Nearly two years on…

It is approaching two years since I started sewing. So I thought i’d take some time to reflect on how far I’ve come and what my new challenges are.

I still don’t know why sewing clicked for me this time. It’s always been very high on my list of things I want to be able to do but for some reason it’s never worked for me. But for the last two years I’ve been on a learning curve where now I can finally say I can sew clothes that I would wear outside the house.

I think I came to sewing this time with a need to do it as well as a desire to do it. I needed something to take my mind off what was going on in my life, something to give me different things to think about and to let my brain completely switch off from worrying because it was concentrating on something else. Coupled with that was how I started with making small clothes. I could try a pattern without thinking I’d ever wear it, Hazel couldn’t comment on whether she liked it or not and the process was cheap and quick.

I started with a very simple girls dress, it had three parts, bias binding around the neck and arm holes and it buttoned down the back. I think the key was that I made this pattern over and over again, getting better each time. Then my fabric obsession was truly ignited when I realised I could make this little dress in any of the cute little prints that were in Fabricland. I could add different trim, I could do the bias binding in a different colour… this all felt like little fireworks of joy in my head. 

Months later, I discovered sewing magazines. I absorbed every image, every page, every tip and I learned as much as I could. The magazines led me to fabric shops online (dangerous), to independent patterns and to sewing blogs. I still spend most days in the online sewing world. Now I don’t find the magazines as exciting as I used to, but it was them that started me on sewing for myself.

It was a freebie pattern from Love Sewing that started me off. It was a simple tunic style and I made it from jersey. Yes, I made it without a jersey needle and zig zag stitch, but I didn’t know any better. 

Fast forward to my nearly two year anniversary of sewing. I feel I’ve transitioned from beginner to intermediate. I have made a LOT of clothes. Much of it I wouldn’t wear, but I have practised a huge amount. I sew for roughly 2 hours in a week, longer if I get released from parenting duties. I haven’t bought clothes from shops, other than a couple of workout tops, in a year. I read about sewing every day, scroll through instagram sewing feeds every day and look at fabric online every day

My challenges have moved on from having to Google what a fat quarter is, but I by no means feel like I know what I’m doing. Now I’m starting to feel like I should bring some planning into my sewing and make a cohesive wardrobe. I’m still an ‘ooohhh pretty’ fabric purchaser. My stash is lovely to look at but none of it goes together. As someone who has never really been all that interested in fashion or clothes, I find this really hard. 

So when I started, I found sewing overwhelming because I knew NOTHING. Basting, edge-stitching, bias binding, selvedges were new words to me. However, I still feel that I have LOADS left to learn and it is just as overwhelming.  I still can’t do zips. I’ve only made one pair of trousers. I still hate the cutting out stage. I still rush the end of every project. Sadly some of the buzz has gone, but only a little bit!

Some things haven’t changed though. I still have to take my own photos because my dear husband says there’s something wrong with my camera. It takes blurry pictures – focusses for me, but yeah, my camera’s are rubbish.

Silly camera phone can’t focus
ME “Why didn’t you tell me my t-shirt was riding up?” HUSBAND “I didn’t think it mattered”. I’m so fussy *rolls eyes.

Aside from my new sewing knowledge, I’ve also learned that if you really want to do something, you need to immerse yourself in the topic, read, watch and copy as much as you can and good old fashioned practise. I’m trying to apply this logic to my pledge to be fit and healthy, but that’s not as sexy as fabric.

I’m currently working on a shirt dress and trying to make my friend Amy join the sewing obsession!

INSTAGRAM – hazelnut_thread

Jeans…seriously, jeans! Safran part 1

Why not start with an arse shot?

It had never crossed my mind to even consider making jeans. I’ve never made  trousers before, not even a decent pair of pyjama bottoms. This it how it happened!

Love receiving these packages!

My dream wardrobe parcel arrived with some gorgeous fabric and my first adventure into Deer and Doe patterns. It was the Safran trouser pattern. There was no way I would be able to cut into that gorgeous fabric without a practise, so I turned to my stash and found some grey stretch denim.  I went in full steam ahead knowing that it was or just a practice and I could happily put it all in the bin.

This is one of those projects where I actually enjoyed every step of the way. I loved the opportunity to use some of those decorative stitches on my machine so I thought I’d whizz some of this Curly Wurly pattern across the pockets. I’ve also got a thing for top stitching and there’s plenty of that in this pattern.

I have no idea what a welt is, but somehow I managed to create one. I think this is one of my proudest achievements in this project. When I make this again I think I’ll do that little rectangle in contrasting fabric.


Fitting was a bit of an ordeal. I had to let out the seams at the top end and bring them in loads from the knees down. However, I had no idea what all the fitting tips meant for when you do or don’t get whiskers. After getting the legs to actually cover my thighs I lost interest in whether I should do something with the rise/crotch. Sorry, too difficult for my little brain.

A zip! Me!

I was really breaking it when it came to doing the zip. I hate zips and I’ve certainly never inserted a fly zip before. Luckily I was wearing a pair of shop bought jeans while I was doing this part so I did a lot of inspecting of my crotch to see what I had to do!!

It kind of went downhill from there. Due to the hips needing to be let out, it didn’t cross my mind that the waistband would now be out. So that has little pinches all over. Then the inner waistband looked unbelievably shite when I put that on so I thought I’d do a bit of a cover up job with some bias binding.


Granted the bias binding looks pretty awful as well which just goes to show how does disastrous it is underneath. I was quickly falling out of love with these jeans.

Nevertheless I ploughed on, remembering that these jeans were all just a practise. I completed the jeans with lessons learned. As the shitty waistband is on the inside, in fact these jeans are wearable. However they’re wearable if you can stop eating takeaways. I can’t. So I can only wear these in the morning when my tummy is deflated, therefore I have put them in the cupboard for a couple of months time when hopefully I’ll have finally got my healthyand eating act together.

Here are some pics of the finished jeans. Yes i’ll definitely be making more of the Safran. I’ve got to use that gorgeous fabric for starters. But I’ve also fallen for Deer and Doe patterns. Lookout for my take on their blouse to follow soon!

Oh and the sheep print top is an Agnes from Tilly and the Buttons made with sheep jersey from FabricsGalore. I might have bought it for Hazel, but you know I love a cheeky animal cartoon print.
@Hazelnut_thread

Cow Print A-line dress – My Moovalous World Book Day Make

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Hazel’s World Book Day outfit happened on a whim.

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Her book in action

I hadn’t planned to make her an outfit at all, but I found myself twiddling my thumbs on the weekend and the idea popped into my head. Her favourite book is “Click Clack Moo” by Doreen Cronin. I’ve had it for years as I have a bit of a cow fetish. It’s about a herd of cows that type messages to the farmer on a typewriter. It’s too cold in the barn, so they demand electric blankets. I know it word for word, as does Hazel, so it made a good choice for a book day dress.

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I scribbled myself a design

I had to draft the pattern myself!

I turned to my trusty Building Block Dress book and found that with all the adjustments I made, I had eventually drafted an entire pattern all by myself – well that was a first. While it is only an A-line dress, it is fully lined with a key hole opening. Not very complicated, but it took me ages to get the pattern right!

Stash-buster

I made it from white cotton lawn, that I have in to make linings and the leftovers from my black shirt dress. I randomly cut out shapes and appliqued them in place. I even went freestyle and made a tail.

This was the most unpicked and re-stitched dress in my sewing history!

I’d never done a full lining before, or a keyhole opening. So I did the key hole opening and back tail etc. first. Then realised I needed the back to be in two parts to fit through the shoulders. I had to cut the whole lot open again!

Dear Farmer Brown,

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The book is full of these typed letters from the cows. So I used some muslin and zig zagged the edges. I wrote the writing using a fabric pen.

She actually posed like this herself, doing quarter turns each time – what a pro!

Am I going to be one of those mums now?

By this I mean one of those over-competitive, my child has a better costume than yours types. Well. No. But I must admit I LOVED having the ability to make her something. I could have easily plonked her in the shop bought Gruffalo costume that she has. But I know that this honestly is her favourite book at the moment and no-one else would be wearing this. Pass the bucket warning – As with my own clothes, there’s a special feeling about wearing something you made yourself. It felt lovely knowing she was wearing this dress at nursery, like a little mummy cuddle, while I was on a school trip with my 32 other children.

When I picked her up, they told me they were googling what her outfit was meant to be and didn’t realise until they read the copy that she brought with her that day what it was! *eyeroll.

It’s all in the preparation

After spending hours pattern making, unpicking and restitching the cow dress. I was able to make her a follow up horsey dress to wear to the Knitting and Stitching Show. It was made from start to finish in an afternoon -ahh my kind of sewing.

 

 

 

Dream Wardrobe Adventure; Maritime Knit Top

20170220_154142-1-1.jpgIt’s mid February and my health kick hasn’t gone to plan. Since eating more healthily and moving more, I’ve put on 8lbs. Sadly, no, that’s not muscle. But I haven’t given up. I won’t go on about my plans here, but my Instagram feed is a bizarre mix of fabrics, dresses and women posing with their bums sticking out. I hope this won’t influence the photos of my makes.

So in the search of something less fattening to treat myself with and use as a goal, I turned to the Fabric Godmother.

I have never had a sense of style or ability to put things together very well. So the idea of letting Josie carve a path towards a dream wardrobe for me really appealed. I enjoyed completing the style questionnaire, but it was a struggle to answer some of the questions. Thankfully, I was able to put a link to my Pinterest page of clothes ideas. Basically, I want to look like a Parisian casual glamour-puss.

When I received my first package it felt like Christmas. I was delighted. The pattern was perfect for me, the fabric was delicious and I had all the extras I needed in the bag too. Josie definitely got it right for me this time.

The pattern I received was the Maritime Knit top by 20170220_154019Liesl & Co. I’m already a massive fan of Liesl Gibson’s children’s patterns, so I was pleased to try a grown up top.

I made a straight size 12 (probably a 16 in UK). I followed the clear instructions to do my first FBA as my only adjustment, so this one has room for boobies.

The little side vents are cute and make the top more interesting than a plain T-shirt. I think I could play around with putting a binding on the inside for a flash of colour when I make this again.

I lined up the stripes!

Maybe it’s all my hair that’s causing me to put on weight?

The Maritime has a lovely relaxed fit, perfect for jeans – but it could be smartened up with black trousers. I’d like to make more… red stripes to complete the nautical theme. It’s a really straight forward make if you’re used to jersey and this jersey was so scrumptious to handle.

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Why two labels?

First answer … I made it on valentines day hence the hearts. I wanted to put a flash of red in there even though you can’t see it when it’s on. You definitely need some indicator of which side is the back once it is made too.

Second answer … The smaller label is often where you might see a size number, and of course (pass the bucket) we should love ourselves whichever size we are.

Third answer… I sewed “Hazelnut” slightly too far to the left and I’m an order loving Virgo who needs things lined up. So the second, smaller label makes it balance.

 

Choose any of the above answers.

Do feel free to comment, I cannot wait until my next parcel!

 

 

January #SewMyStyle #toaster1 #sewhouse7

Taken with the typical toddler bedroom backdrop

I’m afraid this one won’t last long before it heads to charity. 

I loved making it. It was easy to sew, I loved doing swirly top stitching and it was quick. Sad fact is, it just looks crap on! It is toasty though. I will definitely make again, but with a thinner jersey I think. 

I’m in the process of picking off my shellac nails…
‘Crazy art’ top stitching – stretches well so no need to get out the twin needles.
Well we had a bit of fun taking the pics!

I’m not sure about the February pattern so I might skip it. I’m planning to make 100 pairs of leggings in March though!

Dog tired. Sewing lull. Normal life TBC. 

The two-month virus finally subsided about a week ago. So I’m feeling like I can get back on track, but I’m still desperately tired. I’ve been nursed on a few days by this angel dog that I borrow. Sometimes a girl just needs a dog to cuddle.

I love grumpy Hazel in the background!

I’ve managed to sew another SOI Heather. Not as good as the first, but it’s wearable. I’ve made my Toaster for the #SewMyStyle project – more pics to follow – don’t get your hopes up, I think it makes me look like Ian Beale during his tramp era. 

As the Gruffalo obsession continues, I made a little sketch of the mouse and sewed its outline ready to applique onto a dress for H. I’m thinking a navy a-line dress with the mouse on one pocket and his hazelnut on the other. The fabric is white cotton lawn dipped in coffee!

The sewing club has two more recruits this term. Magic moments include the three girls that got sewing boxes for Christmas and take delight in bringing them to each session. Another member proudly told me he got a sewing machine for Christmas – “with a needle threader!” I’m loving seeing them get stuck into real clothes-making this term. They’re making pyjama bottoms. 

Not sewing related, but my goal this year is to get fit and healthy. I have been floundering for the last 3 weeks in diet and fitness confusion while getting fatter and feeling more guilt. I read this book cover to cover last night and I think it’s going to be a real game changer. Give me a couple of months and I’ll be posting pics of my guns. Or maybe I’ll just stay healthy enough to get more sewing done!

End of year ramble; minimalism, new year’s resolutions and sewing plans…

People don’t believe me at first when I say I’m not doing Christmas. I’ve “not done it” a few times now. It’s not really a bah humbug thing, but a combination of wanting to make it feel a bit more special and not allowing buying things to take over December. I do meet up with friends and family and have a roast dinner. But otherwise, that’s it really. I haven’t sent Christmas cards for years – such a waste of time, money and trees. I buy presents for Hazel and other children in my life. But I’m quite content not receiving many presents myself. One of my mantras is collect experiences, not things. This year I was able to buy our best friends (who normally never expect anything from us) two tickets to a show later this year. Which reminds me, we did make it to our first panto as a family – definitely going to keep up that tradition!

Hazel is only just picking up on who Far Chrit Mass is, but I think this is the last year I’ll be able to abstain from Christmas. Next year, I’ll do Christmas with jingle bells on, but it still won’t involve buying tonnes of stuff.

Something I have always loved is New Year. Never fussed about new year’s eve parties or anything, but I love the potential a new year brings for a fresh start. I’m a bit of a list maker. I love putting the old year behind me and setting new goals, even though I haven’t met my goals as often as I’d like, I always approach a new year with optimism. 2016 has been really shite for many, many reasons. It’s been emotionally exhausting and I think it’s been taking to sewing and my precious daughter that has helped me keep going. I am feeling positive about 2017. So in the last few days of 2016, I’m thinking of my list and putting it to paper – my goals for 2017.

Major goal – cliché alert – get fit.

It’s a regular goal in my life and it is probably the hardest one to do. I have eaten far too much this year and been continually demotivated to get any exercise. I’ve put some positive steps in place and I really want this goal to get my full attention this year. I think the sewing will have to take a back seat until I get a regular exercise plan under my belt. I’ve started borrowing a dog, which helps me get out walking a bit further, faster and out of shops along the way. I’ve had a Fitbit for a while now, so even if I do nothing else in a day, I’m going to commit to getting 10,000 steps a day at least. I have to stop eating rubbish food and takeaways. I’m not going on a diet, but I’m going to be mindful of my food and use a lot of the Fit in 15 recipes for my meals. I have achieved this goal before – 5 years ago when I had to fit into my wedding dress. So while I know it is possible, I just don’t have the same motivator this time!

Sewing goals – Sew less? Really?

I really need to stop buying fabric so often. It is becoming too much of an addiction and having it all wait around gives me a feeling of pressure that I don’t need to feel. I have so many beautiful cotton prints ready for dresses for Hazel. I have loads of fabric for several projects for myself. I also have far too many patterns. I’m not going to stop buying fabric; that just won’t happen. But I am going to only buy fabric for specific projects, near the time that have to make it. Instead of just clicking and buying 3 metres of anything I fancy, every couple of weeks days.

As I am committing to my physical health and fitness, I am going to aim to cut down to one sewing project a month unless I can manage more. As if by magic I stumbled upon the #sewmystyle project on Instagram and I’ve signed up. One item a month of very wearable clothes. Perfect.

I have 2 weddings to attend this year, so that’ll be a chance for me to make something quite special, like a Gertie vintage dress. The guests will be different at each wedding so I could get away with wearing the same dress twice if I need to!

I hope the Simplicity Sewing Challenge will run again in the summer as I really enjoyed that.

I obviously want to squeeze in a few things for Hazel too, I have a plan for a Gruckalo (Gruffalo) inspired A-line dress first. Then I want to work through my cotton stash and keep adapting the building block dress as that helps me learn so much. I’d like to make her a pair of pyjama bottoms – that’s been on the list for over a year, maybe I’ll do that first.

Well, it’s written down, so with a bit of luck and a lot of bum kicking I really hope to succeed as far as I can. Fingers crossed 2017 is a great year for everyone out there!

First rule of sewing club…

 

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I made it to the end of a term of the first sewing club! Bless them, they are delighted with their drawstring bags and felt-book-pin cushions. We were sewing right to the end to get them finished, but I’m glad they get to take home two projects before Christmas.

I saw so many magic moments, it was worth the stress of cobbling together 4 half-dead sewing machines that were lent by parents. The first session started well as one of the parents, who runs an embroidery service, offered to come in and put each child’s name on one side of their bag. Watching the machine go was magic and we all shared that pure joy, as it created the letters. One child has a 12-letter long name, and it meant the world for her to have something personalised. Squeals of excitement when I opened up the fabric bag made me giggle – gotta love fabric however old you are.

As the lessons went on each week, the delight in the children’s eyes never faded as they whizzed fabric through the machines. I had them do a machine project and a hand-sewing project simultaneously, so they always had something to do if they were waiting to get onto a machine. They loved sitting, sewing and chatting and I very rarely managed to get them out on time!

It all nearly came to an end when I was told I had to be at a meeting every fortnight instead of running the club. But myself and my friend who helps run it decided we’ll keep going fortnightly. The sign-up letters went out last week and the little group were desperately anxious to get into next terms club. It’s all based on first-come-first-served and I know a few extra children were keen to give it a go, so I’ll have to wait and see who will be there next term. My plans for those who have already completed their bag is to help them make a pair of pyjama shorts.

While I am pleased I have managed to bring the delight of sewing into the hearts of 7 little people, it took a few weeks to get through to a couple of them. They were just so scared of trying new things. One girl wouldn’t go on a machine until the second week, another sat down and said she’d be rubbish at it and other such statements. Yes, now they’ve seen success they know that they can learn new things and no, they’re not rubbish. But what about all the children that didn’t even sign up? Are they frightened of trying new skills too? What world do we live in where 10 year olds think they are so useless that they shouldn’t even bother? Needless to say, I’ve reported my findings in the hope that perhaps across the school we can incorporate more skills lessons, risk taking and problem solving. However, my class have SATs in May, so that’s all that matters (don’t get me started).

Meanwhile – I am still yet to finish The Christmas Dress!

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This one is a linger-er

Term one skills we covered:

  • Cutting out fabric using a template
  • Pinning
  • Tacking
  • Zig zag stitching raw edges
  • Sewing straight lines
  • Hand sewing running stitch
  • Keep calm and rethread
    • Sewing on a button
  • Cutting off excess
  • Feeding through a cord

Plans for next term:

  • Measuring waist and hips
  • Choosing pattern size
  • Tracing pattern
  • Cutting out fabric from a pattern
  • Feeding through elastic
  • Turning up a hem

Please feel free to comment.

Sewing. Past, present and future.

 

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Since the clocks went back I’ve been fighting a spate of winter bugs. So even if I’ve had the time to sew, I’ve been opting for my bed. I’m slowly working on H’s Christmas dress, as we’re on a deadline with that one. But everything else can wait until I feel like I can come out of hibernation.

I thought I’d document my thoughts on my sewing heritage, as I often ponder it when I am at the machine.

In my life, I like things minimal. I don’t like to have clutter and I’m not one to keep many things for sentimental reasons. But sometimes a few objects survive. Lately however, I have been pondering gifts from the past that don’t have a physical form. I’m not going all ghostbusters here, I just mean things that are passed on through your genes.

I never knew my maternal grandmother, but I think of her often when I sew. I know from my mum that she was a talented seamstress and could cover a sofa after one look at it. I think she also enjoyed sewing too as well as using it to help pay the bills. Her sister-in-law, my Great Aunt, taught classes in sewing as a hobby and it’s thanks to her legacy that I could buy my beloved Pfaff all-singing-all-dancing sewing machine. Two generations ago, all women sewed their own, my mum sewed her own; my generation is somewhat clueless.

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A lookalike

My mum certainly didn’t love to sew, but could do so. I have always hankered after being able to sew, in fact my pin cushion is the same one I made when I was really young. So as well as the soft toys in one day childhood sewing I did as explained here. In my later teens, my mum let me sew on her mums Jones machine. She didn’t like it when I cranked the handle as fast as I could; I didn’t like it when the bobbin ran out – lord knows how you re threaded it. Later in my teens mum showed me how to lay out a pattern and line up with the grain properly. She bought me a dressmakers dummy for one of my birthdays (only used for its proper purpose about 2 months ago!) I think I bought my lovely vintage machine then too. Mum explained the terminology in the patterns and helped through gritted teeth. But I never really got the hang of sewing and anything I did was never truly wearable. Looking back at the patterns that I used, I am not surprised – I wouldn’t wear that dowdy sh*t now either. Thank goodness for independent pattern makers of the 21st century.

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Aaahhh just nice to look at. Especially since the foot pedal blew up.

 

My mum’s not on my doorstep so everything I have learned about sewing comes from books, the internet and YouTube! But sometimes I wonder, has anything passed on though the genes? Since day one I’ve always wanted a great finish on the inside – my fake overlocking stitch brings me disproportionate joy. There have been times when I’ve done something and then thought, how did I know to do that? For example, I thread outside threads back into the inside by hand with a needle. I don’t remember reading about this technique nor do I remember deciding to start doing it. Finally, after years and years of wishing I could sew, I realised when watching the god-awful-but-compelling Project Runway All Stars, that for the first time ever, I can actually say I am able to make clothes. I can make clothes and wear at least 50% of them.

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The only hands that would make mine look big.

 

I know that my daughter won’t like sewing already. She just won’t. Its sod’s law. But aswell as thinking back to the sewing ladies and upholstering gents that are in my ancestry, I also dream about the future. Of teaching H to sew, starting her little sewing kit, letting her sift through the button box that we all remember doing as a child. I’d love to make her outfits that reflect her passion of the moment, help her design party dresses or god-forbid some kind of EMO-gothic cloak. It’s wonderful when she sits on my lap helping to feed through the fabric when I’m sewing. My biggest dream is that we’ll have a studio and sit side by side talking for hours. I already know how very unlikely this will be.

It is desperately sad how all this sewing heritage that we have is disappearing. My great-aunt made this dress completely by hand. Even the smocking. It’s flawless! Look at the reverse – did I get my clean inside obsession from her? It was a gift for one of us as a baby. Can you imagine the love and good intention that is in each stitch? You can’t pass that on with a cute outfit from Mothercare. For my mum and the women (and men) before her – making your clothes was a necessity. For me it’s a hobby and for my daughter, who knows? But along the way it is desperately sad to lose the skills, knowledge and love that accumulate in one garment. I do hope we can keep it going.

As alway, I’d love to read your comments. Fingers crossed for a healthy Christmas holiday and tonnes of time to sew!

 

 

Jones photo = By Panjigally – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13312600