woven leftover from the slip I made almost exactly a year ago, and some black stretch lace I’ve had in my stash (not the same as I’d used in the slip, but that’s only noticeable if you squint really hard!).
The cups are fully lined and the wings/backs are made from a black power mesh that was in my lingerie sewing stash.
First I made each cups separately (two fronts and two linings). Then I basted the lace across the fronts and joined the fronts to the linings along the top edge. I could’ve then topstitched, but I opted to understitch instead, then basted around the other edges so the fronts and linings could then be treated as one for the rest of the construction.
Here you can see the cups as I was constructing them. You can see that the lace is hanging free, only really attached at the top edge, and for an inch or so at the sides. I carried on the lace motif over the bridge so it looks fairly seamless from afar.read more >>
Last week we flew over to the States for a week – not in Pennsylvania where I grew up (no offence, but I’m kinda sick of visiting there!), but to Baltimore, with a day in DC at the end. We got a lot of strange looks from British friends when we said where we were going – “Baltimore? Really? Why??”, and we’ve been mounting our own Baltimore Tourism crusade since we got back, because it was fantastic!
The reason we were over was because James was speaking at a prestigious tech conference, but I took the opportunity to meet up with loads of friends and family, including the chance to finally meet some fellow sewing bloggers!
I’ve been speaking to Cidell & Trena for at least five years now I reckon, and even weirder is that I already knew their voices from their earlier sewing podcasts (please bring them back!), and there was zero awkwardness when we met up for dinner! It really was like we’d known each other for years, which I suppose we have!
Cidell puts me to shame – she posted about our meeting like the same day!! I was also very excited to get more of the Under Armour Cold Gear fabric she’d previously sent, because during the last few months I’d been doing laundry twice a week in order to wear my Cold Gear leggings on both my Tuesday night runs and my Saturday long runs because they’re seriously the warmest leggings I own. Next winter I’ll be much better prepared now!
We both wore running gear we made ourselves – she’s wearing McCalls 6435 adapted for running as her top and the Jalie sports skirt lengthened into leggings, and I’m wearing my disco top and my new self-drafted leggings with that fishnet insertion from Tissu in the front thighs and back calves, which you can see a bit better here:read more >>
How often do you feel a little guilty when buying yet another pattern or more fabric? Nearly all of us have big stashes and feel a little guilty about buying more, but we’re hardly going to stop, right?? I’ve just been alerted by Tracy (whom I met on the Morley College Pattern Magic course, remember?) that there’s an ageing sewist who desperately needs help, which you can provide by simply buying more patterns!
Sounds win-win, right? I’ll let Tracy explain:
My friend’s aunt had to go into residential care last year as she has dementia. She was a dressmaker all her life and my friend has inherited her fantastic collection of sewing patterns (about 200), along with some fabrics and her handmade dresses. The patterns are mostly from the 1950s and 1960s and include Vogue Couture, Vogue Paris, “ordinary” Vogue, Simplicity, Style, Maudella – mostly unused. It’s mostly women’s but also some children’s and a few men’s patterns. I did post on my blog about them a while back with some photos – which show the quality of the stuff she had.
Every penny, after we pay for the stall, will go towards her residential care – so if anyone fancies some guilt-free adding to their pattern and fabric stash we’d appreciate it. I’d also like to think she would be happy knowing that her collection would go on to be used by a new generation of sewers.
The stall will be at the Vintage Fashion Fair, at Cecil Sharp House, NW1 on the 14 April from 11-5. Afterwards Tracy will post any unsold patterns onto Etsy or eBay so I’ll try and mention the link to that once it’s up.read more >>
It feels like I only just spoke about shopping but here I am, back with more lovely things to share! In my mind, it’s important that I have an intended use/project for 95% of the things I buy, and that I actually do end up using it, or (in the worst case) giving it away.
So with that in mind, I tried to make purchases of things I’m likely to use fairly soon, and I’m definitely all set for the long Easter weekend now!
I was approached by the lovely Vicki at Minerva Crafts asking if I’d like to try some of their products. I’m approached fairly often by retailers about this sort of thing and I usually decline unless it’s a) most definitely sewing related (and not just another clothing store wanting to pimp me out for some % off code!) and b) I genuinely think I’d like the product and feel good about recommending them.
Not only are Minerva most definitely sewing-related (and owned by fellow sewists!!) but omg do they stock a gargantuan amount of sewing supplies! Ladies, it took me four days to trawl through the site and actually decide what I wanted. Four days. Not just fabric, but a ton of haberdashery (including supplies I’ve never seen anywhere else, like the stretch/lycra bindings), high end sewing tools and gadgets, patterns, the works. I didn’t even look in the Knitting, Quilting, or Needlework sections!
They’ve also got free shipping on all orders over £20, which is pretty awesome, too, as I’ve seen a lot of places with a much higher barrier than that…
But I won’t leave you in suspense any longer, here’s what I selected!
First up – 2.5m Black and silver heavyweight jersey to make the StyleArc Marie jacket, which coincidentally arrived from Australia the same day (4 working days after the shipping email! Noice!). This feels perfect for the jacket, too – hefty but drapey at the same time, with a nice bit of glam from the silver lurex threads.read more >>
The title of this post isn’t just savvy shopping advice, but a literal comment, too, because I’ve been spending your money, dear readers! I got another Google AdSense payment through and I always like to spend these on sewing things to help cycle everything back into the site. I thought you all might appreciate seeing what I bought with your money, which I feel I spent rather well!
StyleArc pattern purchases
After the roaring success of my Marita dress, I knew I had to buy some more StyleArc patterns, so I created a WishList and waited until there was a monthly free pattern that I really liked. I didn’t have to wait long, though, as any purchase in March comes with the free Ivy knit top (bottom right in my photo). I really like the look of this top and know it’s one I’ll actually wear (as opposed to February’s freebie, an elastic-waisted skirt). read more >>
While you all are out Christmas partying it up, I’ve been stuck in bed with the flu for the past two weeks. Horizontal and sleeping for up to 18 hours a day (yes, really) isn’t much fun. So when I bored of daytime tv after about two hours, I started doing some serious online shopping, oops.
Things I’ve bought:
Fabric from Tissu
(Seen on the right, above)
2 meters each of viscose-lycra jerseys in Rust, Mustard, and Bongo Jazz (awesome name for a bright orange!). One of these will become the Style Arc Marita dress in my Fall Sewing Shortlist. And I bought another meter of their “denim-look” jersey, because I freaking love my Not Jeggings and decided I want to make my Image Wear trousers in the same fabric, too.read more >>
I know everyone goes through periods of extreme busy-ness and stress, but I feel like the past 6-8 weeks have just been nonstop with barely a pause to catch my breath! You’ll have to accept my apologies for not going into these various sewing happenings in full – I’m saving my writing time for my finished garments!
So, without further ado, a catchup on the last few weeks’ goings on…
1. The day after I arrived back from Amsterdam, my parents arrived for a visit! Among other things, they brought with them a big stash of Suziplex wicking lycra that Lakaribane bought for me by request while she was in Montreal recently! I think I’ve lost track of the number of international borders these 5 meters of fabric have crossed, but I am so happy to have more, because the three running leggings I’ve sewn with the stash I bought in March are my favourites ever.
2. I recently went on a bit of a Young Image magazines and envelope patterns binge, so I sat down with my mom while she was here and she picked out some designs she thought my niece might like for her Christmas present…read more >>
What a weekend! I’ve been to Amsterdam several times before, so I felt zero need to see the tourist sites (though I did take a boat tour, more for the hour of sitting than anything else!). For me, this weekend was all about sewing and running, my two favourite pasttimes! I flew in Saturday morning and fellow sewing blogger Lauriana met me at the station to drive to the legendary Kantje Boord.
If you’re not familiar with Kantje Boord (and let’s be fair, their website is appalling), it’s a specialty lingerie haberdashery and fabric store, and is pretty much the only one of its kind in the world as far as I know. But it’s pretty far out of town, well away from the usual public transport, so I was very grateful to be driven there and give my legs a rest!
I’d heard stories about Kantje Boord, and I was not disappointed! It’s a tiny shop, but it’s stacked floor to ceiling with everything lingerie, lace, and elastic you could possibly imagine, and in every colour of the rainbow.
There must’ve been several hundred different kits (with everything you need to make a bra and panties in matching colours), but I decided what I’d rather make is another Ruby Slip, but in camisole length, with matching panties, so I instead focused on the wide laces, of which there must’ve been 3-4 times as many as the kits! Once I settled on a lace, I then crawled around the floor to get matching picot lingerie elastics to match it and my fabric swatches I’d brought from home.
So here’s what I bought! It might’ve been a bit more than I pledged, but I stayed away from the tempting Wall of Crazy Lycra, and only bought pieces that matched what I already owned!read more >>
In advance of visiting Kantje Boord with Lauriana this weekend while I’m in Amsterdam to run the marathon, I thought it’d be a good idea to take a full inventory of my lingerie sewing supplies so I could see what I had vs what I needed, and hopefully not make duplicate purchases.
Oh. my. god. I really don’t think of myself as a “stasher” – I try to sew what I’ve got and keep it all fitting within the confines of my tiny sewing room, but I seriously have a ridiculous amount of lingerie supplies, and I hadn’t even realised it, because it was all stored in about four different places.
As a confession, here’s what I’ve got:
Lots of things going on at FehrTrade Towers, so it’s time for an update roundup!
After my last post outlining the lining instructions, there will be no points for guessing that this is coming along shortly! I’ve just got to handstitch the hem and the bottom of the lining and it’s finished, hurrah. Perhaps if I’m speedy I can wear it to the V&A Ballgowns exhibit meetup Karen is planning?
Bacchus half marathon costume
As part of my preparation/reward for my marathon training, I signed up to run the Bacchus half marathon this weekend. Not many people are familiar with this race, but it’s been rated exceptionally highly on Runner’s World, and the clue might lie somewhere in the description: a half-trail, half-road, fancy dress (costumed) race through a vineyard in Surrey with wine tasting every 2 miles, plus a free glass of wine and hog roast at the end. See why I signed up??
I’m regularly running much further than half marathon distance in my training runs, so even though this is only my second half marathon, I’m not that concerned about the distance, so instead I concentrated on the costume, making sure it’s entirely wicking and running-friendly!
I’m sure it will surprise none of you that I’ve also made another Jalie running skirt. Or, err, to be precise, two more, since I made another black one in parallel with my Bacchus one and forgot to photograph it! And a top based on my knit sloper (which I’m still tweaking after running in my sequin top for a few months now).read more >>
I’ve got lots of bits and pieces on the go right now, and I’m finding that I’m being inspired by lots of little things – not just from the fantastic last few issues of pattern magazines (hello, August Burda!), but also some supplies which have found their way to me, like this amazing laser-cut eyelet zipper from my friends Alex & Liz, bought at the V&A shop!
Mine’s skirt-length and now I totally want to make a pencil skirt with an exposed zipper just so I can show this off! After I got mine, I’ve since seen that they’re available on etsy in a bunch of different colours, too.
Not long after that, I was approached by the owner of Lots of Buttons asking if I’d like to try their shop for free. My initial reaction was that the prices in dollars surely meant exorbitant shipping to the UK (boo!) BUT as it turns out, all the orders are fulfilled in Hong Kong so the shipping is the same anywhere in the world (great for the Antipodeans, too!).
So I picked out some basic black horn buttons (just like the ones my stash was missing for my black knit trousers the other week), and some gorgeous overlapping metal buttons I thought would go really nicely on a jacket. All in, these would’ve cost me $10 total (with shipping), which is like half the cost I pay to get nice buttons in central London, with a travelcard cost on top of that!
These arrived in 7 days, too, along with a discount code for my next purchase. I also really like that they seal off each button type in its own clear plastic bag, so you can see what’s inside without them all getting jumbled up together. Genius! So I went from being skeptical to totally pleased and very happy to recommend them in the space of about 10 days!read more >>
Apologies for sporadic posting, but if you’re following me on Twitter, you’ll already be aware that I’ve had an awful cold/flu for the past 15 days now. F-i-f-t-e-e-n days! It started with a sore throat, then incredibly running nose and lethargy now for the bulk of it, and it’s just not going away. I’m sleeping 12-13 hours a night and still needing naps, and the hospital say it’s definitely viral and there’s nothing to be done but wait it out. I have no idea how long it’s going to last, as I literally feel no improvement now than when I first picked this up. I’m really just giving you these details because like half of London has it right now, so I’m hoping someone will tell me how long I can expect it to hang around (and also, expect all the Olympic visitors to bring it back home, cheers!).
So in the few hours where I’ve been strong enough to sit upright and not actively be sleeping or working, I’ve finished a few bits of sewing, but I’m in no fit state to model them, so for full photoshoots you’ll need to wait a bit longer:read more >>
We had a long weekend here in the UK this weekend, and I’m pleased to report that I made the most of it! On Saturday, James and I made an impromptu trip down to Brighton, and we stopped off at Lewes on the way down. Our main objective in Lewes is always the Harveys Brewery shop, but I also discovered The Stitchery just across the road upstairs in the Riverside Centre, which stocks a wide variety of fabrics, embroidery floss, yarn, and haberdashery. I checked my handy “sewing shopping list” on my phone, and bought black waistband elastic and trouser hooks, both of which I needed. Very sensible of me, I know.
But the real temptation was walking right past Ditto in the North Laines in Brighton, and I told myself I was only allowed to buy ONE fabric there, so it’d better be a good one! In the end, this gorgeous butter yellow floral silk charmeuse won out over a similar yellow coloured, textured, ex-Blumarine crepe.
Florals really aren’t my usual fabric choice (and I would’ve never bought it from the terrible photo on Ditto’s site), but in real life, I was just captivated by it, and I’m thinking I’ll need to pair it with some edgier like jeans or my leather skirt to diffuse the twee-ness.
After our big day on Saturday, on Sunday we didn’t leave the boat at all! I spent most of the day doing sewing stuff, starting off with fusing all the interfacing onto James’s reversible smoking jacket pieces. I find fusing interfacing to be really boring at the best of times, but it’s beyond teeeeedious with a mini ironing board and mini iron! Once that was all fused, I then moved on to hand basting all the pocket placements (it’s a fantasy jacket, so there are five pockets!) and then basted the bound buttonhole placements, too.read more >>
Thank you all so much for your sympathy and condolences and kind thoughts regarding Bosco’s sudden death. Last week was one of the worst of my life and I’m sorry to say that his departure was only one of a long line of awful things which happened to myself and those I love, so please bear with me while I piece things back together. I’m going to be more fragile than usual for a while.
In an attempt to clear the slate and document some blogging-accumulation guilt, here’s a catchup on the sewing-related events over the past fortnight…
I was in Montreal for a few days for work immediately after my birthday, and I managed to shoehorn a very brief visit to Suzi Spandex into my 18 hour work days (in preparation for the launch of Zik.ca – Canadians, go see what I’ve been slaving over for the past 9 months in my day job!).
The shop itself was a bit of a PITA to get to – it doesn’t look far from downtown on the map but was a metro ride + 15-20 minute walk through a really dull neighbourhood, and I’m glad I had the address because the setup was very much like the NYC Garment District – an unmarked, nondescript office building with their premesis several floors up, with a front office and enormous warehouse full of rolls of fabric.
The setting may have been sparse, but I got such a warm welcome and the lady really helped me to choose the best wicking exercise fabric, which by all accounts seems to be their version of supplex, “Suziplex”.
I bought 2m of dark, muted purple and 1m of pale grey Suziplex, and then another metre of some muted turquoise lycra with silver foil swirls.read more >>
First of all, WOW, I seriously am floored by the amount of entries to last week’s giveaway! That’s far and away the most popular competition I’ve ever done so thank you all so much for your interest!
But alas, there could be only three winners, so I pulled out the very reliable Random.org to select them (my usual way of simplifying this is to just do a straight draw against the comment numbers, and if the number turns up of someone’s who’s commented to say they’re not entering, then I just draw again. But that doesn’t happen very often!).
So congratulations to Ann, Margaret, and Cris! It just goes to show how impartial I am that the last winner is actually my sister-in-law’s mother, but she won the random draw fair and square, honest. So congratulations, ladies, and your guides will be sent out from Australia very shortly.read more >>
Have you seen there’s a new gadget out to help in adding seam allowances to patterns as you cut the fabric? I’d seen mentions of these a few places online, but I finally had a chance to try mine out last night as I cut out a quick knit top for myself.
You get two guides in the pack – green is for scissors with straight sides, and yellow is for scissors with angled blades, like my favourite vintage tailor’s shears. You just stick the guide onto the side of your scissors and adjust if necessary. They got the magnet exactly right on this – it’s strong enough that it doesn’t shift around when you’re using it, but weak enough that it’s easy to adjust or pull off when you’re done.
You also get two black rubber rings per guide, so you can set up two guide distances at the same time (or, err, just store the extra one on the end so you don’t lose it!!). I’ve got mine here at 5/8” for regular seam allowances, and 1” for hem allowances (though it’s also handy for cutting strips for bias binding or my new Coverpro binder attachment!)
I made the mistake first off by sticking the guide in the centre of the blades, but you actually want it quite close to the tip as I’ve done here, otherwise you’re “flying blind” until your cutting catches up with the guide! Once I got the hang of where to place it, it really was a piece of cake to use.read more >>
I’m a bit late with my Paris weekend report, but we didn’t get back til Monday night (thankfully taking the Eurotunnel rather than the very-disrupted Eurostar!), and then I had to fly out to Dublin and back yesterday so things have been crazy! Seriously – three European capitals in three days? I feel like I’m on a Contiki tour!
We had a pretty busy schedule while we were in town, but a trip to Paris just isn’t complete without a visit to the Montmarte fabric shops (For more details on those please see my earlier French road trip & Paris fabric shopping posts!)
I’m so pleased we were able to squeeze in a meetup with Veronica again and have lunch, and since she knew I wasn’t able to go to her local fabric market with her this time around, she gifted me a HUGE bag of fabrics, in exactly the colours and prints I love!
Seriously, wait til you see the goodies she brought for me (photos coming later)!
As a teaser, check out the overflowing Tissues Dreyfus bag of fabric!
But the main
reason excuse for our trip was that I signed up to run the Paris Semi-marathon, which was my first-ever half marathon! I’ve been running for about 7-8 years now, but I’ve only ever run 10ks (with the odd 5k and 8k thrown in there).
Yesterday I mentioned that I’ve started sewing the asymmetric, collared coat from the Winter 2011 MyImage magazine, and after a prep period that felt like forever (probably exasperated by the fact that my ironing station is hovering around 0C/30F), I’ve now got some progress to show you!
I’m sewing this up in a wonderful purple basketweave/boucle coating, which was another gift from Claire (she’s so good to me!) at the end of last winter. I always like to underline my coats when I can to just add that little bit of extra warmth, but it made even more sense here as it will help to stabilise the coating fabric and prevent any bagging out that might otherwise occur with looser-weave fabrics. The alternative is to block-fuse the coating with a lightweight interfacing, like I did with my Patrones duffle coat.
For this coat, all the facings were interfaced (the usual front and back facings, plus the front and back hip band facings), and pretty much everything else was underlined in black cotton flannel. This meant there was a lot of prep – everything but like 3 pieces needed underlining or interfacing! I love sewing, but prepping is dull dull dull work!
I machine-basted the flannel underlining to the coat pieces here, because frankly, the prep work was tedious enough as it was. I normally hand baste my underlinings, but in this case, the coating and the flannel “grabbed” each other quite nicely, so this, plus the walking foot, plus a long basting stitch meant it felt okay to do it by machine. I still made sure to never turn any corners though (when basting underlinings, you always stitch to the edge, cut the threads, reposition, and stitch the adjacent side so that you don’t create puckers at the corner)!read more >>
I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of talk online about sewing machines for beginners (especially with Christmas coming up!), and I’ve been asked several times online and in person about my opinion on the John Lewis JL Mini sewing machine and I realised I’ve never done a proper review of it.
I’ve had my JL Mini machine (in red – they change the colours a few times a year, but right now it’s offered in white, red, yellow, pink, blue, and purple) for nearly three years now and I’ve recommended it a lot for beginning sewers. On our moorings so far we’ve got my red one, a purple one, and a mint green one! I use mine as my travel machine (I originally got it when I was going into hospital so I could sew through my transplant!), but it’s a good, sturdy machine made by a good brand (Janome), and it has enough features that you should know in a year or two whether you’re into sewing or not and you can upgrade to a machine with more features. Or if you decide sewing’s not for you, you’re not out much money.read more >>
Oh KnipMode. What happened? You were so awesome in 2010, but then these last six months or so have just been so… blah.
If it carries on like this, there’s no way I’m renewing next year, especially as this is by far the most pricey of my three pattern magazine subscriptions (thanks to the exchange rate, it’s almost twice the price of Manequim or Burda).
There was a feature on winter white that had nothing to inspire me, so let’s move on to the pretty party dress feature. Surely there will be something there for me… and yes! This dress with criss-crossed chiffon is lovely, especially in these colours.
This dress, however, is a whole heap of hot mess. The fabric is terrible for this pattern, the princess seams are lumpy, and the colour just looks cheap and nasty on this model’s colouring. Eugh.
You know how much I love lace, right? Well it should tell you something that, in an entire feature on lace, the only thing I liked was this totally non-lace asymmetrical pleated skirt.read more >>
I went on a wee pattern spree last week! With my monthly supply of pattern magazines, I don’t tend to buy one-off patterns very often, but I’ve been very tempted by some new offerings from independent companies, so I decided to splurge and buy a few.
Cinnamon is a bias-cut camisole or dress, and it’s from their previous lingerie collection. Reading through the instructions, there are a few changes I’m going to make to the cups to improve the finish, but I’m really keen to give this a go, and I don’t have anything similar in a bias-cut already in my magazine archive.
Clover is their first trouser pattern from the newest collection, and I was so excited to try this that I’ve already made up a muslin and my first pair! I knew it was Meant To Be when I tried on the muslin and had zero fitting wrinkles, but even crazier is that I’d accidentally made my muslin in fabric with zero width-wise stretch, which means the pattern is that awesome on me with no stretch to help it along!!read more >>
I posted about my Fall sewing pattern plans weeks ago, but I never quite got around to showing off my lovely Fall fabrics at the same time, and then I went and bought a little more since I sewed through enough of my stash over the past year to make space for more.
Indeed, the first two fabrics were bought long enough ago from the superlative Ditto Fabrics that I’ve actually already used them!
Well, the day after I bought the above from Ditto’s website, we determined I’d actually be going down to Brighton later that week, so I stopped into their store on the Saturday morning and picked up two more fabrics (along with a good gossip with Ditto’s lovely owner, Gil!).read more >>
We’re back from our Hungarian holiday and feeling wonderfully relaxed, though it’s debatable how long that’ll last! This was my fourth time in Budapest in the last ten years (and James’s third!), but it was the longest we’ve been able to spend there and our first trip outside the city.
Our main reason for going was so we could celebrate our first anniversary at our favourite restaurant, Karpatia (last time we were there, Michael Palin and his film crew were in the other room!), but to also soak away our boat work aches in the city’s plentiful hot spas! In four full days in Budapest, we visited three different hot spas: Szechenyi, Palatinus Strand on Margaret Island, and Hotel Gellert. Think swimming pools, but filled with bath-water warm mineral water (no chlorine!) with assorted jets, bubblers, massaging fountains, wave pools, slides, and whirpool baths and you’re still only halfway there…
In an astounding bit of coincidence, we enjoyed amaaaazing traditional Hungarian food, tokaj, and palinka stalls at the Nemzeti Vagta (“National Gallop”) festival. It was mostly about Hungarian horsemanship with incredible costumes, chariot races, and Heroes’ Square set up like a Ben Hur set, but there were also stalls representing every region in Hungary, some showcasing amazing embroidery:
I really like that you can focus on the stitching when you only use one thread colour! Unfortunately, I didn’t see any needlework kits for traditional designs on sale anywhere.
Then we took the train out to Balatonfured on Lake Balaton for a few days, and I made great use of the train time to finish the last hand sewing on my trench jacket! (I’m also wearing my silk jersey Lekala cowl top here.)
While we were there, we rented bicycles from our hotel and cycled the 6km to the next town, Tihany, and back along the river. My trench jacket and my navy riding trousers came in very handy here as it was the only cool and cloudy day of our trip!read more >>
I’ve literally been sewing my trench jacket in tiny sessions – 10 minutes before work here, 5 minutes while dinner cooks there – you get the idea. It doesn’t seem like much, but when you add up all the short bursts, it really does mean I’ve made progress in a week where I’ve had social plans every single night, and huge amounts of exhausting boat work every weekend.
But on Saturday night I realised that I’ve come to a bottleneck that couldn’t be fixed with time management – I was nearly out of beige Gutermann thread, and I still had quite a bit of topstitching and a bunch of buttonholes yet to sew. Ordering online would take several crucial days, so I tried to rack my brain for any London shops that stock Gutermann thread and are open Sundays… Hrmmm…
Yes! Of course!
So Sunday morning I got up early and combined my weekend run with a trip to Beyond Fabrics on Columbia Road to restock on No.464 All Purpose thread!
I ended up arriving there a little too early for their 9:00 opening so I ran a few laps around the little triangular park on Quilter Street (yes, Quilter Street!) to fill time before they opened up. Then I just peered in the windows until they laughed and let me in. ha!
I thought for sure the spool would fit in the little elastic space on my arm band where my chapstick usually fits, but it was slightly too big (how dare they not design these things with thread in mind, eh??) so I had to ask for a paper bag to protect the thread from my sweaty fist on the run home.read more >>
Well, aren’t I a lucky girl recently? First of all, I won interfacing and a metal seam gauge from Pam’s giveaway at Off the Cuff!
I’ve won Pro-Sheer Elegance and Pro-Woven Shirt Crisp interfacings, to be precise. Coincidentally, both kinds were the few I didn’t buy on my interfacing binge a few month ago! So now I’ve got an even greater biodiversity in my interfacing bag…
Then, hot on the heels of winning that – I may have lost Karen’s draw, but I ended up winning a copy of the novel “Laura’s Handmade Life” from craftycrafty.tv, too! A novel where the heroine bounces back from life crises through sewing? Yes, I think I’ll enjoy this… So now I’ve got three books in my reading queue, aahh!
And it was time again for another Google Adsense payout, so I thought this time I’d spend your hard-earned funds on something a great majority of you will want to see: the new DKNY Vogue pattern (1259), and 3m of this gorgeous mushroom-coloured viscose/cotton/lycra from Tia Knight aka “In Fashion Fabrics” on ebay. It’s ridiculously soft, lightweight, and drapey and just perfect for the gajillion gathers on this pattern, so when both arrived within a day of each other late last week, I set to work!read more >>
I’ve been hard at work on my slow-moving self-drafted shirtdress, creating bound buttonholes for the spaces the collar passes through before tying, making french seams everywhere, double checking all the darts so they all line up, and finally I tried it on last night to check the hem and button placement.
And it’s horrible. Dumpy, unflattering, and just bad.
All I could think of was Trena’s “prison matron” dress, and like hers, mine’s got pockets, but that’s about it. I don’t even know if I can bring myself to finish it, but it’s sitting on my dressform for a while so I can mull over whether any of it is even salvageable. I just know there’s no way in hell I’m ripping out a million french seams! It’s got nothing to do with the Pattern Magic directions, as the collar is okay, it’s all down to the fit of the rest of the dress…
And the shirting is Prada, too! *whinge* And I made three muslins! *whinge* I did everything right, and the dress is just so very wrong. Which mostly discourages me from pattern drafting altogether. I mean, what’s the point in pattern drafting if the fit is worse than what I get straight off a pattern sheet? Because, really, Burda, Knip, and even Manequim fit me straight off the sheet, no alterations needed. Do I really need the extra hassle in my life to end up with a sub-par result even with all my designer finishing techniques? Am I happy to never be a pattern designer? These are the sort of questions I’m asking myself right now anyway.read more >>
Last year I was sent a complimentary Hokey Croquis fashion sketching notebook as a thank you for being a contributor to the BurdaStyle book, and I never quite got around to telling you about it. Not because the product isn’t nice, but mostly because I haven’t done much drafting or designing until now where Ive needed to make my own tech drawings!
Hokey Croquis is a very sturdy, nicely designed, spiral bound notepad with pre-printed female croquis (those are the little drawings of female silhouettes), which you just draw your designs on top of. Then, you can scan in the page, fiddle with the contrast on your computer, and their lines disappear.
HC have really paid attention to the little details here – the book closes with a nice, pink ribbon, and included with the book are some classy stickers to customise the cover. I’ve noticed that Fashionary.org have a similar croquis notebook for sale, but they also have some free pdf downloads, too. I’ve not had a chance to try their book, but the croquis included in the pdf are a bit small for my liking. I think they’re great for getting a bunch of ideas down without wasting precious, thick pages in a book, but for making the final tech drawings, I think the larger, HC forms are better.read more >>
Ahh, what a fabulous, gluttonous, relaxing, and wonderful holiday! If it weren’t for arriving back into an extremely busy work and social life, I’d probably be the most chillaxed, freckled, and happy woman on earth right now.
Our road trip lasted 11 days, and took us from Calais down to the Loire Valley (Canault and Saumur, mostly), through Poitiers and Limoges, through the Lot and the Midi-Pyrenees to Toulouse, then over to Montpelier and Sète, up through the Rhone valley to Tournon and Tain L’Hermitage, then up to Lyon, and finally making pitstops in Cluny and Auxerre on our way to Paris before heading home.
Sewing-related towns driven through:
Saturday morning I rushed around to get ready and ended up finishing my Jalie jeans not 5 minutes before I had to leave to catch the bus and train up to Walthamstow for our organised assault on the market! Our supreme leader, Karen, has already posted a comprehensive rundown of the afternoon but I somehow managed to avoid getting into any photographs (bwahahah!) so I feel I need to offer proof that I actually was there! And wearing my newly sewn jeans, which you’ll see later this week!
I was trying to be very good indeed, so I set myself a very strict shopping list:
1. Fabric to make another pair of lounging trousers for James
Fulfilled! I bought this viscose/lurex striped jersey bought at Saeed Fabrics – 2m @ £2/m! Though if it turns out James doesn’t like the sparkly stripes, I really won’t be upset!read more >>
In amongst my usual pattern magazine subscriptions, my postie has been quite busy delivering some additional goodies to FehrTrade Towers over the past few weeks! First, I won a sewing (almost) page-a-day calendar from Julia at Marmalade Kiss, whose blog I’ve been following for ages and ages! She’s incredible at corsetry, underwear and drafting (and has her own corsetry supply shop, too) and was one of the contributors in the calendar so I’m looking forward to bumping into hers as I work my way through the year!
Not long after that, the lovely and extremely chic Yoshimi posted a giveaway for a really cool rotary ruler, and this was not two days after I’d just painstakingly measured the armscye and the sleeve curve on my winter coat pattern so I was really hoping I’d win as this would make it SO much easier to match curves! And then I was gobsmacked to win this, too! It’s like a pizza cutter but with a ruler along both sides of the wheel so you can measure as you roll! I’ve never seen anything like it before, but it’s such a cool idea.read more >>
After sewing through my two Ditto fabrics I received at Christmas in record time, I’ve gone and ended up with five new fabrics from them! A few Saturdays ago we drove down to Brighton (via Lewes) with friends so I had to stop in at their shop in the North Laines, and then last weekend Pip gave me two more fabrics for my Christmas pressie! Yay!
Here they are:
From L to R above:
Having an international relationship (even when the expat half is as firmly ensconced as I am) makes weddings a bit tricky. We’re lucky that we didn’t have to take immigration laws into account, but even so, we needed to have wedding celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic to include as many people as possible. So a few days after the wedding, we flew over to Pennsylvania, spent a few days at my parents’ house in Perry County, then had our celebration dinner in Lancaster, taking the train down to Philly to catch up with my Man of Honour, then the Acela train up to NYC for a week of a proper honeymoon before flying back home to London.
So to start, I decided that I wanted to give my Granny a nice memento of her gown, since she had given it all to me, and I ended up with some medium-sized scraps of the really nice silk satin after finishing my gown. So before I left I made up four sachets filled with lavender buds I’d grown on deck, and during the flight I embroidered a silk square for each of these with the initials of her four grandchildren and their spouses, plus the year they were married. It just worked out nicely that my cousin Charlie was the last of us to wed, having their wedding two weeks after ours!
I then finished up the sachet construction at my parents’ house and presented these to Granny before the Lancaster reception dinner.
There was also a nice surprise of a massive box of vintage haberdashery she’d found in a charity shop. I only picked a few things out of it, but I just couldn’t resist some of this glorious packaging!
Then my mom insisted on driving me out to this Amish fabric shop she knows in Perry County – it was only a little ways past my old high school, but I was just blown away by the prices!! I went NUTS in the zippers – tons of really long invisible zips for 75 cents or a dollar (when I’d pay at least £3-4 each for these in London), buttons for as low as 2 cents each (when’s the last time you saw anything for 2 cents??), tons of ricrac and trims, embroidery floss for 30 cents, and (of course!!) they had the bobbins for my hand crank vintage Singer. For 15 cents each!read more >>
Ok after that little lingerie diversion (and a day spent being filmed for BBC1!), we’re back on the wedding gown!
First up was a quick fitting of the shell with all the boning pieces inserted and the waist stay hooked. And I can breathe a sigh of relief, because it’s looking good. A tiny bit of horizontal pulls around the zipper (which can be fixed by laying off the ice cream a bit) and a bit of boning show-through at the centre front (which I’m going to hold off worrying about for now, but I may just shorten that boning piece so it stops below the bust).
So I can push on ahead, safe in the knowledge that there’s no major fitting issues…
First up – I sewed on all 13 original covered buttons along the right side’s zipper, matching up with the original satin loops I placed along the overlap during the zipper insertion step.
On the surface, these look like ordinary covered buttons, but look at the underside!
I’ve never seen buttons like this before in my life! Instead of a shank with a hole, there’s a mound of stuffed fabric to sew through! What a strange vintage detail! I’ve learned so much from taking the original gown apart…read more >>
Apologies but this is a bit of a “brain dump” post as I’m understandably a bit frazzled right now, with the BurdaStyle book deadline looming on top of wedding planning and everything else I seem to list every time I post (ahh, just thinking about it is starting to stress me out, sorry!).
So I haven’t done much tangible work on my gown since I last updated because I’ve been focusing on getting the BS book dress done since it has a more immediate deadline, but I’ve been doing lots of mental sewing on the gown. Which, you’ll remember, is half the battle for me. So I took an evening out to read (really read and digest!) through “Bridal Couture” by Susan Khalje and the OOP Palmer/Pletsch “Bridal Gowns—How to Make the Wedding Dress of Your Dreams” book (the former being way way more useful than the latter IMHO). I placed copious amounts of Post-It notes sticking out the edges at places I want to refer back to later.
I’m also really glad I ended up taking that PR online Underlining class a few months ago now!! Though I just looked to see if I could link to the Underlining class somehow, and I noticed Susan Khalje herself is teaching a “Wedding Gowns 101” class starting Aug 15. If it were a few months earlier, I’d have jumped all over it, but you need time to devote to the classes most evenings and I’ll need all the time I can get to work on my gown!
After reading through the two books I had everything mostly straight in my head about this dress, but the boning placement still puzzled me because my pattern doesn’t have any obvious vertical seaming to place the boning along, and all three examples in Bridal Couture had some sort of princess seaming. Luckily for me, it was easily solved on the PR messageboard and by this Susan Khalje article, so I’ve got a full gameplan in my head now for the dress!read more >>
Yay! My friend Shasha was in Malaysia recently and she went to the massive Gulati’s fabric store and brought me back some silks!
I must’ve coached her well because she bought 2m each of this gorgeous turquoise silk satin which coordinates perfectly with the blue floral silk jacquard. You can tell she’s got such the eye for colour because these two just look like they’re born to be sewn together, and she said she thought the blues would go well with my colouring. You can see bigger photos of each on their on in my fabric stash gallery.read more >>
Ahhhhh, Paris! We had a simply wonderful time in the City of Lights this weekend, cramming an entire holiday into a few short hours. We’ve both already been to Paris a few times, so we didn’t feel the need to do the touristy stuff all over again. This left us with an entire weekend to devote to eating and shopping, and socialising with our friends Sat and Sarah (who I’d not met before this weekend, but I now feel like we’ve been friends for years!). As is my habit when I go away, I went fabric shopping so I can now share those shops with you…
As Isabelle says in her guide to Paris fabric shops, the bulk of the fabric and notions shops are in Montmatre, so if you’re pressed for time, head directly to the Abbesses metro and head east (which, conveniently passes right by a branch of my favourite-ever perfume shop, too!). There are a few other fabric shops in the same area that I didn’t pop into, plus a giant notions shop with more buttons than you could possibly imagine, so Montmartre really is your one-stop-shop for fabric, lining, interfacing, zippers, trim – the lot! Everything in Paris shuts down on Sundays, but happily, nearly all of the fabric shops are open on Saturdays which is convenient if you’re only in town for a weekend like us!read more >>
We’re off to Paris today for a weekend of food and fabric shopping excess! Unlike Susannah, we’re driving down (and staying with friends), so I can’t really do any sewing to do en route, but I fully plan on hitting up Isabelle’s Montmatre fabric shops and doing some keen couture window shopping while I’m there, too. But because we’ve got the car, I don’t have any baggage limit on the amount of fabric (and macarons) I can buy, either. BWAHAHA!
Now seems a natural point to put my summer sewing on hold, and start sewing my wedding gown in earnest when I get back (more on that next week) in addition to my “OMG crazy busy secret project”, that’s going to keep me really on my toes in July (as soon as it’s announced, I can tell you what it is, honest).
So how have I done on my Summer Sewing Shortlist? Actually, not too badly! I was never expecting to make everything in one month, but I did manage to make…read more >>
I recently (after years of saying I would!) finally sorted out a subscription to KnipMode magazine, but since they said it won’t start until the August issue, I took a whirl round my favourite online KnipMode source, Naaipatronen.nl to get the June and July issues, plus one for a friend. I’ve used them for years to get my KnipMode issues and they’ve always given me great service.
Imagine my surprise when yesterday they sent me a partial refund, because they just started a 3 for 2 sale on all their magazines (they also stock Ottobre, Knippie, Burda, and Burda Easy)! How nice is that, the sale wasn’t even running yet when I ordered! The sale’s not mentioned on the English version of the site, but it’s a news story on the Dutch side, and runs until Tuesday (22 June).read more >>
I’ve had a bit of a bad day today, so instead of stuffing my face, I went and did a bit of online comfort fabric shopping.
(Full fabric stash viewable here, with new stuff at the bottom)
I’m definitely most excited about the mustard + navy combo right now. I saw two different people on the street wearing mustard tops and navy bottoms within the space of about 15 minutes yesterday, and both times I did a double-take at how great it looked (one was a casually-dressed Shoreditch man and the other was a smart City lady). So I’m definitely making a top out of the goldenrod cotton rib knit and pairing it with a pair of slim-cut stretch navy twill trousers (Patrones 290 has some amazing slim trouser patterns in it but more on that in a bit!).
I like to think I was quite sensible with my choices, buying things that a) I can’t easily buy here, like the quality stretch wovens, b) I’ve got mental plans for already, and c) will work for Fall and Winter, which is when I’ll be seeing what I’ve just bought. And I’ve kinda noticed that I don’t wear loud prints anywhere near as much as the solids in my wardrobe, so I’m trying to keep those to a minimum (both prints in this order are for gifts!).read more >>
My LMB draped birthday dress is finished, so thank you to everyone who commented on my muslin! I’ll be having the photoshoot tomorrow so you can see it on my big day itself on Thursday (no, not THAT big day, that’s in September!). I’m really happy with the way the final dress turned out, and the silk jersey is just so gorgeous to wear…
My new labels also arrived this week (albeit with an eBay shipping mishap).
For some reason Cash’s aren’t offering the silver/black I had before, so I went with GB Nametapes for this lot. I’m not 100% convinced on the font I chose for “Fehr Trade”, but I love that I could get the URL printed smaller this time around. Considering that the last lot of 120-some lasted me just over two years, I have a feeling I’ll get used to this design soon enough.
Looking beyond my birthday plans, I am super excited that BurdaStyle are coming to London next week, so I (of course!) need something new to wear to their mixer! read more >>
On Saturday we took a “cheer me up” trip down to Brighhton, with the dual purpose of taking me back to my student days (I studied at Sussex for a year in 99/00) and buying some more fabric in some new uncharted ground! I did a bit of research first and found there were a few fabric shops clustered around the North Laines and again on Western Road, so we made our attack plan based on these…
New Fabric Fair
51 Gardner Street, BN1 1UN, 01273 605512
A small shop stocked to the rafters with bolts everywhere, including leather offcuts outside. A huge variety of braided trims, dress polys, stretch lace, and zippers for a pound each. Some great linens, wool suitings, and soft brushed cottons here and the husband & wife team were very attentive, though bring cash as they don’t do cards or cheques!
I bought this super soft brushed cotton (and a matching peach zipper) with this BWOF dress in mind…read more >>
My mom arrived on Friday morning, bearing a ridiculous amount of American cookies, candies, chocolates, cakes, and kitty treats, but also a few patterns that were on my wish list!
Vogue 1109 is a Sandra Betzina pattern for a knit top/tunic with really interesting seam lines. It kinda feels expected for all sewers to love SB without question, but to be honest, I don’t find her “all that” and this is the first pattern of hers I’ve even remotely liked (though not in either of those fabric choices, ugh) so I wanted to give it a try.
Simplicity 2647 is a knit dress with varying lengths and bodice treatments, but I really liked the short version with the wrapped side even though it’s quite similar to a Vogue pattern I already have.read more >>
On Saturday I went shopping for supplies with Johanna Lu while she was holidaying in town, yay! We hit up Goldhawk Road and MacColluch & Wallis so I was able to get the rest of the supplies I needed for the spring coat, as well as stock up on a few things I knew would be difficult to get online for the rest of the year, like quality interfacings (I knows it when I feels it, okay?). She had the forethought to bring a camera along shopping, so you’ll have to stalk her blog for the next few days to see us giddy in fabric mecca!
I was very disciplined on Goldhawk Road and only bought three fabrics (at the end of the list there) – grey corduroy, since I adore the cords at one particular shop there and I don’t think I’ll be able to go back before Fall, a red & white cotton poplin with stylised flowers that’s already earmarked for two projects, and my one impulse buy – a very cool lycra jersey with tons of overlapping stripes going every which way. Oh, and the lining for my Spring coat.
Speaking of that Patrones spring coat:read more >>
Following on from the post “Thank you!” from a few months ago, I’ve now got three weeks to go before I go into hospital for my bone marrow transplant so I wanted to get my address up for any of you who’d like to send some boredom-relief packages.
Please read the earlier post for an idea of what I’m talking about here (it’s okay, I’ll wait. . . . . All done? Great!). In addition to all that, I will have my little red sewing machine and my Mac laptop (with low-bandwidth internet) in my little room with me, if that helps with ideas.
- Please wrap all boredom-buster(s) individually inside the postal envelope, enclosing your name and email address inside! (as I will gather them all together in one place to open one each day so they’ll get separated from their envelopes and I want to know who to thank!) Newspaper/magazine/recycled flyers are more than fine for wrapping!
- It is extremely important that you do not send anything if you or anyone in your home has even the slightest cough or sniffle. Please wash your hands for good measure anyway before wrapping, too (I will have zero immune system and what would cause a slight cold for you will result in a serious illness for me on top of everything else!)
- I am not allowed any flowers or fruit you cannot peel (though, admittedly that’s probably more pertinent for in-person guests…) because of the chance of fungal infections.
- If you’d like to send a card, please hold off – I’ll post up my hospital address as soon as I’m in so they’ll come straight to me (I don’t want the nurses to have to deal with any early arrivers, and I don’t want my co-workers to have to lug in a ton of post for me, either!)
- Please forgive me if I sound like a bossy, ungrateful cow. :(
Address for parcels only:read more >>
You may remember that last Fall I helped a friend test a bunch of budget sewing machines for a major newspaper, and one of the machines was a tiny, red John Lewis Mini sewing machine. John Lewis is a chain of high quality department stores in the UK (and the only one which still maintains a haberdashery and fabric department) and this is one of their own branded machines, though it’s actually a Janome under the hood. If you had any doubts – when you order these off the John Lewis website, it comes shipped directly from Janome UK!
Anyway I didn’t have much need for a tiny, portable machine back in October, but happily James’s parents thought I might like to do a bit of sewing in hospital and gave me this for my birthday!
As I knew before, it’s definitely got its limitations, but as a second, portable machine, it should do nicely for me. It is really tiny, and very lightweight – the instruction manual for it is printed on bigger paper than the machine itself, and even I can lift it with one arm! It doesn’t have any accessories, or a light, for that matter, but it sews well, and through denim, too, being a sturdy mechanical Janome.read more >>
I’ve been so touched by all the kind thoughts and words that everyone has sent to me since I spoke about my illness here. A few of you decided to send cards and gifts, too, which just blows me away! I never expected such an outpouring of camaraderie and kindness, and for that, I thank each and every one of you.
These adorable wooden koala and kangaroo buttons are from Sandra in Australia, through whose quest for instructions on the KnipMode twist top, I discovered the pattern myself!
She got them from this local shop, and I really must find the perfect place to use these as an accent!
Then I got a mysterious package in the post with a card from Cidell!read more >>
(Actually, the postie for my office is a very nice lady, but that doesn’t sound as good…) In any case, I received some very nice goodies in the post last week!
First up is the Sublime Stitching Ultimate embroidery kit that I ordered just before New Year’s (there was a weird problem with the post and it was presumed lost so they sent another… which turned up a day after the original one finally came, d’oh!)
It’s got pretty much everything you need to start embroidering stuff (including a half apron and my chosen designs, Tattoo Your Towels), and I’ve already assembled everything into a nice, pink, dedicated embroidery box, ready for transport! Maybe it will impove my very simplistic embroidery skills as seen on my mom and niece’s sleep masks!
The other parcel came from Cindy, my former uni housemate and now Amazon fairy!
She read how I’m not so well and decided to perk me up with the best gifts ever. It’s almost scary how well she knows me!! In the parcel was The Beautiful Fall (a book about Yves St Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld in 1970s Paris), The Art of Manipulating Fabric (more on that below), and Mad Men Season One dvd (which I’ve really been wanting to see but missed when it was shown on BBC4)!read more >>
On Saturday I once again ventured to the ever-brilliant Goldhawk Road here in London. This time I was lucky enough to have Anwen and Isabelle as my partners in fabric fondling, glitter disgust, and pattern and supplier informing. It's so much more fun to go fabric shopping with fellow sewists, especially if they possess a daughter as patient as Anwen's and a resolve as steadfast as Isabelle's (I cannot believe she only bought the two fabrics she came looking for!!).
But really, I wasn't so bad myself. I've only got two lengths of fabric leftover from the previous trip: red corduroy which will still become trousers at some point, and dark heathered grey jersey, which is being made into a pyjamas set as we speak! So clearly my stash needed replenishing and my mood needed lifting so I was mostly looking for quality I couldn't easily get elsewhere...
From top to bottom, I bought: read more >>
Christmas is coming up, and so I thought I’d offer a helping hand to all the friends, relatives, and significant others of the sewing obsessed looking for sewing gifts this holiday season. I’ve tried to roughly break this down into “beginners” and “everyone else”, but it helps if you can snoop around their sewing area first to have an idea of what they’ve already got before buying something off this list.
And if you’re reading this and are feeling truly overwhelmed, then:
- Print this page.
- Google for your nearest sewing or fabric store
- Give this page to a store clerk with a smile a “Can you help me please?” and let them show you what some of this stuff is…
If you know someone who’s very new to sewing or is getting their first machine this Christmas, it’s a great idea to create a little bundle of all the necessary tools for someone just starting out. You can often find these pre-packaged at sewing shops, or to create your own for a new sewer, I’d recommend placing the following in a zippered pouch, box, or (if you yourself are a sewer) a sewn case:
- Dedicated sewing scissors (write “fabric only” on the blades with a marker!)
- Glass-headed pins (plastic-headed pins melt on contact with an iron!)
- Clear ruler or hem gauge
- A pack of standard sewing machine needles
- A pack of hand sewing needles
- A seam ripper
- Spools of Sew All (polyester or cotton-coated polyester) thread in black and white (and also grey, beige, red, and navy if you’re feeling flush)
- A tomato pin cushion
Ahh, the beginning of the month – when my sewing money comes in, then goes right back out again… I have no problems whatsoever in budgeting in real life, but for sewing funds, it’s gone as soon as it hits my accounts!
First up was a notions restocking from Sew Essential after Laura reminded me that they stock the Vilene bias tape that BWOF is so crazy over for knit seam stabilisation. So I got a bunch of that, plus upholstery thread in grey and also gold for jeans topstitching, and a ginormous spool of Gutermann Sew-All in black as I’m nearly out and hardly anyone seems to stock it in huge quantities anymore. I also picked up a few boring but essential tools like a loop turner (yes, I have survived with a pair of locking tweezers up until now!), and a tracing wheel with a much kinder-to-the-hands wooden handle for tracing patterns. I also got a big ol’ roll of freezer paper for quick stencilling jobs (it’s not available in supermarkets here), and some silver jeans buttons, which were accidentally substituted with the boring brass variety. A quick email later and they’re sending out the silver variety while letting me keep the brass ones – that’s how customer service should be done! My feeling is that everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how they’re dealt with that sets people apart…
With the exception of Pip’s silk, I hadn’t bought fabric in a good, long time, so I suppose I was ripe for falling off the wagon. I’m making a concerted effort to track what I actually wear this month (which you’ll see at some point), and I realised that in cooler weather I definitely gravitate towards trousers and knit tops rather than the dresses and skirts I live in over the spring and summer. So, after a brief tour round the internet, I fell prey to the charms of Crybaby’s Boutique yet again! You may recall that I bought some sturdy denim and chestnut print lycra from them before and was really pleased with the quality, so fingers crossed for this bunch, too.read more >>
Are you a beginner looking to get your first sewing machine as a Christmas gift or do you know someone who’s in need of a budget starter sewing machine?
A month or so ago you may recall that I helped a friend test a bunch of sewing machines for an article in The Sunday Mirror newspaper, and now that it’s been published I can reveal our results!read more >>
Two different lots of sewing shopping arrived for me yesterday, and my experience with both shops couldn’t have been more different!
The first was from myfabrics.co.uk:
I ordered this stuff on September 12! It was so long ago I could hardly remember what some of it was for, and as it turned out, the jeans buttons were actually elaborate snaps, and what I thought was LauraLo‘s excellent fusible bias tape is actually just hemming tape. Grr. But that’s not the least of it – go read my store review here so as to keep the bile all contained in one place. Needless to say, I will not be shopping with them ever again.read more >>
I have a surefire way to guarantee you won’t overbuy at your favourite fabric store – run home from there.
Yesterday I took the day off work because we had some important but tedious appointments in the afternoon, but I wanted to squeeze in a quick trip to Goldhawk Road to buy the silk for Pip’s christmas pyjamas, and since I run Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, I needed to work that in somehow, too. So I was whining to Pip about how I couldn’t fit it all in because it was also a low tide day (long story), and she just said “Well, why don’t you just run to the store?”.read more >>
It is an enigma that, while the overwhelming majority of 10k race participants are slim and svelte, race shirts given away to participants are always enormous!
I had two race shirts made out of the nice wicking polyester that were way too big to wear (hanging down to my mid-thigh! And I’m not exactly Tinkerbelle…) but too nice to let rot in my wardrobe, so I cut them up!
I used the same KnipMode pattern as before, but got lazy and just serged all the edges with my white woolly nylon thread and didn’t bother with the elastic. The armpits were a tad too high before, so I lowered those, but otherwise just approached this as a no-nonsense reconstruction to get some wear out of garments I previously wouldn’t touch.read more >>
I recently had a spate of vintage book buying, and I’ve finally had a chance over the last month or so to properly digest them. Most of them were purchased from AbeBooks.com, which I’d used and loved years ago and then promptly forgot existed until they sent me a “come back to us!” voucher out of the blue. Well, it worked because I ended up with Kwik Sew Method Swim Wear and Kwik Sew Method Lingerie, both by Kerstin Martensson, plus The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot, and a reproduction of the famous WWII pamphlet Make Do And Mend (bought from Bletchley Park‘s gift shop).read more >>
I can’t believe that I’ve lived in London for 6 years and not been out to the Goldhawk Road fabric shops yet. I mean, I’ve heard people talk about them, but it’s a full hour on the tube for me to get there, so I’ve just never really seen the need to explore…
Until yesterday, when fellow sewer Anwen took me by the hand and showed me around her favourite fabric shops there.
WOW. I was prepared to see a lot of fabric shops with an awful lot of fabric stuffed inside, but I wasn’t prepared for the incredibly high quality of the fabric in the shops. Polyester was in the minority, with a huge range of silks, woollens, suitings, and other really luxurious (and usually hard to find!) fabrics being the norm, and at really reasonable prices, too.
I had a strict budget I imposed on myself, and I only spent twice that. Ummm. But I still came away with a nice stack of fabric, and a ton of research for next time!
Just like my review of London haberdashery shopping, I thought I’d give a rundown here of the highlights from yesterday, though there are at least six other shops next to these that we went into but I didn’t write down the names and addresses of. Most of the shops seem to be open Monday-Saturday, though I imagine they’d be really very crowded on Saturdays if you decide to go then. Goldhawk Road tube station is on the Hammersmith and City Line, but you could easily walk from Shepherd’s Bush station (so when the Central Line station there reopens that might be more convenient). See the map at the bottom of the page for details, but roughly, turn right out of Goldhawk Road tube station and prepare to enter FABRIC NIRVANA….read more >>
Since we can’t really afford to take a proper holiday this year, what with the boat renovations and wedding to save for, I’ve opted to take a few days off here and there to just spend at home or around town. My first “holiday at home” day I took on Thursday, starting with a decadent breakfast at The Chop House (which I walk past every single day and drool over) and then moving on to pick up a bunch of haberdashery supplies at the stores around town that are normally best visited (or only open) during the work week.
I did really well, starting at McCulloch & Wallis around 10, and finishing up at Borovick around 1, with a quick jaunt around Uni Qlo‘s sales (navy chinos and a white cotton/cashmere jumper for less than a tenner total!) and a pit stop at the Japan Centre thrown in there, too. The shops were nearly empty and at some points, there were more staff than customers. It was a revelation that shopping can actually be fun if you go on a midweek morning, as it’s usually the 9th circle of hell in that area on the weekends…read more >>
First of all thank you to each and every one for you for all the congratulations on our engagement! I should be getting the measurements and detail photographs for my Granny’s 1949 wedding dress in a month or so and I’ll share them then…
Meanwhile, I actually made a big purchase earlier last week, before I got the ring!
Yes, it’s a Bernina 800DL serger/overlocker! I have been lusting over this exact model for well over 9 months now, waiting for a still-delayed bonus, when I saw one come up on eBay for £100 cheaper than the cheapest retail price here in the UK. It was being sold by a lovely sewer who was selling her overlocker and coverstitch machines since she upgraded to a combine machine, and she kept ALL the original packaging and accessories – even the Bernina-branded needles!!read more >>
Phew! It’s been a very busy week, both in my sewing room and elsewhere on the boat. Parties, film nights, more deck grinding, music selection for a friend’s wedding, gardening, broken water pumps, gifts, muslins, and BIG shopping, but to name a few!
The deadline for the finished instructions and my bio for the “Pillowcase Challenge” book were also due this week, so I devoted a big chunk of Sunday to getting that perfect, and then the rest of the weekend was spent making a twin blue KnipMode shirt for my mom:read more >>
Since I was buying the microfleece for my coat interlining anyway, I took advantage of the rest of Pennine Outdoor‘s range of outdoor and sports fabrics to replenish my fabric stash. No, really! Even though I bought a veritable orgy of fabric in the States last August, I’ve actually only got about three cuts of that lot left, and I’ve been very restrained in the last year and only bought a few pieces here and there.
So first up is the sports stuff! I want to try my hand at making my own running trousers, since I’m having trouble finding non-capri, bootcut wicking trousers in the shops these days, so I picked up two metres of this black Meryl wicking lycra:read more >>
I had the day off yesterday, but I did not sew a single stitch. Yes, I am feeling okay, but I was looking a bit green yesterday…
This week I’ve been mostly busying myself with gathering materials for future projects. I ordered some gorgeous charcoal grey, 100% wool coating fabric from Rosenberg’s (they’ve got lots more fabric than what’s listed on the site!) which will be made into a new, long overcoat for next winter (I doubt I’ll be ready in time for Marji’s coat sew along, sadly!):read more >>
A few months ago I was devastated to find that all the big London haberdashery shops suddenly stopped carrying Gutermann thread and switched to Coats Duo. I’ve had awful experiences with the cheap and nasty Coats & Clark thread they sell in the States and it wasn’t a good sign that Coats Duo is the same price as Gutermann, but for less length on a spool. Questionable quality for high prices? No thanks, I’ll stick to Gutermann, which has never ever once failed me. It’s quality stuff and I appreciate quality after having sewn with terrible thread – life’s too short for random breakages, inconsistent thicknesses, and frayed edges.
So I was very interested to hear from my friend Alex that the haberdashery shops by him in Cheltenham still stock Gutermann, and since he’s coming to visit us this weekend anyway for one of our charity dinners, I sent him off with a shopping list.read more >>
No, we’re not back on the school playground, but you’ll now see tags all over FehrTrade. I’ve been wanting to add more flexible linking for a while now, so I installed this plugin for Textpattern so I can now add any number of tags to the end of each post, and you can see a cloud of all the tags on the left, under the Google Ads. And another new addition over there is the search box, which should be working now across all pages (but if you find a circumstance where if looks weird, please send me the URL as I probably just missed a template!). I spent quite a while going through all my old posts and tagging them appropriately, so I apologise if you suddenly get a bunch of old posts in your RSS feed reader (mine still seems to be fine though, so fingers crossed!).
Anyway, enough of this housekeeping nonsense, what of the sewing, eh? Well, I’m going full steam ahead on my Porsche dress, and I carefully cut our the pattern pieces last night, taking note of the best possible placement for all the pieces.read more >>
I spent all Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening sewing up a storm, making myself mentally exhausted in the process. Unfortunately I can’t actually say what I was so busy working on, but I should be able to by the end of the month. I know that’s a tease, and I’m sorry!
Anyway, if you recall, I was going through all my sewing machine feet earlier and I asked if anyone could help me identify some of them. Big thanks to Debbie for identifying the straight stitch foot, and also to Lis and Noile for telling me that the mystery notion in the upper right is a seam gauge:read more >>
I had an optician’s appointment which brought me into the center of town last evening, so I took the opportunity to see if Borders or Oxford News had the April issue of Burda World Of Fashion magazine yet. It turned out I was a bit too early, but Oxford News did have one copy of the Italian pattern magazine La Mia Boutique left, and since it’s one of the few pattern magazines I haven’t tried yet, I couldn’t say no!
I’ve already compared Burda WOF vs KnipMode vs Patrones magazines so I thought I’d give you a peek of La Mia Boutique, since there’s not much information online about it, and I can’t even find an official site anywhere!read more >>
We’re still very much in the grips on winter here in London – temperatures barely above freezing, constant rain and high winds, and over Easter weekend, almost continuous hail and flurries. Ugh. I’m nearly finished with my winter sewing, but with the weather as it is, I can’t really start sewing anything for warmer weather just yet. But I was just so in love with the silk charmeuse I bought in Dublin that I ignored all common sense and sewed up Burda WOF 02/2008 #119.
Such is my dedication to all of you that I went outside for this photo shoot when it was 30F/0C with high winds. I’m not sure if you can see the goosebumps or not!read more >>
Ever since I cut up the Ikea pillowcases and turned them into placemats a few weeks ago, our couch has had the indignity of being adorned with raw pillows (oh the shame!). I’ve been sewing like a mad woman over this long bank holiday weekend (I finished up my jeans and my Patrones Jean Paul Gaultier skirt but it’s been hailing and snowing and FAR too cold to make photoshoots appealing…) so I finally got the energy up to cover the pillows once and for all, with the genius naughty kitties fabric we bought for this purpose in the States.
I made a bunch of piping using some offcuts of poly gabardine (I eyeballed it and only had a couple inches leftover, yesssssss!), made some careful measurements, and now our couch is a much happier place to sit!read more >>
I had a fantastic time in Dublin last week and managed to spend a lot of money at all of the fabric stores in town. So if you’re looking for fabric stores in Dublin to visit sometime, here’s a quick guide to take along…
Hickey Fabrics at 5 Henry Street
This one looked a bit corporate from the website, but I was pleasantly surprised by the shop itself! It’s set on three levels, with the ground floor mostly being curtain and upholstery fabrics, the first floor being bridal fabrics, and the basement being fashion fabrics and haberdashery. I mostly stayed downstairs, and I was really impressed by the mix of really nice quality fabrics – lots of standard corduroys, denim, knits, satins, fleeces, and anything else you could think of. I got an absolute steal on a length of 100% silk charmeuse – it was originally €42, marked down to €10!! There were a handful of other silk prints marked down, too, but I fell in love with this navy, silver, gold, and teal print. There was only one Spring/Summer pattern I had any interest in, Burda 7783, so I bought that and found the most wonderful grey linen/lurex blend to make it in! I also snagged a one metre remnant of teal satin, and had a sweep through the haberdashery before finally stocking up on Gutermann thread. All the London stores decided to inexplicably switch to Coat’s Duo overnight, which is more expensive for less length and makes me shudder at the memory of the quality of the American Coat’s and Clark thread. So I bought huge spools of all the neutrals in the hope they’ll last me a while.read more >>
Patrones is a Spanish sewing magazine similar to Burda World Of Fashion or KnipMode in that every issue comes with a ton of patterns included which you can sew up for yourself. Patrones is a bit different in that they include a lot of patterns direct from the big name fashion houses, though, so in the current edition (#264), you’ll get designs from Jil Sander, John Paul Gaultier, Gucci, and a whopping 90 others. There are twelve issues each year, with each one dedicated to a different topic (vacation wardrobe, basic wardrobe, special occasion, etc) or size (children, youth, plus size, or regular).
Sounds great, huh? The only problem is that buying an issue of Patrones outside Spain is damn near impossible.read more >>
Things were a bit hectic in the leadup to Christmas this year, seeing as how we were starting from scratch in our own place this year. Sewing ornaments and other decorations took up most of my time, but I was able to fit in two sewn gifts in the few minutes I had before work in the mornings, sewing with very numb fingers in my heater-less sewing room.read more >>
(Potpourri in its 2nd definition, that is.)
I’ve been rather busy, though I’ve got nothing to show for it here! I finished the two changing mats I was commissioned for new mums, I finished one present (but I’m still working on the second!), and I bought the October issue of KnipMode magazine (which comes with an additional supplementary magazine like February’s did. Or was that March?) as well as my first Marfy pattern – 1210, a lovely blouse.read more >>
For the past few months, I’ve been very disciplined about not buying any new fabric and working solely from my stash. I’ve been very good at reusing fabric leftover from old projects, but also in finally using up ones I just never got around to using after purchase. While this may seem rather angelic of me, it all hid a dark secret – I went on a veritable fabric buying orgy while in America on holiday. As much as I love Walthamstow Market, nothing in the UK compares to the price, quantity, and breadth of fabric available in America.
To give you an idea, here’s most of it laid out:read more >>
While scoping out what’s soon to be our local grocery store (though we’re hoping to go back to 90% market shopping, with only one monthly supermarket run) on Easter weekend, my boyfriend and I found a screenprinting kit in the kids’ arts & crafts aisle at Tesco, for a mere £7! As you’re well aware, I do loads of sewing, but I’ve never tried screenprinting before since the amount of startup materials always seemed so intimidating.read more >>
While in Holland last weekend, I managed a very quick run through Utrecht’s amazing fabric market (every Saturday on Breedstraat, with 100+ stalls of every fabric imaginable) and got a bunch of red velour for another (secret!) project. I finished the other project and used to offcuts to make this very warm and snuggly top, just in time for winter.read more >>
On Sunday I dragged my boyfriend out of the house at a very early hour in order to get to Anita’s Vintage Fashion Fair before all the good stuff was gone. There were loads of vintage dresses ranging in price from £10-60, mountains of antique jewellery that refused to fit on my very unladylike fingers, and likewise, a beautiful bunch of classic hats that were far too small for my head.
But I’m not one to be disappointed easily, and I was thrilled to see so much vintage haberdashery on show, and at very good prices. I picked up a gorgeous Art Deco style (“style”, because I have no idea when it was actually made) belt buckle for £2, a card of five very mod-looking buttons for £3, and from the only stall selling any dress patterns, a late 50s Butterick dress pattern, 9734, for £4.read more >>