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:
- Black picot edge
- Black ridge edge
- Round stretch cord (white & black)
- Medium grey picot edge
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:
- 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!)
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:
- 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.
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 >>